Featured & New Tasting Notes
You know how it is when you reach the very bottom of your tea pouch and have to decide whether it is a better idea to use that bit extra, more dry leaf than you would usually add to your steeper, to use up everything, call it a day, and chance that it is way too much and will create a most unfortunate bitterness or use the right amount and add the little remainder to something else? Yes, this morning, I had to make such a choice. I chose the former option and what a win! I had been shaking my head and likely frowning throughout the steeping process while peering at the, what seemed to me colossal amount of leaf, in my clear glass steeper: anticipating disaster.
Instead, my cup—and the second steep— is pretty much close to ideal. The gentle cranberry is present, along with slightest bit of cream. The base even suggests a bit of poundcake, if I squint.
I wonder whether attempting a third steep of all these leaves would really be pushing my luck or would result in another milder but still winning cup?
This day really really really required a damn good cup of tea to deal with all of the challenges that have presented themselves, so yay. Hurray for delightful tea that sustains and fortifies!
An idea came to me regarding 52Teas labelling and I am going to put it out there because maybe it is worth considering. I am wondering whether it would be possible to include the type of tea, i.e. more specific than say, just black tea, and possibly the origin of the tea/s in the base. I realize that this information may be a necessary secret or possibly that creating actual labels with the additional information might be more complicated than necessary.
This is a nice tasting ripe. It has a fair amount of fermentation flavor that I would say has begun to clear. It was a little weak but very present. It lasted maybe five steeps. I didn’t really notice any chocolate notes but I suppose I could have missed them. There was a bit of a light fruity profile towards the end of twelve steeps. It was very good.
I steeped this tea twelve times in a 110ml teapot with 9.9g leaf and boiling water. I gave it a 10 second rinse. I steeped it for 5 sec, 5 sec, 7 sec, 10 sec, 15 sec, 20 sec, 25 sec, 30 sec, 45 sec, 1 min, 1.5 min, and 2 minutes. There were a few steeps left in the leaves.
This is a nice Lao Cha Tou brick. There was a fair amount of fermentation flavor but it had partially cleared. The fermentation note was a little weak. A little bitterness crept in in the middle steeps after the leaves had opened up. There was a general evolving sweet note to this tea. There were some chocolate notes. And towards the end of twelve steeps you might say a fruity taste developed although it was weak. Overall this was a very good tea.
I steeped this twelve times in a 200ml gaiwan with 15.1g leaf and boiling water. I gave it a 10 second rinse. I steeped it for 5 sec, 5 sec, 7 sec, 10 sec, 15 sec, 20 sec, 25 sec, 30 sec, 45 sec, 1 min, 1.5 min, and 2 minutes. There were a few steeps left in the tea but twelve steeps from a 200ml gaiwan is a large amount of tea.
This has been my go-to morning cuppa for much of the past week or thereabouts. I have long had an attachment to English breakfast blends, and I am happy to report that this one has consistently struck me as being a good one. It is an organic blend and is comprised entirely of Chinese material. I’m not certain what the teas used in this blend are, but I am almost certain that Yunnan black teas make up a healthy percentage of it.
While I normally prefer to gongfu Chinese teas, I am not accustomed to gongfuing blends, especially breakfast blends. I opted instead for my trusty one step extended Western infusion process. Hey, if the vendor insists on labeling this an English breakfast tea, I am going to treat it like one. Anyway, I steeped 3 grams of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 205 F water for 5 minutes.
After infusion, the orange tea liquor produced aromas of toast, malt, wood, caramel, and sweet potato. In the mouth, the liquor was brisk, astringent, and tannic, offering notes of wood, malt, cream, roasted nuts, brown toast, sweet potato, caramel, molasses, and bitter chocolate. I got hints of camphor, orange rind, and smoke as well. The finish was mostly astringent, woody, and nutty. I found the caffeine uplift to come on pretty quickly too.
For an English breakfast tea, this was very nice. I kind of wish I had taken the time to gongfu it once or twice, but I have so little left now that I may as well just plow on through the remainder the same way I’ve been doing. It may sound crazy, but this kind of reminded me of a budget version of The Jabberwocky. I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a strong, consistent black tea blend to get them through the day.
Flavors: Astringent, Brown Sugar, Brown Toast, Camphor, Caramel, Chocolate, Cream, Malt, Molasses, Orange, Roasted nuts, Smoke, Sweet Potatoes, Tannic, Wood
Tasting note #2,300. Yowzas. Can I just say I appreciate how much work the Steepster team puts into Steepster — thank you! I’ve been meaning to mention this in a tasting note and now seems the time. I hope all the Steepsterers had a fantastic long weekend. I got this as a sample in my order… a very generous sample and there were two samples! This is a lovely herbal blend with NO hibiscus so already it’s a win. Oh my gosh, the flavor is like a Snapple fruit drink or something. Like the strawberry kiwi drink. I could have swore there was kiwi in this tea but there is not. I’m not too familiar with guava but I would probably love it. Otherwise the ingredients lend to a perfectly tart, fruity, thirst quenching, sweet cup. I love the other extra ingredients: sunflower blossoms and rose. I can’t decide what would be making this blend so tart (is guava tart?) but it’s a very delicious blend. The brew is actually a yellow color (not deep red for hibiscus — but a little beetroot could have turned it pink!) and the lemongrass hardly makes an appearance, possibly because there wasn’t much lemongrass included. Otherwise, I think the ingredients are well thought out. I’d buy this blend! I think Tealyra knew what they were doing sending a sample. :D
I think the word “Buttered” called to me. No fat in my diet has me craving everything I shouldn’t be looking at. Luckily I have tea to satisfy those cravings and this is one buttery treat. Buttery and with a nice ginger and spice flavor. Does it tastes like rum? No. Do I mind? No. At the end of the day this is a tasty tea and that’s all that matters to me.
This is probably the most clean sheng I’ve had so far in my journey. I shared this with a friend who is hit or miss with most puerh (he’s more of an avid black/green tea guy), but I kept chugging away as he moved on to something else.
What I like about this tea: It lasts a long while and keeps ‘progressing’ as it goes. Toward the beginning of the session, there is a slight bitterness, which dissipates after steep # 3 (I will note here that I usually brew at a lighter temp (195 F) with sheng puerh). This tea has a nice smooth, grassy, leathery, and floral note throughout; however, with each steep, one flavor trumps over the other. Strange, yes, but good. I’m really happy to have had the chance to 1. drink this; 2. finish the sample with a friend (for the most part).
Sloppy Gong Fu.
- Four infusions
- Really smooth; thick mouthfeel and no astringency
- Malt, cocoa, sweet potato, grains, honey, stonefruit
- In that order!
- Also some red fruit undertones
- Some of the most gorgeous dry leaf I’ve seen in literal months!
Really enjoyed it; will try to do better notes next time.
Second hard sipdown of the week…
Finished this one off hot, straight and pure. That back to basics style of finishing it off seemed the most appropriate way to honor this tea – my first Butiki tea. It’ll be missed, always. The best watermelon tea I’ve EVER tasted, and likely ever will.
At 7 am, I was awoken by the noise of metal clanging against metal, closely followed by drilling and hammering, at what felt and sounded like inches away from my head. Oh, contractors ordered by my neighbours to do whatever on the roof and eavestroughs and drainpipes and what all else.
A couple of hours later, I receive an email from one of the neighbours stating that the contractors will be at work today and tomorrow. No mention of what they are doing and where they will be working so that I can plan for that. The vagueness gives two options: stay and be woken and/or disturbed and have your day disrupted or stay gone.
And oh yeah, thanks for letting me know.
I am wondering how challenging it is to be considerate of other people, really? Truly I am at a loss to understand this lack of connection and understanding towards the people around you.
Am I asking for too much here? How difficult is it to shoot an email a day or two in advance saying, hey, it’s going to be noisy from when to when and where and where because blah blah blah is going to be happening. Just wanted to let you know so that your day won’t be disturbed.
Thankfully, I reached for this this morning. I just happened upon it and boom, stellar!
I am having it with sriracha peas for breakfast.
Three steeps of deliciousness.
Flavors: Earth, Peach
My sample is a nice, loosely pressed piece of cake with medium sized green leaves. Smells very “green.”
Brews a medium yellow. This is a medium strength young sheng with medium-low bitterness. Super strong honey aroma and flavor, the bottom of my cha hai smells just like warm honey. Other notes of green wood, clay, wildflowers, and grain/baked goods.
This is a very nice tea, especially for being on the cheaper end of YS’s 2016 lineup. It’s a shame though how pu’erh prices have gone up since I started the habit, I remember when I bought the 2012 Wuliang in 2012 it was only $25-ish.
Flavors: Clay, Flowers, Grain, Green Wood, Honey, Mineral
Not feeling this one. I like the berry aspect. I like citrus. I like spice. The combination of this, however, in my cup is not working for me. The berry is there. However, the citrus I am getting is the bitterness of lime rind. And the spice I am getting is mostly clove. The base is nice though coming through with occasional creamy notes. I’d like more berry. And possibly vanilla to sweep in and soothe the what to me are discordant flavours.
Flavors: Berry, Clove, Lime
I’ve been holding off on this review for most of the day, but I finally decided to just go ahead and post it. This is apparently intended to be Whispering Pines’ house green tea, the sort of basic tea one may generally refer to as a “daily drinker.” I do not know much about this tea’s origin-the Whispering Pines website did not go into specifics-but I’m willing to bet this tea is Chinese in origin. A glance at the leaves revealed that this is a Bi Luo Chun, so this has to be Chinese, right? Teas of this type traditionally come from Jiangsu Province, but these days they also come from Yunnan, Sichuan, Zhejiang, and even Fujian Provinces. If I had to place it’s origin, I would guess Yunnan Province, but beyond asking the vendor directly, it’s not like I can be sure. Regardless of this tea’s origin, I found it to be a basic, pleasant, drinkable green tea.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. I usually do not rinse green teas, but I decided to do so here. After the rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 175 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was followed by 11 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 35 seconds, 45 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.
Prior to infusion, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of grass, asparagus, bamboo, sorghum, and smoke. After the rinse, I detected wood and straw. The first infusion brought out hints of nuts and spinach. In the mouth, I detected mild notes of smoke, asparagus, grass, straw, wood, bamboo, and sorghum underscored by traces of nuts and spinach. Subsequent infusions brought out spinach, chestnut, hazelnut, seaweed, mandarin orange, lime zest, pine, green pea, corn husk, and mineral impressions. The later infusions were dominated by straw, mineral, seaweed, spinach, and wood notes underscored by subtle smoke, pea, grass, and citrus impressions.
This was not a bad tea. It would most definitely do the trick as a reliable, basic house green tea. I, however, had difficulty giving it my full attention over the course of a session. In truth, I found it kind of predictable. It did not surprise me much at all. I expect a lot out of the offerings from Whispering Pines Tea Company, so maybe I’m being somewhat harsh, but I just don’t think this tea compares to many of their other offerings. Also, I feel that while it is a quality green tea, I think it may be a hair too expensive for what it is. In the end, I would say that this tea is worth a try, but there are better teas of this type out there, and it is certainly not representative of the best this particular vendor has to offer.
Flavors: Asparagus, Bamboo, Chestnut, Citrus, Corn Husk, Grass, Hazelnut, Lime, Mineral, Peas, Pine, Seaweed, Smoke, Spinach, Straw, Wood
Bought this because I thought it would be interesting to try a tea from Georgia, the former Soviet Province, not the US State. This tea is relatively good. It is slightly bitter and it has a strong malt flavor to it. There is more depth to this tea though and I would say it has a bit of a fruity character largely in the background. Overall I like this tea.
I steeped this tea on time in a 16oz Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper with 3 tsp leaf and 200 degree water for 3 minutes.
I picked the most generic looking Tieguanyin to start me on my +15 guanyin journey.
I did a short rinse, and a first gongfu steep of about “how long it takes to open up a little and for the water to change colour.” The aroma is incredibly floral, like jasmine with a smudge of lilac. This carries over into the flavour profile, which is a buttery floral bouquet.
Second and third infusions are incredibly sweet, with a vegetal element. Just to show that my family doesn’t have a flower nose, my mom said this cup smelled like “rose, dandelion, sweet, orange blossom.” Name all the flowers and eventually one will be right. We can all agree it smells and tastes “beautiful” though.
Fourth and fifth infusions became increasingly mellow and smooth. The floral notes have taken on a backseat role and become more of a soft honeysuckle. The vegetal sweetness is front and center.
I had to cut this session here, which is too bad because this was slowly becoming more and more delicious.
Steep Count: 5
Flavors: Butter, Floral, Jasmine, Peas, Sweet
[Note: I just realized that the version of this tea I have been working on is the 2016 harvest from Yunnan Sourcing. I have deleted the previous review that I mistakenly posted under the Yunnan Sourcing US heading. Please note, however, that the content remains unchanged.]
After mowing down a couple of smaller samples, I decided to take a break and spend some time with a tea I had been looking forward to reviewing for at least a month. Of the Wuyi oolong cultivars, Shui Jin Gui is one of the most revered, and it is also often one of the most expensive. Apparently, Shui Jin Gui is very sensitive and does not yield in large quantities even in the best of years, making it one of the pricier Wuyi oolongs and one of the more difficult to obtain. I found this particular Shui Jin Gui very appealing.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After the rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was chased by 13 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes. While I enjoyed the tea, I was not totally happy with my gongfu method this time around and I will be attempting to tweak it a bit in my next session.
Prior to the rinse, the dry leaves produced aromas of char, wood, smoke, spices, and dark chocolate. The rinse saw the previously mentioned aromas intensify. They were also joined by hints of damp grass, stone fruits, rock sugar, and coffee. The first infusion brought out touches of vanilla bean, roasted almond, caramel, and distinct impressions of cinnamon, nutmeg, and sweet ginger. In the mouth, I picked up notes of dark chocolate, wood, char, sweet ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, rock sugar, caramel, and smoke underscored by coffee, damp grass, and stone fruits. Subsequent infusions brought out the vanilla bean and stone fruit impressions. I began to get distinct notes of yellow plum and apricot. I also began to note emerging mineral, butter, and tobacco notes, as well as touches of camphor, clove, hay, and eucalyptus. The tea was quick to wash out, which is not all that unusual for Wuyi oolongs, though I am fairly certain that part of it was due to the brewing methodology I employed for this session. The mineral notes became much more pronounced and I began to detect notes of butterscotch and buttered popcorn. When I really focused in, I could still detect traces of tobacco, damp grass, char, wood, smoke, vanilla bean, and perhaps a touch of dark chocolate at one or two points. Yunnan Sourcing’s product description insisted there were notes of sweet potato in there somewhere, but I couldn’t find them. Yunnan Sourcing was, however, right about this tea being difficult to describe.
This was a fun and interesting tea. I am not certain my description does it justice; the aroma and flavor components were mellow, well-integrated, and constantly shifting. Every time I dug into it, I got impressions of something new. I would definitely recommend this tea to fans of traditional Wuyi oolongs. It’s not exactly a bargain, but it’s not nearly as expensive as other examples of this cultivar I have seen, and for the price, it has a ton to offer.
Flavors: Almond, Apricot, Butter, Butterscotch, Camphor, Caramel, Char, Cinnamon, Clove, Coffee, Dark Chocolate, Eucalyptus, Ginger, Grass, Hay, Leather, Mineral, Nutmeg, Plums, Popcorn, Smoke, Sugar, Tobacco, Vanilla, Wood
This is a very nice tea. It is a complex mix of malt, dark chocolate, and a certain amount of fruity flavor. It is very good. So far all the teas I have gotten from Vahdam Teas have been good teas. None of them were bad at all. This one is not as nice as their first flush Darjeelings but is very good. Tasates more like a black tea than the first flush that is for sure.
I brewed this one time in a 16oz Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper witih 3 tsp leaf and 190 degree water for 3 minutes. I will probably go back for a resteep.
“Oddly accurate” as my mother describes it. The rooibos base is great (flavours of honey, cake, sweet and rooibosy goodness), creamy mocha coffee, carob, rich cocoa, milk (despite no milk ingredients in this blend), and coffee beans. The cocoa + cream + coffee + sweet rooibos is just perfect for the name of the blend. I’m impressed at the unique blend, as I’ve not had coffee flavoured tea before. Plus, this is low caffeine (trace amounts from the coffee beans and chocolate chips, but not the same levels as a black base.
This is sweet enough on its own, but it is fabulous iced or hot. Both ways would be good with milk, especially almond or cashew milk for a nutty taste.
Flavors: Chocolate, Cocoa, Coffee, Creamy, Espresso, Honey, Milk, Mocha, Rooibos, Sweet
This scented Jin Xuan is slightly more nuanced and subdued than the other Milk Oolong I’m drinking alongside it. It distinctly and consistently smells and tastes of creamy mango pudding. Sometimes that mango morphs into peach yogurt, which is equally fun. The pink-orange stone fruits with cream vibe make for a nice springtime cup.
Oddly enough, I find this one to have a powdery texture, but that may be my relationship with those particular fruit notes.
Steep Count: 3
I had some roasted seaweed with the last cup and somehow that doubled the mango flavouring. Food pairings work in mysterious ways.
(2016 Spring Harvest)
Flavors: Cream, Floral, Mango, Peach, Umami, Vegetal, Yogurt
Over the weekend, I came to the realization that I still have far too many tea samples lying around the house. I get bored with things pretty quickly, so I tend to mostly order samples rather than larger amounts of tea. Rather than keeping the amount of tea on hand low, however, I just end up with mountains of 10 gram samples. So, I am now working feverishly toward reducing the number of tea samples I have. I started working on this one last night and finished the last of it this morning before going to work. I found it to be an interesting oolong, but I do not think it would be something I would want to have on a regular basis.
I tried preparing this tea two ways. First, I conducted a three step Western session in which I steeped 4 grams of loose tea leaves in 8 ounces of 195 F water for 2, 3, and finally 5 minutes. I was not impressed by the results. I was expecting strong aromas and flavors due to the amount of leaf I was using, but the liquor was very mild and subtle each time. I then used the remaining 6 grams for a gongfu session. After a very quick rinse, I steeped what I had left in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was chased by infusions of 12 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes. The results were much more interesting this time around, so I will be limiting this review to a description of the results of this session only.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted subtle aromas of honey, cream, cinnamon, and grass. There was a floral presence too that I could not identify. After the rinse, I detected clear aromas of lilac, hyacinth, lily, and honeysuckle. The cream, cinnamon, and grass were still there, but I also began to catch hints of spring honey and vanilla frosting. The first infusion produced a similar bouquet, though the vanilla frosting, cinnamon, honey, and floral aromas were stronger. They were also now joined by hints of saffron and coriander. In the mouth, however, the liquor was extremely mild. Flavors of cream, butter, grass, cinnamon, and vanilla frosting were evident and there were traces of flowers and honey toward the finish, but not much else. Subsequent infusions saw the honeysuckle, lily, lilac, and hyacinth appear somewhat more clearly on the palate while the already noted impressions of cinnamon, butter, cream, vanilla frosting, and grass strengthened. The coriander and saffron arrived as well. I also noted the emergence of impressions of hay, cucumber, beeswax, and an indistinct nuttiness. Interestingly enough, the tea, despite its complexity, was dominated by a clean, pure honey tone that sat atop the other aromas and flavors. The final infusions briefly featured clean, pure honey notes, but were soon dominated by cream, butter, grass, and a mineral presence that emerged later than anticipated. At points, I thought I could detect cinnamon and vanilla frosting lingering in the background.
This was a very complex oolong, but the dominant honey impressions made it seem lighter and simpler than it was. Fans of very honeyed aromas and flavors would probably love it, but I was hoping to see the honey integrate more with the other aromas and flavors. Still, this was a quality tea (glancing at the lovely, full leaves was confirmation of that) and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for a respectable high mountain oolong. It just was not what I was expecting. In the end, I liked it, but it did not offer what I tend to look for in Ali Shan oolongs.
Flavors: Butter, Cinnamon, Coriander, Cream, Cucumber, Floral, Frosting, Grass, Hay, Honey, Honeysuckle, Mineral, Nuts, Saffron, Vanilla
Before I begin this review, allow me to state that I do not normally go out of my way to buy old tea. If I buy an older tea, I will always buy from the most recent harvest. Well, I guess I should say that’s what I almost always do. This was an impulse buy a month or two ago. I was placing an order with Yunnan Sourcing US and wanted to tack on another tea just for the sake of justifying the shipping cost a little more in my head. I couldn’t find anything else new and interesting, but then I saw this tea. It sounded interesting and I had been trying to spur myself to become more familiar with Dan Cong oolongs, so I bought it. I figured the worst case scenario would be that I wouldn’t like it or that it might be a little weak. Fortunately, neither ended up being the case and that should not have surprised me. Yunnan Sourcing always seems to do a great job maintaining and storing their teas and I found that to once again be the case here.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 7 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 185 F water for 8 seconds. This infusion was followed by 12 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes. I’m still trying to get used to that whole pack the gaiwan to the brim thing that many Dan Cong enthusiasts do. I’m also still trying to figure out a gongfu method that works for me when it comes to brewing these teas as I’m not so certain that what I do for other teas brings out the best these oolongs have to offer. I’ll keep playing around with it in my spare time.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves gave off subtle aromas of butter, cream, citrus, and honeysuckle. After the rinse, the bouquet intensified slightly. I could pick up stronger hints of butter, cream, and honeysuckle coupled with distinct impressions of pomelo and lemon. I also began to catch hints of lilac, gardenia, and vanilla. The first infusion produced a bouquet that brought everything together. At this point, I got extremely robust floral tones. I was reminded of a mixture of honeysuckle, gardenia, lilac, and magnolia. There were big aromas of vanilla, butter, and cream too. I also thought I began to catch hints of nuts, lime, and grass. In the mouth, however, the tea liquor was surprisingly flat, offering muted notes of grass, lemon rind, pomelo, cream, butter, and vanilla underscored by traces of bitter, oily nuts and fresh flowers. Fortunately, subsequent infusions upped the ante considerably. The cream, butter, vanilla, grass, pomelo, and lemon rind notes were still there, but they were considerably stronger. I was now better able to pick up that bitter nuttiness (it kind of reminded me of fresh black walnut at points, but that comparison is far from exact) and the notes of lilac, gardenia, honeysuckle, and magnolia really began to pop. On several of these middle infusions, I could detect notes of lemongrass, daylily shoots, yellow plum, bitter orange, lime, and orchid. I also began to detect a growing minerality. The later infusions were very subtle, almost to the point of being flat. Minerals, grass, and nuts were the dominant impressions available to me, though I could still detect ghostly citrus, butter, and cream tones on the swallow.
This was an enjoyable tea overall. It peaked quickly and faded just as quickly, but I think part of that may have come down to my brewing method and part of that may have come down to the tea’s age. Whatever the case, this still had more than enough life left in it to be thoroughly enjoyable on several levels. I guarantee that I’m going to keep playing around with the remainder of this tea over the next several days.
Flavors: Butter, Citrus, Cream, Floral, Gardenias, Grass, Honeysuckle, Lemon, Lemongrass, Lime, Mineral, Orange, Orchid, Plums, Vanilla, Vegetal, Walnut