97 Tasting Notes
This was for a tea review of a sample of Yin Zhen sent to me by Teavivre.
The leaf was very fluffy and downy. This was very promising as their Bai Mu Dan was similarly fluffy and produced an absolutely amazing cup. I was expecting a high sweetness I think of as typical of Silver Needles over the heartier, richer White Peony.
My first hint that this was a different Yin Zhen was the scent of the leaves. It was very woody and a tad musty. Not in a bad way, just more potent than I expected.
I watched the color closely as I brewed it (in a gaiwan) since I figured it would be wise not to trust my “normal” Yin Zhen technique. The first infusion (80C for 2 min) was sweeter than a Bai Mu Dan, but not overly so. There was a noticeable and pleasant lingering effect of that sweetness on the front of my tongue. It was faintly reminiscent of thyme and rosemary, maybe even with a mintiness. The liquor was a pleasant blond-gold color.
The second infusion (at the same time and temperature) had an aroma of straw and that woodiness that I sensed in the dry leaf. There was less sweetness.
The third and fourth infusion continued to be more woody and less sweet leaving me with the distinct impression of a really good Bai Mu Dan. It’s interesting and not bad, just not what I was expecting.
When asking for brewer’s choice tea at Dobra, I’ve received this twice in two days. It must be a sign. I think the message here is that I forget just how delicious and rich this Japanese green can be. So vegetal and creamy if brewed well I can even mistake the first cup for a gentle Gyokuro.
While visiting various tea vendors in Taiwan, I generally agreed with my co-travelers on which of the teas being sold were the most enjoyable. In one tiny shop in Taipei (Yu Ren Tang), however, I chose to differ from my friend and picked a 2010 unroasted Fo Shou instead of the roasted 2011.
Since I returned I’ve been disappointed in my choice. Each time I’ve infused this tea it’s been overly light and with only a ghost of toasty sweetness. I kept wondering how I had made such an error in tasting.
Fortunately, this tasting was different. Either due to the year that’s passed since I purchased the tea or some magic of the (rather large) number of leaves I used, these infusions were golden dark, richly mouth-filling, and quite aromatic in the mouth.
I hope to brew many more fine cups of this oolong as I try to unravel the secrets of its deliciousness.
Still delicious after being in a small plastic bag in my tea cabinet for the past two months.
The dry and damp leaves have a very subtle scent of distant flowers. I kept expecting a bolder aroma, but it’s as though they were content with reserving their floral qualities for the liquor.
Each infusion (I got about 5 before I decided to stop) was roughly the same, but in a fantastic way. I started with 90C water and about 30 seconds, increasing about 15 seconds for each subsequent infusion. The color was dark gold and tan and while the aroma of the cup continued to be light, the taste was full bodied oolong. My taste association with this tea is (at least today) sweet toasted bread and an equally sweet minty quality that confounds my taste logic. It’s not really minty in that sharp way that peppermint has, nor quite the potency of a spearmint (although that’s better). If you’ve ever noticed a minty quality to Tulsi basil, that’s closer to the mark. Anyway, it is very refreshing.
Definitely a a great tea to have on hand.
I infused this in my dark oolong yixing pot.
While Tie Guan Yin is always a pleasure, this infusion was just impressive enough for me to write about it. I won’t add infusion details because the first cup was made for me at the tearoom.
Floral and soothing, the bright green wet leaves seemed to have just been harvested, even though I know this is a fall Oolong from 2011. When I’ve tasted this batch previously I think I may not have used enough leaves to get this fullness of aroma.
The scent actually reminded me of walking around the streets of Maokong in Taiwan, which I guess makes sense since this cultivar is grown there as well. Dobra’s offer, however, is a Fujian tea, which I don’t usually associate with such intense floral aromas.
Much of the soothing character of this infusion was probably a very good roasting. There was still plenty of green and rich, but the hint of smoke and caramel that is indicative of a skilled oolong roaster. I will definitely have to experiment with this tea further.
On a side note, I’ve finally learned the tones of this tea’s name (pinyin: tie3 guan1 yin1) which is very pleasing. There’s so many teas that I still don’t know how to properly pronounce, although I guess knowing the names at all is pretty good for most Westerners.
The dry and (mostly) the wet leaves have a sweet and bread-like aroma, oddly reminiscent of fried vegetable tempura. The tuo cha come apart nicely in the cup. I rinsed the leaves twice before my first infusion, which was 90C for about 15 seconds. The taste and aroma are melon-like and round, light on the palate. Despite the lightness, there’s a twinge of deep sweetness on the tongue that I tend to associate with older shou puer (I’m not really sure of the age of these, although it probably is written somewhere).
The second infusion (90C for 20 seconds) became dark, heavy, and thick, just as I would expect from a shou puer with relatively small leaves. The taste is still a little sweet on the tongue, reminiscent of dried apricots and raisins.
The third infusion (90C for 10 seconds) is still quite dark. The mouth aroma has become more in the range of charcoal and damp moss, which is very pleasant. The sweetness fades here.
I’m certain there are at least 3-6 more infusions in this tuo cha, but I had tasted too many teas that day already and needed a break.
The dry leaves have a very fruity smell and sweet aroma, bringing to mind dried strawberries. The leaves are silvery and very tippy; they are covered in the white down that often characterizes a well-harvested and gently processed green tea. I infused this at about 85C for 1 minute for the first infusion.
The wet leaves retain a little of the fruit flavor which comes across as a gentle smokiness. In the mouth, the aroma continues to remind me of strawberries. The tea is highly sweet and mouth-filling, like a honeydew melon with a bit of the woodiness of a young sapling.
The second infusion was also at about 85C, for 1.5 minutes. The woody flavor increased here, but not in a bad way. It’s almost like a young sheng puer, carefully brewed: the aromas of cut hay and straw.
I generally eschew scented or flavored tea, with some notable exceptions. A high quality jasmine pearl green is one such that has followed me even into my relative tea snobbery. The aroma is delicate and not overpowering, but still heady and immediately soothing to my body. Both the leaves and the liquor are in constant supply of aromatics, making the second and third cups as pleasurable as the first. Left to linger in the mouth, the light taste of a vegetal and round green leaf appears just under the jasmine scent. The texture has just a hint of dryness to it, as if to remind me that what I’m drinking is still camellia sinensis and not some ambrosia of flowers. The leaf quality is quite good; I see whole two and three leaf sets once the pearls unroll. Decently sized and hearty, I believe this is a Fujian leaf, but I wonder about the cultivar. The leaves are all of a color when wet but before steeping there were definite steaks of silver among the green.
Sweet and minty. Light like a Qi Hong black but with so much more character. So aromatic it tastes like it’s been infused with Indian spices and fresh blossoms. The second and third infusion are still just as potent. At four infusions the flavors begin to mellow and I feel more of the dry back-of-the-throat effect.
A great tea for a rainy afternoon. I’ve been to Pinglin, Taiwan, where this tea is grown. Aroma of sweet pear and caramel. A gentle roast if any. Light and subtle mouth-feel but there’s some real texture in there. The first infusion holds a certain sharpness and crisp green-tea taste, but then it mellows. Rich and mouth-filling if allowed to steep a bit longer on later infusions. I think that this is one of those leaves that would really benefit from a dedicated yixing pot.