38 Tasting Notes

35

I went through the whole package (~25g?) before reviewing because I was determined to give this a chance, as it’s from the closest thing I have to a “local” tea shop (at least an hour away)…but I couldn’t get it to work for me. Package directions for western brewing are 1 tsp/8 oz/ boiling water/3-5 min. All I could taste this way was roast; not “roasted something,” just…roast. Fortunately it didn’t quite cross over into straight-up carbon, but it was close. If I focused really hard I could sometimes get an ambiguous nutty aftertaste. I tried more and less leaf, different infusion times, and cold brewing – but no improvement. Finally I tried brewing at 90 C, and that helped a little. I could make out a bit of earthy/wet foliage taste in the front, a little cocoa powder in the finish, but still the almost totally dominant flavor is roast. Really can’t recommend.

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100

I just purchased this cold brew carafe (Amazon) a couple weeks ago, but it’s been in almost constant use since then. It is very convenient and well designed, easy to hold and pour, and the filtering lid pops apart to allow for thorough cleaning. Great buy.

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75

I was able to try gongfu with this tea, so here are some updated notes.

Gongfu (3g/60ml/85 C), 10 steeps total:
I started with a 10 second steep and added 5-10 seconds for the first several infusions, then gradually increased the additional time; final, 10th steep was 5 minutes.

The lid of the gaiwan throughout had a sweet roasty aroma, somewhere between burnt sugar and caramelized winter squash. The brews start out a pale golden amber that grows deeper amber with each steep. The aroma of the brew is hard to describe – the main scent and flavor through all infusions is what I (unhelpfully) identify as “smooth black tea” – basic, familiar black tea with no bitterness, no brisk or brash flavors to hit you in the face, etc.

The roasted/toasted notes that were prominent in western brewing are lightly present almost the whole time, only beginning to fade around steep 9. There is a little malt, but that is never a strong note; there is a light sweetness, but it never crosses into syrup, honey, caramel, or any other kind of flavorful sugar. I think YS describes the tea as having a “sugar cane” taste, but even that attributes more flavor than I was able to pick up. The impression I was left with was of clear corn syrup – a little sweet, but without any accompanying related flavors. In the first couple steeps there is a hint of buttery taste & texture that adds to the suggestion of roasted squash, but this too fades quickly.

The middle steeps barely hinted cocoa powder and brought a touch of dryness, and while the leaves themselves began to smell more earthy, that flavor never really materialized.

In the final steeps I tried pushing the temperature to 90 C to see if I could coax out any more flavors, but all this did is bring out some more dryness/astringency and a little bitterness.

Overall, I’m afraid I found the Mojiang disappointing when brewed gongfu. It was mild & pleasant, but all the flavors were light, with no strong impressions – no layers, no complexity, no real changes between steeps. (I’d rate this 65 with gongfu.)

I’ll stick with western or, more likely, cold brew with this tea, as that yielded the most interest.

Sqt

Agreed. I much prefer this western style over gongfu, though that tends to be my preference for most black teas. Gongfu just results in a much simpler and boring experience for me, whereas western style the different flavours layer together to create complexity.

Leafhopper

I never thought of trying this Western style. I agree, gongfu’ing this tea doesn’t do it any favours.

Girl Meets Gaiwan

Western was definitely better than gongfu, but ultimately I enjoyed cold brew most – it’s how I finished out the bag.

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75

I’ve tried this western and cold brewed and it is very good both ways, though western is disappointingly short-lived. I’m quite eager to try gongfu and see what else is revealed.

Western (4.2g/250ml, 85 C), 5 steeps in all:
The dry leaf is lovely & fun – soft, fluffy, loose blonde curls. The aroma on opening the bag is strong cocoa, followed by earthy malt. Wet leaves add a coffee roastiness with the sweet cocoa.
3 min – Very pretty dark red brew; aroma is earthy, sweet, and complex – I smell brown sugar, chocolate, some kind of baked good. Flavor is earthy sweetness, cocoa, a little coffee bitterness, light tannin finish. Something vaguely fruity I can’t put my finger on. Finish has bitter note like the burnt edges of a brownie. YES – after a few sips I settle on brownies – baked cocoa, burnt sugary edges, even the slight fruitiness you get with good dark chocolate.
4 min – the aroma is the same, but the flavor is already receding and isn’t quite living up to the smell; dryness a bit stronger in throat on finish.
5 min (reduced to 200ml, increased to 90 C) – no real change from second steep, despite adjustments.
7 min (increased to 95 C) – losing strength
10 min (increased to boiling) – ditto
(I’d rate this 75 when brewed western)

Cold brew (1g/100ml):
Aroma is so pleasing – floral, fruit, cane sugar, cocoa, faint roast. Taste is very good – mostly smooth but interesting; bright, a little fruity cherry-almond with hint of roasty/coffee bittersweet finish. (I’d rate this 80 as iced tea)

I got this at the same time as the Wu Liang Hong Mao Feng Black that I enjoyed so much, so I can’t help comparing them in my mind. They had some flavor notes in common, though this had the yummy roasted coffee & toasty cocoa notes. Interestingly, to me the flavors in the Mojiang were like a lot of delicious notes tasted simultaneously, but without supporting or bouncing off each other, if that makes sense. For me this is coming short in the comparison to the mao feng black because of that lack of flavor harmony, the quick fade-out, and the fact that this is twice the price. I’m not at all sorry I got it and will enjoy finishing the 25g, though! I’ll update when I try gongfu.

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65

(Only seem to have time for western & cold brewing these days. As with several others I’ve sampled recently, I hope to try gongfu with this tea soon and will update.)

Tea is from summer 2016.
Western (5g/200ml/95 C) – pkg directions for western brewing call for pretty heavy leaf of 8g/300ml, so tried to stay close to that ratio.
Dry leaf is very fragrant & pleasant, but hard to describe. Smells bright, reminds me of dark cherries and some spice?
3 min – Very pretty red brew. A little malt up front, quickly moves to some dried cherry fruitiness and some earth, and wood & floral to finish. Maybe some hints cinnamon & vanilla? Smooth with some tannins on the finish, but no bitterness. Had to work hard to pick out these flavors, though – overall impression is pleasing but limited.
4 min – Similar, though flavors are lighter.
6 min – Ditto.
No changes between infusions, no real complexity – just generally ok brew that grows weaker.

Cold brew (1g/100ml; 1 resteep @ 1g/50ml blended in – a little too weak on its own)
Nice sweet black tea aroma with cane sugar notes. Taste is lighter version of “darker” flavors like cocoa powder, dried fruit like prunes. Unfortunately resteep on its own has a strange wet cloth aftertaste – it blends nicely into the first infusion, though. Like with western, flavor is good but not very interesting.

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I’m going to hold off on a rating until I get to experiment a bit more, but I wanted to get my initial notes down.

Tea is from July 2017.
Brewed western-ish, based on pkg directions (3.5g/175ml, 70 C), 3 infusions in all.
Dry leaf smells straight-up savory, with strong aroma of toasted seaweed.
45 sec – Light green/golden brew also has the toasted seaweed aroma along with green vegetable notes. Taste is smooth, savory, and meaty with some nutty, grassy, and lightly steamed green vegetable notes. Age of tea might be showing – no freshness that I associate with greens, though flavors are otherwise good. Pleasant & soothing, but lacking strength overall.
30 sec – Slightly darker brew, a little less seaweed aroma & flavor. Leaves have much sweeter aroma, but taste is about the same (smooth, savory), just without the strong seaweed note.
1 min – not too bad, but flavor very diminished.

I’d like try with more leaf, as I feel this was lacking a certain punch. Certainly not bad, but not very intense, and infusions petered out quickly – though that might also be the age of the tea, as noted. I also might play around with temperature.

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85

(I am pretty sure this is my first taste of tea from Nepal, though I’ve heard them recommended often. This one is May 2017.)

A lovely, delicious tea. I’ve been able to try western and cold brews so far, and I’d like to try gongfu with the last of the sample.

Western (3g/175ml, 95 C), got 5 infusions in all.
Dry leaf is sweet, fruity, malty, a little brown sugar & milk chocolate; lots of fine downy tea hairs. Wet leaves smell very sweet, strong aroma of burnt sugar with some raisin, and earthy tobacco.
3 min – Brew is a pretty, reddish amber; smells sweet & earthy, touch of woodsiness. Taste is layered, quite nice, smooth, rich & a little thick, some very light tannins – a little malty, tobacco, muscatel moving into raisin, fig. Florals come out as it cools (rose?).
4 min – Still very tasty, dark woodsiness balanced with smooth sweetness and a little floral on the finish.
6 min – Same, though a bit muted.
10 min (reduced water to 150ml, increased temp to boiling) – aromatic wood bordering on cedar more prominent, but flavors overall diminishing. Still smooth & pleasant, just not as flavorful.
15 min (150ml, boiling) – Same.

Cold brew (1g/100ml)
Quite good. Many of the same flavors as hot – brown sugar, malt, light fruitiness, hints of fragrant wood – but lighter, refreshing rather than rich, and the floral is much more prominent.

Thoroughly enjoyed, and will update when I try gongfu.

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82

I prepared this tea western style (according to package directions) and it just didn’t do it for me – not bad, but nothing really stood out. So I used the rest of the sample for cold brew and really enjoyed it.

Cold brew (6g/600ml):
Though this brewed up light and the flavors are subtle, they are sneakily complex! The aroma is sweet, malty, with notes of bitter caramel and maybe even some coffee. Taste is smooth and sweet with some very light floral notes making a nice counterpoint to the malty, caramel flavors. I think I’m even getting a little muscatel note in the aroma and flavor, too, which I didn’t pick up at all in the hot preparation. There’s an earthy note in the aftertaste that I can’t quite pin down – again, it’s light and sweet, but adding interest. Made a lovely, refreshing iced tea.

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65

eastkyteaguy’s endorsement of gongfu-ing this tea gave me the encouragement to give it a try with the last of my sample. I enjoyed the different experience I got from gongfu vs western here, but I think I actually prefer western after all in this case. It’s hard to tell if I can be fair to this tea, however — as I mentioned in the previous review, the leaf was pretty well broken up, lots of very small pieces, and as I feared, I think there was a good bit of harshness contributed simply by that fact. It was the end of my sample, too, with inevitably even smaller bits. It could be that a sample with more intact leaf would have fared better.

Anyway, I did 3g/50ml/95 C. Flash rinse was a very pretty red amber, and when I tasted a bit of it, it was surprisingly strong for just a couple seconds’ contact with the leaves. I did 10 steeps in all – 10 seconds to start and adding 5-10 seconds following. Throughout, the dominant aroma and flavor was earthy, woodsy cedar. (Side note: I broke in a new tea tray with this session, and it still smells very strongly of cut wood, which only heightened the aromatic wood notes of this tea!) Pretty astringent, good bit of drying tannins, decent amount of bitterness. In the middle steeps I started to pick up some rosemary or maybe eucalyptus notes, and possibly something very faintly citrus. A bit of minerality in these middle infusions, too. Toward the end I started to get very small hints of cocoa powder and vanilla, but these were not accompanied by any sweetness at all, which was quite interesting. I realized a couple infusions in that I was getting pretty much no sweetness whatever, though I did get some decent sweet notes from this tea in western and cold brew.

What this tea taught me is that I prefer more sweetness of some kind in my black teas. I’ve enjoyed some savory greens that had little to no sweetness, but when it comes to black, I think I need more of that sweet/bitter balance.

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65

I found this solid. As others have noted, it reminded me of a very nice breakfast-style black tea with plenty of body and flavor, but not much variety or interest.

Western (4g/250ml, 95 C)
Dry leaf is sweet & malty, but otherwise “normal” black tea aroma. Appearance of leaves worries me a bit – smaller/broken pieces of leaf, kind of chewed up. Aroma of wet leaves a bit more brisk, a little Raisin Bran, but faint. First steep 3 min – dark red liquor, pleasant sweet aroma. Flavor is good, fairly balanced, enough bitterness for brisk finish, could definitely stand up to milk. Overall pretty one-note. Second steep 5 min – wet leaves are more earthy now, with aromatic woodsiness – close to cedar, though not quite that strong. Tastes about the same, but maybe a bit more tannin, a bit less smooth, but not unpleasant. Third steep 7 min – maybe a touch of cocoa powder, otherwise about same. Final/fourth steep at boiling – no real change, just a little weaker.

Cold brew (1g/100ml) is solid, if unexceptional – good body (not too thin), balanced flavors of a little sweet, a little malty, a little bitter, but none stands out or overpowers. Faint whiffs of coffee & cocoa powder. Pleasant, lightly sweet aftertaste.

I’m wary of trying gongfu with the broken leaf of this tea, but I’ll update if I decide to give it a go.

eastkyteaguy

This is one of those teas that seems to be hit or miss for a lot of people. I loved it, but then again, I am a huge fan of malty, woodsy black teas like this and enjoy a lot of the higher end Vietnamese teas in general. I also think this is one that you have to gongfu in order to fully appreciate. If you insist on brewing it Western, I found that a longer initial infusion (like 4-5 minutes) was the way to go.

Girl Meets Gaiwan

Good to know, thanks! It was only a 10g sample, so I have just enough left for one more preparation. I’ll probably give gongfu a chance, then.

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Bio

I’ve been a tea drinker for at least twenty years, but only began to explore fine teas in the last couple. Learning to brew gongfu style in my first gaiwan made me aware that not only is there an amazing array of teas out there to try, but each tea has the potential to have a great variety of flavors revealed by different preparations.

I’m still figuring out what works for me as far as tasting notes/ratings, but whenever possible (tiny sample sizes and time commitment often being limiting factors), I like to brew each tea I try a few ways: gongfu style, western style, cold brewed. I’ve enjoyed seeing how these treatments change any given tea, especially since some teas may fall flat in one preparation but improve or shine in others.

I’m hoping to gain more education in greens, whites, yellows. I’m intimidated by (but curious about) pu-erh. Oolong and black teas are my go-tos.

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