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Recent Tasting Notes
Possibly the best tea i’ve ever had at this point in my life. It’s like a perfect blend of the best things about high quality Chinese green tea and high quality Japanese green tea. Just about perfect for my tastes. Kind of an oddly cloudy liquor, but the taste is fresh and wonderful.
This is a rather amazing tea, nuanced and full of flavor. If prepared really well, the first sip is almost shocking; the buttery note really comes through. However, I have only prepared it this well once. This tea is very easy to get wrong. After doing some searching, I found the “top-down” method worked really quite well in a glass or gaiwan. This involves dropping the tea leaves into the glass with the water already poured, watching them fall to the bottom and opening up.
This tea is just awesome in all regards, flavorful, very “toasty”, soft and delicate with some nice astringency like a light artichoke. I just can’t say enough good things about it. I have been drinking it for 2 weeks now and it is by far my favorite green to reach for.
Expansive, juicy toasty, bright. This tea has mouth appeal.
On the Tea Trekker (TT) site they say, “There is virtually no detectable toastiness, but instead an elegant and fresh ‘green’ taste that is quite lovely. The aroma in the cup is less floral than that of the Shi Feng or Weng’jia Shan, which fits with its more toasty, slightly nutty nature.” Hmm, I find this confusing. So there’s “virtually no detectable toastiness,” but the aroma “is less floral… which fits with its more toasty, slightly nutty nature?”
I see pitfalls in reading a retailers description, falling prey to suggestion, but at the same time, once I’ve given a tea a good taste, I often am interested in seeing what descriptors others have used. With that said, now two teas in to TT’s 2013 Longjing spring offerings, so far this is my favorite of the bunch. It just whitewashes my mouth and then begins to explode with subtle and not so subtle colors and tones. A sweetness plays across my entire palate, like a light dusting of stevia inadvertently inhaled. Contrary, or not contrary to what TT says I get “toasty,” but not overtly so, particularly with fragrance. This is far from an over fired green. There’s a perky astringency and indeed nutty notes playing here.
I let this tea steep a little longer than usual, maybe a 1.5 to 2 mins the first time. Honestly, though I vacillate between being uber controlled to very intuitive and feel-based, this time I went with a combo. I monitored water temp with a my thermometer and got somewhere between 175 and 180ºF. The water temp changes as it’s transferred from vessel to vessel. For instance I find nearly boiling water drops significantly in temperature if I don’t preheat my tumbler and introduce it slowly in a long thin stream to the sides of the container. Starting with a small amount of water this way, swirling it first, I don’t seem to shock the leaves, and serve to wake them up AND preheat my tumbler.
I went with a longer steep, based on how the leaves reacted, the pace at which they began to descend. I’m fairly satisfied with just the first few leaves really becoming hydrated and committing to the fall, and will rarely wait for more than a quarter to drop.
The color is lovely, a pale subdued yellow. On my 2nd steep I notice some spice notes, and with Longjings I tend to associate it with cinnamon, but it’s not nearly that bold or autumnal. Astringency plays out a bit more, but I welcome it. I’m searching for vegetal, “green” aspects to this tea, and am just not getting them that strongly. Ah, silk… that’s a good way to express the tingling mouth feel, post sip. Not viscous or heavy, but still smooth and alive.
I just love the look of a Dafo, the uniform flat dry appearance and the way it steeps, dancing in the cup, unfurling it’s beautiful two leaves and a bud. This tea is teaching me. It’s teaching me that longjing is not longjing is longjing, is longjing. What an expansive world.
Again, I think this tea suffered every so slightly from Tea Trekker’s (TT) clear sample packaging, or maybe this Dafo is not quite as pristine as some others I’ve seen, but it still is lovely to look at. And again the photo posted here, from the Tea Trekker site, does it justice. That’s so appreciated. When pictures aren’t available I always take great effort to make sure I photograph them in a way that represents them well. Glad to see TT goes the distance.
I jumped into this tea hoping it might bring me around to Dafo. I hate that I like the visual aesthetic and ritual of Dafo, but don’t appreciate the taste equally. I hit it with my usual tumbler/decanting routine, linked in my profile. But after a couple of tries I’m not particularly excited about this tea.
I’ve come to two conclusions:
1. To really get this tea to a place where I find a strong enough flavor, I have to steep it in a more traditional sense, letting it go a good 2-3 mins, allowing 2/3 of the leaves to sink. Maybe it’s the denser leaves, or possibly less surface area is exposed with this. I don’t know.
2. This tea strangely reminds me of many of the white teas I’ve had. I really noticed it had a stronger affinity with their flavor profiles.
Overall I found it a bit dryer, with some hay qualities, while having a light sweet aftertaste.
I still can’t say I’m joining Team Dafo anytime soon, but it sure can be pretty.
Lovely on my 2nd and third attempts at this tea. Took more care with water temp, a little lower this time. This appeared to keep the astringency at bay and allowed it to be more of an asset. Lovely mouthfeel to the first steep; a kind of thickness— Umami? Forgot to write about that initially. Think it got overpowered previously. Still would consider this tea a tad finicky, demanding your full focused attention.
Also, I think it’s important to note that Tea Trekker photographs their teas well; colors are accurate and samples are representative. Other than it being ever so slightly beaten up from the sample packaging (which I don’t particularly like) what they show is what I got.
Part of a sample pack I put together of their 2013 Longjing offerings, including Shi Feng, Dafo Village, Meijiawu Village and Weng-jia Shan teas. I’m really trying to school myself as to the differences in Longjings and Tea Trekker offers a great opportunity to compare. At roughly $60 total for 14 grams of each tea, that comes out to about $2 a steeping session. Not too shabby I figure, but certainly not cheap.
The first tea I’m trying from Tea Trekker is this Shi Feng. After sampling Mrs. Li’s Shi Feng from Verdant Tea, a variety of offerings from Teavivre, and some local offerings at Wing Hop Fung and Ten Ren in Los Angeles, I’m starting to think I may be more of a fan of Shi Feng Longjing. Aesthetically I really appreciate the wonderful look of Da Fo, but prefer what I’ve found to be the bolder taste statement that Shi Feng appears to make.
I’m far from proficient at really understanding the differences between Longjings, but I’m learning through all this experimenting. So please excuse errors I make or observations that may be incorrect. And PLEASE, feel free to share your thoughts and any information you may have that can help me broaden my knowledge. I really like Longjing tea and enjoy the flavor profile, brewing process and overall effect it has.
My initial notes may be somewhat superficial as I settle in to this tea, and I anticipate adding additional notes or comments with further brewing sessions as character is revealed. Also, as I did with my Teavivire 2013 Longjing tasting notes, I expect any notes I write on the 2013 Tea Trekker offerings will read much like a continued dialogue. So if you are interested in this comparison of teas, I’d recommend looking at any notes I write on Tea Trekker’s 2013 Longjings.
Using about 4-5g tea, I brewed tall glass method in my 10oz dbl wall glass tumbler, decanting to my Finum, leaving enough of a root to keep the tea leaves covered. This is my standard approach and tends to yield consistent results for me. I steeped a total of 5 times, 1st about 1 min, 2nd about 30 secs, 3rd about another minute to minute and a half, and the fourth I let sit quite a while, alternating between drinking directly from the tumbler and decanting. I drained the tumbler forgoing the root. The 5th steep I reheated my water and just did what I could to extract at a higher temp any flavor that might be left.
Overall impressions were consistent with what I like about Shi Feng; bolder flavors, toasty, with some astringency, followed by wonderful dry mouthfeel with a lingering sweetness. The astringency was bit stronger than I prefer with its initial hit, but it also is what lended this tea the aftertaste that I really appreciated. So I’m a bit torn with that observation and wonder if it could be resolved by experimenting with combinations of different brewing times and quantity of leaf. Though, that’s what I would call a “less forgiving tea.” A tea that can take my inconsistencies, slight variations on timing and water temps, different brewing vessels depending on what I’ve got going on, is an attractive trait and something I seek out.
Overall this tea took me on a bit of a journey that changed from steep to steep and was equally rewarding, and also quite unique each time. I’d say the 5th steep was lost on me, a bit tapped out. Perhaps the heat of the water was too high, though it still had a lovely color and some astringency left over, otherwise it was left somewhat hollow. Surprisingly though I did find some sweet aftertaste notes still playing over my tongue even at this stage.
A lovely honey colored brew, I was satisfied with this tea. It did hit me initially with that “juicy” description that Tea Trekker talks about, but the stronger tannic astringency was competitive, and took me out of it a bit. They talk about “yeasty,” and I’ll have to think about that a bit. I use to be a baker at an organic bakery in Montclair, NJ back in the day. I’m trying to place that “yeasty” descriptor. Maybe it’s akin to the “chestnut” people often think of with Longjing. I get that here. Less forthright, but present. Again, I’m taken back to this astringency. I feel weak-sauce using that term over and over, but as I nurse the 5th steep it keeps reminding me of it, though rather weak now.
I look forward to giving this another try and will update this note accordingly! FYI- My time and temp reflects the first steep.
As a side note, I’m not a fan of Tea Trekkers packaging. They use what appear to be mylar baggies that are heat sealed at the end. Basically they look like clear versions of small paper sandwich bags. Though I appreciate being able to see the leaf, I don’t think these bags do a great job of protecting the leaf. The plastic being rather fragile, I question the seal that is made and I also found that it tore once opened, making it useless. Sure, you probably want to move your tea to another container for storage, but not all of us have that luxury, so reusable bags are helpful. Otherwise shipping was reasonable, quick and the samples were boxed well.