104 Tasting Notes

92
drank Bai Ji Guan by Verdant Tea
104 tasting notes

Another 5g sample. Spring 2017 harvest. This is only the second bai ji guan yancha I’ve tried, and is, if I can recall, much different than the other one which was light-roasted.

I got 10 steeps with 5g of leaf in my 100mL clay gaiwan. Boiling water and a short rinse.

The dry and rinsed leaf presented as very fragrant with an aroma of musty hay, orange blossom, yeast, cream, sweet pea floral, and elderflower.

Immediately with the first steep of 5 seconds, the pure golden liquor was swimming in taste. Sweet pea floral and vegetal, elderflower, hay, buttered yeast roll and mineral. The liquor was fragrant, brothy and tart with an already strong, lingering sweetness. As the session progressed, the flavors amplified. More elderflower sweet-tart came forward turning into mineral lemon water. Something reminded me of vanilla sugared egg yolks and a hint of lightly drying salted almond butter. The aftertaste was strongly floral and sweet, sometimes like honey, sometimes like white sugar. I went to the post office and grocery mid-session and was gone for an hour, all the while enjoying the persistent aftertaste. Toward the end, a pleasant brassiness and citrus zest showed up in the mouth with the brothiness transforming into a thickness. One thing I noted was if allowed to cool, the butteriness and some astringency became prominent. I was reminded of movie theater popcorn butter flavoring. I would recommend a strainer for this tea since it seems some of the delicate leaf disintegrates with boiling water.

Overall, I’m really digging this tea. It has such a complex and deep profile and strength in aroma and taste while remaining bright. Too sweet of an aftertaste for me to be a daily drinker but I’d like to keep some on hand.

Preparation
Boiling 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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I like where this one’s going already at such a young age. My sample is mostly a whole chunk with layers easy to peel. It’s quite the mix of shapes and colors, from almost black to brown, olive and beige with some beige-grey needles and a few gold ones. Dry leaf smells soft, sweet, vegetal, yeasty. Rinsed leaf aroma is peach, a light smoke and green beans. Rinse color is a light honey and I don’t know if my eyes are playing tricks – a tinge of pink.

Starts off light bodied and mineral, gaining some light honey with some sourness mid-mouth and light bitterness in the back. Fruity apricot/peach aftertaste. As the steeps progress, the honey disappears. The tea becomes more savory and the sourness becomes identifiable as citric in nature. It continues to get more tart and more bitter, leaving my mouth raw. Then, right when I expect a lot of sheng to lose steam, this one really blossoms. I notice a thickening of the liquor, a fullness in my throat, a persistent sweetness in the back, the bitterness and tartness fade, some light cooling and grassiness show up and the minerals return. Apricot and bready aftertastes linger for a while. It takes to over-steeping well in this later stage. Wasn’t keeping track but I think I got between 12 and 16 steeps.

Poking around, I see several different types of leaf, a lot of them whole and robust, some outlined with oxidation, some fat needles and an outlier leaf that’s longer than my middle finger. Quite the blend. Some charred bits in the bottom of the cup. No stomach discomfort at all. Energy in the beginning was kind of sedating, then later I noticed how utterly caffeinated I was.

This sheng fits my profile pretty well – not floral, not too sweet. Considering a cake for the price. I’m curious where this one will go.

Preparation
Boiling 6 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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86
drank Rice Aroma Ripe Pu'er by Mandala Tea
104 tasting notes

Gone gaiwan. 5g, 100mL, 212F. Short rinse followed by 7 steeps at 15s/25/30/45/1m/1m30/5?m

This is a nice, mellow shou, fragrant and comforting. The base tea is rather savory and not very sweet. It lacks off-putting aromas and tastes. Works well with the sticky rice herb which is not overpowering, though it is looking old. The first four steeps were the richest and the last 3 were not too watery. Despite me not considering this a sweet tea, there was a strong lingering sweetness in the back of the mouth. It was good for drinking at night which is what I purchased it for. Not too much focus was required, it was relatively short-lived and seemed low in caffeine. Prit-tay good.

Preparation
Boiling 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML
eastkyteaguy

I’ve been meaning to try this one for a while. I don’t drink pu’erh frequently, but I’m way bigger on shou than sheng. I tend to like what Mandala Tea offers. They’re kind of famous around these parts for their Milk Oolong and their pu’erh.

derk

I’ve had several of their shou over the course of a few years. They were all very clean and of excellent quality. The milk oolong wasn’t my jam but I can see why so many people love it.

eastkyteaguy

I used to love the milk oolong, but I’ve neither reviewed it nor consumed any of it in at least two years.

Mastress Alita

I have a different sticky rice herb pu-ehr, and I love to make it as a tea, then use the tea as the water my Minute Rice soaks up as a quick snack. The tea is also one of my favorite ramen broths.

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62

I had this a followup to a breakfast of some hash I made with apples, onion, bacon, and leftover chicken served with a slice of sour rye.

Gone western. Yet another 5g sample, 10oz, 205F, 6 steeps at 30s/45/1m/1m30/2m/5m

This is one of those smoke bomb ZSXZ. This tea has two things going for it: 1) the smoke doesn’t fade completely by the second steep nor does it turn into wet campfire smell and 2) the tea has longevity, not going flat quickly. It’s not the smoothest ZSXZ I’ve had, producing some astringency that I think would not make this a good candidate for brewing grandpa style in a thermos. However, due to it’s strength, I’m pretty sure you could buck Verdant’s brewing recommendation of 4g per 6-8oz of water and go with less leaf.

If you’re not a fan of smokey pu’er, I’d stay away. I was amazed at how strongly it resembled that style of tea, which I’ve never experienced in other ZSXZ. Mostly pine smoke and mushroom in aroma and taste with noticeable minerality and petrichor. The bottom of the cup did smell like brown sugar, but I did not pick up on any sweetness in taste. If there were any other flavors present, they were masked by the smoke.

Idk, this smoked tea isn’t bad, but it’s not what I was expecting.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 5 g 10 OZ / 295 ML

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75
drank Fo Shou Wuyi Oolong by Verdant Tea
104 tasting notes

Yancha, my love, it’s been too long… Over a month without your comforting embrace.

I decided to branch further out with my favorite style of tea by purchasing a few handfuls of Wuyi oolong samples from Verdant. First ever Fo Shou; I also have the Reserve Fo Shou in line.

I think I’m going to dedicate my new teapot to yancha instead of high mountain oolong. I would’ve loved to try my typical heavy leafing for yancha but all I had was this sample.

Spring 2017 harvest. 5g, 100ml, 205-212F. 10s rinse followed by 9 steeps at 10s/15/20/25/30/40/55/1m15/2m

The dry leaf smelled only of roast and cocoa powder with the roast dominating. Warmed and rinsed leaf smelled like rich dark chocolate. The cocoa/chocolate notes didn’t pass through, though. Early on, I could smell a faint incense and brown sugar in the clear orange-brown liquor. I was left with a tea that stayed fairly light in taste. The roast did have a small presence in the second steep, but I otherwise couldn’t pick out anything discernible besides the mineral, which gave an active mouthfeel. The tea offered a clear aftertaste of passionfruit, later moving into a very light grilled pineapple with brown sugar. Around the seventh steep, the tea began fading with some building light astringency. The spent leaf showed a high level of roasting and smelled of pipe tobacco with only a few large leaves. Warming, calm energy that mixed well with a stick of incense.

Overall, there was some flavor missing for my preferences but it was an easy-drinker with a nice, fruity aftertaste. This tea could be a daily drinker if you have $ and is a good introduction for those looking to try Wuyi oolong.

Preparation
5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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60

Spring 2018 harvest.

Gone gaiwan. 5g, 150mL, 205F. Flash rinse which I ended up drinking and 7 steeps at 10s/15/20/25/30/1m/3m.

Dry leaf smelled awesome with rich chocolate, pastry and caraway. Rinsed leaf also awesome with riiich dark chocolate, honey and dark-roasted barley. The liquor was a clear brown-orange and smelled of honey, grains and dark chocolate wth pumpernickel coming in later. The tea was lightly astringent and very light-bodied, tending toward watery. The taste was not what I was expecting after having tried the Laoshan gongfu black. I picked up on watered down chocolate, honey and grains, ending the session with just caraway/pumpernickel which was pretty tasty. Ehhhh. Maybe it’s stronger brewed western. Seemed to be low in caffeine. I drank it late at night and had no problems falling asleep.

According to their website, the weather for this year’s harvest was unfavorable, so maybe my dissatisfaction is due to that. I’d like to try next year’s if it’s ever on sale.

One more Laoshan black to go. Thus far, I’m leaning toward the fall harvest roasted oolong.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 5 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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90
drank Butter Flower by White2Tea
104 tasting notes

Received as a freebie with my teacup purchase, thanks!

My past tries with dancong brewed with the chaozhou gongfu method produced cups that were upfront way too bitter and astringent for my liking, so I went with a recommendation by eastkyteaguy to use less leaf and lower water temperature. No stuffed gaiwan nor boiling water.

Gone glass gaiwan. 7g, 150mL, 200F. Flash rinse that I drank plus 8 more steeps at 10/12/18/22/28/35/45/60s

The dry leaf smelled tangy with yogurt, grapes and apricot. The wet leaf throughout the session was incredibly fragrant and produced scents of dried apricot, yogurt tang, green grape, hay, nectarine, white peach and fresh apricot. The aroma of the liquor was an intoxicating mix of honeysuckle, white florals and white nectarine that remained strong from the rinse to about the fourth steep. The liquor started off very thick with kind of a penetrating, tingling astringency only on the tongue, later becoming thinner and more astringent. Some bitterness appeared in the back of the mouth midway, turning into a full-mouthed bitterness for the last two steeps. The first several steeps were strong yet ethereal in taste with butter, honeysuckle, white floral, white nectarine, minerals and apricot and had an aftertaste of white peach for at least 30 minutes. As the session progressed, the butter faded yet the other notes remained.

I find it difficult to judge my preference for this tea since I don’t have much experience, let alone good experience, with dancong oolong. I’m not sure I’d purchase more, but it was a very pleasurable session.

I do look forward to using eastkyteaguy’s brewing recommendations again for the other two dancongs I have in my cupboard.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 7 g 5 OZ / 150 ML
Mastress Alita

Oh, that’s the tea sampler I got when I ordered my little baby gaiwan!

derk

The leaves of this tea are too large to fit in the baby gaiwan, fyi.

Mastress Alita

Ya, I think after the expansion I got from the last oolong I brewed in it, I may just make my oolongs in the shiboridashi and just measure out a low amount of water for it (fill it to 50ml though it holds 150ml, since I just don’t want to drink that much tea per infusion). It has tons of space for leaf expansion in there. The black tea I brewed in the baby gaiwan worked with no issues, though!

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90

Over the past few days of doing a sipdown with this tea, I’ve brewed it at a lower temperature (only 5 degrees difference) and noticed some differences, the biggest being a pronounced milkiness in texture in the first steep. Straw, malt, mace (warming and quite peppery, kind of sweet), almond, cream and butter became the dominant notes in taste.
The cocoa I had gotten previously pretty much disappeared. There was still enough of a high note between the fruity nose and the muscatel, orange blossom and yellow gooseberry in the mouth to keep it interesting. The first steep produced an aftertaste of cream/butter while the second was fruity with a lingering light astringency. Again, this tea is versatile in that I can gain equal pleasure by either taking my time sipping or drinking it quickly. The mornings here have been chilly lately and this tea has been a nice accompaniment.

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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I bought a sample of this in the quest to taste osmanthus for the first time.

Gone gaiwan. 5g, 150mL, 205F, flash rinse, 5/10/20/30/40/60/90s.

Autumn 2017 harvest. The dry leaf smelled strongly of – this is just my association, I kept trying to think of better descriptors because it was lacking the preservative/coloring smell – cherry cough syrup, dark chocolate and faint baby powder. Warmed and rinsed leaf scents were similar, dominated by dark chocolate, followed by cherry cough syrup and mandarin orange with floral here and there. So very fragrant.

The tea remained somewhat unchanging in taste and lacked a gravitas. It wasn’t a flavor-bomb and created a sense of being-light bodied even though the mouthfeel told another story. The cherry cough syrup of the leaf turned into something more like a medicinal? cherry candy. Now that I think about it, combined with the dark chocolate, it tasted similar to a kind of candy I’ve had before but so much lighter. There were also notes of wood, minerals and metal. In the second steep, an intensely warming and pure cinnamon came in, said goodbye. There was a separate cypress cooling sensation that arrived midway and joined with the cinnamon appearing again at the end, tasting like camphor and persisting in its warming/cooling effect. I can an hour later still feel it in my ears. It feels like medicine.

Despite the liquor being light in taste, it was rather thick and oily in body. It was also lightly astringent, and like the Laoshan gongfu black I had recently, I was salivating furiously.
Combined with the oily texture and the taste of minerals, this all created a sense of palate cleansing, diminishing the astringent effect. Weird. Bottom of the cup scent was honey, dark chocolate and again with that cherry which all faded as the steeps progressed. In terms of energy, it seems to have for me a tolerable amount of caffeine. I became verrry relaxed and meditative.

At first this tea was off-putting due to the leaf aroma, and I sat skeptical the whole session. But you know what, it’s growing on me as I type this. It comes across as both refined and not. I find it very intriguing. I might be perplexed. It’s definitely not a daily drinker but I would like to have some on hand and also give western style brewing a try. Gonna leave it unrated.

I’m still left wondering what osmanthus tastes like. I should buy just the flowers.

Flavors: Astringent, Camphor, Cherry, Cinnamon, Dark Chocolate, Floral, Honey, Medicinal, Menthol, Metallic, Mineral, Orange, Pleasantly Sour, Smooth, Thick, Wood

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 5 g 5 OZ / 150 ML
Daylon R Thomas

Yeah, this is not the best introduction to it since the flowers were also dried and roasted.

derk

Do you have a recommendation for a tea that has a clear osmanthus note? I actually ordered more of this tea today (holy crap it’s $ but I just found it so darn intriguing) and its counterpart oolong without the flowers to do a comparison.

LuckyMe

Same experience here. Osmanthus doesn’t marry well with a dark base. I am partial to TTC’s osmanthus scented oolong. It’s a Jin Xuan oolong and has a much more refined osmanthus flavor.

Daylon R Thomas

2nd Lucky me’s suggestion for TTC or Taiwan Tea Crafts. Golden Tea Leaf has a good one, but it is sold out. I have some bags of it if you want to do a mini trade. Here is a mega cheap option:https://www.mountaintea.com/products/osmanthus-oolong, but I’ve had mixed experiences with their tea. The few I’ve had are good, but not always as fresh as they can be.

Daylon R Thomas

Teavivre and Tealyra are also good budget options that are competent in the least, though not amazing in terms of flavor for a lot of their teas with some noble exceptions.

derk

Thanks for the recommendations, LuckyMe and Daylon R Thomas. TTC’s current lot of osmanthus oolong is affordable for me. I’ll give them a try first.

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78
drank Laoshan Goji Leaf by Verdant Tea
104 tasting notes

The Great Goji Leaf spoke to me and It said, “Brew my children in the style of western. The minimum cost of admission is 2.5 grams (surely you can afford that; we’ll gladly accept 5 grams) placed into the vessel. Open a kettle of water at the traditionally accepted temperature and brew the young leaf with timing similar to a baptismal dunking, immersing my offspring thrice in the font, a little longer each time. Take care not to drown the baby. Also, drink your veggies.”

Translation: I prefer this western. I found 2.5g to be the minimum amount of leaf needed for two to three 8oz cups of savory, peppery summer squash and broccoli stalk (stock?) broth. Brewed gongfu, in addition to the above, there was some mashed potato going on along with drop biscuit and a big, thick persistent sweetness. It all got kind of weird and unenjoyable after the fourth steep gongfu following Verdant’s parameters.

This herbal tea is filling, makes me sweat and gets me in the cozy mood.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 8 OZ / 236 ML
gmathis

Did your Great Goji leaf sound more like Darth Vader or Yoda? (Sorry, couldn’t resist :)

derk

Honestly, the Great Goji Leaf was voiced by Eddie Izzard.

Mastress Alita

…Taking the prisoners off to Al-ca-traaaz!

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Profile

Bio

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 like to share, though I don’t keep large amounts of most teas on hand as I’m still in the midst of a years-long exploration phase. I feel that will be winding down later in 2019. I drink to fit my mood, the weather or my location.

Preference reference:

100-90: Tea love. Will sell my belongings to acquire more. (Want this stocked if I have the space.)
89-80: Will sell somebody else’s belongings to acquire more. (Good enough to buy again.)
79-70: “We should get together and hangout some time.” Let’s cut the bullshit: You’re not worth my time. (Won’t buy more but might try a different harvest.)
69-60: This may be considered passing in education, but deep down you feel like a failure. (Def won’t buy again.)
59-0: Hellnaw!

Most enjoyment: yancha, dianhong, Laoshan green, red oolong, roasted Shanlinxi oolong, citrus blossom scented oolong, some GABA oolong, non-sweet shou pu’er, resinous/fruity/meaty/bitter sheng pu’er. Big fan of medicinal flavors, thick mouthfeel, minerals and body feels.

I’ll try anything once because it helps me learn. Not opposed to well placed herbs, flowers and fruity bits.

Currently working my way into a masters of environmental engineering program. My interests include bicycling, fungi, wetlands, falconry, conservation, creation, destruction, terraforming, spaceflight, the unknown and of course tea. Cook from scratch when I have the time. Reader for life.

Location

San Francisco, California, USA

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