378 Tasting Notes
Gosh darn it… I was taking my notes in the review box and absentmindedly clicked away…
I’m up to steep 13 or 14 on this, and frankly I’m just getting ready to move on, but this tea is extremely long-lasting and just keeps giving.
I really wish I had all my steep notes, but I’ll simplify them as I can remember them.
First steep, and all steeps, poured a deep caramel brown. I am just now starting to see a decrease in color, which is astounding to me.
First steep was SO SMOOTH, with brown sugar, brown bread, and cooked fruit, like fruitcake in a cup. Later steeps produced some spices — nutmeg was the first one I noticed, then the following steep brought cinnamon and clove. A steep later I found some ginger. Plum.
There was a steep where I got green grapes and the brown fruitcake turned more to a yellow coffee cake.
Some astringency in later steeps, but nothing offensive or terribly drying. Right after the pour, wet leaves and toast reign; as the liquor cools, the spices and malt absolutely stick around.
The dry pearls of this oolong are tiny; as the leaves open up, they have the look of a nice black tea. I assume this oolong is on the more-oxidized end of the spectrum.
I have had quite a few cups of this western-style; while I enjoyed it quite a bit, this gong fu session really brought out some fantastic stuff. It’s not necessarily my absolute favorite flavors and scents, but wowza, it’s good fun.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Cake, Caramel, Cinnamon, Clove, Ginger, Nutmeg, Plum, Red Fruits, Toast, White Grapes
I went ahead and added a generic entry for this oolong, as I just received mine in 2022 (2021 or 2022 harvest?), and all the entries are for various harvests of the “same” tea. I am looking forward to reading back over all the iterations from different years after I post this.
Nose on the first steep was baby powder, which I now know consists of jasmine, violet, and white musk! I can understand the gardenia tasting note that Red Blossom provides. Taste is vegetal but not of cooked greens like spinach or asparagus — rather, I got a fresher note like green pepper, along with some root vegetables. Creamy.
Delicate corn husk color on the second pour; notes of pine, and that jasmine coming back strong again. I am tempted to note butter, but I think it is more precisely olive oil.
Lots of delicate flowers, like a tiny spring bouquet, in the following steeps. I oversteeped one on accident and did not get much astringency at all. I am still steeping this as my thermos runs out, which means about 10-11 solid steeps.
This isn’t the flavor profile that typically gets me super excited, but I really can’t argue with how lovely this Alishan is. I’ve been a bit critical of Red Blossom’s wares since I started tasting my way through them, but this one may help me take a step back and reconsider. I don’t necessarily need to be whacked over the head with every tea in order to appreciate it.
Flavors: Baby Powder, Creamy, Floral, Green Pepper, Jasmine, Olive Oil, Pine, Vegetal
This is a tea I wasn’t that impressed with on my first tasting; I still think it may be suffering from some covid-neglect. But, even as my attention was primarily on the reading I was doing, I experienced distinct notes of cherry and cocoa in the first steep, and picked up on some mouth-cooling, menthol-like notes in later steeps. I still don’t think I would re-purchase this tea, but I am enjoying the session.
Flavors: Cherry, Cocoa, Menthol
I drank this tea yesterday for the third time. I quite enjoy it, though — as I am finding with every Red Blossom tea I’ve tried — most every scent and flavor note I discern is very subtle. To be honest, this doesn’t thrill me when I’m in the headspace of “tasting.“ It does, though, make for a really lovely and clean cup of tea when I just want to have a nice experience, and that’s what yesterday was — a really nice, enjoyable tea session. Here are my tasting notes from my first two sessions, where I my brain was turned up to 11, and I was really trying to suss out every flavor I could find:
I think this session was about 2g/oz:
First steep was custard, butter, caramel, vanilla… it’s all subtle though.
I over-steeped the second, but still had nice floral notes with some astringency. Mostly florality in the following steeps; the creaminess really didn’t seem to last past the first go.
The second was a 3-4g/oz brew, as an experiment to see if the subtlety would persist, or if the flavors would become bolder…
First steep is creamy, with notes of spinach… very smooth.
Floral scent wafting off the light cornsilk-colored liquor. Tastes of dewy grass, and the creamy mouthfeel persists. Strawberry on the nose… that was a surprise.
More florality in the third. Vanilla.
Fourth… white floral, grass, and now some astringency coming through.
I don’t remember exactly how many steps I got out of this, but any subsequent cups didn’t really yield anything new in terms of flavor.
Flavors: Astringent, Butter, Caramel, Creamy, Custard, Floral, Grass, Spinach, Strawberry, Vanilla
Okay, I got a bit more out of this session than the one that preceded it. This Wuyi is not an immediate favorite, but it was pleasant and subtly interesting — I look forward to revisiting.
Sesame seeds on the nose, along with some funk in both the nose and first sip. Dark mushrooms, maybe. I didn’t keep such good track of my steeps today, but subsequent flavors I found included soy sauce, smoke, and cocoa.
Aroma and flavor seemed to fade rather quickly; I don’t think I got more than 5-6 steeps out of this tea before it got watery and I lost interest.
Flavors: Cocoa, Mushrooms, Sesame, Smoke, Soy Sauce
I may be having an off tea day. I’ve had two sessions with new-to-me teas and both were just okay. Maybe I’m getting too expectant after the mind-blowers I’ve had recently. Though… here I sit now, with one of my favorite oolongs (Taiwan Charcoal Roasted from What-Cha), and it’s great, so maybe I just batted 0/2 today.
2020 harvest. This was my first gong fu of the day, and based on the 2015 harvest that folks commented on, I was pretty excited about this tea.
My first 5-sec steep produced a nutty nose, like roasted pecan or walnut, with very subtle hints of roast and spiced baking — like plum pudding baking off in the oven. Not a lot in the first sip, dry leaves. Wisps of dark fruit, like cherry or plum.
Very subtle second steep… it’s a solid cuppa, but not terribly exciting to me. Some floral in the third. Fourth produced some tangy astringency.
Overall it’s a “meh” for me today, but I’ll come back to it.
Flavors: Astringent, Cherry, Dry Leaves, Floral, Pecan, Plum, Spices, Tangy
What-Cha… WHAT KIND OF SORCERY IS THIS? I can’t even. Just. Love.
Dry leaves have a smell of spinach. Lovely. Unlike any green tea I’ve smelled before, though my experience is mostly Japanese greens — sencha, genmaicha, matcha. I feel like I’m about to go on a ride.
Beautiful yellow-green pour from the first (~5sec) steep. Nose is a big bowl of asparagus soup — cooked asparagus, cream, even some umami/salt, if that’s possible…? Yep, that’s possible — taste is absolutely everything I smelled. Some toast, too. This is making me smile. I didn’t know tea could do this.
Second steep is our second course, apparently — pea risotto now, with everything that implies — cooked rice, garlic scapes, butter, cream, spring peas. Little touch of potato. Umami for days. I got a leaf in my last sip and it was soft and delightful, not tannic when chewed. You could put these in soup.
Very very mild astringency in the third; back to asparagus soup. Starting to get watery in the fourth, but I get squash blossoms as it cools.
My fifth was a much longer steep (managed to forget about it)… light greenish-yellow liquor, some very light olive oil on the nose. Spinach is back and there’s still quite a bit of flavor here, actually. Gave it one more fuggedaboudit steep and it was quite watery.
What an absolute freaking joy.
Flavors: Asparagus, Butter, Cream, Garlic, Olive Oil, Peas, Potato, Rice, Salt, Spinach, Squash Blossom, Toast, Umami
I love this tea so much. It is the selection that was thrown out as a possible replacement for an oolong I really enjoyed from August Uncommon… I tasted this stuff and that was the day I stopped chasing flavored teas in favor of exploring varieties/regions/craft. I’ve been drinking this so much that I’m afraid of losing the subtleties before I review it, so let me get to it…
First steep pours light brown with a nose of leather, cedar, floral perfume. Floral and charcoal notes come through up front, without a rinse.
Second steep is bigger leather and cedar, more floral, more easy charcoal… the roast is not intrusive, just underlies the other flavor components beautifully.
Third steep, tobacco. Wet leaves. Through several more steeps, the florality holds strong. Even the watery steeps are nicely leafy and twiggy.
This tea is just such a heady, lovely thing. Oolong gateway.
Flavors: Cedar, Charcoal, Floral, Leather, Perfume, Tobacco, Wood
Hay and white mushroom (enoki — really delicate, not fungal) in the first steep. 2-3 were grassy; I picked up a tiny floral or light fruit, like apple. Some astringency in the fourth; everything is so subtle and washed out, I’m a little surprised this is red label. I keep getting fruit on the nose when I let it sit for a minute, then it flutters away in the sip. More astringency and some grass on the last steeps.
Thoroughly “meh” for me. Most everything I’ve had from Red Blossom so far tastes very watery right out of the gate. Maybe this is the “clean” they describe in their mission…? I don’t know, I’m just not falling in love.
The elusive almond was more present in the nose here; nutty like boiled almonds, not amaretto. There’s some honey also, which rounds out the bottom of the nose… much easier to detect here, even though everything is still quite subtle. Hay, brown grass in the mouth; I don’t taste the almond and honey so much as I smell them. This feels like an everyday restaurant drinker, not a red label adventure. White mushrooms again.
Flavors: Almond, Apple, Dry Grass, Floral, Hay, Honey, Mushrooms