278 Tasting Notes

85

I subscribed to the Eco-Cha Tea Club for more than a year and generally enjoyed their offerings. (I eventually quit due to the cost and my ever-expanding tea stash.) I’m glad to be able to try this roasted bug-bitten oolong from Daylon. I steeped 6 g in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

Dry, the tea smells of honey, nuts, and flowers. The first steep is indeed like a lightly roasted high mountain oolong, with honey, mild roast, violets, orchids, other florals, nuts, and grass. I get the weird impression of floral Honey Nut Cheerios! The second steep offers a slightly bitter, sappy note that I’ve found in bug-bitten teas, though Daylon is right that I wouldn’t have necessarily concluded this tea was bug bitten if not for the label. By the third steep, it begins to take on the characteristics of a roasted oolong, with strong honey, nuts, Graham crackers, and grass and a few remaining floral notes. The next few steeps emphasize honey, roast, and wood, and have a tang that could be called lemony. Like many similar oolongs, the end of the session is all about the roast.

I steeped the remainder of my sample Western style in a 355 ml mug at 195F for 2:30, 4, 6, and 8 minutes. The first steep has notes of honey, caramel, nuts, Graham crackers, violets, sap, and roast. The second steep adds roasted pecans and more caramel. The next couple steeps have those lovely floral and nutty/grain notes, but the roast gradually takes over. My strainer was also full of leaves by the end of the session, suggesting that I might have used more leaf than I initially thought.

This is a rich, comforting oolong with all of the expected Gui Fei notes and an extra dash of florality. However, I should have finished it when the weather was a bit colder. Am I the only person who prefers winter to summer?

Flavors: Caramel, Floral, Graham Cracker, Grain, Grass, Honey, Lemon, Nuts, Orchid, Pecan, Roasted, Sap, Violet, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 OZ / 0 ML
Martin Bednář

Nope, you aren’t only one. I prefer colder days than summer ones. My tea-drinking pace decreased because of hot days. And moreover concentration is worse in warm days.

mrmopar

I don’t relish the heat either. Too many Summers on a delivery truck…

Togo

I used to enjoy summers when I lived in Scotland lol. In moderate climates with 4 seasons, I tend to prefer spring and autumn.

I don’t mind the winter either as long as it stays cold once it does get below freezing. The unstable nature of winters in Southern Ontario annoys me, but I’m moving back to Europe this year so it’s a worry of the past for me :D

Leafhopper

Martin, I agree, I tend to drink less tea in summer, and because I don’t have air conditioning, my concentration suffers as well.

Mrmopar, yeah, summers on a delivery truck don’t sound pleasant. I feel bad for all the drivers, construction workers, and everyone else who has to work outside all day in the heat.

Togo, I don’t mind the temperature fluctuations in the winter, but the 33-degree summer heatwaves are terrible. I hope wherever you go in Europe will be cooler. At least it might have better tea options. :)

LuckyMe

Being from a cold city myself, I prefer warmer weather but it does negatively affect my tea consumption as well. Cold brewing always helps me get my tea fix in during summer.

Leafhopper

Yes, hot tea isn’t very appealing on a hot day. I hope to do more cold brewing this summer.

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93

Derk generously allowed me to take a sample of this tea during our Black Friday extravaganza. Thank you, and I promise to get to all your other samples when I’ve sipped down more of my teas! I steeped around 5 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 35, 25, 35, 45, 60, 75, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The intoxicating aroma of the dry leaves is of honey, apricots, and citrus. The first steep has notes of honey, clover, apricot, orange, honeysuckle, gardenia, sandalwood, and sap. I find that lower-quality Bai Hao focuses on the high honey/fruit notes, while the better stuff also has lower woody/incense/sappy notes that I have trouble describing. The second steep gives me stronger fruit notes, including citrus zest, and is reminding me of an IPA. The florals become headier in the third steep, with more honeysuckle and gardenia mixing beautifully with the honey/apricot/citrus. The fruit backs off slightly in steep four, letting the honey, clover, honeysuckle, gardenia, and orange blossom come through. There’s also a tiny bit of a metallic taste. Near the end of the session, the fruit disappears and I get honey, autumn leaves, minerals, wood, and vague florals.

This is a fantastic Bai Hao that I wish I’d purchased for myself when I had the chance. As the better versions of this tea tend to be, it’s both lush and structured. This tea has made me want to revisit some of the other Bai Hao in my stash.

Flavors: Apricot, Autumn Leaf Pile, Citrus, Citrus Zest, Floral, Gardenias, Honey, Honeysuckle, Metallic, Mineral, Orange, Orange Blossom, Sap, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML
derk

Sap- that’s a note I’ve seen you use hear and there. It never crosses my mind for whatever reason but I totally understand it.

Leafhopper

Yeah, I tend to pick it up in Taiwanese teas and am not always sure what to call it. Maybe it’s pine? It does kind of remind me of an IPA.

derk

Sap is apt, no?

Leafhopper

Yes, I think so. :)

Daylon R Thomas

I have more of this stuff if you want me to save it for another swap.

Leafhopper

That would be great! However, I wouldn’t blame you if you finished it. :P

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80

I got my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine last Friday and I couldn’t be happier. The only side effect I had was a mildly sore arm. This is one tiny step toward having a normal life again!

This is Wuyi Origin’s most affordable Lapsang, made as I understand from another farmer’s leaves on the border of Fujian and Jiangxi. It’s the spring 2020 harvest. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The dry aroma is of baked bread, caramel, wood, sweet potato, and anise. The first steep has notes of sweet potato, caramel, honey, wood, baked bread, malt, and anise. Citrus and some astringency emerge in the second steep, and I get a nice sweet potato/bready aftertaste. The third and fourth steeps are more woody with some hay, black pepper, brown sugar, and tobacco notes, although the sweet potato/bread/citrus is still going strong. The next couple steeps are less sweet with more woody and mineral notes, with a lot of baked sweet potato in the aftertaste. The tea has a nice, viscous body, even though the progression of flavours from steep to steep isn’t too dynamic. The next few steeps become more tannic and astringent, though there’s still plenty of sweet potato and caramel. The session ends with faint sweet potato, malt, tannins, and minerals.

If I hadn’t tried Wuyi Origin’s Old Bush Lapsang Souchong, I’m sure I would have been more impressed with this tea. As it is, it’s less complex and full bodied than the OBLS. However, it’s quite pleasant and I’ve almost finished my 25 g pouch.

Flavors: Anise, Baked Bread, Black Pepper, Brown Sugar, Caramel, Citrus, Hay, Honey, Malt, Mineral, Sweet Potatoes, Tannic, Tobacco, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML
Martin Bednář

Yay for vaccine!

ashmanra

Hooray for vaccine! The whole family has it now and it is such a relief!

Leafhopper

Absolutely, Martin and Ashmanra, it’s a huge relief! My family has also had one dose, and my parents should be getting their second one in July.

Shae

Congrats on getting your first dose! I was set to get mine last week but came down with a cold so had to postpone. I’m anxious to get it scheduled again – hoping for next week!

Leafhopper

Shae, I hope you can get your first dose soon. It should be a lot easier now that many of the supply issues have been fixed.

derk

Happy for you, Leafhopper :)

Leafhopper

Thanks! I hope Ontario can lift some of its restrictions in time for summer.

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78

I bought this tea last year in my infamous Black Friday What-Cha haul. I kind of wish I’d purchased their Jin Guan Yin as well, given that I like the one from Camellia Sinensis. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The dry aroma is of dark chocolate, peanuts, rye bread, flowers, honey, and faint, tangy stonefruit. The first steep has notes of honey, peanuts, rye bread, dark chocolate, wood, and apricot. The second is more earthy, though I also get florals, peach, apricot, and lots of peanuts and chocolate. The tangy stonefruit and slightly sour aftertaste remind me of Tie Guan Yin, though that might be my imagination. (I also need to try plain osmanthus flowers, which Derk detected in this tea, so I know what they taste like!)

The third steep gives me an herbaceous note that I could also, like Derk, describe as menthol, but is mostly honey, wood, hay, rye bread, and chocolate. The next few steeps are all about the chocolate, peanut, honey, and rye bread, with hints of peach, apricot, molasses, and florals. The body is quite viscous and the aftertaste is long. I let the seventh and eighth steeps cool to almost room temperature and I see where Derk is getting cherry, and I get more of the tangy stonefruit as well. The session ends with notes of honey, hay, peanuts, wood, earth, and minerals.

This tea offers many of the flavours I like and has the chocolate note I associate with Fujian black teas. I’m not sure why I haven’t given it a higher rating, though maybe it’s because of its woodiness or the fact that it doesn’t change much over the session. Nonetheless, I’ll have no trouble finishing the rest of the bag and would consider buying more given its affordable price point.

Flavors: Apricot, Baked Bread, Cherry, Dark Chocolate, Earth, Floral, Hay, Herbaceous, Honey, Menthol, Mineral, Molasses, Peach, Peanut, Rye, Sour, Stonefruit, Tangy, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML
Martin Bednář

I just get it yesterday, brewing gongfu, 5 grams/125 ml gaiwan. The lower temperature makes it indeed better than just boiled (my thermos isn’t best isulating one) and indeed I get rye bread and chocolate. I don’t recall it much, as it was rather session to keep my sanity, but certainly it is better this way than brewing western!

Leafhopper

I haven’t tried it Western. I usually enjoy black teas at slightly lower temperatures since they tend to be less astringent.

Martin Bednář

It’s just a little note that gongfu suits this tea better than western brewing :)

Leafhopper

LOL, makes sense! I have about 15 g left and will definitely keep gongfuing it.

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77

In my kitchen cupboard reserved for tea, I have an artificially created black tea shortage. I store my black and green teas on the top shelf and my oolongs and whites on the bottom. However, I rarely drink my green teas, and many of my black teas are either Darjeelings (which dwindle slowly because I Western steep them) or too expensive for regular consumption (SLX Black, that Lapsang from TheTea). I therefore go through my oolongs much faster, relegating many of my black teas to the “tea museum” in my closet. In an effort to change that, I’m trying to sip down some of my old green teas, notably this one from 2016.

Using Teavivre’s instructions, I steeped around 4.5 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 185F for 15, 25, 40, 60, and 90 seconds, plus a few uncounted rounds at the end of the session.

I always get a kick out of these flat, fuzzy leaves. The dry aroma is of chestnuts, green beans, and umami. The first steep has notes of chestnut, butter, beans, spinach, grass, and asparagus. The second steep is even more vegetal, with lots of cruciferous (a.k.a. bitter) veggies like bok choy and broccoli, but a sweet aftertaste. The next couple steeps are sweeter, with lots of chestnut balanced by beans and cruciferous vegetables. The nuttiness fades around the sixth steep, which is when Teavivre tells me to stop, but I got another couple vegetal steeps because I’m a cheapskate.

I Western steeped my remaining 2.5 g at 185F for 3, 4, and 6 minutes. The sweet, buttery chestnut is a lot more prominent in the first steep, with beans and asparagus in the background. However, subsequent steeps are milder, with spinach, green bean, and mineral notes and a faint sweetness.

For something I’ve been avoiding for so long, this is an inoffensive, surprisingly drinkable tea with pronounced chestnut notes. I’d say gongfu is the way to go, since I got more out of the leaves this way.

Also, apparently I’ve reviewed this tea before, but have no memory of it.

Flavors: Asparagus, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Butter, Chestnut, Grass, Green Beans, Mineral, Nutty, Spinach, Sweet, Umami, Vegetal

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 4 OZ / 120 ML
LuckyMe

Wow, for a 5 year old tea this sounds like it held up pretty well.

Leafhopper

Yeah, I agree. I was expecting it to be stale. Mind you, my appreciation of green tea is limited and I’m sure it was better when it was fresh.

derk

Those old green samples you sent, Leafhopper, must’ve been injected with magic preservation ether. Can’t believe how good they were for 5 or whatever years old.

Leafhopper

Absolutely! Teavivre must have done an amazing job on the vacuum sealing. I still have a few more samples to go.

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86
drank Li Shan by Camellia Sinensis
278 tasting notes

I’ve had previous iterations of Camellia Sinensis’ Li Shan and enjoyed them, so I picked up this spring 2020 harvest in their September sale. I’ve had it three times now and have gotten slightly different flavours in each session. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 45, 60, 75, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The dry aroma is of brown sugar, coconut, spinach, honeysuckle, and lilacs. In the first steep, I get lilac, sweet pea, gardenia, butter, coconut, grass, spinach, and pastries. It has a nice, viscous texture. The second steep is sweeter, with custard, cream corn, green apple, and honeysuckle. Steep three offers more honeysuckle/gardenia/other florals, particularly in the aroma, and the veggie, grass, and spinach notes become stronger. (I also got pineapple in previous sessions, but sadly, not in this one.) The next couple steeps display more of the cream corn sweetness, which I guess could be interpreted as custard or condensed milk. The tea is also still very floral. The steeps become more vegetal after this point, but with lots of floral sweetness to balance them out.

This tea is full of florals and is sweeter than many Li Shans, with some of the tropical fruit flavours I like when I leaf it heavy. I agree with Daylon that it’s kind of midrange, and I also prefer their less expensive Shan Lin Xi. Still, I might pick it up again if it’s on sale, simply because of the relatively reasonable price and the convenience of buying from a Canadian vendor.

Flavors: Brown Sugar, Butter, Coconut, Corn Husk, Custard, Floral, Gardenias, Grass, Green Apple, Honeysuckle, Pastries, Pineapple, Spinach, Sweet, Vegetal

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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82

This second flush is from 2020, which makes it relatively new in my tea collection. It caught my eye because Camellia Sinensis noted it was representative of the style, and even though I’ve had many SF Darjeelings, I still look for benchmarks of what they’re “supposed” to taste like. I steeped 4 g of leaf in a 355 ml mug at 195F for 5, 7, and 10 minutes.

The dry aroma is of caramel, nuts, and flowers. The first steep has notes of autumn leaves, nuts (yes, hazelnut seems accurate), caramel, butter, wood, flowers, saline, and a hint of muscatel. The finish is rather woody and drying, especially if the tea is held in the mouth for any length of time. The tea also has some tannins. The next couple steeps are heavier on the nuts and caramel and lighter on the fruit and florals. I get some minerality in the third steep.

This tea is a good deal more restrained than the luxuriantly fruity, floral second flush Darjeelings I gravitate toward. However, I think it is indeed a high-quality, well-made example of the type, if not one that really wows me.

Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Butter, Caramel, Drying, Floral, Hazelnut, Mineral, Muscatel, Nuts, Salty, Tannin, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 5 min, 0 sec 4 g 12 OZ / 355 ML

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90

I thought I’d posted a note about this tea, but apparently not. Thanks, Derk, for the big pouch. I’ve had it a few times now, and while it won’t replace the peppermint from Zen Tea in Vancouver, which is sadly unavailable, it comes close. I steeped around two teaspoons in 355 ml of water at 200F for 3, 5, and 8 minutes.

The aroma in the pouch is of strong, sweet mint, and the steeps bear this out. I taste sweet, clear mint with a kick of menthol and a bit of earth. I don’t get stewy or vegetal notes as I have with some other mint teas. The flavour stays pretty consistent over the three steeps.

If I have one quibble with this tea, it’s that I have to use more leaf (two teaspoons vs. one of the Zen Tea mint) and a longer steeping time (three minutes vs. one) to get the same intensity. However, this is a pretty minor issue. Overall, this is a nice peppermint tea I can reach for at night when I don’t want any more caffeine.

Flavors: Earth, Menthol, Peppermint, Sweet

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 12 OZ / 355 ML
derk

The bag of loose leaf I got did not seem as potent as the various sachets I’ve had over the years. Still great but not GREAT.

Leafhopper

I’m beginning to wonder whether the Zen mint had peppermint oil to make it so potent. I’ve had to use two teaspoons of all the other mint teas I’ve tried.

tea-sipper

I miss Zen tea!

Leafhopper

Me, too. I only placed one order with them before they stopped selling tea, but most of what I bought was really good and affordable. In hindsight, I wish I’d bought a pound of their peppermint!

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93

I’ve wanted to try Wuyi Origin for a while, and a free shipping offer a couple weeks before Black Friday 2020 was the perfect excuse. I picked up three Dan Congs, three Lapsang Souchongs, a black Dan Cong, and two Wuyi rock teas (as I wanted to try some higher-quality versions before giving up on the style entirely). This was the most expensive Lapsang in my cart, and I remember buying it because the description mentioned it was fruity. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot in boiling water for 7, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The dry aroma is of sweet potatoes, gooseberries, honey, wood, and malt. The first steep has notes of gooseberries, sweet potatoes, honey, maple syrup, malt, baked bread, oakwood, and florals. Although the dry aroma wasn’t that promising, I can immediately tell that I like this. The next steep adds zucchini, more wood, orchid, and pine. The third steep becomes more fruity, with lemon and strawberry accents and a vegetal and grassy backbone that lingers in the aftertaste. The fruit lasts until the fifth steep, when the tea once again becomes dominated by sweet potato, maple syrup, oak, malt, and honey. This continues well into steep ten, when earth and mineral notes emerge. The tea remains sweet until the end of the session.

I love the combination of oddball flavours in this tea, as well as its thick body, good longevity, and persistent aftertaste. I can tell this is a high-quality Lapsang Souchong. I wish the fruit had lasted longer, though. I look forward to comparing it to the other two Lapsangs I ordered from this company.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Berries, Earth, Floral, Grass, Honey, Lemon, Malt, Maple Syrup, Mineral, Oak, Orchid, Pine, Strawberry, Sweet, Sweet Potatoes, Tangy, Vegetal, Zucchini

Preparation
Boiling 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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87

As a growing fan of Lapsang Souchong, I was delighted to find this one in my swap package from Daylon. I’d never heard of Trident Tea, which has a large selection of stuff I’d like to buy if my cupboard was smaller and they shipped to Canada. I steeped roughly 5 g of tea in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The dry aroma is of jasmine, other flowers, and malt. The first steep has notes of jasmine, malt, caramel, and grass. I kind of regret not using my 85 ml teapot to get a more concentrated flavour. The second steep gives me other flowers, maybe orchid and rose, plus more caramel, hints of chocolate, and that sappy note Daylon mentioned. I get oakwood in the third and fourth steeps, which makes for a slightly strange combination with the florals. The tea comes off as a bit drying and tannic, but I like the balance between the sweet caramel and florals and the heavier wood and malt. I get brown sugar and more caramel in the next couple rounds. The session fades into malt, brown sugar, tannins, wood, and minerals.

This tea is sweet and floral without being perfumey, which makes it a winner in my books. I wasn’t quite as taken with it as Daylon, mainly because it was a little drying and the florals faded somewhat quickly. Still, I’ll add Trident to the long list of companies I’d consider buying from in the future.

Flavors: Brown Sugar, Caramel, Chocolate, Floral, Grass, Jasmine, Malt, Mineral, Oak, Orchid, Rose, Sap, Tannin

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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Bio

Since I discovered Teavana’s Monkey Picked Oolong four years ago, I’ve been fascinated by loose-leaf tea. I’m glad to say that my oolong tastes have evolved, and that I now like nearly every tea that comes from Taiwan, oolong or not, particularly the bug-bitten varieties. I also find myself drinking Yunnan blacks and Darjeelings from time to time, as well as a few other curiosities.

However, while online reviews might make me feel like an expert, I know that I still have some work to do to actually pick up those flavours myself. I hope that by making me describe what I’m tasting, Steepster can improve my appreciation of teas I already enjoy and make me more open to new possibilities (maybe even puerh!).

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Toronto

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