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Recent Tasting Notes
Gongfu Sipdown (1407)!
This sample is one that I somehow managed to miss finishing off from an older order, but it’s serving me well today! It’s nice and roasty with some really well defined notes of dark maple, tree sap, lucuma, and walnut!! Some of the midsession steeps had notes of cooked golden peaches as well, and a finish of plum skins! Really complex & beautiful – great inaugural session for this stunning gaiwan!
Dry leaf aroma of this smoked black tea is so enticing with its notes of pipe tobacco, syrupy golden raisins, and ash! Clouds are rolling in and it’s looking like it might rain; hopefully part of this session overlaps with some heavy rain so I can really capitalize on that super cozy feeling of a robust and cozy smoked tea during a storm – it’s the tea equivalent of sipping a Scotch under a giant flannel blanket in a log cabin the the middle of the woods!!
Steeped, it’s very similar to the dry aroma but vastly more fruity – brandied stonefruits, overripe red fruit, and the same raisin notes. Very, very syrupy in terms of mouthfeel as well – each sip was viscous and coating, leaving a lovely lingering smoke and overripe fruit note on the palate to enjoy between steeps. Sadly died off pretty quickly – five steeps total.
Wuyi yancha of the uncommon Que She (Sparrow Tongue) varietal. A first for me! This is a sweet, smooth and subtle rock oolong that Old Ways Tea calls ‘elusive’ and I have to agree. It’s different.
The dry leaf gives sweet and milky notes, caramel with darker notes of black currant and oak wood, a minty undertone. First impression from the warmed leaf is a very dark and strong mocha coffee with trails of caramel as I pull away. When I go back in for more, I notice dark brown toast and cardboard. Rinsing brings out the gentler characteristics of the tea: herbal, orange blossom, woodiness, wet vegetation, eucalyptus. I still notice coffee. It’s all so complex.
I gave it some intuitive brewing because that’s what it asked of me after the first short steep.
The flavor and aroma components are very active but the tea is overall very soothing. It’s at first a little alkaline I think from the roast, then opens up into a milky-woody-floral profile, a little caramel. It’s soft and somehow the deep and dark Wuyi minerality does not overplay. Balance. It travels in a minty cool stream down my throat and lingers there but not in my mouth.
With the next few cups, I notice the rich and sweet aroma that carries the same floral, milky character. The brew has more of a sunflower seed nuttiness to it. It’s interesting to breath the tea out of my nose – it seems to stick to every receptor and every hair. Aftertaste develops into a kind of incense, more sweet herbal than woody. My sinuses open completely. I notice cannabis. A few cups later and my throat is very warm, my body feels like a furnace yet my neck feels like ice in the sun. Hints of unripe apricot in the aftertaste.
I did many short steeps in the beginning and it was just this amazing tea. Once I started getting into late steepings, it became rather citrus-acidic and bitter. Drank the rinse this morning, cold. Despite sitting all night, it was fantastic, rich and sweet. No char or lingering roast notes at all.
It has this medium-oxidized/medium-roasted character but then it also seems like low-roasted. I would need several more sessions of this tea to figure out its nuances and understand its nature better. The subtleties of the tea don’t require your attention to appreciate it, though. It’s clearly a high quality tea.
Flavors: Apricot, Black Currant, Brown Toast, Cannabis, Caramel, Chocolate, Coffee, Creamy, Eucalyptus, Floral, Herbs, Menthol, Milk, Mineral, Mint, Nutty, Oak, Orange Blossom, Plants, Smooth, Spring Water, Sweet, Wood
Gongfu Sipdown (1372)!
The dry leaf aroma was so interesting to me; chocolate covered peanuts and a big hit of freshly mowed summer grass. Most of those notes also translate into the infusions as well, with greener top notes of the same hot summer grass and complimentary notes of dill and cannabis. The body is a bit more nutty and mineral, with notes of lightly roasted chicory root, salted peanuts, semi-sweet dark chocolate, and alfalfa grass all throughout the session. The first few steeps also had a starchy green banana note as well. This is a really interesting oolong tea and I half wish I had more than just this tea sample because it’s an interesting one to wrap my head around!
Need to try more Ban Tian Yao – this may have been my first one? It’s not a style of yancha that I’ve seen widely available and it was very cool!
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMEFtbf-FFA&ab_channel=RainbowKittenSurprise
I have thought I have drank this tea earlier, but there was written 6 grams from derk, and when I weighted it, it was exactly 6 grams from year 2018. So, no previous session. Thank you! And as I saw others making 6 grams per 100 ml approximately, I decided use all the tea in one session as well. So, technically not a sipdown for me, but one tea down anyway.
The leaves doesn’t need any rinse, but I made one mostly to let the humidity absorb to the leaves a bit and it woke up wonderful osmanthus aroma, combined with roasty notes and something reminiscent of dark chocolate. Quite interesting in my opinion, but truly wonderful.
First steep I made, as usual , 10 seconds long. Holy… this is mineral. But then roasty notes tame it down, with kind of creamy aftertaste with again, the osmanthus (and other) flowers? I still have some flowers of osmanthus somewhere buried, and I recall it being similar as this aftertaste. It is as well very smooth and indeed enjoyable cup, and I am already looking forward to next steeps.
Second, I did 5 seconds increment, so 15 seconds. Based on the colour of brew it seems it will be a thick one, smell going off the cup seems thick as well. It is! But the roasty notes started to be stronger, and there is some backbone I couldn’t put my finger on. Kind of refreshing… and floral/vegetal but not in green oolong/green tea style. The thickness of this tea is nice and interesting saying that with the second session. I feel a bit “tea high” — I can’t much express myself what it is like, just I want to write and dream.
As third steep, I have decided to keep same steeping parameters.
This time it is again 50/50 with mineral notes. That backbone is weaker, but still there. It is a bit stronger with osmanthus flavours; again a thick, full-bodied flavour. Not drying at all, though it sometimes seems like.
Another steep with 5 seconds increment. So.. 20 seconds.
It becomes lighter, more floral and maybe hints of fruity notes? It was drystored, in airproof pouch… more experienced personnel needed! It reminds me pears a wee bit. Sometimes they are a bit too mineral, and this tea isn’t that mineral, but that combination with roasty notes. Well… I am just confused about this tea. Why it is that complex? It is same plant as many teas I drank and… still learning how it can be different. Quite sweet as well.
Certainly it slowly goes towards sweet side of flavour spectrum. So, enjoy more vegetal (but still mineral) notes with sweet florals and somehow more easydrinking cups.
6th steep, no signs of this tea going bland. Oh, maybe this one is bland. As I am noticing just very sweet liquor of this tea, maybe I need to push it a bit than 30 seconds steep. The leaves aren’t that fragrant as wel. Maybe it is indeed time to call it done? I have water for one or two more steeps. While the latter => 8th will be with less water. But so good tea! Certainly a cultivar I need more experience with. An exceptional oolong. That’s for sure.
Let’s push it. I won’t count the time, but I will steep it for long. I think… it is around 2-3 minutes. Yep, it is over. Very similar to previous one, with more roasty base. And moreover I spilled it on myself. Ahh! Just a bit; but it always annoys me.
Flavors: Creamy, Dark Chocolate, Floral, Flowers, Mineral, Osmanthus, Roasted, Sweet, Thick, Vegetal
Mastress Alita’s sipdown challenge Wednesday, February 17th: Random Acts of Kindness Day Tea #1
I drank these theme days yesterday, but I’m slow to post the notes today. Another good theme day. I’d say tea swaps are “gifted teas” so I wanted to go for teas from swaps and definitely teas I haven’t written notes about yet. This is one! Kindly sent by derk! Thank you! derk and Martin love this tea. I keep trying it different ways, but to me it tastes like a typical white tea. It was in a sealed sample pouch, so the freshness should be fine. I like that Roswell’s recent note about a white tea mentioned paper and YES sometimes white tea tastes like paper to me in all the best ways. It really reminds me of crisp fresh white paper (cardboard teas are something else entirely.) This time I tried with a ton of these autumnal looking leaves but short steeps. It’s such a gentle tea, I think you could do anything with it but sometimes short steeps have more flavor nuance. The second steep was very sweet and proving it’s a great white. Very clear and crisp. Cold, the last gulp has something like tangy tamarind. This is a lovely white tea but not really something that stands out. Maybe I shouldn’t be steeping this western? So I’m not finding this as special as a 99 rating like derk and Martin, but it’s a very good white.
Steep #1 // 3 teaspoons for full mug // 30 minutes after boiling // 30 second steep
Steep #2 // 28 minutes after boiling // 1 minute steep
Steep #3 // just boiled // 3 min
Gongfu Sipdown (1328)!
This free sample from my last Old Ways order was the perfect thing to sipdown during a mini comic binge & reread!! I brewed this up super strong with a high leaf ratio for the gaiwan so steeps were kept quite short; even still my first couple infusions were pure dark, deep mineral roasty goodness!! Took a good few steeps before some other tasting notes, like oak and cocobolo, and a few more yet for a bouquet of gorgeous florals to break through the charred nuts, roast, mineral, and dark wood notes. Some herbaceous and buttery notes on the finish, and even some cheeky stewed plum. Very complex, robust and long lasting session – made it through several comics and spanned a few hours!
Sunday was one of those days where you blink and half of it has gone by already. I barely managed to sneak this session in while there was still light out!! Really lovely tea though, with one of the most intriguing and hard to place fruity notes I’ve tasted in a hong cha for a while!! Landed somewhere in the zone of horned melon, plantain, and slightly under ripe banana – all with this heady floral and sticky honey undertone!? So weird, but so tasty! Love the consistent but light astringency throughout, and the lingering starchy sweetness…
First session of the new year! It was a damn good one to kick things off with, but not really intentionally picked for any reason other than I was craving yancha.
So mineral and toasty in early infusions: dark mahogany, charred peanuts, tobacco, leather, & pine smoke. Then those flavours break, and the taste is like jammy, cooked down plum paste. Finally, the finish is fresh flowers – cherry blossom – and sweet plum and white peach juices. Such an evolution, and fucking immaculate. This is why I keep coming back to Old Ways Tea – the yancha they source is just mind blowing!!
It’s soon to be a Yancha party at the strange household – my Christmas gift to myself was a ton of samples from Old Ways Tea to drinking over the break and heading into the new year. I started with a black tea instead of an oolong yesterday, though.
Beginning my day with some Gongfu definitely through off my advent routine for the day, but it was worth it because this deeply hit the spot. Plus, it was the last “proper” advent tea day, so I didn’t mind scrambling so much later in the day. This tea liquor steeps syrupy with notes of brandied stonefruits, jammy plums, leather, honey, a tiny bit of floral orchid in the undertones. Coating, sweet and full bodied! A great prelude to the FINAL day of advent season!
Yellow florality top note is underpinned by an autumn leaf-straw body, light creamed honey sweetness with a mellow pine-smoked meat base note from the roast. Slight citric-fruity aftertaste and clean minerality. Unique like the 2018 with less complexity. Comforting taste with high energy. The 2019 is definitely worth a try for a different white tea experience. More robust flavor when brewed with water off the boil.
2.5g, 300mL, 200F
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Campfire, Citrus, Flowers, Honey, Meat, Mineral, Straw
I remember this Wuyi black tea having the basic, fruity profile of the region. The osmanthus flowers are the orange ones, not the yellow ones stored in gallon jars in Chinatown shops. The osmanthus was very strong in the first steep prepared western style. Its fruity, savory character blended very well with the black tea. I do remember the mouthfeel being rather thin but cleansing. It would make a great teapot tea to accompany lunch.
Thank you for the freebie, Old Ways Tea.
I wish I had more of this tea, like all the previous Old Tree Black offerings from Old Ways Tea. I had one bag, which I drank during the Steepster Freeze. Old notes, fairly illegible.
Like the other 3 years I’ve had (2016, 2017, 2018), this one had a great, complex strength in aroma and taste. It reminded me most of the 2018 harvest, and I think that’s because there was an umami quality present in this one that wasn’t there in the 2016 and 2017 harvests.
Main taste profile included pumpkin candy, wet rocks, sunflower seeds, rose-orchid-sunflower florals, almond, blackberry, antique wood, malt, bright leather and a tangy apricot-orange tone. Creamy finish with lychee, morphing into apple and peaches and cream. Long lasting floral aftertaste developed vapors of nutmeg that grew stronger. Ginger heat, camphor cool.
I can’t recommended the Old Tree Black teas enough if you’re willing to pay for a treat! These teas deserve attention and would be a fun learning experience for anybody wanting to develop their palate and understand complexity.
Flavors: Almond, Apple, Apricot, Blackberry, Brown Sugar, Camphor, Candy, Cream, Creamy, Floral, Flowers, Fruity, Ginger, Leather, Lychee, Meat, Nutmeg, Nutty, Oak, Orange, Orchid, Peach, Pumpkin, Roasted Nuts, Rose, Spicy, Tangy, Umami, Wet Rocks
There’s something reminiscent of a bug bitten quality- syrupy sweet honey, mostly in the flavor. There is a bit of a woodiness (like an oak tree after it rained) in the flavor. But, the aroma is extremely off-putting for me. Like boiled vegetables that sat out for a couple of hours. Subsequent steeps yield for of a chocolatey aroma, but the vegetables scent is still there. Definitely an odd experience, but the most intrigued I’ve been by a tea in a bit.
I’ve been really good about not making any tea purchases! I did, however, purchase the Tea Thoughts summer box. I love a surprise, and the Tea Thoughts boxes are always loaded with such fun items, I couldn’t resist. This is one of the teas that came in the box, and I’m loving it. I woke up with a headache this morning (the worst!), and was feeling much better after drinking this tea. So smooth and soft in the mouth. A bit smoky, and full of sweet honeyed stone-fruit flavors. Absolutely no astringency or bitterness.
Flavors: Apricot, Honey, Smoke, Stonefruit
Great daily drinker yancha. Aromas of chocolate/syrup, caramel, blood orange tone, marshmallow, dark wood and raspberry/blackberry. Thick mouthfeel but light and refreshing with a playful bitterness, strong mouthwatering effect and camphor throat feeling. Vibrant, lively flavor that’s mineral sweet with a complex fruity aftertaste. Doesn’t present its full palate within the first few steeps unlike a lot of rock oolong. I seek that quality in this style of tea though others may prefer full flavor in the first or second infusion.
This tea proved to me that you can accidentally blend two cultivars and create a concoction that is steps above huang guan yin or qi lan on their own.
Lucky Accident is something Old Ways Tea should consider adding to their usual catalog as a fantastic value rock oolong (it is no longer available).
Spring in a cup. For Easter.
I had some 2017 Qi Lan gongfu this morning while watching service so I didn’t take notes. It was good but nothing that blew me away.
Right now I’m drinking the last 3.5 grams western and I like it better this way. It tastes like a specific Easter candy — those small, candy shell coated chocolate eggs. Like those are mixed with roasted almonds and a touch of caramel, sitting on the damp mineral soil and overgrown tender grasses in one of our raised beds. And of course, orchids. Those are in my backyard, too. Gentle tangy-fruity, creamy aftertaste. Some bitterness. Tea oil coating, tingling. Not necessarily sweet tasting but rather dry with sweet aromatics. That’s what I like about a lot of Wuyi yancha.
Like the 2016 Qi Lan from Old Ways Tea, still too green/floral for me to go crazy over but today it makes me happy and that’s what matters.
Flavors: Almond, Candy, Caramel, Chocolate, Cream, Dark Chocolate, Floral, Grass, Mineral, Orange Zest, Orchid, Peach, Raspberry, Roasted, Tangy, Wet Earth, Wood
Backlog. The final tea of my 3-year spread of Old Ways Tea’s Old Tree Black teas.
This tea reminded me of an old leather couch in a study. Pipe tobacco and raisins, malt, florals, tangy. Interesting unexpected umami. Glorious silky texture later turning oily with mouth-watering minerality and a complementary light astringency that opened the door for a strong returning sweetness. Explosive yet contemplative energy, warming and cooling. Six great infusions.
Each year from 2016 to 2018 was markedly different, each with their own strengths.
2016 — complexity and strength of flavors, lingering aftertaste, longevity
2017 — roundedness and daily drinkability
2018 — strength of brew, structured body/mouthfeel and pleasing energy
All delicious. All aromatic and engaging.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Blueberry, Brown Sugar, Butter, Campfire, Cinnamon, Floral, Flowers, Leather, Malt, Mineral, Nutmeg, Orange, Raisins, Rose, Tangy, Tobacco, Umami, Wood
In comparison to the 2016 harvest I had earlier this week, the 2017 is more of a high-end daily drinker as opposed to a real treat. It manages to be both bold and light yet not so complex that it commands all my attention. The flavor profile is exemplary of Old Ways Tea’s Wuyi black teas. It is very similar to the 2016 though more rounded and less active in the mouth. It smells and tastes a lot like a sunflower seed dark bread. Quite sunflower-wildflower-rose floral, malty, leathery, fruity. There seems to be less of an old-growth depth and the baking spice and cream notes are not as apparent, briefly experienced early on in the back of the mouth. It evokes a feeling of a cool, damp meadow in full bloom, surrounded by berries, rather than an old-growth cedar forest. It’s still a wonderful tea and I’m sad to see it go.
Flavors: Apricot, Baked Bread, Blackberry, Blueberry, Brown Sugar, Cinnamon, Cream, Floral, Flowers, Fruity, Leather, Lemon, Lychee, Malt, Nutmeg, Nutty, Orange, Rose, Tangy, Tobacco