57 Tasting Notes


I’m about to run out of this tea and I noticed Halcyon tea is also out of 2011’s batch (I’m excited for the 2012 crop, hopefully it’ll be as good or better than last year’s). Anyways, I decided to give this tea a proper review.

This tea is made of twisted dark brown leaves with a subtle charcoal-like aroma.

I prepared this tea following Halcyon’s directions, using a Gaiwan, 195F water, and 1.5 min to 3.5 min steep time.

My first cup had a nice clear amber color with a toasty coconut aroma mixed with sweet sugary hint, similar to the smell of a bag of mixed sun dried fruits. The tea was subtly toasty with a mixture of several notes and flavors. It was slightly sweet, with hints of fruit, coconut, and a nice fresh aftertaste. After having a few sips of this tea, it left my mouth with a slightly dry sensation mixed with a freshness in my breath, just as if you had a bite of fresh fruit (grapes come to mind). My second was more of the same, no noticeable changes. Third cup I noticed a slight loss of flavor, coconut hint was gone, but the aftertaste was still there. In the 4th and 5th cup I increased the brew time from 1.5 min to 2.5 min. Still, flavor was weaker than in the first two infusions. The toastiness of the tea increased, most of the fruity flavors were weaker, and aftertaste was not as intense. I did feel a slightly chocolate hint in this cup similar to a mild dark chocolate. The fifth cup did not have the chocolate notes though, flavors by now were really subtle, but still enjoyable. By the sixth cup (this time steeping it for 3.5 min) the tea had a yellowish brown color, no aroma, and very faint flavors. After the 6th cup I decided not to re-brew.

The wet leaf now had a dark brownish green color to it and was made of well preserved leaves mixed with few broken pieces.

Overall, I really love this tea. I appreciate it a lot for its unique broad complexity of flavors and aromas. Honestly this is one of the hardest tea to describe, so many flavors and aromas that I don’t know what it reminds me of, I just know that I love it. I also like the fact that it is not very toasty, the dry leaf makes you think it will have a strong overpowering burnt flavor, but it surprises you with subtle fruity flavors. Even though the tea did not last many infusions compared to other high quality oolongs, the first cups are so delicious that it makes me keep coming back for more. Definitely one of my favorite Oolongs.

195 °F / 90 °C 1 min, 30 sec

I have to try again this oolong! :) For now, I’ll enjoy my Gyokuro Kin

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drank Gyokuro Kin by Den's Tea
57 tasting notes

Gyokuro Kin, is truly a great gyokuro at a fair price.

Open the bag and you can instantly smell the delicious fresh sweetness this tea gives. The leaves are an even mix of broken and unbroken needles with a rich dark green color.

I brewed this tea following very closely Den’s brewing guide using 160F water and 1 and a half min steep time in a Kyusu.

The resulting brew had a very subtle sweet aroma with a very saturated green color (mostly due to a large amount of particles in the cup). This gyokuro is sweet and full bodied with a slight bitterness that becomes more apparent as your cup cools down. My second cup, this time brewed at 180F, had a much stronger bitter finish but still had the sweetness of the first.

Overall, I like this gyokuro. It has the sweetness that you expect, but with a heavy mouthfeel similar to that of a fukamushi sencha. This combination makes a heartier brew than other gyokuros, perfect to drink with a meal.

160 °F / 71 °C 1 min, 30 sec

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Recently got this from Yunnan Sourcing’s US site. This tea is basically a yunnan black (Dian Hong) rolled in to a pearl.

The pearls are huuge, I expected them to be around the size of jasmine pearls but they’re almost double in size. The pictures YS has are very pretty, pearls having lots of “gold” to them and a vibrant color, but in fact, their appearance is closer to that of Adagio’s Black Dragon Pearls. That doesn’t mean they’re not attractive at all, simply not as pretty as in the picture. Aroma-wise they are very spicy.

I brewed this tea following typical black tea brewing guidelines since YS does not provide one. Used freshly boiled water and 3 min steep time in a gaiwan.

So far this tea tastes like a regular Yunnan black, the spiciness, pepper notes, and cocoa hints are there but in less strength than a pure Yunnan gold. I also noted this tea has a slight astringent finish. Using two pearls I was able to get several infusions.

Once the pearls unfurl, they reveal to be long thin leaves with a brown clay like color with a strong aroma.

Overall this is your typical yunnan black tea, but what makes this tea special it’s the incredibly affordable price ($11 for about 3.5 oz), ease of brewing (drop 2-3 pearls in your gaiwan or mug depending on strength desired), and great taste. My current “lazy morning” choice whenever I don’t feel like correctly brewing a more “premium” black.

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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I’ve had this for a few months so a review was long overdue. Tonight I felt like having a green tea, so why not this and review it at the same time?

I always thought most fukamushi’s look like green tea fannings used for tea bags. This one looks like a combination of lots of dust and broken pieces with some medium sized needles. This tea also has a dull dark green color with a faint green-grassy smell, not very aromatic though.

I brewed this tea in a Japanese kyusu following Den’s suggested brewing guidelines of 160F water/1 min steep time for the first infusion and 180F/15 sec for the second.

This gave me a cloudy dark yellow-green cup with a mellow grassy aroma. This is a very rich and full bodied tea, strong in umami, yet delicate in taste. It is slightly sweet, grassy, and with a slight astringent finish. My second cup was brewed with hotter water and a shorter brew time (180F/15 sec). This gave me a much darker, almost opaque, dark green cup with aroma mostly unchanged. It was stronger flavored with a more pronounced astringent finish.

The wet leaf was nothing special, other than the pale green color of the leaves compared to regular sencha.

Overall, I do enjoy the stronger full-bodied cup this tea offers compared to regular sencha, but I’m not always in the mood for it. The first infusion was definitely my favorite, as the second one was too strong for my own taste. I must say that it is a bit of a pain to clean my kyusu’s built in strainer, as this tea is made of very small pieces and they get easily stuck in between the small holes (it is a very fine strainer and this only happens with this type of tea). I sometimes feel I should just get a separate teapot for this specific tea.

160 °F / 71 °C 1 min, 0 sec

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This is the second tea I ordered from Teavivre (the other being Yunnan Dian Hong-Golden tip) and overall, the second Liu An Gua Pian I’ve ever had (my first one was the small sample that comes in Teavana’s Forbidden Kingdom tea gift set). While I did enjoy Teavana’s offering, I’m always trying to compare their quality with other vendors and boy, I was not disappointed with this one.

The dry leaf of this tea is very pretty, long and tubular, these richly green colored leaves were all perfectly preserved and almost identical to each other. This tea has a hefty green aroma, like if you were walking among trees during the summer.

I brewed this tea according to the suggested brewing guidelines of 175F water and 1-2 min brew time in a Gaiwan.

I brewed this tea twice. My first cup was brightly green with a light grassy aroma. The tea has a very nice sweet flavor, slightly grassy, and a heavy mouthfeel with a slightly smoky/spicy finish. To be precise, the taste reminds me a lot of Japanese green teas, like a more flavorful and heavier bodied sencha. My second cup was even better than the first, as all the flavors were slightly more pronounced.

I was amazed with the wet leaf. In this department, the tea reminded me a lot of Pouchong, as in the way how the leaves slowly unfurled in to perfectly shaped leaves. After my first infusion, the leaves were still slightly curled up, meaning this tea had still a lot more to offer. After the second infusion, the leaves unfurled completely into perfectly shaped bright green leaves. They’re so attractive to look at, you might think someone grabbed some leaves from a nearby tree and just placed them in there.

When I first had Liu an Gua Pian, I was very pleased with its flavor and Teavivre’s offering was even better. Like I said, It is similar in taste like that found in Japanese greens, but with a unique Chinese twist. I would greatly recommend this tea.

175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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I’ve had this tea for a few days after ordering it from Teavivre. This was my first order from them and I was greatly pleased with the quality and service, will definitely be ordering more soon.

First of all, I fell in love with packaging/presentation the teas come in. Detailed info on origin of tea, harvest date, brew instructions was a huge plus.

When I opened the bag the tea came in, I was instantly hit with a deliciously strong spicy aroma. It is a combination of chocolate, cinnamon, and other spices, hard to accurately describe, but all I can say it is one of the best aromas I’ve smelled on a black tea.

The dry leaf of this tea is perhaps one of the most attractive out there, thin curly needles covered in fine golden hairs with a dark skin.

I brewed this tea following the instructions on the back of the foil bag but I also experimented a lot with this tea. 185F water and 1-2 min steep time is what Teavivre recommends.

This tea brews a nice dark amber colored cup with a faint spicy aroma. Taste-wise, it was slightly sweet, smooth, light bodied, a bit malty, and with a delicious mix of cocoa and peppery notes, maybe a little cinnamon too. I re-brewed this tea many times, up to around 5-6 infusions and all of them were delicious.

The wet leaf was brownish-yellow and very aromatic, spicy and woodsy.

While not as strong as other blacks, this tea is personally one of my favorites, as it is delicious by itself if brewed correctly. I experimented with some higher water temperatures and I got a stronger flavored cup but with a noticeable astringent finish, great with a touch of milk if brewed this way. Overall, This tea is definitely a permanent specimen in my tea collection.

185 °F / 85 °C 1 min, 45 sec

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drank Gyokuro "Yame" by Lupicia
57 tasting notes

When I first visited Lupicia’s retail store in Century City mall, I was quickly intrigued by the beautiful look of this Gyokuro (Lupicia has small samples of each tea the store carries so you can see, smell, and even touch them). I came back to the store this past weekend but I was a little unsure whether to buy the tea at this time or later, as it is a little expensive. Thankfully one of the attendants gave me a small sample for me to try. The sample was enough for about 3 cups of tea.

The dry leaf of this tea is lovely to look at. Made up of fine vividly green colored needles with almost no sign of damage. This has been one the the most preserved Gyokuro I’ve ever had, having very few broken pieces or dust. The aroma of the dry leaves is almost entrancing, having a super sweet aroma with fresh grassy undertones.

I brewed this tea in a Japanese Kyusu following the directions written by the attendant on the sample pouch. I used 160F water and 1 1/2 min steep time.

My first cup gave me a bright almost neon green color with a subtly sweet aroma. The taste was extraordinarily sweet with zero astringency or bitterness and a very delicate soothing green hint. My second cup remained mostly the same but with an almost unnoticeable lighter taste.

The wet leaf had a sweet boiled veggie like aroma and had a very bright green color to the leaves, almost like if they had been picked a few minutes ago.

Overall, I fell in love with this Gyokuro. Very high quality and super sweet, the sample convinced me of getting the the full 50 grams sold at Lupicia (that is, until I finish off some of the other Gyokuro’s I have).

160 °F / 71 °C 1 min, 30 sec

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Great tasting Gyokuro easily available in any Japanese market. The tea comes in a sealed 3oz foil bag. Sadly there is no way to re seal the bag so a tin or resealable foil bag is needed to preserve this.

When opening the small bag, you’re instantly hit with a very nice sweet grassy aroma, very fresh and very pleasant. As to be expected from a prepackaged tea, the dry leaf is made of small flat needles with lots of dust and broken pieces. The color of the dry leaf is stunning, with a rich vibrant green color.

I brewed this tea in a Japanese Kyusu according to Maeda-En’s instructions of 140-160F water and 2-3 min steep time.

This gave me a bright vivid green cup with a very sweet aroma and steamed veggie undertones. The tea was very sweet and grassy, with nutty hints, and a very subtle astringent finish. I re-brewed this tea with slightly hotter water and gave me a stronger flavored cup with a more astringent finish and a much more vivid green cup.

Overall this is a great green tea for those looking to taste the difference between sencha and gyokuro. While obviously not the best quality, it is a great everyday gyokuro as it is not very expensive ($18-$20 according to Maeda’s website but many Japanese markets sell this for a much cheaper price. I was able to get this tea for about $13) and great for those new to gyokuro (as you know, gyokuro is very special in the way it likes to be brewed). This was one of the first gyokuros I ever had and ever since I opened the small foil pouch, saw the vivid color of the leaf and tasted the delicious sweet brew, Gyokuro instantly became one of my favorite green teas.

160 °F / 71 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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Cheap Da Hong Pao from Wing Hop Fung.

The dry leaf has a dark brown color with a woodsy toasty aroma. Most of the leaf is made of broken pieces and some dust.

Since Wing Hop Fung does not provide any instructions, I compared different brew guidelines from several sites and settled on 3 min steep time and 205F water temp. I brewed this on a gaiwan.

My first cup gave a dark clear brown cup with a toasty aroma and faint hints of honey. The tea had a strong toasted taste, slightly smooth, and with a faint metallic finish. It wasn’t unpleasant, but nothing special either. My second cup was more enjoyable as it featured a less strong toasty taste, smoother textured, but aroma was less present. My third cup featured more or less the same, but with a fainter aroma. Fourth cup surprisingly kept the same flavor as the second and third cups, but seeing no change in taste or flavor I decided to stop brewing it (as I wasn’t enjoying the tea that much).

Nothing special was found in the wet leaf.

Overall, I didn’t get anything special from this tea, toasty flavor overpowers all, if any, subtle flavors the tea might have. At times it felt I wasn’t even drinking an Oolong or Wuyi tea, more like a burned black. I can’t say I expected much as this was a relatively cheap tea.

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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I’ve had many quality offerings from Harney and this was no different. I ordered their 1.5 oz tin a few weeks ago but hadn’t had to time to review it.

The dry leaf appears to be well preserved staying true to its name of mao feng (most leaves were truly one leaf or two and a bud). It had a nice earthy green color, fuzz covered buds, and had a subtle smoky grassy aroma.

I prepared this tea in a gaiwan, following the website’s brewing guidelines of 2-3 min steep time and 175F water.

My first cup I brewed it for 2 minutes, this yielded a pale green cup with a very very faint grassy aroma. The taste was vegetal and slightly grassy, very smooth, and with a strong but subtle smoky finish. The combination of grassy/smokyness gave a nice warm feeling while drinking it. The second cup, this time brewed for 3 minutes, featured a stronger green grassy flavor, no aroma, and with a much subtler smoky finish. Out of the two cups, Id say the first one was better.

Upon checking the wet leaf, some leaves revealed little burned edges, like if they had been burned by sunlight under a magnifying glass.

Overall, I thought this tea to be quite good. I really enjoyed the smoky flavor as I feel it compliments the green taste this tea offers. I don’t know if the smoky taste should be there though, as this is perhaps the only Huangshan Mao feng I have tried that has it (then again I still need to try many more from other tea vendors). I was surprised to see the burn damage on some of the leaves, perhaps that’s the origin of the smoky taste? Anyways, great tea, not too expensive, and quite unique.

175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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SoCal native and Tea addict.

Looking to try every single type of tea the world has to offer.

I’m not too fond of flavored tea or blends, but every now and then, there will be one that I like.

I enjoy all types of tea, but my absolute favorites are Japanese Greens and Oolongs.

I am much more familiar with Chinese and Japanese teas. I’m looking to get in to Korean tea next and then Indian/Ceylons. Herbals are good too, but I don’t pay much attention to them (except rooibos).

Ti Kuan Yin (or Tie Guan Yi, whichever you prefer) Is one of my favorite teas. I’m trying to taste many offerings from different vendors to find the absolute best batch I can find.

My “Tea-Dream” is to one day make a cultural-tea trip to China, Taiwan, and Japan.

Ratings Guide

0 – 19 = Bad.
20 – 49 = Meh.
50 – 59 = It’s Ok.
60 – 69 = I like it, but…
70 – 79 = Good.
80 – 89 = Very Good.
90 – 100 = Amazing.


Los Angeles, CA

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