107 Tasting Notes
I got sent this in the Verdant TotM club a while ago and, I confess, I was seriously reluctant to try it. I’ve only ever tried one Lapsang Souchong before – it was a cheap bagged variety and, the way it was brewed, it totally overwhelmed me. It just was not for me. Even though I knew the quality of this would be FAR superior, the memory of that other tea just would not let me try this one…
I read a review from Sil, talking about brewing this Gong Fu, and it sounded awesome… It just kept playing on my mind… And then last night, the cravings defeated me and I set this tea as my Monday-morning treat. When I opened the bag of leaves, the smell almost made me regret my choice – I felt nauseous immediately. Still, all of those reviews couldn’t be wrong, surely?? Well…
My goodness. What a tea.
This has got to be one of the most incredible black teas I’ve ever tried. It’s sweet, it’s rich, and it is sooooo fragrant. But in a totally good way. In the liquor, the smokiness is a rich-yet-mild fragrance that makes a perfect background to the sweet vanilla notes. I enjoyed a good 8 or 9 steeps (3 in the morning and 5-6 tonight).
And lastly, I took this to work planning to treat myself on Friday. But I was so bunged up that it almost felt wasteful…
But when I got around to a friend’s house, in the evening, he very kindly prepared me a good quantity of off-boiling water in a latte glass, expecting me to want tea. I felt it would be rude to refuse, and I did kinda want some, so I sprinkled some of the leaves on the top and watched them as they unfurled in the glass. Latte glasses are actually a pretty excellent vessel for greens, whites, and green oolongs, it would appear. Everyone that saw it was pretty mesmerised hahaha.
And this tea is still exceptional. One of my all-time favourites, for sure!
Ahhhhhhh, good memories. Earlier in the week, before this cold set in, I was really craving a rich, warming tea to stave off this miserable weather (though probably mild by some American standards, I’m suffering in this ~5 degrees, rainy weather. Waiting for the bus at 7:15 in the morning has never been so rubbish :P). I picked this one out on a bit of a whim – I had a strong recollection of how roasty it was, but also that I didn’t “get it” so much last time.
How things have changed…
This tea is just a delight. It’s warming, it’s creamy, it’s sweet, and it’s delicious. Like, seriously good. It also just seemed to go on forever. I started drinking it in one of the mornings before my commute and enjoyed three decent 120 ml steeps. I then had some after dinner (four or five steeps). I then enjoyed another two or three steeps the following morning.
I didn’t take notes or anything (as it was either too early or too late by the time I was drinking it to do anything that complicated :P), but it stuck with me as such a perfect tea for this weather. I’m gonna be a little bit lost when this one runs out…
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Caramel, Creamy
I’ve been drinking this for most of the past week, at work – as I left my little metal infuser basket in the Hospice, I’ve only really been able to do grandpa-style (and related) brews. After such a great experience of making Verdant’s Dragonwell like this, I figured Butiki’s would be fine too.
Of course, it was! This Dragonwell may not have been as intense as the Verdant one I had (though that is quite likely to be because of the age/storage of my bag, as opposed to the sealed, new-harvest sample from Verdant), it was really delicious and made for a great work-drink! Plus, it was really refreshing.
Good times :D
Sorry for my massive absence T_T I got back to work full time a couple of weeks ago and the site isn’t the easiest to use, for posting notes, on my phone…
Aaaaaaaaaaand: I came down with a really heavy cold on Thursday so I haven’t really been able to appreciate much tea over the past couple of days. However, it did make me really crave shu puerh, so I thought I’d give this one a try…
I dunno what it is about Verdant’s teas, but they’re always exceptional. Maybe I just have a similar palette to the Ducklers. Or maybe the teas really are just that good. Who knows.
Either way, like I said above: I have a pretty heavy cold, so I didn’t really want anything that was overly nuanced or delicate. I also didn’t want to use anything that I only have a little of, in case I really didn’t enjoy it and ended up wasting precious tea. Given I have a new 500g brick of this, sitting in my puerh box, I thought I’d give it a go. Plus, my cold is starting to lift somewhat, so my sense of smell is slowly returning.
I didn’t get any pile smell at all from this puerh, which was a very pleasant surprise! It still smelled earthy, granted. But far from unpleasant. I pried off 4g and loaded it into my pre-warmed Yixing Gaiwan (thanks again, Stacy!) and then gave the tea two quick rinses with boiling water. Then came the first infusion…
To my surprise, the infusion smelled like raw honey. I was really impressed. I can also definitely see what they mean by a “raisin” like scent – it’s definitely there. On the palette, it was exceptionally smooth and had a really thick mouthfeel. It was also really sweet, and that honey note actually carried right through. I did also get the elderberry note, along with the herbaceous after-taste, that they mention on the site. I can understand the olive oil suggestion, too – with the thickness of the mouthfeel and that honey-like sweetness, it’s a clearly recognisable note.
I probably won’t get as much out of this tea as I will on a day when I’m not all sniffly, but I really enjoyed it. It was delicious and just seemed to get sweeter and sweeter the more I drank it. Fantastic tea.
Flavors: Honey, Olive Oil
When I did my little blind taste of this tea, I only used around half of the packet and kept the rest to use another time. I started back at work full time, last week, so have been working through teas that work well either prepared Western style or grandpa style.
This one seemed like it might hold up Western style, but my infuser is currently away. I improvised a little and used a tumblr and a glass – I dumped the remaining leaves into the bottom of the pre-warmed tumblr, filled it 2/3 with boiling water and let it infuse. After a minute (maybe two – it wasn’t exactly a scientific affair), I poured the tea out into my glass.
Amazingly, I think I preferred this tea when prepared in this way! It was sweet, creamy (like when made in the Gaiwan), but it also had some cake-like notes. It was really good :O
I got two really delicious infusions like this and a fairly good third one. I think I may stick to making this Western in future – it was really good :O
I had some more of this tea yesterday and today – it’s just so delicious :D
Those lovely sweet, stone fruit notes at the beginning, with that gentle methol/camphor/eucalyptus hint, transforming into woody, fruity flavours with later infusions. This tea is a real pleasure to drink – it’s just fantastic. I’m definitely glad I took the risk and ordered a full cake. It’s exceptional.
Though I’ve drank this tea a number of times, now, I’ve held off reviewing it as I’ve not been sure if I’ve really tried it at its best. I don’t have a huge amount of my bag left, though, so I feel it’s a fair time to weigh in.
I tried it Western a couple of times (especially as the first time I tried it I’d forgotten it was an oolong so went to Western by default) and a couple of times using my Gaiwan. I think, as ever with oolongs, I preferred it the latter one – the flavours were much more nuanced and it actually tasted like an oolong, rather than an unusual black tea.
The first infusion I allowed to infuse for quite a while – it looked so pale after 10 seconds that I didn’t think it was worth it. After around 30", it looked good so I poured off and gave it a try – it was definitely a good idea! This tea was lovely and smooth, with a really nice sweetness (the sweetness that I find characteristic of oolongs). It was kinda floral, but also had that “kick” and savouriness of a black tea. Subsequent steeps were really tasty, too – I deffo oversteeped the second one (much hotter water and far too long steeping time), but the third was great, with a more bread-or-pastry flavour than in the first infusion.
I’m gonna keep drinking this, through the afternoon, but I think I’ve finally “got it right” re: brewing this oolong. Good times :D
Yesterday, as a kind of Valentine’s Day treat, I had a nice session with this tea and my Verdant Gaiwan – I wanted something that was a little bit fruity without being a fruit-flavoured tea, so it seemed like an obvious choice, with those wonderful apple notes :D
I was certainly not disappointed. This tea really is wonderful. I got a large number of lovely, caramelly, apple-y steeps – just divine! It always surprised me, too – the dry leaves smell so much like apples and citrus, but then the wet leaves smell so roasty, as do the first two infusions (or so). But as this lovely, roasty flavour subsides in the “middle” infusions, all you get is this amazing apple flavour, alongside a gentle fruity sweetness and a mild roasty note.
I couldn’t recommend this oolong strongly enough. I’ve also upped by score a little (90—>95).
I’m definitely gonna miss this one, when I get through the 50 g or so that I have… Anyone else have a good Gui Fei, of similar (or, dare I ask, better?? :O) quality to this one? I have a feeling it’ll be a tough search…
Flavors: Apple, Citrus Zest
I’ve been promising a number of blind taste tests to myself, recently, and I finally went ahead and did one today! I had around 3g of this oolong left, and I still have a number of packets of the “gift tea” DHP that I was given in late 2014. So, I thought they’d make an excellent pair for comparison!
I used my two Gaiwans (Yixing Dragon from Butiki (~100ml) and my Jingdezhen one from Verdant(~120ml)). I prepared everything in an identical way (pre-heated cups, fairness pitcher and gaiwans), added the teas blindly (long story and hard to explain, but I managed XD), let them heat in the hot Gaiwan and then rinsed them both for ~3 seconds). I took notes on the fragrances and appearances of the dry leaf, and then went ahead with the tasting!
So, I did three steeps in all this morning (and I’ll do more later on): 5", 10", and 15".
I was really surprised by just how different this tea was to the one from Verdant :O For one, the dry leaves were much more intensely scented – a really strong, dried-lime like smell, with hints of roasty/blackened food. After the hot gaiwan/rinse treatment, it was much the same – intense, but almost refreshing!
The drink itself, particularly when compared against the astringent, light-bodied Verdant offering, was really smooth and full-bodied. It’s like, for the coffee fans on this site, the difference between Sumatran and Central/Latin American coffees – this one was definitely closer to the Sumatran varieties! It had such a thick, creamy mouthfeel that really coated the inside of your mouth.
The way I ran this “comparison” was to brew one and then, whilst it was cooling in the pitcher, brew the other. Then, whilst the second cooled, drink the first. Then drink the second.
This one turned out to be in my Yixing Gaiwan and was one I tasted second, after the first infusions (I hope this still makes sense). So, after the refreshing, almost tangy Verdant DHP, I took a sip of this and it was so odd – it was like it just wiped out any traces of the other tea! It felt like it immediately coated my palette with it’s thick texture, and almost dull, heavy flavour in comparison. I was so shocked that the difference would be so marked, especially given how zingy and citrussy this one smelled.
Don’t get me wrong, though – this tea was plenty tasty. It carried those blackened, charred, roasted lime flavours that, as the infusions progressed, became slightly sweeter and even creamier. In the final steep, a chocolatey, roasted-nut flavour came through (kinda like dark chocolate coated roasted peanuts).
I’ll carry on drinking both teas later, but I really was amazed by how different these two teas were :O
Flavors: Char, Dark Chocolate, Lime, Roasted