435 Tasting Notes
Yancha has to be my favorite type of tea and I’m slowly acclimating my palate to appreciate its nuances. This is a 2017 tea that I’m drinking mid-2018.
Sniff sniff. Dry leaf smells like dark chocolate, char and fennel. Eight grams of leaf placed into the warmed 100 mL jianshui gaiwan. Now I’m smelling the roast and fleeting interplay between floral and camphor in the damp leaves. Lid smells of the same with an added honey milk chocolate.
Rinse once for 10 seconds and drink the rinse. Why not.
First and second steeps at 20 seconds and a third at 30 produce a very strong mineral cup. Mouth feels tingly and like my cheeks are being sucked inward. A slight nondescript but pleasant sourness persists at the back of my tongue. I can feel a calmness wash over me as I type this. Light florals emerge. The camphor is fleeting. Here comes the qi but I ain’t moving. Chest and arms heavy, shoulders relaxing. Feeeel the heat. Pushing you to decide. If you’re going to go for a fourth steep. Nah, best to sit. Oh what’s that? A fourth steep? Floral aroma coming out more, there’s that honey milk chocolate scent again. A dark roasted bitter coffee presents on the sides of the tongue. I don’t understand. I thought sour was on the sides and bitter in the back. The minerality is consistent and strong. Iron. What a trip. Good thing the lights are low. I’m having thoughts of riding an electric mountain bike up a mountain (I mean, what else would I do with an electric mountain bike) until I reach some cliffs that I’ll have to climb. From there I’ll hike to the best vantage point the Bay Area has to offer and have a Freedom Barbecue in the fog. Thoughts are thoughts. I’m glued to the couch. hehe.
Time to take a break. Rating comes later.
Later (following evening):
I take note if a yancha abruptly drops off. Otherwise, I have the habit of not counting steeps. This one kept going. Finished off last night’s brew tonight. I can say that the pronounced mineral taste and mouthfeel and cha qi were the highlight of this tea with my heavy-handed leaf and water temperature. I have maybe 5 grams left, so I’m curious to see if other flavors and aromas become present with a final, kinder brew.
Big beautiful fat white fuzzy needles. A little too perfect looking.
While I enjoy some white teas, differentiating tastes and aromas in white teas is difficult for me. Going to keep it simple here and muddle the tastes and aromas together… say sweet summer melons, something green but different than honeydew, oats, hay, a touch of malt, lychee and a very light cinnamon buttery glaze. Now that I look at that list, it seems like I have my gustatory and olfactory senses in order but all of it just kind of runs together unlike my experiences with aged white teas. Not musty like some other silver needles I’ve had. Thick mouthfeel early on from the fuzzies. Found that I prefer this brewed western style over gong fu with a lower temperature to bring out the more delicate flavors while at the same time getting that melon to pop. Good for 4-8oz steeps before it really starts to thin out and become too astringent for my liking.
I’d buy 25 gram packages in the future. Fifty grams, though removed from its original packaging and stored airtight in the dark, lost a good amount of brightness after several months.
Being the large-leaved species Camellia taliensis, I can’t resist unfurling the needles once they’re spent. Thick and rubbery and always want to curl back in on themselves.
While this is a clean silver needle, I’m reminded of supermarket produce. Generally large and blemish free like that perfect tomato or apple but lacking depth of flavor at the expense of looking good. This could be a fault of my own tasting abilities with white teas. I would buy this tea again, however, if I were in need of daily drinker.
Reading the other reviews here, the one on Yunnan Sourcing’s website and comparing with my experience, this tea is a complex trickster.
I think I bought this tea in late 2017. First few attempts in early 2018 were terrible. Nothing but peanut shell in taste in aroma. I thought, “How odd to retain such an off-putting roast since this was processed in 2016.” I’ll be honest here. I played with the thought that was this was a fraudulent tea due to that, ugh, smell and it being touted as grown in Zhengyan reserve. I also have no problem admitting I’m a noob and forever learning, so a lot of my assumptions are probably wrong.So I transferred the tea from it’s shipping envelope into a glass jar with a cork stopper and moved it to the back of the drawer. I recently decided to try the Qi Dan again since I was finishing off older or unfavorable teas for new orders. Precious jar space, you know.
I don’t know if it was the result of storing the tea in a cork-topped glass jar or what, but this tea had a complete turnaround since the last time I brewed it in January.
According to Yunnan Sourcing, this Qi Dan is a cross between Qi Lan and Dan Gui, which is supposedly a cross of Da Hong Pao and Rou Gui. I’ve had a few different rou guis but neither has had the cinnamon aroma that the tea experts claim it should have. This Qi Dan definitely hit that mark, though. Mostly broken leaves released highly aromatic nutmeg, cassia, cinnamon, minerals and dry woodiness which all flowed through into the taste. Kind of a mission-figgy-sweetness and dried green herbs in afterthought. Camphor on the swallow. The qi lan comes through with a specific, strong aroma of orchid that quickly fades into some flower I don’t recognize. On the lid of the gaiwan I got that milk chocolate scent I frequently find in medium-roast yanchas but that passed after a few steepings
The visual light-medium roast and oxidized leaves produced an interesting juxtaposition to the taste. Wires in the brain crossed but the resultant shock was pleasant and intriguing. Do I want to purchase more? It would be a great digestif following a heavy meal once the winter rains come.
Of note, I didn’t time or keep track of the number of steepings beyond the initial steep of 20 seconds. Water just off boil, roughly 8 grams in a 100 mL jianshui gaiwan. Very forgiving on timing. Had a handful of steepings ranging upward of 30 minutes with no unpleasant results. I wonder how the taste would change with lower temperature water or a different brewing vessel. I guess I’ll have to order more to find out.
Below is my review from What-Cha’s website. I’ve since spent some more time with this tea.
“Special tea. Very nice, large rolled leaves that were handled well. This tea has a very rounded profile so I’m having a difficult time picking out the distinct aromas in the dry and wet leaf. Haven’t tried the recommended brewing parameter yet but brewed in a gaiwan, the liquor is incredible. I taste a very light roast, florals, unripe peach, medicinal wood, and it’s quite sweet like a light honey. There’s a wonderful menthol that might be imperceptible if you don’t savor the tea or if you drink it with food. The menthol lightly lines my mouth and I notice it most near my sinuses. Overall, a very delightful, balanced tea. I’m very grateful to have tried this Shan Lin Xi and hope to purchase more.”
As is it turns out, the menthol became really pronounced in later steeps. Not so much in taste but in feel. I happen to love this; others may not. This tea makes me sweat and I was exuding a minty coolness from my armpits and chest. Like washing up with some peppermint Dr. Bronner’s soap.
This tea just keeps on giving, too. When I thought the brew might be over, I pushed it.
This was my first experience with a shanlinxi and I’ve read that they generally have a butteriness, which in retrospect I totally missed. Upon pushing the last few steeps, the butter became very pronounced and I know it’s an odd descriptor but it was chewy.
I feel like I lack the experience to adequately describe this tea. Probably easier for a well seasoned taster but I can still say I love its complex well roundedness and its longevity. Not an absolute beginner’s tea.
Bought up what I could. I hope whoever else gets their hands on the remaining amount finds it as pleasurable as I did.
Thanks for the very FRESH sample. 5-6 grams in a 150 mL glass gaiwan gives 2 teaspoons leftover for the recommended brewing which I’ll do later.
Spindly delicate medium-dark green leaves and buds are twisted to reveal the white downy undersides. The sample bag is lined with down.
Allergies have been a problem lately so I can’t pick out dry leaf scents easily but what I do get is soft and green and floral. There is some broken leaf (no dust) but perhaps that leads to the wonderful experience of this tea. The delicate brewed leaves turn a shade of yellow and some show spots of reddish oxidation. They smell floral like daffodil?, an unplaced green, sweet, creamy, a bit eggy with the lightest tinge of lemon.
The liquor has that floral, milky sweetness I find when biting into a raw ear of peak-season sweet corn but it’s also mineral, bright and clean at the same time. I’m reminded of creamed corn with a touch of spinach. Very smooth, slightly drying, the downy hairs ever-present. The sweetness and floral remain in the mouth a while after the sip. No extreme drop off in flavor as the steeps progress, moving into a bit more astringency but retaining the florals. Eighth steep gives way to a nice clean and light ending.
Caffeinated, calming, gentle on the belly.
I’m still kind of a tea noob but I want to say it’s like a less aggressive Taiwanese baozhong. Quite different than the current Anhui Huoshan Huang Ya offering.