Tao Tea Leaf

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Recent Tasting Notes

84

Dry leaf is long, thin mostly dark green needles with some of of the typical white hairs. I smell some musty hay, faint smoke, rich undertone of white chocolate or cocoa butter.

Taste is full of white chocolate, hay, melon and minerals with slight herbaceous-vegetal-zucchini tone. Nectar sweetness that I find typical of silver needles. Creamy lychee-oat aftertaste. Rather drying.

I had this a week ago and my notes were rushed, my recollection fuzzy. The flavor profile was unique and I can’t remember enough to say why. Maybe the tea had a deeper, earthier feeling to it… I really enjoyed this one, though, especially the white chocolate note which I was not expecting after reading Leafhopper’s review. It seems like our experiences with this tea differed a bit. Thanks for the share, Leafhopper :)

Note 900

Flavors: Creamy, Drying, Hay, Herbaceous, Lychee, Melon, Mineral, Musty, Nectar, Smoke, Vegetal, White Chocolate, Zucchini

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 g 2 OZ / 60 ML
Leafhopper

Congratulations on 900 tasting notes! I definitely don’t remember getting white chocolate from this tea. Did you brew it differently?

Courtney

Woot, 900!

White Antlers

Thank you for being so wonderfully prolific,derk.

gmathis

^ my sentiments exactly.

ashmanra

Ditto ^!

derk

Thank you all for bringing some kindness to the internet :)

Leafhopper: gongfu with steeps starting at 10s. Not much different than you. This tea had me spinning in place.

Martin Bednář

900! Woot woot! Let’s go to 1000 (and even more!)

mrmopar

Big number there!

Leafhopper

Derk, yes, I also found this tea to have a lot of caffeine. I remember being pretty buzzed after my long session.

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86

Until yesterday, when I did some research, I thought all Fujian white teas were the same. However, it appears that there are two types: one from Fuding, which is sweet and fruity, and this one from Zhenghe, which is more savoury and herbaceous. It would have been nice to know that back in 2016 when I bought this tea. After even more research and the realization that there are a million contradictory ways to brew white tea, I steeped about 5 g of leaf in a 120 ml pot at 195F for 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 seconds, then for 1:15, 1:30, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 10 minutes, plus some long, uncounted steeps.

The dry aroma is of pungent herbs, smoke, hay, and wood. The first steep has notes of banana bread, honey, delicate spring flowers, pungent herbs, hay, oats, and wood. Squash and pleasant sourness emerge in the second steep. I get wood smoke in steep three, along with creamy and woody notes, although the tea remains somewhat sweet; the hay/oats/banana aftertaste lingers. By steep six, the honey florals start to intensify and I get a sappy note. As the session goes on, the orchid and spring florals poke their heads out periodically, playing off the heavier smoke, wood, sourness, and oats. This tea goes for a long time and ends with hay, oats, wood, tannins, date-like sweetness, and minerals.

Since it has few of the flavours I like and many to which I’m indifferent, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this tea. I had fun picking apart the various flavours, which were all over the map. This tea packs a caffeine punch and took all day to steep out.

Flavors: Baked Bread, banana, Cream, Dates, Floral, Hay, Herbaceous, Honey, Mineral, Oats, Orchid, Pleasantly Sour, Sap, Smoke, Sweet, Tannin, Wood, Zucchini

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

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84
drank Bei Dou Wu Yi Oolong by Tao Tea Leaf
902 tasting notes

I really slowed down with my Wuyi oolong consumption since moving away from San Francisco. The weather there is perfect for this style of tea. Here, further north and a 30-minute drive inland, the highs are higher and the lows lower. It’s still foggy but not as temperate. I can’t remember the last time I had yancha :/

The dry leaf had a fairly strong, smooth roast aroma with other notes of celery leaf, cannabis, cacao, caraway, cranberry. It was roasty, rich, chocolatey and herbaceous. The warmed leaf smelled like a warm flourless chocolate cake made with dark and fruity cocoa powder. In the rinsed leaf I smelled dark chocolate with a sweeter, fruitier tone like redfruits. There were also orchids along with a very pungent herbaceousness.

The greener qualities didn’t transfer over at all into taste. This is indeed a medium-dark roasted oolong, which I prefer over the lighter roasts that seem to have been trending over the past few years. Perfumey on the sip, the taste spread across the palate with sweet mineral water and a dark roastiness, oak wood, chocolate-caramel-honey, a cooling mouthfeel. My body already settled. Second steep brought a richer, mineral body with honey-chocolate-cinnamon-camphor-caramel taste and a strong returning sweetness. Menthol oozed from my chest and cooled my upper body.

As the steeps lightened, they became woodier with a gentle sweetness. At the end of the session, the aroma finally registered with sugared peanuts or something like a Payday candy bar. Eight infusions overall. This strikes me as a good evening daily drinker.

Thank you, Leafhopper :)

Flavors: Cacao, Cake, Camphor, Caramel, Celery, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Cranberry, Dark Chocolate, Herbaceous, Honey, Menthol, Mineral, Oak, Orchid, Peanut, Perfume, Red Fruits, Roasted, Spices, Sugar, Sweet, Wet Wood, Wood

gmathis

I remember how much I liked this one!

derk

Knowing more about your tastes, I bet you did. It’s a solid tea.

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87

Diving into another loose-leaf sheng from Tao Tea Leaf today. I normally don’t get hung up on costs, but as this is the only place where I can locally buy aged pu-erh, it’s hard to look past this 15-gram sample being short by 6 grams. I paid $4.20 for the amount of tea they withheld. Not cool. Has kind of left me wondering about all the other times I’ve ordered expensive teas from this place… will definitely be weighing out everything else I ordered this time around.

That being said, at least there is enough for me to have one solid gong fu session. As with all the other loose-leaf shengs from this store, it has impressed me and exceeded expectations. This sheng has been aging since 2009 and its really developed into something delightful. A strong muscatel aroma after the wash was hard to ignore, sweet and pungent! The subsequent brews started off slightly bitter and smoky leaning more into hay and leather than grapes. This mellowed out quickly though into a mixture of grapes, cherries, roasted tomatoes, and something kind of like shiitake mushrooms. Little to no bitterness or astringency. The soup was surprisingly thin, quite lubricating, and dark. Very lovely aftertaste. I would love to have more of this in stock, but not if I’m going to be shorted again.

Flavors: Cherry, Hay, Leather, Muscatel, Mushrooms, Smoke, Vegetal

Preparation
Boiling 9 g 5 OZ / 140 ML

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84

Had a very late start to the day so I grabbed this ginseng oolong on my way out the door for a boost of energy. I love oolong, I love ginseng, I love Taiwan. I’m glad I picked this up.

Tried brewing in a gaiwan around 90°C at first, but it was being very stubborn. I guess the way it’s processed into little pearls benefits more from boiling water and probably a Western-style brew, which I’ll try next time. Eventually did coax out the flavours though. It’s very sweet like honey with deeper medicinal/oven roasted vegetable notes and a slight floral aftertaste. Reminds me of some of the GABA oolongs I’ve tried actually. The liquor isn’t very thick, but it’s lubricating and fragrant. Thankfully it has taken me into a place of calm alertness, similar to a matcha buzz. All in all a lovely oolong indeed, excellent for a pick-me-up in Winter!

Flavors: Floral, Honey, Medicinal, Vegetables, Vegetal

Preparation
Boiling 5 OZ / 140 ML

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76

Received a small amount of this as a sample. Seems as though it is from the bottom of the bag as there are lots of broken leaves and dust. High marks for the scent and flavour though, I love stone fruits and this smells exactly like a mix between real peaches and fuzzy peach candies, perhaps with a slight caramel undertone too! So far haven’t had a white tea that I don’t like from this company. Looking forward to diving into the teas I actually ordered over the next few days. Hope anyone reading this stays safe and healthy throughout the holidays and beyond!

Flavors: Apricot, Candy, Caramel, Peach

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 2 min, 0 sec 5 g 8 OZ / 240 ML
gmathis

Sounds lovely!

So Keta

Yes it is, would make a killer iced tea in summer!

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80
drank Da Hong Pao by Tao Tea Leaf
259 tasting notes

It appears I haven’t posted a note on this tea, which I think is from 2016. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 200F for 7, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The dry aroma is of char, roast, wood, and grain. The first steep has notes of grain, cannabis, char, nuts, caramel, roast, minerals, and wood. The char becomes more prominent in the second steep, as are roast and walnuts. Molasses, oakwood, and an incense-type quality emerge in the next couple steeps, and I can really notice the minerals in the aftertaste. Steeps five and six are more roasted, woody, and mineral, and are a bit drying. I also get a tobacco note. The end of the session has notes of roast, wood, char, wet rocks, grain, and minerals.

This is a very enjoyable Da Hong Pao whose smoky flavours don’t detract from the drinking experience. I found that it gets kind of boring by the seventh steep, although this is a minor complaint. It’s a perfect tea for this cool fall evening!

Flavors: Cannabis, Caramel, Char, Drying, Grain, Mineral, Molasses, Nuts, Oak wood, Roasted, Tobacco, Walnut, Wet Rocks, Wood

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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88

I just LOVE the weather right now in Canada. I’ve been spending my free time this Autumn foraging for edible fungi and crunching colourful fallen leaves (paired with some tea, obviously). Yesterday I brought my travel gongfu set and a thermos of water with me to enjoy this refreshing silver needle outside, the perfect liquid companion!

It’s been a while since I’ve sipped a good jasmine tea, and despite my love of these delicate flowers, a jasmine-white blend has somehow eluded my cupboards. Although I often prefer an oolong base, I must admit that the silver needle’s profile blends harmoniously with the hazy, heady perfume of jasmine flowers. Right from the first infusion I felt immediately more relaxed and lulled into what I can only describe as a waking-dream state. A masterful scenting process is apparent and truly pales in comparison to essential oil additives. The liquor has a delicate colour, but thick and lubricating with a rich and complex aftertaste of mixed fruits and jasmine petals. Lush lush lush.

Flavors: Fruity, Honey, Jasmine, Sweet, warm grass

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 8 g 5 OZ / 140 ML

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80
drank Cream Earl Grey by Tao Tea Leaf
52 tasting notes

Finally went through a truly immense stock of oolong and shoumei that was getting me through the summer months. On to something new and perhaps more seasonally appropriate. Up until now I don’t think I’ve tried any scented/blended teas from this store, but their pure loose leaf has been great so far.

The first thing I noticed about this cream earl grey is that the leaves are definitely a bit lower in quality and moderately broken, although it seems that’s usually the case with blends. Still, the dry aroma is enticing and I just loooove bergamot. Brewed this up Western style and am very content. It’s not sickly sweet or saturated with a chemically-strong fragrance like many other earl grey’s I’ve tried. Just some tasty Chinese black tea and a gentle, creamy bergamot flavour. This is how you balance a scented tea, it’s very well done.

Flavors: Bergamot, Cream

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec 4 g 8 OZ / 240 ML

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83

I bought this Wuyi oolong in Tao Tea Leaf’s 50% off sale around Christmas 2015. Since it’s a tea I enjoyed, I’ve naturally been hoarding it for the past five years. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 200F for 7, 10, 12, 16, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The dry aroma is of cannabis, oakwood, char, and nuts. The first steep has notes of char, smoke, cannabis, walnuts, almonds, cream, honey, minerals, and oakwood. The woody, nutty notes predominate. I get some baked bread in the second steep, along with tobacco and roast in the aftertaste. Perhaps due to the tea’s age, I don’t detect any flowers or stonefruit. The flavour profile remains constant through the next four steeps, becoming more drying, mineral, and roasty at the end of the session.

Despite its somewhat heavy roast, which I usually find off-putting, this is a fun and enjoyable oolong. I actually like it better than their Da Hong Pao, which I bought at the same time. I wish it had some fruit and florals, but that oakwood flavour makes it unique and oddly compelling.

Flavors: Almond, Baked Bread, Cannabis, Char, Cream, Honey, Mineral, Nutty, Oak wood, Roasted, Smoke, Tobacco, Walnut

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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70

Is anyone else obsessed with Animal Crossing right now? I’ve been spending far too much time playing it, or maybe I just have too much free time on hands in general, ha. Had the day off work yesterday and basically just sat around playing and drinking tea.

This oolong was given to me as a sample and it’s interesting in the sense that before yesterday I had never tried such a starkly divided oolong. There’s an equal amount of heavy roast/char flavour and fruity floral flavour, almost as if someone mixed two separate oolongs. Nothing distinct really pops out at me except these two polar opposite flavour profiles. I’m not really a fan, it just seems confused, but I can see how others may enjoy this.

Flavors: Floral, Roasted

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 8 g 5 OZ / 140 ML
gmathis

Animal Crossing triggers all kinds of sentimental mommy memories for me! On my writing desk at home is a mini figurine of the little dog dude that sings to you in the coffee shop … forgot his name.

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95

Having a tough day today and needed the equivalent of comfort food in tea format, so I dipped into this Dan Cong that I was originally planning to save for the weekend. The only other honey orchid harvest I’ve tried was from Yunnan Sourcing (which was excellent), so I’m comparing this to that.

Great first impression! The wash was so aromatic and sweet tasting, definitely reminiscent of what I tried from YS. I think the liquor on this is a bit more orange in colour though, silky smooth, and consecutive infusions seem to lean more towards those kind of rich sweet cream and subdued umami notes that some Japanese greens can have. I’m also interestingly getting some taste of pears in the mix, like when they get slightly over ripe and are extra sweet and watery. Id say the variety I had from YS had a much brighter orchid note, while this is leaning more towards wildflower honey or whipped cream overall. It’s so so so good, very pleased indeed. I am just such a sucker for all these sweet floral oolongs. Also has a delightful aftertaste that just wont quit. Think I’ll have to buy a huge amount of this next time I order.

Flavors: Cream, Honey, Orchid, Pear, Umami

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 7 g 5 OZ / 140 ML

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80

I’m tapping out. Between the pandemic and the weather it’s just too much. This week’s heat wave will reach a whopping 36 Celsius and I have half the mind to make up a bed in the chest freezer and hibernate through it… Somehow I am still managing to drink hot tea today, but I’ll be making a big batch of cold brew iced tea after work.

I’ve chosen to dive into another loose leaf sheng that I purchased locally. Was frankly wary of the “ancient tree” advertising (rolling my eyes over here), but thankfully it’s not that expensive and surprised me with how enjoyable it actually is.

The wash and first infusion produced some lovely camphor and subdued sweet floral notes. Initially there is a bit of bitterness too, but as this is still somewhat young I think it’s actually quite pleasant (aged by my local shop since 2011). After a few pots these leaves really seem to give themselves fully with less bitterness and more of a rich smoky/meatiness that mixes pleasantly with that soft floral character. I also noticed an enjoyable spicy/peppercorn sensation on the sides of the tongue when I aerate via slurping. The liquor is juicy and thick, deep caramel in colour, leaving a lovely sweet aftertaste throughout the session. Despite the rich profile, I would say this is overall quite a light sheng!

This is now the second loose leaf pu-erh I’ve tried from this store and I really am satisfied. Both are quite good and I think the owner must have good sourcing sensibilities because I have never been impressed by uncompressed pu-erhs before. Would love to keep trying what else he has kicking around, I wish I could go into the shop and chat in person. Maybe one day soon (hopefully!)

Flavors: Bitter, Camphor, Flowers, Meat, Peppercorn, Smoke, Sweet

Preparation
Boiling 8 g 5 OZ / 140 ML

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75

I’m melting, melting I say! I am one of those weirdos who prefers colder climes and winter to the heat and humidity of summer. The season’s barely started and I’m already feeling swampy and sluggish. Bleh. Wistfully dreaming of the days when I could travel to cooler parts of the world.

At least I have some energising tea to keep me going. I’m dipping into this Golden Needle from my local shop today and it’s pretty good initially, but I think I do just prefer more mature buds when it comes to black teas. I find the younger Chinese black teas to release most of their essence in the first couple infusions leaving my wanting for more. Maybe Golden Needle is just better brewed Western style? Will have to give it a go. Anyway, the flavour profile is sort of a mix between earthy/mineral notes, malt, and honey, but the wet leaves aroma is way stronger than the flavour unfortunately. It actually reminds me of some sheng pu-erhs I’ve tried strangely. Lubricating mouth feel though and decent amount of caffeine I think. Ultimately this won’t be my go-to black tea in the future, but I’m still glad I tried it.

Flavors: Earth, Honey, Malt, Mineral

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 8 g 5 OZ / 140 ML

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70
drank Lychee Congou by Tao Tea Leaf
52 tasting notes

I’m really in the mood to create something today so I’ve decided to just dive into making a tea board/table to use at work. I have some pine and I think oak planks that I can use. Mind you, I have absolutely no wood working skills whatsoever, but there’s no time like the present to learn something new, right? If any of you reading this know where I can find some good DIY instructions for a tea board please link me!

The tea I’m concurrently drinking was one of the samples provided in my last purchase. I usually don’t opt for flavoured black teas, but this one is pretty decent. I am a sucker for lychee fruit too which helps. Not much I can really say about this tea other than it’s sweet and fruity. I like it better than some of the fruit blends and flavourings I’ve tried from other companies, and thankfully the lychee flavouring doesn’t taste chemical. The tea leaves are somewhat broken and unimpressive, so I’m thinking it’s just bottom of the bag leaves tossed with flavouring. Probably wouldn’t buy this as I still prefer a pure black tea, but if you like flavoured teas this is a good choice.

Flavors: Lychee

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 4 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 250 ML
Nattie

Good luck with your project! I have absolutely no idea where to begin with something like that, but it sounds great. Hoping to hear updates! (:

So Keta

Thankfully my father has carpentry tools I can use which should make things a bit easier. I’m probably just going to buy a cheap aluminium grill or hard mesh and set that on top of a basic wooden box. IDK, we’ll see. I’ll post a link to photos when I’m all done :)

mrmopar

If you have a framing or small square tool it will be much easier. Once you get the 4 sides done the rest with good measurements will be easy. Good luck and post pics when you get it done.

So Keta

So I managed to buy a piece of this yesterday which I will cut to size once I build the frame https://www.homedepot.com/p/M-D-Building-Products-36-in-x-36-in-Cloverleaf-Aluminum-Sheet-Silver-57166/202091746

Am attempting to cut and assemble the wood today, so wish me luck. Thankfully I do have a square tool!

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88

I went for a late walk last night around my neighbourhood and couldn’t believe how delicious the air smelled. There are many fragrant trees and bushes around, particularly lilacs! It was so lovely to discover as this is my first Spring/Summer that I’m living in this area. I caught myself daydreaming about it at work today too and thought it was only fitting that I dive into a sweet and floral tea.

Believe it or not, this is the first “Oriental Beauty” oolong I’ve tried. I’ve heard many good things about this cultivar over the years and can finally say that I understand the hype! This particular harvest is very well balanced and really hits all my favourite oolong notes. This is certainly a contender for new favourite oolong!

The liquor is a gorgeous rose tinted caramel kind of colour. Not the thickest, but incredibly smooth and lubricating. The flavour though!!!! Oh man, it’s so yummy. It’s got some honey and sugarcane going on, stone fruits like peach, nectarine, and apricot, and the perfect level of orchid-like floral note. Further infusions bring out more of a wet stone kind of flavour that I’ve more experienced in a Da Hong Pao. The only area that I would say it can improve on is in the number of pots I can brew before the flavour tapers off. I can get it up to about the minute mark before it just sharply drops. I guess that’s pretty good, but compared to the Silver Needle and Sheng I recently bought its life is shorter. Will definitely keep exploring this kind of oolong, I imagine other companies have great examples of it too.

Flavors: Apricot, Honey, Orchids, Peach, Sugarcane, Wet Rocks

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 8 g 5 OZ / 140 ML
Nattie

I’ve been drinking OB today too (: it’s a favourite of mine for cozy days curled up with a book.

So Keta

Excellent! Seems like a good day for it indeed. Which company sells your favourite one? Definitely want to try some from other shops.

Nattie

Sorry for being so totally unhelpful, but my favourite was from Butiki, so it’s long gone ): I’ve been trying to find a replacement ever since, and none have been quite as good. The one I have at the moment is from Bolland’s, a local tea house here in the UK.

If I find one that stands out I will let you know!

derk

Sounds good right now. That’s one style of tea I’m missing from my cupboard.

So Keta

@Nattie: no worries, that’s too bad that they closed. I’ll check out Bolland’s next time I visit the UK though. Although it seems like their storefront shop is closed now too??

@Derk: You seem to have a large collection though from what I gather, so I’m sure you have other great oolongs :)

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78

This morning has been beautiful and sunny, and I’ve decided to pair the day with an organic Silver Needle white that I’ve not actually tried before. As with yesterday’s sheng, this came from a local tea house in my city. Aside from knowing it’s good quality tea, it is also just a good feeling supporting a local business in these uncertain times. A part of me does want to order some pu-erh from China though, I wish I could get what I want locally. Oh well.

My first impression of this tea is that it is one of the more delicate Silver Needles I’ve drunk. The dry aroma threw me off at first, as it mostly just smelled of fresh hay or sweet grass, but not in a stale sort of way thankfully. It took a couple infusions to really wake this tea up, but once it did a very soft honey and peppercorn flavour arose. It’s not spicy like some peppery profiles though, just smooth and sweet. The leaves also turned from their eponymous silver hue to a lovely blue-ish mint green once the pekoe fuzz washed away. Beautiful to look at. Hints of sweet broth started to shine through around the fourth or fifth brewed pot as well, but nowhere near the intensity of some greener teas I’ve tried. Seems like a well balanced tea overall. I probably won’t buy it again though, as I do prefer a bit of a stronger flavour to my whites.

Flavors: Hay, Honey, Peppercorn, Sweet, Sweet, warm grass

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 8 g 6 OZ / 180 ML

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82

I’m so so SO happy to be drinking real tea again. I was given a disgustingly large amount of David’s Tea blends as a gift and have just recently finished that mountain of mediocrity. Sadly no one I knew wanted any of it either, so I was stuck drinking it for many months (I don’t like being wasteful). Anyway, an order I placed with my local Chinese tea shop arrived yesterday afternoon and I am now at peace with my stash once more!

Today I’m trying this loose leaf aged purple sheng. I bought this with caution as many loose leaf pu-erhs I’ve tried didn’t live up their compressed counterparts, but I can happily report that this is in fact quite a good pu-erh, especially given that it’s only been ageing since 2009. The leaves are quite dark brown and black with a soft bluish huge to them. Pretty to look at, and lovely to smell! The wet aroma in the pot is one of wood and smoke with a strange sort of raisin-nuttiness to it. Reminds me of pecan pie for some reason, although not sweet at all. The flavour though is something I truly was not expecting from such a young tea. The first pot had a deep smokiness to it like a burning campfire or nice aged whisky, followed by a tart tobacco/leathery aftertaste. The flavours almost entirely overpowered the bitterness to the extent that I hardly noticed any at first. I also found it to be quite lubricating and not really astringent as described by others. Consecutive infusions coaxed out more of an oatmeal and chocolate flavour while staying smooth and rich.

Perhaps this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea as the flavours are certainly bold, bitter, and not sweet, but I quite liked it. Great to drink on a rainy day like today, it pairs very well with lightning storms haha!

Flavors: Chocolate, Leather, Oats, Raisins, Smoke, Tobacco, Wood

Preparation
Boiling 8 g 5 OZ / 140 ML
derk

Welcome back :) The wild sheng taste and energy for me is often dark with an unrestrained zing and well, wild. We don’t have summer thunderstorms here but I can see tea like this one being apt for that occasion.

So Keta

Thank you! It’s good to have tea to write about again haha :) Dark and unrestrained is a great way to put it, it certainly was unapologetic in demanding my attention. I live around the Great Lakes in North America, so lake effect storms are common throughout the year. Will store this away for another rainy day.

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72

Now this was missing from my spreadsheet for some reason, but judging by the writing on the package I’m going to say it was from RedFennekin?! Whoever sent this my way – thank you!!

I was trying to save this for a day when I’m not so swamped by essay writing for uni and chasing references and sorting out my DBS check for the new job, because I wanted to sit down with in and have a quiet gong fu afternoon. My willpower is weak, though, and the weather is terrible and I wanted a comforting cup of sticky rice tea. I ended up making a compromise between gongfu and grandpa style steeping – steeping the mini tuo in my 4oz gaiwan like normal, taking a few sips of the steeped liquor to make a note, then pouring the remaining tea into a bigger mug. I repeated this for three steeps so that I tried each one individually, and now I have a 12oz mug full of the remaining tea from the first three steeps. I think it’s a decent compromise, haha. The first steep was mild, creamy and starchy, without much of the earthiness of the puerh, but the second and third steeps were very similar and the earthiness came through a lot more. In my combined mug, I think the starchy rice and earthy pu are well balanced. It’s earthy without tasting ‘dirty’ or damp, which I appreciate, and the rice lingers in the aftertaste. It really is as filling and comforting as I’d hoped, and I don’t regret not waiting for a proper gong fu session. For now, I’m happy with my decision and looking forward to getting a few more mugs out of my ‘grand-fu’ session.

Sipdown 214/399

Preparation
Boiling

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80

Lao Cong Shui Xians are usually known for their strong aromas and mellow flavors. This tea had an extraordinarily strong woody, toffee/honey aroma that filled my entire room when I brewed it. The sample batch I got had an overwhelming roasted/burnt flavor and I wasn’t able to detect the signature refreshing “cong” flavor (丛味). Overall still a good full-bodied oolong that’s fun to sip on.

Flavors: Butter, Caramel, Honey, Roasted nuts, Toasted Rice, Toffee, Wood

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62

Better for me western than gongfu even though it was processed for gongfu prep?

It’s a nicely structured and balanced tea with something like a lightly cured tobacco, leather and malt as the dominant, though modest notes. An undertone of red wine, like a red zin or something especially since there was a slight spice aspect. Subdued smoke (nothing like a smoked lapsang souchong), wheat, baked bread, dark/chocolate, pine, wood, molasses, overripe black cherries. There was a bitterness that I associate with the smokiness. Strangely tangy which turned into a metallic quality in the back of the mouth — didn’t mix well with the lingering light cream and osmanthus aftertaste.

The metallic impression threw me and the body was too thin for what I perceive as flavors that normally carry some heft; otherwise, this would be a fine tea considering its balance.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Bitter, Chocolate, Cream, Dark Chocolate, Leather, Malt, Metallic, Molasses, Osmanthus, Overripe Cherries, Pine, Red Wine, Smoke, Spices, Tangy, Tobacco, Wheat, Wood

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML
Bluegreen

I was always wondering if the “gong fu” designation in tea names is just a marketing gimmick or if it actually reflects something meaningful (specific processing? leaf quality?).

derk

I would think tea with ‘gong fu’ in the name would indicate not the style of processing, as it looks like I alluded to, but the skill (and luck!) in growing, picking and processing tea leaves to bring out a style’s best character. By extension, to bring out the best of a tea, skilled brewing would be needed, which is where ‘gong fu cha’ method or ceremony comes into play.

There’s still so much I don’t know about tea. Only so much someone far from the source can understand without the context of language, culture and observing or experiencing the tea cycle. But you’re absolutely warranted in questioning whether ‘gong fu’ designation is a marketing gimmick as so much of selling goods revolves around fuzz.

tea-sipper

Thanks for putting that in perspective, derk. Even the most knowledgeable about tea still has vast amounts they don’t know about tea.

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Currently sipping gongfu. 5g in the porcelain pot, water off boiling, no rinse.

This tea is a bit deceptive once it finally gets going. I didn’t bother with a rinse since the tightly twisted leaves mixed with golden velvet tips are very small. Ten seconds for the first steep was not enough; I would’ve gone longer. But once the tea opened up, the aroma was very rich and reminded me so much of a Laoshan black with chocolate syrup, molasses, tobacco, pumpernickel, brown sugar vibes.

I was a bit confused with the first several cups because the intensity of aroma didn’t translate into taste. It seemed rather flat but also like it might be a good enough quality tea with long-lasting tongue tingles. Kind of a brisk mineral-forward taste mixed with clean redwood bark and whispers of dried fruit and chocolate after the swallow. Steep times really need to be pushed to get a good body which also brings out a nice, soft bitterness. Once I realized that’s what the tea had to give in this session, I let go of the underwhelmed feeling. That’s when I noticed the qi. It’s heavy, warming and drowse-inducing, perfect for this drizzly evening. I suspect this tea may be past its prime but I’m enjoying it. Thanks for the winter warmer Togo :)

Rainy season has finally arrived! To think a little over a month ago we were on fire.

Song pairing: The Boxer Rebellion — Fear
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=832OhxFvxKc

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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This is my first ginseng oolong. I bought a 5 g sample from Tao Tea Leaf several years ago and finally decided to give it a go. I steeped the entire 5 g in a 120 ml teapot at boiling for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds, followed by several uncounted steeps because this tea just wouldn’t quit.

The dry aroma of these compact, powder-coated pellets is of honey and syrupy sweetness. When I poured the boiling water for the first steep, the tea seemed to crackle and squeak, which was weird. The first few steeps are very light and have flavours of licorice sweetness, honey, and herbs. The texture seems syrupy, though that could just be an unconscious association with the flavours. The leaves start to open up around the fifth steep and show classic oolong flavours of grass and butter, though the ginseng still predominates. The ginseng powder also gets into my cup. As the session progresses, the buttery, vegetal oolong becomes more prominent. Even at the tenth steep, some of the balls haven’t opened and the flavour remains strong.

This tea had great longevity and I almost certainly could have coaxed a few more steeps out of it. However, not being a licorice fan, I eventually gave up, probably around steep 14. I found the sweetness to be kind of cloying (this from someone who likes bug-bitten teas) and didn’t get much from the oolong. I’m not rating this because I don’t have a quality benchmark for this kind of tea.

I always enjoy learning about new teas, even when I suspect they’re not for me, so I’ll call this part of my tea education and move on.

Flavors: Butter, Grass, Herbaceous, Honey, Licorice, Sweet, Vegetal

Preparation
Boiling 5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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82

I thought I had posted a review of this tea before, but either Steepster ate it or I was wrong. I bought this in my mammoth Tao Tea Leaf order a few years ago. I’m not sure I’d call it Golden Needle, although the dark leaves are indeed punctuated with lots of fuzzy golden buds. Maybe Golden Curls? I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 200F for 7, 10, 12, 16, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

Prior to steeping, the leaves smell like malt, sweet potato, and barnyard. The first steep has notes of malt, sweet potato, hay, earth, and tannin. Even at 7 seconds, there’s some astringency; I can also, perhaps only in my imagination, taste the fuzzy trichomes from the buds. Steeping the next couple rounds at 195F gives a more caramelized sweet potato flavour and cuts down on the astringency somewhat. It’s still unmistakably a burly Yunnan tea, though. Steeps five and onwards have not altogether pleasant flavours of cardboard, wood, tannins, and minerals, with a bit of sweet potato bravely hanging on in the background.

This is a slightly above-average Yunnan black tea that I’ll have no trouble finishing. I think lower temperatures are definitely the way to go here and I might even try it at 190F.

Flavors: Astringent, Barnyard, Caramel, Cardboard, Earth, Hay, Malt, Mineral, Sweet Potatoes, Tannin, Wood

Preparation
6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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