68 Tasting Notes
A month ago or so, Fong Mong Tea offered a free sample of this year’s pick of this tea on their Facebook page. It was a really pleasant surprise when I saw that I got three more samples so I spent that weekend (and the next one) in tasting them.
For you that don’t know about Fong Mong Tea, it’s a eBay seller of Taiwanese teas, ranging from 150 gr to 600 gr pack.
I borrowed a nice Canon DSLR for that weekend as I planned to spend that weekend in tea tasting and taking some nice pictures for a change (I usually use my phone camera for that. See my blog – link at the bottom).
I didn’t hesitate but emptied the whole sample bag (6 grams) in 3 Oz gaiwan, and poured 85-90C water over it. Prior to that I took a short glance at the dry leaf, it was big for an average Taiwanese rolled oolong, with some woody stalks attached to them. The initial aroma of the dry leaf is subtle fresh with grassy-herbaceous elements, and after blowing some hot air additional milky and buttery notes are revealed with a warm background.
After a short rinse I started with 45s steep, followed by 60s, 75s, 90s, 105s, 120s.
My current experience with Jin Xuan Oolongs is that they bear a nice milky element, and this one has a decent amount of it, not too much of it to be taken as ‘milky’ but not too little either. Flowery note is dominant in this cup, being present all the way as the liquor enters, slides and finishes, it even has a little bite at the tip of the tongue (pretty unusual for a flowery component). Finish is characterized with warm milky-buttery coat and some vegetable notes. The liquor has a bright jade green tone.
Following steeps show immediate decline of flowery element, leaving room for vegetable elements to take over, milky notes are still there but are better pronounced when liquor cools down a bit. Along the way there can be sensed a certain etheric component lingering in the background and getting more pronounced in the second half of the session.
Wet leaf is pretty much wholesome with a long stalk with up to four leaves attached, including some buds as well. Notes of old peas (dried, stored, then boiled) air of the olive green heap with a slight freshness wrapped around it.
Setup (teapot method)
- Vessel: glass teapot (250 ml)
- Leaf: 7,4 grams (sample bag)
- Water: 80 Celsius
- Steeping time: 1m, 1m30s, 2m
Dry leaf – Somewhat long, twisted in loop fashion with fluffy appearance and about 40% of white hairs. The aroma is very rich with clear notes of snap peas with grassy edge.
Wet leaf – Relatively wholesome, it seems to be a fragile kind due to a young leaf and processing method. Airs of brothy vegetable notes with some nutty components in the back.
Infusion – I must criticize Teavivre’s preparation instructions a little bit before I move on the tasting. It seems that the teapot methods on some of their teas result in unbalanced cups, Oriental Beauty Oolong and Fengqing Black Dragon Pears to be precise. I was a bit afraid that this might happen with this tea as well and I’m glad that it didn’t.
This tea is a ‘loud’ one, it doesn’t slowly introduce you with its nuances like some more delicate green would, it actually hits you with a rich and intensive mouthful and leaves you to decompose its notes as you sip on. I think this is by far, so far, the best experience I ever had with vegetable character in tea. It bears intensive notes of corn, eggplant and even some squash, and the eggplant is the one I found the most interesting. I remember when I was a little boy that eggplant had an almost bitter taste with a bite at the top of the tongue, and this tea reproduces it perfectly.
Aside the vegetable components that bears some pleasant and refreshing bitterness there are some grassy notes that might hint on some more brothy Japanese greens, altogether with nutty elements of roasted chestnut and cashew.
The other cups show a slow decline of vegetable components allowing some sweetness and even flowery notes to develop. Third cup bears some astringency, but not enough to shake the overall impression.
Setup (gaiwan method)
- Vessel: porcelain gaiwan (85 ml)
- Leaf: 4 grams
- Water: 80 Celsius
- Steeping time: 30s, 50s, 1m20s, 1m40s
Infusion – Gaiwan method on the other hand shows some more bite, better pronounced nutty notes, and emphasizes more on the corn note than the other vegetable components.
I remember last year’s Bi Luo Chun being quite good, but this fresh pick definitely beats it, which comes at the price (this – 15$/100gr, last year – 10-11$/100g).
Of all Oolongs, rolled, heavy roasted kind has been the least in my cup, but this one seems to have slightly baked (almost cacao) aroma instead of dry impression and it lacks that charcoal edge that I got familiar with so far.
The leaf brews into clear bronze liquor with notes of toasted nuts and flowery hints topped with slightly dry impression. In mouth it presents itself with medium body and pronounced roasted note at the sides of the tongue, followed with toasted (like rice in Genmaicha) and almost caramel finish. Roasted element is less pronounced in subsequent steeps (but it seems to be replaced with a dry-like bite on the tongue) and the liquor brings more smooth mouthfeel with pronounced lingering flowery component and sweetness at the end. Roasted component in this tea gives a slight hint to coffee, but altogether the cup can be more associated with Genmaicha and Houjicha.
Slightly shriveled wet leaf airs of toasted and flowery elements that seem to be more intense than what’s been released in the cup (could possibly hold one more steep). Among these dominant components there can be sensed some milky character in the background.
Side note: it may take more than one session with this tea to fully grasp and comprehend its offerings.
(Tasting setup: 4gr 180ml 95-100C 2,5m-1,5m-2m-3m)
Although the leaf might not impress you with its looks it carries a promising flowery fragrant aroma with a dry roasted edge. It brews into clear burgundy infusion with subtle flowery and fresh notes with hints of stone fruits rising from the surface.
First sip is crisp with sweetness at the tip. Later on roasted and flowery elements, along with notes of stone fruit, are more prominent on the palate with short lasting dry bite in the back (common with high roasted oolongs). Roasted elements in this tea add up to its thickness and medium body with more sweetness coming in subsequent infusions.
Wet leaf leaves a lot of rich and baked notes with hints of stone fruits. This tea takes boiling water very well and can be steeped at least three times. If there’s a critic to this tea than it can be easily recognized in the leaf – it has a relatively large amount of long stalks.
(Tasting setup: 4gr 180ml 95-100C 1m-1,5m-2m-3m)
As the leaf appears somewhat broken up I really can’t point fingers since I’m familiar with brittle nature of Bai Mu Dan. With the usual hues of green and brown that White Peony bears I can detect only few white tips.
The infusion is somewhat thick with subtle and almost faint notes of butter, sweet sap and hay on hot summer day. Although it’s a pleasing cup to me it misses some richness and complexity to make it a keeper.
On the other hand, price seems really fair, so my guess is that it could fit in for a gulper tea, hot or iced/cold brewed, so I might turn around when the summer comes. If I ever decide to experiment with tea flavoring I’ll use this one as a base for sure.
ESGREEN delivers again!
This slightly broken, generic looking Dian Hong is very smooth and sweet with subtle blooming notes and distinctive peppery coating over the tongue.
I enjoyed three steeps (3 gr, 250 ml 95C, 3m-4m-5m) and all I can say that this is by far the most cost-effective Dian Hong I stumbled upon. It’s very smooth and gentle, lacking any harsh body notes that can be sometimes found with this tea. In first steep you get medium-full body with nice potato sweetness and blooming undertones of gardenia and trademark of Yunannese black tea – peppery coating on the tongue. In following steeps this tea develops lighter but still smooth and even sweeter body. It reminds me of ESGREEN’s broken grade Keemun, humble looking but very rich and appeasing.
Will backlog later with gaiwan.
(Free sample provided by Hamasaen. Thank you!)
- Vessel: Glass teapot (250 ml)
- Leaf: 6 grams
- Water: 100 Celsius
- Steeping time: 2 × 30 seconds
Leaf & Infusion
Dry leaf – The dry leaf itself gives a poor impression, dull brownish tones of broken and frail leaves, just like a random of autumn dry leaf pile. But these leaves give out a deep roasted background with notes of dried sawdust, giving a clue that these aren’t just a random bunch of leaves. Not many twigs either.
Wet leaf – As the leaves increased in volume I’m having a difficult time finding the twigs among them, and the leaf color show some changes of dark olive green tones along the veins. Similar change can be seen with Dan Cong Oolong.
Infusion I (30s) – This is where the magic starts, that is if you follow exact instructions provided by the producer/seller. I tried my ways, all which ended in poorer results. First 30 second infusion gives a clear liqour with cognac tone that is more common with some darker Oolongs such as Oriental Beauty or Da Hong Pao. With first sip of Hojicha that I’ve never tasted before I got something that I wasn’t expecting: light mouthfeel and rich and intensive comeback of roasted, caramel and even some fruity sweetness on the front of the tongue. The aftertaste is intense and long lasting with constant intensity with each sip. Now I get why
this tea is drank after the meal; the palate gets saturated in “sweet” notes as taste buds take a rest from heavier flavors. A perfect slow-sipper.
Infusion II (30s)Second infusion proves to be a more sweet and less roasted/caramel, fruity aspect keeps up the pace and there can be sensed a particular sugary bite in the throat. Liquor color has slightly shifted to orange tone.
Conclusion – Very pleasing tea, not an everyday drinker (at least not for me), something to be highly considered for calming down taste buds after flavorful meals and as solution to sinless caramel crave. Did I mention it’s low in caffeine?
I adapted this tasting note from my blog post that I wrote the other day:
- Vessel: Glass teapot 250ml (3 Oz)
- Leaf: 7.8 grams
- Water: 90 C
- Time: 1m, 2m, 3m
Leaf & Infusion:
Dry leaf – The leaf is one of the most wholesome I’ve ever encountered. Leaves are long, needle-shaped with vibrant golden tips and dull black leaves. Ratio of buds and leaf is 50/50, and leaf shows some of that golden hair too, making more of a impressive display. Leaves air of citrus and cooked potato skin and when hot air is introduced intensive molasses note appear along with blooming undertones.
Wet leaf – This is where the wholeness of leaf is accentuated, along with fat texture and veins exposed. The overall aroma is of citrus and potato skin with blooming hints. The molasses part quickly escapes as the leaves cool.
Infusion(1m) – First infusions is very bright and clear with orange-coppery tone and rising aromas of molasses and potato skin. The liquor is initially light, but as it smoothly slides down the tongue it develops more of medium body and pleasant potato-molasses finish mentioned earlier. Few sips later show hints of bitterness, astringency excluded, and peppery film on tongue, a trademark of Yunnan black teas. The aftertaste is long lasting and molasses develop into more caramel type, and blooming notes are more pronounced here as well.
Infusion(2m) – Second infusions brings this tea to more of a breakfast type: full-bodied, rich in taste and very pleasing. As it cools down some new notes develop, honey-sweet and fruity-sour impression is quite notable at finish. It reminds of Assam and Keemun to certain extent.
Infusion(3m) – Third cup is still rich in flavor and aroma but the decline is notable. Tea shifts back to medium body and keeps a lot of sweet and blooming elements from previous steep. The potato-citrus duo, however, has almost completely diminished. The aftertaste strongly resembles of Keemun when peppery sensation is thrown aside.
Conslusion – Most satisfying Dian Hong, very rich and clean with many changes involved in successive infusions.
(Free sample provided by Teavivre. Thank you!)
- Vessel: Gaiwan 85 ml (3 Oz)
- Leaf: 5.8 grams (2 3/4 tsp.)
- Water: 100 C
- Time: 25s, 35s, 45s, 55s, 65s, 75s, 85s
Leaf & Infusion
Dry leaf – Rolled with dull shades of olive green to earthy brown, various in size – small to medium large when compared to average TGY. Smelling reveals roasted and smokey notes with some flowery notes underneath.
Wet leaf – As quantity of leaf overcrowded gaiwan in seven steeps the complete leaf unfurl is seldom. The wet leaves are closer to darker tones of olive green and look ripped, which prevents identifying its picking tandard. Aroma that arises from this heap is generally roasted with hints of flowery notes and a certan heat and a whiff of butter. There aren’t many stalks and most of them are thinner when compared to your average rolled oolong.
Infusion – Deep golden liquour tone stayed pretty much the same throughout numerous steeps. Initial aroma takes off with strong roasted aspect and touch of orchid. First steep gives away rich and full mouthfeel with pleasant amount of bitterness and finishes with pleasant amount of lingering bitterness in throat. After few sips there are some honey notes involved that gives the impression of Dan Cong oolong. Later steeps tend to shift to more astringent-citrus-fruity aspect still in pleasant range followed by its usual lingering roasted background. At third steep flowery notes seem to have completely dissapeared which makes room for fruity peach impression to take its form. As the session is half way through fruity aspect starts to decline and shifts more to herbal aspect which strongly reminds of Bai Mu Dan white tea at last steep.
(Free sample provided by Fong Mong Tea. Thank you!)
Teapot/tasting cup method
- 150 ml / 3 gr
- 95 C / 6 min
- 85 ml / 3 gr
- 95 C / 4 min, 5 min, 6 min
Leaf & Infusion
Dry leaf – Mainly dark with addition of larger and more loose copper-red leaves with fine white hair. There are also some really small white buds in this small heap.
Wet leaf – Fresh fruity aroma with honey and flowery undertones. When compared to other rolled oolongs such as TGY, the leaf is somewhat smaller and variegated in shades of coppery-brown and olive green. The well preserved structure of leaf reveals its one bud – two leaves picking standard and the stalk is relatively thin and only few have wooden texture.
Infusion (Teapot) – First sip reveals rich taste and fruitiness with honey-sweet finish and intensive aftertaste of the two. As tea cools down there can be sensed some muscatel notes that get a stronger magnitude as tea continues to cool down. I did two more steeps, 8 and 10 min, and former brewed a delicious cup leaning more to lighter mouthfeel than first steep and almost as equally aromatic experience. Ten minute steep came out with decent fruity liquor that was enjoyable.
Infusion (Gaiwan) – This method seems to show off more of Oriental Beauty’s finer nuances. The infusion is rich and along of its usual fruity and honey aspect there are some earthy and woody notes involved backed with pleasant astringency and touch of bitterness.