186 Tasting Notes
I bought a bunch of second flush Darjeelings from this company a while ago, plus a couple first flushes. But by the time I could dig in to them, I got two back-to-back colds. Finally, my sinuses have more or less returned to normal and I can start reviewing tea again (yay!). I steeped about 4 g of this fluffy leaf in a 355 ml mug at 195F for 5 and 8 minutes, respectively.
The first steep is really green, with notes of orange blossom, other flowers, citrus, herbs (thyme?), roasted almonds, cream, green pepper, and grass. The body is thick and there’s little astringency. The second steep is more vegetal and herbaceous.
This is a nice, complex, greener first flush that deserves the attention I can finally give it. The flavours are well integrated, although I tend to prefer more fruity offerings (hence the focus on second flushes).
Flavors: Almond, Citrus, Cream, Floral, Grass, Green Pepper, Herbaceous, Orange Blossom, Thyme, Vegetal
For the past couple weeks, I’ve had a miserable cold that wiped out my ability to smell or taste anything with any accuracy. The only upside was being able to sip down this tea, which I’ve had since 2015. (In a mistake that might haunt me to my grave, I placed an order with Tealirious the week that Butiki was having their closing sale. I’d just gotten into tea and didn’t know what I was doing.)
This tea is pretty, with lots of fluffy golden tips, but that’s almost the only good thing I can say about it. The first steep is a tannic kick in the teeth. When my palate recovers, I get notes of hay, barnyard, cardboard, faint sweet potato, caramel, earth, and malt. Lowering the leaf amount tempers the tannins and astringency a little, but leaves me with a bland but still drying cup. I tried gonfuing this tea to get rid of it faster, and it’s one of the only times I haven’t finished a session.
This tea might have been better with milk or sugar or as a cold brew with lots of flavouring, but plain, it’s pretty bad. It’s probably the worst tea I received from Tealirious, which had decent teas overall. Its awfulness can’t be attributed to its age, either, as I remember trying it when I bought it and immediately pushing it to the back of my cupboard in consternation. Glad to finally see it go.
Flavors: Astringent, Barnyard, Caramel, Cardboard, Drying, Earth, Hay, Malt, Sweet Potatoes, Tannin
This review is for the spring 2018 harvest. I bought this tea as a possible alternative to Yunnan Sourcing’s premium Tie Guan Yin. (I also bought their fancy TGY, which is a noticeable step down in quality.) I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 7, 10, 12, 16, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
Dry, the tea smells like lilacs, orchids, cookies, and grass. The first steep has notes of grass, orchids, lilacs, other flowers, cream, cookies, and coriander. The taste is pleasant, but is grassier than regular TGY. The next three steeps have citrus and herbaceous notes, though again, the grass predominates. The profile is similar throughout the next few steeps until it fades into grass and veggies around the ninth infusion.
If I use a lot of leaf, this tea comes close to the premium Tie Guan Yin, but ultimately, it’s not as interesting or satisfying. I guess you really do get what you pay for, at least in this instance.
Flavors: Citrus, Cookie, Coriander, Cream, Floral, Grass, Herbaceous, Orchids, Vegetal
I like Teakruthi’s minimalist approach to their flavoured teas. Where many vendors would have a whole grocery list of ingredients, this company has only black tea and lemon. I steeped 2 teaspoons of leaf in a 355 ml mug at 190F for 4, 6, and 10 minutes.
When I opened the bag, a strong lemon scent wafted out, which made me worry that the tea would taste like drain cleaner. Fortunately, the first steep is mild, with a nice balance of natural lemon and malty, slightly drying black tea. Unlike the few other lemon teas I’ve had, the flavours don’t seem to be competing with each other as to which will be the stronger. Subsequent steeps retain this good balance, but are weaker in taste with a greater amount of dryness. There are also huge lemon pieces among the spent leaves.
This is a pleasant, unfussy brew that I enjoyed. I found that the lemon distracted me from paying attention to the base tea, but this just shows how well integrated it is. I probably won’t purchase it because I don’t tend to go for lemon teas, but I recommend it highly for those who do.
Flavors: Drying, Lemon, Malt
I was really excited to try an oolong from a region that’s not known for producing them. My tastes run to greener oolongs from China and Taiwan, and it’s nice to get some variety. Thanks to Teakruthi for the sample. I steeped around 5 grams of this tea in a 355 ml mug at 185F for 3, 4, and 6 minutes.
The first steep has notes of decayed autumn leaves, grass, metal, and flowers. I’m not sure if it’s due to the processing, but this tea seems unfinished, kind of like I’d imagine raw tea leaves (or any steeped plant) would taste. If anything, this tastes like a grassy green tea. The next two steeps are much the same.
While this oolong is definitely green, it has none of the flavours or nuances I look for in these teas. Based on this sample, I don’t think Sri Lanka is ready for prime time as an oolong producer, though it’s great that they’re exploring different tea types. Maybe like Nepal a few years ago, Sri Lanka needs some time to refine their oolong-making technique, or maybe this tea just isn’t for me.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Floral, Grass, Metallic, Plants
When I saw that this tea was from 135-year-old bushes, I couldn’t pass up the chance to try it. (I guess all you puerh drinkers are making me value old tea trees.) It’s from the Dimbula region of Sri Lanka, which makes it a high-grown tea. Thanks to Teakruthi for the sample.
I steeped slightly over 2 teaspoons of leaf in a 355 ml mug at 190F for 4.5 and 6 minutes. In a previous session, I used the same parameters and started steeping at 3.5 minutes, but the tea turned out too light to detect much flavour.
The aroma of the large twisted leaves is of malt and muscatel. The first steep is a nice combination of muscatel, wood, and malt with a grassy aftertaste. I also get floral and sappy notes, as well as a hint of smoke, though fortunately for me, this is easy to miss. The tea is very light and has almost no astringency. The second steep still has lots of flavour, with the malt and wood predominating.
This is an elegant, non-abrasive tea with some nice but understated flavours. Even though I used slightly more leaf than the instructions recommended, it was very light and I had trouble picking it apart. This seems to be the more laid-back cousin of Divine Highlands and would make for a nice afternoon tea.
Flavors: Floral, Grass, Malt, Muscatel, Sap, Smoke, Wood
Thanks to Teakruthi for the beautifully packaged free samples. I don’t have much experience with Sri Lankan teas, so I was eager to see what they’re all about. I personally picked this blend because the website description likened it to a first flush Darjeeling, a tea type of which I have some knowledge. I steeped 5 g of leaf in a 355 ml mug at 190F for 4, 6, and 10 minutes, respectively.
The leaves are small, fairly uniform green twists and have a dry aroma of wildflowers, fruit, and pine. The first steep is a lovely copper colour and indeed has the florals and faint muscatel of a first flush Darjeeling. I also get grape skins, green grapes, raisins, pine sap, eucalyptus, grass, tannins, and pleasant sourness. I remember as a kid cracking open the seed pods of the caragana tree in my yard, and the taste reminds me of how that smelled. The second and third steeps offer lighter renditions of these flavours.
I’ve tried this tea with less leaf and at lower temperatures, but anything that reduces the sappy sourness also reduces the Darjeeling-like fruit and florals. I’ve come to the conclusion that this tea should be enjoyed for the expression of the Sri Lankan highland terroir that it is and that comparisons to first flush Darjeeling can go only so far.
Flavors: Eucalyptus, Floral, Fruity, Grapes, Grass, Muscatel, Pine, Pleasantly Sour, Raisins, Sap, Tannin, Vegetal
This is the 2017 winter harvest. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
Dry, these big green nuggets smell like heady flowers, green apples, and custard. I get orchids, honeysuckle, green apple, sweet corn, cream, and grass in the first steep. (What is it with corn showing up in high mountain oolongs lately?) The tea is sweet, silky, and slightly metallic, and has a persistent aftertaste. The next couple steeps add notes of spinach, herbs, and a hint of green apple. (But it’s mainly still about the corn.) The corn dissipates by steep five and the florals by steep seven or so, leading to a grassy, vegetal, faintly sweet end to the session.
This is a pretty standard Lishan with a substantial body and some interesting notes near the beginning of the session. It fades pretty quickly, which is a problem with many teas of this type. I usually don’t pay more for organic teas, but I’ll have to see whether TTC’s organic Lishan is worth the extra money.
Flavors: Corn Husk, Cream, Floral, Grass, Green Apple, Herbaceous, Honeysuckle, Metallic, Orchid, Spinach, Vegetal
Given that I’d purchased four teas from Darjeeling and Nepal, Alistair kindly included this second flush as a free sample in my order. This was another one I almost bought, but I decided to go with the Rohini Golden Buds instead. It’s the 2019 harvest. I steeped about 4 g of leaf in a 355 ml mug at 195F for 5 minutes, plus another uncounted infusion.
The dry aroma is of muscatel and orange blossoms, and these are the flavours that jump out at me on the first sip. I also get orange, other flowers, cream, tannin, malt, earth, wood, grass, and raisin. Unlike the Rohini Golden Bud, which is a big fuzzy teddy bear of a tea, this is pleasantly astringent. The second steep still has muted muscatel and orange blossom notes, but is maltier and more astringent.
This is a rustic, high-quality second flush that would make a great morning tea. There’s a nice balance between its heady muscatel and orange blossom aromas/flavours and its earthier elements. However, I made the right choice for my particular taste preferences when I bought the Rohini.
Flavors: Cream, Earth, Floral, Grass, Malt, Muscatel, Orange, Orange Blossom, Raisins, Tannin, Wood
I almost bought this tea when I was placing my most recent What-Cha order, so I was happy to see it included as a free sample. Guizhou is a region I haven’t come across often in my extensive online window shopping; in fact, I think only What-Cha and maybe Camellia Sinensis stock teas from this terroir. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 200F for 7, 10, 12, 16, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of brown sugar, stewed plums, and wood. The first steep is sticky and sweet with notes of plum, citrus, apricot, brown sugar, tannin, wood, and a bit of malt. It’s a mild tea that nonetheless has a tannic bite. The citrus (candied orange) and stonefruit (nectarine?) get more prominent in the next couple steeps, as does the brown sugar. The fourth steep tastes faintly of stewed greens and is pretty drying, though it still has nice apricot and plum notes. Though the fruity notes persist over the next few rounds, malt, cooked greens, tannins, and wood come to the forefront.
If I had to rate this tea on the first five or so steeps, it would be in the nineties, but the increasing dryness and tannins in the later part of the session lose it some marks. Still, there’s a lot to like, especially if you enjoy citrus and stonefruit, which I very much do.
Flavors: Apricot, Brown Sugar, Citrus, Drying, Malt, Orange, Plums, Stonefruits, Tannin, Vegetal, Wood