Tao Tea LeafEdit Company
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Today’s tea comes from Canadian company, Tao Tea Leaf, it is Jun Shan Yin Zhen Yellow Tea-Top Grade. This is the fancy stuff, frequently appearing on the shifting list of China’s Top Ten Famous Teas, it hails from Hunan’s Junshan Island in the middle of Dongting Lake, a very scenic lake with some interesting river goddess and hidden underwater castle legends. Why is it that almost every culture has magical underwater castles with mysterious hidden entrances that only open once a year? As someone who makes it a hobby of studying mythology and folklore, I promise you, this one shows up a lot! Ok, about the tea, need to prevent myself from going on a mythology synchronicity rant, the aroma of the adorable fuzzy leaves is soupy! Seriously getting some strong vegetal broth from them, with notes of celery, sauteed bok choy, a touch of smoke, a touch of very distant flowers. It starts savory (seriously I want vegetable broth and a big slab of crusty bread to dip in it now) and then finishes with a gentle sweet snap pea note.
So, steeping time! I did this tea a few ways, but first off the typical gaiwan approach with 175 degrees water for 30 seconds, my usual approach to green and yellow teas. The aroma of the now thoroughly moistened leaves is savory, notes of bok choy, asparagus, celery and a general vegetal broth waft with the steam from the leaves. The liquid is a fairly light pile of vegetal notes, lettuce, bok choy, snap peas, asparagus and a touch of green beans. It balances savory and sweet green notes fairly well.
First steeping starts smooth and a touch tingly from the fuzzy trichomes on the leaves, the taste is fairly mild. Starting with a blend of floral notes and lettuce, then fresh and savory vegetal broth and asparagus, and a finish of snap peas sweetness and a tiny bit of turnip greens. This is a very green tea, and pleasantly fresh.
Second steeping brings out a stronger aroma, very vegetal and green with a slight sweetness and a bit of smoke. The taste is very similar to the first steep but stronger, it is never bitter in its greenness, just delightfully savory and sweet in its greenness. If you are a fan of vegetal teas then this will be a delight. The third steep was pretty identical, I felt like this tea was hiding something from me, so I decided to experiment.
Ok, time to start over, I brewed it at 195 degrees for 30 seconds, living dangerously! Though some delicate greens and yellows can handle it, problem is knowing which ones can take the heat is trail and error, sometimes you get a mouthful of bitter death, other times you get a real treat. So, how did it go? Well tea friends, I am a jerk, Ben came home from work right as I finished pouring from my gaiwan, so I tested it on him, as he goes for a sip I tell him how I brewed it…he paused and said something along the lines of ‘that sounds like a terrible idea’ but being the trooper he tried it anyway and handed me the cup while saying it was surprisingly sweet. So I then drank it and wow, he was not trolling me! It is still vegetal, but mostly a mouth full of sweet snap peas and a bit of edamame, it is like vegetal nectar, a phrase I never thought I would say. I went through several steeps at this temperature and was rewarded with unchanging sweet snap peas.
Last thing I did on a whim, I brewed it in my travel steeper, it was green and sweet, though sadly went toward the vegetal bitterness towards the end, so I would say stick to the gaiwan for this one…at least that is what I will do. Because this is not a cheap tea, $1 a gram, definitely a tea you want to sick to the brewing method that works for you when you find that sweet spot.
Another one of my samples. I like to try breakfast blends, so I was interested in the Chinese one. It smells mostly malt, and a bit earthy. There is a malty earth flavour as well. The tea is on the bold side, and has a bit of sweetness.
Thanks for the sample, Tao Tea Leaf.
Flavors: Earth, Malt
Another of my samples. When I first opened the package, I got a fruity scent. Perhaps dark cherries or plum. And a little pine. There is a more bread-like scent in the brew. The flavour is mostly fruit, with some baked bread notes, and very mild smokiness.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Cherry, Fruity
I bought a sample of this tea, but I was a bit bummed by how much I actually received. The sample packet stated there would be 6g, but it was actually a little less than 5g. That meant I could only have one session out of this tea rather than two. I guess I should have picked up the 1oz bag instead.
Besides that, this was a tasty tea – smooth, milky, brown sugar and light peach notes. It lingers in the mouth, so it’s worth taking a few minutes between sips to enjoy the aftertaste.
So, I’ve had this one twice now. It’s very bread-y with a nice thickness, and there’s a cocoa element as well, but I’m not getting as much sweetness as I would like. I think if it had a nice honey note, that would make it a great tea. As it is, it lingers on the edge of cocoa bitterness. Maybe it’s delicious with some added sugar, but I’m not doing that with my Chinese black teas anymore. The other black tea I have from them, I believe it’s the ying de black tea, has a lot of honey sweetness…hmmm, I see an experiment mixing the two in my future!
Delicious tea, particularly if you’re fond of naturally chocolatey blacks. Smooth, full-flavored, good body.
I drank this over the past week along with Golden Monkeys by Teavivre and Harney. This is the one I enjoyed most. The other two have a perfumery note that reminds me of bergamot, though different. That note distracts from their otherwise very nice flavor. While that note is apparently a feature of Golden Monkey, in the Tao rendition it is very much in the background so that it does not stand out, but blends in nicely.
This tea is like drinking pure honey….so much honey! There’s a slight cocoa note, but it’s barely there. It reminds me of Nannuoshan’s Tanyang Gongfu black tea, except that one has more of a balance between the cocoa and honey notes. This one is actually a little too sweet for me, but I like that the honey note is not just sweet, but that all the other characteristics of honey are there. I’m not sure how to explain those other characteristics, except to say it tastes exactly like honey. So if you like honey, definitely check this tea out! The leaf is nice and large too, similar to some Taiwanese black teas I’ve had. Pretty nice quality, and I’m looking forward to trying the other two black teas I ordered.
Not your typical earthy pu’er, these purple buds are much lighter. The characteristic earthiness of pu’er is present but there is also a bit of grassiness to it and notes of apricots. I think my initial steep wasn’t long enough but you can steep these buds multiple times. When steeped longer than planned, it wasn’t bitter and still was enjoyable.
Flavors: Apricot, Musty
an amazing tea!
when i smell the leaves dry, i smell nothing.
when i smell the leaves wet, it has a unique smell…. rice krispies bars (you know the cereal?)
when i smell the brewed tea, i smell rice krispies bars and a hint of popcorn.
when i taste the brewed tea, i taste popcorn and floral.
i rate this tea a 100 because of its aromas and flavors.
many thanks to scribbles for this amazing tea!
Flavors: Floral, Popcorn
an amazing tea!
when i smell the leaves dry, i smell a musty smell.
when i smell the leaves wet, i smell earth and sweetness.
when i smell the brewed tea, i smell earth.
when i taste the brewed tea, i taste earth and sweetness.
i rate this tea a 100 because it is awesome and i love the earth and sweet mix.
many thanks to Scribbles for this amazing tea!
Flavors: Earth, Musty, Sweet
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a decent tea.
when i smell the leaves dry, they have a green grassy smell.
when i smell the leaves wet, the smell is intensified.
when i smell the brewed tea, i smell green and grassy aroma.
when i taste the brewed tea, i taste green and grassy taste :)
i rate this a 75 because its kind of grassy.
many thanks to Scribbles for this decent sample :)
Flavors: Grass, Green
I bought a sample of this from Tao last year (along with a lot of other WuYi oolongs) and I’ve been letting them sit for far too long. I ended up putting the whole sample into my gaiwan last night and let the thing steep about 6 or seven times.
I did get a hint of the cinnamon flavour the tea is noted for, but I smelled it more than I tasted it. It hit the back of the palate, and there was a malty flavour alongside that made the whole thing reminiscent of cinnamon buns.
However, the dominant taste was of the roastiness, smoke, hay, tobacco, that sort of thing. It got quite astringent as the steeps went on.
The thing I like about gong-fu brewing is that it forces me to sit and contemplate things for a bit – counting out the seconds as the clock ticks during my steep, keeping my hand steady when I pour it out into my cup. That sense of peacefulness that comes from silent still time is good, and I got that when drinking this last night.
I’ve had this style of tea before and was excited to try Tao’s version of it. I did rinse, and I did keep the steep times pretty short, but there is still something in here I dont like. One of my teacfreinds suggested another one tasted like the chemicals in her father’s wood working shop. I’m thinking that might be a good description of this. It’s woody, its musty, its old, and then something icky. Sorry this one was a miss.
This was very strange. I’ve been noticing that this company does a lot of “mis-labeling”. This tea is not listed on the website, and I have no idea how it came from there. I’m actually a little confused. Anyways, on to the review.
This is a roasted oolong, so it carries the classic smoked aroma. This one in particular smells of smoked dark chocolate. I warmed these long black leaves up in my gaiwan and gave them a tumble. The warmed aroma was like coffee grounds or a deep espresso. I washed the mystery leaves off and prepared for brewing. The flavor was not as robust as I thought it to be. The brew had a subtle black coffee flavor and char. It did not stand up well against multiple steepings. This brew became much weaker by the fifth steeping. The liquor was a pale blackened citrine. The steeped leaves smelled of cooked dates. This was an unusual and basic brew. It was good, but it wasn’t as good as I would have liked.
Flavors: Coffee, Dates, Espresso, Smoked
Found this in stash swap box (I had to make one, isn’t it an awesome idea?) and decided that a dark oolong sounded great at the time. I was right, it was great at the same and maybe at all times.
This brewed dark and had a nice brisk taste. My favorite part of it would be the after taste. Smooths out and taste semi sweet on the tongue which is odd for a darker oolong, my experience that is.
The only reason I rate this down is the infusion itself being compared to some of the 2015 oolongs that I have received fresh make it easy to spot out that this one isn’t as fresh as it once was.
I normally try to drink some tea before I go to work in the morning, and I had this one this morning. Bad idea.
Looking over Scribbles’s previous note and comments, it appears that a rinse is in order. However, I just brewed this western style in a mug because I seriously don’t have time in the morning for gaiwan brewing. Dark, earthy, musty, with a note of camphor/menthol.
I’m sure it’s not a bad tea if you steep it under the right conditions. Those conditions, alas, are in short supply on a Monday morning when I need to leave the house at 7:20 to catch my train. I didn’t finish the mug and poured the remainder down the sink.
Hi Steepster folks,
I’ve been a bit absent recently with reviewing teas. Also I haven’t been buying that much new stuff, trying to drink more of what I have. The tea pile still seems neverending!
This was a sample I got with my last Tao Tea Leaf order. I’m no a big fan of jasmine teas but if I’m in the right mood, they can be quite nice. I decided to steep this one Western style for 2 minutes and it became more full-bodied than I thought it would. The silver needle has a nice sweetness to it, also I am getting almond-y and hay type notes. The jasmine is clearly present but it isn’t overwhelmingly strong.
I feel this may have been better prepared in the gong fu style. I steeped mine Western style for 2 minutes and felt like some of the delicate white tea flavor got really lost. This is a pretty nice afternoon tea for me today but probably not something I will need to repurchase. I have one jasmine pearl tea in my cupboard and don’t think I need any more jasmines.