39 Tasting Notes
Brewed in a gaiwan. Light and sweet with mango and honey notes, mild smokiness, and a hint of spice in the finish, which I always enjoy. Something about it reminded me slightly of rooibos. The last couple infusions were used to brew kombucha, so I don’t know what those tasted like.
Flavors: Honey, Mango, Rooibos, Smoke, Spices
I made some kombucha with this tea and really like how it turned out. It’s bright and light bodied with dominant notes of green apples and cranberries, a hint of raspberry, and an earthy and mildly spiced background. The original flavor of the tea is definitely recognizable, but the fermentation process transformed it into something unique.
Going from a lower end Keemun to this was a pretty drastic change. This is much smoother as well as more subtle, so much so that I hope a 7g sample will be enough for me to understand and appreciate this tea. Through the five or six steeps in my gaiwan, I smelled and tasted honey, grains, sweet potatoes, and a slight tangy fruitiness that most closely resembled plums and possibly cherries. Very mildly smoky; I don’t think that aspect would bother anyone who doesn’t like smoky teas. This is very good, but as someone who’s used to cheaper Keemun with a bolder character, my first impression is “this is Keemun?”.
Flavors: Cherry, Grain, Honey, Plum, Smoke, Sweet Potatoes
For those who don’t know, Kim Tuyen is Jin Xuan. That’s probably why Harney describes it as being like an oolong: it’s a black tea made from a cultivar normally processed as an oolong. This does come through in the taste. Its body has a softness that reminds me of some Taiwanese oolongs even if it lacks the milkiness Jin Xuan oolongs are known for. The floral aroma and light but honey-sweet tropical and stone fruit flavors, too, are quite oolong-like. Yet, despite everything it shares with oolongs, it’s still recognizable as a Chinese-style black tea.
As I hoped, gongfu and western style both work well with this tea. Gongfu brings out the complexities and the aroma of the tea more, while western style is sweet and mellow. Either way is satisfying to me. This is very cheap, so I recommend it for anyone who enjoys mellow Chinese black teas or fruity dark oolongs as this has similarities to both. Avoid if you think of Darjeeling or full leaf Yunnans as too weak or if a bit of smokiness bothers you, because this is light, but also a bit smoky.
Flavors: Citrus, Floral, Fruity, Honey, Smoke, Stonefruit, Tropical
And now “western” style. It tends toward maltiness, as I expected, plus the sweet potato and cocoa notes. There’s a bit of citrus as well. I didn’t notice that when I brewed it in my gaiwan. This apparently isn’t a very peppery Dianhong: just like when brewed gongfu, the spiciness is hardly there. There’s enough that I like about this tea that I don’t mind that, though.
Flavors: Citrus, Cocoa, Malt, Sweet Potatoes
Brewed gongfu style. Dry leaves smell like sweet potatoes, cocoa, slightly floral.
Steep 1: Very malty, but with some sweetness from the sweet potato note. The mouthfeel is smooth yet thin. This reminds me of Teavivre’s Yunnan Gongfu which I had earlier in the year, which makes sense considering they’re both Fengqing blacks. That one was a little fruity at times, so I wonder if this will be similar.
2: Tastes like a simpler, less sweet version of steep one. I didn’t brew it as long, so that could be why, but it seems like quite often the second steep of a Dianhong when brewed gongfu style is the least sweet.
3. Sweet cocoa and wheat. The mouthfeel has thickened a lot since the first cup, but it’s not creamy, more soft like some kind of fabric if that makes sense.
4. Smoky. Otherwise about the same.
5. Smokier. The mouthfeel is starting to get thinner, and it’s mostly just malty now, with a hint of sweet potato. There’s a bit of that typical black pepper spiciness too, which I hadn’t noticed in earlier steeps.
6. Smoky, malt flavored water. Interestingly, there’s still some spiciness. I wish this had started earlier instead of appearing just as the tea finished.
For the price, it’s quite good. It’s probably more suited to western style brewing than gongfu, but I like trying all new Chinese blacks this way.
Flavors: Black Pepper, Cocoa, Malt, Smoke, Sweet Potatoes, Wheat
I’ve been avoiding this one because its mushroomy earthiness hasn’t sounded appealing lately, but today I thought I’d see what else I could get from it. Compared to my first tasting note, increasing the amount of tea and brewing with boiling water resulted in a very citrusy tea with the earthiness pushed to the background. Not too bad, but the citrus is a bit too much.
For the next cup, I lowered the temperature. This brought out some sweet chocolate in exchange for some of the excess lemon, spice, and earthiness. It’s much more balanced now; however, that sheng-like weirdness that I mentioned in the first tasting note isn’t there at all when brewed this way. It’s just a nice, mellow black tea, more casually enjoyable yet somewhat less interesting. I’ll have to try gongfu again. My first attempt was nothing but mushrooms…
Flavors: Chocolate, Citrus, Earth, Mineral, Mushrooms, Pepper
The dry leaves have a strong scent of cocoa, but pouring water on them turns it into a smokey, mushroomy aroma that reminds me of some sheng puerh. The leaves are chopped up, but they’re quite large. This being a large leaf Chinese black tea, I brewed it quite long to get more of the cocoa flavor I smelled in the dry leaves knowing that it probably wouldn’t get bitter or astringent.
The flavor was mostly what I expected: the mushrooms and light smokiness were definitely there, as well as some typical Yunnan notes of malt and black pepper. It was thick and smooth with a silky texture, finishing with the sweet chocolate note that I hoped for. Despite the long first steep, I got a good second cup out of it with a similar flavor to the first, but a lighter body.
I enjoyed this and think I’ll get a larger amount to have a basic Dianhong (I’m pretty sure that’s what this is) around. It’s not complex, but it’s good and very cheap.
Flavors: Black Pepper, Cocoa, Malt, Mushrooms, Smoke