391 Tasting Notes
I finally have the time to devote to this generous sample from Derk, which I’ve looked forward to drinking for a while. I love everything about Ruby Eighteen except the tannins, and it appears that this tea may be pleasantly low on them. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml porcelain pot using 195F water for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds, plus many longer steeps.
The dry aroma is of milk chocolate–covered cherries (thanks, Beerandbeancurd), wintergreen, and malt. The wintergreen aroma from the wet leaf is amazing! The first steep has subtle notes of milk chocolate, cherry, earth, malt, tobacco, tannins, and wintergreen. I get a nice blast of wintergreen in the second steep, plus milk chocolate and very realistic-tasting stewed cherries. Maybe there’s some other stewed fruit in there as well. I notice hints of orange along with the cherries in the next two steeps, as well as wintergreen, malt, wood, herbs, tannins, earth, and fainter chocolate. The tea is beginning to be noticeably drying in the mouth, but who cares when I also get that wintergreen aftertaste? Steeps five and six have less chocolate, but still have that pronounced menthol/wintergreen hit, plus more tobacco, honey, and raisins. Steeps seven and eight are more tannic, drying, malty, earthy, and herbaceous, though still yummy and minty fresh. I detect some raspberry at the bottom of the cup. The next few steeps have higher levels of tannins, but also wintergreen, a bit of cocoa, honey, malt, minerals, earth, and cherry. The aftertaste is of honey and maybe a bit of sassafras, which is missing in the actual tea. I couldn’t let this tea go, even when it was mostly sweet, malty tannin water.
I was right to wait until I could savour this beauty. It did have some tannins, but those chocolate-covered cherries were wonderful. This is the most wintergreen-heavy Ruby Eighteen I’ve had, with the best variety of fruit and most balanced profile. This tea has probably ruined me for any other Ruby Eighteens for a while.
Thanks, Derk, for the sample! Let me know if you decide to buy from this company again because I want more of this tea!
Flavors: Cherry, Cocoa, Drying, Earth, Herbaceous, Honey, Malt, Milk Chocolate, Mineral, Orange, Raisins, Raspberry, Sarsaparilla, Stewed Fruits, Tannin, Tobacco, Wintergreen, Wood
I still don’t have a working scale, so these pre-measured Nio samples are the perfect solution. This is my first hojicha, and unless the name has changed, it’s a different one from what other reviewers received. There’s a lot of tea in this pouch, and I hope they didn’t actually give me 10 g instead of 5. I steeped the contents in 150 ml of 175F water for 60, 20, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of caramel, autumn leaves, roast, and cacao. The first steep is full of cozy roast and caramel, with notes of barley, minerals, and charcoal. I understand why people compare hojicha to coffee. It looks like this is a 5 g sample after all, as it doesn’t destroy my tongue with bitterness; the larger leaves must have made me think there was more. The next couple steeps have notes of roasted grain, caramel, coffee, autumn leaves, minerals, wood, faint grass, and charcoal. The final steeps are weaker, but similar in terms of flavour, emphasizing the roast and minerality. The tea never gets excessively bitter or grassy.
This is a perfect winter tea, though one I’d need to be in the mood for. I’m enjoying these “nontraditional” Japanese green teas quite a bit!
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Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Cacao, Caramel, Charcoal, Coffee, Grain, Grass, Mineral, Roasted, Roasted Barley, Toasty, Wood
My tea scale broke yesterday, so until I get a replacement, I won’t be drinking anything nice. It’ll be samples and old teas for a few days. I’ll probably dig up some of Derk’s swap samples, which I think are all 6 g, and some of those Nio teas. (Okay, it looks like I’ll be drinking some nice teas after all…)
Unfortunately, I thought this was a sample of the Premium Dragonwell, which I’ve already reviewed, instead of the Superfine, which apparently I have not. I did two bowl sessions of roughly 2.5 g of leaf in 250 ml of 185F water, starting at 2 minutes and refilling when needed.
The dry aroma is of buttery chestnuts, with hints of florals and citrus. The first steep has notes of chestnuts, butter, cream, citrus, grass, orchid, and lettuce. The leaves float near the top of the cup well past the two-minute mark, making drinking kind of a challenge, but it’s worth it. Subsequent rounds emphasize butter, chestnuts, asparagus, spinach, orchids, herbs, and grass. Long steeps create a vegetal tea with no bitterness and surprise hints of citrus and herbs.
This tea is more complex than I remember the Premium Dragonwell being. The best before date is October 2023, so it’s held up pretty well. I should really compare these teas while they’re both fresh.
Flavors: Asparagus, Butter, Chestnut, Citrus, Cream, Floral, Grass, Herbaceous, Lettuce, Nutty, Orchid, Spinach, Vegetal
I bought this Bai Hao in my big Black Friday 2022 haul and have been drinking it for the past few months. I believe it’s from the 2022 harvest, though I’m posting my review here because this entry already has some notes. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml porcelain pot using 195F water for 30, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds, plus some uncounted steeps.
The dry aroma is of autumn leaves, dried flowers, honey, muscatel, and lemon. The first steep has notes of buckwheat honey, muscatel, orange, and lemon over a background of wood, tannins, and autumn leaves. The tea is soft, but the aftertaste is tannic. I get candied citrus, florals, and lots of honey in the second steep. The next couple rounds continue the honey/muscatel/citrus theme, though the dryness is more evident. The fruit gets fainter in subsequent steeps, and wood, autumn leaves, minerals, and tannins become more pronounced.
This tea peaked early in the session and though it had all the citrus, honey, and muscatel notes typical of a good Bai Hao, the autumn leaves and tannins detracted from the flavour. I’d say this was due to it having been open a while, but I felt the same way when I first drank it. Their Crimson Lishan has many of the same flavours and is a much more dynamic tea in my opinion.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Buckwheat, Drying, Floral, Honey, Lemon, Mineral, Muscatel, Orange, Tannin, Wood
I remember having a not-very-enjoyable example of this tea a few years ago, but I’ll usually try a tea again to see if my tastes have changed. This is related to dragonwell, which I’m beginning to drink more of during the spring. I steeped 5 g of leaf in 120 ml of 195F water for 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of plum, wood, and malt. The first steep has notes of plum, plum skin, wood, milk, honey, tobacco, and malt. The next steep has more wood and minerals, with a thick, fuzzy texture. The soft plum is noticeable in the next couple steeps, as are minerals, wood, honey, tobacco, and malt. I get some tannins, but not much astringency. There’s a more milky aroma in steeps five and six, with softer plum notes coupled with more wood, honey, minerals, and tannins. The plum aroma is very distinct in the next few steeps, though the tea mainly features wood, malt, honey, minerals, and tannins. I get some grass and floral hints in the final steeps, though only at the bottom of the cup.
Because of its malt, minerality, honey, and unassuming character, this tea has some superficial similarities to mass-market teabags, though it’s a lot more nuanced. It doesn’t get overly astringent and the plummy fruitiness is elegantly in the background (though maybe a bit too elegantly for me). I like flavours that are a bit more in your face, but I think that speaks to my preferences rather than to the quality of the tea.
Flavors: Floral, Grass, Honey, Malt, Milk, Mineral, Plum, Smooth, Soft, Tannin, Tobacco, Wood
Thanks to Nio for this sample! The website says it features citrus and minerality, which sounds promising. I steeped 5 g of leaf in 150 ml of 140F water for 60, 20, 20, 30, 40, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry leaf aroma is of citrus, spinach, and sweet grass. The first steep has punchy notes of spinach, cucumber, and grass, followed by orange, apricot, and butter. It’s kind of drying in the mouth. The next steep gives me bok choy and minerals, with a sweet, lingering peachy/apricot aftertaste. The stonefruit persists through the next few steeps, and the spinach also seems to get less aggressive. The tea ends with sweet grass, minerals, lettuce, and faint stonefruit.
This sencha is another winner for me. There’s some of that vegetal kick, but the stonefruit and citrus are lovely. I imagine this would be nice cold brewed.
Use LEAFHOPPER10OFF for a 10% discount (I get a small commission when you use this code). Their Black Friday sale ends in a few hours, though the code will continue to work indefinitely.
I’ll give you guys a break from all the Nio posts after this, though I have about a dozen more samples to try. I’m thinking of devoting either December or January to sipdowns, as I have miscellaneous bits of tea from swaps to enjoy as well.
Flavors: Apricot, Bok Choy, Butter, Citrus, Cucumber, Grass, Lettuce, Mineral, Orange, Peach, Spinach, Vegetal
This sencha is from the yabukita cultivar, which is supposed to be quite vegetal and fruity. I steeped 5 g of leaf in 150 ml of 140F water for 60, 20, 20, 30, 40, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of apple, squash, spinach, cream, and grass. The first steep has notes of apple, squash, mango, spinach, kale, and grass. The next steep initially tastes like lettuce and bitter grass clippings, but the cooked apple, mango, and tropical fruit (passionfruit?) bloom in the aftertaste and the bottom of the cup. That fruitiness persists through the next few steeps, sometimes overtaking the grassiness and sometimes not. The final few steeps are vaguely fruity and less aggressively vegetal, with a sweet, grassy flavour.
I would have liked this tea more if it hadn’t been so vegetal. As it is, the tropical fruit was fun and the last few steeps had a nice balance. Those with a higher tolerance for cruciferous veggies might really enjoy this sencha. Based on the few teas I’ve tried, I like the saemidori cultivar more than the yabukita.
Get a 10% discount with the code LEAFHOPPER10OFF (I get a small commission when you use this code).
Flavors: Apple, Bitter, Cream, Grass, Green, Kale, Lettuce, Mango, Passion Fruit, Spinach, Squash, Sweet, Tropical, Vegetal
This kamairicha is another first for me! I have a bit of experience with Chinese green teas, so it will be interesting to see how pan frying affects Japanese greens. I steeped 5 g of leaf in 150 ml of 160F water for 60, 20, 20, 30, 40, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of toasted rice, roasted nuts, and grass. Oof! The spinach and squash in the first steep are a surprise! I also get butter, asparagus, toasted rice, nuts, roast, and minerals. The next steep has a thicker body and is a bit drying, with more pronounced hazelnuts and butter and lots of veggies. Subsequent steeps have notes of asparagus, spinach, grass, roast, nuts, minerals, butter, and earth.
My nose expected a very different tea than my taste buds received. I enjoyed seeing how pan frying creates those buttery, nutty aromas, but it seems to be much better integrated into Chinese greens than Japanese ones, at least based on this small sample. I have to say I liked yesterday’s kukicha much better.
Get a 10% discount with the code LEAFHOPPER10OFF (I get a small commission when you use this code). Their Black Friday sale is massive and ends tomorrow.
Flavors: Asparagus, Butter, Drying, Earth, Grass, Hazelnut, Mineral, Nuts, Roasted, Spinach, Squash, Thick, Toasted Rice, Vegetal
Another stem tea and my first kukicha! I steeped this tea in 150 ml of 160F water for 60, 20, 20, 30, 40, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of roasted nuts, grass, and spinach. I’m surprised the first steep isn’t darker given the leaf appearance and roasty smell. I get notes of cream, roasted nuts, walnut skins, minerals, umami, and spinach. The next couple steeps have a lovely candied chestnut aroma, which appears less distinctly in the taste. By steep five, the tea has more spinach, grass, and minerals, though the roast is still there. The final steeps emphasize a heavier roast, nuts, grass, spinach, minerals, and umami.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this kukicha. I’ve been scarfing the last of my Dong Ding, so I guess the beginning of winter has made me want these types of nutty, cozy teas. I wish there was more of that candied chestnut and less of the grass, but overall, this is a nice, comforting, uncomplicated tea to enjoy on a fall afternoon.
Use LEAFHOPPER10OFF for a 10% discount (I get a commission when you use this code). Their Black Friday sale is going on until the end of the month.
Flavors: Chestnut, Cream, Grass, Mineral, Roasted, Roasted Nuts, Spinach, Umami, Vegetal, Walnut
Thanks to Nio Tea for providing this sample, which is my first stem tea. I’ve been curious whether using stems affects the taste or longevity of a tea, and now I can find out! I steeped 5 g of leaf in 150 ml of 140F water for 60, 20, 20, 30, 40, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of squash, spinach, grass, and florals. The first steep has soft notes of squash, spinach, grass, hay, butter, and umami, with a thick body and grassy aftertaste. I get kale, squash, spinach, butter, umami, minerals, and some floral hints (narcissus?) in the next couple steeps. Subsequent steeps are sweeter, more earthy, and less green, with that thick body and some dryness.
This tea is kind of similar to the Gyokuro Cha Meijin that I had a few days ago. They share the squash, thick body, and floral hints, though this tea is softer and less intense. It lasted for fewer steeps and was a bit more grassy, which is possibly due to the stems.
If you possibly still need more tea after this weekend, Nio’s Black Friday sale is going on till November 30. You can get up to 69% off and an additional 10% discount with the code LEAFHOPPER10OFF (I get a small commission).
Also, I probably should have asked this earlier, but is it okay to post these discounts on Steepster? The samples were given to me for free, but I do get a commission if people use the code. I want to be as transparent as possible.
Flavors: Butter, Earth, Floral, Grass, Hay, Kale, Mineral, Narcissus, Spinach, Squash, Thick, Umami, Vegetal