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Recent Tasting Notes
My first impressions of this cake. It is indeed very well balanced and pungent tea, with upfront bitterness and long-lasting aftertaste. The dry leaf smells very green and vegetal, while the wet leaves have more of a cooked vegetables aroma and leave the impression of a cool morning mountain breeze. In terms of viscosity, this would be on the thinner end of the sheng spectrum, which is not surprising given the price.
However, the tea is pretty calming and made for a very pleasant session. Taste is also nice, although not super complex at this stage. I think the aging potential is definitely there though. I am looking forward to seeing its development.
This is a tea that for sure aims above its category, the price/quality ratio is impressive.
Flavors: Bitter, Compost, Green, Vegetables, Vegetal
Summer Vacation! I received this from derk, thanks so much! I have to get up early tomorrow (on a day off too, uuuuugh…) so I made a very small cup of this so I won’t get too wired tonight. Since I didn’t use much leaf since I was making such a small cup, I decided to set the rest to cold steep overnight as an iced tea, as I remember thinking when I tried a different Bi Luo Chun sampler that I might like it iced, so now I’ll have a chance to try that.
This got steeped a bit longer than my last cup — not by intention, but because I was doing some stuff in my kitchen and wasn’t being precise about it. It was definitely a much stronger flavor and had just a little of a vegetal bite, but I think I got back to it before any true astringency damage could be done.
This is a much more savory flavor than the other Bi Luo Chun I tried, very vegetal with notes of grass, lemon, water chestnuts, and a hint of spice (particularly pepper and anise) toward the end of the sip. Still just as relaxing, though.
Flavors: Anise, Lemon, Pepper, Sweet, warm grass, Vegetal
Warm and busy day called for a western brew of some white tea.
1T/8oz/190F/3 solid steeps timed only by the color of the brew. A fourth steep was light but still nice.
Dry leaf smells like the taste of lychee, hay, sugarcane, meyer lemon, honeydew and cantaloupe. A tad musty. I sniffed the first brew but none thereafter. I remember cantaloupe, oats and sweet cinnamon-vanilla-buttery glaze. All three brews had a typical silver needle taste and sweetness. Cantaloupe, honeydew, oats, lychee and that sweet cinnamon-vanilla-buttery glaze, maybe some peach or apricot, honeysuckle and hay? I don’t remember if eucalyptus made a presence, which I really like in this style of tea. A little scratchy in the throat on the first steep but after that it was thick and smooth. Good lookin’ liquor.
I much prefer this one over the Jing Gu White Pekoe Silver Needles due to a lack of bitterness and astringency. Easier to produce a consistent no-fuss western cup. Seems like it’s holding up better with age, too. I’ll probably make this one my go-to silver needle, as in 50g/yr. I don’t need much silver needle in my life.
I’ve ordered samples of all of Scott’s 2018 ripes (five have been released so far this year). I will try to review them all. I tried Lucy a while back (and reviewed it), and it was very good. This one is also very good, but it is a different style than is typical. I’d say its defining characteristics are sweet and simple. It is pretty smooth with almost no astringency/bitterness. It is not very complex, but it has a very unique flavor. It has a sweetness I associate with lao cha tou (ripe nuggets). It has a nice feel and good flavor, and solid qi; the sweet is front and center, with burnt coffee and a hint of chocolate in the background. I don’t think I’d reach for this very often, but I will definitely get a cake or two. I bet it will age very nicely, and will be very smooth and straightforward.
Longjing isn’t my jam, but I do appreciate it from time to time.
I usually brew longjing 2 tsp/8oz/175F/grandpa with two top-offs but I cut down to 1 tsp for this tea specifically because of what it does to my mouth.
Most of the flattened leaves and needles are still vibrant 5 months after purchase. The silver bag has a smattering of fuzz. A few leaves here and there have a ball of light golden fuzz stuck to them which makes it look like some kind of leaf gall. Nope it’s fuzz. Cool.
The smell of many Chinese green teas is difficult for me to describe – I’d say this dragon well is kind of like cashew, oats and light cocoa. While brewing, the liquor has a strong fragrance of sweet roasted chestnut. A minute later, it tastes like a cross between green beans and sweet peas with some chestnut. After the tea glides across my tongue, the sweetness persists. I notice some astringency. Chew on the leaves that have a death-by-mastication wish. Good, no bitterness.
Second glass is noticeably lighter in flavor and aroma and some time into it, I notice that my mouth feels torn up like I ate a lemon. Twelve hours later, it’s still feeling rough. Is that the leaf’s revenge? Not very pleasant. Third glass was very light and not worth it.
Overall, it’s an ok tea. I always eat the leaves, so next time I’ll turn them away from my pearly gates to see if I still get a raw mouth. I’ve had longjings I like more and may even prefer lower grade.
Finishing up my bag of this.
Gone western. 1tsp, 8oz, 175F, 60/90/120s all combined into one big glass. Don’t oversteep! It can get really astringent.
Who doesn’t love snails?
I bought this tea right after it became available in the spring. I can’t recall what the dry leaf smelled like when it was really fresh but at the moment I can’t pick up on anything definable. It’s just soft. Plop these downy snails on the top of some hot water. Watch them unfurl. The brewing liquor smells much like bacon-wrapped sweet scallops. Very umami!After pouring all three steeps together, the liquor is a light green-yellow with a ton of down floating around even after using a strainer. If you don’t use a strainer, you’ll end up with some black bits floating around that eventually settle to the bottom. The taste is soft with scallops, grass, mineral lemon water, white florals and a sweet, very light peach. The peach becomes quite prominent in the aftertaste and resembles peach gummy rings, though not nearly as strong. The mouthfeel is thick, light and glassy, with a complementary astringency and saltiness as long as you don’t overbrew. Salivation is also present.
This tea is still nice, light and refreshing 6 months after harvest. Very affordable.
Opened up a 50 gram package of this a couple weeks ago in the office – briefly noting my impressions before it disappears:
Prepared in my Jian Shui gaiwan, and served in my porcelain tea cup via my glass cha hai. Filtered Santa Monica municipal water just off the boil throughout.
The dry tea is unique – the finger length buds resemble golden-tipped, black-bottomed spines of some odd desert plant. The aroma from the bag offers a distinctive yam/grain scent.
A very forgiving tea – you don’t have to give much thought about tea weight, steep times, numbers of infusions, etc. That said, it remains flavorful for 8-10 infusions easily.
Starting with steeps around 15 seconds, the liquor is amber to metallic gold, with a sweet/earthy/grassy aroma hinting at plantain and lotus leaf. The flavor follows the nose but with increasing richness and a core malty sweetness (and perhaps a touch of cocoa in the finish).
Hints of alfalfa/hay and oats emerge over the session, reminding me of quality horse feed (not in a bad way!). Low bitterness throughout, very little astringency even if you over-steep.
Round, creamy texture, with slow persistent caffeine build up. An excellent, distinctive “Yunnan Gold” leaf tea from a unique variety of very large leaf plants.
I haven’t drank any osmanthus tea for comparison over the past day, but I can say this Jin Mu Dan isn’t for me after another brew today. Too finicky – I sometimes edge the line of abuse with tea (theme song ‘Push It’ by Salt-N-Pepa). It could often be called forgetfulness or neglect. I suppose it’s all part of the flow. For the fragrant yellow floral nose, it’s missing a longevity in brightness of the sour yellow fruit taste, as well as any pronounced sweetness. The mineral tastes muddy, lacking any distinctive quality. Flat mouthfeel. No noticeable energy. I read a review this weekend by Daylon R Thomas for an entirely different tea, about tasting colors. I’d say this tea tastes dull yellow and grey/brown. Stomped on flower petals.
The roast of the dry leaf, dark and sweet at this time, and the aroma of the liquor are its highlights. This would be a good tea for somebody who has a delicate hand and is interested in perfecting brewing technique.
To the back of the drawer it goes. Maybe either the tea will change or my tastes will by the time we meet again.
I’m not really sure what’s going on here. There’s a new floral here I’m unfamiliar with which is throwing me off. Is it osmanthus? I’ve never had an osmanthus tea. It’s definitely a ‘yellow flower’ tea in flavor and fragrance, like yellow rose, dandelion and some bitter marigold. Kind of fruity taste in the beginning like unripe pineapple and yellow passionfruit. Light but long-lasting. Flat mineral in the mouth, flatness in feel – nothing special there. This is a frangrance-forward tea. Finicky, seems to need lower temp and if oversteeped it can be bitey in the throat. Dry leaf has a pleasant roast and smells darker than the liquor tastes. I’ll have to play around some more with this tea including leaf amount. Maybe pick up some osmanthus tea in the meantime.
EDIT: Reminds me of Huang Guan Yin which I didn’t care for. I’m willing to try a more focused tasting of this particular tea because it seems more complex than the few HGY I’ve tried. Yunnan Sourcing says this is a hybrid of Tie Guan Yin and Huang Jin Gui. I looked up some info on Huang Guan Yin and that is also a cross of TGY and HJG. Now I’m assuming this Jin Mu Dan and Huang Guan Yin are the same? Confused. I found also that yes, this type of tea has osmanthus notes. I’m not crazy.
This is a sipdown of a TGY I bought in the spring of 2016. I steeped 5 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 120, and 240 seconds.
The first steep is grassy, tangy, and very floral. In the second, notes of orchids, violets, cream, peach, and grass become more prominent. (I never actually thought I’d use the descriptor “sweet, warm grass,” but that’s exactly what this is.) Though the tea isn’t astringent, it has a drying quality in the mouth. The wonderful peachy florals continue for around six steeps, and are joined by herbaceous and vegetal notes later in the session.
I’m finding that the better (and pricier) the Tie Guan Yin, the harder it is to pick apart the flavours. Maybe for this type of tea, quality is measured by its smoothness and consistency rather than its variety or evolution. Anyway, I’m sure this tea also deteriorated somewhat due to age. I look forward to opening my 7 g packet of 2016 Competition TGY.
Flavors: Cream, Drying, Floral, Herbaceous, Orchid, Peach, Round , Sweet, warm grass, Tangy, Vegetal, Violet
This isn’t tea. This is a plucking to please some dolts that don’t care about ripping beautiful buds from their parent bushes.
PINEY, CITRUSY HOPS. One note. If you find any other flavors or aromas, congrats?
If you’re a fan of IPA beers but can’t drink before or during work, this bud’s for you. If you’re that hard-pressed, you could even try carbonating it.
It does taste good cold-brewed with fresh basil. Because basil. That’s how I’m getting rid of this. Slamming a liter as soon as I wake up.
This makes me sound snobby but it’s really all tongue-in-cheek. Needless to say, I’m not a fan but others who like really light teas and some piney, citrusy sweetness might enjoy this. Re-brews forever. You can go as far as the buds almost falling apart.
Old written note.
Beautiful, slender green buds tinged with shades of rose and purple, delicate and dry with lots of broken bud, requires a strainer. 6 grams, 150mL glass gaiwan, 165-175F, 5 second rinse, steeps at 5 second intervals.
Both super heady fragrance and taste of cherry blossom, rose, watermelon, apricot, light citrus hops, dill through all steeps. Light in the mouth. Astringency poked in at steep 6 and progressed from there. I pushed it and this tea punished me with unbearable astringency by the 12th steep. Cowered and called it quits there. The brightness of the rose and purple of the dry buds became very vibrant but began to fade when the astringency developed in the 6th steep. Light headache.
Don’t be like me; have some restraint and know when to stop. You’ll be rewarded! Super fruity, floral and fragrant but not my cup. Definitely see the appeal for a different palate, though.
I’d be happy if this were a once a year treat. Since it’s sold in minimum 25g packages, I won’t be purchasing more.
Sunny days are back so I’m feeling the white teas again.
I once tried brewing it grandpa in a thermos but the amount of leaf in the dragon ball was too much and created a very astringent and bitter brew.
Today, I brewed one in a 150mL glass gaiwan, following the recommended temperature of 195F and early steeps of 20-30 seconds, gradually increasing to several minutes. The dragon ball is very compact, so I left the lid on the gaiwan between steeps to steam it and try to help it open up.
I found this tea to be straight-forward. A pleasant lightness in liquor aroma and flavor with predominance in taste of cantaloupe, watermelon rind, sweet grass and butter creamed with sugar. The wet leaf smelled of cantaloupe, cinnamon buttercream, wet warm hay and fleeting notes of brewed coffee grounds. Mouthfeel was drying but light and smooth.
This dragon ball is a nice little thing. I’d gladly pick up a few more for when I want an easy drinking experience without a ton of flavor.
Yes, there is some occasional magic in this tea. It is a good buy on a budget. It didn’t seem too consistent, but when I had the brew dialed in just right I could find the sweet cherry notes amongst the mineral/earthy elements. I’m normally a black tea drinker, but this one has convinced me to add some darker oolongs to the mix. Overall a good experience with this tea!
I don’t know why, but I brewed through all 100g without even attempting a second or third steep. That was probably a mistake, because as Nicholas mentioned, the “roast” may become less prominent on later steeps. LOL, I didn’t even know a roast was involved with this one. I am planning to order the Spring 2018 batch soon, so I’ll do some more experimenting.
Going through old written reviews.
This tea has prompted me to write my first ever review.
Brewed western style with about 1 tbsp of leaf to 8 oz. Boiling water really brings out the astringency, so I decreased the water temperature to 200F. That’s where this tea shines for me. Reminds me of fall in the Napa Valley of California, walking in the woods along the river.
Initially a nice light mouthfeel with complex flavors of blueberry, pomelo, red grape, old wood, earthy green herbals and muted forest understory white florals ending in red cherry and light astringency. Juicy aroma. The flavors become more prevalent as the tea cools. Subsequent steeps fade into sweet potato with a bit more astringency.
This tea seems high in caffeine.
Now that I’ve spent more time with this tea, I can say for me, it’s a tea to have every once in a while. Too much of a frenetic energy to relax with it but still really enjoyable and complex. I can not imagine ensuing derkish craziness that would result from brewing this gong fu.
Going through old written tea reviews.
3 steeps at 1m, 1m30s, 2m.
What a weird tea. It looked not so fresh despite being 6 months old when I received it. The saponins were strong in this one. Soapy bubbles hugged the circumference of my glass after every brew. Tasted mostly white peppercorn which was interesting. Probably much different drank closer to harvest.
Tolerable cold brew and that’s how I finished it.
I’m writing another review to note the smell of the dry leaf and the addition of flavors when brewed grandpa-style in a basic white ceramic coffee mug as opposed to the previous review where I brewed the tea in a glass with the same amount of leaf and water.
The dry leaf smells like light cocoa and sugar cookie with a faint whiff of ceylon cinnamon and lemon zest. These rest on top of an unplaced green vegetal base (edamame?).
In addition to the previous tasting notes, this time the liquor became sweeter, with a more noticeable thickness in the mouth and slickness on the tongue. Seaweed, leeks and clear chicken broth made a strong presence with some butter in the back of the mouth. Brewed in a ceramic mug, my enjoyment of the tea increased. It is really pleasant. Increased rating.
Going grandpa this morning.
This year’s imperial grade has a perfect astringency that complements its brothiness which reminds me of the lightness of the homemade dashi stock I added to a Japanese beef curry last night. Curry from scratch is a lot of work to roast and grind the spices and not burn the roux. I bet the flavor meld of the stew after sitting in the fridge for 24 hours will be amazing.
Back to the tea. Strong aroma but not as heavy and cloaking as the 2017 Classic Laoshan I’ve tried. I taste raw green beans, spinach, roasted chestnut, mineral, hints of sugar cookie and marine air, the cooling sensation of fresh cypress woodchips. Calming, energizing. Beautiful leaves dry and wet.
Great tea for this foggy, brisk morning.
Aroma only came out after wetting the leaves. Smells like whisky: Tobacco, diesel fumes. Similar to the smokiness of Lapsang. But the flavour is very different, tastes clean, cleansing and refreshing with just a hint of whisky.
Second infusion most of the tobacco is gone, now it’s more of a funky savoury, vegetal, sawdust, slightly bitter-astringent flavour that is quite pleasant and drinkable. This mild tea would go well with all kinds of foods and sweets. This is the first raw pu er I’ve actually enjoyed drinking.
Flavors: Sawdust, Tobacco, Vegetal
So tonight I finished off the 4 or 5 grams I had left. The tea became much softer and the liquor was viscous with hints of vanilla, cream and fruitiness with florals dominating instead of the minerals. What a difference a heavy leaf makes! I’ll up the rating based on this tea’s versatility even though it doesn’t quite fit my favored profile, but I do recommend it! Maybe 6 grams per 100mL would bring out the best this yancha has to offer.