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Recent Tasting Notes
There is a smoky, resinous feel to this tea, although it still retains a light feel. It almost makes me think of eucalyptus, but in a really nice way, not a medicinal one. It’s not my absolute favorite from this company, but since most of my all-time faves come from here, that’s not an insult. :)
I haven’t been drinking a lot of shou recently (or any pu’erh, come to that), but a rainy winter day like today strikes me as the ideal time to be doing so. There’s just something about walking to work across a muddy field and then drinking a tea that tastes earthy and muddy that appeals to my sense of worldly balance.
The first steep is exactly that. Earthy and muddy. It’s not too heavy on those flavours, although I kept the first steep fairly short (around 30 seconds, since I’m brewing western style.) There’s a background mineral note, but not much else just yet.
Second steep is slightly more muted; smoother and creamier. It’s still earthy, but there’s a more prominent sweetness and a light brown sugar flavour.
Third steep is very similar to the second, although with a more pronounced mineral quality in the way of wet rock. It’s marginally less sweet because of that, particularly in the aftertaste. The initial earthiness is diminishing.
Fourth steep is still primarily mineral, although that is also diminishing. The earthiness has all but vanished, along with most of the sweetness. A slight bite is emerging – not enough to call it astringent, but a little drying and catchy in the throat.
Fifth steep is lacking a lot of flavour of the earlier infusions. Up front, it’s primarily a sweet water kind of flavour, but there’s still a bit of a minerally/wet rock vibe towards the end of the sip.
It’s probably not quite over, and I could squeeze a few more resteeps out if I really wanted to, but I’m going to stop here because I’ve been drinking this one all day and I fancy a change. Sometimes I forget how much I love shou, and this has been a brilliant reminder!
I had a delightfully puzzling experience with steeping my Golden Snails sample in a gaiwan. Compared to my Oolong drinking friends I’m almost blind to bitterness or astringency, but I had a hard time preventing this tea from hitting too hard.
Got a tip that could help me tailor my steeping? Take a look at my technique and let me know!
Water: In house R/O
Kettle: Electric Cusine-art Tea w/ temp control
Gaiwan: 100 ml
Tea weight: ~7g
Temp: Tried 190, 200, and Boiling
Time: Flash Steep (pour it in, pour it out asap)
+1st steep @boiling: Super sweet, but balanced by a flash of green-tea-like astringency and some umami qualities (brothy?) Loved this steeping!
+Steepings 1-8 had a sweetness detectable by the tip of the tongue. Steeping 9 and 10 did not.
+Steepings 2-9 had an intense, lingering combo of black-tea bitterness and green tea astringency that distracted me. Temps 190 and 200 made little difference in fixing the problem.
+Discovery: the practiced sipping technique of a person suffering from too much attention to detail took the spotlight off the bitterness. Aerate enough and coat the tongue from tip to tail and the balance starts to come back.
Tried 5 grams instead of 7 and this made all the difference in the world. It has a tiny bit of astringency but in perfect balance with the rest of the tea. Got this idea from the TeaDB youtube channel. One of the guys will, instead of lowering temp, drop the leaf to water ratio.
This tea is a complex one. Extremely smooth. The base is excellent. Though honestly I kept waiting for the spearmint and or the cooling sensation to show up and it really never did for me…if there, it is extremely subtle.
Sometimes our taste buds can be off so I do plan to give it another try shortly —so stay tuned.
Everything I have had from Brenden at Whispering Pines has been worthwhile.
Flavors: Caramel, Cocoa, Grapes, Honey, Raisins, Tree Fruit
Oh man, this is such a blast from the past. I think I finished a one ounce pouch of this tea back around the start of the month, wrote a review in my notebook, and then just sat on it. I didn’t forget about it because it has been in the back of my mind pretty consistently since then, but I just couldn’t bring myself to post it here. I have no clue what it was that was holding me back. Anyway, I think I have previously mentioned how much I love Taiwanese black teas. They just do it for me. This one was very good, near excellent in fact, but I did knock a few points off for a couple reasons. First, I think there are better or at least comparable Sun Moon Lake black teas at similar or slightly lower price points and there was an odd tomato-like scent and taste in the very early goings that was a turn off for me. Not that I don’t like tomato or anything, but I don’t necessarily desire to smell or taste it in my tea.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. I went with a lower water temperature than Whispering Pines recommended (195 F as opposed to 212 F) simply because I am used to brewing teas of this type at temperatures between 194-205 F. I used 6 grams of leaves for 4 ounces of water and flash rinsed rather than going with a more standard 10 second rinse. The first infusion was 5 seconds. The fourteen subsequent infusions were as follows: 7 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, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted fairly powerful aromas of sweet potato, crushed basil, wintergreen, and tomato. Actually, it was more like stewed tomato to be precise. The rinse brought out new aromas of wood, malt, spearmint, and black grape. The first infusion then brought out a stronger spearmint aroma coupled with hints of baked bread. In the mouth, I immediately detected unexpectedly strong notes of basil, wintergreen, and spearmint on the entry. Notes of malt, wood, sweet potato, and baked bread followed. In the background, I caught a faint hint of black grape too. Subsequent infusions brought out new impressions of leather, eucalyptus, anise, plum, apricot, honey, minerals, cocoa, brown sugar, camphor, and of course, stewed tomato. Fortunately, that note (which admittedly kind of clashed with most of the others, lending a rather acidic and unwelcome tang to the tea) faded very quickly. I couldn’t detect much of it after about the fourth or fifth infusion as I recall. The later infusions retained a good deal of complexity on the nose and in the mouth. I could still find lingering impressions of baked bread, malt, brown sugar, minerals, camphor, eucalyptus, spearmint, and wintergreen underscored by fleeting hints of honey and stone fruits without too much difficulty.
To be honest, I enjoyed this tea greatly, but to reiterate what I stated in my introductory paragraph, I just had to take a few points off due to a rough edge or two that bothered me and the tea’s price relative to its overall value. Otherwise I would have rated it higher. Though it may sound like it, I’m not calling this tea overpriced or at least I do not intend to. I have just had Sun Moon Lake black teas and other similar Taiwanese black teas at or slightly below this price point that were smoother overall. To be fair, this is still a very high quality tea and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone with an interest in Taiwanese black teas. There are just a few other teas of this type that I think I prefer over this one.
Flavors: Anise, Apricot, Baked Bread, Brown Sugar, Camphor, Cocoa, Eucalyptus, Grapes, Herbs, Honey, Leather, Malt, Mineral, Plums, Spearmint, Sweet Potatoes, Wood
I was excited to get some of this tea, between all the glowing reviews here and on Youtube, I figured it must be incredible. I must say, the hype is true, it is wonderful tea. Each steeping seems a bit different which adds to the excitement. I enjoyed each subsequent steeping tasting and smelling different things. Overall, I think the most prevalent scent and taste was of baked bread. Maybe the fact that I am gluten free added to the appeal of this tea? Overall, delicious. I will guard my supply of this tea :).
Flavors: Baked Bread, Malt
The cocoa-y, chocolate fudge notes are all there, strong and delightful. A bit of creamy vanilla, too. I can detect the cherry, but only if I really focus – maybe I’m willing the flavor into existence. Handed the cup to the husband for him to sip, only telling him, “It’s Cocoa Amore.” He gets the cherry flavor immediately. I’m jealous.
It brews up quite light in color, although the leaves are deliciously super dark and promising. Still, it packs a lot of flavor, regardless of the color of the liquor. Great tea, as expected, but I still love Golden Orchid more. I’m impressed, though, at the richness and complexity of this tea.
Flavors: Cocoa, Dark Chocolate, Malt, Vanilla
Morning cuppa, with some gingerbread cookies.
This was a nice enough Dian Hong, but I feel like I’ve had so many REALLY good Dian Hongs this year that I just didn’t have the same degree of appreciation for it as I’ve had for some of those other ones. I will say though, that it had quite a lot of sweet potato flavour to it, and that’s a quality I really love in a good black tea – Hong or otherwise. So I have to give it props for that, at least! Other than that, just some good overall sweetness; a mix of creamed honey notes and brown sugar, some mineral, and a bit of a twiggy kind of quality? Also some malt.
And yes – twiggy over woody. I know that those are kind of the same things, but I feel like there’s a different connotation attached to either. Woody, for me at least, kind of speaks to a more well rounded, “thick” kind of quality and twiggy, in my mind, is something a little more “springy”/with a bit more liveliness to it? I don’t know – in my head there’s a difference.
This also worked nicely with the gingerbread; sweet and spicy. A good tea for cookie dunking…
This was my first sipdown of the week. At some point over the course of the year, I acquired a one ounce pouch of this tea. I’m not certain whether it was from 2016 or 2017, though if I had to guess, I would say the former. I did not quite know what to expect when I cracked this one open. I had seen multiple reviews online, and despite the general reception being mostly positive, it got more mixed reviews overall than I would normally expect from a Whispering Pines offering. Personally, I found this to be an excellent hong cha.
Before I provide my usual rundown of my brewing method, allow me to state that I deviated a little from Whispering Pines’ brewing instructions. The brewing instructions on the pouch recommended a water temperature of 212 F, but that seemed a little high to me. I am used to using temperatures between 194-205 F for many tippy Yunnan black teas, and once I saw the profusion of golden tips, I knew I would not be using the recommended water temperature. I’ve had a lot of luck lately with using 194 F water for Yunnan black teas, so that is what I went with here. The rinse was only a couple seconds. I more or less did it water on, water off. I stuck with my usual 6 grams of loose tea in a 4 ounce gaiwan. Infusions ran as follows: 5 seconds, 7 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, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, and 7 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea emitted pronounced aromas of baked bread, sweet potato, and molasses. After the rinse, I found new aromas of vanilla, malt, and brown sugar. The first proper infusion brought out a touch of woodiness on the nose. On the palate, I found light notes of baked bread, malt, brown sugar, sweet potato, and molasses. Subsequent infusions brought out impressions of cream, cocoa, clove, anise, wood, caramel, fennel, orange, honey, minerals, and eucalyptus. The later infusions offered lingering impressions of minerals, brown sugar, sweet potato, malt, and wood chased by gentle, cooling herbal notes on the finish.
In my opinion, this was yet another really nice Yunnan black tea from Whispering Pines Tea Company. I particularly liked the little herbal notes it offered and was extremely impressed by both its smooth body and respectable staying power. Overall, I would have no issue recommending this tea to fans of traditional Yunnan black teas.
Flavors: Anise, Baked Bread, Caramel, Clove, Cocoa, Cream, Eucalyptus, Fennel, Honey, Mineral, Molasses, Orange, Sweet Potatoes, Vanilla, Wood