360 Tasting Notes

Sampled from the Here’s Hoping TTB.

Had a gongfu session with a porcelain gaiwan. Gave the leaf a quick rinse. Followed the website’s instructions: 5 seconds, 7, 9, 12, 18, 28, 28, etc.

Not only is the leaf richly aromatic all around, but the aroma is intriguingly complex. The dry leaf has notes of molasses, brown, sugar, sweet potato, and a bit of malt. Sitting in the pre-heated gaiwan, the leaf aroma then becomes sour and sweet – like raisins and cranberries – and also has a fragrance of freshly baked bread. The wet leaf aroma is similar, smelling of fresh cranberry muffins.

The liquor is bright golden-orange, clear, and medium-bodied. While the aroma of the Dian Hong is complex, the taste is much simpler. The flavors do evolve with a gongfu session, but each infusion yields an uncomplicated brew. The first cup is light in flavor, with the sour cranberry note making an appearance. Beginning with the second cup, the flavors are more developed. The second tastes purely of sweet potato. The third and fourth are creamy in texture, bread-like, woody, and sweet potato-like. With cups five through seven, the flavors undergo a drastic change. This Dian Hong shifts from classic sweet potato to a sweet/fruity hongcha. The aftertaste, throughout the session, is very short-lived.

I recommend this to hongcha/Dian Hong lovers and especially beginners to hongcha. As someone who probably appreciates aroma more than taste, I loved this. But since I also evaluate taste by similar weight, I found this to be alright – not spectacular. It’s easy-going. I did enjoy what I had, though I wouldn’t purchase. To more experienced drinkers, this might suit your fancy more than mine.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

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Sample provided for reviewing. Thank you, Angel!

Gongfu’d this in a porcelain gaiwan. Gave the leaf flash rinse. Steeping parameters are from the website: 15 seconds, 20, 30, 45, 60 (also did additional steepings at 90 and 120 seconds).

The first time I tried this Tie Guan Yin, I thought the leaf smelled and tasted rather fresh and green for a baked oolong, and that it would need to air after being kept in the airtight packet. This review is based on the session two weeks later (at the time I’m writing this).

The dry leaf smells floral and a little roasted. The roasted note becomes more pronounced after the leaf rests in the pre-heated gaiwan, and a fresh strawberry also pops out here. The wet leaf aroma smells even more baked, a touch more floral, and less fruity.

The liquor is golden in color and has a medium body, light feel, and thick texture. The first infusion is lightest in feel but incredibly juicy, tasting like fresh strawberry juice (reminds me of the juice leftover in a strawberry salad, over which you would sprinkle some white sugar), and the aftertaste is immediate and strong and very sweet. The aftertaste isn’t long lasting – it’s like a burst of flavor as you would get with gum. The second infusion is even juicier and sweeter. Beginning with the third infusion, floral notes show up – staying until the end of the session – and the floral and fruity notes are nicely balanced.

Abstractedly, this Tie Guan Yin tastes and feels like midsummer. Not only because of the height of vegetation growth, but also that’s the time of year in which I eat strawberry salads. This being my first roasted/baked oolong, I was expecting something much less floral and fruity. It barely smells roasted and tastes even less so. A few leaves are tinged with a red though. Floral rolled Chinese oolongs aren’t my favorite tea, but I found this to be alright. If it sounds like your type of oolong, go for it. Nice quality – very clean and bright.

Preparation
Boiling 4 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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Sample provided by Teavivre. Thank you, Angel!

Brewed 3.5g in a 60ml gaiwan. Gave the leaf a flash rinse. Followed the website’s steeping times: 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 35, 45 (went beyond to do 1 minute, 2, 4, and 9).

It’s not at all surprising to smell campfire when I open the packet. It’s nicely smokey, very unoffensive. The smoke becomes muted when I let the leaf sit in the pre-heated gaiwan, bringing out a scent of BBQ’d pork ribs covered with sweet BBQ sauce. The wet leaf aroma smells like unburned pine wood and a touch of honey.

The liquor is the color of creamy orange. It’s not at all opaque, clear rather, but it is a soft-looking orange. Medium-bodied, considering the leaf and not the smoke. Has a smooth texture. The flavors don’t change throughout the session. They instead remain very much the same: pine smoke, dry wood, charcoal (burned wood bits), BBQ’d pork. The smokey aftertaste is mellow. As I said on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/p/BP5gFNZhnIL/), this smoky Lapsang Souchong feels cozy and figuratively tastes like winter air filled with smoke arising from suburban houses’ chimneys.

I’ve had more un-smoky Lapsang Souchong (or Zhen Shan Xiao Zhong) than smoky and prefer those, but I did like this one. I wouldn’t buy it. I never feel like I want a smoky Lapsang Souchong – I just don’t enjoy it enough. For those who do, give this a try. The leaf quality isn’t high since the leaf consists of a lot of broken pieces, but given that it’s a lower grade that is smoke, it isn’t an issue.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C

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This is a part of a tasting activity. Free sample received. Thank you, Angel.

Prepared 4g in a 60ml porcelain gaiwan, then transferred the leaf to 120ml of the same material. Followed the website’s steeping times: 20 seconds, 40, 60, 80, 100, 120. I went with a couple more extended steepings at 4 minutes, 8, and 10 (gotta get it all out).

Going against my expectation, the dry leaf didn’t have much scent, even after resting in the pre-heated gaiwan. The leaf weakly smelled floral and a little buttery and bread-like. The wet leaf aroma is much, much stronger – very floral, evocative of a summer field.

The liquor is pale yellow, full-bodied, clean, and creamy. Throughout the session, there were tiny bits of leaf at the bottom of my cup. The first couple cups are gently floral with a peach aftertaste. They feel easygoing. Beginning with the fourth cup, the flavor has fully developed. The aftertaste really fills the mouth, like a perfume trapped in a bottle. I simply can’t pinpoint specific flowers (I guess this means I have to give myself homework of smelling flowers….or I need to drink more Tie Guan Yin), so I go by feeling, and this very much feels like a bright mid-summer’s day spent in the midst of a wide field. I was relaxed and warmed on this overcast winter morning. Lastly, what is interesting is that, from the fifth cup to the end, the aftertaste changes from a refreshing peach to a cooling sensation.

I haven’t had a Tie Guan Yin in so many months. Lightly oxidized rolled Chinese oolongs don’t appeal to me. Not that I don’t like them – I do, but they’re not a niche I want to explore. That saying, I mostly enjoyed my session with this Tie Guan Yin (I’m little disappointed with the lack of aroma). Pleasant, sweet, floral, a little fruity, and – surprisingly – menthol-like. The floral aspect doesn’t taste powerful or perfumed. It’s just right.

Preparation
Boiling 0 OZ / 0 ML

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Prepared in a gongfu session with a porcelain gaiwan. Steeping times: 10 seconds, 12, 10, 12,15, 25, 35, 45; 1 minute, 2, 5.

I grabbed ounce with my last order. Just opened the packet! I’m met with a number scents when I test the leaf’s aromas. The dry leaf is pleasingly sweet, smelling of rich cocoa, mashed sweet potatoes, and a little bit of malt. The pre-heated leaf smells more strongly of cocoa and malt, and there is an addition of cinnamon. The wet leaf aroma is simply tannic.

The liquor is light orange, full-bodied, clear, and fragrant with notes of sweet potatoes and honey. For the first few cups, I mostly taste sweet potato and a bit of malt, with honey lurking in the background. At the fourth cup, there is still sweet potato, but when I let the liquor sit in my mouth for a bit, I begin to taste cocoa nibs. Following the fifth cup to the end, the sweet potato and malty notes have totally gone, letting cocoa nibs and cocoa shells take over. Someone else on Steepster commented it tastes like Laoshan Black Chocolate Genchmaicha, and I concur. Very chocolate-like, but without additional ingredients. Additionally, the texture is thick and smooth.

I expected to taste sweet potato for the entire session, but was surprised when cocoa completely took over in the middle. What a switch! In my experience (still very much exploring), it’s either this or that for Dian Hong. I thoroughly enjoyed every cup, from start to finish. Delicious and complex.

Preparation
Boiling 3 g 60 OZ / 1774 ML

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Brewed 3.5g in a 60ml gaiwan. I followed Teavivre’s steeping instructions. Flash rinse. Steeping times: 10 seconds, 15, 25, 35, 45, 60, 90, 120, 300.

I purchased a sample because of the positive feedback. If it weren’t for that and the fact that it’s a Dian Hong, I wouldn’t be here, but curiosity got the best of me.

I recently learned that certain teas need to air after spending a lot of time in a vacuum-sealed packet, so that I let the dry leaf rest for a few minutes. This year’s batch might be a lot more fragrant than the previous years’ – the rose is quite heavy, even borderline powerful since I could only get a bit of a honey-like aroma from the dry leaf. That changes after I let the leaf sit in the pre-heated gaiwan: the rose is now in the background, with notes of cocoa and gingersnap cookies in the fore. This was especially nice to get a whiff of! After I wash the leaf, the rose and the classic Dian Hong aroma are balanced.

The liquor is bright orange, clear, full-bodied, and rounded. The texture is smooth and a little thick. The first cup tastes lightly of rose, and the Dian Hong begins to show itself in the second cup, in which I taste a variety of classic flavors (order is strongest to weakest): sweet potato, nutmeg, clove, and malt. Balances well with the rose. In the third cup, though, the rose is slightly stronger than the Dian Hong. Chocolate begins to appear in the fourth, and the aftertaste is also now more chocolatey than rose-like. Fifth cup to the end, the rose fades more and more, leaving the sweet potato and chocolate notes from the Dian Hong to become stronger. Now there is more of a balance.

In the end, this isn’t for me. I like flower teas, including rose, but I think if the Dian Hong weren’t fragranced so much, I might take more to this. I may like the rose being present to accompany the Dian Hong more, though it could be that the Dian Hong is fragranced so that the rose would last a lot longer. I enjoyed the last couple steepings since there was more a balance. The rose was too powerful most of the time.

Overall, so-so. But I think it’s worth trying. Shoot for it!

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C

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Prepared in a ceramic gaiwan and used my own parameters. Flash rinse. Steeping times: 10 seconds, 5, 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 30, 90, 180, 360.

You betcha I petted the leaves while I took in the aroma. They’re so small and curly! They smell lightly sweet and fruity, and tannic like a dry red wine way. After I let them sit in the pre-heated gaiwan, they started smelling like honey and blackberry. Once washed with water, the aroma completely changes and smells like a typical hongcha, of cocoa and a hint of malt.

The liquor is ruddy orange, clean, full-bodied, bold with flavor, and smooth in texture. The flavors undergo a couple changes throughout the session. The first three cups taste of dark fruits. There is a sweet aftertaste. Cups four through seven taste of molasses and honey. There is delicate smokey note as well, and just a hint fruit in the background. Cups eight through twelve taste less complex, mostly tasting like molasses. There is also no more smoke.

Another solid hongcha from Teavivre. It doesn’t offer what I exactly love, but I did have a nice session with it and enjoyed the complex aroma and taste. Very nice quality. You might get something different out of this Mao Feng-like Keemun, given the varying experiences other people have had. Recommended for those who like or want to explore hongcha.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 7 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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From the Regional Group Buy.

Tried this with Western brewing first and failed – I under-leafed despite following the directions. I had a better time with a gongfu session, using a ceramic gaiwan. Steeping times: 10 seconds, 15, 20, 30, 45; 1 minute, 2, etc.

The dry leaf smells lightly vegetal and hay-like. The wet leaf aroma is stronger, smelling vegetal and buttery, with notes of soybean and edamame. The liquor is clear and very pale, barely green. Having a medium body, it feels bright and clean. The taste didn’t undergo any evolution throughout the session. The flavors were consistent: beans, edamame and buttery asparagus. Texture is slightly thick. The sweet, vegetal aftertaste lingers for minutes.

Emerald Spring reminds me of Mao Feng. Good quality. I enjoyed this, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to purchase more. It tastes nice though it didn’t wow me.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 3 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

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From the Pu’erh Plus TTB (last sample). My second Huang Pian. Still in new territory.

Brewed in a ceramic gaiwan. Gave the leaf a flash rinse and a 5-minute rest. Steeping times: 8, 10, 10, 10, 8, 20, 20, 30, 30, 45; 1 minute, 1’ 30’’, 2, 4, 9.

I couldn’t smell anything from the dry leaf, grass at best. The leaf does have an aroma after sitting in the pre-heated gaiwan – apricot, white sugar – though it is weak. The wet leaf aroma, in contrast, is far stronger, smelling of apricot and white grapes.

The soup looks like Welsher’s white grape juice. (I forgot to take note of body – it’s been days since I had this session). The first infusion tastes like a second rinse – far too weak to determine anything about taste and texture. I still don’t taste much in the second infusion, but I do get notes of what I tasted in W2T’s 2014 Huang Pian: marshmallow root and vanilla. Also a similar huigan. The third infusion has a thick and smooth texture, and feels buzzy.

Still light in flavor……I up the temperature to boiling. The fourth infusion tastes the same (sweet, marshmallow root, vanilla) but has a silky texture. There is a change in 5 and 6, which are delicate, floral, and wispy. No change in flavor intensity. I decide to go back to my initial temperature (200), if this is what I’m getting out of Fade. Infusions 7 through 12 are exactly like 5 and 6 in taste and feel. I’m liking this wispy quality. It’s like airy but cloudier. My teeth feel smooth.

No change in 13 and 14 except for the menthol note that appears in the huigan. There has been huigan during the entirety of the session.

Having just my second Huang Pian, I can’t make conclusions, as the sessions with this and W2T’s other Huang Pian were educational. I found out I like stronger flavors in young sheng. I’m curious about aged Huang Pian.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 4 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

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From the Pu’erh Plus TTB. My first Huang Pian sheng. I’m entering new territory.

Brewed in a ceramic gaiwan. Gave the leaf a flash rinse and a 5-minute rest. Steeping times: 5, 5, 3, 3, 3, 3, 5, 5, 10, 20, 30; 1 minute, 2, 4, 9.

Note: I unfortunately don’t have an un-biased 100ml brewing vessel. I realized that 5g of sheng in a 60ml vessel would produce a very bitter soup, so I tried to minimize the potential bitterness brewing a number of flash steepings in the beginning.

The dry leaf smells mostly of grass and smoke, and there is some sweetness. After I let the leaf rest in the pre-heated gaiwan, the leaf purely smells sweet – the familiar apricot. Same with the wet leaf.

The soup is light in color and has a medium body. The first infusion tastes very light and sweet, with notes of marshmallow root and vanilla, and just a bit of apricot. Immediately there is huigan. The marshmallow root and vanilla don’t quit. The second infusion is bittersweet, and this is where I step in with the 3-second times. Infusions 3-8 are stronger with flavor, still tasting sweet with the marshmallow root, vanilla, and apricot notes. Same huigan continues. The marshmallow root and vanilla disappear, so 9-15 taste solely of apricot. The huigan still continues, with an added menthol note. Overall, the soup felt airy in my mouth. No qi felt.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 5 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

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Bio

I began drinking tea because its complexity fascinated me. I love learning about its history, its manufacturing processes, and its place in various cultures.

Japanese greens were my first love and gateway into the world.

My favorite teas are leafhopper oolongs, pu’erh (shou and sheng), and masala chai. My favorite herbal tisanes are spear/peppermint, lavender and chrysanthemum.

I’m currently exploring pu’erh, and any Chinese and Taiwanese teas in general. I’m not much into flavored teas, unlike when I first started. The only teas I truly dislike are fruity tisanes and the ones that have too much fruit. I do like hisbiscus, especially iced.

I like to write nature essays. I’m a birdwatcher as well as a tea enthusiast. The kiwi is one of my favorite birds. I also like Tolkien, Ancient Egypt, and exercising.

IMPORTANT NOTE, PLEASE READ: After two and a half years of having an account here, I will no longer will provide numerical ratings as an addition to the review because the American school system has skewed my thoughts on numbers out of a hundred and the colors throw me off. Curses! My words are more than sufficient. If I really like what I have, I will “recommend”, and if I don’t, “not recommended”.

Key for past ratings:

96-100 I adore absolutely everything about it. A permanent addition to my stash.

90-95 Superb quality and extremely enjoyable, but not something I’d necessarily like to have in my stash (might have to do with personal tastes, depending on what I say in the tasting note).

80-89 Delicious! Pleased with the overall quality.

70-79 Simply, I like it. There are qualities that I find good, but there also are things that aren’t, hence a lower rating that I would have otherwise like to put.

60-69 Overall “meh”. Not necessarily bad, but not necessarily good.

0-59 No.

If there is no rating: I don’t feel experienced enough to rate the tea, or said tea just goes beyond rating (in a positive way).

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Westchester, NY

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