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Recent Tasting Notes
Guess what! I’m back again. It has been way too long. I was forced to spend the majority of last week in a caffeine-free funk due to a work-related training in Louisville that lasted all week. This is the first opportunity I have had to try a new tea since before I left. I, of course, had to pick an oolong.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a 10 second rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 185 F water for 7 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 produced lovely aromas of honey, apricot, red osmanthus, raisins, dates, and prunes. After the rinse, I picked up stronger honey, raisin, and date scents accompanied by emerging impressions of fig and wood. The first infusion produced a nearly identical bouquet. In the mouth, I detected slight notes of dates, fig, raisins, prunes, apricot, nectarine, honey, and red osmanthus with an underlying complex of malt, toast, and wood. I should have gotten thicker, more expressive flavors, so this steep was clearly too short. The second infusion offered some improvement in the flavor department, but nothing new. The tea did not really hit its stride until the third or fourth infusion in the series. At that point, I was picking up everything previously mentioned plus hints of hay, butter, cream, and eucalyptus. The following infusions grew ever gentler, milder, and more savory as malt, toast, butter, eucalyptus, cream, hay, and wood began to increasingly define the tea’s aroma and flavor profiles. Later infusions were mostly a wash of wood, hay, cream, and butter underpinned by minerals and hints of dried fruit, red osmanthus, and honey.
Let’s ignore the fact that I botched the start of this session for a moment and concede that this came across as a very smooth, pleasant, approachable tea. Unfortunately, it also struck me as being all of these things in a fleeting and superficial sort of way. Its most appealing aromas and flavors faded fast, and while they never entirely disappeared, I did not find enough to hold my interest later on in this session. Indeed, I could have probably squeezed at least one more infusion out of this tea, but I did not see much of a point in attempting it. The tea had already said all it had to say. Overall, this was a decent, pleasant oolong, but it was not really my kind of tea.
Flavors: Apricot, Butter, Cream, Dates, Eucalyptus, Fig, Fruity, Hay, Honey, Malt, Mineral, Osmanthus, Raisins, Toast, Wood
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Flavors: Caramel, Honey
I got one of this as a sample from What-cha, and I’m glad I got it because, man, isn’t this tea interesting!
The shape was pretty cool to begin with, and the tea had a lot of different colored leaves, so it was really nice to look at. The leaves smelled really, really fruity, like strong cherry and it had also a lot of creamyness to it. Sadly, the fruity smell left the leaves in like two steeps, leaving it only in milk.
Anyway, the flavor was very interesting too, the taste was fruity and mostly milky, getting nutty with a bit of coconut later. The liquor was very dry. In the end, the tea was just citrus and very thick.
Since this is very green, it’s not very forgiving, so a couple of times I got a bit of bitterness out of it.
Flavors: Cherry, Citrus, Coconut, Cream, Fruity, Nuts
This was a pretty interesting tea. I found it to be a bit better western, but worked alright gongfu as well. The hand-tied bundles come apart pretty easily. The leaves have a slightly grapey aroma, and this flavor is pretty prominent in the flavor as well. Perhaps could be described as a muscatel note. It’s just a little bit sour at some points, but not really unpleasant. I also pick up occasional spice notes – not really cinnamon, but kind of close. I didn’t take very good notes drinking this tea, so I don’t remember a whole lot aside from those couple flavors. It interesting enough that I enjoyed drinking it, but not good enough that I need to go buy more of it or anything.
Flavors: Muscatel, Pleasantly Sour, Spices
I got this tea as a “mystery bag” with my regular What-Cha purchase.
The appearance of the dry leaves are surprisingly green! Dark, forest-y green mixed in with blacks and browns. Like most rolled teas, it takes a few infusions before the leaves completely unfurl themselves, but they’re very smaller leaves, not many broken pieces.
It’s a mild tea for being a black. Light roasty notes, very nutty. There’s that slight bit of grassy depth you get from certain green teas that I can taste creeping in the back. Even though I’m brewing this gaiwan style for very short periods, my pulls seem to be ever so slightly bitter. Not astringent at all really.
It’s definitely not a bad tea at all. I think I’m just starting to learn that these lighter trending blacks just don’t have the maltiness that I’m looking for, and if we’re going that route, I’d rather have an oolong.
Flavors: Dry Grass, Nutty, Roasted
Dry leaf smells like plum/raisin
200F, 4 min western
Tastes sweet and raisin. Pretty soft and more a texture than a taste. It gets more citrus as it cools. Decided to take this one to work as I needed a real tea there. It’s not special enough to keep it at home.
Flavors: Plums, Raisins, Sweet
It seems I can’t refrain from hitting the Taiwanese high mountain oolongs these days. After having an oolong from Fushou Shan yesterday evening, I had to go with an Ali Shan today. Before I get to the tea itself, allow me to state that I have been guilty of displaying tremendous ambivalence toward Ali Shan oolongs in the past. For some reason, I have always found them to be predictable, lightweight, and boring. This tea forced me to reevaluate my leanings toward these teas.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 176 F water for 10 seconds. I was a little confused over the water temperature. The sample pouch suggested 176 F, but What-Cha’s website suggested 185 F. I ultimately went with the water temperature suggested on the sample pouch. The initial infusion was followed by 11 subsequent 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 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves gave off pleasant aromas of butter, cream, vanilla, grass, and flowers. After the rinse, the butter, cream, and vanilla aromas intensified. They were joined by a subtle scent of custard as aromas of gardenia, lilac, and honeysuckle emerged. The first infusion produced a more balanced aroma with a stronger custard presence. In the mouth, the liquor was very smooth and savory. I detected notes of butter, cream, custard, vanilla, and grass balanced by traces of gardenia, lilac, and honeysuckle. Subsequent infusions saw the impressions of honeysuckle, gardenia, and lilac intensify. Aromas and flavors of tangerine, cucumber, magnolia, and minerals also emerged. Later infusions were dominated by butter, cream, grass, and minerals underscored by tangerine and a distant floral presence.
This was an interesting oolong. I’m used to Ali Shan oolongs that are kind of slight and lacking in staying power, but this one went the distance. While the aroma and flavor profiles were neither particularly complex nor anything out of the ordinary for a high mountain oolong, they were very pleasant. This tea also displayed a light, yet subtly textured body, and it provided a gentle, immediate calming sensation that was highly enjoyable. For me, this one was a winner. What-Cha’s Taiwanese oolongs continue to impress me.
Flavors: Butter, Citrus, Cream, Cucumber, Custard, Floral, Gardenias, Grass, Honeysuckle, Mineral, Vanilla
Tumbler Test: It did well. Actually, it performed better in my tumbler today than in my gaiwan. I used less leaves, maybe 2 grams in a 16 ounce bottle, and the florals came in through nicely without a gassy edge. The florals were less pronounced gong fu in the Gaiwan, and the liquid was way too dark for me personally. I am not sure what I did wrong. I used 180 for the temperature, which typically works for me fine, but it was floral-high headiness-then flat inky stuff. I’ll continue to play to see what else I did wrong. I’m still super curious about how the other one compares never mind the description for the other Floral was basically a comparison. I also need to review the teas on What-Cha’s site eventually…
I like this one and the “Fruit” Zhangping for very different reasons. I’m also having a little bit of a problem because What-Cha released a new floral variety that apparently has a fruity orange zest thing going on. I gotta stop doing orders prematurely.
Nevertheless, this is a tea I’m pretty satisfied with because it hits the right notes that a lot of Li Shans and Ali Shans do, though it was closer to a Li Shan and some of the florals of a Bao Zhong. It’s heady overall, hitting lilac, hyacinth, orchid, gardenia, and a few others with a bit of a sweet character kind. Orchid and hyacinth are the strongest. There was barely any bitterness and astringency in its smooth texture as Alistair describes, and the texture kept on giving with the brews even if I broke off a fourth of the cake.
It really does compare to a high end Taiwan oolong especially if you give the leaves room to breathe in short gong fu steeps. A part of that comes from the plants ancestry from the Fujian province, or so I’ve read. Tea experts, please correct me if I’m wrong so I can learn. I tended between 15 and 30 seconds, and both work equally. Alistair did say this had some potential for grandpa, so I will try it that way eventually.
I highly recommend this tea and would personally rate it at a 90 or above, maybe higher. I do wish there was a bit of an edge, and since citrus is basically what I prefer in some form for most of my tea’s notes, I am getting a little crazy about the other floral. However, if I decide that I can’t buy any more high mountain oolong, this will be a more than suitable replacement for the coming months. Like I say in most of my reviews, I recommend at least a try. Some might find this too floral edging towards it’s leafy character, some might like it that way and find some zen sippin’ on. Now to figure out how to rearrange my budget.
Alistair, I’m impressed with how floral this one is. I like my Jin Xuan’s sweet and floral. First steep was about a minute, and the rest were shorter to do a semi-fu session ending with another long Western one. I also need to decide if I want to capitalize brewing styles when I type them. A part of me would say the florals were almost heady, but still toned down enough to taste the thick creamy texture and crisp grassy ends.
I thought about bamboo and incense oddly enough in the florals, though the florals reminded me of some Da Yu Lings. I also keep in mind that some Jin Xuan’s are sold as Da Yu Ling fakes, but despite that, there was no mistaking that this tea was a Jin Xuan. I have a bare idea of describing the florals though, being closer in my head to lilies, honey suckle, and magnolias. I’d have to ask Amanda what she thinks.
I definitely recommend this tea for someone looking for an affordable and great quality oolong. I actually preferred this to a few Taiwan Jin Xuans. Tea snobbery aside, this would make a decent introduction to someone exploring this variety as well, and it could be sold as someone really new to the world of loose leaf as a friendlier green tea.
My first Darjeeling experience. The leaf is small, broken reddish pieces with some silvery steaks. Smells like white tea florals and musk. The tea steeps up a light amber with notes of wood bark, balm, cinnamon spice, and little bite in the finish that hits the back of your throat. I was struck by how similar in flavor this was to Oriental Beauty. Recommend steeping at lower temperatures, around 180 – 185 F to bring out the subtle flavors as too hot water just makes it taste like a ceylon.
I did a side-by-side taste comparison with a 2nd flush darjeeling. Both were good though I lean slightly towards the 2nd flush for its robust and fruitier flavor. However, the smooth and delicate flavors of this one make it a wonderful tea in its own right.
Flavors: Biting, Cinnamon, Muscatel, Wood
This is probably the first Georgian tea that I’ve ever had, so there’s that… The leaf is scraggly and dark black with wafting of roast, dark wood, pomegranate, and tobacco. I warmed up my pot and tuck some in. The scents opens to a great aroma of ginger snap cookies and pancakes. This was an unusual aroma for me. I washed the leaves and set to steep. The first sip brings direct taste of dried berries to the tip of my tongue alone with some wood (pine? maple?). The brew is sweet but a tad dry. The tea tastes a bit flat, and its a little thin. The brew grows with some thickness, but it also brings sour notes and with some salted caramel. This was a very “alright” tea, but I wouldn’t chase it down.
Flavors: Berry, Caramel, Dark Wood, Maple, Pine, Roasted, Sour, Sweet, Tobacco
For a long time, I have avoided reviewing Dan Cong oolongs mostly out of lack of familiarity and a previous bad experience with them. I have acquired several Dan Congs over the last several months, however, and resolved myself to seriously start working my way through some of them in the immediate future. Last night my curiosity got the better of me and I ended up doing a session with this tea.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 185 F water for 6 seconds. I had heard that some people really pack their gaiwans for Dan Cong brewing, but that was not the way I chose to go here. My research indicated that most Dan Cong oolongs are recognized as having a slick, soapy texture that can be very divisive among tea drinkers. Not wanting a soapy, harsh brew, I stuck to the old rule of 1-1.5 grams of loose tea per fluid ounce. It worked out well. After the first infusion, I conducted a series of 13 subsequent 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, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves gave off lovely aromas of honey, orchid, nuts, and grass. After the rinse, the tea’s floral aroma swelled. The first infusion allowed indistinct hints of fruit and toast to creep into the mix. In the mouth, I detected a pleasant blend of honey, nuts, grass, rye toast, and of course, orchid. There was a little fruitiness in the background, but nothing too distinctive. Subsequent infusions really heavily emphasized the honey, grass, and orchid notes, while impressions of lychee, pear, peach, mango, and apricot blossomed on the nose and palate. I also noted a fleeting sugarcane sweetness on a couple of these infusions. The later infusions were mild and rather vegetal, as the lingering aromas and flavors of grass were framed by traces of minerals, honey, lychee, peach, nuts, and orchid. Throughout the session, the tea was only mildly to moderately soapy with a thin body and a slight sharpness. It was much more drinkable and pleasant than I was expecting.
As far as assigning a numerical rating goes, I am probably going to hold off for a little while. I really enjoyed this tea, but it is very difficult for me to confidently assign a rating due to my lack of experience with teas of this type. Regardless of my inexperience, however, I do think this is a high quality tea. It went the distance in a long session, and I greatly respect it for that. It also featured a pleasant and largely complimentary blend of aromas and flavors. It may not matter all that much, but I found a lot to like here.
Flavors: Apricot, Grass, Honey, Lychee, Mango, Mineral, Orchid, Peach, Pear, Rye, Sugarcane, Toast
This was a sample and I let it sit for awhile.
I wasn’t in a rush as brick and mortar store bought Assam was disappointing and finally used up by making chai.
I opened the packet and was pleased to see real leaves, not bits.
In the morning I like a big cup of tea rather than gongfu so for that I have returned to using a Chinese mug with a porcelain filter basket and a lid to keep the steeped brew hot once I remove the basket.
This tea is perfect for that, nice and malty with a hint of fig. I can use the same leaves for several steeps before returning to my little pots and gaiwans for the rest of the day.
I plan to try more What-Cha teas from India, among other countries.
I managed to squeeze in another oolong session this evening. This tea was one that I had been meaning to try for some time. What-Cha’s Taiwanese oolongs seem to enjoy a good reputation here and elsewhere, so my hopes were high. Fortunately, this tea lived up to expectations.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 185 F water for 10 seconds. I followed this infusion up with 12 additional 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 pleasant aromas of cream, butter, grass, and flowers. After the rinse, more distinct impressions of lilac, honeysuckle, and hyacinth emerged, as did traces of vanilla and custard. The first infusion produced a similar bouquet with a very light hint of citrus. In the mouth, I detected mild notes of cream, butter, vanilla, custard, sweetgrass, hyacinth, lilac, and honeysuckle. I did not pick up any citrus. Subsequent infusions revealed hints of lily and magnolia chased by lime zest, green apple, pear, and a faint hint of almond. A lively mineral presence began to emerge toward the back of the throat at this point. Later infusions were dominated by minerals, sweetgrass, cream, butter, and almond, while extremely faint citrus impressions lingered in the background.
This was a very interesting and satisfying high mountain oolong. Though its peak was very brief, the tea remained enjoyable on one level or another throughout the session. I could definitely see this being a rock solid oolong for regular consumption and would recommend it highly to anyone looking for a respectable Li Shan oolong that will not entirely break the bank.
Flavors: Almond, Butter, Cream, Custard, Floral, Grass, Green Apple, Honeysuckle, Lime, Mineral, Pear, Vanilla
Slight fruity flavours intermingled with the classic lesser milk & vegetal perfumed TGY aroma. With the sourness coming from an apricot-like place, it works differently than coming from a milky or vegetal place.
Also tastes very ‘fresh’, ‘natural’, ‘good’, rather than ‘perfumed’ (which is what I expected being a winter harvest. (Not saying one is better than the other, its just in that area of taste). I actually thought ‘vine-y’ for the greenness. Quite similar to how the imperial grade from YS compares to more perfumed examples, like the whispering pines one.
This is very up my street, maybe the most no-fuss TGY i’ve had in ages. The balance is very good, and nice longevity.
So happy this was added as a sample, it might have slipped under my fruity Oolong radar!
Flavors: Apricot, Cream, Floral, Green, Milk, Spinach
Well I made this and had one lovely sip hot before my family realized our dog was missing. We then took to the streets to search for him. An hour later he turned up and now he’s back home and my tea is cold. Still tasty though, like honey and stonefruit. Thank you Ubacat for adding this to the box because it was a delightful treat among all the crazy.
I got this from a friend who got it from a ‘’Mistery pack’’ (It’s cooler to call them mistery packs, right?) from What-cha. He gave me the bag and told me to enjoy the tea for a few days: He is a very good friend.
This tea is in ’’maocha’’ form (I don’t actually know if you can call this maocha) so it’s a very large, twisted leaf, kind of hard to make it fit in a small Gaiwan, the dry leaves have a lot of colors on it: greens, browns, some yellows. The smell of the wet leaf is a classic vegetal smell while the flavor is very light and fruity, in later steeps a bit of honey comes out too. The soup has a beautiful golden color.
After all, what this tea has in prettyness, it lacks in complexity, it’s a pretty straightforward tea and a very pleasant drink.
Flavors: Fruity, Honey, Sweet, Tobacco, Vegetal