243 Tasting Notes
I’m a big green tea fan but the hype surrounding dragonwell has always puzzled me. I’ve tried it from multiple vendors and using different brewing methods yet the flavor never quite lived up to expectations. This spring when Verdant tea released a series of new dragonwell varietals, I decided to give longjing another shot. I ordered samples of all their new dragonwell teas to see if any of them could win me over.
This particular tea is a rare semi-wild varietal with an intriguing flavor profile. I had another wild dragonwell from What-Cha recently that was very fruity and delicious. This one though was quite vegetal and had a roasted note which I dislike in green tea. I caught some of the classic chestnut along with stir fried broccoli and a sheng puerh like bitterness. Leaf quality isn’t the highest, lots of broken pieces in my sample pouch.
Neither this nor any of the other dragonwells I’ve tried from Verdant this spring converted me. I prefer my greens to have fresh and grassy flavors. The smoky notes put me off and reminded me of gunpowder tea. I appreciate the ability to order inexpensive samples from Verdant. This is a pricey tea and it was nice to able to try a few grams without risk.
Flavors: Broccoli, Chestnut, Smoke, Vegetal
Easily the best green tea I’ve had in 2017. This is an exquisite green tea with a full and creamy mouthfeel, silky smooth texture, and a pear like fruitiness. There’s a sweet umami quality to it almost like gyokuro.
Dry leaves are curled resembling a Laoshan green with a similar aroma. The wet leaf is a very vibrant green color and tea liquor is pale yellowish green. The early steeps have a lot of fruitiness and umami to them. There’s less of the vegetal and grassiness you typically see in greens. What immediately jumps out at me is the unbelievable mouthfeel that leaves a velvety sensation lingering on the palate long after the tea is gone. I brewed this at fairly low temperatures, around 158-162 F for the first 3 steeps. The last two infusions were at 170-180 F and had a light sencha-like grassy flavor.
This to me tasted like some of the better shade-grown Laoshan teas I’ve had. I’d say the flavor profile is a cross between a Laoshan green and gyokuro. I was a little hesitant to order it as this was the most expensive kamairicha in Yuuki-Cha’s lineup but I’m glad I did because it’s totally worth it for the amazing flavor and the many infusions it gives.
Flavors: Fruity, Pear, Thick, Umami
I was feeling a little adventurous when I bought this tea. Normally I stick to my tried and true favorite, the Kirishima/Kagoshima senchas, but I was curious about the other teas in Yuuki-Cha’s lineup. This was one of their newer Saemidori variants. Despite having zero reviews, I decided to roll the dice on this mystery tea based on Yuuki-Cha’s excellent track record.
The dry leaf appearance leaves a lot to be desired. The leaves are excessively broken and look like dust and fannings of a low grade tea. Despite using a stainless fine mesh strainer, the tea leaves behind a lot of sediment that can lead to bitterness. The leaves clogged my shibo and I didn’t even attempt to brew it in my kyusu for fear of badly clogging the sasame filter. I’m not one for teabags but it may be called for here.
Because of how broken the leaf is, this tea infuses quickly so it’s important to keep infusion times short. Like under a minute. I had to mess around with the brewing parameters for a bit because I kept getting a lot of bitterness. Finally, I settled on steep times of 25s/1s/30s/45s. Also, starting with a lower temperature around 140-150 F and going from there helped minimize bitterness.
The first steep was a balanced sweet-bitter brew. Second infusion was a flash steeping and it produced a thick, grassy cup with a nice chlorophyll flavor. The thickness and deep green color of the liquor resembled matcha. It had a brisk, bold vegetal flavor and ever-present astringency. Not as sweet as the higher grade Saemidori senchas nor does it have the umami of better teas.
Overall, while I liked it, I wasn’t as impressed with this tea as others. I found this to be a good, serviceable sencha but nothing remarkable. The extra fine particles of tea were annoying and couldn’t be steeped in my nicer teaware.
Flavors: Astringent, Grass, Vegetal
Received a sample of this tea courtesy of teasipper. It’s my first time trying Ben Shan which is supposed to be closely related to Tieguanyin and is sometimes sold to unsuspecting buyers as TGY. So going into this tasting, my perception was Ben Shan probably tastes a lot like TGY albeit a lower grade version.
The dry leaf indeed had the familiar floral aroma of TGY but additionally, I smelled some eucalyptus and vanilla. The first steep was like a weak TGY. Light orchid flavor. The color wasn’t nuclear green though. It had a slight amber hue to it. The next steep was fuller with TGY like orchid balanced with a nice vegetal backdrop. In the 3rd steep, the florals become brighter, more orchid than lilac. Some vanilla peeks through as well and a little fruitiness can be detected in the background. This was a very well balanced infusion that tasted like an earlier steeping of TGY. The flavor of the tea changes little in later steeps. It just gets thinner as the steeps wear on.
This was a good tea in my book but there’s nothing unique about it. It doesn’t separate itself from other TGYs in any meaningful way. For all practical purposes, it can be considered to be TGY-lite.
Flavors: Eucalyptus, Flowers, Orchid, Vanilla
This was a free sample that came with my last TTC order. It’s one of their budget oolongs and not a tea that I would ordinarily buy. However, this humble si ji chun surpassed my admittedly low expectations.
Upon opening the pouch, intense aromas of hyacinth and orchid filled my nostrils. Following a rinse, the aroma changed to sweet cream and coconut. The first steeping was very fruity with pineapple and notes of tropical fruit. The second steep brought orange blossom and coconut. The next two infusions were milky , with wildflower nectar and honeycomb. After the first 4 steeps, the tea fizzled out and didn’t really have much left to give. A little disappointing considering I can count on at least 7-8 steeps from my gao shans, but then again this one costs far less.
Overall, this is a good daily drinker for those who like a fresh, floral focused tea. The only knock on it is it doesn’t go the distance of other teas, but at such a low price point you really can’t complain.
Flavors: Floral, Tropical
This was a really pleasant green tea. It has a wonderful aroma of milk, flowers, spinach, and sweet grass. The smell in fact resembled a nice Jin Xuan oolong more than a green. The taste is smooth and mellow with delicate notes of sweet pea, cucumber, and crisp butter lettuce. In subsequent steepings, the flavor changes to a light vegetable broth and reveals hints of green bean and spinach. I got about 4-5 good quality steeps out of it. The soft, clean flavor of this tea makes this a good tea for beginners and people who don’t drink green tea.
Flavors: Cucumber, Green Beans, Lettuce, Milk, Peas, Spinach, Vegetable Broth
This was my least favorite of the What-Cha oolongs I ordered. The giant green nuggets had the faintest aroma and smelled a little stale. When brewed, the tea was flat with a seaweed like flavor and a vague floral note. Dry mouthfeel and overall, just seemed to lack freshness. Given What-Cha’s steller track record though, odds are I had a bad or old sample.
Flavors: Astringent, Seaweed
Finally, there’s real tea to be found in grocery stores! I almost never reach for bottled teas because I find the majority of them too sweet and weird tasting. The one exception however are the unsweetened bottled teas sold at Asian grocery stores. I am partial to Ito-En’s Golden Oolong so I was excited to spot this at Trader Joe’s which looks suspiciously similar to Ito-En.
This tea is very clean tasting and refreshing. It has a full yet delicate peach flavor balanced with a slight bitterness in the finish. The mouthfeel is velvety smooth and silky. There’s definitely some flavor differences between this and the Ito-En Golden Oolong. I remember the latter being stronger with sandalwood tones and spice. The Ito-En bottle notes that it’s made from Tieguanyin and Huan jin guei . However this one doesn’t say what variety of oolong is used leaving one to speculate. My guess is it’s a dan cong due to the peachiness and light body. Those who enjoy darker teas may prefer the Ito-En. But as a green oolong aficionado, I liked the Trader Joe’s variety better.
This bottled tea really exceeded my expectations. At $1.19 a pop, it’s a good value and about a $1 cheaper than Asian grocery stores. I hope Trader Joe’s keeps this around as it’s a great on the go option and hopefully will help introduce the masses to quality tea.
Flavors: Floral, Peach
Holy orange blossoms, this tea is amazing! It’s sweet and flowery filled with a lovely orange blossom flavor. The tea starts off somewhat weak but with an interesting Korean melon like fruity flavor, corn husk, and a slight sourness. The florals really come out after the first steeping. I detected notes of osmanthus, orange blossom, and cream. The floral notes soon flattened into perfumey orange blossom water for the next several steeps. I brewed it fairly hard, at temperatures between 200 F to boiling , and there wasn’t a trace of bitterness.
I can see this replacing one of my favorite teas that’s now discontinued: Taiwan Tea Craft’s Citrus Scented oolong, a Taiwanese oolong scented with pomelo flowers. I was astonished at how much it resembled the TTC tea despite being unflavored. Compared to What-Cha’s Li Shan, this had less depth of flavor. The orange blossom, though enjoyable, becomes the dominant note. I would have liked more of the osmanthus and fruity flavors that I tasted early on but faded quickly.
Flavors: Corn Husk, Fruity, Orange Blossom, Osmanthus
This was my first baked baozhong and I liked it lot. The light baking caramelizes the florals into rich baked fruit and honey. I get baked apple, fig, and occasionally a hint of apricot. The sweetness reminds me at times of pancake syrup and brown sugar. Some hints of almond appear in later steepings.
The baking level here is perfect. It doesn’t add any roast to the tea, rather it transforms the tea’s texture and sweetness. I preferred this tea grandpa style. Not much complexity, but it’s great for easy sipping.
Flavors: Apple, Apricot, Brown Sugar, Fig, Pancake Syrup