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Recent Tasting Notes
Back to the good stuff. This is very much a dessert tea: the sweetest unadulterated one I’ve ever had, gui fei oolongs included. Smells a bit like hojicha after it’s brewed, which is off-putting if you’re like me and not typically a fan of savory teas in that vein, but the taste is almost a polar opposite. Saccharine, chocolatey, spiced goodness. It reminds me of a tea version of those Abuelita rounds of chocolate that you break apart and melt into milk on the stove. Aromatic baking spices mixed with creamy cocoa and the flavorful sweetness of raw sugar. Mmm, this is an excellent cup that you can’t go wrong with.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Cocoa, Honey, Spices, Sweet
I love shan tuyet tea, no surprise there. Hard to stay away from wild tippy tea with chocolate and adzuki bean notes. (Especially when they’re named after cute amphibians. I’m easily drawn in by bumpy little frogs.) This one is different from the What-cha offering I’m used to—a little less smooth, there’s some bite from the woody spicy notes. Not as much natural sweetness, and the chocolate has a subtle presence. It’s a bit like the tea version of an oriental-type perfume. It works as both a cold brew and a pot of hot tea. I think I’m more fond of it as a cold drink, since the red bean flavor comes out to play and mingles so nicely with that peppery kick.
Flavors: Beany, Dark Chocolate, Oak, Pepper, Spicy
How is everyone else doing during this worldwide pandemic? We’ve got a shelter-in-place order going in Ohio, and while my line of work is deemed essential, I’m still going crazy on the weekends because of all of the closures and the lack of social interaction. This has somehow driven me to buy a bunch of fancy isopods and store them in little isopod houses made from sterilite bins and tupperware under my bed. If this goes on for much longer, I’m going to need to buy a shelf to hold all of them. Instead of riding my horse on the weekends, I’ve been taking her on walks into the forest like a 1500 pound dog so I can lift up rocks and logs to find nifty ‘pods. It’s becoming a problem.
About this tea, though. It’s lovely! And I’m not even a green tea person. The notes on this were “smoky, mineral, marine” if I remember correctly, and all of those are spot on. It’s sweet on the way down your throat with a pleasant hint of astringency when you first take a sip. Vegetal umami notes generally scare me away, but whatever the “marine” is here isn’t that bad. You mainly get it from the aroma. Smells like a fresh ocean and nothing of it is present in the actual taste. Love the peat moss smokiness, too. This is quickly becoming a favorite. All of the Vietnamese teas I’ve tried from Hatvala are, actually! The descriptions are spot on and the prices are very reasonable. Thank you, incredibly short supply chain that leaves you one step away from the original producers.
Flavors: Marine, Mineral, Peat Moss, Smoke, Sweet
I just realized that there are so many reviews of these teas under What-Cha. I was surprised for sure as soon as I smelled the dry leaf, it’s the spiciest postfermented tea I’ve had. I didnt find it as weird as other people did though, and I didn’t notice any real wodui element. Maybe wood rot but not fish rot or fungus. I was probably primed for this by white2tea Lumber Slut, which seems similar to me in the things its doing and the reactions from people.
What rang true for me was the review that said it’s not like a wet piled ripe, but more like a raw that has been wetted and left alone for a while. Maybe that wetted tea was aired out or given drier storage in Hatvala’s hands, because it tastes pretty clean now. Just lumbery. That said I can be very oblivious about some bad tastes.
Mouthfeel is thick, it has more of a vegetal character than any shou I’ve tried, it’s spicy and lumbery, and it has a very subdued choco smoothness hiding in the backstage. For me the objectionable element was a taste of dust. I don’t think it’s actual dust (the liquor cleared out after two rinses), but the irritation in the nose when fine dust gets in. It’s a dry tea, but it stays just on the cusp of holding together in the main steeps. Energy is nice and strong. I always get a jolt from cooked type teas even though people say they have hardly any caffeine and no qi.
I was waiting to review this tea, but I gave it a week in storage because it was giving the strangest smell when I first cut open the package. First I thought it had something to do with nitrogen flushing. An almost acrid, musty smell. However it’s persisted since then and has filled up my whole box.
Sniffing the dry leaf feels more normal: nose itch and bitter smell that heralds the punishment it’s going to give me. And the mustiness, but here it’s more in its place — it’s like a storage smell, even if I’m not totally sure about it being a nice smell or not.
Wet leaf and, as with all the hatvala teas, the savory note comes to the fore — again the — if one were being critical — musty cloth smell. I’m going to treat it like any brand new sheng and start wih a 100C rinse that will tell me how hot to make the first steep.
The rinse comes out fogged up with bud hair. It has the color and fragrance of peaches already. Though the smell is faint and can only be noticed from a few feet away, it has everything you’d expect in a full blown steep. there’s the tartness that I’ve come to associate with the qingxin cultivar (Red Buffalo, Oriental Beauty, Signature No 1) and it extends into a good half-minute finish. It’s so similar to the oolong’s in fact, that I start to wonder about the differences between good oolong and good sheng. Something unique to it is a distinct strawlike smell that makes me think of cloth — freshly laundered cloth, stiff dried cloth, wet cloth. Sorry, I just haven’t been around hay very often. This is not musty at all, just unexpected in something I’m drinking. The bitterness is already dominant. It swells up around the time of the finish. The bottom few mouthfuls hold the peachy sweetness and thickness, and my mouth gets thickened up with cotton.
It has a kind of hazy energy that you have with young shengs, it both riles you up and makes you sleepy. Puerh (sorry, Vietnamese Dark Tea) is for dream kickboxing.
First steep (flash) is just as pale and foggy; the bubble holding power on the surface of the tea soup has increased a lot. I still don’t quite understand why the gaiwan has to have a faint nose of ‘left the clothes in the washer too long’, but it hasn’t detracted from the soup yet. I’ve never tried a sheng quite this young, so it might be common. First steep the bitterness has overpowered all the other tastes, so I might dial back the temperature. A complex aftertaste is left, but also really dominated by bitterness. In this steep it really just tastes ‘like sheng’ to me, dry green leaves. I think I don’t know what to do with raw teas that are this young. The tart aftertaste is really persevering, not drowned out yet. As the bitterness lets up, it ‘rehydrates’ the tongue with lemon juice. There’s a good strong peach hui gan. The mouth is super dry. The oily tea soup leaves behind a sugarcane and pollen smell as it dries.
Although the bitterness is so strong right now, the character of the tea is still peeking in from behind and to me this seems like a good sheng. It would be worth keeping just for the price. It tastes like a mid tier sheng to me (mid tier for what we international customers get) and you could pay much more than $0.15/g for a mid tier, although presumably other shengs would have a guarantee in the form of a known yunnan region, for whatever that’s worth. It’s on the hayfeverish side, but not unusually so.
When I drink puerhs this green, I always think “Didn’t Marshaln say there was a time when 10-years-in-the-warehouse traditional sheng was the norm? Is sifting through all this hay a job for a customer or a tea seller?” However I’m grateful for what I get.
I guess what remains to be checked is longevity, especially since it’s already so astringent. I’ll edit and add my impressions after I’ve reached the late steeps.
An Irish Stout version oolong. (The first time I had a Guinness, I felt let down from my expectations, maybe because I was expecting some kind of lindt chocolate bar in beercan form.) The strength of the flavors, bless oolong processing, doesn’t let you down. The roast gives it a pronounced estery bourbon smell that you could like or hate depending on how much you’re into whiskey. My throat finds it slightly disagreeable, but after all, there are yunnan black teas with this kind of bourbon character. The smell in the cup is of chocolate. The base taste o the palate is all the things in the Red Buffalo, turned darker a notch — the peach tartness, the vetiver, the honey/nectar sweetness, the roasted greens. You can tell the material was strong and the separation of flavors, the length and distinctness of the aftertaste, as about on par with the Red Buffalo. Despite the family resemblance the heavy roast makes it quite its own kind of tea. I can’t steep this too astringent for my tastes – the bourbon aspects need some bitterness. With astringency comes a stronger spice element than the Red Buffalo. Longevity is about what the company description says — it could go for up to 5 steeps if you kept the temperature/time low and the leaves high.
It really bombed my stomach, though.
The first few steeps drive home the resemblance to the Oriental Beauty which was also made with the Qingxin cultivar, the strong and lasting muscatel tartness, although the Three Moons didn’t seem to be so muscatel. From reading about it, I got a slightly inflated impression of how oxidised this tea was going to taste, but it seems pretty oolong to me. In the main steeps, some malt and mellowness start to dominate. There’s a cooling effect on the mouth and deep in the throat. I really like the combination of tart with the darker and plummier notes, which hits that coca-cola / root beer craving for me. (Maybe the source of the craving, historically speaking, is from old-time herbal sherbets.) There’s a cool hint of…. I really can’t place it well, but a dark perfume like vetiver. Aftertaste is strong and lasting and recaps all the main tastes distinctly. It’s quite tannin heavy on the stomach, I felt. Smell in the cup is sticky and nectary. I was struck by the aroma of roasted semolina. It might be sweet to try an oolong in which the roast taste actually comes out — that’s presumably what the Dragon’s Breath is like.
Comparing this to golden turtle, which I thought was as cool: I can’t decide. These oolongs are really making me appreciate each flavor on its own right, so that even my preference for darker teas is being won over.
The dry leaf, and the first few steeps, have a nice perfume/incense/pastel smell that is very familiar but I can’t place. It’s this delicate but old smell that I like about it, and I didn’t taste sugarcane as much. Flavor was quite strong for a white tea. I enjoyed it but I’m not a white tea person and I would still go for something like an oolong that gluts the senses. On some steeps, the notes given by the company were just barely noticeable to my taste buds.
Buds were quite small and covered with hair so fine that they looked steel gray, very lovely. When the hair washed off in the first two steeps, it was almost imperceptible in the soup, except to give a certain dense flavor.
I did three flash steeps, then increased the time by 5sec every one or two steeps. It was hard to make this astringent and when I did, it acquired the nice pointed taste of darjeeling white teas. A slight tartness set off all the steeps. Middle-to-late steeps were sweet and it was particularly graceful in the endgame steeps; whereas some unoxidised teas will start tasting of stewed watermelon rind, here the steeped-out flavor was a delicate, sprouty sweetness. You could probably drink it for ages, especially iced, without getting tired.
Energy hit the head immediately, clearing out my eyes and pressurizing my skull. It wasn’t bad at all. The lack of astringency was relatively good on the stomach (for a tea this young and strong).
Greener and more astringent than Golden Turtle. The flavor notes were probably equally strong, but the smoothness and sweetness wasnt there so the experience in the mouth was slightly less rich. It also became harsh in later steeps, which can probably be managed using some brewing trick. I would say the aftertaste is also weaker, but it’s hard to compare since I used less leaf for this one. The leaves were still fairly crinkled after 6 steeps. At that point it was more astringent than not.
Flavors: Green Apple, Lettuce
This was my first try from Hatvala and my first experience of a Taiwan oolong. I find it richer and more complex than Three Moons. It has an aftertaste that is layered and comes out in stages — the pear taste blooms some ten or fifteen seconds after drinking. It’s also sweeter.
Wet leaves had a strong toasty smell, but there wasnt much smoke in the tea soup. First steep after the rinse was mellow and almost salty, after which the fruitiness and sweetness became bold, and the astringency crept in around the 5-6th steep. It was smooth enough that I extended brewing time because I wanted some astringency to set it off. Tea soup was thick enough to hold little permanent bubbles. Later steeps could be chewed between the teeth.
10 grams was way too much to accommodate the unfolding leaves and in the end I had to parcel out the leaves in two vessels, which made me use more water than in the beginning. Despite being cramped, every steep was full-flavored and I got finished a steep or two before the leaves did.
I started at 100C and did not advance beyond 5s until the 6th steep. But that’s a feature of using way more leaves than you need to.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Pear
This is really an oddball oolong. It is more closely related to black (red) tea than oolong, if you ask me. A lot of typical black tea notes here. It is, however, very good—and an unbeatable value, if you buy it direct from Hatvala. I think I will keep it on hand as a pleasant, low stakes tea. It is immently enjoyable, but I won’t feel bad brewing big batches and throwing it in a travel cup or thermos, or forgoing the later steeps.
Flavors: Flowers, Malt, Raisins, Sugar, Sweet Potatoes
A pretty nice tea and certainly an amazing value. Not terribly complex, but remains pleasant through a number of steeps. The roast comes through most powerfully, but there are floral notes trying to assert themselves in there somewhere. They are hard to locate though, and I wonder if other brewing parameters would bring them out.
Flavors: Coffee, Gardenias, Mineral, Toasted Rice
One of my favourite green/purple tea so far. Leaves are rough but more than makes up for it with it’s smell and vegetal notes. A recommended Vietnamese green tea that deserves some mention beside the well known Thai Nguyen.
Brew it quickly – 5g – 100ml – 10 seconds; add 5s to each extra steep.
Amazing white tea from my limited spectrum of experiences with white tea but definitely my favourite. The sweet and cinnamon notes are delicious and smells amazing. Wouldn’t hesitate to buy again.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Cinnamon, Honey
A sweet bakery type tea with signs of malt and chocolate. I can see why it’s popular with a lot of westerners with the sweet tooth palate. I enjoy drinking this tea but it’s unusal oolong flavour is reminiscent of sweeter black teas like golden monkey. Definitely something to try. An eccentric oolong.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Honey, Malt
I’ve been drinking this tea for up to 4 hours now and it appears the steeps keep coming – 9th steep! The strange thing is that even with the lower temps (you’re looking at 50c) the flavours are still being extracted by the water relatively fast.
The flavours are still there – a sharp and delicate tone of bitter melon and hot cross buns still permeate the leaves. I’ve drank it for 2 weeks now and I can’t put a finger on this tea but drinking it gongfu is definitely the way!
I am tasting bitter melon notes when steeped longer than 1 minute in the 3rd or 4th steep using gong fu method. The aftertaste is sweet lingering wheatgrass sugarcane. I love the smell of this gingerly tea! This is a tea that definitely demands attention and if forgotten will leave a strong astringent sweet bite but if steeped gently and quickly will feel creamy and light. What an unusual tea…
For gong fu method this tea should not be steeped any longer than 25s/100ml
Flavors: Bitter Melon, Grass
A very delicate tea and left oversteeped will leave a deep astringent taste that will transition to a honey dew like note on your palate. Definitely grassy, smells amazing. The best smelling leaves I’ve encountered in my past 4 years of drinking loose leaf tea. Smell wise them reminds me of hot cross buns during easter or even a cinnamon type bread. I think all white tea drinkers should give MM a chance and with enough interaction and play with water, leaves and heat would produce a delicately complex smokey sugared tea.
Leaves are picked on time as they are absolutely beautiful to behold. It appears to my amateur eyes that they are up there with the highest grade white tea. Would definitely buy again and have in my shelf on a rainy day or when I need a clean tasting tea.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Cinnamon, Grass, Honey, Nutty, Smoked, Sugarcane
The initial rinse produced a faint marshmallow/sugar flavor while the 1st 30 second steeping brought forth the roast of the tea which offered a generous mouth feel. The wet leaves smelled of sugar and very subtle fresh coconut. No bitterness or astringcy at all. The second steeping produced a roasted sweet potatoe/yam flavor with subtle nutmeg and vanilla spices., followed by honey and floral notes. I was left with a strong heavenly honey stick aftertaste. Sweet & Fragrent.
Flavors: Flowers, Honey, Nutmeg, Sweet Potatoes, Yams
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Flavors: Flowers, Honey, Marshmallow, Yams