Tao Tea Leaf

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Recent Tasting Notes

85

A yesterday tea; two steeps; morning and afternoon. All 5 or so grams, steeped western.

If there is something I learned on the festival, it is that white teas are great teas for hot and humid days. Yesterday wasn’t humid, but hot — well, it was warm.

I was quite distracted both steeps, as in the morning we were preparing for family gathering; in the afternoon the gathering was in the place.

But, if there are some flavours I have noticed (not in order):
Hay
Melon
Stonefruits
Herbacous
Sweet
Sap
Oats

Yes, this tea was mellow and delicious, smooth and refreshing. Sadly, it’s gone. Thanks Leafhopper!

Preparation
170 °F / 76 °C 4 min, 0 sec 5 g 10 OZ / 300 ML

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Gongfu Sipdown (2306)!

Finished the last of this yesterday afternoon. This tea is so rich and full bodied yet super smooth and free from any unpleasant astringency or bitterness. The dominant notes are dark chocolate, malted grains, and perfectly carmelized sweet potatoes. Warm, starchy, and cozy with just the right amount of natural sweetness. One of those teas that kind of just tastes “brown” in the best sort of way. A liquid embodiment of the maillard reaction, if you will. It’s a super laid back and low maintenance tea with great pay off, and the perfect energy I want to carry into the remainder of this weekend!!

Tea Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/Ct2RlRhOW6r/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuYm7-5b8yg

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74

A gift from ashmanra — thank you so much! I think this might in fact be the final sample I have from you!

This tea is a lot of work and patience. I wouldn’t call this bitter; there were some surface tannins and astringency in the first few steeps, which progressed into straight astringency, which finally released the grape skin goods. Not enough sweetness or flavor for all that work, mind — but at least it went somewhere.

Flavors: Astringent, Grape Skin, Plum, Tannic

ashmanra

You are welcome! I don’t think I have tried this one yet. Might let it sit a decade or so.

beerandbeancurd

Sounds like a solid plan.

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Sipdown (2162)!

Kukicha isn’t a favourite of mine but I don’t mind it either. It’s, like, the step down from a nice hojicha IMO. I thought this one was kind of just meh. Biggest issue for me personally was that it was greener than expected when I prefer a kukicha with more of a nutty type of taste. Reminded me of fresh cut grass with a hint of lemongrass or citronella. Still prefer it to most green teas, though!

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drank Milk Oolong by Tao Tea Leaf
15678 tasting notes

Gongfu Sipdown (2155)

Finishing off the sample I got at TO Tea Festival. The leaf is a bit coarse and broken, and this is definitely a flavoured milk oolong but the rich and creamy notes of butter and the slightly nutty and toasty green oolong base was exactly the cozy and nostalgic tasting tea I needed to gear up for the week ahead! It reminded me a lot of movie theater popcorn, which was perfectly matched with this buttery yellow teaware set as well.

Not for everyone, I know – but sometimes you wanna get slapped in the face with butter because butter is just good. This is great for those moments. Probably better Western though, I’d wager. Flavouring fades out after about three steeps gongfu…

Tea Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CpdCDThOHoc/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzdLs9OLOZo

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Sipdown (2115)!

This was one of the little mini samples I picked up from Tao during Toronto Tea Festival. Most of what they were selling was straight teas, but this one was mixed in and it seemed to be popular so I decided to give it a try.

It was pretty punchy and flavourful with zesty orange and hibiscus notes and a decided strong ginger. It brewed up almost syrupy, but just in the sense of thickness and not sweetness. I expected the ginger to have more heat than it did, but the level of spice was pretty nice. I think it would have been better with less hibiscus and more orange, but not a bad tea overall. With honey it would make for a nice “sick tea” and it had a strong enough flavour that it would also probably ice really well.

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Gongfu Sipdown (2113)!

Sipping down a sample, that I picked up at the TO Tea Festival, yesterday afternoon! It’s very smooth with a thick velvety mouthfeel with pleasant hints of astringency in the finish and predominantly creamy taste that has elements of dried apricots, crunchy Autumn leaves, and decaying wood interwoven throughout. It is slightly strange to be drinking something that gives me such an Autumnal vibe right as it feels we’re on the cusp of Spring, but the tea is delicious and at the end of the day that’s all I really care about! Thanks steepedinanxiety for the recommendation.

Tea Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/Coftw-0u2FZ/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGselENUNEc

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90

I hadn’t heard of Kocha before trying this, and I must admit it was easy to quickly judge. Japan? Black tea? Can a nation that has mastered green tea really make a competitve high quality black/red? In hindsight, the answer is obviously yes. Japan accels at almost everything it touches, and Kocha is no exception.

Almost like a hybrid of Chinese red and floral oolongs, there is a buttery, nutty, almost caramel base that bears a striking resemblance to roasted chesnuts, or sugar-coated nuts, or maybe even walnuts! The tongue is left with a lovely orchid and caramel aftertaste with little astringency. I’m not sure how long Kocha has been produced, but whoever is making it clearly created something unique already. I haven’t had a bold tea quite like this before. Every sip is a delight!

Flavors: Caramel, Chestnut, Floral, Nuts, Walnut

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 10 g 6 OZ / 180 ML
gmathis

Never heard of this, but it sounds great!

So Keta

@gmathis I hadn’t either, my local shop says that it hasn’t been produced for very long and it seems it’s somewhat rare still.

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80

Really nice well balanced oolong. Floral, sweet, creamy, and not very astringent.

Flavors: Cream, Floral, Sweet

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 8 g 6 OZ / 180 ML

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82

I received this from Ost ages ago, thank you! I have steeped it up a few times but never write a note.  It’s a confusing tea for me!  Even using two teaspoons the big leaves have a roasted flavor, but very light.  I don’t think I should steep the first steep so cool, as the tea is never that tasty being so light.  It’s a slow unraveler.  The flavor is roasted, lychee, or smoky – when it cools it’s like maple syrup.  Somehow I would still describe it as one noted and not the flavor notes I’m looking for.  I’m not tasting most of the flavor notes that other Steepsterers are. Also, the packaging with this is like the Fort Knox of tea packaging.  Crazy metallic wrapping that folds way too many unnecessary times to create a crazy amount of unnecessary packaging that seems very wasteful.  It has probably changed by now.  I’m not thrilled with the tea, not thrilled with the packaging. 
Steep #1 // 2 teaspoons for full mug // 20 minutes after boiling // 2 minute steep
Steep #2 //  4 minutes after boiling // 4 minute steep

Mastress Alita

T2 has some of the sort, most wasteful packaging I’ve ever seen.

tea-sipper

The Tao Tea Leaf reminds me of metal though! And it rolls down at least a foot!

Leafhopper

When I made a big order from Tao Tea Leaf in 2017 (or was it 2016?), the packages were resealable Ziploc bags, with the 5 g samples in small paper envelopes. I hope it hasn’t changed for the worse!

tea-sipper

I can’t see an original note from Ost for this tea, so I don’t know how old it might be. (Probably older than 2017.)

Leafhopper

LOL! I’m glad I’m not the only one drinking very old teas! I only have a couple teas left from that order, but plenty of others from the same time period.

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Dry leaf is long, thin mostly dark green needles with some of of the typical white hairs. I smell some musty hay, faint smoke, rich undertone of white chocolate or cocoa butter.

Taste is full of white chocolate, hay, melon and minerals with slight herbaceous-vegetal-zucchini tone. Nectar sweetness that I find typical of silver needles. Creamy lychee-oat aftertaste. Rather drying.

I had this a week ago and my notes were rushed, my recollection fuzzy. The flavor profile was unique and I can’t remember enough to say why. Maybe the tea had a deeper, earthier feeling to it… I really enjoyed this one, though, especially the white chocolate note which I was not expecting after reading Leafhopper’s review. It seems like our experiences with this tea differed a bit. Thanks for the share, Leafhopper :)

Note 900

Flavors: Creamy, Drying, Hay, Herbaceous, Lychee, Melon, Mineral, Musty, Nectar, Smoke, Sweet, Vegetal, White Chocolate, Zucchini

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 g 2 OZ / 60 ML
Leafhopper

Congratulations on 900 tasting notes! I definitely don’t remember getting white chocolate from this tea. Did you brew it differently?

Courtney

Woot, 900!

White Antlers

Thank you for being so wonderfully prolific,derk.

gmathis

^ my sentiments exactly.

ashmanra

Ditto ^!

derk

Thank you all for bringing some kindness to the internet :)

Leafhopper: gongfu with steeps starting at 10s. Not much different than you. This tea had me spinning in place.

Martin Bednář

900! Woot woot! Let’s go to 1000 (and even more!)

mrmopar

Big number there!

Leafhopper

Derk, yes, I also found this tea to have a lot of caffeine. I remember being pretty buzzed after my long session.

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86

Until yesterday, when I did some research, I thought all Fujian white teas were the same. However, it appears that there are two types: one from Fuding, which is sweet and fruity, and this one from Zhenghe, which is more savoury and herbaceous. It would have been nice to know that back in 2016 when I bought this tea. After even more research and the realization that there are a million contradictory ways to brew white tea, I steeped about 5 g of leaf in a 120 ml pot at 195F for 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 seconds, then for 1:15, 1:30, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 10 minutes, plus some long, uncounted steeps.

The dry aroma is of pungent herbs, smoke, hay, and wood. The first steep has notes of banana bread, honey, delicate spring flowers, pungent herbs, hay, oats, and wood. Squash and pleasant sourness emerge in the second steep. I get wood smoke in steep three, along with creamy and woody notes, although the tea remains somewhat sweet; the hay/oats/banana aftertaste lingers. By steep six, the honey florals start to intensify and I get a sappy note. As the session goes on, the orchid and spring florals poke their heads out periodically, playing off the heavier smoke, wood, sourness, and oats. This tea goes for a long time and ends with hay, oats, wood, tannins, date-like sweetness, and minerals.

Since it has few of the flavours I like and many to which I’m indifferent, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this tea. I had fun picking apart the various flavours, which were all over the map. This tea packs a caffeine punch and took all day to steep out.

Flavors: Bread, Cream, Dates, Floral, Hay, Herbaceous, Honey, Mineral, Oats, Orchid, Pleasantly Sour, Sap, Smoke, Sweet, Tannin, Wood, Zucchini

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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83
drank Bei Dou Wu Yi Oolong by Tao Tea Leaf
1548 tasting notes

I really slowed down with my Wuyi oolong consumption since moving away from San Francisco. The weather there is perfect for this style of tea. Here, further north and a 30-minute drive inland, the highs are higher and the lows lower. It’s still foggy but not as temperate. I can’t remember the last time I had yancha :/

The dry leaf had a fairly strong, smooth roast aroma with other notes of celery leaf, cannabis, cacao, caraway, cranberry. It was roasty, rich, chocolatey and herbaceous. The warmed leaf smelled like a warm flourless chocolate cake made with dark and fruity cocoa powder. In the rinsed leaf I smelled dark chocolate with a sweeter, fruitier tone like redfruits. There were also orchids along with a very pungent herbaceousness.

The greener qualities didn’t transfer over at all into taste. This is indeed a medium-dark roasted oolong, which I prefer over the lighter roasts that seem to have been trending over the past few years. Perfumey on the sip, the taste spread across the palate with sweet mineral water and a dark roastiness, oak wood, chocolate-caramel-honey, a cooling mouthfeel. My body already settled. Second steep brought a richer, mineral body with honey-chocolate-cinnamon-camphor-caramel taste and a strong returning sweetness. Menthol oozed from my chest and cooled my upper body.

As the steeps lightened, they became woodier with a gentle sweetness. At the end of the session, the aroma finally registered with sugared peanuts or something like a Payday candy bar. Eight infusions overall. This strikes me as a good evening daily drinker.

Thank you, Leafhopper :)

Flavors: Cacao, Cake, Camphor, Caramel, Celery, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Cranberry, Dark Chocolate, Herbaceous, Honey, Menthol, Mineral, Oak, Orchid, Peanut, Perfume, Red Fruits, Roasted, Spices, Sugar, Sweet, Wet Wood, Wood

gmathis

I remember how much I liked this one!

derk

Knowing more about your tastes, I bet you did. It’s a solid tea.

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87

Diving into another loose-leaf sheng from Tao Tea Leaf today. I normally don’t get hung up on costs, but as this is the only place where I can locally buy aged pu-erh, it’s hard to look past this 15-gram sample being short by 6 grams. I paid $4.20 for the amount of tea they withheld. Not cool. Has kind of left me wondering about all the other times I’ve ordered expensive teas from this place… will definitely be weighing out everything else I ordered this time around.

That being said, at least there is enough for me to have one solid gong fu session. As with all the other loose-leaf shengs from this store, it has impressed me and exceeded expectations. This sheng has been aging since 2009 and its really developed into something delightful. A strong muscatel aroma after the wash was hard to ignore, sweet and pungent! The subsequent brews started off slightly bitter and smoky leaning more into hay and leather than grapes. This mellowed out quickly though into a mixture of grapes, cherries, roasted tomatoes, and something kind of like shiitake mushrooms. Little to no bitterness or astringency. The soup was surprisingly thin, quite lubricating, and dark. Very lovely aftertaste. I would love to have more of this in stock, but not if I’m going to be shorted again.

Flavors: Cherry, Hay, Leather, Muscatel, Mushrooms, Smoke, Vegetal

Preparation
Boiling 9 g 5 OZ / 140 ML

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84

Had a very late start to the day so I grabbed this ginseng oolong on my way out the door for a boost of energy. I love oolong, I love ginseng, I love Taiwan. I’m glad I picked this up.

Tried brewing in a gaiwan around 90°C at first, but it was being very stubborn. I guess the way it’s processed into little pearls benefits more from boiling water and probably a Western-style brew, which I’ll try next time. Eventually did coax out the flavours though. It’s very sweet like honey with deeper medicinal/oven roasted vegetable notes and a slight floral aftertaste. Reminds me of some of the GABA oolongs I’ve tried actually. The liquor isn’t very thick, but it’s lubricating and fragrant. Thankfully it has taken me into a place of calm alertness, similar to a matcha buzz. All in all a lovely oolong indeed, excellent for a pick-me-up in Winter!

Flavors: Floral, Honey, Medicinal, Vegetables, Vegetal

Preparation
Boiling 5 OZ / 140 ML

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76

Received a small amount of this as a sample. Seems as though it is from the bottom of the bag as there are lots of broken leaves and dust. High marks for the scent and flavour though, I love stone fruits and this smells exactly like a mix between real peaches and fuzzy peach candies, perhaps with a slight caramel undertone too! So far haven’t had a white tea that I don’t like from this company. Looking forward to diving into the teas I actually ordered over the next few days. Hope anyone reading this stays safe and healthy throughout the holidays and beyond!

Flavors: Apricot, Candy, Caramel, Peach

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 2 min, 0 sec 5 g 8 OZ / 240 ML
gmathis

Sounds lovely!

So Keta

Yes it is, would make a killer iced tea in summer!

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80
drank Da Hong Pao by Tao Tea Leaf
414 tasting notes

It appears I haven’t posted a note on this tea, which I think is from 2016. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 200F for 7, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The dry aroma is of char, roast, wood, and grain. The first steep has notes of grain, cannabis, char, nuts, caramel, roast, minerals, and wood. The char becomes more prominent in the second steep, as are roast and walnuts. Molasses, oakwood, and an incense-type quality emerge in the next couple steeps, and I can really notice the minerals in the aftertaste. Steeps five and six are more roasted, woody, and mineral, and are a bit drying. I also get a tobacco note. The end of the session has notes of roast, wood, char, wet rocks, grain, and minerals.

This is a very enjoyable Da Hong Pao whose smoky flavours don’t detract from the drinking experience. I found that it gets kind of boring by the seventh steep, although this is a minor complaint. It’s a perfect tea for this cool fall evening!

Flavors: Cannabis, Caramel, Char, Drying, Grain, Mineral, Molasses, Nuts, Oak, Roasted, Tobacco, Walnut, Wet Rocks, Wood

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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88

I just LOVE the weather right now in Canada. I’ve been spending my free time this Autumn foraging for edible fungi and crunching colourful fallen leaves (paired with some tea, obviously). Yesterday I brought my travel gongfu set and a thermos of water with me to enjoy this refreshing silver needle outside, the perfect liquid companion!

It’s been a while since I’ve sipped a good jasmine tea, and despite my love of these delicate flowers, a jasmine-white blend has somehow eluded my cupboards. Although I often prefer an oolong base, I must admit that the silver needle’s profile blends harmoniously with the hazy, heady perfume of jasmine flowers. Right from the first infusion I felt immediately more relaxed and lulled into what I can only describe as a waking-dream state. A masterful scenting process is apparent and truly pales in comparison to essential oil additives. The liquor has a delicate colour, but thick and lubricating with a rich and complex aftertaste of mixed fruits and jasmine petals. Lush lush lush.

Flavors: Fruity, Honey, Jasmine, Sweet, Warm Grass

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 8 g 5 OZ / 140 ML

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80
drank Cream Earl Grey by Tao Tea Leaf
54 tasting notes

Finally went through a truly immense stock of oolong and shoumei that was getting me through the summer months. On to something new and perhaps more seasonally appropriate. Up until now I don’t think I’ve tried any scented/blended teas from this store, but their pure loose leaf has been great so far.

The first thing I noticed about this cream earl grey is that the leaves are definitely a bit lower in quality and moderately broken, although it seems that’s usually the case with blends. Still, the dry aroma is enticing and I just loooove bergamot. Brewed this up Western style and am very content. It’s not sickly sweet or saturated with a chemically-strong fragrance like many other earl grey’s I’ve tried. Just some tasty Chinese black tea and a gentle, creamy bergamot flavour. This is how you balance a scented tea, it’s very well done.

Flavors: Bergamot, Cream

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec 4 g 8 OZ / 240 ML

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83

I bought this Wuyi oolong in Tao Tea Leaf’s 50% off sale around Christmas 2015. Since it’s a tea I enjoyed, I’ve naturally been hoarding it for the past five years. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 200F for 7, 10, 12, 16, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The dry aroma is of cannabis, oakwood, char, and nuts. The first steep has notes of char, smoke, cannabis, walnuts, almonds, cream, honey, minerals, and oakwood. The woody, nutty notes predominate. I get some baked bread in the second steep, along with tobacco and roast in the aftertaste. Perhaps due to the tea’s age, I don’t detect any flowers or stonefruit. The flavour profile remains constant through the next four steeps, becoming more drying, mineral, and roasty at the end of the session.

Despite its somewhat heavy roast, which I usually find off-putting, this is a fun and enjoyable oolong. I actually like it better than their Da Hong Pao, which I bought at the same time. I wish it had some fruit and florals, but that oakwood flavour makes it unique and oddly compelling.

Flavors: Almond, Bread, Cannabis, Char, Cream, Honey, Mineral, Nutty, Oak, Roasted, Smoke, Tobacco, Walnut

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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70

Is anyone else obsessed with Animal Crossing right now? I’ve been spending far too much time playing it, or maybe I just have too much free time on hands in general, ha. Had the day off work yesterday and basically just sat around playing and drinking tea.

This oolong was given to me as a sample and it’s interesting in the sense that before yesterday I had never tried such a starkly divided oolong. There’s an equal amount of heavy roast/char flavour and fruity floral flavour, almost as if someone mixed two separate oolongs. Nothing distinct really pops out at me except these two polar opposite flavour profiles. I’m not really a fan, it just seems confused, but I can see how others may enjoy this.

Flavors: Floral, Roasted

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 8 g 5 OZ / 140 ML
gmathis

Animal Crossing triggers all kinds of sentimental mommy memories for me! On my writing desk at home is a mini figurine of the little dog dude that sings to you in the coffee shop … forgot his name.

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95

Having a tough day today and needed the equivalent of comfort food in tea format, so I dipped into this Dan Cong that I was originally planning to save for the weekend. The only other honey orchid harvest I’ve tried was from Yunnan Sourcing (which was excellent), so I’m comparing this to that.

Great first impression! The wash was so aromatic and sweet tasting, definitely reminiscent of what I tried from YS. I think the liquor on this is a bit more orange in colour though, silky smooth, and consecutive infusions seem to lean more towards those kind of rich sweet cream and subdued umami notes that some Japanese greens can have. I’m also interestingly getting some taste of pears in the mix, like when they get slightly over ripe and are extra sweet and watery. Id say the variety I had from YS had a much brighter orchid note, while this is leaning more towards wildflower honey or whipped cream overall. It’s so so so good, very pleased indeed. I am just such a sucker for all these sweet floral oolongs. Also has a delightful aftertaste that just wont quit. Think I’ll have to buy a huge amount of this next time I order.

Flavors: Cream, Honey, Orchid, Pear, Umami

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 7 g 5 OZ / 140 ML

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80

I’m tapping out. Between the pandemic and the weather it’s just too much. This week’s heat wave will reach a whopping 36 Celsius and I have half the mind to make up a bed in the chest freezer and hibernate through it… Somehow I am still managing to drink hot tea today, but I’ll be making a big batch of cold brew iced tea after work.

I’ve chosen to dive into another loose leaf sheng that I purchased locally. Was frankly wary of the “ancient tree” advertising (rolling my eyes over here), but thankfully it’s not that expensive and surprised me with how enjoyable it actually is.

The wash and first infusion produced some lovely camphor and subdued sweet floral notes. Initially there is a bit of bitterness too, but as this is still somewhat young I think it’s actually quite pleasant (aged by my local shop since 2011). After a few pots these leaves really seem to give themselves fully with less bitterness and more of a rich smoky/meatiness that mixes pleasantly with that soft floral character. I also noticed an enjoyable spicy/peppercorn sensation on the sides of the tongue when I aerate via slurping. The liquor is juicy and thick, deep caramel in colour, leaving a lovely sweet aftertaste throughout the session. Despite the rich profile, I would say this is overall quite a light sheng!

This is now the second loose leaf pu-erh I’ve tried from this store and I really am satisfied. Both are quite good and I think the owner must have good sourcing sensibilities because I have never been impressed by uncompressed pu-erhs before. Would love to keep trying what else he has kicking around, I wish I could go into the shop and chat in person. Maybe one day soon (hopefully!)

Flavors: Bitter, Camphor, Flowers, Meat, Peppercorn, Smoke, Sweet

Preparation
Boiling 8 g 5 OZ / 140 ML

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75

I’m melting, melting I say! I am one of those weirdos who prefers colder climes and winter to the heat and humidity of summer. The season’s barely started and I’m already feeling swampy and sluggish. Bleh. Wistfully dreaming of the days when I could travel to cooler parts of the world.

At least I have some energising tea to keep me going. I’m dipping into this Golden Needle from my local shop today and it’s pretty good initially, but I think I do just prefer more mature buds when it comes to black teas. I find the younger Chinese black teas to release most of their essence in the first couple infusions leaving my wanting for more. Maybe Golden Needle is just better brewed Western style? Will have to give it a go. Anyway, the flavour profile is sort of a mix between earthy/mineral notes, malt, and honey, but the wet leaves aroma is way stronger than the flavour unfortunately. It actually reminds me of some sheng pu-erhs I’ve tried strangely. Lubricating mouth feel though and decent amount of caffeine I think. Ultimately this won’t be my go-to black tea in the future, but I’m still glad I tried it.

Flavors: Earth, Honey, Malt, Mineral

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 8 g 5 OZ / 140 ML

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