54 Tasting Notes


(backlog from 8/23/19)

By all rights, I should really love this tea. It hits all the right checkboxes. I really WANT to like this tea!

Amazing texture and body. This tea coats your tongue like honey syrup and doesn’t let go.
A nose of brown sugar, bread, honey, and citrus

Good set of flavors — honey, lemon zest, hints of spices (cinnamon), baked bread; Things I expect out of a WuYi Black Tea and that I enjoy

Balanced flavor profile — starts off slightly mineral/bitter that evens out to a thick honey.

But…I don’t love it It’s okay. It’s a good tea that I will not turn down if offered. I will gladly drink it for just the texture alone. But the combination of all of it, isn’t doing it for me. Others who have reviewed the previous’ years harvests have raved about the tea, including 2 people who seem to have the same tastes as me. So I don’t know if it’s just THIS year’s harvest or if it is just not for me.

It’s hard to compare harvest years as something might have gone wrong. If they still have the 2016/2017 harvest, I will pick up a sample to compare.

Brewing info:
- tea; 5.26g
- water: 150ml
- times: 20s, 30, 45, 60, 90

Flavors: Baked Bread, Brown Sugar, Honey, Lemon Zest

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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this is the 2019 Golden Branches Ripe (shou) Puerh. I was excited to really do a session with this since the Tea Festival tasting was so promising.

It did not disappoint. Their description calls out the sweetness of this tea due to drought. Plants under duress will often produce sweeter tasting flavor profiles.

From Denong: Tasting Notes: Smooth, Herbal, Fruit

The first 2 steeps are a mild sweetness on the tip followed by what I expect from most puerhs — earthy flavors. Then later steeps switch the profile — stronger flavors of rich damp earth & wood that are mellowed out by that sweetness. It works and balances out many of the flavors inherent in puerhs that I don’t prefer.

The earthy & wood flavors are strong but not overpowering and kinda devolve into a bittersweet cocoa flavor. And this tea has some Cha Qi like Woah! There’s a mild astringency that dries out my tongue and a tingling sensation that follows that fills my mouth and head.

However, the farther you steep it out (by 6) the sweetness starts to fade and I find it similar to what I expect from a ripe puerh. Flavors are not overwhelming but the sweetness that I enjoyed is gone.

Short steep times are the order of the day — starting at 10s, 15, 12, 15, 25, 30, 45, 60s, etc.

Still, it’s pretty darn good and I can see drinking this on occasion.

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

As much as I wanted, I couldn’t relax enough to enjoy my stop at Denong’s booth a few years ago. There was a lot of health benefit chatter from the (clearly exhausted) fellow doing the pours and several very pushy people wanting a sample. I’d like to give their teas a fair chance from the privacy of my home some day.


My friend dragged me over as she’s aware of my rocky relationship with puerh. I really was taken aback by how much I liked their samples from this year’s harvest. I also bought a sheng that I plan on aging a bit. And this year’s black tea was incredible.

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(from my tasting notes 7/7/19)

It’s no secret that I love oolongs and this one… this one is like a fine aged Scotch with a damn fine Cigar…literally.

It’s starts off with & sweet (light) smokey taste a roasted malt flavor hinting at dark chocolate with a touch of bitterness that doesn’t last long. It’s slightly earthy with tinges of oak, and has that touch of minerality that oolongs sometimes possess. This what happens if you take a roasted oolong and it had sex with an aged Puerh. (This is probably due to the multiple roastings over the course of its lifetime)

This tea is velvety smooth, complex, and the cha Qi goes straight to my head. I’m so glad I had this as an after dinner drink instead of on a partially empty stomach!

Brewing notes. CZGF style.
5g tea at 208 F at 30 seconds increasing by 10 seconds every steep until 1 minute.
Then an additional minute after than until 4 minutes.

Flavors: Coffee, Dark Chocolate, Malt, Mineral, Smoke

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 30 sec 5 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

This has been neglected in my tea closet for a year. Looking forward to it once the rains come.


I’ve had it a number of times and it never disappoints.

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I got this as a sample in my order from Whispering Pines. I brewed this GF style and will try the recommended Western Brewing at a later date. (I’ll update this review when I do)
[11/12/19 UPDATE: See Western style below the GF write-up]

Tea amount: 3grams / water amt ~90ml
Steep times: 20 seconds + 10 second increments per WP’s GF brewing guide.
Water temp: 202 -212 deg F (my kettle sometimes is variable on the temp.)

SUMMARY: This tea does okay in a gaiwan. The flavors are good and what I’d expect out of a Golden Needle, but I’m left wanting a tiny bit more from the tea than it can probably give. Also, the number of steeps was acceptable (topping out at 5 for me)

- The tea leaves in a warm gaiwan give off a scent of chocolate.
- The wet tea leaves have high-notes of a hot chocolate drink and have low-notes of spent cocoa powder that’s been toasted and slightly burnt.
- The tea broth gives off scents of chocolate & honey with hints of orange.

The tea really requires a higher temperature water (208-212) and longer brewing time. As my kettle doesn’t quite keep at the prescribed 208degF that it says on the display, so the temp varies a bit for each steep.

1) 20 seconds @ 208F — not bad. Color of the liquid is a medium orange. The tea is mild in flavor tasting of chocolate & honey. There’s very little astringency.

2) 30 seconds @ 202F — This steep is not as flavorful as the 1st. There’s still the flavors of chocolate & mild orange, but it feels a bit washed out

3) 60 seconds @ 208 — Here we go with the higher temp. The tea is now a much darker orange than the previous 2 steeps. The flavors are a bit stronger — bittersweet cocoa, a tad more orange. There’s a tiny bit astringency and a hint of bitterness but I don’t mind.

4) 60 @ 202F - Flavors are milder than #3..not quite washed out, but definitely not as flavorful.

5) 120 @ 208 — Reboiled the water for this and keeping for a longer brew. It’s not helping as much as I’d hoped. There’s less flavor and more astringency, but still no bitterness.

I’m throwing the rest of the tea into a cold brew to leech out of the rest of the flavors overnight. Who knows, this might be more excellent as a cold brew. It’ll probably be definitely be better as a Western Style

I followed the recommendations for Western: 1Tb (~3grams) @ 8oz @212F for 3/5 minutes

The chocolate notes are still predominately there, but I’ve lost the honey from the GF brew and there’s a slight bitterness, like burnt coffee grounds or really dark bittersweet chocolate. I barely taste any orange or citrus. The astringency is more present in this brew style than GF. I didn’t quite like the bitterness of #1 so increased the water amount to about 275ml.
This steep is a lot more mellow and less bitter than the 1st steep. I find myself preferring this one than the first. Similar flavor profiles to the first but much much milder.

I combined both of these steeps, and I have to say this combination is better than each individual part.

This tea is okay in either style, but I think there are better Golden Needles out there.

Flavors: Chocolate, Cocoa, Honey, Orange

0 min, 15 sec 3 g 3 OZ / 90 ML

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I picked up a 1/2oz sample from the SF Tea Festival 2019. At the show, I tasted the 3rd steep of the tea and it was tasty, so I had to pick up some to try at home.

Summary: This is a very lovely, but understated tea that is great for when you something lighter in flavor. It definitely has the Lishan qualities - nice milky/buttery flavors intermingled with lovely floral notes. It’s extremely well balanced in flavors; good viscosity that coats the tongue with an astringency that you can feel on the tongue and partially down the throat, with a medium finish. This tea if fairly consistent throughout steeps.

Tillerman Tea recommends the following: 6grams per 100ml @ 212F for 25 seconds, then 20s, then increasing from there.

I sometimes follow the recommendations, but in this instance, I didn’t, preferring to try this first with my general brewing style to an unknown tea — 5 grams / 150 ml of water — but I did use the recommended brewing times.

150ml water @ ~200F for 25s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 60secs, etc.
As mentioned earlier, the steeps were fairly consistent in aroma and flavor profile.

This is not a complicated tea, but it is very good. i suspect that if I brew this at the recommended amounts (6grams per 100ml of water), the flavors will be much more intense. I’ll update this review once I get around to doing that.

Flavors: Butter, Cream, Floral, Milk

0 min, 30 sec 4 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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Overall, this is a good tea with nice woody flavors, roasted nuts, and only hints of sweetness; this is mostly a savory tea. It starts off very mild in flavor with the 1st infusion and gets better from there. There’s a medium robustness in the tea with a good viscosity. I also got a lot of steeps out of this.

It’s a decent enough black tea, which is not quite in my preferred flavor profile, but won’t say No, if offered. The cha qi in this tea is pretty darn good.

I tried this GF style. (I’ll try this via WP’s recommended Western brew style later then update this review.)
Tea: 5.04g
Wash: No
Water: 150 ml
temps: ~195

1) 15 seconds @ 194F – Liquid is medium gold amber and gives off a faint woody smell. The wet leaves give off high notes of fruit and low notes of roasted / herbal scents. The flavor starts off with roasted nuts & camphor — there’s the mild sweetness of nuts; then a mild creamy aftertaste with hints of tobacco. It has a mild viscosity that coats the roof of my mouth but not my tongue with a very long finish

2) 30 seconds @ 196 — This is a much better infusion. The liquid is reddish amber with smells of wood, camphor/eucalyptus. The wet leaf has nigh notes of cocoa and low notes of roasted nuts, bittersweet chocolate.
On drinking it, I taste nuts on the tip of my tongue followed by cocoa, mild camphor/eucalyptus and wood. My tongue dried instantly; there’s a mild cha qi hitting my head.

3) 45 sec @ 193 deg. The tea is definitely getting a much darker red and I smell more camphor from the liquid, but the scent of the wet leaves hasn’t.
It still tastes of nuts, wood, and cocoa nibs. The flavors are becoming more robust and I can taste malty flavors. Viscosity has increased and the astringency has hit my tongue! Cha qi in the head has increased too.

4) 60 seconds @ 195 — The color is slightly less than the #3 steep. The liquid definitely has a camphor/eucalyptus scent, but the leaf now has high notes of brown sugar.
The flavor profile is changing slightly too — nuts, wood, and now resin.

5) 75 seconds – @ 200F — This is interesting. The liquid has gotten darker by increasing the temperature of the water, but the flavors haven’t really changed….they’re starting to actually got less intense

6) 1min30sec @ 200F — The liquid is still an amber red, and the flavors are still there, although lessening to a degree. There’s a hint of things starting to wash out at this point, but I might be able to get a few more steeps out of it.

Flavors: Camphor, Cream, Eucalyptus, Roasted nuts

195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 150 OZ / 4436 ML

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I ordered this tea from WP because, honestly, I liked the name. I have no vested interest in the tea or know about the hype surrounding it until I started looking at the reviews.

I brewed this following WP’s guidelines: 1 TBSP / 8 oz @212F for 3 minutes, then 5 minutes
(I will also try this GF style, then update this review)

Tea: 1.5 grams, which about fit in my TBSP at home.
Water: 8oz/237 ml

3minutes: The liquid is a gold amber and smells of syrupy honey.
The wet leaf smells of sweet, dough-y, and has a scent that I associate with wild tree purple tea from Yunnan. The flavor is not very complex, nor is it simple. It has a medium viscosity with a thick aftertaste like cream. It’s not honey sweet, but has some honey overtones. The tea has a fairly long finish. 5 minutes: Not sure that I like the second steep. The flavors are just “okay”. It seems to have lost any complexity that it had from the first brew.

For this brew style, this is a very innocuous tea without much wow factor in the flavors. It’s not bad and I suspect that it’s a good beginner type tea for someone who is used to bagged tea from Tazo.

Flavors: Honey

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 3 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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I tried this on a whim, and wasn’t disappointed. It’s a consistent tea, especially if you want something very light & clean tasting. It’s not overly complex, nor will I classify it as a “simple” tea. It’s probably most excellent cold brewed for a hot summer day.

I brewed this gongfu style as follows:
Tea: 5.05 grams
temp: ~195
WP’s directions on the bag are for Western Style (3g tea/ 8oz water @ 190F) for 2,3,4 minutes

The dry leaves smell of cream/milk with that oolong undertone.

1)30 seconds: The leaf smells of heavy cream & honey and have barely even opened up!. The liquid smells of warm milk and looks like pale ivory. Its flavors start off with a subtle vegetal followed by honey then cream. There’s a mild viscosity and very clean finish.

2) 1 minute: I really wanted the leaves to open up more; hence the longer steep time. The leaves smell of cream with a vegetal undertone….and funny enough, it tastes exactly that! The initial cream flavor followed by a vegetal undertone and a floral finish.

3) 2 minutes: This tea seems to be able to take the increased brew time. WP’s directions are for western for 2-4-minutes, so I’m okay with the increased time. The flavors are the same as #2 but with a very mild astringency.

4) 3 minutes. The tea is pretty consistent with its flavor profile. Cream, honey, with floral undertones. Mild astringency.

Overall, this is a pretty decent tea to drink; not overly complicated, but with enough flavors to keep your taste buds entertained if you don’t want a full tea session.

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drank 2019 Denong Black Tea by Denong Tea
54 tasting notes

I bought this from Denong Tea at the SF Tea Fesitval. I was tasting their puerhs and also tasted their black tea, which was an immediate YES PLEASE!! (I also bought the 2019 Shou & Sheng Puerhs)

This is an amazingly well balanced black tea that is completely in my preferred flavor profile. I generally followed DT’s brewing recommendations for Gong Fu brewing; 3-4g for 118 ml at 195-205 deg F (alas no time recommendations).

I used 5grams @150 ml (same ratio)
The dried leaves smell of malt, cocoa, and mild roast. With the leaves warmed, the smell of brownies. The leaves are thin, wiry, and look like the stem & 2 first leaves.

TL;DR – this is an amazing tea. It starts with hints of burnt brown sugar/molasses on the tongue, moving towards a smokey, malty, cocoa flavors; much like a very mild sweet cigar. This has a fair amount of viscosity. A very pleasing astringency is present — drying out the tongue, lips, roof of my mouth — but this is never bitter. The finish is extremely long and addicting; I want more of this tea after finishing each cup. This tea is neither sweet or savory despite my descriptions. It somehow maintains a balance between the two.

1) 20sec – 197 degF. Not bad. I can tell that this will be good but I didn’t brew quite long enough for the flavors to take a foot hold. Should have been 30 seconds.

2) – 40 sec – 197F. The color is a dark orange Amber. The brown sugar/cocoa flavors are coming out counterbalanced by smoke and malty flavors. No bitterness and good “hui gun” astringency!! I think 40 was too long. 30 seconds would be better BUT 4 stars even with the slight over brewed.

3) 45s @ 195F. Still amazing flavor. Color is still dark orange Amber. Leaves are only half furled.

4) – 60s @195F. The flavor profile is changing slightly. It’s starting off smokey and burnt cocoa followed by hints of brown sugar

I won’t go on but it went for a while until I felt the leaves were starting to wash out (about 7 steeps). Then I threw the leaves and did a cold brew of 350 ml overnight. And the resulting cold brew was still pretty damn good. I might just cold brew this tea until the water is clear.

Flavors: Cocoa, Honey, Malt, Smoke

195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 30 sec 5 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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General: A crafty geek girl who has a love for tea, cats, writing, books, as well as learning a multitude of post-apocalyptic skills…just in case.

Tea: I’ve been drinking tea all my life. My grandfather was half-Chinese, but I was always too lazy to brew anything other than Western style. In the past 5 years I’ve been changing that; trying to develop my tea-tasting chops and still a lot to learn! I prefer oolongs, blacks, and greens (in that order), and I’m trying to expand my knowledge of tea from all over the world (and not just China & Japan). I do tend to stay away from herbal tisanes or overly flavored teas as I find them much too sweet and overpowering.

My ratings explained.
90-100: Exceptional tea. The tea I want with me on that desert island. It is the tea I’ll take time to relish and enjoy.

80-89: Very Good Tea. It fits my flavor profile and I enjoy drinking it.

70-79: Good. I like it, but might not be one I reach for on a regular basis..

60-69: Solid. Better than average, and something I’ll grab when I need to “run-out-the-door” and can’t take time to really appreciate the tea I’m drinking.

50-59: Decent/Average. Not my preferred flavor profile or something I won’t purposefully go out to buy. It might lack that “Something” in its aroma/flavor/mouthfeel/finish.

40-49: Below average. I don’t really care for this tea and likely won’t have it again.

39 and lower: Gross. Didn’t finish it or refused to drink anymore.


San Francisco Bay Area



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