306 Tasting Notes
Props to Andrew for this awesome idea. And it was a pleasure to meet you at the tea fest!
I had to buy a pack. Struggled not to buy more than one, trying to save spending money for other items at the festival. Now I’ve decided I’ll be ordering more. Haha.
Right out of the bag this smells heavily of spiced rum. I could be wrong. It may not have been spiced rum that was in that barrel, but it at least is the aroma of aged or spiced rum, the amber colored drink, not clear rum.
After the first infusion in my gaiwan, the big fuzzy golden needle puer leaves let out a really great aroma. There’s must and chocolate intermingled with caramel and rum. On the scent of the tea liquid I get more of the “raw dough” kind of smell that I usually associate with ripe Puer, and the scent of rum is distant.
Tasting the tea, I decided to forego my usual shou Puer rinse and drink the first infusion of this one. Didn’t want to risk washing away some of that wonderful rum taste. The flavor of rum is definitely the main presence, but it is supported by woody and musty undertones from the tea, and the taste of cinnamon roll dough.
By the third infusion this tea is really rich and sweet, very well blending the rum flavor, which has declined over the first few infusions, with the golden needle puer flavor, which has broadened with each infusion. There are some dark stonefruit notes and a lingering sweetness on the tongue. Some unique notes of cucumber pop in as well.
This tea infuses very well with gongfu style brewing, and you get a rich flavor for many infusions. At some point in late infusions (5 or 6 and beyond), the tea taste starts to gradually subside while the rum taste and the sweetness of the rum stay consistent.
This tea is a victorious experiment, and I applaud Andrew for the audacity and cleverness to do it! I honestly don’t like the idea of alcohol scented teas or tea paired with alcohol as my thought tends to be that it will muddle the tea, or overpower its nuances, but this tea showcases the tea well, despite the rum being the more evident presence. I think on some infusions the two are really balanced, so I’m actually more into this than I expected I’d be.
Up next, green tea stored in a gin barrel! Please? ;P
Flavors: Caramel, Chocolate, Pastries, Rum, Stonefruit, Sweet, Wood
Pao blossom, if you hadn’t read the story from Shang Tea, is a flower that was once used more commonly to scent teas, but in recent memory is almost unheard of, at least here in the West. The flower is a relative of grapefruit and supposedly only grown on 3-5 square miles in the world now.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that the aroma of the tea leaves does remind of grapefruit. There’s a hint of toasted creme brulee in the aroma of the wet leaves, as well as some juicy white grape, and a hint of anise. If you’ve tried Shang’s Tangerine Blossom Red Tea, the aroma has some similarities. It also reminds me somewhat of the aroma of orange blossoms. Alas, all the citruses are related.
Where this floral scented tea parts from most others I’ve tried is that it isn’t particularly sweet. In fact it has a lingering mild bitterness that fans of grapefruit might enjoy. The taste is creamy with hints of anise. Some will say this tea is similar to jasmine, and while that connection could be made, I’d have to grumble at any claim that this is more extraordinary or delectable than jasmine. Pao has a more “down-to-earth” presence than jasmine, not as heady and floral, though just as aromatic. The bitter tones and lack of sweetness ground the flavor in a way that jasmine isn’t grounded, and in the opinion of this reviewer, there isn’t the complexity achievable with using jasmine to scent tea. I would wager that this is a major consideration for why jasmine tea is now ubiquitous and pao blossom is not. This is nothing bad on Shang Tea, of course, as they produce both types.
This tea needs to be brewed rather light or the taste may become a bit bitter, drying, almost soapy. Of course, this is a matter of preference, but among my circle this is the preference.
As for tasting notes, there are hints of cucumber in the background from the white tea, but the predominant flavor is that of the pao blossoms, which is creamy, reminding me of a combination of coconut milk and hints of anise. If you’ve ever eaten lotus or had lotus tea, it is reminding me a lot of that.
This tea’s nature is rustic to me. It’s not a bright, spring-like, vibrant tea, but an earthy, calm, grounding one.
Flavors: Anise, Citrus, Creamy, Cucumber, Fruit Tree Flowers
Thank you mtchyg for this sample! I started a new page for this as it is from a Mandala mini tuo sampler pack and the only page for a similar tea on Steepster is from Yunnan Sourcing (I borrowed their picture for now as it looks just the same).
These little ingots are pretty cool looking, and I suppose they might bring you good fortune if you believe in luck. I could use some, so I’ll play along. :3
The scent of this little shou Puer ingot after a rinse reminds me of dew on tall grass and brush on a cool summer night. Pretty specific, I know, but it’s a similar scent, hints of mud and foliage. As the wet leaves cool, they smell like root beer. As for the taste, yes I’m also getting some subtle similarities with root beer, particularly I’m tasting burdock root. It’s light and rather sweet starting off, a hint of metallic flavor. Tastes a bit like dried medjool dates as well.
I have to tell you, I was somewhat expecting this to be a throw-away. I figured the ingot shape and gold foil were the selling point, since good Puer doesn’t need any such novelties to sell. Let me tell ya. I’m pretty impressed with this tea by the second infusion. It is still rather sweet, smooth, and full-flavored. Flavors are similar to the first infusion but more pronounced. There are some hints of mud and cocoa in the finish. The burdock note is still prominent.
Texturally, this tea seems a little… “gritty” which is a weird way to describe it since I’ve filtered it pretty fine so there isn’t any particulate floating around in it. It isn’t drying… it just seems a bit coarse in a way. However is more of an after-effect. It goes down smooth. The taste on the third infusion is still really nicely sweet and full-flavored. Similar flavors again.
Infusion four has a smoother texture, and the sweet flavor is more mellow now. The flavor profile really hasn’t changed much. It’s consistent and good. I’m getting more of the same on the fifth infusion. This tea is very, very tightly compressed and I think you could steep this thing probably 20 or 30 times before you’d lose flavor, to be honest. only about half of the ingot has broken apart by the fifth infusion. the center is still very solid.
I would rate this pretty highly where shou goes. It doesn’t have a very changing or complex flavor, but it’s a very good flavor, and on the sweet side. It’s not the cleanest tasting one out there, but way better than I expected it would be. As for the design, I suppose it could be festive for something like a Chinese New Year celebration?
Flavors: Dates, Mud, Root Beer, Sweet
Brewing this in a small gongfu teapot, the rinsed leaves have a sweet, musty smell with hints of wood and pastry dough.
The tea is a deep reddish brown, and tastes considerably less sweet than I imagined it would, but it is incredibly smooth. The taste is a little musty and earthy with hints of mineral and maybe a touch of dark chocolate. This isn’t meant to be a reference for flavor, but have you ever brewed fresh turmeric root to drink? It’s really got a smooth texture and flavor, and the quality of this shou reminds me of that smoothness (but not of the turmeric flavor).
The second infusion is the color of cola. The second infusion has more sweetness than the first, and this may sound crazy but cola comes to mind not only in the color but subtly in the flavor as well. Maybe there’s something a little dark-fruit like about it (plum, fig?) that reminds me of Dr. Pepper… Don’t hold me to this or you’ll probably be disappointed. Haha, it’s a stretch but it was an immediate impression. The flavors are a little more developed in this infusion though and raisin comes to mind, as well as a bit of chocolate. The texture is still really smooth. There’s no bitterness. There’s a nice cooling sensation in the mouth after a sip.
Third infusion I’m getting some cocoa and coffee notes. I had some fruit juice with my dinner then came back to this tea, so it may be tasting less sweet because of the juice I was just drinking. The fourth infusion tastes a bit more mellow and sweet again.
I think this is a really smooth tea. The flavor is nice. A good everyday shou!
Flavors: Dark Chocolate, Musty, Raisins, Stonefruit, Wood
I forgot to smell the dry leaves for my review but the wet aroma is really nice, up front you get notes of sawdust and dandelion with a background note of peach.
As with most Ya Bao the infusion is almost colorless even after a minute of steeping. I’m brewing this in a gaiwan with the gaiwan about 1/3 full of buds. The first infusion of this is subtle and a bit fruity, like apple or pear. It’s mildly sweet, with a lingering afteraste like cork or bamboo and a long lingering subtle sweetness.
The second infusion has a more rich flavor, not at all subtle now, very sweet and berry-like with a woody finish and a bit of lingering dryness on the tongue. The sweetness and flavor both really linger a long time with this tea. I’m only two infusions in and I can already say this is the best Ya Bao I’ve had.
The third infusion has a bit of a cedar taste to it, and is more woody and less sweet than the last two, though it is still considerably sweet. There are hints of pepper and juniper berry in the finish.
I really like this Ya Bao. It’s got the most complexity and well-rounded flavor of any I’ve had. I think I know where I’ll be refilling when I run out.
Flavors: Apple Skins, Bamboo, Berry, Cedar, Sweat, Wood
Gongfu style brewing this tea, the leaves in a warm gaiwan smell very sweet and milky. I’m reminded of horchata but I’m also reminded of sweetened condensed milk. It’s very sweet smelling and has little hints of chocolate, kind of reminding me of chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven. The wet leaves give off the very perfumed and distinct aroma of moonlight white tea, and also smell like cooked stonefruits.
The liquor of this tea is a pale moony yellow, and to be honest, I had to do a double take to make sure I wasn’t drinking just the teaware rinse water (with no tea) during my first infusion of this tea, the flavor is so light. Not at all what I expected considering the intense aroma.
The second infusion has a creamy, milky kind of taste to me, with hints of oats. It’s very light in flavor still, so I’m going to add some leaves to the next infusion. I’m surprised because I have the gaiwan half full of leaves already.
After adding leaves so that this gaiwan is entirely full of them, my third infusion still tastes incredibly light. It’s mostly a creamy almond-milk kind of flavor. The fragrance is filling the room from the leaves, but taste is mild.
I did a much longer infusion for the fourth, and I’m getting notes of honey and malt now, but I’m still surprised at how mild the flavor is. White teas are some of my favorites, and I do tend to brew very light. In fact, one of the folks from Tealet I had tea with once told me I was probably the lightest gongfu tea brewer she’d encountered, so you could say my palate is probably rather sensitive and adapted to drinking and enjoying delicate flavors, especially with white teas. I tend to brew them especially light. I love the gossamer-like nature of their dewy, fresh flavors. That said, I feel like I’m dumping tea leaves into my gaiwan right now, brewing the heck out of them, and still getting something more flavorless than what I’m used to.
I may have to try some other approaches to brewing this, but compared to other moonlight white teas I’ve had this one is surprisingly light, to the point I’d really more call it lacking in flavor than simply light.
I will update my review if experimentation leads to any discovery of a better way to brew it. It was brewed at 90C/194F for about 20 seconds on the first infusion and longer infusions each time. I even upped the temperature of the water to 95C to see if that’d coax more out but I didn’t notice a significant change. As for my numerical score, I feel completely neutral on this tea, so I’ve rated it as such. The flavor is nice from what I can detect, but I can barely detect it.
Flavors: Creamy, Honey, Malt, Milk
I am brewing this gongfu style. Putting these leaves into a warm gaiwan, the scent is of chocolate, earth, and a little but of must. The wet leaves smell like red wine, grapes, and prunes.
The tea tastes a bit woody, and like bread or oatmeal. It’s smooth and subtle. There are tiny notes of cocoa and mushroom. This first infusion is so light and I really enjoy it.
On the second infusion this tea still has a somewhat light flavor. It’s enjoyable in that sense. I have to say though this isn’t the type of flavor I’m used to in dianhong. This one has more of the muscatel and wood flavors I’m used to in Assamica varietal teas from India and Sri Lanka.
I infused it more strongly on the third infusion. I have to say at this point I’m feeling a bit let down, flavorwise. Even brewed more strongly, it’s awfully light, and while the flavor is smooth, it’s also rather two-dimensional. Still getting wood and muscatel flavor mostly. The tea is not very sweet, and only has a tiny bitterness in the end.
The fourth infusion yields must, wood, and squash flavors now. It’s still smooth and easy to drink, but not particularly intriguing.
As for the age-old inner battle of how to numerically rate this tea, and using those little smiley faces as a prompt, I will say, this tea was just above mediocre to me. The first infusion was the most enjoyable and beyond that it didn’t open up to reveal much more complexity or flavor like I’d hoped it would. And if I’m comparing this tea to every other dianhong I’ve had before, I feel even more secure in not rating it more highly, unfortunately.
Flavors: Butternut Squash, Cocoa, Muscatel, Mushrooms, Musty, Wood
Thanks mtchyg for the sample! I’ll be the first to admit I do not usually go for flavored teas other than traditionally scented ones that are usually produced by piling flowers onto the tea leaves, then later removing them. But when I did a little trade I couldn’t pass this up because smoke and maple just sounded so right with dark oolong tea. Of course, I’m equally skeptical of teas that include flowers to be pretty rather than to flavor them, so seeing the pretty red-orange safflowers in this made me think “Okay, Lion, don’t be disappointed if it tastes cheap.” I mean, safflowers are usually in teas to look pretty, though of course they do impart some flavor.
With all my negative biases about “fashion teas” out of the way… let’s get to the actual review. I’m just brewing this in a cup with a large infuser basket. The aroma is very prominent even with the leaves dry and is mostly a sweet maple smell, though I do also smell the safflowers quite a bit and the overall effect reminds me of the lush plant-life smell inside of a greenhouse, and maybe somebody’s eating a hot bowl of maple oatmeal in that greenhouse.
I did not sweeten this tea, and it is mildly sweet on its own, though it seems to be from the maple flavoring rather than the oolong tea. The tea leaves themselves don’t have a very strong taste. Mostly I’m getting flavors of tobacco and oatmeal and just a bit of smoke/char. If anyone is missing the smoke flavor in this tea, I’d suggest not using sweetener or any cream. It’s subtle, but it’s there. The maple flavor is also more subtle than strong, and it is more sweet in the finish, which seems to create a unique contrast with the dry finish of the oolong tea itself. Texturally, this tea is a bit dry, but considering the earthy flavor spectrum it covers, and the mild sweetness of the maple flavor, it isn’t too bad of a thing.
I would say that as flavored teas go, this is actually a really good one. While I wish it felt more “wet” in the mouth, and that the tea leaves had more flavor to lend to the blend, it’s still enjoyable for a casual drink. It may be inspiring me to experiment with a drop or two of maple syrup in other teas. In fact, I’m getting rather curious now to maybe try smoking some tea myself and add a little maple syrup after. I’m kind of a DIYer so it’s in my curious nature.
But where convenience goes, I wouldn’t turn down this tea. It’s good. Reminds me of autumn. Nice in these lingering moments of winter. The resteep flavor is fine but missing most of the maple at that point, tastes mostly mineral, tobacco, and char.
Flavors: Maple, Oats, Smoke, Tea, Tobacco
I am brewing this gongfu style. The leaves in a warm gaiwan smell chocolatey and buttery. It has kind of graham cracker crust or toffee scent as well. The wet leaves smell perfumed and floral with fig notes.
The flavor of the first infusion is really pleasant. It’s a good mix of dark fruit flavor like plum or fig, with buttery and floral notes. There really isn’t much bitterness to be found here and the feel of the tea is really smooth.
The second infusion is tasting more floral and plum like, really buttery and mouth-filling, juicy. There are notes of chocolate in the aroma of the liquor. The finish of the flavor is like malt and dark chocolate.
By the third infusion the flavor is darker and more sweet. Notes of chocolate come through more strongly. The flavor is rich and more fruity than floral. There are lingering notes of cinnamon.
The fourth infusion is also deep and rich. More of the same flavors as the third, but not quite as sweet.
I was overall impresed by this tea. I have never had tea from Joseph Wesley before, much less even heard of this company before I got this sample, so I’m glad I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve only had maybe three Bailin Gongfu teas before but this was easily my favorite one. Might have to put this on my wishlist! Thanks mtchyg for the sample!
Flavors: Dark Chocolate, Fig, Floral, Plum, Sweet
Thanks mtchyg for the sample! I have done no reading on this tea, but was intrigued that it is made from golden needles apparently. Surprisingly, after a rinse in my small gongfu tea pot, I am surprised it smells quite like most other shou puerh teas I’ve had, a bit musty with quiet notes of petrichor. Maybe I expected a lighter or sweeter smell from the golden needles. I will say the color of the liquor is really lovely, a deep garnet red-brown.
Maybe I was expecting something sweeter from the golden needles, I’m not sure, but I was definitely expecting smooth, and in that regard this tea does not disappoint. It definitely has a smooth texture and flavor. The flavor is hard to pin down. Cacao, mineral, and wood are noticeable, with a bit of bitterness. The aftertaste really lingers and is mostly woody.
The liquor of the second infusion gives off a common scent for me in shou that I really enjoy, which smells like pastry dough. Again, the flavor is quite smooth, and it rolls off nicely into a subtle bitterness similar to that of dark chocolate. The flavor of this tea is really dark. I think there is a subtle hint of prune as well. In some ways, I’m reminded of coffee.
The third infusion is really mineral and reminds me of petrichor scent when the rain starts. The tea is rather cooling on the mouth and throat, though this is after I have let some cool down nearly to just a bit above room temperature. I find it really enjoyable this way though. The cooling sensation is very quenching and the flavor is smooth.
The fourth infusion is more mellow and sweet, with similar flavors, maybe a touch of tobacco.
Overall a good shou, though not as peculiar as I had hoped for the fact it is made of golden needles.
Flavors: Bitter, Cacao, Coffee, Mineral, Petrichor, Wood