542 Tasting Notes
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.
Perfect for a refreshing morning/mid-afternoon brew! Bold and bright.
Gone Western. 2 tsp/8oz/200F. 3 steeps at 3/5/8 minutes.
Dry leaf is various shades of dark browns to black, twisty, shiny and hard. Some leaves look slightly powdery. Smells like pure, bright fruit stone fruit and muscatel, lightly pungent.
Over the course of the three steeps, I got mostly baked apricot, muscatel, woodiness, warm spice, light orange- and rosewater. Pleasant astringency. Thinned out nicely. Red-amber liquor turning to gold-amber. Flavors don’t really stick around making for a nice, clean quaff. Did I really just say quaff. Very aromatic.
Spent leaves large, sturdy, quite narrow. Found a few that were longer than my middle finger.
Yum :) Thanks for the sample.
I’m getting really bored reviewing for the GRE coming up in a week and a half.
I want to preface this review by stating that if you want bold flavors, this isn’t your tea. Very delicate, light flavors beyond the roast. This is the last of my 25g bag. 4g in 100mL jianshui gaiwan. I waltzed right through the first 21g enjoying the tea’s lightness and minerality but not really paying attention. So here I am, taking my time tonight.
WARNING self-indulgent, reminiscing tasting notes ahead. These will be few and far between since life is about to get bizzay.
Large, shiny, reddish brown nuggets.
Dry leaf: roast, dried blueberry, mission fig, caramel.
Warmed leaf: still edible burnt wheat toast with a bright red high note like a smear of raspberry jam, burnt sugar.
Ten second rinse, let sit for 10 minutes.
FIrst steep 10 seconds. Leaf: proper wheat toast, brown paper bag, raspberry.
Liquor: like chewing on a maple twig without the bark, raspberry, cream, tingling mineral tongue, viscous.
Second steep 15 seconds. Leaf: brown paper bag, raspberry, cream, vanilla. My left nostril got very personal with a random leaf plucked from the gaiwan and I could smell benzene. Really pleasant.
Liquor: smells like raspberry and cream, taste woody peach, creamy at the back of the mouth, mineral carries through, salivation starts.
Third steep 20 seconds. Same as second. I’m breathing out peaches and cream. Lingering taste.
Fourth steep 25 seconds. Leaf: heady, dark resin, black raspberry. Walk back to my desk and it smells like raspberries in here. I’m relaxed. Sighing feels good.
I used to live in this old house in Ohio. One of five houses that still had well water in a town of 13,000 people. I actually found that statistic once when I was concerned about having water during power outages. Funnily enough, I later moved to another of the five well-water houses in that town.
Anyway, that first house was old and had such a great energy. The lot next to us was vacant. An old foundation and light pole remained, choked with weeds and 20-year-old tree saplings. I checked town records for some info but came up empty.
Somebody long ago planted three different hedgerows to separate the two houses. One plant was some stupid shrub I had to trim every year because it encroached on the side of the gravel drive. Couldn’t remove it because we were renting. Another plant was trumpet vine. Dear god, talk about invasive and impossible to get rid of without pesticides. The third plant was black raspberry that had grown out of control as brambles usually do. The black raspberry brambles, in fact, rimmed the entirety of the vacant lot next to us. I suffered every summer diving into those thickets. Stained fingernails for days, thorns for weeks, jam for months. Haven’t come across black raspberries since.
Liquor: I forgot to sniff. Tastes, well, like black raspberries and cream :) Minerals fading but tongue still tingling.
Fifth steep 30 seconds. Leaf: wheat toast, brown sugar. Liquor smells like Cow Tails candy, tastes like fresh spring lawn grass with the minerals returning.
Sixth steep 45 seconds. My room smells yeasty now. Leaf: still wheat toast now with sugar plum prune, benzene.
Liquor: there’s that heady, dark resin again. Taste is fresh grass and mineral. Breathing out peach again. Noticing a light astringency at the back of the mouth.
I think I’ll leave it at that. My senses are spent. Rating later, maybe never.
Update: Finished the tea the next day after many more steeps. Ended on a definite kombu note. I love this tea. I tossed the package but I think it said gets better with age. It’s a cheap price to buy a good amount and try different aging techniques.
I would be all over this tea if I lived an area with a pronounced autumn.
May 2017 harvest. The dry leaf is gorgeous shades of brown and auburn cut leaves with some downy beige tips thrown in. It has that pungent, spicy darjeeling smell accompanied by a woody cocoa powder.
Going western, following recommended brewing parameter of 2 tsp at 195F. I tend to brew western in glass canning jars. 8 oz water. I got a solid 4 steeps this way at 3/5/8/12? minutes.
Liquor is very clean and soft, there’s some down floating around but I don’t think it adds a thickness. Definite notes of muscatel and orange blossom, followed by some cocoa, malt and freshly fallen autumn leaves. Poking through are mace, coriander seed, violet, gooseberry? Smells bright and juicy but also pleasantly musty/musky. The final steep remained lightly fruity but had a drying quality like that of straw or oak tannins.
This tea can go two ways: drink it quickly or take some more time to enjoy its nuances. It’s not so nuanced that it requires serious contemplation, though. I imagine it would be a perfect daily morning drinker on sunny autumn days when the deciduous trees are preparing for the impending cold. Or take a full thermos on a long hike in the woods. Autumn is approaching :)