64 Tasting Notes

drank Golden Fleece by Verdant Tea
64 tasting notes

Holy ambrosia! I now understand how Jason felt after prying the legendary golden fleece from the clutches of King Aeetes. This tea just makes you feel powerful, like you’re caressing some coveted treasure of the gods, attempting to hide it from their jealous eyes. Remind me again why I waited this long to order some of this tea?

While not the most complex tea flavor-wise, it is a magnificent textural tea. Please don’t get me wrong, this tea’s flavor is supremely balanced, and oh-so delicious—a tea with top-notch character. But really where this tea shines is in the mouthfeel. I will reiterate what most others have already claimed: it is silky smooooth. However, it’s not static from what I’ve tasted in my sessions with this tea. I wrote twice as many notes on textural fluctuations than flavors throughout steeps. I’ll outline my notes:

Steep 1-2: airily light, silky, melts away as swallowed
Steep 3: becomes heavier and thicker, like velvet
Steep 4: becomes lighter, but more creamy and soft
Steep 5-6: light and silky again
Steep 7: same as last steep, but with a sparkling texture that tingles the back of the throat
Steep 8: back to creamy
Steep 9: back to silky

As for the flavor details, this dian hong tastes like candy. Especially during the first steeps where the liquor is smooth and melty, I can’t get those Werther’s Original caramel hard candies out of my mind when I’m sipping. These combined with raw cane sugar, a hint of cloves, and malt make up an amazingly well-balanced body in the first few steeps. Going on into the third and fourth steep, the heaviness of the liquor compliments darker cocoa and mocha flavors as spices gently increase and a honeyed sweetness meets them midway. These notes are very well complimented by strong, wafting aromas of chocolate and toffee from the wet leaves and liquor, respectively. Continuing on, caramel flavors increase, accompanied by a new tapioca-like taste, while the intense sugary tastes subside for a steep or two.

At this point, an aftertaste has been well-established, as hints of licorice and toffee play in the back of the throat. Onto the seventh steep! The liquor’s aroma becomes quite strong now, whereas it had been lighter and less pronounced in the beginning. Playing on the sparkling texture, the flavor develops a syrupy sweetness that meshes with increasing malt and tapioca flavors. Steep eight is really where this tea came out for me. It was nicely thick and creamy, developing some complexities of an earthy or mossy quality and some faint astringency, which added nice depth to the taste established by the previous steep. From this point on, this tea mostly reverted back to the flavor profile of the beginning, creating a nice and even bell curve of flavors, if you will.

Other miscellaneous notes:
- The evolution of flavor after a sip is really quite fantastic. It starts off full of flavor, but it keeps gradually expanding, becoming full-bodied before slowly fading away into an aftertaste. I think this has one of the most lingering flavors of any tea I’ve had recently.

- The leaves are really quite amazing. Beautiful colors and sheen when dry, with an interesting springiness to them and a soft texture. When wet, the quality is even more apparent. These are probably the most consistent appearing leaves I’ve seen; every single one is exactly what it should be, nothing extraneous. Oh! And they smell heavenly. Honey, vanilla, a light dusting of spice, dried fruits, and caramel. There was something else that I couldn’t put my finger on, but after just reading the other reviews, I must agree there is an uncanny sweet potato aroma to them.

- After most steeps, a delicate layer of tea oils is visible.

Sorry for the length! Thanks for sticking through the whole thing!


Great review! I love all of your texture notes- with you 100% on all of it.
I wonder if Helles fell off the Golden Ram because she was just overcome at how the fleece felt beneath her hands? In the face of it, perhaps the only sensible reaction was to fall to the Hellespont and become a sea goddess..


Amazing review!


=D Thanks so much to both of you! And that’s a pretty reasonable hypothesis Spoonvonstup. ;)

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I was absolutely elated to find this as my free sample with my last order. Dan congs are a special favorite of mine. They always seem to have something hiding in them that burst out when you least expect it. And this tea was no exception. The flavor profile began like most other good mi lan xiangs do: a nice honeyed sweetness, middle tones of orchid, some stone-fruit or citrus flavors near the top, and roasted, woody undertones. It had great body, an excellent finish, and a clean, sweet and warm aftertaste.

Into the sixth and seventh steep, spicy notes came through, which was a pleasant surprise. From then on to steep 10, nothing changed much. Still great flavor, great body, good character. But then I came across steep 11. This was some crazy voodoo. I could have sworn someone swapped the leaves in my gaiwan for those of another tea. The flavor profile changed so drastically I could not even believe. It turned completely on its head. Heavier flavors like a new earthiness, a stronger wood flavor, and a bark-like flavor swam to the top, while the more delicate flavors of honey, florals, and stone-fruits either vanished or became undertones. The aftertaste became heartier, more “beefy,” and the mouthfeel which was not very interesting to me until this moment, became thicker and fuller.

To explain this, I’m going to guess that the leaves finally opened fully at this point, which released a ton of flavor previously trapped. The leaves had still been, until around this point in the session, twisted very tightly, still having the appearance of the dry leaf. Whatever the reason, it was a pretty fun sample to try. One thing I did notice about the leaves, though, is that there were a ton of empty stems. I won’t complain about them, because it didn’t seem to affect the tea much, but it was something I don’t find as much in other dan congs.

195 °F / 90 °C

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A most fantastic dan cong, and something new to me. This tea went through a very light roasting without any charcoal roasting. The result is fantastic. No flavor was compromised and instead a lovely, intoxicating floral notes of magnolia exploded through the liquor and the wet leaves. However, while definitely being a huge pro for this tea, it also has the potential to be this tea’s downfall. This dan cong becomes unbelievably astringent. Fast. Oversteep it for a couple seconds and it’s like your eating flowers. And not the ones that you’re supposed to eat. It just becomes really unpalatable. Also, it comes out in the mouthfeel as well. It’s a pretty “chewy” tea and I there is this waxiness throughout every steep (although in varying intensities). Interestingly, though, this transfers over into the aftertaste quite well. It’s pleasantly thick, very floral, with a honey sweetness.

I’m not going to discredit this one just for those flaws, though. Even though it’s pretty high-maintenance, I performed tons of steeps (upwards of 12) and it had some great complexity, even granting some spicy notes into the eighth steep. It has some fantastic flavors, melding fruit and floral notes nicely. It included some notes of kelp and nut, and also the greener spectrum of dan cong flavors. It all reminds me a bit of a dragonwell green mixed with a mi lan xiang dan cong. Besides the unbalance caused by the over-astringency, it became one of my favorite dan cong flavor profiles.

The leaves are also fantastic. They’re massive. Enormous. Probably the largest dried leaves of an oolong that I’ve had. They have great consistency in size, almost no broken pieces, no dust, and very fragrant, with aromas of dried fruits, berries, grasses, and honey. Although of inconsistent coloration dry, when wet, they show an even coloration of amber-brown and army green, nice patterns of bruising, and lovely looking veins glowing from the blades.

As this was from a small sample I received at the Tea Trekker store, I was grateful for the opportunity to try this tea, and it provided an excellent experience, even if it was a bit difficult to get right.

190 °F / 87 °C

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So I think this was the first artisan black tea that I’ve had since becoming interested in tea. I suppose I was sort of sucked into the oolong world and never really came back =). I had never really cared for bagged black tea, usually sticking to chais and other flavored bagged teas before transferring over to loose leaf teas. This being said, I wasn’t quite sure what I was in for, but I was in the mood to broaden the range of teas I was familiar with. So with that, I bought a small amount of Zhu Rong from Verdant on my last order.

As soon as I opened the package I was a fan of Chinese black tea. The dried leaves are so pretty with the deep black-brown contrasting so vividly with the tight twists of golden brown. And the aroma…so aggressive and heady, full of scents of burnt hay, caramel, and tons of spice. Just invigorating. I measured some into my gaiwan and did a quick wash. The infusion was such a beautiful golden amber and gave off such an incredibly powerful aroma of cocoa, a hint of spice, and that “pure” tea scent.

I hurried to get the first steep out and was greeted with a liquor of a deep, russet red tinged with gold. I took a sip of this ambrosia and discovered a very pronounced honeyed sweetness with a chocolate and malt body, and undertones of pure tea flavor and oak wood. Whoa. I moved on to a second steep. The sweetness somewhat subsided, chocolate flavors began to diminish, while pure tea flavors and oak wood rose. Wait, this stuff has complexity, too? The increased woody notes created a very slight bitterness, which I had not even noticed the lack of in the first steep. This was certainly not turning out the way I had anticipated. And I was certainly happy about it.

Into the third steep, the spices appeared. The natural spiciness blended so well with the sweet honey flavors and chocolate. The more bitter notes of cocoa and oak moved into undertones and created a fantastic balance and great character revolving around a full body of the malt and pure tea notes. Into subsequent steeps, the malt/pure tea body remained stable as midtones while the sweet notes and bitter notes flipped back and forth every other steep, making the experience seem like some wonderful dance.

Although the overall flavor is hearty, after a sip it evolves gradually through the mouth without any bursts of intensity. It calmly expands and slowly recedes like a huge, slow wave. The liquor is extremely smooth and somewhat silky. The aftertaste is very clean, malty, with a cocoa flavor and a smidge of fruitiness. My only gripe is that if too cool of water temperature is used, the mouthfeel becomes waxy and a bit unpleasant.

Finally, I’m amazed by the amount of steeps I can get from this tea. The first time I tried it, I reached close to eleven, something this oolong lover was very happy about. However, I was certainly not used to the caffeine levels of black tea…I was buzzing all over the house after that much tea.

205 °F / 96 °C

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First of all, I must rant about the leaves of this tea. They’re of incredible quality. When dry, I received beautiful aromas of sweet vanilla, stone fruits, honeycombs, and orchids which transferred exquisitely into a thick, intensely floral, biscuity sweet smell when wet. I have to say, these are the best-smelling leaves of any tea I’ve had so far. But wait! After steeping and steeping, they unfold to reveal their most fantastic appearance. On the backdrop of their forest green blades tinged with a very slight bruising, is a gorgeous array of spindly, silvery-green veins that spiderweb across the surface—a lovely aspect that I rarely see with such clarity and liveliness in other teas. They feel thick, healthy, and very strong—just as though they were plucked off the bush minutes before they found their way into my gaiwan. I must say, I’m quite impressed.

The infusions these beauties create are just as vibrant: bright, grassy green with golden undertones which produce a surprisingly powerful smell exactly like the wet leaf’s aroma. Everything about this tieguanyin feels alive. Flavors and aromas burst with springtime nuances, while after a sip, the tastes bloom forth and continue to grow, before fading into a great aftertaste of sweet stone fruits and lingering floral notes. The taste pairs wonderfully with the buttery smoothness and silky, creamy textures that build into the fourth steep, where flavor and mouthfeel meld into a thick, honey-like sweetness where the fruity notes reach a climax. Continuing on, the body somewhat lessens and with too short of a steep, becomes a bit weak. However, interesting undertones become apparent from this point and come and go throughout the last steeps: a parsley-like spice, fresh grass, and a mineral/stone flavor.

This tieguanyin provides quite an experience. At any rate, I think I’m starting to get addicted to this tea. I just finished an 11 steep gong fu session, and all I want to do is finish this review and make more…

Ummm, gotta go…

185 °F / 85 °C

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drank Oolong Hairy Crab by Tea Trekker
64 tasting notes

When I first learned about this tea, I was instantly intrigued. I just had to try some. The name and lore behind the tea was so different. So, when I visited Tea Trekker a few weeks ago, this oolong was the first on my list. I’ve had it a few times so far gong fu style, experimenting with the amount of leaves. About 3.5 to 4 grams in a 100ml gaiwan seems to grant the best results.

The leaves give off a scent of fresh hay and minerals, with a very subtle dried fruit aroma when dry, and a fresh and clean organic green scent with hints of flowers and what I finally came to describe as a sweet, mossy smell when wet. First inhaling the dried leaves, I didn’t think I was going to get any floral qualities at all from this tea. I was almost correct. This tea is certainly not like a tieguanyin with its intensely floral qualities, although it does possess some. No, what Mao Xie brings to the cup is something I can only describe as “briney.” Now, I may be getting carried away by the name of “hairy crab,” but I think this is a perfect example of the influence of terroir on taste. Mao Xie is grown on the Fujian Province’s coast throughout a long growing season, which probably has something to do with the slight mineral taste that blends oh so well with the relaxed floral tones and and humble sweetness that sometimes reminds me of saltwater taffy. Whenever I drink this tea, images of the beach and ocean mist always waft through my mind. Upon cooling though, the liquor does assume a thicker, salty/sour taste that can be somewhat unpalatable, but this is probably my only real complaint.

The liquor has a nice golden-green color and a soft, medium body. After a sip, the flavor rolls through the mouth in small, long waves. There isn’t really any “burst” of flavor, but with this tea there doesn’t need to be. It’s strength is that it has depth of flavor (instead of strong flavors) which spreads wide, lingers pleasantly, and fades slowly. Definitely a unique tea.

185 °F / 85 °C

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drank Gyokuro Imperial by Teavana
64 tasting notes

This tea has a really great taste to it, full of thick, vegetal, kelpy goodness. The first steep is always exploding with robust green flavors and smooth, sweet aromas whether it’s steeped Western or gong fu style. However, if you’re looking for a tea with resonance, and great flavor throughout steeps, it’s certainly not this one. With four grams of leaf in a small gaiwan, and the first two steeps 3 seconds and 6 seconds respectively, the next steeps always seem to be uncannily weak, even when the time is increased significantly. A great deal of the interesting flavors and aromas giving this tea such a great profile at first simply disappear and leave you wondering whether you imagined the flavors previously, leaving the taste simple, watery, and boring. However, if you brew this gyokuro Western style with a shorter first steep, you can get a respectable and tasty second infusion.

The liquor’s flavor is sweet, very kelpy, buttery, and quite vegetal, giving off aromas of steamed veggies and freshly mowed grass. The mouthfeel of this tea is extremely smooth, and oh so thick—almost milk-like. It somewhat reminds me of a Jin Xuan oolong, only with a much deeper “green” flavor and far more astringency. I sometimes catch a subtle whisp of smoky flavors that seem to drift in during the second steep that adds character and further complexity. Yet, while full and rich, the flavor is fleeting. It only lasts for the remainder of the sip before fading quickly and leaving barely a hint of an aftertaste. While incredibly subtle, the aftertaste is almost exactly like the aroma of the dry leaf, which is awesome and intoxicating: herbaceous, very sweet, kelpy, and powerfully “green.”

Finally, I absolutely love the leaves of this tea. They truly are a beautiful shade of deep, vibrant green.

165 °F / 73 °C 1 min, 15 sec

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Very nice! I was pleasantly surprised with this Jin Xuan. I had not had a milk oolong such as this one before, but I was familiar with tieguanyin, which this tea resembles. So I was kind of expecting something similar from this tea, but instead I received a much more interesting experience.

The dry leaves were rolled up nice and tight with nice healthy green colorations and a fair bit of attached stem. They smelled of dried fruits and cream with floral and organic undertones, and there was just a tiny hint of a toasty aroma. Very pleasing. While the leaves were quite clean and free of small pieces and loose stems, the colors were inconsistent. They ranged from a dark army green to a bright grassy yellow-green. This was a pretty broad spectrum, so I was a bit nervous at first to the quality.

However, once wet, the leaves expanded tenfold and proved to be very nicely manufactured. Consisting of very large, lightly bruised, and completely whole leaves with large bits of stem connecting up to three or four, they gave off a lovely pear-like, biscuity, and subtly piny scent that calmed the mind. Yet, on closer inspection, I discovered a fair number of the leaves were of extremely poor quality, appearing ragged, broken, and munched on. A huge turnoff for me, but oh well, at least the flavor wasn’t affected.

In essence, I can describe the flavor of this tea as a medium between tieguanyin and gyokuro. It is sweet, floral, and very green with essences of stone-fruits and roasted veggies with a small kick of vegetal astringency. But yet, there is a textural element in this liquor that isn’t present in either of those teas: it is most definitely milky. The mouthfeel is buttery smooth, thick, and lustrous. It also has a biscuit-like aroma and taste, but the latter is more subtle. One thing I really love is the evolution of flavor throughout a sip. The taste rises and expands, becoming more complex and leaving a lingering finish and a refreshing aftertaste. I only have one small gripe: most of the unique flavors of this tea dissipate after the fourth or fifth steep when steeping gong fu. Towards the end of it’s life, it tastes just like the last steeps of a tieguanyin. While this isn’t bad by any means, it’s just not as interesting to me.

185 °F / 85 °C

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drank Formosa Fanciest by Narien Teas
64 tasting notes

I’m highly disappointed with this tea. I’ve steeped this as many ways as I could think of with varying times and temperatures, but this tea never shows anything interesting. In fact, it produces more bad than good in the cup. It tastes like burnt wood, smoke, and roasted nuts, and has no balance to it. The flavor is pretty one-dimensional and only gets less intense throughout subsequent steeps. It’s overly bitter, and this never goes away no matter how many steeps its been through. The liquor’s texture is heavy and leaves a thick aftertaste. It has nearly no sweetness to it, and if it comes out at all, it’s not until at least the seventh steep gong fu style. While the taste can become overly potent even with the shortest steep, the aroma of the wet leaves is even more so. They’re extremely pungent, piney, and smell as though the leaves were roasted and fired for far too long. Finally, I can’t help but notice the careless misinformation in Narien’s description: “ferment.” Unless I’m mistaken, I’m pretty sure they mean “oxidize.”

190 °F / 87 °C

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I used a 100ml gaiwan filled between one third and one half full with dry leaves.

My, my, my. This instantly became a favorite of mine after my first taste. Harboring upwards of 15 high-quality steeps, this tea continues to bring forth surprise after surprise as these large leaves unfurl and release brilliant flavors and aromatics into the cup.

It begins malty, fruity, and quite floral, with tones of peach, orchid, and honey. Body is very smooth, light, and the flavor lingers tenderly on the tip of the tongue and already begins constructing a distinctive and mouthfilling aftertaste.

Into the second steep the body becomes stronger and fuller, with greater peach flavors, and a slight astringency felt on sides of tongue. Resonance is clearly a great attribute in this tea. The liquor’s aroma is strong, flowery, while the wet leaf’s aroma is powerfully pungent, with a very wine-like aroma and undertones of pine, stone-fruits, and citrus.

Then, as the citrus notes begin to climb, the malt flavors subside, making way for new tones of spice and honey. Overall, the flavor becomes much more calm and less robust, yet the complexity remains with tons of subtle nuances. The mouthfeel is smooth and full while the aftertaste remains refreshing and sweet.

At steep four, the liquor’s aroma is very strong and complex, and is one of the more aromatic liquors I have had the pleasure of smelling in a while. The citrus, peach, and honey tones that were tasted seem to have burst out of the liquor itself and fan out through the air. The flavor of this steep has awesome character and rounds together all levels of sweet, bitterness, astringency, floral, and even slight spicy notes in near-perfect harmony.

As more steeps continued to pour out of my gaiwan, the tea I tasted towards the end seemed to be a completely different tea than what I tasted in the beginning. As the leaves opened to their fullest extent, greener flavors started to drift into the liquor and subtle grassy tones were appreciated. In addition, the malt, fruit, and honey flavors so strong at first became subtle and harder to find as nuances of earth, wood, caramel, and roasted nuts come into play, all held together by a body with a more pronounced “tea” flavor and aroma.

The only downside to this tea is that it can become tricky to brew without near-perfect steep times, especially in the first few steeps. The astringency and floral tones can become a little too overpowering. This minor hindrance aside, this dan cong provides a fantastic experience for a reasonable price.

195 °F / 90 °C

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I’m fanatic about all things tea-related. Lately, I’ve been fascinated with Wuyi yancha, aged Taiwanese oolongs, and sheng pu’ercha. Nearly all of my sessions as of late are performed gong fu, with pu’er tastings comprising probably eighty percent of them. My collection of pu’ercha is small, but growing steadily. Much of the specimens I drink daily are various samples, although I dig into a cake every so often.

I love trying new teas and I am always learning all I can about the world of tea. Hence, I spend a majority of the time I devote to tea either drinking, writing notes in my journal, or reading. But mostly drinking, as I think it should be. Since I have handwritten logs of everything I drink, I cannot usually find the extra time to log my notes here, and unfortunately my online log is underrepresented.

When drinking, I look for a tea that presents a unique experience, something that involves every sense and provides intrigue in every aspect throughout steeps. I search for teas with balanced complexity and something that makes me keep reaching for my cup. I yearn to find all the positives a tea possesses and every subtle nuance hiding among the leaves. I try to be detailed in my notes and deliver a more comprehensive view of the tea, paying attention to things other than simply flavors and qualitative aspects of aroma, such as the form of the liquor and its development in the mouth. Things like this are much easier to compare between teas, as I find them to be more consistent between sessions, and also make distinctions between a good and mediocre tea easier to make.

Adagio UtiliTEA electric kettle.
For gong fu, a 100 mL porcelain gaiwan and a 100mL Yixing di cao qing xi shi pot dedicated to mostly young sheng pu’er.
I drink all green teas in small (maybe 450mL) glass tumblers in the traditional style, with off-boiling water.


Fort Myers, Florida

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