159 Tasting Notes
Experience buying from Culinary Teas http://steepster.com/places/2981-culinary-teas-online-milford-indiana
Date of Purchase/Age of Leaf/Date of Steeping: I bought this in late 2011; there is no harvest date available; I steeped this in March 2012.
Appearance and Aroma of dry leaf: Smells roasted, vegetal, fresh (better than another Young Hy-son I tried in a local shop); standard appearance for an inexpensive green tea: dark green, curly leaves with a few lighter green and light brown leaves mixed in.
Brewing guidelines: Glass Bodum pot, leaf free to roam; stevia added; 6 tsp dry tea = 6 cups water.
……….1st: 160⁰F (OOPS! I was shooting for 170F); 1’
……….2nd: 170⁰F; 1.5’
……….3rd: 185⁰F; 2’
……….4th: 183⁰F; 2.5’
Color and Aroma of tea liquor: Light, yellow-green color; vegetal aroma.
Flavor of tea liquor: Not much flavor on the first steeping, but that’s probably because the temp was too low. On the second steeping I accidentally used too much water (a series of unfortunate events!), so it was weak tasting, but it still had a reasonable amount of flavor, with some sweetness; the third had mild flavor, and the forth had very little. I’ll have to do this one again with better temperatures and amounts of water!
Appearance and Aroma of wet leaf: Interesting to watch as there was lots of movement while steeping; there were a number of stems, only a few buds, and the color seemed a little faded, but almost all of the leaf was whole; standard aroma.
Value: This green tea is a great value at $7.05 for 4 OZ (That’s well under $2/OZ).
Overall: There are very few inexpensive green teas that I have come across that have what this tea has to offer: smooth, sweet flavor in the cup and leaf that is from a decent pluck (not too astringent tasting or too chopped as many green teas as this price range seem to be). I can bet this would blend well with other green teas. A final note about why I like this tea: I can buy some of it to help us get over the free shipping hurdle when we buy our next round of flavor-added black teas from Culinary Teas!
Preliminary review (updated on 6/9/2012)
There is clearly something different about this HSMF from all the others ones I have tried. Nothing about the appearance or the aroma of the dry leaf stood out. Yet, the appearance and aroma of the wet leaf and the taste of the tea liquor itself all signify that this is a quality tea; there are aromas and tastes that bare resemblance to a few other quality green teas I have tasted. I wonder if this is in part because it is semi-wild grown tea? Possibly the elevation contributes? (I just checked the elevation for the other HSMFs I tried, though, and this one is no higher than the others).
I am impressed with the quality of the pluck of this leaf, and I am really enjoying the aroma and the subtle flavors in my cup. I have found that a few of Life in Teacups’s green Teas seem to be light on flavor. That could be because there is something I am not doing right when steeping them (water not hot enough, not steeped long enough, or using too few leaves), but I am starting to believe it is more that the flavors these teas have to offer are more delicate and subtle than what I’m used to enjoying in green teas.
Next time I brew this one up, I plan to measure more carefully (I think I had too few leaves for four cups of water this time), and first try hotter water (I started at about 175F, I’ll shoot for at least 180F), and then secondly try a longer steep time (Initially I started at one minute, this time I’ll start at two). If making a singular change that doesn’t get me the results I want, I’ll try both hotter and longer (this made a difference in the flavor in Verdant Tea’s Early Summer green). Still, the entire experience with this tea—learning about Life in Teacup, and how they as a small shop buy direct and keep thing as simple as possible, my communicating with Gingko via e-mail, and how active she is on Steepster—makes drinking this tea much more meaningful than buying tea from a larger and more impersonal tea shop.
Experience buying from Teavivre http://steepster.com/places/2857-teavivre-online—
Date of Purchase/Date of Steeping: Received in the fall of 2011 as a free sample (Thank you Angel!), steeped up March 2012.
Appearance and Aroma of dry leaf: Very aromatic, woodsy, earthy, and like other Yunnan read teas I’ve had; mostly small dark leaves, with a few golden colored ones here and there.
Brewing guidelines: Glass Bodum pot, leaf free to roam; stevia added; used my standard Chinese red tea steeping times and temperatures; I did five steepings.
Color and Aroma of tea liquor: light coppery color, smells very aromatic and like any other Yunnan red tea.
Flavor of tea liquor: Very sweet and malty; it had good flavor up through the third steeping, and even some mild flavor on the fifth (at boiling, 10 minutes).
Appearance and Aroma of wet leaf: evenly colored, brown, medium-to-high grade CTC type leaves; << no notes on the aroma >>
Value: This is where this tea stands out: it is a great value $6.90 / 100grams (3.5 OZ) which is less than $2/OZ!
Overall: I am surprised there are so many reviews on the higher quality Yunnans from Teavivre but not on this one. Granted, Yunnans are one of my favorite black/red teas, still, I really liked the flavor of this one; I did not know this was a Yunnan until after tasting it, as ‘Yunnan’ was not in the name, and the leaves were darker that the other Yunnans I have seen (oh, how funny … I just looked at the first part of the name ‘Yun Nan’ humm Now I see it … Yeah, I’m an ‘airheard’!). I highly recommend this tea for those that love Yunnans and are looking for a very affordable everyday tea. I generally don’t include the value of the tea when I rate it (I typically rate it on merit alone), but if I were rate it simply on value, I’d give it a 5/5!
Experience buying from Teavana Online http://steepster.com/places/2822-teavana-online-atlanta-georgia
Date of Purchase/Age of Leaf/Amount of Leaf/Date of Steeping/Frequency Drank: I bought this in December of 2011, the year of harvest is not provided, I bought two ounces of it, and I have had it twice so far.
Appearance and Aroma of dry leaf: Very green-looking, but otherwise looks and smells about like any other Darjeeling.
Brewing guidelines: Glass Bodum pot, leaf free to roam; stevia added; 4 tsp = 4 cups water.
……….1st: 185⁰F, 2’
……….2nd: 190⁰F, 3.5’
……….3rd: 195⁰F; 5’
Color and Aroma of tea liquor: Clear, such that it was caramel colored on top where the leaves were, and a light green on the bottom (on the first steeping, at least); smelled fresh and like another quality Darjeeling I have had; when decanted, there was a very thin froth (?) on top of most of the liquor (clusters of tiny little bubbles).
Flavor of tea liquor: Standard fruity complex tea with the characteristic muscatel notes; my wife detected some bitterness on the finishing taste of the second steeping; it did taste good at room temperature; it had flavor up to the third steeping, but not much; still, that’s about what I expect out of a Darjeeling: at least two good steepings.
Appearance and Aroma of wet leaf: Very green—much like a green tea—with a few brown leaves here and there, and it had an odd smell: malty, and almost musty (one of those smells that makes you want to wrinkle your nose in dislike of the aroma); the number of stems was surprising, as was the number of little bits; the leaves were more chopped than other Darjeelings I have seen.
Value: Great at 75% off, but I would never pay full price for it ($10/OZ). As a comparison point, H&S Sungma Darjeeling 2nd Flush is only $5/OZ: $15/3OZ, with a tin to boot.
Overall: In the four Dareelings I have had so far, this one is clearly fresh and has good flavor. Having had a H&S SF Darjeeling just days ago, it’s easy for me to say that the H&S SF was much better. Comparing the taste of first flush (FF) with a second flush (SF) Darjeeling may be like comparing apples to oranges, but there’s more to my comparison than simply taste. With the H&S SF the aroma of leaf was much more complex, the flavor was brighter and slightly fresher, and the leaf was from a higher quality pluck (the low quality pluck of Teavana’s teas seems to be a trend; at least that’s what I have noticed looking at the leaf of probably over fifty different loose leaf teas—not counting the flavor-added varieties). I’m glad I tried this one, and I may be willing to buy in at 75% off again, but otherwise there are other better Darjeelings out there for their regular price.
Experience buying from Harney & Son’s http://steepster.com/places/2779-harney-and-sons-online-millerton-new-york
Date of Purchase/Age of Leaf/Amount of Leaf/Date of Steeping: Bought a sample (I am guessing it is a little less than half an ounce) in late 2011, lot # 11298, brewed up late March 2012.
Appearance and Aroma of dry leaf: Standard Darjeeling appearance; See Overall for aroma.
Brewing guidelines: Glass Bodum pot, leaf free to roam; stevia added; their website said to brew it at 175F. Really? So I checked the other Darjeelings to see what they said. They were all different, but none were as low as 175. Well, OK, maybe that’s what they meant, but I’m not going that low. I shot for 185F, and hit 190F:
……….1st: 190F, 2’
……….2nd: just under 190⁰F, 3.5’
……….3rd: just over 190⁰F; 5’
Color and Aroma of tea liquor: Pretty standard for a Darjeeling.
Flavor of tea liquor: Fruity and complex, with that characteristic Muscatel flavor; still had some flavor on the third (I did a forth and, although it was mild, it still had flavor).
Appearance and Aroma of wet leaf: A little better quality leaf than I have seen in other Darjeelings, with a malty aroma that was almost acidic (That’s what came to me, anyway).
Value: $2 for a sample, and not bad for the tin @$15 for 3 OZ.
I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, knowledgeable of what exactly to expect from a Darjeeling, as I have had only three others, and I don’t drink those very often. Still, in a desire to broaden my knowledge of them I bought this sample with my last H&S order. I’ll get to the aroma of the dry leaf in a moment, but in general this Darjeeling looked like any other I’ve seen, and the tea liquor had a pleasant distinctive taste, good color, and a nice aroma. I can’t remember if my wife has had any of the other Darjeelings I own, but she liked this one, so now I am hopeful I will have someone to drink the others with (other than on special occasions when I have brought them to a guest’s house to brew up).
What really stood out about this Tea was the aroma of the dry leaf. Never, since I have started really sticking my nose in the dry leaf (and I mean, really stick it in there, as in, when I breath in and out I imagine I am practically doing a mini-steeping with all of that moist, hot air that I seem to have lots of), have I got three very distinctive aromas. I usually take a few sniffs to make certain I am giving myself (and the Tea) enough of a chance to take it all in; in this case, on the third ‘sniff’, I got a completely different smell. So, of course, I had to have another go. And then I got another completely different smell (different than either the first or second aroma). THAT BLEW ME AWAY! Three different aromas?! Seriously!? This is the sad part: I can’t even begin to describe what they were (At the time I was thinking of how many of you are so good at describing aromas and flavors, and here I am with THREE distinctive ones in ONE tea and I can’t begin to describe them? Cooooooooome ooooon! It’s embarrassing). Well, the closest description of one of the aromas I could come up with (after racking my brain) was that it was almost like a very fresh green tea (but to me that doesn’t make sense to get that from a Darjeeling), and another one may have been oak-y?
Honestly, I simply wanted to drink the tea, I didn’t want to stand in my kitchen with my nose buried in this black and gold H&S sample zip-lock bag filled with loose tea, muttering between sniffs in my perplexity, for 10 or 20 or whatever minutes trying to figure out the aromas. I just want to DRINK SOME TEA! So, I brewed it up, and have been enjoying it ever since (still with the nagging realization that I could not put words to those aromas; maybe it will haunt me forever, eh?).
So all that to say, although the taste doesn’t particularly stand out in my mind, I will NEVER forget the dry leaf of this second flush Darjeeling. All hail the dry leaf!
Experience buying from Art of Tea http://steepster.com/places/3023-art-of-tea-online-santa-cruz-california
Date of Purchase/Amount of Leaf/Date of Steeping: Bought in late 2011, sample of roughly a little over an ounce, steeped up March 2012.
Appearance and Aroma of dry leaf: Standard characteristic silver-needle-looking downy-haired, light green buds; smells almost moldy, but really more like hay (I do not think they are moldy, btw).
Brewing guidelines: Glass Bodum pot, leaf free to roam; stevia added; 3 tsp tea = three 8-OZ cups water:
……….1st: Boiling, 2’; good color, aroma, flavor; it had a very slight bite—or edge to it—which seemed astringent, but I wasn’t for certain; I wasn’t expecting that, but I was OK with it.
……….2nd: 170F, 3’; tasted sweeter and didn’t have that bite I experienced in the First.
……….3rd: 175F, 4’; decent amount of flavor which was similar to the second; good up-front flavor that faded away quickly.
Color and Aroma of tea liquor: a clear light yellow; very mild aroma.
Flavor of tea liquor: I really struggled with how to describe the flavor. It wasn’t vegetal, or floral, or fruity; I was thinking of something like, straw, or barley, maybe even grain-y or malt-y. But none of those descriptors seemed to fit. And then I read Jillian’s review of Adagio’s Silver Needle, “… delicate sweet hay …”. That seemed to be the closest.
Appearance and Aroma of wet leaf: Lots of good-looking green, plump buds; I think they smelled slightly malt-y.
Value: I got this as one of four teas in their white tea sampler, which is still on sale for $19 (I haven’t used the bamboo strainer that came with the sampler, but it’s very cool looking and is proudly displayed in my cupboard); their version of silver needles, on it’s own, is currently $31 / 4 OZ, which is a very reasonable price as these silver needles are organic and Fair Trade Certified.
Overall: After reading on Gignko’s Life in Teacup website that you can steep silver needles at boiling I thought I would give it a whorl. Overall, starting at boiling seemed to yield success, and I don’t think it ‘scorched’ the leaves (quite honestly, I don’t know exactly what ‘scorched’ means, anyway). I stepped the temperature down for the Second and Third per a suggestion I thought I read somewhere (now I am thinking I am mistaken, though). After the Third it was too ‘late’ to do any more steepings. I enjoyed watching most of the buds stand straight up-and-down during the second and third steepings. Silver Needles is not a Tea I would chose to drink very often, but—as I have read in many books on Tea—it certainly is one to be experienced at least once.
Experience buying from Adagio http://steepster.com/places/2897-adagio-teas-online-naperville-illinois
Date of Purchase/Amount of Leaf: Bought a sample (11 grams) in late 2011, brewed up March 2012.
Appearance and Aroma of dry leaf: Similar to a H&S sample I had of Anji Baicha, but overall not as impressive looking: dark, pale-green color, otherwise somewhat standard looking (like pine needles); vegetal and somewhat spicy aroma, and not too fresh.
Brewing guidelines:Glass Bodum pot, leaf free to roam; stevia added; my standard Chinese-green tea steeping times and temperatures.
Aroma of tea liquor: very little.
Flavor of tea liquor: Pretty good for a green tea. To me, this style of tea tends to have somewhat of a white tea flavor profile, in that it is light, sweet, and pleasant (with a mild spicy note).
Appearance of leaf during and after steeping: The leaf basically stayed on top during the first steeping, then some of the leaves floated from bottom to top in the later steepings; it was fun to watch the animated-like forest scene. The wet leaf was somewhat pale looking, with a number of tiny pieces here and there, but it was mostly composed of whole leaves and bud sets; it may be a little old, but it’s clearly a quality pluck.
Aroma of wet leaf: good aroma.
Value: From what I have seen, Anji Baicha typically goes for anywhere from about $8/OZ – $20/OZ, and is one of the most expensive ‘recognizably named’ teas I have seen on the market (other than very high end Long Jing). This tea is $6 for 1 OZ, or $24 for 6 OZ ($4/OZ). Not bad for what this tea delivers: you get what you pay for.
Overall: I assume this is their version of Anji Baicha, a version of which was one of the best teas I have ever experienced (H&S version). The first three steepings of this one had reasonable flavor, but there wasn’t much flavor on the forth; as I expect at least four flavorful steepings out of a tea at this price range I was somewhat disappointed in that. Although Adagio’s version doesn’t measure up in appearance, aroma, or taste to the H&S version, at least it is affordable. Still, having had the real stuff, I think I’d rather wait until I can get my hands on something that has real merit.
Experience buying from Den’s Tea http://steepster.com/places/2923-dens-tea-online-torrance-california
Date of Purchase/Age of Leaf: I got this as a sample with my last order (made in January); I believe it is from the 2011 spring harvest.
Size, Appearance and Aroma of dry leaf: This 10 gram sample looked like Gyokuro, but with a little finer cut pieces; it smelled strongly vegetal, fresh, good!
Brewing guidelines: 10 grams of dry tea, 5 cups of water; Glass Bodum pot with metal infuser/plunger; stevia added; I more-or-less stuck to Den’s recommendations.
……….1st: 170⁰F; 40"
……….2nd: 180⁰F; 30"
……….3rd: 190⁰F; 20"
Color and Aroma of tea liquor: Bright green and thick (as mentioned in their description); strong grassy aroma, which I found to be very pleasant.
Flavor of tea liquor: The first was not much different to any quality sencha I have had (I’ve only had a few). The second and third were different than the first though, and pleasantly so. ( more details in overall )
Appearance and Aroma of wet leaf: There was not much of a smell to it, and it was the finest leaf I have EVER seen; it clogged up my stainless-steel Bodum filter more than any other tea; sitting in my filter was a large glob of green stuff, like cut, lumped grass; there were a few larger light-green pieces poking through here and there.
Value: Great as a free sample, but pricy otherwise. ($10.50 / 2 OZ)
During my Yoga this morning I was moved to seek out a Japanese Tea for our morning green (we usually drink Chinese). I wanted something that I hadn’t had before, so what better time to try a sample! I didn’t know what to expect from a tea that is steamed 2 to 3 times as long as a regular sencha. The website said the extra steaming would cause the tea to yield flavor faster during brewing, so I made sure to keep the steep times relatively short per their recommendations (short for green tea, anyway).
This seemed to be the right thing to do, as I was reasonably happy with the flavor, and I really liked the aroma. The first steeping was pretty standard tasting: grassy, a little sweet. The second and third steepings though tasted unlike any other tea I have had. It’s hard to explain, but the words that came to me first while drinking it were: mild and clean; then, refreshing. That was not what I was expecting. The third was certainly had lighter flavor than the second, but it also had what seemed to be a very mild spicy note (I am learning to put down whatever I find/experience in/with the tea, even if it doesn’t make sense to me at the time). So, although I didn’t get what I was expecting, which was more flavor, I did get something that is possibly better. Still, it seems odd to me but I think it’s better because I have never experienced that clean, crisp feeling in my mouth when drinking tea before. It seems like a great way to clean your palette, for example, in-between eating different tasty tidbits. And, that taste, or feeling, was almost, uplifting. Is this Umami?
Well (I’ve checked my empty cup at least twice now while writing this, hoping for more), it’s all gone now. I wish there was more so I could contemplate all of the gifts hiding in this new, taste, flavor, or whatever it’s called. Oh well. Boo hoo for empty cups of tea, and hurray for new experiences!
Experience buying from The Puritea: Overall, positive (I hope to write a review of them, later).
Date of Purchase: Bought in the end of November, 2011; brewed up about three months later.
Packaging: Sample came in a simple silver bag, sealed, with a simple label.
Appearance and Aroma of dry leaf: Beautiful tightly curled, light-and-dark-brown chick-pea-sized tea ‘balls’; rich quality Yunnan Red tea aroma: sweet and carmel-y.
Brewing guidelines: Glass Bodum pot, leaf free to roam (I normally steep Chinese Red tea in one of our ceramic pots, but I wanted to watch the leaves unfold as they steeped); stevia added; used my standard Chinese Red tea steeping times and temperatures; measured about 3.5 tsp of dry tea; used just under four cups of water.
Color and Aroma of tea liquor: What I judge to be standard Yunnan red tea color and aroma: dark and sweet.
Flavor of tea liquor: Good flavor up through four steepings. I tried a fifth with much less water, and was able to coax a little flavor from it.
Appearance and Aroma of wet leaf: Beautiful full leaves and buds (almost no pieces); roasted and malty aroma.
Value: Very expensive for a sample ($3 for a quarter-ounce), still pricy at the four oz. price ($19), but not too bad at the eight oz. price ($32). I think there are a few places you could get a good Chinese red like this for less (possibly Jing Tea Shop, or Tea Trekker).
Overall: I was in the mood for a Chinese red to have during dinner, so I spontaneously brewed up this sample. My wife and I both enjoyed it’s rich, sweet, carmel-y flavor. I enjoyed watching the little ‘balls’ unfold over each steeping. I was disappointed that there seemed to be only a quarter ounce in this sample, but overall this was a tea worth drinking. Still, I would look elsewhere before buying this tea again.
Backlogging, and based on my memory
Experience buying from Ovation Teas: Overall, positive. < more details later >
Date of Purchase: Summer 2011, in response to a promotion on Steepster.
Appearance and Aroma of dry leaf: a little odd smelling, but sweet and fruity; I don’t think the flavors I chose quite go together (see Overall for the ingredients). It has these largish, dark, odd shaped nodules that I believe are the nomi fruit, bits of what I believe are dried pear, and stevia leaves (which must be hiding in there somewhere) mixed in with the green tea leaves; I like that it’s mostly comprised of green tea leaves.
Brewing guidelines: Glass Bodum pot with metal infuser/plunger; sometimes I forget there are stevia leaves in the tea and still add my stevia extract (doooooh-a! how exactly do you spell the sound Bart Simpson’s dad makes when he goofs up, anyway?), my standard Chinese-green tea steeping times and temperatures.
Flavor of tea liquor: Unusual, but good! It’s sweet and strangely fruity. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this particular mixture to anyone else, but I am glad I tried it (I am certainly no expert when it comes to blending tea).
Blends well with: I have used this successfully to help flavor a number of my unflavored greens.
Value: Through a promotion Ovation Teas was running, I got four ounces of this for only the cost of shipping. Thank you Ovation teas! It was worth it!! Otherwise, I think a custom blended tea is about $13 for 4 ounces (depending on the base tea you choose).
Overall: My custom green tea blend included nomi fruit, diced pears, and stevia leaves with strawberry flavoring (in an attempt to keep it simple I choose only four ingredients, but Ovation allows you to choose up to six). I normally use my flavored greens to enhance the flavor of the later steepings of my unflavored greens, but I like this tea enough that I sometimes brew this one up in the evenings by itself. It certainly is fun getting to choose what you put to help flavor the base tea. I don’t know if I would pay full price for a different blended tea of my choice, but I will keep it in mind (I don’t have much confidence in my ability to pick the best combination). It certainly is a great idea of those of us who want something different and don’t have access to all of those wonderful and different flavoring ingredients!