335 Tasting Notes
Yesterday, I received my first BTTC order. Thus far, I’ve already finished the Taiping HoKui freebie and later found myself perusing their website for a teapot. (Please, please nobody buy that blue one tonight!!) My hand ended up back in the shipping box on its own accord, as if it were non-chalantly possessed. It picked the most expensive 10g sample, a high mountain oolong, of which I have little experience. Bare with me. I’ll do my best to not make the review too long or convoluted.
April 2018 harvest. 5g, 100mL gaiwan, 195F. 10 second rinse followed by 9 steepings at 10/15/20/25/30/45/55/1m10s/1m30s and final truly spent steep at 2m15s.
Dry leaf: orchid, vanilla and butter at their best with a whiff of muted ceylon cinnamon.
Rinsed leaf: buttercream, orchid and vanilla.
The aroma of the leaf remained strong and stable in the first three steeps: orchid, vanilla, brown sugar, violet and collards with butter coming in on the second steep and cream on the third. The aroma of the liquor started off all sweet vanilla and orchid. The taste of the liquor had an underlying mineral and grass theme throughout, starting off with vanilla, orchid, very light ceylon cinnamon with the addition of butter and cream. Nice and silky with a light cooling sensation in the third steep. At this point, I found myself sweating and very relaxed.
In the fourth through sixth steeps, the aroma of the leaf was much the same as the first three but with the vanilla fading out. I’d say the collards became the prominent scent, accented strongly by orchid, cream, butter, lily, violet and a hint of lilac in fifth steep.
Here is where the aroma and taste of the liquor began changing with each steep. Fourth steep produced an aroma of orchid, lily, violet and cream and taste the same as the third. Noticed some salivation here. Fifth steep had the base of the fourth steep with the addition of both the pronounced scent and taste of honey. At this point, the liquor began thinning a bit, and I noticed both a light drying and slickness on the tongue. In the sixth steep, the aroma changed but still had the base orchid, lily, and violet. I also caught fleeting orange blossom and banana. The taste of the liquor here was mostly mineral and floral, backed up by lettuce and grass.
In the seventh steep, the aroma of the leaf began to fade into spinach with honied florals. The aroma of the liquor also began to fade into just orchid, cream. Butter and cream made a reappearance in the mouth.
The eight steep saw the appearance of pine and camphor? in the wet leaf in addition to the spinach and honey. Liquor aroma and taste continued a pleasant fade with orchid and honey in the nose and orchid, butter and mineral in the mouth.
The ninth steep produced a nice, light ending with leaf smelling of peas and wood, aroma of faint rose, apricot and orange blossom and taste of mineral, wood and butter. I tried a tenth steep at 2m15s to see what else I could pull but it literally produced hot water.
This tea is delightful with it’s dominating notes being very sweet, orchid/floral and creamy and possessing a silky mouthfeel. It was well backed by butter, pleasant dark vegetal notes, grass and a not-overbearing minerality. Like I said, I don’t have much experience with high mountain oolongs but this Dayuling seemed very balanced. Nothing was out of place and I feel that it ended on a good note. Good for a treat given its price and lack of longevity.
Received as a free sample with my order, thank you! Not listed on their website as of this review.
Gone grandpa. Weighed it out, about 5 grams. Split between 2-12oz glasses, one for me and one to share. 160F.
First time with this style of green tea so I wasn’t really sure what an appropriate leaf amount was but 2.5g per cup turned out to be pretty good.
Awesome shades of bright green, flat-pressed leaves that released an effervescence when I poured water into the glass. Whiff of sulfur. Let it brew for a few minutes. Aroma was light, with mostly nectarine and some vegetal like sweetgrass and green bean. Taste was nice and fruity, with yellow and white nectarine, passionfruit, sweetgrass and green bean. Slightly drying. A pleasant surprise of non-cloying coconut was sitting near the bottom of the cup.
With the first refill, some of the less-than-paper-thin leaves began to disintegrate. Drying mouthfeel increased greatly and the flavors remained consistent but lighter. What leaves ended up in my mouth were edible and not bitter. After the first refill, I’d say this tea was done.
I wish I had more so I could try it cold-brew but my boyfriend wanted in on this sample, too. I’d also like to try it with lower temperature water.
Overall, I’m glad to have tried this type of tea for the first time and will probably seek it out in the future. I enjoyed the fruitiness and refreshing quality. I think having a small snack of fresh mango would complement this really well and detract from the drying mouthfeel.
Refraining from a rating since it’s not available on BTTC’s website as of this review.
I finished a sample pouch of this tonight. Yes, tonight. Night. In fact, I never even drank this with breakfast. I did stop by the bougie bakery on my way home from the grocery earlier for a banana bread accompaniment. I don’t know anything about English Breakfast tea beyond teabags drank too long ago to remember the flavor. Forgive me, my English sistren and brethren.
Gone grandpa. 2tsp/Seattle rainy day mug/water off-boiling/nocreamnosugar
This is a mix of Yunnan, Vietnam and Kenya black teas. Sample pouch has spots of golden down from the Yunnan black. Dry leaf smells delicious, like a woody hot cocoa. The brew, from what I can tell is pretty dark and also smells like woody hot cocoa. Tastes about the same, smooth and sweet with a little bit of malt, leather, rose and spice. Mouthfeel is full and very round, slick with cream. I bet some unsweetened almond milk in this would taste divine. Dairy milk or cream might make it too slick. Never sugar for me, but I bet it would be good. Gets a little astringent at the back of the mouth if left to sit but I like it. Spent leaf is bulky, so I recommend against using any kind of teaball doohickie. Got 5-6 top-offs with a definite caffeine kick. Should’ve eaten more food as I ended up getting shaky. I can see it being great for getting moving in cold weather.
I have no comparison to other English Breakfast blacks but this is really good. Thanks a lot for the sample.
Finished up the 25g package this morning after having a breakfast of leftover homemade veggie soup.
Gone gaiwan this time. 6 grams/150mL glass gaiwan/160-175F/flash rinse/5 second intervals. Did 7 steeps before calling it quits.
Dry leaf today smelled like dark chocolate and walnut.
Wet leaf ranged from roasted bamboo to light brown sugar, cocoa, sesame, green bamboo, white floral, hot linens, toasted sesame, umami, smoke, green beans and chestnut.
Aroma remained pretty light throughout all steeps, with the most noticeable scents being lemon water, white floral and cocoa, followed by butter, roasted nuts, sesame and green bamboo.
Liquor was really pleasant in the first 3 steeps with lemon water, sichuan peppercorn, bamboo, cocoa, very mineral. Smoke came through in the fourth steep and that’s when the brew turned quite bitter and astringent. From the fourth steep on I tasted mineral lemon water and butter, bitterness and astringency, ending with an accompaniment of yellow squash and green bean.
Overall, I really like the profile this tea has to offer. If the bitterness and astringency could be lessened in a future harvest, I’d like to try some more. Upping the rating a few points.
Following up my Thai eggplant and ground pork takeout with a strong, clean shou to cut the grease.
I’ve brewed this consistently throughout the 1-oz bag. Easy to break off a 5-gram chunk and go western in a ball jar. Couple of 10-second rinses, though after tasting the second rinse, I think only one could be had. Already dark and clear. Fill ’er up with 8oz of boiling water. 30/60/90/120/180/asyouplease.
The brewed liquor smells like the ancient, leaky trailer my friend used to live in on the edge of damp riparian habitat. His mother, the prior occupant, was an indoor chainsmoker. Sounds gross, right? Tastes amazing.
If that offends you, I can say it also reminds me of slogging through a forested swamp in northeastern Ohio on a cloudy and cold November day. It’s about 36F and nearing sundown. Clay and muck and leaf decay stick to my wader’s boots and weigh me down. Somebody within a mile has a fire burning. The smoky particulates stick to my own misty exhalations which I breathe back in, open-mouthed. I’m a sweaty stick of human-landjaeger in these chest waders, forever trudging forward. Sounds gross, right? Tastes amazing!
Ash, earthy fungal loam, humus, smoke, leather, old books, followed by a tingling tongue, decaying dark wood, gray clay (very specific mineral taste for me), tobacco, lighter wood and finally a sweetness like vanilla. Mouthfeel stays light and clean. Cha qi is near instant and unbeatable. Perk up, calm down, both gaze and lights soften. I’m immobilized yet focused within this rusty orange hue. If I were still much of a writer, this would be my choice of beverage for late nights of visualizing and penning.
I’m pretty sure you could manage less leaf, more steeps, lower temperature and still end up with a decent cup.
Sad to see this ounce go. I will order several cakes of this to have as my go-to evening shou.
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.
Finally a cloudless, ambient temperature morning. I’ve been awake for a few hours now and still haven’t eaten. Good combination for drinking a floral oolong. I picked up this Pomelo Fragrance Oolong because I am a total sucker for citrus blossoms. This reminds me I need to buy a porcelain gaiwan.
Dry leaf has a light but persistent fragrance with that pomelo flower, I want to say jasmine, fresh linens.
6 grams into the unwarmed 150mL glass gaiwan. Following MST’s temperature and time guidelines of 212F and 30/45/60/+5-10.
First steep, the leaf is strongly pomelo flower, lemon blossom, sweet pea, bittersweet with a touch of yeast. The light green-yellow liquor smells like a lemon with earthy notes (hard to describe), very floral, green leaf lettuce, buttermilk biscuit. The liquor is drying on the tongue, light yet viscous. Taste is strong, sweet citrus florals with a with a pleasant very light mustiness, mineral, golden delicious apple, sugar cookie, citrus pith and an unplaced vegetal green.
Second steep, the leaf is again strongly floral pomelo, lemon and jasmine with notes of water cracker, milkiness and green pear. Liquor a darker green-yellow and smelled of pomelo flower, golden delicious apple, jasmine, lactose. Taste is divine: the jin xuan cultivar came out in full force with its milkiness, again strong citrus florals, sugarcane and mineral. The liquor is soft, still a drying tongue that plays with bitterness and a lingering strong sweetness in the back of the mouth.
Third steep, the florals in the leaf lightened up with pear and a dark vegetal coming through, like sweetened collard greens. Liquor smells like pear, florals, lemon water and buttermilk biscuit made a return. The liquor first hit that bitter, drying note on the front half of the tongue then glides over the rest with a lovely velvety, thickness. Taste is pear, floral, butter, sugarcane, orange blossom and collards.
At this point I need to take a break to eat something light. A leftover hamburger bun from the weekend bbq. Tasting ability is numbed where the drying bitterness was on my tongue.
Fourth steep is still strong, more drying but velvety, less citrus floral, more butter. Butter and citrus blossom persist in the mouth. At first I thought there was no cha qi but now I’m very sleepy, eyelids drooping, a narcotic buzz in my body. Tea drunk. …And she’s down.
I suppose I’ll finish this session a few hours from now. I’ll give it a rating after I finish the remaining 4 grams of my sample using a different brewing technique.
Update: Decided to call it quits after the fifth steep, ending on a pleasant sour and mineral note.
Old written note.
Sample is sawed, very tight compression but not the center. Lots of struggle to break off a chunk with my improvised pick (flathead electronics screwdriver). 6g, glass gaiwan, 205F, 20s rinse. First few steeps were just ok. Aroma light stonefruit, very thin liquor, taste lightly sweet, dandelion and cement. After that, pure brass later accented by a very un-good bitterness. Got a terrible headache. Has the claimed endurance, though.
I finished this sample with varying leaf amounts, water temperature and used a different gaiwan. Same results every time, including the headache. At least it’s consistent :P Something about this tea just didn’t jive with me physically.
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.
This review makes me feel like such a dork.
Thinking about grapes… The fog has been lifted from San Francisco for the past few days so we had a barbecue in the city close to the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge. The corkscrew, along with half our silverware, somehow managed to get tossed in the trash when someone in the group got clean-up happy.
I’m home now, sunburned and spent but in the mood for tea. Reached for this Wild Garden GABA Oolong sample. Mountain Stream Teas says it’s sweet, large black raisins. Does not require corkscrew. Great.
I’ve read that GABA-processed teas can bring quite the funk in terms of taste and smell. I admit I’ve been trying not to anticipate disappointment with the few GABA oolong samples I recently acquired even after falling hard for What-Cha’s Taiwan Amber GABA Oolong which possesses no funk.
First a sniff of the leaves while still in the pouch. Hit first with the oh-so-lovely scent of fresh durian in Vietnam. Smelling durian every time is like an assault to the senses. But it’s so complex beyond that weird tropical fruit custard rot that I find my nose going in for more. The durian funk of the dry leaves was thankfully fleeting and out came a faint roast well complemented by champagne or wine grapes or even a little bit of those black concords. Let’s just say super sweet and floral grapes. Is this tea even roasted? I don’t know. Damn, this is pleasant.
5 grams into my warm grape-colored clay gaiwan. Wow. Quick 10-15 second rinse at 195F. Wow. Then followed the suggested timing of 20/30/30/etc.
First and second steeps were light in flavor but very aromatic. A little bit of sweet-tart at the top back of the mouth and drying grape skin tannins at the front. Wet leaf smelled amazing. Third steep was stronger in flavor, revealing the champagne grape with peach emerging and a hint of vanilla sugar. Minerals and salivation at the end of the cup. Fourth steep, aroma of the liquor was so sweet and delicately intoxicating. Tastes about the same as the third, more peach. Fifth steep again produced the same aroma and taste with the addition of a VERY light cooling along my lips and some kind of berry I’m sure exists that tastes like a soft, white, sweet strawberry. Subsequent brews remained consistent with growing mintyness going down the throat. Spent leaves are a beautiful mix of green with red oxidation.
MST says this lasts 5-6 steeps but I lost track. More longevity than expected, though it might be less with 3-4 grams.
I now only have 5 grams left and would love to try it out in a porcelain gaiwan but I don’t have one. So I’m debating between the glass one or doing a western steep. Too bad it’s out of stock, otherwise I’d also try grandpa.
Overall, the Wild Garden GABA Oolong delivers a consistent, well flowing profile reminiscent of an ice wine (without the booze) or fruity gummies and an undeniable strength in aroma and sweetness, a lingering fruity taste and drying yet quenching mouthfeel. Pleasing energy. Everything is in its place.