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Recent Tasting Notes
This is my “Taiwanese Tea” from the Steepster Scavenger Hunt.
Last night, I stumbled across this tea as I was sorting through some things in the kitchen cupboard. This is old – from just before I took over 52Teas, but it was still in a vacuum sealed pouch so, I kept my fingers crossed in the hope that there would still be some flavor left in these leaves.
And there is some flavor here, but not nearly as much as I would have expected from a top quality Li Shan Cui Feng. It’s definitely showing it’s age here, so I’m not going to fault the tea or the tea vendor for the lack of flavor – it’s totally my fault – it got lost in my cupboard. :(
For the flavor that is here, it’s smooth, creamy & sweet with notes of vegetation. Hints of what I would expect from a Li Shan – just not enough of it – due to the age. This is a sipdown though & finding this tea was a timely find if for no other reason, than it helps me on my scavenger hunt.
Tea from taiwan
Dry leaves smell sweet, a little bit of sweet potato? Having tea with a friend and they mentioned seaweed
First brew 45s: tastes like sweet potato. Slightly thick mouthfeel.
30s 2nd: leaves smell smokey. But also still sweet potato. Tastes similar.
2 min: very very sweet potato leaves smell. A hint of smokey. Sweet potato taste at first. Then a touch of bitter taste, then slightly sweet aftertaste.
2.5, 3, 4min: similar to before
Overall this was very linear, like drinking a sweet potato, but with fluctuating levels of bitterness depending on infusion time and sometimes a note of smoke and sweetness. The reviews for this tea seem to be all over the place (maybe the source has changed over the years?), but anyway. I don’t really like taiwanese oolongs to begin with (most have been pretty linear in my experience), compared to their Chinese counterparts, and GABA oolong is basically just hype marketing, so this was my first GABA oolong and will likely be my last. Will recommend for the novelty, but unless you really like sweet potato, I couldn’t see buying a ton being worth it.
Flavors: Bitter, Smoke, Sweet Potatoes
This was the last tea from my tea from Taiwan order and easily the best one. It’s an excellent Li Shan with a luscious floral character. Intense aromas of hyacinth, coconut cream, and Korean melon. The tea starts off fruity followed by a rush of floral goodness. A complex and impressive bouquet of flowers unfurls throughout the steeps. I picked up notes of orchid, hyacinth, magnolia, and lily of the valley. The tea feels like silk in the mouth and leaves behind a rich aftertaste.
For this tea, I followed the “non-linear” brewing style described in a recent Mei Leaf video and achieved much better results than simply increasing time and temperature with each steep as instructions generally tell you to do.
Flavors: Coconut, Cream, Flowers, Melon, Nectar
Sipdown. This works a lot better as an ambient/cold brew. Instead of the pancake syrup flavor of the hot brew, I get delicate florals and caramelized sugar notes. I’m discovering that I prefer my green oolongs hot and dark oolongs cold. I feel like cold steeping tames the roastiness of darker oolongs and makes the nuances much clearer.
Flavors: Caramel, Floral, Sugarcane
Drank this one as a commute tea on the way to work this morning. Grandpa steeped 1.3g in my 10oz tumbler using just under boiling water. Leaves had a subtle aroma of caramel and flowers. The brewed tea smelled of dried prunes. The flavor is somewhat different than other Dong Dings I’ve tried in that it doesn’t have the toffee and caramelized notes. Instead it has a syrupy buckwheat honey flavor. As it steeps I get notes of brown sugar and sticky buns.
Though this is not the most nuanced Dong Ding, it’s a sweet easy drinking tea. Smooth and dark without any roasted/char flavor.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Honey, Pancake Syrup
A tea I got from the Marco Polo TTB years ago. It was basically vacuum sealed in the bag so the quality of the tea didn’t really diminish as the years went by…
Poured the tea straight into my glass teapot and when the leaves unfurled, it looked AMAZING! And it tastes pretty great too :) Definitely getting some grassy/vegetal notes from this tea.
There seem to be a lot of Ali Shan teas that smell delicious but taste just kind of “meh”. This is one such tea.
The leaves were rolled into fat green nuggets and gave off wonderful aromas of melon, flowers, and lychee. Initial steeps were light and tasted of cucumber and melon. Some mellow floral notes of orchid and hyacinth emerge by the 3rd steep. At this point, the flavor begins to peter out. The remaining steeps were fairly insipid and flat.
Yawn…a very drinkable tea but ultimately forgettable.
Flavors: Coriander, Cucumber, Flowers, Grass, Lychee, Melon, Orchid, Sweet
Spring 2019 harvest.
To be honest, I was a little bored by this tea. This is a middle of the road kind of Li Shan. It has a generic high mountain flavor and lacks the depth and fullness of better Taiwanese oolongs. It’s not a bad tea by any stretch, but I’ve been spoiled by some really amazing Li Shans in the past.
The tea offers enticing aromas of flowers, tropical fruit, and pine. The brewed tea had a lilac-y character with fruity hints and a mild sweetness. Starts off light and slowly builds up to a buttery mouthfeel. It gives at least 6 infusions and on occasion, I’ve pushed it to as many as 9 steeps.
Flavors: Floral, Fruity, Pine, Vegetal
Not quite sure how to rate this tea. It left me a little frustrated because no matter what I just couldn’t coax much flavor out of it through gongfu brewing. However today, I caught a fleeting glimpse of the tea’s character after hastily dumping a teaspoon or so of leaves in my tumbler with hot water.
The tea itself had a nice aroma of granny smith apples and daffodils. Wet leaf aroma was even more flowery with milk, butter, and a little tropical fruitiness. Gongfu brewing produced a light brew with a little sourness and notes of melon and cucumber. When allowed to steep longer, the tea is richer and develops into a bouquet of spring flowers with a sugarcane sweetness. I should have western steeped it instead of grandpa style though because eventually some bitterness crept in however underneath it, I could still taste the nectary sweetness.
Flavors: Flowers, Nectar, Sugarcane
Spring 2019 harvest. I’ve already reviewed this once before so I won’t get into the details of every steep. Like the winter harvest, this was an excellent gaoshan with heady aromas and luscious florals. Notes of narcissus, hyacinth, and wildflowers interspersed with hints of green apple and tropical fruit. Rich and buttery throughout with a candy sweet finish. Went 10 steeps deep with new layers of flavor unfolding with each steep.
Despite being bored with green oolongs as of late, this one really grabbed me and I finished it off within just a few days.
Flavors: Butter, Flowers, Green Apple, Jasmine, Narcissus, Nectar, Pear, Tropical
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
After trying the Spring 2019 harvest, I have to up my rating for this tea. The winter picked tea sample I had previously tried was inexplicably bad but this one was respectable. Highly aromatic and sweet with intense aromas of pineapple, papaya, honey, and flowers. The brewed tea had a mild fruity-floral flavor. I detected notes of mango, orchid, and lychee. However the biggest downside was this delicious flavor peaked way too early and the tea itself had nothing left to give after about 6 steeps.
Flavors: Floral, Lychee, Mango, Pineapple, Tropical
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, Stonefruit