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Recent Tasting Notes
Am I the only one who does this? I just reach a point on my days off where I just sort of ‘conk out’ mid afternoon, and I make myself a cup of tea and plop myself down on the couch or my bed with the tea on a side table next to me and I just drift in and out of sleep, taking sips of tea in between moments of slumber. By the time I wake up and hour or so later I’ve finished the cup of tea – usually with next to no recollection of doing so. It’s a very calming/relaxing experience but also just not helpful for recollecting tasting notes. All I remember from this one was an overall mellowness of flavour, and hints of sweetness and camphor.
I think I enjoyed it though.
This is another of the teas in the India taster kit. While I enjoy trying things from less well-known growing regions, the reviews of past offerings from the Temi tea garden didn’t look promising. For this reason, I probably wouldn’t have purchased this on its own.
I made two attempts to brew this tea correctly. Both times, I steeped two teaspoons of the unbroken khakhi leaves in 355 ml of 200F water. In the first session, I steeped it for 3 and 6 minutes, respectively, but because the flavours weren’t coming through, I upped the time to 4 and 6 minutes in the second round. My notes are for session number two.
First off, the aroma is wonderful, with notes of sweet muscatel and papaya. In the mouth, wood, tannins, grass, dried flowers, and lemon balance the profile. The longer steep time did produce a bit more astringency. The second steep is a muted version of the first, though I could detect faint hints of the spice promised in the product description.
This is an enjoyable Darjeeling-like tea that I won’t have any trouble finishing. It’s not mindblowing, but it’s better than I was led to believe by some of the reviews of previous lots.
Flavors: Flowers, Grass, Lemon, Muscatel, Spices, Tannin, Tropical, Wood
Woohoo! I finally have some spring 2018 teas! Camellia Sinensis is one of my favourite Canadian tea retailers, not least because I don’t have to deal with the U.S. exchange rate.
This Darjeeling is part of a three-tea India taster kit. If I remember rightly, the EX preface on the invoice number means that it’s harvested before the standard DJ invoices, and the fluffy green leaves bear this out. I steeped two teaspoons in 355 ml of 203F water for 4 and 6 minutes.
The first steep has notes of salt, minerals, umami, muscatel, dried flowers, and herbs, with a drying astringency. The aftertaste is especially green and herbaceous. My initial four-minute steep may have been a mistake, and next time, I’ll cut it down to three. The second steep is also vegetal, herbaceous, and astringent.
A very green first flush Darjeeling, this tea would probably benefit from shorter steeps and lower temperatures. As is, I like the herbaceous character, but wish there was more fruit to balance it out.
Flavors: Astringent, Floral, Green, Herbaceous, Mineral, Muscatel, Salty, Umami, Vegetal
Made this one in a tea press.
I swear I’ve had this one before; maybe it’s just one of those very rare teas that seems to slip through the cracks that I forget to review…
Regardless; this was nice. I always sort of prefer to steep Rou Gui gongfu because I really love the typical evolution of flavour that this tea has, but I was craving a roasted oolong on this particular morning and this was the first when I saw when browsing my cupboards, and I’ve got enough of it on hand that making a travel mug of it certainly wasn’t going to tap out my stash. It has a very nice roasted barley and char sort of initial sip with more of those expected cinnamon notes coming through immediately following the initial roastyness. In addition to cinnamon, I feel like this tea also had some other spice notes such as cumin and clove. The body then rounds out to more of a sweet and malty note, with undertones of raisins and plums. Also quite woody. I feel like because I didn’t do multiple infusions I didn’t really get to tap into the floral elements or more robustly sweet fruity qualities that I generally do with a Rou Gui but the overall profile was really comforting, and I think that’s why I was craving something like this on such a drizzly, rainy day.
This is a great experience. Jam-packed with interesting flavors that develop smoothly and cohesively. It is an incredible combination of deep, earthy flavors and light, floral flavors.
It isn’t cheap (currently $38/50g), but given its quality and age, it’s worth a splurge. Split and share with your friends.
Dry leaf – pond flora, decomposing wood, hints of vanilla. In preheated vessel – cream of wheat, dried hardwood, dates, some light charcoal notes
Smell – cream of wheat, floral, flower pollen, date, spicy woodiness
Taste – cream of wheat, walnut, pollen, hardwood, hints of date. Aftertaste is floral, lemongrass, berry-like tartness and sweetness
Whipped this one up as a cold brew, and then kind of forgot about it for a few days. Even still it wound up being very tasty – essentially the mirror image of the sweet, smooth and juicy raspberry and orange flavour notes I got to experience with my hot cup of it only cooled down. Arguably less grassy, too? This is totally something I’d reorder in the summer; it’s one of the better chilled natural raspberry flavoured teas I’ve had in what feels like ages.
So I bought this one for a Secret Santa gift exchange at work over Christmas; my ‘giftee’ is/was a huge fan of raspberry teas and green tea and this seemed like a good mash up of both those things while also being a tea I was positive she’d have never tried.
Of course, I hadn’t tried it either so I may have stolen a couple teaspoons out of the bag of it so I could give it a whirl too. Oops…
It’s actually surprisingly good though; I’m always apprehensive towards blends with a green tea base but I found the base quite light/mild with only the slightest touch of grassy quality to it. On the flip side, the fruit notes were anything but light. Instead they were vibrant and rich, with very, very juicy flavours that popped from the moment you took a sip all the way up until the last few seconds after you swallowed. It was like the orange was just perfectly ripe, and the raspberries just a bit overripe. You know the type; so soft and juicy that they literally fall apart in your hands and practically melt in your mouth. That’s perfection right there!
I just… I get the name/inspiration and I enjoyed the flavours. A lot. I would maybe, potentially, buy some of this in the summer – I’m sure it would make a WICKED good iced tea! Or, taking it a step further, a tea pop as well?
This is a sample size I got at last year’s NYC Coffee and Tea Expo. It’s been on my mind and I finally had a little time to brew this up. I have a lot of respect for Camellia Sinensis, having gone to their shop in Montreal a couple of times and purchasing different kinds of teas from them (and begging them to open up shop in NYC). They’re completely serious about tea, so I take their recommendations to heart.
I brewed this up gong fu, with the new tea tray (yay!). A rinse, and four infusions. The liquor is pale, the flavors are on the subtle side. As others have noted, this tea is very floral. Buttery, creamy floral, actually. An aftertaste of candy sweetness that lingers. Kind of pleasant, but I don’t usually enjoy floral notes, and this one does get a little cloying after awhile. So, if I don’t like floral teas then why do I have this one? Because “trying new things.” All in all, pleasant enough, but I’m not in love. The quality is there, but the flavor profile just isn’t my thing.
Cuppa from earlier in the week.
At this point it’s somewhat hard to keep track, but I think this is the first green tea I’ve ever had from Vietnam? Definitely not the first in general though; I think I’ve had a good handful of Vietnamese oolong and black teas.
This one wasn’t overly for me; nothing particularly bad about it but just not flavours suited to my palate either. Mostly a smoked vegetal sort of profile; kind of asparagus and snap pea like? Not a ton of overall sweetness to this one. I bet it’s perfect for some people, it’s just that I’m not one of them. At least it was a freebie though, given to me by Camellia Sinensis with a previous order.
I think I bought this Da Hong Pao in the spring of 2016 when I was just starting to explore Wuyi oolongs. I steeped about 4 g of leaf in an 85 ml teapot for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds. However, this pot has a slow pour, which tended to add a few unwanted seconds onto the first few steeps.
The first steep has notes of wood, char, black walnuts, and caramel. The underlying sweetness is overpowered by the roast. The second steep is even woodier. This tea is smooth, but less complex than I remember it being.
As the session goes on, it’s clear that wood, char, and caramel are the dominant notes. I get hints of tobacco, cream, and minerals in later infusions, but no fruit or florals.
This tea tastes like a high-end furniture store smells. It’s surprisingly good, but not something I’d drink regularly.
Flavors: Caramel, Char, Cream, Dark Wood, Grain, Mineral, Smooth, Tobacco, Walnut
I don’t normally do straight teas in travel mugs, but something just told me that this one would work just fine – and that gut feeling didn’t let me down. This was smooth, and full bodied with great, distinct caramel, honey, buckwheat, french bread deliciousness and undertones that were more like sweet potato, and raisin.
Thoroughly enjoyed this one.
Gong Fu session from last Sunday!
I enjoyed this one immensely, but what made it even better was brewing out the whole session over some great conversation with a whole bunch of the Slack tea chat people on Hangouts! It made for really casual, fun tea drinking where I felt like I was enjoying the tea with friends even though I was drinking solo and they didn’t actually get to experience the tea I was drinking.
It doesn’t hurt that in general Sun Moon Lake teas tend to be something that hits all of my sweet spots when it comes to black tea. This one wasn’t an exception, after the first two or three steeps I really got that lovely sweet spot where the profile was smooth, and full bodied with sweet notes of freshly baked bread, honey, malt, cocoa, sweet potato, and raisins. It’s a lovely pairing, and coats the mouth in a way that leaves you so thirty for more.
I didn’t actually track the amount of infusions I did, but it was easily over a dozen – possibly closer to twenty. I pushed this one right up until the liquor was just coming out colourless and there was NO flavour left. I mean, I really made those leaves give me all that they possibly could. It was a delicious tea, and one I’m eager to revisit!
Made a hot travel mug of this at work a little while ago, though I didn’t actually get around to drinking it late, late into the evening after I’d left work and already gotten home. Temp wise, it was just a little bit above room temperature – so the perfect slurping temperature. I finished it off really quickly. I enjoyed it a lot because it rode the line between medium and full bodied really closely and had a sweet and VERY woody flavour overall. Woody notes in shou might be, like, the flavour aspect of shou that I’m MOST into right now so this was something I found deeply enjoyable, and very relaxing.
Late night Western mug of tea.
Mostly found this one to taste incredibly woody. It actually strongly reminded me of the smell of my Grandpa’s workshop back when I was still a small kid and he still actively used it. My grandma didn’t like me going near the shop unattended because of all the sharp things in it like the bandsaws, various chainsaws, and nails and things strewn about, but during the summer when we went to visit I used to sneak into it when she’d take her afternoon nap. I never messed with the tools or anything; I just wanted to smell it. It smelled so good.
Apart from that intense woody quality, there’s obviously some earthiness to this but also a slightly nutty finish and an almost oat-like quality. It’s very, very smooth and mellow overall and I think it’ll make a nice daily drinker sort of tea where I can just sip away at it pretty mindlessly and still enjoy the overall profile.
I enjoyed the 2016 version of this tea so much that I bought 25 g of the 2018 harvest. Using the same steeping parameters, I got the same jasmine, citrus peel, orange, guava, and vegetal (broccoli, spinach) notes as were present in the 2016 harvest, making this a refreshing Dan Cong for what I hope will be the last hot day of the summer. I got a good seven steeps before the inevitable vegetal fadeout.
If you like greener, floral- and citrus-heavy Dan Congs, I highly recommend this tea.
Flavors: Broccoli, Citrus, Gardenias, Guava, Jasmine, Orange Zest, Perfume, Spinach, Vegetal
I unapolegetically love perfumey teas, and this dan cong is one of them. According to the Camellia Sinensis website, the leaves were frozen during processing. I’m not sure if this is the same production method as is used for Yunnan Sourcing’s Wudong Chou Shi Dan Cong, but both teas are very floral and aromatic.
I’m reviewing the 2016 harvest, which has stood up well to the year and a half I’ve owned it. I steeped 4 g of leaf in an 85 ml teapot at 195F for 15, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The aroma of the first steep jumps out of my teapot as soon as the water hits the leaves. I get notes of jasmine and other flowers, grapefruit, guava, mandarin oranges, and an undertone of squash and other vegetables. There’s a bit of astringency and the mouthfeel is oily. I can also see how people could describe this as soapy or perfumey. The second steep is more astringent as the leaves open up.
The heady floral and fruity aroma persists through the next few steeps. This teapot pours really slowly, so some steeps are more astringent than others. The jasmine and grapefruit flavours are the most prevalent throughout the session, which keeps going for an impressive twelve steeps without diminishing too much.
I wouldn’t want to drink this tea every day, but for those who love floral, perfumey dan congs, it’s an excellent option. It also has a surprising amount of caffeine.
Flavors: Astringent, Citrus, Floral, Gardenias, Grapefruit, Guava, Jasmine, Orange, Perfume, Vegetal
I bought this in 2016 in a vain attempt to make myself drink more green tea. The funny thing is that even after almost ignoring it for two years in my cupboard, this is pretty enjoyable. I steeped 4 g of tea in a 120 ml teapot at 185F for 20, 15, 30, 45, 60, 90, and 240 seconds.
The first two steeps are mild, with notes of flowers and buttered greens. The third steep adds some peach skin, asparagus, and a slightly bitter aftertaste to the profile for a much more interesting cup. The next 45-second steep brings the tea into sencha territory, with asparagus, lettuce, broccoli, and astringent flavours and much less fruit and florals. The tea fades gradually after this, becoming grassy and vegetal.
This was a refreshing tea, especially the first few steeps. Longer steeps tend to bring out the veggies, so I might try keeping them shorter during my next attempt.
Flavors: Asparagus, Broccoli, Floral, Grass, Lettuce, Peach, Vegetal
This is the 2016 harvest. In the bag, it has an aroma of muscatel, florals, and grass, kind of like a first flush Darjeeling. I steeped 5 g of leaf in an 85 ml teapot at 195F for 30, 20, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
I love this tea! The first steep has notes of muscatel, raisin, green grapes, grain, orange blossom, dried flowers, caramel, honey, and wood. It’s like a cross between a really muscatel-heavy first flush and a full-bodied Taiwanese oolong. Even though I used a fair amount of leaf for the size of my vessel, there’s no bitterness; instead, there’s a lovely mouthfeel and a long aftertaste. The subsequent steeps are pretty consistent, which is more than okay in my book. As the session goes on, however, the raisin note grows more prominent, and since I’m not a big raisin fan, this is my only tiny gripe with this tea.
This fascinating bai hao was a pleasure to drink. I loved its similarity to a Darjeeling, though I might be the only one to compare such dissimilar tea types. At $35 for 50 g, it’s certainly not a daily tea for me, but it’s a wonderful occasional indulgence.
Flavors: Caramel, Floral, Grain, Grapes, Honey, Muscatel, Orange Blossom, Raisins, Wood
This is a nice, toasty dong ding for fall. I loved the batch I bought last year, and decided to get the spring 2017 version as part of a Taiwanese oolong sampler. This is what I’m reviewing here.
I steeped 6 g of leaf at 195F in a 120 ml teapot for 30, 20, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry leaf smells like cereal, char, and a hint of pineapple, all of which carry over to the first steep. This dong ding is almost too sweet, and the aroma at the bottom of the cup is fruitier than the tea itself. The second steep brings more pineapple and even some berries as the Camellia Sinensis website promises, but I don’t like the level of roast. It kind of tastes like charred corn, which is a weird juxtaposition with the fruity flavours. The liquor is also very drying.
The third steep, which I brewed at a slightly lower temperature, is more integrated, with less pronounced char and more grilled pineapple. The tea, however, still smells better than it tastes, and there’s already some grassiness creeping in. The next few steeps follow this pattern, both the good and not-so-good elements fading concurrently.
While this dong ding had some decent moments when steeped gongfu, I think it does better Western style, or perhaps this batch is just not as good as the spring 2016. This is too bad, as it smells like it has a lot of potential.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Berries, Char, Corn Husk, Grain, Pineapple, Sweet, Toasty