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Recent Tasting Notes
Gonfu Sipdown (702)!
Sipped down this older Thyolo Oolong sample – I know I’ve had this tea for a long(!) but I can’t remember exactly when I got it. I think it was from Liquid Proust!? It was alright; nothing special but nothing awful either – tasted like crunchy leaves and lemon peel…
The shiboridashi I sipped it down in actually the much cooler part! I’ve been helping a coworker in our education/training department who is currently going through the process of getting her Tea Sommelier certification from TAC. We’ve been doing weekly tea tastings together of straight teas to build/develop her tea palate. It’s actually been incredibly fun for me, and it’s also been incredible watching the growth of her tasting abilities!
Well, this Monday she surprised me with a gift to thank me for helping her! I was shocked, but then even more shocked when I opened up the bag and saw this STUNNING shiboridashi with a matte, speckled turquoise glaze! It looks kind of like a dragon egg, and it’s BEAUTIFUL! Turns out she’d gone to our hardgoods department and reached out to one of the buyers to see if they could hook her up with a one of a kind piece of teaware for me as a thank you! So, this stunning shibo was picked out especially for me, and I guess another one just like it doesn’t exist!? It’s so damn pretty!
But like – you can’t just hit someone up at 9AM on a Monday morning with one of a kind teaware and not expect an emotional response!
So here’s some photos of the tea (but also the shibo): https://www.instagram.com/p/B2fVqkhg1Z4/
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8HoEvDh70Y
EDIT: Looks like this tea was 2014!? And also definitely from LP. Damn, didn’t realize it was that old – definite tea hoarding problems…
This one’s currently in my focus pile, since it was a sample size and should be a relatively easy sipdown. I need a few of those if I’m to keep my sanity with my 365 days of tea challenge! It may have re-inspired me when it comes to tea, but it also means I have a lot of “active” teas – those I’ve opened but not made much headway with. I’m not doing too badly, but I still have enough stuff lying around now I’m close to 200 days in that it’s making me feel a bit overwhelmed. So, any progress is good progress!
I feel the same about this one as I did last time I drank it. It’s a little muted when freshly brewed, but it really starts to shine as it cools. It reminds me a bit of nutella – there’s milk chocolate, strong and smooth, combined with a nutty undertone. Delicious!
I’m drinking the 2014 harvest, from the Regional Group Buy. Hot, it’s not a particularly striking tea. It’s malty, for sure, but seems totally lacking in any other flavour. I was pretty disappointed, to be honest, until I came back to the cooling dregs of my cup and suddenly found that it tasted of chocolate. It’s smooth, sweet milk chocolate, with a strong backbone of malt and a light floral undertone.
I’ve drank oolongs that have been more impressive from first sip, but this one’s a real contender if you’re patient enough to wait for it (and don’t mind drinking lukewarm tea…)
This is a bit of an odd tea. I cant quite wrap myself completely around this one. Its an oolong, but it looks tastes and acts like a white tea.
I started by brewing this at 200 for about 25 seconds, in a glass pot. Despite not being a big fan of oolongs in glass, I think glass works extremely well for white tea. So I brewed it like a white tea.. this seems to be a wise decision. Because you get all the flavors you would expect out of an aged white, subtle honey, flowers and sweet notes in a pale honey color liqour.
The flavor is somewhere between an oriental beauty and white peony. Now that I think about it, thats a really good description. Its like an oriental beauty and a white peony had a love child.. that is exactly what it tastes like.
In the description it mentions radish and vanilla, I very occasionally get the vanilla notes, but i dont seem to pick up anything vegetal in this.
I do recommend this for people who are looking for something new and interesting to try. If you are, contact Tealet for this very interesting tea.
Flavors: Flowers, Honey, Sweet, Vanilla
This is from 2014. I drank this side-by-side with a 2012 thyolo.
The leaves are slightly crushed, and they offer an aroma of dark wood, hay, raisin, and dried cranberries. I warmed up my gaiwan and began my brewing. The warmed leaf gives off a strong savory aroma of roast beef and other meaty scents along with some dry wood. I washed the leaves once and steeped away. The taste was nice and smooth with agave and oak tastes. The tea was a bit odd with desert blossoms coming off the cup along with sawdust, but it was enjoyable. The tea gave a very nice thick and sweet aftertaste. I liked this tea.
Flavors: Cranberry, Dark Wood, Hay, Meat, Oak, Raisins
My second tasting of the day is a high fired roasted oolong, Da Hong Pao. I started this off with a quick rinse of about 2 seconds, just letting it open up the leaves and wash off tea dust. There was almost no tea dust and I decided a second rinse wasnt needed.
The first infusion was done for about 5-10 seconds at 200 degrees and produced a light clear brown liquor, and the first thing that strikes me is a smokey vanilla aroma. Tasting it produced much the same with a slight bit of char and a hint of mint at the end. A slight cooling sensation.
The second infusion produced a slightly stronger version with a bit more sweet notes, and a slight aroma of fruity sweetness. The intense smokey vanilla sensations stuck with it. This left a long linger sweet and slightly minty aftertaste, that was absolutely wonderful.
The third infusion I did for just slightly longer at like 20 seconds and was by far the best one. Strong and bold with a mineral flavor and aroma that was just amazing. The aftertaste lasted a lot longer as well. Providing a nice cooling sensation on the back of the tongue.
I infused it another 3 or so times after that to finish the tea. I wanted to get every last drop out of this wonderful tea. It slightly got weaker, but I played with increasing temp and time to bring out a little more flavor with some excellent results. Oolong is incredibly well suited to long multiple steeps.
This is as of right now my favorite tea, and the best tea ive tasted yet. I cant highly recommend this one enough, before trying this I didnt even know I liked oolong this much.
Flavors: Char, Mineral, Smoke, Sweet, Vanilla
From the Regional Group Buy. I had difficulty experimenting with this, especially getting the temperature right. I should have divided the leaf better. I first brewed 5g gongfu-style in a ceramic gaiwan and then the other 5g semi-Western in a glass test tube steeper.
The dry leaf smells woody, sweet and herbal. Letting the leaf rest in the pre-heated gaiwan brings out fruity notes. The fruits are much stronger in the wet leaf aroma. I couldn’t pick out any specific fruits – I smelled nondescript jams, but they were very sweet.
The liquor is the color of apple juice and and has a medium body for both sessions.
No rinse. Steeping times: 30, 20, 40; 1 minute, 2, 6. The first infusion is sour and fruity. Urgh. Thankfully, the sourness disappears after that. The second and third infusions resemble Bai Hao in that they have similar sweet and fruity notes. Four, five and six also resemble Bai Hao and have an additional malty, astringent flavor that I usually taste in lighter Assams. There is also a consistent sweet aftertaste.
Steeping times: 1 minute, 1.5, 2.5, 5. Kind of disastrous. It wasn’t until too late that there were a lot of broken leaves in this batch. Basically, the liquor tastes tannic, sweet, and sour all at once throughout the session.
If I had another shot at this oolong, I’d experiment with the gaiwan again. Still, as much as it tasted better then, it was only OK for me. (I do think that I had problems with leaf amount. I find myself at wits end when it comes to not brewing teas with a non-gongfu approach, Japanese greens excepted.)
The brew smells floral, but I’m not getting a lot of that in the flavor, thankfully. It’s one of those “half black, half oolong” teas that makes me wonder if the tea isn’t having some sort of identity crisis. Since I like blacks and oolongs though, this tea is ideal for me. It’s like a black plus.
The tea is on the malty side, with a bit of bitterness an astringency, but not much. There is some tannic as well. Clearly this is the black side of the tea.
But there is also a hint of floral, which reminds me of heather—the flower, not the person. It has that darker oolong kind of flavor with a creamy mouthfeel. Pretty nice for the morning.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Floral, Malt
Me (sniffing the tea as it steeps): Well, this smells a lot more like green tea than I expected from something that’s been toasted.
Me (tasting the tea): Why on earth is it so sweet? This doesn’t taste like green tea at all. Except when it does.
Yes, this tea does have an inexplicable sweetness. It also has a warm brownish color, very fine leaf particles that like to escape the steeper thingy (just like green tea), and a nice toasted flavor. I shall now put some milk into it because low blood sugar is a thing that I’ve got right now.
ETA: It tastes very strange with milk. (As I suspected it might.) It masks most of the flavor so that mostly only the sweetness and the green-tea-esque seaweed notes show through, with a hint of toastedness. So it’s like sweet, creamy seaweed that’s been dried over the fire a bit too long lol. (I don’t normally like green tea with milk though, so I’m not too disappointed.)
This tea sample was given to me by Rie from Tealet. Thanks! This tea is mentioned on their website as being a green or a white depending on your point of view, as it undergoes a non-standard processing developed by the locals at the Hariyali Cooperative. My curiosity leads me to wonder if it’ll brew like a hybrid of the two or if it’ll seem more like one than the other. I’m going to play it safe with a slightly cooler brewing temperature as I would for green tea.
I feel I should mention these leaves’ appearance, as they are very thin, delicate, and twisted and many are covered in white fur. They seem very similar to bi luo chun. I did the rare deed of reading the company’s description before trying this tea. I try not to so I have an open mind and blank palate, but I’m mentioning this to say that my first impression of the aroma, from the dry leaves sitting in the warm gaiwan, is of creamed corn, which is a note they mentioned in their description and I really agree with it. I also smell a bit of moss and underbrush underscoring the scent . The wet leaf aroma is very vegetal and green beany like a typical Chinese green tea, with some really nice sweet grassy notes atop it all.
The flavor of this green tea is mild and sweet on the first infusion, a sweet corn on the cob or corn husk note is most evident. There is just the slightest wisp of smokiness in the finish. The second infusion of this tastes like taking a bite out of a fresh green vegetable, almost like cucumber or zucchini. It has that dewy note that cucumbers or even honeydew melon has.
Brewing this gongfu style, I am having a little trouble not overbrewing it. Maybe I used too much leaf, or maybe this tea is just naturally quite potent, but it keeps edging on bitterness, and I have to add a little more water to bring it to normal. After doing that, the bitterness is very mild and only comes in the finish, so I think this is just a tea that takes some finesse to brew. Holding similarities to bi luo chun I could see that being the case since that tea is quite tricky to brew due to its delicate nature.
The third infusion of this tea has a more generic green tea flavor and is tasting a bit muddled in comparison to the first two, but in my experience with gongfu brewing greens, you’re lucky if you make it to three or 4 infusions with a really nice flavor. The taste right now is still somewhat sweet, but the bitterness a bit stronger in the finish. I brewed one more infusion and on the fourth it was sweeter again, with a little astringency and bitterness, and still seeming more diminished in flavor.
If I had tried this tea blind, I’d have told you based on its appearance and taste that it’s a green tea. The white tea notion comes in a bit with the sweetness and corn-like flavor, which reminds me a lot of silver needle white tea from Kenya, but all that said, for the purpose of reviewing and explaining my experience with this tea to help others, I’d say this is much more like a green. It brews more like a green, in that you have to be a bit tender with it or it will coax out bitterness, whereas I don’t often find this to be the case with white teas.
I really liked this tea. The first two infusions had really great flavor, and the sweetness and a peppery note are both lingering in my mouth several minutes after drinking it. I’m curious to see how this tea will turn out from another harvest and if the processing changes or becomes any more refined. So far, so good.
Flavors: Corn Husk, Cucumber, Honeydew, Sweet, Vegetal
Wow. I didn’t know what to expect from such a unique tea. This sheng Puer is scented with an herb called “nuo mi xiang” that has the same aroma as glutenous (sticky) rice, the type very popular in Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. This rice has a very firm, chewy texture and can easily be picked up in large chunks after steaming in a bamboo basket over a large pot. It has a similar fragrance to jasmine rice, hints of jasmine flowers, nutty, creamy, faint whispers of star anise.
I can definitely agree that this tea has the same aroma. It’s almost like a concentrated and more potent version of it, in fact. The sheng lends a bit of smoky smell as well. After the first infusion, a much more pungent vegetal scent comes from the leaves. On the first infusion, I’m tasting, surprisingly, more sticky rice flavor than sheng. It’s incredible, really. I love the flavor of this type of rice, so this is a treat. Again, much with the aroma, the flavor is really just an amplified version of the flavor of glutenous rice. It is a little bit sweeter, and has a bit of a smoky finish from the sheng.
In the second infusion, the flavor of sticky rice is a little more integrated with the sheng flavor, which is peppery and a little smokey more than anything. This tastes like a meal in a cup. Yum.
By the third infusion (gongfu brewing in a porcelain gaiwan) this tea has a more woody flavor, the sticky rice notes are light and rather creamy, and the aftertaste a bit peppery. The fourth infusion has a lighter, creamier nature overall, with less pepper.
I’m a big fan of sheng and of sticky rice, so this tea is a match made in paradise for me. You can tell that great care has been taken in the scenting process because neither the herb nor the tea overpower one another in any infusion. They complement each other rather well. Neither add an “off” flavor to the tea, and neither are trying to mask something. It’s a yin and yang balance that works very well.
Since Tealet is now a wholesaler only, I’ll be on the lookout for where to buy this tea in smaller retail batches (got the sample directly from Tealet at the Midwest Tea Fest). This one’s on the list for me to purchase when I can afford more tea.
Flavors: Cream, Pepper, Rice, Smoke, Wood
Many thanks to TheLastDodo. I was lucky enough to pick this up in her stash sale. She sent me a lot of samples too (and even some tea candy!) so I’m super excited to try all this. It’s been awhile since I had a honey oolong, and I’d almost forgotten how amazing they are. This one is particularly delicious. Really high quality leaf and great natural honey notes, along with an interesting nuttiness that I haven’t encountered before in this type of tea. I’m not getting much scent dry, but once steeped, it smells lovely.
Pleasantly surprised by how good this tea was. Kind of ordered it as an afterthought, but may be my favorite from the order. Had deep/dark fruit notes, reminiscent of cherries or maybe dates or something. Also a grassy taste which becomes more prominent as you steep this tea out. The fruit flavor is quite apparent in the aroma as well. The fruit is not super sweet, so it doesn’t come off as being like cough syrup or Kool-Aid.
Flavors: Cherry, Dates, Fruity, Grass
I have so many samples. Not sure where this one came from.
The dry leaves looked almost like a roasted oolong instead of a green and were long and spindly instead of rolled.
Brewed at 90 C for 1 min. Instantly it was all floral. Floral aroma. Floral in the taste. This sample may be a year old or more. If this tea is this good now, I wonder how good it was when it was really fresh?
There was a slight buttery taste and silky feel to this tea too. I checked out the website and read that if you want this tea more buttery to brew it at higher temperatures. At 90C it’s more floral. A really versatile tea!
Flavors: Butter, Floral
First note for this tea – and it’s also a sipdown!
The tea vendor offers two steeping temperatures with this tea – lower if you want a more buttery flavour, higher if you want a more bold/robust flavour.
I went with the lower temperature – 90C for about 2 minutes, 2 tsp per 8 oz. Since I made a big mug, I used up the whole sample I got last year.
I agree with the vendor that the taste was very buttery and somewhat floral. There was definitely a feeling of richness in the back of my mouth reminiscent of butterscotch or caramel – like Werthers Original candies.
However, the tea was not sweet. It wasn’t quite tart or sour or floral, but the flavour that did result is hard to describe, mixed as it was with the butter at the back of my mouth. I think this tea would have been absolutely lovely with some sugar and cream, but I always rush with my tea in the morning, since I have to leave the house by 7:20. Not very conducive to savouring and sipping.
I doubt this would be a restock. But I’m glad I got to get a sipdown in, even as the GCTTB4 sits there on my table!
This tea was a bit of a letdown. Never got much from it, and it was close to flavourless this time. Unusual for a black tea to lose so much flavour. I’ll try it later by itself, if I remember, but it’s even less flavourful than the whites I’ve had recently, which is saying something.
My bad… I bought this at last year’s Toronto Tea Festival and am just getting to it now (even though it was rather expensive). I’m quite sure it’s lost some flavour, especially since I just steeped it for 4 minutes (by accident), and it’s not astringent, but has almost a metallic edge. Bleh. Live and learn. It’s not that it’s terrible or anything, but I’m sure it was better a year ago. Anyhow, as my overwhelmingly helpful black tea descriptions go, it tastes… tea-like. There are supposed to be notes of toffee, apple, honey, almond… not picking up on those. It’s probably not helping that I’m drinking this after a bunch of other sweetened teas, either, but maybe using a bit more leaf and a shorter infusion time next time will help.
Since the weather has finally warmed up, I decided to start my days off with green tea rather than black, and this was a nice small sample.
The dry leaf for this smelled quite seaweed-ish, but the brewed tea was not very astringent or umami, which I liked. I even oversteeped it slightly, and that didn’t pose a problem to me – a rarity for me when it comes to Japanese greens.
This is a Japanese green tea I will probably finish off with very few problems. :D
this is really the best white tea i think i’ve ever had – not that this is an extensive set, LOL! i usually think white tea is best for adding flavorings to, and am not such a fan of flavored teas, so, obv., i don’t drink a lot of white tea. however, this one called out to me from across the intertubes, and here we are.
I brewed this in my Teavana gravity drain steepy thing, with 2 TBS @ about 180 degrees for about 2 minutes – and wow, i did NOT expect the luscious aroma that was coming off the steeper while i waited. the scent was a mix of a super-light green, completely unlike a sencha-y heavy murky green, but more of a fresh cut grass key lime kinda green, with a lovely peppery spiciness that i likewise can’t really describe without using images (damn that synaesthesia!). poky little points of peppery spiciness.
finally, 2 minutes were up, and i decanted the tea into my tea glass, and the taste, it does not disappoint. the first hot slurps were just as i described above, and now as it cools a bit, the flavor is rounding out to a gingery spiciness, the poky little points getting a little more blunt, even flat (not bad, just not as poky). i’d even dare to give the flavor now a “citrusy” kind of aura, although the aroma has not changed in the slightest from the original pepper.
i am not 100% sure i’ll have time this afternoon for steeps #2 and 3 and so on, but will update if i do. otherwise, am so saving in fridge to continue with this tomorrow afternoon. this is a nummy and interesting tea.
Flavors: Citrus, Cut Grass, Ginger, Pepper, Spices
This is another sample we have from Tealet. This is an Indonesian oolong. A few things about Indonesia. It’s quite mountainous, the soil quality can be excellent, really any area that has this particular type of volcanic activity typically has nice soil, and the climate is good. All this stuff is promising for tea production, especially good oolong tea. This tea is rather good. The smell from the infused leaves is like that of a nice bath. It smells like expensive bath products, in a good way, not in an icky soapy kind of way. The taste is vegetal, with notes of honeysuckle, orchid and that rather familiar and welcome floral taste that is the hallmark of these types of oolong. There is just the slightest touch of astringency as well. It’s not the best oolong I’ve ever drunk, but this is still a very, very good tea and I’d gladly drink it regularly and not become disappointed.
Flavors: Flowers, Honeysuckle, Orchids, Vegetal
The second last sample provided to us by Tealet! The dry leaves are a little ugly, but this is by virtue of how this tea is produced, see description below. The dry leaves have what can only be described as a creamy odour. The infused tea smells very floral, and very much like cinnamon. In the mouth it becomes very smooth, silky, and creamy. The dominant tastes are, sweet floral cinnamon and a subtle hint of peaches, with something else that I just cannot put my finger on right at this moment. A wonderful oolong, from a grower whose teas have yet to disappoint me.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Creamy, Peach, Sweet