42 Tasting Notes
These mini tuochas were the perfect portable shu for me to bring to work, to avoid needing to break a cake at my desk. The wrapper indicates that this tea is from Haiwan tea factory. As is fairly typical with tuochas the leaves are very tightly compressed, so I started this tea off with a 20 second rinse and 5 minutes to rest and loosen.
1st, 15 sec: The mini tu is still tightly compressed and the liquor is a golden yellow. Aroma of the wet leaves is earthy but the mouthfeel is cooling and numbing to match the strongly spearmint flavor of the liquor. Maybe there’s a hint of rose, but that could just because I expect there to be. The second steeping is much the same, but with slightly more body as the leaves begin to break apart.
3rd, 10 sec: Tuo is starting to break apart. Liquor has a wonderful sweetbread smell and tastes like pear with some mint still on the back on the sip
4th, 10 sec: Tea is waking up now. Nice full bodied mouthfeel that coats the tongue and leaves your mouth watering. A little astringent, but not bad. Aroma is fruity, but the flavor is all clove and mint with only a hint of fruit this time. As it cools it gets earthy and peppery.
5th, 20 sec: This tea doesn’t have much staying power. I basically got one strong steep once it opening and now it’s already fading. This steeping is fruity and minty once again.
6th, 1 min: The fruit flavor has been succeeded by a brown sugar taste this round. Still an echo of mint as the sip fades.
I’ll be honest — minty isn’t really what I’m looking for when I drink a shu. It was a pleasant and cooling tea, but a bit shallow and not quite my style. That combined with how short a session of this tea lasts for makes this a very middle of the road shu for me.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Clove, Earth, Fruity, Mint, Pear, Peppercorn
This tea has never been a big favorite of mine. Shortly after Verdant first started selling this tea I bought 4 oz based on their tasting notes alone and I’ve still got most of the bag left these many years later. It’s not a bad tea by any means, just a little flat to me. It’s got some honey sweetness, some malted grain, and a little hint of smoke and minerality.
However, I had such a fun time brewing this tea today. I finally got my gongfu setup at work finished, so I got to share a session of this with my tea appreciating coworkers and it was a treat to share gongfu tea with someone for once. It turned out that while this black tea underwhelmed me somewhat it was an eye opening treat for people who think black tea means British breakfast. It was also one of the only times where I went without scale or timer and simply let the tea speak to me, and it was by far the best session I’ve ever had with this tea. A lesson I’ll remember for the future: don’t get so caught up on the process you forsake being present to make the best cup of tea you know how!
Flavors: Honey, Malt, Mineral, Smoke
1st, 5 sec: Really strong honey aroma and taste (I suspect from the honeysuckle). It pairs nicely with the clean earthy flavor of the shu underneath. After a couple sips the cha qi really took me aback, to the point that I had to just sit back and relax into it. Very heady and consuming feeling, with tingling from my head down through the rest of my body.
2nd, 15 sec: Now that the initial hit of the honeysuckle has been washed out there’s the aroma I’ve come to expect from xingyang shu — a very pleasant clean mustiness like an old book with a bit of a wet forest smell mixed in. The honey smell from the first brew has turned into a crisp apple. This steeping numbs my mouth a bit and I’m getting an even stronger cha qi. I slightly oversteeped this round, so there’s more bitterness than I’d like but there’s still a pleasant earthiness
3rd, 10 sec: I can tell from the smell it was a good idea to turn down the time. The musty aroma has a sweetness to it this time. There’s a perfect balance to me between bitter earthiness and sweet honeycrisp apple. Nice continuing head high from the cha qi.
4th, 10 sec: Very similar to the third, but a bit lighter.
5th, 10 sec: The earthiness has taken a backseat to the apple and fruit flavors.
6th, 17 sec: I wouldn’t describe previous rounds as “creamy”, but this one definitely is. It’s still fruity but there’s more to it this time, some vanilla and maybe a hint of clove on the back of the tongue.
7th, 32 sec: Getting a nice poundcake flavor this time.
8th, 47 sec: There’s some citrus coming out now, making a lemon poundcake vibe.
I think I’m going to leave it there, but this has been a really nice tea. The honeysuckle only lasts for the first steeping, but the interplay between it and the puerh is really fun for that one time. The flavor after that doesn’t knock your socks off, but the feeling of it is really wonderful. I don’t know if I was just in the right place to receive it or if this tea is special in this regard, but the cha qi was really amazing. It faded a bit as the session went on, but even on steep 8 I’m still feeling it. My wife even commented on how happy I seem — it really brightened my day.
Flavors: Apple, Cake, Citrus, Creamy, Dark Bittersweet, Earth, Fruity, Honey, Musty
Just getting around to this steepster select (RIP) sample from probably 2013 or 2014.
1st, 2 min:
The aromatics of this tea are as beautiful as you’d expect from a green oolong. Floral and creamy with a front of lavender that fades to sweet cream as the tea cools. The flavor is really striking. Floral with a rather sweet vanilla flavor. As I keep sipping the vanilla adds notes of cardamom and a very gentle cinnamon.
This tea is a little too singularly sweet to be something I would drink regularly, but it’s a nice treat, perhaps as a desert tea.
2nd, 2 min 30 sec:
By the end of this steeping the leaves have really unfurled and are lovely whole leaves with light visible bruising. I’m very happy this round is less startlingly sweet than the first. The vanilla flavor has faded a bit and has left a nice combination of florals and cardamom/cinnamon. This pairing with less of the sweet vanilla is much more to my liking.
3rd, 3 min:
The spices are starting to fade and I’m left with just the florals. Definitely not an unpleasant cup, but I think thats my sign that this session is done.
Flavors: Cardamon, Cinnamon, Cream, Floral, Sweet, Vanilla
I’ve been rekindling my tea love and unearthing some of the long owned teas I have in the back of my cabinet. I started with some solid favorite genres of mine like roasted oolong and shu puerhs, but I want to see if maybe I can appreciate sheng in a way I couldn’t before. Finishing off this reserve club sample seems like as good a way to do it as any.
5 sec wash
1st steep, 5 sec: The wet leaf smells like what I tend to not like in sheng flavors — bitter vegetables, but there’s a smoky smell hiding behind it. The liquor smells much more promising. A bit doughy, sweet, and a hint of the hay in the back. The flavor is a surprisingly pleasant combination of baking spices and hay. The mouthfeel is delightfully thick and mouthwatering without being too astringent.
2nd, 7 sec: The smell is smokey and the flavor is quite bitter and vegetal. Very astringent. Maybe I overcooked this round? This is what I think of sheng tasting like and why I’ve never been able to get into it. I dumped this cup.
3rd, 7 sec: Still vegetal but a bit more mellow and with a little bit of sweet dough flavor hiding in there.
4th, 7 sec: Mildly vegetal, but not getting much depth beyond that. Perhaps my tastebuds are just not calibrated to appreciate sheng.
5th, 9sec: I’m getting something a little fruity here like wine grapes, but it gets quickly overwhelmed by the vegetal flavors again.
Well, I think I’m going to admit defeat with this tea. I had hoped that many years after my last sheng experience I’d have gotten to a point where I could appreciate them, but at least with this particular tea there was still not a lot there for me to enjoy.
Flavors: Fruity, Hay, Spicy, Vegetal
I’m not sure what has happened between me and this tea, but I don’t think it tastes much like my initial impression. I remember when I initially drank this almost a year ago thinking it tasted overwhelmingly like olive oil and italian herbs, and I really didn’t like it.
However, I recently brought it to work for a sipdown and I’ve been really digging it. First steeping has a bit of that vegetal olive oil/herb flavor on the back of the sip, but primary the flavor is one of nuts and caramel. Later steepings bring on wine grapes and baking spices and there’s this really great interplay of sweet/savory/spicy elements. The aroma has a wonderful black currant scent (although I don’t taste it).
I’m loving this tea at work. It’s bold enough to wake me up when I have my first steep in the morning and warm/smooth/mellow enough to be a relaxing respite as the day continues.
Master Han is someone whose teas I have conflicting feelings about. I respect the craftsmanship and appreciate the complexity of his teas, but often find that I don’t actually enjoy the flavor of them. So it was on a huge whim (with coaxing from Verdant’s tasting notes) that I decided to grab a full 4 oz of this tea during their Pu’er sale.
I am so thankful for that whim! This tea is a joy.
The aroma of the dry leaves is mild — a nice woody smell with no mustiness. Once the water hits them it’s like a refreshing clean rain in a wood.
The flavor of the first two infusions is sweeter than I expected and has an apple/pear flavor to it. However it’s not so singularly fruity like some Pu’er tea I’ve had, there’s a light woody and earthy flavor lurking in the background, almost like when the apples were pressed there were a few leaves and a small branch that snuck in.
As the infusions continue the flavor slowly shifts toward spice and bread. Some sips bring to mind my family’s lightly spiced cardamom bread and others a subtle poundcake flavor. And at just the right temperature there’s a hint of clove in there.
Throughout the brewing session this tea has been incredibly creamy and smooth.
This tea is a great all-arounder. There’s a decent level of complexity to it for when you really want to experience your tea, but it’s also eminently drinkable when you just want a good cuppa. In addition a strong brew is a great warming winter brew, but if you went a little lighter this would make a GREAT iced tea.
When drinking this tea I highly recommend gong fu brewing. My first experiences with it were western brewing and I was left really disappointed by the muddled flavor, but the gong fu sessions have been an absolute treat. In the week I’ve had this tea I’ve already had 3 sessions with it!
I’ve had this tea two more times since my first note (both with much shorter steeps than my first time) and I have to say I adore this tea. Brewed less intense there’s still the cinnamon flavor of the 2 minute brew, but less of the powerful doughy heft. There’s still a hint of sweet doughy bread there, but I think it’s just my memory hearkening back to that first brew.
It’s just such an incredibly satisfying cup. Sweet, spicy, earthy, full bodied, and with a clean and refreshing finish. It’s a tea I constantly have a desire to brew, but I hold back because I only had an ounce which has 1 cup left in it. Thankfully you can make a serving of this tea last forever. I brewed it 10 times over the course of 3 days and loved the last cup every bit as much as the first.
Before I use up this last cup I am so tempted to place an order for a cake.. I’ve never even contemplated committing that much to a tea before, but this is really something special.
Pfff, a green Oolong that tastes like cream and candy? I wish! But hey, I may as well give it a try and see what all this is about.
That smell from my cup on the first steeping is floral and a bit fruity as I’d expect but there’s something else coming up underneath that I’ve never smelled in a tea before, it’s too covered up by the other smells, but it just might be that milky smell this tea is known for.
First and second sips are fruity with a little bit of woodiness to it. It’s good and has a creamy texture, but I’m really not getting that milky flavor — I knew it wasn’t possible! But then on the third sip, right when I was feeling comfortable with the average oolong flavors, it hits me. Toffee? No way, it can’t be! I had to take another sip to be sure, and when I got that same toffee note I just about jumped out of my chair with joy (I’m a huge toffee fan if you couldn’t guess at this point :P ). Every sip from here on is incredibly creamy and sweet, like a really smooth toffee. I can’t believe I didn’t taste it at first, because this tea is dessert level sweet!
Second steeping is more toffee but with notes of vanilla and white chocolate. I’m sure after enough steepings this oolong will evolve into something else, as most do, but I honestly couldn’t care less. The sweet toffee flavor of these first two steepings is enough to make this a staple that I’ll always want to have on hand no matter what kind of flavor it takes on later.
Third day of spring and it’s snowing here near Seattle. And right when my body was starting to expect the spring temperatures. I really need a warming brew today. Surprisingly, when deciding what that should be my mind didn’t go for the spiced black teas I normally reach for on a chilly day — it went straight to this. It seemed the perfect reason to use up the second half of this Reserve Club sample.
This tea embodies warmth. The second that smokey aroma starts wafting out of the cup I feel like I’m huddled around a crackling campfire. And someone is making a s’more because I can smell their burnt marshmallow melting the bar of chocolate it’s dripping over. It’s so nostalgic and warming to just smell. And it’s commandingly strong; I’m still catching whiffs of it all around the house almost 3 hours after my first brew.
At first sip this tea tastes like the smell to me — smokey. And while that’s okay it’s not something I find myself wanting to drink a lot of. But by the second and third sip that smokey taste almost immediately turns into a rich dark chocolate aftertaste. I can’t taste it when the tea is on my tongue but it comes up immediately after the sip and lingers there forever. Five minutes after my last sip I can still taste that rich dark chocolate, but as time has passed it’s become a dark chocolate spiked with citrus or berry, I can’t decide which.
I’m 7 or 8 steeps in right now and that dark chocolate flavor is still lingering there every bit as strong as it was on the first, but the first taste has mellowed from smokey to citrus (something I’m rather thankful for).
This was the perfect brew to start my chilly day off with. It’s so rich and warming. If it weren’t for the price tag on these reserve club teas I’d definitely restock this one, but alas, my budget forces me to leave it as a pleasant memory after today.