63 Tasting Notes

Spring 2021 batch.

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.

Pure gold, large, straight, fuzzy leaves (buds?) – dry, it has a mild yet distinctive aroma. Hints of hay, beeswax, pencil shavings, and nectarine.

Butterscotch to hazy sunrise gradient in the glass.

Infused, gentle sweet aromatics suggest yam, light malt, and apricot. Low floral/spice (saffron?) notes as well.

Distinctive yet subtle flavor profile with hints of summer fruit, johnny cakes, and chestnut. Long quiet finish has a faint cocoa quality. Deep and smooth.

Notably rich mouth-feel, medium-thick, with very low bitterness throughout.

Subsequent to my purchase, I’ve read that this variety is endangered. While the vendor describes the source as a “plantation” (suggesting cultivated rather than wild plants), I’d want to know more about the tea’s conservation status before making future purchases.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 8 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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Spring 2021 batch.

Black and gold leaves smell of alfalfa.

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.

Alloy orange liquor. Very mild aroma brings to mind hay, corn, and oats.
Sweet on the palate, suggesting apricot and almonds, grain, and a hint of licorice root. The earthy/grassy flavors dominate the finish with hints of baked clay and chestnut.
Reasonable longevity, but the flavor becomes drab after several infusions and it can’t be pushed with lengthy infusions or it just turns bitter without retaining much character.

Pleasant, warming, smooth dian hong – enjoyable but one I wouldn’t seek out again.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 8 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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More in-depth review to follow, but I wanted to note that I’ve been through nearly a kilo of this tea as it is one of my favorite daily-drinkers in the office.

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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.

6 infusions (20sec, 20sec, 40 sec, 1min, 2min, 4min) Jasmine to pale gold liquor; mild grassy/floral aroma; grass/wildflowers/weeds on the palate leading into a medium-dry, not quite dusty finish. Roast/fermentation are mellow. Low bitterness; Medium thick mouthfeel.

My personal tastes lean towards more robust expressions, but there are no glaring faults from this leaf material if one prefers a mild, low roast oolong.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 30 sec 8 g 6 OZ / 180 ML

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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.

I have limited experience with sheng, but I’ll share my untutored impressions:

Early infusions result in arylide liquor with a gentle mineral/grassy aroma, a similarly subtle flavor, with hints of burdock and toasted seaweed in the finish which leads to a distinct hui gan. Vegetal/woody elements (along with hints of menthol, weeds, and wildflowers) and thickness of mouth-feel increase as the leaves unfurl and infusions are extended past 10 – 15 seconds. Astringency emerges, though bitterness is low (at first). Somewhere between 7 and 10 infusions, I suddenly found it difficult to steep long enough to extract flavor without that initially mild bitterness supplanting any other notes; so my sessions with this tea ended fairly abruptly (as will this review).

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 8 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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Generous sample kindly provided by the proprietor. ~25g yields about two lengthy sessions.

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.

5 flash infusions: Butterscotch liquor; stone fruit, figs, wood, honey, and yam are all hinted at, but the aromatic sum, which amplifies the scent of the dry leaf, is something more concrete and distinctive even if I can’t name it; sweet palate entry, creamy with hints of licorice, leading into a faintly spicy/woody finish suggesting pink peppercorn; slippery, almost thick mouth-feel with low tannins and bitterness.

Well crafted, subtly unique red tea with impressive longevity (I expect to get another 5 infusions out of this session when I return to it tomorrow morning), although the nectar-like sweetness makes me prefer this as a dessert tea rather than a daily drinker.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 12 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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Winter 2019 harvest.

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.

5 infusions (10, 20, 30, 40, 60 seconds) – flax/pale straw liquor; moderate roast, faint grain, wildflowers and grass in the nose; mild creamy flavor with hints of vanilla, corn silk, and a subtle floral presence. Faint residual sweetness hints at toasted rice or waffle batter. Clean, medium-thick mouth-feel. No bitterness. Linear flavor progression from palate entry to finish and largely from steep to steep (although 30 – 40 seconds seems to be the sweet spot here).

Refreshing, mild, medium-roast oolong that would likely do well iced – while well crafted, it lacks the complexity that you can find in some high grown or mainland varieties (I wouldn’t normally dwell on these sorts of comparisons, but the hubristic name suggesting the highest rank of nobility seems an open invitation to criticism).

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 45 sec 8 g 6 OZ / 180 ML

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Briefly noting that I’ve found the Autumn 2019 batch of this tea to be gorgeous to look at, but that the aroma and flavor are at best, so subtle that I am incapable of evaluating much less appreciating them. I found this to be bland and flat for all but the initial infusion (which was itself weak), and only gaining some bitterness and a vague woodiness when truly pushed. Disappointing Dianhong. Not my cup of tea, as it were…

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 10 g 3 OZ / 100 ML
derk

Ten grams of tea and still weak. I can understand your disappointment.

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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.

Lasts maybe 6 – 8 infusions brewed gong fu style:

Rust liquor; dense aroma suggesting charcoal-baked Murasaki sweet potato, and a touch of burnt toast if pushed. Very slight floral/vegetal notes emerge in later infusions as the core yam notes soften; sweet, rich, malty palate entry with hints of chestnut and longan leading into a medium-dry, lightly earthy finish with a whisper of smoke; smooth, medium body with hints of starch more than cream.

While the processing doesn’t taste “artificial,” it is difficult to believe this aroma/flavor was achieved without any additives to the tea given how prominent the “sweet potato” notes are from the aroma of the dry leaf on through multiple infusions in the cup. While lacking the chocolate notes I sometimes get from Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong, this remains an indulgent, almost dessert-oriented tea.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 8 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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Wrote up my impressions of this only to realize I had already done so for the Spring 2016 crop, which I found to be much the same.

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Bio

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…

Location

North Hollywood

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