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Recent Tasting Notes
While there is a common thread of flavor and aroma that runs between the Georgian black teas offered at What-Cha, this one has a particularly deep and mellow character with sweet indistinctly fruity tones. While all of the What-Cha Georgian teas are unique, I find these teas difficult to describe because they have such similar characteristics, they just point in different directions… if that makes any sense. And perhaps that is why I love having a small collection of Georgian teas: I can pick one to suit my current mood.
A chat on reddit.com/r/tea inspired me to taste Laoshan Black from Verdant and What-Cha in back-to-back sessions. A Verdant LB devotee ordered What-Cha’s version and expressed hope that it would be similar. I had first been introduced to Verdant’s, and later ordered What-Cha’s — which more than satisfied my desire for that characteristic LB flavor. In fact, with both versions available to me, I had been opting for What-Cha’s every time.
But how similar are they? What was making me reach for the What-Cha bag when I wanted that deep dark chocolate-like taste, in a rich cup without the slightest hint of astringency? Time for a taste test.
My experience was similar to Ananisthecat’s. Verdant’s had several flashy flavors in the dry leaf and brewed cup — raisin and plum, most noticeably. The tea was thin bodied and the interesting notes quickly faded. I could have steeped more times than I did: there was still some flavor, but without the “look-at-me” notes, the tea wasn’t holding my interest.
The What-Cha Laoshan Black was fuller bodied, smooth, with more balance and subtlety to the flavor. I found it more enjoyable from the get-go as well as several steeps in.
I brewed Western style: 2tsp of each w/6-8oz water, starting w/30sec. Verdant recommends 205° and What-Cha 194°, so I followed those — have only a bit of the What-Cha left and didn’t want to burn it out of the gate, though I’m pretty sure it would be fine with more heat!And now, with an expanded perspective on the two teas, I’ll quite happily continue to stick with What-Cha’s.
A wonderful tea. So far I’ve been quite impressed with my Discover Vietnam set from What-Cha. This one did have a notable dark chocolate aroma, which translated to a pleasant cocoa flavor in the tea itself. It wasn’t particularly sweet. The chocolate tasted more like those bars which are 90% cocoa or whatever. The sweetness of this tea seemed to come from the thick maltiness which was behind the chocolate. In some steeps I also got some nice earthy notes. The tea brewed up a beautiful clear and red liquor. A nice treat of a tea, especially if you like dark chocolate.
Flavors: Cocoa, Dark Chocolate, Earth, Malt, Sweet, Thick
My first straight assam. I love this tea. It is what Lipton’s is pretending to be when it steals it’s manly uncle’s pipe and smoking jacket, practicing powerful, seductive looks for the ladies.
It is incredibly smooth and rich, and hints at milk chocolate at the back of the tongue. The aroma is much more chocolatey, but the taste doesn’t need it. A bit of malt lingers after the sip. Just slightly dry, too.
The second steep becomes less remarkable, more just a cup of tea. But wow, the magic of that first cup.
Silver needle. I’ve heard a little about you.
I’m been into this tea thing for around two months, constantly seeing ‘silver needle’ whispers between the roars of ‘PU ERH!’. I decided to check it out, since the leaf looks like cute baby caterpillars. I made an order with What-Cha and the bag is so satisfying to press, it’s like a cushion.
The leaves smelled weirdly like Carmex lip balm and grass. I brewed the tea in my new Yixing 100ml teapot for a quick flash brew as previous brewings had been very strong. It produced a lovely light brew with a slight yellow tint. As soon as I tasted the brew I fell in love with white teas. It had such a delicate citrus taste with notes of grass.
I left my second steeping for around 3 minutes to see if it improved the flavour. This time the citrus and grass notes were much stronger and it also had a strong lavender finish.
I decided to leave my third steeping in for 7 minutes. I forgot about it, meaning I left it in for 12 minutes instead. I was worried it was going to be super bitter, but it wasn’t. It was a tiny bit bitter but not enough to stop me drinking the tea. It is lovely on long steeps and I will probably try and steep it for 5-10 minutes for my first steeping next time. This tea also has a lovely lasting finish, perfect for an after-dinner treat.
Overall, I’m very happy I made this purchase and finally experienced the joys of white tea.
Flavors: Citrus, Floral, Lavender
This tea tastes almost identical to an Indonesian red oolong I received as a sample with my Dachi subscription last month. Very mellow, sweet and musty. Not sure if I pick up any cinnamon. I wouldn’t buy this tea ( it is a sample), but the energy it provides is so happy. It’s a shame that I don’t like the taste more. Just not remarkable to me.
I’m not sure what I did wrong on this one but it just didn’t pop for me. I followed the suggested steeping directions. 185 for 3 minutes with 2 heaping tsp in 8oz. Both the first steep and the second at 4min30sec just were very watery and flat to me.
I will try to up the water temp and see if that changes anything here and update as needed but for now, it was very watery and lacked flavor.
I made some tea orders from both What-Cha and my first order at NBTea. I was given a gaiwan for my birthday so decided to try it out on my new oolong!
After absolutely loving the Thailand Bai Yai Assamica Green tea, I decided to order the oolong version to see if I liked it.
To be totally honest, I haven’t done that much research into how to use gaiwans. I put around 4g of oolong into the gaiwan as I had seen that most people put 1-2tsp in theirs. Rinsing is a new concept to me and I used my first steeping to rinse the tea and warm up the cup. Strangely enough, the wet leaves had a hint of strawberry scent!
My first tasting steep I left in for around 30 seconds. I had NO IDEA how long to leave it in for, however on most tea podcasts they usually leave it in for as long as a short natter takes. I definatly think I oversteeped it as it tasted incredibly bitter but I could taste fruity, nutty tones.
My second steeping wasn’t so successful either. I decided to flash brew, thinking this would reduce the bitterness. It actually INCREASED the bitterness and I wasn’t so sure what I had done wrong. I took out around half of the leaf and tried again.
My third steeping was a little better. It was still bitter, however I could taste the nutty tones and a fruity sweet aftertaste.
My fourth and final steeping was pretty watery and I could tell that this oolong was coming to it’s end. The taste was quite pleasant and fruity, however the finish was very bitter on the back of my tongue.
I still have a little bit left so I’ll use that to give a proper rating when I’ve done some better research. I don’t want to rate this tea in case I hadn’t brewed it properly, however any gaiwan tips would be appriciated!
Flavors: Cream, Fruity, Nuts, Nutty, Strawberry
I grabbed a handful of the Georgian black tea offerings from What-Cha, and have been really enjoying them. While they are all different, there is a thread of aroma and flavor that connects them all.
One thing I find interesting about the Georgian teas I have tried is that they can pull off “burly” flavors without seeming in any way dirty. By that I mean that the mild hints of leather I pick up in the wet leaf aroma of the Old Gentleman black tea are welcoming and balanced by the spicier/breadier Georgian character and inherent sweetness of the tea. This one in particular is a satisfying Georgian tea that brews up a dark golden red color with a full body, even with shorter steeps. There’s also a very satisfying mild acidity.
I had the wonkiest dream last night, it combined my current obsessions of Magic The Gathering and Ark: Survival Evolved with crazy apocalypse stuff most likely caused by my brushing up on the Permian-Triassic Extinction Event. It is always weird when the brain comes up with a crazy mish-mash of whatever you were thinking about before sleep and tries to make it into a story, most the time in the dream it makes perfect sense, but of course when you wake up it is so illogical and weird. And if anyone is curious about my Ark shenanigans for today, I’m planning on finding and taming a Carno, sure I could wait for an epic Rex or Spino, but the derpy arms and horns of the Carno kinda win so I need one to go hunting with my Pile ’o Dilos.
So, since it is Wednesday it is time to look at a tea from What-Cha, their India Bihar Doke Hand-Made ‘Rolling Thunder’ Oolong Tea is the lucky pick from my notes today. From the Doke Tea Garden in Bihar, the Lochan family once again is pushing the boundaries of tea in India, putting Bihar on the map as a tea region. The gentle curling leaves have a very sweet aroma, blending strong notes of plums, raisins and fresh grapes with a accompaniment of malt and dried tomato. The dried tomato note was a bit odd in concert with the other notes, but it is not an unpleasant oddness.
Into my steeping apparatus the leaves went for their nice little steeping session, I decided to go western style for this tea, because why not? I admit I primarily focus on gongfu so it is nice to switch things up a bit, keep me versatile. The aroma of the soggy steeped leaves is very fruity, blending tart slightly underripe plums, prunes, grapes, and raisins, the tartness is pretty fun, giving it a briskness. The liquid is very mild and sweet, blending grapes and prunes with a drizzling of honey, it has a richness to it that is not at all overpowering.
There is something about drinking tea from elegant or beautiful tea gear that makes it all the more wonderful, now I admit that my more recent collection of cups not all being pure white does skew the coloring of the tea a bit, but the beauty makes it worth it for me, and hopefully my dear readers don’t mind too much. The coloring matches the golden color of my cup perfectly, it looks like liquid sunlight. The mouthfeel is nice and smooth, pretty juicy with a bit of thickness, like warm fruit juice without the sticky. Tasting the tea, it is very sweet, mixing honey and plums with a gentle allspice note and a touch of raisins. Towards the end it gets a little dry and more heavily into the grape notes, reminding me a bit of spiced wine.
I did steep a second time, but a lot of the potency was lost, there is still mellow plum and grapes, but towards the end a note of dried tomato appears which was a bit surprising. The first steep really was quite enjoyable, the second steep was not at all bad, just diminished.
I took my entire sample — about 6 grams — and brewed it in a small teapot with 85°C water for 1 minute. I could have done it in a gaiwan, but eh, I was lazy.
The brewed tea was dark brown and had a cool undertone to it. It smelled sweet, malty, and slightly sour. Overall, the whole thing reminded me of wet hay.
Down the hatch, I got a similar taste of wet hay, sweet potato, and something sour I couldn’t quite put my finger on. As the tea cooled, a bitter undertone developed underneath. It wasn’t sharp, but I still didn’t like it, because it wasn’t a pleasant bitterness, but one that felt kind of old and reminiscent of plastic.
The second steep, also for 1 minute, was very similar. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t feeling it and had trouble finishing the second steep.
Yesterday and today I’ve brewed back-to-back sessions of two What-Cha Georgian teas — this one and Tamaz’s Tiny Tea Factory black tea. I could repeat for this tea nearly everything I wrote about the Tamaz’s, and will do so, while describing the slight differences I noticed:
The four What-Cha Georgian blacks that I’ve tasted demand nothing, yet offer plenty of subtlety to reward a closer look. I find this to be a delightful combination that continues to draw me to What-Cha’s Georgian teas.
Smooth. Gentle. No astringency or bitterness. A brightness, a nutty flavor, a bit of roastiness — and such balance that no one note is dominant; rather, awareness and observation reveal each.
Searching for the unique character of each of the Georgian teas is an enjoyable challenge for me, since I’ve found far more commonalities than differences. What I notice today is a fruitiness in this tea that I did not notice in the Tamaz’s, and a brightness that, while a characteristic of both, in the Natela’s I could describe as a lemon-like flavor without the slightest acidity. There’s some sweetness there too, but again, so well balanced that it calls no attention to itself.
Originally I started with a 3 min steep time (a minute shorter than the 4 min recommended) since black teas at full strength can be too harsh for me. But there is nothing harsh about this tea. It is flavorful (even at 3 min) without punching me in the face. I’ve also tried very long steeps, for a last steep of the session: even an hour or more! — still to great results.
Natela’s gives and gives – I’ve probably gone at least 7 in each of my two most recent sessions, keeping the time at 4 min per steep.
Like the three other Georgian black teas from What-Cha that I’ve tasted, Tamaz’s Tiny Tea Factory black tea demands nothing, yet offers plenty of subtlety to reward a closer look. I find this to be a delightful combination that continues to draw me to What-Cha’s Georgian teas.
Smooth. Gentle. No astringency or bitterness. A brightness, a nutty flavor, a bit of roastiness — and such balance that no one note is dominant; rather, awareness and observation reveal each.
This tea is enjoyable to me for many steeps – I’ve probably gone at least 7 in each of my two most recent sessions. No need to babysit, either, or worry if you get distracted or pulled away while your tea is steeping — shorter and longer (even very long) steeps were all wonderful with this forgiving tea.
This was a part of the birthday order from What-Cha. It was included as a “mystery tea” — that is, Alistair picks the tea, and you get it at something of a discount. When the order arrived, this tea was not available on the What-Cha website. It’s from Menghai, but I’m not sure what their name for it is. I don’t know whether or not What-Cha will put it on the site at some point — or if it’s something he just has a little of and is using for mystery tea boxes.
I did a couple of quick rinses. I used 8 grams per 4 ounces, and that is way too much. Should have gone with 4 grams. This tea is very dusty. It looks like coffee grounds after rinsing, not tea. I’m double-straining it, and it’s impossible to completely keep out the tea. The tea you drink also looks like coffee. I bet this is one that gets recommended for coffee drinker pretty often.
It’s extremely earthy, sort of overwhelmingly so. I’m interested to see what happens when I cut down on the amount I use. It’s smooth. Has a little bit of a hay aftertaste. Hm… This earthiness isn’t gross or anything, but earthy notes still don’t appeal to me very much in tea. I’m withholding judgement here until I try it in a smaller amount, and might notice more things in later steeps. I’ve only had two so far.
Flavors: Earth, Hay, Smooth, Wet Earth
I had some pretty poor white teas yesterday, so I decided to return to one of What-Cha’s to remind myself of what a great white tea tastes like. I’ve had a few teas from them that I didn’t really love, but their white teas have all been excellent.
Tastes of honey with flowery notes. The packaging describes the flavor as like peony, but I honestly don’t have the faintest clue what that tastes like so flowery will have to do. No bitterness present at all.
This tea was harvested January 2015. I steeped first according to the instructions on the packet: 2 tsp. per cup at 194 for three minutes. I was looking forward to it because the dry leaves smell like cocoa and cinnamon. Unfortunately, this is the most insipid and least interesting of the lot I’ve tried from What-Cha. I couldn’t really taste the cocoa, and only got very faint cinnamon notes.
I steeped a second time using boiling water for 7 minutes to see if I could get more flavor out of it. It’s a little better this time, but still really bland. Next time I try this, I will use boiling water at the beginning, include more leaf and increase the first steep time.
For the most part, the teas from What-Cha have been great, but I really didn’t care for this one. It’s so bland that I’m pretty sure it would not work in a gaiwan either.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Cocoa
I gave this one a second go, with cooler water and longer steeps. I did get some citrus finish in the first two steeps, but after that, the fruitiness got a lot less clear. I’m not really getting a distinct mango vibe like others have, but there is a fruitiness kind of buried under the more grassy flavors of the green tea throughout. Still not the biggest fan, but we’ll see what I can do with the final session’s worth I have from my 10g sample.
Flavors: Bitter, Citrus, Fruity, Grass, Hay
I was kind of disappointed with my first session of this tea. The first couple steeps were promising, as they gave a beautiful pale liquor with light grassy flavors, hinting at fruit on the finish. Unfortunately, that fruit flavor remained only in whispers, like it was buried and trying to get out. I’ll have to try something different on my next session to see if I can get more of the fruitiness to come out of the tea. Possibly ramp the steeping times up more quickly, as I kept them down around 10-15 sec. the first 5 or so infusions.
Flavors: Floral, Fruity, Grass
Ugh! I am getting a new game, yes, playing a game other than Minecraft, it is horrifying I know, but the siren’s call of ARK: Survival Evolved’s ability to tame dinosaurs while being a wild nature person hard-core trying to survive is just too much to resist. Download started at 2 PM this afternoon and it is only at 67%. I thought I could nap and when I woke up it would be done, but nope…and on top of that my nap left me feeling haggard, so now I am quaffing tea to help wake me up so if the download ever does finish I can play my new game! Shoutout to the only people I ever game with for buying me ARK, I was thinking I was going to have to wait til the release for me to play it, woo for Beta!
So, since I am quaffing tea, why not write about the one I am slurping while slurping it! Granted I already have the notes for this one in my notebook but sometimes I get inspired, usually it is by writing about a tea and then thinking ‘man I really need to drink that now’ but sometimes it is the other way around, and with that, presenting What-Cha’s Taiwan Sun Moon Lake Ruby Black Tea. Ah, Sun Moon Lake Black, Ruby Black, Red Jade, #18…I probably missed one somewhere, this is the tea with a ton of names and a mystery behind it. I saw mystery because everyone tastes its defining ‘note’ that sets it apart as something different (cloves, sassafras, eucalyptus, cinnamon, menthol…) and last time I reviewed one of these teas I discovered that all these plants have chemical similarities that reallly makes me wish I had a better understanding of bio-chem. Now if these plants’ Phenylpropenes being in the same group have anything to do with the aroma and flavor notes showing up in the tea, that I have no idea on, but I do find it quite fascinating! Science nerding out aside, the aroma of this particular Ruby Black is strong, notes if cocoa and squash blend with sassafras and cocoa with a finish of menthol and honey. This is the first time I have picked up one with a menthol note in its aroma, so that is fun. This tea is so weird but I love it!
Into the gaiwan (I now, fun fact, have a yixing pot devoted to this tea, it is that much of a favorite) the leaves go. The aroma of the wet leaves is all over the place, sassafras, cinnamon, cloves, menthol, along with rich dark chocolate and a bit of acorn squash. The liquid is mellow in comparison, granted it is still pretty potent because this is a not a tea that messes around. Notes of dark chocolate (like the really dark stuff) and sassafras mix with cloves and squash with a nice sweet burst of honey at the finish
First steep and ahhhh that is nice, this tea manages to be warming and cooling at the same time, with its cooling notes of menthol (granted it doesn’t really taste so much like mint, but it feels like it and smells like it and you know it is just kinda weird) with the warming ones of cloves and sassafras. It has a creaminess at the finish reminding me of chocolate and honey, with a touch of malt that lingers into the aftertaste.
As expected, on to steep two! The aroma is stupid potent this steep, strong notes of cloves and cinnamon mix with sassafras and chocolate with a nice finish of squash and honey. It is very sweet and I think the smell alone of this tea is enough to jog my brain from its fugue. The texture this steeping is much thicker and a bit sharp, one of those teas I can feel on the back of my teeth while it also coats the mouth with thickness. One of my idea mouthfeels. The taste is sweet and bittersweet at the same time, mixing milk chocolate with dark and adding cloves, sassafras and cinnamon. At the finish there is malt and honey, with a cooling menthol sensation in my belly that I find quite comforting.
The third steep is very similar to the second, this tea does not vary a whole bunch with Gongfu, just varying in strength. However, this is one of those teas that you really cannot brew wrong, western style brings out more malt notes and is very brisk, Grandpa/bowl style is sweet and rich with more mellow sassafras and cinnamon notes and heavier chocolate, while cold steeping this tea is an intensely sassafras and cinnamon heavy experience. It is a lot of fun and a definite staple in my tea stash.
In contrast to the much lighter darjeeling I just tried, this one is perfect for winter. I brewed according to the instructions on the packet: 2 tsp. in 8 oz. of water at 194 degrees for 4 minutes. I even got a good second steep out of it by increasing the temperature to boiling and steeping for 7 minutes.
This is very smooth with notes of cinnamon, honey, baked bread and malt. I thought 2 tsp. per 8 oz. might be too much, but it was just right. Really nice and warming. I added a tiny bit of honey to enhance the tea’s honey notes and milk, but it’s good with neither of these as well.
I think this is the first tea I’ve had from Georgia (the country, not the state). The What-Cha site says that Georgia used to produce most of the tea consumed in the Soviet Union, but that the industry collapsed when the regime did. Apparently the industry is just getting restarted. This one is both economical and quite good. I’d buy it again as an everyday drinker.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Cinnamon, Honey, Malt
This was included in the recent shipment from What-Cha. I’m not really sure what to say about this tea. It was not at all what I expected from a Darjeeling. I don’t even think I’ve ever had even a first flush this delicate. I brewed it Western style according to the instructions on the packet for a first try.
It’s very light, slightly sweet and I think a little floral and nutty. It’s a very high quality tea, but I’m glad for now that I didn’t get more. It just didn’t sit quite right for winter (I hadn’t realized until recently how season-oriented teas seem to me). For the future, I think I’d prefer to brew gongfu if drinking it hot. And it’s so delicate that I felt I missed out on some of the flavor when heated, so I want to try it cold in the Spring.
Flavors: Floral, Fruity, Honey, Nutty
Session #2, I used boiling water, and it helped bring out the flavor from this tea a bit more than the 203F water I used last time. It was interesting how the flavor behaved in the mouth. The tip is a bit of an astringent bite, but as it passes over your tongue, this quickly dissipates, leaving a slightly sweet malty flavor. Astringency was not mouth puckering, but after a whole session, did leave the mouth a bit dry. Again, very easy drinking and pleasant, better with boiled water than 203F in my opinion :)
Flavors: Astringent, Malt
Nothing spectacular, but a good, easy-drinking black tea. Used water ~203 F as the bag recommends, and brewed in my 100mL gaiwan. There was some astringency, but not of the mouth-puckering variety, instead it was quite refreshing. The same way lemon water is slightly astringent, but refreshing. It did leave a bit of a dry feeling in the mouth a minute after you finish the cup. Finish was slightly sweet maltiness. I think next time I’ll try boiling water, which I usually use for black teas.
Flavors: Astringent, Malt