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Recent Tasting Notes
I swear I’m the type of person who is never going to pass up a Dong Ding oolong, especially a roasted one. I have a huge soft spot for such teas, and since I pretty much love Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company’s Old Style Dong Ding Oolong, there was no way I was not going to jump at the opportunity to try this roasted version. Now that I have had a couple days to process my feelings regarding this tea, I can safely say that I did not enjoy it as much as the Old Style Dong Ding Oolong. It was a very good tea, but it lacked the liveliness of its jade counterpart.
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 13 subsequent 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, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, I found that the dry tea leaves offered aromas of butter, char, wood, and gentle spice. After the rinse, I found emerging aromas of cream and roasted peanut underscored by hints of blueberry and black raspberry. The first infusion brought out some ghostly fig and plum aromas. In the mouth, the tea liquor offered smooth, subtle notes of butter, cream, and char that were chased by hints of roasted peanut, dark fruit, and some sort of spice. Vague vegetal touches then emerged on the finish. Subsequent infusions brought out more distinctive notes of plum, fig, black raspberry, and blueberry on the palate. The generic spice notes also began to separate into more distinct nutmeg and cinnamon impressions. New impressions of baked bread, roasted almond, wood, cattail shoots, damp grass, vanilla, minerals, and roasted vegetables also emerged on these infusions. The later infusions retained a smooth mouthfeel with mild notes of cream, minerals, vanilla, damp grass, and cattail shoots underscored by some lingering notes of wood, char, roasted nuts, and surprisingly enough, black raspberry.
An interesting and satisfying roasted oolong, but more than a bit samey in terms of texture throughout the course of the session, this was far from a bad tea. I would have liked to see more dynamism overall, with a greater separation of aromas and flavors, but again, this was still a very good tea. Perhaps what separated it most from some of the other roasted Dong Ding oolongs I have tried is that it struck me as being fruitier, almost jammy, and I really was not expecting that. This one would definitely be worth a try for those interested in Taiwanese roasted oolongs.
Flavors: Almond, Baked Bread, Blueberry, Butter, Char, Cinnamon, Cream, Fig, Grass, Mineral, Nutmeg, Peanut, Plums, Raspberry, Roasted, Vanilla, Vegetal, Wood
I totally forgot to post a review of this tea. I finished a sample of it back around the second or third week of December and ended up moving on to other teas before reviewing it. I discovered review notes in my notebook last night and I am only now getting around to posting a formal review. I’m not all that familiar with Longfengxia oolongs, but I found this one to be a very nice Taiwanese high mountain oolong regardless.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a very quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 8 seconds. This infusion was chased by 12 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, and 3 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, I found aromas of butter, cream, and sugarcane balanced by some vegetal and floral tones. After the rinse, I noted emerging vanilla, custard, and cinnamon aromas. The first proper infusion began to better bring out some of the tea’s floral qualities, as I began to detect more distinct scents of orchid, lilac, and violet. In the mouth, the liquor offered lightly vegetal notes reminiscent of grass, spinach, and coriander as well as notes of cream, butter, sugarcane, and vanilla. There were also some slight floral and fruity notes toward the finish. Subsequent infusions brought out the floral notes in the mouth. I also began to note cinnamon on the palate. Aside from the expected lilac, violet, and orchid, I began to pick up narcissus and gardenia. New notes of lettuce, cucumber, seaweed, minerals, citrus (tangerine?), Asian pear, green apple, and lychee became detectable as well. The later infusions were mild and pleasantly smooth, offering lingering notes of butter, cream, minerals, grass, and seaweed accompanied by occasional hints of lychee, citrus, sugarcane, and orchard fruits (green apple and pear).
This was a delicate, delightfully complex oolong with a very nice body and solid longevity in the mouth. Probably one of the more consistent oolongs I have tried from Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company, I have no clue how it would compare to other Longfengxia oolongs, but as high mountain oolongs go, I found it to be very good. For me, it was a wonderful introduction to Longfengxia teas.
Flavors: Butter, Cinnamon, Citrus, Coriander, Cream, Cucumber, Custard, Floral, Gardenias, Grass, Green Apple, Lettuce, Lychee, Mineral, Narcissus, Orchid, Pear, Seaweed, Spinach, Sugarcane, Vanilla, Violet
Sample from the most recent puerh TTB. The name is certainly accurate. Smells quite like a basement after the rinse – I double rinsed it just to be safe. Flavor was humid woodiness and dirt (in a good way, of course). I found a bit of a nutty flavor in the finish as well. Body was thick and slightly oily – I noted a small bit of relaxing qi, though definitely wasn’t a tea that was so strong on the feels.
Definitely tasty, but I don’t think I’d go for the $89/250g pricetag on it. This one is more of a simple and smooth drinker than a super special tea for me. Though it is really good.
Flavors: Dirt, Earth, Nutty, Wet Wood
Another sample that was snagged from the Christmas purchase my wife had made for me….I gave her a list of teas from BTTC and she picked the samples she thought I’d like the most.
Now, like the 1980s Dank Puerh, this one has a dankness to the nose/tongue, but not as much. I noted that the dry leaf reminded me of an old house with old furniture—covered in dust—rather than “your grandma’s grandma’s basement.”
Upon steeping this tea, the wet leaf produces a bit of a wet hay pile, with a touch of dried gourds that one might acquire for Fall decorations.
The flavor profile is less dank; although, it too, has that wet hay pile note on the tongue. Rather than having that bitter-astringent factor, it only has the dryness following the course of a few cups, however, it’s smooth, too.
Overall, I like this one. I oftentimes regret liking the older puerh because it is and/or can be at a higher range than I’d prefer paying….However, like video games, I’d prefer having a few good ones that’d last a long time, rather than many which I’d not venture into drinking that often…. ;)
Daaaaaannnnng, this is DANK!
It’s the dankiest danky dank tea I’ve ever tried….BUT, I like it—a whole lot.
Grandma’s grandma’s basement, beats, radishes, moss, & earthy goodness. Great tea to start 2018 out with. I used 3g of tea with 100ml gaiwan and it was strong stuff. This here is special stuff, and will be treated delicately for the next month or so (until the sample is all gone). I’d definitely consider getting more in the future once I’m able to properly “wet” store tea. xD
Flavors: Earth, Moss
Today I had the day off from school, It was a virtual day, where the class meets online and school ends at 12:00. So, since I had so much time on my hands, I went to friday prayers, and had a whole day free!
So it was around sunset, and I haven’t had any tea all week, so I thought that I should have a quick session.
This tea is wonderful while it lasts. I was checking over again to see if this was really raw puer, as it had characteristics of oolongs, and black teas, but not of aged raw puer! But it was true, this was a raw, and it’s absolutely amazing.
It has a slight black tea like bitterness, and tastes like a toned down darker oolong (as you can tell I’m not too experienced with oolong so I really can’t get into the specifics). It is light, and flavorful and a bit of some spice coming through, very warm and inviting. If I had to pin it down to something (I know this isn’t a spice), but I’d say gingerbread, or something along those lines.
I wrote down in my tea log that this tea would be one that would be paired perfectly with a lonely snow covered cabin, and it’s true, this would just be the perfect tea for it!
The aroma on this is wonderful, like a nice perfume, and when I was washing out my gaiwan it smelled as though I was washing a cup that had some sort of fruit juice in it, it’s aroma is really wonderful!
However, I would have definitely rated this tea at 100, if it were for taste at it’s peak, but it fell really fast. I got around 6 steepings out of it, and all the flavor was gone by that point.
A great tea if you want a quick session though. I might have been complaining about how little it lasted, but for me this tea was absolutely perfect, I was drinking it around sunset, so I didn’t want too much caffeine, and this tea did just that, it gave me a great small little session.
This is the final tea from my October-November backlog to get a review here on Steepster, and before I begin the actual review, allow me to state that I have a bone to pick with the way Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company markets this tea. They encourage drinkers to think of this tea as a dark oolong (even describing it as an oolong on the sample pouches they send out to customers), but then readily admit that it is really a black tea. What’s the point? Stop trying to confuse people. If you think calling a black tea a black tea is going to scare off the likely tiny number of oolong diehards who may not otherwise give it a shot, all I can say is you’re trying to market the wrong product to the wrong crowd anyway. And if you’re going to engage in subversive marketing, fully commit. Don’t be like, “Think of this as something we’re telling you it’s not.” This is a black tea, plain and simple. It does not need to be classified as anything else. It should not be classified as anything else. Okay, the rant is over. I got that out of my system.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 185 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was chased by 14 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, and 5 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry leaves emitted aromas of malt, sweet potato, molasses, and menthol. After the rinse, I noted clear aromas of wood, wintergreen, peppermint, and toast. The first proper infusion yielded no new aromas for me. On the palate, I noted flavors of malt, molasses, wintergreen, and peppermint that gave way to hints of roasted nuts on the finish. Subsequent infusions introduced impressions of wildflower honey, brown sugar, caramel, minerals, cream, and tobacco. The sweet potato, toast, and wood notes also finally showed up in the mouth. The later infusions offered mild mineral, wood, malt, caramel, molasses, and menthol notes.
I have a big soft spot for Red Jade teas, and this one was easily one of the best I have ever had. As a matter of fact, this would also have to qualify as one of the best overall Taiwanese black teas I have ever had. It was so complex and lively on the nose and in the mouth and displayed no real astringency or bitterness whatsoever. I would have no issue recommending this tea to anyone looking for a high quality Taiwanese black tea for regular consumption.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Caramel, Cream, Honey, Malt, Menthol, Mineral, Molasses, Peppermint, Roasted nuts, Sweet Potatoes, Toast, Tobacco, Wood
Here’s a blast from the past for everyone. I realized that I still had two reviews from late October that I had yet to post on Steepster and this is the first of them. This is also the tea that started to convince me that so-called “honey aroma” teas may not be for me. They never seem honeyed enough for my taste, and to be completely honest, that was my most persistent complaint with this tea. Otherwise, it was a pretty solid, appealing Taiwanese black tea.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 205 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 offered aromas of honey, beeswax, and straw. After the rinse, I caught new aromas of wood and malt. The first proper infusion added hints of herbs and cinnamon to the bouquet. On the palate, I found predictably mild notes of beeswax, honey, straw, wood, and malt underscored by a vague hint of nuttiness. Subsequent infusions quickly brought out notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, roasted chestnut, roasted walnut, herbs, maple syrup, malt, toast, and minerals. The later infusions were heavy on mineral notes backed by subtle hints of roasted nuts, straw, malt, and wood. I also found a few very distant honey tones on a couple of these infusions, but they were hardly all that noteworthy for me.
This struck me as being a light, smooth black tea that was perhaps most suitable for afternoon and/or evening consumption. It wasn’t bad, but as mentioned earlier, it was not as heavy on the honey as I would have preferred. Also, it faded a little faster than anticipated. In the end, it was a nice enough tea, but it was not really for me.
Flavors: Chestnut, Cinnamon, Herbs, Honey, Malt, Maple Syrup, Mineral, Nutmeg, Straw, Toast, Walnut, Wood
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. I’m sure 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