335 Tasting Notes

73

I normally enjoy sakura flavored teas but I didn’t care for the artificial taste of this one. The dry leaf appearance is striking with its dark green, mostly full leaf blades interspersed with beautiful tiny pink buds. The leaves smell like cherry blossom, bubble gum, and slightly medicinal. Wet leaf smells like cherry cough syrup.

First steep produced a clear yellowish-green liquor. The cough syrup flavor from the aroma hits you first and then cherry blossoms appear in the background, fighting against the artificial flavoring. The second steep had more cough syrup, a bit of astringency, and a fainter cherry blossom note.

Going to try blending this with a regular sencha because the flavoring is too strong when drunk straight up.

Flavors: Artificial, Cherry Blossom, Medicinal

Preparation
170 °F / 76 °C 1 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 5 OZ / 150 ML

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97

Almost gave up on this tea because of the persistent astringency and weakish taste. Eventually I learned that the trick is to brew it like a green tea. Anything hotter than 190 F scalds the tea, destroying its subtleties and punishing you with bitterness. Turns out 182-185 F is the sweet spot for optimum flavor.

The tea has a tropical-floral flavor that evolves with each steep. Upon opening the pouch, I was hit with an intense hyacinth aroma. Pastoral flowers emerged when placed in a heated pot. Wet leaf brought out more floral aromas of lillies, vanilla, and baby’s breath. The first steep was flowery with osmanthus and hyacinth intermingled with herbaceous notes. The next steep brought out a sweet apricot flavor. As it continued steeping, tropical fruit began to emerge. I picked up notes of pineapple and papaya. Later it shifted to a familiar high mountain taste before fading around the 7th steep.

This is a finicky tea to brew but rewarding when you get it right. It’s refined, smooth, and has a calm, energizing cha qi. This is a tea you need to sit down and pay attention to in order to appreciate its subtleties.

Flavors: Apricot, Flowers, Fruity, Orchid, Osmanthus, Pineapple, Tropical

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 45 sec 3 g 2 OZ / 70 ML

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88

This tea has what I would call the classic Japanese green tea flavor. It’s clean, grassy, and feels like a gentle sea breeze. There is a nice balance of green/vegetal and sweet notes with a subtle umami quality and minimal bitterness provided you don’t oversteep.

While this is an enjoyable tea, it’s not mind-blowing. This happens to be the most expensive sencha in Yuuki-Cha’s lineup but IMHO the quality doesn’t justify the price. It doesn’t resteep well – only get 2 good steeps from it – and it lacks the richness of other less pricey Japanese green teas from the same cultivar.

Flavors: Grass, Lemongrass, Ocean Breeze, Umami

Preparation
170 °F / 76 °C 0 min, 45 sec 2 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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80

Here’s another blast from the past. I finished off this tea back in the spring but forgot to review it. 2017 was a ho-hum year for Taiwanese oolongs and this tea very much exemplifies that trend. It had fantastic aromas of gardenia and tropical fruit, but the aroma didn’t translate into the flavor. The taste of the tea was thin and flat with a slight astringency. There were subtle floral hints of wildflowers, lillies, and what tasted like magnolia along with clover honey but they appeared only briefly. It peaked around the 4th infusion turning vegetal and accompanied by bitterness.

Not one of TTC’s best offerings and way different than the SLX from the previous spring which was richer, more flowery, and had a thicker mouthfeel. Overall a fairly unremarkable tea in nearly all respects.

Flavors: Astringent, Floral, Gardenias, Vegetal

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15

Been down with a head cold for the past week which has impaired my sense of taste and smell and relegated me to mostly genmaicha. Sucks, but almost a given whenever the seasons change. In the meantime, I’ll be reviewing a few teas from the backlog.

This wild Taiwanese oolong varietal was the most interesting sounding tea from my Mountain Streams sampler pack but unfortunately it turned out to be a huge dud. I suspected it was stale as soon as I opened the pouch. There was a vague aroma of cooked turnips in the dry leaf and stir fried vegetables, corn, and spinach following a rinse. However the taste was musty and really stale. It had almost no flavor as if the tea had lost its freshness a long time ago. Don’t know what’s up with that since this was a vacuum sealed pouch.

Flavors: Musty

Togo

Hm, now I’m really curious to try this, I have opened the pouch, but haven’t had a session with it yet.

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84

This is the least impressive of all the Laoshan greens from Verdant’s lineup that I’ve tried so far. That’s not to say it’s a bad tea, just underwhelming compared to low cost plain old Laoshan green tea. In fact with few exceptions, most Laoshan green tea variants and reserve/imperial grade teas have not lived up to the hype in my experience.

The tea begins with some fruity and soybean notes and then transitions into toasted oats/grains and a cilantro-like herbaceous before settling into a green bean flavor. A bit drying in the mouth but not astringent. Overall, this is more savory than regular Laoshan green tea, nuttier, and doesn’t resteep well past the 3rd infusion.

Flavors: Coriander, Fruity, Green Beans, Nutty, Soybean

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 0 min, 30 sec 2 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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95

This is a great matcha for the price if you’re looking for something above culinary grade for lattes. It holds up well to milk and sugar and also tastes pretty good when drunk straight. The smell of the powder is incredible. It has sweet smell that reminds me of rice mochi and green tea flavored pastries. When prepared in a chawan, it froths up nicely and has an vibrant green color. The taste is chlorophyll rich with an assertive vegetal-wheatgrass flavor and a slight chalkiness. It’s got a greenish quality to it that feels like drinking a forest.

But straight matcha isn’t really my thing and the real test was having it in latte form. The results were downright delicious. A splash of milk and a pinch of sugar transforms it into an indulgent, confectionery like treat yet still retaining an appreciable green flavor. It also helps temper the strong flavor and brings out its natural sweetness.

Flavors: Rainforest, Sweet, warm grass, Umami, Vegetal

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93

Was feeling bored of the teas in my regular rotation and decided to dig into my stash for something new. I chose this tea that had been sitting around for a few months and it turned out to be an excellent choice. This is a delicious dan cong with lots of fruitiness and a smooth as silk mouthfeel.

The name of this tea translates to “Apricot Flower Aroma” and is processed to mimic its namesake. I’ve never smelled an apricot flower, but I definitely tasted a subtle underlying tone of dried apricot. I also detected notes of cedar, saffron, a little spice, and some musk. The roast on this tea is light which produces a clear, yellow-green tinged liquor. It’s wonderfully smooth with a bright, crisp flavor and mouthfeel. I flashed steeped it for 7 infusions with boiling water and encountered almost no bitterness or astringency.

Flavors: Apricot, Cedar, Fruity, Wood

Preparation
Boiling 3 g 3 OZ / 88 ML

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86

This was a fairly tasty Fujian black tea. I loved Teavivre’s unsmoked wild Lapsang Souchong and would have bought some more except I didn’t want to be saddled with a 100g bag so I purchased this one instead from Yunnan Sourcing. I found it to be an enjoyable tea yet a little too basic for my liking. The Teavivre one had an amazing depth of flavor, while this doesn’t go beyond the chocolate notes. Frankly, I’m starting to tire of super chocolatey black teas. I have several of them and they all taste very similar. I love chocolate as a flavor component but want more complexity. Often I’ll remedy this by blending with a different black tea. Below are some quick notes I jotted down while drinking it. I tried it both gongfu and western style, and preferred gongfu for its richer and slightly more complex flavor.

Leaf appearance: very thin, wiry leaves
Aroma: dry leaf has a soft fragrance of cacao nibs, malt, and blackberries. wet leaf smells predominantly of chocolate

1st steep: starts of with sweet potato and cocoa. then as it cools, transitions to a rich Ovaltine chocolate malt.
2nd steep: more chocolate comes forward, specifically dark chocolate and a hint of sweet potato
3rd steep: lighter, but smooth and syrupy sweet

Flavors: Cacao, Dark Chocolate, Malt, Sweet Potatoes

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 30 sec 1 g 2 OZ / 55 ML

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83

This baozhong isn’t the most nuanced but it makes for a good cup of tea. Its got a lot of sweetness and a thick, syrupy mouthfeel. The usual baozhong lilacs are there as well as violets, gardenia, and a touch of melon. I steeped this 4 times in a gaiwan with steep times of 1m, 20s, 50s, and 2m.

I’ve switched back to gongfu’ing my baozhongs and I’m starting to enjoy them again. It’s richer and the flavors are clearer than grandpa steeping which is probably better suited for the more expensive competition grade teas.

Flavors: Floral, Sweet

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 2 g 3 OZ / 80 ML

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Bio

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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