155 Tasting Notes
Preliminary (and perhaps only) review
I got this as a courtesy sample from Life in Teacup with one of my orders from them this spring (thank you Gingko!). I have lots going on tonight, and I wasn’t thinking at all of doing a review, but this tea was so good I told myself to set aside the perfectionist, and simply take about 10 minutes to write and post a short-if even terse-review (OK, I think it ended up taking about 25 minutes, but that’s not bad for me!).
I feel I am coming to know what to look for in a quality spring Chinese green tea having tried many dozens of them (not to include all of the flavor-added varieties) from almost as many different tea retailers. I am very particular about what I want to experience in the best Chinese spring green teas in that I expect them to be appealing in every way, most notably in appearance, aroma, and taste (a clear-colored tea liquor is good, as well). For example, I want the dry leaves to look and smell fresh, and I want them to look the way that that particular type is tea is supposed to look (if I happen to know what that is). I want it to be comprised mainly—if not entirely—of whole leaves and buds. I would like it to look beautiful while steeping in my glass teapot. I want the tea liquor to have a fresh and preferably mild, aroma. And finally I want it to taste fresh, without any odd or off flavors (preferably when at room temperature as well as when hot).
So, all that to say, this tea meets just about every one of the above criteria (the leaf just hung out on the bottom of my glass 14 OZ mini-teapot for the first two steepings, and I prefer that it hangs from the top so I can ‘see’ or appreciate the leaves in their fullness). The dry tea is comprised of tiny curls with a nice variance in light and dark green colored leaves, all of which are beautiful and remind me of Bi Lo Chun (a quality spring Chinese green). It smells fresh. The wet leaf looks whole, with a mixture of and light dark green colored leaves, and smells fresh. How re-fresh-ing! And, on taste, although I still struggle with the best way to describe the exact flavors, it seems to be vegetal, nutty, fresh. Nonetheless, it clearly has a flavor that I have come to expect in only the finest grades of Chinese spring green tea.
I also wanted to post this because after trying a number of green tea samples from Life in Teacup (some from her blog sale), it has become apparent to me that she truly knows quality Chinese tea, and it seems that she knows where to get it. I am grateful for what Gingko has to offer to us ‘tea enthusiasts’, and I am grateful for Steepster, as that is how I discovered Life in Teacup, Gingko, and her wonderful teas!
It has been many months since my last review, and I hope to start writing (and posting) reviews for teas again, although probably not as often as I had previously.
The leaf is stated as being harvested on March 25, 2012. I received 15 grams of this tea as one of many tea samples provided by Teavivre during the summer (thank you Angel and Teavivre!) and as the wife is out for the evening, I decided to brewed it up for the first time (she likes jasmine even less than I do, and she’s very particular about not wanting to drink a ‘type’ or ‘flavor’ of tea she previously disliked).
This tea looks like any standard silver needle tea I have seen (having had a few), and on the first inhale it smells strongly of jasmine, but not in a overpowering way. After taking a little more time to really take in all that the dry leaf aroma has to offer I could smell what I believe was the fresh white tea underneath the Jasmine scent.
I brewed about 2 full teaspoons of this tea using my standard parameters for my white teas by starting at 170F (I was actually shooting for ~165F) for 2 minutes in my new 14 OZ Glass Victorian Trading Company teapot (I absolutely love this little teapot), adding a bit of Stevia. I did three steeping sessions.
The tea liquor was a light straw color—possibly a little more yellow than what I am used to seeing in the liquor of a silver needle style white tea, with a mild jasmine scent.
It tasted light and refreshing, as any quality, fresh white tea seems to me to taste, such that the jasmine was not overpowering (as it seems to be in just about any other jasmine scented tea I have had).
The tea buds stood straight up and down—as silver needles are suppose to—while brewing; the buds smell about the same wet as dry, with a jasmine scent; interestingly enough, the buds are greener-looking than any other white tea I have seen. There are a few brownish looking buds and bud-ends, and a few stems, but otherwise the wet tea was comprised of nice-looking greenish-colored buds.
For the record, I want to emphasize that I am not a fan of jasmine flavored teas. I’ve only had a few (one or two green and one black) and I didn’t even remotely like them. So, I was leery about even agreeing to try this one (it is my first jasmine silver needle white tea). Still, after doing three steepings with it, although it’s not a tea I would choose to buy and drink, I will admit it has its appeal: it’s light and fresh, reminding me of the simple pleasure of spending a quiet sunny Sunday afternoon in a spacious garden or some high-ceiling-ed glass-walled atrium where floral scents abound. It held up well through three steepings (when I brew up the remainder of the sample at a later date I hope to push for 4, possibly 5). I am starting to think this may actually be the tea to change the way I view jasmine scented tea. Teavivre claims this tea is “the absolute highest quality scented white tea available,” and having tried many teas from them to date, and from what I have experienced here, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is indeed true.
As it’s my first type of this tea (and a preliminary review), I am leaving off the numerical rating.
Experience buying from Teavivre http://steepster.com/places/2857-teavivre-online—
Note: this review is based on the 2012 harvest.
I received 15 grams of this tea as one of many tea samples provided by Teavivre. Thank you Angel and Teavivre!
This Long Jing Green Tea is advertized as being harvested on March 3, 2012. I brewed this up roughly a week after I received this tea.
Everything about this Dragon Well speaks of its quality: the characteristic appearance and fresh aroma of the both the dry and wet leaf, the movement of the leaves while steeping (more below), and it’s seemingly well-known sweet nutty flavor. As it seems most Long Jings do, this one yielded a mildly green colored liquor.
I started with my standard green tea times and temperatures when steeping (starting at 180F and one minute), and increased the time and temperature up through five steepings. While steeping, the leaves were all on top for 1st and 2nd, half and half on 3rd, such that they were up and active all the way to the 5th; I found the steeping of the leaves enjoyable to watch (with some teas the leaves simply sit on the bottom during the later steepings with little to no activity). I don’t know what all that activity means, but my guess is that movement is an indicator that there is life in the leaves.
I found that the wet leaf had the tell-tale signs of being a quality Long Jing: whole leaves interspersed with plenty of buds and bud sets, all of a uniform army green color. Although it is not the quality of Life in Teacups’s Da Fo Long Jing (the highest quality Long Jing I’ve yet had), this is clearly from a quality pluck.
The flavor was strong, and my wife and I both liked it. Still, as much as I like the taste of a quality Long Jing—and after having a number of them—I am finding that they all have a flavor profile that is not at the top of my list of favorite green teas. It had good flavor up to three steepings and on the forth it had a slight change in flavor that seems to be characteristic of Long Jings, something I don’t quite care for; I don’t know how to describe it, but it may be that it’s too nutty for me. Still, the fifth had an impressive amount of good flavor. With one exception, this is probably the best tasting true Long Jing green tea I have ever had. The price ($20 / 100g) is probably not too bad for an organic Long Jing of this quality, but it’s still too expensive for my tastes; personally, I would rather purchase a less expensive Long Jing. Price aside, this is a Long Jing I would be willing to drink on a regular basis.
Experience buying from Life in Teacup http://steepster.com/places/2861-life-in-a-teacup-online-easthampton-massachusetts
I bought an ounce of this from Life in Teacup in the spring of 2012 and brewed it up days later on 6/22/2012.
Nothing stands out about the appearance of the leaf: to me the dry leaf looks like Chun Mee, and while brewing it (no in-depth analysis yet) I can see that the wet leaf has a number of torn pieces in it; still it’s relatively uniform-looking with an army green color and a number of whole leaves (looking at it while sitting in my strainer/sieve after I did the third). The aroma while steeping on the third was kind of sour (I did the third steeping pretty short after ‘sniffing’ a sour aroma), and not really very pleasant (at least to me it’s wasn’t).
Still, after having three steepings of this tea this morning, my wife and I both like the flavor of it: no smokiness, no astringency or bittterness, with a mild but good, vegetal flavor (and solid flavor even on the third). Tentatively speaking (based on this initial steeping session), this one is a possible re-buy the next time I buy tea from Life in Teacup (at $4 / OZ).
I hope to update this (and assign a numerical rating) the next time I do another steepings session on it.
Experience buying from Teavivre http://steepster.com/places/2857-teavivre-online—
UPDATE on 12-1-12: I just finished the last 2-3 grams of this tea in my 14 OZ mini glass teapot, brewed following my standard green tea steeping times and temperatures. I don’t have much to report over what I wrote previously. Still, I am posting this because multiple steeping sessions creates more data from which to make a judgement about how I feel about a tea. Briefly, this tea tastes a lot like many Huang Shan Mao Feng type green teas I have had in that this tea has a slightly smoky flavor; it is decent tasting and as I haven’t had a smoky green tea in awhile the flavor was a nice change from the standard green tea flavor profile I usually enjoy. If you like Huang Shan Mao Feng you may like this tea, but as I am personally not a huge fan of smoky green teas this tea is not something I feel I need to have on hand.
Note: this review is based on the 2012 harvest.
After Angel sent me a PM requesting I review a group of selected tea samples she was willing to send me, I requested this particular spring green tea to try out as well (along with one other), and she willingly sent it along with the rest. Thank you Angel and Teavivre!
This Xin Yang Mao Jian green tea is advertized as being harvested on April 19, 2012. I brewed this up days after I received this tea.
I was happy all around with the Organic Tian Mu Mao Feng (OTMMF) green tea I tried of theirs just days ago, so I was looking forward to trying this one as well. This one smelled as fresh as the OTMMF, but with a hint of roasted smokiness to it. The tea was a little more standard looking: small, wire-y, dark-green looking leaves. as with the OTMMF I held a little back to give me the option of brewing it up in my gaiwan at a later time.
The temperature on the first steeping—185F—ended up being a little hotter than I was aiming for—180F (although I am now much more proficient with using my thermometer, using it to determine the actual temperature in the teapot while pouring is very tedious and often troublesome). I noticed that the leaves seemed to love sitting on the bottom of my glass Bodum for every steeping. The color of the liquor was a cloudy greenish, and there was something in the aroma that I have not found in four different green teas I had brewed up on previous days; it was interesting, and may have been sweet and/or nutty (possibly like a Dragon Well). I brewed it on the first steeping for 1.5 minutes.
The wet leaf smelled OK, but not as fresh as the other fresh green teas I have been brewing up. I also noticed after the first steeping that it looked worn—some of the leaves looked torn and as-a-whole they had an uneven look about them. It’s funny that it just dawned on me that I composted the leaves after the forth steeping, so no ‘wet leaf analysis’; ooops! I may do one when I brew up the remaining amount of the dry leaf. The coloring, however, was clearly fresh: it was a vibrant green color (I feel I have looked at enough green teas to be able to spot the difference between a fresh one and an old one).
It had a good, strong vegetal flavor (possibly stronger than the OTMMF), with a somewhat smoke-y note (my wife didn’t get a chance to smell the dry leaf on this one, yet she noticed the smokiness when drinking it before I said anything). When it cooled to room temperature the smokiness was even more prominent (it reminded me somewhat of a good tasting Huang Shan Mao Feng). The smokiness wasn’t too strong though; as a rule, my wife DOES NOT LIKE SMOKY FLAVORS IN TEA, but for some reason, she still liked the taste of this one (I was watching her while she took her first sip, wondering if she was going to make a face that meant she didn’t like it, but thankfully ‘that look’ never made an appearance).
I did a total of four steepings, and there was considerable difference in the flavor on even the second steeping. I brewed the second at 185F for two minutes, and the flavor was weaker and not as fresh as the first; it was definitely lacking something that all of the other fresh teas had been gifting me with all week, and there was nothing ‘quality’ about it. This lack of freshness in the later steepings was disappointing to me, as I felt this was a possible ‘buy’ until then. The third and forth weren’t any better (with hotter temperatures and longer steeping times): it was as if the flavor was flat. I do consider the possibility that 185F was too hot for the first steeping, and so it scorched the leaves; but if it’s truly that delicate, or finicky, or whatever I want to call it, I don’t want to mess with it (I always figure there may be a five degree variance between the temperature I am shooting for and what it actually is in the pot).
It’s a decent tasting, fresh green tea, but its actually more expensive ($11.50 / 100g) that the OTMMF ($10.90 / 100g), so I think I’ll be putting my money on the OTMMF.
Backlogging and based on a few notes and on memory
Experience buying from Den’s Tea http://steepster.com/places/2923-dens-tea-online-torrance-california
I bought two ounces of this at the end-of-2011/beginning-of-2012 and brewed it up at least once not long after I bought it.
I have very scant notes, but here they are: “Love the leaves/stems (I think because of how green they looked). 1st: 180F Bright lime-green, frothy! Smells vegetal, roasted,& coconut? Taste: OK. Decent. vegetal, somewhat mild.” I remember not being very impressed with the flavor, but I bought this because it is supposed to have lots of theanine, so I think of it as a tea to brew up if I feel I need an extra dose of tea to help with mindful relaxation.
My first Green Kukicha, so no rating.
Backlogging and based on memory
Experience buying from London Tea Room Positive.
My wife loves mango flavored tea (she drinks Trader Joe’s Mango black tea iced EVERY SINGE DAY), so we bought two ounces some of this last summer (at the time I was trying to break her of her ‘tea bag’ habit). We brewed it up both on it’s own and as a blend with another tea (I think a green tea) and both were tasty. I LOVE smelling this one. We tried it iced, and it was good, but not as good as Trader Joe’s black tea version, so it never did replace the Trader Joe’s Black Mango as her everyday tea. Still, this is a tea I would consider buying again (and I’m not a big ‘fruit tea’ guy).
Backlogging and based on memory
Experience buying from Harney & Sons http://steepster.com/places/2779-harney-and-sons-on-line-millerton-new-york
I bought this in the hopes of using it to flavor the later steepings on our mid-to-lower quality green teas. It didn’t seem to blend well with one green tea I tried it with, and it’s not that great on its own, either. It looks colorful, but it smells artificial, not really like mango at all, and it has an ‘off’ taste to it. It’s surprising, as I have found all of H&S’s ‘real’ Teas to be of a good quality. I might try one of Teavivre’s fruit blends instead, as theirs are very inexpensive (~$5.50 / 100g). I have found London Tea Room’s Mango ’n Friends to be MUCH better.
I think this was my first fruit tea, so I’ll leave off the rating.
Experience buying from Teavana Online http://steepster.com/places/2822-teavana-online-atlanta-georgia
I bought 2 OZ of this in their year-end Heavenly Tea Sale at 75% off.
It looks almost as good as the picture: lots of colorful goodies mixed in with huge reddish-purplish yum-berries and a few rolled oolong tea leaves. It smells about like any Tie Guan Yin accompanied by weaker notes of berries. I brewed this up as I do any oolong.
Tea liquor smelled about like any TGY: floral, and with the barest hint of berries, and it had a very light strawberry color.
It tasted basically like a TGY in the first steep (there may have been some berry notes in there; admittedly I didn’t ‘look’ too hard). The second steeping had the strongest (and best) flavor, like a decent TGY (no fruit or berry flavor at all), with mild flavor on the fifth. “No flavor any different than a (standard) TGY.” It is a beautiful looking tea, but in every other respect it’s like a decent Tie Guan Yin. In my judgement, it’s not anywhere near worth it all full price ($12 / 2 OZ), or even at 50% off, but I’m glad I got to try it for a few bucks.
Backlogging and based mostly on memory
Experience buying from Village Tea Company Positive.
I ordered from Village Tea Company in the fall of 2011 (they had a special going on that they advertized on Steepster, something like $10 off $20), and along with the awesome tasting vanilla rooibos, we got these. We brewed these pouches up a number of times that fall/winter.
I think we were able to get three decent steepings out of each pouch. The pouches are nice-looking, seem to have plenty of room for the leaf to breath, and seem well-designed.
It looks like there are nice-sized tea leaves in the pouches, and it all smells great.
I really like their cardboard containers: they are stylish and the lid fits very tightly.
It’s a quality chai, and so we have enjoyed these each time we brewed them up (with soy milk). I like the convenience of the pouches as my wife can brew these up on her own.
I think this was my/our first whole-leaf chai—not counting standard type tea bags (it’s hard to remember now) so I’m leaving off the rating.