372 Tasting Notes

77

Man, if only this tea tasted as good as it looks. The beautiful long green blades of this Tai Ping Hou Kui are quite a sight to see but the flavor is just sorta meh.

I grandpa steeped about 3 or 4 leaves which is 1.5g in an 8oz glass using 180 F water. The smell of the leaves is briny like kelp and seaweed salad, and slightly marine. I won’t lie it’s a litte off-putting. Thankfully, the smell doesn’t make it into the taste. The liquor is almost colorless and has a very subtle, barely there flavor. There are some vegetal and light grass notes that appear after it steeps for a while but the taste isn’t really distinctive and almost feels like you’re drinking hot water. When it does finally develop some flavor, astringency appears shortly thereafter.

Honestly, I’m kind of annoyed by super delicate green teas such as this one. Huang Shan Mao Feng is another famous tea with a similar flavor. They might be better suited for occasional green tea drinkers who don’t like grassiness but I find them really bland.

I did have a Tai Ping Hou Kui from Teavivre last year that was decent so I’m sure there are better versions of this tea. This is my first time trying it from Yunnan Sourcing and unfortunately this one just doesn’t do it for me.

Flavors: Green Beans, Salty, Seaweed

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 1 g 8 OZ / 236 ML
tea-sipper

That leaf is gorgeous though!

LuckyMe

No doubt about that. This one easily wins the green tea beauty contest.

Kittenna

Sometimes I like those ultra-lightly-flavoured teas. But astringency coming before there’s really even any flavour? Not appealing.

Ubacat

Maybe it’s just the 2019 cultivar. I really liked the 2018 one and found it was pretty similar to Teavivre’s Tai Ping Hou Kui. I brew mine in a glass flute brewer and use about 15 leaves/ brew 1 min first infusion. Can’t remember other infusions but it was always fruity & sweet.

tanluwils

It kinda looks like kelp too. I feel ya on being annoyed at dainty greens. I will say that I’ve had some excellent huangshan maofeng while living in China—it was super fresh and textured, but the stuff that makes it out of the country is a bit meh.

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97

So I decided to take a break from all the spring green teas I’ve been drinking lately to brew up some oolong. I’ve been working through my Tea from Taiwan samplers and this has been the best one so far. It’s got a lush tropical flavor and amazing aromatics. Ali Shans are usually on the floral side while this one has lot more fruitiness to it. I got notes of mango, apple, and citrus in the brewed tea. There’s a nectar like sweetness and a faint hint of orange blossom in the finish. The scent of the tea is quite a treat for the nose. The dry leaf has an inviting aroma of honey, flowers, and butter. Wet leaves bursted with a myriad of shifting scents that smelled like a tropical rainforest. Pineapple, melon, hyacinth, alpine flowers, and citrus were amongst the notes that I picked up.

I steeped this low and slow 8 times at 185-190 F for steep times of 30s/1m/90s/2m/3:30/5m/7m/10m. Tea remained juicy and rich throughout without any bitterness even after long steeps. Unexpectedly good!

Flavors: Apple, Citrus, Fruity, Mango, Tropical

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 30 sec 2 g 2 OZ / 50 ML

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86

Lately I’ve had intense cravings for Japanese green tea and finished my stash in record time. With still a month to go until shincha season, I bought a 20g pouch of this as a stopgap. Yunomi teas in my experience aren’t that impressive but they are one of the few Japanese vendors who offer samplers which I appreciate since I didn’t want to be stuck with a 100g bag of last year’s tea.

For this tea, I used 2.5g in a 150ml kyusu starting with 140-145 F water and steeped for 1 minute. Leaves had the signature scent of warm grass and nori seaweed. In the warmed kyusu, I got new aromas of spinach and stir fried kale and swiss chard. The first steep is light and mellow with the taste of freshly cut grass, umami, and a little sweetness as it cools. A little reminiscent of kabusecha though not as earthy. Second infusion is with hotter water, anywhere from 165 F to boiling, and has a thick deep color and texture. Strong vegetal taste like broccoli with a bit of chalkiness. It’s like drinking a thin matcha. Third steep is flatter with a generic green tea flavor.

Though not a particularly exciting tea, it’s still quite serviceable and decent for a year old sencha. Doesn’t resteep well so it’s kind of a “one and done” tea.

Flavors: Grass, Sweet, Umami

Preparation
140 °F / 60 °C 1 min, 0 sec 2 g 4 OZ / 120 ML
Ubacat

I agree about Yunomi. I used to order loads of samples and might find one jewel in the bunch.

LuckyMe

Yeah, they are fine for run of the mill things like genmaicha but their sencha always seems a little lacking to me. The only tea that really stands out is a blend: Sencha with Sugared Sakura leaves

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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
372 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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Profile

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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