250 Tasting Notes

89

A really nice, complex and light Wuyi black tea. Aromas and flavors of honey, peach, rose, sunflower, pomelo, lemon, malt, almond, leather and pine. Aftertaste of rose, sunflower and citrus turning into a long-lasting impression of peach butter spread on a Hawaiian sweet roll. Sparkling, clean minerality. Good mouthfeel with only a very slight astringency and some nice tongue-numbing. There was an interesting effect with my saliva… it was almost effervescent or hm, foamy/fluffy? It reminded me a little of eating some foaming, sour hard candy from my childhood. I think they were called Tearjerkers?

This 2017 Wild Style Black was very similar to the 2018 though more complex. I’d probably reach for this one over the 2018 but they’re both excellent teas.

(5g, 100mL gaiwan, 200F, flash rinse, 12 steeps)

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML
Mastress Alita

I was such a wimp with Tearjerkers… and even worse with Warheads.

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89

Here’s another tea I had gotten halfway through taking notes on until I visited this page only to see eastkyteaguy had yet another spot-on review for something I was drinking. Almost every aroma and flavor he noted I picked up on except the menthol. At one point, there was an addition of cinnamon to the aroma and at times toward the end, the dark honey notes seemed to mingle with some light molasses.

I approached this tea a little differently than him, using a 150 mL gaiwan (which was nice
to use again and made me look forward to next spring’s green teas!) and started with
200F water with a rinse and steeps of 30 seconds. Once the ball opened up about halfway, I increased the water temperature to just off boiling to see how it would perform when pushed. The tea was steadfast in its presentation, budging not toward bitterness and maintaining its light astringency. After I got through 7 steeps at 30 seconds, I was too caffeinated to continue, so into a pint jar the leaves went and into the refrigerator. I’ll see how that turns out tomorrow.

I’m not fond of honey-flavored teas but for some reason, the honey notes in aged/aging
whites I find desirable. This tea was a good example of the style even in its dragon ball
format. It’s a forgiving tea that’s full of sweet, fruity, floral, nutty and slight savory aromas and flavors and it possesses an ease of brewing, making me think it would appeal to a range of drinkers.

Preparation
0 min, 30 sec 6 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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88

Gone gaiwan. 8g, 100mL, 205F, 10s rinse followed by 11 steeps.

The dry and warmed leaf possessed a good range of aromas dominated by the roast.
Underneath were scents of oak, red cherry, star anise, osmanthus, dark chocolate, fennel
and cinnamon. Rinsing the leaf brought forward aromas of oak, roasted walnut and pumpkin with osmanthus, peach and woody cinnamon in the background.

For the first several steeps, the aroma was fragrant with bittersweet chocolate, orchid
and osmanthus. In the mouth I could taste bold flavors of oak wood and minerals and a
lighter peach. The liquor was woody-bitter with a good astringency felt on the tongue,
leaving behind an intriguing rough texture. The aftertaste had notes of mint and orchid
and a delayed expression of cassia. With the first steep, I could quickly feel my sinuses
opening with a cooling menthol or perhaps camphor which soon crept its way into my ears. As the steeps progressed, the flavors became smoother and more muted while the aftertaste vied for attention, developing prolonged notes of peach, osmanthus, orchid and chocolate. At this point a pleasant returning sweetness also presented. From there, the high notes completely faded away and the brew became more bitter, ending with wood, flat pumpkin, and faint cassia.

I found this to be a really nice Rou Gui. I enjoyed the long peach and osmanthus aftertaste and the cassia played a nice supporting role instead of dominating. The Rou Gui cultivar tends to be a bit too woody for my tastes but this one was nevertheless very pleasant.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 8 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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93
drank Da Hong Pao (2015) by Old Ways Tea
250 tasting notes

I took notes for about half this session then came to visit this tea’s page. Upon reading eastkyteaguys’s note, I realize I have nothing new to add. His review is very comprehensive as usual. I find this tea very aromatic and tasty, much like eating a lightly spiced dark chocolate bar with walnuts, caramel and red fruits while sitting on a boulder in a cedar forest. It induces a very calming, reflective and open energy. Love me some well-blended Da Hong Pao. Good news: according to Old Ways Tea’s website this tea will be restocked. Give it a try. It’s good.

Addendum: Simmering the spent leaves produces a mellow, woody and nutty cup.

Don’t read below this if you don’t want to read some rambling.

So glad to be leaving San Francisco. Too much hustle. Since the mothership landed in California almost 9 years ago, I’ve made a continual northward migration. Hopefully I will end up at my school of choice next fall which is still higher in latitude than where I will be moving. I live in a neighborhood that highlights the economic disparity of this city, adjacent to both the government center and high-end international retail shopping. A lot of rough times here. We have our problems with drug use and open-air dealing, serious mental illness, lack of bathroom facilities for the homeless and car break-ins but I have come to love the grit of this neighborhood. It does have its charms. My building is full of immigrant families and long-time residents who have been so kind and respectful in my 5 years’ stay here. I find some of the denizens of this neighborhood less fortunate than myself to be charming human beings who have simply fallen on hard times. People are watching your back for you here, though honestly, with some learned awareness, I never feel unsafe. I’ve had philosophical conversations on the street with people high on crack. I’ve given random hugs, helped handicapped people cross the street, covered up people with a hoodie or blanket if they were passed out on the sidewalk, called 911 on people who have overdosed. Last Christmas, a homeless services agency was handing out gift bags and as I was walking by, the recipients pulled me into their group for a random photo and cheer. The things I talk about are not about me taking pride in my acts but rather they’re me reflecting that I’m not the only one doing these things. There’s a lot of really ugly shit going down here but also a lot of kind-hearted people trying to keep it from getting worse. It’s been a good stay here but the strife has definitely taken its toll on my psyche. I yearn for less hustle, easier access to nature and a place where I can let my cat outside (she deserves it, good old girl).

What I find crazy is that I gave my notice to vacate a week ago and already yesterday somebody put in an application on my apartment without even viewing it. There will also be an open house tomorrow. Finding housing in this city is no joke.

Please forgive my rambling. Some teas make me do that.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 8 g 3 OZ / 100 ML
Togo

I think only through hardship, people’s character comes to the surface. There’s also a strange and deep connection one builds with others when collaborating with others to solve real world (you could say existential) problems. It’s so worth it, and I think instrumental from an evolutionary perspective.

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84

The dry leaf was fishy smelling so I gave it a good 20s rinse and the fish disappeared, woot. The rinsed leaf smelled like bitter dark chocolate, baked bread, autumn leaf and buttered nuts. All but the butter came through in the thick brew along with an addition of a flat sourness like tart cherry and sour orange. Highly mineral like wet river rocks, leaving my tongue dancing. Pleasant sour aftertaste. The flavor turned very nutty toward the end and a strong returning sugarcane sweetness appeared. I didn’t get any actual sweet taste like other reviewers. Mostly savory, rich, mineral, sour and slightly bitter.

My mind was elsewhere when I drank this, so I ended up oversteeping it several times but it was smooth every time. This makes me think it would be great grandpa style as long as you rinse it first! I think this Yang Luo Han would be a good conversion shou for coffee drinkers.

Thanks for the sample Togo :)

(6g, 100mL, 212F, 20s rinse, 7 steeps at 30/70/40/55s and 4/4/20m)

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 30 sec 6 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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73
drank Redwood Chai by Flower Power Teas
250 tasting notes

Purchased at the co-op.

I brewed this with a tablespoon to 10oz of boiling water to get a feel for what it has to offer as a masala chai base. It’s a pretty good blend of chunky ingredients. Very fragrant and I can taste everything — carob, ginger, cinnamon, chicory, orange peel, clove, licorice, fennel, and cardamom. I’d say the ginger, cinnamon and cloves are the stars here and they’re also evident in the moderate spiciness. The orange peel brightens up the blend. There are hints of fennel, cardamom (more apparent in the aroma) and licorice sweetness and it’s only lightly chocolate-tasting from the carob and chicory.

Brewed in water as a nighttime bev, it was thin. I like the balance of ingredients but it’s too tame for me. I need black pepper in my chai. I have some old CTC I’ll try boiling with the rest of this sample some day soon.

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 10 OZ / 295 ML

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76

Why was I compelled to buy a tea that has such poor reviews? Because sometimes I’m stupidly curious and I’ve never had a piss poor oolong that’s gotten terrible reviews.

Spring 2018 harvest. To start, these are some giant nugs and they’re shades of green I’ve never seen in unroasted oolong. They smell like roasted walnuts, crispy rice, green cardamom, deep vegetal, violet? and toasted marshmallow. Wut. A few notes I’ve never experienced before. Warmed in the teapot then rinsed, they release aromas of spinach, sugarcane, sake, rice, herbs and cardamom. Very vegetal, savory and sweet.

Five grams of leaves in my 100mL teapot produces 5 steeps at 30/45/60/70/90s. The liquor starts off strongly with spinach, herbal medicine, sugarcane, and lemon water, retaining those notes throughout. A penetrating bitterness comes in on the second steep along with bold, savory sake without the alcohol. That clear, light yellow liquor is producing an unexpected intensity in flavor. After I’m done with the second cup, a strong returning sweetness hits the back of the throat and comes up up up, like ‘Hey, lemme out here!’ Later, some aftertastes of butter and rice appear. The texture is smooth but drying, not thick or thin or anything else. I suppose it’s just there. The bottom of the cup smells like a medicinal sake and also like some sencha I’ve had before.

This is certainly a different oolong and one I’m actually really glad to have experienced. I can see it being appealing to a very small subset of seasoned oolong drinkers looking for a change of pace or even sippers with a taste for the burly but this Wild Cultivar is definitely not for those looking for a refined, floral experience. That said, I might be in that small subset. I won’t order this batch again but I’ll have no problem finishing off the other 5 grams. If MST ever offers this Wild Cultivar again, I’ll buy another 10g sample.

Oh yeah, some of these giant nugs unfurl into leathery GIANT LEAVES. The biggest tea leaves I’ve ever seen in my life — some pushing 15cm in length. I feel like I should dry them out in my plant press and mount them.

Flavors: Bitter, Butter, Cardamon, Drying, Herbs, Lemon, Marshmallow, Medicinal, Rice, Sake, Spinach, Sugarcane, Toasted Rice, Vegetal, Violet, Walnut

Preparation
Boiling 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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85

So far, all the 2018 black teas I’ve tried from Old Ways Tea have had a strong floral note. This Wild Style Black had long-lasting white rose and sunflower notes on top of a light malty, baked bread base, lemon and orange zesty flavors and a very clean, light minerality. The aftertaste moved from rose and sunflower to sour orange to buttered, baked bread. There is also some returning sweetness.

One thing I’m really enjoying about this year’s black teas is their texture. This Wild Style Black was smooth with a kind of numbing astringency that’s not overbearing. It’s difficult to describe but something I’m really enjoying. I wonder if this quality is present in some of their older black teas which I have in my cupboard but have yet to try.

This was a delightful and clean Wuyi black tea with good longevity and recommended for fans of black teas from this region.

(5g, 100mL gaiwan, 200F, flash rinse, 12 steeps starting at 10s)

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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91

Esteemed Tea Collective, a Taiwanese oolong company I believe based in Los Angeles, was set up at the SF International Tea Fest. Unfortunately, by the time I got around to them it was near the end of the day on Sunday, so not only was I exhausted and don’t remember what I tried, but they were out of the two teas I wanted to purchase. Luckily, either this sample was included in the freebie bag or they handed it to me at their booth.

I brewed this sachet according to their parameters, with 8oz of 205F water and 3 steeps of 90/50/70s. Zooming in on the product labels on their website and doing simple math, each sachet contains 2g of leaves.

The roasting was very light and expertly applied, allowing the classic characteristics of high mountain oolongs to shine while simultaneously toning down floral and vegetal notes and bringing forward sweet nutty and cookie flavors. The resulting tea was so wonderfully fragrant and ridiculously smooth, thick, silky and oily in the mouth. All three steeps presented sweet nutty, cookie, white florals, osmanthus and crisp green bean flavors and some tartness and light minerality. It was so smooth I just enjoyed it, not bothering to take notes.

While I greatly enjoyed this tea, Esteemed Tea Collective only offers their collection in sachets so I won’t be likely to purchase. But for somebody looking for a refined oolong and ease of use, I’d suggest giving this new company a try.

One thing I do take issue with, though, is on their website they use a lot of buzz words in their ‘About’ section. They speak of transparency but offer no information about the farm/location, varietals or harvest season/month. Perhaps this information is available to wholesale buyers.

edit: I’ll contact them to find out where their batch information is available and update here

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 1 min, 30 sec 2 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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86

I only got 3 strong steeps out of this but what was there was so good. This isn’t going to be just anybody’s cup due to heicha being, well, fermented and the taste rather medicinal but it’s a woody, nutty and herbal medicinal as opposed to fruit.

Gone gaiwan. 6g, 100mL, 205F, 10s rinse followed by 7 steeps at 20/25/30/45s and 1/2/4m. I’ll try boiling the spent leaf and see what happens. Edit: oily, woody, nutty and tart

The dry leaf smelled of light fermentation, wood, smoke, meat and roasted bamboo. Warming and rinsing brought out additions of bay leaf, a strong savory note that reminded me of ginseng chicken soup and cigar shop. There was also that betel nut note mentioned in Yunnan Sourcing’s description. I’ve never had betel nut, only the leaf, but the taste seems like it might be similar.

The dark liquor was surprisingly thick and creamy-oily in those first several steeps. It seemed to slide over the center of my tongue and then curtain down the sides. It was also a tad numbing like Togo mentioned. Neat texture for sure. The aroma was quite savory with pleasant fermentation and betel nut? I could also taste the betel nut in the alkaline brew along with bay leaf, bamboo, some very slight fruity medicine, and tartness like red plum skin or a light dry red wine. There was a pleasant coffee-like taste/bitterness that added to the experience.

If there ever was a winter time black tea to have in the evening, this is it. I’ll probably purchase more of this since it’s so dang cheap at $6/100g. Thanks for the sample Togo, wherever you are!

Flavors: Bamboo, Bitter, Black Currant, Chicken Soup, Coffee, Creamy, Dark Wood, Herbs, Meat, Medicinal, Nutty, Pleasantly Sour, Plums, Red Wine, Roasted Chicken, Smoke, Smooth, Tobacco

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 6 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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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 :)

Most enjoyment: Wuyi and Taiwanese 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.

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.
89-80: Fits my profile well enough to buy again.
79-70: Not a preferred tea. I might buy more or try a different harvest. Would gladly have a cup if offered.
69-60: Won’t buy again.
59-1: Lacking several elements, has off flavors, lacks flavor, 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.

Location

San Francisco, California, USA

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