441 Tasting Notes

99

This was the first tea I chose to drink in 2020. Shibi has been a perennial favorite of mine over the years and this latest harvest was a reminder as to why. It’s rich, complex, and has a wonderful floral-fruity flavor. The tea starts off buttery and fresh with aromas of pear, coconut cream, and daffodils. The flowers arrive in waves, starting with peonies, wildflowers, lillies, and hyacinth. This is interspersed with hints of tropical fruit and a little vanilla. Thick in the mouth with a pleasant lingering aftertaste. An exquisite high mountain tea and one of the best terroirs I’ve ever tasted.

Flavors: Flowers, Tropical

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 30 sec 2 g 2 OZ / 50 ML

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95

This Gui Fei is basically honey in tea form. It’s thick and syrupy, dripping with the taste of wildflower honey in every steep. Dry leaf smells of graham crackers. Sandalwood and eucalyptus aromas when wet along with some cinnamon emerging later. The tea is smooth and delicious, full of honeyed, brown butter-esqe goodness throughout the steeps but also a bit woodsy at times with hints of apricot and flowers. Although Gui Fei is a bug bitten tea, I taste very little of that bug bitten flavor. It’s more akin to a good roasted Dong Ding.

The only knock on this tea is that it doesn’t change much from steep to steep. Otherwise it’s a very enjoyable and easy drinking oolong.

Flavors: Butter, Flowers, Honey

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 30 sec 2 g 2 OZ / 63 ML

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82
drank Turmeric Chai by Rishi Tea
441 tasting notes

This tea has been tremendously more enjoyable these past few days I’ve been under the weather. The slightly pungent turmeric, warming ginger, and mild spices really help soothe my flu symptoms.

Instagram shot: https://www.instagram.com/p/B7B0cQ0AFfs/

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 6 min, 0 sec 2 g 6 OZ / 177 ML
tea-sipper

I hope you feel better soon

LuckyMe

@tea-sipper, thanks getting better!

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90

Once again a very nice Laoshan green varietal. This autumn harvest is sweet and crisp like butter lettuce. Notes of soy, green beans, sweet corn, anise, and flowers. While I like this tea I don’t quite love it. It may be that I’m finally starting to tire of Laoshan green teas. I’ve been finding myself craving sencha and kamairicha more than other greens these days.

Flavors: Anise, Green Beans, Lettuce, Soybean

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 0 min, 30 sec 2 g 3 OZ / 96 ML
derk

Butter lettuce is best lettuce. I’m feeling a move toward Japanese greens in the coming months. I may have to pick you for some recommendations soon if you wouldn’t mind.

LuckyMe

Absolutely. I can’t say that I’ve had too many great Senchas this year but I can help you steer clear of the less than stellar ones. The most memorable one I’ve had was Yuuki-cha’s Kirishima Asatsuyu Sencha. It was super fruity and umami rich. A little different from your typical Japanese greens. Saemidori Kirishima Sencha is also good if you’re looking for a fukamashi with a deep grassy flavor. I have one en route to me from O-Cha right now. Will let you know how that one turns out.

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89

Can you believe I’ve never tried kombucha until now? I’ve seen the colorful bottles on grocery shelves everywhere but dismissed it as a hipster drink and not real tea. Well curiosity got the better of me and I picked up a bottle of this at Trader Joe’s. The guy there recommended this flavor for noobs.

And I have to say this was pretty tasty although a tad on the sour side. It’s slightly fizzy with more lemonade than strawberry. Smells a little vinegary but thankfully that doesn’t come through in the taste. Whatever straight kombucha is supposed to taste like is masked by the strawberry Lemonade flavor.

I couldn’t drink too much of this since I was nursing a sore throat but it’s definitely piqued my interest in kombucha. I think next time I’ll try the mango or one of the other flavors that is a little less sour.

Flavors: Lemon, Lime, Strawberry, Tart

derk

GT’s Rose and Gingerberry are among the softer, less vinegary flavors for me.

I made my own kombucha in the past by culturing a scoby from one of GT’s brown bottle brews. The flavor of the first fermentation which had yet to have fruit juices added was very vinegary. There were slight variations in that flavor depending on the type of tea and amount of sugar used. I would do a secondary fermentation with fruit juices; my favorite combination was a short secondary ferment of fresh-pressed pineapple and ginger juices.

LuckyMe

Thanks, that flavor sounds intriguing. Props to you for making home brew kombucha…that’s quite ambitious!

gmathis

You aren’t the last one on the band wagon. I still haven’t imbibed!

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75
drank 2019 Qilan by Verdant Tea
441 tasting notes

Happy new year everyone. Wishing you all lots of success in the decade to come and many happy tea adventures. Haven’t been on the site as much lately due to traveling and helping my brother with his wedding preparations. I’ve got quite a few tasting notes to clear in the backlog so here goes.

It’s been an awfully long time since I’ve had a yancha. I used to enjoy them but they could be a little too ashy sometimes. This Qilan is a light roast Wuyi oolong and I picked it up hoping for a greener flavor profile. The dry leaves have a gentle aroma of flowers, cocoa, and baked bread. The wet leaf smells like sandalwood, wet rocks, and buckwheat. The brewed tea is primarily woodsy with notes of autumn leaves and oak. There’s a soft mineral quality to it and a faint hint of spice.

Wasn’t terribly impressed by this Qilan. While it’s not overly roasty, it had a generic flavor profile and I wasn’t a fan of the wood flavor. The greenness just didn’t come through as I had hoped. I’ve had better luck with YS yanchas so I will try theirs or maybe What-Cha in the future.

Flavors: Cocoa, Mineral, Oak wood

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 1 g 8 OZ / 236 ML
derk

I was going to suggest YS’s Wild Da Hong Pao for a yancha more whimsical and floral but I see you’ve already tried it :)

LuckyMe

Yep, that was a good yancha. I was hoping for a greener Da Hong Pao – if that even exists – but no dice here.

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82
drank Turmeric Chai by Rishi Tea
441 tasting notes

This is a pretty good herbal tea if you’re looking for something spiced or to soothe a cold. Reminds me a bit of the old Verdant Tea Ginger Winter Rescue blend. Smells like garam masala, cinnamon, clove, and ayurvedic medicinal herbs. The brewed tea is tasty with a mellow turmeric flavor. Not chalky or bitter as turmeric can sometimes be. It’s nicely balanced with the other flavorings, although some like rose and lychee aren’t really discernible.

I think this would be a good base for a golden milk latte but will have to experiment and see. It’s a nice tea to have on hand for those times when you’re sick. Masala chai fans would probably dig this tisane too.

Flavors: Ginger, Medicinal, Spices

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec 3 g 7 OZ / 207 ML

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100

Not much else to say about this one other than it’s about as perfect as chamomile tea gets. Taste is nearly identical to the chamomile I bought from The Spice and Tea Exchange recently but at a much more economical price. Both are organic chamomile flowers sourced from the mountainous regions of Croatia. It has a cleaner, brighter flavor compared to the common Egyptian variety. Excellent quality all around and miles above your standard bagged chamomile.

Flavors: Citrusy, Honey

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec 1 g 7 OZ / 207 ML

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97

Another brilliant Bao Zhong from TTC. Grandpa steeped 1.3g in my 10oz tea thermos using 200 F water. It opens with the scent and taste of fresh cut lilacs. Hints of orchids and something like a summer green meadow. Egg custard in the finish. The florals become deeper as it steeps with notes of bergamot and magnolia and a sugarcane sweetness that pleasantly lingers on. Stays juicy and floral till the very last sip. Boiling water amplifies the lilacs and gives a more TGY like flavor but the nuances are lost.

Flavors: Bergamot, Custard, Flowers, Sugarcane

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 1 g 8 OZ / 236 ML
ashmanra

Oh my. I wasn’t going to order any more tea but is tempting…

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96

This was the last tea from my tea from Taiwan order and easily the best one. It’s an excellent Li Shan with a luscious floral character. Intense aromas of hyacinth, coconut cream, and Korean melon. The tea starts off fruity followed by a rush of floral goodness. A complex and impressive bouquet of flowers unfurls throughout the steeps. I picked up notes of orchid, hyacinth, magnolia, and lily of the valley. The tea feels like silk in the mouth and leaves behind a rich aftertaste.

For this tea, I followed the “non-linear” brewing style described in a recent Mei Leaf video and achieved much better results than simply increasing time and temperature with each steep as instructions generally tell you to do.

Flavors: Coconut, Cream, Flowers, Melon, Nectar

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 45 sec 2 g 2 OZ / 46 ML
ashmanra

I must find this video!

LuckyMe

@ashmanra – here’s the video I mentioned: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZRI5-9dtsk Taiwanese oolongs definitely seem to benefit from non-linear dip brewing.

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Profile

Bio

My Rating Criteria:

95 to 100: Top shelf stuff. Loved this tea and highly recommend it

90 to 94: Excellent. Enjoyed this tea and would likely repurchase

80 to 89: Good but not great. I liked it though it may be lacking in some aspects. I’ll finish it but probably won’t buy again

70 to 79: Average at best. Not terrible but wouldn’t willingly drink again

60 to 69: Sub-par. Low quality tea, barely palatable

59 and below: Bleh

Fell into tea years ago, and for a long time my experience was limited to Japanese greens and a few flavored teas. My tea epiphany came a few years ago when I discovered jade oolongs. That was the gateway drug to the world of fine tea and teaware.

With the exception of a handful of lightly scented teas, I drink mostly straight tea. I love fresh green and floral flavors and as such, green tea and Taiwanese oolongs will always have a place in my cupboard. After avoiding black tea forever, Chinese blacks are beginning to grow on me. I’ve dipped my toe into a few puerhs now but it’s still relatively new territory for me. I also enjoy white tea and tisanes but reach for them less frequently.

Other non-tea interests include: cooking, reading, nature, MMA, traveling when I can, and of course putzing around on the interwebs.

IG: https://www.instagram.com/melucky

Location

Chicago

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