41 Tasting Notes

99

This is easily the best Oolong I have tried from the new spring picking this year. Incredibly creamy and a fresh lilac that is amongst some of the most perfect Tieguanyin I have ever had. Though this tea is not perhaps the highest end in competition in China because of its creaminess, it makes it much more affordable and honestly, it is hard to tell if this is indeed inferior to some of the very floral Tieguanyin’s that are available.

Overall this has been my favorite tea of the new season.

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

Anyone who doesn’t prefer creamy ambrosia is quite possibly on crack.. more for us!! I dont think I’ve ever had a better Tieguanyin than this one, and I spent straight months of my life trying one after another with my tea friends/teachers in China.

Nathaniel Gruber

It really is that good, you’re right!

ScottTeaMan

WOW…….based on your review, I’m going to add Verdant Tea to my ever growing list of tea companies. :))

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99

First let me preface this by saying that I don’t like to rate teas this high. I really won’t ever give a tea a perfect 100 score, so 99 is essentially saying that it’s the best thing I’ve had to date. A perfect 100 would in essence be stating that nothing could possibly be better than this tea in all existence, and I’m not ever going to make that claim.

I remember the first time David from Verdant Tea made me this particular tea. I remember the emotions it evoked and how it brought me back to a place of comfort from the past. I tend to relate things to good music, as I am a musician. When I write a particular piece I tend to write something that envelopes all emotions, making myself feel completely content, heartbroken, moved, and yet hopeful without sounding forced. In a weird way this tea does that for me. The aroma and essence of this tea reminds me of sitting in in an old library with books that have absorbed the flavors of the weathered wood surrounding them. It also brings about the memory of sitting on a particular dock at camp growing up, talking with my best friends while fishing and relaxing.

I think because of the pure nostalgia that this tea has brought about for me and everyone I know that has tried it, puts it in to a category all its own. It is not flavor, it is emotion, aroma, and beauty. I only bring this tea out ever so often for a very special conversation or time…to brew this everyday for me would be to make it commonplace, and I dare not offend the tea in that way.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 30 sec
Spoonvonstup

I almost always forget this tea is a shu; it’s just so different and feels much more like an old sheng to me. More impressive is that this one was created in 1998, when shu’s generally still tasted terrible. I sure hope Verdant can find some more stuff from the folks at Xingyang, especially since they were creating such great stuff so early on.

Nathaniel Gruber

It’s true. The leaf material for this one is spectacular. I think the fact that the body and color of this tea are so light is deceiving. I have never seen a shu of this age act in such a pleasing and crisp way.

Spoonvonstup

Definitely. Most things I’ve tried in the States that are this old taste simple and predictable: old and like pleasant dirt. This one tastes old, sure, but it also tastes like you’re on a sparkling trip to the moon where you find a hidden library like an abandoned city that holds the secrets of all of your memories for all time. And you get to drink this feeling and share it with friends.
What will this taste like in ten more years? Will we even have the self-control to find out??

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86

Better than I last remembered. This one could become a favorite for people looking for a familiar and assertive flavor. Yet it is still so light in hue and delicate on the palate. Glad I tried it again.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 30 sec

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86

Excellent “Dragonwell Style” tea from Laoshan. All of the teas from Laoshan have a very similar feel which can be attributed to their Northern location. I love the way that green teas from Laoshan actually have all of those great cooling qualities of a good Japanese Gyokuro yet maintain the heartiness of a good Chinese tea. This tea is particularly stunning in color. So fresh! So green! I myself will not drink green tea daily, but this is one that I will pull out as a great example of what Dragonwell style teas can be.

Highly recommended for green tea lovers that are looking for something new.

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 0 min, 30 sec
Chad

I can’t wait to taste this tea. I’ve never had dragon well, but I love sencha. So, it will be interesting to see how it compares.

Spoonvonstup

“I myself will not drink green tea daily..”

Now if someone would only let tea grow wild in LaoShan for a hundred years until it’s tree-sized, then pick and process the LaoShan as pu’er.. you’d be all over that stuff!

You’re such an unabashed pu’er lover. ;)

Do you have a preference for the Dragonwell-style in particular over the Wok-Fired or the Spring picking?

Nathaniel Gruber

Haha! Everybody tells me that I am very biased against green and black tea. I think that both are great, I just won’t drink them on a daily basis. Funnily enough I have only drank shu pu’er once in the past few months because I’ve been so hooked on all of the fresh, spring picking stuff that has come in. I’m sure as the weather turns back to cold after our short summer I will begin to drink shu pu’er daily once again.

As for the green tea…I can really appreciate both styles of the Laoshan tea but I think my favorite would have to be the spring picking. It is just too sweet and fresh not to love.

Jesse Örö

What does “Dragonwell Style” mean in this context? Is this from one of the Longjing cultivars, grown in Laoshan? Or maybe it’s leaves are processed in a same way, although the cultivar is different?

Nathaniel Gruber

Processed in the same way, though the cultivar is different. Correct.

Jesse Örö

Can you tell me more about this tea? Is it the same cultivar as the other Laoshan greens Verdant Teas is selling?

There were reports that there was major drought in Shandong province, and that presumably has affected the tea as well. What do you think? How is Laoshan green this year compared to last year?

David Duckler

Hi Jesse!
Thanks for the interest. This “Dragonwell Style” Laoshan is a bit confusing. In the village of Laoshan, nobody thinks of it as Dragonwell style specifically. They recently started experimenting with hand pressing the leaves flat, because the lower heat required, and the lesser degree of handling take some of the hearty bean edge off the tea and make it sweeter. We decided to call it Dragonwell Style because Dragonwell village was the first to really make that technique known, and the flat leaves are associated in the west with Dragonwell green.

There is no difference in the cultivar. In fact, all of our green teas come from a family farm of about 15 acres that has one of the privileged spots on the mountainside itself instead of the surrounding valley. Tea plants were actually brought up from Zhejiang originally. The government discovered that Taoist monks were growing tea on th emountainside, and started an experimental farm in the 50’s right in the middle of Qingdao. After playing around with their Zhejiang plants and progressively selecting heartier and hearier ones, they were ready to plant on Laoshan. After about 20 years of establishing themselves, the plants are yielding, in my opinion, some of teh best green tea out there. for more on Laoshan, you can see the article on the site:
http://verdanttea.com/gallery/dragonwell-style-laoshan-green/

About the drought: Shandong has been effected, but Laoshan is in a specialy spot that makes it pretty immune to drought. It is right nera the tip of a peninsula, about a mile inland from the ocean, and catches ocean mist every day. In fact, it is probably mountains on the coast like Laoshan that stop rain from travelling inland to water other crops. In any case, the family that we work with is very optimistic, and excited about this spring picking.

Jesse Örö

Hey, thanks for detailed answer! So, if these laoshan greens are of same area and same cultivar, difference in taste has to come from processing. Interesting, teas from same areas and processings but different cultivars are possible to find, but now there is teas of same area, same cultivar yet different processing.

David Duckler

Yes, it is not a normal thing to find so many different processing techniques for Laoshan tea. They are even making black tea out of the exact same leaves that they pick for green tea. The reason is that tea production in the area is so new that there are no traditions to follow. Some might see that as negative, but I see it as a great example of innovation. The result is some really crazy and fun tea coming out of the village. If every tea village continued expirimenting and trying to improve, it would be hard to imagine what we would get. Another example of innovation is with pu’er tea, which has increased in quality immensely in the last 50 years due to higher demand and competition from dishonest merchants. The honest farmers have had to push what they do to a new level to stay on top.

Chad

That makes sense, but it disagrees with everyone else who says increased demand has had the opposite effect on quality.

Nathaniel Gruber

I think Pu’er production is interesting in that it is something that has pushed people to master their art more as time goes on. People are able to distinguish between the best stuff and an impostor. A really high quality Sheng pu’er from 40 years ago will not be nearly as good as a really high quality Sheng pu’er from 2005 being drunk in 2045. This is because of innovation and people understanding the tea more today than they did in the past.

David and I have seen the same to be true with really great yixing tea pots. Though many people get upset to hear us say it, it is true that the best crafted tea pots from today are of much higher craftsmanship than most of what was made 80 years ago. We have discussed this with one of David’s tea pots, which is an absolute work of art with a great story behind it (not to mention extremely expensive). This particular tea pot is from the beginning of the 20th century. It is beautiful and great, but the craftsmanship cannot compare to a few of his newer tea pots. Sometimes the fact that something is older doesn’t necessarily make it supreme.

To sum up: it’s true that there are people taking advantage of increased demand and producing lower quality tea and tea pots. But, it’s even more true that the true artists of tea and tea culture are still evolving, continually bringing about newer and better techniques and practices, all of which we are lucky enough to have people like David that can bring them in to the country for all of us.

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80
drank Bao Zhong by Rishi Tea
41 tasting notes

I was pleasantly surprised by this tea. Very nice Taiwanese Oolong with vibrant notes of lilac and fresh greens. Great for multiple steepings. A great tea for the price, and although it does not have many of the other-worldly qualities that some of the highest quality Tieguanyin’s have, it is still a very nice and floral tea. I would compare it most to Rishi’s Jade Oolong. Wonderful!

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

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59

I bought a sample of this tea because of all of the hype over Xi-Zhi-Hao on Jas-eTea. I wanted to try what many others were calling the best Sheng out there. This one is younger (2007) but considering several of the highest end bricks I have are that young, I figured this one would be old enough to try.

The sample is a nice loose compression with big arbor buds and leaves. Very nice visually! I had high hopes for this brick. I am using 5 grams of leaf material and around 200 degree water on this one. There really isn’t all that much to say about this tea to be honest. What I did recognize right away is that it is not offensive. Usually with sheng pu’er of this age you will get something unbearably drying and smokey right from the start. This tea tries to steer clear of any of that. It doesn’t necessarily want to say anything however. With some sheng of even higher quality than this one you will get something that is not only non-offensive but also minutely complex and interesting.

This one is not.

By steeping 3 the classic “Sheng” flavor of smoke and a common astringency start to creep in. But overall I would actually say that this is a better sheng than probably 80% of what I’ve tried. Not really worth investing money in a brick but certainly wasn’t a bad experience.

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

Do you think this would have the potential to grow into something interesting? Or is it just sweet and flat? If there’s really nothing there and it’s boring, I wonder what all the hype is about- just “super acceptable!” sort of thing?

the_skua

Funny, I think the 2008 pressing of this tea is outstanding. Interesting to see that perhaps the 2007 is not all that great.

Nathaniel Gruber

Hmm, good question. Honestly, I wouldn’t buy a brick of this to age simply because there are better options out there. As you said, I was amazed at how flat the tea was. I thought that with something touted as being some of the best Sheng available in this country that it would have more complexity than it did.

In a weird way I am almost happier with a much much cheaper brick of Sheng which is much smokier. It’s as if it’s better that something is going on rather than nothing, even though the cheaper one has that classic Sheng smoke.

Nathaniel Gruber

Hmm the 2008 must have been a better year.

It’s not as though this tea was bad by any means. A 59 rating is really high above average for me. I think that perspective for each of us individually is important as well…for example; had I not had a couple of my best Sheng’s earlier in the day I probably would have thought this brick to be better than I did. I had the Artisian Stone Pressed Sheng by Verdant Tea earlier in the day, so I think that my palate was a little bit skewed. Perhaps if I drank this for the first time after not having Sheng for a week it would taste better.

the_skua

Every day, every tea is different than every other day you’ve ever brewed it.

Nathaniel Gruber

I couldn’t agree more, and I find that to be particularly true with Pu’er. Luckily, the best stuff might change but usually in a good way.

Chad

I would say that it’s unfortunate, if this really has no smokey drying quality, as that is one of my personal favorite qualities known to this style. Why anybody would NOT want that totally escapes me.

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92

This is an excellent and perfectly balanced brick of shou that far outdoes any of its contemporary shou’s of the same age. The color is translucent and brilliant orange. Taste of burnt sugar, burnt caramel, dark fruits, and chocolate are prevalent in the early steepings. As you move along notes of sweet candy and cooling camphor begin to set in though there is a warming feeling that comes along in the chest…a very ideal brick!

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 30 sec

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98

Here is my favorite shou pu’er of the Verdant Tea line. This brick has an assertive mustiness that is not overwhelming, but perfectly balanced with the cleanliness of the color and mouthfeel of this tea. Clean and cooling, the description says it well; the camphor builds up throughout the steepings and gives way to a sweet plum or fig flavor. Well done Verdant!

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

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I am a lover of everything good. Rivers, fields, plains, forests, lakes, mountains, valleys, deserts – people, tea, beer, cheese, wine. But mainly, more than anything, I love God. None of these other things are worth a cent without Him.

P.S. If you’re ever in Milwaukee and looking for someone to drink tea with for an afternoon, don’t hesitate to send a message.

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