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Recent Tasting Notes
Lately it’s been too hot for tea, especially the black tea which seems to have finally completed it’s aggressive conquest of my shelf space. Under an Everest of unopened black and puerh samples I found this stranded oolong- originally a smuggled sample from Amariel’s giant Teavivre swap bag (you gave me so much tea, Amariel!).
I’m glad I decided on this one; the minty floral profile is a refreshing thing in a house with no air conditioning. The first steep of the first serving had an interesting curry leaf aroma (I have witnesses that can vouch that this cup smelled distinctly of that plant), but this quality never resurfaced on the subsequent steeps. Probably for the best; mint and flowers are good enough.
Flavors: Floral, Mint
Inspired by the review from Uniquity and accompanied by not enjoying giving a negative review – I am trying this one again today. First, I don’t mind giving a negative review of crappy tea, if it is crappy tea. In my opinion, once you reach a certain level of quality it should not happen. It is generally a matter of taste preference or bad preparation. I have always been impressed with Teavivre in the past. Yesterday, this turned out just bitter.
My problem with this one was mostly how I brewed it. Today I am doing it my way. Half the sample (2.5g) and 10 oz water heated to 180F. I steeped 1 minute. The liquor is clear, bright, and yellow. The taste is dry and reminds me of the dehydrated camellia flowers. I liked them because they were different. I find this very flavorful with strong cucumber/melon notes and a wood pulp flavor – not the negative version of yesterday, but a very nice one. There is a sort of floral note hanging around, or maybe I imagine it because I expect it. The aftertaste is lingering and mouthwatering. It also seems much sweeter in the aftertaste. No bitterness. No astringency that I notice.
It is not as powerful and deep as Silver Needle but then it is half the price. Messing with the parameters I find this to be quite pleasant. My one negative that I found again today that I did not mention here yesterday is the leaf. It looks like mulch. I don’t recall a Teavivre tea that was not beautiful full leaf. I thought my previous sample had been crushed or something but this one is the same way. This is mostly tiny broken pieces. Any one else notice the same thing?
I know we all have different tastes. I followed the website recommendation for brewing in a gaiwan. The whole 5 g sample with 90 ml of water heated to 195 F (90 C). The steep was 25 seconds. That is simply too much leaf for me. This was so bitter it made my mouth pucker. Maybe half the leaf or half the steep time would have been OK.
I decided to lose the gaiwan and grab the press. I used 10 oz of 180 F water and steeped for 25 seconds. This was much improved. Now it tastes like grassy fresh alfalfa hay. There is a light apricot note and the aftertaste lingers.
Honestly though, I thought the lower grade White Peony was more aligned to my tastes. I have never given Teavivre a negative review before, but this one did not grab me.
I have enough to start again on another day. Next time I will only use half the sample and much cooler water. I am not giving up yet.
I am acting a little like an idiot in Steepster chat this morning, because I have to keep myself from making every other thing I type how good this tea is….er, was. It’s gone now and I must get more.
Teavivre is quickly becoming one of my favorite companies. Really there is nothing I don’t love about them. Their staff is great, and very much in touch with the tea community. The products are superb and I even love their packaging.
I took a leap of faith and ordered 100g of four different black teas from there. Today as I have my first cup, I am feeling pretty smug and proud of myself. I also pulled out a bunch of teas from my cupboard that I am going to get rid of because really, when I can be drinking THIS, why drink THAT?
This is a 2013 sample I got last year, but it’s been stored in its original unopened pouch inside a tightly-lidded tea-tin, so I don’t think it’ll have lost very much flavour and aroma, though both might be more muted than if it were very fresh.
I steeped about 5g of this in 200ml of 95C water or a bit cooler, for 30-45s per steep, and got 4 good steeps from it; I steeped the first time using on-the-boil water (because UK children are taught in primary school that tea is brewed in boiling water and it’s anathema to brew it in anything less) and this made it very astringent, but using cooler water took all the bitterness away.
The scent is like a subdued summer flower-garden, and the taste is mildly sweet with a smoky hint, and lightly oily.
Pleasant and easy-going as a light and uplifting morning drink. I’d rate this in the mid-80s – I like it a lot but it’s not quite as more-ish as my favourite black teas.
Flavors: Floral, Flowers, Smoke, Sweet
One of China’s 10 Famous Teas on many iterations of the list, Liu An Gua Pian is also called “Melon Seed” tea because the puffy leaves look like melon seeds.
The flavor and scent are both incredibly sweet at first. There’s a lot of vegetation and grassy taste and the usual hints of green bean you get in a lot of chinese green teas. The taste is really nice and complex with a hint of mineral in the background. I am not in the mental state to flesh this out with notes today, but I do like the tea a lot and think that it is a pretty unique tasting green tea. I overbrewed it a bit the first time using my usual green-tea steeping parameters, so you may need to use slightly less leaf or time than usual.
EDIT: Teavivre recommends 3g per 85ml water for 30 seconds if you are brewing gongfu style, then adding 30 seconds each time. That sounded a bit strong for my tastes so I used 3g in a 100ml gaiwan for 15 seconds, adding 5 each time and got really incredible results.
Flavors: Grass, Green Beans, Mineral, Sweet
Yay, it is Thursday, my favorite day of the week…why, you might be asking, because it is Ben’s day off. Usually we gallivant, game, and go to gaming night at Tabletop. Part of our rambling around today took us out for Indian food (I ate way too much and still feel stuffed) and to the thrift store. At said store I found a new tea set, a pretty Kyusu and matching cups, I had to have it of course.
Today we are having a nice little visit with Fuding Shou Mei White Tea Cake 2013 from Teavivire. This tea is pretty fancy, made from Shou Mei White Tea plucked in 2011, it is then compressed and aged making it a cousin of Pu erh and giving it an extra smoothness. This will be my second aged white tea cake and I am excited, I love teas that are out of the ‘norm’ or my usual zone of sipping. The aroma is sweet, like a rich blend of muscatel and honey, in fact it reminds me a bit of honey wine (specifically the Grecian Honeyed Wine I used to make when I could imbibe in my younger days) with a nice finish of hay.
The now steeped leaves is still very sweet, a nice honey sweet and muscatel aroma wafting from the soggy leaves. It reminds me of late summer harvest of grapes and hay, it has a heavy warmth to it that I can safely say is reminiscent of Provence. The liquid is more honey less wine, there is still a muscatel quality to it, but the sweetness of honey takes the forefront.
The taste, oh man, it is so sweet! I feel like I am drinking tea that tastes like mown hay, freshly broken stems, and a touch of grapes, but with a massive splash of honey wine mixed it. It is mild and heady, like wine without the burning and tipsy quality, but it still has the warmth and sweetness.
For the second steeping the aroma is much the same as the first, but much more intense. It has an added edge of richness that it did not have previously. This time around the taste is more balanced. It is still very sweet, but the notes of hay, grapes, and fresh vegetation are not overwhelmed by honey wine. The mouthfeel has a touch of creaminess about it as well.
On the third steeping the aroma has taken on a touch of earthiness, I have noticed that Shou Mei almost always has an earthy quality making it unique among its white tea friends. The taste has also acquired a mellow earthiness and leaf loam taste, this of course is accompanied by muscatel and broken stems. It is not as sweet this time as the previous steeps, but it still has an intense honey taste. I really liked this tea, the beginning sweetness was a bit intense (though not in a bad way) and it fades to a nice mellowness at the finish.
This, my tea-drinking friends, is a leap of faith. I rarely drink green oolongs but here I am with some green oolong samples and an urge to try them. I looked up the Teavivre guidelines for Western steeping and they seem crazy but I’m giving it a go. The full packet in boiling water for one minute (in my Perfect Mug). The leaves are initially tightly rolled and look like small pebbles of tea. It doesn’t seem like much, but after steeping they are nearly 10 times the size. They went from a slight layer in the infuser of a few MM to a 4/5 full infuser. Wowza! There were some crumbs as well but they were large enough that they didn’t sift out so in they stay.
The resulting liquor is quite yellow and smells like boiled corn on the cob with butter melting down the side. I’ve been having corn on the BBQ lately and it’s not quite like that because it smells SWEET. This is not a typical aroma for ME in tea, but I do like it. It takes a bit of a mental reset to associate it with a beverage rather than food, but I’m okay with it. I’m getting to a point where I enjoy green oolongs on occasion, though I don’t tend to seek them out or stock them.
So, for taste I do get the sweet corn quite strongly, and also a bit of spice that again reminds me of cinnamon (like the Taiwanese oolong I had the other day). I do also get some astringency, some dryness on the tongue. It doesn’t manifest as bitterness and it isn’t too overpowering but it isn’t ideal. This is why I was leery of boiling water on an oolong, but hey – ya gotta try everything once! It’s not as bitter as I feared, so I think it is likely be being sensitive rather than burnt tea.
I will definitely do more steeps of this, I think the leaves have a lot more to give. I might prefer it with a gaiwan, and if I can remember I will try that with my other sample. As it stands, it is light, sweet, corn-y with a bit of dryness. It is pleasant, but not in my wheelhouse so it is hard for me to get more out of it. I enjoy it, but i wouldn’t seek it out. For those who prefer greener or lighter teas though, this is likely one to try.
As it cools I am getting new tastes in the aftersip, sort of fruity or berry-ish. The dryness/astringency becomes more pronounced as it cools, so I am off to finish this cup up for now.
Flavors: Butter, Cinnamon, Corn Husk, Sweet
Tea provided by Teavivre for review
Dry leaf in the package smells sweet, like chocolate (didn’t expect that!)
First steep had a rush of flavours that I did not anticipate. It was a bold, heavy liquor with the flavors of mushrooms, wood, dark veg, moss and reminded me a bit of unsweetened chocolate. I expected it to be bitter (due to its age), but it was tolerable and somewhat went with the other flavors.
Second through third steeps increased in flavor but otherwise were similar in taste.
On my fourth through eighth steeps brought out a strange aftertaste. It’s hard to describe the exact flavors but the aroma brought back the memory of drinking dan cong oolongs. The aftertaste flavor took a while to develop, but on each subsequent steep (since fourth), the flavor was brought on sooner and stronger. It’s really weird for me to connect the flavor with dan cong oolongs, but that is where my memories of tea flavor keep pointing to.
Ninth to eleventh steeps were much weaker and less bitter than the rest, but the aftertaste flavor only increased. I don’t usually care to drink all of my later steeps, but I really enjoyed them with this tea.
Overall I was pleasantly surprised by this puerh. It’s very different from the other sample I was provided (Fengqing Ancient Tree Raw Pu-erh Cake 2014). I found the bitterness to be much more tolerable, and it dropped off significantly in the later steepings. Having experienced the aftertaste present from the fourth steep onward, I can’t imagine steeping this western style. Each short steep brought out many different flavours that I wanted to savour. If I were in a better situation to keep/store/age puerh I’d considering getting some of this tea. Admittedly I’m a fairly inexperienced raw puerh drinker, but this is one of the better puerhs I have tried.
This is a very lovely tea, and smells almost like a dessert when you open it up, with just a hint of sweetness. The sample pouch was still golden on the inside after I transferred the tea to the tea bag. THe tea itself is just like the picture above, though I think I have a slightly higher black to gold ratio. I used the whole sample bag, because I’m not that comfortable with tea measurements yet, and the website recommends 6 grams.
As soon as I started pouring the water into my teapot, the tea started brewing – sadly, the lid to my teapot got stuck, so to get it off I ended up breaking it. Now I have ceramic in my tea… I did salvage most of my tea, and it does have a lovely smell brewed, like sweet potatoes.
It has a very mellow flavor that reminds me of green tea or maybe even a clear broth. It’s rather soothing. Maybe next time I brew it, I won’t end up with a broken teapot, but regardless of that the tea tastes delicious.
Thank you so much Angel from Teavivre for this lovely sample and thanks too for providing us such an high Jasmine tea quality.
The pearls are really small little marbled green and brown pearls. The liquor is a pale yellow, very pale yellow.
The texture is silky and the taste reveals a soft jasmine, very natural and not overwhelming.
This is probably one of the very best jasmine teas I had for sure.
Dry: It smells like blueberry yogurt with a strong berry scent. It smells sweet without being artificial. It’s almost an addictive scent.
Brewed: Syrupy, almost medicinal smell. Not so much of a blueberry scent as a mild hibiscus scent.
Dry: Dark, dried berries – looks like trail mix.
Brewed: Deep, transparent carnation red, with a hint of purple.
Brewed: Sour, citrusy – tastes a bit fruitier than hibiscus, and has a more balanced flavor profile. Not too different from a lemon tea as far as flavor goes.
The variable temp kettle I purchased won’t heat all the way to 212, so I could only heat it to 203ºF. I also used the entire sample, because I wasn’t entirely certain about the measurements, and didn’t want to have a weak tea. It has a nice flavor, though I wouldn’t say that it’s significantly different from the other hibiscus-type teas that I have tried. It does have a nice color.
Flavors: Berry, Citrus, Hibiscus
My first Tai Pin Hou Kui green tea – this tea has an amazing and unique appearance! I always thought it was a dragonwell, but you really need to see it to scale to grasp how cool this green tea looks!
The flavor has some notes that seem unique to this type of green tea – lightly creamy, sweet grassy, straw and cider. I love the cider notes as it has a light acidic/fruity/tang to it. I got 3 good infusions. The cold steep wasn’t as good as it was too light and not as interesting in flavor (just sweet grass/green bean)
Full review (picture heavy because this tea looks really cool) at my blog The Oolong Owl http://oolongowl.com/nonpareil-cha-wang-tai-ping-hou-kui-green-tea-teavive-tea-review/
I’ve been on a tea-buying spree lately, and today a dozen sample-sizes that I ordered from TeaVivre arrived (as always, they have the fastest shipping time, no idea how they do it), and this was the first one I decided to try.
I used about half of one of the packs – I think that’s about 3-4g, and brewed it in about 200ml boiling water for short 30 second-1 minute steeps.
I was surprised at how light the flavour is in this; all the cooked puerhs I’ve had so far have been much stronger, with very defined scents and tastes, but this one was very delicate. It still has the leather smell I’ve come to associate with cooked puerh, but it was more of a hint of old, faded leather.
The taste is sweet, and a bit floral, and the tea had a nice calming, drifting effect on me.
This is the first cooked puerh loose-leaf (not compressed) I’ve had, so I wonder if its lightness is because of that?
I’ve put this in the ‘maybe’ box for when I come to choose my faves of all the sample-size puerhs I’m trying; it was wonderful to drink, and more refreshing than the heavier shou puerhs I’ve tried.
Flavors: Floral, Leather, Sweet
This is from the review contest winnings. Thank you, Angel and Mary!!
After having only a cup of Tanzanian black tea in the morning and some coffee with lots of milk and sugar a while ago, I needed something clean-tasting, something light on the tongue. I thought of green tea but remembered this Silver Needles that I still needed to try. Not a white tea person, but I rolled with it.
Brewed grandpa style. How wonderful to look at the leaves in the glass tumbler!
The aroma of the dry leaf consists of sweet grass, sweet hay (mmm barns), and honeydew (love that fruit!). At this point, I already know I’m in for something.
The liquor is so light-bodied that it is air. It is air. It feels like air. It tastes like air. Clear, fluffy air that has a sweet grass note. By gum, it really is FLUFFY.
This not-a-white-tea person was completely taken by surprise. Considering some things, though, I’ve never really had good quality Silver Needles until now but I feel like a rating is needed for people who are also not white tea drinkers. Holy mackerel, did I well in choosing to drink this now. Thanks again, Teavivre!
Sometimes I get so engrossed in all of the golden fuzzy snaily yummy monkey picked bits of awesome out there that I forget about Keemun.
KEEMUN is good, y’all! This one especially. It was exactly what I needed today after two failed tea experiments. I needed something that I was sure would be a home run, and turned to TeaVivre for that. TeaVivre never lets me down.
This was a hearty black tea, and it had a little extra oomph – almost a Darjeeling type flavor, sort of grapey, but not like candy grapey, more like wine grapey. I am really bad at describing flavors but this tea definitely had more dimensions than I anticipated that it would. Really yummy. Thank you Angel for the sample!
White tea tends to leave me feeling cleansed and refreshed more than any other tea I drink regularly. There is something about its creamy thick texture and its soft yet bright flavours that just do that for me, so I was very happy when Angel asked me to participate in this round of tastings. Teavivre generously sent 3 packages of each tea, more than enough to try it several ways and to possibly share with friends!
The intact leaves of this tea include a stem bearing a silver furry bud and 1-2 intact leaves, but as is common many of the leaves are broken and loose from the stem. The leaves are mostly spruce to a light green live tree leaf colour. A few of the leaves have undergone a slight oxidation and are edged brown. They smell of hay and something tart.
I’ve steeped this tea twice now once at a lower temperature of around 75-80°C throughout the session and the second time aat 85-90°C and they both have a slightly different flavour profile.
I used Teavivre’s intervals for gongfu brewing of this tea ( rinse, 25,45,70, 90,150s)
And used 3 TSP of tea ( I usually use 2, so this is slightly more leaf than I usually use for this tea) in a 150ml open Gaiwan.
The broth was a pale, green, tinged gold which deepened to a deeper gold colour with longer steeps and hotter temperatures.
The tea smelled of cucumber, hay,tart fruit and when brewed at lower temperatures a faint hint of cocoa.
These notes are for (75-80°C)
1st steeping: The tea had light crisp fresh notes up front with cucumber, hay, and clover nectar notes. It finished with tart fruit over a mix of nectar, cocoa and fermented grain notes with a creamy texture. The nectar could be interpreted as honey but it was more of a sweet floral tone. the nectar was slightly spicy as it cooled with hints of cinnamon.
2nd steeping: The flavours were more blended. The cucumber was not as distinct. The broth was thicker and sweeter with cream being added to the blend of cucumber, clover nectar, hay, and grain notes. The cocoa was absent.
3rd steeping: Less grainy notes were present. Citrus note were stronger, the cucumber was more distinct and was mixed with cream with a faint hint of vanilla. Cream and honey lingered in the aftertaste.
4th steeping: Cream, with cucumber, nectar and a hint of tart plum and a slight reference to grainy notes.
5th steeping: Similar flavour to above, with a mineral note and a lingering sweetness.
85-90°C: The clover nectar flavour was stronger, the cocoa was absent and the grainy notes were very faint.
Here is a picture of the tea brewing: http://instagram.com/p/rpTv8pmK47/
This tea was gentle and cleansing and quite enjoyable. Thanks Teavivre!
So, this tea is very pleasant to drink, but I’m not sure I really “get” it. The notes elude me. Maybe because they blend so well I can’t distinguish them? Overall, it’s nice a creamy, smooth, and has a nice thickness to it. I think I detect some caramel, malt, grain, and a little peach. It also seems to have sweet potato, but not as much as yunnan dian hong golden tips. It’s a nice smooth drink, but I think I prefer the more robust flavors in TeaVivre’s other black teas. Who knows though…maybe by the end of the bag I’ll “get” it. ;)
Method: 6 g, 6 oz, 200 degrees, rinse-15-15, sheng yixing
Aroma: Smells like a grapey cave!
Flavor: lightly grape and also savory. It starts to get really good around the 3rd steep. This has a bit of astringency to pucker the mouth, but it’s nice!!!
Thanks to Angel for the sample! It’s lovely!!!
Method: 6g, 6oz, 195 degrees, rinse-10-15, sheng yixing
Aroma: I wish I could smell the chocolate others described. This smelled like very lightly smoked apricots.
Flavor: I like to give my shengs a 10 second rinse, then let the leaves rest for a minute or 2 before brewing. The leaves seem more open this way, and I get stronger flavors sooner, usually. This tea was different. The first 2 steeps tasted good, but the flavor was weak. This tea has less sweetness and tastes more brothy, so I wanted to really taste those flavors
I did a 3rd and 4th steep at 15 and 20 seconds. These were better! There’s a light bitterness. Not much. It’s enough to give a little kick at the end of the sip! Thanks to Angel at TeaVivre for the sample!