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Recent Tasting Notes
Last night was Writers’ Group night at my house. Everyone has come to expect unlimited tea! We are trying to come up with a good name for our group and want to incorporate a reference to tea, so if anyone has ideas, let me know!
We had Golden Monkey from Harney and Sons first and everyone liked it but I have found that these folks really prefer oolongs and greens.
From one delicious smelling packet of leaves, we made about 100 ounces of this tea. If it hadn’t been so late when we started drinking it I would have had to open another packet, and we even had one member missing last night. Seriously, I inhaled the aroma of those dry leaves deeply into my lungs over and over, it was sooo good.
This was definitely their favorite. When the first person sipped it, she held out her cup almost reverentially and breathed, “Oh, THIS is GOOD!”
The color was quite pale, paler than many greens, and the flavor was silky, milky, buttery, and super smooth.
Thank you, Teavivre, for this exquisite sample!
This was a free sample from Teavivre. Thank you!
This is a green oolong with dark, tightly rolled leaves. The leaves are enormous when they expand.
I tried it both in a gaiwan and western style, and it was very good both ways. I think I most preferred it in the gaiwan, steeped for about thirty seconds or perhaps a little less.
The taste is milky, smooth, and creamy and leaves a sweet aftertaste. If you oversteep there is a hint of grass and a slight sour taste. I mention that because sometimes you WANT that little bite, like a Chun Mee gives.
Thank you for sending this so I can fill my morning with lovely tea! I can tell it still has some good steeps left in it, too.
I had to buy samples of the 2015 harvest of Teavivre’s Golden Monkey! This tastes similar to me as other havests. If you love this Golden Monkey, you can be thrilled that this harvest hasn’t changed much. Not quite as dark chocolate as I would wish my favorite Golden Monkey to be, but milk chocolate. There are also hints of a flavor like keemun, slightly smoky, malty and dark. The dry leaves look the same: dark and twisty with hints of gold. The brew also has the color of milk chocolate. Both steeps had the exact same flavor.
Steep #1 // 2 teaspoons for mug // 15 minutes after boiling // 2 minute steep
Steep #2 // just boiled // 3 minute steep
Additional notes: Having this one again to think about ordering it for Teavivre’s sale. It’s so so good. I’m just happy this one isn’t tasting like tomato soup like other black teas have been lately. It HAS seemed to adapt that maple syrup like quality I noticed in the red dragon pearls the other day. How nice! It adds a sweetness to that dark. malty, chocolate deliciousness. I love how this one evolves: the first steep is for breakfast: sweet, malty, chocolate. The second steep is much different, almost for lunch or afternoon: a little bit brisker, tougher, bready, hints of cedar. The second steep doesn’t really have the maple or chocolate. Would I like the second steep to be like the first? Yes. But the second cup is really good too. This one will be difficult not to order.
Steep #1 // 2 tsps. // 10 min after boiling // rinse // 2 min
Steep #2 // 2 min after boiling // 3 min
Flavors: Chocolate, Maple Syrup
Additional notes: I’m trying this again with more accurate steep parameters… two teaspoons, waited 10 mins after boiling, rinse, two minutes. This cup is a LOT better than the last time I had it. This Golden Monkey still isn’t as chocolatey as I’m used to, but there is a taste to it that reminds me of wine, or maybe like the muscatel from Darjeeling, but only slightly to make it different than most other Golden Monkey teas. There is slight chocolate flavor, but not like dark or bittersweet chocolate – more like a candybar. MUCH tastier than the last time I had this tea. Teavivre teas are usually the best, but they also seem to be the most changing depending on how you steep them.
A sample from Teavivre! Thank you so much! I may have let the water cool too long.. and I also forgot to boil enough water for a rinse, so I wouldn’t say this steep was by Teavivre’s parameters. I did use the suggested two teaspoons though.
First steep // 1 min 30 sec // water cooled around 20 mins
I can tell this one could have done better with hotter water and a rinse. The flavor seems oaky somehow. I definitely expected a little bit more chocolate flavor… there is a hint. It’s a good cup but I know it can be a lot better if I steeped it correctly. (I recently tried the Bailin Gongfu and it was ridiculously better when I steeped it by Teavivre’s parameters.)
Second steep // 3 min // five mins after boiling
This is much deeper and darker and what I was thinking of. I wouldn’t necessarily call it chocolate though.. I’d just call it a deep dark flavor! No longer oaky. Very good! The second steep was supposed to be only for two minutes but I wasn’t going to resteep the leaves.
I will try to get it closer to Teavivre’s steeping parameters next time but this is still a delicious tea. I really like this blend. I’d call it in the middle of some of Teavivre’s teas – it isn’t quite sweet potato and it isn’t quite dark chocolate. Teavivre has a tea for you no matter which flavor profile you love… I just happen to love all of Teavivre’s teas!
Ditto about making a placeholder so I can log this properly later as I enjoyed it tonight but am dead tired…
I love how the more you steep it the creamier the texture gets—I’m a big fan of the smoothness of huang shan mao fengs. The flavor is nutty and sweet, and gets more floral upon resteep. I think for me, dragon wells in general are more immediately satisfying/gratifying and straightforward than HSMFs but HSMFs have a nuance and gradually unfolding loveliness that is, in the right mood/context, more enchanting. I really like both, hooray.
Dry leaf smells of clean dry hay.
Brewed aroma is fragrant and sweet with light fruity potato and malt.
Tastes smooth and sweet with fruity sweet potato and mild malt.
This is a very tasty and mildly sweet tea; it is mouthwatering and refreshing and somehow sparkling without any bitterness.
I did 3 steeps and could likely do more. I do want to compare it to the H&S’s golden monkey that I have, but Teavivre’s is really delicious.
Thank you Angel and Teavivre for the generous samples!
More fancypants Chinese green tea from Teavivre, yay. This smells and tastes wonderful, sweetly nutty and buttery smooth. Like the other huang shan mao fengs I’ve had it’s relatively light, more aroma than taste; that said, it’s a lovely pick-me-up.
I’m becoming quite fond of my little glass teapot (giving my brew baskets a break!)—I love watching tea leaves expand.
Decided to revisit this one today – and I’m also making it a sipdown since after making my Timolino full of this I sent the last bit off in a swap package. I figured I’d revisit it since I had relatively fond memories, but I doubted that I’d enjoy it enough to ever really get around to drinking up the last of it. I’m sure it’ll be better appreciated where it’s going…
For preparation, I steeped 1 tsp. in my timolino with 80 degree celsius water for two minutes. The tea liquor was a pale green yellow like last time – but this time for the quantity of water I used significantly less leaf so I’m expecting the taste to be a bit lighter than what I remember (thinking maybe that’ll ease up on any unwanted vegetalness). I can’t really judge anything from the smell: my timolino seems to have picked up a permanent “white chocolate” creamy type of smell from the White Chocolate Frost I had in it (although I’ve managed to get the lingering taste of that tea out).
Taste wise, I’m fighting through a little bit of bitterness. I guess the steep time I used was too much. However, once I fight through that kinda bitterness the result is a somewhat creamy kind of spinach/cucumbery taste. Not too bad. I think I’m gonna try and hold onto my initial memory of this though: I remember it tasting better that first time. The after taste here is quite pleasant though – and even though there’s vegetalness it’s not in a “seaweed” or “grassy” which so I’m not completely turning up my nose on this one.
I don’t drink straight greens often if ever so sometimes I forget you need to use a very ‘light touch’ with most of them – but over all I think both memories/tasting in mind (edit: I just went back and reread my last tasting note on this) I’m happy with my rating and satisfied with my decision to pass it on, though glad I took the opportunity to try it one more time.
Teavivre Sample #3:
Ughh! I had a longer more detailed review for this one written, but Steepster ate it and it’s late and I don’t so much feel like rewriting it from scratch so mostly I’m just going to summarize…
Anyway, last tea of the night which leaves one Teavivre sample left (a straight white tea) and one Butiki sample left that I’m going to try as my reward for finishing all the straight tea samples that Lala sent me.
I wanted to read the steepster reviews of this one, but there are only two tasting notes. Since there was no info. in the tea description or on the sample packet about how much leaf to use for my cup I basically just guessed 1 tsp. since that seems to be a pretty safe amount for green teas.
The dry leaf smells very fresh and lightly vegetal which is usually unappealing but not so much in this case. I keep going back to the sample packet to take another whiff. There’s something REALLY familiar smelling about the dry leaf for this one, and it’s bothering me – however I’m certain I’ve never tried this specific tea before.
I steeped 1 tsp. for 1 minute, and the colour is a pale yellow/green. The scent is mildly vegetal, but in a way that I don’t find off putting (probably because of how light it is). The taste of this tea is very light and the only notes I can get are vegetal ones reminding me primarily of very lightly creamy spinach. It’s very refreshing, and there’s absolutely no bitterness or astringency to be detected. I’m wondering if I did underleaf this or whether that’s how this tea is supposed to taste. I’m definitely going to need to try this again with more leaf and a longer steep time to be sure.
I keep going back to the words “light”, “refreshing”, and “smooth” in my head. Conservatively, I’m going to rate this tea a ‘75’ for now, but I reserve the right to increase the rating if I taste this a second time and am able to duplicate the taste or can get it to taste better (because I really like it) or decrease it if it tastes really different and unappealing because right now I’m in a bit of disbelief about whether this is really how the tea SHOULD taste.
Getting closer to a sipdown for this one. Two, maybe three cups left? Although, even though I’d like it out of my cupboard, I’m not especially in a rush to drink it all up.
Today, I really butchered the the steeping for this one. Firsty, I definitely overleafed (in a small attempt to use up more leaf). For my 8 oz. cup, I used about 2 1/2 tsp. of leaf. And then, I set the teaball with the leaf in it on the counter next to the mug while I waited for the water to cool down enough, but then I got distracted by an email and I let it cool a bit too much. At this point, I just thought “fuck it” and plunked the teaball in the water. I have no clue how long it actually ended up steeping…
Taste wise, this is weird. It’s very, very vegetal and leaves an especially dry and astringent feeling in my mouth after the sip – but it’s NOT really bitter tasting at all. I’m really disliking it, but what else can I expect from preparing this in the stupidest way possible? It’s a combination of not loving green tea and doing a horrible job preparing it – not any criticism against the tea itself.
Teavivre Sample #2:
This one is supposed to smell/taste like chestnuts, I guess. Being totally honest, I know very little about Dragon Well teas. The leaves themselves look very similar to DAVIDsTEA’s green tea base used in Hot Lips, which is a flavoured green tea that I actually like a fair bit. However, I think Hot Lips has a sencha bae like most of their flavoured green teas – anyone know for sure? Maybe that’s a stupid question – I don’t know.
I don’t smell chestnuts in the dry leaf. I do smell grass. Still, this is less vegetal smelling than most straight green teas I’ve smelled.
I steeped 1 tsp. in about 80 degree water for a minute. There isn’t really a strong smell coming from the liquor of this one, that’s good because it’s not too seaweedy or grassy and bad because I have no idea what I’m going to taste.
Actually, I really like this one! With the exception of the Butiki Teas that Lala sent me, this is probably tied as my favourite alongside the Jasmine Pearls – so far anyway. It tastes light and buttery, with almost some nuttiness to it. In a lot of ways it’s reminding me of the Genmaicha I bought at McQuarries.
I think I could drink this on a regular basis – and I’d be open to trying different varieties of Dragon Well too.
I think I need to retreat to my room though, and come back to the rest of the samples in an hour or so – Tre’s watching Vines or Youtube videos or something like that, and every ten seconds or so he breaks out into really obnoxious laughter. It’s kinda disrupting my “restful Sunday” and the calm tea drinking atmosphere I’ve got going on…
What a treat—I wanted to try more hou kui greens and suddenly I’m finding them everywhere (but you know how that goes—once something’s in your scope of awareness you’re subconsciously on the lookout for it when before you’d just tune it out as unrecognizable).
Some of the longest tea leaves I’ve ever encountered—they stood up like a swirl of matchsticks in a jar, barely fitting in my glass teapot dry! Tickled me. I like how this is a perfect balance of savory and sweet—there’s some soup-satisfying vegetable flavor, can’t quite place it (it’s not the usual suspects like carrot or green bean or snap pea…KittyLovesTea mentions cabbage and I could see how that might be it; it is something more in that family, less green or sugary, rounder and fuller), but also a perfumed sweet element ever present. It feels light and delicate yet it has a lot of flavor and a surprisingly satisfying body. There’s a tinge of roastiness too, really yummy. Now I’m looking forward to the couple of other hou kuis headed my way.
I know I keep saying it but wow, I just can’t get over how much I love straight green tea now when I thought I hated it for like a decade. Turns out I just wasn’t familiar with Chinese ones. Yum!
Ok, time to try this one again.
I’m still finding this pretty bitter, but I think I’m able to identify the taste a bit better. There are slight floral notes, and I want to say something verging on apricot or peach but just not quite getting there. It reminds me a lot of Ontario Ice Wine, but without the berry notes and with much more astringency.
The aftertaste isn’t sitting well with me at all, and I don’t think I can blame it on user error this time. I guess this is sort of a sip down then: I’ll be giving the last bit of this sample to Robyn.
Teavivre Sample #1:
Dry leaf smells sweet and floral. I definitely like the smell of this one, but I’m not surprised – I’ve been trying more white teas lately and have been really liking them.
Steeped 2 tsp. for 1 minute and about 15 seconds.
Hmm… It’s a little bitter. Not a lot, but just enough that it’s sort of off putting. I’m sure that’s likely a user error though, and not the tea itself. However, the cooler my cup got the less noticeable the bitterness seemed. Aftertaste is very lightly floral, and sweet.
Not a huge fan, but I’m going to hold off on a rating until I’ve tried it again because one of the things I’m finding so hard to get over is the bitterness, and that was probably my fault.
I am a jasmine fiend. Rose is my favorite floral note, but jasmine is a very, very close second. Especially with white tea—I think jasmine and white tea are meant to be together. It’s a match made in heaven! And this is, without a doubt, my favorite white & jasmine that I’ve tried (so far, but I’m guessing I’m not going to find one that tops it… though I do have a Verdant sample tucked away somewhere I haven’t tried yet).
First off, it’s just so pretty! Fluffy little leaves like lambs. I want to pet them, which is kind of weird. You probably shouldn’t stand around stroking your tea. Which I totally didn’t do. No way!
I associate jasmine with calm, soothing teas. Which this definitely is—it’s relaxing, calming, light and airy. But it’s also crisp and refreshing, bright and sparking from the silver needle base. It’s an odd, interesting combination that I was not expecting. There’s notes of honeysuckle and grass and morning dew. It’s a perfect cup of tea for the end of summer, and it feels like the first days of fall to me. Summer is slipping away, but it is still in the air—you can feel that lingering warmth and the soothing feeling of days spent doing nothing but relaxing. And on the horizon are days of crunching leaves and cool breezes and sweater weather! Okay, maybe the lovely weather has me reading a bit too much into this tea. But I am in tea-love! Thanks so much to Angel for this super generous sample.
I requested a sample of this with a recent order I placed with TeaVivre. I’ve been meaning to branch out and try some more greens (my stash primarily consists of black, oolong, and pu’er teas at the moment), and this seemed to be one of the basic green teas I haven’t tried until now.
One of the first things I’d heard about gunpowder was that it had a slightly smoky aroma, which gave rise to its name. I was a little sceptical of that (the etymology, not the taste), since lapsang souchong is probably known as the smoky tea, so it would make more sense to me if that was called gunpowder if the name was just based on flavour. So, I did a quick Wikipedia search, which yielded some unsatisfactory (read: uncited) results. Basically, other origins for the name could be from the appearance and how its unfurling sort of ‘explodes’ when brewed, or it could be from the Mandarin phrase for “freshly brewed”. The most reasonable etymology to me seems to be the one regarding its appearance, but I’ll have to continue looking into that.
Anyway, I wound up drinking the entire cup while looking up the etymology of gunpowder tea and so I don’t have any specific notes on it. Oops. I do remember thinking that it did have the slightest hint of smokiness in the background, along with a bit of astringency and a light vegetal sweetness.
I’m on my second steep now, and the smokiness is gone, as is the astringency. Very smooth cup. The sweetness seems to be more prominent. Might not be an everyday cup for me, but I’d definitely get some more sample sizes from different companies to see the variation in this type of tea, since it does seem like a nice tea. Thanks for the sample, TeaVivre!
Continuing with the backlog and thanks to Angel at Teavivre for this sample.
Like the Lu Shan Yun Wu, the dry leaves look like delicate green shavings of green. They have a distinct warm hay aroma that changes to a delicate umami upon the application of hot water. The green becomes more vivid in the pot and a light yellow liquor develops. The tea has a slightly spicy, green bean flavour to it that sparkles on the tongue and leaves a pleasantly sweet aftertaste. The liquor itself is creamy, verging on buttery and very pleasant on a hot summer’s day.
Flavors: Butter, Green Beans, Hay, Spices, Umami
The last of my free samples from Teavivre. Thank you.
I have high expectations of Teavivre, because the quality of their teas always seems high, even when it is teas that are not to my personal taste, so I approached this tea with pleasure.
The silver and dark green leaves are a pleasant aesthetic change from the flat leaves of the Long Jings that I have had recently. They smell vegetal, or of beans perhaps. There seems to be a bit of hay in there too. When steeped the wet leaf has a slightly savoury aroma, and the liquor, which is a dark yellow, transmutes that aroma to a thick, buttery, beany one.
Tasting the tea, I am struck by the thickness of the liquor too. It feels more like eating than drinking the tea. It is definitely buttery, the beans disappear from the taste and a new fruitiness emerges with a spicy aftertaste that lingers on the tongue. The sweetness lasts for a good while and I can feel myself calming down and de-stressing as I drink it. This is a ‘whole body’ tea. I just wish I could place what type of fruit it is. My expectations have been met and this is another splendid tea from Teavivre.