135 Tasting Notes

90

Inspired by a recommendation from Liquid Proust, I bought six teas from this company, which I’d never heard of, for Christmas. Even though I’ve tried only two of them, it’s safe to say I made a good decision. Following the instructions on the website, I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 212F for 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The dry leaf smells floral, nutty, grassy, and faintly citrusy. I was wary of steeping it in boiling water, but this tea can apparently take it. I get notes of grass and sweet citrus, followed by lighter notes of nuts, orchids, and cream. Even hitting it with boiling water, there’s no astringency. The citrus becomes kind of like a mandarin orange in the second steep and a slight bitterness emerges. The citrus morphs into grapefruit in the third steep, and I get vegetal hints that remind me of spinach. Swishing it around in the mouth reveals the roasted almond in the description. I can kind of see how the body can be described as oily, though I’m not very good at detecting such things.

I let the fourth steep cool and it’s vegetal and bitter with some nutty undertones; it’s probably best to drink this tea hot. As the session winds down through the next five steeps, the tea loses the citrus but retains the floral, creamy, vegetal, and grassy flavours.

I usually find Alishan oolongs to be all about the florals, but this one had refreshingly diverse flavours. (The citrus was a particularly nice touch.) The brewing method let me see how the flavours evolved, although I could have extended the steeps farther apart near the end of the session. It was well worth the $16 I paid for 50 grams.

Flavors: Almond, Blood orange, Citrus, Cream, Floral, Grapefruit, Grass, Nutty, Orchids, Spinach, Vegetal

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

Out of stock. Crud.

Leafhopper

Yeah, it’s a shame. They seem to keep a lot of their out-of-stock items on the site for some reason. Their Gui Fei is also excellent, though, and I think it’s still available.

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77

I could have sworn I wrote a review for this tea about a year ago, but either I’m wrong or I miscategorized it. I’m working through the last of a 50 g pouch I bought in the spring of 2015. This is a tea that grows on you, with slightly weird flavours you have to get used to. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The dry leaf has the tangy grape smell of purple Sour Patch Kids. The first steep has notes of red and green grapes, blueberries, flowers, sage, and eucalyptus. The taste is a lot less tangy and sour than the smell, but it’s still a strange combination for me. The second steep is much the same, although the sweetness really comes out when the tea is allowed to cool.

In the third steep, a fuzzy grape skin note emerges in the mouth, and the tea seems to become even sweeter. The sweet, fruity, and herbaceous character continues for the next few rounds. By steep six, it’s lost most of its oomph and is taking on woody and vegetal qualities, which predominate during the last couple steeps.

I won’t have any trouble finishing this tea, but it’s something I wouldn’t normally reach for. It’ll be fun to compare it to the other purple tea I picked up from Yunnan Sourcing in 2017.

Flavors: Blueberry, Eucalyptus, Floral, Grapes, Herbaceous, Mineral, Pleasantly Sour, Sage, Tangy, Vegetal, Wood

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

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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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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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