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99 Tasting Notes

How can this tea be so good at such a young age? It’s like when you meet a young person who is mature beyond her years—an old soul. The first 30-second infusion blew me away with its sweetness and depth. After that the camphor and earthiness emerged to create a truly heady elixir. I probably could have steeped this tea 20 times with little reduction in flavor. I actually saved the leaves over night and started up again in the morning. I’ll most likely buy a brick to drink now and one to age because I doubt I’ll be able to resist chipping away at it.

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After sampling a new medium roast Oolong that I found only so-so, I turned to this sumptuous and complex tea. The orchid is not overwhelming or even fundamental to my enjoyment. What captivates me is the lingering sweetness and a fine anise seed taste mixed with a lemony tang. A singular tea-drinking experience!

David Duckler

Thanks Triumph!
I agree with your take on this tea- the first time that I tried it, they didn’t tell me about the orchid scenting, and I was completely captivated by that anise sweetness. It still gets me every time. This is a good reminder to go back and flesh out the description for this tea.

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drank Assam Marangi by TeaGschwendner
99 tasting notes

TeaGschwender makes great claims for this tea, which I am still trying to validate. It is light, and the lack of bitterness allows the fruity/nutty flavors to come through, but I’m still partial to the Mangalam Estate teas, maybe because I feel they have a greater foundation. I’m not sure Iike the direction toward which many Assams and Darjeelings are moving—striving for delicacy on the top notes, while sacrificing body in the process. Still, in the scheme of things, this is a satisfying Assam.

E Alexander Gerster

I have heard good things about this Assam Marangi tea, and also enjoy Mangalam Estate teas. I think I will have to try this one myself! :)


I’ve been away from Steepster for a while – just saw your review here. I actually wondered on my TeaGschwender Marangi if it was just stale. It was nothing like the Upton tea I had earlier this week. I would say the Upton one was more “refined” if that can have a taste, but very pleasant.


Just read through my earlier tasting notes. Interesting as Upton suggests brewing for 5 minutes instead of 4. It was quite good at 5 minutes. Although, I would think the TeaGswhwender selection I tried was from the previous year so that may make a difference too.

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Wild, young, bold, and beautiful to look at, after drinking this, I felt like had been given a transfusion of blood from a sixteen year old (or V, for you True Blood fans). This tea is like an incredibly talented young left-handed pitcher who throws 100 mph and only sometimes gets it over the plate. There’s so much flavor and sharpness in this tea and I can’t wait to see how it ages and becomes more disciplined and focused. It will be hard not to chip away at this tea. Early infusions are surely on the bitter side, but that fades in later steepings.

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Maybe it’s my ignorance about the term “medium roast,” but I expected this tea to have more oomph. The second infusion had a little more of a nutty bite, but in general this is a decent, light Tie Guan Yin, but I’ll continue looking for something with a bit more roast.

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What a well-balanced Keemun! Just the right amount of smokey/leathery richness balanced by a bright sparkle that keeps the tea from becoming too burdensome. If you had a stable of motorcyles, this would be your go-to ride, the bike that gives you a lot of riding pleasure and is always reliable. Maybe not the fastest and most exotic, but also not a heavy cruiser that you have to wrestle around. An exemplary Keemun, that (along with Upton’s Keemun Mao Feng) would be the perfect addition to anyone’s cupboard.

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A recent business trip to Chicago allowed me to make my first trip to a Teavana store, a small, quiet place with no hard-selling employees, contrary to my expectations. I was drawn to this selection because of my love for golden-tipped Chinese teas and after the first sip, I knew I had made a good choice. Much of the flavor profile echoes the Yunnan rare grades I love so much, but with an alluring orange flavor that is missing from the more chocolatey, creamy, malty Yunnans. I was pleasantly surprised that a chain tea store could provide me and others with such a satisfying tea that has its own special niche among the Chinese black teas I own.

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It took a lot of work for me to get something from this tea. I started with a one-minute infusion and tasted very little, so I continued on to three minutes. I found a faint sweetness and a musty, earthy taste redolent of the cedar that Verdant mentions in its tasting notes, but even then I felt I was tasting not so much a delicate tea that needs patience and dedication to tease out its complex essence (an approach that I adopt when tasting lightly oxidized Oolongs), but a cup of lightly vegetal hot water. I guess I do need to have that “wow” or “aha” moment when I drink a tea. Emily Dickinson defined poetry this way: “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” I want that kind of experience when I drink tea.

Interestingly, this tea gave me a different kind of buzz than other tea. Maybe it’s all that energy packed in those buds.

David Duckler

Hi Triumph,
It looks like one or two other people have had that very light experience you describe with the Yabao. I find that a lot of the flavor in this one is in the aftertaste, and that it does not have the same gripping mouthfeel as a conventional sheng pu’er, but that the spice and textures at play make it more than worth while. Try using more tea leaves next time. Using 3-4g of this looks like a lot more tan 3-4g of Tieguanyin. Sometimes I fill my gaiwan 1/2 full with leaves, and do pretty long steepings, which gives the riches textural interest in the tea.

I am sorry that you had a less-than-perfect experience with this one. I share your values of needing that moment that you describe of being gripped and fully consumed by the tea. A tea that I think is just really pleasant is not worth importing for me, as it is an incredible series of hoops to jump through to get these small farm teas through customs and over here. I hope that you find the “aha” in the Yabao. If not, I will send you a sample of the new yabao I am looking at bringing in with your next order. It is less cedar and more honey spice.

Doug F

I’ll try adding more leaves next time. It’s not that I didn’t like it. I found it interesting and I could sense some of the flavors that you mentioned coming through. I do generally love the teas you find and I’m grateful to you for doing what very few people must be devoting themselves to; namely, going to great lengths to connect us with local farmers and providing us with memorable tea experiences. I look forward to making my way through your catalogue!

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Working my way through my Verdant Oolong samples and after three sessions with this tea, I have a handle on my feelings about this tea. First of all, the infused leaves are beautiful—I leave them on a white plate during the day to marvel at the size and brilliant green color with lightly bruised edges. The fragrance of the brewed tea reminds me of daylillies and cut grass and the first mouthful is nicely balanced between the vegetal (fresh steamed spinach or chard) and the floral. There’s a sweet fruity fizz that asserts itself after as few seconds—pleasantly so. This isn’t the kind of tea that is likely to have me writhing with pleasure—I tend to favor black teas and pu-erhs—but I can appreciate the unimpeachable excellence of its qualities and I defer to others who insist this is one of the best Tieguanyins available.

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Incredible tea! Three infusions saw no diminution of the melting butter, baked fruit, and chestnut flavors that mix with the smoky essence to create a complex yin/yang experience. While I have always appreciated the delicacy of non-roasted, lightly-oxidized Oolongs, I tend to favor heartier teas in general and this gives me all the fruity flavors of an OOlong with the body of a smoked black tea. Like an album you fall in love with and can’t stop listening to, I can see myself pushing repeat on this tea for weeks on end.


I love the album metaphor; I think I won’t be able to help quoting you on that one.

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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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