Tao Tea Leaf

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Recent Tasting Notes


Discovery Tea Box – Tea Six

So, when I saw this in the box I sort of simultaneously had thoughts of excitement and cringe because, on one hand, a really good and fresh tasting coconut oolong can make for the BEST cold brew but also if it’s an older coconut tea that has spoiled it can also be the most gnarly thing ever. So, I cautiously cracked open the package of it and gave it a whiff. Well, the angels were singing because this smelled heavenly.

I decided to pop a tablespoon of it into my cold brewing mason jar, leave it overnight and just see what would happen – and that was a great idea. Man, this one really took me back to some of the amazing coconut oolong and white teas I used to cold brew on a near daily basis back when I was living in Saskatoon still and was really getting into tea. Like, that sweet sweet ‘peak’ when I was drinking 15+ cups of tea a day and would brew up no less than three cups of tea at a time. Huge nostalgia factor, here.

It’s just really fresh tasting and light with some very strong, buttery sweet coconut notes. Kind of like a really well done coconut water!? Like, it’s just that hydrating and seamlessly perfect. Hints of florals, because it is an oolong base after all. Kind of reminded me of pouchong oolong (though I’m not sure if it actually is) – lots of orchid/lily notes and that super delicate, fresh floral thing going for it with just a TINY LITTLE BIT of “green” flavour.


Yeah, I’ll stealing the rest of the bag of this out of the box. I refuse to feel bad for doing so; gotta clear out some things to make room for new things and this is just gonna be one of them. That’s how life is sometimes.


Remember when we had a competition to see who could get more sipdowns (or was it who could drink more cups of tea?) and we both ended up having like 25 cups of tea that day or something ridiculous?

Roswell Strange

It was who could write the most tasting note, and we were completely insane! I mean, I think of the amount of tea I drink daily as still pretty high up there but it’s really no where near that level of crazy. I was seriously brewing up five 16 oz. cups of tea at a time to drink all at once, and doing that two or three times a day. I keep thinking of how crazy I must have looked to my roommate…

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This is the best Tie Guan Yin I have tried until now. The dry leaves smell of fruit, most prominantly peach. However, in the wet leaf aroma, I found more of floral, grassy and egg yolk notes. The taste is bright and balanced, something that I lacked in other TGYs. Mouthfeel is very soft and lubricating, not much astringency to be found here.

Overall, I enjoy this tea a lot, and I am glad I found a TGY I can appreciate.

Flavors: Floral, Grass, Peach

200 °F / 93 °C 1 min, 30 sec 6 g 6 OZ / 180 ML

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I would rather drink either a decent quality sencha or a fresh ginger tea any time. You can feel the ginger mostly in the smell, the taste is light with some mild spiciness. It doesn’t really have any qualities I would want from a sencha unfortunately.

175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 30 sec 3 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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Mmm, this is a perfect oolong for winter. It has a really pleasant roasted, nutty flavour that comes close to a coffee when you brew it strongly. There are more subtle hints of maybe burnt sugar or molasses, and a slight woodiness that reminds me of a bonfire. The liquor steeps thick and makes the mouth salivate. Really great feeling while drinking this, I just get super cozy and sleepy-stupid-happy.

Flavors: Burnt Sugar, Campfire, Coffee, Molasses, Nuts, Roasted

195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 30 sec 18 g 15 OZ / 443 ML

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I am not a fan of this tea. It is light bodied and thin with very little going on apart from the strong coconut smell.

Flavors: Coconut

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I bought 25 g of this Dan Cong during Tao Tea Leaf’s semi-annual sale at the beginning of 2016 and just cut open the bag a couple weeks ago. I steeped 5 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 212F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, and 240 seconds.

The first steep has aromas of honey, orchids, roses, and stonefruit. In the mouth, the roast predominates, although there are notes of honey, orchid, rose, nectarine, minerals, and wood. There’s no bitterness, although the end of the sip is drying. Baked bread and lichi become apparent on the second steep.

During the middle steeps, the roast and floral notes become more prominent and the fruit falls into the background. By steep six, minerals and grass begin to appear, a sign that the tea is fading. By the end of the session, it’s all minerals, roast, char, and walnut shells, with faint orchid notes in the background.

This tea had a beautiful start, but petered out quickly. If all the steeps had been like the first few, I would have rated it in the nineties, but as is, it’s in the mid eighties for me.

Any advice on how to get your Dan Congs to last longer?

Flavors: Baked Bread, Char, Floral, Grass, Honey, Lychee, Mineral, Orchid, Roasted, Rose, Stonefruits, Walnut, Wood

Boiling 5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

Leafhopper, I’m fairly new to gongfuing Dancong oolongs, but there are a few things you can do to get a little more out of them. First, though, it is important to understand that Dancong is often more synonymous with intensity than longevity in a gongfu session, so such oolongs won’t always give a ton of infusions. I know that some proponents of traditional Chaozhou gongfu will absolutely pack the gaiwan or pot full of leaves and do very short flash infusions, but in my experience, you have to be fine with bitterness to enjoy that approach. What I would do, however, is this: up the amount of leaf used slightly. For a 4 ounce gaiwan, I normally use 6-7 grams of leaf when I brew Dancongs. Also, lower the water temperature somewhat. You can brew Dancong with boiling water if that’s how you like it, but I have found that the sweet spot with regard to water temperature for many of these teas is around 203-205F. I normally go with 203, but I will sometimes drop down to 194-195F if the roast is light or the tea seems particularly delicate. Another trick is to flash rinse and then start with a very short initial infusion.


Thanks for your suggestions. I’m reluctant to cram the teapot with leaf because Dancongs are pricy, but 6-7 g is doable. I’ll also try it at a lower temperature.

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drank Golden Monkey by Tao Tea Leaf
99 tasting notes

Though it’s a very popular type of tea, this is the first Golden Monkey I’ve tried. I was put off by the profile, which I recall emphasizes malt, leather, tobacco, and other burly flavours. However, I picked up a pouch of this from Tao Tea Leaf in their Christmas 2015 sale, and am just getting around to it. I steeped 5 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, and 240 seconds.

The first couple steeps are a surprise, offering notes of milk chocolate, brown sugar, caramel, mild sweet potato, roasted almond, and wood. Combined with the fact that it has almost no astringency, this makes for a tasty brew! Malt starts to emerge in the third steep, but it doesn’t overpower the chocolate and other flavours. I do get hints of earth and leather in the last few steeps, but the chocolate doesn’t disappear.

Either this Golden Monkey is atypical, or my impressions of the type were way off. Though not the most complex tea in the world, its smoothness and chocolatey sweetness made me enjoy it much more than I thought I would. One tiny drawback is that the thin, wiry leaves fit perfectly through the holes in my gongfu teapot, regularly ending up in my cup. Still, this Golden Monkey was well worth holding onto.

Flavors: Almond, Brown Sugar, Caramel, Chocolate, Earth, Leather, Malt, Sweet Potatoes, Wood

195 °F / 90 °C 5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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At first, I did two quick infusions, which yielded a nice and easy to drink tea with a good balance of woody, malty and sweet flavours.

For the third infusion I upped the time and temperature, as a result of which the pine notes were enhanced and the tea possesed a very enjoyable bitterness to counter the sweetness.

The cocoa and coffee notes I only noticed in the smell (cocoa in wet leaf, coffee in the liquor), not really in the taste.

The aftertaste has a bit of a sheng vibe to it, very vibrant with hints of fresh herbs like thyme.

Overall I found it to be much fresher than the smoked versions of LS and I prefer that. Also, this tea has a fairly strong cha qi for a black tea I reckon, it can warm you up on cold days (like today).

Flavors: Bark, Cocoa, Coffee, Malt, Mineral, Pine, Plant Stems, Sweet, Thyme, Wood

200 °F / 93 °C 1 min, 0 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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Damn. This is good tea.

Oddly enough, this tastes almost exactly the same as Jiri Horse Balhyocha by teabento that I’ve been enamoured with recently. Same dark chocolate notes. The difference here is that the sweet potato is more pronounced and there’s a slightly bitter aftersip.

Really really good. And local even, so yay! Not cheap, but local—reminder to self.

I will be stocking more of this, likely soon.

I can totally see why this is Dexter’s favourite.

Flavors: Dark Bittersweet, Dark Chocolate, Malt, Sweet Potatoes


It’s agood one. :)


Yes. It’s a very nice Zhenghe.

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I picked up this sample a few years ago in my “try all the teas” phase. The leaves are somewhat broken, and there’s just enough for a single gongfu session. I steeped 5 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

In the first steep, I get notes of honey, grapes, malt, flowers, cocoa, and tannens. I don’t know why, but some Chinese blacks make me think of a much better version of your standard English Breakfast. The tea loses the floral and grape notes by the fourth steep, becoming more malty, metallic, and astringent. The honey continues throughout the session, which makes it more enjoyable. Still, the first four or five steeps are the best.

Although this tea isn’t bad, I’m not in a hurry to get more. Compared to other, admittedly more expensive, Guangdong black teas I’ve had, this is just okay. I think I like black teas with distinctive floral, fruity, or chocolate flavours, and this one doesn’t tick enough of those boxes consistently.

Flavors: Astringent, Cocoa, Floral, Grapes, Honey, Malt, Metallic, Tannic

195 °F / 90 °C 5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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I think this is from 2015. It’s been getting colder, and this is definitely a winter tea. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195f for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The first steep has notes of tobacco, caramel, roast, and dark wood. There are also hints of sandalwood, banana, and strawberry, but they’re very much in the background. I let the second steep sit a couple seconds too long, and it dialed the darker flavours up to eleven. The tobacco predominates in the early steeps, perhaps a bit too much for me.

By steep five, this oolong becomes less aggressive, but also starts losing its complexity. It has a generic Wuyi profile of roast, earth, minerality, and caramel.

Due to its earthy roast and caramel flavours, this oolong would be a perfect introductory tea for coffee drinkers. For me, it was decent, but not something I need to immediately buy more of.

Flavors: banana, Caramel, Dark Wood, Earth, Mineral, Resin, Roasted, Tobacco

195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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I’ve been aging this since April 2017, (not exactly aging ;) )
First steeps were amazingly buttery smooth and savory.
A bit thin in the tea soup aspect but enjoyable no off flavors or anything bitter or astringent.
Subsequent steeps are all relatively the same; a walnut or nutty taste hints at some kind of astringency or bitterness that is not there which impacts the huigan, showing up only after quite a few steeps and is not even that noticeable, hinting that you would require much more leaf then what I used.
The rest of the palate reminds me mostly of a veggie pilaf with a hot butter mouth feel it really is very smooth butter kind of tea, this is huge highlight for me and reminds me a little of gyokuro, butter savoriness and i expect there would be more of this flavor if i used much more leaf.

180 °F / 82 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 4 OZ / 115 ML

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I quite like this tea, but can also understand some of the negative reviews here. The amber liquor smells of strong sweet hay, while the wet leaves smell of sweet hay, a hint of tobacco, and another strange sweetness that I can’t really place. I brewed with about 225ml of water, and poured the water slowly from some height to help the tightly compressed leaves open up. That worked really well. The liquor is smooth in the mouth, with just a bit of astringency and the hay flavour is strong. I found the qi to be substantial and enjoyable.

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 7 g 8 OZ / 225 ML

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drank Lime Green by Tao Tea Leaf
2495 tasting notes

Another sample from GCTTB

Unfortunately I strongly disliked this one. The sickly sweet licorice root was disgusting and I wouldn’t finish the cup. From what I did taste, this blend is heavy on the licorice root which gives it a metallic root flavour. Something roasty (the licorice root?), some lemongrass, a hint of lime flavour, and something fruity (apple or lemon). Even licorice lovers might find this undrinkable. It tastes like stevia in water with some lime and lime essence.

Flavors: Citrus, Lemongrass, Licorice, Lime, Medicinal, Metallic, Mint, Sweet, Taro Root

200 °F / 93 °C 2 min, 30 sec 1 tsp 15 OZ / 450 ML

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I’ve discovered that the secret to bringing the cinnamon out of this tea is to use a lot of it. I used to put about 4 or 5 g of tea in a 120 ml vessel, but adding a couple extra grams makes all the difference. I steeped 7 g of tea in my 120 ml teapot at around 195F for 10, 12, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 120, and 160 seconds.

In the pot, the dry leaves smell like cereal, roasted spices, and char. The first steep has initial impressions of wood, roast, cereal, honey, and char, with the cinnamon lurking at the end of the sip. The cinnamon is more roasted and mellow than spicy, and I might not have classified it as such if I hadn’t been looking for it. The tea is a bit drying and has a reasonably long aftertaste.

The roast really ramps up in steep 2. I don’t think I oversteeped it, but it sure tastes that way. Gone are the cereal and sweetness, and the cinnamon is relegated to the aftertaste.

Steep 3, at 15 seconds, isn’t so roasty, and the original notes come through again. Still, this tea is a little too roasted for me. The sweetness gradually diminishes over the next three steeps until, by steep 6, it’s not nearly as complex. The cinnamon has virtually disappeared by this point. By steep 10, when I called an end to the session, the tea was just charcoal water.

This Rou Gui was good, with a nice cinnamon note if I use enough tea. However, I’m just not as fond of Wuyi oolongs as I am of greener ones.

Flavors: Char, Cinnamon, Drying, Grain, Honey, Mineral, Roasted, Wood

195 °F / 90 °C 7 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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drank Purple Pu-er (Sheng) by Tao Tea Leaf
467 tasting notes

I have really liked some other purple leaf sheng that I’ve tried, so I was pretty excited to grab a little baggie of this from the TTB last time it came into my possession. Unfortunately, this one was a bit of a let-down. The dry leaf had a slightly fruity aroma – after a rinse, they smelled sweeter with a bit of a vegetal note and another something that was really familiar, but which I was unable to place.

I didn’t get a whole lot else from the tea. Some bitterness and vegetal sweetness, maybe just a touch of raisin-y fruitiness. The tea was pretty drying from the start and got more so as the session progressed. Pretty meh the whole time. I only had about 4g of this one, so I don’t have enough to try it again, so that’s that I guess!

Flavors: Drying, Fruity, Vegetal

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

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Bought this a few weeks ago when Tao Tea Leaf was having a sale. It is a fairly nice tea. It is probably not as strong as I expect a breakfast tea should be. It has a malty note and I would say a bit of a fruity note. Overall a nice tea. I am being lazy this morning and steeping my tea western style. But breakfast teas were really meant for this kind of steeping anyway.

I brewed this tea one time in a 16oz Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker with 3 tsp leaf and 200 degree water for 3 minutes.

Flavors: Fruity, Malt, Sweet

200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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Just the perfect amount of floral today, in the first few infusions. Seriously. Really needed that.
And I finally noticed that same roastiness from the High Mountain tea version, in this one. Funny, my last cup didn’t have it at all.
Later steeps have a much more complex nature to it. Less floral and more mineral and apricot. Also getting what they mean about sugar cookies. There is a sweetness in all the infusions that hangs out through the whole sip. Oh and a lovely tartness, like plums just before they ripen. Yum.
Made it to the seventh one (long steeping the final one now) and it has a bit of a stale note. I guess I’m wringing out those leaves pretty good!
Heh. My tongue is burning in a pleasant way, but methinks that may be from the stir fry I had with dinner. We added a lot of garlic :D

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GCTTB Confused as i was pretty sure i’ve had this before but cna’t seem to find my tea log. I pulled this one out because i wanted to see if it was as i remembered it since it’s been a super long time since i’ve had it. It was delicious and exactly what i needed yesterday.
…found the other listing: http://steepster.com/teas/tao-tea-leaf/38699-zhenghe-gongfu-black-tea-jin-ping-village

this harvest is back to what i want this tea to be…coaco, malty, smooth and delicious.

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Mmmmm yes this was good today. Fruity and mineral rich. Four steeps of complex roasted yum! Not much variation between steeps, besides getting smoother over time. This would be great for grandpa style brewing, I suspect.

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Picked up a sample of this tea from Tao Tea Leaf last week. As with all of my trips there, it was very pleasant, and the owner Tao, was quite helpful.

When dry, the smell of this leaf reminded me of rose and plum, and when brewed, this morphed into a honey plum smell.

As for the taste, this seems to be a very finicky tea in that it is easy to under or over brew it. My first steeping was bland (which is likely due to the water being too cold). The second steep was very bitter (I steeped it far longer than the first time to try and bring out the flavor). The third was quite enjoyable. It was smooth without being thick or oily, and had a natural sweetness as well as honey flavors, but still had a slight bitterness.

The leaves were oddly mottled, each one having some light spots, and some dark ones.

Overall, I think this tea will be enjoyable once I get the correct brewing style tuned in. For now, the experience was a bit hit or miss.

Flavors: Bitter, Honey, Plums, Rose

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2.25 tsp for 500mL water @90C, Western style, steeped three minutes.

I received a sample of this tea from the 2017 Toronto Tea Fesitival’s oolong tasting box.

The instructions on the packet are alarming: boiling water, 100C. What?

I decided to ignore that and use 90C water. And I’m glad I did.

Dry leaf: twisted and dark strip-style oolong. Scents are sweet, toasty, anfd a bit musty.

Wet leaf: long and glossy dark brown, with some dark green. Scents of toast and molasses.

First infusion

Liquor is light copper, no down. Sweet and toasty with some dark fruit notes and a strong mineral finish. In fact, it’s very sweet, almost like a pale honey. A heavier body than I was expecting. I’ve made a 500mL beaker here, so it might be a while before I try a second infusion.

Sweet, toasty, fruity, and mineral. Lovely.

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1.25 tsp for 300mL water @90C, steeped two minutes.

The packet says 100C water —that seems a bit high for an oolong. As it’s been a few years since I could drink a milk oolong, I am very hesitant to rise scalding the leaf with such hot water. So I did 90C.

I’m trying a sample of this for the 2017 Toronto Tea Festival. I signed up as a taster, said I like oolongs, and I and got in, and that meant a lovely box full of oolong samples. My last milk oolong was from DavidsTea, and, sadly, DT had gone to milk-flavoured oolong—not the same thing at all. The flavouring left an odd taste I did not like, and I’ve not tried anyone milk oolong since. I really miss it.

So this is a lovely surprise. I can’t confirm whether this tea has any flavour added. The strong butter notes make me wonder. I hope I’m wrong.

Dry leaf smells very buttery, more butter than cream. Dry leaves are tight-rolled and dark, dull green. Wet leaf after first infusion smells more faintly of butter and of mild green veggies. Wet leaves are a less dull but still dark green.

Liquor: pale gold, as one might see in a white tea. No down. Light to medium body; I expect this will lighten will subsequent infusions. Creamy mouthfeel without being heavy and coating.

Not a sweet milk oolong, but certainly not bitter or harsh. Some distant floral notes in the scent but no floral notes in the taste. Some hints of stone fruit as the liquor cools. Slight mineral finish that I really like. No astringency … but there is a gentle bite on the finish that makes me think of apricots.

This is only my third milk oolong. It’s more complex than I was expecting. I’m looking forward to further infusions.

195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 10 OZ / 300 ML

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