32 Tasting Notes


I got my (ginormous) order from Chicago Tea Garden today! Yay!!!

I was really looking forward to trying this tea. I really wanted something dark in the oolong spectrum and nothing was quite hitting the spot. They were all turning out a bit too sweet to fulfill my ravenous need for roast. I love ALL oolongs, but sometimes a girl craves roasted tea, you know? I must say, the sticky rice tuochas very nearly turned my head, though.

The aroma of roasted nuts hit me as soon as I opened the tin. I’m smelling walnuts and pecans at Christmas. The tea leaves are really tightly rolled up. I had to give it two boiling water rinses before they started to loosen up. The delicious nuttiness was just enormous in the wet leaves. Oh yeah, this was definitely what I was looking for.

So, I went for 1.5 tsp for threeish ounces of water. I kinda faked the gong-fu with a small mug and the tea strainer (to keep the leaves in the mug when I poured, they were under the strainer!). My order for a couple of gaiwans has yet to arrive, and I kinda wanted to try this tea on porcelain before futzing with different clays. I’ve done it before, it’s not that hard. I gave the tea a few seconds at a time and increased the steeps from there – near the tenth steep I was doing a minute and a half. Only issue today is that I pulled a dumb blonde moment and poured the hot water from the kettle on my fingers. Derp. Lucky it wasn’t boiling, huh? :)

The liquor comes out a nice golden tone, with a delicious roasty smell that just made me want to hurry up even more. It tastes like it smells – roasted nuts, a bit like my mother’s walnut and pecan pie, without the sugar. It does have a mellow sweet finish to it, but it’s understated. Just the way I like it. My sister noted a chestnut flavour at the very end of it, which I agree with, though my experience with chestnuts is limited. The roastiness fades as the cup cools, the result being a very odd (though pleasant) nutty mellow quality.

As the steeps progress, there’s a very odd toasted…chamomile?! taste that emerges. I don’t mind chamomile, but I prefer the earlier steeps by far. Or maybe I didn’t steep them enough at the end of it? I was very confused to pick up on it, anyway. It’s the only reason I didn’t rate the tea higher. Maybe I did something wrong. Weird.

Anyway – final judgement on the tea? SO GOOD. Do try. And do drink it hot. The tea really shines.

195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec

Sadly, I have to admit that I have poured hot water for tea on my fingers too at some point… Argh… Will try very very hard to never ever do it again!


What a great word: ginormous!

Wow, you mention a tenth steeping, so how many total steepings actually yielded flavor?

I’ve had plenty of those burn moments, myself. I look at them as a kind of ‘tea war wound’, and chalk it up to experience (you know us men, some of us—well, Me at least—try to turn pain and hardship into something, erm, glorious, I guess.). So, what is the equivalent of ‘dumb blond’ for a male anyway? Because whatever it is, if you looked it up in the dictionary, you may very well see my picture smiling back at you!


SimpliciTEA – The ninth and tenth were kinda meh in terms of strength, so I’d say that gong fu’d this tea has 8 good steeps in it. I’m not particularly used to CTG’s offerings, though, so it might be that with some tender loving care you can eke out a couple of more steeps.

With how much of a careless klutz I tend to be, I’m surprised I haven’t had more tea mishaps than I actually have. I mean, I once got a blister on the palm of my hand from my mactop. That said, I do tend to pay 500% attention whenever I’m handling my teapots and mugs collections.


smartkitty: Thanks for responding.

Eight steepings is still impressive (even starting at 15")! I haven’t tried any of their tea, but I get the impression their tea is high quality.

I have a reputation for spilling things, but that was when I was living more of fast-paced life-style, impulsive, and oftentimes not paying attention to what I was doing. I rarely spills things these days (my wife may disagree, though!). I hear you; I also feel paying attention, and doing one thing at a time (I am one of those people who like to do a b-zillion things at once), helps to keep one out of harms way. : )


Oh, it’s certainly high quality tea! I’m happy to add to my collection of awesome tea.

I grew up watching my dad drop and break all sorts of things out of clumsiness. And having a couple of my favourite mugs broken by him and other people really taught me to take care of my own stuff. I didn’t want to add to the casualties. ;)

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Non-garlicky update!

The cream just unfurls in your mouth, doesn’t it? This time it’s not being cut short by the garlic either! A bit of orchid at the tail end. This tea really coats the inside of your mouth, it’s just so silky.

Yeah, enjoying this more than last night. Still going to try different steeping parameters in future, but for now I have a rating for this.

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I was feeling incredibly lazy today. I somehow managed to hurt my hip, my sister (whom I’m babysitting) is being difficult, I couldn’t find one of my socks… It was just one of those days, and I didn’t feel like clearing the table so I’d have room to gong fu my tea. So, I brewed this western style in my Breville. One tablespoon to 500ml for 6 minutes at 195F to start with. I thought I’d go with what the packet said for the first few tries, but I’ll definitely try brewing it up differently, in future. Not convinced I got everything out of this tea that I could have.

On opening the packet, I was struck by how much everything smelt of cream. I even handed it to The Boy. He’s not very good at picking up scents and flavours in tea, generally, but he immediately picked up on the cream as well. There’s maybe the slightest whisper of floral at the tail end of the scent, it’s reminding me of the Verdant TGY.

It brews up fairly light – translucent, faded caramel. The smell of cream is unmistakable now. It reminds me of making cream of pumpkin for Thanksgiving. I’ve been known to steal a sip or two of the pure heavy cream when nobody’s looking! The floral note is more muted, though it’s still hiding in there. (Second steep is less floral than the first. But it’s still there, under the cream!)

It tastes exactly how I thought it would – milky, silky, sweet. A bit overwhelmingly so on all accounts, which is why I need to try different steeping parameters next time. And a different menu. I’m fairly sure the garlicky dinner (mofongo, tostones, arroz con gandules, beans. ALL slathered with garlic to nearly shameful levels!) I had is clashing with the tea! Drinking water didn’t particularly cleanse my palate well enough. Actually, I’m certain that’s what the issue is, so I can’t in good conscience rate this tea right now.

It IS rather nice. I do quite like it. But I’ll steep it differently and have it after a more appropriate dinner next time. Mmmm, I can’t stop smelling this packet of tea, though. It smells soooo good!

195 °F / 90 °C 6 min, 0 sec

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My appreciation for darker oolongs has been slowly growing since I first started drinking loose-leaf tea in earnest last year.

I wanted the soothing buttery goodness of an oolong, but I didn’t really want the flowery-ness of a greener one, so I dug through the samples box and pulled this one out. It well and truly hit the spot.

I was a bit on edge – two of my boys got into a serious scrap, and one of them came out looking like he’s been through a war. I freaked out, to the point where I couldn’t do anything except shake. The Boy told me to breathe… and eventually I did. It really wasn’t as bad as I originally thought. So once I cleaned up the poor, scratched up fatty, I decided to make myself a tea to soothe myself back into complete sanity.

And wow, this tea… I didn’t fully appreciate it the first time around – probably because I mis-steeped the crap out of it – but this time I took my time and the results were gorgeous. GORGEOUS. Brewed it up in my new little sado clay kyusu acquired from Hojo just recently, about 5g of tea for about 5 oz. I can definitely see this being one of those teas where the more is the merrier. Alas, this was the last bit of my sample. Next order, Verdant!

Heated up, the leaves smell beautifully roasty. Chocolate and molasses, and brews up the same dark liquor you’d expect for that taste. Beautiful dark caramel, with a sort of full-bodied roundness in the mouth. I don’t know how else to describe it, it’s just a very complete tea. The metallic note in the description is definitely apt. It’s like biting into a deeply roasted walnut with the slightest hint of metal at the back of it. In a good way!

Now, I’m not sure what elderberries taste like, but there’s definitely a fruity note at the very tail end of the after-taste. Maybe the slightest hint of parcha? Definitely a sharp edge to the fruit for the first couple of steeps. I can’t taste it nearly as clearly anymore.

Around steep five it starts mellowing into something darker. I can definitely pick up on the slightest malty note here, without being overpowering. And it’s just such a soothing cup of tea! So many interesting flavours going on, that it’s hard to focus on much else. A classical or romantic era symphony frames the tea perfectly – the complexity just works you know?

Let’s see…I can taste burnt sugar, walnuts, dark chocolate… It has a certain quality that reminds me of cajeta quemada! I bet a banana would go well with this tea, and I can keep drinking without the worry of over-sugaring myself as is often the case with cajeta.

I made it to steep 5, but I plan to continue after dinner. I’ll write more!

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

Wow, I really like your in-depth reviews.

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I brewed this up in my brand-spanking-new little houhin that I acquired through Yuuki-cha. I was SO EXCITED to brew this up! My first gyokuro!

I’ll admit that 000 is correct in the assertion that the leaves are a total mess. They look like they’ve been through a wood-chipper. Even so, the dry leaf smells gorgeously kelpy. Seaweed in a way I like. I have trouble articulating where the line between “good” and “bad” seaweed goes – the best I can do is say that “bad” seaweed is the taste/smell you get in cheaper sushis, kinda overpowering and kinda fishy too. (Different than the fish “fishy”, if you know what I mean.) Anyway. None of that here. It’s GOOD seaweed.

I’ll admit I didn’t brew this in the ideal conditions. The result was a slightly more astringent tea than should have been, though I can still see beautiful potential. I used two teaspoons for my houhin – which holds about 5.5 oz to a reasonable water level. (7oz to the rim, but then it would be one hot mess.) The instructions enclosed with the shipment said to brew a strong gyokuro at 105F for 3 minutes. I couldn’t wait for the water to cool any longer and ended up doing it at 130~F.

The liquor turned out a BEAUTIFUL light jade green. It should have been clear, but there was a lot of leaf debris getting through the houhin’s ceramic filter. Unless I get a pitcher or serve it in a mug, not sure I can use my trusty extra-fine strainer with my tiny little teacups. Even so, I’m sure tea dust would still get through.

The smell of the brewed tea is gorgeous. A vegetal ocean breeze, and just as soothing. It tasted like it smelled – savoury goodness melting into a vivid vegetal sweetness. Beautifully thick flavours, super satisfying! I got 4 good steeps out of it, each one grassier than the last. Unfortunately, the delicious umami note didn’t really carry over to the other steeps, though it’s possible that it’s because I used hotter water than I should have the first time. Definitely a bit too astringent if your water is too hot, treat this tea with care!

Right now I’m having the fifth and last steep, which I cold-brewed over night just to see what I’d get. Grassy water with a hint of kelpy sweetness. One too far!

Can’t wait to try this again, and get it right.

140 °F / 60 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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drank Songyang White by Verdant Tea
32 tasting notes

Hmm. The lingering aftertaste is pretty rad. Same buttery mouth-feel as an oolong, and I worship at the altar of the oolong. Needless to say, I’m REALLY going to like this when I get it right. Maybe a touch of floral? I’ll keep you posted.

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drank Songyang White by Verdant Tea
32 tasting notes

Bah! What is it with my steeping, lately?!

I followed the website instructions for western steeping, a tablespoon per cup at 175F for 1.5-2 minutes, but that’s a bit long I think. Came out a bit bitter. It’s not too bad, I can tell there’s a great amount of beauty under there, but still disappointing. Can’t wait for my new teaware to get here! I’ll gaiwan it up and fiddle until the tea suits my palate.

That said, did anyone else pick the slightest hint of chocolate in the dry leaf smell? It’s gone after brewing, the only scent I could get then was a very fragrant edamame. I’m having trouble describing the liquor, actually. It’s edamame but without grossing me out, so there’s definitely more at play. And from what I could tell under the bitter tang, it tasted like a smooth, delicately buttery vegetable.

I can tell I will like this. Just I need to find how to do it! Will rate this at a later date.

175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 30 sec
David Duckler

Hi, I am glad that you are seeing some of the intruguing notes behind the bitterness. My apologies. I had just edited steeping instructions on this tea and must have put in TB by force of habit. Most teas do benefit from more leaf. This one, I think just a teaspoon would do the trick.

The other thing to try if you are up for it is Jingshan style steeping. Use 175 degree water, and a clear (tempered) glass cup if you are feeling adventurous. Sprinkle the teaspoon of leaves on top of the water after letting it steam for 10-20 seconds. Swirl the leaves around a bit and start sipping after maybe 20 seconds of steeping. If you have a brew basket, you can use it, and apply the same principle of sprinkling the leaves, but have control and remove them after about 40 seconds to a minute. That woudl probably be ideal.

Sorry about the brewing instructions, and thanks for the persistance with this one. It is truly rewarding when you get it just right. I couldn’t believe that it was white tea when my friend Weiwei first sent it over after finding it in her travels. Simply too intriguing to resist offering, even if it is only on a seasonal basis.

Best of luck with your next brewing attempt. Have fun!


Thanks for the tips! I tried doing it Jingshan style, and it came out much better than my first attempt. Still not quite right, but I need to perfect my technique. I burned myself in the process, got distracted, and oversteeped it by about twenty seconds. Still a lot better than my first attempt, and I noted a whole lot more buttery deliciousness. Awesome tea!

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I never thought I’d find a green tea that would shake my obsession with senchas at large. What. A. Tea. Bravo, Verdant!

I had this tea tonight on a whim. The sample was sitting in my tea box, waiting to be tried, but I was pretty sure I was going to end up making another batch of my much-beloved SA matcha before bed. For whatever reason, I decided to dig through the tea box instead. This was the first little bag I pulled out after a blind rummage.

On opening the bag, I took a deep whiff and instantly picked out the citrus the description talks about. Wet, they smell distinctly green. A bit toasty, maybe? Or at least what I tend to attribute to senchas as toasty.

It brews up light, definitely, but not as light as the yabao. A clear, light yellow-green. Very pretty to watch the colour seep out from the Breville basket. (Don’t judge! I’m waiting on some new tea ware I just ordered! Including a gaiwan that will get some HEAVY use, I promise.) The liquor itself is indeed vegetal in scent, reminiscent, again, of sencha. At any rate, the scent seems intensely interesting to my pet rats, who keep trying to shove their heads into the mug whenever I put it down.

Hot, it tastes beautifully vegetal, but sweet. At the same time, there’s a distinct note of effervescence that only grows as the tea cools. And then, after you sip, the notes turn into a beautiful citrus flavour that lingers pretty much indefinitely.

I had a hard time placing the citrus. The description says lime, but that’s not quite it to me. Lemon isn’t it either, as the note isn’t quite as sharp as all that. I kept thinking of having breakfast on weekends when I was growing up, and I could not figure why. Then I remembered our grapefruit tree. It wasn’t much, but the grapefruits had a distinct sweetness and character that I have yet to find in any commercial offering. Sweet, but not overpoweringly. Tart and sour, but only perfectly so. THAT is what the tea’s aftertaste is to me – grapefruits from my youth. I miss that little tree – it was battered by hurricane Georges and finally succumbed in the ensuing tornados it caused.

As the tea cools, the grapefruit note starts to make itself known DURING the sip. It’s even more sparkly, just gorgeous. I could drink this forever. I’m getting more after my sample runs out.

175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 0 sec
David Duckler

Thank you for the image of the grapefruits. I think it is fitting. The thought of grapefruit will linger on my next tasting of this one. Great note!


Thanks! I’m glad you found the grapefruits to be apt. :)

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Hmm… Not sure I did this one justice. I’ve been having a bit of issue figuring out new teas in my collection, lately. Just yesterday I ruined my entire Xingyang 2007 shu sample because I brewed it incorrectly. I may have gone to the other extreme and underdone it with this yabao. Fortunately, that means I still have enough leaf to try again later!

I used about 3 teaspoons of the yabao in my decidedly huge swan yixing, about 10 oz. I used boiling water to rinse the leaves and the pot, then used boiling water for a few seconds to make each steeping. I made it to around four steepings with some help drinking the tea – otherwise in pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to drink so much tea!

The smell of the wet leaves is sweet and delicate. I can definitely pick up on the pine needles the description mentions. I’m not sure I’m reminded of snickerdoodles, but there’s definitely a lightly spiced smell. The brewed tea is alarmingly clear and colourless – they really weren’t kidding!

As for the taste… I definitely did something wrong, as I can barely taste anything. What I can pick up, is lovely, though. It’s sweet, and it lingers. It reminds me of the bite of pine needles without the followthrough of pine needle taste, if that makes sense. There’s a toastiness, but whether I’d call it marshmallow, I am just not sure. It’s very nice, really, but I need to brew it properly to get a good idea of what I’m tasting.

Gonna hold back on rating it for now. I have a feeling this is something I could rate much higher than I would right now.

Oh! As an amusing postscript, my boyfriend walked in as I was cleaning out the pot, and thought there were insects in my tea. “You eat crazy things, wouldn’t put it past you to drink them too!” Ha.

Nathaniel Gruber

fascinating stuff. this one is hard to add too much leaf to. it’s pretty durable. if you were adding 10 grams to your gaiwan, then you must have a HUGE gaiwan! in my 5 oz. gaiwan i generally use 4 grams or so. so to use 10 grams and not get much taste from it probably means either that the gaiwan is enormous, or perhaps something with the water? reverse osmosis water will take flavor away from tea, and with a lighter tea such as this one you run the risk of losing out on some of the subtlety for sure. fascinating though. i’m intrigued to solve this little riddle for you.


10oz is a very large vessel for this. I brew it in a small 3oz gaiwan, and fill that to about half it’s capacity with buds (a couple tablespoons). It will deliver a vivid flavor with the right leaf to water ratio. I then do many short steepings, starting with 5-10 seconds, and adding additional time as I proceed with further infusions. With that leaf to water ratio, it can pretty much be re-steeped indefinitely in my experience, and I just keep steeping until I’m ready to move on to something else. Boiling water is fine for this stuff, but as Nate suggests you should avoid certain kinds of water like reverse-osmosis or distilled, or water that has been previously re-bioled a few times. I find filtered or spring water, freshly boiled, to be the best for tea brewing. Hopefully these comments are helpful. Happy drinking!


Nathaniel – my swan yixing is indeed enormous. If you can believe it, I own an even bigger one! (20 oz) I’m really learning to appreciate the smaller gaiwans and yixings, especially with anything Verdant has to offer. I use tap water with a Brita filter, though it’s possible I overboiled the water.

Geoffrey – I agree with you. I love my swan yixing but it’s just TOO big for just about anything I’m drinking these days.

Also, question for both of you – are you using actual measuring spoons or normal spoons? What’s the spoon to gram of tea measure?


Spoon to gram measure is going to be different for each kind of tea, because the weight to volume of each tea can vary dramatically. A gram-sensitive food scale is better for measuring by weight, but when you’ve done enough weighing for each kind of tea you can start to eyeball these measurements. At home, I typically use measuring spoons when I’m measuring out, and with that I just use rules of thumb developed from experience. Otherwise, I’ll just eyeball it when I’m pouring or pinching out tea quantities from a bag. I might measure weight if I had a food scale at home, but I don’t have one. Do you use a scale at home, Nate?

Brita filtered water is fine. That’s the same as what I use at home. Just watch out for re-boiling the same water too much.

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Bibliophile and language junkie. Now decidedly tea-crazed. Trying to convince The Boy that tea tastes like more than just hot water. Cat-lady and rat-lady in the making.

From San Juan, Puerto Rico. Adopted Bostonian. Current long-time Chicagoan. Up, up, up the ziggurat. Lickety-split!

I like an interesting tea, so I’m expanding my tea stash daily. As well as my teaware collection.



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