16 Tasting Notes
-4/9/17 I have had plenty of Silver Needle teas before from this place and others, but I do not ever remember one with as bold and robust leaves that are indeed very reminiscent of pine needles. Moreover, the dry leaf has a pliant, supple quality unlike I have experienced before. I have been enjoying several sittings with this tea using a glass gaiwan and a generous quantity of tea. I definitely start lower in temp than the 195 deg. they recommend, and shorter than the two minutes they recommend. The resulting liquor fulfills my expectations of what a silver needle should taste like, and last more steepings than I expected. Sweet with a lingering sweet aftertaste. Very pleasant. Silver needle is by its nature much more delicate than the teas I normally drink, but out of the six teas I recently bought (all different types) this is the one with which I am most pleased.
The tea has a wonderful smell and I love opening the bag. The dry leaf is very wiry and is difficult to measure out with a teaspoon. I found it very delicious with its toffee notes and hint of cocoa. Think of something in between a heavily roasted oolong and a classic congou. This bag of tea will be gone before I am ready for it to be!
I am enjoying this tea more having prepared it in a gaiwan. The higher ratio of leaves to water and the shorter steeping times allow the flavors to express themselves more succinctly. In my tea explorations I have tried several highly oxidized oolongs, but this the first strip-style Wu Yi Shan Da Hong Pao I have tried. This definitely qualifies as highly oxidized, being about 80%. The neat thing about tea is the you can have teas fairly close on the oxidation spectrum, but their flavors and characteristics can differ so much.
The tea’s aroma is that of an earthy broth; whereas the flavor is all peatiness and scotchiness. The after taste is distinctively reminiscent of the slightly smoky bite of scotch. I assuredly enjoy this tea.
I drank all of my last order from Upton without adding a single tasting note. I will try to do a beutter job with this set of teas from Gong Fu.
This was a fine Keemun. The dry leaf has a pleasant sweet smoky smell. The liquor has a pleasing aroma as well and the flavor includes the burgundy notes you would expect in a fine Keemun. Very enjoyable! This tea delivers what you expect from it, which is a flavorful cup of a Chinese classic.
I have bought this tea a couple of times from Gong Fu, and really enjoy it. I would have to call it the French Roast of oolongs, for I really cannot imagine a more heavily baked tea. The appearance of the dry leaf is really quite different from others. They are very dark, almost carmelized-looking rolled nuggets of tea leaves. I don’t know if tea leaves carmelize, so let’s leave it as a waxy appearance. No matter how many times you infuse it, the leaves do not really open up fully like other oolongs; rather they hold their crumpled shape throughout infusing. Evidently, these leaves’ agony was on the roasting rack. Where the tea really shines for me is during the second and third infusions, where the chocolate and coffee notes really come out. For some reason, I usually choose to prepare this in my Chatsford teapot like I would a black tea. I will have to try it in a gaiwan. I usually prepare it as directed 205 for three minutes.
The most exquisite thing about this tea is the appearance of the dry leaf. The leaves look like little furry spirals and have a pleasant faintly sweet smell. I want very much to like it, but I am not really sure I do. The tea just is not something I think that I will crave the taste of—not horrible tasting—but not something I love. I infused a fair amount of leaf in a glass gaiwan at 170° for a minute. I think this tea is a little too unforgiving and vague. Maybe I am having a bad tea day?
I have not explored green teas much, and I have been trying to taste more of them. This tea addresses both that deficiency and my lack of ever trying a Korean tea. I have to say that I enjoyed it. The tea does not really have the pronounced sweetness to it that I have enjoyed in some of the greens I have had so far, but it does have a very full and buttery mouth feel that I enjoy. Also, the tea has a very well-defined character of corn silk. That is Upton’s description. I was going to say vegetal or asparagus, but I think corn silk nails it more on the head. They have you infuse it at 180° for 3 minutes, but I would suggest closer to 160° for no more than 2 minutes for the first infusion, increasing time and temperature for each subsequent infusion. This tea strikes me as a good value, and I don’t really feel the effects of the caffeine on my stomach for as much as I drink. I will have this bag finished up quite quickly, and I will be ready to order the other Korean tea offered by Upton next.