206 Tasting Notes

83

Still trying to get the hang of brewing black tea. I’m finding my usual lazy method of 1 tsp of tea for 3 minutes doesn’t work for every tea. I western steeped this tea my first couple of sessions and it was a total fail. The smell alone was enough to trigger my gag reflex. Some teas are designed for gongfu and this is one of them.

I eventually decided to follow Verdant’s method and steeped 3.6g of leaf in a 160ml pot using water just off the boil. First steep was for 15s and I added 10s to each subsequent steep. On the nose, there’s a faint aroma of vanilla and smoke. The wet leaf is smokey cacao nibs. Like most of Verdant’s blacks, this tea has a wonderful rich chocolate flavor that early on coats your entire mouth with its sweet lusciousness. I detected notes of bread and unusual fruity overtones that I could’t quite place. I would describe them as overripe fruit. Verdant’s tasting notes for this are all over the place…berries, rose, angel food cake, buttercream, turkish delight, etc.. Mayyybe. I find their tasting profile can be a stretch sometimes. The only one of their descriptors I could pick out was a hint of buttercream frosting in the finish.

This was an interesting black tea. It started with an intense chocolate explosion and went on to develop a distinct, complex flavor that evolved with each steeping. That said, some of the flavors in this tea weren’t quite up my alley. Glad I got to try it, but I still prefer the Classic Laoshan black tea.

Flavors: Butter, Dark Chocolate, Fruity, Smoke, Vanilla

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 6 OZ / 177 ML

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93

Received a sample of this with my last Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company order. Being a light baked Alishan tea, it was a little different from the greener Taiwanese oolongs I usually drink. I found this to be right up my alley. It’s got a greener flavor profile and although roasted, the roast is subtle and adds a nice biscuity element that I really enjoyed.

The aroma of this tea resembles a jade oolong. Creamy and fragrant floral with hints of baked bread. Wet leaf aroma is an intriguing mix of florals, roasted nuts, and caramel. The tea brews up to a green liquor with a faint amber hue. Initial steeps have bit a spice from the baking mingled with a juicy sweetness. There’s a savory graham cracker undertone reminiscent of a Ruan Zhi tea I sampled from Verdant. The roast isn’t overbearing nor does it mute the delicate green oolong notes. It just adds a nice tinge of warmth to enhance a good quality Ali Shan. Around the 3rd or 4th steep, the toastiness wears off and it takes on a more green character.

I liked this tea a lot more than I expected to and can see myself ordering some in the future. I think it will appeal to fans of lighter oolongs. It does a great job of preserving the best qualities of Ali Shan while adding a touch of warmth and spice. Another advantage this tea has is once opened, the flavor doesn’t deteriorate as rapidly as green oolongs due to the baking.

Flavors: Cookie, Creamy, Floral, Roasted nuts, Spicy

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 1 min, 0 sec 4 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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90

My first Darjeeling experience. The leaf is small, broken reddish pieces with some silvery steaks. Smells like white tea florals and musk. The tea steeps up a light amber with notes of wood bark, balm, cinnamon spice, and little bite in the finish that hits the back of your throat. I was struck by how similar in flavor this was to Oriental Beauty. Recommend steeping at lower temperatures, around 180 – 185 F to bring out the subtle flavors as too hot water just makes it taste like a ceylon.

I did a side-by-side taste comparison with a 2nd flush darjeeling. Both were good though I lean slightly towards the 2nd flush for its robust and fruitier flavor. However, the smooth and delicate flavors of this one make it a wonderful tea in its own right.

Flavors: Biting, Cinnamon, Muscatel, Wood

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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92

This tea is causing me to rethink my preference for jasmine silver needles. Most jasmine pearl teas taste more or less alike to me and often have a sharpness in the green tea base that clashes with the florals. I was pleasantly surprised with this one. The jasmine is bright and fresh, not overpowering and with no bitterness. I love the full jasmine flowers which open up and float around in the gaiwan enhancing the visual aspect of brewing.

Just a scant 2g of leaf got me 6 excellent infusions. I used 175-180 F water in a 150ml glass gaiwan starting with 1m and then adding a minute to each steep.

Flavors: Jasmine

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 0 sec 2 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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85
drank Nan Jing Yu Hua Cha by Grand Tea
206 tasting notes

I’m upping my rating after trying this gongfu with more leaf and shorter steep times. Normally I don’t steep greens gongfu but it gave a nice flavor boost to an otherwise light tea. Using 3g of leaf and 10-15s steeps in 160-165 F water, it has a luscious, creamy flavor with a wisp of vanilla and a silky soft mouthfeel.

Flavors: Cream, Soybean, Vanilla

Preparation
160 °F / 71 °C 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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95

I love sakura flavored anything, so when Yunomi rolled out this new blend a couple of weeks ago I rushed to order a sample. I was especially excited that this was a naturally flavored tea, scented only with real cherry flowers. Salt pickled sakura blossoms notwithstanding, nearly every cherry blossom tea I’ve come across has added flavoring which I’m not a fan of. The only other one I’ve liked is Den’s Sakura Sencha.

Upon opening the pouch, I immediately felt transported to a field of blossoming cherry trees in springtime. The aroma of the tea is almost ethereal, fruity and elegantly floral. There’s nothing artificial about it at all, neither in aroma or flavor. The taste is exquisitely subtle, more sencha than sakura. You taste the fresh sencha first followed by a delightful cherry blossom flavor that gently dances across your palate. I recommend letting the tea cool a bit to really taste the sakura. The base sencha is buttery and light, and unlike Den’s blend, is not very grassy. Its mellow body lets the soft cherry flavor shine through.

The flavoring here is verrry light. For some it may be too weak but as someone who finds most flavored teas too overpowering, it was perfect for me. This is the first flavored tea – aside from jasmine – that I could drink straight without needing to underleaf or blend with a straight tea. I think this one will appeal most to those who drink straight green teas.

Compared to my other favorite, Den’s is a deeply grassy green tea with a stronger cherry flavoring that can taste a bit medicinal while this is a more low-key affair and is by far the most natural tasting sakura tea I’ve ever tried.

Flavors: Butter, Cherry Blossom

Preparation
170 °F / 76 °C 1 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 120 OZ / 3548 ML

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85
drank Nan Jing Yu Hua Cha by Grand Tea
206 tasting notes

This tea needed a little tinkering to get right. It’s similar to white tea, and in order to get the best flavor you need to brew it as one. Initially, I tried steeping like a standard green tea using temperatures of 175 F and above and got a salty marine-like flavor. Eventually I discovered the best flavor came from lower brewing temperatures, between 160 – 170 F.

The dry leaf is beautiful, thin, pine needle like leaves covered in white down. Scents of soy milk, lima beans, and creamed corn. When heated, it gives off a savory aroma of cooked chard and mustard greens. The color of the tea liquor is almost clear, similar to silver needle tea. The taste is delicate and soft, with creamy soybeans in the front, light vegetable broth, and a gentle hint of chestnut in the finish. Its flavor profile resembles huang shan mao feng a lot.

This tea was a nice departure from the grassy greens I usually drink. I like a nice zippy green tea in the morning. This one isn’t brisk enough though to be a breakfast tea, but it’s low in caffeine which is great because it gives me another option for night time tea drinking.

Flavors: Cream, Lima Beans, Milk, Soybean, Vegetable Broth

Preparation
160 °F / 71 °C 1 min, 0 sec 2 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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83

This is my first puerh from Teavivre. It’s relatively new tea territory for me having tasted half a dozen or so puerhs so far. I picked this up because I wanted to try an aged sheng. . My first few cups were delicious, but later on I had to fight through some serious bitterness.

I used just under 8g of tea in a 120ml shibo for this. The dry leaf had a faint smell of sweet earth and incense. It was noticeably less intense than other sheng puerhs I’ve tried. Wet leaf smelled of wet wood and tobacco. Normally I use very short steeping times for puerh, but increased my steep times as recommended by some reviewers.

After a rinse, I steeped it for about 30 seconds using just under boiling water. It tasted of sweet leather with slightly smokey undertones. A second 30s steep was a nice woodsy and wet forest like flavor. The third infusion was for 35s at boiling. Earthy sweet with a little bitterness beginning to creep in.

The next 4 infusions were pretty rough. Encountered lots of bitterness forcing me to reach for some sweets to cleanse my palette. I had to chuck the 7th steep and call it a day because the bitterness became just too much.

Overall, I quite enjoyed the sweet, complex taste of the early steeps but wished the flavor had carried over to the later infusions.

Flavors: Earth, Fruity, Smoke, Wet Wood

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 30 sec 8 g 4 OZ / 120 ML
Ken

Lower the temp 10 degrees, and take 5 seconds off the brew time. Even at 10 years its still kinda green and bitterness can creep in.

LuckyMe

This is interesting, I always thought puerhs needed hotter water. I’ll tweak my brewing parameters next time and see how it goes. Thanks for the tip.

Ken

The older it is the more it needs the heat, a young raw is still pretty green, and you can get away with lower heat. I had to do this with the immortal monkey raw min tou from yunnan sourcing, it was small very green leaves and the first time I brewed it, bitterfest, I lowered the temp to about 190-195 and shortened the steep a little and it was much better.

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94

No doubt Teavivre has some excellent green tea but unfortunately most of the ones I tried this year were kinda lackluster compared to the year before. The one exception though was this tea. I wasn’t expecting much from this inexpensive, lesser-known tea but I’m pretty blown away at how good it is.

The aroma of the dry leaf alone is enough to tell you this is going to be good. It smells floral and spinachy, then in a heated vessel intensifies into something like buttered sweet corn, flowers, and honey. After steeping, the tea has a mellow sweet pea taste and fresh grassy flavor. The texture is gentle and refreshing, it feels like a pleasant spring breeze across your face. Not too nutty nor astringent.

This one needs quite a bit of leaf for best results. I usually steep my greens semi-gong fu style using 2g of leaf or less. For this though, I had to use half the 7g sample pack. Also, the flavor seems to fade a little faster on resteep than I’d like.

I would not recommend storing this tea in the fridge. I refrigerate most of my greens which helps extend their freshness but occasionally there are some like this that don’t do well in the cold. The fridge made my second sample pack bitter despite being sealed and stored properly.

Flavors: Floral, Grass, Spinach

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 0 min, 30 sec 4 g 6 OZ / 171 ML

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56

Interesting flavor profile for a black tea. This tea tastes like a hybrid of black and puerh. It’s woodsy, earthy, and a little musky. Steeped at boiling it produces a tannic cup. It’s slightly better at lower temperatures but still tastes mostly like a typical orange pekoe to me. Not really my cuppa.

Flavors: Earth, Tannic, Wood

TeaVivre

How about the brewing temperature between 85-90℃? I think it will be tasted better than boiling water!

LuckyMe

@TeaVivre, thanks for the tip. I did try that and it helped a little, but it was still a bit earthy. I think the tea was mostly not suited to my palate.

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Bio

Fell into tea years ago, and for a while my experience was limited to Japanese greens and a few flavored teas. My tea epiphany came a couple of 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’m on an oolong kick these days but will always have a soft spot for green tea. Love fresh green and floral flavors. I also enjoy white tea and tisanes. I am slowly beginning to explore black and puerh tea. I lean towards Chinese black teas and young sheng.

Other non-tea interests include: cooking and food, reading, traveling when I can, nature, alternative medicine, and of course putzing around on the interwebs.

Location

Chicago

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