334 Tasting Notes

I have spent the last couple of days working my way through a 25 g sample pouch of this tea. Most of my experience with yellow tea comes from Huoshan Huang Ya, so this was something new for me. Overall, I found this to be a very enjoyable yellow tea.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 185 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was chased by 14 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, I detected a floral aroma reminiscent of chrysanthemum, as well as straw, sorghum, and butter. The rinse brought out subtle cream, caramel, sugarcane, and damp grass aromas. The first infusion brought out marigold and a subtle nuttiness. In the mouth, I detected flavors of chrysanthemum, sorghum, butter, caramel, straw, sugarcane, cream, and grass underscored by subtle impressions of roasted nuts. Subsequent infusions brought out marigold, leaf lettuce, mineral, hazelnut, date, honeydew, and roasted chestnut aromas and flavors. The later infusions were heavy on minerals balanced by nuts, grass, butter, lettuce, and passing hints of flowers.

This was an interesting tea and I really liked it. Compared to the yellow teas I am used to, this one was much sweeter, fruitier, and more floral. I have no clue how it would compare to other teas of this type, but I found a lot to like and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a sweet, approachable tea.

Flavors: Butter, Caramel, Chestnut, Corn Husk, Cream, Dates, Floral, Grass, Hazelnut, Honeydew, Lettuce, Mineral, Straw, Sugarcane, Sweet

Preparation
6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML
Arby

This sounds wonderful. I’ll have to order some one of these days.

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78

With the weather absolutely abysmal, I’ve been hiding inside most of the day. The heat and humidity here have been awful. Avoiding the sun, however, has allowed me plenty of time to catch up on chores and drink tea. Today I allowed myself the opportunity to try a new Dan Cong. I’m still very new to Dan Cong in general and I’m still figuring out what I like and what I think is good. This was my first Ya Shi, and while I liked it well enough, it had a few quirks that caught me off guard.

Naturally, I prepared this tea gongfu style. As usual, I kept my rinse short (no more than 8-10 seconds). After the rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 208 F water for 6 seconds. This infusion was chased by 12 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted a unique combination of aromas that reminded me of cream, butter, violet, rose, tea flower, and ginseng. After the rinse, I began to detect damp grass, almond, anise, and gardenia. The first infusion displayed a powerful bouquet that allowed for the emergence of pomelo and mild ginger. In the mouth, I did not get the soapiness mentioned by at least one other reviewer. Instead, I discovered a light body and gentle notes of almond, damp grass, ginger, ginseng, tea flower, cream, butter, violet, and rose. Subsequent infusions briefly brought out the gardenia and pomelo on the palate, as well as touches of pomegranate, licorice, golden raisin, vanilla, hay, cashew, caraway seed, rye toast, candied lemon peel, and something distinctly vegetal that put me in mind of watercress. With each infusion, the minerality built and the stereotypical Dan Cong soapiness gradually appeared. The tea washed out fairly quickly, and by the time I got to the later infusions, the liquor was heavy on minerals, grass, cream, and butter underscored by ghostly herbal and nutty notes.

I am not sure I have any clue how to rate this tea. It was a little odd. I seemed to get more floral complexity, more graininess, and more herbal and vegetal characteristics than other reviewers, but I am not certain my breakdown of this tea even remotely comes close to passing muster. I found this to be an exceptionally difficult tea to describe. My lack of familiarity with Dan Cong oolongs no doubt also put me at a distinct disadvantage when it came to analyzing this tea. Right now it falls into a gray area for me. I didn’t dislike it, but it also didn’t blow me away. Once the floral aromas and flavors started to fade and I began to pick up more ginseng, licorice, anise, and caraway, I began to lose interest since I tend to dislike all of those things. In the end, I have to grade this one conservatively. Given my preferences, somewhere in the 75-78 range feels about right.

Flavors: Almond, Anise, Butter, Citrus, Cream, Fruity, Gardenias, Ginger, Grass, Hay, Herbs, Lemon, Licorice, Mineral, Nutty, Raisins, Rose, Rye, Toast, Vanilla, Vegetal, Violet

Preparation
Boiling 5 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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93

I think everyone knows that I love Dong Ding oolongs by now. I do not drink them all that often, but when I do, I really get into them. I reviewed Harney & Sons’ Dong Ding Light a couple months ago, and while I liked it, I was not entirely blown away. I held off on reviewing this one as a result. I now wish I had not done that.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 8 seconds. This infusion was followed by 14 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 10 seconds, 12 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted pleasant aromas of butter, char, nectarine, peach, wood, and osmanthus. After the rinse, I began to note aromas of honey, lilies, magnolia, and petunia. The first infusion allowed a subtle cream aroma and a hint of grass to emerge. In the mouth, I noted a unique blend of cream, butter, osmanthus, nectarine, honey, peach, lily, and magnolia notes balanced by hints of char and wood. Subsequent infusions brought out aromas and flavors of yellow plum, apricot, lemon zest, candied orange peel, minerals, grass, hay, and vanilla. The later infusions were heavy on mineral, grass, hay, butter, cream, wood, and candied citrus notes underscored by ghostly impressions of flowers, honey, nectarine, and apricot.

The whole time I was drinking this oolong, I kept thinking it was odd that it reminded me of a really good Gui Fei. I then discovered that this particular tea was allowed to oxidize longer than many Dong Ding oolongs before the heavy roast was applied. The tea’s unique fruity and floral character was a direct result of this treatment. This tea also displayed a very light, smooth body despite its complexity, and as a result, was incredibly approachable and easy to drink. At this point, I cannot say much else than Harney & Sons knocked it out of the park with this one. It was not what I was expecting, but it was fantastic!

Flavors: Apricot, Butter, Char, Cream, Floral, Fruity, Grass, Hay, Honey, Lemon Zest, Mineral, Orange, Osmanthus, Peach, Plums, Vanilla, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML
cuddlesmom

Sounds like something I should try!

teepland

This sounds awesome—I will definitely add this to my next H&S order!

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90
drank CTC Assam by Harney & Sons
334 tasting notes

It’s Saturday and I’m still cleaning out the backlog. I finished the last of a sample pouch of this tea yesterday morning and I’m just now getting around to posting a review. For whatever reason, I could not motivate myself to do anything after getting home from work yesterday. Anyway, this was a nice CTC Assam. If you are the sort of person who enjoys strong, malty breakfast teas, this one should be right up your alley.

I prepared this tea in the Western style. I steeped 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves in approximately 8 ounces of 212 F water for 5 minutes. I did not attempt any additional infusions. Just to be clear, you do not have to steep this tea that long. I prefer CTC teas to be very rich, brisk, tannic, and astringent, so I utilize a longer infusion. One can still get good results out of a 3-4 minute infusion with this tea.

Prior to the infusion, the dry tea leaves emitted a mildly malty aroma. After infusion, I picked up aromas of brown toast, malt, caramel, leather, molasses, and nuts. In the mouth, the tea liquor was lively and astringent, offering robust notes of caramel, molasses, leather, wood, black walnut, hickory, brown toast, cream, and malt underscored by hints of dark chocolate and brown sugar. The finish offered a swell of malt, cream, toast, caramel, and molasses.

In a separate session, I also tried this tea with a little 2% milk added. It completely transformed. The liquor remained strong, but the astringency all but disappeared. The tea’s woodier, toastier, nuttier qualities took a backseat while the caramel, brown sugar, molasses, cream, dark chocolate, and malt came forward.

I greatly enjoyed this CTC Assam. If you have had teas of this type before, this one will likely not surprise you in any way. For what it is, however, it is very nice. As a breakfast tea, it really hit the spot.

Flavors: Astringent, Brown Toast, Caramel, Cream, Dark Chocolate, Leather, Malt, Molasses, Nutty, Tannic, Walnut, Wood

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML
Fjellrev

Oh wow, most excellent description! That flavour profile is definitely a recipe for a fantabulous breakfast tea.

teepland

That is one of my standard morning teas as well. I always enjoy it!

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73

Ben Shan is kind of a big deal in the world of Anxi oolongs. Along with Huang Jin Gui, Mao Xie, and the ubiquitous Tieguanyin, it is one of the four classic oolong cultivars produced in the area. At one point, it was supposedly even top dog on the Anxi oolong food chain. These days, however, Ben Shan mostly seems to be known as a substitute for Tieguanyin in oolong blends and as a filler. Rumor has it that unscrupulous sellers will sometimes cut lower end Tieguanyin with Ben Shan since the two cultivars are processed in a similar fashion and display similar aroma and flavor profiles. This tea, however, is pure Ben Shan.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 208 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was followed by 12 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 12 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves produced mild, inviting aromas of honeysuckle, jasmine, tea flower, violet, butter, and cream. After the rinse, I noted the emergence of grass, marigold, and fresh custard on the nose. The first infusion began to bring out additional vegetal qualities as well as a touch of orchard fruit character. I could not place much of it at the time, but I definitely got a hint of green apple. In the mouth, I immediately noted butter, cream, custard, fresh flowers, grass, and green apple. Subsequent infusions brought out aromas and flavors of radish, watercress, minerals, lime zest, and pear. The pear and green apple notes, in particular, lingered after the swallow on each sip and consistently drew me back in again and again. The later infusions mostly offered vague butter, cream, custard, radish, grass, and watercress notes under a layer of minerals. At times, I could still pick out hints of green apple and pear.

This tea was very pleasant, but was also all too quick to fade. Ben Shan, in my limited experience, generally seems to be milder, gentler, and shorter-lived than Tieguanyin, so perhaps the tea’s relative lack of longevity should not have surprised me all that much. I am still not at a point where I feel confident rating oolongs of this type since I don’t naturally gravitate to Ben Shan (Tieguanyin, Jinguanyin, and Mao Xie are much more up my alley), but I thought this one was alright.

Flavors: Butter, Cream, Custard, Floral, Grass, Green Apple, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Lime, Mineral, Pear, Vegetal, Violet

Preparation
Boiling 5 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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80

I finished the last of a 50 gram pouch of this tea a couple days ago, but unfortunately failed to take detailed notes. For this review, I worked from a combination of memory and the few rough notes I took. Overall, I found this to be a solid, appealing black tea.

I tried preparing this tea a couple different ways. For the most part, I stuck with a single 5 minute infusion of approximately 3 grams of loose leaf material in 8 ounces of 205 F water. At one point, I also tried a three step infusion process in which I steeped 3 grams of loose leaf material in 8 ounces of 205 F water for 2, 3, and then 5 minutes. Of these two preparations, I preferred the single extended infusion.

I noted that the dry tea leaves emitted mildly grassy, floral aromas prior to infusion. With the extended infusion, the tea liquor emitted aromas of herbs, grass, hay, grapes, flowers, and malt. In the mouth, I picked up notes of lemon balm, hay, grass, malt, almond, nutmeg, rose, chrysanthemum, dandelion, and grapes. There was also a touch of minerality. Unlike many Darjeelings, the grape note didn’t recall Muscat grapes. It reminded me more of table grapes. The multi-step infusion yielded a liquor that was grassy and mildly bitter on the first infusion, though the second infusion was somewhat fruitier, maltier, and more floral. The final infusion was dominated by grass, hay, and mineral notes.

This was a mild, accessible tea that was somewhat reminiscent of a Darjeeling. I rather enjoyed its pleasant mix of fruity and floral flavors, though I did find it a little too restrained compared to some other teas from this region. Still, I think fans of Nepalese teas would enjoy this one. I also think that anyone just looking for a mild, pleasant tea could do far worse than giving this one a shot.

Flavors: Almond, Dandelion, Floral, Grass, Herbs, Malt, Mineral, Nutmeg, Rose, Straw

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec 3 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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50

Hmm, another day in and I have plowed through yet another oolong sample. This was another tea I meant to get to sooner. That seems to be the story of my life these days, intend to do something, get distracted, and then come back to it later. I didn’t feel particularly creative or inspired tonight. I found this tea to be okay overall.

I gongfued this one. No surprise there. After a quick rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 208 F water for 6 seconds. This infusion was followed by 14 additional infusions. Steep times for those were: 9 seconds, 12 seconds, 16 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.

Before I begin breaking this tea down, allow me to state for the record that my perception of this tea greatly differed from that of the vendor and at least one previous reviewer. Prior to the rinse, I picked up aromas of coffee, dark wood, honey wheat, roasted grain, plantain, dark fruit, and something vaguely vegetal. Just about everything I had read told me I should have picked up honey, but I didn’t. After the rinse, I noted slight vanilla bean, honey, elderberry, and dried blueberry scents as well as emerging aromas of parsley, coriander, and celery. There was some vague spiciness too. The first infusion brought out cinnamon, nutmeg, and a touch of raisin. The honey was a little stronger, but not much. In the mouth, the tea liquor was very savory. I immediately picked up dark wood, roasted grain, honey wheat toast, mild cinnamon, nutmeg, coffee, and plantain underscored by slight notes of vanilla, celery, elderberry, dried blueberry, parsley, honey, and coriander. Subsequent infusions brought out minerals, cream, butter, stewed apricot, and cooked leaf lettuce on the nose and in the mouth. Raisin and stronger vegetal notes also popped out in the mouth. Why was I not getting the strong honey impressions I was supposed to be getting? Later infusions seemed to emphasize minerals, dark wood, roasted grain, honey wheat toast, and vegetal aromas and flavors underscored by traces of cream, butter, indistinct fruit, and honey.

What happened here? Compared to some others, I almost felt like I was drinking an entirely different tea. What I expected to be very sweet, smooth, and honeyed actually ended up being toasty, grainy, woody, vegetal, and savory. For me, the honey was usually strongest right around the swallow, but even then it struck me as playing second fiddle to just about everything else going on in this tea. There were a couple infusions where it poked through for me, but it just wasn’t even close to being a dominant impression. Maybe it was just me. Maybe something was up with my sample. I don’t know. In the end, I could only really compare this to some of the other roasted Tieguanyins I have tried, and it did not compare all that favorably in my eyes. All I can say at this point is this tea didn’t quite do it for me, but I am also an outlier here.

Flavors: Apricot, Blueberry, Butter, Celery, Cinnamon, Coffee, Coriander, Cream, Dark Wood, Fruity, Grain, Honey, Lettuce, Mineral, Nutmeg, Parsley, Raisins, Toast, Vegetal, Wheat

Preparation
Boiling 5 g 4 OZ / 118 ML
CrowKettle

It’s nice to see a detailed review for this one from someone who didn’t just go “bah” with impatience (that was me). I didn’t get honey either.

Daylon R Thomas

That’s a shame with a Mi Xiang name.

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80

Here is one I meant to get around to a lot sooner than I did. I had hoped to drink this last weekend, but obviously didn’t manage to find the time. Unfortunately, I still have numerous samples from Verdant Tea. It is my intention to start going through them a little more quickly and get reviews up in a more timely fashion. We’ll see how that goes.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 5 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 208 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was chased by 12 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 12 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of lilac, chrysanthemum, marigold, violet, green apple, and butter. After the rinse, the floral aromas intensified and were joined by emerging scents of cream, vanilla, kale, parsley, and grass. The first infusion saw the tea’s savory and vegetal qualities express themselves more fully on the nose to balance the strong floral aromas. In the mouth, I noted butter, cream, violet, lilac, grass, and green apple underscored by subtle traces of vanilla, parsley, kale, chrysanthemum, and marigold. Subsequent infusions brought out the vanilla, parsley, kale, chrysanthemum, and marigold in the mouth while impressions of celery, cucumber, crabapple, mild cinnamon, and minerals began to express themselves on the nose and on the palate. Later infusions maintained a largely savory and vegetal character, with minerals, grass, kale, parsley, butter, and cream notes underscored by faint wisps of green apple, vanilla, and marigold.

This was an interesting and rewarding oolong. I adored Master Zhang’s Autumn 2015 Mao Xie for its spicy, herbal, floral, and fruity qualities, and this tea was relatively similar. I did find it, however, to be a bit lighter and slicker in the mouth and more floral, savory, and vegetal in terms of aroma and flavor than last year’s offering. Of the two, I preferred the earlier tea, but this one was still well worth trying.

Flavors: Butter, Celery, Cinnamon, Cream, Cucumber, Floral, Fruity, Grass, Green Apple, Kale, Mineral, Parsley, Vanilla, Violet

Preparation
Boiling 5 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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53
drank Jade Snail Spring by Tealyra
334 tasting notes

I finished up the last of this tea earlier in the afternoon. I have been trying to have at least one cup of green tea every evening for the past week, and this was the one I turned to most frequently. I cannot say that it impressed me all that much, but I did find it suitable as a no-frills daily drinker. For me, it was the type of green tea I could just throw back and not think much about, but in order to give it a fair shake, I opted to gongfu it for the review session.

After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 175 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was chased by 13 subsequent infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of malt, smoke, and hay. After the rinse, I began to detect emerging hints of grilled corn, roasted chestnuts, and citrus. The first infusion produced an incredibly similar, though smokier, more citrusy bouquet. In the mouth, I picked up mild notes of damp grass, hay, malt, smoke, roasted grain, and roasted chestnuts underscored by traces of grilled corn and indistinct citrus. Subsequent infusions brought out the citrus aromas and flavors. I began to detect distinct lemon zest, grapefruit pith, orange peel, and kumquat impressions. I also began to pick up aromas and flavors of minerals, cedar, pine nuts, green beans, and char, as well as a more pronounced grilled corn impression that soon began to remind me more of corn husks. The later infusions were heavy on mineral, grass, hay, roasted chestnut, green bean, corn husk, smoke, and char notes, though I could still detect faint impressions of pine nuts and lemon zest at certain points.

All in all, I found this tea to be pleasant and drinkable, but nothing fantastic. It was very basic and easy-going, but I did not find it all that interesting. Honestly, I cannot say that I would recommend it, but at the same time, I cannot caution others to avoid it. Others who try this tea may ultimately feel differently, but it was just sort of “meh” for me.

Flavors: Cedar, Char, Chestnut, Citrus, Corn Husk, Grain, Grapefruit, Grass, Green Beans, Hay, Lemon Zest, Malt, Mineral, Orange, Pine, Smoke

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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48

I totally forgot I had this Japanese black tea in the cupboard. Honestly, I couldn’t remember buying it. I bought several Japanese black teas from Tealyra last year, but thought I had finished them all. I apparently did not, so I have been spending the last couple days finishing the 25 g sample pouch of this tea. Overall, I did not care for this one as much as the others.

I prepared this tea two ways. First, I brewed it strong, steeping 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 205 F water for 5 minutes. The second preparation was 1 teaspoon of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 205 F water for 3 minutes. I did not attempt additional infusions with either preparation.

I noticed that the dry tea leaves produced a malty, toasty, woody, and slightly vegetal bouquet. The five minute infusion produced a highly malty, toasty, tannic bouquet with a hint of chocolate and a definite vegetal quality. The three minute infusion was similar, albeit ever so slightly milder on the nose. In the mouth, the tea was very astringent and tannic. I noted flavors of malt, bitter chocolate, walnut, leather, straw, roasted grain, brown toast, and wood with traces of stewed legumes, char, tobacco, and molasses. The finish was woody and astringent with a pronounced malt character. The only real difference between the two preparations in the mouth was that the 3 minute infusion was slightly gentler overall.

Honestly, this tea did not do it for me. It was not terrible, but it did not have the aroma and flavor profiles I tend to seek out in a black tea. If it had a little more sweetness to balance out everything else, I most likely would have found it more appealing. All in all, this was just not for me.

Flavors: Astringent, Brown Toast, Char, Chocolate, Grain, Leather, Malt, Molasses, Straw, Tannic, Tobacco, Vegetal, Walnut, Wood

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Bio

My grading criteria for tea is as follows:

90-100: Exceptional. I love this stuff. If I can get it, I will drink it pretty much every day.

80-89: Very good. I really like this stuff and wouldn’t mind keeping it around for regular consumption.

70-79: Good. I like this stuff, but may or may not reach for it regularly.

60-69: Solid. I rather like this stuff and think it’s a little bit better-than-average. I’ll drink it with no complaints, but am more likely to reach for something I find more enjoyable than revisit it with regularity.

50-59: Average. I find this stuff to be more or less okay, but it is highly doubtful that I will revisit it in the near future if at all.

40-49: A little below average. I don’t really care for this tea and likely won’t have it again.

39 and lower: Varying degrees of yucky.

Don’t be surprised if my average scores are a bit on the high side because I tend to know what I like and what I dislike and will steer clear of teas I am likely to find unappealing.

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