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Recent Tasting Notes
Here is yet another backlogged review. I finished a sample of this oolong last month (on October 30th, to be exact). This tea was part of the experimental Tieguanyin series Master Zhang first released through Verdant in the autumn of 2016. Prior to trying this tea, I had tried three of the other teas in this series and found two of them very enjoyable. With that in mind, I was somewhat eager to see how this one stacked up to the others. Overall, I found it to be a respectable tea, but I have had more enjoyable traditionally-styled Tieguanyins over the course of the year.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. I started with Verdant Tea’s recommended brewing guidelines and then modified them to fit my preferred approach. 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 chased by 14 subsequent infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 9 seconds, 12 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.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of cedar, roasted grain, and light char. The rinse brought out scents of flowers, spices, and toasted rice. The first infusion introduced clearer hints of violet and saffron on the nose. In the mouth, I discovered mild notes of toasted grain, toasted rice, and cedar accompanied by hints of violet and saffron in a tea liquor that was smooth, creamy, and somewhat buttery. There was a pronounced sweetness and grittiness to the aftertaste. The subsequent infusions brought out impressions of watercress, caramel, minerals, orange peel, cream, butter, and darker fruits like blueberry and/or raspberry. The sweetness and grittiness of the aftertaste remained and began to remind me a bit of ginseng. There were also some muddy vegetal notes that reminded me of both damp grass and cattail shoots. The later infusions surprisingly introduced a hint of marshmallow, but were otherwise mostly dominated by notes of cedar, cream, damp grass, toasted grain, butter, and minerals that were chased by subtler impressions of cattail shoots and watercress.
Not a terrible tea, but also showcasing a rather muddled and awkward combination of aromas and flavors, this was not one of my favorite traditional Tieguanyins of 2016 or 2017. That being said, I can see why some people would flip over it. It was challenging and complex, yet never came close to being overwhelming. The roast was also very artfully applied. It came across as restrained and subtle while creating some necessary contrasts with the tea’s more floral, fruity, and vegetal properties. Honestly, there wasn’t a ton wrong with this tea, and I’m likely being a bit hypercritical in my evaluation, but it just didn’t strike me as being quite on par with some of Verdant’s similar offerings.
Flavors: Blueberry, Butter, Caramel, Cedar, Char, Cream, Grain, Grass, Herbs, Marshmallow, Mineral, Orange, Raspberry, Saffron, Toasted Rice, Vegetal, Violet
Intense dry aroma. Hints of chrysanthum and a little peppery. The color is a pale gold. The intensity of this tea is quite good. I kept going back to it, i could not get enough. It is very good. I iced the second brewing and it was very nice. A decent greener oolong from Anxi that is reasonably priced. i will purchase this again.
Flavors: Floral, Flowers, Green
This tea is perplexing. Deep amber color, fine quality rolled leaf. The nose is intense sweet potato pie with all the spices that go along with it. The flavor is the same. While I admire the intensity of this and I imagine there are folks that would really like it. it is not my cup of tea. I recommend this if you like the flavor profile.
Flavors: Natural Pumpkin Spice Flavor, Sweet Potatoes
(Gaiwan; 5g/100ml/208/wash then 5sec +3 per instructions)
Dry leaves have sweet raisin & roasty aroma. Wet leaves after wash bring out light tobacco notes. First steep (5 sec) was a lovely dark golden color and sweet toasted aroma. Flavor is almost like black tea with its oxidation & dryness. Some cocoa notes at the end. Second steep (10 sec) lost the dryness and smoothed out nicely, with earthy, sweeter flavors of raisin & unsweetened cocoa coming in more. Steeps 3 & 4 (12 & 15 sec) stayed consistent. Steeps 5-7 (20, 30, & 60 sec) gradually washed out in flavor, though tea remained pleasantly smooth, sweet, and earthy. After 7 infusions, dropped leaves in about 8 oz for cold brew.
While offering to share a pot of Black Dragon Pearl with a friend who’s enjoyed many fine pots of home-roasted coffee with me, I said, “I don’t have any coffee right now”. Her response was, “I feel like I don’t even know you anymore”.
I feel the same way. I’ve sought, found, roasted and brewed some of the finest coffees in the world, and still have more than 2 kilos of sought-after beans waiting to be roasted. But TEA…so many exotic options. With the sheer number of variations of every leaf, harvest, storage and prep method, I just got lost.
But no more! I am roasting a batch of Maui Select, from the Ka’anapali Estate Coffee located on the West Maui Mountains near the historic town of Lahaina. Now. Today. I mean, as soon as I finish this pot of Laoshan Black from Verdant Tea.
From the Autumn 2016 He Family Collection, this tea is enough to stop anyone in their tracks. Its subtle hints of brown sugar and dark chocolate only increase as the cup begins to cool. The delicate looking dry leaves unfurled while steeping to reveal large black leaves 20x their original size. It’s obvious a great deal of care was taken getting this from the tree to my cup.
I wish I’d ordered more. Every sip is a treat, and it’s just one of 50+ reasons in my cabinet it’s easy to forget to roast coffee.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Caramel, Dark Chocolate
Backlogged review. Another stellar Laoshan green from Verdant. This one sat in my fridge for 4 months before opening yet still tasted amazingly fresh and packed quite a punch. I love how potent these Laoshan teas are.
Dry leaf has a sumptuous aroma of soybeans and creamed spinach. The brewed tea is rich and vegetal. It’s got the signature soymilk flavor that’s characteristic of Laoshan green teas with slight floral hints and anise. Toasted grains appear in the second steeping along with some brothiness. Later steeps have notes of green bean and a little saffron.
A delicious tea for sure, but to my palate didn’t taste very different from their regular grade green tea.
Flavors: Anise, Cream, Green Beans, Soybean, Spinach
I never thought I tea could remind me of chocolate, but this does just that. It is like a dark chocolate in liquid form. It didn’t have the bitterness I expect from something with a dark chocolate taste, and it doesn’t seem to have a full flavor profile.
Flavors: Cocoa, Dark Chocolate, Earth, Sweet
Though I have seen others’ images of blossoming teas, I had never actually experienced their beauty in person until we tried this one. We used a clear teapot so we could see the flower open up, and we actually removed the lid after a couple minutes so we could smell the aroma being released, as well. This tea was both aesthetically pleasing and delicious. It wasn’t super strong, which can be nice sometimes, but it packed a very full, floral taste.
Flavors: Earth, Floral
(5g/4 oz/208/10 sec +5)
Dry leaves smell sweet & vegetal. (5 second wash.) Wet leaves bring out a little more spinach/kale, and more sweetness. Brewed gongfu, 5g in 5 oz water just off boiling for 10 seconds, adding 5 seconds each infusion after. Steeps 1-4: pale yellow color, sweet & buttery aroma. Taste is delicately floral, a little creamy, and lightly sweet. Not much green vegetable taste at all, though the smell of the wet leaves at first suggests this. Very pleasant overall, very smooth with not a hint of dryness or astringency for the first several infusions. Sweetness gradually diminishes but florals become more prominent. A bit of dryness & astringency just barely start at around 5th steep. 5-6 begin to suggest an acidic fruit in the aftertaste, like peach? After 6, still smooth, creamy, and very floral. Placed leaves in 8 oz water for cold brew.
Update: Cold brew is good. Rather than florals, the flavors are more of green grass (but pleasantly so).
(5g/4 oz/205/10 sec +5)
Really enjoyed this. I’m still an oolong newbie, but I keep reading/hearing that many oolongs don’t fully wake up and reveal their flavors for at least an infusion or two. Definitely the case here for me. The dry leaves smelled toasty & a little sweet. Did a rinse, then brewed 5g in 5 oz in just-off-boiling water for 5 seconds. The color was very pale yellow. Flavor was faintly sweet, a little toasty, with a woodsy & dry effect at the end. It also tasted fairly diluted, so this infusion seemed more like a second wash.
For the 2nd-4th steeps, I reduced the water to 4 oz & started with 10 seconds, adding 5 each time after. The sweet & floral aromas & flavors really started to jump out in the second steep and increased each time after. Each infusion also became smoother, and notes of hay or sweet grasses came out in the third, and some mineral in the fourth. By the fourth I was thinking that it just tasted “yellow” – golden honey, dandelion, hay – and sunny. And the wet leaves between infusions smelled heavenly!
I’m sure there’s a lot more in these leaves, so when I ran out of time after 4 steeps, I put them in 12 oz water to cold brew overnight. Hope to get few more infusions still.
Update: Cold brewed in 12 oz overnight after initial 4 steeps. Flavor is a little muted compared to hot, but still good.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with this oolong, it’s just relatively unexceptional considering the price. Fairly malty, slightly fruity, low floral, low sweetness, low acidity, not much else going on. Good but underwhelming.
Flavors: Fruity, Malt, Wood