414 Tasting Notes

95

This year I’ve really expanded my tea horizons and dove head first into the world of oolongs and fine Chinese greens. It’s been an exciting journey but sadly in the process I’ve neglected my first tea love, Japanese green tea.

Seeking to rectify the situation, I recently ordered a few samples from Yunomi. The teas I got were decent but nothing to write home about. So I went back to Yuuki-cha, one of my favorite pre-Steepster tea companies. Unfortunately most of the teas I was interested in were sold out so I rolled the dice on this mid-range sencha.

I’m glad I took a chance on this one because this is one delicious tea. It brews up emerald green with a crisp and vibrant green flavor. The wet leaf aroma is reminiscent of fresh cut, damp grass. Unlike the Yunomi teas which tended towards a savory umami flavor, this one has a bright, grassy sweetness to it that coats the mouth a little.

Overall a quality tea experience that’s revived my interest in Japanese green teas!

Flavors: Freshly Cut Grass, Sweet

Preparation
155 °F / 68 °C 0 min, 45 sec 1 tsp 4 OZ / 118 ML

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94

You could be forgiven for mistaking this for a flavored tea. The fruity, tropical notes are the first thing to hit your tongue. All of the flavor descriptors that Whispering Pines gives are present. There are pineapple, peach, and coconut tones complimented by a buttery body and subtle milkiness.

This tea has none of the floral or mineral taste that I’m used to with green oolongs. It’s all tropical fruit and cream. It took a few sips but my palette quickly acclimated to the unique taste of this tea. This is a very pleasant after dinner tea and fantastic iced.

Flavors: Coconut, Creamy, Peach, Pineapple, Tropical

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 tsp 4 OZ / 118 ML

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78

This is a very umami-rich gyokuro with deep seaweed and vegetal notes. I first brewed it according to package directions, 5 grams per 6 oz, at 122 F for 5 minutes and then 155 F for 15 seconds. That produced a rich broth with an intense savory flavor. A little too rich for me though.

So I dialed down the leaf quantity and brewed it like sencha: 1 tsp per 4 oz steeped in 160 F for 45 seconds. The resultant cup had the same savory flavor as before, but less intense and balanced with a smooth buttery flavor and a hint of sweetness. No astringency whatsoever. Subsequent infusions for 25 and 60 seconds respectively were good but didn’t have the same fullness of flavor as the first.

Flavors: Butter, Grass, Seaweed, Umami

Preparation
155 °F / 68 °C 0 min, 45 sec 1 tsp 4 OZ / 118 ML

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99

Got this as a sample with a recent Aliexpress teaware order. Initially I suspected it was a cheap, throwaway tea. I didn’t have any idea what kind it was – thought it was puerh because I’d never seen oolong in cake form before.

A google search cleared up the confusion and I immediately fired up my kettle and dropped half of the mini-cake into my gaiwan. The dry leaves had a floral and, true to their name, sweet narcissus aroma which intensifies with wet leaf. Brewed gongfu style, the tea matches its aroma. Lots of nectary flavor with robust floral notes and a lingering sweetness that stays in your mouth for a while. The brick stays intact for several steepings and then opens up to reveal long, pristine leaves with a beautiful purple hue around the edges.

This tea was surprisingly much better than I expected and totally blew me away. It’s a flower-packed oolong that happens to be one of the best I’ve tried. Not bad for a random, no name tea from Aliexpress!

Flavors: Floral, Narcissus, Nectar, Sweet

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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85

I wasn’t thrilled by this tea initially but it has really grown on me. My favorite jasmine tea these days is Yunnan Sourcing’s jasmine silver needle tea. Being a white tea, it’s very subtle and gently sweet. This tea on the other hand is creamier and has a lot more body than the white jasmine. Though the jasmine dominates, the base oolong seems to accentuate the perfumeyness of the tea. I prefer to have this one during the day when I want something a little stronger and reserve the white jasmine for bedtime.

Flavors: Creamy, Jasmine, Perfume

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 2 min, 0 sec 2 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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50

So this tea is quite different than what I expected. I’ve been spoiled by Verdant’s excellent tie guan yin this spring and was eagerly awaiting the autumn harvest. It’s remarkable how the flavor profile of some teas can vary from one tea garden to another. I was expecting some sweet nectar and floral goodness, but this tea is predominantly milky both in flavor and smell. It tastes like a very strong flavored jin xuan. There isn’t much complexity to it beyond the milk and cream flavor, which is quite intense and the aftertaste lingers in your mouth for a while. I couldn’t take more than a few sips of this tea because I started feeling queasy. I tried steeping it gongfu and western style, but couldn’t avoid the nauseous feeling from the overpowering creaminess. Unfortunately this was not a tea that suited me which is too bad because I can tell from the freshness and bright green leaves that it’s high quality.

Flavors: banana, Cream, Melon, Milk

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 4 OZ / 118 ML
TeaNTees

Such a pity that the creamy deliciousness of this oolong makes you nauseous! :(

LuckyMe

Wish my stomach could handle some of these heavy cream-like teas. I did like WP’s Golden Lilly oolong though, lightly milky and tropical

TeaNTees

Oh my, that sounds lovely too! :)

TheTeaFairy

Interesting, reading your note, I couldn’t help wondering if you might have gotten the autumn JadeTGY and Golden Liky packages mixed up. The reason being that I have had both and find the TGY super floral, and the Golden Lily super creamy as it is supposed to be since it’s milk oolong.

LuckyMe

I suspected a mix up too because I expected it to be floral but it looks exactly like the pictures on the WP site. The Golden Lily is indeed creamy, though not overly so like this one

Whispering Pines Tea Company

Hmm…interesting. I’d say give it another shot sometime before sending it off to a new home. I actually have a customer that gets sick with any hint of creamy or buttery in an oolong and they are in love with this tea. Who knows…that’s always an interesting thing to me how tea can be experienced totally differently between multiple people. But getting any hint of cream in this TGY is a totally new one to me. Definitely give it one more try if you don’t mind :)

LuckyMe

Brendan, I will try experimenting with shorter steep times and underleafing. I’m hoping it’s just me me not having found the tea’s sweet spot yet :-)

Whispering Pines Tea Company

I hope so too! I’d love for you to experience the floral explosion that others get with this! Good luck! :-)

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75

Just finished off the last of my stash of this tea. After starting off on the wrong foot, my appreciation for this tea has grown. I’ve come to enjoy the pickle-y, floral flavor of this tea. I use 3-4 flowers, rinse for 1 minute with 120 F water, and then steep in boiling water for several minutes over a warmer. It’s no Den’s Sakura Sencha for sure, but delivers a nice subtle cherry blossom flavor.

Flavors: Cherry Blossom, Salty

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86

This is a delicious, high quality silver needle tea. It has a light body and sweet, soothing taste. Steeped at higher temperatures, I get a lot more of the hay and corn. For me the sweet spot for this tea was around 165 F at 1 min. That produces the most balanced cup with a mild nuttiness, natural sweetness, and pleasant vegetal notes.

Although I still prefer jasmine scented silver needles, this is easily the best straight silver needle tea I’ve ever had. Just the tea to help unwind and relax before bedtime.

Flavors: Corn Husk, Hay, Sweet

Preparation
165 °F / 73 °C 1 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 4 OZ / 118 ML

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39

Admittedly I’m not a fan of black and puerh teas but I’ve been trying to branch out and broaden my taste horizons. I received a sample of this with my last Verdant order and the flavor profile was intriguing – lychee, grape, pumpkin, and sandalwood are some of the notes described by Verdant. Sigh – if only this were true. Frankly, I would use less flattering descriptors for this tea. This tea apparently comes from an old forest and that’s exactly what it tasted like: soil and wet wood. The musty smell and earthiness was a little too much for me. It’s pretty much what most puerhs taste like to me anyhow.

Lesson learned, tasting notes are palette specific and highly subjective (including this one). Now for a nice cup of green tea to cleanse my palette.

Flavors: Dirt, Wet Wood

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 30 sec 2 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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72

Of all the BTT samples I ordered, I liked this the best. This is a pleasant oolong with light floral notes, slightly vegetal and an unexpected hint of seaweed. When I took the first sip, I thought my sencha somehow got mixed up with oolong. The grassy undertones dominate the initial infusions and then the sweet, orchid/plum notes begin to emerge. There’s really no mouthfeel to speak of or thickness.

Overall, I thought this tea was okay. It’s a perfectly acceptable high mountain tea but nothing to really get excited about.

Flavors: Orchid, Seaweed, Vegetal

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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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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