40 Tasting Notes

83

After hearing such wonderful things about the hand-selected oolongs available at the Tea Masters blog, I decided to take the plunge and order a puerh sampler and a handful of oolongs to see what they were all about. The owner/ humble tea master Stéphane helped me select a few different teas, but I ultimately decided to go with the Si Ji Chun and Gao Shan Luanze oolongs to get a feel for the differences in price, quality, and altitude.

I started my journey with the extremely affordable Si Ji Chun oolong, for it allows me to get a feel for the “lower end” of the Tea Master’s spectrum. The leaves are beautifully rolled and unfurl to long, bright green leaves complete with their stems and even a couple buds. If I look closely I can see where the edges have been oxidized, but it’s VERY light.

To me, this tea tastes fresh, sweet, and grows increasingly “green” as my steeping times increase. It reminds me more of a pan-fired Chinese tea more so than a kelp-y Japanese green, but it’s got a certain vegetal aftertaste that I just can’t get out of my head! While I’m accustomed to Taiwanese oolongs being far less roasted and malty tasting (in comparison to Chinese teas), this one really surprised me with its bright flavors and floral notes and honey-like sweetness that shine early on at high temperatures.

In summation: I’m very impressed with the flavors and drinkability of this inexpensive ($5 for 25g) oolong. When I was on vacation, I tossed a handful of these oolong “pearls” into a ceramic cup and poured boiling water over them — the tea turned out great! My only suggestion would be to use about a 1-1.25:1 ratio in your gaiwan or pot (4-5g for 100ml of water); as a little extra leaf seems to really enhance the bouquet of sweetness. Would definitely order again!

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 30 sec

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72

Every time that I’ve peeked into my tea cabinet this year, Peets’ Ancient Trees Pu-erh has stared right back at me. I purchased a tin way back in January with a christmas gift card, and have been saving it for a special occasion; assuming that there were two 50g tuo chas inside. As it turns out, there’s somewhere around 20 single-pot tuo chas inside! I had no excuse to avoid this tea any longer.

I popped one of the ~4g tuo cha in my 100ml gaiwan and started with a lower temperature (180*) rinse for 20s to help clean and open the leaves. Afterwards, I used ~195* water for 30 seconds, and strained it into my litlte gong-fu pitcher. Here’s where the fun really began.

This shu (I’m assuming?) pu’er comes from “organic, ancient trees,” and for a small tuo cha, it does have a fair amount of distinguishable leaves by the third or fourth infusion. It does, however, make for a perfect introduction to the flavors found in the thick, robust world of pu’er.

From the outset, I can’t help but notice the slightly floral flavor of rose hips that slowly gives way to the classic smoky earthiness of ripened pu’er. As I increase each steep by 15 seconds or so, the color shifts from a light pink, to chocolate brown, to an opaque black brew that’s almost indistinguishable from a good cup of coffee. After 6 solid steeps, it began to slowly fade away for another 4-5 infusions or so; never really straying far from its initial flavor.

Peet’s “Ancient Trees” Pu’er might not be all that exciting for knowledgeable pu’er fans, but it’s a very nice introduction to the smoky, spicy flavors found in the world of pu’er. If you don’t care for it at first, give it a couple months to mellow out and come back to it later on. I think I might take it out of the tin and pop it into a little cotton bag I have to give it a little room to breathe.

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 0 min, 45 sec

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73
drank Uji Sencha Otsuusan by O-Cha.com
40 tasting notes

Boy, am I glad I gave this tea another chance!

I received a generous sample of O-Cha’s Otsuusan from my fellow Green Tea enthusiast Shiobicha, and brewed it up according to my normal parameters a couple weeks back (2 tbsp/155*/1.5mins, first steeping). It came out overwhelmingly sweet and soapy through all three steepings, and I couldn’t even bring myself to finish my iced; diluted final steeping.

Today I was thinking of cracking open something new, but remembered I had samples to work through first. I added two level tbsp to my 10oz kyusu and let my 165* water steep for a little over two minutes. Much to my surprise, the “soapy” taste was almost nowhere to be found in this rich, forest green cup of tea.

The next two steepings (~180 for 2.5 minutes, and boiled thereafter) were rich and tasty — I used a full 10oz for my final steeping, and was still able to get a nice vegetal sweetness that never overwhelmed me in the way my first experience did. Not sure if I’d necessarily buy it, but it’s a fun blend if you don’t mind working to get it right!

Preparation
165 °F / 73 °C 2 min, 15 sec
sherubtse

I have a package of this in the fridge, awaiting use. The description from O-Cha describes the taste as “tart”. Did you notice any of this, Cole?

Best wishes,
sherubtse

Cole

It has a unique flavor that I haven’t come across before, but I’m not sure if I would describe it as “tart.” I should try and look for it next time I try! :)

Best,
Cole

Shinobi_cha

I had that flavor in mind, and yes, it is very ‘tart’ or ‘sharp.’ I think it depends on the mix of stems and leaves that you get – I found it to have a nice strong marine/gyokuro quality at times, and then at other times overwhelmingly tart, and then a nice balance. It was a nice way to change things up.

Cole

Just had the last of this yesterday, and I think I got a better mixture of the karigane this time, as it was a little more “tart.” It’s a tea that keeps on giving!

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87
drank Purple Bamboo by Far Leaves Tea
40 tasting notes

What an awesome and interesting green!

I’m not too familiar with Chinese greens aside from the bagged and the basic (bi lo chun, dragonwell, gunpowder), but this tea was so curious I had to log it. I got a small sample from Far Leaves the last time I stopped in for some oolongs, and finally got around to giving it a try this afternoon. I think it may have just changed my whole outlook on chinese greens!

As the description suggests, this tea starts off surprisingly “kelpy” and vegetal; but with a surprising buttery sweetness that caught be completely off guard. The first few sips were so smooth and soft on the tongue, I thought someone had sprinkled some karigane in my cup!

After the first few buttery infusions, the tea slowly shifts into a darker-colored (yet light and grassy tasting) brew that tastes more like the Chinese greens that I’m used to. It’s a curious little tea — I just might have to give it a try again!

Preparation
155 °F / 68 °C 1 min, 30 sec

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90
drank Dong Ding by Far Leaves Tea
40 tasting notes

Made my first trip out to the Far Leaves Tea store the other day, and I immediately fell in love with the simple surroundings and all the delicious teas that I tried. After enjoying an awesome pot of Bi Lo Chun at my table, I asked to sample some Taiwanese oolongs in hopes of getting a better idea of what I like in an oolong. The owner, Donna, asked me if I’d like to try one of her all-time favorites that she had just hand-selected and flown over from Taiwan. How could I refuse? After two sips, I was completely sold on the Dong Ding — she packed me an (overflowing) tin, and I’ve been enjoying it ever since.

I don’t possess the palate (nor the adjective set!) to accurately describe the intricacies of 7+ tiny cups of tea, but what I can tell you from my various cups over the last two days is that this particular Dong Ding has an INCREDIBLE floral aroma that I simply cannot get out of my head. Every sip and sniff of this tea just explodes with the sweet scent of blossoming Gardenias, while the flavor slowly transitions from sweet and soft; to astringent and “full.” It takes about three infusions for the leaves to fully open up, but it’s fun watching and tasting the tea as it deepens in color and flavor over the next ~4 infusions.

I’ve been using the directed amount of rolled leaf in a “normal-sized” gaiwan (about 1tsp/~70ml of slightly cooled water), but I haven’t been very precise with my timings or temperatures — I’m still new to gaiwans and gong-fu, so I’m taking it a cup at a time. I do have to admit that I have been enjoying a break from all the fuss I normally make preparing greens.. :)

I’m off to bed now, but I have a feeling I’ll be thinking about this tea until my next cup.

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 0 min, 30 sec

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86

I’ve been enjoying my Kiri no Mori matcha for the last couple months iced, hot, and mixed together with powdered sencha (not bad!), but after receiving my first chawan as a birthday gift from my wonderful fiancée, I finally had an excuse to get a chasen and do things right. I rushed out and picked up a cheap 80-prong whisk to practice with, and I can finally say it’s worth every penny.

I’m just “OK” at mixing up my matcha, but my fiancée is amazing at getting a delicious, thick froth with the Kiri no Mori. I add two sifted scoops of matcha and about 2-4oz of water to my preheated chawan, and she uses her magic touch to feverishly whisk up a tasty froth. I’m a little paranoid of scratching up the bottom of my chawan (even though I soak my chasen beforehand), but she has no problem saying just above the bottom of the bowl to get the perfect foam. It’s similar to the brew I previously concocted with a milk frother/whisk, but MUCH creamier and more uniform — there’s just something special about sipping on seafoam!

So far, I’m incredibly pleased with the Kiri no Mori. Its taste and aroma are somewhat mild, but I love the way it retains its mellow sweetness in any preparation. It really is a wonderful beginner’s matcha.

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 1 min, 0 sec
Indigobloom

I want a matcha whisk (and bowl to) sooo badly, but they’re just too expensive *sighs

Cole

Haha! Well, depending on where you get your equipment from (and if you do it all in a combo), you can save a little money. I started out with the matcha and a scoop (chashaku) and slowly added on the extras, but I know I’ve seen complete kits for between $30-$40 on Yuuki-Cha and eBay.

You can mix the matcha well with an electric milk frother, but the foam is somewhat fleeting. I don’t think I could go back now that I’ve had properly whisked matcha! :)

Indigobloom

agh, even that is beyond my budget, for the moment. Dentist bills, and bridesmaid duties have taken up my tea budget for a few months. Well, I know what’ll be on my christmas wish list!

Indigobloom

I LOVE watching the tea baristas make matcha… it can put me in a trance if I’m not careful haha

Jesse Örö

I’ve often found the more affordable matchas to be too bitter and strong for my taste, would you say this isn’t bitter?

Cole

I dont find it to be very bitter at all, but I’m not using it for koicha or anything. I’d say it’s rather smooth!

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Tea lover since birth; recent convert to Japanese greens, Taiwanese Oolongs, and Chinese Puerh (and everything in-between).

Loves obscure vinyl, dark humor, technology, and most nerdy things. If you have similar tastes or enjoy a post, feel free to comment/message. Open to trades; particularly puerh!

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