Tao Tea LeafEdit Company
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Recent Tasting Notes
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Oooh, yeah, this is the business. I’ve been drinking milk oolong for the past couple of days and have been loving it. However, I woke up today underslept and needed a bang, howdy doody kind of tea and this one was it. I am nearing the bottom of my pouch of this and the vanilla bits must have settled, so today’s cups are punchy malty vanilla goodness. Perfection.
I find this one does best with water well under boiling and a speedy steep to keep it smooth. Ayup, works for me.
Another sample shared by Evol Ving Ness. Thank you! I’m actually drinking it cold because I got distracted and left it sitting but it’s still really lovely. Malty with notes of chocolate and sweet potato. A little twang that nods to astringency and metallic but isnt quite there (probably a reflection of the temperature and not the tea). A solid black tea option. I’ve had better and I’ve certainly had worse.
This was part of my huge Tao Tea Leaf haul at the end of 2015, though I just opened the package a few months ago. Given my love of almonds, I had to add it to my order, even though I remember it being fairly expensive. (It helped that I ordered during a sale.) I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 7, 10, 13, 16, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The first steep has notes of almonds, hay, tobacco, and cream, with a scratchy astringency that reminds me of almond skin. In the second steep, the roast becomes more prominent. The bulk of the sip is almonds and roast, but grapefruit and florals come out in the aftertaste. The almond gets less intense in the next couple steeps and the orchid and jasmine florals and citrus show themselves more clearly. The florals disappear around steep seven, leaving roast, nuts, minerals, and astringency until the end of the session.
To me, this tea lives up to its name, which doesn’t seem to be the case for many other almond Dan Congs. It’s a bit more astringent than I’d like, but that’s possibly my fault. Most reviewers aren’t overly impressed with it, and with my haphazard approach to brewing, I’m surprised that it consistently works out for me. I’ll definitely buy more, if only during a sale.
Flavors: Almond, Astringent, Citrus, Cream, Floral, Grapefruit, Hay, Jasmine, Mineral, Nutty, Orchid, Roasted, Tobacco
The first time I drank this tea, which was also the first time drinking Golden Monkey, it didn’t hit the right spot mostly due to its fairly light body. Today however, its smooth and delicate nature was exactly what I needed. The tea has a light, but pleasant smell. Dry leaves have a bit of a leather aroma with hints of tobacco, while the wet leaves are more malty. The taste is nutty, moderately sweet and quite woody in the finish. In the aftertaste I also get some chocolate notes emerging.
I definitely wouldn’t make this my default choice as far as hong cha goes, but once in a while it can be nice.
Flavors: Chocolate, Leather, Malt, Nutty, Sweet, Tobacco, Wood
First thing I noticed is an unusual smell of the dry leaves, which somehow reminds me of old leather. Wet leaf scent also has that quality, together with a tobacco note. The leaves are actually quite broken up, but there is no dust really. The tea brews a very clear liquor. It is quite fruity with a short bitterness at the back of the mouth. The mouthfeel is interesting, even though not as thick as I would expect. It starts off coating, but becomes a bit powdery and dry in the finish. The aftertaste is fairly acidic and only a touch astringent.
Overall, the tea somehow strikes nice balance between being delicate and powerful. It is tasty and clearly of good quality. Nevertheless, I feel like the price is too high. Maybe I am just not the one to properly appreciate a premium Keemun black tea though.
Flavors: Fruity, Leather, Sour, Tobacco
A decent albeit quite light bodied Baozhong. The mouthfeel is super light, the liquid seems to almost vanish soon after it hits mouth. Once it cools down, it becomes a little bit more velvety. The smell seems fairly complex, but not so appealing to me personally. I noticed a strange mix of aromas, although not necessarily all at the same time – papaya, coconut milk, caramelized onion and citrus. The taste is floral in the first few infusions, with sweet and sour undertones. Interestingly, the aftertaste actually becomes quite savoury. The later steeps are much more grassy and citrusy overall. It’s a good tea once in a while, but not my favourite.
Flavors: Caramel, Citrus Fruits, Citrusy, Coconut, Floral, Grass
I prefer this tea as a casual brew rather than a focused session. Unfortunately, it is not priced as a daily drinker.
Today I drank it while working so no detailed notes this time. However, I can say that it is quite balanced and refreshing. There are no obvious drawbacks. The smell is nice and strong, it has a decent body and is tasty for sure. A good dessert tea I would say. It’s just that none of its aspects really caught my attention when doing a focused session.
Flavors: Bitter, Caramel, Mineral, Sweet, Wet Rocks
I had the chance last weekend to go and explore the Jean Talon Market, which is one of the largest open air markets in North America. My manager actually lives right across the street from the market; he can literally view it all without leaving his patio. It makes perfect sense that’s where he lives since he’s such a major foodie, and I know he knows the market like the back of his hand so I asked him if he would act as my tour guide and show me some of the more interesting/unique stalls as well as make some recommendations for some specific things I was hoping to find.
I had a pretty nice haul – and I’ll 100% be going back, but probably not every week since it was a bit expensive (hard not to buy so many things!) and it’s also a HUGE commute from where I’m living in the city. Here are some of the photos I took though:
As for my personal haul, I ended up buying:
- A jar of fir infused honey
- Two mini mangoes imported from Columbia
- A large bag of Cotton Candy grapes
- Six artisan macarons in a bunch of unusual flavours
- A pint of mixed berries grown in Ontario
I’ll elaborate on a bunch of those things in their own tasting notes since I consumed a lot of them with tea – but let me just say that those mixed berries were amazing. I got raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries and while everything was good the blackberries in particular were some of the best blackberries I’ve EVER had.
The tea was also excellent – bringing a large travel mug of cold brew was one of the best decisions I could have made since it was really hot out. This is just insanely hydrating/refreshing with an amazing, fresh coconut note (not unlike coconut water) and a sweet, floral and buttery oolong base. It’s such a favourite of mine, and felt 100% fitting for a farmer’s market exploration.