54 Tasting Notes

85

Wow! This is a truly delicious tea, and the description by Yunnan Sourcing is spot-on. The aroma is heady and I can immediately sense its assamic descent. Taste is rich, malty and sweet, like stewed stonefruit. Some astringency arose in the second steep, also greatly enjoyable. I’ll buy more for sure! Steepings #3 & 4 were 12 hr later and also satisfyingly tasty.

Preparation
Boiling 1 min, 0 sec 5 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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25

I received this packet as part of the “Smoky Tea Lovers Sampler Set” form YS, not because I particularly love smoky teas, but because I wanted to try some of the varieties available and see what was out there. These leaves were supposedly harvested in spring 2021, and so they’re just barely one year old. Nevertheless they were deep dark brown as dry leaf, and stayed dark brown through steeping. I’ve added a photo of the spent leaves. The tea liquor was a deep honey color. There could be no doubt that this tea was intentionally smoked over wooden fires. In the first steeping, I got an overwhelming fragrance of pine smoke very reminiscent of the aroma in my jar of smoked paprika. I was unable to smell anything else. Flavor wise, although I detected sweetness in the back of my mouth, the overwhelming flavor profile was as though I had been inhaling campfire smoke through my mouth for an hour. I didn’t really taste anything else, probably because the smoke residue deadens the sense of taste, and I actually developed a numbness on my tongue and the inside of my lips. I would only pair this tea with very strongly flavored foods, and I have a hard time imagining when I would want that level of smokiness except, perhaps, when eating meats. The second steeping was much less pungent and far less flavorful, and I see no reason to try a third steeping. They might as well have smoked wood shavings or forest leaf-litter to achieve an equivalent product. I just don’t like this and now I have to try to get the flavors out of my mouth. As bad as it is, I’d still drink it over rooibos. Maybe this will come in useful as a dry rub for oven roasted meats. I’ll have to try grinding some up.

Flavors: Smoke

Preparation
Boiling 1 min, 30 sec 5 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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90
In the year since I posted my first tasting note on this tea, I have continued to drink it, and ordered several times again from Tealyra. Even at work I will pull out one of these sachets every day or two and enjoy a cup. I have noticed that the leaves in the sachets are somewhat larger than the leaves in the bulk bag I keep at home, but the taste is the same. The sachets contain less leaf than I would normally use, probably around 1.0 to 1.25 g per sachet. Today I used 2 g and brewed in 8 ounces of boiling spring water for 2 min. The liquor was deep brown, and so very aromatic! And with every sip both my mouth and my nose was filled with deliciousness. Malty and sweet, this is a fine black tea that stimulates not only the sides and back of my tongue but also the roof of my mouth all the way back. It’s almost fruity, but not quite. And delivers a good caffeine kick! The second 2 min. Steeping was equally deep brown, but not nearly as aromatic. Flavors of leather and tobacco were evident alongside the now-tempered malty sweetness. With the sachets, I let it go 3-4 min and get one steep out of them. No fannings or dust either way.

Flavors: Leather, Malt, Tea, Tobacco

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 0 sec 2 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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70

Another smokey, raw pu’erh from YS. This one came as part of their “smoky tea lovers sampler set“ which I bought not because I particularly love smoky tea, but rather I am unfamiliar with it and wanted the experience! A sampler set seemed to be a good place to get that experience, especially if they are teas selected by lovers of smoke!

Well, this tea did not disappoint. Steeped to a golden hue (after 10s rinses in hot tap, then boiling spring, water). A great smoky flavor, soft mouth feel with low astringency, and a good lingering aftertaste. Clearly well aged, but without “humidity“ in the nose and no trace of fish, compost, or dirt on the tongue. This tea would stand up to, and complement, a bacon & egg breakfast, with the sweet smokiness echoing smoked bacon! By the third infusion, the leaves had opened up to reveal a dark green chop with a few stems, and the soup had transitioned to a honey-brown hue. Fourth infusion still had some fines at the bottom of the cup and the flavors had tempered—still smokey, but time to lengthen the steep time considerably.

Flavors: Leather, Smoke

Preparation
Boiling 5 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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65

Yup, this is smokey. And had bitterness & astringency in my first steep (after a rinse in hot tap water and another rinse for 10s in boiling water). Deep golden colored brew and very aromatic. The leaves were still quite green as you can see in the right-hand dish of the photo, which belies the teas youth and drier storage. By the 3rd steep, the smokiness had diminished but the astringency remained potent. Perhaps this tea will age to a smoother and sweeter brew in 10 or 20 more years, and if so, perhaps my heirs will be enjoying it.
UPDATE: I continued sipping this, now on infusion number 6 (five minutes). The bitterness and astringency have tempered, but the soup remains a beautiful, clear, deep golden color. Nice, round mouhfeel. Bumping up my rating by 5 pts. though the tea still needs more age. This, too, was part of the “smokey tea lovers sampler set” and I’m glad to have tried it.

Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Smoke

Preparation
5 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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70

NTT describes this Oolong as: “Bold | Earthy | Complex | Malt | Toasted Pecan | Brown Sugar” and I can partially agree. Definitely bold and complex, but I’m not getting earthiness (thankfully), nor do I get malt or brown sugar. There is a roasted flavor and aroma that is reminiscent of nuts which, I suppose, could be called pecan—but not a strong pecan. Maybe pecan shells. The oxidation is heavy and there in no grassy or buttery or honey flavor to my tongue, but the brew is surely tasty. Second steeping satisfied too. Overall just not exciting to me. I’ll finish off the bag and move on! Nevertheless, I was very happy to be able to try this offering from Nepal, and I have been enjoying a number of other Nepalese teas as well!

Preparation
5 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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40

2013 Cha Yu Lin “Hua Mei” Hunan Tian Jian Tea. I have no idea what the name means, but I can attest that this is a dark tea. Both the leaf, which is rather stemmy, and the soup, which was clear and oak-brown in color. I’ve never tasted smoked peat, so I don’t know if I can concur with that part of the YS description, but I sure don’t get fruit or chocolate. Instead, the first impression in my initial three steeps was of seaweed, reminiscent of nori used to wrap sushi. Both in aroma and flavor. No compost or fishy notes, but definitely a taste of the ocean! No astringency or bitterness or undesirable notes, but nothing really appealing either. A longer 4th steep smelled faintly of dirty socks and both color and flavor were petering out. Not complex at all. No lingering flavor either. Someone put in the listing that this is a pu’erh? Okay….

Flavors: Seaweed

Preparation
Boiling 1 min, 15 sec 5 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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20
Wow—What a disappointment! There were visible “golden flowers” on some of the material in my sample bag. Used 5g leaf in 8oz boiling spring water. 10 sec rinse of leaves was discarded. First steeping to a golden color brew had virtually no flavor. Slight hint of chestnut, but otherwise just yellow water. Second steeping to a light orange hue, matching the pics on YS’s site tasted the same: bland, watery and dull. Third steeping to a deep brown shade was, to its credit, non-bitter, non-fishy, non-sour, and the leaves had expanded nicely. But the brew was still non-aromatic and flavorless (except again for a weak chestnut flavor. This didn’t even have a “tea” flavor! At this point I gave up, unwilling to waste another 26 steepings of time, or 1 1/2 gal. of my fancy spring water, just hoping for a glimmer of taste, or trying to see if the color persists. I’ll give it another chance next week and report back here, before tossing it in with the garden compost.

Flavors: Chestnut

Preparation
Boiling 4 min, 0 sec 5 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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71

Here we have a pretty uninspiring but drinkable 12 yr old puer with Taiwan aging. It’s a blend of ripe & raw. Not fishy or dank, pretty clean tasting. Not astringent, little bite, faint aroma. Steeped up as a bright golden infusion that has some complex woody notes and a lingering finish. Found a 1-cm black round seed floating in the pot. I enjoyed my 10g sample but wasn’t compelled to buy a full cake which is good since the cakes are now sold-out.

Preparation
5 g 8 OZ / 236 ML
TeaEarleGreyHot

Early April 2022 update: this is back in stock at BTTC.

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100
If I had to pick just one tea, to drink for the rest of my life, this would be it. To me, this tea is perfect. I brew 2.5 g in a large mug of boiling water for four minutes. The leaf is large and unfurls to be even larger! They call it an oolong, but it seems more like a black tea to me. It must be a very heavily oxidized oolong. And yet, it completely lacks astringency. It’s caramelly, malty, aromatic, with notes of raisin (not really grape to my senses), and with a strong sugary aftertaste. The sensation of sweetness without sweetener. The tea is grown and made in the Sun Moon Lake area of Nantou County in Taiwan. This cultivar, TTES #18, is fairly famous, not just in Taiwan. Teapedia describes it as “Hong Yu (Ruby), cross between Taiwanese wild tea tree (B-607) and a Burmese assamica (B-729).” It is also known as “Red Jade”, but that may refer to fully oxidized black (red) forms of it. The dominant flavor is what I would call characteristically “Assamic”, since it is the taste that I discern in all teas descended from the lineage. But in this case, it is as if the flavor had been distilled and refined and concentrated into this leaf with all the flavors I dislike removed. No tannin, no fishiness, no seaweedy brine, no compost. I don’t know why “brandy“ is in the name because I don’t taste it in this tea. Maybe the color?

I believe a big part of this tea’s excellence comes from the terroir as well as the skill of the teamasters involved. Because another very similar tea (also sold by Tealyra) is called Black Beauty #8, which also comes from the Sun Moon Lake region. But Teapedia describes TTES #8 as “a assamica varietal from Jaipur (India, Assam)”. So a completely different cultivar, with very similar flavors. It is my second-favorite. The TTES is a formal research station, so their pedigree designations are authoritative.

So, yes, Brandy Oolong Ruby 18 is, in my estimation, outstanding. Please also find other tea notes listed for this tea under the company’s prior name, Tealux. This is also among the more expensive tea I’ve had, at $8/25g since I get only one pleasing steeping out of it, thus it rivals good pu’ers, on a per-cup basis. But it handily beats all of them in flavor and aroma! YMMV.

Flavors: Caramel, Malt, Raisins, Stonefruit, Sugarcane, Tea

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 30 sec 2 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Bio

Left-coast reared (on Bigelow’s Constant Comment and Twinings’ Earl Grey) and right-coast educated, I’ve used this moniker (and Email) since the glory days of AOL in the 90’s, reflecting two of my lifelong loves—tea and ‘Trek. Now a midwestern science guy (right down to the Hawaiian shirts), I’m finally broadening the scope of my sippage and getting into all sorts of Assamicas, from mainstream Assam CTCs to Taiwan blacks & TRES varietals, to varied Pu’erhs. With some other stuff tossed in for fun. Love reading other folks’ tasting notes (thank you), I’ve lurked here from time to time and am now adding a few notes of my own to better appreciate the experience. You can keep the rooibos LoL!
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Photo with Aromatic Bamboo Species Raw Pu-erh Tea “Xiang Zhu” by Yunnan Sourcing, which is most definitely aromatic!

Location

Chicagoland-USA

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