389 Tasting Notes
Just a sample from Alistair, so a sip down of sorts. Nepal had me doubtful, but oolong got me excited… and meh. A fine example of the cultivar, but the leading flavor of linalool oxide in Darjeeling just doesn’t really do it for me. Oolong processing didn’t add anything substantial that I could pick out. I should maybe start trying to pair teas from this region with food, as I find them kind of tiresome standing alone.
Flavors: Camphor, Menthol, Mint
I’m having a very hard time being fair to this tea, as it sits next to some pure bud golden snails from What-Cha, which I prefer immensely. The pure buds make for smaller, more golden, more hairy snails — translating to a smoother, fuller-bodied, oh-so-luxurious cuppa with layers that last for days.
That said, this is solid. It’s a light to medium mouthfeel, like making cocoa with water instead of milk. That character does let the cocoa flavor punch right through, and almost gives it a watery-coffee bottom note. Tannins, malt, brown bread. Sweet vanilla in the scent at the bottom of several pours, which was lovely. Strong and punchy through several steeps.
Flavors: Bread, Cocoa, Coffee, Malt, Sweet, Tannic, Vanilla
Started with 25g of this and plowed through 15g in two gong fu sessions today, chasing roses.
First go was 1g/oz, second was 2g/oz. The second did suffer some bitterness, but both were good. I discovered bran flakes, malt loaf, and the 82 ways I can hold, sniff, and slurp a cup in search of roses. I did not find roses — did not find florals at all — and am a little sad about it. I would not be surprised if this was a failure of my palate, but also know variations year to year can leave a tea full of extra-special-somethings or lacking some character it once had. I imagine pandemic-era tea has even more potential for same. So it goes.
Light to medium mouthfeel. It’s pleasant and comforting. Blacks have a tendency to burn out my palate and leave me a little up-strung, though, so I’m not convinced this is where I’ll choose to cash my chips in very often.
Flavors: Bread, Grain, Malt
Had the most curious experience with this tea yesterday. I brewed it twice in a row, because although the first steep was lovely, I really didn’t pick up on any of the berry scent/flavors that most reviews seem to find unmistakable. The leaves are pretty light and fluffy, and I put about a tablespoon and a half (but didn’t weigh them) into my 5oz gong fu pot.
Notes coming off the leaves, both dry and steaming, were super exciting even without much berry: nuts, roast — like someone was cooking supper — and just a hint of floral around the edges. Smell off the first cup was wet dog — which sounds gross, but honestly reminds me of Thai food, when funk-smell usually means great taste (I’m vegan and avoid fermented aquatic creatures, but the point stands). Tasted of toast, nuts, leather. Second steep brought in those florals that were on the nose — lightly, though, with roasted hazelnuts mostly taking the palate.
For my second session, I added maybe 2.5 tablespoons of leaves, which seemed like a LOT… and there it was! BAM — elderberry jam punched me in the face, nearly overtaking every other flavor I’d picked out in the first session. It was like a completely different tea. So interesting. Berries and berries and berries after that. I grew up eating elderberry pie, had mulberry bushes in my backyard, and currently eat shit-tons of blackberries… and I’m going with elderberry here. Cream, honey. The berry scent and taste was jammy, cooked, pie-like — not the acidic, light, flitting flavor that a lot of “berry” teas and tisanes have. I don’t much care for those. All of the umami and nuts (I’m actually glad I under-leafed that first go, as I was able to pick these out separately) underpinning the big jam flavor was really nice. Fairly light mouthfeel despite the big flavors.
This kept being tasty for quite a few steeps, in both sessions, though not as heady as the first sniffs and sips. I’ve had several so-so blacks in the past few days, so this was a lovely surprise. I find I am gravitating hard toward Taiwanese teas — mostly oolongs, admittedly, but all the flavors here made for a black I’ll likely come back to.
Flavors: Elderberry, Hazelnut, Jam, Leather, Roasted Nuts, Toast, Umami
Ordered this because of so many lovely Steepster reviews. I don’t have much to add to what’s already mentioned in said reviews, except a nice long “me too” sigh. I love this, and I don’t really know that I need any other non-caffeinated tisane in my life, ever. The taste, to me, is total fir/evergreen/pine and all their beautiful nuance. I don’t love mint/menthol/camphor flavors, and I don’t get any of that here. Lovely for a rainy day, before bedtime, outside around the fire. Reminds me of camping and Michigan and the PNW — some of my favorite spaces and memories.
Flavors: Evergreen, Fir, Pine
I am feeling a bit underwhelmed by this possibly-30-to-40 year old tea. I got heavy, HEAVY brandy notes from the leaves and first steep, which really intrigued and excited me. Flavors on the first two steeps were stewed fruit, raisins, spices, and alcohol. It’s probably the most liquor-tasting tea I’ve ever had. That said, I felt it muddied and washed out to a meh-tieguanyin without stopping to say goodbye. I thought of Octavia Tea’s Brandy Oolong immediately, but this one doesn’t last quite as long or come across quite as distinctly.
That all said, I am a newb and still have trust issues with my palate — so I’ll revisit, focus more, and see what else I can find. It’s good, absolutely… but maaaaaybe not a reorder as of this session.
Flavors: Alcohol, Brandy, Plum, Raisins, Spices, Stewed Fruits
2022 harvest. Another quicky note in passing. This tea, overall, is not something I’d rush to re-order. However, I feel like I have to note this flavor that I have not yet run across on my tea journey so far. I suspect it’s a defining characteristic of rock oolong, but I don’t know enough about the cultivar yet. In the first two or three steeps, there was a distinct minerality and “fresh springwater” taste that I found delightful and hard to pin down. It gave me the feeling of drinking something rather ethereal, and at the same time (water, ha) very approachable. Just the faintest whisper of pear blossom around that same minerality. Otherwise unremarkable during this session, but I look forward to spending more time with it when I can focus more.
Flavors: Mineral, Pear, Spring Water
Apologies in advance to anyone reading, as I’m about to copy-paste this note onto two teas.
I drank two Shandong Laoshans yesterday, one from What-Cha and one from Yunnan Sourcing, within an hour or so of each other. I had mild intentions of noting some differences between them, but the reality is I just wasn’t focused enough while doing some studying. I’m sure I’ll make more in depth and nitpicky reviews for each later, but overall impressions remind me a lot of What-Cha‘s Vietnam Fish Hook Green. Umami, asparagus, crockpot white beans, salty, savory. Very approachable, smooth, and delicious. I will probably always keep a tea of this character in my cupboard, though I look forward to getting to know the intricacies and contrasts between all of the ones I have right now. I brewed both around 170°, which I think is perfect. Some astringency showed up toward the end of each session, but I think that was more a function of steep length than temperature. I really like this style of green.
Flavors: Asparagus, Salty, Savory, Soybean, Umami
Apologies in advance to anyone reading, as I’m about to copy-paste this note onto two teas…
I drank two Shandong Laoshans yesterday, one from What-Cha and one from Yunnan Sourcing, within an hour or so of each other. I had mild intentions of noting some differences between them, but the reality is I just wasn’t focused enough while doing some studying. I’m sure I’ll make more in-depth and fussy reviews for each later, but overall impressions remind me a lot of What-Cha‘s Vietnam Fish Hook Green. Umami, asparagus, crockpot white beans, salty, savory. Very approachable, smooth, and delicious. I will probably always keep a tea of this character in my cupboard, though I look forward to getting to know the intricacies and contrasts between all of the ones I have right now. I brewed both around 167-170°, which I think is perfect. Some astringency showed up toward the end of each session, but I think that was more a function of steep length than temperature. I really like this style of green.
Flavors: Asparagus, Salty, Savory, Soybean, Umami
Wow. My second session of this beauty today. It is lovely and delicate. I suppose I need to better understand these snails and how they become snails, because — between this and the Pure Bud Golden Snail from What-Cha — I am just about smitten flat with them. This one, although green, is similar to What-Cha’s golden in its incredible smoothness and full mouthfeel. Some vegetal comes through on steeps 3+, but the flavors out front are perfectly toasted nuts and just a whisper of sweet corn. Umami. Brewed quite low at about 170, and it was perfect.
Flavors: Nuts, Sweet Corn, Umami, Vegetal