60 Tasting Notes

Received as a generous sample from the proprietor, this Qing Xin cultivar was picked 10-11 months ago and stored in a sealed vacuum pack until today (I did give it some time to air out).

Brewed in my porcelain Jingdezhen gaiwan. Boiled, slightly cooled Los Angeles tap water throughout. No rinse.

7 steeps at 1min, 1min, 1min, 1.5min, 2min, 3min, and 5min:

Pale, nearly colorless liquor; sweet, floral (gardenia, lilac?), honey-like aroma; alfalfa, guava, and subtle hints of clover and cream on the palate. Smooth, surprisingly thick mouth-feel. Impressive longevity…the flavors, especially the natural sweetness are not quick to diminish.

Buttery, clean, sweet, spring-time-in-a-cup – very good.

195 °F / 90 °C 1 min, 0 sec 5 g 4 OZ / 125 ML

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This is actually TC26, which appears to be the same as TC27, so:

Brewed in my black, Korean infuser cup – so as usual, I didn’t note the color (a rich copper or russet I assume).

The dry leaves are fine, even, black, platinum-tipped wires.

Very sweet (fruity) and floral aromatics, even before I add water; doing so actually seems to diminish the complexity of the liquor’s aroma (which is a very gentle version of the flavor), although the leaves take on some vegetal and honey notes.

Rich, deep, remarkably persistent cocoa-powder notes with softer hints of pipe tobacco and malt on the palate. Mild bitterness throughout. Medium-dry finish. Hints of light roast coffee at times in the after-taste – would take milk well, but this is certainly a refined self-drinker on its own.

Soft yet lively body, mild astringency to balance the sweetness.

Delicious (but a bit potent caffeine-wise) afternoon tea – doubt you’ll find a better low-land Ceylon than from this estate – comparable to some high-grade Keemun teas, albeit significantly more affordable.

Boiling 4 min, 0 sec 3 g 5 OZ / 147 ML

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Winter 2016 version.

Vernal equinox at hand, and feeling vaguely renewed after attending a wonderful Nowruz family luncheon, I thought this tea might serve me well as a way of demarcating the seasonal shift.

Filtered Santa Monica municipal water, to glass cha hai, to my Taiwanese purple clay tea-pot (mostly used for heavy roast oolong), back to the glass cha hai, into my porcelain cup.

Rinse: Once the leaves are wet the aromatics come to life dramatically: butterscotch, chestnut, fresh bush/wax beans, freshly cleaned wood, etc.

45sec: Greenish lemon chiffon liquor; aromatic but weaker than the wet leaves held under the nose; very delicate nectar-like sweetness emerges from the depths of the finish. Wild grasses, with hints of melon as well.

60sec: More of the same. Fresh cream flavors accentuate the mouth-feel, and suggest hints of butterscotch as well. Lots of floral notes in here, though they largely remain secondary to the gentle sweetness up front and rounding things out.

90sec: Pushing the leaf a bit, liquor darkens slightly to a canary yellow; a hint of spice perhaps (coriander? stale dried mint?) develops, finishes slightly more herbal – otherwise consistent with the initial steeps.

4 – 5 more steeps from 90 seconds up to 3 minutes before the sweetness fades and the floral complexity is diminished/muddled.

Overall – light, floral, creamy, and moderately energizing. Looking forward to trying the roasted version from the same vendor…

190 °F / 87 °C 1 min, 30 sec 1 tsp 3 OZ / 100 ML

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I’ve yet to sample any Yancha or Taiwanese black teas, so I can’t honestly say I taste their influence, even if there are similarities in production between these styles and the tea presently under consideration.

Steeped 8 times without a wash, starting from 10 seconds, increasing the steep time by 10 seconds as needed to preserve the character/color.

There is a distinctive aroma to the dried leaves, floral with hints of honey and something akin to leather or wood – difficult to place.

Gamboge liquor, with the same distinctive floral aroma as the dried leaf, joined now by some delicate but bright stone-fruit notes (nectarine), and a somewhat earthy finish with hints of nettle. Not quite sweet, though rounded and mellow throughout. Fairly rich mouth-feel, though I wouldn’t say “thick.” Very low astringency, this would probably work if prepared western-style as well.

Caffeine sneaks up on you – a fairly speedy cup.

Unique, well crafted, reasonably priced, though I doubt I would re-buy.

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 30 sec 3 tsp 3 OZ / 100 ML

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Just realized I’ve nearly finished my supply of this without posting any impressions.

Prepared in my Jian Shui gaiwan. Filtered Santa Monica municipal water just off the boil throughout – from gaiwan to glass cha hai to bone porcelain cup:

Twisted, wilted, very dark individual leaves with some rust/gold tips remind me of talons.
No wash, steeped around 10 times, slowly moving up from 10 seconds to a full minute by the final pour.

Marigold liquor that grows more auburn as you extend the steep time – almost like the tea is blushing, embarrassed for me for steeping it too long. The aroma of the dry and wet leaves is consistent, singular, and difficult to find a direct analogy for. Hints of cream, straw, and low earthy and floral aromatics round out the profile.

The flavor adds a mild biscuit malt character to the nose, along with chocolate, toasted pecans, and some (wine like?) minerality (wet stones) in the finish.

Smooth, pleasant mouth-feel with no perceptible astringency unless you let it steep for several minutes.

As described, this is a mellow but characterful black tea with some qualities of an oolong. A very good value, and quite pleasurable on a rainy/Winter day.

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 8 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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Prepared in my Jian Shui gaiwan. Filtered Santa Monica municipal water just off the boil then poured into a glass cha hai prior to going into the gaiwan. With Autumn approaching, I wanted to add a daily-drinking Dian Hong to my roster – I’m very happy with this selection.

The dry tea is redolent of sweet potato and hay with a hint of milk chocolate. The buds appear just a little dingy or bruised compared to the bright pure gold appearance they have in photos on YS’s website, though this may be a result of transport.

After a 10 second wash the wet leaves take on a “brisk” and faintly vegetal aroma in addition to the aforementioned sweetness. Their striking uniformity grows apparent as they become fully hydrated/saturated.

Eight steeps at 10, 15, 20, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120sec: Tawny liquor; musky with clay-baked yam aroma; complex malt, grassy sugarcane, a touch of sorghum; finishes faintly woodsy with a hint of chocolate or even burdock emerging at times. Medium-thick mouth-feel; no impression of tannins. The first steep had a special brilliance of flavor that proves fleeting and difficult to capture in words. Color shifts to more of a satin sheen gold,while the aroma, flavor, and body all dull somewhat by the sixth steep. The tea continues to be nourishing throughout the session. Caffeine is evident, but more energizing than speedy (sweating, racing pulse, etc.).

Refined yet rustic – making for a pleasurable experience; good value to boot.

195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec 2 tsp 4 OZ / 125 ML

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Brewed in my porcelain Jingdezhen gaiwan. Los Angeles municipal water is just off the boil throughout.

The tea sample seems somewhat brittle so I don’t make any real attempt to chip away at the nearly 10 gram chunk for fear of it disintegrating.

A brief rest follows a 15 second wash.

1st – 10th steeps (15 seconds): Coffee brown to chocolate colored liquid; earthy and vaguely spicy aroma; hints of cocoa and oats on the palate; medium-dry finish – smooth, clean, with hints of loam.

Here followed a nearly 24 hour rest…

11th – 12th steeps (20 seconds): Identical to the first 10…

…and after another 24 hour rest…

13th – 18th steeps (20 seconds, then increasing by 10 seconds/steep): slightly lighter in color and flavor than the previous cups, but only just.

…and finally on day 4 of this session:

19th – 21st steeps (2 minutes, 3 minutes, 4 minutes): milder, slightly nutty, possibly a little sweeter.

A very unassuming tea, but remarkably consistent – like the other shous I’ve sampled thus far, it enhances and is enhanced by a meal (in tonight’s case, “fish fragrant” eggplant and chrysanthemum greens with ginger and oyster sauce served with good quality Japanese brown rice).

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 9 g 4 OZ / 125 ML

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Recently retrieved this from the back of my tea cupboard where it has resided tranquilly for 11 years. Brewed in a Pyrex measuring cup and strained into a glass tumbler.

The few leaves that escaped my straining efforts stand at attention at the bottom of the glass like sea-horses. The white-smoke liquor is very slightly cloudy.

Vaguely grassy and floral aroma.

The flavor profile is surprisingly sweet, with wildflower honey, elderflower, possibly lavender among other botanicals. Finish is longer than I remember when this tea was young with lingering hints of cream, chestnut, and hay.

170 °F / 76 °C 4 min, 0 sec 3 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Brewed in my new porcelain Jingdezhen gaiwan. Water is just off the boil throughout. 7th steeps onward shared with my wife.

After a wash, the wet leaves have a distinctive banana-leaf aroma.

1st – 7th steeps (flash, slowly ramping up to 10 seconds): Seal brown liquid with burnt umber and auburn highlights. Aroma suggests shiitake, ginseng, and banana leaf. Earth, chalk, and hints of chocolate on the palate with the latter hanging on into the finish where it is joined by a hint of stale tobacco and wet stones. The fermentation lends the cup a gentle vegetal/herbaceous quality, suggesting Chinese medicine. No bitterness…nice, medium-full body.

8th – 14th steeps (10 sec, slowly ramping up to 30 sec): Color gradually lightens from chocolate to burnt umber to chestnut – aromatics and flavor remain consistent throughout. Body is lighter.

15th – 20th steeps (30 sec, ramping up to 2+ min): Tea slowly grows paler and loses potency in both aromatics and flavor, although the character of both remain coherent. Some hints of Hawaiian dinner rolls in the finish. Body is lighter yet.

This tea is decent on its own, but works better as a foil to food – in this morning’s case, deftly framing the sweetness of a Pink’s Crisp apple and some quality farmer’s cheese.

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 7 g 4 OZ / 125 ML

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Converted to Oolong and beyond starting around ’98 or so when I was hanging out at the Tao of Tea in Portland.

Expanded my experience with green teas when I moved in with room-mates who were Chinese scholars, workers at the Japanese Gardens (including the tea room), etc.

Always looking to improve my education, but will concede my pedestrian tastes (e.g. breakfast teas brewed strong enough to stand your spoon in).

Trying to focus more on the qualitative over the quantitative in my reviews, so you won’t see me give too many scores/ratings at the moment…


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