372 Tasting Notes
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
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.
This was an okay gyokuro. It has a nice but elusive umami flavor. You have to nail down the perfect brewing parameters which I’ve only managed to achieve a couple of times. Most of the time, it has a basic green tea flavor with savory asparagus and wheatgrass overtones. Compared to other gyokuros I’ve tried, it’s on the light side and not quite as rich and buttery. There’s a fresh oceanic aroma in the leaf which I was hoping would come through in the tea but didn’t.
While most quality gyokuros give 4-5 good steeps, this goes only half the distance leaving me feeling short changed. It also doesn’t have that nice transition from umami to grassy sencha flavor.
Those who read my tasting notes know that I often favor standard grade teas over their expensive counterparts and I’ll take a sencha any day over gyokuro. Yet for some odd reason, I keep giving gyokuro a chance. Somehow I’ve convinced myself that I just haven’t found the right one yet.
Flavors: Artichoke, Asparagus, Broccoli, Grass, Umami
Finally got around to trying the herbal teas I purchased from Verdant last year. I really liked their Wild Spring Laoshan Gan Zao Ye tea and picked up a sample of this and the Goji Leaf tea to have some caffeine-free options at night.
Out of the bag, the tea had an intense sweet fruity aroma. It looked and smelled very much like a green tea. In a heated teapot, the aroma turned a bit medicinal. The tea started off tasting like vegetable stew. I got notes of plantain, kale, and zucchini. Then it turned into more of a savory-herbaceous flavor. There was bay leaf and what tasted like ayurvedic herbs. A legume like flavor developed as it cooled.
I wasn’t too crazy about the flavor of this tea. It was more savory than the Gan Zao Ye which actually tastes like camellia sinensis. This one OTOH tasted of medicinal herbs. Not really my cuppa.
Flavors: Herbaceous, Medicinal
Discovered this one while rummaging through my kitchen pantry today. I remember buying it a long time ago and not liking it, but couldn’t remember specifically why. So I decided to do a quick taste test to jog my memory.
Prepared it according to directions by adding hot water to the matcha latte mix which had sugar and coconut creamer in it. It brewed up moldy green and smelled like boiled broccoli…not exactly inviting. It has a chalky taste typical of low grade matcha. There’s more sugar in it than green tea. The green tea flavor is there but isn’t very assertive. It’s kind of a generic green tea flavor without any umami or freshness to it. Pretty thin and watery compared to the matcha lattes I make at home.
While this isn’t the worst matcha drink I’ve had, it’s not great either. I can see how it might be appealing from a convenience standpoint however it’s not worth it when you can get much better results by throwing together matcha powder, sugar, and milk in a coffee mug.
Sipdown. This is last of my TTC teas before I move on to my Taiwan Sourcing order. Once again, a stellar baozhong from TTC. This one is a bright, juicy tea with the flavor and aroma of fresh cut lilacs and a touch of vegetation. There’s a greenish quality to it that reminds me of morning dew. Letting it cool before drinking brings out amazing flavors and intensifies the sweetness. Wish I had gotten more than 10g of this tea.
Flavors: Flowers, Nectar, White Grapes
By now I feel like I’ve exhausted the entire Laoshan tea category because I’ve tried all of the varietals from every season and every picking from both Verdant and Yunnan Sourcing. This tea is the latest installment in my Laoshan green tea odyssey.
I would describe this one as more savory than the regular version. The first cup was light-bodied and almost colorless with soy and cilantro. The second cup was brothy and accented with a hint of fennel. By the third cup, almost all of the flavor was washed out. A little disappointing considering I usually get 3-4 good steeps from Laoshan greens.
This one really didn’t do anything for me. Not as zesty or sweet as the spring picked variety. Weirdly enough, at times it tasted chocolately as if it was blended with Laoshan black tea. I remember tasting cocoa tones in the spring harvest as well so that seems to be something peculiar to this tea.
Anyhoo, I’ve come to the realization that the OG Laoshan green tea is my favorite in this tea category. It has the most well rounded flavor and is more robust than the expensive first flushes. I appreciate Verdant’s experimental offerings and will likely continue to sample them, but will stick to my tried and true for regular drinking.
Flavors: Cocoa, Coriander, Fennel, Soybean, Vegetable Broth
I received this little toucha as a sample with my Teaware House order over a year ago and it had been buried beneath a pile of teas in my drawer for months. In the mood for something different yesterday, I dug it out and steeped the entire sample in my 120ml shiboridashi.
Upon unwrapping, I found inside a handsome silver dollar sized cake with dark camouflage colors and auburn streaks. The tea cake itself had no aroma until hit with hot water and then I was greeted by familiar puerh aromas of leather, smoke, and hay. It was pretty tightly compressed and took about 3 steeps before it began to unravel. The taste was true to the aroma. It began with the smokey, wet forest notes of sheng but unlike sheng, there was no heavy bitterness that followed. In fact there was virtually no bitterness to speak of. As the steeps progressed, I picked up pleasant tobacco/cigar notes, hints of incense, ash, and autumn leaves type woodsiness.
This is technically a white tea but has the profile of raw puerh minus the bitterness. As someone who tends to shy away from sheng due to it’s bitterness, I found this to be a great alternative and can see myself reaching for this once in a while.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Forest Floor, Leather, Smoke, Tobacco
This is a very light dong ding and by light I mean it has no discernible roast to it whatsoever. It tastes closer to a green oolong like Li Shan than a typical Dong Ding. The aroma is floral with hints of toasted pecan and camphor but the taste is nearly indistinguishable from a gaoshan. There is a deep fruitiness to it, something like roasted stone fruit, and a flowery tingle as it fades in the mouth. The flavor doesn’t change much from steep to steep but remains strong and steady. I find that these less nuanced teas work well grandpa style. It’s a great tea to throw in your tumbler to take to work. It thickens and becomes sweeter once the leaves steep for a while.
Flavors: Flowers, Fruity