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Recent Tasting Notes
Alas! It did not storm yesterday, and on second looking at the weather, apparently I misread ‘early Thursday morning’ as early Tuesday, whoops! It is ok, because today was another comfy, blustery, windows open day, a day made for daydreaming about mountain forest frolics and coming home to a pile of fuzzy blankets and freshly baked bread. Ah, daydreaming!
Today we are looking at a tea that is anything but evocative of autumn, it is Tao Tea Leaf’s Shifeng Longjing Green Tea-Premium. Longjing (or also commonly known as Dragonwell, the translation of Longjing) is one of the most well loved teas of the spring harvest, some of us spend all year excitedly waiting the various harvests of this flat pan-fried leaves. The name Shifeng refers to one of the mountain peaks in the Xihu growing region, I think, it might be a mountain range and not a peak, or the name of a region in Hangzhou. As interesting as all that is, the real important thing is whether or not the tea is any good. The aroma is fairly delicate, not an overpowering scent, but it does have very distinct notes, specifically vegetal ones. Blending notes of snap peas, celery, greenbeans, asaragus, and a finish of sweet and sesame seeds. Sniffing this tea it is definitely a dragonwell, blending the iconic vegetal notes and that toasty sesame seed note that to me is very iconic, which I believe comes from the pan firing step of processing.
Dragonwell means time for the dragon gaiwan, just lungs everywhere! Though surprisingly I did not use my dragon cup, opting for my possible Tongzhi era cup instead, because it is still the new hotness in my collection. Now that the leaves have had a steeping, the aroma is heavy and thick in the vegetal department, especially the notes of asparagus, cooked cabbage, and greenbeans, it is a savory aroma with just a hint of nutty sweetness at the finish. The liquid is very light, but the notes that do waft out of my cup are green and fresh, asparagus with a hint of sauteed sesame seeds.
First steep, it starts out very smooth with a nice nutty blend of chestnut and sesame seeds, bringing out just a touch of sweetness at the start. This moves on to peas and edamame with a slightly savory sauteed bok choy and a slightly spicy (like VERY distant allspice) honey sweet finish.
On to the second steep, still a fairly light aroma, with asparagus and sesame seeds, adding a tiny hint of peas with this steep. The tasting experience is still very smooth, a nice light and smooth mouthfeel. The taste is all vegetal all the time, notes of asparagus and bok choy, edamame and peas, and a finish of greenbeans. Even though the notes are distinct none of them are very powerful, this is a delicate tea.
So, this last steep had pretty much no aroma, just a hint of asparagus. The taste was also pretty mild, almost nothing going on, like spring water and a touch of asparagus and bok choy. Even though this tea kinda petered out, I found the first two steeps delightfully light and refreshing. I am certainly fond of these delicate teas once in a while, as for an everyday drinker I prefer a Longjing with more of an oomph that I can just have, a tea as dainty as this needs concentration and complete focus, so not a bad thing on occasion.
Brew it and sit back and enjoy. Appealing, natural tasting coconut flavor at a level that isn’t overplayed. It smells so coconutty that I was expecting it might be overpowering on the palate and be relegated to the stash of teas I use to flavor less favored sip downs, but not so. It’s buttery and not too sweet, balanced by woodsiness and a bare whiff of smoke at the end.
Second steep: coconut fades to mild but butteriness is more pronounced and something vegetal, approximating spinach, appears.
Full flavored, bit of a complex profile, keeps your interest while also being a comfort tea. Great bonus that it’s organic.
Good morning all, and by good morning I mean it is 10 PM, yep, sleep schedule went all pear shaped again, but I honestly don’t care overly much. It currently is where I go to sleep late in the afternoon meaning I can still do things early in the day. No matter how nocturnal I am, it will always be a tad uncanny to wake up at night, guess I am not that hardcore! It used to weird me out when I worked night shift, especially in the winter, I would go to sleep when it was dark and wake up when it was dark, it skews the sense of time ever so slightly.
Today is an Oolong day, looking at Tao Tea Leaf’s Bei Dou Oolong. This is a not quite as well known as its cousins Yancha (or Wuyi Rock Oolong) whose name translates to North Star (must resist Fist of the North Star references, must resist!) This Yancha was first created in the 1950s, grown from cuttings taken from THE original very old Da Hong Pao bushes, the very ones that an emperor thought needed a fancy red robe. The creator of this tea, Yao Ye Ming had his research lab destroyed during the Cultural Revolution (thanks, guys, I really could go into such a rant about how revolutions that destroy art, history, religious things and science infuriate me, but I shall spare you all) but he continued in secret, Bei Dou surviving, allowing us to enjoy this tea scientist’s work. The appearance is a typical Yancha, curling and dark, and the aroma sings the song of its people, rich and loaded with char. Strong notes of cocoa, char, a distinct smoke along with the char, and a nice underlying sweetness. The more I sniff while waiting for the water to heat, I also detect a bit of nuttiness, but it is more like a nutshell, the sharp aroma of black walnut shell.
I have to apologize for the lack of photos. My camera corrupted the images, on the camera they look fine but after uploading they are unable to view, I desperately need a new camera, hopefully I can get one before it dies and this becomes a very sad blog. Help! I don’t want to just use my phone! Into my yixing the leaves go for their short steep. The aroma takes on a bunch more layers now that it is a pile of soggy leaves, along side the notes of char and cocoa are delicate notes of distant flowers, wet slate, cooked stone fruit, and a finish of black walnuts (not the shell this time.) The liquid is a three way tie between stone fruit (more plum than cherry, but there is a cherry hint too) wet slate, and char. At the finish is a distant crushed orchid sweetness as well.
First steeping time, the first thing I notice is the strong mineral presence, this Yancha puts the rock in rock oolong and I love that. Seriously, it reminds me of licking rocks, a hobby I have on occasion, since they have their own distinct flavors, wet slate and quartz being among my favorites. After that initial mineral burst the taste moves to a blend of cocoa and char with a touch of sweetness, the finish is woody and has a building sweetness that reminds me a bit of jaggery.
Onward to the next steep, I feel a pleasant tingling from the last steeping, Yancha has such great Qi! The aroma is roasty toasty, notes of char and smoke with roasted black walnuts and mineral, there is also an underlying sweetness like burnt sugar at the finish. The taste this time is less char and more burnt toast, there is a definite bready note to the empyreumatic notes this time. There is also a strong mineral presence and cocoa, again the finish is like jaggery with also a touch of lingering dark chocolate. I now want to melt dark chocolate and jaggery and drink it.
Third steeping time, the aroma is mostly gentle char, toast, and mineral. A hint of underlying sweetness remains, but the aroma is not as potent as before. Whoa, where did the mineral and char go? I am left with a smooth mouth full of jaggery, dates, cooked plums, and a touch of cocoa. I think the tea became sad that I wanted melted chocolate so turned on the sweetness factor in a plea to not leave. Don’t worry tea, I won’t leave. I got one more steep before it fizzled out, usually I find Yancha ends in mineral, so I found it fascinating that this one started with mineral and ended in sweetness.
I decided to be a real showoff last night, and I am immensely pleased it worked out. Ben has had to hear my complaining about boss fights in Terraria for a while now, they are the bane of my existence in that game, and having recently heard my lamenting of the Mechanical Bosses, I needed to redeem myself. It is hilarious how in Terraria once you beat a boss and get an upgrade, they suddenly become a cake walk, so I summoned all three in one night and killed them with time to spare! Sadly I am going to have to upgrade my armor before I can take on Plantera, so the spider queen will have to not have quite so many spiders. Always tragic when you have to have fewer spiders fighting for you. I will be going green with Chlorophyte Armor, specifically the ranger set, though I will have to retire my Daedalus Stormbow for that fight, which makes me immensely sad, that bow is the best thing ever.
Today I am taking a look at a tea that kinda changed how I thought about tea. Well, not this very specific tea, but the same tea type. Glorious green Anji Bai Cha by Tao Leaf Tea, a green tea from Anji, China, land of beautiful bamboo forests and apparently some famous historical bridges I just learned. Anji Bai Cha is the tea that taught me to be more adventurous with my tea brewing, to think outside of the gaiwan and to just toss some leaves in a bowl and see what happens. Specifically this is the tea that introduced me to the fine art of glass steeping, aka throw some leaves in a clear glass, add water, and enjoy the eye candy. Whether you pour off part of the liquid and drink from a glass or from the steeping glass itself is up to you. The aroma of the delicate and fuzzy leaves is very vegetal, notes of edamame, lima beans, crisp and fresh bell peppers, mix with wildflower honey, pollen, and a very gentle nuttiness. The aroma is not overwhelming or very potent, it is gentle and green, like a summer morning.
For the first steeping I decided to decant some of the tea into a glass, too many leaves floating on the top, makes for harder sipping! The aroma of the leaves and tea mixed together in my elegant new glass (pretty sure my friends accidentally made off with my previous glass….glass) is vegetal and nutty. Delicious notes of edamame, bell pepper, kohlrabi (do not get that one often) cooked broccoli, and a sweet butter bean and lima bean finish.
The tea starts out richly vegetal and sweet, a smooth and gently tingly mouthfeel (hello trichomes) makes this a refreshing beginning. I love Anji Bai Cha because it always tastes so clean, and I do not mean as in other teas are pesticide covered or something like, I mean clean like a mountain stream or first snow, it is a purity in its flavor notes, having them blend while being distinctly separate. It is a tea that never tastes muddled to me. The notes that are present start with honey and chestnut and move towards bell peppers and lima beans, with a gentle spiciness at the finish.
As I top off the glass with more water, most of the now very plump leaves have floated to the bottom, so I can enjoy the tea by drinking it straight from the glass. It starts out fairly similar to the first steeping, but the longer it sits the more intense the vegetal notes become, bringing in cooked broccoli, cooked and raw bell pepper, lima and green beans, and has a finish of sesame seeds and honey. Even later on the only bitterness that is ever present is similar to Brussels sprouts, so it is very light (unless you are one of those people that hates Brussels sprouts, I am not) and I find very tasty.
Flavors: Bell Pepper, Broccoli, Chestnut, Honey, Lima Beans
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.