106 Tasting Notes

drank Jingmai Beauty by Farmerleaf
106 tasting notes

The leaf on this one is preeeetty! Very unique looking and loosely rolled or just giant leaf in the style of rolled oolongs with variegated yellows in there. I got hit by a whole lotta hong must when I opened the bag for a sniff first time, but on my second and third sniffs a distinctly sharp-sweet citrus that is characteristic of jingmai puerh (in my experience, at least) was very evident. Exciting!

Interestingly, the color of the brew on this is much like you would imagine if you took a hong and young puerh and mixed them together—a reddish, neon orange that corresponds to the flavor. The harder this is pushed, the more malt and bitter hong character was evident in the rich red hong soup that results; the shorter and lighter the steeps, the more of the puerh sweetness and flavors came through in the neon orange gold liquor.

Flavorwise, this tastes and smells a lot like how it smells at the very start for the first steep before it really opens up—hong malt with a citrus edge. Second and third steeps continues the hong trend with bitter cocoa and that malty hong-bread flavor traced by sweet and caramel edges. Steep 4 tastes like it is already starting to fade, doesn’t seem like much longevity on this one so I picked up the temp from 197 to 207 at steep 7 and steeped a bit longer, which gets more of a clean sheng taste out, backed by a cleaner malt body with only a trace of red to the soup now. Still not quite a revival of flavor but quite different, however, I ran out of time and stopped it here.

Steeps 2 and 3 were my favorite from this one as I’m a fan of chocolate hongs. This does change quite a bit thought just over the course of this session as I messed with it, and I’d be curious to try this from the start at a higher temp next time or to western this and see how that changes things. Not much energy that I noted, but an interesting experience all the same.

Flavors: Bitter, Bread, Citrus, Cocoa, Malt, Sweet

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A nice aged-ish orange liquor from this one, I’ve aired it for a couple months now and all but a hint of those wet humid storage flavors have lifted, leaving mainly the aged flavor behind. A good relaxing vibe from this tea, it is a bit rough while opening up, but smooths into a more creamy texture and a distinct sweetness by the fifth or sixth steep. Not super complex or deep, but not boring either, and the more mellow woody background of a few years of aging present. Went for a respectable 11 or 12 steeps if I recall correctly and the energy is nice and relaxing.

This was a quite good mid aged tea for the price and would make a good daily drinker, in my opinion if the flavor appeals to you. Nothing outstanding, but very solid and enjoyable. There also seems to be some evolution in store for this tea to go as well, based on the astringent ‘bite’ still going strong in the first four or five steeps. I can also definitely see certain flavors in this evolving into a strong date sweetness with time as it’s currently flirting with that as it is.

Flavors: Astringent, Creamy, Dried Fruit, Sawdust, Sweet, Wood

7 g 0 OZ / 3 ML

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drank Bai Rui Xiang by Tea Urchin
106 tasting notes

A treat for turkey day! Super excited to try this, I cracked open the sample bag to unearth leaves that were not quite tall, but dark AND handsome, in addition to smelling like cocoa and burnt sugar and tantalizing danger to my wallet (we’ll keep this little encounter a secret from the SO, haha).

I started off hitting this with boiling water, which was a mistake. It was delicious nonetheless, with a strong mineral roast flavor across the spectrum, high and low, along with lingering sweet caramel afternotes and a bread-y flavor that ended in an intense dance of orchid bouquet flavors that accompanied each exhale, but was very strong on the roast bitterness and much improved when I switched to 180 F halfway through the session.

The lower temp water brings out an AMAZINGLY buttery slick, creamy mouthfeel along with a decadently rich honey and orchid flavored body and a distinct peach fruit aftertaste, well balanced and accentuated throughout by the now calmer, subtler roast.

There is astringency and bitterness to this tea, particularly at the start where I hit it with (I realize now) much too hot water and the roast stood out strongly, but it is well balanced throughout and I feel complements the underlying flavors, helping them to stand out rather than detract.

The mouthfeel, as mentioned before, is a lovely creamy slickness that coats the throat steadily across sips and brings out a nectar sweetness in the throat that slowly shifts to a more mineral, sugar sweetness and even a surprising subtle menthol cooling quality as it dies. It and the bright peach notes were the highlight of this tea for me.

The energy on this one was excellent and strong, I could feel it rushing to my head by steep 3 and it steadily built over the session in a very invigorating (but calm) way. It fades fast in flavor intensity after steep 10, but those 10 steeps are bursting with flavor and an intoxicating ride, definitely a great way to prepare for the food prep and festivities to follow today.

Here’s hoping it doesn’t break my wallet when it does get released, ^^;.

Flavors: Bread, Butter, Creamy, Honey, Mineral, Nectar, Orchid, Peach, Roasted, Sugarcane

7 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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So… the dried leaf is interesting looking, quite dark and speckled in color. The aroma is not very distinct, but different. Wet leaf is even more vibrantly hued and a strongly unusual aroma of some herb I can’t identify and a powdery smell. O…kay. Well, that’s certainly new, let’s try some!

Starts off predominately citrus with a strong creaminess that is both texture and taste. I’ve heard pineapple notes in reference to this tea, and I can see that, although without the sharp acidic tang flavor I characterize the fruit with. By the 3-4 steeps, the milk/cream flavor is getting stronger, almost cloying, and lingers heavily throughout. The tea seems to begin to commit to those predominant sour fruit and cream flavors more heavily, removing a lot of the muddled flavors I couldn’t identify at the very start that made me lean toward pineapple, save for an odd herbal aftertaste/body, maybe some mix of basil and something else. A mineral sweetness blooms behind the dairy, but I can’t get over that weird sour, curdled milk taste that I am NOT digging at all.

It’s not very bitter or astringent despite that sourness, so eventually, I cranked up the heat to boiling in a bit of a desperate attempt to somehow get rid of that flavor/flavor combination by later steeps (somewhere around 6-8) after consulting with other people who have had a better time of this than I was. Success! The seriously “off” milk taste and texture is now gone, at least, with that predominant sour citrus lemon taste remaining and sharpening, giving room to a nice throat feel and a more center stage for the sweet mineral flavors that swiftly follow. The cream is still detectable as it blends with the herb aftertastes, but is more of a lingering memory that it was there and much harder to discern, which is completely fine by me.

All in all, this tea was a bit of a ride for me, and leaves me a bit torn. It is complex, unique, and very different from anything else I’ve ever had with many interesting feels and taste transitions that wow-ed me, but at 205 F, the predominant taste to me was almost exactly like my childhood memories of pouring cream AND squeezed lemon into my complimentary watery hotel tea, resulting in a pretty disgusting cup of curdled milk-lemon-tea-ish something which I drank anyway because I was seven and it was my own creation, goshdangit.

Perhaps it was my water. Perhaps it was the brewing parameters. It’s generous, but I was definitely getting to the tail end of the steeps when I made the change to hotter water, so I feel a bit of regret I didn’t have that idea sooner. I think I’ll have to try this again with the hotter water from the get go before I really form an opinion one way or another on the taste, but so far, was not a fan.

It does have a nice qi though, in my opinion, although not the stoner kind that I’m used to in a lot of strong sheng, more chatty and aware and pleasantly… acutely observant feeling, which was nice, as I like to be able to walk around and do things after tea. I do suspect it to be quite a strong effect, though, as it shucked off the limoncello buzz I had going before starting this tea like peeling off a layer of onion before wrapping me in its own special warmth of emotion and clarity that I quite enjoyed, despite being unable to really fully process it.

Flavors: Citrus Fruits, Cream, Herbs, Mineral, Sour, Sweet

205 °F / 96 °C 7 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

I’m having this one now and the bitter/sour note is killing me. The qi is good, but man!


Heh, yeah, the sour on this one was real strong. I wonder what a milk tea made of this would taste like… :P

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Amazing nuclear orange, the dry leaf is an agreeable generic sheng smell that does not accurate preview the result. This tea creeps up and hits you HARD. I thought I was doing fine until about steep 8, not really expecting anything much when I started dropping all the teaware all over the table and realized it was here, when did that happen?!?!

I’m still a bit tea drunk, I must admit, so this isn’t the most lucid review, but here’s my attempt. Opens up with a strong medicinal dried herb flavor and a bitter tinge that lingers and intensifies into an aftertaste something like hot concrete/dirty gravel after the swallow. This is the main flavor for a while, maybe a hint of camphor that plays with smoke, if you keep going for long enough, you’re rewarded with a surprising sweetness and a mellowed out version of the previously maybe too intense flavors, but the sweetness doesn’t really last too long.

Not a lot of throat coating or throat taste, this one has a bit of astringency that matches the bitterness to start, but stays more constant (which is to say, not ever all that much) while the bitter ramps up and then dies down throughout the brewing process. Overall, the taste wasn’t a favorite of mine, but it wasn’t wholly unpleasant either and calms down throughout the process which is fairly generous at around 15 steeps, I think, wasn’t counting, but when it’s done, it’s done, dropping off very steeply in flavor, which felt abrupt to me because of how strong it is in every aspect while it lasts. If you’re looking for a stoner tea on a budget, however, this one definitely caught me by surprise and clubbed me while I was looking, might be one to look at.

Flavors: Bitter, Herbs, Medicinal, Smoke

Boiling 7 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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drank Jeju Sejak by Harney & Sons
106 tasting notes

Saw this at the NW tea fest and pounced on it, been wanting to try some Korean tea for a while now, :).

This is my first Harney & Sons tea, and I have to say, I’m pretty impressed by the quality, which is solidly upper middle of the road and reasonably priced at that. I disregarded the brewing instructions on the tin the first couple tries and gongfu’ed it, but I can firmly say now that this is a tea that is better westerned as the flavors come out more rounded and well balanced for it.

This is a beautiful green when brewed for five minutes at 170 F. It’s a pretty pale green when gongfu’ed too, but it looked nuclear under the blue lights of my kitchen in the tea press, quite awe inspiring, haha. It is more of a wheat-y yellow gold green in warm light (and after being exposed to the air for a bit), but still a pleasure to sip with a slick, buttery mouthfeel and a sweet, savory grassiness (not quite hay) to roll around and indulge in. There’s a bright aftertaste to this in the chest that I could see as floral, but I wouldn’t personally call it that.

Practically bombproof in regards to prep time as it has no bitterness and only a bit of astringency after a second steeping for over half an hour, I would recommend if you’re too busy to really make tea in the morning or at work, especially if you’re a fan of greens with a little more depth. The energy on this one is very lively and uplifting as well, I may stock up for that alone after I run out if I can confirm that is indeed the tea.

Flavors: Butter, Grass, Olive Oil, Sweet, Warm Grass

170 °F / 76 °C 5 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

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drank Jade Oolong by Mountain Tea
106 tasting notes

Very strong green floral with a strong honey sweetness. This tea has a very strong and pronounced character/flavor/identity as a green oolong and is tasty, if that’s your flavor. However, as distinct and strong as the taste was, it was a bit one dimensional to someone who isn’t a huge fan of floral green oolongs (i.e…. me).

Still thought this was a good tea, though, especially at the price point (I think I got it for something ridiculous like $7/5 oz? I don’t quite remember, it was on mega clearance when I first got it, the heritage honey was only $5/5 oz at the time as well, and I think it’s currently $12/5 oz since they’ve gained some visibility) and tastes deliciously full of nectar and honey which come out front and center when cold brewed.

Flavors: Floral, Green, Honey, Sweet

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Deep floral-nectar sweet with a creamy taste and a light tickle of astringency, but with a nice bit of spice to it, something reminiscent of cinnamon and other slightly spicy tingles to the underside. I liked this one better than the other tea I’ve tried from them (the brusquely labeled “Jade Oolong” they also had on clearance awhile back when I first found them), this has nice slight brown tint of roast or oxidation to the edges of it.

Benefits from a little more leaf as those spiced notes really stand out when pushed with hotter water, more leaf, and faster steeps. I enjoyed this much more than flower bomb oolongs and would consider ordering some more if I didn’t still have about 2-3 oz of this left. I’m a little sad that I’ve been neglecting this one for so long, much of the flavor has faded since I first tried it. I’ll experiment with roasting it for a good while in the slow cooker and see what results, I think.

Flavors: Cinnamon, Creamy, Nectar, Spices, Sweet

205 °F / 96 °C

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Gorgeous leaf and liquor, a deep gold mixed with sunshine and a lovely visible thickness to it. Not much scent off the dried leaves, but I spent some time just admiring the pretty colors, especially as the compression was quite loose, so it was easy to pick the leaves apart in my sample without turning it into dust.

Extremely fresh and floral smelling, this baby sheng was prepared at 205F as it has a strong bitter bite to it (some moderate astringency, mainly in the roof of the mouth and top of the tongue) if you brew it for even just a second too long. Strong throat coating quality, even as it opens up.

A very clean and green tasting tea to me (particularly with the notable green tea umami quality at the beginning), it starts off mainly vegetal—light, with a bitter floral at the back that opens up into a sweet nectar-bordering-fruit background taste by the middle steeps that lingers in the mouth and throat, particularly as it cools in the cup.

Still quite raw feeling and tasting, I think it needs more time to settle, but it was quite enjoyable still, with a throat coating dryness that made me want to keep drinking more (although I got a pretty strong body heavy/disorient tea drunk from this one that led me to dropping my gaiwan lid a couple times so I probably should have slowed it down a bit). This tea was also quite generous and held up to overnighting in my gaiwan with a refresher rinse quite well, surprisingly, as I steeped it out fully over the course of three days.

Flavors: Floral, Fruity, Mineral, Nectar, Sweet, Vegetal

205 °F / 96 °C 6 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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Got a 20 gram sample of this to try at teafest (which was awesome, btw) along with a few other things, although we didn’t linger too long to do tea tasting as Glen and Lamu already looked super busy with the large turn out, heh.

Opening up the bag to take a sniff comes out with a very strong dried hay scent, although not musty enough to quite take it into ‘barnyard’ territory. It definitely benefits from airing out for at least a week, though (having tried it both ways), as that strong hay storage flavor kind of dominates and threatens to overwhelm the tea if you try it fresh out of the bag.

Super compressed and a bit brittle, I gave up trying to break this up for the most part and just threw a roughly 1/3-ish sized piece into my gaiwan and did a long rinse. Steeped the first steep for a good 15 seconds at least and then let it steam open some more while I went to poke the wood stove fire.

Starts off as a very sweet and mild straw taste as it’s opening up, then brews up a lovely middling thickness of darker red-brown rust soup with hints of dried date and bamboo at the edges of the hay once it’s fully opened up. Persistent undercurrent of aged taste and aroma and a dark, damp earth/soil flavor, contrary to the energy of this tea which makes my forehead feel light and airy, like it might start floating off of my shoulders at anytime (in a pleasant way! :P). There is not much bitterness or astringency to this tea at all.

My SO really enjoyed this. I enjoyed it as well, but just based on the sample pieces, I don’t know if I’d want to wage battle with this tuo to drink it very often, haha. This was very suiting to a chilly Fall day next to a crackling fire, but I think I prefer something a little less straw and a little more punchy in my general day to day tea. My favorite part of this tea was the very relaxing yet happy energy that made my cares melt far far and away and slough off like water and ducks and something else, :).

Flavors: Bamboo, Dates, Hay, Musty, Sweet, Wet Earth

Boiling 6 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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Favorite Tea Type: Darker oolong and sheng puerh

Rating Scale:

90-100: Amazing. Will buy and keep on hand all the time if finances and circumstances allow.

80-89: Strong argument for keeping it around all the time, even more than the prospect of trying more new tea. It’s that good.

70-79: Pretty solid. Glad I tried it, several factors that were unique or that I highly enjoyed.

60-69: Nothing that stands out for the most part, but with a quality or two that speaks to me.

50-59: Fairly run of the mill, pleasant but not much more to be said.

40-49: Something here is off putting in an otherwise decent tea.

30-39: There are a few things wrong with this tea. I did not enjoy.

20-29: Disliked this, could maybe see something, some redeeming quality in it others might find worth drinking without spitting back out.

10-19: Begin to question whether any tea is actually, in fact, better than no tea.

0-9: This causes actual food poisoning.



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