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17 Tasting Notes

84

I’m not sure what has happened between me and this tea, but I don’t think it tastes much like my initial impression. I remember when I initially drank this almost a year ago thinking it tasted overwhelmingly like olive oil and italian herbs, and I really didn’t like it.

However, I recently brought it to work for a sipdown and I’ve been really digging it. First steeping has a bit of that vegetal olive oil/herb flavor on the back of the sip, but primary the flavor is one of nuts and caramel. Later steepings bring on wine grapes and baking spices and there’s this really great interplay of sweet/savory/spicy elements. The aroma has a wonderful black currant scent (although I don’t taste it).

I’m loving this tea at work. It’s bold enough to wake me up when I have my first steep in the morning and warm/smooth/mellow enough to be a relaxing respite as the day continues.

Preparation
Boiling 1 min, 0 sec

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91

Master Han is someone whose teas I have conflicting feelings about. I respect the craftsmanship and appreciate the complexity of his teas, but often find that I don’t actually enjoy the flavor of them. So it was on a huge whim (with coaxing from Verdant’s tasting notes) that I decided to grab a full 4 oz of this tea during their Pu’er sale.

I am so thankful for that whim! This tea is a joy.

The aroma of the dry leaves is mild — a nice woody smell with no mustiness. Once the water hits them it’s like a refreshing clean rain in a wood.

The flavor of the first two infusions is sweeter than I expected and has an apple/pear flavor to it. However it’s not so singularly fruity like some Pu’er tea I’ve had, there’s a light woody and earthy flavor lurking in the background, almost like when the apples were pressed there were a few leaves and a small branch that snuck in.

As the infusions continue the flavor slowly shifts toward spice and bread. Some sips bring to mind my family’s lightly spiced cardamom bread and others a subtle poundcake flavor. And at just the right temperature there’s a hint of clove in there.

Throughout the brewing session this tea has been incredibly creamy and smooth.

This tea is a great all-arounder. There’s a decent level of complexity to it for when you really want to experience your tea, but it’s also eminently drinkable when you just want a good cuppa. In addition a strong brew is a great warming winter brew, but if you went a little lighter this would make a GREAT iced tea.

When drinking this tea I highly recommend gong fu brewing. My first experiences with it were western brewing and I was left really disappointed by the muddled flavor, but the gong fu sessions have been an absolute treat. In the week I’ve had this tea I’ve already had 3 sessions with it!

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

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95

I’ve had this tea two more times since my first note (both with much shorter steeps than my first time) and I have to say I adore this tea. Brewed less intense there’s still the cinnamon flavor of the 2 minute brew, but less of the powerful doughy heft. There’s still a hint of sweet doughy bread there, but I think it’s just my memory hearkening back to that first brew.

It’s just such an incredibly satisfying cup. Sweet, spicy, earthy, full bodied, and with a clean and refreshing finish. It’s a tea I constantly have a desire to brew, but I hold back because I only had an ounce which has 1 cup left in it. Thankfully you can make a serving of this tea last forever. I brewed it 10 times over the course of 3 days and loved the last cup every bit as much as the first.

Before I use up this last cup I am so tempted to place an order for a cake.. I’ve never even contemplated committing that much to a tea before, but this is really something special.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

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91
drank Milk Oolong by Mandala Tea
17 tasting notes

Pfff, a green Oolong that tastes like cream and candy? I wish! But hey, I may as well give it a try and see what all this is about.

That smell from my cup on the first steeping is floral and a bit fruity as I’d expect but there’s something else coming up underneath that I’ve never smelled in a tea before, it’s too covered up by the other smells, but it just might be that milky smell this tea is known for.

First and second sips are fruity with a little bit of woodiness to it. It’s good and has a creamy texture, but I’m really not getting that milky flavor — I knew it wasn’t possible! But then on the third sip, right when I was feeling comfortable with the average oolong flavors, it hits me. Toffee? No way, it can’t be! I had to take another sip to be sure, and when I got that same toffee note I just about jumped out of my chair with joy (I’m a huge toffee fan if you couldn’t guess at this point :P ). Every sip from here on is incredibly creamy and sweet, like a really smooth toffee. I can’t believe I didn’t taste it at first, because this tea is dessert level sweet!

Second steeping is more toffee but with notes of vanilla and white chocolate. I’m sure after enough steepings this oolong will evolve into something else, as most do, but I honestly couldn’t care less. The sweet toffee flavor of these first two steepings is enough to make this a staple that I’ll always want to have on hand no matter what kind of flavor it takes on later.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec

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90

Third day of spring and it’s snowing here near Seattle. And right when my body was starting to expect the spring temperatures. I really need a warming brew today. Surprisingly, when deciding what that should be my mind didn’t go for the spiced black teas I normally reach for on a chilly day — it went straight to this. It seemed the perfect reason to use up the second half of this Reserve Club sample.

This tea embodies warmth. The second that smokey aroma starts wafting out of the cup I feel like I’m huddled around a crackling campfire. And someone is making a s’more because I can smell their burnt marshmallow melting the bar of chocolate it’s dripping over. It’s so nostalgic and warming to just smell. And it’s commandingly strong; I’m still catching whiffs of it all around the house almost 3 hours after my first brew.

At first sip this tea tastes like the smell to me — smokey. And while that’s okay it’s not something I find myself wanting to drink a lot of. But by the second and third sip that smokey taste almost immediately turns into a rich dark chocolate aftertaste. I can’t taste it when the tea is on my tongue but it comes up immediately after the sip and lingers there forever. Five minutes after my last sip I can still taste that rich dark chocolate, but as time has passed it’s become a dark chocolate spiked with citrus or berry, I can’t decide which.

I’m 7 or 8 steeps in right now and that dark chocolate flavor is still lingering there every bit as strong as it was on the first, but the first taste has mellowed from smokey to citrus (something I’m rather thankful for).

This was the perfect brew to start my chilly day off with. It’s so rich and warming. If it weren’t for the price tag on these reserve club teas I’d definitely restock this one, but alas, my budget forces me to leave it as a pleasant memory after today.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

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51
drank Florence by Harney & Sons
17 tasting notes

I don’t really have a lot to say about this tea other than that it is definitely not what I was expecting or what I wanted. I wanted something that was either even parts chocolate and hazelnut or leaned more towards the chocolate end of things. And when I opened up the tin I was sure this was what I’d got. Chocolate is definitely the overwhelming smell of this tea.

However, the taste swings drastically the other way. Every sip of this is largely hazelnut with just a light hint of chocolate in there. Which is obviously great if you’re a huge fan of hazelnut, but I’m really not. I just wanted a hint of hazelnut to keep it from being too sweet and chocolately and this was not that.

It’s a smooth tea though, so if you want a nice relaxing cup of something hazelnut flavored this might be something to try. If, like me, you don’t like much hazelnut flavor I’d advise you stay away from this tea.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec

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95

Hmmm, dry I’m not getting much from these leaves. Upon opening the bag it just smells a little bit clean. But, boy does that change with hot water. From the moment these touch water the smell is intoxicating and fills the air with the aroma of cinnamon bread dough. The liquor is a dark amber red that matches the richness of the scent. At first sip this tea.. makes my tongue feel a bit numb and tingly? That’s unexpected! Second and third sips are almost overwhelmingly rich and sweet, with a flavor that feels comforting and familiar, but I can’t place it. At the end of the sip there’s a bitterness but not an unpleasant one — a soft, earthy bitterness. It feels like an integrated part of the flavor rather than a mistake of over-steeping.

For the first 3 infusions this tea is incredibly bold, with sips that start sweet with a doughy heft and end with an earthy bitterness. It’s delectable, but it’s like a rich chocolate cheesecake — I can only handle a little bit before I start to feel over-saturated with flavor.

For the last 3 infusions the tea lightens. The flavor isn’t so heavy that it feels like it’s pulling you down into the earth and turns more refreshing and invigorating. The flavor as it first hits my tongue is sweet with spicy notes of cinnamon and maybe a hint of clove. In the finish I can finally taste that sparkling quality that David mentions. Every sip ends so clean.

This was an interesting first experience with Pu-Erh. I feel like there’s this whole other side of tea that I’m just now tasting. I’m glad I tried brewing this tea by the Xingyang workshop recommendations, but I think in the future I might be served better by a brew that isn’t quite so bold.

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 0 sec

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84

I kept putting off writing a tasting note for this tea, because after 3 different western-style brew sessions I was really not feeling it. Every cup I drank just had this totally overwhelming olive oil flavor. The tasting notes on the site and here indicated there should have been something more, but it wasn’t coming through at all for me.

Finally I decided to bite the bullet and try brewing this gongfu style. I have always brewed western style for convenience sake — I don’t have a tea set or an instant tap, so it’s easier to make one big cup less often — but this tea really demands to be brewed gongfu style.

Brewing it as it was meant to be the depth of flavor really starts to come through. The overtone is still olive oil, but there’s more lurking beneath. Early steepings have notes of wine-grapes, a crisp mouthfeel, and a very subtle earthiness. A few steepings in the grape starts to give way to a more honey-like sweet flavor, but with a similar wine aftertaste.

By the fifth steeping I’m shocked by the almost spicy smell that wafts up from the cup. This cup is overwhelmingly reminiscent of baked goods. There’s now a strong flavor of apple that’s looking to take over the olive oil dominance and the aftertaste is reminiscent of clove with a molasses sweetness.

By the end of my time with this tea the leaves are absolutely beautiful. The leaves that started off almost black and tightly twisted have unfurled into large, deep brown leaves. It’s really quite a sight.

I’m happy I gave this tea a try gongfu style. It’s a very unique tea with a lot of depth to offer and a flavor that really evolves as you go. However, its still not my favorite tea around. That olive oil flavor is still a bit much for me. I’m glad to have some waiting in my cabinet for the day I’m in the mood for something really different, but its not something I see myself reaching for very often.

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73
drank Holiday Tea by Harney & Sons
17 tasting notes

This tea took some time to grow on me, and still it’s not a favorite of mine. I went into my first cup expecting something similar to Constant Comment – bold and spicy with a citrus twist – but what I got was mellow, smooth, and honestly a little bland.

The smell of this tea is delicious. Like the name implies this tea smells like the holidays. Citrus, baking spices, and vanilla meld together and make the whole room smell amazing whenever you steep this tea. However, this build up is part of why sipping this tea is so disappointing. The main words I would use to describe this tea are weak and bland. Even at a full boil, for 5 minutes, with a HEAPING teaspoon per cup this tea isn’t very flavorful. It’s so surprising after you’ve smelled the incredible aroma.

The taste is okay. It’s predominantly one of vanilla, with a hint of orange rind, cinnamon, and clove thrown in for good measure. A great sounding mix that somehow turns out boring in this tea. The tea base is weak and tastes like if you used a small teabag in a giant mug even when you overdose this tea.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not terrible. There’s something comforting that makes it easy to come back to when I’m not sure what to drink, but it’s forgettable. It’s not a tea that I passionately remember and suddenly need to brew a cup of, it’s a tea I settle for when I’m not sure what else to drink.

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

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95

Last night I had time to let this tea take me on its journey a second time and I’m still as blown away as I was the first time.

This tea is so unique. Most teas I’ve tried require something from me – they require I be in the mood for what they have on offer. Whether that’s smoky, fruity, vegetal, or anything in between. It requires I be desiring that flavor, and in return it offers me the satisfaction, relaxation, or refreshment that it has to offer. This tea is different. It’s unassuming. It doesn’t care what mood I’m in, what time of day it is, what flavors I have sitting on my tongue from the meal I just ate. This tea always has something to offer, something to draw me into the rest of the flavors it has on-hand and the trip it wants to take me on throughout its many steepings.

And for that reason this tea is hard to get off my mind. I only had two days between brew sessions but I kept thinking back on this tea, anxious for the moment I had the one thing this tea asks of me: time to enjoy the full experience it has to offer.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec

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