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Recent Tasting Notes
Seriously, who could resist trying a tea with this clever name? My latest round of samples arrived yesterday. (Yeah!) I did not intend to break into them this soon, but they were there. Well you know how it is. Actually this one was not completely sealed. I might not have noticed but there were monkey droppings in the bottom of the big pouch ;) Being sealed in the larger pouch, the tea is still fresh and no harm done. Since it is open let’s have at it.
The nuggets look like normal tiguanyin. I forgot to sniff the dry leaf. Steeped in my press for 3 minutes with boiling water. The brew is a green tinted amber. It is extremely clear yet dense. That probably makes no sense but I stared through the press at it for a few seconds as I found its beauty fascinating. This is my first monkey picked oolong. The rich roasted aroma coming off the brew caught me by surprise. I try not to read other reviews or company flavor profiles before tasting. You can also catch the oolong in the scent. The leaf did not fully open on the first steep.
The sip is like a wave crashing over the tongue. It begins as a hearty roasted blast breaking on the taste buds. Next, splashing up is a moment of intense milkiness. Then as the flavor begins to recede, the tiguanyin is revealed. The aftertaste is somewhere between tgy and watermelon rind.
Second cup I went 1 minute. I got interrupted and the cup sat after I poured for several minutes. This cup is very different from the first. The roasted notes are much more subdued. This tastes like a mild genmaicha has been brewed with the tgy. There is also another note, not exactly earthy, but not really woodsy in mid sip. Looking over the other notes at this time, I guess this is what others are calling nutty.
Third cup back at 3 minutes. Pretty much this is now a straight mild tiguanin. Sweet. It has a nice lingering fruity aftertaste.
Thank you TeaVivre for the sample. This is another winner.
My first tea and work combined adventure! Armed with a DAVIDs drawstring tea bag (one of my favourite inventions ever), a travel mug that my mentor bought me on the first day of my internship (she’s the best), a Ziploc bag, my crappy office tea kettle, and half a sample package of this tea, I embarked on an all day oolong adventure.
First steep (7:30 am)- This was my caffeine hit for the morning, so my tastebuds were less attuned to the taste as my brain was slowly being shaken awake by the mild caffeine hit. I steeped it for appox. 3 minutes, and I can’t give a more accurate estimate as I was crazily running around trying to get all of my stuff ready. This tea was much lighter than I had been expecting, for some reason I was expecting a darker colour (maybe because the leaves are fairly dark). Anyway the taste was strongly earthy and vegetal, but overall very smooth and pleasant.
Second steep (8:30 am)- This was my “I made it to work but am not mentally prepared to start yet” cup. The second steep was much stronger than the first, and had a surprisingly different flavour. It was very floral and very sweet, almost creamy. By the end of the second steep the leave (which dry were only a quarter of the bag) had unfurled to take up the whole bag. This steep was my favourite, absolutely delicious and so very sweet without any sugar!
Third steep (11:30 am)- Early lunch today, all alone in the lunch room with only my oolong for company. There were less floral notes and sweetness in this cup, the earthy flavour has re-emerged as the dominant flavour. I am assuming this is what oolong is supposed to taste like (and I do quite like it), but since I have only ever had one other, heavily flavoured oolong (happy kombucha) I can’t really compare pure oolongs…
Fourth steep (4 pm)- My afternoon got busy and left me unable to steep more until my hunger pangs distracted me at 4 pm. Despite making a cup of tea, I still caved to the office vending machine’s call and bought a Mars Bar. Anyway, the fourth steep was very similar in flavour to the 3rd, smooth, rich and earthy. I haven’t noticed any decline in flavour at all. The tea appears to be getting darker, but I also left this one to steep for quite a bit longer because I forgot about it (oops).
I probably could have gone on for more steeps but alas my work day was done and I accidentally chucked out the tea bag as I was cleaning my desk for the evening. Thanks again to Angel at teavivre for these very generous samples. I only used half of one for a whole day of enjoyment, and am so excited that at least 5 days of enjoyment are still to come!
I enjoyed the last of this free sample yesterday and when I say enjoyed, I mean enjoyed.
Hot or iced, this is a fantastic shou.
If you have not tried iced shou, I highly recommend it. Steep it hot, and a bit stronger than you might, and then pour it over ice.
An unexpected sweetness comes out.
Another tea from sample round #3
The dry leaf smells like a shoe store verging on a sneaker shop. Sneakers have that odd smell akin to “new car smell” but particular to themselves. This isn’t a bad smell for an aged tea. It is close enough to the leathery aromas of a shoe shop that it makes the tea quite inviting.
Because this is loose leaf, not a tuocha, the first steeping happens very, very fast. My cup is almost as dark as my daily drinker “wang pu er” from Upton.
But the flavor profile is quite different. Some of the sweetness of the golden buds remains behind all this musty shoe leather. There is a short finish with solid astringency, almost like an Assam. I’ve never had that in a shou pu er before.
If you like quick and easy shou tea, but lament the way in which they all seem to eventually taste the same, give this one a try, it has some genuinely unique notes.
Free sample provided by Teavivre for review
Among the boxes of tea that rained on my house yesterday was my free sample box generously provided by TeaVivre Such a nice surprise.
I placed my first order with Teavivre in such haste that I missed out on a lot of teas that I wanted to try, so I am grateful for the free samples. As has been mentioned, each sample is in a small mylar foil type pack and all 5 fit back into one resealable foil/mylar pouch. Very nice. Teavivre has great customer service and follows up with an email to make sure that everything was okay with the package.
First up is their Lapsang. One of the misconceptions I think people have about Lapsang is that it is a strong, slap you around tea like a robust Irish Breakfast or East Frisian blend. Or maybe they think it will be spicy hot like chili peppers.
However, Lapsangs are neither of those. Good Lapsang, like this one from Teavivre, are actually rather gentle and smooth, often with some sweetness.
The dry leaves on this tea are beautiful tightly rolled strips of chocolate brown with some golden brown tips mixed in. As you would expect, their aroma is smoky and piney. Not overwhelming, but a little more subtle. Very pleasant. The brewed leaf develops a bit of a peat moss aroma-milder than some other Lapsangs. The liquor looked to be a deep amber color.
The taste is as advertised-smoky and pleasant and slightly sweet in the finish. Very tasty. If you like Lapsang, you should enjoy this tea. If you are curious about Lapsang, it’s a good tea to start with.
I’ve managed two steeps so far, and will be going for a third shortly.
This sample was provided by Teavivre – thank you!
I wasn’t sure how many pearls to use, I have a mug that’s about 10 oz. and I used 4 pearls but it sounds like other people may have used more. The aroma of the wet leaf is fresh and malty with a touch of sweet tobacco.
The predominate notes I am picking up here are of malt, but it is definitely a lighter and sweeter sort of malt than one would find in an assam, for instance. The tea liquor is a clear reddish-brown. There are also subtle notes of chocolate present and I’m picking up on a bit of fruitiness. I maybe crazy but I am getting plantains… ha.
The tea does not have much astringency and is fairly sweet and pleasant. To me it’s a bit reminiscent of a golden monkey.
I did get a very respectable second steep out of this with a slightly longer steeping time (4-5 minutes).
Tea Vivre free samples round #3, tasting #2
Sadly, Liz did not get to review this tea before leaving for Tokyo, but she did get to taste it and I know she really enjoyed it.
This is a very good, and unique black tea. Cocoa and malt and roasted fruit. A bit like a Yunnan golden, but not at all sweet. There’s a crisp, dry finish and no lingering astringency.
The only really strong critique I could offer is that the mouth feel is thin. Not the flavor, but the texture.
Another tea in sample set #3
The flavor profile here is more like a da hong pao than black tea, which is interesting. I’m into my third steep of 5 pearls in my 4oz gaiwan and the leaves are finally fully open. This tea has excellent texture, mouth feel and finish, but so far the flavor is a bit soft. I’m curious if I’m not using enough leaf or if perhaps this tea simply prefers Western style steeps.
I will use the remainder of the sample to do a Western style and compare results.
Round 3 of Tea Vivre samples begin!
First, I want to acknowledge that many people were concerned about the double packaging of samples in the past and they have listened. This set arrived in individual packages which were grouped together into a single outer sealed pouch. Much less packaging but still a dedication to freshness. So thank you for that!
This is a much bolder LS than I usually drink (Upton’s Black Dragon). And since I have defended the black dragon’s refined notes in contrast to most LS, one might assume that I would therefore be less interested in this leaf.
But as it turns out, this leaf has a lot going for it. There is no sharpness here, in spite of the bold flavors. There is also no “meatiness” which is my primary opposition to most LS with bold smoke.
While I don’t think this would replace black dragon as my “daily drinker” I do think it may be replace black dragon in my “jim john’s blend” trio of teas.
The last of my samples just arrived today from Teavivre – thank you again!
I know it seems like I was the only person on Steepster who was bothered by this, but I’m glad my samples all came in one large envelope this time instead of the little prepackaged samples each in giant envelopes. Yes I am fussy, what can I say. Go Mother Earth! heh…
I was glad to see this tea came from the Wuyi mountains and it has the characteristic smoky aroma that i have just come to love… yay! I did end up steeping this at a slightly hotter temp than what is suggested on the bag, they suggest 194F. The cup is a clear reddish/brown and was steeped via regular infuser mug method.
This is really nice! The smokiness is present but is definitely not overwhelming to me. The tea has a lovely, lingering sweetness in the finish which I really appreciate. If you don’t want to be overwhelmed by tons of smoke this would be a really nice one to try. I also feel like this has a slightly fruity element, a bit of peach albeit a pine smoked peach… yum. A bit of honey also and perhaps some cocoa? I would definitely purchase this one and may need to, soon!
If you’re not a fan of smoky teas, I doubt this will make you a convert, but I’m enjoying my afternoon cup very much. Compared to the Harney and Sons L.S. tea this is downright dainty.
I also got a respectable 2nd steep out of this, which is not as smoky but still good.
Thanks Teavivre for the cool samples. :)
Lots and LOTS of thanks to Angel at Teavivre!
I have a one word (okay, two) overall description of this tea: Blood. Orange.
Fortunately for me, I love blood orange. Love it. :-)
Smell: This tea has a pleasant mix of fruits, and I could smell the sweet apple, kind of tart currants, and the orange. The hibiscus (roselle) was in it again, and again I was pleased rather than disappointed. Steeping I could really smell the orange. That made me happy. :-)
Taste: Blood orange, definitely, and it’s reminding me how much I love that taste. It’s tart, but not overly tart, and has a nice citrus twang to it. The apple provides a mellow sweetness, and the hibiscus adds to the tart but doesn’t overpower. And again, there is orange and when you tell me I am going to be tasting orange I expect it to be there, so this tea REALLY delivers for me.
I don’t have anymore to add, really, except that I put a spoonful or so of some sugar in, to add to the sweetness, and I think this tea, just like the Blueberry Fruit tea, will be great cold as well. :-) A perfect summertime tea!
Update: I just wanted to confirm that this tastes amazing cold.
Thanks to Teavivre for the samples I received in the mail today! I’m very excited to start my tea journey moving away from Teavana products!
I just steeped my first cup of Bailin Gongfu.. and here goes the first sip.. please hold..
First sip, I noticed its smooth bold and sweet flavorful taste. Second sip.. lead to a third, so I’m sure to say ITS YUMMY!
Bottom line- if you like black tea and you’re willing to wait up to 2 weeks to get it in from china DO IT!
This was included in an amazing free sampler package from Teavivre. Check them out! So it is a little foil package that contains enough tea for a few infusers full. (Well i see other reviewers here using an entire package, but my infuser isn’t that big!) Then there is another plastic piece holding the tea, as this is sticky with honey. It’s a bit diffiult to get the tea into the infuser, but I find clamping the infuser onto a bit of the bag and sliding the bag out works well! SInce this is an oolong, I can get multiple steeps out of this:
The sent of the dry leaves aren’t overly honey-like but they are sweet. The steep color is a nice yellow. Oolongs have the most diverse flavor, ranging from a mild, floral, peachy to a stronger flavor. I think this one is in the mid-range of flavor strength. It has a nice floral sweet flavor. but isn’t a mild one. Again, the honey isn’t too present. The lack of honey is kind of disappointing, as it was one of the reasons I wanted to try it. If you try it not expecting much out of the honey, it is still an amazingly delicious oolong. The directions say 212 degrees, but I like gettiing the temp a little lower, especially on the first steep (so that the flavor can be stronger the second steep!)
Second steep: I may have kept the infuser in a little too long this time, but it’s still good. This steep it seems more floral and less sweet. The flavor is more pronounced.
I almost want to go back and start giving my oolong teas a flavor strength rating… where a one would be light and floral and peachy and a 10 would be a bolder flavor… maybe I’m the only one who will know what I’m talking about?? But really, it all depends on the temp and the steep time. Even the same leaves will result in entirely different cup.
This tea is really great. It reminds me of Dawn but mellower. It’s got a nice malty caramel like flavor with very little bitterness. When I opened the package, I was surprised and pleased by the long wiry greenish-gold tea leaves. I was not at all disappointed when it was brewed. Thanks much TeaVivre for sending me this sample. It’s a keeper!
Thanks to Angel at Teavivre for this WONDERFUL tea!!
I LOVE THIS TEA! I just wanted to put that out there.
Smell: It was a colorful mix, and I smelled lots of blueberry, a bit of grape, and a tart smell that hinted at that sneaky hibiscus. But it was a lovely berry blend! Steeping it reminded me of wine or even blueberry juice.
Taste: I was worried about the hibiscus, thinking this would be VERY tart. But IT WASN’T!! It was very, very yummy!! It had a nice, strong blueberry flavor, which had a sweet-tart mix provided by the grape, and then it had a smooth tart where the hibiscus was. I loved it hot, but after drinking a few hot sips, since I had to go to an outing, I poured the rest in a glass and let it sit in the fridge. Upon returning, I drank it cold and it was even more amazing!! I LOVE A TEA THAT CAN DO BOTH!! Truly, it was a perfect blueberry tea! :-)
Oh, I put in two spoonfuls of sugar, kindof medium in amount. It was a lovely tea, really!!
(Backlogged) morning tea, with brunch. I brewed the first infusion a bit on the light side (1 min) and then the second was a bit overdone, because I was playing with the cat. Still good though, and the parents enjoyed it (but it would have been better if I hadn’t screwed it up!)
Man, Steepster has not been behaving all day. Finally I’m on and able to check things, but I have a ridiculous backlog STILL, since earlier when I was trying to log everything, the site was hanging for me again.
I felt the need to finally get around to trying this tea, the last of my Teavivre samples, since everyone else seems to be loving it! I used 22 little pearls in my 8oz. steeper. For whatever reason, the liquid in the infuser looked cloudy. I’m hoping that I didn’t improperly wash the infuser the last time I used it…
The tea smells lightly like jasmine and the flavour is similar, a light, crisp jasmine that lingers in the mouth. There seem to be no ill effects from the cloudiness so I’m not sure what that was all about, but that’s ok. There’s absolutely no astringency/bitterness, but I also can’t really taste the green tea, which is unfortunate – I’d rather be able to taste it alongside the jasmine. It is present in the aftertaste, but that’s it.
I’m not the biggest fan of jasmine teas; I like them and they remind me of eating out at my favourite chinese restaurant, but they’re not something I’d pick for much of the time. So although this one gets high marks for me for being tasty and light, and without any off-putting flavours, it’s not something I’d be too likely to purchase in any large quantity, although it would be nice to have around. One jasmine tea would be enough though, and in addition to this one, I have a good portion of Verdant’s Yunnan White Jasmine to finish off, which will take me a fair while.
A big thanks to Teavivre for such wonderful samples!
Thank you to Angel at teavivre for the samples, of which this was one of many! The day that box arrived I was as happy as Christmas morning! Since then though I have been crazy busy with my internship and weekending with my university friends and have not had a chance to really enjoy tea (or to review it properly). So I finally had a spare minute today and decided to brew a cup of this!
My first thought was that the leaves of this tea are huge. I only used half of my sample package for a mini-tea pot worth (about a cup and a half) and it was probably not the best brewing implement as the basket it a little small to allow tea leaves this large to steep properly. The dry smell was very vegetal, like hay or dry grass. I was intrigued because this is the first non-flavoured white tea that I have tried, so it was the first time that I have actually smelled the leaves themselves.
I brewed it according to package instructions, 90 degree water for only 2 minutes, and overall was very pleased with the results. The flavour is very smooth and pleasant, lightly grassy with a hint of floral notes. I am not sure that straight white tea is my favourite cuppa, I think I am more of a flavoured tea girl along the lines of Strawberry Fields or Gold Rush, but the quality of this white is better than any I have tried and a perfect smooth blend for those days where I have had enough of strong flavours and just want a nice cup of white tea, with all of the benefits that go along with it!
Just a note on brewing, my teapot holds about a cup and a half, and the remaining half of a cup typically keeps brewing after I pour the first cup. Therefore the second cup was steeped for over 5 minutes. The result was a slightly bitter, strongly grassy tea that overwhelmed all of the pleasant floral notes. Therefore I strongly advise paying attention to brewing time- for this tea it makes a big difference!
I realize I’m probably the odd one out brewing this with such short infusions, but I plan to try this longer as well with the husband, if I can ever get him to agree to sampling. Conversation last night: “Hey sweetie can I brew you a cup of really good black tea, I promise I won’t do short steeps”, husband: “No.” How do I work with that? (apparently by just brewing them and bringing them to him). So between that and me and the toddler not feeling well, these samples have been going slowly, my apologies.
I do think I am learning more about tea through this. Like I finally understand what people mean by a Yunnan having a linen like texture and for me it relates to the feeling, not the taste of pepper and cinnamon, though there are hints of those tastes in this too. The texture also reminds me of waffles, good whole wheat waffles like the ones I had for breakfast, which are really kind of linen like themselves. There is a soft sweetness here, but it does not speak to me as honey, nor as rock candy, but as sweet cream butter. However the tea is not yet buttery in this first short infusion, it does not coat the roof of the mouth until the second steep (perhaps if I did one longer infusion it would be there). Rather this is like licking a stick of unsalted butter and really tasting it.
I did brew the three Dian Hongs this evening at two and a half minutes each and got my husband to try each. All three are very nice black teas, each is different. Not so surprisingly the husband liked the lowest grade as it tasted the most “tea-like” more tannins I suspect and personally I think more malt, it had a cooler quality. What is surprising is that I preferred this, the middle. I think it was actually the most complex, but the golden tips is revealing more character as it cools. I will resteep each of these tonight at least once.
I also want to share how comforting opening the bag of this was, it smelled so rich and familiar, like opening up a huge canister of Golden Monkey and wafting it, which is saying something for such a tiny foil packet. The quality of the leaf is very good. I have not brewed the Golden Tips gonfu style yet so I will wait to review it as I am trying to figure out exactly what effects more buds have on the flavor, smooth, sweet and more high pitched are my initial thoughts, but I was getting some yam notes once it cooled. Thank you Angel and Teavivre
This is another from my second batch of samples from Teavivre (many thanks!) I was feeling a little Western Gong Fu-ish today, so steeped some up while watching the beau play Uncharted 2 with my brother – I LOVE that we can play games with my family even though we live a couple hundred KMs apart. It is a lovely way to spend the weekend, especially now that we have a headset and can talk the whole time – the internet is a wonderful thing!
Anyway, I’m using my gaiwan and wee double walled teacups, so these are small steeps (maybe 2 oz liquid for each of us per steep?) I am not terribly familiar with oolongs, but I have tried a couple Tie Guan Yin in the past and generally know what I think of them. I tried the regular TGY from Teavivre in my first batch of samples and enjoyed it so thought the honey soaked one could only be better (I love honey! IF I sweeten a tea, it is my preferred sweetener.)
First steep – 80 degrees, 30 seconds. The liquor is not as clear as a typical oolong, though it is a warm yellow shade, almost like sunset with a hint of ochre. The brew smells quite vegetal (a bit more than I might prefer) but there is a hint of sweetness in the aroma which I prefer. The leaves have barely unfurled at all! The taste is very different from the smell – I get sweetness from the honey and typical oolong taste underneath. VERY pleasant, if a bit mild.
Second steep – 85 degrees, 35 seconds. The leaves have opened a bit more, but not nearly at full leaf yet. This steep is not as powerfully sweet from the honey (I assume most of it will dissolve in the first couple steeps) but neither is it a very powerful TGY. Another nice steep, but a bit muted. The beau says this steep tastes more of oolong.
Third Steep – 85 degrees, 45 seconds. Leaves are almost entirely opened now and I imagine most of the honey to have dissolved. This is a bit more vegetal than the first two and the sweetness is more in the aftertaste, like a taste memory. This steep really shows the quality of the TGY underneath the honey and I like it! The beau says this is definitely the best steep and I would tend to agree with him.
Fourth Steep – 85 degrees, 1 minute. This will be my last, as it is getting warm in our apartment as the sun comes out and I hate feeling too hot! The aroma has lost all sweetness and has a bitter/vegetal smell, but the taste is not as powerful as the aroma would have me believe. There is still a bit of honey sweetness underneath the sip and lingering in the aftertaste.
While this could easily go a couple more rounds, I need a timeout for some cold water. This was a lovely experience, I think I might even prefer this to the ‘regular’ TGY. If nothing else, it is a nice change from the usual. The third steep in particular was really nice and balanced the honey and oolong the best. Thanks again Teavivre for a lovely treat!