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Recent Tasting Notes
Thanks to Teavivre for the sample.
I use seven pearls (a whole sample pack) per gong fu session with flash infusions. This is twice the amount suggested for gong fu brewing on Teavivre’s website, but I prefer my hongcha to be robust. The pearls are very well compacted and fairly consistent in size, but there are some that are much smaller than the others. A good amount of golden bud material can be seen in the layers of the pearl, much more so than those of Teavana.
I wasn’t expecting much from this tea, but as it turns out, it is actually pretty tasty and okay for lazy drinking. The liquor’s depth is nice, with a malty smoothness, and resounding “pure tea” flavor. The lengxiang (cold scent) in the empty cup is subtle, and has characteristics of roasted barley and cooked sugar. Infusions don’t move past five, though, and even that is pushing it. The aftertaste is weak and slightly drying. There is also a faint soapy flavor right on the opening sip and at the end of the finish and seems to be paired with a slightly oily texture, but it isn’t all that apparent unless focused on it.
Looking at the spent leaves, I notice that some seem over-processed. They are totally black, difficult to unroll, and have a “carbonized” look to them, similar to spent shu pu’ercha leaves.
Finally on to the last of the Spring tea samples from Teavivre. Thank you for these most excellent teas and my apologies for taking so long to write them all up.
Dry this tea has a spinach aroma, and the long thin needles look great. The wet leaf is a mix of honey and vegetal notes. It brews to a golden liquor that is silky smooth and very clean. The liquor is sweet with umami and more vegetal notes. There is a tiny hint of astringency that is expressed more in the aftertaste than in the initial tasting and the aftertaste is cooling on the tongue. Just the job for a Sunday afternoon as I deal with the effects of a little too much red wine the night before.
Flavors: Honey, Spinach, Umami, Vegetal
Free sample from Teavivre. Thank you.
When I opened this packet I was met with a lot of long thin leaves of a darkish hue. The aroma of the dry leaf was like fresh hay that has newly been stored in the barn. Definitely a good smell, then.
I steeped the tea three times in my glass teapot: first for one minute, then two and finally three. The first and second steeps were the best, while by the third steep the tea had definitely faded.
Once steeped, the wet leaves smelt or asparagus, or perhaps that pork chop aroma that I always associate with a good Long Jing. The leaves had lightened to a bright mid-green at this point and the liquor was a pale greenish yellow. When I first started pouring it, I thought it was going to come out almost clear, like my favourite Anji Bai Cha. The dominant flavour was a sweet grassiness and a delicate savoury element, like a lighter Long Jing in many ways. The tea itself was very refreshing and hit the spot beautifully on a warm Summer’s day like today. This is one for the wish list.
Many, many thanks once again to ashmanra for this tea!
I am really enjoying this Golden Monkey! I think it is ever so slightly less sweet than my Harney GM (but the most recent harvest that I’ve tasted of Harney’s GM is less sweet than the previous harvest I had, so it could be the harvest). I also think it’s a little stronger — it’s not going milky on the second steep.
I think this is an incredible bargain (it’s half the price of Harney’s) but I think I do like Harney’s just a wee bit more. $10 more? I am not sure!
This was another one in our mini tea party/tea tasting. I wanted her to try a plain old black tea. I probably should have made her a ceylon or something, but that’s just so boring. Anyway, neither of us were too enthralled and actually dumped out the second steep as there just wasn’t too much going on with this one and a lot more other tea left to drink. But she did make a connection I hadn’t made. The wet leaf smells like, in her words, “what it smells like outside of Full Sail Brewing when you and dad think it smells so good cause they are brewing beer.” And you know what? She was right! That’s exactly what it smells like!
I think our 13 year old is a “super taster.” She doesn’t eat much in the way of variety because the flavors all seem so strong to her. And her sense of smell is crazy. One day I got a big box of tea in the mail and she sat with me as I opened the pouches and smelled them. She (at 13) was saying thing like, “It kind of smells like a mix of hay and raisins,” or “Its got a bit of caramel flavor, but I also smell something really earthy,” while at the same I’m thinking “I smell tea.” But she hasn’t had much interest in actually trying anything that wasn’t a fruity hibiscus tea (yuck). Anyway, she returned home from a trip to Nepal with her mom (I’m her step mom) and told me she really likes Jasmine tea. She knows I drink a ridiculous amount and always laughs when the mailman brings me “another” box of tea in the mail so she asked if I would get her some jasmine tea. I don’t normally drink much jasmine, but I am happy to have someone in the house to drink tea with and something to continue my connection with her as she heads into increasingly tough ages (I hated 13-15).
So today, she and I brewed up small batches of a variety of tea. I bought a few more glass test tube steepers (i just love them) and we made the yunnan full leaf, this, and the laoshan black rose bergamot thing, I’ll look that up later. Regardless, this was the clear winner for her. And surprisingly, it was for me too. The glass test tube steeper let us watch the little pearls unfurl and turn into bright leaves and we had a great time just talking about a variety of topics.
Many, many thanks to ashmanra for this tea!!!!!!
These are very, very delicious black dragon pearls, particularly if you prefer the more leathery/slightly smoky side of things. There’s chocolate and sweetness and grain, but a distinct Queen Catherine-esque type light smoke. It’s distinctive enough to even come through on the second steep.
It was yummy and a great wake up this morning, but boy is it delicious with my red beans and rice with andouille sausage and smoked paprika leftovers I brought for lunch!
I love my uberchocolatey thepuriTea dragon pearls, but these are different enough, believe it or not, that I would stock them both!
Thanks once again, ashmanra!
Longjing isn’t really my thing. I enjoy it on occasion, but I generally find it almost too savory for frequent drinking. Anyway, this one is fantastic. The aroma is very fresh, with strong, sweet, and slightly nutty characteristics. The dry leaves look to be of great quality: bright green, tons of fuzz, with a few pockets here and there sticking to the leaves. Almost entirely of buds, but there are some broken leaves and extraneous materials scattered throughout. All in all, though, very consistent.
I have found this particular version to be somewhat finicky to brew, though I particularly enjoyed it “grandpa style” (if anyone follows MarshalN), with minimal leaves, sipping from an open gaiwan, filling it back up with water once it gets a bit past halfway. Pretty much the traditional style, but I prefer it in a gaiwan instead of a glass. In this way, a clear, light-jade green liquor is produced that is crisp, light, and buttery, with the characteristic Longjing “chestnut” flavor. The aftertaste is sweet, fresh, and induces salivation.
Preparing it gong fu leads to too much umami flavors and an “overly green” taste (if that makes any sense), especially with too high a quantity of leaves. However, depth increases at least three-fold this way. This makes sense, but the level to which it increased was surprising to me. At any rate, this way or grandpa style both provided decent staying power throughout steeps. All in all I was impressed, and I am thankful for an opportunity to sample this tea.
The word “fragrant” in the title does not mislead; indeed, this tea is aromatic in many ways. The small, mostly black dry leaves exude a powerful aroma of citrus, cocoa, and that unmistakable “pure tea” scent. This balanced medley is interestingly persistent and found in the wet leaves, the liquor, and the empty cup/gaiwan lid. The liquor is bisquity and very smooth, with a lively and crisp texture.
Flavors open exponentially, with a slower start upon the cusp of the sip, quickly rising into a strong, full-bodied mouthfeel. While it develops quickly, the complexity is low. However, the depth is remarkable and is enough to lead to a cooling finish in the throat and a lingering aftertaste. In some cases with high amounts of leaf, the finish is drying and somewhat sour, while the general mouthfeel is sharp and slightly metallic. Hence, I have found that small amounts of leaves produce a more balanced, sweet brew, while packing the gaiwan seems to bring out more undesirable qualities, even with flash infusions.
Sweetness is pretty low-key, but after seven or eight steeps, I am able to steep out infusion after infusion of flinty sweet liquor with a simple, slightly malty, “tea” flavor. This ability to go the distance in steeps, its powerful cooling qualities, and its strong fragrance make this a really great Keemun.
Thanks, Teavivre, for the sample.
Backlog from yesterday.
Lately I’ve noticed that if a tea is described as having sweet potato notes, it is likely that I’m not going to love it. This tea is so highly reviewed I was hoping it would be the exception to the rule. Unfortunately, it’s not. I wouldn’t turn down a cup of this, but I also won’t be placing an order for it.
So far from my huge bag of samples from Teavivre, the Golden Monkey is the clear favorite.
I got my big box of samples from Teavivre yesterday. I love that they give two sample packs per sample. That way you can try both brewing methods and there’s no figuring out how much leaf to put in.
I tried this first as it sounded good and I got a bonus sample of it in my order so I have a little extra of this. I really love fujian black teas. This one is no exception. There is just a deep rich flavor to them. I like fruity brisk black teas from time to time in the afternoon, but generally I prefer the Fujian black teas. I can’t wait to try the tan yang and the dragon pearls. It’s going to be a very caffeinated day!
Once again this spring, Teavivre sent a box of amazing samples to try! Thank you, Teavivre!
I have held off on a detailed review of this tea because Huang Shan Mao Feng is one of my favorites, and here is one that purports to be “nonpareil”. I wanted to try it while I could focus on the tea alone, with no food distracting from the flavor.
With food is actually how we usually serve Huang San Mao Feng. The first time I ever tried it, I sipped it by itself and thought it was very mild and was not going to be a good choice with our meal, but I served it anyway and was surprised to discover that it went beautifully with the meal. The tea seemed to change to suit the situation.
With this batch, I put the leaves in my hand as the water heated and I breathed on the leaves again and again, checking them for the light, wafting aroma. At first there was very little, but gradually I began to smell fresh spring plants, and then….smoke. Not like Lapsang smoke, but more like a beloved grandpa was smoking some fine, cherry pipe tobacco and left the room ten minutes ago. So I guess a sweet tobacco aroma is what I was getting.
The liquor is pale. The aroma is soft, but it is mostly the ghost of the scent of buttered steamed veggies and a hint of nuttiness. I did not pick up on any astringency, and though briskness was mentioned I didn’t get that either. There was a mineral flavor that is crisp and clean to me, and I believe that is what makes this tea pair well with food.
When the tea is alone, the mineral flavor serves as the front of the sip and gives way to the mild, fresh vegetable taste and nuttiness. When paired with food, the mineral flavor sweeps away the taste of the food, cleansing your palate and allowing you to taste the gentle freshness of this tea even with the richly seasoned food that is sold here as “Asian food” at the buffets. So while I agree that this one is palate cleansing, to me it seems to accomplish that task through the mineral freshness rather than what I think of as astringency.
The leaves are so pretty after steeping that I had to eat one before drinking the second steep! They look Ike tiny string beans in the basket. There is a bite to the leaf even after two sweepings, and a briskness is definitely present in the leaf itself.
I am most of the way through steep number two. This still has nice flavor. The memory of the leaf I ate is still with me, adding a little kick to this as I sip. This is a mild tea, like my other well loved Huang Shan Mao Fengs, but they present mild versions of delightful flavors that are some of the most desirable flavors of green tea.
Mild, buttered steamed veggies, nutty, soft, the barest hint of astringency if you look for it, and delicious.
Thank you, Teavivre!
I’m enjoying a cup of this one, delicious, light & sweet. It really is tasty with an interesting earthiness & yeastiness to it, like sweet potatoes sprinkled with malt powder, or something like that. The main thing to remember with this tea is to keep the temperature on the lower side, it doesn’t like boiling water as much.
I drank this all afternoon. I went with a gongfu setup:
7G + 4oz porcelain teapot X 5sec (+5 sec for each successive steep)
This made for a very rich brew, malty, with a buttery sweet potato taste, some floral, and that yeasty/cheesy kind of taste. It just gave & gave! 7G was a bit of an overleaf, in retrospect, but it was tasty!
Sipdown # 2 of the day was provided by Angel & TeaVivre. Thank you so much for the opportunity to sample this tasty tasty tea! A slightly floral sweet potato, with a yeasty cheesy kind of tongue thickening quality as well. Very lovely, & definitely on my list of teas to purchase when I make my next TeaVivre order! Delicious!
I’ve been part of a couple of ‘group orders’ recently, including one from TeaVivre, which reminded me that I still have several samples that Angel generously sent me to drink & review. I drank this Tan Yang before, & I think it is the only Tan Yang I’ve had so far…maybe?
The dry leaf is lovely, delicate, & variegated in colors of beige & charcoal, with an amazing aroma that is rich, malty, & floral.
My water kettle & I were temperature challenged this morning. First the water was too hot, so I turned the stove off & walked away for a few minutes, then the temp was too cool, so I turned the kettle back on. Then it was too hot again, so I poured a cup of water & put the thermometer in the cup, blinked & it was too cool again. LOL. BTW, I use a cheap thermometer that I got from target, I think it’s this one.
Right now they are available on Amazon for .98 (plus shipping). They have 7 left in stock. I don’t remember what I paid at Target, but it was very inexpensive & I’ve been very happy with it! I put the stick part of the thermometer right in the hole (the whistler) on my kettle. It works out perfectly!
But I digress (I’ve always wanted to say that, hahaha)
This is an interesting cup of tea, kind of ‘cheesy’ tasting, it kind of reminds me of an aged cheese. I know that sounds weird, but it’s like a rich buttery aged cheese. There’s also a malty yeasty taste too it, & even an almost effervescent beer like feeling in my mouth, with a hops like tingle & slightly bitter undertone. This is an interesting tea, with some interesting taste combination.
This is another lovely sample from Angel @ TeaVivre. Thanks so much!
The aroma of the leaf is very rich & buttery, & once steeped it yields a tasty cup with an essence of sweet potato & a slightly floral high note.
This is one of those teas that has a really rich middle range, with what I can only describe as a “cheesy” taste & feel, as in a fine aged rich cheese. Of course, being allergic to milk, it’s been 30+ years since I actually had any, and it’s taken me awhile to come up with a description of this, but it just hit me as cheesy, so that’s what I’m going with. A nice thick mouth, now I’m thinking yeasty & malty too.
I used to drink a lot of Dragonwell at one time. This one is the classic embodiment of what a Dragonwell should be. The leaves are beautiful, flat, sage green, with a heady aroma of green-ness. They brew into a pale yellow.
The flavor is sweet & green, with a thickness to the mouth. Delicious.
Thank you Angel & TeaVivre for this lovely & generous sample!