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Recent Tasting Notes
Winter 2018 harvest.
The weather was finally nice enough to have a tea session outdoor on my patio the other day. This tea was the last of my Tea from Taiwan green oolong samplers and was the perfect tea for the occasion. The fresh air, smell of peonies wafting from my neighbors garden, and surrounding greenery perfectly captured the essence of this tea.
Upon opening the pouch, my nose was greeted with the smell of fresh vegetation, flowers, and apricot. A rinse released sweet, more distinct floral aromas of daffodils, lily, and honeysuckle. The first 5 steeps were delicate yet intensely floral with the aromas coming through nicely in the taste. Silky texture, sweet, and light bodied. As the session wore on, the flowery notes started to dwindle and a pear like fruitiness emerged. The tea became thicker, brighter, and I got some of that great high mountain taste.
I steeped 2g in my 50ml shibo and got 8 excellent infusions out of it. Steep times were 30s/45s/1m/2m/3m/5m/7m/10m. I brewed at around 185 F except for the last few steeps which were at or close to boiling. Even with the longer steep times, it was super smooth with zero astringency.
Flavors: Flowers, Honeysuckle, Orchid, Pear, Sweet
Meh, this was a pretty lousy tea all around. It’s supposed to be a Pear Mountain / Li Shan oolong, something which I would never mistake it for. There’s none of those distinctive fruity and floral notes that Li Shan is known for. Instead, this is rough and vegetal with a washed out flavor that lasts for only a few steeps.
So far this has been the only real dud in my Tea from Taiwan sampler pack. It’s also a reminder of why I don’t like to commit to more than 25g of any tea, especially expensive high mountain teas that can be very hit or miss.
Flavors: Butter, Vegetal
So I decided to take a break from all the spring green teas I’ve been drinking lately to brew up some oolong. I’ve been working through my Tea from Taiwan samplers and this has been the best one so far. It’s got a lush tropical flavor and amazing aromatics. Ali Shans are usually on the floral side while this one has lot more fruitiness to it. I got notes of mango, apple, and citrus in the brewed tea. There’s a nectar like sweetness and a faint hint of orange blossom in the finish. The scent of the tea is quite a treat for the nose. The dry leaf has an inviting aroma of honey, flowers, and butter. Wet leaves bursted with a myriad of shifting scents that smelled like a tropical rainforest. Pineapple, melon, hyacinth, alpine flowers, and citrus were amongst the notes that I picked up.
I steeped this low and slow 8 times at 185-190 F for steep times of 30s/1m/90s/2m/3:30/5m/7m/10m. Tea remained juicy and rich throughout without any bitterness even after long steeps. Unexpectedly good!
Flavors: Apple, Citrus, Fruity, Mango, Tropical
This was a good high mountain oolong though not the best representation of this highest grade Taiwanese tea. The dry leaf has the typical floral aromas of high mountain tea. I also smelled vanilla macarons, buttered beans, and hints of grass in the wet and dry leaf. The brewed tea has a flowery, nectar like sweetness with prominent notes of hyacinth and orange blossom. Pretty smooth through 8 steeps with some fruity hints of apricot and pina colada.
Though enjoyable, there was nothing about it that really stood out and tasted unique to me. It had the standard high mountain character and sweetness, but not much in the way of richness and texture. A nice Taiwanese oolong for sure, but not worth the price tag.
Flavors: Apricot, Butter, Cream, Flowers, Grass, Nectar, Orchid, Peas, Vanilla
This is the kind of tea for when you’re in the mood for something soft and delicate. I would say that’s true for pretty much all of the long feng xia teas I’ve tried.
The taste of this tea is crisp and fresh, with subtle floral and vegetal notes that have to be gently coaxed out. It doesn’t play well with very hot water. Instead, green tea like temperatures (180 – 185 F) are necessary in order to bring out its delicate character.
It starts off light and sweet. A pale yellow liquor that tastes like early morning dew on grass. Notes of lily of the valley appear as it cools. The color becomes greener with subsequent steeps. The body grows fuller and the tea bursts with a buttery floral taste. I detected notes of hyacinth, daffodil, and gardenia. After a few more steeps the tea mellows out a bit as it shifts to a fruity-vegetal taste.
I steeped 4g of this tea in my 110ml purple clay teapot using 180-190 F temperature water. The tea was steeped 7 times following a rinse for 30s/45s/1m/90s/2m/3m/4m.
Flavors: Butter, Flowers, Fruity, Grass, Sweet, Vegetable Broth
It’s been a while since I’ve had a Four Seasons Tea. I remember it being my first introduction to Taiwanese oolongs years ago. But I’ve had little reason to revisit it since then because as the saying goes, once you go high mountain you never go back. Or something like that. Anyways, this one came to me in my Tea from Taiwan sampler pack.
This is a flowery tea through and through. The smell of the dry leaves is like a sweet floral bouquet. Following a rinse, notes of hyacinth, kettle corn, and fresh spring vegetation appear. The first steep is light-bodied with a green tea like taste and mellow oolong sweetness. The second steep is thicker and has a honeysuckle finish that hangs on to the back of the tongue. Third steep brings a more complex floral taste with hyacinth notes. The flavor drops off by the fourth steep, but the tea still gives a good sweetness mingled with a little astringency.
The biggest difference I noticed between this and the more expensive high mountain oolongs is the texture. While it has decent flavor, it lacks the fullness, body, and viscosity of better Taiwanese teas. It also doesn’t last very long, peaking by the 3rd steep. But I can’t be mad at it though this is a budget oolong after all.
In short, this is a serviceable jade oolong with a pleasant yet simple flavor. It was fun revisiting an old favorite but I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy it since there are so many better Taiwanese teas out there.
Flavors: Flowers, Honeysuckle
Tea from Taiwan is a company that I’ve known about for a while but passed over many times until a couple of weeks ago when I was out of new options for Taiwanese oolongs and this generic named vendor was the only one left. They had a sale on samples and I bought two sampler packs. The Feng Fu sampler which contains teas from the typical high mountain regions of Taiwan (Long Feng Xia, Ali Shan, Shan Lin Xi, etc) and the Da Yu Ling and Hua Gang sampler, consisting of these two super premium teas.
Hua Gang from the description is a tea grown in the Li Shan mountain range. I don’t know if that technically makes it a Li Shan but I used Li Shan tea as a comparison point. The dark green leaves were rolled into large nuggets and had a sweet orchid aroma. When dropped into a heated gaiwan, the aroma becomes buttery and sweet corn like. Following a rinse, the leaves turned emerald green and delicious aromas of vanilla, custard, and flowers wafted out.
The tea began light and fresh with notes of sweet pea and lily of the valley. The body became thicker and the florals more prominent starting with the second brew. I picked up notes of lilac, honeysuckle, citrus, and green apple along the way. There were a few times when grassiness and a slight astringency crept in but overall, pleasant floral tones and a lingering sweetness dominated throughout the 6 or so steeps.
My sample was 7g so I only managed 2 sessions with this tea. The first time, I brewed it following my usual method for oolongs: water temperature starting at 190 F, gradually increased to boiling and steep times of 50s, 40s, 50s, 1m, 70s, 90s, 2m, and 3m. The tea however peaked a little early. The next time, I steeped according to the instructions on their website which recommend cooler water temperatures (185 – 195 F) and steep times of 30s, 45s, 1:30, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes. This brought out a lot more of those lovely floral top notes but also a touch of astringency, nothing off-putting though. Decent endurance however I received fewer infusions from it than other similar gaoshans.
It’s been a while since I’ve had a good green oolong and really enjoyed this sample. After my Taiwan Sourcing disaster, I was worried about how this order would turn out. Thankfully, this one had been sealed properly in oxygen-free packaging and tasted very fresh.
Flavors: Astringent, Butter, Citrus, Custard, Green Apple, Honeysuckle, Kettle Corn, Melon, Orchid, Vanilla
This is another sample from Bear With Me, received at the Victoria Tea Meet-Up 2015 (omg). Despite the vacuum seal and preserve pack I worried this one had gone bad when the dry leaf smelled of marine. My fears were put aside after I gave it a rinse however; dry marine morphed into an undeniable liquid honey. Leafhoppers are beautiful bugs.
To taste, this is a subtle cup compared to other bug-bitten teas. There’s a bit of honey, a hint of malt, and flowers. Like with the Hua Gang Oolong, I’m not sure whether to attribute its delicate profile to age or tea type (or both).
Steep Count: 2
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Butter, Flowers, Honey, Malt, Molasses
Well, then.. this tea! This was part of a gift bag of tea samples that Bear With Me gave me back in 2015 (I still need to reciprocate). It’s such a delicate tea that I would’ve been tempted to chuck it if it weren’t for the vacuumed sealed package, with those little “fresh” preserves.
Even given the age, this is one delicate tea. I left it for over an hour at one point and it still came out tasting like flower butter (no astringency or bitterness). The flavour profile did not change much from one steep to another but it’s probably not fair to judge an old tea on how dynamic it is.
10/10 would pick up more of this type of oolong (need more Li Shan goods). When I finally eliminate all the junk tea in my cupboard, I will resume my oolong exploration in search of the perfect butter.
Steep Count: 4
Flavors: Butter, Floral
this sample was pretty good. i love the packaging on these samples this company uses. the dry leaf smelled more vegetable than floral. i used205f water starting at 45 seconds and increased brew time when needed. the soup pale yellow/green and the flavors were a bit creamy and some floral and gamy or vegetable notes. all in all a good standard oolong.
I really enjoyed this straight forward yet not simple Oolong. Its a delight to have on a summer day. only mildly astringant, but that could be my brewing.
Teasoup neither thin nor thick, and not buttery or creamy but clean refreshing heavy floral nose and taste and backdrop of fruit, maybe peach or melons. steeped at 30 seconds , increasing as session went on.
Flavors: Astringent, Cantaloupe, Citrus, Floral, Flowers, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Melon
I had a sample of this tea in one of my tea boxes and it proved to be a great start of a weekend. This Dong Ding was incredible throughout the Gongfu session (seven steeps total), starting with moderate floral notes and creamy mouthfeel followed by mild buttery notes and finishing with honey impression in throat. Along this profile, every sip is followed by clear notes of stone fruits and mild sweetness. I didn’t try as much Dong Ding oolongs but this one was the best so far!
Flavors: Butter, Cream, Flowers, Honey, Stonefruits
This is a great oolong. Some of them leave me not feeling so great… for whatever odd reason. But this one is smooth and doesn’t give me any weird tingle sensations in my throat. Smooth with some sweetness. A bit of creaminess. Grassy. Actually this is the first time Ive had a tea that has more of a sweet grass. The dry smell is like cherrios….?
Flavors: Sweet, warm grass
From the Lewis & Clark teabox a while ago… gradually making progress! Sadly, this oolong seems to be a good one, but the flavors are never distinct enough for me. It’s a tough one to figure out. The flavor stays pretty consistent throughout three steeps. The scent of the cup makes me think it will be a sweet oolong, but the flavor is a little savory. It seems to lie in the middle of sweet and savory though. A little buttery, salty, seaweed, but also fruity (maybe something mild like mango?) and sweet. Not as savory as some oolongs tend to be, but also not as sweet. Kind of disappointing… I’d rather it decides what it wants to be! Perhaps this one needs other steeping parameters though. Definitely never was over astringent… very smooth throughout.
Steep #1 // 1 1/2 tsps. // rinse // 8 min after boiling // 1 1/2 min steep
Steep #2 // 8 min after boiling // 2 1/2 min steep
Steep #3 // just boiled // 2 min
Tea From Taiwan is right to call Dong Ding Ming Xiang (loosely translated as “fragrant tea from the frozen peak”) a dark-colored oolong. I immediately notice the difference with the dry leaves. These tightly curled pellets aren’t various shades of green, but a blackish brown with streaks of green. And while most oolongs produce a golden liquor, Dong Ding Ming Xiang results in an alluring dark amber that grows more lustrous with the longer brew times.
Aroma is another area where Dong Ding Ming Xiang deviates from its fellow oolongs. The dry leaves give off a slight forest scent that strengthens with the first steep. Instead of the usual orchid base, moist earth, wood, and hints of coffee lilt from the liquid and wet leaves. It’s not an unwelcome change. In fact, the mix of smells reminds me of early fall in New England. I wonder if the tea will taste like autumn, too.
And it does! With my first steep of 45 seconds using the instructions above, Dong Ding Ming Xiang offers an autumnal flavor foliage. Earthy and faintly tannic, it carries accents of coffee, caramel, and – as Tea From Taiwan described – honey. Not a dominant honey, but it’s there in the aftertaste. The second steep (about 90 seconds) highlights the honey without becoming overly sweet and introduces wood and roasted tones. This is when Dong Ding Ming Xiang reminds me of the current season. If I sit back and sip this tea, I can picture myself strolling along a tree-lined road, surveying the red and orange leaves, and savoring the crisp, bonfire-tinged air.
Longer brew times for Dong Ding Ming Xiang lead to a more outdoorsy infusion. My fourth and fifth steeps (about 3 and 4 minutes, respectively) bring out more of the earth and wood flavors. The honey and caramel notes have also disappeared. These later brews are more like a soft black tea than a typical oolong. They also lack the clean or creamy finish and orchid currents that most oolongs have. (So did the earlier steeps.) While I miss those familiar qualities, I can’t complain about Dong Ding Ming Xiang’s departure from the norm because I enjoyed every drop of it.
Read my full review here: http://bibliophilesreverie.com/2014/10/23/tea-from-taiwan-dong-ding-ming-xiang-oolong/
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Caramel, Coffee, Earth, Forest Floor, Honey, Wet Earth, Wood
From the Lewis and Clark TTB.
Prepared gongfu method with gaiwan. 5 second rinse. Steeping times: 5 sec, 5, 5, 5, 10, 10, 10, 10, 20, 30, 45, 60.
Dry leaf aroma: initially floral and mineral, then fresh fruit such as persimmons, clementines, and Asian pears.
Wet leaf aroma: Much simpler, though not any less lovely. Sweet, buttery, mostly floral.
Liquor: Light yellow, clear, full-bodied, and smooth. The leaves unfurl sooner than I expected – during the first infusion -, allowing to pour forth flavorful sweet, floral notes, which are consistent throughout the session.
Lewis & Clarke TTB
Okay, I admit it… I’ve been avoiding this one. I took a sample out of the TTB and now it’s been a week or something since I sent that off, but the little baggie was still sitting on my kitchen counter, conspicuously outside of my normal sipdown box. I just can’t get excited about green oolong, as I find they all taste basically the same to me. The only reason I took a sample of this one was that there was definitely enough of it for everyone to try, so why not? So anyway, here goes! Looks similar to other green oolongs, although my pellets are abnormally small because my sample was from the end of the package (this tea was in multiple small packets). Dry scent is the usual – peaches, cream, slightly vegetal note. I steeped it for 3 minutes at 200 degrees.
The aroma is actually a bit strong on the vegetal side, which makes me at least mildly excited to try this! I actually like this tea better than a lot of other oolongs I’ve tried. It has a fairly strong almost spinach/butternut squash-y vegetal note which is lovely and almost fools me into thinking it’s a green tea. But then that nice peach (definitely fresh peach) flavor pokes its head out and yells, “Hey Bozo, this is an oolong! Get your head out of the clouds!” There doesn’t seem to be much floral, which is a nice reprieve, and I’m not getting much of that creamy taste and texture either. I actually rather like this one! Who’da thunk it?
Edit: As this cools, it’s getting more and more floral. BLECK! :P
Flavors: Butternut Squash, Floral, Peach, Spinach, Vegetal
Lewis and Clarke TTB
I decided to do this one in my cute little clay teapot with my new tea tray and cup.
Boy, is my tummy sloshy now.
But that’s a good thing.
The first few infusions were a little minerally tasting, along with a touch floral, a touch green. Tasty.
Then it got even better. Sweet, floral, vegetal, no longer mineral. I was hoping for a creamy mouth feel, or buttery, but it never was really either of these.
It was just nice. Not overwhelming. Easy drinking.
I’m sure some of the flavor was stolen by the pot since it’s still really new, but that’s what happens with new clay. Someday, it will give back.