64 Tasting Notes
The first time I tried this tea, the first steep presented a semi-soapy taste which faded quickly in subsequent steeps. I don’t recall this tea producing that taste consistently each session I tried it, so it may have just been an issue with my water, or a fluke in the leaves. Besides a roasted Taiwan TGY that I tasted last year and disliked, a roasted Mao Xie, and a highly-roasted, aged Dong Ding, I have not tied many roasted ball-style oolongs. I found this one to be enjoyable, though. The roast is not overpowering, but it is close to that line and is very prominent. However, as steeps progress it recedes into something more tolerable. For some reason, I do not have many notes on this tea, which usually means I frequently drank this sample for comfort sipping while doing other tasks. From the notes I have and what I remember, it was a nice daily drink and did especially well in low leaf concentrations and longer steeps.
From my experience this summer, the light sweet grass dry scent and subdued cane sugar and fruity, malty notes in the dry leaves’ heated scent seemed promising for a great session. The first steep confirms my expectations. Strong gao shan flavor with a potent, lingering aftertaste and rear-mouth cooling in addition to what seems like a unique Dong Ding character, distinct from other high mountain Taiwan oolongs I have tasted previously.
Although it isn’t entirely impressive flavor-wise, the development was smooth and interesting. There was a nice “green” bite in the introduction of each sip with a tart finish felt on the roof of the mouth. Complexity was relatively straightforward, but the balance was excellent. The scent remaining in the empty cup was weak and nearly monotonous. However, the gaiwan lid’s scent was well-developed, if perhaps a bit too grassy.
I missed some it the deeper bass notes common in some gao shans in this tea, leaving the first few steeps to feel somewhat unbalanced. The lack of depth is odd considering this is another autumn harvest, yet, when the session lasts upwards of 7 steeps, I cannot complain.
I don’t know much about osmanthus, but I definitely know that I love the scent of it. This oolong’s aroma is an interesting mixture of sweet cream, floral, and gao shan character. The strength of the osmanthus mainly remains in the aromas, primarily adding mouthfeel and aftertaste when it comes to the liquor, which I appreciate. The Ali Shan leaves are nice and I am always happy when added flavors refrain from overpowering the natural components of the leaves.
So, as far as flavored teas go, this one is quite excellent. Great body, nice flavor profile with classic high mountain flavor and just enough added florals to round out the character. While the osmanthus is a little too potent in the wet leaf scent and the aroma trapped under the gaiwan lid, the balance in the liquor is just right. I am perhaps most pleased with this tea’s progression through steeps. Neither the osmanthus or the Ali Shan flavors “win out” at any point during the session, instead gradually rising and falling together. Many times with some jasmine green specimens, for example, it seems as though I am drinking two overlapping teas during one session, as the floral aspect is very strong in the beginning, while the actual tea’s characteristics take a few steeps to shine through. Not so with this tea.
Do not underestimate Teavivre’s green tea options. I am frequently impressed by the quality and variety they offer, as well as the value. This specimen instantly became a new favorite of mine. I generally drink my Chinese green teas with off-boiling water, in a glass tumbler, continually refilling with water once the volume gets down to around the leaf level. This tea performs beautifully with that method, giving me hours of constant sipping without growing weak or bitter.
The leaves are wonderfully made and extremely consistent, exuding a soft, “green” and nutty scent. The flavor profile is just what I could want in a green tea. The major notes remind me of something like sweet peas and rye toast, later developing into somewhat creamy vanilla textures and a somewhat surprising depth. I heartily enjoy the lingering sencha-esque crispness, yet with that distinct Chinese green tea flavor brought on by the pan firing process. Far from being subtle, this is an excellent green for more casual drinking, compared to the subtleness of a Huang Shan Mao Feng.
This tea is a good example of the natural thicker and “darker” aspects of what unroasted Taiwan oolong offers. The wet leaves exude a heavy vegetal scent, with notes of malt and roasted vegetables. It is matched by a low, full-bodied savory flavor profile. There is a moderately tart bite at the end of each sip, with a slight astringency. Possibly due to the very red-hued leaves, indicating a stronger oxidation and bruising during processing. It’s far from anything off-putting, though, and is accompanied by a light cooling sensation and thick aftertaste.
It’s nice overall, but somewhat lacking in flavor dimension and mouthfeel. It also reminds more of an autumn tieguanyin than a summer gao shan, which is unfortunate. I do, however, appreciate the yeasty, caramel-like lengxiang, or cold-scent, left in the empty cup. It also fades out nicely, with steeps 5 and above reducing to a nice straw-like sweetness with a vegetal-grass body. It’s simple, and decent for casual drinking.
I love autumn oolongs. I never receive quite the same level of enjoyment from the aromas of spring teas, compared to the depth and complexities of autumnal aromatics. This specimen’s scent, for example, is potent and fresh. Aspects bringing to mind sweet grasses, honey, and warm biscuits are exuded upon allowing the leaves to sit in a preheated gaiwan. The bread-like features seem to suggest a low oxidation level, which is supported by the opaque light green-yellow liquor. The leaves also seem to point to a slightly higher oxidation level than average, with their somewhat darkened color and occasional bruising.
After a steep or two, the gaiwan lid begins to hold a thickly floral aroma, while the empty cup scent presents a “darker” side of this tea, with a deep, full-bodied richness. The liquor’s form retains a hefty development, while it’s introduction is weaker and monotonous. The front end of each sip is low in flavor with stone-like texture. This rapidly shifts to an overall “greenness,” low and silky sweetness, and an moderately assertive vegetal-grass flavor. This development is of medium duration, dropping suddenly into a low, flinty sweetness, light mouth-cooling, and the characteristic gao shan aftertaste. There is also a [generally] pleasant bite of tartness felt primarily on the sides of the tongue during this finish. Perhaps a result of the bruising I found on some of the leaves.
I am actually somewhat impressed by the degree of flavor present in this tea. It is spring-like in its intensity and autumnal in its depth; it is an appealing balance. However, I fail to detect much of a huigan and the mouthfeel is lacking in substance, particularly the creaminess or butter-smoothness of other high-end gao shan Taiwan oolongs. I would say this tea offers a wide spectrum of what a gao shan oolong can offer in a single package, as it does not really have anything particular that defines it uniquely.
This tea is a simple one and a great one. It has everything a gao shan should, including flavor complexity, mouthfeel, and aftertaste, with a light huigan. Yet, not many of these aspects were necessarily noteworthy, besides a perfectly proportioned astringency to add interest and stimulate salivation, without full-mouth drying, and an intense cooling sensation that filled the entire mouth, and lingered between steeps and after the session ended. Unfortunately, it’s major shortcoming was a lack of staying power across steeps, becoming weak around the fourth steep, and not putting forth much when pushed past that point.
This is a great example of gao shan oolong with traditional style.
I found the Cui Luan Lishan to be unique in its roasted qualities, which were very well integrated with the leaves’ properties and did not overpower in flavor. However, I found the aromas and flavors to be less powerful than the other two Lishan samples (Hua Gang and Shan Lin Xi), especially in the dry leaves’ scent, which was a fresh and floral base and undertones of the roast. The aroma of the leaves sitting in the heated gaiwan was the kicker, however. Rich roasted almonds and hints of stone fruit. Floral qualities became subdued, though were not lost completely.
The liquor had strong roasted-green qualities with a depth of flinty sweetness. It had a tendency to become a bit too tart for my tastes, although it transferred into a very nice, strong and thick aftertaste, with a lingering salivation and very few drying characteristics. More of my attention was drawn to the powerful throaty coolness (more than the Shan Lin Xi, but less intense than the Hua Gang, although the Cui Luan’s cooling lasted much longer throughout steeps). The empty cup was thick with a hefty roasted barly and caramel scent. As far as the form went, it was fairly basic. Each sip produced a steady rise through the opening into the development in both flavor and mouthfeel, granting a medium complexity. The finish, as mentioned above, was most noteworthy, given its length, strong mouthfeel and aftertaste, and potent sensations.
Preface: This summer I tried a variety of gao shan samples from Origin Tea via a sampling round hosted by Tea Chat. Recently, I received a sampling round of similar specimens from Teavivre, so I decided to post the notes on Origin’s teas first to determine a baseline.
I am the biggest fan of this Shan Lin Xi. I found its aroma the most interesting, with this undertone that reminded me of apple skins. To me, it had a most interesting huigan, although its aftertaste was outmatched by the Lishan samples. I also loved the Shan Lin Xi’s buttery textures that lasted throughout the entire session, and its multi-faceted textural form, rapidly evolving from opening to finish.
The dry leaves are very sweet-smelling and highly floral. Sizes are varied and all leaves are rolled somewhat loosely, with some leaf fuzz on a few, a high gloss, and each stem clearly apparent. Wet leaf aroma is powerful and wafting, with a certain vegetal pungency and stone fruit sweetness. In contrast, the liquor has a faint aroma, nearly absent. Liquor is bright and has excellent clarity. The mouthfeel is buttery smooth and presents a long-lasting, sweet aftertaste right from the start. The empty cup scent is subtle, with a low roasty, sugary scent.
The form is complex and entirely unique. It begins with a sweet, floral smoothness, proceeding with a deeper smoothness and gao shan characteristic complexity, with deep, vegetal sweetness. Towards the end of the development, greener qualities shine through, with a faint tartness in the rear of throat. Each sip finishes with a very sweet-tasting and cool-feeling mouthfeel, which quickly transforms into a stone-fruit, gao shan aftertaste with potent huigan.