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Gongfu Sipdown (1418)!

Found a long forgotten packet of aprtea (like, from 2018) Low Fire Dahongpao yesterday morning so I’m sipping it down while I catch up on the last two volumes of Beastars. It’s definitely a bit rough around the edges, but the incredibly deep roast and charcoal notes mixed with a peculiar herbaceous and buttery note of fresh dill is still enjoyable!!

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CS2E6cErEuL/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOntVPbUHPA&ab_channel=TwinShadow

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Somehow a couple of these samples got lost when I moved awhile back and I just recently found them. I don’t know that I’ve ever tried a Jin Jun Mei before and usually steep my teas western since I do not have a Gongfu setup. One thing that bothered me a little bit was the packaging nor the website has steeping information for this tea. So I did a little research and followed Verdant’s steeping recommendation. I loved how clear the information was for me since I often don’t have time to do a bunch of short steeps. I drank this while working on my final test for Criminal Justice.
1st Steep-18 seconds
2nd Steep-28 seconds
3rd Steep-38 seconds (this particular steep was my favorite and had a lovely flavor)
4th Steep-48 seconds
5th Steep-58 seconds (this steep had started to lose flavor)
6th Steep- 5 minutes

Overall I got 4 good steeps from this tea and the third steep was my favorite.

Flavors: Cocoa, Honey, Smoke

200 °F / 93 °C 5 g 6 OZ / 177 ML

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This was another of my July sipdowns. I recall finishing my sample pouch of this tea (generously provided at no cost to me by AprTea in exchange for this review) immediately after finishing the last of the Xi Hu Long Jing that I received from AprTea. Of the two, this was the weaker offering in my eyes, but I should also note that I am not and have never been the biggest fan of Jiangsu Biluochun. They always seem delicate and pleasant but lacking in staying power to me.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After the rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 3 ounces of 176 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was followed by 14 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 9 seconds, 12 seconds, 16 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves produced aromas of sweet corn, hay, sugarcane, grass, and pineapple. After the rinse, new aromas of asparagus, zucchini, malt, and straw appeared. The first infusion introduced a slight honey scent. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of sweet corn, hay, malt, straw, grass, and zucchini that were balanced by hints of sugarcane, cream, butter, soybean, and vegetable broth-like umami. The subsequent infusions introduced aromas of plum, seaweed, butter, umami, peas, parsley, and grilled lemon. Stronger and more immediate butter, umami, soybean, and cream notes appeared in the mouth alongside belatedly emerging asparagus notes and impressions of minerals, seaweed, spinach, kale, and parsley. I also detected delicate hints of grilled lemon, plum, garden peas, honey, and pineapple. As the tea faded, the liquor emphasized mineral, grass, hay, butter, sweet corn, umami, and malt notes that were underscored by hints of garden peas, grilled lemon, sugarcane, straw, zucchini, and seaweed.

Like the comparatively few other Jiangsu Biluochun green teas I have tried, this one was pleasant, but it did not strike me as being all that distinctive. Had I not written detailed notes so that I could post this review, I likely would have forgotten that I had ever tried this tea. That’s not really a knock on it specifically; I’m just not a huge fan of this type of green tea. At this point, all I can say is that I did not find this tea to be bad, and I am certainly glad I got the opportunity to try it, but it wasn’t for me. I guess Jiangsu Biluochun is just something on which I’m not likely to come around anytime soon.

Flavors: Asparagus, Butter, Cream, Garden Peas, Grass, Hay, Honey, Kale, Lemon, Malt, Mineral, Parsley, Pineapple, Plum, Seaweed, Soybean, Spinach, Straw, Sugarcane, Sweet, Umami, Zucchini

5 g 3 OZ / 88 ML

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This was another of my sipdowns from late July. At the time I finished this tea, it had been a considerable amount of time since I had reviewed a Dragon Well green tea. When I was first getting into Chinese green tea, Dragon Well was one of the first teas that really spoke to me, so I was very happy to get the opportunity to revisit one of my first loves in the wide world of green tea. As it turned out, I still love Dragon Well and found this one to be very enjoyable. I was rather surprised by the scores provided by the two previous reviewers.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 3 ounces of 176 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was followed by 14 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 9 seconds, 12 seconds, 16 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves produced aromas of sweetgrass, chestnut, green olive, honey, hay, sugarcane, and bamboo. After the rinse, I detected new aromas of zucchini, lettuce, and cucumber as well as a greatly amplified chestnut aroma and a subtle scent of malt. The first infusion introduced a subtle spinach scent. In the mouth, the tea liquor offered notes of bamboo, chestnut, malt, hay, and sweetgrass alongside a surprisingly strong, pronounced umami note. Hints of spinach, zucchini, lettuce, green olive, honey, and sugarcane could also be detected. The subsequent infusions coaxed out aromas of butter and asparagus as well as a very meaty, salty umami scent. Notes of cucumber appeared in the mouth alongside stronger and more immediate zucchini, spinach, sugarcane, and lettuce notes. I also detected mineral, butter, asparagus, lemon zest, and snap pea impressions. Some fleeting hints of squash blossom, apricot, and honeydew could also be detected, though they were most evident on the swallow and in the aftertaste. As the tea faded, the liquor emphasized impressions of minerals, malt, hay, butter, bamboo, asparagus, and umami that were chased by hints of sweetgrass, chestnut, sugarcane, lemon zest, lettuce, and spinach.

At first, I did not really know how to rate this tea. It was enjoyable, but its liquor was also thicker and more substantial than that of many other Dragon Well teas I have tried. Part of me doubted that this was a higher end Dragon Well, but an examination of the leaves showed me that it was produced from a quality picking and clearly processed with great care. This tea was obviously a quality offering. Ultimately, I felt I had to give it a high score. It was just too satisfying. Everything worked together more or less seamlessly, so there was no reason to knock it.

Flavors: Apricot, Asparagus, Bamboo, Butter, Chestnut, Cucumber, Grass, Hay, Honey, Honeydew, Lemon Zest, Lettuce, Malt, Mineral, Olives, Peas, Spinach, Squash Blossom, Sugarcane, Umami, Zucchini

5 g 3 OZ / 88 ML

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Sipdown (620)!

I finished this one off last weekend, while having a nice conversation with an instagram user named miklovestea973 – if you’re reading this, Mike, I haven’t seen you yet in the Slack Chat group! If you’ve not yet done so, send Owl and email! It’s an awesome group and I think you’ll get a lot out of it!

As for the tea, this was given to me by Apr tea – and it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t impressive in anyway either. A good tea, actually, for exactly what I was doing: sipping on as a backdrop during a nice conversation! You needs teas in your stash that serve that purpose, for sure. Here’s what I had to say about it on instagram:

This tea definitely has some nice peach skin notes, accented by a light and pleasant bitterness – possibly because I PACKED this teapot. Aside from that lovely peach skin notes, this tea has a mix of clotted cream, hot hat, and snow pea notes. It’s not the most amazing Silver Needle I’ve ever had, but definitely works for a good, casual sipping sort of tea for a relaxed Sunday.

Also, as someone else pointed out, this had some thick/plump buds! Very beautiful little fuzzy boys…

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/Byf5L-8gmPp/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7_UJRRoHxA


Hot hat?!

Roswell Strange

Oops – meant to say hot hay!

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Sipdown (602)!

Thank you to AprTea for giving me this free sample – I do love a good golden bud hongcha, and this one is really fucking pretty. Of course, pretty doesn’t always = delicious but, well, in this case? Well, it does.

I’ve had mixed success with the teas from Apr Tea Mall, but this is probably the nicest one so far. I brewed it in a black tea dedicated yixing pot, and while I did find it brewed out REALLY quickly (significant decline by steep four) it was quite tasty! The more prominent note was this interesting sort of “golden syrup” kind of flavour that was pleasant, especially in combo with the other flavours. I also got lots of malt, and some sweet potato and lighty burnt toast/French Bread. In the third steep I also note a hint of cocoa and red fruit, which weren’t really so present in the others – especially the red fruit notes.

Really liked this one!

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/ByOBBCfAArK/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CltJ7WF7ohs&list=LL1M1wDjmJD4SJr_CwzXAGuQ&index=42&t=0s

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The last of my free samples from AprTea. Thanks so much! These types of oolongs are usually tough for me to describe, but I’ll give it a try. The leaves are dark and twisted, but wide, with a red/purple tinge to them. The flavor is certainly very sweet with a caramel note, almost like a minty cooling feel after the sip. There is also a roasted flavor, not too much but noticeable. (The roasted flavor might be why I don’t gravitate towards teas like these, but it is pleasant enough here.) Almost a starchy quality too. The flavor is definitely CARAMELIZED something or other. It’s very much like maple syrup over roasted maple leaves, if I had to describe the flavor. With the third steep, the roasted flavor is mostly gone and I’m left with an incredibly sweet and smooth drink. I don’t think this one can be oversteeped, and I think I could have kept steeping past three mugs. If I had to stock up on this TYPE of tea, it’d probably be this one. Though again, I don’t have much experience with these types of oolongs because they aren’t my favorite. But this was certainly an enjoyable tea drinking session.
Steep #1 // 2 teaspoons for a full mug // 11 minutes after boiling // 1 minute steep
Steep #2 // 10 minutes after boiling // 2 minute steep
Steep #3 // just boiled // 3 min

Flavors: Caramel, Maple, Maple Syrup, Roasted

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Note: I realized this might not be the correct tea. AprTea might have labeled the tea wrong… so the note is for ONE of the oolongs they carry…
I received this free from AprTea a while ago. Sorry it has taken me so long, but thank you again for sending them! I expected a dark roasted, brown in color oolong. But no, my leaves look green. This also REALLY doesn’t look like the photo for the tea. The photo looks like a charcoal oolong, my tea does not. I guess I have a different concept of ‘roasted’ teas than AprTea. Then what do they call the roasted teas, because this also has ‘charcoal’ in the name? It might be a darker green oolong, but still green. The dry leaves have a great sweet aroma. The flavor is also tasty, but nothing I would call ‘roasted’. It tastes like a green oolong to me, with a sweet flavor that could be considered caramel. When cooled, a hint of peach. Possibly I’m not steeping this perfectly for the best flavor, as I’m not noticing distinct notes.
Steep #1 // 1 teaspoon for my smaller mug // rinse // 15-20 minutes after boiling // 1 minute steep
Steep #2 // 13 minutes after boiling // 1 minute steep
Steep #3 // just boiled // 2-3 min

I wanted to try another steep session with new leaves, as I wasn’t tasting distinct notes with my parameters last time. Maybe the infuser or leaf amounts weren’t ideal. The infuser I was using previously lets tiny pieces of leaves into the mug (not to say that was the problem) so not ideal for reviewing any teas. So I’m using my netted infuser this time, where nothing gets through. I’m not sure it made much difference in the flavor! But I also used more leaves and different steep times. The oolong is very smooth and the flavor lingers wonderfully. It’s hints of peaches and cream. Very sweet. I’d say the third steep was the best, so I went for a fourth. There is no way these leaves can be oversteeped. They stay sweet with a thick mouthfeel throughout all steeps. Maybe this is where the ‘caramel’ in the name comes from. In a blind taste test I would never call this one charcoal/roasted but I’ve had some very charcoal tasting oolongs in the past. So this one is still tough to pick out distinct flavors, but it’s a very tasty oolong. It tastes like OOLONG.
Steep #1 // 1 1/2 teaspoons for a full mug // rinse // 14 minutes after boiling // 1 minute steep
Steep #2 // 10 minutes after boiling // 2 minute steep
Steep #3 // 5 minutes after boiling // 2 min
Steep #4 // just boiled // 2 1/2 min
TLDR: Sweet, smooth, thick mouthfeel, never bitter, can’t oversteep it. I wouldn’t call it charcoal/roasted at all.


I also got a mislabeled sample from AprTea, so it’s quite likely this is not actually the tea you got. “Deep charcoal baking” should have been obvious if present.


oh no! Now that you mention it, you’re probably right that it’s mislabeled. I’d have no idea which tea it really is and AprTea probably wouldn’t either since it took me so long to drink it. Thanks for letting me know.

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Gong Fu Sipdown (601)

Thank you Apr Tea for giving me this sample to try!

I found that this tea leaf didn’t have the longest steep life – after about five infusions it was pretty tapped out. Of course, black tea isn’t exactly know for being the best in terms of Gong Fu rebrew-ability, but it’s still a little sad when the leaf dies out quickly during a session you’re enjoying.

The tea was very brisk and full bodied; to me is tasted like a mix of smoke and wood chips, with a bitter cocoa note sort of like unsweetened baker’s chocolate. Note; smoke and wood chips as seperate notes – NOT a “smoked wood chip” sort of taste. In my mind, those are two different and distinct things. It was also just a little bit resinous.

I enjoyed it though; definitely a nice unsmoked Lapsang Souchong.

Photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/BuABXzOltMk/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGADp7VlOD0&index=15&list=LL1M1wDjmJD4SJr_CwzXAGuQ&t=0s

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Sipdown (593)!

This was a free sample that I got from Apr Tea in exchange for a review. Within this package was two different tuochas – one was a lotus leaf one, that I’ve recorded in its own tasting note under that tea’s listing. This was just the plain shou tuocha without anything else in it, so I’m going to write the note for it here since that seems to be the default listing for the plain version?

It’s unfortunate, but I think that this may have been the worst shou that I tried in all of 2018? I tried very much to give it a fair shake, but there was this super intense/penetrating fishy/dankness to the taste and the mouthfeel was all kinds of oily. It was so, so unpleasant – I couldn’t even finish the mug. I have no idea what about this was so specifically off; but I’m not even sure what I could have done to salvage the cup.

So far the teas I’ve had from this company have either been quite nice or perfectly average: this was the first big swing and a miss…

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This was… not good.

I opened up my little same bag with the randomized two different tuochas that I received a little while back from Apr Tea today, and I did try both today. Of the two, this was definitely better but it had a weird, lingering and coating taste to it that, while not “fishy” in the sense that a lot of bad pu’erh is, wasn’t pleasant. Very muddy and gross tasting. In fact, I’d wager the only reason it was less unpleasant that the first that I tried was probably because it was essentially “cut” with the lotus leaf.

Kind of a disappointment, as this was my first lotus leaf pu’erh and I really wanted it to be a good experience.

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Thank you to Aprtea for this free sample

The dry leaf smells like a toasty yellow or green tea and all of the tiny leaves are intact and not broken at all. The leaves are quite small and only 1-2 cm long.

I think this is the first longjing I’ve had that isn’t fruity. This is more nutty and lightly vegetal (soy bean and chestnut) but very little sweetness. No bitter or sour notes. I would not say I tasted any of the toastiness I smelled in the dry leaf, however I think this tea is almost savoury in that it is not super sweet/stone fruit like many longjings. The chestnut flavour is characteristic of longjing, however, and from the look and taste of the leaves I can tell they are of high quality and have been handled delicately.

Flavors: Chestnut, Soybean

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A light oolong with hints of watermelon, caramel, spearmint, and a buttery mouth feel. Very nice tea.


Flavors: Butter, Caramel, Melon, Spearmint

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 7 g 29 OZ / 857 ML

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I got it as a free sample among with several others from AprTea which is really appreciated. Da Hong Paos are probably my favorite oolong so I have high expectations when I meet a new Da Hong and this tea while not wowing me totally met them.

This tea has all of the necessary flavor components: roast, mineral, a touch of bitterness, some grass, and a coda of floral sweetness. A nice and long aftertaste is present. Finally, this Da Hong Pao is very pleasant for enjoying its smell from the cup in front of you: it is strong and balanced.

And this is the strongest quality of this tea: while not especially complex it is very well balanced in both taste and aroma, with all of its components coming seamlessly together. Now about the negatives: not the most complex (which, by the way, it does not pretend to be that since this tea is openly marked as a basic Da Hong Pao), the taste does not last for many infusions with the regrettable astringency appearing fairly soon.

While not likely to become one of the all-time favorites this tea can successfully perform the role of a daily Da Hong Pao for a budget-minded tea drinker.

Flavors: Bitter, Campfire, Floral, Grass, Mineral, Roasted, Sweet

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Light on taste with standard Keemun notes – I couldn’t find much more than that going on with this one. My Hao Ya “B” from Harney and Sons outshines this one by a kilolumen, at a lower price point and easier shipping options. I am grateful for the opportunity to try this one out for free, but I will not be ordering this anytime soon. There are plenty of more interesting teas at AprTea, though.

Boiling 4 min, 0 sec 4 g 16 OZ / 473 ML

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Thank you so much for the samples, Aprtea.com! I’m a fan of sticky rice tuochas. The pairing of the sweet sticky rice with the deepest of ripe pu-erh is always fantastic. This pu-erh is pretty dark, almost to the point of being bitey which I hardly ever find in a ripe pu-erh. The flavor of the rice is very consistent between steeps. The depth of the pu-erh itself is also very consistent between all three steeps. The second steep has almost exactly the same flavor as the first steep, as does the the third steep, so I probably could have had a decent fourth mug. I guess I’m at a loss to describe what this pu-erh particularly tastes like. Maybe that is why it has the sticky rice added, it isn’t distinct enough on its own. I do know that I’m enjoying this dark and earthy brew. Delicious. The price is very reasonable too.
Steep #1 // 1 tuocha for a full mug// 15 minutes after boiling // rinse // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // 7 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #3 // just boiled // 5 minute steep

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Syrupy and buttery and sweet, this is nice. I am still recovering from a cold, so I think it was a mistake to try this one out. My tastebuds and sense of smell are shot. This one brews up clean and is definitely enjoyable, but I can’t really describe any nuances beyond that right now. Accidentally brewed this with too much water, and I still felt it was noticeably thick – so I guess that says something.


Boiling 4 min, 0 sec

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Thank you for the samples, Aprtea.com! The leaves interestingly enough are very tightly bound and very dark green in color. As the name of this includes charcoal, I expected one of those deep roasted charcoal oolongs but this is actually a less scary, very mildy charcoal flavor. I’m glad, as charcoal isn’t my favorite flavor of oolong. But the resulting flavor is very light and sweet and extremely delicious. The color of the brew is a pale yellow. The second steep really soaks into the special of this oolong, the texture could almost be syrupy it’s so oddly changing the feel of the oolong. How does the mouthfeel of a tea get so thick? The flavor is more full, buttery, silky, still sweet with just a touch more of that charcoal flavor that is included in the name. But otherwise, it still seems like one of those bright green oolongs and nothing roasted. The third steep is even deeper with these flavors — more buttery, it just blooms in the mouth. The fourth steep was a bit lighter in flavor, but that might be because I didn’t use hotter water. All of the flavor qualities in this oolong are perfect together and it’s fantastic. It’s a great reminder of why I love oolong. I expected much worse seeing it described as ‘charcoal’ — my least favorite tea type.

Steep #1 // 1 heaping teaspoon for a full mug// 10 minutes after boiling // rinse // 2 minute steep
Steep #2 // 10 minutes after boiling // 2 minute steep
Steep#3 // 12 minutes after boiling // 2 1/2 minute steep
Steep #4 // 10 minutes after boiling // 2-3 minute steep


Tieguanyin has a lot of flavors
Charcoal baking flower aroma: very mildy charcoal flavor
Charcoal baking caramel aroma: Deep charcoal flavor

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Very nice. Burnt sugar and caramel flavors predominantly, with hints of peach, walnut, and maybe a touch of saltiness. This tea is pretty mellow, but the slight touch of campfire/smoke lends it a bit of excitement. I did not find much astringency after a 3 minute steep, and no bitterness. In fact, if I had some more, I would give it a shot at 4 or 5 minutes. The campfire is mostly in the aroma, and it doesn’t really translate strongly into the cup. It is not anything like a smoky lapsang souchong.

Tea was received as a free sample from AprTea Mall, in exchange for my writing a review. It was nice to find 8 different tea samples, about 50 grams total, in my mail yesterday. This is the first one I have sampled, and my first ever Dahongpao-style tea.


Flavors: Burnt Sugar, Campfire, Caramel, Honey, Peach, Salt, Walnut

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 7 g 29 OZ / 857 ML

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