379 Tasting Notes

92

Ah, good old reliable Laoshan tea. My default Chinese green tea because it’s always delicious and satisfying.

Familiar but intensely sweet aromas of edamame, fennel, and snap pea waft out upon opening the pouch. Creamed spinach appears as its placed in a heated shibo. The aromas come through nicely in the taste along with a toasted oats. This is followed by notes of green bean, sweet pea, and lemongrass in resteeps.

Although last year’s harvest had a little more oomph, this years Laoshan green tea once again exhibits many of the excellent qualities I love about this tea. A perennial buy for sure.

Flavors: Garden Peas, Lemongrass, Oats, Soybean

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

I recently got my spring teas order from YS but didn’t get this one. I got a small amount of the competition grade one but still plan on getting some of this too.

LuckyMe

I got the competition grade too and am going to dive into it next. I ended up putting most of this tea in the fridge so I can focus my attention on the more interesting greens.

Ubacat

I didn’t get good results last year when I refrigerated some of my greens. I think they do best when I leave them where I got them. It helps sealing them up in a bag that doesn’t get opened as much and keeping a smaller amount out. I keep them in a dark cupboard in a back room that’s a bit cool.

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90

First spring green tea of 2019 and my very first Anji Bai Cha. This is a tea that can taste dramatically different depending on the brewing method used. I gongfu steeped it initially and got what tasted like a delicate vegetable broth mixed with fresh linens. Not bad, but not terribly exciting either. Today I grandpa steeped it and it blew my socks off.

The leaves are visually stunning. Bright pistachio green and shaped into elegant pine needles with a wonderful aroma of asparagus, matcha, and something vaguely floral. The wet leaf had more prominent vegetal notes of zucchini, edamame, chard, and arugula-like pepperiness. The taste of the tea reminded me of dragon well but creamier and not as nutty. It’s a thick, luscious creaminess that tastes like drinking soymilk mixed with a ray of sunshine. I also got hints of pistachio and what tasted like matcha powder. As the leaves continued to sit in the hot water, light vegetal and grassy notes appeared along with a little honeysuckle in the background. No bitterness whatsoever no matter how long I steeped it for. A great tea for throwing in the tumbler or thermos mug.

I know Anji Bai Cha can command ridiculous prices so I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one considering the low price price but its a really yummy green tea. A good value for the quality you get.

Flavors: Cream, Grass, Nuts, Soybean

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 2 g 11 OZ / 325 ML
Ubacat

Yes, this one is very good quality for the price. Those leaves definitely have to stay in the water a decent amount of time. I brew mine with a cup and infuser and leave them in a full 2 min.

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90

This was a good high mountain oolong though not the best representation of this highest grade Taiwanese tea. The dry leaf has the typical floral aromas of high mountain tea. I also smelled vanilla macarons, buttered beans, and hints of grass in the wet and dry leaf. The brewed tea has a flowery, nectar like sweetness with prominent notes of hyacinth and orange blossom. Pretty smooth through 8 steeps with some fruity hints of apricot and pina colada.

Though enjoyable, there was nothing about it that really stood out and tasted unique to me. It had the standard high mountain character and sweetness, but not much in the way of richness and texture. A nice Taiwanese oolong for sure, but not worth the price tag.

Flavors: Apricot, Butter, Cream, Flowers, Grass, Nectar, Orchid, Peas, Vanilla

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 30 sec 3 g 2 OZ / 70 ML

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88

This is the kind of tea for when you’re in the mood for something soft and delicate. I would say that’s true for pretty much all of the long feng xia teas I’ve tried.

The taste of this tea is crisp and fresh, with subtle floral and vegetal notes that have to be gently coaxed out. It doesn’t play well with very hot water. Instead, green tea like temperatures (180 – 185 F) are necessary in order to bring out its delicate character.

It starts off light and sweet. A pale yellow liquor that tastes like early morning dew on grass. Notes of lily of the valley appear as it cools. The color becomes greener with subsequent steeps. The body grows fuller and the tea bursts with a buttery floral taste. I detected notes of hyacinth, daffodil, and gardenia. After a few more steeps the tea mellows out a bit as it shifts to a fruity-vegetal taste.

I steeped 4g of this tea in my 110ml purple clay teapot using 180-190 F temperature water. The tea was steeped 7 times following a rinse for 30s/45s/1m/90s/2m/3m/4m.

Flavors: Butter, Flowers, Fruity, Grass, Sweet, Vegetable Broth

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 30 sec 4 g 4 OZ / 110 ML

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94

Tried a sample of this at TJ’s the other day and was really impressed by it. The mint and watermelon taste natural and well balanced with the black tea base. I had it iced and unsweetened and could totally see myself sipping this during the summer months. Reminded me of one of my favorite summer salads: watermelon, mint, and feta…yum!

ashmanra

Deffo will look for this next time I am near a Trader Joe’s!

derk

Yeah, I will, too. That watermelon salad is also one of my favorites. I have distinct memory of those smells in my Yia-yia’s kitchen when I was little. If you have a Costco membership, they sell an excellent feta called Dodoni.

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87

Over the years as my teaware collection has grown, my teapots, gaiwans, and shibos have gotten smaller in size. When I look back at it, I’m astonished at how early on in my tea journey a 10oz teapot was considered petite and today I have no interest in anything larger than 150ml. These days I reach for my 120ml shibo or 80ml gaiwan for most teas. There are a few reasons for my teaware shrinking: gongfu brewing, limiting caffeine intake, and stretching my pricier teas.

This mini kyusu is the most recent addition to my cupboard and at 65ml is the smallest tea vessel that I own. Teaware House started selling them a few years ago and since then I’ve seen them popping up everywhere online. They are mass produced in China (where else?) and come in an assortment of colors. I bought mine for $14 shipped from AliExpress. I chose the white ruyao as its glazed inside and can be used with any tea.

In person, the kyusu is super tiny and almost looks like a toy. But in the hand it feels solid and has a nice weight for such a small teapot. There are 7 medium sized holes inside near the spout that seldom get blocked. It is suitable for all but fine leaf teas such as Japanese greens. I’ve brewed Chinese green tea, blacks, and oolongs without issue. The pour rate is reasonably fast but during the pour it has a tendency to drip a little if overfilled or tipped over too quickly. To use properly, grip the little handle in between your index and middle fingers and use your thumb to hold down the lid as you angle the teapot just so. Same as my 150ml clay Japanese kyusu, but this one isn’t quite as comfortable to hold due to the small size. It also takes a bit more effort to clean because you can only fit one finger inside. While this teapot performs well, I find myself reaching for my $5 Yunnan Sourcing 80ml gaiwan more often. I’ve found that when it comes to <100ml teapots, the handleless ones (gaiwans And shibos) feel more ergonmical in the hands than teapots.

All nitpicking aside, this is a very functional teapot and a tremendous value for the price. The size is perfect for one person and the biggest benefit for me is cutting back on caffeine while still being able to do proper gongfu. And less caffeine isn’t just about insomnia. By not blowing through my daily caffeine allowance in one go, it gives me an opportunity to have more than one kind of tea during the day.

Mastress Alita

I also prefer smaller steeping vessels; I have one large British-style teapot that holds a lot of water that I’ll sometimes make a large herbal pot of tea in, but everything else I have is on the small side (my other teapot is a doubin that holds up to 500ml). If I’m doing gong fu I tend to use my 50ml gaiwan or 100ml shibo too, because otherwise I get to feel water-heavy and uncomfortable after so many infusions.

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96
drank Oi Ocha Hoji-cha by Ito En
379 tasting notes

I picked up a bottle of this at Mitsuwa today instead of my usual Ito-En Golden Oolong and Green Tea. I’m surprised at how much I liked it because I usually don’t care for hojicha and roasted teas in general. This is a roasty tea for sure, but not aggressively so. It’s really smooth and gentle with a nutty flavor and a soft, faint oily finish. It’s very warming (even chilled) and comforting like genmaicha. The taste is similar to a roasted oolong and reminded me of Golden Oolong except this one is darker and doesn’t have the floral-cinnamon notes.

For a bottled tea, this was outstanding and probably the best hojicha I’ve ever had. Its miles above your standard grocery store bottled tea, although that’s generally true for most Ito-en teas. This would be a great summer drink and makes me want to branch out from my standard green teas to explore hojicha.

Flavors: Dark Wood, Nutty, Roasted, Smooth

derk

Those Oi Ocha teas were a game changer for me. I graduated from a gas station/grocery store brand called Tradewinds Unsweetened black (which back in the early 2000s was amazing; it’s now cheaply brewed and a shadow of its former self) to the line of Oi Ocha teas when I moved to California. And honestly, I think they’re what led me into higher quality loose-leaf.

LuckyMe

Yeah Oi Ocha are pretty much the only bottled teas I ever buy. TeasTea are also good and I think it’s by Ito En too.

Mastress Alita

I wish these were available where I live. Seriously, the bottled iced tea game out here in Idaho is aaaaaaaaaawful.

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90
drank Mango Fruit Punch by DAVIDsTEA
379 tasting notes

Found myself at DavidsTea today after what felt like ages. Feeling thirsty and wanting something less sugary than the usual fare at the mall food court, decided to get a cup of this iced. For some reason, this reminded me of Mountain Dew but without the sugar. It was citrusy, with heavier pineapple than mango and tropical fruitiness in the background. The tea was sweetened but just barely so. Enough to bring out its natural sweetness without tasting sugary.

For an herbal, this was really tasty and worked perfectly in iced tea. I’m curious as to what it would taste like hot and unsweetened. I’d also like to see how it does blended with a straight tea. I may revisit this one once my Murchie’s Mango Green Tea runs out.

Flavors: Mango, Passion Fruits, Pineapple, Tropical

Preparation
20 OZ / 591 ML
Evol Ving Ness

I have considered adding my DTs herbals, the ones I am not fond of, to the black teas I find a bit lacklustre. Might work.

LuckyMe

That’s a great idea and I think it would work too. I often do this with half spent tea leaves. Some teas have to be blended with another to get the best out of them.

Evol Ving Ness

On it. I will report when this happens.

Lexie Aleah

This is one of my favorites from DT.

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84

It’s been a while since I’ve had a Four Seasons Tea. I remember it being my first introduction to Taiwanese oolongs years ago. But I’ve had little reason to revisit it since then because as the saying goes, once you go high mountain you never go back. Or something like that. Anyways, this one came to me in my Tea from Taiwan sampler pack.

This is a flowery tea through and through. The smell of the dry leaves is like a sweet floral bouquet. Following a rinse, notes of hyacinth, kettle corn, and fresh spring vegetation appear. The first steep is light-bodied with a green tea like taste and mellow oolong sweetness. The second steep is thicker and has a honeysuckle finish that hangs on to the back of the tongue. Third steep brings a more complex floral taste with hyacinth notes. The flavor drops off by the fourth steep, but the tea still gives a good sweetness mingled with a little astringency.

The biggest difference I noticed between this and the more expensive high mountain oolongs is the texture. While it has decent flavor, it lacks the fullness, body, and viscosity of better Taiwanese teas. It also doesn’t last very long, peaking by the 3rd steep. But I can’t be mad at it though this is a budget oolong after all.

In short, this is a serviceable jade oolong with a pleasant yet simple flavor. It was fun revisiting an old favorite but I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy it since there are so many better Taiwanese teas out there.

Flavors: Flowers, Honeysuckle

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 30 sec 3 g 3 OZ / 75 ML
Daylon R Thomas

I love it when the four seasons has the full fruity character of their higher mountain siblings. That’s when I wish I can find more of them and get them instead.

Mastress Alita

Hahaha. Once you go high mountain…

It’s true, though.

Leafhopper

Yep, it’s definitely true.

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72

Spring 2018 harvest.

This is a tea that I just could not get to taste right no matter how much I tried. Tried gongfu, grandpa, and western steeping and all I got was a very pale, tasteless liquor.

Although this is classified as a green tea, it looks and smells like an oolong with its balled up leaves and rich, buttery aroma. In a heated vessel, it emits a sweet, pastry-like aroma which turns to toasted nuts when the leaf is introduced to hot water.

The flavor though is a different story. The brewed tea is colorless and nearly tasteless with a vague vegetal flavor. It feels like drinking hot water. Upping the water temperature and steep times made it taste like russet potato skins. Unlike other GABA teas I’ve had, it doesn’t produce any feelings of calm or relaxation.

However cold brewing was the saving grace for this one and prevented me from throwing it out. When steeped overnight in the fridge, it transforms into a different tea – sweeter, more robust, with a fruity freshness. There’s a chestnut like nuttiness and sweet potato in the finish.

Flavors: Potato, Vegetal

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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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