366 Tasting Notes

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

200 °F / 93 °C 5 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

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drank Thyolo Oolong by Tealet
366 tasting notes

From the Regional Group Buy. I had difficulty experimenting with this, especially getting the temperature right. I should have divided the leaf better. I first brewed 5g gongfu-style in a ceramic gaiwan and then the other 5g semi-Western in a glass test tube steeper.

The dry leaf smells woody, sweet and herbal. Letting the leaf rest in the pre-heated gaiwan brings out fruity notes. The fruits are much stronger in the wet leaf aroma. I couldn’t pick out any specific fruits – I smelled nondescript jams, but they were very sweet.

The liquor is the color of apple juice and and has a medium body for both sessions.

No rinse. Steeping times: 30, 20, 40; 1 minute, 2, 6. The first infusion is sour and fruity. Urgh. Thankfully, the sourness disappears after that. The second and third infusions resemble Bai Hao in that they have similar sweet and fruity notes. Four, five and six also resemble Bai Hao and have an additional malty, astringent flavor that I usually taste in lighter Assams. There is also a consistent sweet aftertaste.

Steeping times: 1 minute, 1.5, 2.5, 5. Kind of disastrous. It wasn’t until too late that there were a lot of broken leaves in this batch. Basically, the liquor tastes tannic, sweet, and sour all at once throughout the session.

If I had another shot at this oolong, I’d experiment with the gaiwan again. Still, as much as it tasted better then, it was only OK for me. (I do think that I had problems with leaf amount. I find myself at wits end when it comes to not brewing teas with a non-gongfu approach, Japanese greens excepted.)

175 °F / 79 °C

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Sample picked from the Pu’erh Plus TTB. The label said 2013 Year of the Snake, “picked up in Hong Kong,” but since there is more than one entry for this shou, I’m placing my review here.

There was also another note on the packet: “Xin Cha: tea tree Lincang”.

Brewed in a ceramic gaiwan. Gave the leaf two 5-second rinses and a 2-minute rest. Steeping times: 8 seconds, 10, 8, 10, 10, 15, 20, 40; 1 minute, 2, 5, 10.

The dry leaf smells of leather and chocolate, and after resting in the pre-heated gaiwan, it smells like those little Brookside chocolate-covered fruits (the pomegranate and blueberry/acai ones specifically). Nothing like inhaling a ghost of a dessert.

The soup is clear and dark red, full-bodied, and smells of brown sugar. Even after resting in a zip baggie for at least a month, the leaf still has signs of plenty of humid storage. It was until infusion 6 that the fermentation taste went away completely, but there was some interesting development until then. 1 tastes sour, completely of fermentation. 2 is bitter-ish but also fruity, with a silky texture. 3 through 6 are much sweeter, but only on my tongue – the back of my throat tastes like coffee grinds. A cocoa aftertaste follows. These flavors are quite robust.

For infusions 7 through 11, a woody note replaces the fermentation and the intensity of flavor lightens (still sweet). The coffee grinds are still present in the back of the throat. The texture is creamy. The 12th infusion – the last one, very long steeping time – completely tastes of wood.

Additionally: I felt a little sluggish in the middle of the session. Relaxed sluggish.

Boiling 5 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

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I purchased a sample myself when I last ordered. The leaf amount in the packet ended up being 5.1g rather than a rounded 5. I prepared this is a 120ml gaiwan. Gave it a flash rinse to wake up the leaves. I followed the infusion times on Teavivre’s website: 60 seconds, 65, 70, 60, 65, 70, 80, 90, 120.

A Moonlight White with only buds is certainly pretty! It looks like Silver Needles. This is only me second Moonlight White, and I totally taken aback by the dry leaf aroma since it’s incredible different from my first. It smells like a cooking herbs mix and tomato sauce, which is what I sometimes get with Dianhong. But once the leaves are washed and steeped, the wet leaf aroma is what I remembered: blueberries and cream oatmeal, very fragrantly fruity, barely sour. Aaaaaaah.

The liquor – also notably fragrant – is pale yellow, medium-bodied, and clean. This takes a bit to warm up, but from the third infusion onward, it tastes much like the wet leaf aroma: sweet and blueberry-like. The texture is thick and silky.

I didn’t quite like this Moonlight White as much as the first (that one was more powerful), though this is good quality and I enjoyed drinking the more flavorful infusions. I love tasting fruits in unflavored teas as opposed to fruit-flavored teas – they’re so much more like the real McCoy. Surprises my brain every time (“Wow this is really happening???”) Moonlight Beauty is no exception to this. And I have to note again that the liquor is so fragrant that even my cups smells after I finish drinking! I don’t get that much from non-oolongs. I recommend it for those who are interested in trying it for themselves.

200 °F / 93 °C

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This was the free sample of the month when I made my recent order. I love kukicha but never had a roasted kukicha before. Adventure time! I prepared this in a shudei kyusu. Steeping times: 30 seconds, 15, 30, 45, 120.

The dry leaf smells like roasted grains (barley came into mind fast), and the dark leafy veggies char and kale. The wet leaf smells sour and bitter, very much like kale fried with apple cider vinegar.

The liquor is golden brown and full-bodied. The first cup, at first, is broth-like, tasting of grains and nuts (nuts in generally – perhaps cashews?). Very smooth texture. After I become used to this new tea, I begin to discern that it’s actually somewhat sweet. The aftertaste is even sweeter. The second cup and beyond are similar to the first in taste, but they taste even sweeter and feel silky.

I sampled this tea the day before Halloween. I wish didn’t put off writing the review since I like to sample and review on the same day – having the feeling of the tea in mind. I do recall that it tasted and felt like an early autumn tea, when the air is crisply cool, when the leaves are beginning to turn and rot on the ground after they have fallen. This was a good first experience with roasted kukicha. I don’t prefer it to green kukicha, but to houjicha? Perhaps if I didn’t want something so intensely roasted. I liked this one!

Boiling 2 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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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).


Westchester, NY

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