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Recent Tasting Notes
The recommended 6 oz of water is too much for my small gaiwan, so I estimate that I used closer to 5 oz. The dry leaves are loose, whole, and individual; they smell like apricots to me and a touch of dry grass. After the first steep of ~10 sec, the leaves seem more thin and delicate than I was expecting. The brew is a light yellow-green and still smells of fruit and grass to me. My first sip hits off on the fruit side, as I was expecting, and rounds out with a more mellow savory sort of tone. I think I get a tiny hint of jasmine at the front and middle of each sip, but it’s difficult to pin down. There’s not bitterness or sourness, either.
Second steep ~30 sec. Disappointing this time; perhaps I didn’t steep it long enough. The fruit and floral notes disappeared to be replaced by dry grass, although the brew remains sweet.
Third steep ~60 sec. Either these leaves run out really quickly or I’m doing something wrong somehow, despite following the suggestions on steeping for this tea. Now the brew really tastes like water, without a hint of flavor from the tea leaves, except perhaps a bit of sourness.
Flavors: Apricot, Dry Grass, Floral
Here’s another sample sipdown. I go out of my way to try as many Tieguanyin variants as possible. Tieguanyin was the tea that turned me back on to the joys of oolong and has been one of my primary foci ever since. I’ve been impressed with the traditional Tieguanyins Verdant sources from Master Zhang for nearly a year, and while this one was much lighter than last autumn’s offering, I still found it to be a very nice tea.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a 10 second rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 208 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was chased by 12 subsequent infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 12 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, and 3 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted mild aromas of cream, roasted barley, aloe, and violet. After the rinse, I began to detect grass, spice, butter, and a pronounced vegetal scent. The first infusion brought out butter, cinnamon, watercress, and a touch of vanilla bean. In the mouth, I detected cream, butter, aloe, grass, watercress, roasted barley, and cinnamon underscored by touches of vanilla and violet. Subsequent infusions grew both fruitier and more vegetal, as impressions of hay, banana leaf, coriander, jicama, cattail shoots, white grape, green apple, graham cracker, and honey emerged alongside a touch of minerals. Later infusions were mild, grassy, and mostly vegetal, offering a more dominant mineral presence balanced by lingering traces of grass, hay, coriander, cattail shoots, aloe, and jicama, though there were very faint touches of vanilla, cream, green apple, and honey still lurking in the background at points.
Though it wasn’t as grainy and toasty as last autumn’s version, this tea was ridiculously complex. In terms of aroma and flavor, I found it to be very similar to the Spring Traditional Tieguanyin, though in my opinion, this had more to offer overall. Aside from the almost unbelievably complex aroma and flavor profiles, this tea was very lively. It had an immediately refreshing and invigorating energy that it maintained throughout the session. If you are a fan of traditional Tieguanyin variants and don’t mind lighter, subtler flavors, this tea is most definitely worth giving a shot.
Flavors: Butter, Coriander, Cream, Graham, Grain, Grass, Green Apple, Hay, Honey, Lychee, Vanilla, Violet, White Grapes
2016 autumn. Carob. I agree with the reviews pointing out the complexity of the flavors, the various layers and dimensions, it is hard to unravel. I also got the milk-malty-chocolate, toasted rice, walnut, some fruit note and even some kind of liquor flavor, and I can see Verdant’s toasted marshmallow descriptor as valid for me, too. But if I had to sum all of this up: carob. A fascinating experience.
New to tea tasting, started with pu’er, and this is my first tasting with black tea. Seems like I am starting with a really good one.
Long aftertaste that grabs the tongue.
Drank down my sample packet of this today. It’s a lightly roasted tea—floral notes are underscored by vanilla, mineral, and a mild honey sweetness. It’s soft and smooth. No astringency. Very easy to drink, with the rocky mineral water taste of a Wuyi. It was a nice break from the strong flavored teas I’ve been drinking lately.
…I’m thinking that I may need to add more unflavored oolongs to my stash. Verdant has been my go-to in the past, and right now Mandala’s site is down while they relocate (sad day). Anyone have any recommendations?
Flavors: Cream, Floral, Honey, Mineral, Vanilla, Wet Rocks
First time tasting this one, and I’ve been looking forward to it since I got it about 4-5 months ago. Dry leaves smell sweet and grassy, like hay that’s been sun-dried for a couple days. The leaves appear mostly intact, in small spheres.
The first steep, I realize my little gaiwan can’t hold 6 oz of water + 7 g of leaves. Oops. But I catch the scent of honey as I pour the gold liquor into my cup. The first few sips though, all I taste is a tinge of hay and some sweetness. It’s a light flavor and not heavy on the mouth, though I find it warming. The only other thing I noticed as I finish the cup is a slight tingling on the roof of my mouth.
Second steep at about ~15 sec. This time I don’t overfill my gaiwan, probably use about 4-5 oz of water. I catch a hint of caramel mixed in with the hay this time, and the leaves have opened up well. It’s creamier than the first cup and the taste, although still light, is more apparent.
Third steep (maybe ~20 sec)! I smell the honey more strongly now in this cup and I finally figured out how much water will fit (4 oz). The taste is a bit sweeter, but still not much different to it than the first cup that I notice.
Fourth steep (not sure on time… 30-45 sec?). Ah there’s the cream I was looking for, plus a hint of honey in the aftertaste. A longer wait of a few seconds after the sips gives a milky feeling in my mouth (if that makes sense).
Flavors: Cream, Floral, Grass, Hay, Honey, Sweet
My review is for the Autumn 2016 version of this tea.
I found the taste and aroma of this tea very nostalgic. It brings back memories of drinking Nesquik chocolate milk growing up. It’s got a sweet hot chocolate taste with a bit of Ovaltine malt and some honeyed notes. The chocolatey-ness which is characteristic of Laoshan teas manifests itself here as milk chocolate. An interesting contrast to the smokey, cocoa-y bittersweet chocolate notes of classic spring laoshan black.The kid in me loved the chocolate candy flavor of this tea but my adult palette prefers the richer dark chocolate taste profile of regular laoshan black tea. I would recommend brewing this gongfu or grandpa because it has no resteeping power. One 3 minute steep is all it could muster.
Flavors: Candy, Chocolate, Honey, Malt
First steep/sip of 20 seconds reminds me of… earthiness. Like, dry leaves and twigs with some grass in there. Not as roasted as I might imagine. It’s not bad, exactly, but a bit different. Maybe it is a lighter roast and therefore some of the greenness of the oolong is still shining through? It kind of reminds me of some Taiwanese black teas.
It is very smooth and drinkable though. And honestly, though it is different than what I normally like, I am finding it a pretty good offering. There is some drying sensation on the tongue as the session goes along.
Flavors: Drying, Earth, Roasted, Smooth, Wood
I am still new to tea tasting; that’s my disclaimer for the following. I was really looking forward to this tea due to the Verdant description of “pound cake” and “whipped cream” as main flavors. But what I tasted was hands down medicinal. Something in this tastes how an acupuncturist treatment room smells. A kind of acrid and bitter underside to the tea, is it like moxa? Is that camphor? Menthol or wintergreen? It has a coolness about it and engages the nose a lot, as if there were volatiles being released. Chinese medicinal roots. Like chewing on a licorice root. This stood out in the aroma of the steeped leaves as well. Maybe, maybe in steep I tasted some whipped cream, but I also was wanting to taste that from the start, so maybe I was imagining. The texture is smooth and rich with some creaminess.
I have tasted less than 10 shu pu’er so far, and this one was different from all the others, so it was a good experience in showing me new possibilities. However, the upfront medicinal taste (and aftertaste) disqualifies this tea for me in terms of daily drinking. This is a tea I would recommend to taste with friends for a session comparing and contrasting different shu pu’er.
I will be curious to see what other reviews say.
Flavors: Herbs, Medicinal
5g, 170ml Gaiwan, 95C, 30s + 10s per add’l steep
This is a nice, straightforward Tie Guan Yin — leading with a strong aroma of rose petals, paper, a little bit of grass or vegetal brothy aromas, the initial steeps have a round mouthfeel without a lot of the flavors that the aromas promise. In the third and subsequent steeps the flavor starts to open up and this tea starts to show up more floral, round, notes with a little butter and just a hint of astringency on the backend. The aftertaste isn’t terribly long, and it’s quite pleasant.
Overall, a strong showing.
Flavors: Butter, Floral, Grass, Paper, Rose, Vegetable Broth, Vegetal
Short steep gongfu sessions.
I overleafed this in the past, which created a wonderfully (terrible) flavour profile of sour smoke and bitter tobacco wood.
Then I caught on to my mistake and now my cups are full of tangy apricots and cream with hints of pepper, wood (citrusy-pine, eucalyptus) and smoke (savoury-sweet) notes. The aroma of the broth is floral, sweet-sour, and woody. It paired well with a Cobs cinnamon bun- particularly the cream cheese icing.
This is why I try to give teas many chances: the crowkettle error factor.
Edit: I swear I get jasmine from this as well. I’ve been tasting and smelling jasmine everywhere lately though, so who knows.
Really enjoyed this shu pu’er. I think Verdant’s description of this being very savory is spot on, and I am board their descriptors of vanilla pudding and maple syrup. Richness, fullness, and pastry dough, I might add biscuit, Graham cracker. Creamy.
A different Verdant tea that I reviewed—also a 2014 shu pu’er from Qianjiazhai but loose—had an upfront very dark roast almost burnt edge that eventually rounds off. That tea is also very savory and a wonderful experience, but the present shu nuggets give a fuller body I think and have no burnt edge. I think this might be due to the lesser surface area of the nuggets, which slowly open up over several steepings (unlike the loose tea which I couldn’t steep fast enough—pour on and pour off as fast as possible the first few steeps).
At the end of my first session, I found some of the nuggets still had not fully opened, but by that point opening them manually did not offer more than a couple more steeps. So before my second session, I tried using a tea pick to open the nuggets— a bit difficult to do. They are dense, the tea pick easily slips. Thus, I did two rinses, waited 10 minutes, then I was able to use the pick to open them up a bit. I did a third flash rinse and was ready to go. I found that this initial effort allowed the tea to give a fuller first few steeps, and they were so good.
After steep 8, I noticed that the core of the nugget pieces still had not fully opened, and so I went in there with my fingers, gently twisting the pieces and breaking them apart. My next steep was almost like starting a new session and could have even used a flash rinse to clear the new debris. And before breaking open the pieces, my 8th steep was up to two minutes, but after opening the pieces my 9th steep was back to 5 seconds, then 8, 15, 20, etc, so I feel the nuggets allow the tea to get a real second wind.
Flavors: Graham Cracker, Maple Syrup, Pastries, Vanilla
I’ve been drinking tea now quite regularly for roughly 3 years now, and I have to say this one of the most eloquent and delightful black tea I’ve tried yet. The first and most promenent flavor throughout the majority of steepings was chocolate, with notes of light brown sugar. Even at 5 minutes, astringency was minimal, and the bitterness usually associated with black tea was also minimal. I would go into further detail , but sadly I last drank it almost half a year ago. Overall, it’s a tea for those wanting a mellow drink.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Cacao, Creamy, Dark Bittersweet, Honey, Malt
The leaves are small, dark, and compact, with some broken leaves and dust from its excision from a larger cake. (I unfortunately do not have an entire cake, although I do love this tea.) The layers are visible from the side of the chunk and are separated without much difficulty using a pu’er pick. The scent is mostly vanilla to me, with a sweetness that could potentially be the cake flavor the description reads.
First I did a 8 sec rinse, then the first steep was about 15 sec. The color of the brew is a medium red-toned chestnut; it smells much the leaves did. The taste starts off sweet and ends with a thickening (best I can describe it) of the taste, with vanilla throughout. The aftertaste is a pleasant fading of the vanilla, leaving a heavy feel on the back of my tongue.
Second steep of ~30 sec. The taste was much the same, although the heaviness was more apparent. The leaves have now fully broken apart from the clump I first put in the gaiwan.
Third steep of ~60 sec. The taste is more subtle now, and the heaviness lighter. The color of the brew is unchanged however.
Flavors: Cake, Sweet, Vanilla
Another sample Hoalatha sent my way! Had a previous session with it and finishing up the last of the sample today. Dry leaves have a fruity aroma that becomes more mineral once the leaves are wet. The liquor is a nice, clear yellow and the flavor is a well-balanced blend of mineral, vegetal and sweet creamy notes. I get hints of salt, sweet roasted nuts that emerge and fade throughout the session.
The mouthfeel is very smooth and I don’t get any astringency out of any of the steeps. A
hint of creamy sweetness with light sweet florals briefly lingering in the empty cup between each pour.
The flavor profile of this one remains fairly consistent while growing more robust throughout the session. It’s a very mouth filling, super smooth and satisfying green!
Flavors: Beany, Creamy, Mineral, Roasted nuts, Smooth, Sweet
Another green sample from a tea friend. First tea I ever had from Verdant, as I’ve never ordered from them before. I roughly followed their gongfu steeping guidelines.
5g leaf, 80C water to fill the vessel. The leaves of this tea were very dark when dry and quickly became quite green after the first steep. The aroma was enticingly nutty, salty, sweet and roasty, and the yellow liquor was sweet and light in flavor.
This tea had a very nice, mineral saltiness and a sweet nuttiness that developed throughout the session. I’ve only had one other bilochun green before, and I didn’t really like it, but I found this one to be enjoyable!
Flavors: Mineral, Nutty, Roasted, Salty, Sweet
I’m still killing off these oolong samples from Verdant. I forgot I had a few of these. This was one of several special release Tieguanyins from Master Zhang’s collection a couple months ago. It was billed as approximating the aroma of tea flowers.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 208 F water for 6 seconds. This infusion was followed by 13 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were: 9 seconds, 12 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, and 3 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, I detected heavily floral aromas resembling a mixture of chrysanthemum, honeysuckle, gardenia, and tea flower coupled with scents of vanilla, cream, sweetgrass, and a touch of pine. After the rinse, scents of marigold and honey emerged alongside what I can only describe as watercress. The first infusion again produced a heavily floral aroma underscored by vegetal, savory characteristics. In the mouth, I detected a blend of vanilla, cream, butter, honeysuckle, gardenia, tea flower, chrysanthemum, pine needles, watercress, and sweetgrass. Subsequent infusions saw the honey and marigold arrive on the palate, while aromas and flavors of hay, soybean, snow pea, clover, orchid, sweet pea, and minerals expressed themselves at one point or another. The later infusions were mostly savory and vegetal, offering dominant mineral notes balanced by vanilla, cream, butter, honey, pine, watercress, and sweetgrass with just a touch of distant, indistinct floral character in the background.
This was a pleasant, easy-sipping Tieguanyin with a good deal of complexity. It reminded me of a more robust version of the Spring 2016 Tieguanyin, but with significantly more character. What made it so appealing for me was that despite the heaviness of the floral presence, there was enough going on aside from that to keep the tea from coming off as one-dimensional.
Flavors: Butter, Cream, Floral, Gardenias, Grass, Hay, Honey, Honeysuckle, Mineral, Orchid, Peas, Pine, Soybean, Vanilla, Vegetal
Tea drunk alert. I was not expecting or waiting for that, I noticed as I was drinking I started to furiously make a list copying down all of Steepster’s suggested flavors in the drop-down menu, the tea gave me a real buzz, and suddenly I found myself laughing for no apparent reason, giddy, and I think it should be called “tea high” instead of “drunk.” This happened into the third steep, so with 5 grams I had consumed 225 ml in less than 10 minutes, and after that third steep I had to wait almost a half an hour before doing round four.
The aroma of the leaves after two rinses was wonderful: yes, pastry dough or biscuit, an earthiness and accents of vanilla, cocoa, maybe sweet almond, some kind of spice. Taste: my first impression was wow lovely creamy texture with a sweetness and also a burnt edge—in a dark roast kind of way, not unpleasant, like swirling ocean contained by a rocky cliff. As I continued to steep, the creaminess and biscuit aroma persisted as a main trait, the dark roast edge eventually rounded off into the eighth cup, maybe some caramel appeared early on, and graham cracker?? in second steep. Overall, very savory, lovely creamy, 5 grams went past 10 steeps, and got me tea drunk. This is my first tea from Verdant, I bought two samples, and Verdant sent me a free sample as well, thank you!
Update: A second session, that burnt dark roast edge again very present, and because this is loose tea, I can’t steep this fast enough. The first few steeps are flashes—as soon as I pour the water on I am scrambling to pour it off because it steeps so quickly. I think next session I will try steeping with a lower water temp, maybe 200 degrees and see if that takes of that very dark roast almost burnt edge. No tea drunkeness this time, but a nice warming buzz with no jitters.
By the way, Verdant’s Qianjiazhai shu “nuggets” (in another review of mine) does not have that harsh edge even at the start, and I suspect that is due to the nuggets having less surface area and taking several steeps to really open up. Love that tea.
Flavors: Cocoa, Creamy, Graham Cracker, Pastries, Roasted Barley, Vanilla
Gaiwan 150ml, 90C 15s + 15s addl steep
Leading aroma of musty basement, prunes, campfire, brussels sprouts, after the first proper steep the mustiness clears and adds a broth and and mineral aroma. The tea is very pale, light straw. Light pipe tobacco aroma. Flavor of hotdogs(?), campfire, sweet, a little bitter, very light astringency. mouthfeel is brothy. As steeps continue aromas of paper, applesauce, cinnamon appear, and the flavor just gets sweeter and rounder. Never any significant astringency, faint bitterness. The hardwood campfire flavors increase, almost barbecue-like, maybe a touch of fig underneath.
This is a very nice tea, easy to drink, comforting.
Flavors: Apple, Broth, Campfire, Cinnamon, Dried Fruit, Fig, Meat, Mineral, Musty, Paper, Vegetables
I’ve needed to review this tea for a long time. I had quite a bit of it, started it last month, and even logged a review session, but never got around to posting my thoughts. I’ve spent the last couple of days working my way through the majority of the remaining amount (I only have three or four grams left), and I have to say that this is one enjoyable tea.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After an approximately 10 second rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 205 F water for 6 seconds. This infusion was followed by 13 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 8 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, and 3 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted intriguing aromas of cinnamon, wood, camphor, char, and rock sugar. After the rinse, I began to detect aromas of ginger and roasted almond coupled with something of an unexpected creaminess. Verdant described it as resembling creme brulee, but at this point, I was not so sure. The first infusion produced robust aromas of cinnamon, wood, camphor, ginger, roasted almond, cream, char, and rock sugar. I pretty much picked up the same notes in the mouth. Subsequent infusions brought out hazelnut, golden raisin, and minerals on the nose and in the mouth. The creaminess began to most clearly resemble creme brulee around this time. The later infusions were heavy on mineral, wood, roasted almond, and creme brulee impressions underscored by touches of golden raisin, hazelnut, and mild spice.
Like most of the Li Xiangxi teas I have tried, this one peaked quickly and faded just as quickly in order to emphasize the expected Wuyi minerality. Still, it managed to hold it all together admirably. The roast here was just light enough to allow the tea’s natural character to shine through and just noticeable enough to provide balance and depth. Compared to the Rou Gui Medium Roast offered by Verdant Tea, this was a much more pleasant and much more interesting tea overall. Heck, I’m not even that huge of a fan of Rou Gui as a cultivar and I still greatly enjoyed this tea. I would definitely not hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for a more approachable example of Rou Gui or traditional Wuyi oolongs in general.
Flavors: Almond, Camphor, Char, Cinnamon, Cream, Ginger, Hazelnut, Mineral, Raisins, Sugar, Wood
Another one of those reviews I am not going to have a lot of time to write for. I imagine this is going to be a trend for a while, what with deadlines and all.
It tastes like nothing but roast. There might be a bit of hazelnut, but the flavor is mostly roasted almond skin. I can’t tell if this is because it’s not a good tea or if I just don’t have a palate for the roasted oolongs. I am guessing the former, based on the other reviewers.
Alright, I have finally finished off the last of the Verdant aged oolongs I purchased a few months back. I still have the two from Puerhshop plus a bunch of Wuyi and Dan Cong oolongs from Yunnan Sourcing that have been mellowing for awhile. Clearly, I’m going to be going through a lot of tea this year, but let’s get back on track. I mentioned in a previous review that these aged oolongs from Master Zhang have been incredibly hit or miss for me. Count this one as another miss.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a 10 second rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 212 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was followed by 13 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 13 seconds, 16 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. I normally would have conducted a 7 minute infusion to close the session, but I didn’t feel like it tonight.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves produced aromas of ripe berries, must, wood, and flowers. After the rinse, somewhat more distinctive scents of wood, must, blueberry, raspberry, sweet cherry, and marigold presented themselves. The first infusion allowed touches of vanilla and dried chrysanthemum to peek through the mix. In the mouth, I mostly detected notes of cream, must, moist earth, wood, blueberry, raspberry, and sweet cherry chased by hints of vanilla and flowers. Subsequent infusions introduced a mild mineral presence as well as impressions of caramel and golden raisin. This tea seemed to wash out faster than the others. The later infusions were mostly a mellow mix of minerals, wood, earth, and cream underscored by faint hints of berries and flowers.
This aged Tieguanyin was more mellow, more approachable, and less funky than the 1990 version. Unfortunately, its simplistic, yet oddly muddled profile and lack of staying power did little for me. I can say that I’m glad I took the opportunity to try it, but I doubt I will go out of my way for a tea like this in the near future.
Flavors: Blueberry, Caramel, Cherry, Cream, Floral, Musty, Raisins, Raspberry, Vanilla, Wet Earth, Wood