7 Tasting Notes
There is a large display of teas from Elmwood Inns at the local International Market I frequently shop at. I decided to take a chance and purchase one just to check out the brand itself. Elmwood’s website appears that they take the tea craft very seriously which peaked my interest. Elmwood’s “Tea Maestro” owner has written 14 books on Tea and frequently lectures around the country at Tea events. They even seem to have a “Tea School” or “Master Class” seminar offered in Kentucky which is where they are headquartered. I decided to try a Green Tea and, sadly, the only one I could find not full of additives was a Sencha and Hyson. I decided to test my luck with the Hyson having never tried that particular style. It was marketed as “The American Revolution: Boston Tea Party” in reference to this being one of the main teas thrown overboard in Boston harbor in 1773. It evidently was also a favorite of Thomas Jefferson. It is a “Young Hyson” which is what you want to see as well from all that I have read. Sadly, after all that build up, this tea completely failed to impress. That is actually the kindest thing I can say. It smelled terribly musty which I don’t think I have ever experienced with a Green Tea. It smelled almost like a poor quality cooked Puer. When I brewed it, I found that I needed to wash the tea which I normally only have to do with select Blacks, Puer and Oolongs. There was so much tea dust in the tin that it created an absurdly dark brew within seconds. Almost like I was brewing from a tea bag. I did a 2nd infusion and it really didn’t improve much. The third infusion was the only one I really was able to drink the tea from. The taste was very astringent despite the gentle brew of 175 °F / 2 Min 30 Sec. The musty scent was also infused in the taste and I found it completely off-putting. I had a little more success when I switched from a single serving mug/infuser to a cast iron Japanese tea pot. I eventually started to get some green tea flavor with a slight citrus aftertaste using this method. The irony of this being marketed as an American Revolution Tea is that is tastes like it has been sitting in a basement since the 18th century. I’m sorry if this is not a good representation of what Elmwood has to offer. I would be embarrassed to sell this if I was them.
Flavors: Citrus, Musty
What a steal! Where I live (Ohio), it sometimes difficult to find nice Tea in an actual store but every now and then you get lucky. I picked this up at a local International Market not expecting much out of it as the price was very cheap (100 grams for $7.99). I’ve not had much luck with similar purchases in the past in this price range. Typically, the quality of the tea is poor or the packaging and shelf life has ruined what might have once been something nice. This was definitely a hit with me. It was vacuum sealed in a bag within a quality tin giving it a really fresh burst of aroma when I opened it up. It is a High Mountain rolled Oolong from Taiwan. The dry leaves have a very ripe fruity aroma as opposed to the strong floral essense I’ve experienced with some other similar Oolongs. The taste, to me, was that of cooked apples, honey and a slight bit of fermented skunkiness. The tea is a beautiful golden color. The taste is not as bold as some Taiwanese Oolongs I have tried but it is still very pleasing and I tend to prefer subtle flavors more anyway. It is easy to brew from a perspective of astringency control. I found 1 teaspoon around 190F for 4.5 minutes was my favorite. I’m really satisfied with this tea for the price I paid. Definitely a bargain.
Flavors: Apple, Honey
This is a very well rounded and savory Green Tea with a lot of subtle flavor if brewed correctly. It is very smooth almost silky and leaves a wonderful moist aftertaste lacking astringency. I don’t get as much of the “buttery” mouth feel as I have had in other similar Greens which is a little disappointing but the tea is still very satisfying nevertheless. I would purchase this again for sure.
Flavors: Butter, Cucumber, Vegetal
Hands down the best Silver Needle tea I’ve tried to date. It’s very refreshing and juicy with a sweet floral honey flavor profile. This tea is a good one to experiment with different temps for steeping. I found my favorite was around 190F for 4 min. Normally, White Tea leaves me a little disappointed because it always feels like it is lacking something. This one, however, is very complex and satisfying.
Flavors: Floral, Honey
I purchased this tea at a local international foods grocery for a relatively decent amount of money (100g for $10). Being only fluent in English, it was difficult for me to know what I was getting since the packaging is mostly in Japanese. I could understand the maker was Fukujuen and the it was a blend of Kabusencha and Sencha prepared in Fukamushi style (or deep steamed). I couldn’t figure out the location of where the tea came from for sure but I believe it is near Kyoto. Kabusencha has been grown in the shade more than Sencha. Kabusencha is supposed to have a flavor profile similar to Sencha with more Umami but perhaps not as much as Gyokuro. Fukamushi processing results in a tea much darker than a Sencha style. Fukamushi processing is supposed to suppress the astringency, while gaining more body and sweetness. I feel it also has a much more pronounced “marine essence”. For this tea, the packaging was very good and did an excellent job retaining the freshness of the tea. When I opened the bag for the first time and took a sniff, the scent was amazing. Moist, vegetal, and very grassy smelling. The first time I brewed this tea, I didn’t enjoy it too much. It tasted flat and boring plus I didn’t enjoy the tea debris in the bottom of my cup (result of Fukamushi processing from what I understand). The second time was a completely different story. I used a different filter and mug with less tea and a lower temperature (brewing Western Style). Going a little lower in temperature helped this tea immensely. Right around 160 degrees F for 2 minutes was my sweet spot. The recommendation on the packaging is to steep for 45 seconds but I prefer a longer steep. Adjusting the brewing temperature brought out a very smooth, sweet, umami rich flavor. This obviously is not the highest quality Japanese tea money can buy but with some care, you can get a very worthwhile experience out of this purchase.
Flavors: Cut grass, Marine, Ocean Air, Vegetal
I took a chance on this at an international market recently. It was nearly 7 oz. of tea for just $11.00 but it was still well within the expiration date so I thought I would give it a go because I really love Longjing. Well, I guess you get what you pay for sometimes! The title of the tea indicates that it is from the West Lake region which is a good start. The packaging doesn’t appear to be very good with regard to protecting the integrity of the tea though. It is in a basic clear glass jar. The flavor is tastes like “right leaves, right preparation, poor storage”. You get a very muted flavor profile that lacks the pronounced vegetal, nutty essence with a smooth buttery texture that great Chinese Greens often have. When you smell the wet leaves, you have to really struggle to get a familiar DragonWell essence. On the whole, it is not a bad tea and I will finish the jar in time. It’s just that once you have really good Dragowell, it is hard to accept an impostor. On the whole, it is not a bad buy for $11.00 but this really not something I would want to share with someone to show off how great Dragonwell can be.
Flavors: Butter, Marine, Nutty, Vegetal
When I opened the bag and took in the smell of this tea, it was amazing. Almost like smelling a fine wine. So much sweet, moist vegetal goodness with a hint of plums in my opinion. The aroma is incredibly complex and inviting. The leaves unfurl and turn beautifully lush and green in the water. The aroma after brewing very inviting. There is a smooth or perhaps “buttery” taste to the tea that is just delicious. I think this would be a great tea to demonstrate to someone exactly what a good daily Green Tea should taste like. The price is very reasonable too which is why I use the term “Daily Green”.
Flavors: Butter, Plums, Umami, Vegetal