46 Tasting Notes
Golden Osmanthus Tie Kuan Yin, Golden Tea Shop (Oakland, CA). I picked this up on the recommendation of the proprietress of Golden Tea Shop in Oakland’s China Town. Appearance: tightly rolled loose leaf oolong with minimal oxidation and light green color. This is a scented oolong (meaning the tea leaves are covered with osmanthus flowers and scented, like most jasmine teas, instead of blended). The color of the leaves doesn’t change much as the tea steeps. Liquor: clear, mostly chartreuse yellow but a little darker gold than a color wheel chartreuse. Smell: I really like the smell of both osmanthus and of tie kuan yin, and this is a very pleasant middle ground for those. Meaning, it has the nice vegetal smells of an iron goddess, and the warmth of the osmanthus. Taste: like the smell, this is a nice blend of a lightly oxidized iron goddess with the osmanthus aroma. It’s slightly vegetal from the iron goddess, but slightly soapy from the osmanthus. I find that disappointing, because I get less of a soapy taste when I use straight osmanthus flowers (which I do quite a bit, actually). It’s not terrible, but it just detracts from the taste. Overall, 6/10. It’s not bad, but not good enough I’m going to restock. I will probably keep my eye out for other options like this though.
Loose leaf rooibos with chunks of dried pineapple. Liquor: dark amber or light caramel. Smell: nice rooibos with distinct pineapple notes. Taste: I like rooibos a lot. It’s a distinct rooibos flavor, but the pineapple upper notes and coconut undertones do a lot to round out the flavor and make it interesting. Enjoyingtea.com describes it as having rum notes, and I agree that there are rum notes but they’re subtle. Like most rooibos, you need a good filter or sachet, or there will be sedimentation. But, you also don’t really have to worry about overextraction. I actually use this for a chia seed drink when I need the fiber. 7/10
Appearance: dark (almost forest) green broken leaves with some golden yellow pieces. I really like the color of a shincha – it just seems like green tea is supposed to be this green. Liquor: mossy green. The liquor is more green than a lot of Japanese greens – hooray for the freshness (April 2012 harvest). Like most sencha there is some sedimentation, so a good strainer is recommended. Smell: very vegetal, with creamy high notes. Having lived in Japan, the smell of sencha is powerfully nostalgic. Taste: again, very vegetal, like spinach almost, but it’s sweet, creamy, and has nice nutty (chestnut) undertones. The aftertaste is grassy but only mildly astringent. I like the grassiness of a Japanese green, and this is a great example. Overall I’m really happy I was in Japantown recently to see this one. 9/10.
Loose. Appearance: leaves are mottled light and dark green, in pretty, flat strips. They open into mossy green leaves when steeped. I actually prefer looking at the dry leaves because they are more jade like and pretty. Liquor: yellow chartreuse. Smell: nutty and vegetal. Taste: Dragonwell is probably my favorite Chinese green tea, and this is a very nice version. This taste is vegetal but sweet, nutty (a hint of the pan firing), with a creamy mouthfeel, and minimal astringency. It is smooth enough I can drink it all day. 8/10. (The Monkey King from Sky Tea I’ve also reviewed was probably better in terms of tea quality – I love the long leaves – but this dragonwell also gets an 8 because the price is nice enough it can be a regular presence at work.)
Loose. Appearance: leaves are small, gently rolled slate gray-green. They do look like greenish eyebrows (the name). They become much greener after steeping but lose their shape. Liquor: yellow with green tints. It is a warmer yellow on second infusion. Smell: smoky, earthy, but still green tea. I think it smells like a lot of other Chinese greens. (On just smell alone, I usually prefer the overt vegetal notes of a Japanese green.) Taste: The taste is nice and mellow, with only some bitterness. It is less sweet than other teas, and the smoky notes of the smell come through – and become stronger as it cools. When it very first hits the palate there is a vegetal (dark leafy green) taste, but that tends to fade into a lingering astringency and smoky aftertaste. The second infusion is even smoother and smokier. (Some chun mee teas are said to have a plum flavor and I don’t get that at all). It’s not my favorite green tea but this is pleasant enough. 6/10
Appearance: warm red and brown … wood chips? ;-) Liquor: coppery red, with sedimentation – I recommend a sachet or fine mesh filter. Smell: the smell is amazing! it has a warm earthy smell with bright citrus notes. Just opening the bag and taking a whiff can make me happy. Taste: as billed, this is very similar to rooibos but with citrus notes and a slightly sweeter taste. Taken straight, I prefer honeybush to to rooibos (the more neutral flavor of rooibos works better in blends). Still, the taste is not particularly noteworthy. 6/10.
Appearance: small mixed mint leaves, from different types of mint. The leaves can slip through some of the bigger filters, so I prefer this in the Mighty Leaf sachets. Liquor: pleasant green (with sedimentation if not in a sachet). Smell: I may actually prefer the smell of this one dry. Either way this is nice and minty. Taste: because this is a blend of mint varieties, it doesn’t have the same brightness that a single variety, say peppermint, will. But it’s a nice, solid mint that works really well when you want an herbal. It also works well in blends. 7/10.
Appearance: pretty chamomile flowers. Liquor: bright, clear yellow. Very pleasant. Smell: sometimes I’ll open this bag just to smell the chamomile it’s so nice. It’s a classical chamomile, but it just smells and tastes so clean. Taste: As with the smell, I think this is a classic, simple, but completely solid chamomile. 8/10.
I can’t really put my finger on it, but I just don’t like this tea. After trying for a while, I gave up and threw it away.
Appearance: grayish green broken leaves. Liquor: light brown with little sedimentation. Smell: swampy. I didn’t like this smell at all. The scent is off from other green teas. Meaning I can tell that it is related to other green teas, but not how it is. Taste: As with the smell, this was swampy. I found this hard to drink. The only way I was able to drink it was ice brewed with a lot of lemon juice, which feels heretical for a green tea. Anything I throw out gets a 1/10.
Appearance: curled pu-erh leaves, with citrus zest. Liquor: light brown with little sedimentation. Smell: I didn’t detect the chocolate or mocha notes in this one. Taste: As with the smell, I didn’t detect chocolate notes in this. Pu-erh is a softer, rounder flavor profile than blacks, and this was less astringent than the black teas in the blend, but the flavor was generally unremarkable. 4/10.