381 Tasting Notes

93

Surprised to see the low ratings for this tea. I sampled it yesterday at World Market and thought it was delicious. And that’s coming from someone who’s not exactly a fan of bagged black tea, sage, or berry flavoring. But the combination is really well executed in this tea.

The tea begins with a very natural blackberry flavor balanced with a mellow black tea base. The sage isn’t as easy to detect because its not up front and center. Instead it makes an appearance towards the end of the sip to impart a subtle herbal note that contrasts nicely with the fruitiness.

Bet this would make an awesome cold brew/iced tea.

Flavors: Blackberry, Fruity, Herbaceous, Sweet

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95

Winter 2018 harvest.

The weather was finally nice enough to have a tea session outdoor on my patio the other day. This tea was the last of my Tea from Taiwan green oolong samplers and was the perfect tea for the occasion. The fresh air, smell of peonies wafting from my neighbors garden, and surrounding greenery perfectly captured the essence of this tea.

Upon opening the pouch, my nose was greeted with the smell of fresh vegetation, flowers, and apricot. A rinse released sweet, more distinct floral aromas of daffodils, lily, and honeysuckle. The first 5 steeps were delicate yet intensely floral with the aromas coming through nicely in the taste. Silky texture, sweet, and light bodied. As the session wore on, the flowery notes started to dwindle and a pear like fruitiness emerged. The tea became thicker, brighter, and I got some of that great high mountain taste.

I steeped 2g in my 50ml shibo and got 8 excellent infusions out of it. Steep times were 30s/45s/1m/2m/3m/5m/7m/10m. I brewed at around 185 F except for the last few steeps which were at or close to boiling. Even with the longer steep times, it was super smooth with zero astringency.

Flavors: Flowers, Honeysuckle, Orchid, Pear, Sweet

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 30 sec 2 g 2 OZ / 50 ML

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87

Here’s the second tea from my Yuuki-Cha shincha order. I usually buy just one tea during shincha season since a 100g bag lasts awhile but with so many interesting teas at Yuuki-Cha this year, I went a little crazy and picked up 2 different senchas, an asamushi and this fukamushi, as well as a kamairicha. So yeah, it’ll be a while before I purchase any more Japanese greens. Anyway, I decided to check out Chiran Sencha after seeing it everywhere on my IG feed.

This is a pretty good Sencha with the deep steamed grassy flavor typical of the fukamushi style. Dry leaves have a fruity and sweet umami aroma. Wet leaf smells like a fresh ocean breeze. The tea starts off grassy with bold vegetal notes of broccoli, edamame, and asparagus. It becomes more savory as it settles, finishing with a little chlorophyll. Second steep is something like a thin matcha. Dense green, both in color and taste, and has a wheatgrass-like taste. Third steep is similar but flatter. This tea infuses quickly so best to keep steeps short to minimize bitterness. Don’t get much umami from it although for that I should probably drop the temperature. That may also help bring out more sweetness as it’s a tad savory.

Like shincha #1, this is a very good, classic tasting tea but there’s nothing really memorable about it. It’s got that in-your-face grassiness I love yet lacks complexity. Still have 85g left so I’ll continue experimenting.

Flavors: Asparagus, Broccoli, Grass, Soybean, Vegetal

Preparation
170 °F / 76 °C 0 min, 30 sec 3 g 5 OZ / 150 ML
ashmanra

Reading this made me realize that I know almost nothing about Japanese greens. I have had sencha – maybe four or five different ones, and genmaicha. I really have always focuses on Chinese tea.

LuckyMe

There’s a lot more diversity in Chinese greens than Japanese tea. I think Japanese green tea is more uniform overall so you have to dig a little deeper to find unique variants

ashmanra

Good to know!

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91
drank Caramel Oolong by The Jade Leaf
381 tasting notes

Man, it’s already June and the weather in Chicago is still wonky. Seems like we never quite recovered from the brutal -50 F windchills this past winter. It’s supposed to be summer now but here I am with the furnace on and wearing a sweater. WTH?

The unexpectedly cool weather calls for a roasty tea so I pulled out this sample I received with my recent Jade Leaf teaware order. I grandpa steeped 1.2g in an 8oz glass using 195 F water. The dry leaf had an appetizing smell of chocolate, toffee, and butterscotch. Wet leaf though didn’t have much aroma, kind of had the standard roasted oolong smell.

I got busy with other stuff which gave this a chance to steep good and long. The leaves unfurled to release an incredibly smooth texture and taste of flowers and caramel. Roast was gentle without any char and lent a sweet fruitiness to the tea. It was a tad lighter than I like but that’s likely because I slightly underleafed.

An excellent medium roast oolong, perfectly roasted to give it a nice warmth and sweetness. Eager to try this gongfu next time.

Flavors: Caramel, Flowers, Heavy, Honey

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 1 g 0 OZ / 7 ML
Ubacat

I had the heat going yesterday too (in the Toronto area). It was a cold day for June.

Kittenna

^^Was just going to comment that the weather in southern Ontario is wonky too. I believe I held out without turning on the heat this time, but it’s rare in summer that the temp in the house dips below what I have the air conditioner set to (I believe it was 20 degrees in the house; a/c was at 22 at the time).

Kittenna

I’m obviously including June in summer. Haha.

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74

Still no luck after tinkering around with this tea. Upping the leaf quantity from 1.5g to 2.5g did bring out more flavor but the taste still left a lot to be desired. It’s brothy with notes of seaweed and green bean. And once again bitterness set in quickly despite lowering the temperature.

Am now convinced that it’s not me but the tea as it doesn’t respond well no matter how it’s brewed. It makes a decent cold brew though so that’s how the rest of my stash will be used.

Flavors: Broth, Green Beans, Seaweed

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 2 g 6 OZ / 192 ML
ashmanra

I have only had the one from Teavivre and it was pretty good. Have you tried theirs?

Ubacat

Last year I had this tea from both Teavivre and YS and found them very similar. This year I’ve only ordered from YS (just got my order in) but am worried now after your reviews.

LuckyMe

@ashmanra I liked the one from Teavivre last year but for whatever reason this wasn’t up to par.

@Ubacat hopefully you have better luck than I did. Interested in reading your impressions about this tea especially if you can manage to coax some flavor out of it

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69

Meh, this was a pretty lousy tea all around. It’s supposed to be a Pear Mountain / Li Shan oolong, something which I would never mistake it for. There’s none of those distinctive fruity and floral notes that Li Shan is known for. Instead, this is rough and vegetal with a washed out flavor that lasts for only a few steeps.

So far this has been the only real dud in my Tea from Taiwan sampler pack. It’s also a reminder of why I don’t like to commit to more than 25g of any tea, especially expensive high mountain teas that can be very hit or miss.

Flavors: Butter, Vegetal

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 30 sec 2 g 2 OZ / 50 ML

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70

Now here’s a good example of a tea that’s all aroma and no flavor. I was super excited when I opened the bag and got punched in the face with intense perfume florals and tropical fruit. However the brewed tea was a different story. This is the mildest baozhong I’ve ever tasted, to put it politely. It has a very subtle, barely there flavor. Mostly vegetal throughout with faint hints here and there of jasmine, sweet pea, and violets.

This was my second time having a baozhong oolong from Baguashan and it just doesn’t hold a candle to the more prestigious Wenshan Baozhong. It’s got explosive aromas but tastes washed out. This is nearly half the price of Baozhong from Wenshan however as with most things, you get what you pay for. Hard pass on this one.

Flavors: Floral, Peas, Vegetal

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 1 min, 0 sec 2 g 3 OZ / 77 ML

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88

And the spring green tea marathon continues. I’ve been drinking green tea almost every day this month while my 2019 teas are still fresh and haven’t grown tired of them (yet). My shincha order arrived the other day and I wasted no time diving right in.

This is an asamushi (light-steamed) sencha that’s described as subtle and aromatic. The leaves smell like flowers and grass, not fresh cut grass but grass that’s been outside drying. Wet leaf smells like spinach and cruciferous vegetables. First steep produces a pale yellow-green liquor with floral and umami notes. It becomes brothy as the tea cools. Second infusion is a brisker cup with a greener color and a refreshing grassy flavor. By the third steep, the flavor lightens and has a faint citrus hint.

A solid but unexciting sencha. Mellow flavor and very drinkable, but nothing really pops out at me.

Flavors: Grass, Umami, Vegetal

Preparation
170 °F / 76 °C 1 min, 0 sec 1 g 2 OZ / 60 ML
Ubacat

I was going to order this one but changed my mind. At least it’s in the mid range price. I get upset when I pay high range and it doesn’t live up to my expectation.

LuckyMe

Jury is still out on this one as I figure out the right brewing parameters. Sometimes it doesn’t happen until I’ve gotten through half of the bag. Japanese greens are finicky like that. I picked up Chiran Sencha as well and hopefully I have better luck with it.

Ubacat

I had Chiran Sencha in 2017 and my personal note on it was it was okay, nothing more. This year I tried out Magakoro which you had last year. I’ve been trying a few different brewing parameters before I leave a review but so far it’s not living up to the high price range.

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89

This is a newly offered Laoshan tea from Yunnan Sourcing. It’s a early first flush tea picked before their normal first flush Imperial Grade tea. Not sure what makes this one Competition Grade but the flavor has more in common with the Imperial Grade than Classic Laoshan green tea.

I steeped 2.5g in a 120ml shibo 4 times starting with 180 F water and then the temperature was raised to 190 F. The dry leaves have a pleasant aroma of cilantro, lima beans, flowers, and milk. Wet leaf smells like asparagus mingled with an oat like nuttiness.

First steep (25s): crisp and delicate with notes of soy and green bean

Second steep (30s): same but with more body. it has a nice, clean taste without the strong oat and fennel flavors that Laoshan greens sometimes have.

Third steep (40s): used hotter water than I normally do yet tea was unaffected. no drop in flavor, but it hasn’t really evolved either. still has a nice freshness to it.

Fourth steep (50s): mellows out a little bit. still smooth and tasty

As expected, this was on the softer side flavor-wise, a typical characteristic of early picked tea. It holds up very well to hot water and has excellent staying power. Though I steeped it four times, I could have easily gotten another infusion or two out of it. The flavor remained constant throughout which is both good and bad. Good because the flavor doesn’t drop so soon, bad because there’s no evolution of flavor. Although a great tea, I do slightly prefer the second flush for its less refined but more assertive flavor.

Flavors: Green Beans, Oats, Soybean

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

I only had this one once (only ordered 25g of this tea) and I brewed it Western style. It was really good, kind of reminded me a bit of a kamairicha but was thinking it would probably be even better brewed gongfu. Since you had such good results, I will have to try it out!

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74

Man, if only this tea tasted as good as it looks. The beautiful long green blades of this Tai Ping Hou Kui are quite a sight to see but the flavor is just sorta meh.

I grandpa steeped about 3 or 4 leaves which is 1.5g in an 8oz glass using 180 F water. The smell of the leaves is briny like kelp and seaweed salad, and slightly marine. I won’t lie it’s a litte off-putting. Thankfully, the smell doesn’t make it into the taste. The liquor is almost colorless and has a very subtle, barely there flavor. There are some vegetal and light grass notes that appear after it steeps for a while but the taste isn’t really distinctive and almost feels like you’re drinking hot water. When it does finally develop some flavor, astringency appears shortly thereafter.

Honestly, I’m kind of annoyed by super delicate green teas such as this one. Huang Shan Mao Feng is another famous tea with a similar flavor. They might be better suited for occasional green tea drinkers who don’t like grassiness but I find them really bland.

I did have a Tai Ping Hou Kui from Teavivre last year that was decent so I’m sure there are better versions of this tea. This is my first time trying it from Yunnan Sourcing and unfortunately this one just doesn’t do it for me.

Flavors: Green Beans, Salty, Seaweed

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 1 g 8 OZ / 236 ML
tea-sipper

That leaf is gorgeous though!

LuckyMe

No doubt about that. This one easily wins the green tea beauty contest.

Kittenna

Sometimes I like those ultra-lightly-flavoured teas. But astringency coming before there’s really even any flavour? Not appealing.

Ubacat

Maybe it’s just the 2019 cultivar. I really liked the 2018 one and found it was pretty similar to Teavivre’s Tai Ping Hou Kui. I brew mine in a glass flute brewer and use about 15 leaves/ brew 1 min first infusion. Can’t remember other infusions but it was always fruity & sweet.

tanluwils

It kinda looks like kelp too. I feel ya on being annoyed at dainty greens. I will say that I’ve had some excellent huangshan maofeng while living in China—it was super fresh and textured, but the stuff that makes it out of the country is a bit meh.

LuckyMe

@Ubacat, whoa 15 leaves sounds hardcore…those leaves can fairly large. I will gradually increase my leaf quantity and see what happens…sometimes you need more leaf with these delicate teas.

@tanluwils I’m pretty sure the Chinese are drinking higher quality tea overall than we are. I’ve heard the better teas get snapped up in China before they can leave the country.

Ubacat

The leaves look large but they are very light in weight and light in taste. I need that many leaves to get a full fruity taste. I like my teas light too , so trust me, It won’t be too strong. Actually, I think my first brew was somewhere between 30 sec and 1 min. Can’t remember now. I ran out of it a few months ago…..

LuckyMe

Thanks for the tips, I’ll give that a try.

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Bio

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

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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