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Recent Tasting Notes
I’m finally getting to the end of my Zen Tea samples. I steeped 5 g of tea in a 120 ml teapot at 200F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
This is a toasty, nutty Da Hong Pao. I get toasted grain, honey, caramel, charcoal, walnuts and other nuts, and tobacco in the first to third steeps. It’s drying without being bitter, with a persistent nutty and charcoal aftertaste. The tea acquires a mineral taste by steep four, but otherwise remains consistent.
By steep seven, I find, like other reviewers, that this Da Hong Pao starts to peter out, with the nuts and grain becoming attenuated. This tea thins out into a charcoal and mineral finish around steep ten.
This Da Hong Pao had a promising beginning, but faded quickly. What there was of it was good, though. Still, I’ve had other DHP’s with more staying power and complexity.
Flavors: Caramel, Char, Grain, Honey, Mineral, Nutty, Tobacco, Walnut
I’m experiencing a green Tie Guan Yin shortage, and while I know I should wait until the spring 2018 harvest comes out in June, going several months without one of my favourite oolongs seems dire. This is the second-last reasonably sized package of green TGY in my cupboard, and it’s pretty good. I steeped 5 g of tea 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 seems slightly more oxidized than a typical green Tie Guan Yin, with notes of orchids, butter, grass, honey, and miscellaneous florals, which become violets in the second steep. Nectarines and vanilla appear in steep three, making the tea much more interesting, but also more perfumey. The fruit leans more towards apricot in the fourth steep. The next few steeps maintain this balance of flavours before petering out into grassiness.
This is a nice Tie Guan Yin that hits the spot. It has few surprises and fades faster than I’d like, but it’s pleasant while it lasts. I hope Zen Tea continues to carry it in the future.
Flavors: Apricot, Butter, Floral, Grass, Honey, Orchids, Stonefruits, Vanilla, Violet
This entry is for the second flush version of this tea, while my sample is from the autumn harvest. I got it a couple years ago, so it’s probably too old to be optimal. I steeped around 4 g of Darjeeling in 476 ml of 195F water for five minutes.
My initial impressions are of rye bread, malt, molasses, muscatel, caramel, and mild florals. There’s a kick of astringency at the back of the sip, and lots of tannins and grassiness in the aftertaste.
This is a burly tea for Margaret’s Hope. I haven’t had enough autumnal Darjeelings to know if it’s typical of the type, or maybe its age has blunted the more delicate flavours. Either way, it makes a good breakfast tea.
Flavors: Astringent, Baked Bread, Caramel, Floral, Grass, Malt, Molasses, Muscatel, Rye, Tannic
This is the last 5 g of my 10 g sample. I brewed the first 5 g using short steeps, as I would a green Tie Guan Yin, but decided to go with my usual longer infusions in this session. I used a 120 ml clay teapot and 195F water, and steeped the tea for 30, 30, 40, 40, 30, 30, 40, 40, 50, 50, 120, and 240 seconds.
The flavours are similar to those in the last session, only much more intense. In the first steep, I get caramel, wood, pecans, walnut and walnut shells, but not much smoke at all. The second steep adds the pleasant tangy sourness I associate with roasted TGY.
Going to 40 seconds in the third steep is a mistake, yielding the taste of bad convenience-store coffee. There’s smoke, dark wood, aggressive roast, bitter caramel, and underlying grassiness. Anxi Dark, I’m sorry for mistreating you so badly. Unfortunately, I did my steeps two at a time, so I had to drink one more awful infusion before lowering the time to 30 seconds again.
Back at 30 seconds, this is drinkable again, retaining its previous flavour for the next six steeps or so. Some nice mineral notes emerge near the end of the session.
Other than my premature 40-second steeps near the beginning of the session, this was very enjoyable.
Flavors: Caramel, Coffee, Grain, Mineral, Pecan, Pleasantly Sour, Roast nuts, Roasted, Tangy, Walnut, Wood
This is yet another of my Zen Tea samples. As an experiment, I decided to steep it as I would a green Tie Guan Yin: 5 g in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The first steep tastes like roasted nuts, caramel, and graham crackers, while the second adds flavours of heavy roast, grain, wood, and walnuts. These notes intensify throughout the next few infusions. I get a hint of spice from the fifth steep, but the flavour profile stays pretty consistent across the session. Sadly, I don’t detect any fruit or florals.
This is a straightforward roasted oolong that’s pleasant to drink but nothing special. I’ll have to try my remaining 5 g with longer steeps to see if I can get a more complex flavour.
Flavors: Caramel, Graham Cracker, Grain, Roast nuts, Roasted, Spices, Walnut, Wood
I was a bit heavy handed with this one, accidentally filling my 120 ml pot almost full with slightly more than 6 g of leaf. I steeped it at 195F for 8, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
Prior to steeping, this tea smells like a generic woody/roasted Wuyi oolong. The first steep gives notes of honey, roast, and walnut shells. Surprisingly, it wasn’t the astringent mess I was expecting based on the leaf quantity. In the second steep, hay, wood, and light florals emerge. The third steep has even stronger hay and honey notes, and I’d swear there was stevia in there if I didn’t know better. Later rounds get less sweet and bring out minerals and roasted nuts.
This is a nice, very sweet dark oolong, and while I don’t think I’ll buy more, I’m glad I got a sample.
Flavors: Floral, Hay, Honey, Mineral, Roasted, Roasted nuts, Sweet, Walnut, Wood
I recently discovered a cache of Zen Tea samples from 2015, and I’ll be reviewing them in the next few weeks. I seem to have bucked the trend by brewing this one gongfu style. I steeped 5 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 10, 12, 15, 17, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The small, loosely rolled, often downy snails are really pretty! The first steep has notes of caramel, earth, cocoa, malt, and wood. For such a powerful tea, there’s not much astringency, though a bit does appear in the aftertaste. The astringency gets more intense in the second steep, while all the other flavours stay the same. (Maybe I used more tea than I realized and I need to decrease my steep time.)
The third steep incorporates honey, grain, and a hint of smoke into the existing flavour, and has calmed down in terms of astringency. Surprisingly, though the cocoa is definitely there, it’s never too prominent, although it does get stronger in steep four. This tea goes for a few more rounds before petering out around steep nine.
Though this isn’t the most complex tea in the world, it’s rich and satisfying, and changes interestingly as the pearls unfold. Like most of Zen Tea’s offerings, it’s also well priced. It would have been even better if the cocoa had been a bit stronger.
Flavors: Caramel, Cocoa, Earth, Grain, Honey, Malt, Smoke, Wood
I bought this tea in early 2016, so it’s a bit long in the tooth. I steeped 5 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
In the pot, the dry leaf smells like liquorice and grape candy. The first steep has notes of scuppernong grapes, liquorice, menthol, and malt, with a big kick of tannins in the aftertaste. The second steep is similar—fruity and sweet until the astringency punches you in the throat at the end of the sip.
I brought the third steep down to 190F, which made the liquorice/sassafras note sweeter and cut down on the astringency. I get faint notes of honey, raisins, and earth. The profile stays consistent through the next few steeps, then starts to fade in the ninth.
If brewed at a slightly lower temperature than I normally make my black teas, this is a nice daily drinker. I also remember it being very reasonably priced, so that helps. Let’s hope that Zen Tea keeps it in its lineup when it starts selling teas again.
Flavors: Astringent, Earth, Grapes, Honey, Licorice, Malt, Menthol, Raisins, Tannin
I’ve spent the last couple of days lying on the couch watching season 6 and 7 of Game of Thrones – OMG what just happened !!??!! I had almost given up on it after season 5 but was convinced by friends that I really needed to stick with it. Yeah ok season 7 was awesome. Can’t wait for season 8. But now on to season 2 of Colony.
I’ve been spending the weekend on the couch because I’m trying to fight off the cold/flu thing I’ve got happening. I didn’t get any worse today so I’m calling that a win. Still a little stuffy and have a bit of chest congestion, but not nearly as sick as everyone else at work. Crossing fingers that I can contain it to this….
Strawberry cream? ok sure, I’ll go with that. Fruit black tea anyway. Nothing really exciting, but also nothing offensive. It’s fine to be sipping while watching TV. Thanks Evol for sharing.
I’ve had a request to start writing tasting notes again. This confuses me, I stopped writing notes because I felt I didn’t have anything interesting to say. There are lots of people here who are more articulate and have a better palate than I do. But as requested, here goes…
Tonight I’m just hanging out at home, watching the hockey game, petting the cat, eating banana bread, drinking this tea.
I normally choose and prefer China black teas, but it’s always nice to break it up with something different. This one is light with the high notes I would expect from a Taiwan black. It’s really fruity – normally I would think grape/wine fruity in this style but these are stone fruit notes. There is also some tannin (?) and a little suck the moisture out of your mouth thing. There is also a little smokiness as it cools. I don’t feel this style will every be my favorite but this was fun to try and I think it’s different enough from a typical Taiwan black to make it interesting.
Thanks Evol for sharing.
This is my favorite tea. It has a subtle but full flavor profile. There is enough sweet and bitter to work in concert. It has a refreshing effect and leaves in a contemplative mood for when I need to reflect. I love this tea.
Flavors: Bitter, Floral, Sweet
Sipdown. This is a beautiful dark roasted Anxi oolong with notable buttery and nutty notes, hints of wood and cinnamon. The roasted flavours are well balanced between sweet roasted grain and molasses. Slight sweetness in the first few steeps.
Flavors: Grain, Molasses, Nutty, Roast nuts, Toasty
Iron goddess tends to be an oolong I dislike most of the time, but I needed another sipdown today so I brewed this when I got up early this morning. 1 tsp leaf in 500 mL hot water (not boiling) for 4-5 minutes wasn’t strong enough, I suggest a little more leaf.
-very heavily roasted, notes of toasted barley and burnt sugar
-milky scent, but more like old musty milk
-potent orchid/floral flavour
-vegetal undertones (reminds me a bit of the smell of viney plants like ivy when you prune them)
-Gets more floral over time (leave the teabag in and drink over 10 minutes or so)
-With sufficient leaf, would probably make excellent gong fu tea and would likely change in flavour significantly over multiple steeps. I can’t remember if I’ve tried gongfu with this tea, but with other iron goddess teas it has been a pleasant journey.
Flavors: Burnt Sugar, Floral, Herbaceous, Orchid, Roasted, Roasted Barley, Toasted, Toasty
I’m starting to run out of my favorite Zen Tea blends. My pouches are almost a year old, so it is about time I got around to finishing them up, however I like to keep the around because I know I can’t replace them right now.
~8 pearls (1 tsp) in 500 mL hot water (~80 deg. C, not boiling) for 4 minutes
The loose leaf is very fresh and fragrant, and I’m happy to report the steeped brew is always equally fresh. Lots of jasmine, a natural sweetness from the tea. It steeps an amber brown colour, which is quite unlike my other jasmine greens and whites. There is a fruity note (pineapple, apple, apricot) and the jasmine is not bitter at all. This is a really nice jasmine tea that produces a smooth and flavourful cup.
Flavors: Apricot, Floral, Fruity, Jasmine, Pineapple, Smooth, Sweet, Tannin
Here’s Hoping Teabox – Round Seven- Tea #6
I usually love Zen’s teas but this must be their worst. I’ve never had a tea that tasted like liquid cardboard before… and this isn’t even a Ceylon (to me Ceylon would probably usually be described like cardboard but not even those come close to this though to be fair this does say it is 1/3 Ceylon.) And if this is a BREAKFAST tea then it has to be much stronger than this. I poured most of this mug in a plant. And I NEVER waste tea.