371 Tasting Notes

Review long overdue as promised…. Sample provided for review, which is based on the second of the two balls. I used my own parameters rather than the website’s. Brewed the 6.3g ball in a gongfu session, using 105ml zitao jianshui pot, at boiling water. Rinsed for a few seconds, rested for a few minutes. Steeping times: 10 seconds, 20, 15, 20, 20, 30, 40, 50; 1 minute, 5.

The dry leaf has a very light floral and sweet aroma. After letting the ball sit in the pre-heated pot, I smell more complex aroma that is buttery, sweet, and youthfully bitter. Again, not very strong. The wet leaf aroma, in contrast, is much more fragrant: stronger youthful bitterness, sweet, tart with citrus zest, and herbal-like with oregano.

The soup has a dark gold color, surprisingly dark having been presumably pressed in mid-2017. This sheng – made out of Jinggu material, fyi – is difficult to brew. The odd steeping times from the website didn’t work out for, but my personal familiar parameters didn’t work out either. It probably could have used longer and fewer steeping times in spite of the ratio not being that low (about 1:16), though 10 infusions is fine.

The first three infusions are somewhat cloudy. It took till the fourth infusion clear up completely and to really get on the ball with flavor and texture. The young bitterness is medium – not soft, but not a punch in the face. Young sweetness is also present. Good balance. I also taste lemon/citrus. The texture is creamy. The soup itself smells like mandarins. Huigan is at its strongest in infusions four through six, the last of which also fills the mouth with a minty flavor. The sweetness becomes an under-flavor in seven and eight. Bitter, vegetal notes take over. Huigan decreases in intensity. Texture loses creaminess but is still thick. The ninth infusion has nearly lost all flavor. A final five-minute steeping produces a heavily bitter soup with light huigan.

As for qi, my head felt stuffed early on in the session. Couldn’t concentrate on reading… I had to take a break to eat something.

Not the most enjoyable young sheng. The wet leaf aroma was complex and lovely, and I liked drinking the very middle infusions. I might be curious of how this could age 20 years down the line.


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Acquired on my own and used my personal steeping parameters, keeping the recommended temperature. Brewed in a porcelain gaiwan. No rinse. Steeping times: 20 seconds, 10, 20, 40; 1 minute, 2, 4, 8.

The dry leaf smells mostly of sweet potato skin with just a smidge of dates. The fruitiness begins to come through with the heated leaf, from which I pick out dates and figs, and chocolate as well. At first, the wet leaf aroma disappointingly smells of malt and sweet potato. But as I steep the leaf throughout the session, the sweetness truly comes through at its fullest and holds up strong until after the final steep. It’s fruity, chocolately, and a little nutty. In addition, the liquor leaves behind a berry-filled aroma in my cup.

The liquor is orange and clear, and has a light body. The first infusion is gently fruity with a sharp and light mouthfeel, its aftertaste drying. The creme de la creme of the session occurs from infusions 2 through 6, wherein the liquor is thick and silky, very sweet with dark dried fruits, and astringent in the mouth. The taste is also evocative of the fragrance of dewy flowers in early spring. A surprise – the first time a hongcha reminds me spring! While there was no aftertaste in the first infusion, these infusions have a sweet aftertaste that linger a few minutes. I’m beginning to push this keemun with 4 minutes at the seventh infusion. It still tastes fully sweet and fruity, and also feels peppery on the tongue. I then really pushed this at steep eight – at 8 minutes long – which was just plain done and tired with eeking out flavor. At this point, the aroma of the wet leaf has finished, too.

This is a great keemun. I had a difficulty pacing myself and slowing the session. I couldn’t help but down each cup (50ml – small amount and quickly cooling). I loved the aroma, the taste, and the overall feel. By far my favorite of Teavivire’s keemuns even though I have one left to evaluate.

185 °F / 85 °C 3 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

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Purchased a sample for myself. Brewed with a porcelain gaiwan. No rinse. Steeping times: 20, 10, 20, 40; 1 minute, 5.

NOTE: The website’s recommended temperature is 195. I suggest 190 if your kettle doesn’t have 195. 200 burns the leaf and produces bitterness.

The dry leaf has an unexpected aroma of smoke and what I identify as pine wood and sap. The familiar minghong aroma arises when the leaf has warmed in the pre-heated gaiwan. Individually, the heated aroma has notes of chocolate, baked bread, and salt. Altogether, I thought I was smelling chocolate-covered pretzels. Finally, the wet leaf smells like a keemun: honey and molasses. It’s worthy to note that the liquor, too, is fragrant. A molasses/chocolate fragrance sticks to the gaiwan lid and the cup.

The liquor has a fiery yet deep orange color, a full body, and a smooth and thick texture. The first infusion mostly tastes of molasses, a lovely sweetness. Infusions two through four – the most enjoyable – also have the molasses note, but wood and something like myrrh and patchouli also make their way in. Wonderful complex cups. There is also a brief chocolate aftertaste during this part of the session, but it disappears towards the tail-end. The fifth and sixth infusions – long steeps – are a bit of a long shot trying to keep this keemun going and to eek out last flavors. They mostly taste of pine wood, with just some honey sweetness.

Not truly for me, but I did enjoy certain aspects of the aroma and taste. A good quality keemun.

190 °F / 87 °C 3 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

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Sample purchased by self. I used my own parameters for the evaluation, treating this as I treated Keemun Grade 2. Brewed in a porcelain gaiwan, drank from a white porcelain cup. Steeping times: 20 seconds, 10, 20, 30; 1 minute, 2, 6.

The aromas are quite different from those of Grade 2. Again, I only smell tannins from the dry leaf, but the heated and wet leaf aromas are what shine. The former is very sweet, with notes of dark chocolate and berries, reminding me of those chocolate-covered blueberries and pomegranate. The latter initially smells typically of molasses and honey, but more exposure to air morphs these notes into tart berries. Lovely. I took my time breathing in the aromas.

The liquor is a fiery deep orange (classic keemun color). Overall, Grade 1 is sweeter than Grade 2, though much lighter tasting. The body is more in the middle on the scale, having a medium body, strong though not brisk, not filling the mouth with flavor. Infusions one through three taste of molasses and honey; tannic but leaning more towards sweetness as opposed to the balance that Grade 2 has. Furthermore, I noticed this grade has a nicely smooth and thick texture.

Surprisingly, this grade has considerably less gongfucha stamina. I could have finished with cup #3, but wanted to learn what how much farther it could really go. In truth, four through seven aren’t worth it. In spite of the color remaining strong, it became too light in flavor, only a remnant of what it tasted like in the first couple infusions. I used a 1:20 ratio. I may have to use 1:15 for this to suit my fancy more. But it seems I would enjoy this more in a mug than in a gaiwan. Comparing the two keemuns, Grade 2 suited my fancy more because it was stronger and more flavorful.

I then brewed this in a typically sized mug twice, using 2g each time, similar temperature. The flavor and intensity is very much same: light, sweet, and slightly tannic. The less water the better since a full mug tastes diluted. Again, too light for my taste.

200 °F / 93 °C 3 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

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Sample purchased by self. I used my own parameters for the evaluation. Brewed in a porcelain gaiwan, drank from a white porcelain cup. Steeping times: 20 seconds, 10, 20, 30; 1 minute, 2, 6.

I pretty much only pick out a tannic aroma from the dry leaf, which consists of small and short leaves, many broken. The dry leaf aroma changes and becomes more complex after I let the leaf rest in the heated gaiwan, which brings out a light chocolate note and strong purple raisins note. The wet leaf aroma returns to tannins but also equally smells of molasses.

The liquor is dark orange and clear. Overall, this is a brisk, strong-bodied keemun. It doesn’t undergo evolution during the session. Although I read that this keemum would better suit Western-style brewing, I wanted to see how it would brew in the a gongfu session. The first four infusions not only taste brisk, but have the typical keemun thick sweetness of molasses and honey. The tannins rest on the tongue, while the sweetness sticks to the back of the throat. The aftertaste is also sweet but short.

One can easily finish the session with the fourth infusion. Beginning with the fifth, the strength of the tannins declines, although the sweetness remains. This keemun is done by the sixth and seventh infusions, in which a smokiness replaces everything.

Keemun Grade 2 makes an easy-going breakfast tea. Good quality for the grade.

200 °F / 93 °C 3 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

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Courtesy sample from, Angel. Thank you so much!

I brewed 4.6g in a 60ml porcelain gaiwan and followed the website’s steeping instructions: rinse, 30 seconds, 40, 50, 70,90, 120.

I divided the sample into two sessions just to be sure the leaf got some air. The aroma of the dry leaf is surprisingly oceanic and seaweed-like, delicately sweet. The leaf starts to smell more like Chinese rolled oolong after I enhance the aroma with the pre-heated gaiwan: intensely floral, with a sweetness of uncooked sugar snap peas. The wet leaf aroma is, again, floral, but also buttery. It also reminds me of the fragrance of full green leaves at the height of summer.

The liquor is a clear, bright, and pale yellow. The leaf doesn’t open completely until the third infusion, though the first and second infusions are quite flavorful of floral and fruity notes. The second infusion noticeably had a medicinal sweetness. After the third infusion, the flavors don’t evolve – they are consistently floral and sweet till the end. The texture is creamy throughout the session. The aftertaste is powerfully juicy, tasting of white grape juice. The website description says that this Tie Guan Yin produces a salivating effect, but to me it dries the mouth rather, and I salivated a little in consequence. The caffeine/qi kicks takes a bit of time to kick off; I began to feel both after the third infusion. I noticed an increase in alertness and my palms sweated a little.


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Free sample obtained from an order.

Performed a gongfu session with a porcelain gaiwan. Followed the website’s steeping instructions: flash rinse, 10 sec, 10, 15, 20, 25, 35, 90.

Gorgeous leaf. Picture says it all!


The dry leaf aroma has a note of sweet potato initially, then I start to smell chocolate sprinkles and milk chocolate bar after a little time. After I let the leaf sit in the heated bowl, spices appear: clove, nutmeg, cinnamon. Sweet potato is stronger in the wet leaf aroma, which also produces a malty note.

The liquor has a golden orange color, and is medium-bodied and nicely clean in appearance and feel. The texture starts of as creamy and then becomes silky later in the session. The first infusion is rather light in flavor – I would start with 15 seconds. The second infusion is much more flavorful,packing a punch compared to the first (seems like it oversteeped). I taste notes of malt and burned sweet potato. Following the third infusion, the burned taste disappears , and the liquor mostly tastes of sweet potato and malt with a hint of fruitiness. There is no aftertaste, but the sixth and seventh infusions have a slightly cooling effect on the tip of my tongue and the back of my throat. I can smell a lovely fragrance of longan from my empty cup.

Nothing about the taste stuck out to me…though this is very good quality and the price is a bargain. I can see this Fujian hongcha being a welcoming breakfast tea all year round. But today it offers a nice, comforting feeling during an overcast, cool autumn day.

(lol this is why I have Steepster. I apparently reviewed this tea before, a couple years ago: https://steepster.com/KiwiDelight/posts/314758

Different harvest, different palate. I like coming back to the same tea after a time (not counting pu’erh because reasons).)

3 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

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Purchased a sample. Prepared in a gongfu session with a porcelain gaiwan. Followed Teavivre’s steeping instructions: flash rinse, 10 seconds, 15, 15, 25, 35, 60.

I was not expecting to be blasted by such a cocoa bean-like aroma from the dry leaf. So sweet, a touch bitter. The heated leaf uncannily resembles those times in which my house is filled with the smell of brownies in the oven, then you take those brownies a douse them with chocolate syrup. Hit with hot water, the leaf initially smells of sweet potato skin, clove, and malt. Later in the session, the aroma comes back to cocoa.

The liquor is a beautifully clear golden orange and has a full body and smooth texture. The flavor profile doesn’t undergo change throughout the session. From the first infusion to the end, I taste honey, molasses, and sweet potato (no skin), leaving me with a grain-like aftertaste and a slightly dry mouth.

This is another excellent hongcha offering from Teavivre. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

185 °F / 85 °C 3 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

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2017 harvest sample provided by Teavivre. Thank you!

Had a gongfu session, brewing 3g in a 60ml porcelain gaiwan with 180 degree water (the ratio is a bit higher than the recommended, which is 1g:30ml). No rinse. Followed the website’s steeping directions directions: 10 seconds, 15, 20, 25, 35.

The dry leaf aroma is lightly sweet with notes of corn silk, white sugar, and hay; and transforms into butter and fresh blueberry muffins after I let the leaf sit in the pre-heated gaiwan. (I triple-checked – yes, blueberry muffins!) The wet leaf aroma is drastically different: vegetal and savory. I didn’t let the leaf rest in fresh air as usual when they’re packaged in these packets, and that may explain the bizarre yet fascinatingly scrumptious aromas.

With a fresh and lively feel, the liquor is bright green in color and full-bodied. It has a sometimes thick, sometimes creamy texture. Though clean tasting, there are many bits of bud fuzz floating around. The liquor tastes similar to the wet leaf aroma in that it is vegetal and savory. Heavy in flavor, but not in substance. Tops off with a sweet finish. No aftertaste. The taste and feel are consistent throughout the session.

I went beyond the recommended steeping times: 45 seconds; 1 minute, 2, 5. I could have stopped with 45, the sixth infusion, which tastes lighter and sweeter than the previous five and has a cooling sensation. Thereafter, the liquor tastes cooked.

Teavivre continues to offer excellent green teas. I’m not much for savory green teas, but I really like this one. It’s a little more high-end for the pricing of 100g, but seems worth it.

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Samples provided for review. Thank you, Angel! This review is based on the second session.

Brewed with a gongfu session, in a 120ml porcelain gaiwan. The dragon ball weighed 9.7g. I used 190 degree and then 200 degree water since my kettle does have a 195 setting. I gave the ball a rinse and a quick rest to open up. Steeping times are pulled from the website: 25 seconds, 20, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 80 (etc.)

The dry leaf aroma has notes of rose and typical Dian Hong (malt and chocolate). After I let the ball sit in the pre-heated gaiwan for a bit, I smell freshly baked brownies – incredibly fresh. Makes me want to make brownies. The wet leaf, in order from strongest to weakest, smells of rose, malt, and brownies. As the session when on, an allspice note took over.

The liquor, a clear golden orange, has a full body and smooth texture. The flavor doesn’t evolve; it’s constant. Comparing this to the loose rose-scented Dian Hong that Teavivre also carries, the dragon ball is much more balanced. The rose doesn’t overwhelm the typical Dian Hong notes, which are, again, malt and chocolate, plus a hint of allspice and black pepper. It’s as if the rose is naturally steeped from the leaf rather than an addition. Speaking more the Dian Hong’s overall quality, it’s a very nice quality. Very few broken leaves or buds. It’s delicious, clean, and comforting. Additionally, whole rose buds and petals are pressed into the ball. WHOLE. I like that touch.

I’m not very big on rose when it comes to the tea and flower combination. It’s OK. I do, however, adore Dian Hong. Since I’ve sampled both the dragon ball and the loose leaf, I can say that I prefer the dragon ball. I felt like the rose-scented loose leaf comes off as overpowering. If you prefer a flower “flavored” tea in which the flower isn’t too strong, this is something to try.

However, as someone who watches caffeine intake, I don’t like the idea of dragon balls much because there are so many grams crammed into one piece. Both of these dragon balls provided weighed nearly 10 grams – double my typical maximum. Another thing to consider. At least with the loose leaf I can control leaf amount more easily.

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I began drinking tea because its complexity fascinated me. I love learning about its history, its manufacturing processes, and its place in various cultures.

Japanese greens were my first love and gateway into the world.

My favorite teas are leafhopper oolongs, pu’erh (shou and sheng), and masala chai. My favorite herbal tisanes are spear/peppermint, lavender and chrysanthemum.

I’m currently exploring pu’erh, and any Chinese and Taiwanese teas in general. I’m not much into flavored teas, unlike when I first started. The only teas I truly dislike are fruity tisanes and the ones that have too much fruit. I do like hisbiscus, especially iced.

I like to write nature essays. I’m a birdwatcher as well as a tea enthusiast. The kiwi is one of my favorite birds. I also like Tolkien, Ancient Egypt, and exercising.

IMPORTANT NOTE, PLEASE READ: After two and a half years of having an account here, I will no longer will provide numerical ratings as an addition to the review because the American school system has skewed my thoughts on numbers out of a hundred and the colors throw me off. Curses! My words are more than sufficient. If I really like what I have, I will “recommend”, and if I don’t, “not recommended”.

Key for past ratings:

96-100 I adore absolutely everything about it. A permanent addition to my stash.

90-95 Superb quality and extremely enjoyable, but not something I’d necessarily like to have in my stash (might have to do with personal tastes, depending on what I say in the tasting note).

80-89 Delicious! Pleased with the overall quality.

70-79 Simply, I like it. There are qualities that I find good, but there also are things that aren’t, hence a lower rating that I would have otherwise like to put.

60-69 Overall “meh”. Not necessarily bad, but not necessarily good.

0-59 No.

If there is no rating: I don’t feel experienced enough to rate the tea, or said tea just goes beyond rating (in a positive way).


Westchester, NY

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