170 Tasting Notes
I received this tea in the mail recently and opened it just today.
Age of leaf: Early February, 2014.
Ceramic 150 ml gaiwan, sweetener (on second steeping), a small handful of tea buds, 5 OZ water.
……….1st: 175, 2’
……….2nd: 180. 3’
Appearance and Aroma of dry tea leaves: Right away, I could tell this tea was a very different type of tea than I have ever had: largish green and white cluster-like buds. There were a few stems (as in, small pieces of brown twigs). Still, there were NO little bits of broken tea leaves/buds in the bottom for the bag, as is usually the case with most any other tea I have bought. Little twigs aside, Impressive (the presence of little twigs actually doesn’t bother me, I simply mentioned it here because I aim to be thorough as possible in my descriptions).
Color of tea: Very light yellowish-green, and incredibly clear.
Aroma of tea liquor: fresh, mildly pleasant forest aroma.
Flavor of tea liquor: clean, light and incredibly fresh, and as the description says (otherwise I don’t think I would have come to this my own) a hint of fresh pine needles.
Overall: So far, I’ve only done two steepings (I plan to do at least on more). Still, …, I love this tea! I brewed it up in my new gaiwan (I LOVE my new gaiwan). It is a tea with an appearance I’ve never seen before, the tea liquor has a beautiful clarity that practically glows in my clear glass 8 OZ teacup, and has one of the freshest flavors of any tea I’ve had. When I drink fresh spring teas like this one, it’s hard to explain, but it’s like, up, uP, UP all the way into the clear blue sky!
I always enjoy trying something new, and I knew I was taking a risk with this tea. Not all risks pay off, yet I’ve found some of the best things in life come from taking risks.
This is the 4th pu-erh toucha I have tried over the last two days, and the second from a sample pack I bought through Teavivre this past November, 2013.
Age of leaf: July, 2006.
Ceramic 4 cup teapot, no sweetener, 5 gram toucha, ~1 cup of water, 5 second wash.
……….1st: Just under boiling, 2.5’
……….2nd: Boiling. 5’
Appearance and Aroma of dry tea leaves: Right away, I could tell this tea was a very different type pu-erh than the last three I have brewed up. It was loose (as a sample, I am assuming it is broken from a larger toucha), and of a much lighter color than the last three pu-erhs; ‘spicy’ was one of the first words the came to mind. The aroma was also worlds apart: milder, lighter and clearly fresh. My initial impression of this one over the other pu-erhs: I like it better.
Aroma of tea liquor: mild but pleasant aroma.
Flavor of tea liquor: clean, light and spicy.
Overall: Generally speaking I prefer my tea to be light, natural, and fresh (that is why I mostly drink Chinese green tea). This ‘raw’ pu-erh is a refreshing change to the last three ‘cooked’ ones I had. I am now beginning to think that first two touchas I tried yesterday—the SpecialTeas one and the one from Taobao—were ‘cooked’; the color of the last three was very dark brown, almost black, and this one is orange and much lighter in color. I liked the flavor; the second steeping was a little bitter, but still enjoyable. Overall, I like this tea.
Fortuitously, I kept a little of the second steeping of the last cooked pu-erh and heated it up so as to compare it side-by-side with the flavor of the second steeping of this raw pu-erh. Its obvious now how different the two are: the cooked is fishy, heavy; the raw is spicy, light, perhaps woodsy. It’s hard to say which I prefer. I like each one for different reasons.
I’ll leave off the numeric rating until I try it with shorter steeping times and possibly in my new Yixing.
I bought a one OZ sample of this in late November, 2011, having brewed it twice (most recently on 1/20/2014).
Overall: I’m keeping this review very simple. I just brewed it up for my wife (in the midst of doing my pu-erh toucha sessions), using my standard black tea parameters (although I used my 16oz glass Victorian), and I am impressed with its flavor: I don’t drink brandy often, but I do like it, and this definitely tastes like brandy. The peppermint comes though nicely as well. Not artificial taste either. And, the leaf is at least two years old to boot. I am not a huge flavor-added tea guy, but I am impressed with this tea. My wife likes it as well.
This is the 3rd pu-erh toucha I have tried over the last two days.
Age of leaf: May 2007.
Ceramic 4 cup teapot, no sweetener, 5 gram toucha, ~1 cup of water. I did a 5 second wash this time.
……….1st: Just under boiling, 2.5’
……….2nd: Boiling. 5’
Aroma of tea liquor: About the same as yesterdays touchas, but a little more, eh, ripe?
Flavor of tea liquor: definitely stronger than the other 2 touchas: like mulch, perhaps woodsy, and a little bitter.
Appearance of wet leaf: Like the SpecialTeas toucha, tiny little dark bits of tea.
Overall: The first steeping was not exactly to my liking. After reading one review on Teavivre’s website stating you need to keep the steeping times short, I thought maybe the 2.5 min. steeping time was the problem. Still, for comparison purposes, I decided to follow the advice of the ‘scientist’ in me and stick to using consistent parameters for comparison purposes and so did the second steeping time ~5 mins. Generally speaking, not much of a change from the first steeping.
There seemed to be lots of good reviews about the tea, and, although that doesn’t change my own personal experience with it, the reviews do indicate that I may have done something ‘wrong’ in brewing it. It may also be my tastes don’t match the reviewers’ tastes, but I doubt it. I have lots of respect for the quality of tea that Teavivre sells (having had at least 20 teas of theirs). So I will try brewing this one again sometime (I have three more ‘pieces’ of it) with the shorter steeping times: a wash, 20-30 seconds, adding 10 seconds for every steep after that. So, I’m leaving off the numeric rating for now.
I wish I knew if the SpecialTeas toucha was ripe or raw, but my guess is it is raw; if it is, I realize comparing a ripe toucha to a raw toucha is not the best comparison. Still, I like SpecialTeas toucha the best so far of the three.
What really strikes me most about this experience is what a difference adding a little sweetener did to the taste; on the second steeping after trying it without sweetener I added a touch of Stevia extract to it, and it seemed to smooth out the edges very nicely. I was astonished at the difference: it was barely drinkable without sweetener, and yet much more drinkable with it. I still hold to the philosophy, or general guideline, that it is best to try the tea first w/o sweetener; yet, this experience also emphasizes how easily sweetener can transform the taste.
On to the forth toucha.
Age of leaf: I wish I knew; unfortunately, as I bought this over three years ago, and as SpecialTeas is out of business, and I have no record of it’s production date, I can only guess: it must have aged a few years before they put it up for sale, so my guess is this must be 6 or 7 years old, at the very least.
Ceramic 4 cup teapot, no sweetener, 5 gram toucha, 2 cups of water.
……….1st: Just under boiling, 2.5’
……….2nd: Boiling. 5’
Aroma of tea liquor: Smelled just like the dry leaf: strong, and for now (I am wanting for better descriptors here) I will call it ‘fishy’—in a good way, not a bad way (although my wife smelled the dry leaf, and reacted as I thought she would: “Yuck!”).
Flavor of tea liquor: Again, I am wanting for better descriptors here (I hope to increase my arsenal of more precise Pu-erh flavor and aroma descriptors over time), so for now suffice it to say: earthy, fishy.
Appearance of wet leaf: Tiny little dark bits of tea.
Overall: Good. I vaguely remember trying this about two years ago (my first Pu-erh ever), and I think it may actually be smother now (however, I may just be perceiving what I expect). There was no sign of bitterness, and it was heavy on the mouth—enjoyably so.
For comparison purposes I also decided to steep another toucha today (brewed with the same parameters) that I bought through a seller on Taobao (again, little information on its age: the rice paper wrapper had a number appended with “-2008” on it, though) to compare with the SpecialTeas toucha. The Taobao toucha was a tinge bitter, and not as full, or heavy, on the tongue, as the SpecialTeas toucha on both the first and second steepings. This was a meaningful comparison, as it at least begins to give me an idea of what I am looking for in a Pu-erh. In this case, I prefer the SpecialTeas toucha: smooth, with a heavy mouth-feel.
This is my first real foray into Pu-erh tea. I recently bought a Yixing, and I am trying out a few Pu-erh teas I have on hand (I have a number of samples) in my ceramic before I decide which one to use to season my new Yixing with. So far, I am enjoying it. I hope to have the time and energy tomorrow to try at least one more.
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.