268 Tasting Notes
Here’s yet another tea from What-Cha, whose catalogue I seem to be slowly and methodically going through. Thanks, Derk, for sending these dragon balls for my further white tea education! I steeped one 6 g ball in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 10, 12, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 75, 90, 105, 120, 180, 240, and then 5, 7, and 10 minutes.
The dry aroma is of jammy raspberries and other red fruits, apricots, honey, and autumn leaves. The first couple steeps have strong apricot and red fruit notes, plus honey, hay, autumn leaves, oats, malt, pine, and wood. The next couple steeps put the apricot at the forefront, with more honey, oats, and sweetness. I can see where Derk is getting marshmallows! By steep five, the oats, autumn leaves, and malt are starting to become more pronounced. By the one-minute mark, this tea has lost most of its fruity sweetness and has notes of malt, honey, oats, wood, autumn leaves, and tannins. The session ends with metal, wood, and tannins, though with some berry fruitiness returning in the long final steeps.
I was delighted by how sweet and fruity this aged white tea is. It also goes forever—perhaps too long. I tend to wring every scrap of flavour I can out of my leaves, so this session lasted from yesterday afternoon into this morning. However, this is hardly a complaint. I can see this being a better-than-average tea that can take oversteeping well.
Flavors: Apricot, Autumn Leaf Pile, Berries, Hay, Honey, Jam, Malt, Marshmallow, Metallic, Oats, Pine, Raspberry, Red Fruits, Sweet, Tannin, Wood
I don’t have much experience with Jin Jun Mei, and the few I’ve tried weren’t good enough to justify the price. Thanks, Daylon R Thomas, for sending me this version from What-Cha. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 190F for 7, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
In the bag, this smells like chocolate, bread, rose, and dill pickle chips. (Yes, I know, I’m a barbarian.) I think this is an association with a certain floral, herbaceous note over the grainy base, but it’s very pronounced. The first steep has notes of chocolate, malt, bread, butter, sweet potato, rose, other flowers, smoke, and, sigh, slightly vegetal, salty pickle. The pickle dissipates in the second steep, where I get tobacco, smoke, chocolate, bread, rose, and more sweet potato. The next few steeps are more bready and malty, with rose, lavender, sweet potato, and faint smoke. Earth and minerals come in on steep five. The session goes on forever, and though the body thins out, the honey, bread, floral, and smoky notes continue. The session ends with malt, earth, minerals, smoke, dill, some vegetal notes, and slight florality.
This is a beautiful bready, chocolaty, rosy tea that goes many rounds. I have to say that the dill was a fun distraction, and I wonder what it is “supposed” to be for people with better palates. This tea has improved my opinion of Jin Jun Mei. I might have to try a small amount of the really pricy stuff to see how it compares.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Butter, Chocolate, Dill, Earth, Floral, Grain, Herbaceous, Honey, Lavender, Malt, Mineral, Rose, Smoke, Sweet Potatoes, Tobacco, Umami, Vegetal
I was pleased to see this unusual type of Dan Cong in Camellia Sinensis’ catalogue. This is the April 2020 harvest. I initially steeped it as I normally would a Dan Cong (6 g, 120 ml, 195F, 7/10/12/15, etc.), but it tasted like roast, apple, and fake movie popcorn butter. I’m hoping the parameters given by the Camellia Sinensis team in the 2020 summer sessions will produce better results. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 203F for 25, 10, 25, 40, 55, 70, 85, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of roast, chocolate, honeydew melon, flowers, and caramel. Roast is the dominant note in the first steep, along with caramel, toast, butter, wood, honeydew melon, kiwi, and faint florals. The next steep resolves the florals into lilies, orchids, and other flowers, though the tea is a bit sharp. The third steep has notes of honey, malt, and faint apple, with the roast still being the most noticeable quality. By steep five, there’s a funky rye bread sort of note, combined with strong roast, charcoal, honey, caramel, toast, and faint flowers. This steep has a nice floral aftertaste. The final steeps have flavours of strong roast, charcoal, tannins, honey, and nuts.
Using the steeping instructions from Camellia Sinensis produced a much nicer session, though the prominent roast detracted somewhat from my enjoyment of this tea. I like its thick body and interesting florals, but wish they’d stand up to that roast a little more. I need to find some more lightly roasted Dan Congs, or even some unroasted ones if that’s a thing.
Flavors: Brown Toast, Butter, Caramel, Char, Chocolate, Floral, Honey, Honeydew, Malt, Nuts, Orchid, Red Apple, Rye, Tannin, Wood
In 2019, I bought a sample set of two fall Li Shan oolongs picked several days apart on the same farm. This is the one that was harvested later in the year. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
This tea has a stronger cookie aroma than the Li Shan A, along with citrus, cream, flowers, and spinach. The first steep has notes of cookies, butter, orchids, honeysuckle, other florals, cream, honey, faint citrus, grass, broccoli, and spinach. I get a strong mandarin orange note in the teapot, but steep two just offers more of the cookie and vegetal flavours. I get a strongly vegetal aftertaste. Orange and peach appear faintly in the aroma and taste of steeps three and four, but I really have to look for them. I also get more veggies and the high mountain herbaceousness I found in Li Shan A, along with a lovely apricot/peach aftertaste. The next couple steeps have a soft peach note that’s kind of overwhelmed by spinach, broccoli, kale, and grass. As in previous steeps, the aftertaste is the best part of this tea. The final steeps are a little floral but mostly vegetal, with broccoli, kale, spinach, and some astringency.
Judging from the very similar smell of the dry leaves, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to distinguish this tea from its earlier-harvested counterpart. I needn’t have worried, though, since most of the aroma didn’t make it into the cup. I might need to experiment with cold brewing like LuckyMe to pull out more of the fruity flavours.
Flavors: Apricot, Astringent, Broccoli, Butter, Citrus, Cookie, Cream, Floral, Grass, Herbaceous, Honey, Honeysuckle, Kale, Orange, Orchid, Peach, Spinach, Vegetal
In 2019, Mountain Stream offered a set of two Li Shan teas produced a few days apart on the same farm. This is the first of these teas. Mountain Stream used to have a long description for both of them, but I can no longer find it online. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma of these large nuggets is of cookies, orchids, other flowers, butter, and citrus. The first steep has notes of mandarin orange, orange blossom, orchid, honeysuckle, butter, grass, spinach, and cookies. The second adds peach and more intense florals; it has a thick texture while still being sort of drying. I get canned peaches and nectarines in the aroma of the third steep, but the tea also becomes more savory, with umami, veggies, and that herbaceous note I tend to pick up in high mountain oolongs. The vegetal notes of brussels sprouts and beans are more prominent in steeps four and five, though the lovely peachy aftertaste persists. The next couple steeps see the veggies tip the balance, and the session ends with notes of broccoli, beans, spinach, and grass.
This tea peaked fast, but those first few steeps were great. It’s on the burlier side for a Li Shan and the vegetal notes are more pronounced than I’d like, but overall, I’ll have no trouble finishing it.
Flavors: Beany, Broccoli, Butter, Citrus, Cookie, Drying, Floral, Grass, Herbaceous, Honeysuckle, Orange, Orange Blossom, Orchid, Peach, Savory, Spinach, Stonefruit, Thick, Umami, Vegetal
I’m drinking this tea for Mastress Alita’s St. Patrick’s Day challenge, as I either forgot about the other theme days or didn’t have appropriate teas for them. I don’t have an Irish breakfast tea, so I decided to go with a very, very old green. I bought this poor, unloved, and sort of pricy gyokuro around five years ago, then “archived” it because I wasn’t sure I was steeping it properly. (Camellia Sinensis only gives instructions for the first three steeps.) I also thought I’d posted a note on this tea, but I must have had it in my pre-Steepster days. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml clay kyusu at 160F for 25, 10, 15, 30, 45, 60, and 120 seconds.
There’s a reason you shouldn’t keep green teas for five years! The originally vibrant raspberry notes are there but muted, and the sunflower seed note is a bit stale. I also get spinach, lettuce, broccoli, cream, and umami. Later steeps add asparagus, green pepper, and minerals to the mix, and fortunately the stale sunflower seeds aren’t as prominent.
I might consider buying this tea again, but only if I can finish it in a reasonable time!
Flavors: Asparagus, Broccoli, Cream, Green Pepper, Lettuce, Mineral, Raspberry, Spinach, Umami, Vegetal
I received this tea as a sample in my last What-Cha order. It was harvested and roasted in 2020. I steeped the entire 6 g in a 120 ml teapot at 200F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
Dry, this tea has the typically lovely aroma of a Gui Fei: honey, baked bread, stewed fruit, citrus, and grass. The first steep gives me honey, grapefruit, grains, roast, wood, and minerals, with a strange nutty and chicory-type aftertaste at the back of the throat. The grapefruit gets stronger in the next steep, but so does the astringency. I also get citrus, honey, sap, roasted almonds, and roast. I let the third steep cool and the nutty flavour intensifies, along with the grapefruit and piny notes. It kind of tastes like an IPA. There are beautiful peach and nectarine notes in steep five to compensate for the growing astringency. In the next few steeps, the grapefruit, roasted nuts, honey, and grains don’t go away, but the growing astringency makes the tea less enjoyable. The session ends with malt, nuts, earth, wood, minerals, honey, and faint grapefruit.
Although I enjoyed some aspects of this Gui Fei, particularly the grapefruit, the roast and astringency were more pronounced than I usually like. What-Cha says this tea improves with age, and maybe I should have stored this sample in my tea museum for a couple years before trying it. I’d say it’s decent for the price if you like this type of tea, which I certainly do.
Flavors: Almond, Astringent, Baked Bread, Citrus, Earth, Grain, Grass, Honey, Malt, Mineral, Nuts, Peach, Pine, Roasted, Sap, Stewed Fruits, Wood
When Derk said this tea might be losing its edge, I thought I’d better start sipping down my remaining 45 g. It’s from the spring 2020 harvest. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 7, 10, 12, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of lemon, orchid, lily, lilac, and a vegetal note I read as spinach. The first steep is very floral, with orchids, lilies, and lilacs, plus grass, lettuce, artichoke, and lemon. The pronounced peach/apricot aftertaste is definitely the best part of the sip. In steep two, the lemon combined with the sweetness indeed reminds me of lemon curd. The stonefruit also shows up in the aroma and taste, not just the aftertaste, which makes the lettuce/artichoke note more palatable. I also get some herbaceous notes. In the third steep, I get more generic citrus, baked bread, pleasant sourness, and extra veggies. That stonefruit aftertaste is still impressive.
By steep five, the veggies are winning the fight for supremacy with the stonefruit. The lily florals are still present but are subsiding and I’m getting some metallic notes. The best part of this tea is still the aftertaste. The tea gets increasingly vegetal and astringent in the next few rounds, although the stonefruit aftertaste continues until the tenth steep or so. The end of the session is dominated by veggies, astringency, minerals, and grass, with wisps of stonefruit hanging on for dear life.
While this is by no means the best Tie Guan Yin I’ve had (that honour goes to YS’s Competition TGY), I think this is a middle-of-the-road example of this tea. I kind of expect some astringency in Tie Guan Yin, and the stonefruit makes up for many of its flaws. I won’t have any trouble finishing the rest of this package, although I may not buy more.
Flavors: Apricot, Artichoke, Astringent, Baked Bread, Citrus, Floral, Grass, Herbaceous, Lemon, Lettuce, Metallic, Mineral, Orchid, Peach, Pleasantly Sour, Spinach, Tangy, Vegetal
I’ve been working my way through 50 g of the 2020 harvest of this tea using the same gongfu parameters, and while it’s still tasty, it has fewer of the upfront citrus and stonefruit notes that I loved in its previous iteration. I get a lot of pine, smoke, baked bread, caramel, wood, and tannins along with the expected plums and apricots. Although this is still a good tea, it bears less of a resemblance to a Dan Cong than I initially thought. I’ll keep the rating for now, but might lower it later.
I decided to take this tea out of the archives to celebrate Mastress Alita’s sipdown challenge for National Freedom Day/Black History Month, though thankfully, it’s not a sipdown. I’m embarrassed to say I don’t have any teas from black-owned companies, partly because I’m a creature of habit and partly because these companies tend not to sell straight teas that I’d want to gongfu. (Please let me know if any of them actually sell these types of teas.) I also don’t have any teas from Africa, although I remember having an interesting one from Malawi a few years ago that I passed on to Derk. So, I’m steeping my favourite black tea.
I won’t go into a lot of detail because this session was much like the first, though I noticed the lemon a bit more and found some lovely floral apricot/peach notes in the middle of the session. Basically, if you can think of a fruit, it’s most likely in this tea, though it has very little tartness. There’s lemon, lychee, pineapple, cranberry, raspberry, those stonefruit notes … all balanced by light malt, florals, and a few tannins near the end of the session. Drool.
I haven’t had many unsmoked lapsang souchongs so I may be biased, but this tea is magical. I would consider buying 100 g despite the price if it ever comes back in stock. Until then, I will be hoarding my two or three sessions’ worth.