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Recent Tasting Notes
The quarantine sipdown continues. This is another good Baozhong from TTC though a notch below the winter harvest. I steeped it grandpa style as usual with Baozhongs. Nice buttery lilac-y flavor accented with wildflowers, honey, and nectar. Hyacinth lingers in the mouth after it goes down. Some delicate vegetal tones settle in as it continues to steep. There was lots of broken leaf in here which affects how quickly it infuses but still avoids any bitterness.
Finished my sample of this last night. This was a solid Shan Lin Xi with tropical fruit aromas and perfumey florals, typical of this type of tea. Out of the bag, the leaves have a buttery honeysuckle fragrance. Following a rinse, the aroma becomes fruitier with notes of mango and nectar, accented by vanilla and coconut.
The tea opens up with a subtle sweetness and hint of jasmine. As it progresses through steeps, it builds intricate floral layers of lilac, honeysuckle, and wildflowers. Smooth body and a slight fruitiness in the background that complements the florals nicely. I got about 7 steeps out of it.
Flavors: Butter, Floral, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Mango, Nectar, Tropical
A respectable and quite drinkable Li Shan but doesn’t exactly set my world on fire. It has aromas of magnolia, cream, and vanilla. The taste is very clean and refreshing with notes of honeysuckles, water lilies, and a mineral sweetness. That said, it tastes somewhat generic and lacks that buttery, thick body of higher quality Li Shan teas. Goes for several steeps and has a nice, meditative cha qi.
Instagram shot: https://www.instagram.com/p/B8hFSwRAuGR/
Flavors: Cream, Floral, Mineral
Backlog. Finished off my sample of this tea sometime last week. This was a nice flowery gaoshan, smooth with a supple texture in the mouth. Fresh floral aroma with hints of butter and tropical fruit. When brewed the liquor unveils delicate notes of honeysuckles, gardenia, and lily of the valley that linger into the aftertaste. Gives about 5 good steeps before the flavor fades out.
Fushoushan is a pricey tea, up there with the likes of Dayuling. It was certainly enjoyable but not in proportion to the price tag which is usually the case with teas in this range. In any event, I’m grateful that TTC offers samplers that help make these expensive gaoshans more accessible.
Flavors: Apple, Butter, Flowers, Vanilla
What a superb Bao Zhong this is! An almost unparalleled complexity of aromas, a well-defined yet balanced profile, and a full body make it one of the best within the category that I had a chance to try.
The dry leaves already have a great depth of aromas with notes of pastries, custard, flowers (lily), and other green plants. The bouquet changes considerably in a preheated gaiwan. There is a strong floral honey-like scent, complemented by steamed spinach and egg yolk. Finally, after the rinse I get mostly notes of freshly cut grass and honey. Later in the session, the aroma reminds me of a mix between Si Ji Chun and Qing Xin varietals.
First infusion tastes tart, buttery and grassy. It has a smooth onset with a hit of umami and flowers, and a slightly bitter finish. The aftertaste is then sweet and very floral. Second steep introduces a very interesting mix of flavours such as green beans, rucola, and orange gooseberry.
The following ones are then progressively more juicy, nutty (hazelnut), sweet (sugarcane), and floral. There is a bit of astringency around steep 3, but nothing that would detract from the overall experience. The aftertaste in the later stages of the session is cooling with a strong custard note and hints of parsley.
One of the things that elevate this tea ahead of its ‘competitors’ is the mouthfeel. It is very mouth-watering and bubbly with a velvety texture initially that gets more oily as the session progresses.
Flavors: Astringent, Berry, Bitter, Butter, Custard, Floral, Flowers, Freshly Cut Grass, Grass, Green Beans, Hazelnut, Honey, Parsley, Pastries, Plants, Smooth, Spinach, Sugarcane, Sweet, Sweet, warm grass, Tart, Thick, Umami
This was the second winter harvest baozhong I picked up from TTC, the other one being the more oxidized “Heritage” variety. It’s remarkable how the same kind of tea grown in the same region, of the same cultivar, and picked in the same season yet processed slightly different can be so radically different.
Out of the bag, I get fresh aromas of orchid and spring flowers (hyacinth, tulips). In a heated pot, the usual lilac notes of baozhong are detected along with sweet hyacinth and an odd hint of black pepper. I brewed this grandpa style starting with 195 F water. First sip is light with lilacs and little green apple in the finish. Fairly thin and light bodied. After topping off with boiling water, a meadowy green flavor emerges along with sweet pea, more lilacs, and a mineral/spring water like note.
While this an enjoyable tea, it’s several notches below Heritage baozhong which I consider a top grade tea. It has a mild, simple floral flavor and lacks the complexity and depth of better baozhong oolongs.
Flavors: Flowers, Green Apple, Peas
I received this as a freebie in my order from Taiwan Tea Crafts last year. How generous to send a competition tea, thank you :)
I’ve only had a few Dong Ding oolong. Each time, I came away with the impression that this style of tea was not for me. I could never pinpoint why but I suspected it might be the roast, lending the teas a heavy roasted nut flavor. In the case of this tea, the roasting seems like it was heavy but performed so well that it was merely a factor contributing to the balanced nature of the tea.
One thing that really stood out to me about this tea was the scent of the rinsed leaf. It had a pungency and savoriness that evoked an impression of a specific wood used to fire the tea but I absolutely can’t place it. It was very resinous and sappy, though. After a few minutes of rest following the rinse, the nuggets already began unfurling.
With the first pour, the tea had a deep and sweet nutty and floral aroma. An instantaneous, light-bodied caramel-nutty sweetness hit the tongue and transitioned to a lightly tangy mineral taste with mellow florals emerging. Good structure between floral/sweet highs and nutty/leathery lows. Very light complementary resinous bitterness and nut skin astringency. The tea was very clean and easy to sip, leaving the crisp sense of an empty palate after the swallow. The empty cup retained the sweet aroma of the brew. The aftertaste seemed to come out of nowhere, and like the liquor, was very clean with a balance of flavors difficult to describe, something like a mix of lotus leaf, floral lychee and very mellow peach and pine. I also experienced a lingering sweetness in the back of the mouth and a sense of camphor in my chest.
While this Dong Ding was fantastic and balanced, I don’t think I’ll explore this style of tea anytime soon since I feel a little spoiled after having this one; I don’t want to invest the time or money to find one of similar caliber. (This tea, as far as I know, hasn’t been made available on TTC’s website.)
Flavors: Camphor, Caramel, Floral, Hazelnut, Leather, Lychee, Nutty, Peach, Pine, Plants, Resin, Sweet, Tangy, Violet, Walnut
Sipdown. My last few teaspoons of this tea were getting stale but ambient brewing rescued it. Despite the freezing cold and endless snow we endured in Chicago today, it was really refreshing to drink this over ice. By the magic of room temperature steeping, the sour, stale seaweed taste was transformed into a floral bouquet in my cup. So delicious that I made two ambient brews and finished off what was left of this tea.
I must say cold/ambient brewing has been a godsend for less than perfect teas and those past their freshness. I’ve been able to salvage so many teas that I might have otherwise thrown out this way. Highly recommend giving cold brewing a try before giving up on your less loved teas.
This was the first tea I chose to drink in 2020. Shibi has been a perennial favorite of mine over the years and this latest harvest was a reminder as to why. It’s rich, complex, and has a wonderful floral-fruity flavor. The tea starts off buttery and fresh with aromas of pear, coconut cream, and daffodils. The flowers arrive in waves, starting with peonies, wildflowers, lillies, and hyacinth. This is interspersed with hints of tropical fruit and a little vanilla. Thick in the mouth with a pleasant lingering aftertaste. An exquisite high mountain tea and one of the best terroirs I’ve ever tasted.
Flavors: Flowers, Tropical
This Gui Fei is basically honey in tea form. It’s thick and syrupy, dripping with the taste of wildflower honey in every steep. Dry leaf smells of graham crackers. Sandalwood and eucalyptus aromas when wet along with some cinnamon emerging later. The tea is smooth and delicious, full of honeyed, brown butter-esqe goodness throughout the steeps but also a bit woodsy at times with hints of apricot and flowers. Although Gui Fei is a bug bitten tea, I taste very little of that bug bitten flavor. It’s more akin to a good roasted Dong Ding.
The only knock on this tea is that it doesn’t change much from steep to steep. Otherwise it’s a very enjoyable and easy drinking oolong.
Flavors: Butter, Flowers, Honey
For Christmas, I was given a wood-fired clay teapot, which I picked out myself because my family aren’t big tea people. Well, this was the first time I tried it and possibly the last. The tea seemed slightly different, with more florals and sweetness and less grassiness than in the porcelain pot. But sometime during the session, a long crack appeared that went right through the body of the pot and leaks slightly.
I did manage to preheat the pot before putting in the leaves, but am wondering if waiting too long between steeps caused the pot to cool too much. At any rate, I bought this pot in late November, got it on December 7, kept it in the box to open on Christmas Day, then threw away the packaging in the post-holiday cleanup, and only tried it yesterday, January 9. All this is to say that I’m probably stuck with it. I’m incredibly bummed out, to the point that I’m considering giving up this hobby altogether. I could only afford this thing because it was half price, and what’s the point in getting another if I’ll just ruin it again?
Flavours: Honeysuckle, orchids, minerals, grass, crushed dreams
My first gongfu session of 2020! My eyes seem to be too big for my stomach when it comes to tea; I have things in my stash that I don’t remember buying. This oolong is less than a year old, which is good, right? I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of cookies and heady flowers. The first steep has lovely notes of lilac, orchid, honeysuckle, cookies, cream, and spinach. The second steep is creamier, with corn, herbaceous, coriander, faint peach, and grassy flavours. (Why do so many high mountain oolongs remind me of cream corn?) It’s a bit drying in the mouth with a sweet, grassy aftertaste. The next couple steeps have a nice balance of floral, sweet, herbaceous, and vegetal flavours. By steep five, the liquor becomes vegetal and herbaceous, and fades quickly after that.
This is a pretty standard Alishan, although for what it’s worth, the leaf sets are nice. I’ll have no trouble finishing it, but won’t rush to buy more.
Flavors: Cookie, Coriander, Corn Husk, Creamy, Floral, Grass, Herbaceous, Honeysuckle, Orchid, Peach, Spinach, Sweet, Vegetal
The ever generous derk sent me a sample of this because I got the tea drunkest I have ever been tea drunk off of a white Ruby Jade that she sent me a while back.
I have always loved – and been fascinated by – Ruby 18 black tea and I am now in love with its white counterpart.
We settled in for a cross-legged gong fu floor session with the King Of Dogs. Same pairing as last night: garden herb Triscuits with warmed cheddar and topped with apricot preserves and tiny pecan tartlets. This is why the King of Dogs stayed so close. (His name is Sam.)
It is here that an unfortunate accident happened. While rinsing, the new gooseneck kettle to which I am not yet fully accustomed made a sideways splash in the gaiwan lid and a tiny bit of hot water went on his paw! Though he scampered behind me, it did not deter him from staying as close to the cheese as possible. Needless to say, he received many kisses and hugs and cheese and pecan tart. He now stays close but leans back when I pour, which is good but also will be awkward to explain when guests come.
On to the tea. The liquor is golden amber. Body is medium light. The first steeps have very fruity wine notes. There is a light, passing savory base note. Very light. First impression as I swished was of rich, high fruit notes, not sharp like citrus but perhaps a little berry tartness laid over a baked fruit flavor. As we keep going, there is a hint of raisin.
We have steeped this so many times that I have lost count. Each steep grows progressively more brisk, pleasantly so for me but my husband preferred the first steeps. The color is undiminished, still the rich golden amber, reflecting beautifully in a silver lined cup. (Small Crimson Lotus one. Thank you to husband for that! It was a gift from him.)
This was very good tea and a fun gong fu session. Between this and the What-Cha, I like the What Cha one best. But this one is intended for aging, and I think it would be marvelous to see what it does in a few years time.
Thank you, derk! I am smiling and content as I head off to bed.
Another brilliant Bao Zhong from TTC. Grandpa steeped 1.3g in my 10oz tea thermos using 200 F water. It opens with the scent and taste of fresh cut lilacs. Hints of orchids and something like a summer green meadow. Egg custard in the finish. The florals become deeper as it steeps with notes of bergamot and magnolia and a sugarcane sweetness that pleasantly lingers on. Stays juicy and floral till the very last sip. Boiling water amplifies the lilacs and gives a more TGY like flavor but the nuances are lost.
Flavors: Bergamot, Custard, Flowers, Sugarcane
I finally logged back in my new Steepster account…Steepster must have really gone to shit, not sure why I come back, Anyways….
This is a damn good Tea, We’ve already reviewed it under our old name which we are Locked out of now, Still a damn good tea…Obviously Steepster been fucked up at least 4 years now, Uugghhh STILL!!!
Thomas Edward(Toad) drank Baguashan Four Seasons Black Tea, Lot 216 by Taiwan Tea Crafts
Really? i haven’t posted about this one yet? Damn, ive bought this one more than once and have drank it many times for good long time now, Lance even liked this one.
Maybe i never posted about it because its kinda hard to really describe to me, thats kinda why i’m here now actually cuz i was thinking hhhmmm well i’ll see what i posted to steepster about it and uuggghh nothing!
Very interesting and delicious tea to me, Everything I’ve had from TTC has been good to me and unique in some sort of way, this one is unique to me one of my favs(i have too many favs, TEA is my fav lol), it is fruity and sweet and kinda roasty and lots more, i really just don’t know how to describe it, it is Delicious!!
I never had a tea like this tea before, i love it.
Had repost, glad i copied it :)
Flavors: Fruity, Sweet
I was in a mood for some medium roasted oolong while working this evening and this one seemed to fit the bill. However, I forgot that GABA teas can at times be incompatible with nontrivial cognitive processes. And so it happened that I zoned out (probably also thanks to the music I had playing at the time, see below) and entered some lucid dreams instead of reading about quantum information theory. Nevertheless, afterwards I drank a few shots of cold-brewed sheng (the 2016 Autumn Da Qing Gu Shu in particular) and became productive again fortunately.
What to say about this tea? It’s very nice, albeit a bit more roasted notes than I expected based on the dry leaf scent, which is fruity with notes of apple, quince, and narcissus. The wet leaves do showcase some deep charcoal aroma though, complemented by licorice, cumin, and more fruits.
The taste is very tart with a distinctive roasted pear flavour, light sweetness, and a dry wood backbone. The sourness, despite being strong, disappears fairly quickly and gives way to a comforting nutty aftertaste with a persistent sweetness. Mouthfeel is very velvety and soft, very good for a tea at this price point I’d say. Generally, the quality/price ratio is very good for this one.
Song pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntuC-VUNtDo
Flavors: Apple, Char, Fruity, Licorice, Narcissus, Nutty, Pear, Roasted, Smooth, Sour, Spices, Sweet, Tart, Wood
Steeped the last of what I had, 2g, as another western brew, this time at 185F.
I forgot about it while making a grocery list and piddling around. 10-15 minutes?
Thicker and quite viscous! Same amount of light floral bitterness, more pronounced butter and cream tastes. The peach and osmanthus aftertaste revealed in gongfu steeping showed up today but not nearly as prominent. Still very clean but the astringency remains. That’s my only issue with this tea, otherwise I’d put it somewhere in the mid-80s. Bumped from 75 to 78.
A case of less (less leaf, lower temperature, only 1 long western steep) is more?
Song pairing: Bill Withers — Lovely Day
Clean, crisp and calming.
The rose petals in scent remind me of a purplish heirloom variety we have in the backyard. They have a sweet fruitiness to them almost like cherry with a hint of purple bitterness. Not so airy or perfumey but full-bodied with a hint of earthy spiciness. The rose petals of this blend impart a tinge of pink to the clear, brownish-yellow tea.
The dry jin xuan oolong leaf in aroma has delicate notes of sweet sugarcane and cream and vegetal snap peas. Its taste is subtle with dry grassiness and a generic vegetal quality. The minerality is particularly noticeable. There is biting astringency around my tonsils that I do find distracting at times. Light-bodied.
Fruity light cherry with stronger rose finish that moves to the sip with some floral bitterness as the session progresses. Sweet cream also in the finish shows up early and fades by the second steep.
The aftertaste is the prominent part of the experience, with an expansive and lingering fruity perfume of osmanthus and peach. Such a delight. Accompanying that is a touch of menthol to open the sinuses, which draws the aftertaste higher.
Decent jin xuan base tea with plenty of rose petals mixed in. The rose is delicate for me and not overwhelming. If your normal preparation is western style, I’d suggest brewing this one gongfu because that awesome aftertaste doesn’t seem to appear when prepared western.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Butter, Cherry, Cream, Dry Grass, Garden Peas, Menthol, Mineral, Osmanthus, Peach, Rose, Spicy, Sugarcane, Vegetal
I gotta say Taiwanese greens are the most aromatic green teas I’ve come across. Yet the actual drinking experience seldom lives up to the aroma. Such was the case with this tea. It had an incredible honeyed narcissus aroma but I got only the barest hint of flavor in the brewed tea. I had a little more success today following Togo’s steeping parameters.
The dry leaves emitted sweet aromas of maple syrup and apple cider when dropped into a heated shibo. Wet leaves had an interesting smell of eucalyptus and spice. First steep had a buttery, smooth vegetable soup flavor. Second steep was similar with a hint of juniper berries. The third steep had a cooling herbaceous taste mingled with sandalwood and a floral finish.
This was a mellow tea reminiscent of mao feng green tea. It had a sweet though indistinct vegetal flavor and a little tingle of spice. After trying a number of Taiwanese green teas, I’ve come to the conclusion that while interesting, they just don’t measure up to their counterparts from China and Japan. They seem more one-dimensional and lack that depth of flavor.
Flavors: Eucalyptus, Spices, Vegetable Broth
This is the 2017 winter harvest. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
Dry, these big green nuggets smell like heady flowers, green apples, and custard. I get orchids, honeysuckle, green apple, sweet corn, cream, and grass in the first steep. (What is it with corn showing up in high mountain oolongs lately?) The tea is sweet, silky, and slightly metallic, and has a persistent aftertaste. The next couple steeps add notes of spinach, herbs, and a hint of green apple. (But it’s mainly still about the corn.) The corn dissipates by steep five and the florals by steep seven or so, leading to a grassy, vegetal, faintly sweet end to the session.
This is a pretty standard Lishan with a substantial body and some interesting notes near the beginning of the session. It fades pretty quickly, which is a problem with many teas of this type. I usually don’t pay more for organic teas, but I’ll have to see whether TTC’s organic Lishan is worth the extra money.
Flavors: Corn Husk, Cream, Floral, Grass, Green Apple, Herbaceous, Honeysuckle, Metallic, Orchid, Spinach, Vegetal
Here we are. Seems my new pattern is to review a few teas on Mondays, so howdy :)
Scroll down to TEATIME if you don’t care for life happenings.
I’ve been dog/housesitting for a coworker (so many acquaintances have been or will be going to Hawaii this summer, lucky ducks!). I didn’t take my kettle or teaware over to the house so recent mornings have involved drinking canned Guayakí yerba maté, or gasp! a K-Cup of coffee the other day. I came home this morning for a few sessions because I’m going through tea withdrawal.
The infection I’d had from March to June resurfaced last week, though since I knew what it was, I was able to get into the doctor for antibiotics the same day the infection kicked in severely. We’re euthanizing Housemate #1’s old, gay tomcat this evening at home. Housemate #2 is moving out in a month so the atmosphere will be very calm as autumn approaches, a setting enjoyable for hopefully increased gongfu sessions. Strange week. Despite all this, I feel a delightful yearning. Maybe it’s because I am okay, confident and rolling with the happenings. Also, somebody is hot on my tail.
Received as a sample from Togo. This swap package is never-ending.
5g, 100mL porcelain pot, 200F, rinse, medium length gongfu steep times starting at 20s. I didn’t keep track, maybe 8 infusions.
Dry leaf was small, uniform pebbles with scents of sweet almond and sugar cookie with vegetal, creamy and floral qualities. Warming the leaf opened up the aromas, with additions of pine, anise, gardenia, vanilla, cream, garden peas and a light, tangy high note.
The aroma was delicate and pleasing, floral, cookie, anise. The first thing I noticed was the body of the tea, thick and oily with substantial minerality leading to quick salivation. Like the aroma, the tastes were delicate. If the tea had not had such a pronounced mouthfeel, I would’ve felt this a dud. But the body had me wanting to swirl the tea around in my mouth and in that process, I was able to appreciate the subtlety of flavors. Pine, fresh and dry grass, butter, gardenia on the breeze, a golden apple and lemon mineral water brightness, fleeting hints of custard and spinach, and a few notes I’ve rarely if ever gotten in a high mountain oolong — wet rocks and fresh fungus on the forest floor. They unexpectedly fit the tea well.
The finish was cooling and complex with a throaty bite for the first few steeps and the aftertaste was distinctly green/golden apple skins. Spent leaf revealed pretty much all 3-leaves and a bud, very thin, yet it really expanded in my pot. The energy was CCC — calm, cool and collected.
Simply, a pleasant, perhaps understated tea. Delicate and subtle, never overbearingly green or floral, nor necessarily sweet. I feel like this is a Shanlinxi done right.
Song pairing: David Byrne and Brian Eno — Strange Overtones
Been grooving to David Byrne and Talking Heads for a while.
Flavors: Almond, Anise, Apple, Apple Skins, Butter, Cookie, Cream, Custard, Dry Grass, Freshly Cut Grass, Garden Peas, Gardenias, Lemon, Mineral, Mushrooms, Pine, Spinach, Thick, Vanilla, Wet Rocks
I am slowly but surely getting to the end of my first TTC order. This high mountain oolong is one of the most memorable ones.
The dry leaves smell of meadows and beeswax with a hint of clean decayed wood. The wet leaf aroma reminds me of the morning mist in a town surrounded by mountains. There are notes of custard, cream and various florals. I also notice a smell that is reminding me of a a very dark soil, rich in organic content, when wet.
The first infusion is quite tart and metallic tasting. The main flavours I notice are green apple and grass. The green apple one reappears in later infusions too, but it’s less prominent. It is complemented by other fruit notes like plantain and lime. The taste profile is a mix of umami, sweet and tart, with floral hints like nettle. The aftertaste is very long and pleasant. One of the stronger flavours I get there are lime leaves, but there are many others. It’s a fairly complex aftertaste overall.
Mouthfeel is slick, quite saliva like, but thicker. The finish is a little powdery. I really like the cha qi too, which is pleasant and elevating. It’s a good morning tea.
Flavors: banana, Cream, Custard, Decayed wood, Floral, Fruity, Grass, Green Apple, Lime, Metallic, petrichor, Plants, Pleasantly Sour, Sweet, Tart, Umami, Wet Earth
Here’s quite a green looking dong ding. It is tasty, but not very complex. The dominant aromas are those of roasted cocoa beans, wood, stonefruit pits and peat. The taste is bitter and has hints of custard, coffee and acorn. I liked the aftertaste more. It’s long, cooling and tart with notes of sweetcorn and wood. Texture is decent too, the liquor has a soft, silky mouthfeel which thickens as the tea cools down.
Flavors: Cocoa, Coffee, Custard, Oak wood, Peat, Roasted, Stonefruits, Tart, Wood
Pardon me, I’m tea buzzed. Short note.
Tastes like sipping on toffee loaded with chopped dry-roasted almonds. Nice florality and pervasive fresh grassiness and plant stems. Osmanthus is subtle and puts a smile on my face. Bitterness and minerality keep it from becoming cloyingly sweet. Yes.
Longer gongfu steep times and no rinse because I didn’t want to wash away the osmanthus scenting.
Flavors: Almond, Bitter, Brown Sugar, Butterscotch, Cream, Creamy, Floral, Grass, Lettuce, Milk, Mineral, Nutty, Osmanthus, Peach, Plant Stems, Roasted nuts, Sweet, Toasty, Toffee, Vanilla, Violet