Lately I’ve been drinking a bunch of tea that is seriously outside my budget. Most is $1 per gram or more with 25g being the typical minimum I can buy. I just did two comparative tastings of Long Jings with the highest quality I can find for lineups of six, all brand new fresh crop (first tasting was one week after harvest) and all superbly crafted from the same general locality.
Today I decided to give another taste to the Long Jing sold at the coffee shop I work at to bring me back to reality. We have terrific coffee, but pretty much all the tea is the very antithesis of our coffees’ freshness and quality. Gah, I regret my choice.

I used about 5g with 200ml water in an infuser basket set inside a small latte mug. Our water dispenses at 88 degrees C so I hit it with cold water to buffer the tea first.

Leaves are dried moss color. Muted green with brownish tinge. Smells like spent autumn leaves raked off the front lawn and tossed in a heap. Underlying aroma suggests it was stored next to something peach-scented about a year ago. Not much aroma – pretty good example of stale tea. Wet aroma has toasted rice sweet note I associate with under-assertive puerh mao cha that may not age too well. I happen to really like young mao cha, so this is a pleasant characteristic for me… when it isn’t a green tea. Most of the aroma is quick to leave the cup and never return. Liquor is pale yellow and a little hazy.

Sigh, yeah, I actually tasted this the same day I finished off one of the great WuYi YanChas I was holding onto. I’m sorry, mouth.
Flavor… where is the flavor… oh, wait, I didn’t eat yet today, that’s not the taste of indigestion, that’s the feeble aftertaste of the tea. But where’s the foreflavor? sip guh, there it is. Old hay. Some clay-heavy wet soil. Sort of a musty hint. Strange how much this makes me think of the smell of a cow pasture on a drizzly day. Like I kneeled over and drank some of the rainwater collected in a hoofprint. Hmm, what else? Old uncooked green beans wrapped in a wet paper bag…
There is a pleasant old leather note in the nose and a mineral sweetness, but these are – again – positive attributes I like in puerh, not a green tea.
On the real plus side, the tea is way too stale for any of these characteristics to actually be overtly noticeable.

All in all, I reeeeeeally hope we change our Long Jing soon. We buy from this vendor because it’s all organic and fair trade – doesn’t mean fresh or good by any stretch of the imagination. Sungarden doesn’t make their list of teas available to the public unless you request a catalog and I say don’t bother. Their Jasmine Pearls (and supposedly their second flush Darjeeling too) are worlds better, and at least acceptable as a tea I’d want to drink.

To be clear on the rating – this is still better than a lot of bags in the supermarket, so I can’t justify below a 5.

175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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Tea Geek.

My focus is on Chinese Wulongs and Pu’er but I’m all over the place. I tend to follow a seasonal progression of teas, following the freshness curve of greens through summer and rounding the cooler months out with toastier teas and Masala Chai.
With the exception of Masala Chai milk tea I’m a purist at heart. While I was originally snagged by Earl Grey with bergamot and make blends for gifts, I very rarely go for scented teas or herbals and can’t remember the last time I bought a tea that was blended. Pure tea is just more interesting to me than the product of mixing flavors. I do understand and appreciate their existence, though.

I upload some blends I make or special prep teas I nab under the company name “Green Raven Tea and Coffee” and the vast majority of these posts will be blends crafted to create flavors/characteristics not inherent in any one particular tea.
I’ve worked as a tea buyer for a smallish cafe and try to keep apprized of shifts in offerings even when not selecting for a business so I wind up sampling a ton of wholesale samples from a couple companies in particular but try to branch out to as many companies as I can find. Until Steepster integrates some form of comparative tasting feature, none of my cupping notes will make it onto my reviews unless wrapped up into something I feel compelled to drink multiple times on its own.

Since all the cool kids are doing it, here’s my big fat ratings scheme:

0-12…..Ugh, don’t wish on anyone
13-25….Bad, won’t touch again
26-37….Huh, not worth the effort
38-50….Meh, unremarkable
51-62….Okay, good tea
63-75….Tasty, really good tea
76-87….Yum, wonderful
88-100…Wow, really spectacular

There shouldn’t be many postings at all from me ranked 26-50 since unremarkable teas are unlikely to make me remark on ’em but to “earn” a score 37 or below I have to be disappointed to the point where others may ask for a refund or turn down offers even when free or offered as a gift (beyond stale).

I’ve got a ton of respect for anything rated 63 or higher.

For a tea to get 71 or more, it has to be pretty special and kinda blow my socks off.

The 90s are reserved for wonders that make me reevaluate my views of the world of tea as a whole.


Santa Rosa, California, United States

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