77 Tasting Notes
I haven’t experienced much tea (any?) from Taiwan Tea Craft, but I’ve ordered their teawares a few times over the years. When I first saw the ash glazed “genie” pot with the circle handle a few years ago, I had to have that. Their little “Pocket” $35 clays pots are a nice value. I think Oolong Owl reviewed some of those little pots awhile back. In my last teaware order, I decided to show them some love and try their tea. I enjoyed this Dong Ding. The dry leaf smell had some roasted nuttiness and some fruity smell, as well. Wet leaf was very fruity. I went for about 8 sessions with this tea and it held up well for me. I was having my tea during a meeting, and there were some longer breaks between sessions, so I would heat the water back up, and it seemed to do better with just off the boil water in later steepings. I may have added a touch of bitter that way, but I don’t mind a little bitterness if it brings out stronger flavors. I prepared this in the red Pocket Duo Zhi shaped pot from TTCs. Pour was great on that little pot. I felt some caffeine buzz shortly after consuming this tea.
Flavors: Fruity, Nutty, Sweet
Reviewing Winter 2018 harvest. An old Southern tradition is to mash butter and sorghum molasses together with a fork until creamed and eat with buttermilk biscuits. The dry leaves of this Alishan reminded me of the smell and taste of buttered molasses. Once the leaves were wet, there was a definite fruity element to the tea. I could never quite put a name to the fruit. It was sort of like blackberry, sort of like black current, but not quite those. After the third infusion, I got a very distinctive smell or flavor of green banana peeling. If you’ve peeled back a green banana, it was that smell more so than the banana itself. As the infusions went on, it turned more into the sweet potato flavor we often get with black teas. Finally, this tea got fruiter again toward the end. That was a fun ride. I look forward to trying it again and seeing if I can detect any effects from the GABA in this tea. I was in a hurry to get out the door this session.
Flavors: Banana, Black Currant, Blackberry, Butter, Molasses, Sweet, Sweet Potatoes, Thick
After a visit to the doctor, I was informed there was a stomach bug going around, and that if anything, the white tea I had been drinking probably helped ease my symptoms. So, I went back on the tea last night. I had never had this type of oolong previously. I brewed this in a clay teapot. I found it to be one of the sweetest oolong teas I’ve experienced so far. The dry leaf smell had a nutty aroma that came out even more after it was in a heated teapot. I didn’t detect any burnt smells or notice any smokiness to the dry tea leaves that a reviewer had posted for a previous harvest. After a quick rinse and in further steepings, the wet leaves smelled fresh and green and never took on a vegetal, stewed spinach smell, which is a plus for me.
This is a delicate tea. The flavor is very delicious, but it is not strong and could be overwhelmed, so choose any food pairings wisely. I was using our well water, which has some mineral content, and it really worked great with this tea. I asked my wife to taste it, and she agreed that it was exceptionally sweet. It was sugary in the front of the mouth and on the teeth. I went through about 3/4 of a liter of water using a 70 ml teapot, so it went around 10 infusions and held up well. Interestingly to me, if I pushed the tea or kept the steeps short with hotter water, the strength changed, the liquor was darker, but it really did not change the flavor profile of the tea. This would be a good tea to serve with a bland meal, with a light dessert, or solo.
Flavors: Green, Nutty, Sugar, Sweet
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I was given this sample of Fuding Shou Mei in my latest order from Yunnan Sourcing China. It’s a nice package. It’s a 5.5 gram mini wafer of compressed white tea perfect for one or two people. YS has these tiny little celadon glazed tea pots for only $10. They’re probably meant to be used as a tea pet, but they actually work fine. The top is a little loose, but for $10, it’s hard to complain. :-) The one I used only holds around 55 ml of water, but that’s about perfect for a single serving. I broke up the Shou Mei wafer and put the entire 5.5 grams into this tiny little teapot. I did short gongfu brewing with it, and it worked amazingly well.
I had this tea with dinner, so I couldn’t really pull out subtle tasting notes, but what I primarily got from the tea was maltiness. I enjoyed it and drank at least 400ml of the tea as I had my meal. I found the quality of the compressed tea wafer to be very good. I’m not sure what year it is, but if you order it, you get 5 of the wafer packs for $4.00.
When I woke up this morning, I realized I may be hitting a tea wall and need to take a little break. I’ve been drinking lots of tea the last week or so as new samples come in, and my stomach may be trying to tell me something. Uggh. Probably many of us have heard that old saying about white tea: 1 yr tea, 3 years medicine, 7 years treasure. Maybe this was medicine. ;-) Shou Mei is supposed to be good for digestion and upset stomach, so it probably has nothing to do with this sample and could be totally unrelated, but I’m close to a remake of the classic April 1st TeaDB episode. :-)
Flavors: Malt, Sweet
This is a red oolong. I added the description from the YS website. It’s an interesting process to produce this tea. I’m having the light roasted version. When I opened the vacuum sealed bag, I took a sniff and didn’t smell much of anything. I let it air out for awhile and still not much smell in the dry leaf. It’s rolled very tightly and is very dry, so that’s probably why not much smell comes through. Each rolled leaf is about half the size of an M&M. Once it was placed into a heated Jianshui Zitao red clay teapot, the dry leaves released their aroma. This would be a fun blind tasting tea. I’ve never smelled a hibiscus, so I can’t comment on the Roselle Nectar notes. It did have a floral/fruity scent but it is also very much like a black tea in that it has some sweet potato and chocolate notes.
This is a tea to experience. It has some really interesting things going on. If you’ve ever had a Laoshan black tea, you know the dark chocolate brownie, sweet potato taste that comes through. It’s as if someone brewed a light roast fruity non-green-leaning oolong, and when no one was looking gave it a shot of Laoshan black tea. It’s a very unique experience. I love it. It’s a sweet tea. It has a good lasting aftertaste. No bitterness. There is a little astringency in the longer steeps, but not much. In the mouth, it has a lightness. It performed well with short steeps of a few seconds. I also pushed it out to about 2 minutes in a later steep, and had an interesting experience. The taste was similar, but there was a tingling sensation at the tip of the tongue and a sweetness. It was like having carbonated bubbles from Sprite dancing on the tip of my tongue. In the final steeps the sweet potato fades and is replaced by a sweeter taste that is similar to a yellow musky peach. The cooked tea leaves and tea liquor matched the photos posted.
This one is a winner! Quite a unique experience, and it won’t break the bank.
Flavors: Dark Chocolate, Floral, Fruity, Hibiscus, Peach, Sweet, Sweet Potatoes
There are two versions of this tea available. One is a light roast, and the other is a run dry. Run dry is a refining process where the tea is roasted, but it is roasted so lightly over charcoal, it is more like a drying/refining step and imparts no smokiness or roasted taste to the tea, but is considered preferable to machine drying. It is described as being more gentle and preserving more of the more subtle elements in the tea. This method of processing was thought to be lost to time as most processing went to jade oolong in Taiwan, but Mr. Zhuan processed this old-school style, and the folks at Taiwan/Yunnan Sourcing have brought it to us. It is a tightly rolled. I went for the “run dry” version. This tea is not cheap, but I was highly curious after reading the backstory on the tea.
When smelling the dry leaves, I don’t get much citrus from it. Maybe it has lost some of that since it was produced. I tried really hard to detect it. Even looking for it and trying to force my nose to pick up anything citrus-like, I can’t get much. It would be like rubbing a lemon on a sheet of paper a month ago. That’s about how much citrus I detect. I then hit the leaves with water, and it smells a lot like stewed spinach. Hmm. That’s not a big plus for me. Just my personal preferences against this smell.
Tasting the tea, it reminded me of a milk oolong. Maybe I’m crazy. I don’t think it is supposed to taste like this. It was like oyster stew without the oysters—milky, buttery, and an Anxi-like green oolong taste. It is less umami/seaweed than many green Taiwanese oolongs I’ve had. I’m really questioning myself on this tea, because my experience seems so different from what I’ve read. The color of the tea liquor was bright yellow.
This one liked short steeps of a few seconds. It had some mild astringency no matter how I steeped it, but it did not like being pushed.
I’m glad I had a chance to try this. I wish I could have tried it sooner when it perhaps had more citrus notes. I drank through about 7 infusions of this. It just wasn’t for me. I’m not going to rate it, because I think it is a unique tea and hits some notes that just happen to not be my favorites.
Today I am drinking the Spring 2018 harvest of Que She 928 oolong from Yunnan Sourcing. When I placed 5 grams into a warmed 50ml gaiwan, and breathed in the aroma of the dry leaves, it smelled like a bakery: vanilla wafers and graham crackers with some brownies baking way in the back and on top of all of that you get the classic oxidized sweet tea smell. It was like some hipster bakery turning out matcha-infused sugar cookies. There are no smokey notes. Whoever roasted this did a masterful job.
After a quick rinse the bake shop closed its doors. Now the wet leaves had a strong sweet floral note like orchid and a green tea smell. I processed this both with short steeps and just off the boil water and with longer steeps with cooler water and up to 2 minutes long. They both are good, but I preferred the longer steeps. Even with long steeps, there was never any bitterness and no astringency — and I mean zero - not even a hint. I am curious to know how this would perform if done western style. It might be the best option. Another day. The mouthfeel was always very wet on this one. The color of the tea liquor is pale brownish-yellow-like a watered down honey color.
Taste reveals the da hong pao roots of this cultivar. I think of it as da hong pao light, and I prefer it over da hong pao. The roasting isn’t strong like da hong pao, but a lot of the same flavor and mineral tastes comes through. No matter how long it is steeped, it keeps that classic wu yi taste and never goes vegetal even though pushing it to 2 minutes, the leaves will smell somewhat like spinach, but it in no way ever gets into the taste of the tea.
I emptied the leaves to have a look, and unlike in the photos I usually see of Que She, this batch appears to have no leaves oxidized to the point or turning brown or brownish-purple leaves like you get with new growth, and there are no burnt leaves during roasting. All of these leaves were small, heavily serrated and dark green. The leaves would be camouflaged perfectly if in a serpentine gaiwan. Another enjoyable oolong from Yunnan Sourcing.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Cocoa, Floral, Graham Cracker, Green, Mineral, Orchid, Sweet, Vanilla
I recently received the 2018 Spring harvest of this tea. I wonder if in previous years it was roasted slightly more than this year. This was a very light roast and the tea liquor produced during my sessions was far more on the honey color spectrum than the darker orangey-red shown here and on Yunnan Sourcing’s website. Oolongs remain my favorite tea, and the Zheng Yan 105 hybrid has been one of my all time favorites. This tea shares some similarities in that it is floral and fruity, but not to the degree of Zheng Yan 105. This Rou Gui had a very light roasted aroma with a heady honeysuckle scent. Comparing this to Zheng Yan 105, it had a brighter aroma but shared a lot of the same darker fruit cake notes. Comparing this to Anxi or Tie Guan Yin, it’s definitely darker and more roasted and has none of the vegetal notes. However, it is no where near the level of roast of Da Hong Pao. The light roasting and oxidation kill off the green tea notes and gives the first couple of steeps a little chocolate note and bit of that roasted marshmallow and malt taste, but that is soon gone, and it begins to deliver that classic Wuyi oolong mineral yan yun. I never experienced any bitterness nor astringency. I drank this with a meal, and went 10 rounds with it in a little 50ml gaiwan. That was pushing it a bit too far, but it still delivered a little mineral taste till the end. I found this tea was more enjoyable with faster steeps of only 5-10 seconds and then slowly building to over a minute toward the very end. I enjoyed this Rou Gui quite a bit. I have some far more expensive Rou Gui coming in, so it will be fun to compare them in the near future.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Caramel, Cinnamon, Dried Fruit, Honeysuckle, Mineral, Roasted, Sweet
It has been two years since I had this last. In that time, I’ve had it in dry storage. I read my previous tasting notes, and it is still much the same. If you brew it quickly, it will yield some nice mellow fermented flavors and sweetness. If you push it 15-20 seconds, it will begin to show its raw pu’er taste and bitterness. This cake is 500gr and as such it is pretty dang inexpensive for a 12 year old cake. It’ll be interesting to try this one again in a few more years when it has lost nearly all of its greenness. I saw John’s review of this and visited his website, and in response to his statement about cloves, I have never detected any clove in this. Maybe my senses just aren’t refined enough. This is a bargain cake. For that reason, I recommend it.
Flavors: Dark Chocolate, Dried Fruit, Earth, Hay, Wood