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Recent Tasting Notes
A rather nice tea with some balanced roast to the undertone of floral notes. Not sure that I found any fruit notes that Verdant says are there, but I tend to differ on tasting notes when it comes to most companies anyways. Overall I liked this tea and I brewed it for two days. 50g for $12 seems to be just right.
For me, if there is a roast to an oolong it is probably going to start off at like a 65 on this rating scale. It’s kind of like my brother in law and I say; Pizza pretty much automatically starts at a 5. Even bad pizza is still pizza.
Having said that, this is a fairly pedestrian medium roasted oolong. I mean, the charcoal roast flavor is there and it is pretty good. A little bit of mineral flavor there. But, as a whole, nothing popped out at me. Which is perfectly acceptable. Not every tea has to be or can be life changing.
I do wish it steeped for a bit longer though. Around the 4th steep, the flavor started to fall off. Still drinkable just kind of weak and the tea wasn’t that strong to start out with. Though, maybe I under-leafed it. I’ll play around with this some more and see what I can coax.
Flavors: Char, Mineral, Roasted
Part of my goal for 2017 is actually making my way through my Sheng sample stash, so I finally got into this tea. I was not a huge fan, nothing bad, just very much so not my thing. I like my shengs sweet, thick, vegetal, fruity, or floral…any bitterness I want it to be more like eating kale or zest, not the bitterness of hops which is what this one gave me.
I must be spoiled since shengs I have had lately have been loosely compressed, this one took six steeps (not counting the rinse and the like five minutes I let it steam out in the gaiwan) before it fell apart into chopped up, occasionally blackened leaves. It starts out vegetal, like cabbage water and brussels sprout with a bit of sweetness at the back of the throat. After the leaves fluffed up the bitterness really kicks in, very hoppy and beer like (and there are few things in life I hate more than the taste of hops) meaning I could only tolerate this tea for a couple more steeps before I moved on to something else.
Okay, this is one of those infamous Verdant offerings that comes with a story. Back in the spring of 1985, Master Zhang set aside a small amount of minimally processed high grade Tieguanyin and allowed it to age. The idea was to show off how the tea developed on its own rather than how it responded to multiple roasts over time. Flash forward to the fall of 2016, and Master Zhang decides to sell this tea through his partners at Verdant Tea. Is this story true? I have my doubts. Everything I have read on aged Tieguanyins suggests that teas between the ages of 20-25 years are extremely rare, while teas that are older are almost impossible to find. It should also be noted that many farmers and vendors will estimate and often exaggerate the age of older teas for one reason or another. With all of this in mind, I didn’t necessarily buy into the marketing, but I was intrigued enough to roll the dice on a very small amount of this very expensive tea.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 212 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was followed by 14 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 13 seconds, 16 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, and 7 minutes.
Prior to infusion, the dry leaves emitted aromas of wood, earth, hibiscus, and old books. After the rinse, the aromas mentioned previously intensified and were joined by elderberry and a briny, sheng-like roasted vegetable scent. The first infusion produced a bouquet that brought the dry and rinsed aromas together. In the mouth, I got notes of wood and moist earth joined by traces of hibiscus, camphor, brine, elderberry, and vegetable broth. Subsequent infusions introduced more of a fruit character. I began to pick up hints of blackberry, though I also detected vanilla, caramel, cream, tobacco, minerals, and a slightly stronger camphor presence. Later infusions emphasized wood, earth, mineral, tobacco, camphor, and that briny, vegetal quality I get from many shengs that reminds me of vegetable broth.
Sooooo, this one was awkward. I have no idea if its backstory is accurate, but it certainly looks, smells, and tastes old. Unfortunately, I do not think that is necessarily a compliment. If this were a sheng, I would probably semi-appreciate this tea’s aroma and flavor profiles on some level, but this is an aged oolong. The odd, crudely layered aged, earthy aromas and flavors and the fruity, creamy, and floral characteristics just didn’t come together for me. At one point I even noted that this was like drinking wet dirt mixed with jam that had been sprayed with perfume. I have no clue how to rate this, but I did not like it. Unless you really dig old, musty smells and flavors or are just really curious about this oddity, you may want to move along.
Flavors: Blackberry, Broth, Caramel, Cream, Earth, Fruity, Hibiscus, Mineral, Tobacco, Vanilla, Vegetal, Wood
I think there are 2 listings for this tea….so I will repeat the same notes. I love this one, beautifully complex and balanced, the nose I get bourbon ( really good bourbon — Pappy Van Winkle 25 year good ), fresh baked sweet wheat bread, woodyness, and just a bit of dried orange peel. Palate, same bourbon, burnt caramel, same wheat bread but a bit sweeter, roasted barley, some woody flavor. Just wonderful!
Another beautiful tea. Much more subtle than almost any black tea I have tried. The nose is smokey and earthy much like a delicate pu-erh, with some hints of mandarin and lemon. The palate is also smokey and earthy with caramel, mandarin, juniper berries, lemon, and a light delicate sweetness on the finish. Changes beautifully over several steepings to reveal more fruit and a very light floral element that I just can’t identify.
OK, I love this tea! It is soooo different. On the nose I get bourbon, really good bourbon Like Pappy Van Winkle 25 year! Burnt caramel, fresh baked sweet wheat bread, woody flavors ( I have not tasted Redwood so…) , dried orange peel, roasted barley. Palate is almost identical to the nose. Beautiful balance with the flavors weaving in and out over time. If you can get this, try some!
Of all the Wuyi oolong cultivars, it seems the one that I can never manage to muster much of a reaction to is Rou Gui. I think part of that is the fact that it is so common. At the moment, Rou Gui is an extremely popular cultivar both in China and abroad. Every vendor seems to offer at least one Rou Gui variant each year. The cultivar, itself, has become so popular that I have seen it referred to as “the fifth bush;” its popularity with tea drinkers apparently rivals that of Da Hong Pao, Shui Jin Gui, Tie Luohan, and Bai Ji Guan.
This particular Rou Gui is a product of Li Xiangxi, a tea farmer whose portfolio of offerings through Verdant Tea I really admire. Part of why I appreciate her work is that she tends to avoid the increasingly popular heavy roasts in order to let the natural aromas and flavors of the cultivars with which she works shine and to allow drinkers to appreciate the unique terroir from which her teas come. This particular tea seems to go against her processing philosophy. Though it is labeled as a medium roast tea, I found the roast to be quite heavy and overbearing. It obscured the natural spiciness of the Rou Gui cultivar.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 205 F water for 4 seconds. This infusion was chased by 13 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, I noted that the dry tea leaves produced heavy aromas of char, smoke, and dark wood. There was also a hint of elderberry. After the rinse, an orchid-like floral aroma emerged, as did aromas of huckleberry and spice. The first infusion produced a similar aroma, though I was able to detect an earthiness and tobacco as well. In the mouth, heavy flavors of elderberry, dark wood, char, and smoke mingled with more subtle notes of ginger, cinnamon, orchid, and huckleberry. Subsequent infusions began to draw out mineral notes, as well as aromas and flavors of caramel, raisin, black pepper, and clove. The later infusions displayed the expected Wuyi minerality both on the nose and in the mouth, though I could still detect fleeting impressions of caramel, char, smoke, raisin, tobacco, and wood with a hint of mild ginger, black pepper, and cinnamon spiciness.
This tea managed to be resilient, deep, and complex, though the overall aroma and flavor profiles were not much to my liking. I felt like the roast was too heavy, obscuring the spice, flower, and fruit notes of which I would have liked to see more. So, while there may have been a lot going on with this tea, it all seemed to be somewhat out of balance. Though I tend to admire Li Xiangxi’s work, I cannot help feeling that she lost the thread with this one. My search continues for a Rou Gui that really speaks to me. I think fans of heavier roasts may get some satisfaction out of this one, but it was not for me.
Flavors: Black Pepper, Caramel, Char, Cinnamon, Clove, Dark Wood, Fruity, Ginger, Huckleberry, Mineral, Orchid, Raisins, Smoke, Tobacco
I find this tea to be fascinating. I brought some home for our annual family New Year’s eve dinner, and the first impression is … wait for it….PETTING ZOO!! HA, yes it does smell a bit like a goat, not terribly funky though, more barnyard hay with some goat mixed in. Also, lots of wildflower honey, mineral. Palate is very similar to the nose, with a long sweet finish. The tea changes wonderfully through several steepings. It can see where it would not be for everyone, but I found it really interesting and well balanced.
And, yes, we now call it the petting zoo tea….
This one is just too much of a fruit salad for me. On the nose, orange, pineapple, orchid, pina colada and a rather odd note that resembles a hint of Durian ( I found this to be off putting since durian smeels and to me tastes like rotten onions ). Palate Lots of fruit, with some floral notes. I will not take points away for flavors ( unless they just seem terrible ) since everyone’s tastes are different, but this tea seems unbalanced….
I absolutely love this tea. On the nose I get osmanthus, violets, creme brule, cassis, aloeswood, and a lightly vegetal note…what is it.
Palate, sugar cane, burnt caramel, and the vegetal is… red bell pepper! Never tasted that in a tea before! Also, grape Jolly Rancher candy, leather, clove, and a long vapory sparkling finish…
Fo Shou is an interesting oolong cultivar. Known for its large leaves said to resemble the palm of a hand when completely unfurled, it is better known today as a Taiwanese oolong, though it originally comes from mainland China. This particular Fo Shou is part of Li Xiangxi’s collection and is a product of the spring 2015 harvest. The darker roast on this tea has allowed it to hold up very well.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After the rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 208 F water for 10 seconds. I then followed this infusion up with 11 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute 5 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, a sniff of the dry tea leaves was quick to reveal pronounced aromas of dark chocolate, pine, pipesmoke, tobacco, bergamot, and char. After the rinse, the dark chocolate, pine, tobacco, and char aromas intensified somewhat. The first infusion produced a similar, though fruitier and more floral aroma, as mild lime and rose scents were just barely detectable. In the mouth, I detected strong notes of dark wood, pipesmoke, dark chocolate, char, pine, minerals, tobacco, and bergamot balanced by interesting notes of fresh kiwi, rose, and lime. Subsequent infusions were fruitier and more floral, offering stronger kiwi, lime, rose, and bergamot notes balanced by wood, char, tobacco, pipesmoke, minerals, and a lingering hint of dark chocolate. The later infusions were mild and mellow. As expected, the mineral aromas and flavors were considerably stronger than in the earlier infusions. I could still detect traces of pine, char, lime, tobacco, and dark wood, though I also began to note a slight buttery quality at this point.
Having researched this tea a little, I find myself both agreeing with and chuckling at part of Verdant’s tasting note. They described this tea as tasting like temple incense and Buddhist prayer beads, and well, I definitely see that. Like a lot of the teas released by Verdant as part of Li Xiangxi’s collection, this one is both challenging and tremendously rewarding. It also fades just a little sooner than I would like. Still, those early and middle infusions pack quite a wallop in terms of aroma and flavor. I would recommend this tea highly to open-minded tea drinkers who admire the complexity and quirky aroma and flavor profiles of classic Wuyi oolongs.
Flavors: Bergamot, Butter, Char, Dark Chocolate, Dark Wood, Fruity, Lime, Mineral, Pine, Rose, Smoke, Tobacco
I have made time for some new teas, and this was amongst them. I drank it a few times throughout the year, though I took sparing and woefully incomplete notes. Still, I can at least say the following:
—> It did have quite noticeable fermentation odour, on opening. I know that, like stinky cheese or similar such things, you can’t really avoid it in classically made shu puerh, but I’d be lying if I said I still didn’t find it slightly off-putting :p
—> I did a quick rinse at around 90C, but it did smell quite lovely. Sweet and caramelly, with a nice earthy background.
—> I then did several short steeps (5-10s) at near-boiling. Each infusion was lovely and tasted just as it smelled; rich notes of caramel or chocolate, with a lovely and balanced earthy background. It was a beautifully smooth drink, with a gentle lightness about it, particularly in the aftertaste.
—> I then carried on with a group of longer steeps (I think the final one was around 30 seconds, and it was probably steep 9 or 10); the tea was still going strong, though it was obviously a little lighter in essence by the end.
I did all of the brewing in a porcelain Verdant Gaiwan (v. thin walled and lustrous); aesthetically, I doubt I’ll ever find a teaware set-up I prefer, but I do appreciate it’s probably not the best for such a classical shu puerh that ought to have a more tightly controlled high-temperature. I’m still on the look-out for a nice, small yixing pot that I can use for shu puerh (as the two I own currently are seasoned for other teas and, for my liking, are a little too large for shu puerh).
Flavors: Caramel, Dark Chocolate, Earth
And, once again, I’ve been defaulting to favourites whilst I’ve been busy and not having quite as much time to try new things. I’ll always love Verdant’s Autumn Tieguanyin, and the 2015 harvest was no exception. It’s freshing, floral, and ever-so-gently buttery – just perfect. I can’t really fault it, and wouldn’t really want to.
My black tea yixing is starting to smell like black tea inside when its dry :)))) I’m so proud of my little Sandy.
The leaves of this are smaller than one might expect for a phoenix varietal, on the website it says the varietal is “feng huang dancong” so uh yeah well anyways
Brewing at 95C, with my ~150ml yixing about half full of wet leaf
the dry leaf aroma is like a chocolate chip muffin
In the warm pot it smells so good, it’s sort of like raspberry cake or a trifle or something, mmm
1: Smooth orange flavour, cream flavours and feels, sugars, berries, there’s definitely a creamy cakey kind of thing too, some hints of earth and wood and sort of like munching on some leaves.
2: very creamy, lots of berry notes, blueberry, blackberry, strawberry, malty, munchy leafs and earth. Tingly feeling on the tongue, there’s definitely florals as well
3: earthier and stemmy, still creamy berries and flowers
4: Less creamy, mango notes enter, more floral and sweet
past the 4th the tea becomes a more floral black tea with mango, strawberry, some astringency and a tingly mouthfeel, leading to just flower taste
This actually tastes how verdant described it, how often does that happen?
This is an amazing black tea, a must try for sure.
This one is tough for me, I have tried short and long steep at varying temps and I seems pretty consistent.
Nose, I get osmanthus and rose with some vegetal notes like celery, light and delicate.
Palate, sweet orange, same floral notes fading to celery with some peach/lychee notes on the finish, it seems backward ( most taste is at the back of the palate ), unfortunately I find the mouth feel thin and watery, some light minerality, while it is nice, I find some of the other Dancong from Verdant more interesting.
I got it! This one seems to need more heat and time to really open up. The mouth feel was more full and the tea less delicate also a roasted barley flavor and aroma came up. Very nice and well balanced.
Flavors: Celery, Lychee, Orange, Osmanthus, Peach, Rose
Backlog 4 January 2016
Sample from eastkyteaguy
See, I failed already. I didn’t live up to the daily review as planned. Hahaha.
A nice solid sweet jasmine white tea. Smooth & full of the much expected jasmine flavor. Verdant is usually hit or miss, but when it hits, it hits hard.
(There’s my review from yesterday ;))
Flavors: Jasmine, Smooth, Sweet
I love the base of this tea, it’s robust without being astringent with notes of wood and cocoa. The flavours don’t sound like they should work together much less with a base that has so much character of it’s own, but the flavour blending is deft enough that the it has just the right spiciness, the right amount of sweet vanilla, the right degree of citrusy tang that it just works. It also holds up to resteeping quite well. It’s kind of a shame that Verdant Tea has changed to unflavoured teas (although it’s also great that they’re bringing single source Chinese teas to the N. American market, and area of tea production that has been underserved in my opinion) as I would be totally willing to buy more of this tea.