Tealirious Tea Shoppe

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Recent Tasting Notes


For the past couple weeks, I’ve had a miserable cold that wiped out my ability to smell or taste anything with any accuracy. The only upside was being able to sip down this tea, which I’ve had since 2015. (In a mistake that might haunt me to my grave, I placed an order with Tealirious the week that Butiki was having their closing sale. I’d just gotten into tea and didn’t know what I was doing.)

This tea is pretty, with lots of fluffy golden tips, but that’s almost the only good thing I can say about it. The first steep is a tannic kick in the teeth. When my palate recovers, I get notes of hay, barnyard, cardboard, faint sweet potato, caramel, earth, and malt. Lowering the leaf amount tempers the tannins and astringency a little, but leaves me with a bland but still drying cup. I tried gonfuing this tea to get rid of it faster, and it’s one of the only times I haven’t finished a session.

This tea might have been better with milk or sugar or as a cold brew with lots of flavouring, but plain, it’s pretty bad. It’s probably the worst tea I received from Tealirious, which had decent teas overall. Its awfulness can’t be attributed to its age, either, as I remember trying it when I bought it and immediately pushing it to the back of my cupboard in consternation. Glad to finally see it go.

Flavors: Astringent, Barnyard, Caramel, Cardboard, Drying, Earth, Hay, Malt, Sweet Potatoes, Tannin

190 °F / 87 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 12 OZ / 355 ML

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My cupboard clearance continues with this tea from 2014. This is my first Keemun Mao Feng, so I don’t have any benchmarks for comparison, even if it would be fair to judge such an old tea. Not surprisingly, the aroma is almost nonexistent, although I detect faint notes of smoke and hay. I steeped 5 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 203F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The first steep has notes of honey, hay, leather, smoke, and tannins. The astringency increases on the second steep, although it’s compensated for by more sweetness and what may be a hint of tart, unripe plums. Subsequent steeps offer a suddenly prominent note of buffalo grass, along with earth, malt, tannins, and minerals.

Especially in the initial steeps, this reminds me of Yunnan Sourcing’s Bai Lin Gong Fu, a tea of which I wasn’t particularly fond. Although I liked the progression of flavours, few of them appealed to me. I’ll have to try another Keemun Mao Feng to see if this one is typical of the style.

Flavors: Buffalo Grass, Earth, Hay, Honey, Leather, Malt, Mineral, Plum, Smoke, Tannin

5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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This is another one I found at the back of my cupboard. I bought it in 2015, so it’s technically an “aged” white tea! I steeped about 4-5 g, enough to fill a 120 ml teapot to the brim, at 185F for 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

In the pot, this tea smelled like old books, linen, and medicinal funk. It brewed up sweeter than I expected, with notes of linen, honey, soybeans, ripe bananas, and herbs. (I’ve never had an aged white before, so this is kind of a shot in the dark.) The medicinal quality came through on the aftertaste. As the session progressed, a hint of malt began to appear, along with a metallic tang in a few steeps. By the end, I was getting notes of lettuce and other veggies, though the linen and honey persisted.

This tea was a nice surprise. I’ll have to explore more aged white teas in the future—or just keep the ones I have for another few years.

Flavors: Herbaceous, Honey, Lettuce, Malt, Medicinal, Metallic, Soybean

185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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I was going through my tea stash and realized that I’d accidentally created “aged” sencha. I bought this in 2014 or 2015 in one of my first loose-leaf orders, probably brewed it incorrectly, and promptly pushed it to the back of my tea cupboard. Since this review isn’t really fair and is more of an experiment in what not to do with delicate Japanese greens, I haven’t rated this tea.

In an effort to get rid of my sample, I steeped 5 g of leaf in my 120 ml Bankoyaki kyusu; I used 158F water for steeps of 20, 10, and 30 seconds, then upped the temperature to 175F for 45 seconds, one minute, and three minutes.

This sencha has a large number of longer needles alongside the regular small pieces. In the pot, it smells surprisingly fresh and buttery. The first steep is buttery, mellow, and somewhat floral, with little astringency or umami. However, the butteriness has an odd, kind of stale quality, which doesn’t bode well for future steeps.

The second steep is more smooth, brothy, and astringent, and though the off note is still there, it’s less noticeable. This isn’t bad. However, the third steep, at 30 seconds, increases both the astringency and the off flavours. It does have a nice, grassy aftertaste that kind of redeems it.

The fourth steep at 175F eliminates the butteriness altogether and turns into astringent asparagus soup. The profile changes again in the fifth steep, taking on the floral, buttery qualities of earlier ones. This marks the end of the session, as the sixth steep diminishes in flavour.

For a tea that was at least three years old, this sencha performed well. Perhaps due to my unusual brewing parameters, the flavour changed dramatically from steep to steep, generally improving as the session progressed. I’d call this experiment a success!

Flavors: Asparagus, Astringent, Butter, Floral, Freshly Cut Grass, Umami

160 °F / 71 °C 5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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Unfurled young leaves are covered with fine white down; the hair increases the surface area and allows the tea bush to capture moisture from the atmosphere more effectively. The brilliant appearance is complemented by a deep amber colour of the infusion and a complex aroma profile. You can distinguish the spicy notes of cocoa, the sweet fragrance of honey, and a light woody aroma of damp pinewood. To the mouth, the tea is surprisingly smooth and soft, slightly sweet and mildly astringent.

Flavors: Cocoa, Honey, Pine

200 °F / 93 °C 4 min, 30 sec 1 tsp 275 OZ / 8132 ML

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The shape of the dried tips is similar to pine needles, something you don’t see in other black teas. It requires a special craftsmanship to keep this natural shape of the leaves during processing. The liquor has bright red colour, although in direct sunlight it looks almost amber. The tea emits a delightful scent that evokes the sweet aroma of prunes, toasted nuts, and spices.

Read full review in our Summit Tea Party blog: goo.gl/t5LaJB

Flavors: Nuts, Pear, Spices

200 °F / 93 °C 4 min, 30 sec 1 tsp 9 OZ / 275 ML

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