80 Tasting Notes


This is another one from the tea archives. I used to dismiss Assams as a combination of malt and paint thinner, but the ones from Lochan Tea made my opinion a bit more nuanced. I steeped about 4.5 g of leaf in a 355 ml mug at 195F for 2:30, 4:00, and 6:00 minutes.

While the dominant note is malt, the first steep also has notes of honey, raisin, wood, hay, pencil shavings, pleasant sourness, and pine sap. Although some astringency is present, it isn’t overwhelming, and the liquor is pretty smooth. The flavours decrease in complexity over subsequent steepings and if I allow the tea to cool.

While I don’t think Assam teas will ever be my first choice, this one is surprisingly smooth and complex while also waking me up. Not bad for a tea from 2015!

Flavors: Hay, Honey, Malt, Pleasantly Sour, Raisins, Resin, Smooth, Wood

195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 30 sec 4 g 12 OZ / 355 ML

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I haven’t been around lately because I’m spending all my time dealing with business-related issues. Apparently, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is good marketing advice that I should have heeded long ago. I probably won’t be buying much tea until I can get things back on track. At least this will give me a chance to tackle my stash!

I bought this tea three years ago, felt indifferent about it, and forgot it. One thing in its favour is that it’s very pretty. I steeped about 5 g of loose, fuzzy golden curls in a 120 ml porcelain teapot at 190F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

I don’t know if it’s because of age, but this tea starts out very gentle, with notes of cocoa, honey, hay, malt, rye bread, barley sugar, and tannins on the first steep. By steep three, the flavour is intensifying and the malt and hay are taking centre stage, which is not really the direction I want it to go. By steep six, the chocolate has almost disappeared and it’s a typical Dian Hong, heavy on the malt and tannins and a bit drying. Cruelly, the leaves still smell like rye bread and chocolate, though these flavours no longer make it into the cup.

This tea started out as a sweet cocoa treat, but quickly morphed into your typical Dian Hong. While this isn’t bad per se, it wasn’t what I was expecting, and I understand why it’s now so old.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Brown Sugar, Cocoa, Hay, Honey, Malt, Tannin

190 °F / 87 °C 5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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This tea, which I’m finally finishing today, is from the 2016 harvest. It might not be the most refined dragonwell out there, but I really enjoyed it, especially when slurped from a mug while working. I brewed it Western style: about 4 g of leaf in a 355 ml mug for 1:20, 2:00, 3:00, 5:00, and 8:00 minutes.

The first steep has notes of chestnuts, beans, peas, Brussels sprouts, umami, and a hint of cherry. The chestnut sweetness is balanced nicely with the vegetal bite. I could have gone with a one-minute infusion, as the liquor was slightly astringent.

In the second steep, the cherry is more prominent, and, as another reviewer mentioned, has kind of a cough-syrup-like quality. This flavour profile persists over the next couple steeps. As one would expect, the final steep was a lot less nuanced and more vegetal.

This was a nice, easy-drinking dragonwell that had an extra something special due to the hint of cherry. I’d gladly purchase it again.

Flavors: Beany, Cherry, Chestnut, Garden Peas, Nutty, Umami, Vegetal

175 °F / 79 °C 4 g 12 OZ / 355 ML

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I bought this tea in early 2016. I’d only found the Dong Pian harvest of Four Seasons oolong in a few places, and wanted to see if it was different. ($20 for 75 g also sounded good.) And then, I let it sit—for two years.

I opened the vacuum-sealed package a couple weeks ago. The smaller-than-usual winter petals gave off a sweet, floral aroma. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The first steep has notes of orchids, other flowers, nuts, cream, and grass, and the second adds a touch of veggies, arugula, and citrus. The vegetal and floral notes dominate the next few steeps, and though the tea starts out sweet, it doesn’t stay this way for long. By steep six, it’s entirely green and vegetal. I steeped it out, but it was basically over by this point.

I’m not sure if the tea aged badly or whether it was short lived to begin with, but compared to other offerings from this company, it didn’t perform well. It’s a decent daily drinker, but I don’t think I’ll buy more.

Flavors: Citrus, Cream, Floral, Green, Lettuce, Nutty, Orchid, Vegetal

195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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I’m finishing up a 10 g sample of this tea from a couple years ago. Though I haven’t tried too many Sun Moon Lake teas, I always find their menthol/sassafras flavours fascinating. I steeped 5 g of leaf in a 120 ml porcelain teapot at 195F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 60, 90, and 120 seconds.

The long, dark, wiry leaves give off a typical sassafras and tingly menthol aroma. The first steep is mild and sweet, though with a bit of a bite in the aftertaste, and has flavours of malt, sassafras, menthol, and sweet potato. The menthol intensifies in steep two, and is joined by faint notes of chocolate, honey, and grass. The longer this tea is kept in the mouth, the more astringent it gets.

This tea just keeps getting sweeter with each steep, with that sassafras note remaining prominent. The flavours stay consistent until steep ten, when the Sun Moon Lake character gradually diminishes into malt, earth, and tannins.

Notwithstanding its astringency, this is an enjoyable SML. I’d love to see whether cold brewing would maximize the sweetness, and will consider getting more of this in the future.

Flavors: Astringent, Chocolate, Earth, Grass, Honey, Licorice, Malt, Menthol, Sweet Potatoes

195 °F / 90 °C 5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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I won this tea in a draw that Teavivre hosted about a year ago. It’ll be interesting to compare it to what I remember of the company’s 2016 She Qian Dragonwell, which is an earlier picking by a few days. I steeped 3 g of tea in a 120 ml teapot at 175F for 20, 40, 70, 120, 150, and 180 seconds.

The leaf is a vivid green, is mostly unbroken, and has ample white fuzz; the aroma in the teapot is of spinach and other veggies. The first steep has notes of spinach, peas, asparagus, chestnuts, cream, and umami. From what I can recall, it packs more of a punch than the She Qian. In the second steep, the chestnut and green notes are intensified and the tea has a touch of astringency. Subsequent steeps retain the nutty character, but get increasingly green and vegetal.

This is a high-quality, refreshing green tea that has more substance than its She Qian counterpart. I have over 20 g of this to finish, so I’ll be able to explore different preparation methods.

Flavors: Asparagus, Chestnut, Cream, Peas, Spinach, Umami, Vegetal

175 °F / 79 °C 3 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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drank Banyan Da Hong Pao by Zen Tea
80 tasting notes

I’m finally getting to the end of my Zen Tea samples. I steeped 5 g of tea in a 120 ml teapot at 200F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

This is a toasty, nutty Da Hong Pao. I get toasted grain, honey, caramel, charcoal, walnuts and other nuts, and tobacco in the first to third steeps. It’s drying without being bitter, with a persistent nutty and charcoal aftertaste. The tea acquires a mineral taste by steep four, but otherwise remains consistent.

By steep seven, I find, like other reviewers, that this Da Hong Pao starts to peter out, with the nuts and grain becoming attenuated. This tea thins out into a charcoal and mineral finish around steep ten.

This Da Hong Pao had a promising beginning, but faded quickly. What there was of it was good, though. Still, I’ve had other DHP’s with more staying power and complexity.

Flavors: Caramel, Char, Grain, Honey, Mineral, Nutty, Tobacco, Walnut

200 °F / 93 °C 5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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As a fan of this terroir, I bought the Shan Lin Xi, Long Feng Xia, and Shibi winter harvests for comparison. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, and 120 seconds.

In the teapot, the leaves have heady aromas of flowers and sweetness. The first steep offers notes of wildflowers, orchids, and lilacs, although my palate for flowers is not too great and I’m kind of guessing. I also get grass, cream, and resin. The body is a bit thin, but the aftertaste is persistent.

The next few steeps are even sweeter and more floral, though I wouldn’t have identified this sweetness with corn. The balsam note is also very prominent, as is the “greenness” that accompanies it. Although this greenness gradually increases, there’s enough floral and sweet notes to keep it tasty. It only starts getting overwhelming around steep nine.

If you like floral oolongs with strong balsam notes, you’ll enjoy this tea. It also has good staying power for a green oolong. I highly recommend it!

Flavors: Corn Husk, Cream, Floral, Grass, Green, Orchids, Resin

195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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My cupboard clearance continues with this tea from 2014. This is my first Keemun Mao Feng, so I don’t have any benchmarks for comparison, even if it would be fair to judge such an old tea. Not surprisingly, the aroma is almost nonexistent, although I detect faint notes of smoke and hay. I steeped 5 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 203F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The first steep has notes of honey, hay, leather, smoke, and tannins. The astringency increases on the second steep, although it’s compensated for by more sweetness and what may be a hint of tart, unripe plums. Subsequent steeps offer a suddenly prominent note of buffalo grass, along with earth, malt, tannins, and minerals.

Especially in the initial steeps, this reminds me of Yunnan Sourcing’s Bai Lin Gong Fu, a tea of which I wasn’t particularly fond. Although I liked the progression of flavours, few of them appealed to me. I’ll have to try another Keemun Mao Feng to see if this one is typical of the style.

Flavors: Buffalo Grass, Earth, Hay, Honey, Leather, Malt, Mineral, Plums, Smoke, Tannin

5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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Since I started getting into loose leaf, I’ve wanted to try all ten of China’s famous teas. After this one, I should only have two more to go (Du Yun Mao Jian and Jun Shan Yin Zhen), although I’d like to revisit a few more. I steeped about 3.5 g of leaf in a 120 ml porcelain teapot at 185F for 20, 40, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

This Mao Jian is a bit more assertive than other greens I’ve tried, with notes of snow peas, kale, bok choy, and other bitter greens on the first steep. In subsequent steeps, I get a stronger vegetal and umami flavour and a hint of smokiness. The liquor is somewhat astringent and has an oily mouthfeel on the later steeps, combined with a long, vegetal aftertaste. The two last steeps are more astringent than the others, but are still enjoyable.

This was a pleasant green tea that I imagine would be very refreshing cold brewed. It would be fun to compare it with its Du Yun counterpart.

Flavors: Astringent, Bok Choy, Kale, Peas, Smoke, Umami, Vegetal

185 °F / 85 °C 3 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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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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