Whispering Pines Tea Company
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Recent Tasting Notes
I’m not sure why this one has gone neglected in my cupboard for so long. One of life’s mysteries, I suppose! The first sip reminds me of Bluebird’s MojiTEA, only with a stronger and deeper flavour. I think the difference is partly in the base tea — this is black whereas the Bluebird is green. I also get lemon here and lime in the Bluebird, but both have the distinctive herbal-hay-citrus flavour of lemongrass, and both are drinks to be sipped in the sun! Bluebird on the beach, and the WP in a sunlight dappled forest on a warm spring day. I love that WP teas are so evocative. It’s obvious that a lot of thought and care goes into putting blends together, and that they’re inspired by strong, distinctive memories or occurences.
I used 1tsp of leaf for this cup, and gave it 2.5 minutes in boiling water. Cautious, I think, but I like starting small and working upwards, especially with teas I’m uncertain of. The liquor is a golden brown, and the main flavour is, surprisingly, pine smoke. In my initial sips, I was picking up mainly lemon with a hint of citrus from the lemongrass. It was quite light and and very fresh tasting, with a strong hint of mint. Successive sips seem to build the flavour to more of a darker intensity, which is where the pine and smoke notes come out. The mint remains in the aftertaste, and offers a refreshing counterpoint to the heavier, more resinous flavours.
I’m not usually a fan of smoky teas, but this is another surprise hit with me. I think perhaps because the smoke is so well done in WP teas — it’s integrated well, never overdone or heavy handed, and it always sits well with the mood and atmosphere the overall cup is trying to generate. I think I’m officially a WP convert!
I’m becoming less afraid of pu’erh teas as time goes on. I wasn’t at all convinced by my first two, but as I’ve tried more, I wrinkle my nose less and less when I’m drinking them. Surely a good sign! I don’t have many black teas with me at work at the moment, so I pulled this out as a reasonable substitute for a cold, dull morning. It’s my first week back at work after my week’s holiday, so it’s been busy and stressful and more or less completely awful. A good strong tea is just the thing I need.
I was cautious with the leaf and brew time of this one, for a first try. I used 1 tsp and added it to boiling water for about 2.5 minutes. I figure I can always work upwards from here, but I wanted to break myself in gently. The liquor is a golden red-brown.
The main flavour is definitely earth. Damp, composty earth. There’s also a hint of smoke, although it’s not overpowering. It puts me in mind of a bonfire on a damp autumn night. There’s a coolness towards the end of the sip that’s making me think of mint, or menthol. That, too, is fleeting, but pleasant all the same. I’m not really getting any of the berries or sweetness mentioned in the description, but I guess a longer brew time with more leaf might bring those flavours out. Other than the liquor colour, I’m also not picking up any rooibos. I can’t say I saw any amongst the dry leaf, though, so perhaps my bag just needs a good shake! What I will say is that this is such a pretty tea. The red safflower petals make such a distinctive contrast with the dusky black-brown leaves and black-red elderberries. I like that they were inspired by a red fox in a forest, too — very atmospheric!
I’m looking forward to experimenting with this one a little more — varying leaf amounts and brew times until I find a balance that works for me. I’d never have thought a smoky pu-erh would be a tea I’d find myself enjoying, but there you go. This one has obviously been put together with such care that it’s hard not to like. A surprise hit :)
The notes seem to change quite significantly depending on the steeping parameters though. Made it a few times with slightly differing temperatures, timing and vessels (yixing teapot, ceramic teapot and infuser flask) and each cup has been really quite different. Varies from choc-vanilla French pastry to malty dark cocoa cracker to slightly peppery cherry fudge.
I can’t quite remember what parameters yield which results so it’s almost like a new experience every time. One time though, it was a cold day and for a few hours there was a bit of liquid left amongst the leaves in my yixing from an earlier brew. Not wanting to waste it, I drank it and wow, it was like a cold super concentrated vanilla liquor with zero bitterness at all.
I find myself coming back for cup after cup of this multiple times a day, and while it’s not entirely obsession-level love, there are twelve other Whispering Pines teas I have yet to try and I’m sure at least one of them will inspire that enduring, unending tea love I’ve been searching for.
My first Whispering Pines tea!
My first whiff of the dried leaf strongly reminded me of dried cranberries and nori.
Then I thought I followed directions by putting 1/2 tsp in a cup of water. Later as I was thinking Brendan must like his tea weak, I realized the bag actually said tbsp. doh.
I will use less water on the resteep.
The scent of this tea is crusty whole wheat and rye bread. Crusty on the verge of burning even. I love my bread crust like that. Mmm bread. I also get the dark cocoa, but it’s more savory than sweet. Man I’m hungry.
I gulped this down pretty quick. Now I’m warm. :) let’s see if I can get more flavor out of these leaves with less water this time.
Mmm steep 2 is warm toasted bread sprinkled with dark cocoa. Lovely.
Excellent tea for the price. It will be perfect once winter rolls around.
Mj sent me a sample of this one because, a while back, I was ruminating over making some myself since I had both the teas in the blend. However, I would need to try some first to know what taste I was going for. I had actually totally forgotten about the whole thing, until I saw this little samples in mj’s swap package with the words “for experiments”. Thanks dear! :P The leaves are small to medium in size and very dark. They’re thin and quite twisty. Dry, they smell like delicious cocoa goodness (hah, that Cavalla again) and it’s making me want to eat them… I steeped mine for 3 minutes in 200 degree water.
I can smell both teas in the brewed aroma – the breadiness and malt from the Keemun along with the fruitiness and floral from the Ailaoshan. The same is true in the taste for me. I’m relieved that the bread flavor is very strong here, as I was worried that it might get overpowered by the fruit. There’s also a lot of maltiness, and then the lovely dried fruit and caramelized brown sugar from the Ailaoshan. I also get a little bit of floral near the end. Based on the overall taste here, I’m guessing either a 50/50 split or maybe like a 60/40 with the Keemun being the majority. Unfortunately I don’t have any of the Keemun right now, so I’ll keep the other half of my sample for when I do. :)
Flavors: Baked Bread, Brown Sugar, Burnt Sugar, Dried Fruit, Floral, Malt
I know this is a long review. Sorry but I still think you should read all of it. Just saying.
So. Shou. I kind of have a thing for it.
I drink it everyday and have lots of favourites. I have been known to have shou boxes in the house. (See what I did?) That was before I copied MzPriss and make my own “pumidrawer”. Cause you know…who doesn’t want to be like the fabulous MzPriss?
So it is established that I have a huge amount of shou in da house. But. As you probably know, I can’t resist many of the WP teas. I just go where quality is.
And I had yet to try this one. MzPriss recently reviewed it, and I was kind of envious. She got a real shou buzz out of it. I wanted that too!! But hey, you just don’t order a shoubuzz like you order a pizza.
I had already gotten a nice buzz from a sheng earlier. Pinky cheeks and all. Very nice qi. But not over the top.
There was still room for more. So…could I get lucky twice in the same evening?
Well. That is an understatement folks. This stuff should be illegal.
First I will describe the taste, then the qi. (Cause really, I could devote an entire page to it)
The dry leaves look like “chocolat au lait” shavings, so pretty.
I’m using 7g for 5oz shou yixing (shouxing?)
First steep, and wow. I mean this is as soft and smooth as angel wings. Makes me regret wasting the rinse.
No trace of earthiness or even leather in this. It’s all nuts and creamy vanilla. At first, I thought roasted pecans. When I later read the description, it said walnuts and I think it’s more accurate.
It’s sweet, in a dark brown sugar kind of way. It also provides that fresh mouthfeel of camphor that coats your entire mouth and lingers on your lips.
The third steep was probably the best. A little powdery, still very nutty and creamy.
I stopped at around steep seven, and I can tell you that by then, all I could do was lay on my back and enjoy the feeling.
The qi. It made my body twinkle all over. This tea is pure warm energy. I could feel my blood circulate. It made me tea drunk in a way I have never experienced before. Oh, I have felt this way before, but I promise you it wasn’t from tea leaves. (O.O)
And I kept thinking how nice this feeling will be on upcoming lazy rainy days. I’m gonna need
a lot more of this.
If you already like shou, this will only make you like it even more. And to all non shou lovers, please hurry and give this a try.
P.S. There should be a warning on the pouch: don’t shou and drive.
Tea of the morning. This tea is cozy… comforting. It’s a Lapsang Souchong, so the smoked pine note is there, but it isn’t overpowering. A sweet honey-like flavor is there through the whole sip, and it mixes with the smokey note in such a lovely way. I’m definitely a fan.
Thanks, kimquat for sending this in our swap. It’s really good!
September Sipdown: 12
I am writing this from bed, happily soothed by this unbelievably beautiful tea.
I am seriously astonished by this tea. It really floored me. I mix a lot of my own herbals, and to get the kind of depth that this tea brings to the table, I usually have to do a 4-8 hour infusion. Even though the tasting notes say sweet, I got a very deep savoriness from this. It reminds me of my slow-simmered bone broth. This is a very good thing: it has the same kind of feel and healing weight of a rich stock.
I brewed this tea, and decided to drink it out in my backyard. It is a cool, gloomy afternoon, I think fall is finally at the doorstep – the clouds have taken that deeper tone of grey that comes with encroaching autumn. The crows, too, call a little more urgently and harshly, which seems to happen as they sense the air shifting. This day feels perfect for this tea, this deep, rich tea. Elderberries always evoke autumn for me, too.
Anyway. I plan on drinking a number of cups of this over the next few days, to try to kick out whatever virus has taken up full residence in my body for the last few weeks. Rest, tea, and some netflix binge-watching should set me up right.
The first steeping of this was a little confused, I couldn’t figure out just what I was tasting. I tasted the vanilla and probably the saffron, both strong, both powerful, competing. As I continued to steep this the vanilla got slowly stronger. By the fifth steeping the vanilla was dominate. The other flavors moved to the back burner. This was a really good tea. I would probably rate this tea lower if I had only steeped it once. This is definitely a tea for multiple steepings.
I steeped this five times in a 8oz YIxing teapot. I used 2 tsp leaf and boiling water. I steeped it for 2 min, 2.5 min, 3 min, 4 min, and 5 min. It was delightful by the fifth steeping. I will have to consider buying some of this.
Cheri was kind and generous enough to provide me with a sample of this (pricey) tea! Thanks so much, dear! The leaves are black, long, quite thin, and twisty. They definitely look similar to Fujian Black and Ailaoshan Black, the two teas that make up this blend. Dry scent is very chocolatey with sweet vanilla, yum yum! Cheri’s sample was about 2 teaspoons, so I just used the whole thing and used slightly more water (10 oz versus 8 oz) to compensate. I let it steep for 3 minutes.
Once brewed, it smells very strongly of grain and bread with plenty of malt. There’s also lovely chocolate and sweet vanilla with a bit of dried fruit (from the Ailaoshan I presume). I must say, I was expecting much more vanilla in the taste… The strongest notes are heavy grain and bread with that dill/caraway flavor that I often get with Fujian teas. There’s also a lot of dark bitter cocoa flavor and a touch of dark dried fruits (maybe raisins or prunes). I am surprised to not find much vanilla here, and I’m also surprised that this tea comes off are more savory than sweet to me. I’m partially relieved that I don’t love it based on the price, and partially worried that I’m missing something that other people are tasting… Lol.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Dark Bittersweet, Dill, Grain, Raisins, Vanilla
This was included as a sample in my order. Feeling a bit blue this morning, so I decided to try it based on the name, which is an awesome name for tea.
It’s quite good, and very gentle for a breakfast tea. For some reason, I really want to add some cinnamon to it, so I might give that a try for the second cup. I wish I had some jam and scones or croissants to go with it. Or maybe some lembas bread…
Thank you Sarsonator for this tea. This tea is absolutely amazing. It is some of the highest quality oolong I have ever drank. The vanilla creates a buttery sweetness that is absolutely incredible. This tea was delicious from the first steep. It was not bitter in the sense of many oolongs although there was a tinge of bitterness. This quickly faded by the third steep. Amazingly, as each steep passed the vanilla seemed to get stronger in flavor. I am on the eighth steep now and the vanilla flavor is amazing. I thought I might describe this as almost as good as the Tung Ting Oolong from Tea Trekker before I had drank this. Having drank this I would describe the Tung TIng Oolong by Tea Trekker as almost as good as this. This is the best Oolong I have ever drank. While I would not use the word " tea drunk" this tea has had an incredible relaxing effect on me, is that what is meant by Qi? I don’t know for sure but I am sure glad that Whispering Pines will soon have this back in stock, because I have to buy some. Even though I put this through eight steepings, the leaves are not totally played out. I shall save it for tomorrow and resteep it at least two more times.
I steeped this 8 times in an 180ml teapot with 190 degree water and 5.5g leaf. I steeped it for 15 sec, 15 sec, 20 sec, 25 sec, 30 sec, 45 sec, 1 min, and 2 min. Tomorrow I shall begin with a five minute stetep and see how many more steepings I can get out of the leaves.
Flavors: Cream, Vanilla
Lewis & Clarke TTB
This is going to be another one of those terrible notes because I was playing Diablo III again… Oopsies. The leaves are those type that are thin and dark and partially curved into little ‘u’ shapes and loops. Dry scent was faint jasmine.
I found that this tea had a little too much jasmine for me when it was hot, I couldn’t really taste the green tea base much. As it cooled, I liked it more, but it was still very jasmine-y. Apparently I would like jasmine green teas cold brewed! :P
Flavors: Jasmine, Sweet
The lovely TheTeaFairy gave me a list of Oolongs that she recommended for my upcoming exploration of Oolongs. One of them was a Whispering Pines tea, and I have wanted to try Brandon’s teas out for awhile, as the folks I follow here seem to universally enjoy them . So I ordered an ounce each of 6, including the Oolong. This, obviously, is not a review of the oolong, as I’m going to wait until I have ordered the other oolongs on the list to do a series of tastings of them. Can I say oolong one more time? Oolong.
Anyway, since I am waiting, I wanted to try out one of the other 5 teas, and I choose this one to start with. I ripped open the envelope and the scent is lovely. Tried to scoop up a teascoop of leaves, and they were not cooperating, but the couple I did get were blue-black and nice looking. Tried again, and this time I got a nice scoopful and a very bedraggled… feather? Oh my. It was quite beat up and barely recognizable as such, but definitely was one as I peered at it under a magnifying glass.
I always did picture the Jabberwocky as a partially feathered creature…
The feather looks like it got roasted along with the tea, so I think it’s been in there awhile. Pretty sure that any mites that might have been able to hitch a ride would have passed away through roasting and lack of lunch by now, I’m going to pretend all is well and assume it probably will be. I am far less freaked out by this than the human hair I found in a mini-tuocha of pu-erh once. Which, I don’t know what that says about my own mental foibles… :D
Okay, it’s all brewed up, I’ve frothed my sweetener and half&half, and added the tea. The liquor was a nice medium brown. My cup tastes malty and I am quite enjoying it. It’s not a heavy malt, but it’s there, and I don’t notice any bird-like aftertaste. We will see if I start sprouting feathers later today ;)
There was a small sticker holding the “thanks for your order” note to the box, and I quite liked it. It’s from e.e. cummings: “Your head is a living forest full of songbirds.”
giggle The quote seems quite fitting now!
This is my second stab at this tea. The first came out weak and inconsequential in the cup…so if first you don’t succeed, try again!
Ordering Whispering Pines Second Breakfast was close to a no-brainer for me. I love good tea blends. What I mean by I love good tea blends is that I love good tea in good tea blends. Because Whispering Pines sells so few straight black teas, and all that I have tasted have been to my liking, it was easy to know I would like this tea. And like I do!
Second Breakfast dry leaf in incredibly chocolatey smelling. Not cocoa. Chocolate. The chocolate note joins with the sugar cane quality in the Ailaoshan black tea to give a strong scent of warm chocolate syrup. Wet, the leaves unfurl long and beautiful. The liquor of Second Breakfast is a warm amber brown that smells of earth and chocolate and a touch of dark stone fruit. In the cup, the keemun’s earthiness mutes the usual boldness of the Ailaoshan black. It expands the base flavor profile of this tea so much so that there isn’t much going on the middle of the cup. There is some grain and a touch of malt as a middle note, which is a pleasing combination with the earthy chocolate bottom note. Top note is a dark stone fruit and a dark forest floral note. Nothing bright in this cup, but nothing overly dark and brooding either. If this cup was a forest and you were Lil Red Riding Hood, you’d continue on your way to your grandma’s house. The audience wouldn’t be waiting for a big “BOO”, and hopefully, when you got to grandma’s house, she’d have a lovely large cup of Second Breakfast waiting for you. Warm, earthy and comforting, it is a good cup of tea with a lovely deep flavor profile.
Flavors: Caramel, Cocoa, Earth, Floral, Grain
Thank you VariaTEA for the sample! I’m definitely excited to get to try another Whispering Pines tea since I’ve only had a few, and I’d like to experience enough that I can hopefully place an order, with confidence, sooner rather than later.
I made this one in my timolino, and admittedly I let it oversteep a little bit since I got pretty distracted when brewing it. I’m going to assume it was those couple extra minutes steeping that resulted in that little pinch of bitterness this brew had. But actually, despite that bitterness this was still really solid and tasty. It more prominently had notes of chocolate and malt/bread but there were also some very faint stonefruit notes in the far back. The chocolate notes in this also lingered sweetly.
Maybe I’d order this…
Lewis & Clarke TTB
I have been wanting to try this one, and someone kindly added a (wee) bit of it to the box! Thanks, someone! My teaspoon was the only one left in the pouch, so it was very broken up and I didn’t really see any elderberries in there. Dry, it mostly smelled mildly minty. There was only about teaspoon left, so I used less water than I normally would have for this cup (suggested volume is 1.5 tsp per 8 ounces).
This definitely reminds me of Elder Grove a bit, and the two do have several common ingredients. I wish there was more berry flavor, but I think that was just due to my teaspoon not having many elderberries in it. The main flavor is mint, but it’s mild and smooth and not at all abrasive. I also get a nice mellow roasty flavor, I assume from the ceder leaves, and a touch of cinnamony spice. Overall, tasty! I would like to try this one again with a more representative sample. :D
Flavors: Berry, Cinnamon, Mint, Roasted
The guest of honor for a spontaneous late afternoon shou party. This was my first time for this one. I don’t have my shouxing seasoned yet so I did this in the gaiwan.
The first steep was nice and balanced. There is leather here but not overwhelming leather, just nice and earthy.
So far my favorite steep is the 3rd. It mellows into sweetness with a camphor tingle at the end.
I’m well into this but I have to say the body feel is immediate. First a little wisp of full body relaxation and then I relaxed into a lovely puddle. The head hum is deep and steady and yummy. My legs are a little rubbery and I’m leaning back and listening to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QX3UEGFrINI over and over while I go father into this yummyiness
This is a delicious, smooth shou. I’m glad I have it. Another winner Hobbit! Now I’m gonna go lay down and listen some more and enjoy this.
Wasn’t too sure of this one when I tried it the other day, but on the second try, I actually find myself liking it. I thought it was really earthy at first…probably because I over-steeped it. xD But I really taste the bread and honey flavors. Kinda earthy still. But the bready-ness makes up for it to me. Enjoying this tea a lot more the second time around! (:
Flavors: Baked Bread, Earth, Honey, Sweet
Lewis & Clarke TTB
First off, I really like that Brenden separated this into individual servings, it makes it so easy. And I love that they have quotes on them! Cute.
Leaves are smallish and very dark, and they’re long and twisty. Dry scent is quite sweet with a lot of malt and some fruitiness. The aroma is very fruity with a lovely burnt sugar scent. There’s also some dark bread with honey in there too.
I think the tablespoon of tea is a bit much for 8 ounces, but it didn’t come out bitter. This is very strong malt with some dark bread and molasses. I can also taste a dark fruitiness underneath that is very concentrated and reminds me of raisins without the sweetness. The end of the sip mellows out a little bit more and goes more into bready territory, which is lovely.
Overall, this tea is tasty but I don’t feel the need to order it because I already have two of the three teas it’s composed of. :)
Flavors: Baked Bread, Burnt Sugar, Honey, Malt, Molasses, Raisins