424 Tasting Notes

Here’s yet another matcha from my dwindling pile of Nio samples. I steeped the entire 2 g in a mason jar with about 100 ml of cool water.

The dry aroma is of sweet grass and mild veggies. Shaking the contents of the jar produced a good amount of foam, which I view as a minor accomplishment. This matcha is delicately grassy, with notes of cream, seaweed, spinach, and lettuce. Grassiness and umami predominate, though there’s also some sweetness. Bitterness is noticeably absent, which comes as a pleasant surprise.

This matcha is still intense for me, but it’s more enjoyable than some of the other ones I’ve tried. I agree with the vendor that this is a good place to start for matcha beginners like me.

Nio is having a buy two get one free sale prior to May 21, which is International Tea Day. I think there are some other items on sale as well. Take an additional 15% off with the code LEAFHOPPER15 (I get a small commission when someone uses this code).

Flavors: Cream, Grass, Lettuce, Seaweed, Smooth, Spinach, Sweet, Umami, Vegetal

Preparation
2 g 3 OZ / 100 ML
MadHatterTeaReview

Nio Teas has truly opened my eyes to great green tea…I also realized I’ve always had bad matcha prior to trying them.

Leafhopper

I’m still not sure how much I want to get into matcha, as most of the ones I’ve tried have been very intense/bitter. I tend to drink it plain instead of with milk, which probably doesn’t help. However, this one is a bit more user friendly. I’ve also liked some of their bancha and hojicha.

MadHatterTeaReview

They really have some solid bancha! I drank it too quickly.

Cameron B.

I quite like Naoki for matcha and I feel like their prices are quite reasonable.

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80

Daylon generously sent me a humongous box of tea a while ago, and I couldn’t resist cheating on my green tea marathon with some oolong. I steeped 6 g of leaf in 120 ml of 195F water for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The dry aroma is of orchid, spiced cookies, grass, and faint fruit. The first steep has notes of apple, orchid, narcissus, spiced cookies, butter, and grass. The next steep has a bit of stonefruit along with the apple, nutmeg, and spring flowers. Steeps three and four add custard and some melon. By steep five, the tea starts getting fairly grassy, though there’s still a lot of tangy apple and florals. The final steeps have notes of grass, spinach, and florals.

This tea has an unusual profile for a Da Yu Ling. Maybe my rating is a bit harsh, but I found it to become quite grassy after just a few steeps. I suspect this DYL might be past its prime, but it was still pleasant after all that green tea. Thanks again to Daylon for the box!

Flavors: Apple, Butter, Cookie, Custard, Floral, Grass, Melon, Narcissus, Nutmeg, Orchid, Spices, Spinach, Stonefruit, Tangy, Vegetal

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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94

For a spring project, I decided to compare three Mingqian teas from three companies: Bi Luo Chun, Longjing, and Anji Bai Cha. The vendors were Teavivre, Treasure Green, and Seven Cups. I received my last shipment of tea on Thursday and did the Bi Luo Chun comparison session over the weekend.

Over the past few years, several people have recommended the green tea from Seven Cups. However, the cost to ship to Canada is high and the teas usually sell out within days, making it necessary to place multiple orders to get everything I wanted. I contacted the vendor and asked if they would hold some tea for me, and they generously agreed. I was able to get six spring teas over about a month, and while the shipping was high, I think it was worth it! This is the first pluck of their regular Bi Luo Chun.

Tea bush: Seed-grown Heirloom Quntizhong
Location: Jingtingzhen (Xishan Island), Suzhou
Picking date: First pluck, March 28-29, 2024
Price/g: US$2.00

For the session, I steeped 2.4 g of all three teas in 120 ml of 185F water, starting at 4 minutes. This produced very potent steeps! I later did a more typical session, steeping 3 g of leaf in 250 ml of 185F water starting at 4 minutes, refilling the cup as needed.

The dry aroma is of heady lilac, gardenia, magnolia, cantaloupe, pear, butter, and green beans. The first round gives me lilac and other spring flowers, heady gardenia and magnolia, buttered green beans, something nutty and cakey, cantaloupe, pear, and asparagus. I can also taste the fuzzy trichomes coming off these tiny silver snails. The middle steeps retain the lovely fruity/floral aroma, with herbs, asparagus, and lettuce. The tea is a bit drying at this point and has a lovely pear/fruity aftertaste. The final steeps have hints of orange, kale, those lovely florals, beans, minerals, and grass.

This is the only Bi Luo Chun that seemed more attenuated using my normal parameters than in the comparison session. The florals were softer, though still very noticeable, and the tea had the same mild bitterness in both scenarios.

This Bi Luo Chun immediately set itself apart by its heady floral aroma, and I’d say it was my favourite of the bunch. It had the most potent BLC fruitiness and florality, with florals similar to a gaoshan, along with some vegetal bitterness. The tea stood up the best to my heavy-handed steeping and actually seemed to benefit from it. At $2.00 per gram, I’m not surprised this made an impression on me, and it’s probably the one I’ll finish the fastest.

Flavors: Asparagus, Butter, Cake, Cantaloupe, Drying, Floral, Gardenias, Grass, Green Beans, Herbaceous, Kale, Lettuce, Lilac, Magnolia, Mineral, Nutty, Orange, Pear, Perfume, Vegetal

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 4 min, 0 sec 0 OZ / 0 ML

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87

For a spring project, I decided to compare three Mingqian teas from three companies: Bi Luo Chun, Longjing, and Anji Bai Cha. The vendors were Teavivre, Treasure Green, and Seven Cups. I received my last shipment of tea on Thursday and did the Bi Luo Chun comparison session over the weekend.

I chose Treasure Green as one of my vendors because it had pre-orders for spring tea up in the first week of March and sold all three teas I was interested in. As a Vancouver-based vendor, it also had fast shipping, which turned out not to matter because the other vendors sent their tea much later.

Tea bush: Not specified
Location: Wuzhong, Jiangsu
Picking date: First week of March 2024
Price/g: US$1.23

For the session, I steeped 2.4 g of all three teas in 120 ml of 185F water, starting at 4 minutes. This produced very potent steeps! I later did a more typical session, steeping 3 g of leaf in 250 ml of 185F water starting at 4 minutes, refilling the cup as needed.

The dry aroma is of green beans, butter, orchids, and faint pear. The first round has notes of green beans, new peas, butter, cucumber, soft florals, asparagus, nuts, and other spring vegetables. The tea is quite soft and it’s hard to pick apart the flavours. I also get a fruity aftertaste similar to pear. Subsequent steeps are more cruciferous, with broccoli, asparagus, kale, minerals, sugar, pear, and pops of lemon. I get a bit of earthiness in the final steeps, along with soft florals, minerality, grass, and spring veggies.

Of the three teas I tried, this one stood out for its minerality, soft orchid florals, and cruciferous vegetables along with the predictable green beans. The tea was very soft, which made it pleasant to drink but hard to describe. I could definitely taste the fruity undertones, but those cruciferous veggies tended to drown them out. It was still a high-quality BLC.

Flavors: Asparagus, Broccoli, Butter, Cucumber, Earth, Floral, Fruity, Grass, Green Beans, Kale, Lemon, Mineral, Nutty, Orchid, Pear, Peas, Soft, Sugar, Sweet, Vegetal

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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88

For a spring project, I decided to compare three Mingqian teas from three companies: Bi Luo Chun, Longjing, and Anji Bai Cha. The vendors were Teavivre, Treasure Green, and Seven Cups. I received my last shipment of tea on Thursday and did the Bi Luo Chun comparison session over the weekend.

After my great experience with Teavivre’s Ming Qian Bi Luo Chun last year, it was inevitable that it would end up in this comparison. It’s a relatively pricy tea, but the least expensive of the three BLC in this set and also quite affordable for a Mingqian harvest.

Tea bush: Small-leaf tea bush species
Location: West Dongting Mountain, Wuzhong District, Suzhou City, Jiangsu
Picking date: March 15, 2024
Price/g: US$0.78

For the session, I steeped 2.4 g of all three teas in 120 ml of 185F water, starting at 4 minutes. This produced very potent steeps! I later did a more typical session, steeping 3 g of leaf in 250 ml of 185F water starting at 4 minutes, refilling the cup as needed.

The dry aroma is of green beans, green pepper, florals, butter, and nuts. The first steep is fuzzy and viscous, with notes of baby green beans, green pepper, cucumber, kale, florals, butter, chestnuts, and faint pear. Subsequent steeps reveal more fresh spring veggies, including beans, green pepper, and asparagus, plus nuts, orchid florals, pear, butter, and a bit of citrus. The tea is surprisingly sweet in spite of all the veggies. The final steeps are nutty, grassy, mineral, vegetal, and still fairly sweet, with hints of florals and fruit here and there.

Of the three Bi Luo Chun, this one is the most vegetal, with the fewest floral or fruity hints. Either they were less prominent than in the spring 2023 version, or the other teas made me notice them less. Either way, I enjoyed the springlike, beany, nutty character of this tea and I think it fared pretty well against its more expensive competitors.

Flavors: Asparagus, Butter, Chestnut, Citrus, Cucumber, Floral, Grass, Green Beans, Green Pepper, Kale, Mineral, Nutty, Orchid, Pear, Sweet, Vegetal

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 4 min, 0 sec 0 OZ / 0 ML

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87

This Longfengxia is from spring 2023. My expectations were high after Ethan’s fantastic, coconut-infused spring 2021 LFX. I steeped 6 g of leaf in 120 ml of 195F water for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds, plus some long, uncounted steeps.

The dry aroma is of orchid, narcissus, osmanthus, and cream. The first steep has notes of cream corn, misty mountain air, orchid, osmanthus, grass, and faint peach. The next steep has more of a peachy quality, with soft, indistinct florals. The stonefruit comes into its own in steeps three and four, with something between peach and apricot along with the soft florals. The next couple steeps give me lettuce, cookies, white sugar, and grilled peaches. I get a nice, lingering peachy aftertaste. The final steeps feature bok choy, lettuce, grass, and faint florals.

This is a pleasant, gentle oolong with beautiful stonefruit notes and a little more grassiness than I expected. Slightly longer steeps in my clay pot made the most of the fruit and florals, but the oolong usually petered out fairly quickly and the flavours were always on the softer side. This is still a high-quality tea, but it doesn’t measure up to the spring 2021 LFX. But really, few oolongs can do that.

Flavors: Airy, Apricot, Bok Choy, Cookie, Cream, Floral, Grass, Lettuce, Narcissus, Orchid, Osmanthus, Peach, Soft, Sugar, Sweet Corn, Vegetal

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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98

I’ve been holding on to this tea both because it is good and because it’s hard to pin down the flavours in a tasting note. I think it’s from 2022. Floating Leaves called this a cross between a Bai Hao and a Lishan oolong, and they’re absolutely right. I steeped 6 g of leaf in 120 ml of 195F water for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds, plus some long, uncounted steeps.

The dry aroma is of mango, apple, honey, raisins, florals, brown sugar, and malt. The first steep gives me lovely notes of mango, apple, and raisins, plus rose, cream, vanilla, spices, brown sugar, honey, and mild tannins. It’s like an impossibly decadent cake in tea form. I get nutmeg, rose, honey, and pine in the next steep, plus lush mango and more tannins. Steeps three and four add violets and other florals to the spice/rose/mango/honey base. By steep five, the tea takes on some muscatel and autumn leaf overtones reminiscent of a Bai Hao, while still having lots of mango, rose/orchid/violet, honey, and malt. As the steeps get longer, the tea becomes slightly more malty and tannic, though the spices, muscatel/raisins, honey, and brown sugar persist. It tastes more like a traditional black tea, though a very good one. I didn’t want to say goodbye to this tea, so I did some final, slightly disappointing steeps that had notes of malt, minerals, wood, honey, and the ghost of those beautiful florals.

Whenever I have this tea, I’m absolutely smitten with it and sad about my dwindling supply. It has lovely fruity, floral flavours, basically no bitterness, excellent longevity, and the characteristics of all the tea types I enjoy. It confirms my belief that Lishan black teas are truly special.

Flavors: Apple, Autumn Leaf Pile, Brown Sugar, Cream, Floral, Honey, Malt, Mango, Mineral, Muscatel, Nutmeg, Orchid, Pine, Raisins, Rose, Spices, Tannin, Vanilla, Violet, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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91
drank Baozhong by Ethan Kurland
424 tasting notes

This tea is from winter 2023/2024. When I bought it in the middle of January, a nice Baozhong sounded wonderful. This tea is lightly roasted, but according to the vendor, it’s not noticeable in the taste. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml porcelain pot using 195F water for 15, 20, 25, 30, 30, 35, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds, plus some long, uncounted steeps. I also used the same parameters with my 150 ml Zhuni-Hongni pot, though the steep times may have been a bit longer because the pot has a slower pour.

The dry aroma is of lilac, gardenia, orchid, and zucchini. The first steep has notes of lilac, gardenia, honeysuckle, orchid, jasmine, butter, zucchini, minerals, and grass. The heady florals are lovely! The next steep adds herbs and ripe apricot to the floral bouquet. Steeps three to six feature apricot, sap, grass, coriander, and heady florals over a mineral, herbaceous backbone. I get a little nuttiness and a touch of astringency, and the lilac and gardenia are particularly prominent in some sessions. Subsequent rounds are still quite floral, but the vegetal, herbaceous, buttery character gets stronger. The final steeps are herbaceous, mineral, nutty, and vegetal, and I can sort of suspect that the tea has been roasted, though probably only because I was told about it.

Steeping in clay doesn’t seem to affect the tea too much, though I remember detecting more minerality and less of a floral aroma.

This tea is definitely for people like me who love drinking flowers. If I’d stopped at steep six or so, I would have given this Baozhong a 94. However, the lovely florals get overwhelmed in subsequent steeps and the tea becomes quite grassy and vegetal. This is still a lush Baozhong with lots of complexity.

Flavors: Apricot, Butter, Coriander, Floral, Gardenias, Grass, Herbaceous, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Lilac, Mineral, Nutty, Orchid, Perfume, Sap, Sweet, Vegetal, Zucchini

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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83

This is a clonal first flush that I included in my 2023 order because of its name. (Giving pretty names to Darjeelings seems to be common, and “Floral” is fairly restrained as things go.) I steeped about 4 g of leaf in 150 ml of 180F water for 3, 4, 5, 7, and 10 minutes.

The dry aroma is of honey, citrus, florals, spices, and herbs. The first steep has notes of honey, spring flowers, lemon, orange, pepper, herbs, and green veggies. There’s some crispness and astringency, though it doesn’t detract too much from the citrusy florals. The next steep is also herbaceous, lemony, and floral, with a nice sweetness balanced by green veggies and a bit of astringency. The third steep has a pronounced honey note, less florality and citrus, and a harder hit of astringency and veggies. I also get some nuttiness and green beans, though I may be detecting that flavour because I’ve been drinking a lot of green tea. The final two steeps are predictably astringent, but with enough honey and florals to be drinkable.

This is a nice Darjeeling, but it doesn’t reach the heights of some of the other Thunderbolt first flushes in my opinion. Using less leaf cuts down on the astringency but also on the flavour, and it’s hard to find a balance. Still, this is a smooth, sweet, floral, citrusy FF that I enjoyed finishing.

Flavors: Astringent, Citrus, Floral, Green, Green Beans, Herbaceous, Honey, Lemon, Nuts, Orange, Pepper, Spices, Sweet, Vegetal

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 3 min, 0 sec 4 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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92

I just finished another 50 g pouch of this ethereal Tie Guan Yin. It became a little softer with age, but the gardenia, orchid, and violet florals were still lovely, as were the hints of apricot, pineapple, peach, green apple, and cream corn. The longevity was still good, though the later steeps were grassy as expected.

Kudos to Sipscollection for finding a beautiful Taiwanese green Tie Guan Yin! This tea may be getting too old to buy another bag, but I’m thinking about it.

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Bio

Since I discovered Teavana’s Monkey Picked Oolong four years ago, I’ve been fascinated by loose-leaf tea. I’m glad to say that my oolong tastes have evolved, and that I now like nearly every tea that comes from Taiwan, oolong or not, particularly the bug-bitten varieties. I also find myself drinking Yunnan blacks and Darjeelings from time to time, as well as a few other curiosities.

However, while online reviews might make me feel like an expert, I know that I still have some work to do to actually pick up those flavours myself. I hope that by making me describe what I’m tasting, Steepster can improve my appreciation of teas I already enjoy and make me more open to new possibilities (maybe even puerh!).

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Toronto

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