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Recent Tasting Notes
[Summer 2016 harvest]
The dry leaf aroma of this tea is very nice – medicinal, sweet and fruity. During the session, malty and herbaceous notes emerge on top.
Overall, the tea is tasty, easy to drink and has a good longevity at a very reasonable price. The taste is well-balanced with the dominant notes again being sweet and medicinal ones. There is a woody backbone and a slightly citrusy fragrance in the finish. In the aftertaste then, honey and wood are the associations that come to the fore.
The body is medium and the mouthfeel smooth and buttery with just a hint of a fermentation fizziness to it.
Flavors: Citrusy, Fruity, Herbaceous, Honey, Malt, Medicinal, Smooth, Sweet, Wood
This is the last sample from Tea Side I was given to review. Thanks for allowing me to try this Bai Hao, as it’s one of my favourite types of oolong. I’ve tasted Bai Hao from Taiwan, China, India, and Vietnam, and am glad to add Thailand to that list. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 30, 20, 30, 30, 45, 60, 75, 90, 120, 180, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of autumn leaves, peach, and muscatel. The first steep has notes of apricot, peach, muscatel, stewed pear, autumn leaves, wood, and malt. The fruit intensifies in the second steep, and it indeed begins to taste like a honey black oolong, as Arby noted. The next couple steeps reveal sap and more honey, though also more malt and black tea-type flavours. There’s a tiny bit of citrus in the sixth steep, along with the pear, peach, and muscatel notes, but at this point, its transformation into a black tea is accelerating. By steep seven, it’s a malty, slightly fruity tea with some tannins, although it never loses its muscatel and stewed fruit notes completely.
While I found much to like about this Dongfang Meiren, it has more black tea notes than I’m used to in this type of oolong. Still, this is a minor complaint and it’s overall a pleasant tea. I imagine it would take well to Western or cold brewing.
Flavors: Apricot, Autumn Leaf Pile, Citrus, Honey, Malt, Muscatel, Peach, Pear, Sap, Stewed Fruits, Tannin, Wood
A huge THANK YOU to whoever put the Tea Side oolongs in the traveling tea box! I’m a pretty casual oolong drinker and had never heard of this company, but both of the ones I tried from them were outstanding. This one somewhat reminded me of a milk oolong, as it had a very creamy flavor and silky texture, but it was sweeter than most with notes of caramel and berries. The second steep was just as delicious as the first and I’m guessing I could get several more good steeps out of these leaves before they give out. I may be placing an order with this company in the future!
Flavors: Berries, Butter, Caramel, Creamy, Sweet
Before taping up the box to mail to Michelle last night, I removed a couple more samples that only had 1-2 cups left, including this one. I don’t really know much about GABA tea, but I will say that this is a very nice oolong! It’s super smooth and buttery with a delicate floral flavor. It actually reminds me quite a bit of a green tea (except smoother), which surprised me based on the dark brown color of the leaves. Not sure if it actually has any magical health benefits, but it was a fun tea to try!
Flavors: Butter, Floral, Smooth
Gongfu (from last week in Saskatchewan)!
Thank you to Tea Side for providing this sample for me to review! If an Old Fashioned is the cocktail that you use as a benchmark to see if a bar is quality or not, then in my mind I really nice Dian Hong functions the same purpose when evaluating new tea vendors. That’s why I wanted to try it, for sure!
Here’s what I wrote on instagram the day of, when the tea was fresh in my mind!
This was the second tea session of the day; a delicious Thailand Dian Hong made from ‘ancient tree’ material! I’m in a bit of a state of holiday vacation calm and serenity, and I have found my last few sessions have been more meditative. It has been challenging to stay in the present enough to retain flavor notes with the steeps, but this hong cha had a full bodied chocolate note, like high quality semi sweet baker’s chocolate, with a heavy undertone of dried plums, black cherries, and prunes & sticky, densely sweet figs – with a dark woody finish. It was hard not to remember those flavours as they lingered heavy on the palate. Thank you for the sample – it made for a lovely afternoon!
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHNPT_QPQ_U
Even though this is a Jin Xuan, which is a varietal I don’t usually go for, the notes on the vendor’s website and Steepster convinced me to give it a chance. Flavours of berries and caramel? Tastes like a Dan Cong? Count me in! Thanks to Tea Side for the sample.
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 of these fairly large, loosely rolled nuggets is of berries, grass, and orchids. The first steep has notes of cream, caramel, grass, orchid, and raspberry. It’s quite silky, although it’s not quite in heady Dan Cong territory. All these notes intensify in the next steep, especially the berries. There’s also some indistinct tropical fruit in the aftertaste. The third steep has notes of raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, sour cherries, grapefruit, cream, caramel, grass, and faint florals; it’s a bit perfumey, with a big aftertaste. The berries start getting more tart in the next couple steeps; it kind of tastes like chokecherries. Subsequent steeps have fainter notes of sour berries, grass, cream, spinach, and other veggies.
True to what other reviewers are saying, this is not your typical Jin Xuan. It has the usual creamy, caramel flavours, but is much more fruity and perfumey than most other Jin Xuans. Is it like a Dan Cong? Sort of. It has a similar heady, fruit-forward profile with a grassy and floral background and a nice mouthfeel, but it’s missing the stonefruit and tropical flavours that I generally associate with Dan Congs. The sourness and grassiness also get out of control in the later steeps. Nonetheless, this is a very enjoyable oolong.
Flavors: Berries, Blackberry, Caramel, Cherry, Cranberry, Creamy, Floral, Grapefruit, Grass, Orchid, Perfume, Raspberry, Spinach, Tart, Tropical, Vegetal
This is the last of the samples I received from Tea Side, another aged pu’er. Unlike the 2006 Hong Tai Chang 0802, this one lands on the opposite of the spectrum of my experiences with aged sheng. It has a weak-ish aroma and a fairly flat taste profile with decent astringency. The mouthfeel is more interesting, but doesn’t save it either. The tea is not cheap, but pales in comparison to much cheaper offerings in my opinion.
As for the particular character, its aroma has notes of dried plum, dried apricot, lamb meat, and fernet. The taste is woody and herbal with no flavours that particularly stick out. Aftertaste is aromatic and spicy with a light camphor note. Liquor has medium body I’d say and the mouthfeel is initially very bubbly and becomes quite smooth later on.
As a final comment, let me say that the tea (especially its aroma) reminds me of some of the YQH samples I have, even though I haven’t had those in a while so I may be misremembering. I wonder if it’s just a coincidence or a case of convergent storage conditions.
Flavors: Alcohol, Apricot, Astringent, Camphor, Dried Fruit, Herbs, Meat, Plums, Spices, Wood
Thanks to Teaside for the free sample of this to try. This is the final of the four samples I received and most of these samples are quite large, so I still have many cups left to enjoy.
This review is for the 2018 harvest
Once again this reminds me of a honey black (or maybe an aged white like moonlight varieties). I wouldn’t say this is quite like any Chinese or Taiwanese oolong I’ve tried before. As an oolong, it isn’t what I would pick as it doesn’t seem distinct enough to me. If I wanted a plain black or white I might pick this. I get Earthy/mineral notes, some sweetness from the honey taste and aroma, and something similar to dry autumn leaves (probably why this reminds me of aged white teas). I’m not getting the fruity notes that other reviewers have mentioned. If you live in an area what a lot of oak trees, you know the smell I’m talking about. When oak leaves start to dry up at the end of Summer/into autumn they give off this very sweet dry leaf scent that makes me thing of season. I find it very pleasant.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Earth, Honey, Sweet
Dry leaf aroma contains hints of apricot, floral, and fruity.
Brewed tea aroma has a strong rose scent with apricot fruity sweetnesss
The tea has strong flavourful notes of rose and melon. The rose flavour is very pronounced, almost as if there was actual rose in the brew. I was really impressed!
Flavors: Apricot, Fruity, Melon, Rose
Dry leaf aroma with notes of baby powder, sticky sweet dried dates, and fresh melon.
Liquor brew is orange-pink in colour and has a fruity aroma.
Tea flavour has warm chestnut sweetness with notes of melon and vegetal aftertaste.
Flavors: Dates, Melon
Fox is an unusual and hard to describe tea. The closest one to this that I’ve had is the 2014 Dehong Ye Sheng Cha, but even those two are quite different. This one has more fruity, tart and sweet quality to it, in a way that brings it closer to some Dan Cong oolongs. Personally, I consistently find the profile this kind of wild tree material more suitable for white and black tea than pu’er, but other people generally seem to love it, so I am always curious to sample more of it to find out what it is that I am not getting.
The aromas range from fruity (mostly tropical fruits and compost) to milky (krówki) and spicy (coriander seeds). It is a sort of deep aroma overall. The taste profile is a mix of bitter, tart, and sweet with notes of pine, tree sap, and menthol. More aggressive brews lead to a sharp medicinal, bitter and herbaceous taste. Aftertaste also has a light smoky fragrance (noticeable in the wet leaf as well) and a fish meat taste.
Texture-wise, the tea didn’t really steal my attention, but the body is medium to light I’d say. Cha qi is decently strong and has a spacey, heady, and dizzying character, which is not uncommon for wild teas.
Flavors: Bitter, Caramel, Compost, Coriander Seed, Fishy, Fruity, Herbaceous, Meat, Medicinal, Menthol, Milk, Pine, Sap, Smoke, Sweet, Tart, Toffee, Tropical
Here’s another sample I received from Tea Side, a 13 year old Thai sheng. Unlike a lot of other aged shengs I’ve had, the body is not too light. I think it’s the best aged sheng I’ve had a chance to try. It has a nicely aged taste profile – spicy and comforting, a smooth, oily texture and a pleasant defocusing cha qi.
The aroma of the leaves is very sweet, but seems a bit muted, and is probably the least interesting aspect of the session. There are notes of camphor, wood, and swimming pool.
Taste-wise, it starts off very spicy, tart, and woody with flavours such as cumin, almond, roasted red pepper, turmeric, oak, and lychee emerging over the course of the session. Lighter infusions seem more sour, while the more aggressively brewed ones have more of the sweetness and spiciness. The aftertaste is sweet with notes of raisins, black pepper, and resin. It has quite some bite to it, but it’s not too drying. It makes my throat feel warm when exhaling and cool when inhaling, an interesting sensation for sure.
As I mentioned already, the mouthfeel is very nice – thick, oily, and smooth. The body is medium to full and the liquor becomes very active and bubbly when brewed harder.
Flavors: Almond, Bell Pepper, Black Pepper, Camphor, Lychee, Oak wood, Pleasantly Sour, Raisins, Resin, Smooth, Spices, Spicy, Sweet, Tart, Thick, Wood
This is the first Thai pu-erh I’ve ever tried so I am curious how it compares with its Yunnan cousins. Thanks for the free sample Tea Side! It has aged much more than the 3 year old shengs I would normally drink – ones stored either in Kunming or Canada. In fact, I would classify it as semi-aged at this point.
I feel like the tea shines in its flavours rather than the aroma or the texture. Nevertheless, the smell reminds me of musk, grass compost, peat and stonefruit pits, the latter making it somewhat similar to a bunch of Dan Cong oolong fragrances. In the empty cup, furthermore, there was a strong beeswax scent.
Honey is a note that keeps coming back in this session, it is one of the most dominant flavours as well. The taste is quite well balanced with a bitter, tart, and sweet element pulling against each other. It is nuanced and the notes are not very well-defined, but there are notes of grass, red apple, barley, and roasted nuts among others. On top of that, the aftertaste displays flavours reminiscent of white wine, yeast, and sugarcane. It is long and evolving, and often fairly sour, unusually so for a sheng. In the second half of the session, there is also a very nice persistent minerality coupled with a numbing sensation.
The body is medium to light and the texture somewhat bubbly with an above average astringency. Cha qi is not very noticeable at first. Soon enough, a throat and chest warming sensation appears that spreads throughout the body. Rather than being aggressive, the energy of the tea is creeping and relaxing, but ultimately quite strong and heady as well.
Overall, Gipsy Crow reminded me the most of Menghai county shengs. If you are after a flavourful, fruity and balanced sheng with lighter body, this is a great choice.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Compost, Cut grass, Floral, Grain, Grass, Honey, Mineral, Peat, Red Apple, Roasted Barley, Roasted nuts, Sour, Stonefruits, Sugarcane, Sweet, Tart, White Wine, Winter Honey, Yeast
Dry, the smell is intensely fruity with a bit of spice, almost malt. Like baked fruit and cinnamon.
First steep—about 30 seconds—similar smell, heavy baked fruit like cherry pie. First sip, there’s a surprisingly floral note, that descends into mineral, cherry, plummyness.
Second steep—30 seconds. Honestly this should be called ‘Cherry Pie’. The smell is heavily cherry with this lightly floral, gardenia-like topnote. That probably comes from the oolong cultivar, but the other two samples I got also used that cultivar and I didn’t get quite the same note (although it could have been lost in the roast, in the Dong Ding).
Third steep—30 seconds, a bit of a sour note introduced, but not citrus, definitely still fits the cherry note I’m getting.
Fourth—onwards. Water started to cool… Not finding much variation between steeps, but the cherry/baked fruit taste coats the mouth. It sticks even with cooler water (since I keep mine in an insulated carafe near my desk).
Dry, the leaves smell of roast and caramel. Brewed, it’s roast and sweet citrus.
First steep, ten seconds, no rinse (impatience!) was pretty weak, but that’s expected—the leaves have barely opened up yet.
Second, 15 seconds: No fruit, but roast, mineral sweetness that sits at the back of your throat.
Third steep, 20 seconds—turned it a bit sour in subsequent sips, although the smell is a rich toasted caramel. Letting the liquor sit on your tongue brings that out, a sweet roast. Ruminating on the sour, it does come through as a note of citrus on the steep and then hits sour on the back of your tongue. It’s not unpleasant, but I know something one tries to avoid in a roasted oolong.
Fourth, 20 seconds. Will definitely up the times. There’s definitely aroma, although the liquor feels a bit thin to me.
Fifth, minute. Sweetness dissipated, mostly just subtle roast and a bit of a sour citrus note.
Gongfu Sipdown (902)!
I love how thick and brothy/oily the liquor of this ripe is, it has a very coating feeling in the mouth and throat. The taste is alright; a little sweet and nutty in the body with woodier undertones and some minerality. The finish is a tinge more umami heavy and saline. It’s a crisper afternoon today so I’ve been in a bit of a cozy blanket cocoon, so this feels like the perfect cozy, comforting tea to sip on this afternoon! Really what I keep coming back to is the hazelnut notes and thickness of the liquor…
Nine steeps total.
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rcXPNJyujQ
Many thanks to Tea Side for the sample!
Late morning/early afternoon tea session of the “Raspberry Black Pine” Ripe Thailand pue’rh sample that Tea Side generously provided for me to review!! I went with 5g/70ml.
This was a really thick and dense shou – from the first infusions following the rinse up until the fourteenth or fifteenth at the end of the session! The mouthfeel is coating and oily, fully enveloping the palate. I tried really hard to get the creamy raspberry notes described by Tea Side to come through for me in any of my steeps, and while I could definitely smell a syrupy, sweet raspberry/red berry note coming off the wet leaf I never really found it in my cup.
That said, I still really loved the tea; it had a really profound earthy and woody oak character that was heavy and in the mouth with a dark molasess-y sweet undertone – and hint of leather in some infusions. Well rounded & balanced. Very much an old, decrepit “Cabin in The Woods” vibe in overall profile, but in a really lovely way!! I also received a sheng version of this same tea, and I’m now really looking forward to experiencing that tea to really see any similarities or differences between the two!!
Hong Shui is an oolong type I have little experience with, especially when it’s slightly aged. (This version is from 2014.) Thanks to Tea Side for the sample. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot using boiling water for 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma of these small, dark, uneven balls is of berries, wood, dark chocolate, and roast. The first steep has notes of chocolate, honey, and banana bread. The second steep adds notes of tart cranberry, blueberry, plum, spices, wood, and darker rye bread. The next steep offers lots of red berries, with a pronounced strawberry aroma, balanced by dark chocolate, wood, tobacco, and roast. The roast isn’t overpowering and there’s no astringency. The raspberry is particularly prominent in the fourth steep. The chocolate, bready, roasty flavours continue for the next few rounds, with the berries gradually fading. The last few steeps concentrate on chocolate, baked bread, malt, wood, and minerals.
This is a fantastic oolong that will make anyone with a sweet tooth very happy. It’s like a Laoshan Black combined with a Gui Fei. I foresee many more Hong Shui oolongs in my future!
Flavors: Baked Bread, Berries, Blueberry, Cranberry, Dark Chocolate, Honey, Malt, Mineral, Plums, Raspberry, Roasted, Spices, Strawberry, Tobacco, Wood
The leaves are full beautiful,, very in-tact, not much dust. Dry, the smell is very fragrant, sharply fruity. Brewing, the liquor smells fruity and sweet, a very typical Oriental Beauty profile with an extra undertone of spice—like sweet cinnamon.
Made in a gaiwan. 30 seconds first steep, no rinse, water allowed to cool from boil. First steep is clear honey, but not long-lasting on the nose, sort of watery, but the leaves likely haven’t fully opened yet. Faint fruit in the back of the throat.
Second steep, 30 seconds. Undernote of spice, but otherwise doesn’t fill the mouth—liquor is still a bit thin. May up the steeping to a minute. Smelling the lid, a thick, cinnamon-honey smell.
Third steep, 60 seconds. Cinnamon spice comes to the forefront. Still sweet, strong, but not long-lasting. Towards the end of the cup got a bit of bitterness.
Started playing a little more loosely with it at this point, given the hour. The fragrance is deep and sweet, but in general I didn’t find the flavour very lasting. Still very pleasant.
Thank you to Tea-side for the free sample
mmmm this oolong is so good. Super creamy, fruity, floral, and a great example of a jade oolong.
There is a natural sweetness accompanying a thick creaminess. I can taste a heavily floral and fruity flavour. Orchid/germanium, mango, coconut. I am a huge fan of jade oolongs and I drink a lot of them, so I can confidently say this is a very high quality rolled jade oolong.
Flavors: Coconut, Cream, Creamy, Floral, Fruity, Geranium, Mango, Orchid, Sweet, Thick
Thank you to Tea Side for the free samples.
I tried 1 tsp leaf (opened up into 5x its size at least) in 650 mL very hot water + a dash of soy milk. I would not reccommend drinking this with milk because it was weirdly floral and musty which didn’t go with the creaminess.
Steep 2, properly this time. Cooler hot water, a bit less water, no milk. This tastes a lot like a Thai honey black cultivar. I’m guessing this is an oolong that is heavily oxidized, similar to a black tea. But this oolong comes in pretty round balls instead of the typical long twig look of honey blacks.
There is some natural sweetness, it does need a bit of a longer steep to get all of the flavours out (or multiple steeps), some mineral/charcoal notes, some floral notes come out at the beginning but later now that I let my tea get cold it is gone. No bitterness but the charcoal minerals make it slightly astringent in the after taste.
This is a decent tea, and clearly very well prepared
Flavors: Astringent, Char, Floral, Honey, Mineral, Tannin
Many thanks to Tea Side for kindly providing this tea sample for me to try and review!
I made this one at work during a particularly quiet and calm afternoon when I knew that I could really take the time to fully immerse myself in the tea and experience. I often share what I’m brewing Gongfu with anyone who’s around in the lab, but I knew right away from the smell of the dry leaf that this was going to be a particularly interesting tasting oolong so I made a special point to let my coworkers know that I’d be brewing some aged oolong up in the afternoon and encouraged them all to come and experience the tea!
It’s always a really cool experience to try tea that’s as old or older than you are – and honestly I know that the first time most of us experienced that it was something that you got a little giddy about (or at least I’d like to think that was most of us and not just me), but I really do think that’s something a lot of people take for granted. How insanely cool is it that we have access to this amazing plant that in many cases continues to be delicious years and years after it’s been harvested!? That’s partly why I requested this tea; I just love aged teas and the whole idea around them. Another part was that this is from my birth year – and, with as many aged oolongs as I’ve had, I think this is actually the first that’s actually from the year I was born. I know, I know – I’m young…
5g/70ml and about ten steeps in total shared between myself and everyone else in the lab!! Dry leaf smells sweet; like taking a big inhale from a jar of dried apricots! After the rinse, the fragrance coming off the leaves is sweeter but more raisin heavy. Overall this was a very pleasant tea; the top of the steeps tended to have a fleeting sweetness, like the burst of juices from biting into the flesh of a white peach. The body of the sips are more drying and astringent; notes of cinnamon, allspice, & dried out wood/bark and sap. I didn’t personally experience any cocoa notes, but a couple coworkers said they tasted some sweet and light cocoa in the middle of some of the infusions.
There was one steep in the middle of the tea session that was a little rough in it’s dryness, but I slightly backed off my steep time and it was resolved. The finish transitions back into more of that sweetness that was coming off the rinsed leaf aroma – cooked down stonefruit syrup and the sweet raisins that come in those little red boxes (very nostalgic)! This was such a lovely experience, and because Tea Side was so generous with their sample it’s one that I’ll be able to have again!
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHOGHkiFmfU
This is a “border tea” that I had received a little bit ago. I use the term border tea to define those that are made as puerh; however, they are made outside of Yunnan. The dry leaves are a bit curled and give off subtle scents of earth and dry leather. I warmed up my gaiwan and scooped some inside. The leaf opens up and gives off some stronger aromas of dark chocolate, espresso, and black cherries. I can already tell that this is going to be a heavy hittin’ Shu! The flavor was pretty consistent with the scent of the gaiwan, for it was punchy and bitter. The flavor began with dry cacao and moved into salt and mineral with lasting tannin. This was a chewy and sharp broth. The later steeping brought on some semi-sweet choco. chip flavors, and the qi was smooth and warming. This was an interesting tea, but it was a bit too aggressive for me. I would categorize this leaf as the “espresso” of puerh.
Flavors: Bitter, Earth, Espresso, Tannic