164 Tasting Notes

72

Teabento generously provided this sample for review. I love bug-bitten teas and am excited to try some non-Taiwanese versions for comparison. I used slightly more than a teaspoon of leaf in my 120 ml teapot and followed Teabento’s steeping directions of 2, 1, and 3 minutes at around 195F.

The leaf is somewhat broken and many have silvery hairs. Upon opening the bag, citrus is the first thing that hits me, followed by muscatel and malt. The aromas intensify in the preheated teapot.

The first two-minute steep smells like a second flush Darjeeling. I get muscatel, lemon, and malty honey, with a tiny bit of astringency. This tea is also delightfully sweet.

The maltiness falls away in the second steep, leaving sweet muscatel and citrus. The tea is somewhat drying and while it’s tasty, it’s not too complex. The third steep continues along these lines, though the pronounced citrus flavour is also starting to fade and the astringency is picking up. I also get a bit of a raisin aroma from the cooled liquid.

I attempted a five-minute fourth steep, but they were right to recommend only three.

Compared to Taiwanese bai hao, Himalayan Donkey is a much less complex animal. What there is of it is great, but like many Indian teas, it lacks staying power. It would be interesting to cold brew this to make the most of its sweetness while minimizing astringency.

Flavors: Citrus, Drying, Honey, Lemon, Malt, Muscatel, Raisins

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 1 min, 0 sec 3 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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91

Teabento generously sent me over eight of their teas to review, and this is the first of them. I followed the steeping directions on the package, but since I don’t have a 200 ml vessel, I used a 120 ml teapot with about 4 grams of leaf. I steeped the tea for 50, 40, 60, 90, and 120 seconds. (I usually use more tea and do shorter steeps with high mountain oolongs.)

When first scooped into the teapot, the loosely rolled green nuggets smell sweet and savoury. The initial 50-second steep is buttery, floral and vegetal with no astringency. There’s also a lovely herbaceous/balsam note in the teapot that I wish had made it into the cup. More of this note emerges in the second steep, and while the bok choy-like vegetal quality is still present, the tea also becomes more floral (sweet pea flowers or something equally delicate, perhaps). I’m impressed that such long steeps produce no bitterness.

The next two steeps confirm that this is definitely one of the most vegetal Shan Lin Xi I’ve had, either because I used markedly different brewing parameters than usual or because this is its natural flavour. The balsam note also stays around, along with the sweetness. By the fifth steep, some of the complexity has disappeared, though the distinctive sweetness and vegetal notes remain.

Although I don’t think this is a typical tea for the terroir, it’s a very good one, and depending on the price, I’d gladly purchase it again. I’ll have to try the rest of the sample using my regular brewing parameters.

Flavors: Bok Choy, Butter, Cedar, Floral, Garden Peas, Herbaceous, Pine, Sugarcane, Vegetal

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

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73

I need to start finishing my older teas. I remember this one being more complex, but today, I’m getting roast, honeysuckle, and minerals. I filled the pot halfway full of leaf and the results are fairly astringent. I’m not tasting the orchid and stonefruit notes mentioned by other users; maybe that’s because the tea is old, or because I brewed it incorrectly. I have one more session’s worth of this tea, though that will probably be even more bitter because it’s the broken leaves at the bottom of the bag. This dan cong was okay, but I’m not inclined to buy it again.

Flavors: Astringent, Baked Bread, Gardenias, Honeysuckle, Mineral, Roasted

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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80

This 2017 harvest is actually DJ-16, which I think means that it’s a slightly earlier invoice. In the bag, it smells like dried flowers, herbs, and stonefruit. After a 3:30 steep at 195F, these flavours become more prominent. There’s not a lot of astringency, and the peach and muscatel make this tea pleasantly sweet, balancing out the herbaceousness that I think is characteristic of FF Darjeelings.

A five-minute second steep is surprisingly good, though I’ve learned from experience not to push it beyond that to “extract all the flavour!”

Flavors: Drying, Floral, Herbaceous, Muscatel, Peach, Stonefruits

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 16 OZ / 476 ML

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78

This is my first time trying this oolong. Scott recommended it to me as fruity, so I’m hoping for the best. I steeped 6 grams of tea in a 120 ml porcelain teapot.

25 and 20 sec steeps at around 195F: I really had to work to detect the flavours here. Vegetal, heavy bodied, no astringency, that “jade” type of taste. There’s some sweetness if I squint, but nothing I’d say is fruity.

40 secs with boiling water: I upped the temperature to try to pull more out of the tea. There’s a tiny bit more astringency, but it does have a stronger vegetal flavour and a nice aftertaste that could be guava or some other tropical fruit. The sip itself doesn’t taste fruity though.

50, 60, 90 secs with boiling water: I let the leaves cool after the fourth steep and they smelled like marjoram or some other herb. Wish I had names for all these flavours/aromas! The taste and aftertaste remain pretty consistent. One thing I like about the oolongs I’ve tried from Taiwan Sourcing is their consistently long aftertaste.

So is this tea fruity? Kind of, though I don’t think that’s its primary attribute. I’ll need to experiment with the rest of my sample.

Flavors: Guava, Heavy, Herbaceous, Mineral, Vegetal

Preparation
6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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85

I’ve sampled every harvest of this oolong since I started drinking loose-leaf tea in 2015, so you could say it’s an all-time favourite. There are teas that are more complex, last longer, and get more attention online, but I keep coming back to this one because of its approachability.

Just as the description from Camellia Sinensis promises, it hits you with strong cherry, coconut, and wheatgrass notes. (I probably couldn’t have put my finger on the wheatgrass flavour if the website hadn’t mentioned it, but once you know what to look for, it’s unmistakable.) Unfortunately, the tea doesn’t have staying power, usually losing its fruitiness and turning vegetal by around the sixth gongfu steep. Alternatively, I can get three good Western infusions out of it. At $20 CAD for 50 grams, it’s also a decent price for an oolong from this area.

This is a wonderful everyday tea—not so complex that I need to think about it, and bold enough to stay interesting.

Flavors: Cherry, Coconut, Floral, Sweet, warm grass

Preparation
0 OZ / 0 ML

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84

This is an oolong from an area best known for producing black teas. The first things I notice about it are its honey-like sweetness and buttery mouthfeel, combined with a mild astringency. It has a long, floral aftertaste and seems to pack quite a caffeine punch. In later steeps, I get umami and spinach notes, but the sweetness never really goes away. This is a good tea, though it lacks the fruity flavours I look for in jade oolongs.

Flavors: Butter, Floral, Honey, Spinach, Umami

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 30 sec 5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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89

I agree with the high ratings people have been giving this tea. I’m drinking the spring 2016 harvest and am down to my last couple sessions.

The fuzzy golden leaves produce a copper brew that evokes rye bread with dark chocolate chips. It’s possible to oversteep this, but even when it’s bitter, it still tastes good. I’ll definitely be restocking this tea.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Dark Chocolate, Peanut, Pleasantly Sour, Yeasty

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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87

I wish I had sufficient experience with Dan Congs to distinguish the 53 separate aromatic molecules this one apparently has. Nevertheless, I can tell it’s good. The leaves are somewhat broken and there’s not a lot of roast. In the bag, it smells fruity and herbaceous.

I filled my pot about halfway full of leaf, since I don’t have a small enough vessel to stuff it completely. With short steeps in boiling water, this tea has a lot going on. The first thing I notice is the orange blossom aroma, mixed with something that seems to combine citrus and tropical fruits. There’s also a nutty roasted undertone that gets more persistent in later steeps, plus a long fruity aftertaste. I’m now on my tenth infusion at 50 seconds and while the tea is winding down, I’ll probably get a lot more from it.

Flavors: Astringent, Citrus, Floral, Herbaceous, Lychee, Orange Blossom, Roasted, Tropical

Preparation
Boiling 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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85

Shan Lin Xi is one of my favourite oolong growing areas, so this tea from the top of the mountain appeals to me. It’s on the floral rather than the fruity end of the jade oolong spectrum.

For such a good tea, I’m having trouble describing exactly what’s going on. It has a noticeably heavier body than other green oolongs I’ve had recently. It’s sweet, floral, grassy, sometimes with a hint of stonefruit, and though these are the typical descriptors for this style of oolong, it’s somehow just a bit better. (The empty cup also smells like fabric softener in the best possible way.) It’s a comforting and refreshing tea for a Sunday afternoon.

Flavors: Floral, Freshly Cut Grass, Heavy, Sweet

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 30 sec 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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