269 Tasting Notes
Continuing my plow-through of Verdant offerings, I came to this green tea that I totally forgot I still had. I recall buying this one right before it went out of stock, but apparently ended up stashing it away and forgetting about it until last week. When I first tried it, I wasn’t impressed and feared that it was losing its character, so I ended up trying to rejuvenate it a bit. I did this by transferring the tea from a sealed bag to a metal tea canister that I then tucked into the back of one of the tea cabinets. I live in an old, drafty house in a very humid environment with variable daily temperatures and have found that sometimes when I switch tea from a tightly sealed container to a loosely sealed container, the exposure to minute amounts of air and humidity cause seemingly faded or slumbering teas to open up once more. Fortunately, that little experiment worked here.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. In my medicated state, I ended up not rinsing for some reason. Oh well. At least the medication seems to be reducing some of the congestion and inflammation. I started off by steeping 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 175 F water for 10 seconds. I followed this up with infusions of 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 first infusion, the dry leaf aroma was very fruity and floral. To me, it resembled a mixture of elderflower, tangerine, and lemon zest, though I could also detect a little corn husk and hay. After the first infusion, I detected stronger, more balanced aromas of tangerine, lemon zest, corn husk, elderflower, and hay underscored by grass and cream. In the mouth, the tea offered strong notes of elderflower, lemon zest, corn husk, grass, hay, and tangerine balanced by subtle creaminess before a fruity, floral, and slightly astringent finish. Subsequent infusions brought out undertones of napa cabbage, mango, peach, rose, and violet. Oddly, the finish did not soften, remaining somewhat astringent and biting throughout. Later infusions were more subdued, but were still relatively bright, floral, and citrusy with grassy, vegetal undertones and a hint of minerals.
This did not strike me as being a bad tea, but it also was not the sort of green tea I typically enjoy. As Chinese green teas go, it was a little too astringent for my liking. This quality was most likely the result of a substantial number of broken leaves included amongst the whole leaves. Even though I could see a number of similarities between this tea and Xingyang’s Yunnan Strand Green Tea (an offering I greatly enjoyed), this tea was less balanced, more forceful in character, and less approachable. I could see those who are looking for a fruity and/or floral green tea digging this one, but to me, it came off as commendable in certain respects and flawed in others.
Flavors: Astringent, Biting, Citrusy, Corn Husk, Cream, Floral, Grass, Hay, Mango, Mineral, Peach, Rose, Vegetal, Violet
This blasted sinus infection is starting to ease up a tad. What was supposed to be a pleasant, restful weekend ended up being a total nightmare. In order to celebrate the early signs of recovery, I broke out this aged Mao Xie.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. I kept my rinse very quick this time around. The first infusion was 5 grams of leaf in 4 ounces of 212 F water. I followed this infusion up with 12 subsequent 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, and 3 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves gave off pleasant aromas of blackberry, elderberry, prune, and raisin underscored by vanilla. After the rinse, the bouquet remained very fruity, though the vanilla presence was slightly amplified. There was some sort of woody spice and a bit of extremely ripe blueberry. The first infusion produced a similar bouquet with even more intense blueberry and spice aromas. In the mouth, however, things got interesting. The expected notes of elderberry, blueberry, blackberry, raisin, and prune were all there, but the vanilla note was more pronounced than anticipated. There were other notes too, namely coffee, cinnamon, and birch bark, that the nose did not do much to reveal. Subsequent infusions quickly saw the tea’s fruity character mellow and the tea’s spicier characteristics increase their presence. For me, the vanilla character remained consistent, providing some balance and depth. Though Verdant’s tasting notes mentioned notes of toasted rice, I did not pick up anything like that initially, but then less than halfway through this session, there it was. Later infusions retained elements of the tea’s spicy, fruity, and vanilla-laden character as a rather pronounced mineral presence took hold. A faint coffee presence remained in the background as did impressions of toasted rice and a very indistinct fruitiness. A slight vegetal note resembling cooked kale made its presence known at this point as well.
This oolong will likely not be for everyone, but I greatly enjoyed it. Part of me was a little surprised by that because my admittedly limited experience with aged oolongs suggests that they are not up my alley, but then again, I am a huge fan of the Mao Xie cultivar. Where I find Tieguanyin to be smooth, Ben Shan to be pleasantly balanced, and Huang Jin Gui to be sweetly floral, I find Mao Xie to be highly variable and intensely quirky. No two ever strike me as being much alike. I’m not certain how this particular tea compares to some of the other aged Mao Xies on the market, but I do know that I would feel confident recommending it to adventurous oolong drinkers, especially those already open to the unique charms of this cultivar.
Flavors: Blackberry, Blueberry, Cinnamon, Coffee, Fruity, Kale, Mineral, Raisins, Spicy, Toasted Rice, Vanilla
Here we have another sample I held on to for some time. Prior to today, I seemed to always be looking for the right time to try it. This most certainly should not have been the day. The frequent changes in weather patterns here finally caused me to crash last night. I had a stressful week and ended up skimping on sleep for a couple days, so by Friday I was feeling pretty terrible. Saturday then rolled around, the weather stayed warm, and while talking to a friend, I just went down for the count. Nausea, coughing, uncontrollable shaking, intense pain, muscle spasms, sweating, chills, and a splitting headache all hit at once. I’ve been barely functional at best today and have already decided to skip work tomorrow. I’ll warn you all in advance: it will be a green tea and pajamas kind of day. Back on track, a day of coughing up phlegm seemed like it might require a tea with deep honey notes, so I ended up at last finding a suitable reason to break out this sample. The circumstances were far from ideal, however, as I had difficulty maintaining focus while I sessioned this and had to rely on a nose and palate that were not functioning at optimal levels. All of this goes to say that readers should take this review with a couple more grains of salt than usual.
I gongfued this tea. After the rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 190 F water for 5 seconds. I followed this infusion with 11 subsequent infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 8 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 30 seconds, 45 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes. I did not even remotely follow Verdant’s gongfu guide for this tea. I can’t quite recall my rationale for why I chose the methodology I did, but I think it had something to do with a different leaf to water ratio. I will go ahead and admit that I did not find this approach to do this tea justice and will be assigning a numerical score with the deficiencies of the brewing method and my own personal unreliability at the time of the session in mind.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves gave off robust aromas of smoke, honey, and wood. After the rinse, the aromas of smoke, honey, and wood intensified and were joined by subtle impressions of vanilla bean and malt. The first infusion produced a similar bouquet that saw the aromas of vanilla bean and malt swell, as well as the emergence of baked bread. In the mouth, I picked up thin notes of wildflower honey, wood, smoke, malt, and vanilla bean before a nutty, bready finish. Subsequent infusions saw the tea grow smoother and thicker, offering more pronounced impressions of honey, vanilla bean, malt, and bread all around. At this point the nuttiness emerged more fully, taking on the character of roasted almonds. I also finally began to note the expected Wuyi minerality toward the finish. Later infusions saw the return of smoke and wood, as well as the increasing dominance of minerals. When I really forced myself to focus, I could still detect hints of honey, malt, and bread.
This was not a complex or long-lasting tea, but my impression of it may be warped due to conducting the review session while sick. I will say, however, that I appreciated it’s texture. I found it very soothing. I also liked the pronounced honey notes it offered during its brief peak. To be sure, I found this to be a nice tea, but I wish I would have held off on sampling it until I was better able to do it justice.
Flavors: Almond, Baked Bread, Honey, Malt, Mineral, Vanilla, Wood
Here is another oolong that I have rested for awhile. I did my first session with this tea last night. I stayed up late with the intention of cleaning my kitchen, but did not quite get around to it. Instead, I ended up watching television, listening to music, and drinking tea. Compared to some of the other milk oolongs I have tried within the last year, this one was much subtler and came off as being more natural. It was very smooth and savory, though it simultaneously lacked the over-the-top milky, buttery qualities I have recently come to associate with Jin Xuan.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 10 seconds. I followed this infusion with 12 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 12 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, the dry tea leaves gave off subtly milky, creamy, buttery aromas. After the rinse, the aromas of milk, butter, and cream intensified and were joined by subtle scents of sticky rice, custard, and fresh flowers. The first infusion produced a similar, though oddly more subdued, integrated bouquet. In the mouth, I detected very thin notes of cream, butter, custard, and steamed milk balanced by notes of grass and a slight nectar-like quality. Subsequent infusions were much more fulfilling, offering more pronounced floral aromas resembling a mixture of lilies, honeysuckle, and gardenia, as well as traces of grass, leaf lettuce, apricot, pear, and pineapple. The same qualities came through in the mouth. I noticed that the tea liquor was initially savory-it was packed with cream, butter, steamed milk, custard, and sticky rice notes underscored by a very subtle hint of vanilla-before introducing impressions of fruit, grass, leaf lettuce, and minerals on the finish. Later infusions offered hints of cream, butter, custard, grass, and lettuce on the nose. In the mouth, I detected thin notes of cream, butter, custard, grass, leaf lettuce, and spinach balanced by a somewhat heavier mineral presence and ghostly floral, fruity impressions.
Compared to many of the Jin Xuan oolongs I have tried within the last 12 months, this one was not nearly as fruity, sweet, or heavy. It presented a delicate, restrained layering of aromas and flavors, and to me, did not come across as artificial in any way. I could definitely appreciate this tea, but I found myself wishing at numerous points that the sweeter, fruitier, more floral qualities would provide more balance to the tea’s smooth, savory and grassy, vegetal polarities. Giving a numerical score to this one has proven very difficult. A score of 72/100 feels like it is at least in the ballpark, if perhaps a bit harsh. I’ll go with that for now simply because this tea was decent enough, but in my opinion was lacking something that would have made it more memorable and enjoyable.
Flavors: Apricot, Butter, Cream, Custard, Floral, Gardenias, Grass, Honeysuckle, Lettuce, Milk, Mineral, Pear, Pineapple, Rice, Spinach, Vanilla
Here’s another sipdown. To this point, this has probably been the most interesting black tea I’ve tried this month. It has taken me nearly a full week to reach a consensus on this one, but I ultimately found it to be a worthy tea.
I prepared this one Western style. For this session, I steeped approximately 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 205 F water for 5 minutes. I did not conduct any additional infusions this time, though I have tried it in the past. I avoided it here because I found that a single five minute infusion worked best for me. It seemed to bring out some of the tea’s more unique characteristics. I must say, however, that I never got around to gongfuing this one and I regret that. It would be interesting to see how this tea would react to such a treatment.
Prior to infusion, the dry tea leaves produced an interesting malty, woodsy bouquet. After infusion, the dark copper tea liquor produced intense aromas of wood, cream, malt, molasses, cocoa, and menthol. In the mouth, I clearly detected notes of cocoa, cream, malt, molasses, toast, wood, honey, dates, peppermint, and wintergreen backed by notes of chestnut and walnut which became noticeable on the finish.
Prior to trying this tea, I knew absolutely nothing about this cultivar and had no clue what to expect. After trying it for the first time, I determined that it had to be some sort of Taiwanese Assam because it was so reminiscent of some of the wild Assamicas that come out of southern China and Vietnam. Lo and behold, I was kind of right. This cultivar was at least partially developed from the wild-growing Taiwanese Assamica plants that have produced some of the most acclaimed black teas in recent years. That being said, this tea was not your typical Assam-type black tea. If you approach this tea expecting it to be similar to a typical Assam, you may end up disappointed. Compared to a typical Assam tea, this was much more herbal and much more intense all around. It was a very enjoyable, if rather quirky tea, but it was also not the sort of black tea I would see myself reaching for on a regular basis.
Flavors: Chestnut, Cocoa, Cream, Dates, Herbs, Honey, Malt, Molasses, Peppermint, Toast, Walnut, Wood
In recent months, I have gotten to a point with Taiwanese oolongs where I tend to prefer the lower elevation and older mountain teas. Give me a Jin Xuan, baozhong, jade, four season, or especially, a Dong Ding over a Da Yu Ling, Ali Shan, Li Shan, or Shan Lin Xi just about any day. It’s not that I don’t appreciate these wonderful high mountain teas, it’s that there are so many people writing about them who are much more knowledgeable and much better at reviewing them than I am, so I don’t see the point. Also, high mountain oolongs have become so popular that I fear people are beginning to forget about some of the other oolongs Taiwan offers. I know that Dong Ding is generally considered to be the first of the high mountain teas. At one point, it was even one of the most revered of the Taiwanese oolongs, but as tea production moved into increasingly more remote areas, it began to fall out of favor. That’s almost criminal. Dong Ding oolongs have so much to offer. This one, in particular, was absolutely amazing.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was followed by additional infusions at 12 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, the dry tea leaves emitted fascinating aromas of vanilla bean, coffee, wood, baked bread, and butter. After the rinse, aromas of brown butter, graham cracker, cinnamon, plantain, and oddly enough, petunia emerged. The first infusion produced an almost identical, though more powerful and integrated aroma. In the mouth, I picked up well-defined notes of cream, brown butter, cinnamon, baked bread, vanilla bean, graham cracker, plantain, and wood before a wonderfully textured finish which allowed impressions of coffee, marigold, and petunia to shine. Subsequent infusions took on a fruitier and slightly more floral character. Impressions of lily, mango, pear, and apple emerged at various points, though the tea became increasingly dominated by powerful cream, butter, vanilla bean, graham cracker, and plantain presences. Additionally, a subtle hint of caramel emerged to enhance the tea’s inherent savoriness, while a mild mineral presence began to round out the finish. Later infusions allowed the tea’s woodier, creamier, more buttery characteristics to once again come to the fore. The mineral presence was far stronger. Notes of graham cracker, vanilla bean, and coffee were still more or less present, while less clearly defined fruity and floral characters lingered in the distant background.
This tea was really something special. I got so much out of it, yet I do not feel that my description is adequate. Rather than presenting clearly defined aromas and flavors, this tea presented me with unique tones that were highly reminiscent of what I described above, yet never exact. It was challenging, deep, complex, layered, textured, and quite enigmatic overall. Endlessly intriguing would perhaps be the best and most concise way for me to describe it. As much as I enjoyed Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company’s Old Style Dong Ding Oolong, I liked this one even more. Seriously, this would be a desert island tea for me.
Flavors: Apple, Baked Bread, Butter, Caramel, Cinnamon, Coffee, Cream, Floral, Fruity, Graham, Mango, Mineral, Pear, Vanilla, Wood
Another oolong sample I have been holding on to for several months, this was not actually the tea I intended to review tonight. I was originally hoping to review Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company’s Shan Lin Xi Premium, but I grabbed this one out of the cabinet instead. I didn’t mind in the end though, because this turned out to be a nice, basic, approachable high mountain oolong.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a very quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 10 seconds. Subsequent infusions were conducted at 8 seconds, 11 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, the dry tea leaves gave off subtle aromas of cream, butter, grass, and flowers. The rinse caused the cream and butter aromas to intensify somewhat. The first infusion saw hints of fresh baguette, cucumber, and vanilla emerge. In the mouth, the tea liquor was smooth and thick, though it only offered thin notes of grass, butter, cream, and vanilla. I caught a ghostly nectar-like impression on the finish. Subsequent infusions maintained the tea’s overtly bready, grassy, creamy, buttery, vanilla heavy character, while faint impressions of cantaloupe, honeydew, nectar, lily, gardenia, honeysuckle, and honey cut through the murk at various points. Later infusions saw the tea regress to a somewhat simplified version of its original character, mostly offering cream, butter, and grass notes. I could, however, still detect a hint of vanilla as well as a touch of minerals.
This presented itself as a very mellow and balanced oolong. Though I generally prefer sweeter, more floral oolongs, I could still get into this tea on certain levels. I could tell that it was a quality tea, but I found it to be the sort of tea I could appreciate more than outright love. In the end, I would recommend this one to folks looking for something easygoing and accessible.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Butter, Cantaloupe, Cream, Cucumber, Floral, Grass, Honey, Honeysuckle, Mineral, Nectar, Vanilla
This has been my evening tea for the past several days. I bought this one some months ago, but just never made the time to crack it open and try it. By the time I got around to it, I wondered whether or not it had started to fade. Fortunately, this tea lasted very well in storage. It was lively and flavorful in the mouth, demonstrating no obvious signs of age.
I prepared this tea using a two step Western infusion process. Per The Tao of Tea’s recommendation, I used two full teaspoons of loose leaves rather than one. It isn’t actually necessary to use that much, but I found that the additional teaspoon really focuses the already powerful lotus aroma and flavor. Rather than steeping at the recommended 160-170 F, I opted to steep this tea at my usual 175 F because I personally find this temperature to work best for me when I am brewing non-Japanese green teas. Anyway, the first infusion was 2 minutes in 8 ounces of 175 F water. The second infusion was 3 minutes.
Prior to infusion, I noted that this tea emitted a powerful aroma of lotus. It was still there after infusion, though aromas of corn husk, damp grass, hay, and malt from the tea base were apparent. In the mouth, the lotus was quick to make its presence known. By mid-palate, gentler notes of cream, malt, damp grass, corn husk, hay, and straw arrived to provide a semblance of balance. The finish was short, smooth, and packed with creamy, malty, and exotic floral tones. The second infusion was predictably milder and smoother. The grainier, grassier, and maltier notes were more pronounced, though the lotus was still front and center. The only real difference that I noticed was a hint of minerals on the tail end of the finish.
As far as flavored/scented green teas go, this one was quite nice. I especially appreciated that the tea base was just aromatic and flavorful enough to provide some depth and balance. Too often I find that teas of this sort, especially those offered at lower price points, can be painfully one-dimensional. That was not the case with this tea. At the price I paid, it was pretty much a steal. Check this one out if you enjoy floral teas.
Flavors: Corn Husk, Cream, Floral, Grass, Hay, Malt, Mineral, Straw
I am finally catching up on some things both at home and at work, so my tea reviewing schedule is back on track. After three straight days of spring-like warmth, the temperature has plummeted, allowing me the opportunity to indulge in a recently acquired craving for smooth, sweet oolongs. I started on a sample pouch of this one immediately after getting home from work, and I have to say that I find it to be perhaps the most consistent Jin Xuan I have tried, at least to this point.
I prepared this one gongfu style. After a very quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was followed by 13 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were: 7 seconds, 12 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. Yes, I decided to play around with my brewing methods again. No, it will never end.
Prior to the rinse, the dry leaves gave off mild buttery, creamy aromas. The rinse introduced a subtle scent of vanilla frosting. The first infusion produced bolder aromas of cream, butter, vanilla frosting, and daylily shoots. In the mouth, I picked up delicate notes of cream, butter, vanilla frosting, sweetgrass, and daylily shoots. Subsequent infusions introduced floral and fruity qualities. I began detecting mango, papaya, orange, cantaloupe, honeydew, and well, actual daylily as opposed to just daylily shoots. Later infusions were mildly creamy and buttery with the dominant notes of cream and butter underscored by progressively fainter daylily, citrus, vanilla frosting, and melon impressions.
This was really pretty great for a Jin Xuan. Many teas of this type will bludgeon the drinker with over-the-top and/or artificial creaminess, but this one didn’t. It was nicely balanced and I greatly appreciated that. It also displayed wonderful texture and body in the mouth. I could have cut my session short by at least a couple infusions, but I just did not want to because this tea felt so nice. If you are the type of drinker who has ever lamented the lack of subtlety and sophistication in many contemporary Jin Xuans, I would strongly urge you to try this one.
Flavors: Butter, Cantaloupe, Cream, Floral, Frosting, Fruity, Grass, Honeydew, Mango, Orange, Vanilla, Vegetal
Here we have another sample pile discovery. I remember buying 10 grams of this tea about the time it went out of stock. Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company no longer lists it, but I have recently seen a listing for a Li Shan oolong on their website. I’m guessing it is either the same tea under a different name or a similar tea that was introduced to replace this one. Whatever the case, this was a mild, creamy Li Shan with a pronounced grassy, vegetal character.
I ended up preparing this tea gongfu style. After a very quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 10 seconds. I 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, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes. So, I went with a more or less mainland Chinese brewing approach again. It may not be optimal for this style of tea, but I wanted to see how long this one would go.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted mild aromas of cream, butter, sweetgrass, vanilla, and flowers. After the rinse, the floral aromas became a little clearer. I got hints of gardenia, honeysuckle, lilac, and hyacinth. The first infusion produced a similar bouquet. In the mouth, the liquor was very light, offering fleeting impressions of sweetgrass, cream, butter, vanilla, and an extremely distant, vague mix of flowers. Subsequent infusions were similarly mild. Sometimes the floral notes seemed a little more pronounced, other times they didn’t. I thought I caught faint impressions of custard, pear, and peach at times, but I could have been reaching. For the most part, this just remained a creamy, buttery, grassy tea throughout. Later infusions introduced a hint of minerals, but that was about it.
Hmm, I found this one hard to score numerically . There is so much about it that I just don’t know. For one thing, I have no clue which harvest this one came from because the sample pouch failed to provide this information. I bought this sample sometime back around June or July and it has been stored pretty carefully since, so unless this was old to begin with, I kind of doubt it has faded that much. That, however, is the thing with high mountain oolongs and greener oolongs in general-one can never really predict how long they will last and how well they will respond to any length of time in storage. I’ve had at least one 1-2 year old oolong that was spectacular, whereas I have had one or two others that weren’t worth writing about after less than 6 months. I also know that extremely light, timid, vegetal Li Shan is a thing, and since the two other reviewers commented on how light and vegetal this tea was, perhaps this one happened to be one of those. All I know is that I tend to look for more floral, fruity, nectar-like qualities in high mountain oolongs, so needless to say, this one did not quite do it for me.
Flavors: Butter, Cream, Custard, Floral, Gardenias, Grass, Honeysuckle, Mineral, Peach, Pear