559 Tasting Notes

62

First spring 2021 oolong and a rather disappointing one at that. This one is practically flavorless with zero body or depth to speak of. Vaguely floral with a little citrus and honey notes here and there but that’s it. Tried it gongfu, cold brew, and grandpa style and no matter what it’s just flat and insipid. Luckily, this was only a sampler so no big loss.

Flavors: Honey, Lemon Zest, Vegetal

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 45 sec 7 g 5 OZ / 160 ML

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90
drank SHINCHA Samidori 2021 by Sazen
559 tasting notes

The first shincha of 2021! I picked this up with my new Gyokko shiboridashi from Sazen Tea recently. Had been eyeing it for a long time and in the end, just couldn’t manage to convince myself that I didn’t need a 4th shibo hehe. It turned out to be a good move though as its an elegant and shapely vessel that’s beautiful in its sheer simplicity. The only negative is that it’s unglazed because I want to steep everything in it!

Back to the tea at hand. This medium steamed sencha is what I broke in the new teapot with. Saemidori is one of the better Japanese green tea cultivars out there and this one was no exception. Out of the bag, it had an intensely sweet aroma of umami and grass. First steep was light and fresh. Rich umami mingled with gentle grass and a touch of sea air. Second infusion was greener, as it usually is, both in color and taste. Notes of spinach and wet meadow grass. Third and final steep is mellower with vegetal tones and a more generic sencha taste.

My only knock on this tea is that it loses its potency rapidly. It was amazing when I first received it but a few weeks after opening it, the flavor isn’t quite the same. Still good but the freshness has evaporated. Hence why I’m lowering my rating slightly.

Instagram pictures of the tea and shibo:

https://www.instagram.com/p/CPGvLGlgZ0S/
https://www.instagram.com/p/CO_b4Ceg67l/

Flavors: Garden Peas, Grass, Ocean Air, Spinach, Umami

Preparation
165 °F / 73 °C 0 min, 45 sec 2 g 7 OZ / 200 ML
Daylon R Thomas

Sazen always looked like it had some great teas, both japanese and taiwanese…just pricey. The Yuzu Cha oolong is on my list personally.

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93

One of the things the pandemic changed is the way I buy tea online. Pre-Covid, it was easy to do quick one off orders from Japan or Taiwan whenever I was running low on a favorite tea thanks to inexpensive international air mail shipping. Well that option is no longer available – at least not for US customers – leaving only the more expensive express shipping via DHL and FedEx. This has resulted in less frequent tea buys and led to a search for US-based tea shops that direct source high quality tea.

I discovered this company through Instagram and Amazon. They are based in Japan but have recently begun shipping from the US. I ordered some fukamushi as I was all out of Japanese greens and wanted something more intense than the lightly steamed Sencha and kabusechsa I’d been having lately.

The tea arrived within days and came vacuum sealed which made me very happy. Properly sealed tea is so important for preserving freshness so you can taste it at peak flavor. Otherwise you’re just buying stale tea.

The tea itself was excellent with all of the flavor elements I like. Freshly cut grass, rich umami, chlorophyll sweetness, and pleasant vegetative notes of spinach and chard along with a little peppery arugula in the aftertaste. Occasionally there’s a faint astringency but it complements the other flavors and is not off putting. Very refreshing and energizing.

Normally it takes me a while to get through a 100g bag but I tore through 2/3rd of this tea in just a month and a half. A real testament to how delicious this tea is!

Instagram photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/CM-Er1_hNJL/

Flavors: Artichoke, Freshly Cut Grass, Lettuce, Spinach, Umami

Preparation
170 °F / 76 °C 0 min, 30 sec 3 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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95
drank Green tea with matcha by Suntory
559 tasting notes

Argh, I was really looking forward to the Alishan and magnolia oolong I cold brewed overnight for my morning commute the other day but forgot it on the kitchen counter. It was a hot day and I was craving something fresh and chilled. So on the way to work, I took a quick detour to the Japanese dollar store which carries a variety of different bottled teas.

I picked this up as it was a brand I hadn’t seen before and the color was actually green instead of the amber, oxidized color found in most bottled green teas. The writing on the bottle was nearly all in Japanese save for the nutritional label but thanks to Google Lens I was able to decipher some of it.

Apparently this is a green tea with matcha and there was also a mention of lemon. Upon tasting, it’s definitely a straight green tea. It’s similar to Ito-En and Pokka bottled/canned teas, but cleaner tasting and more fresh. There’s an avocado like richness and a citrusy finish (perhaps that’s what the lemon in the translation refers to?). Very balanced without any bitterness. If there’s matcha in it, it must be a small amount because it’s not cloudy and doesn’t have any chalkiness. It tastes like a good Sencha that I would brew at home.

A little pricier than the other bottled green teas you’ll find on the grocery shelf but the quality in evident.

Flavors: Citrus, Creamy, Grass

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75

Backlog.

Had this one a while ago at work and jotted down a few sparse notes. It’s quite similar in appearance and taste to the other Obubu teas I’ve sampled. Long, unbroken dark green leaves that share many flavor characteristics with Chinese greens. Aromas of autumn leaves and boy choy. Very light in color and taste. Flavor is mostly green bean and sautéed veggies. Doesn’t have much of the grass and umami typically found in Japanese greens.

Thanks for the sample Cameron. I’m just about done with all of the Obubu senchas and looking forward to trying the houjicha samples next.

Flavors: Bok Choy, Green Beans, Vegetables

Preparation
170 °F / 76 °C 1 min, 0 sec 5 g 14 OZ / 400 ML

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78
drank Melon Oolong by Lupicia
559 tasting notes

This one reminded me of Hi-Chew melon candy from the Asian grocery store. It has that artificial melon smell and flavor mingled with honeydew. As it cools, the artificial candy flavor fades somewhat but an overripe melon taste appears in the finish which I found cloying.

Lupicia usually does flavored tea well but this one wasn’t quite up to par. I still have an ounce of this tea left plus another ounce of Melon White tea so I need to find a way to make this flavor work. Going to give cold brewing a try and maybe blend it with other flavors to smooth out the somewhat intense melon-y taste.

Flavors: Artificial, Candy, Honeydew, Melon

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 1 g 8 OZ / 250 ML

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92

Wow, can’t believe it’s been 2 months since I’ve posted here. That’s got to be my longest stretch ever. Part of it is life getting hectic over the past several weeks and another part is due to inertia and losing a bit of interest in Steepster. I’m still drinking tea and all but these days log my sessions in the MyTeaPal app. It’s so much easier to jot down and organize tasting notes this way than manually writing everything down in OneNote and then transferring to Steepster through a browser later.

I have to say this app is everything I had hoped Steepster would one day become. Despite the recent improvements, the site still feels stuck in 2011. I had DMed with the app creator on Instagram a while back about the possibility to linking MyTeaPal to Steepster. I guess it wasn’t technically feasible since MyTeaPal recently launched their own social network that allows tasting notes to be published and shared. It’ll be interesting to see how it grows over time and whether it can rival Steepster’s repository of tea reviews. I really hope that Adagio can take the site in a similar direction because outside of core users, it feels like Steepster is slipping into oblivion.

Anyhoo, I’ve mostly been sipping down the teas in my collection for the past couple of months to clear the cupboard for new spring teas. Amongst them, was this Dragonwell that had been sitting in cold storage for many months. Long jing is one of the greens that tends to do well in the fridge.

There was quite a bit of broken leaf but that could have due to how it was stored. Regardless, it still had a fresh aroma of chestnut, snap pea, and crisp vegetables. I used to grandpa steep it when it was fresh but it doesn’t do so well anymore when steeped this way. It’s strong with a flavor that leans savory and sometimes borders on astringent. However at this stage of the tea’s lifecycle, gongfu is where it’s at. It transforms the tea into a thick, delicious sweet dew with notes of pea, cucumber, and flowers. It fades rather quickly though to a stewed green bean taste.

Overall, I’m pleased with how well this tea has held up given the Covid related shipping delay last year and how long its sat in my fridge. My Chinese greens from Teavivre are again delayed this year (43 days and counting…grrr) but hey, at least I can be assured that my dragonwell tea won’t suffer as much from the loss of freshness.

Flavors: Chestnut, Cucumber, Flowers, Honey Dew, Peas

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 0 min, 45 sec 5 g 8 OZ / 240 ML
Martin Bednář

Welcome kind of back! Indeed life is getting hectic here as well (I wrote only 20 tasting notes back in May!) and moreover it gets more and more warm all around the globe, so I guess it means we will drink less hot teas and we would stay outside longer too, without a mood writing notes here.

But this tea sounds great and it is a little reminder I want to try a fresh dragonwell once, but I need to finish lots of other teas first to have even space for new tea!

LuckyMe

@Martin Bednář thanks Martin and same story here. There are a lot of teas I want but my cupboard can’t justify it. Cold brewing helps me sipdown faster especially during these warmer months.

Mastress Alita

I am probably the only person in the world without a cell phone, but part of the appeal of Steepster for me is the FACT I don’t need a phone “app” to use it or have a bunch of social media accounts (which I also refuse to use) integrated in. I guess I’m just living happily in 2010 technology. :-)

Leafhopper

Hear, hear! I don’t have a smartphone or a big social media presence either. I hope Steepster continues to thrive, even if it’s just a few core users.

LuckyMe

My comment was directed more towards Steepster’s lack of functionality and stagnation. Although a companion app would be nice, what I’d like to see most are just some basic features and enhancements that have been requested by users for years. Simple things like being able to use decimals for tea weight, selecting exact temperatures with the slider instead of rounding, ability to add new flavor notes, etc.

It’s as if the site is frozen in time because nothing has been updated since launch. I too want to see Steepster thrive but some care and feeding is needed or it will continue to atrophy.

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94

This Kabuse Sencha was the best tea from my Floating Leaves order. Kind of ironic that a tea shop specializing in Taiwanese oolong sells a low profile green tea that outshines some of their more high end teas. I picked this one up not only to meet the free shipping threshold but also because I enjoyed the Obubu Tea Farms sample of Kabuse Sencha that Cameron gave me recently. I have no idea whether this is sourced from the same tea farm as Obubu but both are sublime teas.

The leaves are dark green and shaped like pine needles. Not quite as pristine as Obubu’s but still handsome. At least by sencha standards anyway. The leaves emit a deep, sweet grassy aroma that changes to a marine like dashi scent upon being heated. Clear, yellowish green liquor. Wet leaves have a slightly marine aroma as well but it’s more oceanic, like fresh caught steamed whitefish.

First infusion is fresh, crisp, and invigorating. Bright, balanced umami with notes of sea shells and snap pea. Second infusion is similar. Smoother and more buttery with light grass and seaweed notes. Flavor drops a bit over the next two steeps. More savory this time with a slight marine finish and a bit more astringency.

Instagram photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/CMari68APv9/

Flavors: Butter, Grass, Lettuce, Marine, Ocean Air, Seaweed, Spinach, Umami

Preparation
165 °F / 73 °C 1 min, 15 sec 2 g 4 OZ / 118 ML
Cameron B.

Looks like this tea is from Satsumasendai, Kagoshima, while Obubu is in Wazuka, Kyoto!

LuckyMe

Ah, that’s good to know. Thought this style was specific to a certain tea growing region.

Cameron B.

I’m not sure if it’s regional, it’s just a shaded sencha that’s not quite shaded enough to be gyokuro.

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81

Backlog.

This was a good tea but seemed to suffer from a loss of freshness. Partly a result of Covid related shipping delays and partly due to sitting in cold storage for several months. I feel like delicate greens such as first flushes don’t hold up to refrigeration as well as dragonwells and sencha.

At standard green tea temperature (170 – 175 F) the tea has an odd note of overly ripe pear and banana. Upon bumping up the temperature, it went away and the familiar Laoshan flavors of soybean, fennel, and green lettuce appeared with an underlay of nuttiness.

Not terribly complex and as mentioned had lost some freshness yet still a pleasant drinking experience.

Flavors: Fennel, Lettuce, Pear, Soybean

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 30 sec 5 g 8 OZ / 230 ML

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86

Backlog.

Another FLT oolong that I wanted to like but didn’t quite work for me. It had some nice floral elements for sure, but was affected by an underlying stale taste. A frustratingly common issue with green oolongs, unfortunately. I really wish all vendors packed their tea in oxygen free packaging like Taiwan Tea Crafts to avoid this problem.

Back to the tea at hand. I gongfued this for 6 infusions. It starts somewhat disappointingly with a stale vegetal taste mixed in with flowers and an unusual chamomile note. The second steep though is clearer with more distinct flowery notes of daffodils and honeysuckle rounded out with hints of vanilla and cream. The next two steeps present a thick, lingering flower nectar, the intensity of which reminds me of lily of the valley. The flavor peters out over the final couple of steeps yet retains a candy like sweetness and the odd chamomile note from the initial steep returned.

All in all, this was the best oolong from my Floating Leaves order although that’s not saying much since all of them were lacking. That’s not a reflection on the vendor though. I’ve had good tea from Floating Leaves before. I suspect it has more to do with the quality of last winter’s harvest.

Flavors: Chamomile, Cream, Flowers, Vegetal

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 30 sec 5 g 4 OZ / 110 ML
Leafhopper

I’m kind of relieved I didn’t buy any winter 2020 oolongs.

LuckyMe

Yeah they’ve all been duds so far

Daylon R Thomas

What did you guys think of the 2020 spring?

LuckyMe

Spring 2020 was okay, better than this winter’s crop but no real standouts aside from an AliShan from Mountain Stream Tea. I ordered from Mountain Stream Tea, Green Terrace, and Taiwan Tea Crafts.

Past favorites weren’t as good last spring. There were several teas that were very aromatic but lacking in flavor.

LuckyMe

Fingers crossed for spring 2021!

Leafhopper

I’ve had a few nice spring 2020 oolongs (Cha Yi’s Alishan and What-Cha’s Li Shan come to mind). Most of the others I had were decent, though as LuckyMe said, they were stronger on aroma than flavour. I ordered from Cha Yi, Tillerman (haven’t tried all of the ones I got), What-Cha (the Jade Oolong was surprisingly good as well), and Camellia Sinensis.

Also, I just had a sample of What-Cha’s Li Shan Tie Guan Yin from Daylon, which I think was a winter 2021 harvest, and it was awesome!

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Profile

Bio

My Rating Criteria:

95 to 100: Top shelf stuff. Loved this tea and highly recommend it

90 to 94: Excellent. Enjoyed this tea and would likely repurchase

80 to 89: Good but not great. I liked it though it may be lacking in some aspects. I’ll finish it but probably won’t buy again

70 to 79: Average at best. Not terrible but wouldn’t willingly drink again

60 to 69: Sub-par. Low quality tea, barely palatable

59 and below: Bleh

Fell into tea years ago, and for a long time my experience was limited to Japanese greens and a few flavored teas. My tea epiphany came a few years ago when I discovered jade oolongs. That was the gateway drug to the world of fine tea and teaware.

With the exception of a handful of lightly scented teas, I drink mostly straight tea. I love fresh green and floral flavors and as such, green tea and Taiwanese oolongs will always have a place in my cupboard. After avoiding black tea forever, Chinese blacks are beginning to grow on me. I’ve dipped my toe into a few puerhs now but it’s still relatively new territory for me. I also enjoy white tea and tisanes but reach for them less frequently.

Other non-tea interests include: cooking, reading, nature, MMA, traveling when I can, and of course putzing around on the interwebs.

IG: https://www.instagram.com/melucky

Location

Chicago

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