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Recent Tasting Notes
I have been up since three. I could barely keep my eyes open at work. A friend battled colon cancer for a year and was declared cancer free. Now they say he has a spot on his lung and we are waiting for results. Two weeks from today I will be laid off forcing me into retirement with no insurance and less than half the income. I have no new job prospects on the horizon so I am having a little trouble with Fear Not. As gmathis said the other day, I know how the story ends, but can’t we just skip a few chapters?
I went to my drawer for a little comfort. I was looking for Golden Monkey black tea. When I saw this one I realized I haven’t had it in a long time. It was a great choice. While waiting for the water to heat I started noticing the leaf smell. It is like wheat and malt. Such a nice scent. The cup is so smooth. It is heavily malted with light cocoa notes. I notice today it is even slightly peppery. The malt and cocoa linger long after the sip is gone. It’s funny, not that long ago I had no idea what people meant when they said a tea was malty. I guess it is because I had never tried a tea like this before.
I am more impressed with this today by far than when I first tried it. This I believe is the least expensive version of Dian Hong that TeaVivre sells. I should check that before I say it I guess. Anyway, I think originally I thought it would taste more sweet potato and honey like Golden Tips. You tone those flavors way down into the background and crank the malt and you have this tea. The slight amount of rough edges at the back of the sip I think would even appeal to coffee drinkers. If you enjoy Chinese black tea and would like an everyday affordable version this would do nicely.
Thank you TeaVivre for helping to take my mind off the troubles of the day. Upping the rating.
When TeaVivre offered their latest round of very generous samples, I asked for this one specifically. This is the lowest priced level of the 3 Dian Hong black teas they sell. Even at the low cost this is still a quality loose leaf tea with a fair amount of golden tips mixed in with darker leaf. The dry leaf is a bit malty and has some tobacco leaf scent. I used about 3g (a healthy spoon) and just below boiling water, steeping for 3 minutes in my French press. The liquor is a dark and clear caramel. The wet leaf scent reminds me of brownies. Like baked caramelized sugar and chocolate. (yeah, I know – Yum! Right?)
Comparing this to Golden Tips or Sun Moon Lake is unfair, but I can’t help it as I just tasted tested the latter. So let me get this out of my system – This does not have the wonderful sweet potato notes of the Golden Tips, and it does not have the amazing honey and mint of the Sun Moon Lake. So in this unfair comparison it starts off sounding a little bland. Yet it is $6.90/100g compared to $16.90 and $29.00 respectively. This is a really good tea on its own strengths. It is smooth and malty. I don’t know how this is processed and fired but I detect a light amount of smoke in the cup. That adds character and depth. The cooler the cup gets the more the flavor pops.
At the price point of this tea, having a nice Dian Hong for everyday would be enough. Yet, I haven’t even gotten to the reason I requested this sample. I had a hunch about this tea that I just had to try. I brewed the second cup and poured it over ice. As I suspected, this made a refreshing light glass of iced tea. Where as the mighty Golden Tips faltered over ice, this frugal version took it in stride. No sweetener or lemon required. There was one problem with it – my glass emptied way too fast :)
One last thing, I steeped this 3 times and it was still going strong. Let’s see Twinings do that.
My rating is higher than the others based on the iced tea option.
What a great oolong. I steeped this in my gaiwan using the small packet it came in for about 3 seconds with 1 more second each steep. This tea is thick sometimes and has great character. On third steeping it got very sweet. Like has already been said, it’s light though. it’s like breathing in the breeze that blows through a garden. Very nice oolong and very affordable. I like teavivre more and more every day.
Tea provided by Teavivre for review
After trying this hot and iced, I think I prefer it iced. My taste buds were able to pick up on a nice creamy flavour that I think comes from the white tea. Overall it’s very smooth, delicate, creamy and uhh jasmine-y when brewed iced.
I liked how this turned out, but I prefer my white tea without jasmine. I’ve never tried Bai Mu Dan iced but I suspect it would a be a great iced tea.
Cold steeped over about 24 hours, 7 tsp in 1 liter of water.
Tea provided by Teavivre for review
The scent of jasmine was very noticeable as soon as I opened the tea sample pouch. I love the scent of this flower (more so than others like rose), so I was excited to brew this up and share with my husband.
With the first sip, my worries of an overly scented tea were washed away. I can taste the familiar delicate aroma of white tea and nice hints of jasmine. When I downed the first cup, the tea liquor also made me think of jasmine paired with fresh fruit (like peaches or apples)
The second cup was still quite nice. Jasmine is more prevalent but tolerable. Still no bad flavours such as bitterness.
Third steep was good, but perhaps maybe I steeped it too long. The floral aroma is still going strong, but the more I sip the more I yearn for just regular white tea.
Fourth, fifth, and sixth steeps I am mostly tasting the jasmine aroma. Which I guess helps prolong the flavour of each steep.
Overall I liked this tea but for white tea I still prefer regular silver needle, and for jasmine; the silver jasmine green tea. (Personal bias: I am not a big fan of white teas. They are enjoyable but not my preferred tea.) Teavivre has graciously mailed me quite a bit of this tea, so I will continue to play around with steep parameters to get the best result.
100ml gaiwan, 2tsp, 6 steeps (1min, +1min each resteep)
Tea sample provided by Teavivre for review
First steep had a chocolate smell to the liquor. Upon drinking it, I am reminded of other wonderful yunnan black teas I’ve tried. It is smooth, velvety, with a deep body and notes of chocolate, flowers, maltiness, and spices.
The second steep continued to strength in flavour and body. I also started to pick up on some caramel flavour and a “woody” quality to the familiar yunnan earthy body.
As I was moving onto sipping the third cup, I kept thinking about how strong the tea body tasted.
Fourth through sixth steeps were great and only weakened subtly with each steep.
The first noticeably weak cup was the seventh. I kept steeping until the ninth just to see (taste) how long it could last. When I short steep this again, I will probably stop on the sixith steep.
This might be a bold statement, but I think this tea is a clear example of black tea done right. It’s smooth, velvety, has a strong body and is full of character. It’s not the best resteeper, but still worth short steeping for an excellent six cups. Out of the five other Teavivre black teas I have tried this is my second favorite (first being the yunnan dian hong golden tips)
100ml gaiwan, 4 balls, 9 steeps (rinse, 30s, +15s each resteep)
This week I’ve been revisiting some tea’s. A few have been tucked away for awhile and this one was in a little orange tin sitting inside my Teavivre bin (in a closed cupboard).
Lapsang Souchong is usually my culinary tea. I cook with it quite a bit for smoky rubs and steamed veggies. It creates and nice BBQ smell in the house that I like better than cauliflower, broccoli or steaming brussel sprouts.
This morning I thought I’d just drink it as TEA. (What a novel idea)
I made a cup using my Finum basket and steeped the leaves just over a minute which was just right. Not too strong, not bitter and smooth.
My other Lapsang Souchong is stronger and sweeter than this one, but I do like Teavivre’s for how smooth it is to drink. The astringency is low and the smokiness won’t knock you down like some LS’s out there.
I’d keep this one around JUST for drinking. It isn’t strong enough for a culinary LS. Not smoky enough.
I challenge anyone who has never tried a Lapsang Souchong to venture out and try some. Experiment with it. Blend a little with other tea’s to create a smoky blend or add a little to a t-sac when steaming veggies. Read the story of how Lapsang Souchong came about in China…it’s a great little story.
I would think this would be the drink when watching Grimm or Ever After or a Fairy Tale with woods and dark misty marshy things.
Thank you Teavivre for this tea sample!
Ya’ll know I love me some Lapsang Souchong…Amen! (left over accent from living in Texas years ago!…long story…)
When I saw everyone receiving the new samples from Teavivre and chattering about this LS I was so excited! I knew this was going to be quality tea!
Sunday, I was in Happy Lucky’s Tea House chatting with Sam (one of the tea Sommeliers) about Lapsangs. I had him smell the Teavivre dry leaf. He could tell this was good quality. We discussed something that many people (including myself) often forget when considering Lapsang Souchongs. We concentrate so much on the smoke that we forget about the tea leaves. Tea changes from year to year (we know that) and LS is no exception. Smoke should not obliterate the flavor of the tea . That being said, strong smoke can be done by a master with the correct tea. This gave me more to consider.
Last night was one of my pain nights. My bones hurt and my dreams were wierd because of it. I woke up with a migraine and nausea. I had to get up. This happens too often to stop me.
Caffeine helps stop a migraine and my anti-seizure meds help block some of the triggers in my brain like light or weather change that set migraines off.
Strong tea was what I needed and fast! I wanted a great tasting tea too, tea that would brighten my morning and make me smile! I just knew this Lapsang could do that for me!
I brewed a whole 24oz pot Western Style…2 minutes! Ummmm!
The liquor was a rich honey color with a medium mellow, smoky scent.
The flavor of this Lapsang is smooth but not too strong. A medium smoky brew that surprised me right away by reveiling a coolness probably derived from gentle contact with pine smoke. I had not experienced that in a Lapsang Souchong before. There was also a dry mouth-feel and burn on the tip of my tongue. I added some sugar after sipping several small cups straight. The sweetened version was the best.
Then, I remembered some Natural Maple Syrup. I couldn’t help myself…no self control whatever! I poured a small cup and put a teaspoon of syrup in the tea. It was good! (I am imagining several people at Teavivre freaking out at the crazy lady in Colorado who has ruined the LS by putting Maple syrup in it!.. I hope they’re laughing and having a good time with it!…Love you Teavivre!). The maple dripping off my finger…lick, and the smoke of the tea, slurp…I AM CURED!
My own favorite LS from my local tea shop is smokier than this one and has more pine and burn. It is better for cooking because of the extra smoky strength. I made a batch to test side by side at the end of my Teavivre cups and discovered that my local was more layered.
The difference: Teavivre is a refined, lighter and approachable Lapsang Souchong.
My Happy Lucky’s China Lapsang Souchong is stronger with a burnt, smoky sweet pine taste.
You never want to lose the tea in the smoke and Teavivre has achieved that sweet delicious point that you want to come back to.
I continued to drink this tea and nibbled on Whiskey Cheese! I got it at Whole Foods but my local cheese store carries a Whiskey Cheese and you may find others also. IT IS AWESOME with Lapsang Souchong! Sweet and tangy…perfect to pair with the smoke! Any other sweet cheese would go well with a Lapsang too!
Now I want to go camping. Anyone have a tent?
http://youtu.be/57tK6aQS_H0 The Platters, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes ; ) I Feel Better!
Another generous sample from Teavivre!
First, it smells like buttery greens that have been thrown into the oven for a couple of minutes. It tastes very similar with an even more pronounced butter flavor, slightly roasted and slighty vegetal. For a lighter oolong this sure has a lot of heft and body. The second steeping brings out a sweeter fruitier taste. Wonderful oolong and it holds up to many steepings.
And now we will have a short interlude of unflavored teas, starting with this one (#45). I crave unflavored teas less these days than I used to, but I do still enjoy them when I have them. This one is a touch earthier than I remembered it being, but not enough to put me off. Especially as it cools, it becomes more and more chocolatey, although I am not getting the sweetness. Still, tasty enough. 5 pearls in 12 oz of water.
I am finally busting into these pearls after having them for a while! Mmmm, my favorite pearls. I’ve been drinking a lot of flavored teas lately so it’s always nice to go back to the basics.
I actually had a cup of this yesterday and another today since yesterday’s cup was at “tea time” and made with unfiltered water. But it turns out that that one was the better cup! This morning I wanted robustness so I added an extra pearl to my steeping basket and I think that was my mistake. I didn’t get nearly enough sweet chocolate goodness from this. But I do know that it’s there, it just got overwhelmed by being too robust. I still drank the whole cup, of course! But in the future I have to remember to get my parameters right.
Sipdown, 168. Sad to sip this one down, but sipdowns must be had and I can’t be hoarding. Actually there are two teas with one cup left in them that I am, in fact, hoarding, but I can’t bring myself to sip them down yet.
I think the best brewing parameters for this tea (for me) are: 5 pearls, 12oz water, 212°F, 2 minutes. This one was brewed with 4 pearls for three minutes but it could have possibly used even more time. It’s a little thin, but still chocolatey and grainy and delicious. It’s like chocolate museli. I know I’ve used that for a tea before, but I’m not sure if it was this tea or another one! But this one defintiely gives off a chocolate museli vibe. This is a must have tea and eventually it will make it back into my stash.
My stomach is feeling better but not 100%, so I definitely wanted to avoid flavored greens as lately they’ve been turning my stomach a bit. I opened up my sample drawer and these were sitting at the top, and they sounded like a great idea.
This is good, if a bit strong today. With fresh pearls, I used 5 for 12oz and 2 minute steep, but have knocked it to 3 minutes in the past once the pearls have gotten a little old. I though these might fall into that category, but apparently they are still fairly fresh because at 3 minutes this cup is edging on a slight bitterness. Like bittersweet baking chocolate more than dark chocolate. Well, I only have 4 pearls left, so I’ll get to futz around with steep times next time as well.
I feel like I’ve had a lot of green teas and green oolongs lately, and I wanted a rich black tea. This one popped into my mind earlier today when I made the list of the top 10 rated teas in my cupboard, so I dug out my small pouch of it. I had used up my samples from Teavivre but hadn’t gotten around to ordering any more, but then KittyLovesTea generously sent me some more pearls in one of our swaps.
I took a deep sniff of my cup and was reminded about why I love this tea so much. Mmmmm chocolate. Ugh cool down, black tea, why you gotta be so hot?? It is kind of like torture waiting for this to cool. And what is more torture is sipping this tea and finding a wierd savory note at the front of the sip. WTF! So I tried some of the leftover water in my kettle and it did taste maybe a little odd but it didn’t taste savory, and the water from the Brita is fine. That leaves my steeping equipment… my infuser was recently washed because I dropped it into dirty water in the sink, but I got the first savory steep before that, so I can’t imagine. Maybe I need to really scrub it or something. My cup seems fine but who knows.
Ugh, lamesauce. I can’t even enjoy this tea, which is a real bummer.
Mm, black dragon pearls, you are so delicious. The thing that amazes me about this tea is how naturally sweet it is. It is astounding! Chocolatey and caramelly, yum.
It’s hard to believe that at one point I would be uninterested in, or even not like this tea, but maybe a year ago that would have been the case. If you had asked me a year ago if I thought I would get into unflavored black teas, I would have said absolutely not, that is one I will never get into. My how our tastes change! Now this is one of my favorite teas. I do have to mostly attribute that shift to Teavivre’s tasting packages, which let me know how good black tea could be.
This tea again! Yeah, I was thinking about how I needed to use up my opened, non-airtight sealed Teavivre teas quickly before they lose flavor, and since I usually drink a black tea in the morning this one sprang to mind.
Because it seemed a little weaker the last time I steeped it I decided to up my steep time to three minutes instead of two. I considered adding another pearl (I use 5 for a 12 oz cup), but that would mean that I would have an awkward number of pearls for the last one or two cups. Sticking with five means two more cups of this tea!
Yup, the extra steep time seems to have taken care of it. This tea is almost sweet on its own! Definitely one of my new faves. I just have to give a shoutout again to Teavivre who sent me all these free samples in the first place, which introduced me to a ton of different kinds of teas, some of which are now my favorites!
Om nom nom… while looking around Steepster in an attempt to catch up on things I saw mention of some black dragon pearls, and suddenly I had a craving for these before I even finished my (extremely delicious) cup of Bailin Gongfu. I honestly feel a bit tea crazed right now… it’s like, when I got back and still hadn’t had any tea I was just cruising along, not really super craving tea at that point. And then I had the first cup and now I definitely cannot get enough tea. YUM. Why won’t this cup cool down faster to a drinkable temp so I can drink it up??
See what I mean about a bit crazed? LOL. I think these pearls have suffered a bit from sitting in a non-airtight pouch (clipped shut, but not sealed) for 2 months, but they are still pretty tasty. I think I will up the number of pearls and steep time for my next batch to see if I can counter the effects of age, because this was the same as my first trial of these but I remember that batch being much more robust. I think it does go to show you that air tightness really does make a difference because my Bailin Gongfu black was older but still fresher when I steeped it today, and it is in an airtight pouch. Must drink teas faster!
I was excited when Angel said this one would be in my next round of samples because I’ve never had a black pearl tea before, but (not to sound like a broken record), since I am getting into Chinese black teas lately I really wanted to try them.
The pearls are so big! Compared to jasmine pearls, that is. They dark with lots of golden streaks and they smell kind of molasses-grainy, but also like hay. I kind of used my perfect teaspoon to dish them out (3 per scoop!) and ended up with 5 pearls for my 12 oz mug, which seems to be similar to what others have used and is in the middle of Teavivre’s brewing recommendations.
My pearls pretty much completely unraveled after two minutes, which I didn’t really expect! Brewed, I smell toasted semi-sweet chocolate, like when there are chocolate chips on the bottom or edge of the chocolate chip cookie and they get a tiny bit burnt. And maybe there’s a bit of that hay in the steeped aroma, too. I am sipping it while it is still too hot for me to taste much of the tea itself, but there is an incredible sweet aftertaste to it. Cooling, cooling… I just can’t help but keep coming back to it before it’s cool enough. Now I’m getting definite sweet chocolate flavors, actually incredibly sweet, which is funny because as I have been smelling the steeped tea I have decided it doesn’t smell sweet at all. But it tastes very sweet, and honeyed, which I love. There’s some other note there coming out now that seems familiar but I can’t place. There’s almost a savory note underneath the sweet note, oddly enough, and it works well.
Love it, love it, love it. I also love that I know that Teavivre has such great prices and quality that I don’t need to shop around for other black pearls. In the end this would probably just be my favorite anyway. Thanks so much for the sample, Angel!
It’s great to be tasting and reviewing new teas again after my three-month hiatus! Since I’m the only tea drinker in my house, it became urgent for me to go into self-imposed exile, to whittle down my accumulating stash before it needed a room of its own.
Thank you, Teavivre, for putting me back in the game with more free samples!
I’d already tried a few other brands of Lapsang smoky tea and liked them all, so I was anxious to experience Teavivre’s variation on this familiar theme. Bring it on!
Upon opening the two-cup sample package of full tea leaves, my nostrils immediately detected the smoky aroma that I remembered from the other Lapsang smoky selections. However, this scent was not nearly as powerful as the other brands had been.
In accordance with Teavivre’s instructions, I steeped the tea at 195 degrees (the instructions specified 194 degrees but my tea maker is not quite that precise – close enough!) for two minutes. The brewed liquid was a light golden color. A slightly smoky aroma was emitted from my cup.
At first sip, the smoky taste was definitely obvious but it did not slap me silly like the other brands. The other selections gave me flashbacks of sitting by a campfire.
With my second sip, I contemplated whether the more subtle smoky quality was a good or bad thing. But…then it happened. A mellow and sweet taste began to emerge from the smoke. The extra flavors added an interesting complexity that I hadn’t experienced with this type before.
The aftertaste of this tea was complex, mellow, and sweet without bitterness. The smokiness was discernible but did not scream for attention.
I like this selection very much. I realize now that, with tea (like other things in life), what you are used to is not always the best, and more is not always better. This tea has everything that you would expect and desire in a Lapsang Souchong smoky black tea, and so much more, without shouting. This blend should be savored, not gulped!
I thought I’d start my day by sampling this new player from Teavivre. I have no problem with black and smoky before 9 AM. I could just as easily enjoy a plate of barbecued ribs for breakfast.
When I snipped open the sample package, a wonderful smoky aroma burst forth. I set the tea maker on 195 degrees for two minutes and anxiously awaited the result.
The steeped beverage was a medium gold/orange color. A sweet smoky fragrance wafted from the glass teapot. I would love to find incense in this scent.
Even at my very first sip, the flavor was full, smoky, and slightly sweet. The black tea taste was there but it blended so well with the other attributes that it didn’t draw attention to itself. The overall sensation of this tea is like a cross between a campfire and a delicious plate of barbecued pulled pork.
The smoky flavor is well defined but not so severe that it leaves a prolonged aftertaste. It is a symphony of smoky, smooth, sweet, earthy, and delicious, with no bitterness.
This is another EXCEPTIONAL tea variety from Teavivre. I’ve tried a lot of selections from this company and they have never disappointed me.
I finished the last of this today, and it is all gone. I had held onto it til I could get more milk oolong locally I liked as much, which I have. Neither are quite as good as this, but they come close, so I am good with that.
But this tea, oh, it makes my heart sing. It is one of the few teas I own that I don’t sweeten because it is amazing on its own, and I enjoy the sort of salty, brothy, vegetal notes in this layered with a creaminess that is subtle on the tongue.
Am I sad to see the last of this go? Yes I am. I have enjoyed it greatly, and thank Angel at Teavivre for this generous sample. On the other hand, I can now move on to some of the other samples from my last shipment.
HOLY MOLY THIS SMELLS AMAZING!
Dry, the leaves are semi-balled shaped and crumpled, with a rich dark green colour, and it smells soo soo sweet…not cloyingly sickly sweet vanilla or caramel sweet or anything, but a very pleasant sweet.
I followed the directions and used about a tablespoon of leaf which is about 3 teaspoons, and steeped about 2-3 minutes in water that was short of the boil…a little cooler than the suggestion if my meat thermometer was anything to go by.
Wet, the leaves opened up partially, and you can see the little stems, and the leaves are dark green, with a few little red veins in them. Not as sweet smelling as dry, but I’m sure it will be rockin’. I do love me some oolong tea!
It’s still a bit too hot to sip, but I am going to try this one unadulterated first…
See you all Steepsterites in a bit for my follow-up! Thanks to Angel Chen for including this in my current sampler. Two good winners off the bat, I think.
EDIT: I think I’m experiencing “creamy” and “creamy mouthfeel” for the first time with this tea, and I’m still drinking it unsweetened and everything. Joy!!