125 Tasting Notes
I am continue to make my way through a large collection of oolong samples from Teavivre I had recently received. This particlulat tea has been reviwed to death on Steepster and this tea being my first encounter with Dong Ding oolongs makes this review totally irrelevant for other people so I am doing it for myself to keep tracks of my likes and dislikes.
Surpisingly, there was not much of fragrance coming out out of pouch when I opened it. Which is rare for oolongs in my admittedly limited experience. Just some spinach/grass and spice. The wet leaf smell was essentially the same plus some butter and a touch of lilac.
The taste was unexpectedly green and vibrant, with spinach, butter, spice, grass, mineral and a touch of berry sweetness. This is certainly not one of those languid , luxuriously sweet oolongs but instead gives an impression of a young full of stored vibrant energy. And a nice dynamic aftertaste.This tea is good to have at work as an additional burst of energy and motivation, it is an I-can-help-to-get-things-done tea. All about business and concentration.I did not meet to many teas of that mental profile, so this oolong, while not being especially complex or uniquely delightful will certainly occupy one of the permanent places in my tea collection for those special occasions when I need that burst of energy and concentration. Not necessarily this particular Dong Ding though: I am going to explore different offerings of this type of tea so if someone can suggest good (and, preferably, reasonably priced) Dong Dings I would appreciate it.
Flavors: Butter, Grass, Mineral, Spices, Spinach
This tea has an intoxicating dry leaf smell of meadow hay and light honey. The wet leaf adds to that aroma some blueberry notes. I steeped it first for 3 minutes (250 g/3g/205 degrees), and followed it with the second steep of 5 minutes.
The taste was simple, with the strong notes of blueberry and somewhat lighter notes of hay, honeyed sweetness reminiscent of Yunnan reds, and baked goods. Like drinking a blueberry pie. In the second steep the tea became very sweet, as if you added water to some berry preserves and now slurping up all of this overpowering sweetness.
It was more robust than many white teas that I had and did possess the requisite great white tea aroma but the taste was really not that interesting. On the other hand, people that enjoy fruity tea blends and, especially, fans of blueberry pies may find it very much to their liking.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Blueberry, Hay, Honey
In a free sample that I graciously received from AprTea there was a pouch simply called Cooked Puerh that contained two mini-tuochas with the explanation that they represent two random tuochas out of the four that they offered. So, I decided to figure out what the heck am I drinking and reviewing. The rappers looked different (good!) but when I unwrapped them both tuochas looked really similar (bad!). And they smelled identical too (awful! am I that bad at telling puerhs apart? – apparently I am).
Nevertheless, after trying it I am pretty sure I am drinking the sticky rice puerh. As bad as I am I think I would be able not to confuse it with the pure puerh and jasmine and rose puerhs: those are three other possibilities. As a side not it seems that the company uses the same exact kind of puerh for all of their tuochas and only the additives differ.
Now, tuochas in my opinion are typically made for a casual drinking, so I skipped the gaiwan and prepared this tea Western style, 300 ml and about 2 minutes for the first steep. It came out quite decent. The sticky rice part is not overdone, the tea smells strongly of rice, mushrooms and dark damp soil. The taste is cheerful, energetic and simple, with Chanterelle mushrooms, dark honey, apricot and rice. Unfortunately it does not hold that well and the subsequent steeps were way less dynamic and even simpler, with sticky rice and languid decay notes dominating.
It’s not bad by any means and the first steep is rather enjoyable, especially in comparison with typical puerh tuochas and not judged against puerh cakes. I would rate it even higher if this tea could retain its vitality beyond the first steep.
Flavors: Apricot, Honey, Mushrooms, Rice, Wet Earth
This is one of the oolongs that has tons of reviews on Steepster, with the ratings going from the 60s into the mid- 90s: intriguingly divisive. Which is a bit surprising since one thing must be appealing to almost anyone: its wet leaf smell. There is a lot of things going on with the notes of minerals, asparagus, butter, spinach, broccoli, delicate flowers, green apple, seawater and who knows what else. I could just sit and smell it for hours like a shelf of scented candles in the store (which I am hopelessly guilty of doing).
The taste is delicate and takes some time to develop, especially if one starts drinking it while still piping hot (the instructions recommend 212 degree water). I prepared it Western and it proved to be very amenable to carefree steeping with very little danger of overdoing it.
The taste largely follows the nose, with the caveat that the herbal and green vegetable notes tend to dominate. It lingers and develops on the mouth, leaving a buttery and minty aftertaste.
It is a very pleasant and reliable tea like a genuinely nice and friendly acquaintance. Not the most outlandish, not the most expressive, not the one that powerfully commands your attention but someone that you are always happy to meet and spend some time with.
Flavors: Asparagus, Broccoli, Butter, Flowers, Grass, Green Apple, Mint, Salty, Spinach
I had high hopes for this tea, one of the Teavivre oolongs that I have recently ordered 5 million samples of at their sale (which is still ongoing, I think). A cool name and story, good pedigree, and I also like almonds. Did not happen.
I brewed it both Western (4g per 500ml water 5 mins) and gaiwan (5g 65 ml, starting with 10 secs) and it all came out the same.
The dry leaf smells of peanuts and orchids. The main flavor is the pronounced and long-lasting bitterness, kinda like very dark chocolate sans chocolate fatty goodness. It is sharp and offputting at first but then you sorta getting used to it. Other flavors are faint peanuts and even fainter, barely perceptible floral and fruity sweetness. It definetly does not smell or taste like almonds.
First I was completely flabbergasted by the absence of other flavours and pronounced bitterness (who would like THAT?!) but then as the tea chilled I bit and I was mindlessly sipping it I realized that I am OK with it. So, either it is an acquired taste and you need to drink it for days to develop it or it was just a case of Stockholm syndrome.
In summary, if you are a big fan of lasting bitterness and peanuts, this is the tea for you. But I personally would put my faith in the statement by Teavivre that “it is one of the ten types of flavors of Phoenix dan cong” and will explore nine other types first before even considering revisiting this one.
Flavors: Dark Chocolate, Floral, Orchid, Peanut
Now, this is a well-reviewed, beloved by many tea. Given a recent stretch of personally disappointing teas from Harney I approached this one with trepidation but my misgivings proved to be totally unfounded. This is a nice, solid tea blend.
It does not look to much as dry leaf but has a nice powerful smell of fallen leaves , autumnal forest decay and a slight hint of Yunnan sweetness. The taste closely follows the aroma: baked bread, dry leaves and floral medow sweetness accompanied by a distinct kick from Keemuns. This rather uncomplicated flavor combination remains very steady: while consistently satisfying, this is not the tea for gaiwans. Not much of an aftertaste too.
I don’t usually drink this tea on its own since it does not have enough nuances to occupy my attention but it is excellent for drinking with food: it powerful enough to cut through all kind of food tastes and provides a nice compliment to meals.
This was one of the best entry-level-priced Harney and Sons’ teas for me with a clearly defined purpose. I avoid buying Harney’s more expensive teas since they do not disclose the harvest date or location and there are enough reputable vendors that do. It’s quite possible that Harney has good reasons for that and this way of business suited them well over the decades but it lost them me as a customer for anything but their lowest-priced teas, many of which are indisputably a good bargain.
This is a tasty and good looking tea. HUGE crispy leaves, with many of them being quite green.
The dry leaves intoxicate you with a smell of tropical fruit, berries, light roast… The wet leaves and the tea itself emit a powerful mineral and roasted aroma, with spice and orchid notes adding some welcomed complexity.
The taste of this pale tea is very cheerful and uplifting: mineral, spice, pine needles, light orchid and fruit. It is sweet but not overwhelmingly so . The taste is fairly complex and over the course of multiple steepings I was able to focus on different notes. Oh, and it also has a nice evolving aftertaste.
It is a great “pick-me-op” tea and came in perfect on this dreary wet morning at work. This tea does not have any apparent shortcomings or weak spots: not everybody will LOVE it but it will be enjoyable for most tea drinkers.
Flavors: Fruity, Mineral, Orchid, Pine, Roasted, Spices
Since I had to create a template for this tea I guess it is a pretty new offering. It is a jasmine tea with Tieguanyin base. The jasmine is not overboard and this is a plus. However, it does not seem to blend well with its oolong base.
The Tieguanyin in question is quite green and low-oxidation, with a rather herbaceous and floral taste. To my surprise the directions indicated that the water should be 212 degrees and when I followed it the tea came out predictably bitter and sour.
After much of trial I established that if you use water around 180-190 degrees and very short steeps you get yourself a somewhat balanced if not particularly complex drink. And oh, its taste went downhill fast for consequent steepings.
In short, this tea requires you to do a song and dance as if you were calming down a petulant baby. And when you finally succeed and get everything just right your reward is not that awesome. I will not be ordering this tea again.
Flavors: Floral, Herbaceous, Jasmine, Sour
If you love jasmine it probably is a great tea for you. The jasmine itself is obviously fresh, with a potent aroma and taste. Adjusting the steeping time the jasmine taste can be varied from bracingly strong to more mellow and relaxing.
My problem is that you can’t really taste the tea component in this blend. I guess it provides the requisite caffeine but still the resulting cup tastes more like a herbal tea and I am not a huge fan of them.
All in all, it could be a great tea for a very specific taste.
One of the relatively new offerings by Teavivre and as such has not been yet reviewed to death. Dianhongs are often so different with some that I positively love and some that I quite intensely dislike because their flavors cover such a huge terrain.
This one looked good as a dry leaf with nice twisted leafs and quite a few golden tips. The smell was sweet, berry-like and boozy, as if these overripe berries had been left outside in the summer heat and started fermenting.
Both the gong fu and Western style produce very similar results with one of the more common Yunnan tea profiles: some berry and honeyed sweetness which quickly transforms into a bitterness. What makes it special is a pronounced tanginess, very much like grapefruit. This grapefruit flavor has a strong staying power and lingers for a while as an aftertaste. All of the flavors are very clear and well-defined.
If you are a fan of citrus and grapefruit in particular this is the tea for you. Not sure if I personally like it – I just had a sample and it takes me longer to develop my personal preferences – but it is a quality dianhong with a defined personality.
Flavors: Blackberry, Dark Bittersweet, Grapefruit, Honey, Sweet Potatoes