45 Tasting Notes

100
If I had to pick just one tea, to drink for the rest of my life, this would be it. To me, this tea is perfect. I brew 2.5 g in a large mug of boiling water for four minutes. The leaf is large and unfurls to be even larger! They call it an oolong, but it seems more like a black tea to me. It must be a very heavily oxidized oolong. And yet, it completely lacks astringency. It’s caramelly, malty, aromatic, with notes of raisin (not really grape to my senses), and with a strong sugary aftertaste. The sensation of sweetness without sweetener. The tea is grown and made in the Sun Moon Lake area of Nantou County in Taiwan. This cultivar, TTES #18, is fairly famous, not just in Taiwan. Teapedia describes it as “Hong Yu (Ruby), cross between Taiwanese wild tea tree (B-607) and a Burmese assamica (B-729).” It is also known as “Red Jade”, but that may refer to fully oxidized black (red) forms of it. The dominant flavor is what I would call characteristically “Assamic”, since it is the taste that I discern in all teas descended from the lineage. But in this case, it is as if the flavor had been distilled and refined and concentrated into this leaf with all the flavors I dislike removed. No tannin, no fishiness, no seaweedy brine, no compost. I don’t know why “brandy“ is in the name because I don’t taste it in this tea. Maybe the color?

I believe a big part of this tea’s excellence comes from the terroir as well as the skill of the teamasters involved. Because another very similar tea (also sold by Tealyra) is called Black Beauty #8, which also comes from the Sun Moon Lake region. But Teapedia describes TTES #8 as “a assamica varietal from Jaipur (India, Assam)”. So a completely different cultivar, with very similar flavors. It is my second-favorite. The TTES is a formal research station, so their pedigree designations are authoritative.

So, yes, Brandy Oolong Ruby 18 is, in my estimation, outstanding. Please also find other tea notes listed for this tea under the company’s prior name, Tealux. This is also among the more expensive tea I’ve had, at $8/25g since I get only one pleasing steeping out of it, thus it rivals good pu’ers, on a per-cup basis. But it handily beats all of them in flavor and aroma! YMMV.

Flavors: Caramel, Malt, Raisins, Stonefruit, Sugarcane, Tea

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 30 sec 2 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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71

Drank this again today and was reminded how good it is! Smooth, good in the mouth, easy to swill. Mild astringengy but not tannic tasting. No buyer’s remorse for having bought the 5-tuo bag (500g).

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45

The dry leaves had a faint wintergreen aroma, and I was so eager to get into this brew! I used a mere 1.5g in an 8-oz cup of boiling water for 2 min. Got a lovely gold-brown liquor, but with a very off-putting aroma! Only after I kept reminding myself that this was a wintergreen smell did it become more pleasant. And that same flavor dominated the entire session. The leaves were fairly well spent, and a second steeping of seven minutes produced a week tea with cardboard box flavor. I dumped it. Ultimately, I have decided the tea tastes more mediciney—think BenGay—and not something I care to drink for a while. On the upside, it might be perfect for times when sitting at home recovering from a cold. I would try adding some lemon, honey, and milk. Totally changing the flavor profile! We shall see… . For now, not well-appreciated. (But still much better than Rooibos.) At least it was an inexpensive experiment!

Postscript I’ve updated the Harney description by adding their “details” section, which is more comprehensive. Especially in that they’ve don’t say just “mint” but now explain it as a wintergreen flavor, which is technically more accurate. Some of the older reviews note not tasting the claimed mint, and this may be why.

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 0 sec 2 g 8 OZ / 236 ML
White Antlers

Wintergreen is not in the mint family. It’s an aromatic shrub. You were spot on with the BenGay reference, as wintergreen oil is one of the components of that smelly analgesic. Wintergreen oil contains methyl salicylate. The primary metabolite of that is salicylic acid, used in aspirin, making this, as TEGH said, a good sipper for colds.

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75
drank HarSha by Harney & Sons
45 tasting notes

An interesting blend; fairly astringent possibly because I used a big spoonful of leaf for the mug. But also flavorful with apricot notes coming through this morning. Seems to be doing the job of waking me up! Lingering malty assam flavor in the back of my mouth between sips, to stimulate both the senses and and the mind.

Postscript: Makes a superb iced-tea, sweet or unsweet!

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp
TeaEarleGreyHot

The one thing I dislike is the name of the tea. Sounds “harsh” rather than blissful. Perhaps I’m pronouncing the foreign word wrong, but as a monosonic anglophone, my abilities are limited. So I try to keep an open mind.

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90

Although it’s a CTC, don’t look down your nose at it. Quite delicious, very fast to brew (1 minute is enough). This is what I want tea to taste like when I just want it to taste like tea! Except when I want it to taste like keemun, or Earl Grey, or dragonwell, or cinnamon spice, etc….you get the idea! Okay, It’s just one song in the album— but it’s a good song!

Flavors: Tea

Preparation
Boiling 1 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

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64

Bought this “Halmari Full Leaf Assam” around Halloween 2020, so I guess it is from the 2019 harvest, which must be sold out since it’s been delisted from Harney’s site. I’ve brewed this 4 or 5 times, Western, and agree with tea-sipper’s review. Good strong malty-caramel Assam flavor on the top and back of my tongue, but WAY too astringent for my likes. It lingers pleasantly in the mouth after the briskness has subsided. Harney’s CTC Assam is far smoother and less than 1/3 the price. Still, I’ll be swilling it down on bleary-eyed, early mornings. If you love brisk and care not about cost, this might be the tea for you! Some day I’ll try cold-brewing this, and will also play around with using less leaf or shorter steeps.

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 30 sec 2 g 8 OZ / 236 ML
White Antlers

I highly recommend harney’s Mokalbari Golden Assam. No astringency and when I drink it early in the morning, sometimes I can hear angels sing.

TeaEarleGreyHot

That’s a glowing endorsement, W.A. Singing angels would be quite an experience, though with my luck they might turn out to be frolicking rodents in the attic…. Nevertheless I’m going to order some and give it a sip! Eager to see how it compares to the Brandy Oolong Assamic (Taiwan origin) from Tealyra, which itself can induce frolic, so much do I like it! Thank you for the (golden) tip.

White Antlers

Hey TEGH! if you send me a message and give me your address, it would be my pleasure to send you some. Even if you don’t hear heavenly beings upon sipping, a sample will let you see if you like before you buy.

TeaEarleGreyHot

Well golley, W.A., thank you for the kind offer. As it happens, I had a handful of items in my Harney cart and I just tossed in a tin of the MGA and was delighted to find an unexpected $10 “points” discount when checking out, so the whole shebang didn’t sting at all. I’ll let ya know when it arrives and we can listen for angels simultaneously! Generosity is nice though, and if I’ve posted something you’d like to try, I’ll be happy to send a sample, especially if it helps you avoid a giant shipping charge!

White Antlers

Thanks for your offer, TEGH. If you read my bio, I am doing my Swedish Death Purge. I don’t review or swap, but I do give tea away so if you would ever like a surprise parcel, send a message. Several folks here will vouch for my integrity and sanity. : )

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I bought this in mid-2018 and while the harvest year was not provided by Tealyra, the manufacturers box was dated as 2016, so I’m assuming that is when the tea was made. The logo and name of Maosheng Tea Co. is also printed on the box.

While Tealyra classified and sold this in their pu’erh tea section, it isn’t clear to me that it is properly called pu’erh. Certainly it has been subjected to post-fermentation, as the yellow spores are visible once I pried open the huge brick (2.1 lbs!). I’ve posted a photo of the 4g portion that I steeped today. No appreciable change in the tea aroma or flavor in the past 3 years. I gong fu’ed the 4g in 6oz boiling tap water for about 8 steepings, after a brief rinse in boiling water. No change in aroma or flavor with successive steepings, either, except gradual weakening of the liquor to the point on cup #8 that it was no longer very palatable.

The tea does NOT taste like any other ripe pu’erh I’ve sipped, and it is devoid of any compost or fishy notes. Further, I cannot discern any characteristic Assam flavors, or even a “tea” flavor strong enough to reveal what leaves were used. However, this tea DOES have a very pungent and distinctive scent and taste, which might be a result of the golden flower fungus itself. Sort of a non-floral powdery impression, reminiscent of… something. Others have mentioned dry Chinese red dates, but since I’ve never tasted those, I can’t say. I didn’t like it when first I tried this tea, but now it seems more interesting and inoffensive. I must find a way to describe the aroma and flavor(s). The spent leaves were large pieces (2-3 cm) and dark brown. I’ll keep drinking this (there’s so darn much of it) and post more notes if I have any epiphanies or revelations. I won’t rate it because heck, I can’t even describe it adequately. Recommended for those who dabble or feel adventurous.

Tealyra has removed it from their site, so I have no official description to post that could lend clues to tasting or alternative sources. It only set me back $55 for the 960g brick, so no buyer’s remorse!

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 45 sec 4 g 6 OZ / 177 ML

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81

So I bought this in early 2021, but judging by the other reviews here, the tea has not changed much in five years. Except that the price has risen considerably! It starts off with a punch of smoke and astringent bitterness, but after five steeps or so, it mellowed out to a very enjoyable brew. Even at steep #10, the leaves were intact and dark green in shade. It seems this tea is aging very slowly, I’m not sure if I live long enough to drink it at its prime! So I will just enjoy it now. :-)

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 45 sec 4 g 4 OZ / 118 ML
mrmopar

I remember this one having smoke and bbq to it. I need to resession it for sure.

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73
This has been quite a nice tea. Very smooth and enjoyable, round flavor and nice aroma. No astringency or bitterness, no smokiness, no fish, no compost. After the first five steeps, it required longer infusions of several minutes. I’ll be buying more.
Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 15 sec 4 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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77

Ahhh, puer is an acquired taste! I bought this four years ago, broke up the cake and tried to brew it, with immediate buyers remorse. So I dumped it into a mason jar and threw it on the shelf and ignored it. Now, with much more experience (but far from any expertise) I have brewed this 22 yr old sheng again (gongfu) and find it quite nice! It still has some bite to it, and a little smokiness, but now I look forward to steeping some up every few months as we mature together. Even the badly over-steeped 7th cup wasn’t bitter, and #8 has
nutty notes with sawn lumber and leather tones. I stopped after 12 steepings, though the tea might have gone on a few more. Thank you Hilary (owner of the shop) for providing this experience to the denizens of your community—I’m loving it! You and your shop are appreciated. (Photos are of my actual tea cake in 2017)

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 30 sec 4 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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Profile

Bio

Left-coast reared (on Bigelow’s Constant Comment and Twinings’ Earl Grey) and right-coast educated, I’ve used this moniker (and Email) since the glory days of AOL in the 90’s, reflecting two of my lifelong loves—tea and ‘Trek. Now a midwestern science guy (right down to the Hawaiian shirts), I’m finally broadening the scope of my sippage and getting into all sorts of Assamicas, from mainstream Assam CTCs to Taiwan blacks & TRES varietals, to varied Pu’erhs. With some other stuff tossed in for fun. Love reading other folks’ tasting notes (thank you), I’ve lurked here from time to time and am now adding a few notes of my own to better appreciate the experience. You can keep the rooibos LoL!
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Photo with Aromatic Bamboo Species Raw Pu-erh Tea “Xiang Zhu” by Yunnan Sourcing, which is most definitely aromatic!

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Chicagoland-USA

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