306 Tasting Notes
Short review: I didn’t like this tea no matter how I brewed it, in stark contrast to What-Cha’s Vietnam “Fish Hook” Green Tea, which I really love. I recommend that one if you’re looking for a good Vietnamese green tea.
Long review: I received a sample of this with a recent order from What-Cha. This is the March 2018 crop. I really loved the Shan Tuyet black tea from Vietnam so I’m surprised that this green tea produced from the same mountain (same tea plants too maybe?) is unremarkable.
The tea is so very light in flavor, taking much more leaves than usual to extract a good amount of flavor. Even the color of the brew is quite pale compared to other green teas. Overall, the flavors are somewhat typical of green tea: vegetal, nutty, hints of green beans and peas.
The color of the leaves after brewing them is odd, kind of a sickly yellow-green, with some definite yellow areas on the leaves.
After wondering if I did something wrong in brewing this tea, the second time I made it I skipped my usual 80C/176F brewing temperature for green teas and followed What-Cha’s suggestion of 75C/167F (strangely low for a non-steamed green tea). In fact, that made it even more flavorless, and I feel I’d have to use way more leaves to extract much flavor.
What is wrong with this tea? Why do the leaves look so yellow once they’ve been hydrated and unrolled? It doesn’t look right to me. Maybe there’s nothing wrong and it just isn’t my tastes. I’m an enthusiast, not an expert. The leaves might be rolled too tightly. They don’t open up easily at the lower water temperatures required for brewing green tea.
Third time’s a charm right? I tried brewing a new batch with almost twice the amount of leaves. Flavor was still very light. It’s hard to describe, as the notes are not very pronounced. Almost tastes like a very young sheng puerh (and not a good one), vegetal, very mild floral, high amount of bitterness.
I honestly can’t recommend buying this tea. No way I could brew it seemed to do it justice. I always try different ways of brewing to see if I can find a way to enjoy a tea that I don’t like at first, as I really do not want to waste anything people worked hard to produce, but I have to sometimes come back to what an old Steepster friend once told me “Life’s too short to drink bad tea”, and just give up on it. That’s what happened here. Hopefully just a problem with this crop. I’ve heard there were horrible droughts last winter in parts of Asia.
Flavors: Bitter, Vegetal
I bought this tea as a curio due to it being a wild cultivar and described as having a strong blackberry note. Brewing this gongfu style, after the first infusion the wet leaves smell unmistakably fruity, like blackberries, black plums, and figs. The color of the first infusion is a rich amber color and I’m really looking forward to tasting it.
The flavor of the first infusion is really unique. The brewed tea tastes kind of leafy (almost in the way that shiso or mint leaves taste, but without the distinct flavors of shiso or mint, if that makes sense). It’s mellow, sweet, and smooth, with a mulberry-like flavor (rather than blackberry). The aftertaste is sweet and reminds me of spices (cinnamon, clove). Second infusion is more of the same with a much more rich flavor. This tea has a bit of a dry finish to it, but it’s still very pleasant. Later infusions have a bit of that autumn leaf pile quality that some good white peony teas have.
This tea is exactly what you expect if you like A) good Jin Xuan and B) the flavor and aroma of Thai sticky rice. It’s scented with an herb that has that flavor and aroma. It’s delicious and enjoyable. Nice floral notes of a good Jin Xuan. Not a lot to say because this is just what I imagined it would be. I will say the Jin Xuan is a stronger and less neutral base than I expected, so the flavor is pretty balanced between the tea and the sticky rice herb. I expected the sticky rice flavor would be stronger than the tea. That was the only thing that differed from my expectation. Either way, I love it. Been looking for a good sticky rice tea for a while now and this one hits the spot!
Scent of the dry leaves is roasted and floral. Scent of the wet leaves after infusing is rich, honeyed, and reminds me of cooked cherries (I think I saw this in the product description too, so if so, then that is spot on). Taste is a nice warm, roasted honey-floral with a bit of tartness and hints of cooked cherry. Later infusions have a nice camphor note. Mouthfeel is fairly drying.
I brewed this Gongfu Cha style. To me it was a fairly enjoyable everyday drinking kind of tea, with not a lot of variance from one infusion to the next.
I am going to try brewing this differently and may update the review if it turns out too different. I thought this tea was highly roasted but it turns out it’s just highly oxidized so I’m going to try more leaf and lower temperature water per my usual handling of less roasted oolong and see if that makes a big difference.
EDIT: It did make a difference, with most infusions tasting more sweet and honeyed and less tart. It does still have some of that drying mouthfeel though.
I really love this tea.
The wet leaves smell like green beans. The liquor smells like cut grass and chestnut. Its flavor is brightly grassy and yet smooth with almost no bitterness, nutty, with faint notes of snow peas and green beans, long lingering umami flavor. Lingering aftertaste of vanilla.
I love how clean and spring-like this tea tastes. It has a brighter flavor than a lot of green teas (as opposed to a more rich and brothy flavor). Reminds me of the taste of matcha but without the bitterness. I’m really glad I bought this tea!
Flavors: Grass, Green Beans, Nutty, Peas, Vanilla
Well, I got a big order in from What-Cha and as I’ll be reviewing it for my own purposes, I decided why not continue sharing my thoughts here on Steepster? I’m sure it would interest some others. I had considered not using Steepster anymore, but I guess for now I still feel like contributing. From here on, I think my reviews will be much shorter than in the past.
This is definitely a red (black) tea drinker’s white tea. The color brews up orange and closer in appearance to a red tea. The leaves are quite dark and oxidized. The flavor is in my opinion closer to a typical red than a white. Here are some impressions:
Gongfu style brewing in a gaiwan. Wet leaves smell of cacao and dried fruit. Liquor has aromas of honey, orange, cacao, and spices, light floral. Mouthfeel is incredibly thick and juicy.
First infusion tastes rich with notes of cacao, straw, wheat, honey, a returning huigan finish, slight melon note.
Second infusion has a heavier cacao note, slightly tangy, reminds me a bit of a moonlight white with its subtle sweetness, spice notes, and musty hay-like note, but missing the perfume of moonlight white. Nice minerality.
Compared to some other reviewers, I didn’t find this tea to be exceptional, but that all comes down to taste. It’s a great tea and I’m glad I bought it. A smooth daily drinker more than a conversation piece.
Flavors: Cacao, Floral, Honey, Melon, Orange, Spices, Straw, Wheat
Well, this is my 300th review on Steepster, and I’m going to forego my usual “cut to the chase” review approach to say a couple important things. Skip to the REVIEW section if you don’t want to hear anecdotes.
I’ve been going through a lot of big changes in life lately, and finding that a lot of things are distracting me from my productive potential. Social media was the big one. I took measures to get myself away from it and have been feeling a lot more focused and clear-thinking since then. I thought I’d spend more of my free time on hobbies, not frittering it away on likes, comments, statuses, and posts. Reviewing tea has always been a relaxing hobby for me, but lately I’ve found myself just not feeling it. I’m having trouble describing things or devoting my attention to it long enough to write a detailed review, and I find myself having “productivity guilt” when I do it more than I ever used to, not viewing it as very productive anymore.
The result is that this 300th review seems like a good stopping point for me. I might still review teas on here in the future. I’m not sure yet, but if I do, they will be really brief, just a few short sentences on my impressions and a rating, not the more detailed reviews I typically write. (I can hear some of you thinking “I don’t know you and I don’t care”, haha).
It feels fitting for me in a way that my 300th review is a tea given to me by a friend. He knows I’m a sucker for good green tea and brought me a refill when I ran out of my first bag (also a gift from him).
The scent of the leaves after the first infusion is like cooked spinach, forest foliage, toast, and pistachio.
The first infusion has a rich, spinachy taste, with subtle sweetness equal to subtle bitterness, the former gradating into the latter. There’s a bit of a pecan-like nuttiness to it.
The second infusion has a stronger scent, like leaves and rain, and a really subtle floral scent. This infusion is definitely more sweet and rich. Good balance of umami and sweet flavors with just a subtle hint of bitterness in the finish to balance things. As for taste, this infusion reminds me a lot of matcha, maybe a little like pecans as well.
I find most green teas only seem to give around 3-4 good infusions, even when brewing Gongfu style, but this tea is a pleasant surprise, and I find myself enjoying at least 5 infusions in a gaiwan before it starts to lose its flavor.
In terms of flavor, this green tea doesn’t knock my socks off like some have, but it’s a really enjoyable everyday drinker, one I’m glad to come back to. It’s mild and easygoing.
Flavors: Pecan, Spinach, Sweet, Umami
I received a sample of this with my Teaware.House order of an adorable 50ml gaiwan. Fun opportunity to try it out for the first time, as I’ve never had a gaiwan this small.
The scent of the dry leaves in a pre-warmed gaiwan is like leather, hay, and dried flowers
The aroma of the leaves after the first infusion is really rich like dried fruit, particularly apricots. Judging by the smell, the taste of the first infusion is not quite what I expected. It’s a bit rustic with hay and leather notes, more similar to the scent of the dry leaf. There’s also a bit of drying feeling in the mouth, the taste of sugarcane, and just subtle hints of dried fruit flavor. I guess I was expecting a lighter and brighter flavor since this is a white tea, and that’s what I’ve come to expect from the best white teas I’ve tried.
Further infusions followed along in this same flavor spectrum. This tea is easy drinking and enjoyable, calming, rustic. If you like those energies, go for it. I think for me, I prefer white teas to be lighter and sweeter than this, and if I want a tea of this flavor type I tend to go toward a sheng. If you blindfolded me and had me drink this without knowing what it was, I’d have guessed it was a sheng.
Flavors: Apricot, Hay, Leather, Straw, Sugarcane
Gongfu cha brewing style in a gaiwan:
This tea has a beautiful floral scent like Easter lilies, and the taste also carries a similar floral note. There’s also a nice buttery quality to this flavor. You can taste fresh herbal and evergreen notes that remind me of the mountains.
Not feeling the need to explore and review as deeply as usual tonight, but I think this is a good tea for its type, at the same time not knocking my socks off. I’m enjoying the sample they sent me, but would definitely shop around if I was looking to buy some Baozhong.
Flavors: Butter, Floral, Herbs, Pine
I haven’t had any jasmine tea at home in a while, and after many, many rounds of having the low grade stuff in a pot before meals at various restaurants, I decided it was time to order some. There was only one I’ve ever bought that was incredible to me, and it was the Steepster Select one many years ago, no longer available. I went out on a limb with Yunnan Sourcing because of their generally great reputation and because the pictures showed such beautiful downy white pearls that look just like good quality leaves should look.
I’m glad I trusted my instincts because this tea is as good as that Steepster Select one I remember. It has a certain jasmine quality that I love, a sort of pink bubblegum note in the fragrance and flavor. Otherwise the usual floral jasmine scent and maybe a hint of grape.
I’m brewing this in a gaiwan. The first infusion has a wonderful light sweet jasmine flavor, the green tea itself doesn’t have a strong flavor. It’s a subtle umami that really compliments the jasmine well. I don’t taste the usual vegetal notes of green tea here.
My second infusion was even sweeter and more rich, again with the floral notes, umami undertone, and hints of pink bubblegum, reminds me of the old Dubble Bubble gum I used to buy at the High School football game concessions stand as a kid.
The third infusion is a bit more umami rich and more floral. Definitely more heady and upfront on the Jasmine. Some people think strong jasmine is “soapy”, and while that’s usually meant as a negative, I definitely understand the correlation with soaps and perfumes. This infusion tasted a bit more perfumey to me, but not by any means too strongly or offensively.
As far as I’m concerned, this is going to be my go-to jasmine tea unless something changes or someone introduces me to a better one. I think the quality and price were on point, and I love that the green tea takes a backseat to the floral without adding any bitterness or muddling the flower notes with vegetal ones. This tea surprisingly gets even better on 4th and 5th infusions.
If you’ve read this far, I’ll share my secret to brewing perfect tea pearls in Gongfu style. Use 185F/85C water, which is a bit hotter than the usual recommendation for green tea. It helps the pearls to unfurl for a more full flavor and isn’t hot enough to bring out any bitterness in good quality green teas like this one. I’ve found that using the usual 176F/80C green tea temps on pearls like this often results in them never fully opening up, giving weaker and less nuanced flavor.
As for amounts, I used 2.5g pearls per 100ml of gaiwan capacity. No rinse. First infusion 45 seconds, then 30 for the second, then add 15 seconds for subsequent infusions.
Flavors: Candy, Grapes, Jasmine, Sweet, Umami