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Recent Tasting Notes
Jasmine tea has always been my mother’s favorite, so I got a bag of this with the intention of splitting it with her. She indiscriminately drinks Twinings jasmine green, Stash jasmine green, and whatever nice jasmine dragon pearls she has on hand with the water at a full rolling boil and the steeping time usually around 30 minutes to an hour. Then it gets heated back to temperature in the microwave. It’s almost physically painful to watch her make good tea that way, but that’s the way she likes it, so I try not to mind.
Well, she ended up liking this about as much as she likes her Stash 1 pound bags of hastily made and very crumbly jasmine green, so I’ve taken this back for myself. It’s a beautiful tea all-around, with dried jasmine blossoms nestled in big velvety tips, a delicately pungent aroma—the intensity rivals a jasmine perfume—and a sweet, pale liquor that balances the fragile silver needle flavor with the heavy floral taste. One of those teas that makes you stop and enjoy the moment whenever you take a sip.
I’ve tried it both hot and cold, but cold brewing has been my favorite so far. Hot jasmine teas tend to coax out that bubblegum note a bit more than cold ones. You know what I mean? It’s a lovely flavor, but too much of it becomes soapy and artificial-tasting.
I’ve had a big, chilled glass thermos of this nearly every day for the past week and I’m still not tired of it. Absolutely lovely if you want a fine jasmine tea but don’t want to mess with the current shipping delays on packages coming from abroad. Probably won’t see my Yunnan Sourcing Spring 2020 teas until late July or August, but that’s alright, because Tea Trekker has been scratching my itch in the mean time.
Flavors: Floral, Jasmine, Sweet
Sipdown! Somehow I saved one of these mini tuo cha and I pulled it out of my cupboard a few weeks ago. I wondered if I should gongfu this last bit of tea, but decided on grandpa style brewing in a double walled glass mug to watch the brew darkness level. The first few steeps were harsh and earthy, but as the steeping session went on, a creamy vanilla tea emerged and I remember how good these little tuo chas were when I brewed them in a clay pot. I’ll keep these little creaminess in a cup in mind when I need another shou fix.
Flavors: Camphor, Creamy, Earth, Vanilla
Another tea that I wish I liked more than I do. The first time I made it, I did what I normally do with the light, delicate blacks I’m so fond of: 2.5 grams for a mug, steeped in water just below boiling for 2-3 minutes, dunking the infuser basket up and down a few times to make sure it fluffs up and infuses properly.
That made a cup with…. vague tea flavor. Mainly hot water flavor, though. Which was confusing since it was a darker hue than most fully brewed Chinese blacks.
Second round was this morning, at 7 grams for a two cup teapot, brewed for 7 minutes and then allowed to sit inside there since the first cup tasted only slightly more flavorful. I think I’ve been wrong about what the “malty” flavor note really is, because the only flavor present was intense malt. And somehow, it still managed to seem weak. The tannins started to creep in here.
That last oversteeped cup didn’t get used until an hour later, and when I poured it into the dredges of the earlier cup, it almost made me gag. Completely sour and astringent. You know the taste of pure, unbridled tannins that you get from a cheap bag of extra strong English-style black dust? That, that exactly. I actually found myself adding milk and sugar to this one in a desperate attempt to be able to drink it. If there’s one thing this tea has going for it, it’s that it takes milk and sugar really well while still tasting like a strong tea.
So that’s where the phrase “strong enough to trot a mouse on” comes from. Gotta stay away from Assams in the future, I suppose. Nilgiri is more of my style as far as Indian blacks go.
Time to dig into the ggmathis teabox for something good to chase this down with.
Flavors: Astringent, Malt, Tannic
Good morning, everyone! Haven’t been on here in what feels like a week or two. Been too wrapped up in daily life and good cups of tea that I’ve had many times before.
Tea Trekker was recommended to me by a friend back when I first started drinking tea, and I balked at the prices (2 ounces generally runs $14-18, which is a risky gamble when you aren’t sure what you like when it comes to tea), but now that I can safely say what notes and regions I like, I thought it was time to place an order. Unlike some other companies that seem to spitball about what notes are in a tea, or talk it up unnecessarily to increase purchases, Tea Trekker seems to be spot-on with those. It’s refreshing. You expect a certain thing and you get it.
Tried this one last night, about an hour before bed, in a gaiwan—you seem to have better control over how much caffeine you consume when brewing like that. Pour off the first quick rinse (or drink it if it smells amazing), do a brief 10 second steep and pour that into the cup, do a 30 second one and put it in there too. Throw the leaves into a cold brew thermos so you don’t waste the remaining flavor trapped in there.
The liquor for this one is beautiful. Deep, coppery red. It’s worth using a glass cup just to see it in full. The aroma is warm, sweet hay; but nothing too sugary. It’s a dry sort of sweetness to the nose. The actual flavor, on the other hand, has a full-bodied sugar note; like you took that warm hay and poured fresh gooey caramel over it. It reminds me of the drippy, hardened remnants on the spoon you use to stir toffee while it cooks.
So impressed with this tea. It’s a lovely cup to wind down the day with.
Flavors: Caramel, Hot Hay, Toffee
FIrst I must say this tea is quite old, I’m sure it would have tasted better if I had drunk it all long before now. But I do like this tea, and I tend to put tea I like back in the cupboard and ‘save it for later’. Even if this batch is past its prime, I like the roasty hay taste with a sweet nutty finish. Some grassy notes are showing up in the second steep, but on the whole an enjoyable light cup.
Flavors: Grass, Hay, Nutty
Sipdown no. 75 of 2018 (no. 431 total).
The bag this came in was humongous, so this sipdown is a feat. I’ve been drinking this daily at work, and also made a few pitchers of cold brew.
The cold brew is why I’m bumping the rating. It’s decent and refreshing. I’m still not loving this hot, but you can’t win them all.
The package says to steep at 160-170F for 2 minutes. I’ll try that later, but for now I’m steeping at the Breville’s green tea setting.
The leaves of this one are long and twiggy. They’re a bit coarser and more tubular than those of the Mengding Mountain yellow buds, which were flat and shiny like dragonwell leaves.
In the packet, the leaves smell a little nutty, and also like dried hay.
Steeping at this time and temp may not be enough. I’m getting the white tea syndrome from this. Almost colorless liquor, very little aroma and flavor.
I’ll try again tomorrow using the scale instead of spoons and steeping according to the package directions. We’ll see what that does.
For now I have to rate this low because — no flavor at all, really.
Flavors: Hay, Nutty
Sipdown no. 67 of 2018 (no. 423 total).
It feels good to sip this down because it was a big honking bag, almost dimensions of letter sized printer paper. I’d say it’s about 8×10.
Lesson: hot water and long steeps gets some flavor out of white tea, as does cold brew.
I’m still not sure I grok unflavored white tea, or perhaps it’s that I don’t fully appreciate it because I am not sure I’m tasting it prepared as it was intended. I should probably try some at a tea house somewhere, where a professional makes it, so I know I’m getting the preparation right.
Still, what I’m tasting in both hot and cold brew grew on me enough to get this into the green smiley face column, ever so slightly.
I’ve been experimenting with this tea over the past week because I felt sure I was missing something. Like I’ve said before, I don’t “get” white tea and I keep trying to get it.
I decided to try this with hotter water and see what that did. There seems to be a division of opinion between whether to use low water temperature or hot water temperature with white tea. My first shot was low, so I tried boiling at 3 minutes yesterday. The flavor from that endeavor was marginally better than the 0 flavor I got from the original steep.
Today, I tried boiling at 7 minutes. In other words, I treated this as an herbal. This is the most successful steep yet. Today’s steep has a mildly nutty flavor a little like water chestnut or macadamia.
But the most successful of all has been the cold brew. On the strength of the cold brew alone, I’m upping the rating from 20 to mid-range. The cold brew is actually flavorful — definitely nutty but also arboreal, and a sweet aftertaste.
I wish I could figure out how to make the hot tea taste like the cold brew. I’ll continue to experiment. I have a ton of this, so a lot of room to play.
Meanwhile, No. 2’s assessment of the cold brew is “it tastes like leaves, like every other tea you ask me to try.”
Since I wasn’t able to find an untried plain black tea this morning with anything approaching ease, I decided to switch gears and do a plain white tea instead.
I’ve never really understood white tea. I love the concept of it, and I think I’d like the tea itself if I could ever get it to steep in a way that brought out its flavor. But I’ve tried a gazillion different ways, and no matter what I do the best I can get out of it is a sort of dew drop flavor for the silver needle variety and a planty, almost weak black tea flavor out of the white peony variety. Neither of which makes it worth my valuable tea tasting time.
This one falls into the former category. It’s a visually pretty tea with a pungent earthy smell in the newly opened packet. I steeped according to package a directions, and it came out so colorless that the only way I could tell I’d steeped it was the heat.
It smells like nothing so much as hot water, too. After draining the cup, I can smell something very subtley sweet, but wow is it barely there.
My impression of the flavor is pretty much the same. I can’t really taste anything — anything!
I’m concluding that I should drink up all my white tea and then give up on it. I’m sure it will be a mutually beneficial parting as this poor tea is probably everything a person with the gene that can taste white tea could want — but it does absolutely nothing for me. I might as well drink plain hot water.
I’ll probably try it cold brewed and see if that does anything interesting. I might also try it steeping hotter and longer just for laughs. But absent a miracle, I think this is one that’ s lovely fluffy leaves are taking up way too much room in my house for what it provides to me in return.
Flavors: Earth, Sweet
First to write a note on this? Unbelievable.
I tried to fix the picture but I couldn’t. (Why? I tried several different ways and all I can get is more images farther down the page.)
I wasn’t sure I’d like this one from the smell of the dry leaf. It has no sweetness in the dry leaf aroma and a rather ashy fragrance that usually spells dislike for me with lapsangs.
But you can’t judge a book and all that. The aroma of the steeped tea is quite different — sweet, molasses-like, leafy and tree-like, with a lot of depth and surprisingly little smoke. The smoke is really verging on not there at all, except in the aftertaste and fortunately it doesn’t add bitterness to the lingering flavor. The liquor is dark amber with a reddish tinge and clear.
The flavor has a quality that reminds me of black coffee, but not as bitter. The smoke, molasses, and tree are all there in the flavor as well in pretty much the same way they were in the aroma. Thankfully there’s no ash, no meat, and no resin (though if you like those things in a lapsang, I guess that’s not a plus).
I’m torn because I think this is great compared to others I’ve had recently, but that’s because it departs from qualities I associate with lapsang that make me view it as a once in a while thing. If this is the sort of flavor Churchill prized, I can see why he drank lapsang daily.
I haven’t had the Samovar in a long time. I rated that one 90 as well, so I think I should taste it again sometime soon and see if adjustments are warranted.
But it makes it a bit easier to decide which is the next sipdown candidate in project lapsang sipdown. It won’t be this one.
Flavors: Coffee, Molasses, Plants, Smoke
Not a green tea, but I decided to crack this one open this weekend before I cut myself off from caffeine for the rest of the day.
I steeped 5 degrees hotter than directed.
The dry leaves remind me a little of dragonwell. They have a roasty green smell to them.
The steeped tea has a nutty, sweet aroma. It reminds me a bit of water chestnuts. Weirdly, it’s almost citrusy.
The tea is also nutty and sweet, and reminiscent of hay. It’s like what I imagine white tea ought to taste like, but I can never get it to taste that way.
Definitely more flavorful than the last yellow tea I tried, Rishi Ancient Yellow Buds, but since I don’t have a baseline to compare it to, I’m rating it somewhat conservatively for now.
Flavors: Chestnut, Hay, Nutty, Roasted, Sweet
This is a good tea. It’s kind of like black tea, but without much of the harsh stuff that is found in black tea. Also, this tea doesn’t have any of the ‘tippy’ taste found in tippy black tea, which is good since i dont like that taste much compared with older leaves. So, even if you hate the typical black tea, i would still recommend you try this since it’s quite different from the prototypical Chinese or Indian types of black tea.
It reminds me of Taiwanese black oolong (aka red oolong). Like many oolong teas, there’s no bitterness/astringency whatsoever. Perhaps this tea is better than the Taiwan black oolong i have? (It’s from Norbu Tea). But, i need to do a side-by-side comparison.
Incidentally, Yunnan Sourcing sells this tea too. And, if it’s the exact same tea (qualitywise), then you could buy cheaper from them instead of Tea Trekker. (But, i dont know if they are the same grade. I’ve noticed that Tea Trekker has some better quality oolongs.) Anyway, you should probably read the reviews of Yunnan Sourcing’s version, too.
Bought some of the 2016.
This is fine. It’s a very jadelike oolong. Not my favorite style of tea. But, I used to like this kind of tea years ago. It’s comparable with jade tieguanyin style teas. It’s cheaper than those ones, so it’s a better deal.
However, if you like jade oolongs, personally, I would look to Taiwan for those.
It’s a pretty good tea. However, it’s very light. Maybe, not everyone will appreciate that quality. I guess it’s more hay-like than grassy in taste. Anyway, I think it’s a good tea, but I actually prefer other green teas much better.
Tea Trekker says they try to get products that have less charcoal taste since that’s what Americans like. Well, I would have preferred to get the more Chinese-like product. But, you got sell what the public buys.
I bought the 2017 harvest.
I’ve gone back and forth on this tea. When I first tried it, I was surprised. It was rather spicy for a green tea – compared to the other Chinese greens I’ve had before. I wasn’t sure that I liked it. However, I bought a good bit of it, so I just continued to drink it. Now, I think it’s pretty good. It really shows the variety of green tea types found in China. It’s very interesting. Perhaps it’s just when you get tea close to its genetic origins (Yunnan), you get greater variety of tastes. It’s inexpensive as well compared to the famous teas.