18 Tasting Notes

drank 2018 Arbor Red by White2Tea
18 tasting notes

I did a horrible moan of pleasure when I put the first steep in my mouth.

It’s good to have one or two teas that do that for you. The balance is utterly perfect — I was expecting it to be a tannin river, but it lubricates the mouth with so much bourbon, peat, smoke, and sugar. It’s very much a gushu black tea with all that promises. I was hoping I wouldn’t, but now I need a cake of this.

Elements of whiskey usually found in yunnan black, with a touch of restraint I identify in sun dried versions — like a splash of cold water in the drink. Obscenely thick both in the mouth and visibly while pouring it around. The peat taste contributes to the sensation. I agree that there’s a suggestion of medicinal that rounds the flavor further. Very lasting taste that perhaps couldn’t be called an aftertaste so much as a heavyweight finish. The brown sugar appears after swallowing, and so does the rainwatery, puddle-immersed black tea smell. My brain is trying to think of ways to turn the knob further — hotter, longer, more leaf. I really am tasting all elements of the tea as much as a minute after I’ve had it.

Started out with a 30s steep, no rinse, and continued with 25-30sec steeps. The taste is consistent along the beginning and middle period. If oversteeped, it becomes more bitter than astringent. It certainly has family resemblance to other dian hongs, but this much power in the same amount of leaf would be hard to reproduce.

Preparation
Boiling 6 g 3 OZ / 80 ML

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drank 2009 Jingmai by White2Tea
18 tasting notes

I’m having the last of my sample, and probably savoring it more. Cool, woody, a little metallic, with a subdued fruity brightness. The storage taste is yummy and lasts about two steeps, creamy and waxy. Smell is quite pungent, like ground up medicine. The flaw, like others have said, is that it wants to be very dry and bitters out the last steeps. However, you can get quite a few steeps out if you approach it carefully. In the end the vegetal tastes develop more into green pepper and watermelon. Separating the leaves when you get to the middle stage helps. I think if it wasn’t packed so tight, it would be oversteeping in the beginning, but after a while it hampers the brew. Soothing and immediate heat in the back of the neck.

Preparation
8 g 3 OZ / 80 ML

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This benefits a lot from not gongfuing it. I brewed it in my mug in conditions closer to the company specified ones. The wood has a proper presence and the overall experience is dry but full-flavored. Like many darjeeling summers, this tea functions best as a spice and a perfume that you could have after a meal to perk you up and give you a good taste in your mouth. Its grapey/lemony character is still very strong and feels fresh. Tannins are high, but caffeine is moderate. This is a great workhorse tea.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 2 g 7 OZ / 200 ML

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drank Dark Forest by Hatvala
18 tasting notes

I just realized that there are so many reviews of these teas under What-Cha. I was surprised for sure as soon as I smelled the dry leaf, it’s the spiciest postfermented tea I’ve had. I didnt find it as weird as other people did though, and I didn’t notice any real wodui element. Maybe wood rot but not fish rot or fungus. I was probably primed for this by white2tea Lumber Slut, which seems similar to me in the things its doing and the reactions from people.

What rang true for me was the review that said it’s not like a wet piled ripe, but more like a raw that has been wetted and left alone for a while. Maybe that wetted tea was aired out or given drier storage in Hatvala’s hands, because it tastes pretty clean now. Just lumbery. That said I can be very oblivious about some bad tastes.

Mouthfeel is thick, it has more of a vegetal character than any shou I’ve tried, it’s spicy and lumbery, and it has a very subdued choco smoothness hiding in the backstage. For me the objectionable element was a taste of dust. I don’t think it’s actual dust (the liquor cleared out after two rinses), but the irritation in the nose when fine dust gets in. It’s a dry tea, but it stays just on the cusp of holding together in the main steeps. Energy is nice and strong. I always get a jolt from cooked type teas even though people say they have hardly any caffeine and no qi.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 8 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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I was waiting to review this tea, but I gave it a week in storage because it was giving the strangest smell when I first cut open the package. First I thought it had something to do with nitrogen flushing. An almost acrid, musty smell. However it’s persisted since then and has filled up my whole box.

Sniffing the dry leaf feels more normal: nose itch and bitter smell that heralds the punishment it’s going to give me. And the mustiness, but here it’s more in its place — it’s like a storage smell, even if I’m not totally sure about it being a nice smell or not.

Wet leaf and, as with all the hatvala teas, the savory note comes to the fore — again the — if one were being critical — musty cloth smell. I’m going to treat it like any brand new sheng and start wih a 100C rinse that will tell me how hot to make the first steep.

The rinse comes out fogged up with bud hair. It has the color and fragrance of peaches already. Though the smell is faint and can only be noticed from a few feet away, it has everything you’d expect in a full blown steep. there’s the tartness that I’ve come to associate with the qingxin cultivar (Red Buffalo, Oriental Beauty, Signature No 1) and it extends into a good half-minute finish. It’s so similar to the oolong’s in fact, that I start to wonder about the differences between good oolong and good sheng. Something unique to it is a distinct strawlike smell that makes me think of cloth — freshly laundered cloth, stiff dried cloth, wet cloth. Sorry, I just haven’t been around hay very often. This is not musty at all, just unexpected in something I’m drinking. The bitterness is already dominant. It swells up around the time of the finish. The bottom few mouthfuls hold the peachy sweetness and thickness, and my mouth gets thickened up with cotton.

It has a kind of hazy energy that you have with young shengs, it both riles you up and makes you sleepy. Puerh (sorry, Vietnamese Dark Tea) is for dream kickboxing.

First steep (flash) is just as pale and foggy; the bubble holding power on the surface of the tea soup has increased a lot. I still don’t quite understand why the gaiwan has to have a faint nose of ‘left the clothes in the washer too long’, but it hasn’t detracted from the soup yet. I’ve never tried a sheng quite this young, so it might be common. First steep the bitterness has overpowered all the other tastes, so I might dial back the temperature. A complex aftertaste is left, but also really dominated by bitterness. In this steep it really just tastes ‘like sheng’ to me, dry green leaves. I think I don’t know what to do with raw teas that are this young. The tart aftertaste is really persevering, not drowned out yet. As the bitterness lets up, it ‘rehydrates’ the tongue with lemon juice. There’s a good strong peach hui gan. The mouth is super dry. The oily tea soup leaves behind a sugarcane and pollen smell as it dries.

Although the bitterness is so strong right now, the character of the tea is still peeking in from behind and to me this seems like a good sheng. It would be worth keeping just for the price. It tastes like a mid tier sheng to me (mid tier for what we international customers get) and you could pay much more than $0.15/g for a mid tier, although presumably other shengs would have a guarantee in the form of a known yunnan region, for whatever that’s worth. It’s on the hayfeverish side, but not unusually so.

When I drink puerhs this green, I always think “Didn’t Marshaln say there was a time when 10-years-in-the-warehouse traditional sheng was the norm? Is sifting through all this hay a job for a customer or a tea seller?” However I’m grateful for what I get.

I guess what remains to be checked is longevity, especially since it’s already so astringent. I’ll edit and add my impressions after I’ve reached the late steeps.

Preparation
Boiling 8 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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drank Caramel Spice Chai by Teabox
18 tasting notes

Everything you need to flavor a carrot cake. The balance is pretty good, an off flavor of ester comes off the vanilla essence or whatever they used, it’s not very noticeable. I should probably be adding sugar, but it’s doing good without it. I wonder if this would stand up to milk. It’s a CTC, but I’m worried on behalf of the caramel flavoring.

Flavors: Caramel, Cinnamon, Vanilla

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 g 14 OZ / 400 ML

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drank Dragon's Breath by Hatvala
18 tasting notes

An Irish Stout version oolong. (The first time I had a Guinness, I felt let down from my expectations, maybe because I was expecting some kind of lindt chocolate bar in beercan form.) The strength of the flavors, bless oolong processing, doesn’t let you down. The roast gives it a pronounced estery bourbon smell that you could like or hate depending on how much you’re into whiskey. My throat finds it slightly disagreeable, but after all, there are yunnan black teas with this kind of bourbon character. The smell in the cup is of chocolate. The base taste o the palate is all the things in the Red Buffalo, turned darker a notch — the peach tartness, the vetiver, the honey/nectar sweetness, the roasted greens. You can tell the material was strong and the separation of flavors, the length and distinctness of the aftertaste, as about on par with the Red Buffalo. Despite the family resemblance the heavy roast makes it quite its own kind of tea. I can’t steep this too astringent for my tastes – the bourbon aspects need some bitterness. With astringency comes a stronger spice element than the Red Buffalo. Longevity is about what the company description says — it could go for up to 5 steeps if you kept the temperature/time low and the leaves high.

It really bombed my stomach, though.

Preparation
10 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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drank Red Buffalo by Hatvala
18 tasting notes

The first few steeps drive home the resemblance to the Oriental Beauty which was also made with the Qingxin cultivar, the strong and lasting muscatel tartness, although the Three Moons didn’t seem to be so muscatel. From reading about it, I got a slightly inflated impression of how oxidised this tea was going to taste, but it seems pretty oolong to me. In the main steeps, some malt and mellowness start to dominate. There’s a cooling effect on the mouth and deep in the throat. I really like the combination of tart with the darker and plummier notes, which hits that coca-cola / root beer craving for me. (Maybe the source of the craving, historically speaking, is from old-time herbal sherbets.) There’s a cool hint of…. I really can’t place it well, but a dark perfume like vetiver. Aftertaste is strong and lasting and recaps all the main tastes distinctly. It’s quite tannin heavy on the stomach, I felt. Smell in the cup is sticky and nectary. I was struck by the aroma of roasted semolina. It might be sweet to try an oolong in which the roast taste actually comes out — that’s presumably what the Dragon’s Breath is like.

Comparing this to golden turtle, which I thought was as cool: I can’t decide. These oolongs are really making me appreciate each flavor on its own right, so that even my preference for darker teas is being won over.

Preparation
Boiling 8 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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drank Floating Cloud by Hatvala
18 tasting notes

The dry leaf, and the first few steeps, have a nice perfume/incense/pastel smell that is very familiar but I can’t place. It’s this delicate but old smell that I like about it, and I didn’t taste sugarcane as much. Flavor was quite strong for a white tea. I enjoyed it but I’m not a white tea person and I would still go for something like an oolong that gluts the senses. On some steeps, the notes given by the company were just barely noticeable to my taste buds.

Buds were quite small and covered with hair so fine that they looked steel gray, very lovely. When the hair washed off in the first two steeps, it was almost imperceptible in the soup, except to give a certain dense flavor.

I did three flash steeps, then increased the time by 5sec every one or two steeps. It was hard to make this astringent and when I did, it acquired the nice pointed taste of darjeeling white teas. A slight tartness set off all the steeps. Middle-to-late steeps were sweet and it was particularly graceful in the endgame steeps; whereas some unoxidised teas will start tasting of stewed watermelon rind, here the steeped-out flavor was a delicate, sprouty sweetness. You could probably drink it for ages, especially iced, without getting tired.

Energy hit the head immediately, clearing out my eyes and pressurizing my skull. It wasn’t bad at all. The lack of astringency was relatively good on the stomach (for a tea this young and strong).

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 8 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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drank Three Moons by Hatvala
18 tasting notes

Greener and more astringent than Golden Turtle. The flavor notes were probably equally strong, but the smoothness and sweetness wasnt there so the experience in the mouth was slightly less rich. It also became harsh in later steeps, which can probably be managed using some brewing trick. I would say the aftertaste is also weaker, but it’s hard to compare since I used less leaf for this one. The leaves were still fairly crinkled after 6 steeps. At that point it was more astringent than not.

Flavors: Green Apple, Lettuce

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 8 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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