114 Tasting Notes

I’m always surprised when I read a person’s comment that teas of this type don’t appeal to him or her; I have to restrain myself from ordering every Yunnan golden fleece/bud/tip from every tea purveyor on the web. The first time I had one, I was hooked like the first time I heard Bob Dylan on my parents’ stereo 40 some odd years ago. I even promote this tea to non-tea drinkers (like my wife) who don’t respond to the Assams and Ceylons that make up most blends. How can you not love the creamy, honey-sweet caramel flavors of these Yunnans?

This one from Upton is a little more lemony and peppery than some, but still retains the characteristics that make you feel like you’re drinking from the very wellspring of tea itself.

Rachel J

We seem to have similar taste in tea. I love Yunnans too and enjoyed this one myself. What are your brewing parameters to get full flavor without astringency? I am drinking Teavivre’s Dian Hong right now, and my water might have been too hot because it’s overly astringent for me though last time it wasn’t. With this Upton, I remember that I found a lower water temp to be helpful too. Let me know how you generally brew them please!

Doug F

Hi Rachel, I’m glad you found me! We do seem to have similar tastes. I haven’t had too many problems with astringency with the Dian Hongs; I brew them for 4 minutes at about 195-200 degrees. Do you use filtered water? I have a nice filtration system because our town water is kind of stinky. Maybe that’s a factor.

Rachel J

Thanks, Doug. I think I’m overly sensitive to astringency and bitterness. Funny because I don’t recall having these issues when I drank a lot of tea from 2006-2009. I use filtered NYC tap water which I’ve compared to spring water, and I think it couldn’t be the water. So, I am finding that I have to do no more than 3 minutes and no hotter than 190F to get the Dian Hongs to work for me. That seems to be the sweet spot.

Rachel J

Also wondering if you could recommend a good relatively inexpensive Dian Hong that is a good representation of classic Yunnan flavor. I really like this Upton and the Teavivre but am wondering what you think since you have probably tried more of them than I. I used to love Adagio’s Yunnan Gold, but now I don’t think it’s as good as these. Thanks in advance! Your tasting notes are very well written, and I’ve been enjoying them. :)

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90

Obviously, we’re dealing with a much different Yunnan black tea than the plethora of “golden” blacks with their rich caramel, and cocoa flavors—so much so that this tea seems more like a blueberry oolong: fruity, unassertive, with a kind of effervescence I find in herbal teas. I like it, but I place it alongside those teas (whites, yabaos) whose subtlety (not unlike a difficult poem) requires dedicated attention to unlock its flavors. If you drink a cup while working or reading you might very well forget you’ve had anything at all.

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I had been searching for a good aged Oolong and I’m glad I found this excellent tea. Like a great roasted fruit compote, this tea has a great depth of peach and plum flavors. The roasting burnishes the sweetness with a nice bit of autmunal smoke, perfect for this crisp fall day. By the way, Stacy is a pleasure to do business with and added some great samples to my order, including a rarefied Keemun that wasn’t even on the web site yet. I’m giving the other teas I ordered from her a few tries before reviewing them, but they are all quality teas.

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Okay, so I hate the appropriation of the word “artisan” by marketers to suggest that a product was made by hand in some remote workshop by a wizened old master who is the final link to some disappearing skill. It’s a sandwich for God’s sake! I am, however, a sucker for the word “ancient” when used to describe pu-erh tea.

It reminds me of Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner: mellowed with age, but with an inner intensity. You see this old man at a wedding; he seems inconsequential. You’re prepared to be dismissive until he starts to tell his tale and you realize what he has to say is wise, mythic, elemental.

Okay, so maybe this raw/green pu-erh is not mythic, but it does have a mellow, sweet, round feel that suggests the ancient leaf. But be prepared, the energy packed in these leaves is like the intensity of the Mariner’s gaze. It had me up half the night singing Springsteen songs in preparation for a concert tomorrow night in Boston.

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Even with a five-minute steep, this tea is so smooth. I’m being parsimonious with my 50 gram stash; this is one of the special ones.

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This has been growing on me, maybe because I have begun to appreciate the subtleties of Oolongs over the past year. In any case, this tea has a more syrupy mouth feel than I remember, but the sweetness is nicely balanced by the roasted flavor—a nice complement to the Thai green curry I had for dinner.

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Revisiting this assured, solid tea. I like the earlier steepings best, when the minty, camphor taste is most pronounced. It’s a perfect complement to the tangy sea-breeze that is blowing in from the harbor on this delightful Maine summer day.

Bonnie

Sounds like a good tea to drink from a Yixing mug on the beach and just listen to waves.

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drank Laoshan White by Verdant Tea
114 tasting notes

Okay, first a Mea Culpa: Other than green pu erhs, I don’t do multiple steepings of teas. Yes, I’m an unrefined westerner, but here’s my reasoning:
1. I don’t have time. I’m lucky to be able to steep a cup of tea and drink it while chasing my two boys, 4 and 2, around the house/yard/street, etc.

2. The interaction between caffeine and flavor in tea is as important to me as the interaction between alcohol and flavor in beer. I don’t see the point of drinking tea once the caffeine is gone, in the same way I don’t see the point of non-alcoholic beer.

3. I don’t necessarily feel that tea “reveals” different flavors over the course of multiple steepings. To me it just seems weaker and less interesting.

4. Tea is an inexpensive luxury. I don’t feel compelled to extract every drop of tea essence from the leaves. My wife spends more on wine in two months than I do in a year on tea. I just spent $250 for a little hose for my motorcycle. And don’t get me started on the price of “artisan” meats and cheeses, local produce, or the price of books.

So maybe some day I’ll change, but for now most of my tasting notes are based on a single steep.

I found it odd that this was classified as a white tea, as it seemed more of a hybrid between a dragon well green and a white. It’s pleasant and light, and I was gratified that I detected the almond/vanilla flavor mentioned in the description. I don’t often notice the sometimes esoteric flavors attributed to teas. Anyway, while this tea is definitely not in my wheelhouse, I’m thankful to the folks at Verdant for letting me try it. It’s a nice summer tea that went well with pushing my four year old down the street on his new pedal bike.

Bonnie

I don’t quite know what to say. For me it would be like being at a concert of my favorite music with the best seats, standing up and walking out after the first song and never knowing any other music by the composer except that one song.

Doug F

Good analogy. Continuing along those lines, for me it would be like watching my favorite musician perform, say Bob Dylan, and then following that were Bob Dylan cover bands; I don’t think I would stick around to see a diminution of the original.

TeaBrat

Aside from pu-erhs I generally resteep oolongs and japanese green tea 2 or 3 times but that’s about it for me. Generally I will try to get more out of an expensive tea. I understand your POV Doug, with two small kids it’s lucky you have time to focus on anything!

Doug F

Yes, I will resteep an Oolong if it’s one I particularly love. And you’re right, I had a green tea from Den’s that deserved a second steep. But green and blacks are pretty much single steepers for me.

Bonnie

If you hadn’t begun with such a narrow statement I wouldn’t have curled up into a whimpering ball. This particular white I save for the occasions when I have time alone and can steep many times because the chemical effect and not just the flavor of the tea lingers unbelievable well.

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drank Laoshan Black by Verdant Tea
114 tasting notes

I feel like I can now consider myself an official steepsterite after having a cup of this notorious tea. I think the tasting notes have covered every nuance (chocolate, check; raisins, check), though I haven’t seen a mention of the ocean effect—deep inside there I feel waves of superclean seawater washing over my tongue. It’s a very smooth tea with a pleasant fruity aftertaste and a powerful kick. I don’t think I can genuflect at the altar of the Laoshan black to the extent that others have, but I can bow. A solid 88-90, definitely among the better Chinese black teas I’ve tasted.

Bonnie

You have intriguing taste! Enjoyable!

Doug F

Thanks Bonnie. I love your evocative reviews.

Bonnie

Who’s Doug? (I’d rather be provocative sometimes!) …don’t listen…I’ve had 4 hours of sleep…the smoke is keeping me up!

Doug F

Doug is a sleep-deprived father of two boys (4 and 2). I decided to switch from Triumph to my given name. No reason to hide!

Bonnie

Hi Doug! Nice to meet you! I am even more amazed you write so well with wee ones pulling on your legs!

Doug F

Thank you Bonnie. My reviews would be longer, but I rarely have time to allow my thoughts to unfold. I’m jealous of those people who can patiently infuse their teas 15 times! I’m pretty much a western brewer—except for my shu pu-erhs.

Bonnie

I had 5 little boys here last night and the 7 year old bipolar one was on a high! (3 adopted and 2 foster of my daughter’s 8 ). I collapsed on the couch and fell asleep as soon as they left! I raised more than my 2 also so I sympathise! Although, I am enjoying my alone time! :)

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89

Being a lover of Yunnan black teas, I was excited to try this. I brew all black teas western-style and this one I let go for about 4 minutes without any resulting bitterness. The dry leaf smell reminded me of the cookies you can buy at the Italian bakeries in the North End of Boston, while the wet leaves had a powerful aroma of marijuana. The flavor is quite satisfying: medium bodied with a powerful baked apple essence and flourishes of chocolate and mocha. I would put this on par with a top level Golden Monkey in terms of flavor and body but not quite as awe-inspiring as the best Dian Hongs I’ve tasted.

TeaBrat

I did not notice the marijuana aroma, must try this again! :-P

Bonnie

Dry it, roll it, sell it, buy more tea :)

Doug F

Maybe it’s just me, but I find that aroma in quite a few black teas from China. Some of the teas I’ve been buying lately are more expensive than pot!

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Bio

I love tea and living in a place that is cold or cool nine months of the year, tea is a constant source of warmth and education. I always drink tea straight and rarely drink flavored teas or Tisanes, except for the occasional Rooibos. I’m a proud father of two young boys, an avid skier, motorcyclist, reader, and runner. I have a doctorate in English (dissertation on Emily Dickinson.)

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Maine

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