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Recent Tasting Notes
Last oolong sample to taste and write an initial note about! (At least, I’m pretty sure it is.)
And by the way, happy new year! I hope 2019 is less stressful than 2018 was. I don’t know if I can take another year of waking up, feeling compelled to check the news to see what awful thing has happened next, and then starting the day anxious.
Anyway, this has a very fruity smell in the packet. Like way more fruity than any other oolong I can remember that wasn’t flavored. Which is a big plus. Also the typical roasty toasty aroma.
Rinse, 195F for 15 sec in the gaiwan. I did more than the usual 4 steeps (I did 6) adding 5 seconds to each steep.
I did more than the usual steeps because this was a really unique tea, at least to my taste buds. The fruitiness persists in the aroma and flavor of the steeped tea. I do get the honey and lychee flavors. Like a roasted lychee, though I have never had that. It’s pretty remarkably true to its description.
I’m not sure what they mean by “rich liquor.” Mine was very pale in the initial steeps and got darker, but never more than a champagne color. Which in and of itself is odd for a darker oolong, in my experience.
A really lovely sugary/floral smell hit my nose with the last sip and coated the empty cup.
Flavors: Floral, Honey, Lychee, Roasted, Sugar, Toast
Sipdown no. 1 of 2019! (no.489 total). A sample.
I couldn’t let myself get past today without a sipdown. That would have sent the entirely wrong message after I accepted the sipdown challenge!
I looked around at my samples and honestly, it being already past 1:30 and there being sheng to taste, I couldn’t bring myself to drink anything else today. So I did the next best thing. I tossed the rest of this into a pitcher to find out what it would be like as a cold brew since it was hardly a favorite hot. I didn’t have enough tea to make an entire pitcher, so I added in some Golden Moon Pu erh.
I am expecting mud patty shake, but hoping to be surprised. There may be another note on this if there’s anything worth reporting.
Today’s pu erh sample, never before opened.
OK, this is going to be really short, because even though I did the whole thing, gaiwan, rinse, 10/10/20/30/40/60/120/240/300/360 I came away with a single impression of this tea.
Here are my notes transcribed:
Dry leaf smells more like dirt than any other pu erh I can remember having.
Steep 1: dark amber liquor, smells and tastes very much like dirt, earth, loam, with some sweetness
Steep 2: still dirt
Steep 3: still dirt
Steep 4: still dirt
Steep 5: still dirt
Steep 6: still dirt
Steep 7: lighter colored, still dirt but maybe less? Or I’m getting used to it.
Steep 8: finally not tasting like dirt as much but some vague sweetness
Steep 9: same as 8
Steep 10: same as 9
So yeah, maybe there’s some moss in there, to be charitable.
I never thought I’d say dirt is not an unpleasant taste, but it’s not unpleasant.
It is just earthier than appeals to me.
Flavors: Dirt, Earth, Loam, Moss, Sweet
Sipdown no. 11 of 2019 (no. 499 total). A sample.
I needed some green oolong so I’d have enough to make a pitcher of cold brew. I added this to the last of the Premium Steap Milk Oolong and the last of the ATR Milk Oolong.
I thought this might balance out the super buttery aspect of the ATR Milk Oolong, but it really didn’t . My initial note indicated I didn’t find it particularly flavorful so I guess that isn’t surprising.
Second to last oolong sample not yet tasted or written about. Progress!
This has a mild, very green, chlorophyll smell in the packet. I steeped in the gaiwan after a rinse at 195F starting at 15 seconds, +5 for subsequent steeps.
The tea is a pale yellow color and smells a little green, but mostly it smells sweetly floral.
I found the flavor consistent through 5 steeps. It was tasty enough that I went past the usual four. But mostly I was trying to figure out what I thought of it.
The flavor is a little elusive. It has a freshness that reminds me of the alishan I had yesterday, but it isn’t as floral. The flavor isn’t as strong, either. It’s not buttery or milky.
I may have underleafed some. The tea has a lot of volume. The leaves are big and twisty, and I may have not realized how much empty space there was between them.
Next time I’ll put in more leaf. But for now, I’m finding this to be a sort of an alishan lite. Pleasant, but not sure why I’d choose this one over the alishan when it has less flavor?
Flavors: Floral, Green, Sweet
Another unopened (until today) sample.
I think I underleafed this a little because I wanted to get two servings out of it.
But no matter because it worked out well. Rinse, 15 seconds +5 for each subsequent steep at 195F.
In the packet, the tea has very little smell. But once it is steeped, oooh la la. A very lovely floral smell that is also has some sugary notes. I’m going with lilac for the floral since someone else here said that and I have no reason to doubt them. The tea is a pale golden yellow that gets darker with each steep.
I set out to do my standard 4 steeps and ended up doing two more, so that’s a very good sign. Part of it may be that I was feeling tea deprived after our little trip (got back from Palm Desert last night) but part of it was definitely this tea.
Alishans are one of my favorites — I think I generally prefer tieguanyins, but the difference for me is that Alishans seem lighter and don’t have the mily/buttery aspect, or don’t have it as much. It’s like Alishan is to sauvignon blanc as tieguanyin is to chardonnay. Or something.
But if I’m in the mood for that floral sweetness without the heft of the buttery aspect, the alishan can become a momentary favorite.
The steeps are remarkably consistent in the floral flavor with sugar notes from steep to steep. The only negative is a little bit of a bitter aftertaste, but it’s not a big ding.
Flavors: Floral, Sugar
Look what I found? It was bound to happen, and I expect it will again — I thought I had long ago tasted all of my black teas but then I found this unopened sample.
The dry leaves smell a little earthy/dirty/sharp.
Despite the name, I steeped it Western style. It makes a really pretty, cherry wood colored tea. The aroma is malty, with notes of baked bread, and molasses. No sharp note remains.
The tea is flavorful, smooth, and light to medium-bodied. It’s easy on the stomach (mine is disturbed this morning as I got very little sleep from the late caffeine yesterday). I get cocoa notes which are welcome this morning.
It isn’t the best tea I’ve ever had — it appears to be the best some at Steepster have, or close to it — but it is very, very good.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Cocoa, Malt, Molasses
Sipdown no. 121 of 2018 (no. 477 total). A sample.
I took this to work on Thursday. I hadn’t yet figured out what my next take it to work tea would be, and so this was an interim pick.
True confession: I still don’t know what my next take it to work tea will be. But this got me through a very tough, very busy day.
Thank you, Yin Zhen (Silver Needle)!
I thought I’d tasted all the silver needles in my stash, but then I ran across a sample of this. So I’m taking a minor detour from the taste all the things in my cupboard exercise to taste this and probably another sample. I don’t put samples in my cupboard because it seems sort of a waste of time under ordinary circumstances. Of course, given the sheer magnitude of tea I have at the moment, this may not be true. It takes a while for me to sip down even the samples. Sigh.
I stuck this in the Breville and hit the white tea setting — 185 for 4 minutes. I was surprised when doing that actually got some color out of the tea. The description mentions champagne — mine is slightly less yellow than most champagnes, but it is light yellow and clear nevertheless. In the packet, the leaves smell like slightly pungent, sweet hay.
I don’t know whether it is the power of suggestion or not, but if I stretch out with my feelings, Luke, I can see what the description means by melon. I can get a vaguely honeydew aroma and flavor. As the tea cools the melon seems more like cantaloupe. I also get the creamy thing that everyone else is mentioning, though for me it isn’t so much about flavor as mouth feel.
Now, my taster is seeming a bit off today — I am getting less flavor out of black teas today. But somehow, this one isn’t as disappointing as most white teas are for me. Faint praise, but there you have it.
Flavors: Cantaloupe, Hay, Honeydew
This is the cup of tea that is keeping me company while I attempt to do homework. I feel a little distracted so hopefully I can focus after drinking this cup! I was surprised by the recommended short steep time for this tea. It does end up with a rather reddish-brown color after two minutes. I’m actually pretty surprised by the flavor. It could be that I don’t really remember this tea being that impressive when I tried it a long time ago. It’s smooth with a nice, subtle chocolate and vanilla flavor. I do wish that I could taste more of the chocolate and vanilla, but it’s so well-balanced that I don’t miss them too much. A very light, smooth and sweet cup of tea.
Sipdown no. 104 of 2018 (no. 460 total). A sample.
There was only enough in the sample packet to make one 500 ml pot in the Breville, so this is both a first tasting and a sipdown note.
I assumed this was green tea. Now I see that it is a blend of green and white, according to Steepster. I might have steeped it differently had I known. As it is, I steeped as I would for a green.
I feel like I’m sort of writing a “me too” note here — I agree with everyone who said this doesn’t smell or taste artificial, and that it is a delightful jasmine tea. I also agree with Liberteas that it’s a bit light for my taste, and while part of that may be because of I should have steeped it differently, I don’t know if that’s the entire reason. I do think this is more white than green. The color is very pale yellow, which is more like a white to me than a green tea’s color. And there’s not a lot of flavor coming through from the base, which is also consistent with white rather than green tea pearls.
Still, it’s more about delivering the jasmine. And though I would prefer more intensity, what it does deliver is lovely.
A while back, I ordered a box of samples from Canton. There were, I think, four sample packets inside, though I am only finding 3. I think I moved the other one to another location. I’m pretty sure I haven’t tried any of them yet.
This was, as is par for the course with most of my cupboard, a while ago — and now when I look at the Canton web site, it appears they have become wholesale only. Maybe they always were, but I don’t think they would have had these sample packets if they were. Unless… were the samples a Steepster promotional offer? Does anyone remember back that far?
In any case, to make up for yesterday when I basically did no notes because I was running around for most of the day, I thought I’d crack open one of these.
Maybe it’s that I’m possibly coming down with something (woke up this morning with a bit of a sore throat), but in the sample packet, this smells an awful lot like the dragonwell I just had. Same nutty, hay-grass smell — a pretty intense smell, actually.
The similarities continue with the steeping. Pale golden yellow liquor of the same intensity as that of the dragonwell, which is to say not very intense. A sort of asparagus hint, but more mellow and less roasty than that of the dragonwell, in the aroma. Smooth, sweet, slightly nutty flavor. I do get a tiny bit of asparagus, but it’s more snow peas that I smell and taste in this one. Not as vegetal as the dragonwell, but not at all tending toward the woody, either.
It’s like a highly refined version of dragonwell. I don’t remember making this connection with the last Meng Ding I had, but I’ll be on the lookout for it the next time I do.
Tasty, pleasant, and not at all bitter.
Flavors: Asparagus, Nutty, Peas, Sweet, Vegetal
This is quite good but be careful not steep more than 3-4 as it gets bitter quickly imo. Liquor is a very light golden color. Slightly astringent with a dry end sip. Floral, Vegetal, and Mineral notes.
Flavors: Floral, Mineral, Vegetal
I haven’t had a mini-tuo for years and don’t think I have ever had a raw one as I generally avoid them as a rule. That being said these were rather cheap and as I have been noticing a fair few mini-tuos and cakes coming from vendors I trust I figured they would be worth a shot, though I didn’t have high hopes before starting the session.
The tuos have a very faint smokey smell to them which upon heating becomes a bit more pronounced. After a rinse the leaves give way to a bit of grain/hay/wood scent as well as the smokey notes that were there initially. The leaf material is fairly chopped which I was expecting.
After 1 rinse I did a quick 5s brew, sadly the tuo is still half intact so I am not getting the full force of the leaves during the first brew. The liquor is light in flavour with a gentle tang and some grassy hay notes. Not much thickness or returning taste sadly. 2nd infusion was similar in flavour profile to the first but with more oomph and a bit more of a bitter bite, though with no discernible sweetness and with only a little returning flavour on the finish. The main point of comparison that I would have so far wouldn’t be other young sheng but instead would be low grade gunpowder greens that I used to drink a lot of. 3rd infusion the bitterness came to the front with less of the hay/grass and a bit of smoke.
The remaining infusions didn’t really bring much new to the tea after this. Sadly not one I would recommend, though due to the sale at Canton it was an interesting purchase that has at least made me appreciate a lot of the other sheng I have! Mostly what was missing for me was any thickness or real body to the tea and any returning flavour/sweetness to balance the bitter. Guess I now need to work out what to do with the other 9 tuos that I have!
Flavors: Bitter, Grass, Hay, Smoke
Looking at the cake I have tried this a few times in the past but can sadly remember much of my previous encounters with it (more due to time than due to the tea).
The first infusion brewed rather lighter than I was expecting (considering this is now around 7 years old) and didn’t pack a huge punch. There was a fruitiness and subtle creaminess, with the tea seeming to have mellowed over the years.
The strength increased for further infusions with more bitterness coming through and a nice lingering taste coming back a while after drinking the tea. Some almost citrus notes appeared to be present later while drinking as well, which offered a certain crispness to counteract the creamy element.
All round I would say the tea is perfectly pleasant, though not to complicated tea.
Flavors: Bitter, Citrusy, Creamy, Fruity
This is a rare white tea from an experimental first flush batch, grown on the Glenburn Estate in Darjeeling.
Wow. I am so thrilled I ordered some of this tea. This may easily cause the most ardent black tea or tisane lover to consider adding this white tea to their collection.
This definitely has floral and delicate citrus notes. I detected a hint of pineapple or peach or fruitiness. It is crisp, dry, and clean with a beautiful gold liqueur. The dry leaf is large twisted whole leaf with an abundance of silver tips. I wish I could give a better description- I LOVE this tea. This is a limited edition- I highly recommend adding some Glenburn’s Peach Blossom White Darjeeling to your tea stash before it’s gone! So good…
Flavors: Citrus, Fruity, Honey, Lavender, Lemon, Muscatel, Pineapple, Rose, White Wine
Tom and Jerry, American vivified toon arrangement about a hapless feline’s ceaseless quest for a smart mouse.
Not yet named in their presentation showy short, Puss Gets the Boot (1940), Tom (the plotting feline) and Jerry (the spunky mouse) in any case were a hit with groups of onlookers. Artists William Hanna and Joseph Barbera created more than 100 scenes for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). A few of these—including Yankee Doodle Mouse (1943), The Cat Concerto (1946), and Johann Mouse (1952)— won Academy Awards for best enlivened short subject. In many scenes Jerry thwarted Tom’s endeavors to get him and lived to bother him one more day—however every so often Tom got the high ground, or the two would unite against a typical foe. The arrangement was driven completely by activity and visual silliness; the characters never talked.
81/100 for the pleasant smoothness but the lack of standout qualities. A great tea for the money, more brothy than sour, almost like the middle steeps of a buttery Bao Zhong , this tea could age into something rich and sweet given some time.
Still on the green side both visually and flavor wise in October 2017, my recent delivery of this tea brews a rounded, pleasant tea. Leaf grade/size is variable but nothing giant or too damaged. Some care was taken when making these cakes and I can imagine Canton feels that anything with their company name on it has to be Good. Overall a good tea, not nearly as sour as their current Wu Jia single origin, this is a sweet, thick Sheng that would age up into something rich and powerful. Hyper affordable, this and their house Shu are both the best quality:cost ratio teas I’ve bought. Neither is stunning, both are wonderful. This would be a good ‘show someone the less challenging sides of Sheng’ tea and is affordable enough to be a gift cake. This also might be one of those Shengs that could be the basis for a vegetable soup broth.
Celadon Teapot – 240ml – 8g – 15-second rinse, rest for a minute or two.
15s/210’ – Vanilla, strong apricot, sweet, thick, wet hay (in the good sense), heartwood, Dried longan, savory notes, clean brothyness. Pours a bit cloudy. Leaves smell of sour melon, sweetgrass, buffalo grass, nectar, Apricot.
10s/210’-mint, sweet wood, sweetgrass, smelling some of the current storage on it in a good way, not soil but wet forest floor, sour flavors coming out more. Still thick, slightly less sweet, but coating. Has a sour that appears after you swallow. A bit astringent in here, maybe just young, maybe too hot H20.
Flavors: Apricot, Broth, Green Wood, Hay, Nectar, Pleasantly Sour, Sweet, warm grass, Thick, Vanilla
Just got this in the mail, a beautiful mini Bing, pretty tight compression and lots of silver hairs evident mixed in with the leaves.
15/s: The liquor is a beautiful amber color, darker than I expected. Scents of sweetgrass, sour melon, under-ripe plums, vanilla, a hint of smokeyness, pipe tobacco. Hits the whole palate which is nice, flavors coating the whole tongue. It has a sourness on the sides in the back of the palate. which, as your mouth drys slightly, spreads. I would call it astringency but it is more of a pungent sour sensation that builds. In this period I taste apricots, underripe plums, citric acid even. The sweeter aspects of the tea fade and the sourness of a young sheng takes over. You don’t get a strong ‘returning sweetness’ but it isn’t as astringent as some Sheng can be. Pleasant for those who like a sour bite with their young Sheng.
20/s Aroma is still young Sheng with a pleasant tartness.
30/s This is the money steep. Sweet, just a delicate licorice-root sweet sensation on the back of the tongue matched with an underripe fruit sourness on the nose. Aromatic wood, vanilla, caramel even coming out slightly.
45/s Unripe plum, apricots, melon, licorice root, Maca, Indian Sassafass with a light sourness at the end. It does that ‘makes you salivate’ thing which is always odd.
Flavors: Apricot, Buffalo Grass, Corn Husk, Grapes, Green Apple, Sour, White Wine
In many ways, I prefer Yunnan black teas to Darjeelings and Ceylons. Powdery in a good way, they often have that slight bitterness that tames the fruity side of things. I will have to rebrew this more to get a good feel for the tea but off the bat, I am using 3 pearls to 200ml with a 3m steep. Seems low according to the reviews I’m reading here, but it gives me an idea of what a reasonable amount of these will make.
Unfurled the leaves are larger than I expected, with a fair amount of tipps in there, although they took a good 1.5" of stem with that tip too.
The tea has the aroma of dry cocoa powder with hints of vanilla, stone fruit, cherries, caramel 40 (where all my brewers at?!) It has a bit of a bite at the back of the palate, I would call it astringency but it is almost a sour sensation without a sour taste. The body, as I predicted, is relatively light for the amount of tea, but I suppose that may just be the score here. Has that powdery sensation that I love in Yunnans but less than some other more tippy Dian Hong I’ve had.
All in all, this is a pleasant tea, not the best Yunnan I’ve had, but I will have to keep learning these leaves and improve my brew of it. Next time, 5 pearls to 200ml and hopefully I don’t end up jumping off the walls from the caffeine.
2nd occasion to brew these, I went for 6 including a small one or two, in my tea french press, 250ml, 4 minutes, and this was wonderful. MORE is the key to getting your flavor our of this. It has everything I love about Tippy Yunnan/Dian Hong: Creamy, cacao bean, caramel, all without any tanniny bitterness. I got 3 steeps before it started to get watery and gave up. This is a great tea. I didn’t weigh the pearls the 2nd time around, but that would be my only qualm: you would go through them fast.
Flavors: Cacao, Caramel, Cherry Wood, Dates, Roasted Barley, Vanilla