306 Tasting Notes
Bagged and herbal teas are usually not my thing these days but I’ve been suffering some unfortunate physical effects from caffeine late at night and wanted to try something to calm me down more before bed. Picked this up because I love lavender and the list of ingredients was nice.
The lavender scent is most evident on the dry tea bag unfortunately, and in the pouch after you take the bag out. After you steep the tea, the lavender blends with all the other herbal aromas and is hard to discern. It also doesn’t have anything that I’d call a honey taste or aroma. Mostly I taste mild sweetness from the stevia leaf, a bit of the woodiness of the rooibos that’s in there, a hint of lavender, and some mint.
Unfortunately, when there is mint or holy basil (tulsi) in an herbal tea blend they have the unfortunate fate of all tasting rather the same to me, albeit with slightly different character. This one is really soothing and lightly sweet and does have a very relaxing taste and aroma, even if the lavender doesn’t stand out. I feel a noticeable calm and sedating effect whenever I drink this tea, similar but opposite to how caffeine hits me. I think this blend of herbs may actually have a good combination to biologically induce this, rather than just through enjoyment and aesthetic, as I feel the similar body shift into a more relaxed and lulled state every time I drink it.
The effect part of the tea’s name (stress relief) is a bit more accurate than the flavor descriptor (honey lavender), but I actually really like this tea. I can see myself buying it again. It does what it says it does, for me at least, and that is why I bought it, so I’m a happy big cat.
Still looking for a wonderful herbal tea that soothes and has no mint or tulsi though. I really love things with lavender, but maybe I should veer away from lavender a bit and look for something on the rose flavor spectrum.
Flavors: Lavender, Mint, Rooibos, Sweet
Got this as a sample at the Midwest Tea Fest in the swag bag you get for attending. I usually give away the tea samples I get in these because they are almost always tea bags and nothing loose, and tend to be lower quality (broken leaf) teas.
I held on to a couple that I figured I might enjoy. Rishi has some pretty good loose leaf teas so I thought maybe this would be a good tea. And I should say that the leaves inside of the little pyramid shaped bag here are a mixture of whole and broken leaves. They are rather brown looking though, very dark, and don’t really evoke the idea of green tea much. The brew is the usual pale yellow green tea color at least.
The Jasmine aroma and flavor are nice, about what you’d expect. The taste of the tea leaves is not exceptional. I don’t taste really any vegetal or grassy green tea flavor at all, just a sort of drying astringent quality and a little bit of tart flavor aside from the jasmine.
This tea is about on par with the jasmine tea you’ll probably get if you order a pot at an Asian restaurant. It’s fine, might calm a hungry appetite a bit and pair nicely with some food, but on its own, it’s not particularly good tea and not something you’d probably want to sit down and just reflect on.
For what it’s worth, I’ve had better bagged teas from other companies, which is a bummer, because I like Rishi as a company.
Flavors: Astringent, Jasmine, Tart
This is a new tea from Shang Tea, just produced last month, and I invite the Shang Tea staff to edit and update this page’s info as needed since I don’t have a lot of the info to add myself.
Shang produced this tea from the same plants that they harvest for his Special Reserve Green Tea (my favorite tea of his, one of my top favorite teas ever). These are plants from an abandoned tea farm that has been growing on its own for some years now (I forget how long). Unlike their previous yellow tea produced from these plants, this one is not pressed into a cake. It is loose.
Yellow tea involves heaping the leaves after firing, and wrapping them in cloth to swelter in their own aroma and heat. This is done two or three times if I remember right and is an all-night process, done at intervals over the nighttime hours. The intention with yellow tea is to remove some of the bright grassy flavors that some tea drinkers don’t enjoy and to highlight the more mellow, smooth notes of the tea.
Theoretically, you should be able to tell yellow tea from green because the leaves look yellowed. With teas that have a lot of white hairs this is more obvious but with darker green leaf teas it looks more like an olive color. This tea from Shang has that tone.
After the first infusion, the aroma of the leaves is really nutty and mellow, and reminds me a lot of zucchini tempura. The taste of the tea is really mellow too, and quite sweet. The flavor tastes a bit like cooked zucchini as well, it’s dewy and vegetal. It’s a little bit grassy too, but not much.
I’m brewing this in a gaiwan, Gongfu style, and the second infusion is much like the first but more rich and full flavored. I’ts still really sweet and mellow though, with no bitterness at all.
By the third infusion there’s a slightly toasty flavor that reminds me of the crust on a creme brulee, but it’s a background note. Toasted hazelnut might sound like a more accurate description to some people. It’s got a little more of a vegetable broth taste now too, and reminds me a bit of sugar snap peas. Still getting cooked zucchini too.
I really love this tea. It isn’t a cheap tea because of the production method, but it is worth it. This is one of the best teas I’ve had, honestly, and easily the best yellow tea I’ve had.
One note here, I brewed this at 176F/80C, not a very hot temperature, and the same one I use for green teas. I’ve had it brewed at 85C and it was a bit more “zesty” and bright tasting. Also I’ve had it brewed at around 90c and it had a much stronger flavor. There was some bitterness every time except for this current session at 80C, so I think I prefer it this way. It depends on how much you like some bitterness in your tea.
Flavors: Broth, Garden Peas, Hazelnut, Sweet, Toast, Zucchini
Confession: Shan lin xi is my favorite variety of rolled green oolong, though my experience is somewhat limited. I’ve had spring and fall harvest from Eco-Cha, and found that I was enamored by the spring harvest but the fall harvest (which I ordered by mistake) ended up being dismissed to my bowl steeping stash after a few gongfu sessions didn’t really tickle me the same way. I have no idea what harvest this sample from BTTC is, but I’m excited to try it either way.
The aroma of the dry leaves in a prewarmed gaiwan is buttery and nutty. The wet leaves smell buttery and grassy with hints of alpine plants. The taste of the first infusion is very clean, grassy and buttery, really smooth. I’m mostly captivated by the cleanliness of the tea. It’s just so crisp and feels good on the tongue. There’s a warming camphor-like quality in the back of the throat.
The aroma of the wet leaves is intoxicating after the second infusion, it’s dripping with honey and sweet flowers, and alpine air. I’m really impressed by this. Man, this second infusion is something else. There are some honey sweet notes to it now. The body is really thick and buttery. The taste reminds me of the aroma of warm grasses and flowers in the afternoon sun. There’s a lingering aftertaste that is floral and almost fruity. This tea has the kind of complexity that I can’t even describe the flavor very well. I love when this happens. It’s an adventure tea. I feel I’m being transported to its origins and taking in all the sights, smells, and sounds.
One thing I’m enjoying about this tea, on the third infusion now, is that it doesn’t have the floral soapiness that is hard to avoid with some of these green high mountain oolongs. Some are quite susceptible to overbrewing. This one can brew up pretty rich in flavor without punching me with those heavy floral notes. Flavors here are similar to the second infusion but not quite as lush.
Fourth infusion now, similar to the third, mellowing out some. Still pretty buttery. I think this tea will push out many flavorful infusions to come. I’m going to go ahead and give this the Lion’s Seal of Approval!!! (there is actually no such thing, and I am a dork) This really is one of the best rolled oolongs I’ve had, and definitely stands up to the best Shan Lin Xi I’ve had. Great stuff. Going to give this the rating it deserves, since it had me swooning over it.
Flavors: Butter, Flowers, Grass, Honey, Pine
The scent of these black wiry leaves in a warm gaiwan is of dark chocolate and malt. After the first infusion, the wet leaves smell like dark chocolate and raisins. The liquid is a honey gold color and smells like mashed potatoes.
The first infusion tastes like malt quite a bit, and sweetened oats, and little bit of chocolate. I’m reminded of malt-o-meal cereal.
Second infusion is more of the same, but with a sweet honey overtone, relatively thick body. The flavor of this tea is rather mild for a black tea, tending to stay on the light side. There’s an aftertaste of raisins.
The third infusion is more rich, with a stronger sweetness. The flavors are the same as before. I brewed this infusion more strongly, and I definitely prefer the flavor this way. It has a lot more assertive flavor, notes of dates now in the mixture.
A good and easy to drink tea. Honey blacks are not generally my thing, as they tend to be really sweet and often mild in flavor compared to other black teas. This one has a very clean taste and mouthfeel, great for people who avoid the stronger and potentially more biting red and black teas.
Flavors: Dark Chocolate, Dates, Malt, Oats, Raisins, Sweet
Yay! I love Jin Xuan, so I’m excited to try this. I recently came to the belated conclusion that the one I recently loved and raved about from another vendor is artificially flavored, so I am looking for an authentic replacement. Maybe this will be one that I really enjoy! :3
The dry leaves are very green, so this tea seems very fresh. I’m not sure what harvest date this is from, but it looks and smells quite recent. The aroma is floral and buttery. The aroma of the wet leaves is very nice, rich and buttery, very floral, lots of lush aromas of vegetation.
I’m gongfu brewing this. The first infusion has a nice cream flavor and tastes lightly floral as well. In that regard it reminds me of magnolias, or maybe even a really mild lotus flavor.
The second infusion is much more floral, but still has a creamy body and flavor to it as well. There are notes of coniferous tree sap. The taste is less floral as the tea cools.
The third infusion is quite a bit floral as well, but still has that thick creamy note running through it. Flavorwise, it hasn’t change much. It’s more in the balance of the flavors that this tea changes during each infusion.
On the fourth infusion the floral flavor is more of an undertone, blending with a vegetal grassy flavor, and still has a creamy richness to it.
Overall I would say this Jin Xuan was more floral than I expected it to be, and not as milky as the renowned nickname of “milk oolong” makes me think it should be, but it was a nice tea, definitely a crisp and clean one as far as green oolongs go.
Flavors: Butter, Cream, Floral, Grass, Pine, Vegetal
This is only the second or third silver needle tea from Nepal I’ve had the pleasure of trying. I’m already quite surprised by the scent of the dry leaf, which has some smokey notes and hay and earthy tones to it, quite different from any other silver needle I’ve tried before. These needles look very thin and delicate. The aroma of the wet leaves is smokey and perfumey at the same time with a sort of tart grape scent. It’s really intriguing.
The taste of the first infusion is not at all what I’d have expected. It’s really sweet, woody, and a little smokey. If you blindfolded me I’d probably think this is Ya Bao, a white tea made from plump, moth-like winter buds from wild tea trees. In some ways this reminds me of wite whine, something spicy and crisp like a Pinot Grigio.
The second infusion of this tea is more sweet and grape-like, now reminding me more of champagne. The smokey element is nearly gone. The taste is a lot more clean in this infusion than the first.
In the third and fourth infusions, the smokey aspect really cleared out and gave way to a really sweet and clean brew, while the flavor stayed somewhat similar, reminding me a bit of white grape with some sweet grassy undertones.
This tea had a rough start by my tastes, but after the initial infusion I was really enjoying it. That said, I never rinse teas except for Shou Puer. Maybe this is a rare case of a tea that I feel could be better with a rinse? Then again, I may not have appreciated those more delicate sweet later steepings without the smokey, earthy tastes up front with which to contrast them. This tea produces many flavorful steepings and really goes a long way.
Flavors: Champagne, Earth, Grapes, Hay, Smoke, Sweet, White Wine
This tea sample was given to me by Rie from Tealet. Thanks! This tea is mentioned on their website as being a green or a white depending on your point of view, as it undergoes a non-standard processing developed by the locals at the Hariyali Cooperative. My curiosity leads me to wonder if it’ll brew like a hybrid of the two or if it’ll seem more like one than the other. I’m going to play it safe with a slightly cooler brewing temperature as I would for green tea.
I feel I should mention these leaves’ appearance, as they are very thin, delicate, and twisted and many are covered in white fur. They seem very similar to bi luo chun. I did the rare deed of reading the company’s description before trying this tea. I try not to so I have an open mind and blank palate, but I’m mentioning this to say that my first impression of the aroma, from the dry leaves sitting in the warm gaiwan, is of creamed corn, which is a note they mentioned in their description and I really agree with it. I also smell a bit of moss and underbrush underscoring the scent . The wet leaf aroma is very vegetal and green beany like a typical Chinese green tea, with some really nice sweet grassy notes atop it all.
The flavor of this green tea is mild and sweet on the first infusion, a sweet corn on the cob or corn husk note is most evident. There is just the slightest wisp of smokiness in the finish. The second infusion of this tastes like taking a bite out of a fresh green vegetable, almost like cucumber or zucchini. It has that dewy note that cucumbers or even honeydew melon has.
Brewing this gongfu style, I am having a little trouble not overbrewing it. Maybe I used too much leaf, or maybe this tea is just naturally quite potent, but it keeps edging on bitterness, and I have to add a little more water to bring it to normal. After doing that, the bitterness is very mild and only comes in the finish, so I think this is just a tea that takes some finesse to brew. Holding similarities to bi luo chun I could see that being the case since that tea is quite tricky to brew due to its delicate nature.
The third infusion of this tea has a more generic green tea flavor and is tasting a bit muddled in comparison to the first two, but in my experience with gongfu brewing greens, you’re lucky if you make it to three or 4 infusions with a really nice flavor. The taste right now is still somewhat sweet, but the bitterness a bit stronger in the finish. I brewed one more infusion and on the fourth it was sweeter again, with a little astringency and bitterness, and still seeming more diminished in flavor.
If I had tried this tea blind, I’d have told you based on its appearance and taste that it’s a green tea. The white tea notion comes in a bit with the sweetness and corn-like flavor, which reminds me a lot of silver needle white tea from Kenya, but all that said, for the purpose of reviewing and explaining my experience with this tea to help others, I’d say this is much more like a green. It brews more like a green, in that you have to be a bit tender with it or it will coax out bitterness, whereas I don’t often find this to be the case with white teas.
I really liked this tea. The first two infusions had really great flavor, and the sweetness and a peppery note are both lingering in my mouth several minutes after drinking it. I’m curious to see how this tea will turn out from another harvest and if the processing changes or becomes any more refined. So far, so good.
Flavors: Corn Husk, Cucumber, Honeydew, Sweet, Vegetal
Picked this up with a handful of other samples from this company at the Midwest Tea Fest. Was told by the vendor that this tea is a “well-kept secret”, so with not much more of a prologue than that, into the gaiwan it goes.
The dry leaves in a warm gaiwan smell like buttery mashed potatoes and cacao. The aroma of the wet leaves very much surprised me. It’s a much more perfumed, fruity and floral scent with notes of plum and lychee and a little honey.
I’m a little surprised by the flavor. This tea sure is full of surprises. The flavor actually tastes more like what the dry aroma would have led me to believe it would taste like, rather than the wet leaf aroma. It’s got a nice honey sweetness to it, but is underlaid with notes of malt, cacao, and potato. There’s a fruity floral aroma on the tea but it doesn’t come through much in the flavor, though there are some subtle hints of plum, more so as the tea cools. The sweetness of this tea is very long-lasting
The color of this tea’s liquor is a honey-gold color, much lighter than usual for a black tea. The taste of the second infusion is very sweet and has a flavor like oats and molasses with a slightly bitter dark chocolate aftertaste and a lingering sweetness as well.
The third infusion is just as sweet as the second. This tea has a rather creamy, airy body to it. It’s light for a black tea. I haven’t read any info on it yet, but I would assume this is made with an Alishan oolong cultivar (edit: checked, and yeah it is). It has the lightness and cleanliness that Alishan oolong usually exhibits. The flavor of this third infusion has slightly more floral and plum or prune, but still underscored by an ending note of bitterness. In contrast to the creamy and light body while drinking it, the finish is a bit dry in the mouth.
I hesitate to weigh in on whether this tea is truly a “well-kept secret” because it simply isn’t my tastes in black tea. It has a really interesting display of sweet high notes and some dark bitter low notes, but I feel like it’s missing the middle, and this causes it to taste overly sweet to me. For me, it lacks the richness and depth I crave in black teas. It’s like hearing only the top and bottom notes of a chord on the piano. It sounds nice, but it needs that middle note to give it character. That said… it’s a good tea and tastes very clean. It just doesn’t stand out against other high mountain oolongs gone black that I’ve tried, which have tended to have some very uncommon notes and impressive complexity.
Flavors: Cacao, Floral, Honey, Plum, Potato
Wow. I didn’t know what to expect from such a unique tea. This sheng Puer is scented with an herb called “nuo mi xiang” that has the same aroma as glutenous (sticky) rice, the type very popular in Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos. This rice has a very firm, chewy texture and can easily be picked up in large chunks after steaming in a bamboo basket over a large pot. It has a similar fragrance to jasmine rice, hints of jasmine flowers, nutty, creamy, faint whispers of star anise.
I can definitely agree that this tea has the same aroma. It’s almost like a concentrated and more potent version of it, in fact. The sheng lends a bit of smoky smell as well. After the first infusion, a much more pungent vegetal scent comes from the leaves. On the first infusion, I’m tasting, surprisingly, more sticky rice flavor than sheng. It’s incredible, really. I love the flavor of this type of rice, so this is a treat. Again, much with the aroma, the flavor is really just an amplified version of the flavor of glutenous rice. It is a little bit sweeter, and has a bit of a smoky finish from the sheng.
In the second infusion, the flavor of sticky rice is a little more integrated with the sheng flavor, which is peppery and a little smokey more than anything. This tastes like a meal in a cup. Yum.
By the third infusion (gongfu brewing in a porcelain gaiwan) this tea has a more woody flavor, the sticky rice notes are light and rather creamy, and the aftertaste a bit peppery. The fourth infusion has a lighter, creamier nature overall, with less pepper.
I’m a big fan of sheng and of sticky rice, so this tea is a match made in paradise for me. You can tell that great care has been taken in the scenting process because neither the herb nor the tea overpower one another in any infusion. They complement each other rather well. Neither add an “off” flavor to the tea, and neither are trying to mask something. It’s a yin and yang balance that works very well.
Since Tealet is now a wholesaler only, I’ll be on the lookout for where to buy this tea in smaller retail batches (got the sample directly from Tealet at the Midwest Tea Fest). This one’s on the list for me to purchase when I can afford more tea.
Flavors: Cream, Pepper, Rice, Smoke, Wood