Beautiful Taiwan Tea CompanyEdit Company
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Recent Tasting Notes
Now that I have had some time to rest and have my head on somewhat straight again, let’s kick off this Sunday with a blast from the past. This was yet another tea I reviewed last month, yet like quite a few others, I never got around to posting a formal review on Steepster. So, without further ado, here goes.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 7 seconds. This infusion was chased by 13 subsequent infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of char, wood, caramelized banana, and graham cracker. The rinsed leaves presented new aromas of coffee beans and toasted rice. The first infusion showed hints of grass and fruitiness on the nose. In the mouth, I found flavors of sweetgrass, watercress, cattail shoots, cream, butter, char, graham cracker, cinnamon, wood, and caramelized banana. Subsequent infusions saw the notes of coffee and toasted rice appear in the mouth. I also picked up on hints of vanilla, elderberry, and blackberry. Subtler impressions of squash, minerals, orchid, roasted walnut, and honey flitted in and out of focus in the background. The later infusions demonstrated a more pronounced minerality on the nose and in the mouth. A touch of buttered popcorn emerged toward the end of the session, while lingering traces of wood, char, and cream remained on the palate.
As charcoal roasted oolongs go, this one was very nice. It was a complex tea, yet it was also very subtle. Each aroma and flavor component was integrated very well. If you are the type of person who prefers toasty, mellow teas, I could see this being a perfect fit for you. Personally, I greatly enjoyed this tea, but I ended up wishing that it were not so even-tempered throughout the session. In places, it was almost too mellow and balanced for my taste.
Flavors: banana, Blackberry, Butter, Char, Cinnamon, Coffee, Cream, Fruity, Graham, Grass, Honey, Mineral, Orchid, Popcorn, Toasted Rice, Vanilla, Vegetal, Walnut, Wood
Tea Swap Session
I was sipping this tea for 4 days prior to quitting. When I had opened the sample bag, I saw that it was incredibly compressed. I gave it a few rinses to ‘open’ up more, but due to the compression, it mocked me by looking the same as it had when I first started the session. I steeped it a few times after the first two rinses, but nothing much happened to the compression. The flavor was a little weak, too, so I had to force the chunk apart with my fingers; which seemed to help bring the tea to life.
Day 1 Notes (4 steeps): Nothing much going on with the tea. Pretty light in flavor/color. After brewing this a few times there is still a very tight chunk of tea, so I broke it apart with my fingers and will brew tomorrow.
Day 2 Notes (3 steeps): A little more flavor. Definitely an aged tea. Has that slight basement note, but not your grandma’s basement note/smell. More like, when your mother becomes a grandma, but that hasn’t happened, yet smell/note. Nothing really mind blowing…
Day 4 Notes (Day 3 wasn’t noted; 6 steeps): Starting to lighten up again, but started out bold. Thick mouthfeel, dark liquor. Uncooked pea pods notes (?), still a hint of your mother’s basement (mildew?), and leather (?). Reminds me of a ripe (fake ‘aged’ raw).
My notes were rushed on Day 4, so I’m not really sure what I was writing/thinking. Ha-ha.
One of a few sheng samples I picked up from BTT a little while ago. I have heard that some of their stuff is really dank, so I was sort of prepared for that going in. The dry leaf definitely does smell a little bit humid, and also has a slightly sweet woody character. After a rinse, the aroma was much more musty/humid.
The flavor, unsurprisingly, started off pretty dank. It was only really up front about it for the first 2-3 steeps though. After that, it was a much more mellow woody, earthy flavor. It’s evident this tea wasn’t super-humidly stored, as it still has some youth to it. The steeped out leaves still show a bit of a green hue, and the tea can definitely get astringent (even a little sour) if oversteeped. The tea brews out for a decent while as well. Texture is pleasantly thick. I didn’t pick up much of any qi off of the tea.
Potentially a good daily drinker type of cake for somebody who prefers aged sheng. It’s not complex, but it’s pleasant and at $79 for a full-sized cake, is a pretty good value for decent (not amazing) 15 year old tea.
Flavors: Earth, Musty, Sweet, Wood
I ordered a sample of this tea late last year when I was exploring shu pu-erh. I then later ended up with a second sample that came free with another order from Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company. At the time I ordered this tea, the idea of a basic shu for daily consumption sounded appealing. Since then, I have come to the conclusion that I am not the sort of person who just has to drink some pu-erh every day, though I still do appreciate pu-erh and semi-routinely roll the dice on bricks, tuos, and cakes that interest me. I am at a point where I think I now prefer shu to sheng because when I reach for pu-erh, I tend to go for shu much more frequently. Last week, I was in the mood for shu and finally reached for this one. I found it to be a very good, clean shu with very little lingering fermentation aroma and flavor.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a single 10 second rinse in 212 F water (after sniffing the tea, I determined that a second rinse was not necessary), I allowed my 9 gram sample to sit for a few minutes (I did not really time it) to loosen the compression and then steeped it in 212 F water for 10 seconds. This initial infusion was chased by 13 subsequent infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, and 7 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry chunk of tea brick emitted aromas of earth, dark wood, and mushroom. After the rinse, I picked up aromas of dark wood, mushroom, earth, and forest floor. The first infusion allowed a slight chocolate scent and hints of tree bark to emerge. I found flavors of dark wood, tree bark, mushroom, moist earth, and forest floor in the mouth. The mouthfeel was very creamy and smooth. I noted emerging hints of caramel and chocolate on the finish. Subsequent infusions brought forth stronger caramel and chocolate aromas and flavors, as well as touches of plum, raisin, jujube, vanilla, and subtle menthol and camphor. At times, I could find faint impressions of black cherry, bread, and malt. I noted some lingering sweetness and relatively strong cooling, calming sensations on the finish that had decent staying power. This tea just felt smooth and mellow. It was very relaxing. The later infusions were mild, washing out quickly and displaying subtle impressions of minerals and cooling herbal touches with more noticeable hints of sweetness.
Alright, I am no pu-erh expert, but I found this tea to be very enjoyable. The way I brewed it caused it to fade quickly, but honestly, this tea still displayed decent staying power regardless. I could see it making a great introduction to shu pu-erh because it was so clean and consistent throughout the session. There was no overt funkiness to it and it was not too earthy on the nose or in the mouth. Furthermore, I found it to have just enough complexity to remain intriguing without ever being all that challenging. While I have no doubt that extremely experienced pu-erh drinkers would likely find this tea kind of plain, I could also see them perhaps appreciating it as a daily drinker for its consistency and pleasant, easygoing nature. And considering that this tea was only ever intended to be taken as a daily drinker and/or as an introduction to quality shu, I think it is a brilliant success.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Bark, Camphor, Caramel, Cherry, Chocolate, Dark Wood, Earth, Forest Floor, Fruity, Malt, Menthol, Mineral, Mushrooms, Plums, Raisins, Vanilla
This was one of four different gushu oolong orbs I purchased within the last year. I had been toying with the idea of doing a gushu oolong shootout, but ended up reviewing two of the three oolong orbs I purchased from What-Cha and then shelved the project. Within the past week, however, I got the urge to try at least one of the two remaining teas and chose this one purely because I wanted to try one from a different vendor. I didn’t expect to, but I ended up loving this tea.
I gongfued this one. After a quick rinse, I steeped the entire 6 gram dragon ball in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was followed by 15 subsequent infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, and 7 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea ball produced pleasant aromas of stone fruits, smoke, wood, grass, hay, herbs, and brine. After the rinse, I began to pick up on scents of longan and wild mushroom. The first infusion produced a slightly more pronounced fruitiness, as well as something of a floral character, on the nose. In the mouth, I picked up surprisingly strong, fully formed notes of hay, grass, wood, smoke, mushroom, herbs, and brine. Subsequent infusions brought out touches of bark, tart cherry, apricot, sour plum, nuts, caramel, butter, and minerals. I also thought I got touches of green apple and pear at a few points too. The longan flavor also finally showed up for me. Later infusions were dominated by minerals, grass, hay, funky brine, bark, and smoke balanced by pleasant caramel and butter tones. In the background, I could just barely detect lingering touches of stone fruits and wild mushrooms. The generally indistinct herbal presence also began to take on a more clearly developed camphor/menthol kind of flavor. Oddly, I do not recall finding any real floral notes in the mouth.
This was an interesting and surprisingly durable tea. It just did not want to give up the ghost. I’m guessing I could have easily gotten at least 1-3 more infusions out of this had I decided to push it. Much like the two Jingmai gushu oolongs from What-Cha, this demonstrated a funkiness similar to that of a young sheng. In other words, it was less like a traditional oolong and more like a cross between an oolong and a pu’erh. Unlike the two similar teas from What-Cha, this one had a better body and greater presence in the mouth, as well as greater longevity. I found it to be both a more approachable and more likable tea than the other two.
Flavors: Apricot, Bark, Butter, Camphor, Caramel, Cherry, Floral, Fruity, Grass, Green Apple, Hay, Herbs, Menthol, Mineral, Mushrooms, Nuts, Pear, Plums, Smoke, Wood
Since I spent my afternoon with this Nepalese black tea, I figured I should probably go ahead and post a review. I do not really want the backlog building up and I also want to make sure that I don’t misinterpret my admittedly fragmentary notes. I found this to be a perfectly solid black tea. It was not one of the most striking I have ever tried, but it was a very likable black tea of high quality.
I prepared this tea in the Western style. I steeped approximately 3 grams of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 205 F water for 5 minutes. I did not attempt any additional infusions.
Prior to infusion, the dry tea leaves emitted malty, toasty aromas with hints of floral character. After infusion, I detected aromas of almond, chocolate, and citrus. In the mouth, I mostly picked up on chocolate, brown toast, malt, cream, butter, roasted almond, lemon zest, and bitter orange peel notes balanced by a melange of floral impressions that reminded me of a mixture of dandelion, chrysanthemum, and marigold. In the background, I could pick up fleeting impressions of wood, brown sugar, raisins, prunes, nutmeg, and pungent mountain herbs. The finish was malty and toasty with fairly pronounced chocolate, roasted almond, citrus, and fresh flower notes providing lasting depth after the swallow.
Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company compared this to a Darjeeling, but I am not certain I agree all that much with that comparison. This tea was much toastier, maltier, and more citrusy. It also featured a much more pronounced presence of chocolate on the nose and in the mouth. It reminded me a little of the Nepal Jun Chiyabari ‘Himalayan Imperial’ Black Tea from What-Cha that I tried recently, except this tea was not quite as chocolaty. I liked it, but it struck me as being a little too heavy to be a regular cup.
Flavors: Almond, Brown Sugar, Brown Toast, Butter, Chocolate, Cream, Dandelion, Dried Fruit, Floral, Herbs, Lemon Zest, Malt, Nutmeg, Orange, Raisins, Wood
I finished the last of a sample pouch of this tea last night. I’m not quite as familiar with Taiwanese black teas as I would like to be. In particular, I have little experience with those from regions that typically stick to producing oolongs. I figured that this tea would make a good introduction to the black teas produced in such areas, but after researching it, I also noted that it seemed to divide opinion. After giving this one a go both Western and gongfu, I found a lot to enjoy. Unfortunately, I did not take notes during the Western session, so this review is exclusively concerned with the results of the gongfu session.
For this session, I used my newish and now more comfortable 4 ounce gaiwan. After priming the gaiwan, I filled it with 6 grams of loose tea leaves, gave the leaves a quick rinse, and then steeped them in 4 ounces of 205 F water for 5 seconds. This initial infusion was followed by 14 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted pleasant aromas of brown toast, malt, and honey. The rinse brought out touches of wood, cocoa, straw, hay, and toasted marshmallow. The first infusion produced a similar, albeit slightly more buttery, bouquet. In the mouth, I detected gentle notes of butter, malt, wood, brown toast, honey, straw, hay, and toasted marshmallow. Subsequent infusions brought out the cocoa in the mouth, while I also began to pick up impressions of roasted almond, minerals, beeswax, baking spices, baked bread, cream, and something resembling camphor/menthol. The later infusions were dominated by very mellow touches of malt, butter, roasted almond, and baked bread, though I could still detect distant menthol/camphor, honey, wood, straw, and toast in the background.
This was a very gentle tea with an easygoing nature. It was not tremendously deep or complex and it also faded a little more quickly than anticipated, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. It reminded me of some of the Japanese and Indonesian black teas I have tried. Overall, this was definitely worth trying. I could see fans of mellow, sophisticated black teas being pleased with this one.
Flavors: Almond, Baked Bread, Brown Toast, Butter, Camphor, Cocoa, Cream, Hay, Honey, Marshmallow, Menthol, Mineral, Spices, Straw, Wood
Tea Swap Session, Backlog
I used to think that charcoal roasted teas were so horrendous to the point that I avoided trying and/or buying any at all. However, through recent tea swaps, I’ve been seeing them pop up in my boxes from tea friends. Lo and behold, I do like some charcoal roasted oolongs/tea if they’re done correctly.
Notes: I was surprised when I discovered that this tea wasn’t similar to licking the bottom of a piece of charcoal; rather, it had plenty of other, unexpected notes attached to it: cornflakes, mineral, and buttery notes throughout the cup.
Here’s another sample sipdown. I finished this one last night. As far as Alishan oolongs go, this one was light in the mouth and very vegetal. Normally, I am not a fan of that style, as I prefer my high mountain oolongs to be fruity, floral, and sweet, but this tea had tremendous depth. I ended up liking it considerably more than I thought I would.
As usual, I prepared this tea gongfu style. Still reeling from the loss of my favorite 4 ounce gaiwan and cup, I used my 5 ounce easy gaiwan and cup set for this tea. The slow pour did not really help this tea’s longevity, so if I end up ordering more of this, I am going to have to go back to a more traditional gaiwan. After a very brief rinse, I steeped 7 grams of loose tea leaves in 5 ounces of 195 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was followed by 12 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 12 seconds, 15 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, I picked up on very light grassy, vegetal aromas from the dry leaves. There was a hint of savory character there too, maybe something like cream or butter. The rinse brought out more savory character. I definitely picked up scents of cream and butter, as well as a much more pronounced vegetal character. There were scents of grass, leaf lettuce, and kale. The first infusion brought out vanilla, baked bread, custard, and some vague floral impressions. In the mouth, I picked up on mild notes of cream, butter, grass, leaf lettuce, kale, bread, and vanilla. Subsequent infusions introduced aromas and flavors of minerals, nuts, cucumber, cilantro, spinach, orchid, daffodil, daylily, daylily shoots, green apple, honeydew, and unripened pear. On a couple of infusions, I also thought I picked up a very distant hint of seaweed. Oh yeah, and the custard showed up on the palate very briefly too. The later infusions were very mild, offering mostly mineral, cream, butter, grass, leaf lettuce, kale, spinach, and cucumber. However, I was able to detect something that reminded me of butterscotch, as well as lingering traces of vanilla and daylily shoots in the background.
Again, this was totally not what I expected from an Alishan oolong. Even though the aromas and flavors were extremely subtle and well-integrated, there was a lot to appreciate here. Once I got over the fact that there were times that this tea reminded me more of a green tea than an oolong, I fell in love with it. It was not much like any other Alishan oolong I have ever tried. Definitely pick this one up if you can.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Butter, Butterscotch, Cream, Cucumber, Custard, Floral, Grass, Green Apple, Honeydew, Kale, Lettuce, Mineral, Narcissus, Nuts, Orchid, Pear, Seaweed, Vanilla, Vegetal
So while I drink a lot of hongcha, this is my first experience with taiwanese black tea. To be honest, it’s not at all what I usually expect from a black tea but its very good. The dry leaf looks pretty and is all rolled up like an oolong. It’s fragrant, making me think of the smell of a sweet potato roasting in the oven.
I brewed this western style for now, following the parameters on the bag (1tsp, 250ml of water, 3.5 minutes). The brewed tea is a lovely amber color and has a roasty aroma, almost made me think I had accidentally brewed an oolong. The taste is light but has a nice body and is by no means weak. Strong roasted tones without being too overpowering, with an underlying maltiness. Very smooth for a tea with roasted notes. I downed this really quickly.
I look forward to playing with this one more including gongfu brewing. This is a very good tea and I am trying hard not to like it too much, as ordering from US vendors is incredibly complicated for me. May have to explore other taiwanese Alishan black teas from other vendors as well.
Flavors: Malt, Roasted
I had this on Sunday while drinking tea/conversing with friends on Google Hangouts. I honestly didn’t get the chance to note too much, but the opportunity to try this while spending time with tea friends was well worth it. It was definitely a special to be had.
Notes: Nice wet storage with the tea. The color of the liquor was dark for the first 6-8 infusions; however, it had lightened up slightly until the 12th infusion (I stopped noting or paying attention at the time). The flavor was a strong camphor/wood note throughout the entirety of the session; which never seemed to let up. Overall, I really enjoyed the consistency of this session and the time with friends had made all the better.
I got a sample of this tea a little while ago and just finished it off. Based on when I ordered it, I believe it to be the Winter 2016 crop. The leaves are vibrant and green, and the aroma from them is floral and buttery, with just a bit of a savory character to them.
The tea starts off with mostly vegetal flavors, kind of kale-ish with a buttery texture. The finish is more fruity or floral, and the tea has a mouthwatering sweetness. It is very easy to drink.
As the session went on, I found it getting more juicy and/or crisp, and the finish became more buttery. The tea went on and on and on, easily 16 steeps, maybe up to 20. It seemed like no matter how many times I steeped in in the last half of the session, it just kept on giving a nice and pleasant creamy flavor. Not as flavorful as earlier infusions, but very drinkable and tasty.
This is an awesome green TW oolong. I will definitely be ordering some when I make my next order from BTTC (hopefully soon!).
Flavors: Butter, Creamy, Floral, Kale, Sweet, Vegetal
Didn’t realize this was an iron-pressed cake when I bought a sample of it. Those normally annoy me greatly, but this one wasn’t too bad. It took some work to chip a piece off the sample and then get that piece to break up in my gaiwan, but nowhere near as much as some of these other highly compressed cakes I’ve tried. The aroma after my rinsing didn’t please me too greatly – a bit leathery and acrid with a bit of a camphor-y aroma. Not damp or musty though.
The first steep was a little unpleasant – leathery, cloudy liquor, but there was some pleasant woodiness underneath which gave me hope for the rest of the session. The leaves also look a lot better than most highly compressed tea I’ve seen. Not too great of quality, but not absolutely lawn-mowered.
The rest of the session got better for sure. Mostly woody sweet notes, with maybe a bit of a floral touch in the early part. The texture was milky, but did not really fill my mouth, and the flavor did not linger a long time. I didn’t pick up any qi off of this one either.
Seems to be simple, decent tasting aged sheng. Not a lot going on though, so no chance that this would be a full-cake purchase for me.
Flavors: Leather, Sweet, Wood
Finished off my sample of this one western style. I didn’t take much of any detailed notes, just what I remember. The first cup was nice and rich, a bit of chocolate, malt, and honey. From this cup alone, I was convinced that Western Style was better for this tea than gongfu, but the rest of the session made me less sure. The tea dropped off a cliff both flavor and intensity-wise after that first steep. It was still good, but more of just a light honey sweetness like when I was brewing it gongfu. Even when I accidentally let the third steep go for nearly 30 minutes!
Seems to be a black tea on the lighter side of things. Easy sipping.
Flavors: Chocolate, Honey, Malt, Sweet
Just tried this one for the first time last night – I brewed it up gongfu. Pretty nice looking leaf. It smelled chocolatey and a bit malty when I sniffed the dry leaf. The flavor simple. Just got some honey sweetness and a bit of sweet malt. Pleasant though. No astringency or off-flavors or anything. I’m going to try to brew the second half of my sample Western-style and see if it yields anything more interesting for me.
Flavors: Honey, Malt, Sweet
A Beautiful Taiwan Tea indeed! Nice black tea flavors with plenty of nuttiness and fruit sweetness. Really nice dark caramel notes throughout.
In terms of smokiness, this tea is lightly smoked (by its own admission on the package.) For me, the balance is just right. If you focus, you can pick up wood smoke flavors. Really, though, the smokiness is less of a flavor and more of a backdrop that causes the lighter flavors (like fruitiness) to pop, or adds a depth and richness to darker flavors like caramel.
Dry leaf: chocolate, stewed berries, sweet/pungent herbal (licorice or sassafras), malt, peanut. In preheated vessel – chocolate and fruit jam notes prominent, dark caramel.
Smell: roast pecan, dark caramel, malt, fruit jam, stewed berries, wood smoke
Taste: roast pecan, dark caramel, light pine wood. Rich fruit jam (plum, blackberry) aftertaste. “Mincemeat” notes… Smoke notes are present, but not prominent.
I picked up a small sample of this with my first order from BTTC. It is one of the sweeter shengs I’ve tasted to this point. The dry leaf had a sweet and sugary aroma – it smelled like icing to me. After I rinsed it, the aroma became a little bit less sugary, boasting some sweet floral notes and a bit of a vegetal scent resembling kale.
The flavor was mostly green and floral sweetness. The first steep had a sweeter, almost caramel vibe to the finish, and for a few steeps there was the slightest hint of apricot to the finish. The texture was silky smooth, but not supremely thick. Bitterness was effectively nonexistent in this brew. I accidentally forgot about the tea at one point, allowing it to steep for ~5 minutes well before it was ready for such long steeps, and the resulting brew was decently bitter, but still quite drinkable. For most young sheng, that sort of steep would be undrinkable. With so little bitterness or body to this, I’m not sure it would age into anything of note, but it was a pleasant and easy drinker in its youth.
Flavors: Apricot, Floral, Green, Sweet, Vegetal
Here’s my latest sample sipdown. I wanted to break up my oolong binge, so I spent my offtime today working my way through a sample pouch of this Indonesian black tea. I don’t have a ton of experience with Indonesian teas, but I found this to be an approachable, pleasant tea. The only real knock against it for me was its lack of staying power.
After weighing my sample, I discovered that I actually had 12 grams of tea rather than the standard 10, so I prepared this tea two ways. First, I conducted a couple of single steep Western sessions to get me going in the morning. For these, I steeped 3 grams of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 212 F water for 5 minutes. After work, I conducted a gongfu session. After a very quick rinse, I steeped the remaining 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 212 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was followed by 11 subsequent infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, and 7 minutes. To be honest, this session completely fell apart. The tea faded much sooner than anticipated, so I had to adjust my approach in the early goings. Then I got distracted and a 45 second infusion turned into a 1 minute infusion. That’s why there is such a sudden increase in steep times after the 30 second mark. There was supposed to be another infusion in there.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted intriguing aromas of malt, brown toast, caramel, wood, and honey. After the rinse, these scents were joined by subtle spices. The first infusion saw the vague spice scents separate into distinct aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg. I also began to pick up on a hint of chocolate. In the mouth, the liquor was smooth, offering gentle notes of malt, chocolate, caramel, wood, cinnamon, nutmeg, toast, and honey. Subsequent infusions offered stronger honey, caramel, chocolate, malt, toast, and spice notes. The sort of generic, indistinct woodiness was replaced by subtle notes of pine needles, juniper berry, and cedar. Impressions of minerals, cream, marzipan, and mild tobacco also began to emerge. The later infusions washed out quickly, but here it should be noted that when I refer to “later infusions,” I mean everything after the 20 second mark. As I stated earlier, this tea faded quickly. The odd thing was that it didn’t give up the ghost until I decided to blow it out with a 7 minute final infusion, and even then, there was a little left, but not enough to justify pushing onward from there. Anyway, I found these infusions to be dominated by a gentle mineral presence and a dry, nutty maltiness, though there were still faint impressions of caramel, toast, wood, and tobacco in the background.
The Western infusions were a little different. They were even smoother and gentler, offering pronounced honey, chocolate, malt, toast, cinnamon, nutmeg, and caramel aromas and flavors. I didn’t get the strong woodiness of the gongfu session nor did I note cream, tobacco, and marzipan. There was, however, a subtle mineral presence toward the finish.
After trying this tea two ways, I came to the conclusion that this one worked better Western style for me. This tea did not have a ton of longevity, so using it in a lengthy gongfu session was not particularly satisfying. It also did not change much, further limiting the enjoyment I got out of it when I tried it gongfu. This tea was described as a daily drinker by the vendor, so I doubt it was ever intended for such a treatment in the first place. I still felt the need to try it though. Overall, this tea was nice. I loved the flavor profile, and unlike the previous reviewer, I did not note much in the way of astringency. I could see this tea being great for daily use, but I do have to knock it a little since I feel that it is not all that much of a bargain, especially when one factors in its inherent lack of longevity and versatility.
Flavors: Brown Toast, Caramel, Cedar, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Cream, Honey, Malt, Marzipan, Mineral, Nutmeg, Pine, Tobacco, Wood
Popped a bag of this open a couple weeks ago to compare with the “Old Style” Dong Ding from the same vendor. While the “Old Style” might have more complexity, I appreciate the slightly increased flavor potency afforded by the baking/roasting – it’s a reasonable trade-off:
Filtered Santa Monica municipal water, to glass cha hai, to my Taiwanese purple clay tea-pot (mostly used for heavy roast oolong), back to the glass cha hai, into my porcelain cup.
Pleasant, sweet, slightly vegetal aroma post-rinse.
3 steeps at 45 seconds: Amber liquor; hay, paraffin, roast nuts, butter bean, and toasted honey in the nose and on the palate – floral/herbal notes emerge in the finish, which is surprisingly long and satisfying. The lingering sweetness reminds me of custard.
6 more steeps, gradually extending from 60 seconds out to 3 minutes: As above but the character of the aftertaste settles down to a more unified note (reminding me of fennel pollen), and the color gradually becomes both lighter and more drab. This remains drinkable for a long time, with day-old leaves giving you a few more steeps the following morning, the flavors diminished but not lost, flattened but not disordered…
Similar to the Old Style Dong Ding, but exchanging some of the subtle complexity for a bit more longevity…well balanced and gentle, but not too light.
Over the weekend, I came to the realization that I still have far too many tea samples lying around the house. I get bored with things pretty quickly, so I tend to mostly order samples rather than larger amounts of tea. Rather than keeping the amount of tea on hand low, however, I just end up with mountains of 10 gram samples. So, I am now working feverishly toward reducing the number of tea samples I have. I started working on this one last night and finished the last of it this morning before going to work. I found it to be an interesting oolong, but I do not think it would be something I would want to have on a regular basis.
I tried preparing this tea two ways. First, I conducted a three step Western session in which I steeped 4 grams of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 195 F water for 2, 3, and finally 5 minutes. I was not impressed by the results. I was expecting strong aromas and flavors due to the amount of leaf I was using, but the liquor was very mild and subtle each time. I then used the remaining 6 grams for a gongfu session. After a very quick rinse, I steeped what I had left in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was chased by infusions of 12 seconds, 15 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. The results were much more interesting this time around, so I will be limiting this review to a description of the results of this session only.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted subtle aromas of honey, cream, cinnamon, and grass. There was a floral presence too that I could not identify. After the rinse, I detected clear aromas of lilac, hyacinth, lily, and honeysuckle. The cream, cinnamon, and grass were still there, but I also began to catch hints of spring honey and vanilla frosting. The first infusion produced a similar bouquet, though the vanilla frosting, cinnamon, honey, and floral aromas were stronger. They were also now joined by hints of saffron and coriander. In the mouth, however, the liquor was extremely mild. Flavors of cream, butter, grass, cinnamon, and vanilla frosting were evident and there were traces of flowers and honey toward the finish, but not much else. Subsequent infusions saw the honeysuckle, lily, lilac, and hyacinth appear somewhat more clearly on the palate while the already noted impressions of cinnamon, butter, cream, vanilla frosting, and grass strengthened. The coriander and saffron arrived as well. I also noted the emergence of impressions of hay, cucumber, beeswax, and an indistinct nuttiness. Interestingly enough, the tea, despite its complexity, was dominated by a clean, pure honey tone that sat atop the other aromas and flavors. The final infusions briefly featured clean, pure honey notes, but were soon dominated by cream, butter, grass, and a mineral presence that emerged later than anticipated. At points, I thought I could detect cinnamon and vanilla frosting lingering in the background.
This was a very complex oolong, but the dominant honey impressions made it seem lighter and simpler than it was. Fans of very honeyed aromas and flavors would probably love it, but I was hoping to see the honey integrate more with the other aromas and flavors. Still, this was a quality tea (glancing at the lovely, full leaves was confirmation of that) and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for a respectable high mountain oolong. It just was not what I was expecting. In the end, I liked it, but it did not offer what I tend to look for in Ali Shan oolongs.
Flavors: Butter, Cinnamon, Coriander, Cream, Cucumber, Floral, Frosting, Grass, Hay, Honey, Honeysuckle, Mineral, Nuts, Saffron, Vanilla
From the Puerh Tea TTB. with this one I couldn’t get past the wet storage taste. The taste of wet wood was just too much for me. It lasted even into the tenth steep.
I brewed this ten times in a 75ml teapot with 5.1g leaf and boiling water. I gave it a 10 second rinse. I steeped it for 5 sec, 5 sec, 7 sec, 10 sec, 15 sec, 20 sec, 25 sec, 30 sec, 45 sec, and 1 minute.
Flavors: Wet Wood
Oh man, I have plowed through so much tea today. I went out of my way to squeeze in a gongfu session with this oolong earlier in the evening. I had been meaning to try this one for some time. I wish I had not put it off for so long because I found this to be a very nice tea.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was chased by 11 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 15 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, I detected mild aromas of cream, butter, vanilla, sweetgrass, and fresh flowers on the nose. After the rinse, I detected stronger vanilla, cream, and butter scents coupled with custard and considerably more defined aromas of orchid, lilac, violet, and honeysuckle. The first infusion produced a similar aroma that also began to reveal hints of cucumber and citrus. In the mouth, I mostly detected vanilla, cream, butter, custard, and sweetgrass balanced by touches of flowers and cucumber. Subsequent infusions brought out notes of cinnamon, pear, tangerine, green apple, and pineapple, as well as what struck me briefly as a mix of coconut, cantaloupe, and honeydew. Minerals also began to emerge on several of these infusions. The later infusions displayed a stronger mineral presence, but remained mostly savory, somewhat vegetal, and smooth. Hints of fruit and flowers were still detectable in the background at points.
This was a nice oolong. It had a ton of character and depth. The fruitiness and the strong savory notes, in particular, were impossible for me to dislike. If you are a fan of Taiwanese oolongs, this one is definitely worth trying.
Flavors: Butter, Cantaloupe, Cinnamon, Citrus, Coconut, Cream, Cucumber, Custard, Floral, Grass, Green Apple, Honeydew, Honeysuckle, Mineral, Orchid, Pear, Pineapple, Vanilla, Violet
Comparing this to the winter 2016 unroasted Yushan available from BTTC.
So, what’s the difference in terms of taste? First, there is a definite charcoal flavor in the roasted version. Think charcoal briquette. It’s not unpleasant, but it’s there.
Second, the floral, vegetal, and herbal notes in the arrival of the unroasted version are not there. The arrival of the roasted version is a vague nuttiness with the phenolic notes of the charcoal roast. The salty umami of the unroasted version is also muted in the roasted version.
Finally, the finish and aftertaste are slightly different. The unroasted has a thick fruitiness while the roasted has a bit more tang to it – more citrus and lemongrass notes, even a little medicinal notes in it.
So, overall, it seems the roast does not add much to it. The nuttiness is vague and does not develop on the palate. The charcoal notes are interesting, but not delicious. The more interesting notes of the green version are muted or not present.
I’ve noticed this with several roasted Taiwanese teas, with the roasted versions being more ho-hum than the greens. The strange thing is that I love me some Wu Yi oolongs, and generally don’t drink much green oolong. But, as far as Taiwanese teas are concerned, the green versions have significantly more depth.
Dry leaf: peanut shell, dry chocolate, cocoa powder, Mexican chocolate, dill, parsley. In preheated vessel: more nuttiness and syrupy honey sweetness present.
Smell: charcoal briquette, soy/lima bean, buttery and sweet veg – sort of like glazed carrots
Taste: roast nut, peanut shell, charcoal, marine saltiness and umami. Some cilantro and parsley notes. Citrus, lemongrass, cherry, and cherry cough drop (Smith Brothers) in aftertaste.