256 Tasting Notes

71

I’ve had a handful of Thai oolongs, but I believe this is my first Thai black tea. Thanks, Derk and White Antlers! Though the leaves look long and twisty enough to gongfu, I followed Derk’s recommendation and steeped them Western, using roughly 3.5 g in a 355 ml mug at boiling for 3.5, 4.5, and 8 minutes.

The dry aroma is of sour cherry, grain, and malt. The first steep has notes of cherry, raisins, molasses, barley, malt, wood, and tannins. There’s a slight floral hint that I wouldn’t have picked out if Derk hadn’t mentioned it. This tea is a little astringent, which suggests that I should have gone with a three-minute steep. Subsequent steeps emphasize the molasses, malt, and wood.

Partly due to user error, this tea didn’t seem that interesting to me. I’m glad I got to try it, but I don’t think it is one of the more memorable offerings from Whispering Pines.

Flavors: Astringent, Cherry, Floral, Grain, Malt, Molasses, Raisins, Roasted Barley, Tannin, Wood

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 30 sec 4 g 12 OZ / 355 ML
White Antlers

Nice to see tea making the rounds among friends. : )

Leafhopper

Absolutely! You’ve made a lot of tea people happy.

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86

Until yesterday, when I did some research, I thought all Fujian white teas were the same. However, it appears that there are two types: one from Fuding, which is sweet and fruity, and this one from Zhenghe, which is more savoury and herbaceous. It would have been nice to know that back in 2016 when I bought this tea. After even more research and the realization that there are a million contradictory ways to brew white tea, I steeped about 5 g of leaf in a 120 ml pot at 195F for 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 seconds, then for 1:15, 1:30, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 10 minutes, plus some long, uncounted steeps.

The dry aroma is of pungent herbs, smoke, hay, and wood. The first steep has notes of banana bread, honey, delicate spring flowers, pungent herbs, hay, oats, and wood. Squash and pleasant sourness emerge in the second steep. I get wood smoke in steep three, along with creamy and woody notes, although the tea remains somewhat sweet; the hay/oats/banana aftertaste lingers. By steep six, the honey florals start to intensify and I get a sappy note. As the session goes on, the orchid and spring florals poke their heads out periodically, playing off the heavier smoke, wood, sourness, and oats. This tea goes for a long time and ends with hay, oats, wood, tannins, date-like sweetness, and minerals.

Since it has few of the flavours I like and many to which I’m indifferent, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this tea. I had fun picking apart the various flavours, which were all over the map. This tea packs a caffeine punch and took all day to steep out.

Flavors: Baked Bread, banana, Cream, Dates, Floral, Hay, Herbaceous, Honey, Mineral, Oats, Orchid, Pleasantly Sour, Sap, Smoke, Sweet, Tannin, Wood, Zucchini

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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90

I’m drinking the spring 2020 iteration of this much-loved Shan Lin Xi. I’ve written notes on the 2017 and 2018 versions already and there’s not much to add, but I had to give a shoutout to how great it is.

Steeped according to my usual parameters, I get that lovely jammy cherry, orchid, cream, wheatgrass, papaya, spinach, and lettuce, plus some new-to-me notes of coconut and vanilla. That SLX balsam note comes out in later steeps, along with some honeyed florals. The creamy vanilla cushions the vegetal fade, which, as in other harvests, comes too soon for my liking.

I just chugged eight steeps of this tea in less than an hour and a half, which is kind of a record for me. In spite of its lack of longevity, this is one of my favourite oolongs and I’m raising the rating accordingly. Other teas can spend years in my cupboard, but I’ll be surprised if this one lasts more than a month.

Flavors: Cherry, Coconut, Cream, Floral, Grass, Honey, Lettuce, Orchid, Sap, Spinach, Sweet, Tropical, Vanilla, Vegetal

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

This sounds delicious… was looking for this online but only see the fall 2020 version on their website?? :)

Leafhopper

They probably ran out of the spring version. I’ve had the winter harvest of this tea and it was also good, though I’m not sure about the fall harvest.

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73

I don’t know why I ignored this tea for five years. I love Bai Hao, so I must have just forgotten about it. I steeped 5 g of my 10 g sample in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 30, 20, 20, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The dry aroma is of honey and stonefruit. The first steep has notes of honey, faint malt, grass, and flowers (orchids?). I get faint plums and berries in the second steep, though they’re more in the aroma than the taste. The third and fourth steeps have notes of cranberries, currants, sap, pleasant sourness, honey, flowers, nutmeg, baked bread, and grass. It kind of reminds me of a GABA oolong. The last few steeps have flavours of GABA tang, honey, dried fruit, and sap.

I really struggled to describe the taste of this tea and found it to be all over the place in terms of flavour. While it had many of the notes I associate with Bai Hao, it more closely resembled a GABA oolong to me. This could be because of its age, although I have other older teas of this type and they haven’t changed that much. I’m sending my remaining 5 g to Derk, who might be able to figure this tea out.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Berries, Cranberry, Dried Fruit, Floral, Grass, Honey, Malt, Nutmeg, Orchid, Pleasantly Sour, Plums, Sap, Stonefruits, Tangy

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 30 sec 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML
derk

I’ll do my best :)

Leafhopper

Maybe this tea will work for you in a way that it didn’t quite work for me.

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I received this tea as a sample in my 2019 Lochan order. As I don’t drink Assam often, it’s been sitting in my drawer, but I broke it out today in an effort to give myself some much-needed energy. I steeped 4 g of tea in a 355 ml mug at 195F for 4, 6, and 8 minutes.

The dry aroma is of autumn leaves and malt. The first steep is all about the malt, with notes of tannins, autumn leaf pile, a touch of bready sweetness, and wood. There’s a slight astringency, but not as much as in some Assams I’ve had. The malt, baked bread, and tannins become more prominent in the next two steeps.

This is a no-nonsense Assam that gets the job done. However, Lochan carries Assams, notably their Harmutty Golden Lion, that are more to my taste.

Flavors: Astringent, Autumn Leaf Pile, Baked Bread, Malt, Tannin, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 4 min, 0 sec 4 g 12 OZ / 355 ML
tea-sipper

I meant to order from Lochan a while ago… now it looks like you get redirected to TeaSwan

Leafhopper

I’m redirected there as well. I hope Lochan Tea is still in business. I see a few of their blends on the site, but not many.

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70

This was my second mystery oolong from the Black Friday sale. As someone who’s not a fan of roasted oolongs, I did not approach this tea with the same enthusiasm as I did the Jade Oolong. Hoping to minimize the roast, I steeped it as I would a wuyi oolong: 6 g in a 120 ml teapot at 200F for 7, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The dry aroma is of chocolate, honey, smoke, and roast. The first steep reveals that the roast is not as pronounced as I feared. I get honey, toasted grain, roast, chicory, smoke, and faint flowers. A mineral note appears in steep two, but sadly, no chocolate. I get a muddled dark chocolate note in the next couple steeps, along with wood, more roast, and lots of honey and grain. There’s also a floral and grassy aftertaste. The next four rounds offer consistent flavours of honey, cereal, nuts, mild roast, and grass, along with a slick body. The last few steeps are full of roast and minerals.

This is a solid, comforting tea that does not display much flavour variation. To be honest, I found it a bit boring, although its profile is not one I gravitate toward. This is pretty inoffensive and does show some characteristics I associate with Wuyi oolongs, but I won’t be sad to see it go.

Flavors: Dark Chocolate, Floral, Grain, Grass, Honey, Mineral, Nuts, Roasted, Smoke, Toasty, Wood

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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88

I got this as a mystery tea in my Black Friday What-Cha haul. It’s something I probably never would have ordered, but it fits my interest in Taiwanese oolongs. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The dry aroma is of orange blossom, honeysuckle, and cream. The first steep has notes of butter, baked bread, lilac, orange blossom, honeysuckle, cream, lavender, faint fruit, and grass. The fruit resolves itself into cantaloupe and citrus in the second steep, and the orange blossom becomes stronger. I also get hints of corn and spinach. The grassy, vegetal, and spinach notes grow stronger in the third steep, but those citrus, orange blossom, and melon notes do as well. By the fifth steep, I get more vegetal flavours, plus minerals and umami. However, it’s still full of orange blossom, honeysuckle, lilac, and other flowers I can’t put a name to. As the session progresses, the vegetal, umami, and mineral flavours gradually take over, although the tea retains its florality for a long time.

This oolong punches well above its price point and I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. It has a wide range of floral notes and the hints of melon and lavender were a pleasant surprise. While it’s not as nuanced as a high mountain oolong, it’s definitely one of the nicer low elevation teas I’ve had in a while.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Butter, Cantaloupe, Citrus, Corn Husk, Cream, Floral, Grass, Honeysuckle, Lavender, Mineral, Orange Blossom, Spinach, Umami, Vegetal

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

Sounds incredible! The cantaloupe, yum.

Leafhopper

The cantaloupe definitely earned this tea some extra points. :)

derk

Sounds like heaven. The weather is supposed to sunny and 21C through the weekend. Wish I had this as an accompaniment. I’ll settle for a FF Darjeeling from What-Cha instead :)

Leafhopper

That’s really warm for January! You’re right that this would make an excellent spring tea.

Inkling

This sounds really yummy!

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I’d like to wish everyone on Steepster a belated happy new year. Let’s hope 2021 will bring better things. (After 2020, the bar is set pretty low.)

In honour of National Marzipan Day, I’m drinking this very old tea from 2016 or thereabouts. I steeped around 4 g of leaf in a 355 ml mug at 185F for 3.5, 5, and 8 minutes.

Surprisingly, the aroma of almond and amaretto is still pretty strong. The first steep has notes of almond, marzipan, cherry, and grass, though the tea is a little stale. These flavours persist in the second steep, with the green tea becoming more grassy and slightly astringent in the third.

This is a nice, if not memorable, tea that probably hasn’t been improved by sitting so long at the back of my cupboard. I enjoyed the amaretto and marzipan, but the green tea not so much. I’d give it a 65, but will hold off since it’s so old. Thanks, Mastress Alita, for the suggestion to revisit it.

Flavors: Alcohol, Almond, Astringent, Cherry, Grass, Marzipan, Nuts

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 3 min, 30 sec 4 g 12 OZ / 355 ML
White Antlers

Happy 2021 to you, Leafhopper. :)

Mastress Alita

I had an old sampler packet of this tea that I finally drank during advent season (to replace a banana tea that came in my advent — that’s the only flavor I can’t do) and felt much the same; fairly certain the green leaf in mine was also stale!

Leafhopper

Mastress Alita, that’s totally my fault for keeping it so long. Too bad I have most of a tin of it left.

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98

I don’t think I’m the only one who’s happy that 2020 is ending. Like many of you, I’ll be spending the holidays alone. I was going to get together with my family, but the widespread lockdown and rising case counts in Ontario made us change our plans at the last minute. With things feeling less than festive, I’ve decided to dip into my tiny stash of pricy, aspirational teas that I’ve been hoarding for several years. I always worry that I won’t appreciate these treasures, or conversely, that they’ll ruin me for all the good but not great tea I can afford to drink regularly. Nonetheless, I’ll be sampling some of these teas throughout the holidays.

This green Tie Guan Yin is from spring 2016. I steeped my entire 7 g sample in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 7, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The dry aroma of these still green leaves is of citrus, orchid, cream, baked bread, and apple. The first steep has notes of orange, apricot, orchid, baked bread, cream, violet, lilac, honeysuckle, grass, apple, butter, and herbs (Eastkyteaguy says parsley, and I agree). The second steep adds honey and a pungent note of zucchini. The third gives me more lilac and orchid, as well as gardenia, sweet pea, custard, grapefruit, peach, melon, peas, spinach, and minerals. (That peachy aftertaste alone is enough of a reason to buy this tea!) I love how the fruit, florals, and veggies are so balanced.

In the next few steeps, the tea gets less fruity, with the florals, veggies, umami, herbs, and creamy sweetness balancing out. However, I still get those apple/melon/stonefruit notes if I look for them. I also get some pepper and metallic notes, with a lemon-like tang. There’s a pleasant sourness by steep seven. The tea keeps becoming more pungent and vegetal, but is still surprisingly balanced and enjoyable until the end of the session.

This is easily the best Tie Guan Yin I’ve had the pleasure of tasting. At $29 for 50 grams, it’s expensive but not out of reach. I’ve paid $15 per ounce for Li Shan and Bai Hao teas from Taiwan, though admittedly, I usually get only one ounce. I won’t wait another four years to buy more of this tea!

Flavors: Apple, Apricot, Baked Bread, Butter, Citrus, Cream, Custard, Floral, Gardenias, Grapefruit, Grass, Herbaceous, Honey, Honeysuckle, Lemon, Melon, Metallic, Mineral, Orange, Orchid, Parsley, Peach, Peas, Pleasantly Sour, Spinach, Umami, Vegetal, Violet, Zucchini

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 7 g 4 OZ / 120 ML
ashmanra

Yes, I have new twin grandbabies and can’t see them. I am a hugger who can9t hug anyone. My husband is essential personnel and is in line to get the vaccine as soon as January 4th. I am ready for things to get better.

White Antlers

Leafhopper Take it from a very old lady-Use the ‘good stuff’ now. Don’t save it for a rainy day/special occasion. A lot of us will be spending the winter holidays alone this year. Wonderful, special tea is good solace for that. Remember that you have all your Steepster friends, so none of us are truly alone.

Leafhopper

Ashmanra, not being able to see your grandkids is hard, though I’m glad to hear your husband will be vaccinated soon. The U.S. seems to be rolling out vaccines faster than Canada is. Like you, I’m more than ready for things to go back to normal. This has been a long year.

White Antlers, you’re right, I should use the good tea while it’s fresh (or at least while it’s clinging to its last vestiges of flavour in the case of some of my older teas!). Steepster has definitely helped me feel less alone.

Mastress Alita

Yes on 2020. I celebrate Festivus, and I fear I’ll need an extra day to get through my Airing of Grievances this year, haha!

I used to horde my “good stuff” and then by the time I got back to it, the flavor and/or quality had degraded. I’m trying to sipdown my cupboard to a managable state so that when I buy new tea, I can actually enjoy it when its at its tastiest!

Leafhopper

Mastress Alita, I had to look up Festivus traditions and think the airing of grievances is a good one, although I’m sure it can lead to some arguments.

I have some good teas that are probably no longer as good because I’ve been hoarding them for so long. I have a Da Yu Ling from 2017 that I’m scared to open! Some of my average teas sit in my backlog for over a year before I get around to them. I really need to discover just how much tea I have and then not buy any more until it’s at a reasonable level, but somehow I never get around to doing that.

Martin Bednář

You are speaking about vaccines and we will give first shots maaaybe in February.

But yep, I don’t want to speak aobut it here. It’s hard, though I spend my time with my family (I live still with parents, as obvious from a few notes) and this tea seems just great. I am happy that 2020 ends, and I am praying that 2021 will be, at least a tiny bit, better.

tea-sipper

Yes, at least the vaccine is progress. I wish you some lovely socially distanced fancy tea sipping!

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97

I think Derk/White Antlers may have given me a sample of this tea, but I also bought a bag of the 2018 harvest, which is what I’m drinking. I steeped 4 g of leaf in a 355 ml mug at 195F for 5 and 8 minutes.

The dry aroma is of hay, chocolate, roses, and stonefruit. The aroma from the cup was so enticing that I sipped this while it was still really hot and now have a slightly burned tongue. The dark chocolate is very prominent, followed, in order of detection, by peach, apricot, nectarine, honey, tangy dried fruit, citrus, rose, cannabis, herbs, wood, smoke, orange blossom, hay, malt, minerals, tannin, cream, and roasted almond. As it cools, the muscatel, stonefruit, and citrus notes become more apparent in the tea and in the aftertaste. I also see how people are getting cherry from this. The second steep is almost as good, featuring fewer of the fruit and chocolate notes and more of the malt/tannins/hay. I get autumn leaves and more astringency.

I was blown away by this tea as soon as I tried it, burned tongue notwithstanding. I immediately tried to find it on the website, only to learn it was out of stock. This is one of the best Nepalese teas I’ve had and one of the highlights of 2020.

Flavors: Almond, Apricot, Autumn Leaf Pile, Cannabis, Cherry, Chocolate, Citrus, Cream, Dark Chocolate, Dried Fruit, Floral, Hay, Herbaceous, Honey, Malt, Mineral, Muscatel, Orange Blossom, Peach, Rose, Smoke, Stonefruits, Tangy, Tannin, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 5 min, 0 sec 4 g 12 OZ / 355 ML
tea-sipper

I hope you find some eventually! Fresh Jun Chiyabari is the best.

Leafhopper

I can imagine that fresh Jun Chiyabari is fantastic if it’s this good two years after it was picked!

tea-sipper

YES in my experience Jun Chiyabari loses flavor the fastest of any other tea, so this tea must have been impressive two years ago!

Leafhopper

I’ll have to put buying fresh Jun Chiyabari on my list of tea goals for 2021—or maybe 2022 since I have a lot of tea to get through.

Togo

I’ve had this tea for a while and it didn’t get worse over time or lose pungency as far as I can tell. In fact, I probably liked it most when it was 1 to 1.5 years old. I think it’s mostly the teas that are processed similar to white teas or FF Darjeelings that tend to deteriorate fast and lose a lot of their complexity.

Leafhopper

Togo, I’m glad to hear that. I think around two years is the maximum amount of time that Indian teas keep their freshness. My 2019 SF Rohini Gold Buds is starting to lose its oomph, although it’s still very good.

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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!).

Location

Toronto

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