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Recent Tasting Notes
I’m drinking this western-style tonight, which is probably heresy, so… serious pu-erh people, avert your eyes. ;) 3g in an infuser basket with my 10oz mug, boiling water (but it cools down to low 90’s pretty soon after hitting the mug), steeps of 3min, 4min, 5min, etc. I forgot to rinse (seriously, avert your eyes, this is ridiculous).
For the first couple of steepings, the primary flavour was that earthy “shou pu-erh” flavour, which made me think that I must just completely lack a palate for pu-erh because I wasn’t tasting any of the other flavours listed. The texture/mouthfeel of this tea is pretty cool though, definitely light and silky-smooth, and then creamy in the aftertaste.
A few steepings in, the earthy/musty flavour has decreased substantially, and a light sweetness is coming through, accompanied by some fruity notes. I think I’m getting a bit of that minty-ness in the aftertaste as well. I’m glad I stuck with this tea and am looking forward to trying it gongfu style. :)
Flavors: Creamy, Earth, Smooth, Sweet
What a smart idea… gift a wild dianhong to the guy who drank the Imperial Gold Bud in Tokyo this year and wanted more but it was out of stock… that guy was also nice enough to not purchase 10oz like planned so others could have some.
Anyways, this is like a mini-me of the dianhong… aka it doesn’t hit as hard but it still has the resemblance of the good good. In this picture it’s the dark one :p https://instagram.com/p/5sktHzxYEc/
I don’t know how I haven’t already reviewed this tea…seeing as I’m down to half a bag! I clearly must have had some of it. Anyway I love this tea. It smells very dark and rich and malty to me…which as you know I LOVE. While the taste has hints of cocoa and…bread. Weird but so darn good.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Cocoa, Malt
Steeping this one western-style this morning, so I’m probably not getting the full experience, but it’s still very tasty. :) Creamy, malty, and slightly sweet to start out, and then a fresh fruity tartness kicks in. Sweetly floral, like honeysuckle, in the aftertaste.
No notes yet. Add one?
Flavors: Rose, Rosehips
Thank you Brenden for this sample! I liked this one WAAAAAY more than North Winds. North Winds is much lighter as a Gongfu, and though I am actually starting to prefer this method of black tea brewing, there were times where I had to do it western because I was off by a few grams and the particular leaf wasn’t as strong. I like my dark teas bold, but complex and full of flavor. That’s why I typically enjoy Irish Breakfast more than say English Breakfast because it’s got more umph. Along the same parallel, the Aliashan is bolder, and more complex to me. I’m getting all of the tasting notes that are on here.
Toasted, whole grain bread is the best, first comparison I get, coupled with a malt like red wine aftertaste. Caramelized plum, though, is what this tea fully tastes like, and what I get the most. Again, it’s a very complex black tea that is sturdy though done Gongfu. I actually did the first steep in ten seconds which is fairly impressive, and it certainly filled my cup. A part of me even prefers it to the Golden Bud Dian Cong. I wonder what it would taste like as the Jabberwocky or Cocoa Amore. I also drank this as soon as I finished Rivendell, and this is the Aragorn to Rivendell’s Arwen.
This may be a more medium black tea, but it is a man’s tea, dang it (so wish I could use the full profanity)! For black tea lovers and would be the best introduction to an Ailoashan black for a newbie. If you want something robust with three dimensions, this is the tea to try.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Cherry, Cocoa, Malt, Plums, Red Wine
This tea is the reason why I went over budget. This is why I am going to be much more careful with my tea selection. And this tea is important to me. I was just starting to get into Tie Guan Yin’s and oolongs became my new obsession. I wondered if there were any that were Lord of the Rings themed, and low and behold, I find an entire community devoted to all things tea, and the very first review in my sight was Rivendell. This is the tea that introduced me to Steepster, and the oolong that I was determined to try. Like many have said before, it’s named Rivendell, and it has to deliver the promise of a cup from Middle Earth. I waited over a year. I missed some times it was back in stock. Now, I have it.
Does it deliver on the hype? Not quite, but almost. I’m sorry, but it just didn’t. The Tie Guan Yin from Mandala tasted very similar to this, and it is significantly cheaper-cheaper by seven dollars per ounce. It has the same notes, nuances, and aroma in the first steep. I may have gotten lucky with the Mandala sample, being a spring harvest one, and being from a good year. I understand that the majority of the cost is because of the quality of Tie Guan Yin, which can be one of the most expensive teas in the world, and the quality of the Tahitian vanilla bean and cedar leaves. On top of those huge expenses, this product is in very little supply, and there is a tremendous demand for it as clearly apparent on this very site and the frequent times that it is out of stock. Yet the woodsy cedar and vanilla notes are ones that can be found in a high quality Tie Guan Yin-the later steeps are the more complex ones that allow this tea to be different from others. Nevertheless, the price remains as my main point of criticism.
Otherwise, it certainly is a drink that Lord Elrond would offer. It is very Elvish, smelling and tasting like described. The Vanilla and Cedar are the dominant scents and flavors in the tea, with the Tie Guan Yin’s natural orchid, creamy sweetness blending both scent and flavor together. Brenden’s description if pretty accurate. Again, Cedar and Vanilla are immediate. Lilac, or orchid, takes the previous two together and grinds them both with minerals. Caramel is more in the smell. Cherry and chocolate are approximately there, but you really have to search for them. The last three or two steeps really brings out the cherry, and the final one is like pine nut and mint, or menthol. It is a very light tea, and like any Tie Guan Yin, the taste is delicate but distinct. The most impressive aspect of this tea is that it is able to yield the same floral relish of a Gongfu in five western style brewed cups, which partially staves off the price in reusability. I actually let the later steeps soak in for 20-45 seconds more than recommended and got more flavor though this is western.
I thoroughly enjoy this tea. If it weren’t for the incredible price, this tea would have probably been one of the best I’ve had, and one of my favorites. I am very glad that I have it and pretty satisfied that I do, because the quest to have it finally ended in full circle, and it’s a good cup. This is the tea I would have given a 100 to, and this is my tea 100, the hundredth cup I’ve reviewed, the first cup that I saw on this site.
Now, for the audience that this tea aims for. You have to be a fan of Tolkien to fully enjoy this tea, or a huge fan of Tie Guan Yin oolongs and lighter teas. This is the must try tea for you guys, and probably no one else. Because the taste is so delicate, and so specific to Rivendell, a person who prefers stronger teas, someone who has no idea who Tolkien is, or someone who is newer to the over active imagination that is tea tasting would be severely underwhelmed. And if you are in a rush, you cannot possibly savor this tea. You’ll be reminded of the stark reality that you are just drinking a flowery glass of water. You have to slow yourself down, and travel to Middle Earth. You must let go, and allow yourself to escape.
Flavors: Caramel, Cedar, Cherry, Chocolate, Creamy, Floral, Mint, Orchid, Rainforest, Vanilla, Vegetal
Thank you Brenden for this sample!!!!!!
I really, really enjoyed this black tea. It is naturally sweet, smooth, and soooo much like caramel, in smell and in taste. This tea has so much character, and with only a barely noticeable touch of astringency. I smell again, caramel, hay, butter, sweet potatoe, popcorn….and sip the same notes. And that’s just on the first 15 second steep. This is actually one of my favorite black teas thus far. I would not drink this again and again because I want to savor it, and enjoy it as long as I can before its gone.
Another tea that is great in Gongfu style, and I think that almost anyone would like it, newbie or tea master. This is the tea to learn to enjoy without sugar for beginners. And this is a delicacy for the tea snob. I don’t think that I could ever drink black tea the same way again. I now prefer more golden leaves…..I am now a tea snob. Curses!!!!!!
Flavors: Caramel, Cocoa, Creamy, Hot hay, Sweet, Sweet Potatoes
So much better since I added more leaves. Last time, I poured two tea spoons, but they were far from being full. I thought that since the leaves are so stringy for this tea that they would open up bigger, but I was wrong on that front. I used a heaping half of a tablespoon, almost a full one really, and it tasted way better.
Like I said in the previous review, North Winds is the best suited name for this tea. It smells exactly like the wind in Northern Michigan, even the woods here in Port Huron closer to Canada and the Lake. Wood, maple, cocoa, and campfire is what I personally smell when I take a single whiff of this. Last time I drank it, I tasted a cocoa, roasted black tea that was not that different from a Keemum. This time, with more leaves, there is so much more flavor. The taste is the same as the rustic aroma, being a pure breakfast blend having a simpler, yet more genuine quality than a usual English Breakfast. It’s almost like a less astringent, smoother version of an Irish Breakfast. I am glad that I decided to try this one again, and getting more out of it. My only criticism is the expense, as there are better teas that are near the same price on Whispering Pines website. Also, my sights are honed in on Golden Orchid when it comes back in stock, so I am anticipating what this particular tea base will be like with a vanilla accent. North Winds still needs another note to really fill the cup to its impressive potential, and vanilla might be the finishing note to crescendo it to greater heights.
Pompous hyperbole aside, a lot of people would like it. Breakfast tea, southern sweet iced tea, and European black tea lovers would enjoy it. Though it’s slightly better Gonfu, a Chinese brewing method, it’s more reminiscent of a European drink to me. Newbies might require cream and sugar anyway, but it by no means tastes bad with the additives. I just prefer drinking my tea without sweetener.
Flavors: Campfire, Cocoa, Malt, Wood
First black tea from Whispering Pines, and I’m fairly impressed. I was hoping to try the Golden Orchid for some time, but vanilla is one of those hit or miss spices for me, and I wanted to try it without the flavoring. It does indeed smell like the winds up here in northern Michigan, thus having the perfect name. I smell woods, cocoa, and when I taste it, it is dominantly cocoa. I can see why vanilla was added in the Golden Orchid version now. This tea is very smooth and has no astringency, though it really needs another accent like vanilla for more flavor. Nevertheless, it’s probably one of the better black teas that I’ve had. I very rarely drink black tea Gongfu style, but I got more of the flavors drinking this method. It might be overpowering in Western.
This is a go to black tea for people to try, and definitely a good base or personal stock for higher end black tea. Personally, I don’t think that I would purchase this again now knowing my preference for oolongs, but I am glad that I tried it. Thank you Brenden, for your very kind service and high quality tea!
Flavors: Cocoa, Malt, Smooth, Wood
Drinking quite a bit of this today to see how I like it. I believe that wet earth is the best description that can be applied to this, but by saying ‘bold wet earth’ may actually do more justice.
This is a fine pu’erh that looks rather young still. While it may not be my favorite, yet still taste great, this may be one of those teas that mellows slightly over the years to provide a warm honey pu’erh brew. I will look into trying this a few years down the road :)
This smelled beautiful as I scooped it into the teaball. Sort of earthy and floral at the same time. (I’m not normally a fan of “earthy” smells but this one worked.)
There’s a grassiness and almost butteriness to this on the first sip. As it cools, the grassiness is more pronouced, and it’s approaching bitter, but not quite hitting it. There’s just a touch of sweetness to it.
This is beautiful. It’s calming and serene. This makes me happy to sip it.
Flavors: Butter, Grass, Vegetal
I really enjoy the pine in this – it is definitely creamy and grassy with the green tea, and very aromatic when it is warm and refreshing as the cup cools down. I am really glad I got the chance to try, pine needles aren’t exactly a common ingredient in tea. Resteeps nicely too.
A fine drizzle has overtaken athens today, making me especially excited to head out west for family visits tomorrow! For now, I needed something comforting, and pine needles definitely felt western!
I’ve been wanting to try this blend forever, and my recent order from Whispering Pines put me in the mood to. Thanks goes to MissB who generously sent me the remainder of her bag!
The first steep was light, but had a distinct flavor, almost like peppermint. That must be the pine I’m tasting. The aftertaste had a lovely sweetness and vanilla notes. While I was brewing this up, the scent reminded me of western homewares stores, or the Yellowstone NP gift shops, complete with log benches, a fire place, and antler chandeliers. I’m much enjoying this cup!
The second steep was more pine-forward, but still a nice sweet aftertaste!
The third steep smells much more floral. The pine has transformed into a blend of jasmine and mint! So yummy! The aftertaste cools my tongue with far away sweet mint.
The fourth steep (5 minutes) was very lightly flavored.
This is one of those teas that is really good when you’re not paying attention to it, but the second you focus it becomes incredible and complex. I’m really enjoying it, and I hope it comes back in stock at some point in the future.
Flavors: Jasmine, Pine, Sugarcane, Vanilla
So, this is less of a tasting note than a brewing note, I guess. After reading this article (http://www.seriouseats.com/2015/06/how-to-make-the-best-cold-brew-iced-tea.html), I decided to try it out, and this is the tea I pulled out to try it with (don’t know if it’s the best tea for this method, but it’s what I pulled out _ ). I used a full rounded teaspoon in…. I think about a liter of water? I keep forgetting how big that pitcher is. I’ll need to re-measure it one of these days. I did use a teaball, and looking back at the article, it looks like the author left the tea leaves loose in the water, so we’ll see how this works.
I will update in the morning. :)
7/21/2015 ETA: I realize I never updated this. Sorry, life happened. I got three ~10oz cups of tea out of my pitcher. It was very refreshing, but I must admit, I lost a lot of the flavor of the pu-erh. It was there, but much harder to find than before. Also, I tried cold-brewing a pitcher of my Star Trek Earl Grey (currently my favorite EG), and got similar results – I got more flavor from the Earl Grey (the lavender and bergamot) than I did from the pu-erh, but they were still muted compared to hot-brewed. I did like having the pre-steeped tea in the fridge, because I could still enjoy it, and it was easy to just pour and move on to what I needed to do. I am going to try this with other teas – still need to try it with some lighter teas, I think. And some ithers with strong flavors. I suspect that the cold brewing will work better with…. strong-flavored teas. I don’t want to say artificially-flavored necessarily, but I think the subtle flavor variations naturally occurring in tea from different regions may get dampened to almost nothing by the cold-brewing process, and you might as well be brewing Lipton (not that there’s anything wrong with that _). It the article, it mentions that cold-brewing can shorten the distance between a decent-quality and a great quality tea, and after the two I tried (both extremely good quality, as far as I can tell), I think that might be the case, since the cold seems to wash out the variation.
Anyway, I’ll continue to experiment, and try to remember to report my results here.
Sniffing this tea dry gave me notes of bittersweet chocolate and greenness. Steeped, it smells a bit vegetal and earthy. Very earthy. The first sip is also vegetal and earthy, but there’s the slightest hint of sugar and sweetness
Flavors: Earth, Sweet, Vegetal
There was just enough of this left for one session with it. This smells so much like maple in the bag! I was really surprised to read that it’s the mushrooms that are giving off this scent. When tasting the first brew, most of what I was tasting was maple, and a sort of grain like or whole wheat flavor, as well as a sour, fruit like note. To my disappointment though, no mushrooms. Happily, they made an appearance in subsequent steeps, a little in the flavor, but more so in the savoury aftertaste. There’s a slight a stringency and bitterness, but it’s mild. By the third, ah! There’s the chocolate notes, and the fruit notes remain. It just gets more savoury as it goes, as the mushrooms and wood flavors really come out to play. I think I love these mushrooms! The leaves are a milk chocolate brown, and they really expanded throughout my session with them, these are big pieces of leaf, and they lasted well, at 8 sweepings filling the recommended times on the site. Huge thanks to whoever put this in the box. I’ve always wanted to make a Whispering Pines order, but the cost really prevented me from buying blind, even with the good reviews. Now I get all the hype. Chocolate mushrooms are da bomb!