The Tao of Tea

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Recent Tasting Notes

90

The dried leaves are pine green and twisted into small balls, like gunpowder tea. They smell vegetal, like spinach or other greens.
When steeped, the tea is pale golden green. The leaves unfurl into full, complete leaves, with occasional small pieces of stem or twig. The size of the leaves compared to their dry state is really impressive! It smells of a lovely warm toastiness, like roasted nuts. The flavor is mild with absolutely no astringency, and has notes of wood and grass.
The tea makes for excellent second and even third steeps.
I had low expectations for a mass-produced tea like this company, but this is actually really high quality.

Flavors: Dry Grass, Roast nuts, Vegetal, Wood

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100
drank Rose Petal Black by The Tao of Tea
19 tasting notes

This is, hands down, one of the best teas I’ve ever drunk. The rose is so strong without overpowering the smooth black tea underneath. We try to always have some around.

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80

Had no expectations for this tea, since I am not familiar with the company, and I got it from a Home Goods or TJ Maxx, one of those kind of stores. I just knew that I needed a ginger peach flavored black for making iced tea and this wasn’t an expensive purchase, so if I didn’t like it, it would be no big deal.

Well. This makes a damn fine iced tea. Love the balance of peach and ginger. Neither overwhelms the tea taste. There’s a lot of it to the package, so it’ll take some time to get through, which is more than OK with me! Very pleasantly surprised. Not sure if I would have it hot, but I feel pretty confident that it would be just as nice that way as iced. This is a winner!

Flavors: Ginger, Peach

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 15 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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84
drank Pu-er Tuo Cha by The Tao of Tea
1928 tasting notes

I put a whole one of these in the 50 ml gaiwan, which is probably overleafing by a bit. I rinsed and then steeped at boiling for 10/10/20/30/40/50/60/120/240/300/360

The dry nests have a heavy, whiskey-like aroma. The nest fell apart fully after the first steep.

This one followed the pattern I seem to be observing where the first steep had a slightly lighter mahogany color, then the steeps darkened in color to a coffee color through the fourth steep and then began to lighten to a dark amber with each subsequent steep.

The first four or so steeps smelled of cocoa, coffee, molasses, and a little leather. It tasted like it smelled.

Around steep four, the flavor started to fade some and an earthy note came out.

Another observation: the shu pu erhs I’ve tasted mostly don’t really change all that much except for a shift around steep four when the start to fade. I tend not to really enjoy the later steeps that have less flavor as much. While I’ll continue to steep them through 10 steeps to be able to compare more accurately for initial note purposes, if I were just drinking for the sake of it, I’d probably stop after steep 5 in most instances.

Through steep 5, this was a nice tea with rich flavors, and no fishiness. I enjoyed its departure from the usual mushroom notes I get with shu.

Now that I’ve done some cupboard purging to get rid of things I seem to no longer have, I can report that the current status of teas in the cupboard with no initial notes is:

1 black caffeinated
1 black decaf
7 oolongs
6 pu erhs
2 herbals
5 blooming individual servings

Flavors: Cocoa, Coffee, Earth, Leather, Molasses, Whiskey

Preparation
Boiling

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84
drank Topaz Pu-er by The Tao of Tea
1928 tasting notes

Last weekend when I had a terrible cough, I pretty much stayed in bed binge watching stuff all weekend. I did taste a couple of oolongs I hadn’t written notes about before, but I completely skipped the pu erhs.

Since I’m no longer pressuring myself to “get through all my teas a first time and write notes about them,” I almost skipped a pu erh today. But I wasn’t done with tea for the day so I forged ahead.

This one’s dry leaf has a deep, leather and whiskey smell. Not at all fishy, and not particularly earthy/mushroomy either.

I rinsed this at boiling and then steeped in the gaiwan at 10/10/20/30/40/60/120/240/300/360

The first few steeps were lovely. A deep flavor, sweet like molasses, with a smell and flavor of leather and whiskey and a cognac color.

The third steep brought out a earthy note, and the sweetness started to fade after this and a not quite cocoa note tried to appear.

By the sixth steep, both color and flavor were well on the wane. The seventh steep brought out a weak tobacco note.

It’s unfortunate that this didn’t have more staying power. If it had managed to keep its richness and flavor longer I might have rated it higher.

In the early steeps, I liked it as much or more than the Rose Tuocha from The Tao of Tea, which I rated higher than I’m inclined to rate this one. So I’m lowering the rating on that one.

Flavors: Leather, Molasses, Tobacco, Whiskey

Preparation
Boiling

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84
drank Rose Tuocha by The Tao of Tea
1928 tasting notes

I came very close to just steeping this once on the theory it is a “flavored” pu erh. I’m glad I didn’t, because I’m not sure I would have liked it as much as I did.

The nests in the tin smell like two parts earth to one part rose. I rinsed and steeped in the gaiwan at boiling for 10/10/20/30/40/60/120/240/300/360

Unlike the other tuocha’s I’ve had, this one took its time falling apart. It wasn’t until the fourth steep that it finally came apart — I wonder whether the petals have an impact on how the tea holds together?

Until the tea completely fell apart, the tea was not very strong — none of the usual cognac colored liquor until steep 4. Which is why I think I would have missed out had I steeped this western style. Though of course, if I steeped it longer in one steep it’s possible it would have come completely apart during that single steep.

The first steep had a faint rose scent/flavor and an equally as faint earthy/mushroom one. The mushroom did not increase, nor did the earthiness. Instead, the tea became some sort of undefinable flavor that was mild and sweet with a “highlight” of rose.

Different and enjoyable.

Flavors: Earth, Mushrooms, Rose

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84

Beautiful hand-rolled tea and a gentle jasmine flavor. Not too strong—perfection. I took the kettle off before it boiled and the flavor is divine.

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78

Smooth-tasting nutty green tea. Tried with and without honey; both were good. The leaves of this tea are gorgeous. Yum!

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100

SHE IS BEAUTIFUL!! I absolutely love this white tea. It works well by itself and when I blend it with my other floral and fruit teas. It’s not overwhelming and it’s just a warm flavor. I steep this for a shorter time when I need I want a mild flavor and longer for a richer flavor. If I’m mixing it with fruit teas I’ll always steep it for at least two minutes.

Flavors: Nutty, Sweet, warm grass

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 2 min, 0 sec 3 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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drank Kali Cha by The Tao of Tea
331 tasting notes

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90

Okay, here comes the final review of the day. This was another recent white tea sipdown. I think I finished the last of my one ounce pouch of this tea two or three days ago. Some of you may recall my disdain for The Tao of Tea’s entry level Bai Mudan, but this one was great. I had no serious issues with it.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose leaf and bud mix in 4 ounces of 176 F water for 6 seconds. This infusion was chased by 18 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 9 seconds, 12 seconds, 16 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 7 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and 20 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry leaf and bud blend produced subtle aromas of hay, cinnamon, pine, and smoke. After the rinse, I detected new aromas of almond, straw, and cream. The first infusion brought out a hint of peanut on the nose. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of cream, hay, pine, cinnamon, almond, and peanut that were backed by smoke, oat, and eucalyptus hints. Subsequent infusions saw a peony-like floral aroma make itself known alongside mineral, eucalyptus, and autumn leaf scents. There was a stronger cinnamon presence as well. In the mouth, I found stronger, more distinctive eucalyptus notes as well as impressions of golden raisin, autumn leaf pile, butter, minerals, birch, date, apricot, white grape, and lemon zest. The lengthier later infusions retained mineral, autumn leaf pile, straw, cream, and hay notes that were balanced by subtle lemon zest, butter, almond, peanut, and golden raisin characteristics.

This was another wonderful Fujianese Bai Mudan. It is a shame that it is either out of stock or no longer offered. Considering that I only paid around $4.00 for it, I was expecting another grassy, overly smoky, and relatively unattractive tea with plenty of broken leaf and bud material, but instead, I ended up with a gorgeous, silvery leaf and bud mix that was mostly intact and produced a wonderful, easy-drinking tea liquor with tremendous character. Go figure.

Flavors: Almond, Apricot, Autumn Leaf Pile, Butter, Cinnamon, Cream, Dates, Eucalyptus, Hay, Herbaceous, Lemon Zest, Mineral, Oats, Peanut, Pine, Raisins, Smoke, Straw, White Grapes

Preparation
6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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77

Here is another tea review from the backlog. I think I finished my one ounce pouch of this tea around the middle of June. This is the third Dancong black tea I have tried to this point in the year, and so far, I have come away with the impression that such teas are not and likely never will be for me. I have found each of the ones I have tried to be too sweet for my liking.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a very quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 205 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was chased by 16 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 9 seconds, 12 seconds, 16 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, and 7 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of pine, blood orange, lychee, and nectarine. After the rinse, I detected new aromas of malt and honey coming from the tea leaves. The first infusion introduced aromas of butter and toast. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of malt, lychee, nectarine, honey, and toast that were balanced by impressions of cream. Subsequent infusions saw hints of cream, violet, and cherry come out on the nose. Stronger cream notes and new flavors of cherry, roasted almond, pear, violet, roasted walnut, and minerals appeared in the mouth along with belatedly emerging notes of butter, nectarine, pine, and blood orange. I also noticed some subtle hints of brown sugar, cocoa, and nutmeg in the aftertaste on several of these infusions. The final infusions emphasized lingering mineral, butter, cream, and toast notes that were offset by sometimes vague impressions of pine, pear, and violet.

I know that some people like Dancong black teas quite a bit, but each of the ones I have tried has been too rich and sweet for me. To be fair, however, I am pretty sure that each of the Dancong black teas I have tried have been produced from the Mi Lan cultivar, so maybe I just need to try some Dancong black teas produced from other cultivars. With this tea, I quickly grew tired of the overwhelming fruity and creamy/buttery qualities. That being said, I do not think this was a bad tea. It displayed nice depth and complexity and respectable longevity, especially for a tea at this price point. In the end, I just don’t think that this is a sort of tea for me.

Flavors: Almond, Blood orange, Brown Sugar, Butter, Cherry, Cocoa, Cream, Honey, Lychee, Malt, Mineral, Nutmeg, Pear, Pine, Stonefruits, Toast, Violet, Walnut

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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88

Here is yet another tea review from the backlog. I cannot remember exactly when I finished the one ounce pouch of this tea that I bought back in the summer of 2016. I’m guessing I went through it either at the end of May or start of June. Surprisingly, this tea had mellowed without losing much of its complexity. I found it to be a very nice black tea that was quite similar to many of the Yunnan black teas I have tried over the years.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of rolled tea leaves in 4 ounces of 194 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was chased by 15 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 9 seconds, 12 seconds, 16 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves offered aromas of brown toast, malt, honey, and sweet potato. After the rinse, I picked up aromas of butter and cream. The first infusion then brought out an aroma of brown sugar. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented mild notes of brown toast, malt, honey, butter, cream, and sweet potato that were balanced by notes of brown sugar and molasses toward the finish. Subsequent infusions saw molasses emerge on the nose alongside some subtle scents of cocoa and citrus. Stronger molasses notes appeared in the mouth on these infusions as did new notes of orange zest, cocoa, smoke, minerals, and roasted walnut. A rather subtle camphor impression also became notable on the swallow. The final infusions offered impressions of minerals, malt, butter, cocoa, and molasses that were backed by orange zest and sweet potato hints and a slightly heavier camphor presence.

Compared to a typical Yunnan hong cha, this Guangxi hong cha was a much more mellow and much smoother tea. I have been meaning to investigate some of the black and green teas produced in Guangxi for at least a couple of years now, but just have not gotten the time. This tea made me want to resume that investigation, but I have no clue when I will get around to it. I definitely need to try a more recent harvest of this tea at the very least. If you are a fan of the Yunnan hong cha flavor profile, I am willing to bet that you would enjoy this tea. At least consider giving it a shot if you are a fan of Yunnan black teas.

Flavors: Brown Sugar, Brown Toast, Butter, Camphor, Cocoa, Cream, Honey, Malt, Mineral, Molasses, Orange Zest, Smoke, Sweet Potatoes, Walnut

Preparation
6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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This particular tea I didn’t end up liking. So I used it in a dinner recipe for Green Tea Crusted tofu. It gave the tofu a great texture on the outside and added a slight green tea flavor as well. The family really liked this recipe a lot.

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60

Alright, it’s time to start blasting through some more of the backlogged reviews. I’m planning on posting them all by Monday, but we’ll see how that goes. In case any of you think that I have almost exclusively been drinking green teas lately, I just want to inform you that I have a number of oolong reviews coming down the pipe aside from this one. They have been piling up in the backlog as I have been mowing down samples and I am at a point where I need to start posting them to keep the backlog from getting out of hand (like it did a few months back). This was one of my more recent sipdowns. I do not know all that much about this oolong aside from the fact that it originated in Zhushan Township, Nantou County, Taiwan. I found it to be pretty decent, not the sort of Taiwanese oolong I typically lose my mind for or anything like that, but certainly drinkable enough.

I gongfued this tea. After a brief rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 7 seconds. This infusion was followed by 13 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 9 seconds, 12 seconds, 16 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, I detected aromas of cream, butter, vanilla, narcissus, and gardenia. After the rinse, I noted the emergence of a honeysuckle aroma. The first proper infusion then yielded hints of custard on the nose. In the mouth, the tea liquor offered delicate notes of cream, butter, vanilla, and custard underscored by hints of narcissus, honeysuckle, and gardenia. Subsequent infusions allowed for the emergence of stronger narcissus, honeysuckle, and gardenia notes in the mouth. New impressions of bamboo, sugarcane, green apple, pear, honeydew, and minerals also showed themselves. The later infusions offered lingering notes of minerals, cream, vanilla, sugarcane, and green apple. There was hardly any lingering floral character that I could detect. I also kept expecting some grassier, more vegetal notes, but oddly never found any.

In a sense, this was a pleasant, but also very two-dimensional tea. There was a pretty even split between the fruity and floral characteristics and the tea’s more savory qualities. I think had this tea offered some of the vegetal characteristics typical of many Taiwanese oolongs, it would have been much more satisfying for me. Throughout the session, I could not shake the impression that it was lacking in depth because it was missing those qualities. Overall, this was a decent enough tea, and while I am glad that I took the opportunity to try it, I would not go out of my way to order it again.

Flavors: Bamboo, Butter, Cream, Custard, Gardenias, Green Apple, Honeydew, Honeysuckle, Mineral, Narcissus, Pear, Sugarcane, Vanilla

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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90

The Tao of Tea included a free sample of this oolong with one of my orders in 2017. A Nepalese oolong, this tea was produced in the spring of 2016 by the Jun Chiyabari Tea Garden in the Dhankuta region. What-Cha also offered a Jun Chiyabari oolong from the spring of 2016 that I enjoyed greatly. I cannot be certain, but I am pretty sure this was the same tea, though clearly subjected to different vendor storage conditions (Portland vs. London) and stored for varying lengths of time and sampled at different times by me. Once I finally got around to trying this tea (last week), it had not lost a step in storage. This was every bit as good as the aforementioned What-Cha oolong, though this one struck me as being somewhat sweeter and fruitier. I’m thinking the additional storage on my part may have done it some good.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a very brief rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 185 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was chased by 14 subsequent infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes. Yes, in order to make a direct comparison between the two, I employed the same brewing method I used for the What-Cha tea.

Prior to the rinse, I detected aromas of orange, plum, and butter coming from the dry tea leaves. After the rinse, I noted emerging aromas of violet, dandelion, daisy, chrysanthemum, marigold, malt, and wood. The first infusion brought out hints of straw and rose on the nose. In the mouth, I found fairly robust notes of butter, malt, grass, straw, plum, orange, wood, and all of the flowers mentioned in the preceding sentences. Subsequent infusions brought out impressions of vanilla, minerals, lemon zest, pungent herbs, almond, and nutmeg. The later infusions offered lingering notes of minerals, straw, grass, wood, and pungent herbs underscored by traces of butter, violet, orange, and rose.

In terms of both smell and taste, this tea was near identical to the Nepal Jun Chiyabari ‘Himalayan Bouquet’ Oolong Tea previously offered by What-Cha . Again, I am willing to bet this was the same tea. I know I have said it before, but I liked the What-Cha offering quite a bit, and I liked this one just as much.

Flavors: Almond, Butter, Dandelion, Floral, Grass, Herbs, Malt, Mineral, Nutmeg, Orange, Plums, Straw, Vanilla, Violet, Wood

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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70

This was my latest sipdown. I bought an ounce of this tea last year because I was looking for an affordable Dong Ding oolong suitable for regular consumption. While this tea did not end up being bad by any means, it wasn’t complex or substantial enough to fulfill the role I intended for it. As Dong Ding oolongs go, it was rather lightweight.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 8 seconds. This infusion was followed by 13 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 10 seconds, 12 seconds, 16 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of cream, sugarcane, vanilla, and baked bread underscored by hints of grass. After the rinse, I found hints of orchid and fresh bamboo shoots on the nose. The first infusion introduced a slight aroma of banana. In the mouth, the tea liquor offered up notes of butter, cream, vanilla, baked bread, sugarcane, grass, and bamboo shoots. The subsequent infusions introduced a definite orchid note on the palate. New impressions of violet, daylily, daylily shoots, minerals, banana leaf, cucumber, and custard also emerged. The later infusions retained notes of minerals, cream, sugarcane, and grass with the occasional hint of banana and/or daylily shoots.

I would be interested in finding out more about the origin of this tea and how it was produced. I know that both Cui Yu and Jin Xuan among other cultivars are grown in the area that produces Dong Ding oolongs. I have also read that many producers of high mountain oolongs often utilize a blend of cultivars in the crafting of each of their seasonal releases. Due to this tea’s creaminess, subtle floral qualities, and largely vegetal character, I would be willing to bet that this is either a Jin Xuan or a blend with a heavy Jin Xuan presence. I could be wrong, but this tea kept reminding me of a lightly roasted Jin Xuan. Overall, I could see this tea perhaps making a decent introduction to Dong Ding oolongs, but to be honest, it is not something I would go out of my way to reacquire. Though it was certainly drinkable, there are better Dong Ding oolongs on the market.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Bamboo, banana, Butter, Cream, Cucumber, Custard, Floral, Grass, Mineral, Orchid, Sugarcane, Vanilla, Vegetal, Violet

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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90

I normally don’t post more than two reviews per day, but I wanted to keep making headway in my effort to clear out the new backlog, so I decided to go ahead and post this one. Much like the Phoenix Song Dynasty, I know very little about this tea. I again have no clue which cultivar was used in this production nor do I know which harvest produced this particular tea. Honestly, I have no clue if The Tao of Tea will ever be restocking this tea because it was not listed anywhere on their website as of my last check. Regardless, I found this to be a more or less excellent Dancong oolong (part of me wants to say this may have been a Da Wu Ye or something similar, though it also reminded me a little of a Ya Shi Xiang in places.).

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a brief rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 203 F water for 7 seconds. This infusion was chased by 13 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 9 seconds, 12 seconds, 16 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, I noted aromas of roasted almond, toast, malt, cream, and custard coming from the dry tea leaves. After the rinse, I found emerging orchid and roasted peanut aromas accompanied by hints of grass and citrus. The first proper infusion brought out odd, yet interesting scents of strawberry and plum to go with a more clearly defined violet scent. In the mouth, I detected notes of roasted almond, toast, malt, cream, orchid, plum, and strawberry backed by subtle notes of sweet orange and unexpected hints of caraway and anise. Subsequent infusions brought out the violet, grass, and roasted peanut notes on the palate as well as somewhat stronger notes of sweet orange. I also began to detect impressions of minerals, pomelo, lemon zest, earth, rye, tea flower, golden raisin, butter, lychee, and peach accompanied by occasional hints of red raspberry. The later infusions mostly offered lingering notes of cream, malt, toast, minerals, and violet with some nutty and citrusy impressions in the background. Oddly, I never found any custard-like notes in the mouth.

This was yet another very respectable Dancong oolong from The Tao of Tea. I would like to know more about it and do hope that it makes a comeback at some point, but I’m not sure that either will happen. I would recommend it to any curious drinkers out there, but with it being unavailable, there really is no point. Still, for the record, I found it to be a very good tea.

Flavors: Almond, Anise, Butter, Citrus, Cream, Custard, Earth, Floral, Grass, Herbs, Lemon Zest, Lychee, Malt, Mineral, Orange, Orchid, Peach, Peanut, Plums, Raisins, Raspberry, Rye, Strawberry, Toast, Violet

Preparation
6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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