127 Tasting Notes


This morning I treated myself to a small pot of the Autumn 2011 Laoshan Northern Black, and it truly is such a beautiful tea. It is even smoother than the first batch I tried, with a bit less of the cocoa aroma, and more of a fruitiness that resembles a really good Darjeeling, or possibly dried dates. I love that I can always count on Verdant Tea to give me an adventure in my tea pot… Many thanks!

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What a fascinating tea!

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I placed my first order with Mandala Tea, and all arrived quickly, nicely packaged and with extra sample tea as well. I had heard good things about Mandala, and Garret (the owner) and myself had exchanged a few emails through discussions here on Steepster. I am just amazed at the friendly, courteous and interesting people that make up the tea community in MN, and am glad that they have sellers like Mandala and Verdant Tea to introduce them to fine Chinese tea!

The White Night tea is like nothing I have ever tried before. It has the familiar earthiness that you find in Yunnan green and pu’erh teas, but is so light and sweet with an ethereal aroma. In German they say “Himmel und Erde,” or “Heaven and Earth,” which is truly what this tea brings to mind. And each time I thought my gaiwan of leaves could yield no more, another steep proved me wrong. The first 5 steepings were amazing, the next three still were very good, before I decided to retire the leaves to the compost bin.

Thank you for showing me how a white tea can have as much complexity and full bodied flavor, and need not be simply subtle and light.

165 °F / 73 °C 1 min, 0 sec

If you’re ever passing through MN / Twin Cities in the future, send me a PM. I’d be happy to invite you over for some gongfu cha. I think you’d be great company to drink with. The number of people working to develop a really nice tea culture here is growing. Cheers!

E Alexander Gerster

I have to give a special thank you to you Geoffrey, since it was your great posts that intrigued me and made me want to go outside my comfort zone… I would love to visit MN sometime. It is one of those places that I have never had the opportunity to visit, and I would love to see how the tea culture is growing!


Thanks! I’m glad to know that the stuff I write about my tea experiences is appreciated and opened up something for you. MN can be a wonderful place to visit for a variety of reasons, so I would say, by all means, consider doing so sometime.

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I’ve been drinking a lot of the 2011 Shincha version of this Bancha Suruga and have to say I am very impressed. It has a hearty herbaceous flavor that stands up well to drinking alone, or pairing with food. The brisk and lightly astringent character sets it apart from the more delicate Senchas, and it has a pleasant umami flavor that remains even when cooled. Inexpensive, high quality and medium complexity. Highly recommended.

185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 30 sec

Love this stuff — it’s even better cold-brewed in a pitcher overnight! It can get super-sweet if you brew it with cooler water, but it’s a great deal for the price!

E Alexander Gerster

Thanks for this great suggestion! I tried this last night after seeing your post, and it really is wonderful. Amazing how the sweetness comes out through the cold brewing! :)

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A few months back, China Cha Dao was kind enough to send samples of a variety of their Oolong teas. Of those I tried, this one had the right balance of sweetness, baked flavor and complexity to keep me interested. So I ordered a 125 gr bag, along with two other unrelated teas, and have been happily enjoying it for the past few weeks.

This morning I brewed it western style in a glass pot so that I could watch the dark leaves unfurl and dance, releasing their goodness to make a copper colored infusion. Since Oolong leaves are only partially oxidized, they don’t impart the dark color of their black tea brethren, but they certainly create a highly fragrant tea with lots of complex flavor notes. Multiple steeps takes you on a journey through ancient forests, smells of campfire, and a brush by an apple orchard. Each time I brew it there are new things to notice, and it is a forgiving tea, brews well every time. A nice find by Jerry Ma at China Cha Dao.

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 30 sec

sounds delicious…

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I have been saving this tea for a sunny day where I could sit quietly and enjoy this beautiful tea. I am glad I waited, and this morning brewed up a small pot to start my day. What a joy it was to sip and savor the complex, yet very subtle flavors. If you enjoy delicate white teas, or gentle greens, then this is one you have to try. I actually used a kyusu (Japanese tea pot) that holds about 6 ounces with about 1.5 teaspoons of dried tea leaves.

1st infusion: 2.5 minutes, at about 180F gives a very pale yellow green brew that smells and tastes of sunshine, sweet grass and maybe a touch of shiso ( a knid of Japanese basil/mint).
2nd infusion: 2 minutes, at about 180F yields a slightly more green brew with even more of the same flavors, just a bit more intense.
3rd infusion: 3 minutes, at about 195F brings out more vegetal tones, with maybe a bit of fresh hay smell in the aroma.

Yet another wonderful tea from Verdant Teas. A Yunnan green worth note! :)

180 °F / 82 °C 2 min, 30 sec

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I love watching these hand rolled leaves slowly unfurl and infuse the water with a golden brown color. The aroma is seductively laced with tones of honey and dried fruit amongst the woodsy base. Adagio has a winner with this tea that is both complex and consistently very good. Similar to Adagio “Yunnan Jig,” but with a touch more sweetness.

205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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Such an interesting tea… silky smooth, beautiful color, and an aroma that is complex and like no other black tea I have ever tried. The unique flavor definitely takes you on a trip with notes of chocolate, caramel and honey. A warm fuzzy feeling that leaves you wanting another cup. Good thing it holds up to multiple steeps…

There is something of the Wonder (with a capital W) that I had when first watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a youngster. I can hear Gene Wilder and those darn lyrics:

Come with me
And you’ll be
In a world of
Pure imagination
Take a look
And you’ll see
Into your imagination…

Sorry about my sappy review, but this tea brings out some long forgotten child-like joy!

200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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I haven’t had many herbal blends that included honeybush and/or rooibos, so was not sure what to expect. I was actually rather pleased, and think this was the favorite I have of the samples I received from Tea Forte. It made a really nice light brew with aroma and taste of both apricot and amaretto. A hint of flowery character, probably from the marigold flowers. Not too sweet, and a nice accompaniment to a piece of buttery shortbread.

200 °F / 93 °C 4 min, 15 sec

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What a beautiful tea this Dragonwell Style Laoshan Green! The dry leaves look identical to the very high quality dragonwell (or longjing 龍井茶) teas that I have had the pleasure of drinking. Flat, pan fired and distinctly complete — not broken or crumbled. Truly worthy of pondering the long journey these leaves have made to make it into my cup.

The aroma is the first surprise. Not nutty like the longjing, but that distinct smell of the other Laoshan greens, combining the butter bean aroma with the slight scent of the ocean mists. When described as being somewhat like a Japanese gyokuro, I had my doubts, since gyokuro teas are not only shaded before harvest, but also come from different varieties of cultivars. I should have known better, since David has such a wonderfully developed palate and honesty which I have never seen hyped. You see, I love gyokuro, but my budget leaves it to being enjoyed on only the rarest of occasions!

So I brewed this at a lower temperature (140F/60C) and for just 90 seconds, and what a wonderful complex flavor from this perfectly translucent light green infusion. Sweetness, light grassy flavor and a touch of umami, a surprisingly complex green that is hard to categorize, yet truly enjoyable. It shares the characters of several well known tastes (gyokuro, longjing and Laoshan green) and comes up with a whole new flavor/aroma profile. Second infusion, was slightly higher temp, and only for 45 seconds, yielding a new profile that is even sweeter and lighter. More infusions coming, but I could not resist writing this tea experience up and sharing on Steepster…

140 °F / 60 °C 1 min, 30 sec

Isn’t it incredible to see how much final processing can change the flavor of a tea? All of these Laoshan green teas from the same farm, same family.. very cool!

David Duckler

Many thanks for this,
Your comment has made my day. On a day so full of the headaches involved in getting teas from such small farms over to the USA, it raises my spirits to read your note, and enjoy the tea from your perspective. The He family in Laoshan amazes me with everything they grow. Such variety and such complexity that they offer.

Best Wishes,

Doug F

Twist my arm. I guess I’ll need to sample a few of this family’s offerings.

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This summer, I have been enjoying the Laoshan Northern Green from Verdant Teas, and have taken a real shine to its sugar snap pea flavor and nice light aroma. When my supply was out, I perused both Steepster and the Verdant Tea’s website, where I found some great videos about the farm, and a great description of this Early Summer Laoshan Green. I was intrigued, placed an order, and quickly received my package, filled with teas I can’t wait to experience and enjoy.

I loaded up my medium size glass gaiwan with 4 grams of tea, and did a quick steep of 175F water for 30 seconds (the website says 3 seconds, which seemed too short to my eye). Wow, what an interesting aroma! Somewhat like boiled peanuts or butterbeans – and a hint of saltwater sea spray. And the taste was just about the same. Very solid, sweet and possessing that bit of umami flavor that I have not experienced outside of Japanese green teas. It was so very good, that I followed the initial steep with 4 more, and then started to get a bit of bitterness. I left the leaves in cold water overnight, which cold brewed me just a tad more.

Today I am sipping on this tea once again. I haven’t even started any of the other teas I ordered, other than taken a good healthful whiff of the Artisan Revival puerh tea that David so generously included with my order (read my Steepster review of that one, for another fantastic tea). The only problem with this tea experience (I say with great sarcasm), is that I can’t get the lyrics out of my head:

Some people are fat, some people are lean
But I want you to show me the person
Who doesn’t like butterbeans

Well, you can have your yams
You can have your collard greens
But if you want to please little ol’ me
You better fix butterbeans

Anyone old enough to recognize this snippet from “Butterbean” by the B-52’s?

175 °F / 79 °C 0 min, 30 sec

Love it! AND who are you calln’ old? I’m simply well rounded ;)

E Alexander Gerster

Hah! I’m very “well rounded” myself! ;)

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I have been drinking tea for most of my life, and enjoy learning about Tea Culture from all around the world. I learned early about Russian and British traditions first, since my parents came from Europe, followed by the teas and culture of Ceylon/Sri Lanka and India. Since I have been a practicing Buddhist for the better part of 25 years, I have strong ties to Asia, and have slowly been learning about the teas from each part of the world I encounter. It is a wonderful and interesting journey.


Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

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