282 Tasting Notes

74

I received this tea as a sample in my last What-Cha order. It was harvested and roasted in 2020. I steeped the entire 6 g in a 120 ml teapot at 200F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

Dry, this tea has the typically lovely aroma of a Gui Fei: honey, baked bread, stewed fruit, citrus, and grass. The first steep gives me honey, grapefruit, grains, roast, wood, and minerals, with a strange nutty and chicory-type aftertaste at the back of the throat. The grapefruit gets stronger in the next steep, but so does the astringency. I also get citrus, honey, sap, roasted almonds, and roast. I let the third steep cool and the nutty flavour intensifies, along with the grapefruit and piny notes. It kind of tastes like an IPA. There are beautiful peach and nectarine notes in steep five to compensate for the growing astringency. In the next few steeps, the grapefruit, roasted nuts, honey, and grains don’t go away, but the growing astringency makes the tea less enjoyable. The session ends with malt, nuts, earth, wood, minerals, honey, and faint grapefruit.

Although I enjoyed some aspects of this Gui Fei, particularly the grapefruit, the roast and astringency were more pronounced than I usually like. What-Cha says this tea improves with age, and maybe I should have stored this sample in my tea museum for a couple years before trying it. I’d say it’s decent for the price if you like this type of tea, which I certainly do.

Flavors: Almond, Astringent, Baked Bread, Citrus, Earth, Grain, Grass, Honey, Malt, Mineral, Nuts, Peach, Pine, Roasted, Sap, Stewed Fruits, Wood

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

“tea museum” har har

Leafhopper

Yep. If it was better organized, I could charge admission! :P

Mastress Alita

Complete with fossilized pu’erh cakes, excavated from ancient Chinese ruins?!

Leafhopper

Sadly, no, though I do have an unnamed pu’erh sample that’s been “aging” in a plastic wrapper since 2015 or so. I also have a Bai Hao cake and halves of two black cakes from Liquid Proust, lots of old Darjeeling and green tea, teabags from ten years ago that I’ll never drink, old flavoured teas I’m rarely in the mood for, plus tons of black, white, and oolong teas that I really want to get around to. Oh, and samples from Derk, which I’m trying not to archive.

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75

When Derk said this tea might be losing its edge, I thought I’d better start sipping down my remaining 45 g. It’s from the spring 2020 harvest. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 7, 10, 12, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The dry aroma is of lemon, orchid, lily, lilac, and a vegetal note I read as spinach. The first steep is very floral, with orchids, lilies, and lilacs, plus grass, lettuce, artichoke, and lemon. The pronounced peach/apricot aftertaste is definitely the best part of the sip. In steep two, the lemon combined with the sweetness indeed reminds me of lemon curd. The stonefruit also shows up in the aroma and taste, not just the aftertaste, which makes the lettuce/artichoke note more palatable. I also get some herbaceous notes. In the third steep, I get more generic citrus, baked bread, pleasant sourness, and extra veggies. That stonefruit aftertaste is still impressive.

By steep five, the veggies are winning the fight for supremacy with the stonefruit. The lily florals are still present but are subsiding and I’m getting some metallic notes. The best part of this tea is still the aftertaste. The tea gets increasingly vegetal and astringent in the next few rounds, although the stonefruit aftertaste continues until the tenth steep or so. The end of the session is dominated by veggies, astringency, minerals, and grass, with wisps of stonefruit hanging on for dear life.

While this is by no means the best Tie Guan Yin I’ve had (that honour goes to YS’s Competition TGY), I think this is a middle-of-the-road example of this tea. I kind of expect some astringency in Tie Guan Yin, and the stonefruit makes up for many of its flaws. I won’t have any trouble finishing the rest of this package, although I may not buy more.

Flavors: Apricot, Artichoke, Astringent, Baked Bread, Citrus, Floral, Grass, Herbaceous, Lemon, Lettuce, Metallic, Mineral, Orchid, Peach, Pleasantly Sour, Spinach, Tangy, Vegetal

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

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87

I’ve been working my way through 50 g of the 2020 harvest of this tea using the same gongfu parameters, and while it’s still tasty, it has fewer of the upfront citrus and stonefruit notes that I loved in its previous iteration. I get a lot of pine, smoke, baked bread, caramel, wood, and tannins along with the expected plums and apricots. Although this is still a good tea, it bears less of a resemblance to a Dan Cong than I initially thought. I’ll keep the rating for now, but might lower it later.

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

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98

I decided to take this tea out of the archives to celebrate Mastress Alita’s sipdown challenge for National Freedom Day/Black History Month, though thankfully, it’s not a sipdown. I’m embarrassed to say I don’t have any teas from black-owned companies, partly because I’m a creature of habit and partly because these companies tend not to sell straight teas that I’d want to gongfu. (Please let me know if any of them actually sell these types of teas.) I also don’t have any teas from Africa, although I remember having an interesting one from Malawi a few years ago that I passed on to Derk. So, I’m steeping my favourite black tea.

I won’t go into a lot of detail because this session was much like the first, though I noticed the lemon a bit more and found some lovely floral apricot/peach notes in the middle of the session. Basically, if you can think of a fruit, it’s most likely in this tea, though it has very little tartness. There’s lemon, lychee, pineapple, cranberry, raspberry, those stonefruit notes … all balanced by light malt, florals, and a few tannins near the end of the session. Drool.

I haven’t had many unsmoked lapsang souchongs so I may be biased, but this tea is magical. I would consider buying 100 g despite the price if it ever comes back in stock. Until then, I will be hoarding my two or three sessions’ worth.

Preparation
Boiling 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML
Mastress Alita

Wild Lapsang is so good! I definitely need to try more of them, too.

Leafhopper

I bought a few of them from Wuyi Origin and What-Cha that I look forward to trying. If they’re all this good, I’ll have a new favourite tea!

tea-sipper

It’s the ALL THE FRUITS tea

Leafhopper

Absolutely! If it weren’t for the price, I’d say it would be excellent for those just starting out with black tea because it’s so tasty and user friendly. :)

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83

This is my first time trying pressed tea! Thanks, Derk, for sending me something I had previously considered buying from the TTC website. If there’s a trick for breaking these things without making a mess, I don’t know what it is, but I eventually took about a gram off my big piece of this cake so it was around 6 g. After a rinse, I steeped it in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, and 60 seconds, then 1:15, 1:30, 2, 3, 5, 7, and 10 minutes.

The dry aroma is of faint berries, honey, and malt. The giant piece of cake stuck out of my teapot, so I did a 15-second rinse to try and soften it up enough to make it fit. It had faint notes of tart gooseberry, honey, and dried fruit. I could smell menthol in the teapot but couldn’t taste it. The first real steep has notes of menthol, autumn leaf pile, dried fruit, honey, and minerals, plus a long wintergreen aftertaste. This is absolutely a Red Jade tea! I get more of the tart cranberries and gooseberries in the next three steeps, along with menthol, tannins, lemon, vague florals, and increasing bitterness.

By steep five, this tea is asserting its black tea character, with the menthol predominating and malt, autumn leaf pile, cream, and hints of fruit in the background. By steep seven, I get woody and incense notes, plus sassafras, raisins, berries, and dried fruit. Near the end of the session, the menthol notes disappear, leaving malt, dried fruit, wood, minerals, autumn leaves, and lots of tannins.

I found this tea to be a fascinating expression of the Red Jade cultivar, with the typical menthol and sassafras notes but a lot more fruit than the standard black tea. Although it did get bitter at times, I think the short steeps helped tame it somewhat. (However, like my last white tea, all those short steeps made for a longer-than-usual session.) Although I’m not sure I need an entire cake, I might keep my remaining sample to see if it changes with age.

Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Berries, Bitter, Cranberry, Cream, Dried Fruit, Floral, Honey, Lemon, Malt, Menthol, Mineral, Raisins, Sarsaparilla, Tannin, Tart, Wood

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

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65

Derk bought a set of three mystery teas in the order we split from What-Cha on Black Friday, and this was one of them. I’ve never had a tea from Laos before, although the offerings from One River Tea have been tempting me. Thanks, Derk, for letting me take a sample before sending it along. I steeped around 4 g of leaf in a 355 ml mug at 203F for 3, 5, and 7 minutes.

Dry, the tea smells like citrus, hay, chocolate, and malt. Oof! The first steep is strong. I get tannins, tannins, and more tannins, plus malt, wood, faint orange blossom, honey, baked bread, and hay. It’s drying in the mouth and I feel like I’ve swallowed pencil lead. The fancy citrus and chocolate notes are absent in subsequent steeps, but neither does the tea deliver such a kick in the face. I also get a mineral note and maybe a hint of prune.

To me, this is an average breakfast-type tea with nothing special to indicate its terroir. Maybe Derk, who has a more sophisticated palate, will find more to love about this tea.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Chocolate, Citrus, Drying, Hay, Honey, Malt, Mineral, Orange Blossom, Tannin, Wood

Preparation
3 min, 0 sec 4 g 12 OZ / 355 ML
derk

You’re welcome. I’ll give it a fair sip this weekend. Sounds like it needs to be paired with a hearty breakfast to mitigate those tannins.

Leafhopper

I think you’re right. I also shouldn’t have used so much tea. I can usually get away with 4 g to my 355 ml mug, but maybe not with this one.

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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, Plum, Sap, Stonefruit, 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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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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