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Recent Tasting Notes
First review and a huge thanks to Angel from Teavivre for this generous sample! I very carefully opened the tea package (which is beautiful) and inhaled deeply several times to catch the first burst of scent all dry, nutty and vegital but still muted and light. I got my Spring Water…loaded my electric kettle to temp 194 and set my glass teapot to the ready. I put 3 teaspoons for 8 oz. water in the SS. basket. The leaves are a mulch of forest green lush leaves tinged with brown and small brown twigs. Steep time 2 minutes. Ready for the tasting. Put my nose down to smell the wet mash…all spinich and buttery rich. The pour into my glass mug is a champagne gold liquor nice and pale with no vegital scent at all. In fact…the scent is like cherrios dust…like at the bottom of the box. There is no floral taste like I expected or acid. The next step was to check on what would happen when I added some sugar. I didn’t overdo the sweet out of respect for the light character of the tea. There is a change…a light biscuit tone. Really there is. I think this would be a good tea choice with raspberries and cream or a croissant and jam because of the balance of acid, cream and butter in the food and biscuity lightness in the tea. No milk in this tea for me. Milk would be too heavy and the flavor of this tea is just too delicato. A second steep for 4 minutes proved a bit weak and more vegital. Still, good color and flavor. In a tea tasting I would put this in the forefront before stronger and heavier tea.
Mmmmmmmmmm. The last of our sample, so I tried to do it justice.
Dry, this tea is . . . not dry! It’s sticky from the honey, which is awesome. But it is a dark green, with a hint of muskiness from the tea covered by the predominance of the real honey. Steeped Western-style, about two or three teaspoons of tea in one of the BrewT-type steepers from DT.
First steep: Oversteeped! Three and a half minutes, because I got distracted while it was brewing up. Still! Delicious. Tea turned out a rich golden colour, with a darkly vegetal flavour. The honey toned down to a hint of sweetness throughout the cup, that sweetened without turning it floral.
Second steep: Successful steep time! Minute fifteen. Not as much of the honey flavour – I was tempted to add some myself. A lighter gold colour, and the cup was much smoother in taste, not quite as herby.
Third steep: Just under two minutes, maintained the smooth deliciousness of the second steep, but less honey.
Four steep: Two minutes. No honey taste, sadness. But the oolong is still going strong.
Fifth steep: Two minutes. Would have been delicious, but I forgot about it on the windowsill when I went to bed and didn’t drink any of it.
Sixth steep: Two minutes. Leaves have actually been sitting in the steeper overnight, so I’m hoping I’m not going to give myself an allergic reaction to it. Was actually more of a trial to see if it could be done – I never want to give up on this tea. More of a bitter vegetal flavour, but surprisingly drinkable. Don’t think I’ll try for another steep.
I had ordered a sample of Bi Lo Chun from Harney and Sons to compare with this one from Teavivre. My results did not come out at all as expected. I thought the Teavivre tea would be fresher and more flavorful and wild win hands down. Instead, I am perplexed and surprised. This doesn’t taste like a fresher tea, it tastes like a completely different tea. It looks fresher, though, certainly. Since these are the only two Bi Lo Chuns I have tried, I don’t know which is more typical.
Teavivre’s was soft and fluffy, and the golden tips looked truly golden. Harney’s was browner, even the golden tips…it was just slighter darker in general. When steeped, the wet leaves of both brands look essentially the same. The liquor of the Teavivre tea was a clear yellow, rather pale. The Harney version was a bit darker, not much, and perhaps a wee bit cloudy, probably from the down.
Now the taste is where the two are really completely different. Teavivre’s is mildly nutty, grainy like Cheerios, (thank you KS for hitting that nail on the head), and light and lovely. It is good tea and overall is very mild.
Harney and Son’s has stronger flavor. Laid over all else is a front note of…sour? tart? But good! Maybe citrus. Harney says there is an orange flavor, possibly picked up from the orange blossoms that grow around the plantation. By its nature, it reminds me of a light astringency but is more like the taste you would be left with if you had scraped an orange rind with your teeth. I think I really prefer the Harney version of this, but in a really mellow mood would perhaps want the Teavivre version.
Edited to add: Teavivre’s description of their tea matches the taste of Harney’s so maybe I didn’t use enough leaf? And Teavivre’s is far less expensive at $10.90 for 3.5 ounces, while Harney’s is $20 for two ounces
Teavivre’s Bailin Gongfu Black is a storybook tea. Wrapping oneself around this tea evokes a wondrous childlike experience. Spending an afternoon with a pot creates a feeling of warmth and wonder where imagination takes an unyielding hold.
I flat out love the dry leaf smell of this tea. Stick your nose in the bag and a rich, woodsy-cocoa scent envelops. The wet leaf is toasty and earthy, while the liquor has stronger dry-cocoa notes. Sipping this elegantly smooth tea, one experiences toasty-cocoa bliss. This tea provokes you to daydream. Naturally sweet. Perfectly balanced. The aftertaste transitions from toasty-cocoa to a more creamy caramel. A slight degree of astringency with the caramel aftertaste creates great harmony. I smack my lips after a sip and a joyous sweetness remains. My tongue begs for more. Yum!
I found that with this tea you must be careful not to over-brew. I get the best results brewing for exactly 2:30, not a second longer. Brew too long and you fade the wonderful cocoa/caramel taste. Prepare a cup, close your eyes, and let your mind and taste buds wander this dreamy fairytale.
SO I HAVE A LOT OF GREAT NEWS TO DISCLOSE IN THIS POST
The first is that my first post on my TeaTrade blog is up. The blog can be found here http://serendipitea.teatra.de/. I explain more in depth there what I aim to do. Please take a click and tell me what you think!
The second (okay so there were really only two things) is that I’ve made the decision to stop rating teas. I know of only one other user who does this (JacquelineM) but I’m doing it for a slightly different reason than she does it (though her reason does come in to play a little). The main reason is that rating a tea means that all of the work I put in to making a review culminates to me making a rating that says if I like it or dislike it. Compared to many here, I’m very new to the premium and loose leaf tea scene. The goal of me having an account here on Steepster is for me to me able to explore new teas and learn as well as review the new things that I’ve tried. I feel like if I spend a whole review listing what I taste only to culminate it in me rating it on if I like it or not, I’m not really growing. I want to review every tea I try purely by how it tastes, and not by if I like it or not. I want to go into my review unbiased and focus simply on the liquid in my mouth from a standpoint that is as unbiased as possible. I feel like that will help me grow in my knowledge of teas more than rating a tea on a like-based scale. Once I feel like I’ve tried enough teas and taken my palette to a place that I feel comfortable that I’m at the peak of my journey, I will perhaps start rating teas again. But until then, I’m going to go without rating teas.
So, now that all of this has been said, onto the tea! This is a backlog from yesterday. Another sample that Teavivre sent me!
I was so excited to try this tea. I mean like. REALLY. Excited. I mean come on, it’s the highest rated tea on the site, how could I not be?!
So, trying to keep my excitement to a low, I opened this one up. The dry leaf smells a lot like bread. In a really yummy, toasty way.
The wet leaf and tea itself smell a lot like fresh baked bread. In a way that really entices you. The tea itself is wonderful. It’s very strong and certainly not light, even with only being steeped for 2 and a half minutes! It too tastes like toasty, warm, fresh baked bread. It practically screams bakery! It’s so wonderful. Even as it cooled it retains its boldness, as a certain caramel-y note (not too sweet) comes out. It’s almost like a savory caramel-like a salted one that has a little too much salt, but in a good way. It tastes…… toasty. This, again, is hard for me to put into words, but the best I can say is bread! A wonderful tea, and I can see why it’s the top! This is definitely going into my repurchase list!
Another free sample provided by TeaVivre. Thank you!
Dry leaf is finely rolled with really dark green hue with a lot of petioles that give of pine leaf resemblance. That being said, leaf is 1,5 to 3 cm long and here and there you can find some around 4 cm. If you look more carefully you can also see some pebbles and even non-rolled leaf parts making (about 10-15%). There’s some smokiness about it, but you really have to dig in your nose to sense it.
One of the ways I savor dry leaf aroma is by dropping it in heated teapot and let it rise to my nostrils with the steam. At this point I can sense some buttery notes with vegetal hint.
1st infusion (3gr 80C 250ml 60s)
Clear liquor with light jade tone. On first sip you get a light hint of pleasant bitterness that quickly dissipates and turns to bold vegetable note, or more like some herbal tea with bitter note (like Mountain Germander). Finish is a bit dry and at this point I can picture myself quenching thirst with this tea in summer heat. I’ll have to wait for it though.
2nd infusion (80C 250ml 90s)
Second infusion yielded a bit stronger character with more bitterness but still in pleasant range. I think I shouldn’t have stretched it but keep it at 1 minute infusion – getting the impression that too much flavor got released.
Vegetal note has increased also and sweetness appears just after swallowing. Not bad, not bad at all.
3rd (3gr 80C 250ml 90s)
After this I’m pulling the plug. I could have pulled out one more steep if I hadn’t gone too far in second.
Here I get more robust cuppa with very little bitterness (less than from 1st steep) and astringency takes over. After swallowing starchy dryness is present in throat.
To wrap it up, I might get a bag of this as summer closes in, and I yet have to try it in cold brew fashion.
Used up the last of this while studying for a midterm, and I have to say I’m going to miss it. The deep red brown color and strong aroma, not to mention the bold flavor, have shown me the light, and made me realize that not all black tea is created equal. I don’t have time to do a full review, so for more specifics, see my previous notes.
My second batch of samples from Teavivre arrived today! I was very surprised when my mail lady knocked on my door as I didn’t think I would have to sign for this package (I didn’t have to last time, which is weird). Regardless, I was very excited when I took it inside and opened it up! Again, I was at a loss for what to try because I’ve been eyeing all the samples they sent me this time. So, I flipped them over so the label was facing the table and lined them up and shuffled the order around and asked my little sister (I’m babysitting) to pick a number between 1 and 5. She chose 3, and this was the third one in the lineup, so I decided to brew this up. I specifically asked for this one when I asked if I could get another box of samples (thank you again Teavivre!) and so I’m super excited to try this! I’ve also never had a milk oolong before, but I’ve heard wonderful things about them so I’m so excited to try this one.
Dry Leaf: Again, the packaging is wonderful. For this tea (and two or three of the others I got), there are 4 individual baggies with tea in them inside one bigger bag. I don’t know how much is in each because the little baggies are in Chinese (further proof of the high quality of this tea) and it doesn’t say on the bigger bag they’re all in. I assumed that one package would be enough for 10 oz of water, so I threw one in. The dry leaf is pretty green and it smells very fresh and vegetal, a little salty, actually.
First Infusion: About 200 degrees (it says boiling but a.) I think that’s a little too high and b.) my kettle boiled and I wasn’t right there so it cooled for about a minute and a half and I was too lazy to put it back on :P) for 2 minutes in my Noble Mug from DAVIDsTEA. The resulting brew is fairly light. It still smells a little vegetal. Again, I’ve never had a milk oolong so I don’t really know what to expect. It tastes very fresh and slightly vegetal but not in a savory way. Usually when I think of vegetal I think of the opposite of sweet, but this is different. It’s like fresh garden picked veggies. Aasdklfjdaslk this is so hard for me to put into words, but the best I can say is sweet veggies. Definitely not as sweet as a fruit but still slightly sweet. There’s a very distinct heaviness left in my mouth afterword, which I’m assuming is the milk part coming through. As this infusion cools, the sweetness comes out more and more. This is a pretty good, but based on this infusion I wouldn’t repurchase.
Second Infusion: Boiling water for 2 minutes and 30 seconds. It’s times like this when I really wish I had a gaiwan. The leaves have opened up so much and it’s hard to brew them in a basket like I do. I’ll try to find one around here (though finding tea supplies is not-so-surprisingly hard here in Vermont). This infusion is much creamier. I can definitely sense the milkiness of this. It’s smooth and heavy in your mouth. This time it’s a bit sweeter. Not a lot, but it definitely got sweeter. Still vegetal though. I think the main difference in this infusion is the way the creaminess came out. Like the first infusion, as this one cools the sweetness comes out more. It’s starting to turn more fruity than vegetal. I don’t think the leaves have it in them to make a third infusion, so for now this is my review. Not phenomenal (I don’t think I prepared it exactly as I should’ve, so I’m going to try it differently next time.
On somewhat of a side note, I have a good idea for my TeaTrade blog (it’s still a little confusing to me so I don’t really use it). I was thinking about making a tea review blog that connects teas to the arts. Like taking whatever tea I choose to review and then say music that compliments it or art that it makes me think of. It sounds kind of weird now, but what do you guys think? Any comments/suggestions would be great!
I had this tea with lunch today, and it certainly was tasty. Having a tea with a meal is not the best time to suss out all the flavors, but I do think that the 1 minute steep time worked out for me well here. I used a fair amount of leaf (about 2 “perfect teaspoons” for a 12oz cup) and after 1 minute at first I thought it didn’t look like it possibly could have steeped long enough because it looked so pale, but the scent persueded me otherwise. Definitely nutty and lovely.
Despite my box from Teavivre arriving over a week ago, it has taken me this long to try them! My apologies to Angel Chen and the lovely people at the company who provided these amazing samples to me, but in my defence the delay was to be able to give them my best attention. I normally use unfiltered tap water for my tea but felt that since these were quality teas from a quality company and a gift, they deserved better. So I finally got some spring water to put in my kettle and some time to sit and appreciate. Sadly, that time today was after midnight so I am starting with the only herbal in the bunch!
Since hibiscus and tart flavours aren’t my favourite, I disregarded the recommended brewing instructions and instead did what I normally do for my herbals, a heaping teaspoon in boiling water for five minutes.
First impressions are that the tea is lovely brewed, a pinkish red that makes me think of summer and sangria and happy times. The scent is hard for me to define, but definitely fruity in nature . . . maybe a blended strawberry scent? The first sips are lovely, with a tart undertone to a nice fruit punch flavour.
Part way through the cup I added some sweetener, curious how this would change the flavours. I found that it added to the fruit punch aspects, highlighting the slight tartness but also the richness that was in the flavour.
I definitely am enjoying the cup and am curious now how it will taste iced. I don’t think I’d like it cold brewed since the roselle would dominate, but brewed hot over ice would be very interesting.
My husband actually helped me with my second sampling of this tea. We used a lot more leaf this time, four teaspoons to make 16 oz. of tea. The honeysuckle flavor, while not that much stronger, did seem to last longer, all the way into the third steep. However, by the fourth steep the flavor was again completely vegetal/floral. After that point, neither of us were really that interested anymore. After it loses its sweetness, it’s just not quite as delicious. And when it’s gone, it’s gone. It almost tastes like a completely different tea. Well, overall, I don’t think I’ll be purchasing this one, just because the flavor degenerates so much, but I’m glad I got to try it. Thank you to Angel from TeaVivre for allowing me to sample this one!
My first flowering tea thanks to Teavivre! I chose to get this one because lilies are my favorite flower.
I had to steep it in a pyrex measuring glass because I have no other vessel suited for this, but it worked out just fine. And it was so cool!
I was almost expecting not to like it because I don’t really care for floral teas, but this is just right. It’s not very floral, it’s more like the petals add sweetness to the green tea. It also tones the jasmine down, so I like this even more. It is a very clean flavor. I steeped it again and I’m going to drink it cold tomorrow. It could probably hold up to several more steeps but it’s too late to get into that right now sadly :(
I think more of these will have to be purchased when I order from Teavivre…
I don’t know why I hesitated to write a note about this one… I’ve done Grade 1 and Hao Ya, but I seem to forgot about this one. Oh well, better write it now while I’m in mood for it.
This is the cheapest Keemun you can get from TeaVivre. I guess I didn’t really want to buy it, but I felt the urge to get it just to feel how far are they from each other.
Dry leaf is unevenly rolled when compared to other grades and even having some red hue to it.
I find this tea to be few steps from my taste area for breakfast tea. It’s light in taste so I could blend it with Ceylon. On other hand, some finer notes come up when steeped with boiling water and 5-minute sit. It has a somewhat coffee background, only lacking in character, with cocoa and dimmed vegetal notes and even hint of coconut with splash of milk.
Pleasant cuppa, only lacking in character. And when I think about it, it reminds me of Prince of Wales.
Sample provided by TeaVivre, thank you!
I haven’t tried Mao Jian before and I was a taken aback by brewing instructions (90C water) and 36-month shelf life which is like a double for random green tea.
Dry leaves have a dark olive tone and are long and twisted with some white tips and mild toasted aroma. I quite experimented with this one (still have to try cold brew method though) and I find it to be sensitive to both steeping time and temperature.
TeaVivre’s brewing instruction for this tea:
" Just like all green teas, brew Taimu Maojian at approximately 194 ºF or 90ºC for 1 to 2 minutes. TeaVivre’s Maojian can be infused 6 or 7 times, and you should add about 25% to the brewing time and using slightly hotter water for each infusion."
When I first brewed it (followed the instructions) I used minimum 60 seconds for first steep and added 15 seconds to second steep. What I got was delicious first infusion with clear jade tone and similar profile as Bi Luo Chun: fresh, slightly vegetal with sturdy chestnut background and some pleasant astringency that quickly fades and turns into sweet finish.
Second infusion seem to keep all the previous characteristics with a big scoop of bitterness. It wasn’t the one that would wrinkle your face but still it makes one focus more on bitterness itself than on savoring nuttiness and sweetness that are included.
I kept on brewing it with 15 second increase per steep, and third infusion brought less bitterness than previous with accent on sweetness and nutty aftertaste. There was a significant drop of astringency as well. I also got some kind of tickling sensation on tongue.
Forth steep (105 seconds) is where I pulled the plug. Taste started wearing out to the point that I might not want to drink 5th infusion. It still retained some sweet and vegetal notes with fair nutty background. Tickling sensation on tongue is more notable than in 3rd infusion.
I think I got seldom results for my first try.
On second try I managed to make it right! First two 60 second steeps (and 90C water for all) brought out an even profile of first infusion in my previous attempt. I also noted some starchy dryness this time. As I moved toward third infusion I noticed how that nutty background reminds me of dry leaf of particular Long Jing I had recently. Sweetness lingers and lasts long after sipping. This tea reminds me somewhat of Bi Luo Chun, that I don’t particularly enjoy due to its astringency, but astringency of this Mao Jian fits perfectly to my taste.
Wet leaves have accented nutty profile and I could toss them in salad or something (it’s organic after all).
I noticed that there’s only 200g left of this tea in TeaVivre’s stock. I immediately snatched 100g … only one more bag left…
This is the last of the sample from Teavivre. I have tried it before, and of the two flowering teas sent I liked Two Dragons and a Pearl the most, so that is the one I ordered from them. This one is also good, and certainly very pretty and entertaining. The liquor is pale and the blossoms have deep color so it makes a very pretty show.
I made this in my 8 ounce Taiwan glass teapot from purepuer.com. Because It opened slowly, I let it steep for about four minutes. It was still weak at that point, so I should have rinsed or just discarded the first steep. As it is, I decided to combine steeps 1 and 2 for a medium body.
The flavor is slightly grassy, but I really taste the marigold, especially on the first steeps. If you don’t like the smell of marigolds (my MIL hates them) you might not like this tea. If other blooming teas have been too weak for you, you might want to try this one.
Hubby hung in there for four steeps. I am still sipping and I think I am on number six. I am impressed with the flower colors. The first flowering tea I ever bought looked like stagnant ditch water in about five minutes. I half expected to see a minnow flit by. This is much, much better. Because I liked these two, I am toying with trying some of their other blooming teas as well, since I want to restock my dragon pearls and I want to try some more of their oolongs and I really REALLY need some more of their Chun Mee.
I really said most I can in my first review of this tea, but I want to repeat one thing in particular.
This is still the most perfectly jasmine-scented tea I’ve tasted. I have come across so many that are just over-scented and over-flavored (in some cases), and it has historically put me off jasmine teas.
Thanks to TeaVivre for proving to me that jasmine teas can be done right to suit my own palate, which seems more sensitive to flavorings and scentings.
I’m enjoying this more tonight than I was last night. Although I enjoyed it then, I found it a bit too heavy on the floral notes at the time. But… that was totally my fault. I have a really bad habit of gulping and quickly finishing tea rather than sipping it and savoring it. Anyway, I’m bumping the rating up. This stuff’s great.
Wow. All previous ideas of what Chinese green tea is are shattered. I’ve enjoyed other Chinese greens I’ve had before, but originally thought them inferior to Japanese greens taste-wise. This proved me wrong. This was transcendental. Light and brothy, super buttery and silky. I’ll have to add this into my “permanent collection” along with my beloved Japanese sencha. Blew me out of the water. Now, I’m off to go drop the ratings for other so-called dragonwells I’ve had, they don’t hold a candle to this. Nicely done, Teavivre.