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Recent Tasting Notes
Yay! The Great Steepster Freeze of 2020 is finally over! I’m glad all my notes were actually saved and I don’t need to repost them.
I haven’t tried too many aged teas, so this is a learning experience. Thanks to Fong Mong for the sample. I didn’t know how to steep this tea, so I used my old parameters of all 7 g, 120 ml, 200F, and rounds of 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds, plus a few long steeps.
The dry aroma is of old wood, char, and roast. The first steep has notes of oak, sandalwood, chicory, minerals, and roast. The roast and minerals get stronger in steep two, and a honey element emerges. The flavours keep getting more intense as the session continues, and there’s definitely a bit of decayed wood in there, too. Generally, this is a smooth, woody tea with a sophisticated profile. The smoke and roast are more noticeable in later rounds, but this tea doesn’t evolve too much over the session.
While it’s not something I’d typically drink, I enjoyed this aged oolong for its exotic woodiness and smoothness. As khboyd said in a review, it reminds me of a Wuyi oolong. I’m sure it would have been even better in the fall or winter. I can’t wait for this unusually hot summer to end, not least because drinking hot tea in this heat is kind of annoying.
Flavors: Char, Decayed wood, Honey, Mineral, Oak wood, Roasted, Smoke, Smooth, Wood
Thanks to Fong Mong for the free sample, and sorry for taking so long to review it. Fushoushan is one of my favourite mountains, and I somehow wanted to find a way to get two sessions out of the leaves. However, this didn’t work out. I steeped the generous 7 g in a 120 ml teapot at 190F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of apricots, orchids, honey, and other flowers. The first steep has notes of apricot, orchid, lilac, honeysuckle, sweet pea, honey, cream, spinach, nutmeg, and grass. The second steep adds notes of brown sugar, herbs, and arugula, and the florals and stonefruit get stronger. The next couple steeps have a nice balance of stonefruit, herbaceous, sweet, spicy, and floral flavours, with hints of custard and caramel. The spinach and grass start taking over in steep five, although the floral, honey, and herbs are still prominent. The session ends with spinach, veggies, grass, and florals.
This is a nuanced and complex oolong that checks all the boxes for a good high mountain tea. The nutmeg and stonefruit are particularly pleasant. While the Shan Lin Xi and Li Shan are probably better bets in terms of the price, this Fushoushan is a nice treat.
Flavors: Apricot, Brown Sugar, Caramel, Cream, Custard, Floral, Grass, Herbaceous, Honey, Honeysuckle, Nutmeg, Orchid, Spinach, Vegetal
I’ve been back at work for about 6 weeks, and just last week our mall was ordered to close again (I manage a store in the mall). Our company has decided to proceed with curbside pickup, so we’ve been going in everyday, with not much to do. I decided to bring in a small gongfu set, to enjoy some of the teas from the JL (Fong Mong) sampler while I read some comics I’ve been meaning to catch up on.
I brewed this up…and it tasted terrible. This was no fault of the tea, I realized, even though I filter our shop’s water, the water just did not taste good and ruined the poor tea. Lesson learned, but a waste of this tea.
So, it seems Fong Mong has become JLTea Co. I placed an order for a sampler set and received the package from Taiwan in less than a week! 24 samples and I basically just paid shipping, so I’m very excited to start trying everything.
Onto the tea- this is really interesting. Floral and a bit vegetal, but very sweet with a caramelized sugar note. A bit of a dry mouthfeel, which isn’t my favorite.
I compared with tea side by side with the original Ruby 18 Fong Mong Tea offers. I used a gaiwan method. As this is a black tea, I opted for fewer, longer steeps. I used 2g of leaves per 60ml of water. I used water just at a boil, with a first steep of 20 seconds, preparing both the original Ruby 18 and it’s GABA counterpart at the same time.
My first sip was of the original, and it was just as I remembered it, albeit a little more potent this time for tasting purposes. The original is complex: malty, rich, with camphor, menthol, cinnamon earthiness and slightly fruity. It is also astringent, a truly delightful experience.
Now what about this GABA variety? At first impression, it seemed very similar. Perhaps the flavours are a bit more potent in this one. I sipped again. My mouth began feeling that familiar drying sensation as I tried to tease out the nuances of this variety. It is a bit different. But it is still entirely a Ruby 18.
The note in Ruby 18 that always strikes me most is that strong camphor and menthol. The warming cinnamon is there too. I feel like this GABA one has more intensity to it and a bit more natural sweetness. It’s quite soothing and the mouthfeel again is rich and smooth, I think I find it a little more astringent than the original Ruby 18. There’s a minty freshness in here to complement the rest of the bouquet.
I feel like the most noticeable difference to me (someone who really enjoys tea, but not an expert) is that the GABA version seems more sweet and potent, and the aftertaste lingers a bit longer than the original Ruby 18. These are, of course, my personal opinion and a subjective observation. I thoroughly enjoy both.
Both of these teas are beautiful and of high quality. After a long suffocating steep, both were still very enjoyable and I could not tell you any distinct flaw in them. They are simply great teas. Overall I feel the GABA tea is a bit sweeter in a cinnamon and mint kind of way. Both teas retained a lot of flavour and strength even into this fourth steeping, and could have been pushed further. Due to the sweetness and enjoying the relaxing GABA effects, if I had to choose between the two, I’d choose the GABA version.
Flavors: Camphor, Caramel, Cinnamon, Malt, Menthol, Mint
I opened the pouch and took a whiff of the rolled leaves, finding the nutty, vegetal fragrance warm and inviting. It also reminds me of honey-coated puffed wheat somehow.I first rinsed the leaves with hot water. Then I used water at approximately 85C, with 45ml of water per 2g of leaf to begin this tasting. As the leaves opened up, I added a little more water in 15ml increments.
In the gaiwan I started with a 20 second infusion time, and added 5 seconds to the infusion time with each successive steep. The aroma was sweet, nutty, and inviting. At first sip, my impression was of almonds and sticky rice. The vegetal green notes are very present, with mild, complimentary roasting notes and the nutty sweetness. The liquor is an appealing sunny straw yellow. It reminds me of springtime, but also of autumn, and strikes me as a tea that would be lovely to enjoy any time of year. The flavours shifted subtly as I continued re-infusing. A sweet almondy aftertaste lingered in the back of my throat. Sometimes a little more ‘green’ would peek out, sometimes more almonds and honey, sometimes I tasted more minerals. I continued on for a good 10 infusions, truly enjoying each one. The final steep, I allowed to sit for a few solid minutes for a grand finale. This final burst of flavour also has a foggy undertone and has left me with a fond memory.
Flavors: Almond, Nutty, Rice, Roasted, Sweet
This tea is fascinating. An aged oolong, it was harvested in 2008, and was repeatedly roasted and stored. The aroma of the dry leaf is mostly of wood, charcoal, and minerals. I prepared this tea in a gaiwan, using approximately 2g of leaf for this tasting, and beginning with 30ml of water at around 90 degrees Celsius. I rinsed the leaves before infusing. I should note that a Yixing teapot is recommended for this type of tea, however, I don’t own one yet, so gaiwan it is.
For the first infusion, I let it sit for 20 seconds, and then added 10 seconds with each infusion. This oolong really reminds me of rock tea. I also notice the leaves don’t open quite as much as other oolong, but the flavour certainly does come out. The liquor s dark reddish brown, and it’s astringent, most noticed at the back of the mouth and throat. Flavour wise, this tea tastes robustly woody and smokey, a bit of charcoal and minerals with an interesting honey-like note in the aftertaste. The aftertaste is substantial and lingering.
I continued for 10 infusions, noticing that the flavours are quite consistent over time. The wood and smoke notes do mellow and by the final few infusions I tasted more minerals. This was an intriguing taste experience!
Flavors: Char, Mineral, Smoke, Wood
This time I tried the Jin Xuan, a special varietal that is grown in Alishan and also offers some milk oolong flavour. The dry leaf smells vegetal, sweet, and creamy milk with butter.
I prepared this using a porcelain gaiwan, using 2g of leaves and giving the leaves a rinse first. I used water at approximately 85 degrees Celsius. I began with a 10 second infusion time, adding 5 seconds per infusion for a pattern of 10, 15, 20, 25, etc. I personally found the liquor to have a more pale colour but rich savory and buttery aroma. The mouthfeel was creamy, somewhat thick, and a few infusions in I also found it delightfully squeaky.
The flavours are more umami to me, savory butter and reminding me of legumes, peas and edamame, but there is also a floral note and some sweetness in here too. It’s complex and quite amusing for the tastebuds. The first several steeps were always a burst of flavour. I carried on for 10 infusions, finding that even by the end the flavour was still quite consistent but mellowing. This is a delightful find!
Flavors: Butter, Cream, Umami, Vegetal
As usual, I brewed this with a gaiwan with shorter steeps the first tasting. The dry leaf is fragrant and to me it smells quite fresh and vegetal, with the fruit and floral aromas being more subtle here. That changed with brewing.
I used approximately 2g of leaf for the gaiwan, giving them a rinse before steeping. Using shorter steeps, I opted to begin with a 15 second infusion time for the first, then added 5 seconds with each following infusion for a pattern of 15, 20, 25, etc. I used 30ml of water to begin, adding to that amount in 15ml increments as the leaves opened up. The water I used was hot, but not boiling, approximately 85 degrees Celsius. The liquor first appeared a very pale sunny golden yellow and gained a little more colour as infusions progressed. The aroma was sweet and grassy, quintessentially green oolong.
I found the mouthfeel of this tea was quite smooth, a little bit squeaky, and had just a hint of astringency I found more at the back of my throat with the lingering green aftertaste. There is definitely fruity and floral flavours here, more so fruity. There’s sweetness but also an interesting tartness, sometimes reminding me of cherries, sometimes goji berries, even sometimes citrus – a little bit hard to put a definitive finger on, because the flavours are complex and shifting slightly from infusion to infusion. I’m loving this! With that fruitiness is floral notes with butter and legumes, a verdant grassy note. This tea definitely tastes spring-like. I carried on for 9 infusions this way, before wrapping up with a final long steep that brought out that familiar foggy mountain air note.
Flavors: Butter, Floral, Vegetal
I used my usual method for the gaiwan, with about 2g of leaf, a rinse, and 30ml of water at approximately 85 degrees Celsius to begin infusing. I add water in 15ml increments as needed, making sure the leaves have space to open. I began with a 10 second infusion time, adding 5 seconds per steep for a pattern of 10, 15, 20, etc.
This is another oolong that produces a pale yellow liquor – very pale, with just a hint of green. The aroma is sweetly floral, reminding me of springtime and cherry blossoms, and maybe peaches, and a light mineral taste. The actual vegetal greenness of this oolong seems a little subdued, with the fruity and floral aspects front and center. The liquor is smooth and creamy, and my first impression is of delicacy. That’s the word I’d sum this tea up with, delicate. Sweetly floral and fruity, delicate and somehow light and airy.
The sweetness reminds me of cherries and peaches, also honey. It seems to intensify over the first 4 infusions. There’s something very clean about this tea, and also something like perfume. By the fifth infusion, the mineral note started to come forward more. The floral and fruity notes begin fading after infusion 7, leaving my final two infusions tasting more of minerals and foggy mountain air. This is a complex and intriguing cup, as I’ve come to expect from Fong Mong Tea.
Flavors: Apple, Caramel, Creamy, Floral
I prepared this tea in a gaiwan using 2g of leaf and 30ml of water at 80 degrees Celsius to start, adding to the water amount as needed in 15ml increments when the leaves opened up. The liquor begins very pale, delicate, yet flavourful and creamy. A refreshing bouquet of light floral, verdant vegetal notes, something sweet and fruity but mostly honey. The honey is the dominant lingering aftertaste.
I infused these leaves 10 times for this tasting. The liquor remained pale throughout, deepening in colour just slightly as time went on, but the flavour is the real story here. Consistent, sweet, very much of a honey flavour and just a little bit of almond peeked out midway through the tasting. The mouthfeel is rich and creamy yet light at the same time. This was a highly enjoyable tasting that left me eager for more.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Floral, Honey
With the gaiwan I opted for brewing using water at approximately 80 degrees Celsius. I used 2g of leaf and gave the leaves a quick rinse in hot water before steeping the first infusion, which I let sit for 15 seconds. The colour of the liquor was a pale golden yellow reminding me of straw. The flavour was richly floral sweet, the beautiful Jasmine at the forefront of springlike vegetal notes and a sweet cherry finish. There’s a bit of honey in here too.
This lovely flavour continued across all infusions as I continued, added 5 seconds to the steep time with each infusion. I think this might be my new favourite oolong, actually. by the 5th or 6th infusion I noticed some mineral notes starting to show through. That sweet floral and cherry has beautiful longevity. By the 10th infusion the mineral note was stronger and the other flavours were waning so I made that my last. By this point I was very impressed with this oolong.
Flavors: Cherry, Floral, Jasmine, Perfume, Vegetal
For my first tasting of this particular tea I used a gaiwan. I used 2g of leaf, and gave them a rinse with hot water before infusing. To infuse, I used water at 85 degrees Celsius, and began with a 15 second infusion time. The liquor was yellow but somewhat pale. The flavour, I found, was a bit unique. It tastes even cleaner than it smells. There are definitely floral notes in here, and I also taste minerals, it’s sweet and this first infusion is a bit perfumey to. There’s a vegetal flavour at the heart of this tea somewhere between green beans and edamame. The flavour is light but very enjoyable and satisfying.
Continuing on, I add 5 seconds with each new infusion, and the liquor’s pale yellow hue begins to strengthen. I taste more floral and minerals. The mouthfeel is buttery and smooth yet there’s some astringency at the back of the mouth that lingers, to go with the lingering floral aftertaste. Using this method I continued to 9 infusions, letting the final infusion sit for several minutes. This final cup’s flavour was more mineral in nature, and a lovely note to finish off on.
Flavors: Apple, Floral, Vegetal
I prepared this tea using a gaiwan with 2g of leaves. I used water at approximately 90 degrees Celcius, beginning with 30mls for the first couple of infusions, increasing the amount in 15ml increments as the leaves opened up. After a quick rinse, my first infusion was 15 seconds. The liquor was quite pale on this first infusion, but the flavour was there and abundant.
There is a creamy texture to this tea’s mouthfeel, but it’s not all that thick. More smooth and somewhat light, and very refreshing. The flavours are of course vegetal, floral, and fruity like apples and spring blossoms. My main impression however, is of honey, and that sweet honey note lingers in the aftertaste. I added 5 seconds with each subsequent infusion, once again finding that common thread of quality and consistency that I’ve found in the past with Fong Mong Tea. I continued on until the 8th infusion, by which the leaves seemed pretty spent. This is a delightful oolong!
Flavors: Apple, Floral, Honey
Smelling warm, a bit woody and roasty with a lovely charcoal aroma, I tried this tea in a gaiwan, using 2g of tea. I rinsed the leaves and then covered them with 30ml of 80-degree Celsius water to start, increasing the amount of water as needed so the leaves would have ample room to open. The first infusion was 15 seconds, and gave a light, clear golden amber liquor. The flavour on this first infusion was already copious.
It begins warm and nutty, a less pronounced and more nuanced charcoal note, but becomes somehow cooling and for me at this tasting a bit sweat inducing, starting at the back of my neck. It tastes a more like a green oolong but still reminds me of a Wuyi Yancha. This is a very rich and complex tea and a delightful flavour experience. There’s a lovely consistency in the infusions with this tea. I added 10 seconds to each infusion and found that worked very well. By the 7th infusion I felt the mineral flavours were taking dominance and the rest of it was fading, so I made my 8th infusion the final one.
Flavors: Caramel, Mineral, Roasted, Sweet