379 Tasting Notes

94

Tea from Taiwan is a company that I’ve known about for a while but passed over many times until a couple of weeks ago when I was out of new options for Taiwanese oolongs and this generic named vendor was the only one left. They had a sale on samples and I bought two sampler packs. The Feng Fu sampler which contains teas from the typical high mountain regions of Taiwan (Long Feng Xia, Ali Shan, Shan Lin Xi, etc) and the Da Yu Ling and Hua Gang sampler, consisting of these two super premium teas.

Hua Gang from the description is a tea grown in the Li Shan mountain range. I don’t know if that technically makes it a Li Shan but I used Li Shan tea as a comparison point. The dark green leaves were rolled into large nuggets and had a sweet orchid aroma. When dropped into a heated gaiwan, the aroma becomes buttery and sweet corn like. Following a rinse, the leaves turned emerald green and delicious aromas of vanilla, custard, and flowers wafted out.

The tea began light and fresh with notes of sweet pea and lily of the valley. The body became thicker and the florals more prominent starting with the second brew. I picked up notes of lilac, honeysuckle, citrus, and green apple along the way. There were a few times when grassiness and a slight astringency crept in but overall, pleasant floral tones and a lingering sweetness dominated throughout the 6 or so steeps.

My sample was 7g so I only managed 2 sessions with this tea. The first time, I brewed it following my usual method for oolongs: water temperature starting at 190 F, gradually increased to boiling and steep times of 50s, 40s, 50s, 1m, 70s, 90s, 2m, and 3m. The tea however peaked a little early. The next time, I steeped according to the instructions on their website which recommend cooler water temperatures (185 – 195 F) and steep times of 30s, 45s, 1:30, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes. This brought out a lot more of those lovely floral top notes but also a touch of astringency, nothing off-putting though. Decent endurance however I received fewer infusions from it than other similar gaoshans.

It’s been a while since I’ve had a good green oolong and really enjoyed this sample. After my Taiwan Sourcing disaster, I was worried about how this order would turn out. Thankfully, this one had been sealed properly in oxygen-free packaging and tasted very fresh.

Flavors: Astringent, Butter, Citrus, Custard, Green Apple, Honeysuckle, Kettle Corn, Melon, Orchid, Vanilla

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 30 sec 3 g 2 OZ / 67 ML

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90

This was a really nice dan cong. Smooth, syrupy, and with interesting flavor characteristics that evolved throughout the steeps.

The dry leaf had potent aromas of plums, wildflower honey, and rocks. Following a rinse, these turned into camphor, eucalyptus, and toasted nuts. The tea started off roasty with a touch of honey. The roast soon faded and gave way to a maple like syrupy flavor and hint of cinnamon. More spice came in later, specifically nutmeg and cardamom. The body thickened and there was an orchid note in the finish and later on hints of eucalyptus/mint. Towards the end, the mouthfeel became quite drying though the tea itself remained nice and smooth.

Dan congs can be challenging to brew but this one was unfussy and extremely forgiving to brew times and temperatures. I enjoyed its balanced taste and mellow sweetness. My sample was nearly 2 years old so I can only imagine how good it must have been at its peak.

Flavors: Cardamon, Cinnamon, Maple Syrup, Nutmeg, Orchid, Wet Rocks

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 2 g 2 OZ / 65 ML
Evol Ving Ness

Sounds like a nice one.

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58
drank Laoshan Goji Leaf by Verdant Tea
379 tasting notes

Bleh, really wanted to like this tea but I could barely stomach it. I don’t know what Goji leaf is supposed to taste like – goji berries are the only goji food I’ve ever had – but this smelled and tasted like overcooked vegetables. I didn’t get any of the honey, biscuit, or fruity notes that Verdant described. My significant other though liked it better and remarked that it tasted like cauliflower to her. I guess it comes down to individual taste preferences, but this one has a weird vegetal taste that doesn’t jive with me.

Flavors: Vegetables

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 0 sec 2 g 5 OZ / 160 ML
derk

Heh, I liked it but it is very strange, very veg.

LuckyMe

Yeah, this was a real vegetal wallop…tasted like straight up raw vegetables.

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75

This came as a sample with my last TTC order. Its a Taiwanese wuyi tea pressed into a small puerh like brick. I had no idea how to brew it so I decided to steep half of the 10g brick in a 120ml gaiwan with short steeps starting at 10s.

The dry leaf had a tobacco and wet rock aroma. I caught a whiff of sandalwood and incense following a rinse. The first steep produced a clear, sorta greenish light golden liquor. Smooth, tobacco-ey, and slightly smokey. The color turned a darker amber with the next steep which was again smooth and roasty but also had hints of black currant and bamboo. Third steep was more or less the same. The fourth steep though was thick, oily, and somewhat pungent and this is where I lost interest and ended the session.

Not a bad tasting tea, but isn’t something I would pick out on my own. It might be appealing to those looking for something aged without the funk of puerh. I’ll just stick to regular yanchas when I’m in the mood for this type of tea.

Flavors: Bamboo, Smoke, Tobacco, Wet Rocks

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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93

The lone bright spot from my Taiwan Sourcing order. This is an excellent dong ding with a salted caramel and pumpernickel bread aroma and a subtle roast that brings out a crisp, light character. It starts with floral notes and then quickly transitions to a smooth toasted pecan flavor with a little fruitiness kicking in later. It’s a great tea for grandpa steeping. Never gets muddled or bitter as long as you don’t hit it with full boiling water.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Floral, Pecan, Toasty, Walnut

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C

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74

Meh, yet another let-down from my Taiwan Sourcing order. So far I’m 0 for 3 with their green oolongs. All of the ones I’ve tried have been incredibly underwhelming. This one has a flat, nondescript oolong flavor. It’s brothy and mostly vegetal with a touch of green apple. There is a lot of broken leaf and dust in the bag leading to messy and uneven infusions. It only goes for about 4-5 steeps. Pretty disappointing overall.

Flavors: Apple, Broth, Sour, Vegetal

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 45 sec 3 g 2 OZ / 70 ML

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73

Attended a seminar last night where dinner was served. I’ve been practicing intermittent fasting for a while now – fast for 16 hours, eat within a 8 hour window – and have become accustomed to having dinner no later than 4:30pm on most days. Eating this late made me feel heavy and desperate for some tea to help digest it all.

The only option was the Keurig machine in the lobby and since beggars can’t be choosers, I grabbed a K-cup of this and went for it. It’s been ages since I’ve had Celestial Seasonings. Even in my heathen days of tea bags, I was never impressed by it. The Keurig brewed up 6oz of a tongue-scalding, murky amber liquor. This tea isn’t grassy like a typical green tea. It’s brisk and has the familiar roasty taste of gunpowder green tea – another tea I used to drink a long time ago. Not one that I would normally go for but sipping it felt nostalgic and helped calm my stomach. Decent in a pinch and would be nicer with a squeeze of lemon.

Flavors: Roasted

Preparation
6 OZ / 177 ML

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60

Arrgghhh, I hate to write this review but there are few things more aggravating than opening a brand new packet of tea only to discover that it has gone stale. Shan Lin Xi rarely lets me down and I’m sure this one was good when fresh, but after a few steeps I could tell something about it was off.

The smell was promising enough. Out the bag, it smelled buttery sweet with a touch of vegetation. A rinse brought out fruity aromas of pear and banana along with a hint of marzipan. The brewed tea though was a different story. It tasted vegetal and musty like old books. There was none of the characteristic sweetness or minerality of oolong. The taste was more akin to a green tea. I’ve had two sessions with this tea and both times I gave up and ended up chucking it.

There’s a difference between a tea that doesn’t taste good and one that’s lost freshness. This belongs to the latter category. It’s the second tea from my Taiwan Sourcing order to suffer from this problem leading me to believe there’s a packaging issue. I noticed the pouches I’ve opened so far were missing those oxygen absorbing packets. These little things are critical to removing humidity and preventing spoilage, especially with green oolongs which don’t hold up as well as their roasted counterparts. I can always detect staleness in unroasted oolong that’s not vacuum sealed and/or doesn’t have the oxygen absorber inside.

I seldom throw out tea, especially costly ones, but sadly this one is going to hit the bin because it’s that bad.

Flavors: Musty, Vegetal

derk

I’m curious, have you ever contacted Mountain Stream about their packaging? You seemed to have a similar experience with several of their teas being stale.

LuckyMe

I’ve had this issue with quite a few vendors actually. Either they package the tea in pouches or vacuum seal without removing the oxygen. It’s usually okay if the tea is from the current harvest, but anything older will lose freshness. I was surprised that it happened with Taiwan Sourcing since there’s a lengthy blog post on their own website touting the benefits of oxygen absorbers and vacuum packaging. Thinking of reaching out to Scott to ask about this.

I’m probably going to order from either Eco-Cha or Taiwan Tea Crafts next, two vendors who I know package their tea properly.

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78

Winter 2017 harvest.

Forgettable is how I would describe this tea. I was excited by the flowery description on the website and positive reviews, but unfortunately it didn’t live up to the hype. It’s fairly vegetal throughout with some honeyed notes and a mouthfeel on the thin side. By playing with the brewing parameters, I did manage to coax out some florals and little buttery flavor. It peaked around the 3rd steep and then tasted like an average green oolong.

For a high mountain tea, it had little to no depth of flavor. I don’t know if something was lost with age or what, but overall it tasted mediocre and kinda bland to me.

Daylon R Thomas

I’ve honestly stayed away from the Taiwan Sourcing stuff because the better teas tend to be hidden, or carry a hefty price tag with hefty shipping.

Leafhopper

My last couple teas from Taiwan Sourcing have been kind of meh as well, and yes, their higher-end offerings are super expensive. What’s your current favourite vendor of consistently good Taiwanese oolongs?

LuckyMe

@Daylon, I haven’t been impressed with them so far either. The high price tags kept me from ordering from Taiwan Sourcing for a long time. I finally bit the bullet and 2 of the 3 teas I’ve tried were below par.

@Leafhopper, Taiwan Tea Crafts is my favorite vendor hands down. Huge selection and best value for the money.

Leafhopper

I’ve liked most of the few teas I’ve had from Taiwan Tea Crafts as well, although I worry that their large selection and lower prices mean that some teas are bound to be duds. The Eco-Cha Tea Club is also really good, though not exactly cheap.

Daylon R Thomas

Eco-Cha’s Shan Lin XI is fairly good. Berrylleb King Tea has consistently good Taiwaneese oolongs, and What-Cha’s Lishan is my go to.

Daylon R Thomas

Tillerman would also be on that list with Golden Tea Leaf company’s Dung Ting, but the two I just described before have always been consistent. Mountain Stream Teas is decent for budget, but nothing mind blowing. There is another company called Due East that I’m tempted to try.

Leafhopper

Thanks for the suggestions! I would never have thought of Berryleb for Taiwanese oolongs. Tillerman is on my to-buy list, as is Golden Tea Leaf, though I wish they had 25g packs of their Lishan.

Daylon R Thomas

The Golden Tea Leaf’s Lishan is finicky, so do not feel too bad about not having that one.

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84

Revisited this tea after many months and the flavor seems to have changed. The cocoa and brown sugar notes are gone. It’s thicker, maltier, and has a musky flavor to it. Still quite drinkable but would be better blended with another black tea.

Flavors: Malt

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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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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