Ethan Kurland

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Recent Tasting Notes

87

This Longfengxia is from spring 2023. My expectations were high after Ethan’s fantastic, coconut-infused spring 2021 LFX. I steeped 6 g of leaf in 120 ml of 195F water for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds, plus some long, uncounted steeps.

The dry aroma is of orchid, narcissus, osmanthus, and cream. The first steep has notes of cream corn, misty mountain air, orchid, osmanthus, grass, and faint peach. The next steep has more of a peachy quality, with soft, indistinct florals. The stonefruit comes into its own in steeps three and four, with something between peach and apricot along with the soft florals. The next couple steeps give me lettuce, cookies, white sugar, and grilled peaches. I get a nice, lingering peachy aftertaste. The final steeps feature bok choy, lettuce, grass, and faint florals.

This is a pleasant, gentle oolong with beautiful stonefruit notes and a little more grassiness than I expected. Slightly longer steeps in my clay pot made the most of the fruit and florals, but the oolong usually petered out fairly quickly and the flavours were always on the softer side. This is still a high-quality tea, but it doesn’t measure up to the spring 2021 LFX. But really, few oolongs can do that.

Flavors: Airy, Apricot, Bok Choy, Cookie, Cream, Floral, Grass, Lettuce, Narcissus, Orchid, Osmanthus, Peach, Soft, Sugar, Sweet Corn, Vegetal

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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91
drank Baozhong by Ethan Kurland
424 tasting notes

This tea is from winter 2023/2024. When I bought it in the middle of January, a nice Baozhong sounded wonderful. This tea is lightly roasted, but according to the vendor, it’s not noticeable in the taste. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml porcelain pot using 195F water for 15, 20, 25, 30, 30, 35, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds, plus some long, uncounted steeps. I also used the same parameters with my 150 ml Zhuni-Hongni pot, though the steep times may have been a bit longer because the pot has a slower pour.

The dry aroma is of lilac, gardenia, orchid, and zucchini. The first steep has notes of lilac, gardenia, honeysuckle, orchid, jasmine, butter, zucchini, minerals, and grass. The heady florals are lovely! The next steep adds herbs and ripe apricot to the floral bouquet. Steeps three to six feature apricot, sap, grass, coriander, and heady florals over a mineral, herbaceous backbone. I get a little nuttiness and a touch of astringency, and the lilac and gardenia are particularly prominent in some sessions. Subsequent rounds are still quite floral, but the vegetal, herbaceous, buttery character gets stronger. The final steeps are herbaceous, mineral, nutty, and vegetal, and I can sort of suspect that the tea has been roasted, though probably only because I was told about it.

Steeping in clay doesn’t seem to affect the tea too much, though I remember detecting more minerality and less of a floral aroma.

This tea is definitely for people like me who love drinking flowers. If I’d stopped at steep six or so, I would have given this Baozhong a 94. However, the lovely florals get overwhelmed in subsequent steeps and the tea becomes quite grassy and vegetal. This is still a lush Baozhong with lots of complexity.

Flavors: Apricot, Butter, Coriander, Floral, Gardenias, Grass, Herbaceous, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Lilac, Mineral, Nutty, Orchid, Perfume, Sap, Sweet, Vegetal, Zucchini

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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Thanks to Ethan for this lovely sample, which he sent with my last big order. I steeped 5 g of leaf in a 120 ml porcelain pot using 195F water for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds, plus some long, uncounted steeps.

The first couple steeps have notes of pastry, umami, orchid, honeysuckle, and pine. Steeps three and four add butter, hints of pineapple, grass, spring flowers, herbs, and misty mountain air. The tea is smooth, a bit brothy, and without any trace of bitterness. I get hints of anise in the next couple steeps, though that may be because Ethan mentioned it when talking about this tea. Subsequent steeps are sweet, herbaceous, grassy, and slightly floral, with a nice smoothness but no distinct flavours.

This tea is elegant and smooth, with flavours that are hard to pin down. It’s one of those ethereal Da Yu Lings with Ethan’s trademark emphasis on a lack of bitterness. I tend to like teas with more upfront flavours, but this was quite enjoyable in its own right.

Flavors: Anise, Broth, Butter, Floral, Grass, Herbaceous, Honeysuckle, Orchid, Pastries, Pine, Pineapple, Smooth, Sweet, Umami

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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92

I’ve had only one Dong Pian before, and my experience with it wasn’t that great. However, I picked up 25 g of this early 2023 harvest from Ethan because I’ve never been disappointed with his teas. I steeped 5 g of leaf in a 120 ml porcelain pot at 190F for 20, 15, 20, 25, 30, 30, 45, 60, 75, 90, 120, and 240 seconds, plus some long, uncounted infusions.

The dry leaf smells like lemon cookies, plus some more generic citrus and orchids. The first steep has notes of cookie, orchid, honeysuckle, lilac, cream, grass, and faint lemon. Steep two has more lemon, along with narcissus, pineapple, and another tropical fruit. The next couple steeps are full of lemon, coconut, orchid, honeysuckle, cookies, narcissus, grass, and the tropical note I’ll call guava. Steeps five and six have a sweeter lemon flavour, with lovely aromas of pineapple and guava at the bottom of the cup. In some sessions, the coconut persists until the eighth steep, though in others, it’s almost absent. Subsequent steeps have fainter floral and lemon notes and more vegetal, herbaceous, and grassy ones, with a bit of astringency.

This is a lovely tea with lots of floral and fruity notes. It was a bit inconsistent across my four gongfu sessions, though that could be due to user error and to the bag being open for a few days. Cooler and shorter steeps seemed to emphasize the lemon, while slightly hotter and longer steeps emphasized the coconut and were a little more vegetal. This tea is now out of stock, but I hope to be able to try larger quantities if Ethan gets it again in 2024.

Flavors: Citrus, Coconut, Cookie, Cream, Floral, Grass, Guava, Herbaceous, Honeysuckle, Lemon, Lilac, Narcissus, Orchid, Pineapple, Tropical, Vegetal

Preparation
5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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drank Royal Red Oolong by Ethan Kurland
1566 tasting notes

Juicy, tangy and mineral. Rather buoyant feeling for something so dark.

Like sour cherry juice from the halal markets. A room of antique woods. A hint of clean must. Dark sweetness of dried fruits. Deep tang of stewed fruits. Rich florals of fruit skins. Cooling finish with first few steeps.

Aromatic, drinks very easily and leaves the mouth watering.

Thank you for sharing, Leafhopper :)

Leafhopper

I liked this one as well. I only realized after making the swap packages that I hadn’t left myself any to review.

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96

Thank you Leafhopper in all your efforts to save this one, because it’s special. I’m pretty much going to say what Leafhopper wrote before I read hers, but this is a green floral oolong that has the highlight of a soft, slightly burnt marshmallow texture. Green, coconut, bok choy, pineapple, honeycrisp, spinach, lettuce-all of that and more with some tropical florals and fruitiness. I used the entire sample at once and did it short steeps, longer steeps, and back to flash steeps again to get more out of the tea.

I think it’s really good and comparable to the one I have from Trident. I am not sure about the price, but I am very happy to have had the chance to try it.

Flavors: Apple, Coconut, Floral, Freshly Cut Grass, Honey, Lettuce, Marshmallow, Orchid, Pineapple, Spinach, Stonefruit

Leafhopper

It was US$30 for 50 g, so not cheap but worth it in my opinion. Glad you liked it!

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93
drank Shanlinxi by Ethan Kurland
1705 tasting notes

I tried it out again with more air conditioning in my house. Very creamy shanlinxi, though I reverse brewed it beginning with longer 16, 25, 35 steeps, and then 15, and then consistent flash steeps that were not longer than 15 seconds until steep 8 or 9. 9,10, and 11 were western.

I pretty much wrote the notes I’d write earlier, and this one has a good balance of floral and vegetal with some fruity undertones leaning into the stone fruit category. The Longfeng was more floral and complex with fruity tones, whereas this one had some more savory and buttery vegetative qualities that were extremely pleasant. Short steeps preserved the more complex florals without making this one too spinachy. If I didn’t already have the insane collection I do, I’d gladly get some of this one even if I prefer the Longfeng.

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93
drank Shanlinxi by Ethan Kurland
1705 tasting notes

Tried this one, and wish I didn’t do it on a hotter day yesterday because the sweeter notes were a bit muddled. Really good shanlinxi that I brewed in my clay easy gaiwan, though leaned heavily into cream,florals, orchids, spinach, osmanthus, nectarine, stone fruits, pine. I made a few mistakes and the tea was too spinachy and grassy in some parts. I will write a full review later, and I’m going to try it again this week.

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99
drank Longfengxia by Ethan Kurland
424 tasting notes

I’ve figuratively climbed Shan Lin Xi with Ethan Kurland’s teas, starting with the sweet, Baozhong-like Perfect Oolong, progressing to the headier Shanlinxi, and ending with this tropically fruity beauty. As soon as I opened the bag and smelled the tea, I went to his page on TeaForum to see if he had more. (Nope, it’s out of stock.) I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The dry leaf has aromas of coconut, pineapple, melon, orchid, cookies, and grass. The first steep has notes of green beans, orchids, honeysuckle, peonies, white sugar, cookies, honeydew, and coconut. The next steep is grassier and adds a pineapple or green apple tartness. The creamy coconut is the star in the next couple steeps, though the tea is still quite green. The sweet cookie/pastry note is also still there. The next couple steeps have more pineapple and honeydew, with herbs, spinach, cream corn, and flowers in the background. The herbs, florals, and coconut stick around for another few steeps, with the oolong ending predictably but pleasantly with spinach, grass, bok choy, and beans, plus hints of coconut and sweetness.

I think almost anyone would like this oolong. It’s complex, with some of the flavours being hard for me to pin down, while also being very approachable. It’s faded slightly from having been open for over a month, but is still an awesome tea. Flavours can fluctuate from session to session, becoming greener with higher-temperature water, but the coconut is always present. The only drawback is the price, which is $37 for 50 g. However, I’ve had more expensive teas that haven’t offered the same longevity and array of flavours. For people like me who like coconut and other tropical fruit, this tea is a treat!

Flavors: Bok Choy, Coconut, Cookie, Cream, Floral, Grass, Green Apple, Green Beans, Herbaceous, Honeydew, Honeysuckle, Melon, Orchid, Peony, Pineapple, Spinach, Sugar, Sweet, Sweet Corn, Vegetal

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML
Daylon R Thomas

It is expensive, but I think it would be worth it for that kind of tea over some Dayulings.

Leafhopper

I agree. This tea and your Dayuling from Wang are the teas that have impressed me most in 2022, though they’re very different.

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96
drank Shanlinxi by Ethan Kurland
424 tasting notes

My second Shan Lin Xi from Ethan is from higher up the mountain than the Perfect oolong I reviewed a month ago. It’s still relatively affordable at $25 for 50 g. (Before I got into high mountain oolongs, calling that amount affordable would have made me roll my eyes.) I steeped 6 g of tea in a 120 ml porcelain pot using boiling water for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The wonderfully sweet dry aroma is of honeydew melon, gardenia, honeysuckle, orchid, other florals, cookies, and grass. The first steep has notes of gardenia, honeydew, osmanthus (maybe? I still haven’t figured out this flavour), honeysuckle, sweet pea flowers, orchid, and a vegetal backbone. The second steep adds perfectly ripe apricot and the herbaceous note that seems to be a Shan Lin Xi trademark for me. The third and fourth steeps present a lovely combination of flowers, apricot, and nectarine, with the herbaceous and vegetal notes in the background. There’s a long, fruity aftertaste with hints of lettuce. Soft Mandarin orange notes become especially prominent in steeps four and five. By steep seven, the stonefruit and citrus start to fade, though the floral and vegetal notes are still enjoyable. Later steeps have notes of spinach, asparagus, and grass with the odd hint of florals.

This tea feels like summer to the Perfect’s spring. I like the headier florals and the greater amount of stonefruit, though using my preferred brewing method, it also steeps out fairly quickly. During the three weeks this package has been open, I’ve seen it evolve from a predominantly floral tea into one with the fruity flavours I enjoy, which leads me to believe that some enthusiasts might consider them a sign that a tea is getting older. Either way, it’s been fun to appreciate this oolong on an almost daily basis, and I’ll probably do this with some of my other high mountain oolongs.

Flavors: Apricot, Asparagus, Cookie, Floral, Gardenias, Grass, Herbaceous, Honeydew, Honeysuckle, Lettuce, Mandarin, Nectarine, Orchid, Osmanthus, Spinach, Stonefruit, Sweet, Vegetal

Preparation
Boiling 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML
Daylon R Thomas

Is Ethan only accessible through the site you mentioned previously?

Leafhopper

He has an e-mail address as well: merrill23k@yahoo.com. I can send you samples of a couple of his teas if we do a swap this fall. I’m about to open a Long Feng Xia from him and also have a nice red oolong.

Daylon R Thomas

Sweet! A swap in the fall would be great. I have a lot of black teas on hand, like a Black Dan Cong, but yes!

Leafhopper

Ooh! I like black Dancongs. Ninety percent of my purchases this year have been of oolong tea (Wang Family Tea, Floating Leaves, What-Cha, Ethan and Bok from TeaForum), and I was hoping to remedy that with some unsmoked Lapsang Souchong and other Wuyi black teas this upcoming sale season. Unfortunately, this also means that the number of swappable new teas is kind of small and I may have to dig into my tea museum for samples. I still have some Dancongs and Yancha from a 2020 Wuyi Origin order, and probably some other teas from last year as well.

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94

I recently joined TeaForum, which has a sometimes intimidatingly knowledgeable group of tea drinkers and vendors. One of these vendors is Ethan Kurland, who sells a small, highly curated selection of Taiwanese oolongs that have a high reputation among the cognoscenti. I picked up his three Shan Lin Xi oolongs, along with samples of some other things. I also bought two 30 ml clay teapots, which I’ll be using as the world’s tiniest tea comparison set.

Of the three Shan Lin Xi oolongs, Perfect comes from the lowest elevation and is the most affordable. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml porcelain teapot at 195F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The dry aroma is of heady orchids, honeysuckle, other florals, honey, cookies, and grass. The first steep is a heap of buttery florals, including orchid, honeysuckle, and sweet pea, on a background of honey, cookies, grass, and green beans. The next steep adds sweet cream corn and a hint of something fruity, maybe apricot. The third steep has notes of green apple, coriander, and the herbaceousness I sometimes find in Shan Lin Xi oolongs. The tea is a bit more savoury, though the florals are still going strong. Subsequent rounds lean more toward spinach and beans, but the orchids, sweet peas, honeysuckle, and lilacs are very present until steep seven or so. The session ends with vegetal notes and hints of flowers.

This is a lovely oolong, especially given that it’s $0.19 per gram. The vendor compares it to a Baozhong and I think that’s accurate. I would have liked to see more fruit and for the tea to have lasted longer, but all in all, I’m very happy with it.

Flavors: Apricot, Butter, Cookie, Coriander, Corn Husk, Cream, Floral, Grass, Green Apple, Green Beans, Herbaceous, Honey, Honeysuckle, Lilac, Orchid, Spinach, Sweet, Vegetal

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML
derk

Yes! I creep on that place maybe every few weeks. So glad you purchased some of his oolong.

Leafhopper

It’s really good! Those people on TeaForum have a deep knowledge of and appreciation for tea, and deep pockets to match. They give me tea and teaware envy!

LuckyMe

I’m on that site too but haven’t logged on in a while. Their discussion forums are what I wish Steepster would be

Leafhopper

I also wish Steepster’s discussion boards were more active. However, I think Steepster is more approachable to newer tea drinkers who might not yet have the experience and knowledge base for TeaForum. The forum also doesn’t seem like a great place for flavoured tea drinkers. I guess both sites have their own niche.

Mastress Alita

I’m one of those people that signed up there, and then immediately dipped out and never went back because I didn’t feel like the “right” kind of tea drinker or have anything to add to the sort of stuff there…

I think one of the biggest weaknesses with the Steepster forums is the fact that threads from over a decade ago are constantly being “revived” by spam posts, and stay “at the top” even after the spam comment is deleted, burying actual current topics. The forums seriously need to go through and lock/archive threads past a certain date, and make it so if a spam comment is deleted, that thread goes back to its proper position based on activity.

Leafhopper

Mastress Alita, yes, the content on TeaForum is pretty specialized. I’ve made a few good connections there and have gotten some of my questions answered, but it does appeal to a certain kind of tea drinker.

I’ve also noticed old threads being bumped to the top of the discussion board and think archiving them past a certain point would be a good idea. Maybe that’s something we should bring up to the admins.

tea-sipper

I don’t know if I’d like to see any threads lock, but I definitely agree that if spam is deleted, the thread should go back to the last spot it was in, rather than linger among recent threads.

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