955 Tasting Notes
We rode the Maokong gondola up to the top of the mountain for treats, tea, and gorgeous views. A personal favorite is the oolong soft serve on offer, served with a cat-shaped cookie (“mao” means cat). I was dreaming of this stuff before we even arrived in Taiwan and it did not disappoint. I regret only that I didn’t get to try the baozhong flavor or the swirl. I didn’t see that option until later, so I had the tie guan yin – which was perfect for cooling off and rejuvenating on a hot day.
Memory is a funny thing; one never quite knows how accurate it truly is. But I was last there in June 2018 and it seems like even in just those five years some things have changed, becoming even more tourist-oriented/Westerner-friendly. At least some of that impression is verifiable – I compared photos and the cat cookies have definitely gotten bigger, and I think it’s safe to say that the tea producer I get tie guan yin from didn’t used to have QR codes on their packages linking to a multi-lingual website (though part of that can be chalked up, I think, to the especially massive growth in popularity of QR codes here and to his English-fluent son returning to the family business after university). I won’t pretend to have the answers about whether these changes are good or bad, and for whom – I know just enough about history, philosophy, economics, and geopolitics to know that it’s complicated and there’s a lot that I don’t know. They just seem… notable.
Among the “teas I drank while doing other things in Taiwan” was a dayuling green oolong when we went to the Beitou hot springs. Our room had a tea-brewing station and beautiful teapot, and several single-serve packages of loose leaf tea to choose from. I was worried about the sulfur from the hot springs messing with my sense of smell/taste, so I chose a tea that was interesting but not necessarily one I’d be upset about missing all the nuances of. This is the part where I have a humbling moment, because apparently dayuling oolong is actually pretty schmancy and I just didn’t know – and was too focused on the hot springs to take a moment to look it up. I don’t regret the choice, because we enjoyed it greatly and it was a lovely match to the relaxing atmosphere. But it is a reminder that there’s lots I still don’t know and always more to learn!
It was actually labeled “Dayuling green tea,” but was very clearly a rolled green oolong. We ran into this quirk of language on Maokong, where Baozhong ice cream was labeled “green tea ice cream” (in both English and Chinese). My partner and I had a lengthy disagreement about whether Baozhong is a green tea or an oolong, until the point was later clarified by a local that Baozhong is a green oolong (I was right on this point, at least).
The first steep of the dayuling had a slightly floral aroma. It had a nutty taste – I think almond – and a very very slight buttery note. The second steep was similar but stronger in flavor. This was a very easy tea to drink, enjoyable and soothing without having any arresting characteristics. I’d love a chance to give it another go under more optimal tasting circumstances (not affected by sulfur in the air, for example).
Bird Pick Tea and Herb sells a tea they call Premium Silky Green and on the phone vowed it was a green tea “because oolong is roasty.” It is clearly a milk oolong, and a flavored one at that.
Also, pouchong and Baozhong are both forms of the same word, but Keemun that is scented with rose and other flowers is often sold as Rose Pouchong. I have contacted two distributors (just because I am I retested in learning, not to be a jerk) and they don’t know why, either, nor could they find out why!
All that to say, there is so much to learn and isn’t is fun learning? Your trips to Taiwan sound fascinating!
Picked this up in Courtney’s stash sale. I’ve been wanting to try Georgian teas for a while now, but for various reasons kept missing my chances, so I’m really glad this one worked out. Thankfully, I did not get the wet dog scent that others did. To the extent that I’m getting anything scent-wise, it’s more like a mild Chinese black tea. Flavor-wise, I primarily taste sweet citrus with an extra bit of tartness at the end of the sip. I agree with derk that the mouthfeel is really pleasantly pectic. If you handed me a tisane named “lemon hibiscus jam” and it tasted like this, I’d be like “yup, yup, I can see it.”
Yay, the dashboard is back! Huzzah and hurray!
Have I really never written a tasting note for this tea before? I liked it so much that I bought an extra box of sachets before even finishing the first one.
I find myself really longing for comfort teas at the moment, so I pulled this one today and hoped for the best. Somehow I got a bit of maple syrup smell off it, but I think that was my brain forgetting what caramel is supposed to smell like. It did taste like caramel. This hit the spot for cozy and familiar and I was happy to have it.
True to tea fiend form, I can’t help still placing new orders even when my sense of smell is busted. I specifically targeted Adagio for a recent order to put some middling teas in my cabinet so I won’t feel wasteful drinking them. I timed my order so I’d get a free sample of this blend, which looked so promising! I love hojicha, plus mint is an aroma that I can currently pick up. The smell of the dry leaf must be pretty strong – I picked up chewing-gum-like spearmint with an undertone of clove and a hint of cardamom. Unfortunately, the brew just doesn’t seem very balanced. It tastes, to me at the moment at least, like there’s too much spearmint and not enough hojicha. Which tracks, because there’s not a lot of hojicha visible in the blend either. The taste of the spearmint reminds me of gum too, but I’m willing to chalk that up to my currently being more sensitive to the sensations teas produce than I usually am.
Flavors: Cardamom, Clove, Spearmint
Within my current constraints, I didn’t have anything quite ready for a sipdown as a latte for ashmanra’s World Milk Day challenge to drink a tea with milk. But I made a couple of lattes to honor the spirit of the thing anyway! One was this hojicha as an oat milk latte with vanilla agave. Since it’s a tea that I always keep in stock and know very well, I know that I’m not picking up on the full aroma and flavor of it. But there’s still something very comforting about it precisely because it’s one that I drink so often, and I can pick up enough of the roasty, slightly nutty flavor to trigger that sense memory. Drinking it while watching Star Trek TNG. I’ve been watching it since I was a kid, but have never before watched it in order. The GeekSteep episode on it inspired me to do a proper watch-through. It’s a totally different experience of the show that’s definitely making me realize there are things going on here that I have strong feelings about that I never noticed when I was just watching re-runs. So thanks for the inspiration, Roswell Strange and Marika!
Leaving my rating where it was.
This is another strongly flavored oolong that I chose because my sense of smell isn’t fully recovered and I miss oolong. Thankfully the coconut is strong enough that I was able to pick up some of the smell. Plus the coconut taste and creamy texture still came across well. I got three good steeps out of it in a purple mug I brought back from Taiwan. We went ceramics shopping on Yingge Street and I got loads of great stuff – a cute mini tea set for display, chopstick rests, ceramic rice scoops, a gaiwan, a black jade teacup, a few mugs and teacups… I’m sure I’m forgetting something but the point is that it was awesome and I only regret not getting a certain purple gaiwan that I really liked. Most of what we bought wasn’t exceptionally fancy or expensive but it is all very pretty and legitimately useful, which is what we prioritized. The mug I steeped up this oolong in is glazed on the inside and painted shades of purple on the outside. It even has a cute lid with a curlicue handle! It helped me get the most possible enjoyment out of this tea today.
Leaving the rating where it was.
With my sense of smell still not at 100%, I haven’t been drinking my oolongs. That’s a real bummer for me, since oolongs are my favorite type of tea, along with Japanese greens. So my new thing is looking for strongly-flavored oolongs in my collection, both because that flavor and aroma will break through and because strongly flavored teas tend not to be made with the highest quality base so I won’t feel like I’m wasting it by drinking it now. I brewed this one up in my zojirushi travel mug yesterday. The good news is that the mint is so strong that I did indeed smell and taste it, without having that intense lingering menthol sensation that I found in DT’s Watermelon Mint. The bad news is that I made a seriously bad judgment call by brewing a strongly-scented tea in a travel mug! Now I can’t get the mint smell out of the silicone parts of the lid. I feel like a lot of my tasting notes lately have been “here’s a rookie tea-related mistake I made, please learn from my silly mistakes!”
If you go to https://steepster.com/recent you can see all notes posted on the site, they just won’t be filtered to just the people you are currently following like the Dashboard is.
An old tasting note that I somehow never posted, but that seems apropos!
Drinking Healtheries’ Ginger Kiss. This one’s so old I couldn’t even find a picture online, and the listing is gone from the company website. I picked it up years ago on a trip to New Zealand. This was back when I was blissfully unaware of stevia as a sweetener, before it was readily available and in everything, so I didn’t know to back away slowly when the box listed it as an ingredient. It’s not the most egregious use of stevia I’ve ever experienced, but there’s enough here to give it that very particular sweetness/flavor that I’m not a huge fan of. As a result, it has taken me a really long time to finish this off. The apple, caramel, and ginger flavors make it enjoyable enough – but only on occasion. So, finally, many many years later, I can call this a spidown!
Another sipdown and counting this as a limited edition or seasonal tea for ashmanra’s sipdown challenge. My sense of smell wasn’t doing too great on Friday, so I opted for teas that I already know I don’t super love. Even before covid messed with my smell, I remember finding myself struggling to enjoy this one. I got a watermelon blend from 52teas around the same time and found that to be juicier and more on-point flavor-wise by comparison. I also remember that this is better iced, though, so I brewed this up and waited for it to cool. Weirdly, I think having a weakened sense of smell helped me pinpoint why I didn’t love this tea to begin with by making me more sensitive to the sensations it produced. It leaves a very strong menthol sensation in the mouth that lingers long after the sip, along with an overly thick and sweet watermelon flavor. The overall effect is both very candylike and skews too heavily mintward. However! The bottom-of-the-bag steeps are different – more of a proper watermelon juice flavor and not as heavy on the menthol. So maybe if I had mixed the bag up I would have enjoyed this more.