39 Tasting Notes

Filtered Santa Monica tap water just off the boil throughout. Poured from a pear-shaped purple clay tea-pot into a glass cha hai, and served in a porcelain (“peony”) cup.

The large, moderately compressed rolled leaves are a beautiful and mysterious shade of dark purple and yield a distinctive, slightly odd vegetal/weed aroma when wet.

First steep at 45 seconds, and subsequent steeps at around 20 – 30 seconds.

Atomic tangerine liquor (with a drop of carmine when pushed); toasty aromatics with hints of dragon beans and old flat-bed pickups driving down a dusty rural road; gentle, slightly sweet, mineral-kissed palate entry with roast sweet potato skins and chestnuts leading into a smooth harmonious finish. No bitterness, char, or astringency. Creamy mouth-feel. The character remains much the same over a long session, with a floral quality emerging by the fifth infusion or so. By the seventh infusion, I’m feeling the impact of the caffeine more than the GABA.

Boiling 0 min, 30 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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Opened up a 50 gram package of this a couple weeks ago in the office – briefly noting my impressions before it disappears:

Prepared in my Jian Shui gaiwan, and served in my porcelain tea cup via my glass cha hai. Filtered Santa Monica municipal water just off the boil throughout.

The dry tea is unique – the finger length buds resemble golden-tipped, black-bottomed spines of some odd desert plant. The aroma from the bag offers a distinctive yam/grain scent.

A very forgiving tea – you don’t have to give much thought about tea weight, steep times, numbers of infusions, etc. That said, it remains flavorful for 8-10 infusions easily.

Starting with steeps around 15 seconds, the liquor is amber to metallic gold, with a sweet/earthy/grassy aroma hinting at plantain and lotus leaf. The flavor follows the nose but with increasing richness and a core malty sweetness (and perhaps a touch of cocoa in the finish).

Hints of alfalfa/hay and oats emerge over the session, reminding me of quality horse feed (not in a bad way!). Low bitterness throughout, very little astringency even if you over-steep.

Round, creamy texture, with slow persistent caffeine build up. An excellent, distinctive “Yunnan Gold” leaf tea from a unique variety of very large leaf plants.

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 2 tsp 3 OZ / 100 ML

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While I ordered the black version of this tea, and indeed Yunnan Sourcing marked my bag as such, what I received is this green version. Well, it’s Spring-time I suppose, so OK, why not:

Picked in April, 2017 (likely a few days after my son was born), this might no longer be at the peak of freshness. I’m also using filtered Santa Monica tap water, no scale, and no thermometer – so my results could probably be improved upon – although this tea seems very forgiving.

Infused at 15, 30, 45, 60, and 90 seconds. The liquor is a a lemon-lime-like shade of chartreuse. Nutty, vegetal, almost briney aroma with notes of wakame, and hay initially. The flavor follows the nose, adding in some fresh herbs (oregano?) and melon in the finish. More sweetness and less complexity towards the end of the session. Dry but not drying – energizing but not excessively so. Fairly rich and clean overall – hard to over-steep.

195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec 3 tsp 5 OZ / 147 ML

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I suspect this is from the same source as What-Cha’s Colombian Bitaco “Golden Tippy” black tea, though Upton is charging at least 40% more for it.

The dry leaf is redolent of sweet grain, giving it an assertive but pleasant feed-store aroma.

Los Angeles tap-water, just off the boil throughout. Brewed in a Korean infuser cup. I tried successive infusions, but this is best Western style.

2 minutes: lovely sepia liquor; grain and cocoa throughout, light and gentle in the nose and deep and brooding on the palate. Moderately malty, though the bitter-sweet chocolate notes are center-stage. Toasted grains (oats, spelt, millet, barley) and hints of wood and earth in the finish. Almost like a chocolate brown ale.

4 – 8+ minutes: similar results to the first infusion, just a bit weaker presentation – like good Assam, it is difficult to oversteep.

A proper self-drinker, but I suspect this would be lovely with some cream as well. While it won’t supplant my CTC Assam addiction (especially at this price point), I wouldn’t hesitate to add this to my regular rotation.

205 °F / 96 °C 2 min, 0 sec 3 g 5 OZ / 147 ML

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Brewed in my black Korean infuser cup, so I remain largely ignorant of the liquor’s appearance.

New car smell with some floral and dusty sugar notes.
Rich and potent (albeit somewhat generic) flavor, suggesting baking chocolate with hints of banana leaf and river stones in the finish. Vaguely malty. Low vegetal/camp-fire notes in the aftertaste along with a gentle astringency if not briskness if the infusion is pushed.

Medium-thick mouth-feel, but not oily.

A solid, robust, almost “muscular” Kandy offering – while I don’t favor most Ceylons as breakfast teas, I think this one would stand up to a drop of cream.

Boiling 2 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 5 OZ / 147 ML

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After 22 months, I’m at the bottom of my 5oz bag of this.

Filtered Santa Monica municipal water to my Taiwanese purple clay tea-pot, to my glass cha hai, into my porcelain cup.

1st steep (20 seconds): Butterscotch liquor; floral-backed charcoal aromatics; sweet dark roast palate entry with hints of ash and Ovaltine; velvety medium-thick body.

Subsequent infusions (45 seconds, slowly ramping up to 2min): Rust liquor; smoke and burnt sugar in the nose; dark (not quite French or Italian) roast coffee notes, more charcoal in the middle of the flavor profile, with a dry slightly astringent finish.

While I generally appreciate and prefer heavy fire/dark roast/baked oolongs, there is not much left of the tea’s own character underlying the charcoal here; not a good candidate for aging, but adequate (and inexpensive) as a daily drinker.

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 45 sec 2 tsp 3 OZ / 100 ML

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After sipping a Hao-Ya yesterday, I’m moving on to a Mao Feng this morning. Of course, you immediately notice the leaf shape is different, the Mao Feng being notably thicker as each is full and unbroken, tightly twisted into a shape resembling a gnarled and tarred tree branch.

Prepared in my Jian Shui gaiwan, and served in my porcelain tea cup via my glass cha hai. Filtered Santa Monica municipal water just off the boil throughout.

Using a little less tea and a little more time today (infusions starting at 1 minute and slowly increasing from there): safety orange liquor; gentle, faintly malty aroma; wheat and cocoa on the palate with hints of chestnut or pecan in the finish; very clean and energizing without briskness or acidity. Some additional complexity can be coaxed out with longer infusions, with very subtle notes of chewing tobacco, carob, and potting soil emerging in the finish – but this tea has a wonderful clarity if you don’t over-steep.

Boiling 1 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 3 OZ / 100 ML

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Very fine, delicate, wiry leaves.

Prepared in my Jian Shui gaiwan, and served in my porcelain tea cup via my glass cha hai. Filtered Santa Monica municipal water just off the boil throughout.

Deep bole liquor with copper highlights; faintly floral and flinty aroma; brisk palate entry with hints of raisin and smoke (or nearly-burnt toast); dry almost chalky finish; low, raw, dusty cocoa flavor lingers on, especially with longer steep times (e.g. starting with 40 seconds rather than 15-20).

Refined and potent (caffeine is very present) but this tea has a certain “arid” quality to it so it isn’t one I would turn to for comfort.

Boiling 0 min, 30 sec 3 tsp 3 OZ / 100 ML

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Received as a sample from the company.

Brewed in my porcelain Jingdezhen gaiwan with Los Angeles municipal tap water just off the boil throughout.

Gold tipped, twisted, wiry leaves.

No rinse, starting with a 30 second infusion: burnt umber/seal brown gradient in the cup; sweet potato, burdock, loam, and low vegetal notes in the nose; the flavors mirror and intensify the aromatic notes, adding to them a long finish suggesting roasted pecans, cocoa nibs, cassia, and autumn leaves. Fairly tannic but presenting as more minerality than bitterness. Lacks the sweetness and creamy malt notes of superior Dian Hong, but is pleasingly robust without being bracing.

Many subsequent infusions at 15 – 45 seconds preserve the same character, though the sweetness gives over more and more to a drab hint of cinnamon.

While more refined than many ripe pu-erh, it could serve a similar function as a counter-point to a meal.

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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On my last session with this cake – it has been an almost daily drinker for me at work lately.

Brewing this in my Jian Shui gaiwan into my glass cha hai and porcelain cup. Using filtered Santa Monica tap water just off the boil throughout. Not weighing the leaf, but I’m guessing I use between 9g and 12g of material. The dried cake has a distinctive camouflage appearance with an abundance of black and white leaves.

No rinse, but I start the initial infusion at 90 seconds as the tea is so dry. At this point the liquid is a royal yellow and has a distinctive aroma of fresh hay with a hint of oats. The flavor is sweet, gentle, and faintly grassy. Earth, toast, and honey emerge in the finish.

Subsequent steeps are around 20 seconds, resulting in a darker, alloy orange liquid, a more vegetal (autumn leaves) aroma, and a slight acidity in the palate entry. The hay remains at the core, but there is a certain low level bitterness that emerges now, presumably as higher oxidized portions of the cake wake from their slumber.

This easily lasts 10 infusions once it gets going – the caffeine is sufficiently pronounced that I usually quit imbibing before the leaf is fully spent.

An interesting, if unremarkable tea – the white/black combo was new to me – happy I bought a cake, but not sure I’ll develop a craving for it in the future now that it is gone…

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 10 g 4 OZ / 125 ML

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Converted to Oolong and beyond starting around ’98 or so when I was hanging out at the Tao of Tea in Portland.

Expanded my experience with green teas when I moved in with room-mates who were Chinese scholars, workers at the Japanese Gardens (including the tea room), etc.

Always looking to improve my education, but will concede my pedestrian tastes (e.g. breakfast teas brewed strong enough to stand your spoon in).

Trying to focus more on the qualitative over the quantitative in my reviews, so you won’t see me give too many scores/ratings at the moment…


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