The Tao of Tea

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84

Time to make another effort to reduce the number of backlogged reviews. I polished off a one ounce pouch of this tea a couple weeks ago. I found it to be a very respectable, approachable Yunnan black tea.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a very quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose leaf material in 4 ounces of 200 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was chased by 14 subsequent infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry leaf material emitted aromas of honey, cedar, and citrus. After the rinse, I discovered new scents of roasted nuts, wood, cream, and malt. The first proper infusion brought out touches of spice and pine. In the mouth, I found notes of citrus, malt, cream, wood, roasted chestnut, and honey with slight undertones of smoke and chocolate before a mostly nutty, malty finish. Subsequent infusions brought out the cedar and pine in the mouth, as well as clear touches of orange zest and stronger smoke and chocolate flavors. I also began to pick up notes of caramel, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins, dates, bread, minerals, and red apple. The later infusions offered fleeting impressions of bread, malt, and minerals with hints of roasted chestnut and orange zest. There was a brief hit of brown sugar sweetness that lingered on the tongue after the swallow.

For the price, this was a rock solid Yunnan black tea. Though it was not quite as smooth or as sophisticated as some others I have tried, for what this was, it was very nice. I didn’t take notes, but I also brewed this as an iced tea and it was good. I definitely think this could make a very good introduction to Yunnan black teas for those who are curious or a reliably good, consistent budget brew for regular consumption.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Brown Sugar, Caramel, Cedar, Chestnut, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Cream, Dates, Honey, Malt, Mineral, Nutmeg, Orange Zest, Pine, Raisins, Red Apple, Smoke, Wood

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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76

Revising this to add that I finished it and it’s sipdown no. 4 of 2017 (no. 285 total) because the page appears to be broken. The note below was from tasting last week.

When I last got derailed from my serial obsession with tea into some other obsession for a while, I believe I had picked this one as my next “take it to work” tea.

When I started my new job, which isn’t so new anymore (I’ve been there more than 18 months), I started taking a Timolino of green tea to work every day. Then I discovered that the company made Numi teas available in bags, and they had a couple of greens so I got lazy and stopped making the tea before I went into work. Instead, I started making it at work. After a while, I started to get tired of the two greens, then I stopped drinking tea for a while.

Which brings us to yesterday, when I went back to trying to establish the Timolino habit. I think I had had this before but I hadn’t ever written a note about it.

Now, unfortunately, like pretty much all of my tea it is rather far past it’s “tastes best by” date, but I’ve never let that stop me before. The dry leaves range in color from a medium-dark green to a silvery green and they’re geometric and stick like. They remind me of what herbals with lemon grass in them look like. They have a sweet, grassy, almost haylike smell.

The tea is a dark golden color and clear. It has a grassy, sweet aroma.

It tastes pretty much like it smells. Rather refreshing without being too drying in the mouth. It’ll be a pleasant commuting tea for as long as it lasts. I could see buying something like this again, maybe. Hard to know at this point as I don’t ever see myself buying more tea given how much I still have.

Flavors: Grass, Hay, Sweet

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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80

Today was rough. I ended the previous day with a very strong beer (DKML by Founders Brewing Company, a 14.2% abv malt liquor aged in bourbon barrels) and woke up feeling loopy and weak. By the time I took my morning tea, I was feeling even worse. The tea hit my stomach like a very large fist and I ended up nauseated. After a couple unhappy and unproductive hours at the office, I called it a day and went home to recover. To be fair, I think my rough go of it today was more due to the night before and general fatigue though, so I can’t really place all of the blame on this tea. It was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Now, before I go any further, let’s back up a bit. At some point late last year, I started buying up Dan Congs like crazy because I realized I was not very familiar with them. I bought this one, two other Dan Congs, and a roasted oolong blend from The Tao of Tea at the same time. After receiving them, they were all stored in one of my sealed tea totes. I broke open said tote over the weekend and began cleaning it out. I had and still have so much tea on hand that I decided to sort out some stuff to give to friends and family. Pretty soon, I found myself developing a thirst and decided to try this tea on a whim. I had been doing some research on traditional Dan Cong brewing methods anyway and couldn’t wait to try to adapt some of them to my preferred gongfu procedure. Upon opening the bag, however, I was crushed when I discovered that it contained mostly broken Mi Lan Xiang leaves. Soldiering on, I plucked out 8 grams of the most intact leaves, primed my 4 ounce gaiwan, cleaned and primed my cup, rinsed the leaves, and proceeded to brew. The first infusion was only 5 seconds. It was followed by infusions of 7 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted fruity, slightly floral aromas with a hint of woodiness. The rinse allowed me to pick up distinct impressions of honey, wood, damp grass, butter, nectarine, peach, and yuzu. The first infusion brought out vanilla, orchid, and grapefruit pith. There was a hint of nuttiness too. In the mouth, stone fruits, honey, butter, grass, and wood ruled the day, though I could kind of pick out some underlying nutty and floral impressions. Subsequent infusions brought out the vanilla, orchid, yuzu, and grapefruit pith impressions in the mouth. I also began to pick up impressions of roasted almond, chestnut, cashew, cattail shoots, apricot, sour plum, lemon, pomelo, osmanthus, marigold, and petunia. Minerals showed up too, as did something of a muddy, almost clay-like earthiness. The later infusions were earthy, woody, and grassy with a more distinct mineral presence and faint wisps of citrus, roasted nuts, butter, and stone fruits.

Despite the lower-than-expected leaf quality (to be fair, I did purchase this tea very shortly before it went out of stock), this oolong delivered a lot of flavor at a very reasonable price point. The slick soapiness one would generally expect from this type of oolong was there, but it wasn’t all that distracting. It also had a little more staying power than I would have expected. I would almost be willing to bet that a full leaf version of this tea would be amazing. As is, this was rock solid and would make a very nice introduction to the joys of Mi Lan Xiang.

Flavors: Almond, Apricot, Astringent, Butter, Chestnut, Citrus, Earth, Floral, Fruity, Grapefruit, Grass, Lemon Zest, Mineral, Osmanthus, Peach, Plums, Roasted nuts, Vanilla, Vegetal, Wood

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 8 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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40

I think everyone who has been reading my reviews realizes that I have been going to great lengths to finish the green teas I have bought over the past year. This was one of my later acquisitions and I recently bumped it up in the rotation since I tend to like Yunnan Mao Feng green teas. I seem to recall buying this because the price was ridiculously low for an organic tea. That should have tipped me off to the possibility that this may not have been the highest quality organic green tea, but I could not resist. I learned a lesson from that. This was the most boring Mao Feng I have ever had by a long shot.

I stuck with a Western-style preparation for this tea. I simply could not motivate myself to gongfu it. For one thing, most of the leaves were broken, so I figured it would make a mess. Also, it just was not that interesting. I started off by steeping a teaspoon of loose leaf material in approximately 8 ounces of 175 F water for 2 minutes. I then conducted a second infusion at 3 minutes and stopped there.

Prior to infusion, the dry leaf material emitted mildly smoky, grassy aromas with a hint of nuttiness. After infusion, I picked up aromas of hay, smoke, grass, and pine with touches of chestnut and citrus. In the mouth, I mostly picked up fairly weak notes of malt, hay, grass, lemon, chestnut, pine, smoke, and minerals. The second infusion produced a slightly stronger nose with greater citrus, smoke, and pine presences and a touch of indistinct floral quality. The mouth followed suit with stronger chestnut, pine, smoke, malt, and lemon notes to complement a growing minerality and lingering touches of hay and grass. I got a little bit of floral character, but could not place it and quickly gave up trying. I also picked up hints of asparagus and seaweed.

This was a disappointment. I cannot do much more than reiterate that I found this tea to be boring. Actually, I will go a step further and call it unengaging as well. I definitely would not recommend this to anyone looking for a good example of a Yunnan Mao Feng.

Flavors: Asparagus, Chestnut, Floral, Grass, Hay, Lemon, Malt, Mineral, Pine, Seaweed, Smoke

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML
eastkyteaguy

Loudao, I take it you are speaking of the moldy cakes you received from Puerhshop?

eastkyteaguy

I have oddly yet to have a problem from Puerhshop, but I know others who have. You may want to reach out to the owner. My experience suggests that he is pretty good about working with people. As far as regulars go, for me it would be any sort of Li Shan oolong or fresh Baozhong. Those are both like a sunny day in a glass. I also love the Laoshan greens, blacks, and oolongs sold seasonally by Verdant Tea.

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90

This is an absolute morning favourite of mine. I always gaiwan this tea.
It’s beautifully light and refreshing, nice lingering nutty and autumnal notes with a light caramel finish.
Wonderful tea, I normally get about 3-5 infusions with a 2-3 tablespoon serving.

Flavors: Almond, Autumn Leaf Pile, Caramel, Nutty

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 1 min, 45 sec 2 tsp

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45

I really like the idea – to preserve old-growth tea “forests” by harvesting their uniquely-flavored tea leaves. But this was simply not the tea for me, unfortunately. I’ve stated before I’m not much of a black tea drinker, but I do typically like Earl Greys. This one, however, had a far too dry character, and much too little bergamot to be among the few black teas that I enjoy. I hope others like it to keep the preservation project going but I won’t buy it again

Preparation
3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 6 OZ / 177 ML

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75

Backlog/Sipdown

I had this one on Sunday night after coming home from a mini tea trip. I wanted something to drink before my friend had gone home, so we pulled this sample out to finish. We mainly talk about the teas we have and rarely spend too much time writing notes. I find that working something out verbally with another is much easier than writing. We do take brief notes on the tea (I’ll take a lot more when I’m alone), but there’re times when neither of us want to write, so we just enjoy the tea with a vinyl, board games with my wife, or outdoors on a hike. Either way, it is better to share tea with little to no notes, rather than alone with an abundance of notes, I suppose.

Notes: I noted that the tea took a little bit to “open up.” After the third steep, there were hints of “fruit in the aftertaste,” but we were unsure what fruit we were tasting. Finally, we concluded at steep # 7 that throughout the session, the tea became smoky, but less of Lapsang and more of burning cigarette in the distance; while tasting a pear almost immediately on the tongue (which faded just as quickly).

I thought that this was a nice tea and I am grateful to have tried it. Thank you again eastkyteaguy!

eastkyteaguy

No problem. I’m glad it wasn’t just me who thought this took awhile to open up. This was also one of the tightest bricks in terms of compression I have ever seen. When I was breaking it up, none of my picks could find purchase anywhere. I had to tap the pick in and then flake little bits off until I could start breaking off larger chunks. I found this tea both smoky and salty with distinct herbal and black cherry character. It’s definitely a tart, smoky tea and I have no clue how it will develop. I’m hoping it evens out a little. I have the rest of the brick broken up and it’s
aging in one of my cabinets. I plan on trying this again in a couple months.

mrmopar

I agree as to still too young.

S.G. Sanders

It might get pretty interesting after a while, eastkyteaguy.

mrmopar what is a good age for sheng puerh? I believe the youngest I’ve had was a ‘94? I think Liquid Proust had some at a tea party, I’m not sure; could’ve been a shou, too.

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87
drank Lotus by The Tao of Tea
431 tasting notes

This has been my evening tea for the past several days. I bought this one some months ago, but just never made the time to crack it open and try it. By the time I got around to it, I wondered whether or not it had started to fade. Fortunately, this tea lasted very well in storage. It was lively and flavorful in the mouth, demonstrating no obvious signs of age.

I prepared this tea using a two step Western infusion process. Per The Tao of Tea’s recommendation, I used two full teaspoons of loose leaves rather than one. It isn’t actually necessary to use that much, but I found that the additional teaspoon really focuses the already powerful lotus aroma and flavor. Rather than steeping at the recommended 160-170 F, I opted to steep this tea at my usual 175 F because I personally find this temperature to work best for me when I am brewing non-Japanese green teas. Anyway, the first infusion was 2 minutes in 8 ounces of 175 F water. The second infusion was 3 minutes.

Prior to infusion, I noted that this tea emitted a powerful aroma of lotus. It was still there after infusion, though aromas of corn husk, damp grass, hay, and malt from the tea base were apparent. In the mouth, the lotus was quick to make its presence known. By mid-palate, gentler notes of cream, malt, damp grass, corn husk, hay, and straw arrived to provide a semblance of balance. The finish was short, smooth, and packed with creamy, malty, and exotic floral tones. The second infusion was predictably milder and smoother. The grainier, grassier, and maltier notes were more pronounced, though the lotus was still front and center. The only real difference that I noticed was a hint of minerals on the tail end of the finish.

As far as flavored/scented green teas go, this one was quite nice. I especially appreciated that the tea base was just aromatic and flavorful enough to provide some depth and balance. Too often I find that teas of this sort, especially those offered at lower price points, can be painfully one-dimensional. That was not the case with this tea. At the price I paid, it was pretty much a steal. Check this one out if you enjoy floral teas.

Flavors: Corn Husk, Cream, Floral, Grass, Hay, Malt, Mineral, Straw

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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73
drank Black Dragon by The Tao of Tea
308 tasting notes

This is a nice toasted oolong; the kind i mean when I say “Chinese Restaurant Tea”. It is mellow and has some notes of plum when sipping. There is a bit of an aftertaste that is reminiscent of green apple tartness. I think i either need to steep it longer or add more tea. It was a little weaker than I like based on instructions on Tao of Tea site.

Flavors: Plums

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 45 sec 1 tsp 11 OZ / 325 ML

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85

This is a very well rounded and savory Green Tea with a lot of subtle flavor if brewed correctly. It is very smooth almost silky and leaves a wonderful moist aftertaste lacking astringency. I don’t get as much of the “buttery” mouth feel as I have had in other similar Greens which is a little disappointing but the tea is still very satisfying nevertheless. I would purchase this again for sure.

Flavors: Butter, Cucumber, Vegetal

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 4 min, 30 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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81

Another buy from Amazon. I fell in love with green oolongs this past summer after trying some great Oolongs from a fantastic teashop in a small town in British Columbia, Canada- owned by a Taiwanese guy. I’ve been desperately trying to find the same quality of an oolong I got there named “Gao-Shan”. It was $13.50CAD for 100grams, very cheap considering the amazing quality. I tried this Jade Oolong, at about $8.50 for 105grams from Amazon. It was good. I enjoyed it, just not the same amount of deep, floral flavors and soul as the Gao-Shan. I would buy this again, it comes at a very decent price. Still better than the more expensive oolongs I got from Adagio Tea.

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78

Alright, it’s time to celebrate another sipdown. I started working my way through a one ounce sample packet of this tea a couple weeks back, but only managed to finish it a couple days ago. I found this to be a nice green tea for everyday drinking.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a very quick rinse, I steeped approximately 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 175 F water for 10 seconds. I followed this infusion up with 10 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, I picked up on a slightly smoky, grassy aroma from the dry tea leaves. After the rinse, I picked up more clearly defined aromas of grass, corn husk, and smoke. The first infusion produced a similar, though slightly stronger aroma. In the mouth, I was able to detect mild notes of corn husk, hay, grass, wood, malt, and smoke underscored by a hint of minerals. Subsequent infusions saw nutty and fruity qualities emerge. I began to pick up on aromas and flavors of roasted chestnut, hazelnut, tangerine, green apple, honey, and lime zest. Cream and oat notes also began to emerge. Later infusions were very malty and vegetal. I mostly noted aromas and flavors of corn husk, grass, hay, malt, cream, and oats underscored by roasted chestnut, minerals, citrus, and smoke.

This was a solid, approachable Yunnan green tea. It was not the deepest or most complex Yunnan green I have ever tried, but I still found it to be respectable. As mentioned above, I think this would probably work best as an everyday green tea, though I could also see it making a great introduction to Yunnan green teas.

Flavors: Chestnut, Citrus, Corn Husk, Cream, Grass, Green Apple, Hay, Hazelnut, Honey, Lime, Malt, Mineral, Oats, Smoke, Straw, Wood

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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93

This is a tea that I have been meaning to review for a number of months. I bought a one ounce sample of it back in March, but it ended up sitting at the back of one of the upper shelves of my tea cabinet until late October when I finally cracked it open. As I finished other teas, I would occasionally play around with this one. It was not until this week that I got serious about finishing the packet of this tea. I finished the last of it yesterday. After trying it both Western and gongfu style, I found that I enjoyed it both ways. Unfortunately, this tea is now either out of stock or discontinued. I’m not sure which. If I had to guess, I would say that it has been discontinued since The Tao of Tea normally leaves a listing for teas that are either out of stock or out of season on their website, but with this one, I could not find any mention of it anywhere.

For the gongfu session, I quickly rinsed the dry tea leaves and then steeped around 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 205 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was followed by 12 additional infusions. The steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes. For the Western session, I steeped 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 205 F water for 5 minutes. This review will primarily detail the results of the gongfu session, though I will briefly comment on the Western preparation as well.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted strong aromas of juniper, pine, cedar, char, smoke, and cinnamon. Looking over the dry leaves, I could easily tell that this was mostly broken leaf. Initially, I was not certain about the smoke and char aromas. They were very strong. I wondered whether something synthetic may have been added (lower quality lapsang souchongs sometimes have a smoke flavoring added to them in order to make them seem smokier and cover up the aromas and flavors of lower grade tea leaves). The leaves, however, may have just been very heavily smoked. Who knows? After the rinse, the smoke, wood, and char aromas remained oppressively heavy. The cinnamon scent was a little stronger. Prior to the first infusion, this tea’s aroma was still all about the wood, smoke, and char, though the cinnamon was a touch more prevalent. In the mouth, however, things got interesting. It was not all that much like the nose. I mean I could detect very distinct flavors of smoke, pine tar, char, juniper, cedar, and cinnamon, but milder, smoother notes of cream, malt, and toast expressed themselves as being far more prevalent. I even caught a fleeting impression of leather and some kind of fruit. Subsequent infusions saw the tea remain deceptively woody, spicy, and smoky on the nose, though impressions of malt, leather, cream, and toast also began to appear. The mouth continued to display malt, cream, toast, leather, smoke, pine tar, char, cinnamon, juniper, and cedar notes, though it continued to subtly skew ever more toward the smoother flavor components. At this point, the indistinct fruitiness began to put me in mind of a combination of elderberry and dried blueberry. Mild mineral notes also began to appear on the finish. Later infusions saw the mineral character emerge more fully. The nose displayed mild smoke, wood, and spice notes beneath the mineral character, while the mouth continued to display malty, creamy flavors balanced by minerals. I could still detect a little smoke, spice, and dark fruit in the background, but these impressions were fleeting. The Western infusion produced a similarly woody, smoky, spicy nose. In the mouth, I again picked up malt, leather, cream, and toast framed against touches of char, tar, juniper, cinnamon, smoke, and cedar. I did not pick up on the subtle fruitiness I noted in the gongfu session.

I know this tea has not garnered the greatest reviews on Steepster-lapsang souchong very rarely gets much hype on here-but I enjoyed it a great deal. Though looking at the dry leaves will likely quickly confirm one’s suspicion that this is not the highest quality lapsang souchong out there, I absolutely loved the contrast between the nose and the mouth. Going into it, I was expecting a really heavy, smoky tea, but got something much more delicate and refined. That coupled with the fact that I found this tea to admirably withstand a number of different brewing methods moved me to assign it a high score. Regardless of what others may think, I really liked this tea. I could see it going over well with fans of lapsang souchong.

Flavors: Blueberry, Cedar, Char, Cream, Fruity, Leather, Malt, Mineral, Pine, Smoke, Tar, Toast, Wood

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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75

I routinely drink this as a relaxing afternoon tea. It’s definitely not my “go-to” favorite tea in the collection, but it’s a nice change of pace from the dominating amount of flavored blacks I have.
First and second infusions were both at 175F for 4 minutes. I find this tea to be light when steeped for only 1-2.
I don’t really get a smokey flavor out of it. When steeped longer it has a fuller bodied green flavor. It’s floral flavors are reminiscent of spring.

Flavors: Floral, Fruity

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 4 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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73

Very nice savory black with aromatic roses, but no cloying sweetness/unsavory bitterness. Just smooth sipping and aromatherapy.

Flavors: Rose

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 10 OZ / 295 ML

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34

After rummaging through my tea cabinet last night, I decided to finish the last of this tea. I remembered having it before, but was kind of shocked to discover that I had neither finished it nor posted a review. I tried it for the first time last month and had conducted a few sessions with it since then. I also measured out some to send as part of an exchange, but apparently had a little left over. I was so sure I had packaged the rest of it up to send out that I had to do a double take. Not remembering much about this tea, I decided to finish the last of it and get to work on a review.

I prepared this tea using a three step Western infusion process. On The Tao of Tea’s website, they suggested that this tea was good for about 3-4 infusions. I normally do not reinfuse black teas of this type, but decided to take the plunge. I initially steeped 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 190 F water for 3 minutes. I followed this infusion with 4 and 5 minute infusions.

I did not get much of an aroma from the dry tea leaves. After infusion, there was a mildly creamy, slightly nutty malt aroma coupled with vaguely floral and fruity impressions. In the mouth, this tea was very mild. Actually, I will go a step further and say that it was nondescript. There was a creamy, nutty malt note with touches of flowers, honey, blackberry, and plum. The second infusion was a bit stronger and fruitier on the nose and in the mouth. The third infusion was very mild, mostly emphasizing that ubiquitous maltiness.

To be honest, I did not care much for this tea. After finishing the last of it, I realized that there was no wonder I did not remember anything about my previous experiences with it. It was a very generic, bland tea. I suppose it was pleasant in the sense that it was easy to drink. Still, there was not much going on with this one. I felt that it was too simple for its own good. Hopefully, the person receiving that sample gets some enjoyment from it. At the moment, I kind of wish I had chosen to send something else.

Flavors: Blackberry, Cream, Honey, Malt, Nuts, Plums

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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71

I’ve noticed that I have been reviewing more flavored teas and tea blends lately. That’s not a bad thing, but I started posting reviews in an effort to highlight the various unflavored teas that I had been drinking. So, with that in mind, I decided to get back to work on unflavored teas. Expect more straight tea reviews in the near future.

This green tea is what I hope will be the start of me getting back to doing more straight tea reviews. I have been drinking this off and on for the last week. It is a nice tea to unwind with in the afternoon. Since the name really does not tell us much about the tea itself, allow me to state that this is a San Bei Xiang from Ningde in Fujian Province, China.

I prepared this tea using a three step Western infusion. I started with a 2 minute steep in 8 ounces of 170 F water. I followed this infusion with 2 additional infusions at 2.5 minutes and 3 minutes respectively.

Prior to infusion, I noted that the dry tea leaves produced a mild, slightly smoky vegetal aroma. After infusion, the light yellow tea liquor produced a mild, pleasant aroma that reminded me of a combination of pine, grass, hay, straw, and corn husk with a slight floral undertone that reminded me a little of squash blossoms. In the mouth, I picked up notes of grass, hay, straw, pine, smoke, and corn husk. There was a very subtle sweetness on the finish that I couldn’t quite place. The second infusion produced a similarly colored liquor with a simultaneously fruitier and nuttier aroma. In the mouth, I noted more pronounced notes of grass, hay, straw, and corn husk joined by lemon, chestnut, sea salt, and a hint of minerals. The final infusion produced a light yellow liquor with a subtle aroma that put me in mind of a combination of minerals, lemon, sea salt, and corn husk. In the mouth, there were fleeting, indistinct notes of minerals, sea salt, lemon, grass, hay, straw, chestnut, and corn husk.

Prior to trying this tea, I was not familiar with San Bei Xiang. The information provided by the merchant seems to suggest that this is a straight-ahead tea, and I found that to be very accurate. This is not the kind of tea one would really want or need to dig into and analyze. It’s more of a pleasant daily drinker. In that respect, it succeeds quite easily. It is the sort of green tea that doesn’t excite me much, but if I were to be in the mood for something mild, pleasant, and soothing, I could see myself reaching for this one again.

Flavors: Chestnut, Corn Husk, Grass, Hay, Lemon, Mineral, Pine, Salt, Smoke, Squash Blossom, Straw

Preparation
170 °F / 76 °C 2 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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79

This tea brick was produced in Cangyuan, Yunnan for The Tao of Tea in 2011. I’m not sure who pressed this particular brick (perhaps Cangyuan Wa Mountain Tea Factory?), so I cannot really comment much on this tea’s origin. I can say, however, that judging from the extremely tight compression of the brick that this is definitely a machine pressed tea. Most bricks usually are anyway. A further inspection of the brick reveals the presence of numerous tippy leaves, indicating that this is most likely a high quality product.

Prior to really getting into the nuts and bolts of how this tea smelled and tasted over the course of the session, allow me to state that this brick was a total pain to break apart. Due to the aforementioned compression and the small size, I quickly found that neither of my regular knives would do the trick. I had to use the smallest and sharpest of my tea needles, and even then, it still did not break quite as cleanly as I would have preferred. For the record, I probably should have steamed it.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. I almost always prepare pu-erh tea gongfu style. After a 10 second rinse, I allowed the tea to rest for a few minutes. While breaking the brick apart, I managed to stick one of my thumbs with the tea needle and again needed to clean the wound and rebandage anyway. Once I was ready to go, I started by steeping approximately 8 grams of tea in 4 oz/120 ml of 208 F water for 5 seconds. I followed this infusion with 11 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 5 seconds, 7 seconds, 10 seconds, 12 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, and 1 minute.

Prior to the rinse, I noted slight aromas of woodsmoke, sea salt, and pickled seaweed coming from the dry leaf material. The rinse allowed slightly stronger aromas to emerge. The rinsed leaves and the first infusion both produced a pronounced smoky, vegetal aroma with slight fruity undertones. The first infusion produced mild notes of pickled seaweed, pickled vegetables, smoke, and sea salt. The next 4 infusions were milder and fruitier on the nose and in the mouth. I detected integrated flavors of pickled seaweed, pickled vegetables (radish, cabbage, lettuce) pine, smoke, sea salt, tart cherry, crabapple, and unripened pear. The final series of infusions grew gradually smokier and more vegetal, with slight grassy undertones and an ever increasing hint of minerals.

I didn’t find this to be a bad sheng by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn’t really my thing either. It’s a very briny, vegetal, smoky tea, and I generally prefer a somewhat different flavor profile in shengs. The next time I drink this tea, I may lower the brewing temperature a tad. The Tao of Tea recommends a water temperature of 200 F, but I may do 205 F instead. I’m curious to see how it would react.

Flavors: Cherry, Fruity, Grass, Lettuce, Mineral, Pear, Pine, Seaweed, Smoke, Vegetal

Preparation
Boiling 8 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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85

Much better when done right! I enjoyed this tea this morning, using my thermometer and timer and I really enjoyed it.

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 4 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

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85

Produced a strong black tea flavor. I might have slightly scorched the tea though. Overall a very pleasant tea (since I like mine on the strong side anyway).

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 4 min, 45 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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80

Recently retrieved this from the back of my tea cupboard where it has resided tranquilly for 11 years. Brewed in a Pyrex measuring cup and strained into a glass tumbler.

The few leaves that escaped my straining efforts stand at attention at the bottom of the glass like sea-horses. The white-smoke liquor is very slightly cloudy.

Vaguely grassy and floral aroma.

The flavor profile is surprisingly sweet, with wildflower honey, elderflower, possibly lavender among other botanicals. Finish is longer than I remember when this tea was young with lingering hints of cream, chestnut, and hay.

Preparation
170 °F / 76 °C 4 min, 0 sec 3 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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84

So, I have to state right off the bat with this one that this is a unique tea. It is not a typical Earl Grey. Traditionally, Earl Grey comprises a blend of Chinese black teas sprayed with natural bergamot oil. This, on the other hand, is a Vietnamese wild picked black tea that is sprayed with natural bergamot oil. If any of you out there are familiar with The Tao of Tea’s Vietnamese Wild Black (and if you aren’t, I would recommend checking that one out if you are looking for a rustic, woodsy black tea), this is that tea sprayed with bergamot oil. The base of wild Vietnamese black tea gives this Earl Grey an interesting flavor profile that is slightly different from many of the standard Earl Grey blends on the market.

I prepared this tea using a one step Western infusion. Although The Tao of Tea recommends a steep time ranging from 3-5 minutes in 200 F water, I raised the temperature of the water slightly. To prepare this tea for consumption, I steeped 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 205 F water for approximately 5 minutes. As a side note, I have tried temperatures ranging from 200-208 F and steep times ranging from 3-5 minutes with this tea, and all of them have produced consistently strong results.

Prior to infusion, the nose is filled with the unmistakable aroma of bergamot, as well as a slight woodiness. After infusion, the liquor displays aromas of toast, malt, wood, and of course, bergamot. I also thought I detected fleeting impressions of leather and chocolate as well. In the mouth, the bergamot is slightly more subdued than I was expecting. Don’t get me wrong, it is still there, but I was expecting it to be a little more intense. There are also pleasant notes of cream, malt, toast, wood, smoke, leather, and chocolate balancing the bergamot a tad. The bergamot amps up a little more on the finish, but is still more or less balanced, with the other flavors described above still present enough to notice.

I rather like this Earl Grey. It is unique. That being said, however, I don’t think I would reach for it as often if I had a truly exceptional traditional Earl Grey available to me. You see, I quite liked The Tao of Tea’s Vietnamese Wild Black. I am a fan of quirky and/or rustic black teas, and both of those labels fit that tea perfectly. Unfortunately for me, the addition of bergamot oil to the Vietnamese Wild Black base smooths out some of the tea’s inherent quirks-the very quirks I happened to appreciate so much. I suppose that is by design, but I still wish there was a little more of the woodiness of the base showing through in this blend.

Flavors: Bergamot, Chocolate, Cream, Leather, Malt, Smoke, Toast, Wood

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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26

For the past couple of days, I have been taking a break from oolongs in order to spend a little more time on both white and black teas. I’ve been drinking a white Darjeeling from the The Tao of Tea that I found to be absolutely lovely, but I have also been drinking this Ceylonese black tea. It has not impressed me nearly as much.

I tried preparing this tea several different ways. Since the results I got with each preparation did not seem all that different, I ended up sticking with the vendor’s suggested method. I steeped 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 200 F water for 3 minutes. I also tried 4 and 5 minute infusions, but again, they did not seem to be much different. Even though the vendor suggests that one can get 3-4 infusions from 1 teaspoon of this tea, I did not attempt it. One infusion was enough for me. I had no interest in spending more time with this tea than I absolutely had to.

The infused liquor showed a dark, coppery amber in the glass. The nose was very mild. I was just barely able to detect slight aromas of cream, straw, herbs, lemon, leather, wood, and malt. In the mouth, I picked up fleeting sensations of cream, straw, herbs, leather, lemon, malt, toast, wood, and roasted nuts (walnut and hickory). The finish was very clipped and somewhat astringent, offering lingering impressions of toast, roasted nuts, wood, and leather.

I really did not feel like there was all that much to this tea. In terms of aroma and flavor, there is not much there. Also, I found the astringency to be a bit distracting. Furthermore, I found this tea to be very thin-bodied. I normally do not like teas that are very slight and watery in the mouth, and to me, this one is. So, when I look at this tea as a whole, I am left with a thin, bland, astringent tea that does not at all meet my expectations. I loathe giving low scores and poor write-ups, but I felt forced to do so in this instance. Based on my experience, I do not think I would feel comfortable recommending this tea to anyone.

Flavors: Astringent, Cream, Herbs, Leather, Lemon, Malt, Straw, Toast, Walnut, Wood

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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