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Recent Tasting Notes
I realized today that I never got to the third Origins Tea sample which was sent to me a little ways back. Seemed like as good a time to brew it as ever. I hadn’t heard a lot of good things about this tea from the tea-drinkers I normally associate with. That said, I went into it with an open mind, and it turned out pretty well! I could smell the roast pretty heavily on these leaves, especially after a rinse, so that had me just a bit worried.
This tea had a bit of a nutty flavor, followed up by a finish/aftertaste which was definitely burnt tasting, but came across to me as a burnt sugar sort of taste. I can see why others might not have liked it, because it is really the most “burnt” tasting tea I’ve tried. Perhaps over-roasted. There was a little bit of fruitiness, though only really present in the later steeps once much of the roastiness had left the flavor. Around the middle of the session, the roast did get a little bit unpleasantly powerful, but not too terrible.
My verdict is that this is a decent tea, and one which I wouldn’t mind drinking every now and then, but I wouldn’t pay what Origins is selling it for. There are better Shui Xians available from other vendors for a lower price. For me the highlight of this tea was the burnt sugar finish in the early part of the session – it kind of reminded me of the crust on the top of a creme brulee.
Flavors: Burnt Sugar, Nutty, Roasted, Sweet
This was another of my samples from the reddit giveaway.
First off, let me say that my coworkers and I wholeheartedly disagree with the tasting notes on the bag, which said that the tea tasted of sourdough and honey.
But this tea was quite nice. It had a warm, comforting feel to it, as well as that undefinable Christmas flavor that I chase after in the greener oolongs. My coworker and I were trying to define that flavor. It’s spicy—nutmeg maybe? Sweet potatoes? She thought she maybe tasted some evergreen tree in there.
Of course, floral was the predominate flavor, but it wasn’t overwhelming like the Jin Xuan. The only thing that II could really fault this tea for is that it is temperamental. It is easily made astringent and even a bit bitter if brewed too long.
I got this tea as a free sample from the reddit giveaway, and while I am grateful for the samples and what this person is willing to do to kickstart their business, I find myself a little disappointed with this one.
The first steep starts out wonderfully, just as an Alishan should. It’s sweet and floral, with a hint of that spice that reminds me of Christmas that I haven’t been able to put my finger on yet. It’s not as much of that spice as I prefer, but it’s there, and I’m happy. The mouthfeel is thick and creamy.
As the leaves open, it loses almost all the qualities I love in a good Alishan. The spiciness goes away. The sweetness goes away. I am left with an astringent flower bomb. The astringency completely overwhelms any flavor left, and now I just want some water.
Ben is the meanest thing ever, seriously! As a wedding present to ourselves, we traded in a bunch of Magic Cards for store credit at Card Kingdom (including my super expensive Grim Flayer) and used to to finish off a couple of our decks. I also used it to get some much needed purple sleeves and a really cool Liliana deck box for my zombies, but the big jerk told me to not open the box until he gets home. So it is sitting there, staring at me, calling me to open it…I must be strong, but it is hard!! I am excited for the cards, but mostly I want to sleeve my decks!
It is a chilly day, meaning I need a tea that cuts through the cold, like Origins Tea: Tie Guan Yin – A Li Shan a roasted Taiwanese Oolong from one of my favorite mountains. The aroma of the leaves is nutty, a little savory tea, similar to a full grain walnut bread that has been nicely toasted, but this bread is clearly made for sandwiches rather than as a dessert bread. Yes, I take my bread very seriously. Towards the end is a bit of almond and brown sugar, only a hint of sweetness, mostly this tea is about toasted nuts.
After steeping I think I can safely say this is the nuttiest TGY I have ever sniffed, I get notes of almond, walnut, macadamia nuts, and even a touch of pecans, all thoroughly toasted in a fire giving it an edge of char. Under the char and nuts is a gentle note or orchid adding a touch of sweetness. The liquid, however, is surprisingly sweet, with notes of orchid and honeysuckle, almonds and walnuts, all of which have been tossed on a fire! The char note is very present but not unpleasant.
The first steep is thick and smooth, very much so a mouth coating Oolong, which I notice a lot of roasted Oolongs feel more sharp (not really the right word since sharp would be painful, it is more the difference between biting into okra and biting into lettuce.) It is very sweet, with notes of almonds and macadamia nuts drizzled with honey. Towards the middle it picks up notes of baked walnut bread and a bit of orchids, with a finish and subsequent aftertaste of orchids.
On to the next steep, the char has increased, definitely that more sharp mouthfeel I associate with roasted Oolongs. The taste is nuts that have been lit on fire, with a strong toasted bread undertone. Not much sweetness to be found in this steep, but there is a lingering aftertaste of orchid, ghostly but floral.
I was able to get several steeps out of this tea, I found it kinda puttered out a little soon, fading into mostly char after steep eight. I really liked how nutty it was, and how nutty it stayed until the end, especially with the notes of almond and macadamia nut, something I don’t run into as often as I would like. This is a great daily drinker I think, solid notes and pleasant taste, though it does not last as long as I would like for a more ‘special occasion’ TGY.
I received this sample for free on /r/tea, along with a couple others from Origins Tea. The dry leaf on this one had a pretty robust, roasty nose. After a rinse, I smelled a bit of charcoal and some light fruity notes.
I tasted the roast pretty heavily, especially in the first three steeps, with a bit of sweetness on the finish. By the second steep, the tea was quite drying. There was a bit of a floral quality to the sweetness I suppose. I wasn’t a huge fan of this tea at the start, as the roast was really quite intense – I figured it was recently roasted or something, and that once I got through these steeps I’d be done with that flavor.
For the next three steeps, the roast flavor was a little bit less sharp, but still left an almost ashy taste in the tea. I started to pick up a bit of nuttiness and astringency, kind of reminding me of almonds in a way. I only took the tea a few more steeps after this, as I just wasn’t enjoying the flavor very much – ashy, a bit astringent, quite drying in the mouth. There were a couple steeps toward the end where I picked up more fruity/floral sweet notes which gave me hope, but they just couldn’t shine through.
I wasn’t a big fan of this tea – I definitely preferred the roasted tgy I tried from an Aliexpress vendor a few days back. I think the roast was off, or hadn’t been given enough time to rest or something. Other roasted rolled oolongs which I’ve tried have a nice and creamy texture – this tea was quite lacking in body. It’s not the worst tgy I’ve ever tried, but it certainly isn’t my favorite.
Flavors: Ash, Astringent, Floral, Nutty, Roasted
Smooth and floral, with a hint of very well steamed haricot verts, and a sort of buttery sweetness that goes well with that.
Pleasant and delightfull, it reminded me och a nice stroll along a meadow in a beech forest during the late morning in early summer.
I started brewing this tea at around 96° for 10 sec with a plan to increase 5 sec / steep, but later i adjusted to lower temprature and longer steeping time at around 90° instead which seemed to suit this tea better. (Which I later noticed the instructions on the package recommended so I guess there is merit to that).
Flavors: Butterscotch, Floral, Green Beans
Brrr, it is cold! A brisk 22°F and it has been that way for the past couple days, meaning the dusting of snow is still on the ground. It also means that I have spent most my time bundled under my heated blanket and keeping Espeon and Tao from fighting over my lap, seriously. They both have completely comfy warm beds, but insist on being in my lap, regardless if I want them there, Espeon is particularly notorious for going through feats of acrobatics to get into my lap. These acrobatics usually involve climbing up the back of my chair, over my head, and down my shoulder. I’ve given up trying to stop this and just resign myself to my fate.
Today’s tea is from Origins Tea, their Hong Yun, a fascinating tea from Yu Chi Township in Taiwan. A cross between two different teas, Qimen and the Kyang strain from India, which is an Assamica. You might run into this tea listed by the name TTES #21, its cultivar name from the Taiwan Tea Experiment Station, not as catchy as the name Hong Yun. From the first sniff you can tell there is something a bit different about this hongcha, it is very aromatic, and while that is not unusual, the intense notes of yuzu, orange blossoms, honeysuckle, and chocolate is. It is almost Dancong like in its floral and fruity quality, but you can tell from the chocolate and gentle malty note that this is definitely a hongcha. I spent far too long sniffing it, fascinated by the citrus notes and their play with the other notes.
Into my little yixing pot the tea goes, yes I do have a yixing pot only for Taiwanese hongcha, because dedication. The aroma of the leaves is intensely aromatic, I feel like I can smell it from the other side of my desk rather than just when I have my nose in the teapot. Notes of orange blossoms, yuzu, grapefruit, chocolate, sassafrass, and a touch of menthol. There is a lot going on, and it has similar notes to my much beloved Red Jade, which I found enjoyable. The liquid is strong, but a ghost compared to the wet leaves, with notes of cocoa, orange blossoms, malt, and a bit of grapefruit peel.
Ok, so I had two sessions with this tea, and the first was a fail. I brewed it like I normally do Taiwanese Hongcha, using 195°F water and a steeping time of 30-60-90-etc but this tea was having none of it. The first steep was immensely tannic and brisk (to say the least) so I decided to try again but using flash steeping, which worked like a charm. It still has a tannic and brisk quality, but it is not unpleasant, being similar to a strong Assam in mouthfeel. The taste is very rich, strong notes of chocolate and yams with a building orange blossom and grapefruit that comes to strength at the finish with the orange blossom lasting into the aftertaste.
Next steep time, and like the previous it was brisk and tannic, bordering on dry but puckering, I admit it is not my favorite mouthfeel, one of the reasons I don’t drink a lot of Assam and Ceylon style teas, I like the smooth and buttery stuff. The taste takes its cues from the first steep, strong notes
of chocolate and yams with a steadily increasing citrus note that tastes distinctly like grapefruit. There is an added richness this steep, with malt and a touch of an undertone of menthol and sassafrass. The finish is orange blossom and lasts long after the cup has been emptied.
I was able to get six solid steeps from this tea and three lesser ones, the lesser ones had lost all tannic and briskness and were smooth, though lacking in flavor. This was a fascinating tea, I enjoyed it though I am not sure I can call it a favorite, mostly because of that mouthfeel not being a favorite…perhaps lovers of strong black teas would prefer this one over more delicate, smoother hongchas that I crave. One thing I will say in this tea’s favor that makes me tempted to add more to my stash, that grapefruit note was awesome, I do not run into enough teas that have a natural citrus note, I love its bright quality and wish I could run into it more often.
I had a hard time getting this to brew correctly, but somehow or another, I think I got a good general idea of this tea. It brews up heavy on the sweet potato with some moderate malt that ends in a really nice, deep luscious honey at the end. There is a slight cooling tingle going on, but not very noticeable.
In the beginning, the flavor was a bit weak for me and the astringency a bit too strong, but it evens out after another couple of steeps. I think this would have been better western as stacking gong fu steeps turned out much better than the initial two solo steeps. I liked it in the end but would strongly recommend brewing this Western.
Flavors: Honey, Malt, Sweet Potatoes
The predominant flavor on this one was a yummy nutty note that transformed into a grains/barley flavor backed with a sweet roast. This is topped by an additional sweetness that went from plummy, to honey, to syrup, with a very light throat coating effect. It starts off deeper and smooth, no astringency whatsoever, and almost no bitterness either (lightest trace in the barley flavor).
Overall, I liked what this one wanted to be, and it’s not unpleasant by any means, being an easy drinker—sweet, savory and soothing. The money steeps are in the very beginning (steeps 1-3) before you become accustomed to the consistent roast flavor and it has a bit more depth to it, although it never really lives up to the fullness of the flavors it hints at, to my disappointment. It also drops off sharply in flavor after just a couple of steeps, perhaps due to the more chopped size of the leaf.
Flavors: Honey, Pancake Syrup, Plum, Roast Nuts, Roasted Barley
I got this tea in a sample from James when he first offered them on /r/tea, so full disclosure there, but honestly, when he said it was “the best tie guan yin [he had] ever tasted” I’ll admit I was a little skeptical. That is until I gave it my first few sips. He’s dead right, from the moment the first light and crisp vegetal infusions awaken your senses, through the middle steepings full of lychee notes and fruit, until they give way to an almost rose scented final three or four steepings, I was in awe. The tea is just SO complex. And once you get past the first few steepings, which I will admit are quite delicate, the middle few stand up to food parings quite well. They brought out the underlying spice in a few pork buns my girlfriend was snacking on, and we both agreed it complimented and cut through the thickness of the fatty flavor. Honestly I loved it, if you like delicate teas which cycle down into robust flavor and back up to delicate liquors, this is a great tea for you.
Flavors: Floral, Fruity, Lychee, Pine, Wood
Got this one as one of my free samples from Origins Tea. It’s a very nice hong – and quite interesting as well. The leaves looked pretty impressive, long and spindly and black. The dry leaves had a slightly sour raisin/dry fruit smell along with the normal hong maltiness. The wet leaf had an interesting aroma to it – still some raisin, a bit of cocoa…and Play-Doh. It took me so long to figure out what the hell I was smelling, probably because I haven’t smelled it in over a decade, but once it came back to me, it was quite distinct. Not a bad smell – like not dirty/gross kid-hands smelling Play-Doh, but the fresh stuff. I guess one could also say it smells kind of like clay.
The tea started out with a nice malty steep which also had non-sour raisin character.
The second steep was a bit more subdued and complex – there was a muddy/earthy clay flavor, with maybe a hint of cocoa. It sounds awfully unpleasant, but it was actually pretty enjoyable. There was also a blueberry aftertaste to this one. It went on in much the same way for the next couple steeps, with some maltiness added in along with the earthy taste. The earthiness also made it feel like this tea had a bit of muddy thickness to it. I keep feeling bad about saying muddy, because it sounds so negative, but really it was good. The blueberry aftertaste never really came back, though there were still hints of dark fruit in there.
After the fifth steep, the tea started to get a little bit weaker, with the fruit and earthy notes starting to fade and leaving more of a generic malty-sweet hong taste. I called the session after the 8th or 9th steep I believe.
Very interesting black tea, this one. I’ve never had a Ruby #18 black tea before, so I’ll have to make an effort to try some more of them at some point and see if they all smell like Play-Doh and taste like tasty mud and stuff :)
Flavors: Blueberry, Cocoa, Fruity, Malt, Mud, Raisins, Sweet
This is a subtle tea. It has a light malt body, reminiscent of a hong but smoother, with a cooling tingle of red fruits and a silky suggestion of cocoa. This lightness probably wasn’t helped by my underleafing it (4g to 100 ml as opposed to the recommended 5g), but there were 7g in the sample bag, so, my being unwilling to figure out what to do with 2g leftover or to do dump the whole thing in, I decided to do the incredibly wishy washy thing, as usual.
It is lightly astringent, and the malt is the most obvious flavor, but it has a bit of sweetness to the depth and the aroma hints at the subtle layering of delicate flavors within. Best brewed with a light hand to pick those flavors apart and to minimize astringency, but don’t underleaf if you do.
Flavors: Cocoa, Malt, Red Fruits
Really awesome scent on the wet leaves—the usual roasted oolong notes of malt and chocolate but with a little fruit in there. Similar flavor on the first steep. Beautiful light amber/deep yellow soup. Very clean tea, basically zero dust. Second steep I’m getting more fruit and a little sourness right on the rear sides of my tongue. Pretty unique sensation. Faintly reminiscent flavors of lychee ramune. I’ve never had a gui fei so maybe this is run of the mill but to me this is extremely unique and very, very delicious.
After the 3rd steep the smell of the wet leaf becomes, for lack of a better word, soapy. Not in an off way, I mean I’m getting citrus/fruit/floral notes that are not identifiable to a single plant so the mishmash of scents reminds me of a scented soap. A little astringency is starting to peek out which is nice. The fruitiness and sour notes keep getting stronger as the roasty flavors fade. Seriously tasting like a lychee ramune with the little marble, if you don’t know what I’m talking about see if your Asian market has them they’re so good.
I would’ve used a bit less leaf but the sample was 7g and 120ml is my biggest gaiwan and I wasn’t about to toss 2-3g! My pot is crowded af with this leaf though and it doesn’t even look like it’s done expanding. At $0.23/g, I’m not in a huge hurry to get more but I always have a hard time breaking past the $0.10/g barrier (which is why I don’t drink a ton of oolongs). Based on other oolongs I’ve had at a similar price, this is a good deal. It’s nice to have a roasted tea that doesn’t just taste like roastiness.
I don’t know if I’m just an idiot and brewed this all wrong and didn’t pay attention to the right notes or whatever but this just tasted like oxidation to me. Like a plain black tea. The first 5-6 steeps were like this. The brewing instructions provided were very odd so I ignored them (for gongfu style it recommends 5g of tea in a 500ml pot!?). I brewed it like I brew any oolong, ~200F with a rinse and then steeps starting at 5s and going up about 5s each time, 7g in a ~150ml pot. The steeps beyond 5 or 6 were a little more interesting but it was just kind of a generic oolong flavor. This one was not for me. Maybe I just don’t have the palate to taste beyond the oxidation since I don’t drink many black teas.
My Fibromyalgia is kicking my backside lately, that complaining earlier in the week of being sick alongside the rest of the people in the house, well I have a secret. I don’t get viruses oddly enough, instead in the desperate attempt for my immune system to surprisingly do its job I get a flair up instead, pros and cons, having a week of severe joint and muscle pain over a week of a messed up sense of smell and taste is better for the blog, plus I feel blind when my nose is not working, meaning clearly I am a star-nosed mole. Also, you all guessed it, I might be in pain but I am in a great mood today, tomorrow being my birthday helps, but really I have yet another secret, this one will have to wait to be revealed but I am super excited about it.
Today I am looking at Origins Tea Shui Xian, a Taiwanese Oolong. You might be saying ‘now hold on Amanda, that is a Wuyi Oolong, from China, what are you on about with Taiwanese?’ Well, a while ago Wuyi Oolongs were brought over to Taiwan, usually you see Taiwanese Tie Guan Yin, but it was not the only tea brought over. It is really fascinating seeing how terroir affects taste, and how different processing affects taste, because as you noticed this is not a long strip style Oolong, it is all rolled up in typical Taiwanese fashion. though not as tightly rolled as some. I will warn my Yancha loving friends, don’t go into this one expecting a high char, super roasted, kick in the face like you would from a Wuyi Shui Xian, this is its delicate and subtle cousin. Sniffing the leaves brings the first hint this is a whole different animal, notes of orchid, gentle toasted yeasty bread, plums, caramelized sugar, toasted hazelnuts, and a gentle blend of earthy and wet coals. I say wet coals specifically because the char is mellow and blended with the earthy back tone it truly smells like coals of a wood fire the day after a rain, it reminds me of happy camping adventures.
I decided to (literally) dust off my roasted Oolong yixing, yes the good old lidless barrel pot! One day I will actually find a lid for it instead of just putting the cup on top while steeping, though probably not. The aroma of the unrfurled leaves is pleasantly nutty, notes of toasted hazelnuts and roasted chestnut blend with dried cherries and honey drizzled toast made from a sweet yeasty farm bread. The liquid is full of surprises, notes of toasted nuts, gentle char, fruity pipe tobacco, and honeyed toast blend with a delicate distant orchid note. It is funny, but my brain always registers flowers and char as someone throwing a bouquet into a bonfire and I just want to know why someone would do that!
First steep, and you know, I am just going to lay this on the line, if I ever have the opportunity to go on a hay ride I want this tea to come with me, it is just so autumn! Notes of roasted chestnuts, dried cherries, honey drizzled toast and kettlecorn blend with tobacco and distant char, it reminds me of the distinct taste that the air gets during autumn and I adore it. The mouthfeel is smooth with a buttery upturn at the finish, the aftertaste is a lingering honey sweetness that sticks around for a decent time.
On to the next steep, the leaves have almost fully unfurled and the aroma has taken on a slightly sweeter and stronger char note, like a raw honey drizzled burnt stick, trust me it smells better than it sounds. The taste notes from the firststeep are still present, they are a bit stronger but maintain their sweetness. Sometimes I find roasted teas lose their sweetness in later steeps while ramping up the char and other notes, but not this tea. The roast is mellow being reminiscent of toasted nuts, caramelized sugar, and kettlecorn. If you want a roasted tea that stays on the mellow side this is a good one.
I went for many steeps of this tea, it was a fantastic companion for painting, which is how I drank it. It is no secret by now that I love Oolongs that last a long time, are roasted, and make good painting companions, aka are mellow and sweet with distinct notes and nuances without being too overwhelming and distracting me from painting. It needs to be flavorful enough to keep my mind active (my brain likes multiple things going on while I am focusing, fun fact I cannot write a blog without music or Youtube playing in the background) and the notes of sweet kettlecorn, toasted chestnuts and hazelnuts, and distant flowers do just the trick.
I have a Chaos problem, specifically a Khorne problem. A while ago Ben bought me the Age of Sigmar boxed set, with a starter army of Khorne and Stormcast Eternals, and I know exactly how I want to paint the Eternals (or Sigmarines as I call them) but I am still not sure what to do the with forces of Chaos. I thought about going really weird and making them look like Husks from Mass Effect, but I am not sure it will look right, but that might be because I can’t think of Khorne in any color but red and gore. I also have this dislike of painting things to look like the house colors and box art so I need to come up with something else.
Today I am looking at a tea from a brand new company, freshly opened today, Origins Tea, specializing in Taiwanese goodness. I love Taiwanese tea, this is no secret, nor is it a secret how I am obsessed with Hongcha (aka black tea) from Taiwan, and my favorite is Red Jade. That tea of many names (Ruby #18, Sun Moon Lake Black, Hong Yu…) and many interpretations of peculiar flavor notes. I have said it the many times I have looked at this type of tea, it is by far the most uniquely varied while still being easily identifiable as ‘Red Jade’ tea I have run into, with some having notes of menthol, or tomatoes, or cinnamon, or cloves, or sassafras…it just keeps going. So let us see how this one differs from others I have tried! Sticking my nose into the long and lovely leaves, seriously these are some big leaves, there are notes of stewed plums, dried cherries, sassafras, tomato, a brisk woodiness, and cocoa. There are also notes of plumeria and orange blossom, making this the only floral Red Jade I have experienced, the aroma actually reminds me a little of an Oriental Beauty, but black and with definite notes of Red Jade, it is peculiar and smells delicious!
Into my gaiwan the tea goes, I decided to use my serpentinite gaiwan because fancy teas deserve a solid stone gaiwan! The leaves, now soaked and steeped, have a malty, tomato, sassafrass front notes with a slightly brisk woody note, dried cherries, cocoa, and a touch of plumeria at the finish. The aroma of wet leaves is surprisingly sweet, not cloying, but fruity and nectar like. The liquid is very rich! Notes of cocoa, sassafras, strong honey drizzled plums and cherries, and a lingering flowery note of plumeria. It is so sweet and smells very good, my mouth was watering while sniffing it!
So, when I took a sip of this tea, I was talking with Ben about…something…don’t remember what, but it is safe to say that the conversation was immediately ended by my wild flailing and inarticulate squealing. This tea from the first sip blew my mind, it is so sweet and so intense! Starting with notes of apricots and sassafras, plumeria and chocolate. Then it moves to persimmons, menthol, and cloves with a finish of cherries and menthol that lasts long into the aftertaste. One thing I find very enjoyable about this tea is the cooling sensation in the finish, it is not as intense as some young Shengs can be (like drinking icy hot) it is a soothing coolness, like having just sipped a cup of water, and I do love my cooling teas.
Somehow the second steep manages to be even more intense in both aroma and taste! The fruity notes in the aroma have increased, along with the sassafras, it takes on a real dessert quality that I find very appealing. Oh man, that taste, it is almost beyond words good! Taking the familiar sassafras, clove, sweet potato, teaberry, tomato, and cherry notes of a Red Jade and blending them with orange blossom, plums, plumeria, persimmon, and apricot jam which reminds me of an OB or Gui Fei Oolong. It is the sweetest Red Jade I have ever experienced, and the aftertaste of teaberry and apricot lingers forever, it was such an intense experience. I was nice and shared some with Ben and he could only handle a small cup since in his words ‘this is a treat that needs savoring, it is too intense to drink more than a little’ which is the first time I have ever heard him do this. More for me, though!
The packaging said I could get seven steeps out of this tea, and you can bet that I did, seven solid steeps and two that were faded but I didn’t care because I wanted every bit of this tea’s amazing flavor I could get. I don’t say this lightly, but of all the Red Jades I have had (read: a lot) this one is my new favorite. I adored how it had easy to identify as Red Jade notes but also had this wonderfully intense floral and fruity sweetness that made it incredibly unique. I cannot sing this tea’s praises enough, it was love at first sip!