413 Tasting Notes

95

Here’s the last high mountain oolong sample from my Tillerman order. I was underwhelmed the first time I brewed this tea. The flavor was a little weak and it didn’t have much oomph. Slight upping the leaf to water ratio really gave it a big boost in flavor.

This tea is packed with lots of bright flowery notes. It opens with sweet pea and orange blossom before giving way to narcissus, daffodils, and a hint of vanilla. Aromas of meadow flowers, butter, and something like clover honey waft out from the gaiwan. The tea has a thick body and a creamy mouthfeel, leaving behind a nice little tingle on the tongue as it goes down.

I’ve been impressed overall by the quality of the teas I’ve had from Tillerman Tea. The bao zhong was good, and the Ali Shan and Li Shan were both stellar. Oddly enough, as a jade oolong enthusiast, it’s their “Sweet Scent” Dong Ding that I find myself craving the most.

Flavors: Butter, Flowers, Honey, Narcissus, Orange Blossom, Peas, Vanilla

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 1 min, 0 sec 4 g 3 OZ / 84 ML

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88

This is a solid, if not spectacular, baozhong. It does better gongfu’ed than grandpa style, which is my usual method of brewing this type of tea. Dry leaf aroma is a sweet medley of lilac and hyacinth. The first steeping was thick and TGY-like, brimming with heady lilacs and orchid. Second steep was more or less the same with a little egg yolk in the finish. At the third steep, the tea softened and gave a rush of wildflowers that lingered on the tongue. The tea faded in the last 2 steeps but still had good flavor. An enjoyable tea, but I’ve been so spoiled by drinking so many great baozhongs that this one just doesn’t excite my taste buds much.

Flavors: Flowers

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 1 min, 0 sec 3 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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97

I can’t remember the last time a white tea impressed me as much as this one did. Most of the ones I’ve tried recently were pretty forgettable, either bland or tasted like dry autumn leaves. But this Silver Needle tea has such a sublime flavor, layered and nuanced without any of the earthiness or barnyard funk of other white teas. The dry leaves have a pleasant, inviting aroma of linen, dandelions, lavender, and hay. The flavor of the brewed tea is delicate and refined. It has a soft texture and undertones of cotton, cream, vanilla, and marshmallow along with a touch of nutmeg and green apple. A slight hay-like earthiness creeped in later as it continued steeping but nothing off-putting.

It was bedtime so I steeped this grandpa style with just a smattering of leaves in an 8oz glass. Water temperature was 175 F to start and then I topped off twice with boiling water. I used to brew whites at low temperatures around 160 F, but hotter water brings out a lot more character. For the price it’s an incredible value and I’m looking forward to seeing how this tea ages.

Flavors: Cream, Dandelion, Floral, Hay, Lavender, Marshmallow, Nutmeg, Vanilla

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 1 g 8 OZ / 236 ML
Girl Meets Gaiwan

I’m new to exploring white teas – this sounds lovely!

eastkyteaguy

I absolutely love Jinggu silver needles. I have this one in storage and need to try it pretty soon.

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100

Another impulse buy from Murchie’s Tea Room when I visited Victoria, BC this summer. I’m a sucker for flower scented teas and having tried (and loved) TeaAve’s magnolia oolong, I didn’t have to think too hard about this one. Turns out this is very similar to the TeaAve oolong. The magnolia flavor is lush and fragrant, complementing the base tea nicely. It’s accompanied by notes of gardenia and a touch of perfume. The scenting on this tea is just right. It’s not cloying or fake-tasting.

I steeped this in my tumbler and had no problems with oversteeping or bitterness even after it sat awhile. When cold steeped, it’s refreshing and has even more flowery sweetness. This is the rare flavored tea that merits a rating of 100 from me because it’s just that good.

Flavors: Flowers, Gardenias, Perfume

Lexie Aleah

Did you go to the Buchart Garden’s at all? They are beautiful.

LuckyMe

Lexie Aleah, really wanted to go there but we were only able to spend a day in Victoria. I did visit Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver though which is supposed to be a mini Butchart. Hope to go there next time, Victoria is a beautiful city!

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85

This is really hitting the spot today. I had relegated this tea to my work stash as it just wasn’t doing it for me. Here at the office, I don’t have the benefit of my fancy clay kyusu, gram scale, or precise water temperature. So I’m basically winging it most of the time and end up brewing more or less western style.

I reckon I brewed this close to 180 F and with a lower leaf to water ratio. It’s astonishing how dramatically different it tasted after tweaking just a few variables. Instead of the usual muddled flavor and astringency, I got an intensely sweet and floral cup. Reminded me of some high mountain oolongs. Resteeps were good, but not as amazing as the first steep.

A finicky tea that can be rewarding once you figure it out. Bumping up my rating for this one.

Flavors: Floral, Grass, Sweet

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 1 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 7 OZ / 207 ML

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84

My Verdant spring pre-order finally arrived last week. It’s August now but hey, better late than never. This is a new experimental tea that I’ve been really looking forward to. Never heard of dragonwell black tea before but the name alone intrigued me enough to forego my usual Laoshan Black in lieu of this one.

You wouldn’t be able to tell what kind of tea it was from merely looking at the leaves. There’s really no resemblance to the flat blades of dragonwell green tea. All that processing and oxidation turned it into long, dark strands that look like an ordinary black tea. The leaves have a powerful aroma of molasses and cocoa. I brewed it grandpa style in my 10z glass tumbler, 1.3g of leaf at 200 F. Like most Laoshan blacks, chocolate is the dominant note here. It’s a silky smooth chocolate though with brown sugar, a rich mouthfeel, and no bitterness. Exactly as described in Verdant’s tasting note.

Though I enjoyed this tea, it failed to distinguish itself from Verdant’s other blacks. That’s been my experience with the majority of Laoshan black teas – they taste predominantly of chocolate and not much else. Delicious but one dimensional.

Flavors: Brown Sugar, Chocolate, Cocoa, Licorice, Molasses, Pancake Syrup

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 1 tsp 10 OZ / 295 ML

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90

It’s been an exhausting week and a half. I’ve been busy cramming for a certification exam that I should have started studying for 3 months ago except life and summer got in the way. In the process, I’ve gone through a lot of different teas to help fuel my long study sessions.

This is the first dong ding I’ve had in a long while. Normally I am not a fan of dark oolongs with the exception of fruity dan congs and some yanchas. When I bought this, I misread the description and thought it was a light roast. Turns out that although this tea has an assertive roast, it was anything but charcoal-like. Out of the bag, the aroma was very mouthwatering. I smelled roasted nuts, baked bread, flowers, a little spice and a hint of hazelnut. After a rinse, the aroma became s’mores like. First steep greeted me with toasted nuts and a little char. The second steep was a green/dark hybrid with baked and floral tones. The roastiness softens by the 5th steep and I get pleasant spice notes. When grandpa steeped, it’s smooth and warm. Starts off woodsy and popcorn like before turning into a nice graham cracker taste.

True to its name, this tea has a fantastic aroma and excellent flavor. The fact that it grandpa steeps so well is an added bonus because it’s another tea I can throw in my tumbler for work or while studying.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Flowers, Graham Cracker, Marshmallow, Roast nuts, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 1 tsp 9 OZ / 266 ML
Daylon R Thomas

My bad that I called it a light roast. I’m used to roasted Dong Dings being a little bit heavier, though it is impressive that it was a mid-charcoal one.

LuckyMe

I actually didn’t see your tasting note until later but I’m glad I didn’t read the description on the site too closely. It’s good to step outside of my comfort zone sometimes :)

Daylon R Thomas

:) I was pleasantly surprised with this one myself. I thought it was going to be lighter, but the roast makes a nice accent to the orchid notes I kept getting personally.

Daylon R Thomas

I used to love medium roasted and oxidized Dong Dings and Tie Guan Yins, but I liked them less over time because they reminded me more of a potatoes than I liked. The recent ones have been better.

LuckyMe

Same here. Roasted oolongs can be great but alas too many ashy tasting teas have spoiled them for me. I love toasted nut and baked fruit accent the better ones add to the tea.

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96

This was a marvelous Li shan and one of the better jade oolongs I’ve had in a while. The scent of the leaves is a real treat for the nose. The aroma is an intoxicating mix of hyacinth, daffodils, wild flowers, and melon. I kept smelling the gaiwan over and over again to take in all the loveliness. The brewed tea is a juicy, flowery nectar with notes of orchid, sweet pea, apricot, and jasmine. Later on, it settled into a nice sugarcane sweetness, some vegetal tones but still remained lush and floral. I steeped this about 7-8 times and it definitely could have been pushed further.

Flavors: Apricot, Floral, Garden Peas, Jasmine, Melon, Orchid, Sugarcane

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 45 sec 4 g 3 OZ / 90 ML
tanluwils

Nice notes! I’m looking decently-priced Li Shan, so I may need to check out this vendor.

Daylon R Thomas

Another great one for affordable Lishan is What-Cha. They are not in stock at the moment, but it goes between $13-14 per 50 grams, which is the deal for the quality. The Tillerman has great oolongs in general. Their Cuifeng is also not bad, and it is cheaper. Some people also like the Mountain Tea Lishan on here, but I haven’t had experience with it. Mountain Stream tea has a bunch of Li-Shan seasons for different prices.

tanluwils

I’ve also heard good things about What-Cha (though I have yet to place an order…) and $13-14 for 50g is a good price. I’ll have to wait until they’re back in stock! I’ve have lots of Mountain Tea’s oolongs and their 2017 Winter LiShan is pretty good. I’m always tempted to get their Dayuling, but chicken out due to the price.

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87

This is like the chicken noodle soup of black tea. It’s gentle and delicate, bordering on bland but enjoyable for what it is. Although its technically a black tea, it’s processed similarly to a oolong hence the name. The leaves are loosely rolled like an oolong and the steeped tea is a very light amber color. There’s almost no malt here and no bitterness. It’s got a sweet honeyed taste with notes of berries, rose, and buttercream. Very soft and light bodied.

I gongfued this but have a feeling western steeping may coax out a stronger flavor and perhaps the citrusy notes TTC mentions. Black tea aficionados will probably be bored by this tea however as a fan of light teas, I find this a good choice for relaxed casual drinking.

Flavors: Berries, Cream, Honey, Raisins, Rose, Wet Wood

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 30 sec 3 g 5 OZ / 160 ML

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72

Call me weird but drinking a tea that not only tastes good, but also has bang for the buck adds a certain satisfaction to the experience. Though I enjoy fancy high mountain oolongs, they can be expensive and I’m always on the look out for good value teas. I love being surprised every once in a while by a humble jin xuan or some other inexpensive low elevation tea. One such tea was BTTC’s Old Style Dong Ding from a few years ago.

I picked this up in the hopes of finding a good daily drinker and maybe something more but unfortunately this one did not pass muster. This has a very basic oolong taste. Actually its vegetal taste makes it more like a green tea and it suffers from a lack of aromatics. There’s a honeyed sweetness to it but no real depth, texture, or mouthfeel to speak of. The washed out taste reminds me of the last steeping of a higher quality oolong. It does cold steep well so that’s how I’ll drink the rest of it. The old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ certainly applies here.

Flavors: Honey, Vegetal

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 45 sec 4 g 3 OZ / 80 ML
Bluegreen

Hi LuckyMe. What do you think about Taiwan Tea Crafts? I noticed that I reviewed quite a few teas from them and your ratings have been oscillating widely from low 60s to 100. I am considering ordering from them and I am curious if such a wide variation reflects your exacting personal preferences or if their teas offerings are really uneven.

LuckyMe

Bluegreen, TTC generally has good quality tea and I would recommend them for Taiwanese oolongs. That being said, single origin teas can vary wildly from one harvest to another and last year’s teas were generally not as good as the ones I’ve had in previous years. It was true not only of TTC, but Taiwanese teas from other vendors as well.

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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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