12 Tasting Notes

90

Managed to get a free sample of this tea at the food expo in Hong Kong, and I honestly wasn’t expecting too much since I’m generally not a fan of earl greys or of Japanese green tea. Yet somehow whenever I have low expectations they always seem to get blown out of the water.

The tea bag came in a sealed foil pack, with instructions to steep in about 500ml of cold water for about 2 hours before serving. 2 hours struck me as a little short since I generally cold brew for 6 hours or more but I figured I’d follow the instructions and I was glad that I did.

The tea came out looking like it does on the website, a clear lime green liquid that looks utterly refreshing especially with the condensation forming on a glass. Upon first sip you get the familiar taste of Japanese green tea, but with noticeably less bitterness because of the cold steep. The interesting thing is that the bergamot flavor came to the fore just as some slight bitterness started to emerge from the green tea.

I’m not sure if I got this right in terms of brewing or tasting, but to me it seemed like the citrus bergamot flavor blunted the bitterness and allowed more of the sweetness of the green tea to come out. Overall the combination made for a very refreshing drink that I gulped down pretty quickly.

In general I don’t seem to like earl grey teas because I often find the bergamot overpowers the taste of the tea. But this tea avoided that completely and had a great balance between citrus bergamot and sweet yet slightly bitter japanese green tea flavor.

Definitely a pleasant surprise which on the one hand motivates me to look for other well balanced earl greys, and on the other hand slightly bums me out since I can’t seem to find Catherine Tea here in Hong Kong! Looks like I’ll have to wait until a friend heads to Japan before I get another fix of this wonderful twist on earl grey.

Preparation
Iced 8 min or more

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75

A friend from India previously recommended this to me as a good solid everyday tea. So when I stumbled upon an Indian market in town, I couldn’t help picking up a box.

The tea itself is CTC type, lots of little granules that have a very malty aroma when dry. The aroma is a nice prelude to the good strong cup of malty goodness that you get from brewing this tea. I’ve found that the tea is also actually quite forgiving, when it comes to brewing, since it still tasted fine even if I over-steeped it by a little over a minute once or twice..

While the tea is good, there isn’t much subtlety or layering when it comes to the flavor. Just a good brisk maltiness, that can actually get one-dimensional and boring after a while. This brings me to another strong point of the tea. It mixes very well with a variety of different additives.

The tea takes milk very well, which is to be expected from Indian tea. Lemon slices work great too. But I’ve been surprised to find that I can throw in a splash of pretty much any juice and be happy with the taste. Thus far I’ve mixed orange juice, grape juice, apple juice, even tangerine juice. Tried making HK Style milk tea by mixing evaporated milk and condensed milk with it too.

I suppose the strong flavor and full body helps the tea act as a solid base for mixing. Definitely have to try more experiments with this tea. :)

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 30 sec

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80

Left Shanghai for a while (and also left all the tea in my cupboard!) to visit my family back home. I’m the only one who has a tea habit, so I’ve been lacking good quality loose leaf tea here to say the least. Imagine my surprise when I find that my family never even opened this Darjeeling Oolong tea that I got them as a gift from India! Slightly annoying to me, but also fortuitous! At least now I have some wonderfully fragrant tea to help me chill in the evenings :)

The most striking thing about this Darjeeling Oolong is the fragrance. There’s a wonderful herbal/floral aroma that you get a good solid whiff of right after brewing. The spice/herb scent seemed to dissipate as the tea cooled.

In terms of taste, I’m honestly not too sure how this Darjeeling Oolong is different from a standard black Darjeeling. It still has that familiar fruity flavor that a lot of darjeelings have, albeit milder and more subtle.

I’m not sure if I’m imagining it, but the tea also seems to be a bit less brisk and astringent than black Darjeelings. Not too sure though so I’ll probably have to drink some black Darjeeling when I get back to Shanghai to compare…

Overall, the flavor and aroma of this oolong is very different from Chinese or Taiwanese oolongs. A good reliable oolong, that I would recommend to anyone who wants to try something new :)

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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98

After being previously introduced to Da Hong Pao thanks to JK Tea Shop’s sample, I made it a point to get a new Yixing pot (as per JK’s suggestion) before trying the next sample since I’m assuming it’s a higher grade of Da Hong Pao, as its listed price is almost double the one I tried previously. Suffice to say, this tea was absolutely worth the wait!

After seasoning my Yixing pot last night, I was ready to give this tea a shot. The dry leaves have a strong sweet smell, that comes out even more after washing the leaves.

I steeped the first cup for 15 seconds, and the tea came out looking clear, golden-brown. The scent was smoky-sweet, and the first taste note I got from the tea was a light sweetness followed by smoky toasted notes in the middle. But the kicker for me is the wonderful, lingering sweet after taste that I can only describe as “honey-dipped pear”! :D

I steeped the second cup for about 25 seconds, and there was more of a smoky/toasted flavor to it, so I could taste less of the sweetness from the tea itself. Although after I left the tea to cool for a bit, I could taste more fruity sweetness from the tea, and even more of that lingering after taste with each sip.

Interestingly, the leaves seemed to have a slightly grassy scent after the second steep. I gave it about 35 seconds for the third steep, but strangely the smoky/toasted flavor and aroma was all but gone for this cup, making the sweet flavor more noticeable but still lighter than previous steeps. Each sip still brought back that caramel, honey-dipped after taste.

For my fourth and fifth steep, I gave it about 50 seconds and 1 minute respectively. The flavor and aroma from the tea was lighter with each successive cup, but it still had that great after taste!

I think one of the reasons I enjoyed this tea as much as I did was because I had each of the steeps successively with only a few minutes in between each cup, while not eating or drinking anything else in between. I think this helped maintain that after taste, which pretty much lingered in my mouth the whole time.

All in all, I have to say this is bar none, my favorite Wulong tea so far, and I am now fully converted to Da Hong Pao wulongs :D

P.S. – Given how sweet this tea is, I think it’s not exactly suitable for dessert. My guess is this food would go better with spicier dishes. I strangely want to try pairing this tea with some Xinjiang food (northwest China; Muslim region). Particularly lamb skewers spiced with cumin and chili! (Yang Rou Chuan – 羊肉串) :P~

P.P.S – Thanks JK for the tip on using a Yixing pot! ;)

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C

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81

I think I might have been going about this tea all wrong. Having it with milk improves it significantly! It’s quite a revelation for me since I tend to favor not adding anything to tea that I prepare myself. Adding about 1 part milk to 4-5 parts tea to this Assam has totally changed the way I see it. (hence the increase in the score)

Before and after adding the milk I tried “pulling” the tea like they do in HK and Singapore Unfortunately since I’m nowhere near as good at “pulling tea” as the pros are, I spilled quite a bit on the table top. Oops. But in any case it was worth the effort since the tea came out smooth, creamy, and tasting like malted milk :)

I liked this so much that I’m actually now running out of Assam! I have about 1 or 2 servings left…. So for my next project, I’m going to try using condensed milk instead of fresh milk! Let’s see how that goes….

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 30 sec

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79

This is the last of my India trip tea stash, so I was looking forward to trying this one. The tea was in fact darker than the usual Darjeeling. Instead of a gold-brown liquid, it was a clear red-brown liquid with a fragrance that was only slightly floral but refreshing. On my first sip I really noticed the grape-y taste. I suppose that must be the “muscatel flavor” that I keep on reading about. As I was finishing the cup, I could feel a bit more astringency from the tea, and it also a developed a slight bitterness towards the end of the cup.

Overall, while I found it very refreshing, the tea didn’t really have anything that made it really stand out for me. Given how refreshing it is though, I do think that it would be a great summer tea for the afternoon or evening, and for some reason, I seem to think it would go well with carrot cake…

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 30 sec

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88

My previous experience with loose leaf Wulong teas has been limited to Tie Guan Yin and Taiwan teas, but after reading about Da Hong Pao teas I was very curious to try them. Thus JK Tea shop’s free sample was a very nice treat.

I have to say I am now a big Da Hong Pao fan! I followed JK Tea shops brewing instructions, but unfortunately I had to use a glass pot since my Yixing pot broke :(

The dry leaves have a sweet, slightly smoky fragrance that for some strange reason reminds me of brown sugar. Strange, I know…

I steeped the first batch of tea for 25 seconds. The tea came out looking clear, bright and golden-orange. The scent that I originally got from the dry leaves was even stronger coming from the tea itself. It had a sweet, candy-caramel like taste as it first hit my mouth with a veeeerrry slight bitter note at the end.

For the second batch, I steeped it for around 30 seconds and there was less of a sugary fragrance and a little more smoke. The sweet taste became more pronounced and was a good combination with the hint of smoke.

I could smell more of the floral fragrance with the third steep, (around 40 seconds) and a little less of the sweet fragrance. The taste was a little more floral and less sweet.

The succeeding steeps had progressively lighter tastes and fragrances.

Overall, one of the best Wulong teas I’ve had so far, and a nice way to get introduced to Da Hong Pao tea!

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C
JK Tea Shop

Yixing pot or Gaiwan can have better taste, because of the heat concentration. Probably you can try next time with the Gaiwan or Yixing pot.

ShanghaiedFlip ^_^

Sadly, I used up all of this tea already :( Hopefully I can try the Zhengyan Da Hong Pao tea with a Yixing pot when I get back from Ningbo this weekend.

JK Tea Shop

i c. Normally for me, I brew 7grams per Gaiwan or Yixing pot. Not sure how many grams you brew ?

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73

While probably more well-known for its beer, Suntory actually has a line of tea and coffee drinks that are available all over China and Japan. One of their newer products is something called Hei Wulong (Black Oolong). It comes in 350 ml bottles, and can be bought either cold or hot. Suntory advertises it as more concentrated compared to its standard wulong tea drink and pushes the “health aspect” of the drink, claiming it has at 245 mg of tea polyphenols, and that it helps to “flush out” excess oil from food.

Had some pretty oily fried rice for lunch today, and not being able to brew a proper cup of tea at work, I decided to give this a shot. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the tea.

Drinking a cold bottle of this left me feeling pretty refreshed. It did help deal with the oily fried rice that I had for lunch, and I imagine it would’ve been even more effective if I got a hot bottle of this instead of a cold one.

It has a slightly floral scent to start and ends with a strong finish that’s a bit earthy and just a touch bitter. Mildly astringent, the flavor definitely isn’t as layered as a freshly brewed cup of tea, but it’s still pretty good! It wouldn’t be fair to compare this straight up to a properly brewed cup of tea. But for a good balance between convenience and quality, it’s hard to beat this for a nice afternoon treat.

P.S. – The shop I went to earlier had 2 versions of the tea, one for the Japanese market, and another for the Chinese market (both by Suntory). I ended up going with the Chinese market version which cost a reasonable RMB 5.9 which comes out to about USD $0.90, as compared to the Japanese version which cost RMB 21 – about USD $3. It just felt weird paying more than 3 times the price, when the tea leaves for both versions probably came from China anyway! :P

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81

While I’ve certainly had Assam teas before as part of blends (breakfast blend bags, etc.) I’ve never had it as a “single origin” type, so I was looking forward to trying it.

My first experience with the tea wasn’t entirely pleasant, I steeped it for 5 minutes as per the instructions on the package, and the tea came out looking really dark, and had a very heavy feel and a strong, slightly bitter taste to start, becoming even more bitter as I finished the cup. The tea also had a pretty strong kick of caffeine and kept me up pretty late that night too. I clearly over-steeped. Woops.

My next attempt went a lot better. I cut the steep time to just over 3 minutes and the tea came out much better with a clear reddish brown look. It had a malty aroma and taste, even seemed to have a sweet hint of caramel. There was still a little bitter after taste towards the end of the cup, but nothing unpleasant.

I imagine this would go really well with milk so that’s up next on my tea to-do. _

P.S. – Ironically I had this tea in the evening. Will try it with a good hearty breakfast next time.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 30 sec

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67

Safe default tea, although sometimes the bergamot taste can overpower the tea taste

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 30 sec

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Bio

Have lived in Shanghai for the past 5 years and love a good cup of tea in the evening.

Location

Shanghai, China

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