185 Tasting Notes
Since I have a fraught relationship with teapots at the moment (a newly purchased and expensive one cracked and I can’t replace it), I’m steeping Western style for a while. (My little porcelain teapot is in fine working order; I’m just bitter that my dream teapot isn’t.) It’s annoying how few teas I own that can be steeped Western, and most of them are Darjeelings. Western kind of seems like a waste for nicer teas anyway.
I steeped 4 g of leaf in a 355 ml mug at 195F for 5 and 7 minutes.
The dry aroma is of sweet muscatel, orange blossoms, chocolate, and green plants. The first steep has notes of heady muscatel, plums, stonefruit, orange blossoms, sap, faint cocoa, and tannins. Maybe five minutes was too long for this tea, as it’s a bit drying. Those tannins and the sweet muscatel fight with each other in the aftertaste. Honey and apricot become apparent as the tea cools. I made the second steep at 190F to try and reduce the tannin punch, with limited success. The fruitiness is still very much there, but so is the assertive black tea backbone of tannins, minerality, malt, and wood.
This is an excellent Darjeeling that would have been even better if the tannins had been toned down. I’ll keep changing the brewing parameters to see if it will help, but for now, it’s an 87.
Flavors: Apricot, Cocoa, Honey, Malt, Mineral, Muscatel, Orange Blossom, Plums, Sap, Stonefruits, Tannin, Wood
For Christmas, I was given a wood-fired clay teapot, which I picked out myself because my family aren’t big tea people. Well, this was the first time I tried it and possibly the last. The tea seemed slightly different, with more florals and sweetness and less grassiness than in the porcelain pot. But sometime during the session, a long crack appeared that went right through the body of the pot and leaks slightly.
I did manage to preheat the pot before putting in the leaves, but am wondering if waiting too long between steeps caused the pot to cool too much. At any rate, I bought this pot in late November, got it on December 7, kept it in the box to open on Christmas Day, then threw away the packaging in the post-holiday cleanup, and only tried it yesterday, January 9. All this is to say that I’m probably stuck with it. I’m incredibly bummed out, to the point that I’m considering giving up this hobby altogether. I could only afford this thing because it was half price, and what’s the point in getting another if I’ll just ruin it again?
Flavours: Honeysuckle, orchids, minerals, grass, crushed dreams
My first gongfu session of 2020! My eyes seem to be too big for my stomach when it comes to tea; I have things in my stash that I don’t remember buying. This oolong is less than a year old, which is good, right? I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of cookies and heady flowers. The first steep has lovely notes of lilac, orchid, honeysuckle, cookies, cream, and spinach. The second steep is creamier, with corn, herbaceous, coriander, faint peach, and grassy flavours. (Why do so many high mountain oolongs remind me of cream corn?) It’s a bit drying in the mouth with a sweet, grassy aftertaste. The next couple steeps have a nice balance of floral, sweet, herbaceous, and vegetal flavours. By steep five, the liquor becomes vegetal and herbaceous, and fades quickly after that.
This is a pretty standard Alishan, although for what it’s worth, the leaf sets are nice. I’ll have no trouble finishing it, but won’t rush to buy more.
Flavors: Cookie, Coriander, Corn Husk, Creamy, Floral, Grass, Herbaceous, Honeysuckle, Orchid, Peach, Spinach, Sweet, Vegetal
I caved and bought a few of my favourite teas from Teakruthi during their Black Friday sale, and also got a couple more samples to review. I was in the mood for a breakfast tea this morning, and this broken orange pekoe did the job. I steeped 2 teaspoons of tea in a 355 ml mug at 205F for 3.5, 5, and 10 minutes.
The dry aroma of these very broken-up leaves is of malt, honey, and green grapes. The first steep has notes of malt, honey, tannin, baked bread, wood, grass, and green grapes. I get a coppery, malty aftertaste. The second steep focuses on the malt, baked bread, and honey, and is actually a bit weaker despite its longer time. The final steep is surprisingly gentle for this type of tea and echoes the malt and honey in the second steep.
This is a nice breakfast tea with some distinctive Sri Lankan components (i.e., the flavour I identify as green grapes and that coppery aftertaste). It never gets too bitter, which is a plus for a BOP. I recommend it for mornings when you want something solid and uncomplicated.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Grapes, Grass, Honey, Malt, Tannin, Wood
Even though this is a Jin Xuan, which is a varietal I don’t usually go for, the notes on the vendor’s website and Steepster convinced me to give it a chance. Flavours of berries and caramel? Tastes like a Dan Cong? Count me in! Thanks to Tea Side for the sample.
I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma of these fairly large, loosely rolled nuggets is of berries, grass, and orchids. The first steep has notes of cream, caramel, grass, orchid, and raspberry. It’s quite silky, although it’s not quite in heady Dan Cong territory. All these notes intensify in the next steep, especially the berries. There’s also some indistinct tropical fruit in the aftertaste. The third steep has notes of raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, sour cherries, grapefruit, cream, caramel, grass, and faint florals; it’s a bit perfumey, with a big aftertaste. The berries start getting more tart in the next couple steeps; it kind of tastes like chokecherries. Subsequent steeps have fainter notes of sour berries, grass, cream, spinach, and other veggies.
True to what other reviewers are saying, this is not your typical Jin Xuan. It has the usual creamy, caramel flavours, but is much more fruity and perfumey than most other Jin Xuans. Is it like a Dan Cong? Sort of. It has a similar heady, fruit-forward profile with a grassy and floral background and a nice mouthfeel, but it’s missing the stonefruit and tropical flavours that I generally associate with Dan Congs. The sourness and grassiness also get out of control in the later steeps. Nonetheless, this is a very enjoyable oolong.
Flavors: Berries, Blackberry, Caramel, Cherry, Cranberry, Creamy, Floral, Grapefruit, Grass, Orchid, Perfume, Raspberry, Spinach, Tart, Tropical, Vegetal
My goodness, this is an old tea. I remember thinking it was very fancy when my experience was limited to Teavana, but now, either due to its age or to my broader knowledge, it’s a generic jasmine tea. It has some sweetness from the white tea and some vegetal notes from the green, but that’s all I can taste. I got four Western steeps out of it, so it has decent longevity. At 175F, there’s no astringency, and if you like jasmine and somehow still have this, it’s a perfectly acceptable cup.
Flavors: Grass, Jasmine, Sweet, Vegetal
I usually enjoy white tea, but don’t drink it often for some reason. True to this pattern, I was eager to try a Sri Lankan white, but I’m posting this as my penultimate review for this company. Thanks to Teakruthi for the sample. I steeped two teaspoons of leaf in a 355 ml mug at 190F for 4.5, 6, and 10 minutes.
The dry aroma of these small, dark, not very typical white tea leaves is of autumn leaf pile and something tart. The first steep has notes of tart rhubarb, herbs, malt, autumn leaf pile, honey, and florals. The liquor is quite drying. The second steep is less tart and has a hint of rose, in accordance with Teakruthi’s description. The final steep is tart, floral, drying, and malty.
This is a pleasant if unusual white tea that’s more assertive than many similar teas from other countries. I can see people who don’t usually opt for white tea really liking this, as the malt and honey make it more akin to a black tea. While I can’t see myself drinking this regularly, I think its divergence from other white teas is fascinating.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Drying, Floral, Herbaceous, Honey, Malt, Rhubarb, Rose, Tart
I don’t have a lot of experience with Yashi Dan Congs, aside from a greener one from Yunnan Sourcing, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. But since it was around $13 for 50 grams, I decided to give it a shot. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 7, 9, 12, 16, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry leaves smell overwhelmingly of roasted almonds, with some florals and stonefruit at the edges. Roasted almond dominates the first steep, with hay, cream, orchid, and peach in the background. (The peachy aftertaste is the best part of the steep.) The next couple steeps add notes of honey, grain, apricot, roast, grass, butter, and florals I can’t identify (gardenia?). Steeps four and five are a bit fruitier, with more apricot, peach, and peach pit flavours along with the almond. The next few steeps emphasize the roast and almond, and the tea becomes a bit drying in the mouth. The session ends with almonds, roast, and minerals.
This is a pleasant Dan Cong, especially for the price. I gave it extra points for the lovely peachy aftertaste in the first few steeps. However, I tend to enjoy greener Dan Congs and this just didn’t bowl me over like some previous What-Cha teas I’ve had. I still recommend it for those who like this type of tea and want an affordable option.
Flavors: Almond, Apricot, Butter, Cream, Floral, Gardenias, Grain, Grass, Hay, Honey, Mineral, Orchid, Peach, Roasted
I like chai teas on occasion, and was glad to get this cinnamon version to review. Thanks to Teakruthi for the sample. I steeped around 4 g of leaf in a 355 ml mug at 203F for 4, 6, and 10 minutes.
The dry aroma is of strong, woody cinnamon. In the first steep, the cinnamon is the star, and is strong but not too sweet. It’s the kind of cinnamon that gets put into baked goods, and it’s making me hungry! The black tea is malty, woody, and not astringent. The next two steeps continue the nice balance between cinnamon and black tea, and even brewed for ten minutes, the astringency is minimal.
This is a simple, well-executed cinnamon tea that I really enjoyed. It’s not particularly spicy and calling it a chai might be a stretch, but I guess it fulfills the same warm, cozy niche.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Malt, Wood
Thanks to Lochan Tea for including this sample in my order. I had previously tasted an autumn flush from this producer and thought it was quirky and quite good, so was eager to try their interpretation of a second flush. I steeped 4 g of leaf in a 355 ml mug at 195F for 5 and 8 minutes.
The dry aroma is of apricots, muscatel, smoke, and malt. The first steep has heady top notes of apricot, muscatel, and orange zest, balanced by malt, baked bread, tannins, subtle smoke, and wood. The apricot note is quite distinctive and is something I haven’t seen in a second flush Darjeeling. There’s some astringency and the aftertaste is smoky and a bit metallic. The second steep still has lingering apricot notes, but also tannin, wood, minerals, roasted almond, and grass.
While these smoked teas will never be daily drinkers for me, I liked this second flush’s interesting balance of fruity and heavy flavours. The apricot was especially nice. However, if you’re not frugal (a.k.a. cheap) like me, you should forego the second steep.
Flavors: Almond, Apricot, Baked Bread, Grass, Malt, Metallic, Mineral, Muscatel, Orange Zest, Smoke, Tannin, Wood