Song Tea & CeramicsEdit Company
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Recent Tasting Notes
Wonderful black from Song Tea. I had no reservations about the quality as I had been lucky enough to sit for a tea tasting at the shop that went on for about 2 hours – a really lovely experience. These people are serious about tea.Unfortunately, yet another tea that I should have been brewing way earlier. This is why I don’t want to buy any more tea for now – I have so much that some really excellent teas end up languishing in my cupboard for way too long.
Brewed this up according to vendor instructions, using my small gaiwan (~100 ml, ~3 g), 1.5 minutes for first and second infusions, then 2 minutes for the third. Keeping in mind this tea is probably way past it’s prime, there was no bitterness at the 1.5 min brew time, but started to get a bit too tannic at 2 min.
According to the vendor notes, there should be cinnamon, cherry and mint notes. I’m getting cherry for sure, and a tiny bit of mint, but no cinnamon, which is fine with me. Getting warm caramel sweetness instead, which is heavenly. Again, this tea is already over 3 yrs old (!), so no telling what it would have been like had I opened it much sooner, and since I didn’t taste this one at the shop, I’ll guess I will never know! Still, very happy with it, it’s warm and comforting, which is exactly what I need right now.
Flavors: Caramel, Cherry, Mint
I want to start off by saying that I enjoyed this tea a lot.
It may not sound like it after the next couple of sentences, but I did. The first two steepings were brutal. Very overwhelming roasted flavor signifying some definite over-roasting at some point in its life. I brewed this tea first using Song’s brewing guide but was very dissapointed with the results so went traditional Gong Fu the second time around. Short steeps of 6/4/6/8/10/15/30/45 in 100 ml Yixing.
Something changed in the third steep though and the tea suddenly became very balanced and clear. A beautiful caramel/toffee base with just a slight hint of smoked wood. This remained consistently for the next 6 steeping and probably could have gone more. Maybe next time I will try a longer rinse? Or maybe I’ll just dump the first two infusions altogether? Seems wasteful, but maybe worth it as the third steeping onward was fantastic.
I am generally a huge fan of aged yancha and this is definitely a good one though, ultimately, perhaps not worth the price of admission. I could see myself getting this tea again but would probably have to think about it first.
For a key to my rating scale, check out my bio.
Having tasted (and not particularly enjoyed) its 22-year-old aged counterpart, I was pleasantly surprised by this tea. The dry leaves in a hot gaiwan smell exactly like honey mustard kettle chips – so strange! But the flavor is nothing like that. I did not rinse this tea, but the fragrance after the first infusion was very similar to other baked teas from Shan Lin Xi that I have tried. Very comforting mouthfeel (ultra smooth in the early infusions with a medium-thick viscosity). This changes in subsequent infusions, tending toward a mildly (pleasantly) astringent tanginess, like a tieguanyin. The maple notes that Song’s website suggests are definitely present (if you’ve ever tried maple water – water drained from maple trees – it tastes just like that). Slight Wuyi characteristics, not the roasted flavor but the creamy minerality. Turbinado sugar. Aroma in later infusions has the spicy/woody/sweet notes of a Mi Lan Xiang Phoenix Oolong. Subtle spicy floral notes too, like chrysanthemum. Finish is refreshing, long lasting, and really enjoyable – like ultra-fresh grassy milk. Flavor lasted through five infusions for me before fading. Really enjoyable tea, pricey but comforting.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Cream, Grass, Maple, Mineral, Roasted, Spicy, Tangy, Wood
For a key to my rating scale, check out my bio.
A delicious, archetypal Yunnanese black tea. The essence of autumn (in terms of flavor; this is a spring picked tea). Really nice spice and fruit notes, like homemade apple cider. Dark chocolate notes in later infusions. Really interesting sweet almond note comes in around the third infusion. Winey / fermented fruit and horsehair notes at the beginning – classic Yunnan. Slight mineral / baking soda flavor, not the most pleasant but is offset by all the other wonderful characteristics of the tea – great mouthfeel, delicious fragrance and flavor. Would definitely buy again.
Flavors: Almond, Apple, Brown Sugar, Cloves, Dark Chocolate, Floral, Fur, Lychee, Mineral, Oak wood, Peppercorn, Red Wine, Spices
For a key to my rating scale, check out my bio.
Top notes of bitter, charred potato skins, mid notes of incense, pine needles, and cedar, and an interesting faint finish of dried unsweetened mangos. Medium-thin mouthfeel, overly-burnt flavor, incredibly long-lasting an surprisingly complex and enjoyable finish. I was disappointed by the flavor of this tea – it seems like it was re-roasted too many times over the years, or too intensely, but the finish is great. Would not buy again, but an interesting tea to try once. Wuyi varietal characteristics come out in the later infusions – I would guess that it was made with Fo Shou or Shui Xian, but the info on Song Tea’s website does not say. While their website recommends not rinsing the tea, the charcoal note was incredibly heavy in the first infusions even after rinsing – I cannot imagine how burnt it would taste without a rinse.
Flavors: Bitter, Burnt, Cedar, Char, Chocolate, Mango, Mineral, Pine, Potato, Smoke, Spicy
I like to brew small batches in the western style with teas I might ordinarily infuse as gong fu. Today we had this aged Yancha in a small pot. This was a sample of 5g, though I normally use 7 or 8 grams to the 400 ML of water. We infused at 203 degrees and didn’t remove the brewing basket. The first cup was poured about a minute and third seconds.
Impressions: a good tea for this style of brewing. The nose is lovely with a toasted butter cookie (think Leibniz) or arrowroot biscuit aroma. Liquor is a lovely coppery chestnut. The flavor retains the toasted butter-cookie flavor, but finishes clean and wet, with hints of dried grass, cooked millet, and parting hints of sour teff.
Flavors: Graham Cracker, Straw, Tea, Toasty, Wheat
No notes yet. Add one?
Brewing method: Gongfu with Gaiwan, 2tsp of tea (=ca 5 g) @ 205 degrees.
Lovely highly oxidized version of four seasons cultivar (四季春）（‘four seasons spring’).
First steeping has clean refreshing approach, with rose, stone fruit and very light citrus notes. Nose has hints of oats, raisin, dried rose/rose hips. Nose evolves between infusions, becoming progressively sweeter.
Liquor is beautiful rose gold to bronze, depending on length of infusion.
Progressively longer steepings yield richer, fuller notes of same flavors. Very little astringency on longer infusions.
Flavors: Oats, Raisins, Rose, Stonefruits
Steeping method. Traditional gongfu steepings in a gaiwan.
This is a simple, pleasing, comforting oolong with an uncomplicated flavor profile and a clean finish. It has an open mouth feel, no milkiness and very little viscosity even in later, longer steepings.
Toasty, slightly bready aroma on dried leaves with light caramel notes.
Steeped leaves have deeper toasty, oaty, caramel-corn, banana ester and butter-croissant notes to their aroma.
The flavor profile did not evolve or deepen significantly over multiple steepings, and long steepings did not bring out astringency or bitterness. This would be a good Oolong for western steeping methods.
Flavors: Baked Bread, banana, Caramel, Oats, Straw
On the upside, this is a super complex tea. The first steeping has a caramel-like sweetness (not anything close to maple, as the Song site indicates), hints of the coconutty vibe their aged version of the same tea has + a very curious flavor I can only describe as “artificial banana”. Later steepings bring in floral elements, whiskey-like tones, and more woody notes. The downside is that it’s a fairly bitter brew, even when steeped to the letter of Song instructions: 1 minute first steep, 2 minute second, etc.
I’d give this about an 80 were it not for the bitterness and faux banana flavor. But those really knock it down considerably.
Flavors: banana, Caramel, Floral, Whiskey, Wood
For a key to my rating scale, check out my bio.
Sure, it’s a pricey tea ($92 USD / 100g). But I can say without reservation that Song Tea’s Buddha’s Hand is worth every cent. An incredibly unusual crafting method for Taiwanese oolong – this tea is from Alishan (Mount Ali, like the ubiquitous lightly oxidized “high mountain” oolong from the same peak), but unlike most Taiwanese oolongs (which use the Qing Xin cultivar), this tea comes from plants of the Fo Shou or “Buddha’s Hand” cultivar. While it is ball rolled like other high mountain styles, this tea is a dark oolong (very uncommon in Taiwan aside from Taiwanese Tieguanyin and Bai Hao Oolong), achieving its richness of flavor and color through extended oxidation (>60%) and a full week of low temperature convection roasting. The resulting flavor is luxurious and absolutely delicious. Notes of dark chocolate, brown sugar, and malt are balanced by citrusy brightness, and all held together by a mouthfeel that’s as smooth as it gets in the world of tea. A must try!
Flavors: Berries, Blackberry, Brown Sugar, Char, Cherry, Citrus, Dark Chocolate, Earth, Lavender, Malt, Roasted Barley, Sweet Potatoes, Toast, Wheat
When I got this, I didn’t pay much attention to the story behind the tea. I simply brewed as directed and noticed that, despite being a red tea, it tasted A LOT like an Alishan oolong. I went to Song’s site then and discovered it is indeed a Formosa high mountain variety. Alishan? They didn’t specify, but the flavor is pretty on-the-money. It’s otherwise a pretty nice red tea. Citrus notes within it are abundant and obvious. There’s almost a bergamot quality. Red teas aren’t usually my thing, and oxidized Alishans really don’t do it for me, but this is very nice in spite of it.
Drinking it again and paying more attention to the subtleties, I’d say the first steeping has a very artificial cherry aroma. The second has less of that and a more pronounced sweetness. The third gives way to a more woody/leather vibe, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to the flavor.
Flavors: Bergamot, Citrus, Malt
It’s impressive. The first steeping it sweet, with the exact butterscotch/caramel notes Song’s site references. You MUST savor this first steeping as a tea unto itself. It changes dramatically afterward. The 2nd and later steepings have much more of an earthy, coconutty, woody vibe to them. Delicious in their own right. Even at $75 for 2oz., it’s worth it as a special treat to keep on-hand.
Flavors: Butterscotch, Caramel, Coconut, Wood
The scent is vividly malted barley with a waft of sweetness and a hint of chocolate. It’s one of the few times I feel like a tea vendor totally nailed the scent/flavor profile in their description. There’s also a very Assam-like quality to it. Sipping your way through the tea, the barley is still the prominent note, together with the overlall Assam vibe. It’s also SUPER smooth. That said, the malted barley tone isn’t the most appealing flavor to me. I think I’d rather have a Formosa Assam, and at $46 for 2 oz., I can’t think of a reason to ever snag this again. Nice enough tea though.
The scent of the dry leaves is reminiscent of a delicious sheng pu’er + soap. Steeped, you can pick up on minty notes and soap. On the palate, you get the same: mint and soap with earthy notes. Did I mention the soap flavor? And yet I bought 2oz. of this, after a tasting at Song tea. I felt like it would be a good challenge to get to like it. And yet every time I drink it, I kind of hate it more.
I think my tongue has experienced just about every flavor the non-animal kingdom can throw at it, and to-date this tea and muguet/lily are the only natural flavors by which I’ve been revolted.
Note: There’s nothing “wrong” with the tea. It’s in fine shape and was clearly stored well. I just think it’s disgusting.
Flavors: Earth, Mint, Soap
Among my favorites, this winter sprout tastes unmistakably like cotton candy. Not that it’s super sweet; it’s literally the flavor of cotton candy. And it’s very forgiving of temperature, even given how green it is. I used to be very careful with cooling the water to 205, but I’ve found you can just throw boiling water on and get what are arguably more interesting experiences out of it.
Flavors: Cotton Candy
I received this tea as a sample. Thank you, Song Tea! Sniffing the dry leaf made me think of Nag Champa incense. It didn’t truly smell like Nag Champa, but made me think of it.
The theme with this tea overall is “evocative” – there are no obvious flavors, just haunting notes. It is elegant.
Notes that come to mind are muscovado, cocoa, caramel, again, incense.
It is very warming. At the end of the cup, a pleasurable tang appears.
It was beautiful.
I bought this after a tasting of both this and its aged 1992 harvest, assuming this was the lesser of the two because it seemed to have sharper edges. The dry leaves have only a faint scent of malty chocolate, even when warmed.
1st infusion: (1:45)
This infusion, standing alone, merits 95 points. It tastes creamy, rich, and sweet like a baked good (but not too sugary sweet like Song’s Shan Lin Xi Winter Sprout). There are notes of milk chocolate and graham cracker. The texture is insanely smooth, light, delicious yet unpretentious. I can’t wait to try this in an Yixing teapot.
2nd infusion: (2:05)
Smells roasty and comforting, like a malty milky beverage. Less sweet than 1st infusion, but equally smooth.
3rd infusion: (2:15)
Leaves are a beautiful coppery purple-green colour. They smell metallic, but liquor smells milky and buttery.
Flavors: Butter, Chocolate, Graham Cracker, Malt, Milk
Tasted this directly after its 2015 sibling, Formosa Yancha. The 1992 has an incredible dry leaf scent of musky raisins and savoury seaweed, though we didn’t taste much of that in the tea.
Redder liquor and the taste was slightly sweeter and a lot smoother overall than the younger one. But due to this one being twice the price (coming to about $7 per brewing session), I ended up buying the younger one anyway. Maybe if I keep it for long enough…
Flavors: Raisins, Seaweed
A solid Dragon Well, but seems to be prized more for its subtlety and I like my Dragon Wells ferociously lively, nutty, and flavourful. This one is more like an uber delicate, subtle white tea (probably because the cultivar is related to Anji Baicha). At $88 for 2 oz, totally not worth it to me there are far tastier Longjings out there. But Song is for the tea enthusiast who wants something out of the ordinary so if you’re tired of typical Longjings you might get a kick out of this.
Flavors: Chestnut, Floral
This tea has a complex, sophisticated set of flavors. Definitely some dark sugar, but I would go with the more mineral and grainy taste of sucanat rather than muscovado. Candied lemon peel at the back of the sip, and eggy custard at the middle. Really, really enjoying it. I keep sniffing my empty cup between steeps.