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Recent Tasting Notes
This is a belated review of the 2016 harvest of this tea.
I’m having trouble formulating a thoughtful review of this tea because I adore it so much. It’s very reminiscent of Verdant’s Golden Fleece, but it’s a bit more approachable and comforting. If I wanted to treat myself or have an especially contemplative session I’d still reach for Golden Fleece, but this Jin Jun Mei is something I could see being closer to a daily drinker.
Every time I take a sniff of the aroma of this tea I catch something different: lemon, mushroom, wood, moss, jasmine, cinnamon, nutmeg, yeast, bread. The mouthfeel is slick and smooth with a medium body. Not nearly as thick and textured as Golden Fleece.
This is a tea where the scent very much matches the taste. Some infusions taste so strong of honey and lemon I’d swear I’d put some in after brewing the tea if I didn’t know better. The savory flavors of mushroom and bread are present in this tea, but less prominent than in Golden Fleece — they’re a nice counterbalance to the sweetness rather than trying to steal the show. The cinnamon and jasmine hints in the flavor are fleeting and accompanied by an even more fleeting hint of mint. Towards the end of the session a note minerality and creaminess arises to compliment and mellow the other flavors. I’ve had sessions where I leafed a bit heavier and got a chocolate note, but I’m actually preferring this lighter session that lets the other flavors sing.
I will note that the flavor of this tea needs to be appreciated when warm. I let the end of one cup go cold and it was very bland and unremarkable compared to the warm sips.
This tea also has a shocking staying power. I only used 3.8 grams in 4 oz of water for a gongfu session starting with a 6 second infusion and adding 3 seconds every time. Right now I’m on round 8 and haven’t needed to start pushing the increment beyond 3 seconds. (I’m curious to see how it holds up further, but I’m trapped under a sleeping cat I can’t bear to wake)
This is not a tea that I feel evolves much over a session. Given more sips I find more notes I hadn’t noticed before, but it feels less like the character of the tea has changed than my own perception has changed, given more time to explore what the tea is offering. I think in some ways this is a positive and why I could see it as a daily drinker — there’s a lot available in this tea, but I know what I’m getting from steep to steep.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Cinnamon, Creamy, Honey, Jasmine, Lemon, Malt, Mineral, Mint, Moss, Mushrooms, Nutmeg, Peppercorn, Smooth, Vanilla, Wood, Yeast
I’ve been rekindling my tea love and unearthing some of the long owned teas I have in the back of my cabinet. I started with some solid favorite genres of mine like roasted oolong and shu puerhs, but I want to see if maybe I can appreciate sheng in a way I couldn’t before. Finishing off this reserve club sample seems like as good a way to do it as any.
5 sec wash
1st steep, 5 sec: The wet leaf smells like what I tend to not like in sheng flavors — bitter vegetables, but there’s a smoky smell hiding behind it. The liquor smells much more promising. A bit doughy, sweet, and a hint of the hay in the back. The flavor is a surprisingly pleasant combination of baking spices and hay. The mouthfeel is delightfully thick and mouthwatering without being too astringent.
2nd, 7 sec: The smell is smokey and the flavor is quite bitter and vegetal. Very astringent. Maybe I overcooked this round? This is what I think of sheng tasting like and why I’ve never been able to get into it. I dumped this cup.
3rd, 7 sec: Still vegetal but a bit more mellow and with a little bit of sweet dough flavor hiding in there.
4th, 7 sec: Mildly vegetal, but not getting much depth beyond that. Perhaps my tastebuds are just not calibrated to appreciate sheng.
5th, 9sec: I’m getting something a little fruity here like wine grapes, but it gets quickly overwhelmed by the vegetal flavors again.
Well, I think I’m going to admit defeat with this tea. I had hoped that many years after my last sheng experience I’d have gotten to a point where I could appreciate them, but at least with this particular tea there was still not a lot there for me to enjoy.
Flavors: Fruity, Hay, Spicy, Vegetal
This is another one from my stash. I’m trying to break up the stash teas that I have at work a bit so you don’t constantly get the same ones in a row. I can taste a bit of the peppercorn and some kind of berry. I can also taste a bit of tulsi but it mixes well with the peppercorn taste so I almost missed it. Some sips have the chamomile taste on the finish but it’s light enough that I don’t mind.
Flavors: Berry, Peppercorn, Tulsi
Another sampler from Verdant. Their tasting notes are on point here. It has a rather savory flavor profile. It smells and tastes of steamed buns and sausage which sounds worse than it actually is. The malt is light and there’s a bit of cocoa. It’s more of a savory flavor than sweet. The taste wasn’t bad, but just not my style of black tea.
So this time I’m doing it without the leftover matcha in the cup. I’m working the night shift and the coolest thing was watching the owl and a tiny (baby?) skunk face off right in front of the door. Now for the tea I get a nice warm feeling from drinking it. I definitely taste oolong. I would probably taste more if I hadn’t burned my tongue in my impatience to drink it…
To be honest I made this in the same cup as my vanilla matcha from earlier. Some of the Madagascar Vanilla was still in there. I only had time to fill a bag and add some hot water before my break was over. With that in mind I’m not sure how long I acutally steeped it… Tastes yummy though.
With the weather absolutely abysmal, I’ve been hiding inside most of the day. The heat and humidity here have been awful. Avoiding the sun, however, has allowed me plenty of time to catch up on chores and drink tea. Today I allowed myself the opportunity to try a new Dan Cong. I’m still very new to Dan Cong in general and I’m still figuring out what I like and what I think is good. This was my first Ya Shi, and while I liked it well enough, it had a few quirks that caught me off guard.
Naturally, I prepared this tea gongfu style. As usual, I kept my rinse short (no more than 8-10 seconds). After the rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 208 F water for 6 seconds. This infusion was chased by 12 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 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 a unique combination of aromas that reminded me of cream, butter, violet, rose, tea flower, and ginseng. After the rinse, I began to detect damp grass, almond, anise, and gardenia. The first infusion displayed a powerful bouquet that allowed for the emergence of pomelo and mild ginger. In the mouth, I did not get the soapiness mentioned by at least one other reviewer. Instead, I discovered a light body and gentle notes of almond, damp grass, ginger, ginseng, tea flower, cream, butter, violet, and rose. Subsequent infusions briefly brought out the gardenia and pomelo on the palate, as well as touches of pomegranate, licorice, golden raisin, vanilla, hay, cashew, caraway seed, rye toast, candied lemon peel, and something distinctly vegetal that put me in mind of watercress. With each infusion, the minerality built and the stereotypical Dan Cong soapiness gradually appeared. The tea washed out fairly quickly, and by the time I got to the later infusions, the liquor was heavy on minerals, grass, cream, and butter underscored by ghostly herbal and nutty notes.
I am not sure I have any clue how to rate this tea. It was a little odd. I seemed to get more floral complexity, more graininess, and more herbal and vegetal characteristics than other reviewers, but I am not certain my breakdown of this tea even remotely comes close to passing muster. I found this to be an exceptionally difficult tea to describe. My lack of familiarity with Dan Cong oolongs no doubt also put me at a distinct disadvantage when it came to analyzing this tea. Right now it falls into a gray area for me. I didn’t dislike it, but it also didn’t blow me away. Once the floral aromas and flavors started to fade and I began to pick up more ginseng, licorice, anise, and caraway, I began to lose interest since I tend to dislike all of those things. In the end, I have to grade this one conservatively. Given my preferences, somewhere in the 75-78 range feels about right.
Flavors: Almond, Anise, Butter, Citrus, Cream, Fruity, Gardenias, Ginger, Grass, Hay, Herbs, Lemon, Licorice, Mineral, Nutty, Raisins, Rose, Rye, Toast, Vanilla, Vegetal, Violet
The appearance of this tea’s leaves is really nice. Small, twisted black and furry golden leaves with a sweet malty scent. In a warm gaiwan, the scent leans more towards savory malt with some spices.
The liquor is floral, sweet, and heavy in the mouth. There’s some honey/sweet potato sweetness and it’s surprisingly full-bodied and moderately thick. It’s bitter in a way that reminds me of good coffee. It’s there but it rounds out the flavor really well. There’s also some light astringency on the tip of the tongue but it doesn’t detract from the overall flavor too much.
After 5 or so steeps, the sweet flavors begin to fade and the malt takes over. It’s still nice, but I wish the sweet notes had stuck around a bit longer. The thickness has continued to improve, however.
Another steep or two (now with boiling water to wring out whatever flavor’s left) and I think that’s it for these leaves. This is a good tea but I think you can do better for the price elsewhere.
Flavors: Honey, Malt, Sweet Potatoes, Thick
I don’t really feel like writing, but I need to put these notes down before I forget.
I’m always a little skeptical of Verdant’s descriptions because they are sometimes so out there. However, when comparing my notes to what they have described, there is usually one or two things that they have in common.
My notes for this tea included roast, grapefruit, wild funky flavor, and dark chocolate. Does that sound gross? It does to me, and that’s pretty much how the tea tasted. I think I need to stay away from fruity oolongs. I haven’t seemed to like them.
When I read Verdant’s descriptor “yuzu,” it hit me. I have never had a straight yuzu (the fruit) before, but I have had a yuzu honey tea. It tasted grapefruity and wild funky to me, so there you go. I was surprised to find chocolate as a descriptor because I thought I was crazy when I tasted it.
Anyway, not the tea for me.
2016 harvest. When I first read their description about this tea having notes reminiscent of steamed buns I was like, “Yeah, ok.” But actually, I can easily see that comparison now that I’m drinking it.
Very light bready flavor with some possible vanilla notes in there. This is not a “knock your socks off” type of tea. It is subtle and meant to be slowly savored.
I looked this tea up and apparently it translates to Beautiful Golden Eyebrows so that is pretty neat and I can see how that name came about. I mean, thin eyebrows, but I get it.
Overall this isn’t my favorite black tea but I;m glad to have tried this style and I think it makes for a good tea when you get to sit and savor the subtle flavors. I’m interested in tasting more teas in this style to see how they compare.
Flavors: Baked Bread
1.25 tsp for 300mL water @90C, steeped 5 minutes 15 seconds.
I know, I know: what’s with that criminally long steep time?
I got distracted.
Much longer, and the tea liquor might bite back with a soapiness. It does bite back a little, clinging to the tongue. But that’s okay, because it’s also offering florals and spices and fruit and some faint incense and …
A thickness, too, almost creamy. Ginseng notes.
A rewarding tea. I really like this one.
My favourite perfume in the world utilizes sandalwood and vanilla. Burberry Classic, in case you were wondering.
Jumped on the opportunity to buy a 15 Year Aged Tieguanyin because it listed sandalwood and vanilla as prominent notes. Also, being new to aged teas, it fascinates me that people are so patient as to store a bunch of leaves for as long as this.
I can’t imagine putting anything aside for fifteen years and thinking so far ahead for something in the physical realm. And I know there are teas and wines people keep for decades and decades.
Anyway, brewed this in my roasted TGY yixing and I’m really enjoying it. Part of the enjoyment is knowing how old it is, haha.
I always feel like I have to overbrew roasted TGY to bring out that fruity tang unique to this varietal. Does anyone else know what I mean? Otherwise, it can taste a bit like water-logged wood to me.
The raisin note is quite enjoyable here, even though I don’t like raisins, the sweetness level is perfect with everything else going on. Also lists a marzipan note, but I haven’t tried marzipan.
I found this to be a worthwhile purchase.
I got my kettle today!!!!!! http://bonavitaworld.com/products/10l-digital-variable-temperature-gooseneck-kettle — This one! IM SO EXCITED TO PLAY WITH IT! It’s so beautiful, I love it.
Anyways, this tea!
Very roasty woody aroma, with a jumble of spices and a hint of cocoa or baking chocolate on steep one, with the second steep aroma bringing in deep floral that I want to say is violet? But I dont know my flowers, that’s just what I immediately thought of, so maybe that’s what it is. It brews up a pale mustard yellow, and a taste that makes me reminiscent for a moment of vanilla ice cream. Of course, there’s mostly roasty chocolate notes, with the wood and earth from the aroma, but I also get notes of rice, orange zest, florals, vanilla, cranberry, lime zest, coconut, cream, and grapefruit. This is some pretty complex tea. Also I’m on like steep 5, and I feel extremely tea drunk already. It’s very thick and creamy with a bit of astringency and some bitterness (which may or may not be my inexperience brewing dancong showing its face), further notes of asian pear. It has an amazing bittersweetness thing going on, I’m also getting a hint of sour candy, like sour keys.
I didn’t really notice any other flavours past steep 6 or 7. The creaminess steeps out shortly after, then slowly the roasty chocolate, earth and wood which dominated the taste begin to fade, though never are completely gone, leaving a nice, mostly fruity (apple/pear), lightly astringent, still very nice and drinkable tea. I absolutely love this one.
No rating because this is my third ever dancong.
I did a 7-8 second rinse (woulda been shorter but I’m not used to the new kettle, it pours slow) and then I used 100C water for the first steep, 99 for the second and 98 from there on out. I’d estimate I did about 5g of leaf in my 120ml gaiwan, but I don’t have a scale so I don’t know. It was filled about 2/3 of the way to the top
Flavors: Apple, Candy, Chocolate, Cocoa, Coconut, Cranberry, Cream, Floral, Grapefruit, Lime, Orange Zest, Pear, Rice, Roasted, Toast, Vanilla, Violet, Wood
Okay so I have very little experience with Dancong, and this was the first one I drank from the august 2016 club box, which I tried to do at like 90 degrees, which.. really went pretty bad, but then I did a whole bunch of reading about brewing dancongs and now I’m trying again and this went much better.
At first, I get a lot of apple and pear, mixed with woody earthy cocoa, honey, lychee, there’s a hint of a sort of rainforesty-wet earthy taste .. I think the Chinese have a word for that taste but I don’t know what it is.
It’s interesting because the tea’s aroma is very different from its taste, like it smells like a da hong pao with the toasty dark roasty rock oolong flavour, but the taste is sweet and fruity with honey. I can’t really detect much other than honey and lychee now, with the toasty roasty aroma, maybe a bit of milky chocolate, hints of some other fruit I can’t quite place.. kinda like pear plus orange.. plus uh.. cranberry or raspberry or .. blackberry.. uh well anyways,
It has a really satisfying body, full but not too thick, with a slight bitterness and slight astringency, even a slight acidity. I think I could get really into dancongs. This is great.
It’s not reasonable for me to rate this, cause I have no expectations or baselines. Really tasty though :)
Flavors: Apple, Chocolate, Cocoa, Fruity, Honey, Lychee, Pear, Roasted, Toast, Wet Earth