drank Spiderweb Oolong by Shanti Tea
1999 tasting notes

The smell in the tin is fruity, like some mish mash of berries. I steeped in the gaiwan at 195F after a rinse starting at 15 seconds and increasing in 5 second increments.

The tea is golden bronze and clear after the first steep and smells like grapes — juice or wine, it has both characteristics. The flavor is very grapey as well, but mild, and not sharp.

I get the comparison to darjeeling, but darjeeling is usually not as smooth — it tends to have a sharpness that isn’t present here.

I’ve had Sri Lankan oolongs before (the LeafSpa comes to mind) but the ones I’ve had have been greener, and it has been easier to see them as oolongs because they bore some similarities to Chinese green oolongs. This is a darker oolong and unlike anything I’ve had before.

The liquor became darker on the second steep, a sort of burnt orange color — more heavy on the orange than the burnt. The flavor is fairly constant, though. Like a darjeeling lite. I sort of feel disappointed by this because I expected something else. If I wanted darjeeling, I’d have darjeeling.

Now I feel as though I’m being unfair and not very open minded. But then again, if something is going to defy expectations, it my view it better do it in a way that is so awesome that you’re glad your expectations were defied. Alas, I don’t feel that way about this tea.

If I could get past that and just enjoy this for what it is, how would I feel about it? OK, I guess. But not much more than that.

By the third steep, the liquor is a fairly vibrant orange. I don’t know whether the color has anything to do with it, but I’m also getting a flavor note that is orange-like. The tea’s astringency has become pronounced — lots of drying in the mouth.

I stopped after the fourth steep. I felt as though I had a plenty good introduction to this tea at that point and I really wanted something that fit more with my expectations of an oolong — so it was time to move on.

I love the name of this, and the idea of it. I just don’t love the tea. It isn’t bad, it’s just that it isn’t what I think of when I think of oolong and for that reason it was bound to disappoint me. It’s kind of like when you are expecting someone to give you a Labrador retriever and you get a fox terrier? Maybe not the best analogy, but the point is they are both dogs — you were just expecting the big pawed, gentle family dog and you got the little yappy, skittish one.

Flavors: Astringent, Grapes, Orange, Red Wine

195 °F / 90 °C

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I got obsessed with tea in 2010 for a while, then other things intruded, then I cycled back to it. I seem to be continuing that in for a while, out for a while cycle. I have a short attention span, but no shortage of tea.

I’m a mom, writer, gamer, lawyer, reader, runner, traveler, and enjoyer of life, literature, art, music, thought and kindness, in no particular order. I write fantasy and science fiction under the name J. J. Roth.

Personal biases: I drink tea without additives. If a tea needs milk or sugar to improve its flavor, its unlikely I’ll rate it high. The exception is chai, which I drink with milk/sugar or substitute. Rooibos and honeybush were my gateway drugs, but as my tastes developed they became less appealing — I still enjoy nicely done blends. I do not mix well with tulsi or yerba mate, and savory teas are more often a miss than a hit with me. I used to hate hibiscus, but I’ve turned that corner. Licorice, not so much.

Since I find others’ rating legends helpful, I added my own. But I don’t really find myself hating most things I try.

I try to rate teas in relation to others of the same type, for example, Earl Greys against other Earl Greys. But if a tea rates very high with me, it’s a stand out against all other teas I’ve tried.

95-100 A once in a lifetime experience; the best there is

90-94 Excellent; first rate; top notch; really terrific; will definitely buy more

80-89 Very good; will likely buy more

70-79 Good; would enjoy again, might buy again

60-69 Okay; wouldn’t pass up if offered, but likely won’t buy again

Below 60 Meh, so-so, iffy, or ick. The lower the number, the closer to ick.

I don’t swap. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that I have way more tea than any one person needs and am not lacking for new things to try. Also, I have way too much going on already in daily life and the additional commitment to get packages to people adds to my already high stress level. (Maybe it shouldn’t, but it does.)

That said, I enjoy reading folks’ notes, talking about what I drink, and getting to “know” people virtually here on Steepster so I can get ideas of other things I might want to try if I can ever again justify buying more tea. I also like keeping track of what I drink and what I thought about it.

My current process for tea note generation is described in my note on this tea: https://steepster.com/teas/mariage-freres/6990-the-des-impressionnistes


Bay Area, California



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