123 Tasting Notes

71

I haven’t been reviewing lately because I’ve been sipping down old teas, although I still don’t seem to have made a dent in my stash. This is the penultimate session of a spring 2018 Dong Ding, which I bought as part of a Taiwanese tea sampler. 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 first steep has notes of toasted grain, honey, and mild char, while the second adds cooked pineapple, rock sugar, and roast. While I wouldn’t describe this tea as astringent, the body is drying, with little of the fruit I noticed in the 2017 version. In the next couple steeps, the cornhusk note from 2017 emerges and the honey, char, and toasted grains still predominate. There’s already a faint grassy aftertaste.

As the session moves along, the roast becomes more prominent, the tea gets a nutty quality, and the fruit disappears. By steep ten, it’s mostly roast and minerals.

This is a comforting, easy-drinking Dong Ding that keeps missing being great by a hair. Last year it was fruity but too smoky and astringent, while this year it was smoother but not as interesting. However, it’s interesting to see how the same tea can differ so widely across harvests, and I won’t be surprised to find the 2019 version in my cart once I can justify buying tea again.

Flavors: Char, Corn Husk, Drying, Grain, Grass, Honey, Mineral, Nutty, Pineapple, Roasted, Sweet

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

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81

Happy new year! I hope 2019 will be a better year for everyone.

I bought this as part of a Taiwanese tea sampler in 2018. To my knowledge, it’s the first time Camellia Sinensis has carried this varietal. I steeped around 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 40, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds. Annoyingly, there’s about 2.5 g of tea left in the bag, which I’ll subsequently try to Western steep in my ridiculously huge mug.

The dry leaves smell like honey and heady flowers, and the liquor backs this up. The first four steeps have notes of honey, lilac, honeysuckle, spinach, and grass. A balsam note comes in on steep three, and the balance among the spinach, honey, and florals is good. By the fifth steep, the honey starts to diminish and the tea gets more vegetal. It lasts for a good eight steeps.

This is a pleasant, if not a very memorable, oolong with decent staying power. I’d definitely recommend it for the price.

Flavors: Floral, Grass, Honey, Honeysuckle, Sap, Spinach, Vegetal

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

Happy New Year, Leafhopper :)

Nattie

Happy New Year! (:

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86

Maybe because of my recent Camellia Sinensis order or maybe because it’s winter, I’ve gotten back into Darjeelings. I plumbed the depths of my stash to find some teas from Lochan, which are unfortunately now two years old. (Why did I need so much tea again?) I steeped about 1.5 teaspoons of leaf in a 355 ml mug at 200F for 3.5 and 5 minutes.

This was an interesting one! Possibly because of the name, I got notes of autumn leaf pile, malt, muscatel, prunes, and hay. I also suspected that the tea was lightly smoked, which is highly unusual for a Darjeeling. This led me to Geoffrey Norman’s post on Steep Stories that states that gently smoking their teas is Niroula’s signature; incidentally, it also provides an interesting history of the tea garden. The second cup was less fruity but still good, and the smoke remained gentle and unobtrusive.

While this wouldn’t jump immediately to mind when I think of Darjeeling, I’m glad I added it to my already overblown tea stash and will have no trouble finishing it.

Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Hay, Malt, Muscatel, Smoke

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 30 sec 1 tsp 12 OZ / 355 ML

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89

Since I read on TDB that Zhu Lu is one of the most sought-after Alishan oolongs, I’ve wanted to try it, and Fong Mong is among the few online vendors that carry it. I was therefore really happy to get a free sample. I steeped 6 g in a 120 ml teapot at 190F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

These small, tightly rolled nuggets have a vaguely floral aroma. The first steep is a surprise! It tastes like a floral apple pie, with baked apple, spice, light florals, cream, honey, veggies, and a drying aftertaste. The next two steeps have a thicker body and continue with the apple theme—maybe apple custard. There are more vegetal and floral notes, especially as the tea cools.

By the fourth steep, the fruit starts to subside and the tea becomes a creamy, floral oolong with spinach and apple hints. The steeps remain vaguely sweet and floral until the end of the session, though the vegetal and spinach notes gradually predominate.

This is well rounded and complex for an Alishan oolong and the apple and spices were a pleasant surprise. I now understand why teas from this area are so highly recommended.

Flavors: Cinnamon, Creamy, Custard, Drying, Floral, Honey, Red Apple, Spices, Spinach, Vegetal

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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81

From the product description, it appears that Fong Mong has developed this tea varietal independently of the TRES, and I’m kind of impressed. Thanks to the company for providing a sample. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 190F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

In the teapot, the large, loosely rolled green nuggets smell faintly floral. (From the consistency of the spent leaf sets, I can believe that this is a hand-picked tea.) The first steep has the beany, vegetal notes of green tea along with the milky, floral qualities associated with Jin Xuan. It also tastes kind of starchy, maybe because of the beans. This is a wonderfully soft tea with no astringency. Notes of kale, cream, and maybe gardenia show up in the next couple steeps. By steep six, the tea starts becoming more vegetal, though it’s still very pleasant.

Although I gravitate toward fruitier, less vegetal oolongs, this is a unique and easy-going varietal that would appeal to green tea drinkers. I love trying “experimental” teas from Taiwan and am glad I got to sample this one.

Flavors: Beany, Cream, Floral, Gardenias, Kale, Milk, Vegetal

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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85

I wrote a previous tasting note on the 2017 spring harvest of this Shan Lin Xi, and this one is for 2018. Every year, I get some of this tea, and every year, I run out of it too soon. I need to cave and buy a larger amount. I steeped my last remaining 6 g in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

In the teapot, I get aromas of cherry, wheatgrass, flowers, and honey; it smells softer and more nuanced than the 2017 version. Because it has all the tea bits from the bottom of the bag, the first steep is more astringent than usual, with notes of flowers, honey, cream, grass, and faint cherry. From the second steep, stronger cherry, balsam, and tropical fruit (maybe papaya?) emerge. Like its 2017 counterpart, this tea ends too soon, with the fruitiness and florals disappearing into vegetal obscurity by steep seven or so.

This Shan Lin Xi is a favourite and is great for mindless sipping. Last spring’s harvest had a more distinctive cherry profile, and while I appreciate this year’s honey and florals, that fruitiness is what makes me return year after year. The only thing that’s preventing me from giving this tea a higher rating is how quickly it ends.

Flavors: Cherry, Cream, Floral, Grass, Honey, Sap, Tropical, Vegetal

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

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78

I haven’t had many green Dong Dings, as the roasted ones are so much easier to find. Thanks, Fong Mong, for the sample. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 190F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

In the pot, the tea smells like char, roast, and honey. The first steep is surprisingly smooth and buttery, with hints of honey, nuts, grain, and roast. The aftertaste is a bit drying. Steeps two and three continue in this vein, with hints of caramel and chestnut. By steep five, a vegetal quality emerges and the roast becomes sharper.

When I saw this was a green Dong Ding, I didn’t expect any roast at all; I was certainly in for a surprise. Though the roast wasn’t heavy, it definitely imparted a charcoal, nutty flavour. According to my very limited Chinese, “Tian Xiang” translates to “heavenly aroma,” and as promised, the smell was a highlight. I’m not sure I’d buy this again, but it was a tasty Dong Ding that’s perfect for the increasingly cold weather.

Flavors: Butter, Caramel, Char, Chestnut, Drying, Grain, Honey, Nutty, Roasted, Vegetal

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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79

To my knowledge, this is the first time I’ve had a tea from the Tsui Yu cultivar. Thanks to Fong Mong for furthering my education! I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 190F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

In the teapot, the dry, smaller-than-usual green balls smell like sweet caramel and flowers. The first steep is unusually sweet. I might actually have to use the cotton candy flavour descriptor, which is something I never thought would come in handy. Notes include honeydew, apple, caramel, cream, flowers, grass, and herbs. The second steep, which I drank cold, had more herbaceous and coriander flavours, though it was still caramel and sweet.

The next couple steeps are pretty similar. By steep five, however, the fruitiness and caramel start to dwindle, to be replaced by a slightly sweet, herbaceous, and vegetal brew with a floral aftertaste.

The first three or four steeps of this tea are unique and tasty, especially for those with a sweet tooth. However, this tea fades quickly and might be better suited for Western or grandpa brewing.

Flavors: Apple, Caramel, Coriander, Cotton Candy, Creamy, Floral, Grass, Herbaceous, Honeydew, Sweet, Vegetal

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 6 tsp 4 OZ / 120 ML

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82

Back in 2015 when I was just getting into tea, I picked up 100 g of a Singell first flush Darjeeling from what was then Golden Tips Tea and was blown away. I’ve been plotting to get my hands on another one ever since. Judging from the previous seven-year-old tasting note, Camellia Sinensis carries this regularly. I steeped about 1.5 teaspoons of leaf in a 355 ml mug at 200F for 3.5 and 5 minutes.

This is definitely a first flush tea. I get strong herbaceous notes (thyme?) backed by sap, minerals, and light florals. There’s no muscatel or other fruit. Although the range of flavours is small, this tea is exceptionally smooth and balanced and has little astringency. The second steep is almost as good as the first.

Though it didn’t live up to my transcendent experience with Singell in 2015, this is a very nice first flush Darjeeling, especially for those who like their teas on the greener side. Despite not being able to pinpoint all the flavours, I’ve had it four times in the past week or so, which is unusually consistent for a leafhopper like me. However, the Thurbo Darjeeling, with its muscatel flavours, is more my style, and I wish I’d bought more of it instead. I should just accept that I prefer later-invoice first flushes and second flush Darjeelings, in spite of the cachet of early-invoice FFs.

Flavors: Floral, Green, Herbaceous, Sap, Smooth, Thyme

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 30 sec 1 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

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62

I bought this tea during my big Tie Guan Yin restocking this spring. The price, $6 for 50 g, gave me pause, but it’s Yunnan Sourcing, so how bad could it be? I also recalled reading a review that praised a previous harvest, so into my cart it went. I steeped 6 g of tea in a 120 ml teapot at 190F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 60, 90, and 120 seconds.

In the teapot, the dry aroma is kind of like sweaty socks. More charitably, I can detect funky zucchini, citrus, grass, and orchids. The first steep has notes of grass, citrus, slightly off zucchini, stewed tomatoes, tomato vine, and pungent orchids. The best part of this steep by far is the aftertaste, which is long and peachy, though that squashy funk also makes a reappearance. The next few steeps are similar, gaining more vegetal, herbaceous, grassy, and floral flavours. Thankfully, the squash sort of dissipates by steep five or so, but finishing the session was a struggle.

I tried this tea Western (3 g, 355 ml, 2.5/4/6 minutes) and it just shortened the misery.

This is a very grassy Tie Guan Yin featuring a rather unfortunate combination of citrus and zucchini. I have around 35 g left and honestly, the thought of finishing the bag depresses me. YS has excellent premium and imperial TGYs, and I’m not sure if this harvest is an anomaly. However, based on this tasting, there are much better budget Tie Guan Yins out there.

Flavors: Citrus, Floral, Freshly Cut Grass, Herbaceous, Orchid, Sweat, Vegetal, Zucchini

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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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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