542 Tasting Notes

drank Qilan Trees by White 2 Tea
542 tasting notes

Recently finished a 50 gram box of this.

I’ll start off by saying White2Tea offered no picking or roast date on the box or website but I could probably email the vendor requesting the info.

Qilan Trees was the first yancha I ever tried and was what made me fall hard for highly mineral rock oolongs. After receiving the package sometime in 2017, I immediately consumed a few brews western style, allowing no resting or airing out of the material. At the time, I wasn’t aware of this style tea performing well gong fu. I remember using about a tbsp of tea to 8 oz of water just off boil. The resulting liquor, believe it or not, was amazing. It was very floral (which I now can place as orchid) and sweet with notes of light honey, graham, butterscotch, milk chocolate and small, sweet Champagne grapes. The minerality was very strong but never biting; more smooth and cool like limestone. The most striking quality of this tea was the salivation it induced. To this day, I’ve never experienced it so strongly in any other tea.

I brewed Qilan Trees a few more times western before exhausting the remaining supply over the course of a year in my 100mL jianshui gaiwan. Usually eyeballed 6-8 grams with water just under boiling. Orchid and milk chocolate were highly pronounced in both aroma and taste, but the liquor itself was never milky but rather both glassy and viscous. The cool limestone minerality and salivation remained. With this method (and maybe it had to do with the clay), I lost a lot of the nuances. I’d say I got 3 amazing steeps with the above qualities before it quickly fell off the cliff and turned into what was just a watered down floral black tea for a few more steeps. Also, over the course of a year, the dry leaves lost a lot of fragrance despite being stored in a tin in the dark. It was a crappy tin to be fair.

Overall, I have an immense soft spot for Qilan Trees. It’s hard to wrap my thoughts around so I’m avoiding rating it. Should I ever purchase more, though, I think I’ll stick with brewing it western style and of course store it it a more airtight container.

205 °F / 96 °C

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So tonight I finished off the 4 or 5 grams I had left. The tea became much softer and the liquor was viscous with hints of vanilla, cream and fruitiness with florals dominating instead of the minerals. What a difference a heavy leaf makes! I’ll up the rating based on this tea’s versatility even though it doesn’t quite fit my favored profile, but I do recommend it! Maybe 6 grams per 100mL would bring out the best this yancha has to offer.

205 °F / 96 °C 4 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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My review from What-Cha’s website:

“This tea! Did not expect such quality for a yancha of this price. The leaf is darker than I expected for Bai Ji Guan but it was treated so well. The spent leaves were stunning and whole.

8 grams in a 100 mL clay gaiwan with water either boiling or just off gave me up to 10 steeps. Everything worked so well in this tea. The light roast level, the sweetness and thickness of the liquor, the literal mouth-watering minerality, the florals. The lid of the gaiwan never stopped smelling like sweet chocolate. This tea kept me focused yet calm while studying for hours.

As of this review it’s out of stock but here’s hoping some more is found!"

Flavors: Butter, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Citrus, Honey, Honeysuckle, Lychee, Menthol, Mineral, Mushrooms, Nutmeg, Orange, Pleasantly Sour, Roasted, Round , Sweet, Thick, Wood

205 °F / 96 °C 8 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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Going through old written reviews.
This tea has prompted me to write my first ever review.

Brewed western style with about 1 tbsp of leaf to 8 oz. Boiling water really brings out the astringency, so I decreased the water temperature to 200F. That’s where this tea shines for me. Reminds me of fall in the Napa Valley of California, walking in the woods along the river.

Initially a nice light mouthfeel with complex flavors of blueberry, pomelo, red grape, old wood, earthy green herbals and muted forest understory white florals ending in red cherry and light astringency. Juicy aroma. The flavors become more prevalent as the tea cools. Subsequent steeps fade into sweet potato with a bit more astringency.

This tea seems high in caffeine.
Now that I’ve spent more time with this tea, I can say for me, it’s a tea to have every once in a while. Too much of a frenetic energy to relax with it but still really enjoyable and complex. I can not imagine ensuing derkish craziness that would result from brewing this gong fu.

200 °F / 93 °C 3 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Going through old written tea reviews.
Western style
3 steeps at 1m, 1m30s, 2m.

What a weird tea. It looked not so fresh despite being 6 months old when I received it. The saponins were strong in this one. Soapy bubbles hugged the circumference of my glass after every brew. Tasted mostly white peppercorn which was interesting. Probably much different drank closer to harvest.

Tolerable cold brew and that’s how I finished it.

175 °F / 79 °C 2 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Western style

Dry leaf smells like roasted nuts and sesame seaweed snacks. Leaves flattish but curled up around the edges. Lots of broken leaf running the range of various greens with dark green, purple, brown and yellow tones. Small amount of hairs still present on leaf.

First steep, 1m10s. Light in flavor: roasted nuts, light sweetness and silky mouthfeel immediately gives way to drying and tingly mineral like sichuan peppercorn. Also getting lemon and anise, something vegetal yet bright – yellow squash? Breathing out toasted anise seeds. Liquor smells like buttery roasted nuts and light florals. Wet leaf now smells like roasted chestnut reminiscent of a long jing.

Second steep, 1m45s, about the same minus the anise. Salivating now. I like that. Light golden yellow liquor in a glass ball jar. Spent leaf is a mix of bright and dull green with a yellow tint.

I remember doing a cold brew with this when I first got it. It was really interesting. 3 tsp to a half liter overnight. The result was quite dark and heavy in flavor. Very prominent with the roasted nuts and butter. A bit bitter. Could’ve used less leaf.

Not much depth to this tea but it’s nice and light. I think it would be good for those who like greens but don’t want something fruity or grassy.

170 °F / 76 °C 2 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Going grandpa this morning.

This year’s imperial grade has a perfect astringency that complements its brothiness which reminds me of the lightness of the homemade dashi stock I added to a Japanese beef curry last night. Curry from scratch is a lot of work to roast and grind the spices and not burn the roux. I bet the flavor meld of the stew after sitting in the fridge for 24 hours will be amazing.

Back to the tea. Strong aroma but not as heavy and cloaking as the 2017 Classic Laoshan I’ve tried. I taste raw green beans, spinach, roasted chestnut, mineral, hints of sugar cookie and marine air, the cooling sensation of fresh cypress woodchips. Calming, energizing. Beautiful leaves dry and wet.

Great tea for this foggy, brisk morning.

175 °F / 79 °C 1 tsp 10 OZ / 295 ML

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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.

Boiling 8 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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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.

180 °F / 82 °C 3 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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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.

Boiling 8 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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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 send international :)

Most enjoyment:

Wuyi and Taiwanese oolong, sheng puerh, Yunnan and Wuyi blacks, GABA oolong. 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, matcha latte and golden milk.

I’ll try anything once because it helps me learn. Not opposed to well placed herbs, flowers, fruity bits and flavorings, just nothing cloying. And no added sugars, sweeteners, candy or chocolate.

I abandoned both my preference reference and the recording of detailed steeping parameters in January 2020, favoring a focus on qualitative descriptions. At this point, I am still comfortable toggling the “Not/Recommended” button.

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. If it’s a bagged or herbal tea, it’s of standout quality in comparison to similar items.
89-80: Fits my profile well enough to buy again. Some could be daily drinker teas.
79-70: Not a preferred tea. I might buy more or try a different harvest. Would gladly have a cup if offered.
69-60: Not necessarily a bad tea but one that I won’t buy again. Would have a cup if offered.
59-1: Lacking several elements, strangely clunky, possess off flavors/aroma/texture 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.


Sonoma County, California, USA

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