503 Tasting Notes


Better for me western than gongfu even though it was processed for gongfu prep?

It’s a nicely structured and balanced tea with something like a lightly cured tobacco, leather and malt as the dominant, though modest notes. An undertone of red wine, like a red zin or something especially since there was a slight spice aspect. Subdued smoke (nothing like a smoked lapsang souchong), wheat, baked bread, dark/chocolate, pine, wood, molasses, overripe black cherries. There was a bitterness that I associate with the smokiness. Strangely tangy which turned into a metallic quality in the back of the mouth — didn’t mix well with the lingering light cream and osmanthus aftertaste.

The metallic impression threw me and the body was too thin for what I perceive as flavors that normally carry some heft; otherwise, this would be a fine tea considering its balance.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Bitter, Chocolate, Cream, Dark Chocolate, Leather, Malt, Metallic, Molasses, Osmanthus, Overripe Cherries, Pine, Red Wine, Smoke, Spices, Tangy, Tobacco, Wheat, Wood

205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

I was always wondering if the “gong fu” designation in tea names is just a marketing gimmick or if it actually reflects something meaningful (specific processing? leaf quality?).

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Figured I’d do a comparison tasting with another Lapsang Souchong that Togo so kindly swapped with me. The one I reviewed last night from Tao Tea Leaf was likely old and very different in character, striking me as similar to a Laoshan black but much more muted.

This one from Wuyi Origin has blown me away and further emphasized my adoration for Wuyi hongcha.

There is so much going on in this tea when prepared gongfu. Wild and fragrant dry leaf, penetrating aroma, clear liquor that’s light-bodied, excellently structured and full of flavor, the obvious Wuyi minerality, long layered aftertaste, warming and spicy in throat with a dark returning sweetness while cooling in chest. Good longevity and never misses a beat even with a few oversteeps. Lovely energy. Most importantly, the tea is clean.

Dry leaf smells of molasses, dried sour cherries, a light-colored wood, herbs, lemon, raspberry, forest floor. Warming the leaf brings forth osmanthus, eucalyptus, malt and cherry. The rinsed leaf smells more woody and earthy, though with a deep, dark pungency. Something about these aromas really stimulates my stomach.

In the mouth is an intense perfume and flavors of osmanthus, rose, guava jelly, peach, nectarine, apricot with cream after the swallow. Sweet minerality that cascades over the sides of the tongue and instantly tingles my salivary glands. Other notes include damp foggy forest, eucalyptus, cedar, pine, malt, lemon, baked bread, nuts (notably pecan), butter, dark red chili pepper, camphor, damp and rich forest floor with accompanying florals like violet and iris.


What a treat. I feel indebted to Togo. Fantastic job, Wuyi Origin.

Flavors: Apricot, Baked Bread, Butter, Camphor, Cedar, Cherry, Cream, Dried Fruit, Eucalyptus, Floral, Flowers, Forest Floor, Fruity, Guava, Herbs, Lemon, Malt, Menthol, Mineral, Molasses, Nuts, Osmanthus, Peach, Pecan, Pine, Rainforest, Raspberry, Spicy, Tangy, Violet, Wood

205 °F / 96 °C 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML
Martin Bednář

Wanna it now! :D


Wow! That sounds amazing. I’m glad I didn’t read this review on Black Friday. :)


Super nice review my friend!

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Currently sipping gongfu. 5g in the porcelain pot, water off boiling, no rinse.

This tea is a bit deceptive once it finally gets going. I didn’t bother with a rinse since the tightly twisted leaves mixed with golden velvet tips are very small. Ten seconds for the first steep was not enough; I would’ve gone longer. But once the tea opened up, the aroma was very rich and reminded me so much of a Laoshan black with chocolate syrup, molasses, tobacco, pumpernickel, brown sugar vibes.

I was a bit confused with the first several cups because the intensity of aroma didn’t translate into taste. It seemed rather flat but also like it might be a good enough quality tea with long-lasting tongue tingles. Kind of a brisk mineral-forward taste mixed with clean redwood bark and whispers of dried fruit and chocolate after the swallow. Steep times really need to be pushed to get a good body which also brings out a nice, soft bitterness. Once I realized that’s what the tea had to give in this session, I let go of the underwhelmed feeling. That’s when I noticed the qi. It’s heavy, warming and drowse-inducing, perfect for this drizzly evening. I suspect this tea may be past its prime but I’m enjoying it. Thanks for the winter warmer Togo :)

Rainy season has finally arrived! To think a little over a month ago we were on fire.

Song pairing: The Boxer Rebellion — Fear

205 °F / 96 °C 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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Pretty good, though I wouldn’t name it Ginger & Peach based on flavor proportions.

It’s Mint & Peach. Fresh and clear peppermint mixed with plenty of lively sweet peach taste. Marshmallow root nutty flavor and licorice thickness/sweetness but not overwhelming. Maybe a hint of ginger warmth.

If you like the combination of fruit and mint and the ease of a teabag (and don’t hate licorice root), I don’t think you could go wrong with this one. For me, notsomuch.

Oh yeah, it’s very fragrant!

Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 8 OZ / 236 ML

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drank Linden Tea by Buddha Teas
503 tasting notes

Glad I skimmed this from my aunt’s tea drawer and didn’t buy it myself.

Hot it tastes vaguely of linden, somewhat earthy and I can definitely taste the paper teabag. Only when it’s been sitting over 12 hours and cold do the linden florals and sweetness come out. None of that syrupy body linden tisanes can develop.


Boiling 8 min or more 8 OZ / 236 ML

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drank Thyme Leaf Tea by Buddha Teas
503 tasting notes

I’m glad my aunt likes to buy teabags. Every time I come over she has something new in her drawer. I don’t have to think twice about spending $8 on individually sealed bags of herbs in a fancy box ;P Too lazy to figure out dollar per gram and compare it my favorite caffeinated true teas.

I used to hate thyme. And I think that’s because I wasn’t raised eating food prepared with fresh herbs or anything fresh and green at all. The supermarket spice aisle is the unforeseen disappointment to all little herbs and spices that grow up believing they’re destined for something a bit more — grand — like getting cozy inside a meat cave and giving all the oils they can muster to help flavor a birdbrain tied up and arranged on a metal grate to elicit such delighted response when the meat cave is pulled out of a heat cave — What a beautiful bird!

Alright, thyme, you have my attention.

My aunt brewed one bag in a huge coffee mug for me right before I passed out with a belly full of food at my now-normal 7pm. I woke up for today at, what, 2am and downed the cold mug. This little bag is powerful stuff! Absolutely the freshest dried thyme I’ve ever had. That potent thyme mintiness felt great in my chest and sinuses as I’m ridding the remnants of a cold. Savory.

Idk. For a teabag filled with herbs to induce my goofybrain as above, I’m inclined to buy a box. It is cheaper than what I’ve spent on my other favorite tisanes.

Flavors: Mint, Thyme

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Song pairing first: Pachanga Boys — Time

In the spirit of nostalgia and friendship, today I brought this out for a session with a coworker who has a history of puerh consumption.

I think it was too bitter for him, at least in comparison to the 2005 Changtai Yun Pu Zhi Dian we sampled first.

On the other hand, I was and still am at a loss for words. Nothing but wild associations with this sheng. At least there is often some inkling of shared subjectivity when describing sensate experience, of which I have some to offer but I feel it is inadequate.

This tea is a slow bewilderment that builds into a crystalline clarity. Something about winter in the high desert, pastel sunrises, icicles. It’s subtle beneath the balance of bitter, sweet and cooling. At times it’s woody, others leathery, or with impressions of cacao or fragrant desert wood or floral incense or frigid desert air. Lots of sweet vanilla-mint flavor. Mineral, tongue tingling, mouth-watering but still astringent. Pretty freaking amazing. Yeah, zing. Crystalline.

Thanks mrmopar <3 I bought a cake after trying it at the Great Table Commandeering.

Boiling 6 g 3 OZ / 100 ML
Martin Bednář

Nice song pairing :)


Awesome Derk! I really like this one. Glad you were sharing with a coworker. Such a good one to share with.

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drank Sweet Matcha by Ujido
503 tasting notes

Found this in the kitchen stash. Best before 05/19 and not wanting it to go to waste, I took the box to work.

Matcha mixed with erythritol and monkfruit. Prepared according to direction by dumping the contents of a tube into 6oz of cold water, gave a good shake.

It was sweet matcha, no surprise, right on the edge of cloying. Dark green in flavor, maybe along the lines of seaweed-earth (cold is screwing me up). Smooth, like the matcha was a nice grain and the sweeteners easily dissolved.

Definitely not something I’d seek out since my matcha preference is traditional preparation. Leaving it in the break room for others.

6 OZ / 177 ML

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Honestly, I can’t smell anything or taste much right now. It’s actually a great time to focus on the general impression of a puerh and the way it feels in my mouth and body rather than my default mode which is to get lost in tastes.

Despite my schnoz not working well, I am able to pick up on aged puerh smell and forest floor in the rinsed leaf along with yeasty and bready qualities. The liquor has an oily thickness to it that when combined with a general tartness and minerality gives the impression of a lighter-bodied tea. Seems like it might taste of tobacco. The initial infusions feel great going down my throat and leave a thin and cooling camphor coating. There is also a bit of throat drying early on along with slight bitterness that does grow stronger but it is complementary. A light returning sweetness presents, seems date-like but combines with the back of the tongue bitterness to give a bittersweet lingering. I do notice some roughness and numbing of the tongue.

The energy is notable for me in the regard that it gives me a general sense of well being and positivity and it makes me dance. I much prefer this feeling to heady teas since I’m always thinking anyway.

On that note:
Album pairing: Paul Simon - Graceland, found in my housemate’s record collection

This is a solid aged sheng, one I could see keeping as a daily drinker.

Boiling 7 g 4 OZ / 110 ML
Martin Bednář

Get well soon!


Thanks, it’s a mild cold


Hope you feel better!


Indeed, get over that cold.


I remember hearing the Graceland album for the first time and being totally blown away by the crazy wonderful mix-match of instrumentation :)


Thanks y’all. Hopefully today was the worst of it. Dang was I grumpy!

gmathis: It was the first time I listened to Graceland. I didn’t expect the album that contained “You Can Call Me Al” to have that range of instrumentation and influences!

Regarding this tea, I’m still working on the teapot from yesterday after a short rinse to wake up the leaves again. The liquor is still oily but the texture has morphed from thick into what a lot of reviews mention as fluffy/marshmallowy. What I can taste does fall in line with a marshmallow sweetness, nutty. I think I’m currently somewhere around 10 long steeps. The flow of this teapot is slow, around 12-15 seconds but I enjoy what pours from it :)

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drank Licorice Mint by Taste of Tea
503 tasting notes

From Holy Assumption Monastery in Calistoga, CA. Blended by The Taste of Tea, a Japanese restaurant and spa in Healdsburg, CA. Both places close to home.

It’s everything I dislike but I’m drinking it to keep this sore throat soothed.

LEMON CLEANER with mint, the cloying sweetness of licorice root

Housemate loves it. I wonder wtf is wrong with her sometimes. Crazy coot.

Maybe I’ll go to Taste of Tea today. A rice bowl sounds really good.

Boiling 8 min or more 8 tsp 34 OZ / 1000 ML
Mastress Alita

I love lemon teas, but not when it turns into lemon cleaner/furniture polish. Blech.


I think there is no middle ground…either you love licorice or you are correct :)


Mastress Alita: it’s just lemongrass but dang is it strong! I love fresh lemongrass in cooking but when dried it seems to concentrate and disrupt the balance of aromatic compounds I enjoy in other dried ‘lemon’ herbs like myrtle and balm.

gmathis: You know, the only tea with noticeable licorice root that I’ve truly enjoyed is Mandala’s ginseng oolong.

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Always up for a trade. I keep an updated cupboard. Check it out. Don’t be shy — message me if you want to try something! I send international :)

Most enjoyment:

Wuyi and Taiwanese oolong, GABA oolong, sheng and shou puerh, Yunnan and Wuyi blacks, Laoshan green. I also appreciate Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Darjeeling and Nepali teas, bagged tea and herbal teas/tisanes.

I take my teas without milks or sweeteners except sometimes chai and the rare London Fog or matcha latte. I generally steep a tea until it has no more to give.

I’ll try anything once because it helps me learn. Not opposed to well placed herbs, flowers, fruity bits and flavorings. Just nothing cloying especially banana, caramel, coconut, cinnamon or maple. And no added sugars, sweeteners, candy or chocolate.

Preference reference:

100-90: A tea I can lose myself into. Something about it makes me slow down and appreciate not only the tea but all of life or a moment in time. If it’s a bagged or herbal tea, it’s of standout quality in comparison to similar items.
89-80: Fits my profile well enough to buy again. Some could be daily drinker teas.
79-70: Not a preferred tea. I might buy more or try a different harvest. Would gladly have a cup if offered.
69-60: Not necessarily a bad tea but one that I won’t buy again. Would have a cup if offered.
59-1: Lacking several elements, strangely clunky, possess off flavors/aroma/texture or something about it makes me not want to finish.
Unrated: Haven’t made up my mind or some other reason. If it’s puerh, I likely think it needs more age.


Sonoma County, California, USA

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