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Recent Tasting Notes
1 packet (4g) to 300mL water @90C, steeped three minutes twenty seconds.
Dry leaf: darkest green and tight-rolled.Complex aroma: barley, florals, grass, apple.
First infusion. Wet leaf is dark green Some leaves are open; others are still tightly rolled. Pale yellow liquor. Notes of barley, pineapple (?), florals, honey, and something cooling … I want to say camphor, but I;m not sure if that’s right. A balanced and, to me, slightly starting tieguanyin. Lots going on here. I love it.
Yesterday I polished of the last of the Mei Zhan that has been gracing my tea cupboard for awhile. Today I’m working on the Huang Mei Gui. I am a big fan of Li Xianxi’s Oolongs, and Fujian teas in general, so it is no surprise that I’m enjoying cup after cup. I tend to prefer the roastier oolongs over the greener ones, just as I prefer Black tea over green, however there are exceptions all around, and of course, when it comes down to it, I love drinking tea, any variety, as long as it’s of good quality and free of BS flavorings.
I’m currently on the 3rd round, and my overall impressions are Rose & Jasmine (more rose than jasmine), orange peel, charcoal, caramelized stone fruit, and a heady floral incense overall. The corn and taro references were present in the first round, which have gratefully faded, as those were the least desirable features for me personally. This tea leaves a lingering bright sensation in the soft palate, a earthier thick chocolate sensation (not taste) on the tongue, and a decent head buzz. It’s also kind of tangy, which brings to mind an ensemble of double reeds: Bassoons, Oboes, English horn, various woodblocks, some tinkly percussion, a gong, and Guzheng, a chinese Zither, a harp related instrument that I’d like to have someday :) Although I guess I can probably do anything on the harp that can be done on a Guzheng, still…
Here’s a link, if you’d like to hear one. :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujzMHLac404
Dry, this tea has a typical fruit and dry grass white tea scent. It’s appearance is somewhere between bai mu dan and shou mei. It’s a mix of fuzzy white buds, small, rather oxidized leaves, and larger green-brownish red leaves. The warm gaiwan aroma is spicy dry hay.
After the first steep, the leaves smell of spicy radish and the taste of the soup matches. Wow, much different than I expected. It’s deep and super interesting. There’s a long aftertaste of the aforementioned radish and something citrusy. The liquor is a gorgeous, completely clear pale yellow.
3 or 4 steeps in, we’ve got a thick, brothy root vegetable soup going. It’s savory with a crisp sweet vegetable and citrus note. The viscosity is really impressive.
From here on out, the tea liquor remains tasty but fades gradually in flavor. I got 9 or 10 satisfying steeps out my 3.5g. I think this tea’s a pretty good value. Would recommend.
For a key to my rating scale, check out my bio.
A really delicious tieguanyin. Perfectly roasted, velvety mouthfeel, medium viscosity. Dried apple, caramel, and raisins (plus that classic “tieguanyin tang”) in the body, with unripe cherries and sweet cranberry juice in the finish. Flavor completely disappeared by the fifth infusion which was disappointing, but up to that point I was in love with the tea. An excellent daily drinker and a relatively uncommon flavor profile for a tieguanyin.
Flavors: Apple, banana, Butter, Caramel, Cherry, Cranberry, Floral, Osmanthus, Raisins, Roasted, Smooth, Tropical, Vanilla
Started off with a 5s wash.
Steep times were: 5s, 8s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s
First steep has hints of black currant, nuttyness, and other fruity hints. It also has that traditional ‘oolong’ taste which I honestly don’t know how to explain. First steep is also overall mild. There is a tad bit of a slight tartness at the back of the tongue, which is really enjoyable.
Second steep, carries on from the first with a bit more sweetness and tartyness present. It’s a great combination.
Third Steep, same as second.
Fourth steep, a little bit of a floral taste now added to it.
Rest of the steeps kept the consistency from the fourth steep, but lowered in intensity.
A decent oolong in my opinion. For a really good tea session, requires quite a bit of leaves and potentially a bit longer steeping times.
Flavors: Black Currant, Floral, Fruity, Nutty, Roasted, Tart
Alright, this respiratory infection has got to go. At first I thought it was just a run-of-the mill sinus infection, the kind I get around this time every year, but no, it had to be something more. Now it’s day six and I’m done with feeling miserable. I decided to break out some sheng and hopefully move on with my life. Before I formally go about introducing the denizens of Steepster world to my impressions of this tea, however, I am going to devote a little time to an issue that seems to weigh on a number of folks in such a way that it brings out the worst.
This seems to be the time of year when people get riled up over statements concerning the age of a bunch of trees in a distant land. I understand and share this concern, at least to a certain extent. Do I think this mao cha actually comes from 800 year old trees? No, I don’t. Seeing as how I am most certainly not an expert, have never seen the trees, and possess no actual scientific data backing up the age statement, I have no reason to believe the veracity of such a claim. I could be wrong, but I still remain skeptical. How much do I care about the claim itself? I’m not really sure yet. Clearly my doubts did not prevent me from buying this tea. To be honest, I don’t feel suckered and don’t regret purchasing it in the least. I saw it as a product on the market that I could purchase and review, and anyone remotely familiar with my proclivities should know how near and dear to my heart reviewing stuff lies. It’s kind of what I do. Also, we are all aware that our beloved tea world is filled with falsehoods, especially the nether regions occupied by pu’erh and similar teas. Teas are often deliberately or unintentionally mislabeled, misnamed, misdated, and otherwise misrepresented. The degree to which piracy and other such tomfoolery runs rampant is truly impossible to accurately determine. We should all know this by now. Believe me when I say that if some of you get upset (and not entirely unreasonably I may add) by what you see as potentially dishonest, or perhaps we should still give the benefit of the doubt and say intentionally naive, marketing on the part of one vendor who currently seems to be quite popular, you have probably either excused it or just not noticed it elsewhere. I could be wrong, but I would just about guarantee it because it doesn’t only happen with tea. If I can now offer a point to all of this medicine-headed rambling, I would offer this one: ranting about it on a discussion board is probably neither going to change the business nor the buying habits and preferences of one’s online peers. At the end of the day, does it really matter how old the trees are? Can a tea not still be enjoyable even if it is misrepresented in some way? Do we really need to continue piling on certain vendors who have a habit of making such claims? In situations like this one, I kind of can’t help thinking that all we can do is express our doubts, either try the tea or avoid it, and move on with our lives. Oh, and for the record, I do not think that deciding to buy a product whose marketing is more than a bit fishy can always be reliably boiled down to some sort of moral deficiency on the part of individual buyers or to lack of knowledge and experience. So many of these exchanges prove unproductive when the primary position of one side can be reduced to wondering “why don’t all of these other people feel like me with regard to this issue? What’s wrong with them?” Maybe it really is not a matter of people who choose to purchase such products being morally lacking compared to you. Maybe they are just curious and/or see themselves as giving something controversial a fair shake and then share their thoughts with the rest of the world to provide a balanced perspective. That, in and of itself, can be valuable too.
Enough of that. I prepared this tea gongfu style. After the rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 205 F water for 5 seconds. I followed this up with infusions of 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 gave off muted, musty aromas of tulsi, straw, and citrus. After the rinse, I noted that the citrus aroma grew more powerful. I could not quite place it though. I also started to pick up on flowers and honey. The first infusion produced a nearly identical bouquet. In the mouth, I was able to detect mild notes of brine, straw, tulsi, lemon and honey with a slight minty note on the finish. Subsequent infusions introduced impressions of bitter orange peel, jasmine, and osmanthus while the menthol note on the finish turned into a distinct impression of wintergreen. They weren’t kidding about that. I kept waiting for the apricot to show up in a big way, but I only started to catch a subtle hint of it around the seventh or eighth infusion. I also started getting a sharp, chalky mineral presence on the finish. Later infusions were thin, but still had a little life to them. The dominant notes were of minerals, lemon, bitter orange peel, and tulsi balanced by cooling notes of wintergreen and apricot. Bizarrely enough, I thought I just barely detected a fleeting note of lemongrass at this point, but it may have been me.
Though I wish the floral aromas and flavors stuck around longer, this ended up being the type of sheng that appealed to me. On the rare occasions I decide to drink sheng, I often go looking for teas with some combination of spicy, herbal, and citrusy notes. This tea had all of that. The fleeting floral impressions and the pronounced honey tones just added more appeal for me. I’m sure the fact that it soothed my aching throat while greatly reminding me of a milder version of the honey menthol cough drops I have been wolfing down for the past 3 days only strengthened its appeal. All in all, this one got over with me, dubious claims and all.
Flavors: Apricot, Honey, Jasmine, Lemon, Menthol, Mineral, Orange, Osmanthus, Straw, Tulsi
Continuing my plow-through of Verdant offerings, I came to this green tea that I totally forgot I still had. I recall buying this one right before it went out of stock, but apparently ended up stashing it away and forgetting about it until last week. When I first tried it, I wasn’t impressed and feared that it was losing its character, so I ended up trying to rejuvenate it a bit. I did this by transferring the tea from a sealed bag to a metal tea canister that I then tucked into the back of one of the tea cabinets. I live in an old, drafty house in a very humid environment with variable daily temperatures and have found that sometimes when I switch tea from a tightly sealed container to a loosely sealed container, the exposure to minute amounts of air and humidity cause seemingly faded or slumbering teas to open up once more. Fortunately, that little experiment worked here.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. In my medicated state, I ended up not rinsing for some reason. Oh well. At least the medication seems to be reducing some of the congestion and inflammation. I started off by steeping 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 175 F water for 10 seconds. I followed this up with infusions of 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 first infusion, the dry leaf aroma was very fruity and floral. To me, it resembled a mixture of elderflower, tangerine, and lemon zest, though I could also detect a little corn husk and hay. After the first infusion, I detected stronger, more balanced aromas of tangerine, lemon zest, corn husk, elderflower, and hay underscored by grass and cream. In the mouth, the tea offered strong notes of elderflower, lemon zest, corn husk, grass, hay, and tangerine balanced by subtle creaminess before a fruity, floral, and slightly astringent finish. Subsequent infusions brought out undertones of napa cabbage, mango, peach, rose, and violet. Oddly, the finish did not soften, remaining somewhat astringent and biting throughout. Later infusions were more subdued, but were still relatively bright, floral, and citrusy with grassy, vegetal undertones and a hint of minerals.
This did not strike me as being a bad tea, but it also was not the sort of green tea I typically enjoy. As Chinese green teas go, it was a little too astringent for my liking. This quality was most likely the result of a substantial number of broken leaves included amongst the whole leaves. Even though I could see a number of similarities between this tea and Xingyang’s Yunnan Strand Green Tea (an offering I greatly enjoyed), this tea was less balanced, more forceful in character, and less approachable. I could see those who are looking for a fruity and/or floral green tea digging this one, but to me, it was a little much. Overall, it came off as commendable in certain respects and flawed in others.
Flavors: Astringent, Biting, Citrusy, Corn Husk, Cream, Floral, Grass, Hay, Mango, Mineral, Peach, Rose, Vegetal, Violet
This blasted sinus infection is starting to ease up a tad. What was supposed to be a pleasant, restful weekend ended up being a total nightmare. In order to celebrate the early signs of recovery, I broke out this aged Mao Xie.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. I kept my rinse very quick this time around. The first infusion was 5 grams of leaf in 4 ounces of 212 F water. I followed this infusion up with 12 subsequent 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, and 3 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves gave off pleasant aromas of blackberry, elderberry, prune, and raisin underscored by vanilla. After the rinse, the bouquet remained very fruity, though the vanilla presence was slightly amplified. There was some sort of woody spice and a bit of extremely ripe blueberry. The first infusion produced a similar bouquet with even more intense blueberry and spice aromas. In the mouth, however, things got interesting. The expected notes of elderberry, blueberry, blackberry, raisin, and prune were all there, but the vanilla note was more pronounced than anticipated. There were other notes too, namely coffee, cinnamon, and birch bark, that the nose did not do much to reveal. Subsequent infusions quickly saw the tea’s fruity character mellow and the tea’s spicier characteristics increase their presence. For me, the vanilla character remained consistent, providing some balance and depth. Though Verdant’s tasting notes mentioned notes of toasted rice, I did not pick up anything like that initially, but then less than halfway through this session, there it was. Later infusions retained elements of the tea’s spicy, fruity, and vanilla-laden character as a rather pronounced mineral presence took hold. A faint coffee presence remained in the background as did impressions of toasted rice and a very indistinct fruitiness. A slight vegetal note resembling cooked kale made its presence known at this point as well.
This oolong will likely not be for everyone, but I greatly enjoyed it. Part of me was a little surprised by that because my admittedly limited experience with aged oolongs suggests that they are not up my alley, but then again, I am a huge fan of the Mao Xie cultivar. Where I find Tieguanyin to be smooth, Ben Shan to be pleasantly balanced, and Huang Jin Gui to be sweetly floral, I find Mao Xie to be highly variable and intensely quirky. No two ever strike me as being much alike. I’m not certain how this particular tea compares to some of the other aged Mao Xies on the market, but I do know that I would feel confident recommending it to adventurous oolong drinkers, especially those already open to the unique charms of this cultivar.
Flavors: Blackberry, Blueberry, Cinnamon, Coffee, Fruity, Kale, Mineral, Raisins, Spicy, Toasted Rice, Vanilla
Here we have another sample I held on to for some time. Prior to today, I seemed to always be looking for the right time to try it. This most certainly should not have been the day. The frequent changes in weather patterns here finally caused me to crash last night. I had a stressful week and ended up skimping on sleep for a couple days, so by Friday I was feeling pretty terrible. Saturday then rolled around, the weather stayed warm, and while talking to a friend, I just went down for the count. Nausea, coughing, uncontrollable shaking, intense pain, muscle spasms, sweating, chills, and a splitting headache all hit at once. I’ve been barely functional at best today and have already decided to skip work tomorrow. I’ll warn you all in advance: it will be a green tea and pajamas kind of day. Back on track, a day of coughing up phlegm seemed like it might require a tea with deep honey notes, so I ended up at last finding a suitable reason to break out this sample. The circumstances were far from ideal, however, as I had difficulty maintaining focus while I sessioned this and had to rely on a nose and palate that were not functioning at optimal levels. All of this goes to say that readers should take this review with a couple more grains of salt than usual.
I gongfued this tea. After the rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 190 F water for 5 seconds. I followed this infusion with 11 subsequent infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 8 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 30 seconds, 45 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes. I did not even remotely follow Verdant’s gongfu guide for this tea. I can’t quite recall my rationale for why I chose the methodology I did, but I think it had something to do with a different leaf to water ratio. I will go ahead and admit that I did not find this approach to do this tea justice and will be assigning a numerical score with the deficiencies of the brewing method and my own personal unreliability at the time of the session in mind.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves gave off robust aromas of smoke, honey, and wood. After the rinse, the aromas of smoke, honey, and wood intensified and were joined by subtle impressions of vanilla bean and malt. The first infusion produced a similar bouquet that saw the aromas of vanilla bean and malt swell, as well as the emergence of baked bread. In the mouth, I picked up thin notes of wildflower honey, wood, smoke, malt, and vanilla bean before a nutty, bready finish. Subsequent infusions saw the tea grow smoother and thicker, offering more pronounced impressions of honey, vanilla bean, malt, and bread all around. At this point the nuttiness emerged more fully, taking on the character of roasted almonds. I also finally began to note the expected Wuyi minerality toward the finish. Later infusions saw the return of smoke and wood, as well as the increasing dominance of minerals. When I really forced myself to focus, I could still detect hints of honey, malt, and bread.
This was not a complex or long-lasting tea, but my impression of it may be warped due to conducting the review session while sick. I will say, however, that I appreciated it’s texture. I found it very soothing. I also liked the pronounced honey notes it offered during its brief peak. To be sure, I found this to be a nice tea, but I wish I would have held off on sampling it until I was better able to do it justice.
Flavors: Almond, Baked Bread, Honey, Malt, Mineral, Vanilla, Wood
For a key to my rating scale, check out my bio.
A great daily drinker, very interesting combination of flavors. Much more woody spiciness than most black teas, along with a distinct but subtle peat smoke note (like Islay scotch). Prunes, dried cherries, and dark chocolate are also present, but I would call this mostly a woody / spicy black. Enjoyable and quite affordable at $0.18/g USD.
Flavors: Cherry, Dark Chocolate, Peat, Smoke, Spicy, Wood
Sample generously provided by one of my tea pals, thanks S! I rinsed it twice since I found what looked like a hair from a black curly-haired forest monkey.
Ignoring dubious claims of age which caused a storm on this site last year, this tea was really very odd. Tart and bitter at the start of the sip, morphing into something almost meat-like (chicken soup) with a mushroomy sweetness and a bit of black olive. I don’t think I can recommend it but I’m glad I tried it.
This tea responds well to a firm hand. I steeped 12g in 160ml for 40 seconds and it delivered a heavenly elixir that was bursting with kuwei, huigans, a long-lasting cane sugar sweetness, and the most potent cha qi that I have ever experienced. Do not operate heavy machinery after drinking this tea!
My grandfather had a herd of black and white pigs. Their pen was located beside a large patch of bamboo. When it rained, the scent of the livestock and the scent of the bamboo combined to form something that this tea reminded me of.
February tea of the month club has sent me this tea, and for my second tasting of the day we have the big red robe tienguanyin. I started by doing a quick rinse to open up the tea leaves. I decided to sip the wash to see what I was in for, and even at this stage it was interesting, smokey, caramel, and a slight bit of astringency.
I brewed this in my yixing pot and steeped it for a bit over 30 seconds, to let it get a good proper infusion. I got a clear medium brown liquor, very similiar to what you would see with a big red robe tea. A smokey sweet aroma was the first thing I noticed when lifting and taking in a bit of aroma on the lid. The taste was just absolutely stunning, sweet, smokey, astringent and just this powerful sensation of caramel. I was incredibly impressed by this tea.
The second infusion was just slightly stronger but not overly so, and also produced a clear medium brown liquor and in none of these steepings, even the wash was there much dust coming out of it. There was also no bitterness just that light mouth watering astringency on the back of the tongue along with a slight sensation of coolness which Ive only ever gotten on really good big red robe tea.
In conclusion this reminds me more of big red robe than tieguanyin though I havent had a lot of experience with either, but I do know that I like it, now you will have to excuse me while I go steep another helping.
Ps Im getting more of the fruity flavors mentioned in the description in later steepings, but my inexperience with both TGY and BRR is showing, and I cant quite place it.
Highly recommended for fans of big red robe!
Flavors: Astringent, Caramel, Smoke, Sweet
Going with 3-4g, 200F, 90ml.
Started off with a 5s wash. The aroma post wash was wonderful!
lychee, apple, apple wood, lemon, pear, prune, and a roasted smell (when smelling the leaves directly) come about. I would reckon this to be my first true ‘fruity’ tea (when excluding herbal teas)
Larger leaves, so gotta steep slow.
After going through several steeps, I would have to say the taste profile was just like the wash aroma, but I would reckon it to be a tad more ‘bitter’. I did not detect any profound changes in flavour, just reduction in intensity as the further steeps were reached.
One nice, or perhaps bad depending on your perspective, of this tea is the aftertaste. The aftertaste maintains the fruityness of the tea itself, and it lingers for quite a long duration.
Due to the physical properties of the tea, I do not recommend gongfu’ing this tea with a lower amount of tea leaves like the 3g that I did. Normally this isn’t too much of a big deal, but your tea experience will suffer if you skimp out on tea leaf amount. I settled for 3g because that was the last of the tea that I had remaining.
Flavors: Apple, Apricot, Green Apple, Lemon, Lychee, Pear, Roasted
This review is for 2013 3 year aged shou mei (white)
Ordered this for two reasons. a) I needed to buy something else to qualify for free shipping and I enjoy white teas, and b) the leaves looked really pretty.
Steep 1: 250 mL, 85 deg C water, 1.5 tsp leaf, 3 minutes
Absolutly delicious! The tea is very flavourful. Notes of sweetness, verrry smooth. No bitterness, astringency, drying effects, or other unpleasant flavours/mouth feels. Everything about it is very pleasant. I would describe the flavour as similar to steamed soybeans and a mouthfeel of genmaicha (without the toasted grain flavour)
Steep 2: 250 mL, 92 deg C water, 1.5 minute
Even sweeter, steamed tea flavour, very flavourful, pleasant and thick mouthfeel with a sweet finish
Steep 3: 250 mL, 70 deg C water, 4 minute
Thick sweet liquor, not grassy or plant-y, but tastes like white tea. In the description for this tea it says the aging tones down the greener flavour, which is accurate IMO. It also describes the flavour as very fruity, I wouldn’t say I taste anything fruity.
Flavors: Soybean, Sweet, Tannin, Tea
Got this one as a sample.
Going with 5g, 90ml, at around 200F
The aroma post-wash smells like butter and corn and … roasted corn.
Steep times were as follows: 5s, 8s, 12s, 30s
First steep. A bit faint, but tastes like corn and butter.
Second steep. A bit more of a ‘roasted’ flavor than before. Still smooth and keeps a similar taste profile as the first steep.
Third steep. Taste is constant but it’s faint overall. A bit of a vegetal flavor now.
Fourth steep. Tastes like the previous.
I’m not a fan of the taste so I will not proceed past this. Overall the tea is on the lighter side of things and can be considered to be ‘smooth’. I wouldn’t consider it creamy though. Easy enough to brew gongfu style.
Flavors: Butter, Corn Husk, Roasted, Vegetal