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Recent Tasting Notes
Actually this post was supposed to be about the Keemun that I bought… But I was writing and completely forgot to pay even the slightest bit of attention to the cup. That’s how well the writing was going! That 750words.com site that Michelle told us about on the boards is AWESOME! It’s doing absolute wonders for my productivity, I can tell you that. Even if it does impede my ability to analyse Keemun, apparently. Three flavourful steeps of the same leaves have gone down without a hitch, though, so it must be pressing a good number of happy buttons. :) But, you’ll have to get THAT post another time.
For now, however, I remembered that I had some notes on this one from the other day lying around. This is one that I had been very much looking forward to since making that most recent TS order. Their description of the tea promises cocoa notes a-plenty and those always tend to go down well in black teas. Interestingly enough, I’ve never had much luck with actual chocolate flavoured teas. For some reason they always tend to fall short on me.
Anyway, this is of course another step in the Explore China program and as the name says, it’s from the Sichuan province which is just north of Yunnan. This does not surprise me, what with the abundance of cocoa notes. Normally I would say that Yunnan teas in generally taste largely of hay to me and I don’t much care for them, but I have had a few which were very cocoa-y and not very hay-y and I would have been fooled completely had I not known beforehand where they came from. Now that I’ve seen this, and I’ve looked at a map of China, I suspect perhaps those were produced in the northern region of Yunnan, not very far from the border?
Anyway, back to the Sichuan.
I was initially a little disappointed by the aroma of the dry leaf, because it didn’t smell of cocoa at all. Not even slightly. It was fruity and spicy and had an undertone of honey. Then I tried breathing on them, though, and there! There was the cocoa! And lots of it too.
Okay! Thus heartened, I proceeded to steep up a pot for sharing. The aroma of the finished tea did have cocoa notes right away, but they were not strong. Quite subtle notes of cocoa with something that just hinted at what I had found in the dry leaf. There was also a sort of wooden note to it all, which may or may not translate to some of that spicyness I found in the dry leaf.
The cocoa really came out in the flavour, though, and it did not disappoint. It was cocoa, mind. Not chocolate. Cocoa is a much rougher sort of flavour than the sweeter, creamier chocolate. I didn’t test the claim that with the addition of milk, you would get something that tasted akin to chocolate milk because I’m not used to adding anything to my tea ever, so I thought that would rather ruin the experience for me. (That sort of thing has never worked for me anyway)
So lots of cocoa, and again the fruity, wood-y, spicy notes underneath it all. I feel that the cocoa is the primary flavour here, but these undertone notes are the most important ones, as they are the ones that carry the whole thing. The cocoa notes alone wouldn’t work. That would just be like a thin cup of cocoa and not very enjoyable. Without these other notes laying the foundation, this tea would be nothing. But with the foundation firmly in place as in this cup here, I got a very enjoyable cup indeed.
I would definitely order this one again, I think. It tastes like the sort of thing one might get addicted to if one is not careful…
Another from my recent ‘Explore China’ TeaSpring order, and it’s from the Hu Bei province, which is in mid-China, just west of Anhui, which is where Keemun comes from.
This one is another one that comes with a LOT of expectations from me. Auggy has had this one and she was very impressed indeed, so that really raises the bar for me as well. Auggy hasn’t been around much in a while, so many of you might not be aware of this, and many who were might have forgotten, but the thing is that when it comes to black Chinese tea, we have discovered ourselves to be taste twins. Or as close to it as it’s possible to get. We like so many of the same ones, and we tend to appreciate pretty much the same qualities in them. So when Auggy gives this stuff 98 points? It seems that it must be almost impossibly good.
The aroma of the leaves were a good start. They were very chocolate-y and had some fruity, raisin-y undertones to them. Perhaps a little leather-y too. Mostly chocolate-y though.
After brewing it seems to be the other way around, with the fruity, raisin-y note in the foreground and the chocolate-y one somewhat in the background.
The flavour, however, is all chocolate-y and raisin-y again. I think it’s about half and half of the two, but the raisin-y bit is simply the one I notice first of the two. On top of it all there is a thin layer of something vaguely floral.
It’s a smooth cup this, and I suspect that the chocolate aspect with start standing out more against the raisin-y note as it continues to cool down.
Yes, Auggy… I can see what you mean.
My TeaSpring order has finally arrived! And it wasn’t even opened by Customs, which frankly is a suprise. I really cannot for the life of me see any system to which parcels they check and which they don’t. But anyway, if they had chosen to open this one, it would surely have meant customs fees so I’m certainly not complaining.
This order contained basically nearly every type of black tea on their site, except for Lapsang Souchong and their Bai Lin and some Yunnans. I’m not sure why I didn’t order the Bai Lin as well, actually, but perhaps I ran out of money. Anyway, one of almost every sort. Only one of the handful of different Keemuns, though. There are limits to even my madness.
The purpose of this excersize is to explore other parts of China rather than merely focusing on Fujian and an assortment of Keemuns, so obviously I needed a wide array to choose from, right? Right. innocent grin
Now, as it turns out, I’ve actually had this one before. Three years ago, and I wasn’t super-impressed by it then. This was before I fell in love with Chinese black in general and Fujian in particular, so I suspect I may have a different experience of it now. At the time of ordering I wasn’t aware that I’d had it before. This one is from Guangdong which is just to the south of Fujian, so I’m expecting something similar-ish to that. Although, I only know the geographical location, I have no clue about what the growing conditions are like.
The aroma is quite grainy, slightly cocoa-y and ever so slightly floral. It smells very smooth and inviting, and somewhat similar to Fujian, but rather milder.
Three years ago, I thought this was thin tasting? Really? peers into cup Really? While it is in no way a very strong or very bold tea, this, it certainly isn’t thinly tasting. It’s quite sweet, and slightly grain-y but not very much. I would say it has a wooden note to it, but bizarrely that particular note makes me think more of bamboo than of wood. And when I say bamboo, I mean the processed stuff which is made into things same way as you can make stuff out of wood. (We bought a kitchen knife holder made of bamboo recently, it’s really a very pretty material!) I don’t know anything about what bamboo tastes like though, but that’s the association I get.
Where was I. Sweet and slightly grainy with a note of bamboo. Right. What else is in here?
Like the aroma hinted, it’s a very smooth tea, this. I suspect it’s one of those that you can steep for an eternity with very little damage done. TeaSpring mentions a pepper-y note with a sweet finish, but I can’t really find that. I think their pepper-y note might be the same one that I identify as bamboo. That’s just as well, since pepper-y notes is something I associate with Yunnan, and I’m quite ambivalent about those teas.
I’m definitely enjoying this one more than I did when I had it three years ago. Back then I only thought it worth 71 points, but I will raise that now. It’s also very nice with a piece of wedding cake II. My parents-in-law sent us the rest of the wedding presents that we couldn’t travel with and included a huge piece of the wedding cake that my mother-in-law made for our UK reception. It’s a fruitcake, so it travels excellently. The combination with this tea feels quite decadent.
This reminds me of the Japanese black teas I’ve tried – it’s got a sour taste to it with a strong woody note. But it doesn’t sparkle like the Japanese black teas did. Instead, it’s kind of muddy, like typical Chinese tea characteristics are trying to poke through but are dulled by the tart-plum taste. It balances out a bit as it cools, feeling more underripe sour fruity dessert-ish but it still just misses the boat for me.
It does shine a little more when brewed in larger volume. It has less sour/tacky notes (though they are still there at the end of the sip, just a tad) and more warm, fuzzy Yunnan-ish notes. It’s still not a tea I’m going to adore, but a 12oz cup is much tastier than an 8oz cup. That requires that I give the tea a little bump in ratings, but it’s still not all that shiny for me.
More backlogging! Whee!
The smell is super interesting. Grassy but toasted, floral, honeyed woodsy and chocolaty. The wet leaves have notes of fresh rye bread and… raisins? The liquor smells toasted but green – somewhat like Zealong Aromatic.
Oh the flavor! It’s honeyed, roasted, floral, green, creamy. It has a fuzzy, creamy mouthfeel on the front and a clean, slightly crisp aftertaste. There’s all sorts of lovely flavors poking out and swirling about in this tea. Green, floral, creamy, woodsy, toasty, grain-y, honey, fruity…. it’s really delightful.
The second steep is a bit more on the roasted than green side of the street. It’s still got nice floral and honey notes, but stone fruit pops out more, as well as a gentle roasted note.
Third steep brings to mind a slightly more typical wuyi with darker flavors and an air of mystery.
Fourth steep brings to mind a milk oolong. No seriously, it does. Lightly caramel notes over a soft silkiness. I should have kept the leaves. Why did I get rid of them before trying this cup???
I’m pretty sure this tea was one I got because something Angrboda said struck my happy button. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but I’m glad I gave this atypical-for-me tea a shot.
The dry leaf smells woodish and a bit of a mild/dark cinnamon. The tea, however, is mildly smoky, sweet, fruity and a bit floral. Lots of interesting stuff going on.
The taste is lovely. Sweet and smoky on the front end (in a cigar-ish way) and sweet and nectary on the back end (like honeysuckle). SO GOOD. There is still a bit of that wood note that is in darker oolongs that I just can’t love, but the other aspects are super tasty. Very deliciously drinkable and pretty, even.
I can’t say for sure if I will rebuy this just because I don’t normally find myself going for this type of tea, but this is a lovely example of type that I would be happy to drink again (and again).
I’ve discovered that I need to do some backlogging of my TeaSpring teas from my order a few months ago. Whoops! Sadly though, I only ordered a very small amount of most of the teas – 25g – which seemed like a good idea at the time, but obviously wasn’t.
Because this is so good. The dry leaves smell like cocoa. And the tea juice? It tastes like cocoa! It’s so smooth and sweet and cocoa-y with a little woodsy aftertaste. It’s fantastic! Slurping brings out fresh bread and maybe a hint of a light preserves – a bit like pineapple preserves in that it is fairly mild on the actual fruit-tasting front. But yeah, this is so tasty, it makes me want to get up and do a little dance.
Well, except for the fact that it is gone. That is not dance-worthy. And it went so fast, too! But this tea pretty much guarantees I’ll be placing another TeaSpring order before too long. And ordering much larger sizes.
A new day, a new tea! This one somehow managed to hide from me, managing to be the sole untasted tea from my TeaSpring order a few months ago. But I found it yesterday and decided we can’t just leave it unsampled so it gets busted open today!
I really like milk oolongs. But see, they don’t taste milky to me. I don’t know why exactly, but I always end up tasting a light and strong sweetness that makes me think of Juicy Fruit gum (which is a positive, in my world). Nothing like milk (though I suppose an argument could be made for a bit of condensed milk due to the sweetness) but I love them still.
This, however, is surprisingly different. There’s a heaviness, an almost spiciness that reminds me of white pepper. Underneath that is the sweet tropical fruitiness that I associate with Juicy Fruit and milk oolongs. The end taste’s fruitiness continues well past swallowing, becoming higher and sweeter as I breathe through my mouth. It’s gorgeous.
As it cools, the darker spiciness and lighter sweetness start to sink into each other creating this heady, rich mix of thickness and sweetness that still isn’t milky to me but is much too sophisticated and sensual to be associated with a mere gum.
In the second steep, the flavors have swapped. First I get the sweet, thinned condensed milk fruit-ish sweetness followed by the darker, heavier former spiciness that has evolved into something more bready, like fresh white rye bread. The overall taste has muddied up some but it still tastes very yummy. Not as sophisticated as the first steep, but tasty enough that my cup emptied super fast. The aftertaste is still sweet, but not quite as pretty and it is coupled with a prickly faint pepper note that isn’t as nice as the first steep but still interesting and enjoyable.
Not the most perfect, end-all-be-all of milk oolongs and probably the one that has reminded me least of Juicy Fruit gum. But I quite like this and think it is a very nice example of the milk oolong category, or at least my somewhat limited experience with it.
Very earthy but with chocolate and very attractive roasted flavors. Strange on the first brew, where the earthiness is very strong. The great thing is that this can last 5 or 6 steeps easily. rich wet earth aromas, and chocolate notes that dance in and out. Great value for the money.
Light apricot, grassy, lovely sweetness in the mid palate with a finish that is lingering. Really love the fresh bright flavors you find here.
Multiple infusions permitted (I prefer three, maybe four). Good tea. I need to drink another cup of this. Later. LOL
I ordered this over 2 months ago. Wasn’t until now that I decided to write a note about. This was my first Tie Lou Han, description on the website is pretty interesting, “A strong, rich and full-bodied tea that will warm your body and energize your mind.” I was honestly intrigued but the end result was a little disappointing. I have since tried other Tie Lou Han’s so I feel better writing about it now.
>Dry Leaf Appearance/Aroma
Short curled dark leaves. Lots of broken pieces and some dust. Light charcoal aroma.
Gaiwan, Gong-fu style, boiling water, one rinse. Brewed 5 times.
This tea has a very faint smell of rocks and charcoal. The tea has a strong charcoal taste with a medium body in the first cups, which then fades into very subtle cocoa notes.
Starting from he 3rd cup, the tea became lighter in taste, but other than that no noticeable changes from here onward.
4th and 5th cup followed the same pattern, loss of taste with no changes in texture or new flavors. I honestly got tired of it, so I ended the session there.
>Wet Leaf Appearance
Nothing out of the ordinary, dark leaves, mostly broken.
If someone had told me this was a cheap wuyi oolong I would’ve believed it. The description of this tea really intrigued me so I was expecting something more, this one just feels like a cheap overly toasted da hong pao. Does this mean it’s a bad tea? no way. Despite the letdown, I did enjoy this tea, it’s just not amazing or has anything that makes it stand out.
Oh my goodness! I’m getting quite a bit of rose on the mid to end of these sips. Rich, grainy, roasty, chocolatey… then rose. Musky earthy true rose, too. I’m in love. If I could put my best loved flavors together and wish for a tea, this would be IT! Fancy that it also has a rich history, winning awards all the way back in 1915 and everything! Millions of hearts to this one.
With my recent taking to Fujian black teas, I couldn’t wait to try this tea, and thankfully SimplyJenW fulfilled that desire by immediately sending me a sample of it! I’m brewing it western style because that’s how I’ve done my other gong fu blacks so far, with parameters that approximate the parameters I’ve used previously, except this one I brewed a little hotter because that’s more like what TeaSpring calls for.
From the dry leaf I’m definitely getting molasses and grainy notes, that is, it smells pleasantly like horse grain. I’ve smelled that before from the base of the Tea Spot’s Organic Chocolate “O”, and though I know it doesn’t sound like a compliment, it totally is because I love that smell. I always wanted to eat the horse grain as a kid because it smelled tasty, but of course uncooked grains are not that palatable even when covered in molasses. Anyway, back to the tea. Steeped, I’m smelling more of those cocoa, malty, grainy notes in the cup.
Nice grainy, malty, slightly molasses-y, slightly cocoa-y notes in the flavor of this one. It’s also a little less sweet-seeming and a little bolder and a little less smooth than the other gong fu blacks I’ve tried. I’m glad Jen also sent a sample of Keemun Mao Feng, since a few people have mentioned that this tea reminds me of a Keemun without smokiness. I’ve never tried an unflavored Keemun so that will be good to compare. I think Jen nailed it when she said this one was less honeyed and caramelly than the Tan Yang I brought back from China (and I also think Teavivre’s Bailin Gong Fu), but those are some of my favorite parts of the cup. I do have plenty of leaf for this one to try many times and compare side-by-side to some of my other faves, not to mention the others that Jen put in my box (thank you!).
I am definitely enjoying this one very much, but it isn’t an easily-acquired replacement for my Tan Yang I brought back from China (of course I knew that going in from Jen’s reviews). I will have to try the higher-grade Tan Yang Jing Zhi from TeaSpring as well at some point.
This is a magnificent tea. It reminds me of Harney’s Keemun Mao Feng without any smoke. If I had to describe it in one word, it would be RICH. It has that same intense richness that I love in KMF. That magical fruity/floral on the end of the sip. I am on my second steep and it still remains completely powerful and delicious!
To me, it tastes like an entirely different beast than Tan Yang Te Ji! Not like a more refined version but rather a smokeless Keemun Mao Feng.
YUM. I love, love, love it.
This is a review-by-proxy. I made a pot of this for my husband this morning. He loooo-oooo-oooooved it. It’s hard to get lots of words out of anyone in the morning, but I can tell you that he groaned, and said it was soooo good, and amazing. I’ll have to try it in order to get…more adjectives. :)
He’s been having tea instead of coffee in the morning and he has almost finished off Thomas Sampson! I had three tins of him before this tea-in-the-morning business!
Delicious. Everything I expected, and more. An extremely fine example of a Gong Fu black with all the roasty, chocolatey, tangy wonderment that implies.
Another tea which makes me say, “Is this REAL!?” How can this other plant produce sweet chocolate!?!?!?
First tea of the morning…..
Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mothers, aunts, mothers to be, and the good people who stand in for mothers who cannot be there for a multitude of reasons. I lost my mother almost 14 years ago, and I am so thankful for my friends as well as my MIL who have helped to fill her role a little. Me, as a mother myself, I know there are things I could do and could have done better. But, I would not trade this gift for the world.
I am doing a “Parade of Panyangs” of sorts in celebration today. I started with this one, and I have another sent from the lovely Dinosara that she brought back from her trip to China. Then I will probably throw in my bargain basement Panyang from Upton that I also love. I might even brew up a cup of Keemun Mao Feng. It is an odd Mother’s Day for us, because we are scrambling to get some work done on the outside of the house involving door frame replacement and painting before we have contractors back on Monday or Tuesday. And the kids are pretty swamped with homework, since there are about 10 days left of school.
This one is chocolatey, has a bit of heft to the mouthfeel, a bit of malt, and very smooth, plus there may be a little fruitiness…plums, maybe? It is very rich, and it seems that the big difference between this and my beloved Kemmun Mao Feng is that KMF has just a hint of smoke (which I will be double checking this later). I was looking at the leaves on this one compared to my Keemun Mao Feng, and they are really very similar, except that the Keemun Mao Feng’s leaves are longer and a bit wider dry. I was also comparing it to the Tan Yang Dinosara brought from China, and her version is much more golden tipped as well as longer than TYTJ. It is a definite love for me in the tea world.
Usual mug method.
Apparently the last time I had this I wrote that it had, and I quote; sort of a proto-caramel. A caramel stem cell flavour, sort of. end quote.
I mean, I get the caramel-y flavour, but ‘caramel stem cell’??? What was going on in my head that day?
Anyway, that’s not what I wanted to say. All I wanted to say was that I’m sipping a large mug of this while reading Stone Soup comic strips, and sometimes a good tea is just ten times better when it isn’t analysed to bits.
My TeaSpring Ti Kuan Yin order has just arrived! I ordered about an ounce of each of their TKY and will be reviewing them in the coming weeks as soon as I can. First lets start with their lowest priced TKY.
>Dry Leaf Apperance/Aroma
Curled up dark jade leaves, typical Ti Kuan Yin look, nothing out of the ordinary. Floral aroma is really subtle, barely noticeable on the dry leaf but prevalent in the the foil pouch the tea came packed in.
Following Teaspring’s directions using a Yixing teapot, freshly boiled water, and 1 min steep time.
> Liquid Appearance
Clear golden green, first cups were very pale.
I re-steeped this tea 5 times. After the 4th cup I noticed a sharp drop in flavor and decided to end the session after the 5th.
The 1st cup was very light in taste, faintly floral, but with a really smooth taste. Not as “fresh” as other TKY’s. The 2nd cup remained with a similar muted floral taste, but the tea became slightly thicker, almost creamy. In the 3rd cup, the tea had a very nice creamy texture but aroma and flavor was lacking. By the 4th cup, the tea lost most of its creaminess and a subtle green taste began to emerge. The 5th cup was really faint in taste, no aroma, and barely any texture.
> Wet Leaf Appearance
The leaves were mostly medium sized, mostly damaged in some way, but with few stems.
Well I really wasn’t expecting much from TeaSpring’s budget TKY. Despite its low price, I don’t think I would purchase this again, even as my everyday option, as I feel the taste is too light and there are much better affordable options out there. I did enjoy how the texture of this tea evolved from light and smooth, to thick and creamy.
On another note, I don’t know if it has always been this way with TeaSpring, but in my last two orders, both my packages came heavily damaged (cardboard box seemed as if it had been under a super heavy item during the whole shipping process). Thankfully the tea itself wasn’t damaged.
A very nice oolong. All up, it makes a total of six infusions. Very strong bark-like aftertaste. Dry peach, cinnamon with a hint of pepper, and the underlying mineral tone are the most distinctive flavours of my batch. Brewed in a 115mL high fired, thin-walled lu ni pot.
Tea of the afternoon……. (SRP #16)
Tasting note #700. Wow. I can’t believe it. Which leads me to how this tea came to reside in my cupboard. If you hang around Steepster long enough, you start to get to know other members and their tea loves. I believe this is Angrboda’s all time favorite. It is a Fujian black, which are my favorite black teas. This tea has been on my list for ages, so I splurged on 50g. It arrived today in the mail, just in time for my 700th note. Perfect timing!
Oh. Yeah. (I keep hearing that song from ‘Ferris Beuller’s Day Off’ now…) This tea is fabulous. Notes of chocolate, not cocoa-chocolate!, a slightly heavier mouthfeel than others like it (my gong fu blacks), and really tea perfection. I think I want to keep this one around for a while. I stuck with the smaller amount for my first order with TeaSpring since I have a tea inventory problem at home. Once I get a handle on the inventory, I will order more.
Usual mug method. (Want more NOW!)
This feels like a budget Ti Kuan Yin. Very similar in various aspects that some might even think it’s the same tea (I’ve read somewhere that Huang Jin Gui is in reality a variety of Ti Kuan Yin, whether that’s true or not I don’t really know).
This tea is very VERY aromatic, I brewed this gong-fu style and as soon as the near boling water hit the leaf, I was hit by a very nice spring-like floral aroma. Taste-wise it’s good, very light in taste though. Sweet with a slightly thick body. Other than that, it is a very straight forward (Anxi) green oolong.
I did like this tea, reminds me a lot of TKY but fresher, greener, lighter, and more about aromatics rather than the whole package. Good as an everyday option I guess.