93 Tasting Notes


This is my favorite tea alongside some FengHuang DanCongs and I intend to always have it on hand. My little round ZhuNi pot is used for only TGYs that are really similar in both roast and oxidation to this one. I actually have a travel tin about the size and shape of a hip flask I keep in my coat with this in it.
This time around I used 5g with a descending curve on water volume (leaves steadily displace more and more through progressive infusions) starting at 125ml and down to 100ml by the 10th infusion. I kept the steep time at 30 seconds for the first 6 infusions with 83 degree C water and bumping up to 45 seconds for 7th-10th infusions. Gave a single rinse with about 15 second contact time, though first retained brew might as well have been another rinse.

Leaves are shiny dark green and mossy brown with pale yellow-green stems tinges with gold and thin reddish stripes on stems, veins, and leaf margins. Fragrance is toasty hay with a “ripe” non-fruit fruity quality like smelling cooking zucchini. When placed in my heated teapot this does take on the light fruit smell of an uncut plum or nectarine. Wet aroma always reminds me of the smell of the hills in my hometown come October… Warm air mixing with a faint hint of coming crispness rolling off sunbaked, clay-heavy hillsides covered in a thick layer of dry annual grasses plus the smell of drying vineyards, just-ready to harvest cornrows, rushes and faint note from the first pumpkins being broken from their vines. Liquor is pale yellow and transparent. Aroma coming off the tea is more muted and mellow green toastiness. Orchid, lilac, dried lily/orchid leaves and palm fronds, sun-heated schist, a bit of wet moss and clay, and blackberry brambles. There is an always-surprising accuracy to the similarity of the liquor aroma and the smell of blooming Juncus and Carex wetland grasses in a drying spring-fed shallow freshwater marsh. It’s this unique floral-vegetal-toasty-pollen-milky-cottony-heady-lighty buttered and faint grassy menthol characteristic that really hits you hiking into upland marsh in Mediterranean climates. Yes, I once brought everything needed to brew this tea out to where I was doing a vegetative survey just to make sure I wasn’t off my rocker about this all-too-precise similarity.

Mild flavor and mellow, balanced body that builds a little in 3rd-5th infusions. Most of what this tea is about is in the aroma, but the light flavor balances it out. Taste is crisp with a slight acidity like the light sour taste you get from milk or cream. Yellow bell pepper sweetness. Not much of a savory quality, but just enough to be noticed (you get much more when brewing longer). Warm sourdough bread and a bit of cheese in aftertaste. Very smooth and soothing. Warms the belly. Palm/coconut husk in the afteraroma.
Again – not very fruity at all, but if you search for it, you’ll inevitably combine the floral aromatics with the crisp flavor to make something plum skin or peach-like. Really, this is more about creaminess and dried grasses with monocot flowers.

Very pleasant, easy drinking tea. Flavor shifts a bit between floral, vegetal, buttery, mineral, and woody depending on how it’s brewed so it keeps interesting and makes it fun to screw with brewing parameters. I love this tea. Not the most Jaw-dropping tea in the world, but really tasty. One of those teas that makes it really pleasant to stick your nose in the cup after finishing and will leave you absentmindedly reaching for your cup over and over again to find it empty. “Oh, there isn’t any more :(” pops into my head a bunch. Guess that’s why I motor through it so fast.

180 °F / 82 °C 0 min, 30 sec

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10 hours into drinking this tea, I refresh a second time for a 11th-13th infusions, which I pour together in one cup.
Longer steep and hotter water, I’ve robbed this of most of its complexity and wonder but it still tastes good. Bronze/brass notes and simpler profile centering on dried iris floral/herbaceous characteristics. Like the basic “wulong” shui xian you get in Chinese restaurants, but cleaner aroma.

190 °F / 87 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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I got one of these 100g mini-beengs in 2007, bought ten more at the beginning of 2009 and have been drinking them up and gave a few away as gifts. I’m down to 2 and 3/4 cakes left and will miss ‘em when they’re gone as they are great for drinking with meals (especially oily/greasy stuff like a lot of Chinese food). Tons of oompf for such a tiny package – little beengcha, little leaves, big flavor. Mellowed a bit since the first taste I had, but age has had little effect thus far and I doubt the tea will survive to a point where it’s effect is really significant.

10g with 225ml water in a seasoned “shi piao” Yuan Kuang Lao ZiNi yixing teapot. Double rinse to break up very tight compaction. 1st infusion 20 seconds; 2nd infusion 25 seconds; 3rd-6th infusions 30 seconds each.

Leaves are tightly compacted but not as absurdly tight as an iron-cake and it is possible to break of chunks using just fingers. There’s a lot of buds but grading ripe puerh is tricky – while graded piles are segregated in wo dui prep, most is done on the basis of size after being broken down in active fermentation so these fairly uniform leaf bits contain buds, rolled bits of young leaves, and thin broken twigs of the sort that connect 2 leaf and a bud sets. Still, the cakes are pretty equally brown and gold with a reddish reflection. Embedded paper has started taking on some tea oils but still an overall matte appearance. Not much dry fragrance beyond dry clay-rich loam. Same note dominates in heady wet aroma but with warm moist leaf litter base. Coppery sweetness in aroma like candied pecans/walnuts. Did I mention clay? Always reminds me of sculpting in the same room as an operating kiln. Liquor is dark red with clear transparency but the color makes it nearly impossible to see through the tea without back-lighting.

Heavy, heavy body. Mouthwatering tacky quality similar to currants/prunes but there really isn’t a fruit note except maybe a fleeting hint of prune in the aftertaste. Flavor hits at the back, near the throat first and then you notice the flavor in the rest of your mouth. This is all about the moist earth flavors. Sweetness is pleasantly metallic. Like the comforting sweet smell of bronze antiques or lightly rusted cast iron. Mmm, boy it’s rich. Lots of woody tastes – less acidic than orchid bark, but moist chopped hardwood bark a definite. Aroma suggests resin and pepper but these are not really present in neither flavor nor nose. Long finish of unglazed clay wares. For all its earthy characters, it is not dirty. These are humus and refined base soil material notes, not dust or dung. I’ve seen some people call the barnyard smell of wet-storage puerh as “pu-erh like” (or “poo-air” like the common mispronunciation of the tea category); this does not have that off-characteristic. Puerh ought to have a clarity despite its earthen qualities in shous or aged shengs. Sure, this is a wo dui processed tea and has an old building character to it, but no farm animals here and the mustiness is kept to the wet leaves. Rich, potent, and smoooooth with long lasting but clear finish.

I love this tea and it is a staple for drinking with food. So why the rating? The rating reflects the reality check of the real level of this tea – it is not a superb, must-try tea. It tastes really good and makes a good gift for folks who actually drink good tea, but it can not compare to a well-aged cake or many teas that cost 10 times as much. There is a huge presence of flavor and you can pick out all kinds of tastes if you try – ranging from toasted white oak, teak, dried bullrush, and water lily – but the complexity is not something that you really jump at and in six infusions prepared gong fu cha, there really is not much shift in flavor. On the plus side, it it reliable and can cut through the impacts of drinking alongside a meal, but monodirectional flavor doesn’t earn a high score in my book. You don’t reach for a $100 bottle of wine to drink with every meal, however much you may enjoy it; same goes for this good everyday tea.
I’d still recommend this to friends, but I can’t find any more to buy.

195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 30 sec

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Refreshed for an 8th-10th infusion.
Still has a great mix of aromas that continue to shift around. Smell of a warm willow-covered sandbar on a riverbend. Redwood rich spices… clove, cinnamon, and bits of roasted ginger and tannin. Earthenware fresh from a kiln. Bouquet of flowers. I’m getting definitive Cymbidium Orchid aroma. Astringency plays off mild acidity nicely – crisp and mouthwatering in the back lower corners of the mouth sort of near where my tonsils once were. Makes my breath sweet like fresh toasted seeded crackerbread. Bit of black plum pit juicy tang in aftertaste.

190 °F / 87 °C 0 min, 30 sec

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7g with 175ml water in a zi ni rong tian yixing teapot dedicated to Phoenix Oolongs. Single rinse with immediate pour – 10 second contact time. Multiple infusions in rapid succession using 85 degree C water. Takes 10 seconds to pour from the pot, so settled infusion is only 0-10 seconds for first seven brews.

Leaves twisted and fairly intact, though they don’t look too handsome. Toasty and floral dry fragrance mostly unnoticeable until placed in warmed pot. Wet aroma is like walking into a greenhouse. Not the heady meshed, buttery florals of Taiwan oolongs – here they are distinct, crisp flower and greenery aromatics of such a multitude that it is really difficult to parse them out. Definitely orchid, carnation, and lily. Also some hyacinth, tulip, African violet, and just a touch of star jasmine. Greenery aromatics of wetland grasses, oak trees, ferns, and duckweed. There’s also a good amount of wet lava rock, clove, allspice, and yellow peach in there. Base aroma is toasty and sweet with a warm adobe brick mineral accent. Liquor carries more of the toasty notes than florals. Color is clear light yellow.

First three infusions are smooth, crisp, clean, and lean toward toasty dried grasses and hops aromas and flavors. The florals are there, but are sort of a hushed persistent chatter in the background. For the fourth infusion the florals let go of their restraint and come forward full force. Carnation is the most present in the cup, but lily takes over for the nose and afteraroma. Roasted chestnut, toasted poppyseed and crispy noodle characteristics come through in the sixth and seventh infusions and warm cut willow and cattail herbaceous notes mix with gentle spiciness similar to grains of paradise mixed with paprika and roasted chipotle. Bewitching balance of sweet, spice, herbal-bitter, mineral, and nectarine-astringent. Aroma is shifting and complex but nose, afteraroma and sweet aftertaste more heady than the draught. By the seventh infusion I’m really reminded of the smell and taste of the air while hiking through freshwater marsh on a mildly warm late summer evening.
Tea has much more to offer, but I’m being lulled to sleep by its comforting melody of aromas and flavors. I’ll have to refresh these leaves in a couple hours.

Yum yum, tasty toasty aromatic inviting smooth sensualness…

185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 15 sec

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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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4g with 150ml water in a young zi ni rong tian yixing teapot used for WuYi YanCha.

This is the last of my supply of this tea, so I used slightly lower strength and longer steep despite relatively large percentage of broken leaves. Dry fragrance like lightly caramelized sugar or muted cotton candy with almond and faint apricot. Wet aroma more spicy with clove and wet rock notes. Liquor pale yellow (like many green teas) and crystal clear.

Slick mouthfeel with moderate body and back of throat light astringency that climbs slowly to the tip of the tongue similar to mineral water effect. Mouthwatering and light hard candy sweetness. Mild but incredibly pervasive toasty note penetrates with warming effect throughout chest cavity and comes out with sweet exhalation. Candied walnuts, white peach and white nectarine. I can’t get over the way it makes my tongue taste sweet – it’s so long lasting for such a mellow infusion. Fleeting afteraroma of sedges and iris come in and out for over ten minutes after drinking.

When prepared stronger (7g with 140ml at 90 degrees C), the mineral note comes across as a gravel-like taste and aggressive back-of-throat astringency that just kind of sits back there like you swallowed something rough. More toasted oak and peach pit flavor supersedes the candy tastes but still sweet.

185 °F / 85 °C 2 min, 0 sec

Your tasting notes are wonderful — very evocative. I don’t usually find myself prey to cravings for green tea (not even in the summer months; I realize that avoiding green tea when it’s hot out makes me an odd duck around here)…but green oolongs are another story. This one sounds delicious — appealing the way that Royal Phoenix is, maybe? A greenish Wu Yi, is it? Sounds strange. I still have so much to learn.

Thomas Smith

Thank you very much.

Greenish in character, but not necessarily in oxidation. This is a mid-ox oolong about on par or ever so slightly lighter than most Phoenix Oolngs. Not quite as light as darker TieGuanYins. The big thing that sets it apart from most WuYi YanChas is the light roast on it.

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7g in 200ml seasoned duan ni squat shi piao yixing teapot.

Leaves are a work of art. Even when broken apart, they have great luster and preserve their shape well. If I didn’t worry about aromatic taints and light corruption, I’d have this out on display it is so pretty. Leaves smell pretty green – basically fresh mao cha. A touch of gravelly loam and seven grain bread. Wet aroma liberates some more nectar-like qualities and sandy clay aroma (not just the smell of the teapot). Reminds me of the smell of fresh mulch. Not a ton going on, but pleasant.

Mellow, balanced young sheng puerh. Liquor appearance and body very similar to 1 part honey diluted in 3 parts hot water. Smooth. Really smooth for how young it is. Sweetness is about on par with infused Chamomile. Lack of bitterness or assertive qualities has me feeling this may not age particularly well but it is very pleasant drinking for a cake that ought to be “too young to drink.” Very soft.

Nice drinking tea if you’re a fan of relatively fresh mao cha or Yunnan greens.

180 °F / 82 °C 0 min, 45 sec

I’ve been drinking this tea for quite a while now, almost through my second cake. I have some much more expensive teas that are arguably more subtle, but this is very good tea. Some tannin stains have developed on the yixing cups I’ve been drinking it from – not really a criticism, just a property. The hand braiding makes for a tea cake that is easier than most to untangle with minimal leaf damage too.

It is a highly addictive tea that I think has good balance – good flavour, some minor rough edges that give it a unique “unrefined” character – almost a tang; no noticeable unpleasantness, but lacking the rich woody characteristics of mature pu-erh. Overall, it’s my current favourite everyday tea.

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3g in 155ml water heated to 90 degrees C, brewed in a glazed ceramic gaiwan.

Pretty leaves with a large percentage unbroken. Brazilnut, untoasted hazelnut, macadamia, toasted sesame, grapes, and dried oak leaf dry fragrance. Wet leaf aroma more of an orchid bark and moss with a dry Chardonnay grape expression. Liquor color ocher to light red orange with great clarity in a shallow white cup.

Nice, hefty Darjeeling with distinctive characteristics that can cut through even scenting. Muscat grape note is much more obvious than many Darjeelings claiming to tout the characteristic and it sails nicely with the honey wheat toast sweetness and light woody notes. There’s sesame, malt, adobe clay, and orchid in the aroma as well… And a bit of currant and juniper or pinyon-like resin that comes out of there in the background. A real joy to just sit back and take the aroma in off this one. Good body, balanced astringency. Sweet, juicy, and crisp. The muscat grape is actually present in the flavor, not just the aroma. Toasty taste with just a hint of citrus blossom.

I generally dislike scenting, but I like using this as a base for home made Earl Grey since it can cut through the aroma of diced and dried bergamot peel and the aromas naturally compliment one another.

190 °F / 87 °C 2 min, 30 sec

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drank Bi Luo Chun by TeaSpring
93 tasting notes

Brewed 5g in 165ml water at 75 degrees C in a glazed ceramic gaiwan. Got two nearly identical infusions using the same parameters one after another.

Tons of down. Shredded green wood dry fragrance with a note of macadamia. Typical chlorophyll sweetness but more toastiness than I’m used to. Wet aroma brings in more hay and nuts and adds a light carnation note. Liquor is a hazy pale yellow with plenty of suspended hairs despite running through a very vine mesh strainer. Liquor blends the dry fragrance and wet aroma smells neatly. The floral-nut-toasty-hay mix produces an odd muted Jolly Rancher quality as an underlying aroma tint.

Flavor is a bit more “frank” a version of Bi Luo Chun than some of the finer, daintier ones out there. Most body I’ve had on this type of tea and it lasts multiple infusions quite well, but more of a tendency towards astringency. Base aroma is similar to uncut late-season grassy field with a mildly sweet, savory, and roasty oat flour and rye note. Sort of soapy. Not a ton of dimension (especially in comparison when tasted alongside other Bi Luo Chuns) but heftier than usual and probably a better “drinking” tea because of it.

This is probably the closest I’ve tasted to an “everyday green” quality from a Dong Ting Bi Luo Chun. Still more refined than mimicry BLC from other regions, though.

165 °F / 73 °C 1 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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