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Recent Tasting Notes
This was another of my recent sipdowns and a tea from which I expected a little more. Li Shan teas usually do it for me, and What-Cha tends to do a great job of sourcing stuff from Li Shan. While this was still a very good tea overall, I have had better Li Shan oolongs.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a 10 second rinse, I steeped 6 grams of the rolled leaf and bud sets in 4 fluid ounces of 194 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was followed by 17 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 12 seconds, 16 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minutes, 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 sets emitted aromas of bread, honey, sweet potato, and cream. After the rinse, fresh aromas of roasted almond, roasted peanut, butter, and green wood emerged. The first infusion then added a slight banana scent. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of cream, butter, bread, malt, honey, roasted almond, roasted peanut, and green wood that were chased by delicate hints of banana, golden raisin, sugarcane, green apple, pear, caramel, and chocolate. The bulk of the subsequent infusions introduced aromas of sugarcane, chocolate, orange zest, lemon zest, caramel, and vanilla. Stronger and more immediately detectable notes of caramel, chocolate, pear, sugarcane, and green apple emerged in the mouth alongside impressions of minerals, oats, orange zest, lemon zest, and sweet potato. Hints of grass, apricot, plum, cedar, juniper, peach, and cinnamon could also be detected around the fringes. As the tea faded, the liquor continued to emphasize lingering notes of minerals, cream, malt, bread, pear, roasted almond, roasted peanut, green wood, orange zest, and lemon zest that were chased by hints of honey, green apple, caramel, chocolate, sweet potato, sugarcane, and grass.
On the one hand, this tea offered a lot of the aromas and flavors I have come to expect of heavily oxidized and/or roasted Li Shan oolongs, but on the other hand, the oxidation was significant enough to bring out several notes I tend to get out of many black teas. Because of this, drinking this tea was something of an odd experience for me. It simultaneously reminded me of both Li Shan oolong and black teas, but it did not walk the line between oolong and black tea well enough to really stand out to me. It ultimately struck me as being a quality tea that had a few awkward characteristics and did not manage to do any one thing well enough to push it to the top of What-Cha’s small pile of consistently amazing Li Shan offerings.
Flavors: Almond, Apricot, banana, Bread, Butter, Caramel, Cedar, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Cream, Grass, Green Apple, Green Wood, Herbaceous, Honey, Lemon Zest, Malt, Mineral, Oats, Orange Zest, Peach, Peanut, Pear, Plum, Raisins, Sugarcane, Sweet Potatoes
This was another of my recent sipdowns. Like the review of What-Cha’s Taiwan Shan Lin Xi black tea that I just posted, I am also piecing this review together from the shredded remnants of my handwritten rough draft. Pet ownership is fun. The same cat responsible for shredding my current notebook enjoys making nests or little hoards out of things she steals from me. I’m certain that the pages she wallowed, ripped, and tore loose from the notebook’s binding would have quickly made their way into such a creation, and then there would have been no recovery of any information contained on them. The last time I stumbled upon a Mean Baby cache, I found ink pens, paper clips, bottle caps, rubber bands, cat toys, various coins, and a dirty sock. She had stuffed these items under the base of a floor lamp in my living room. I can only imagine where these notes would have ended up. Anyway, this tea represented something of a first for me, as I’m pretty sure it was the first tea from Sandakphu that I had ever tried. Bizarrely, I had previously tried several teas from each of the other major Nepalese tea producers, but at the time I was working my way through the sole pouch of this tea that I had purchased, I could not recall trying any other Sandakphu tea. It was a respectable enough offering with something of a different character compared to the other Nepalese black teas offered by What-Cha.
I took a break from gongfu brewing with this tea, opting to brew it Western style. I prepared it by steeping approximately 3 grams of loose leaf material in 8 fluid ounces of 194 F water for 5 minutes. I did not rinse the tea leaves prior to infusion, nor did I attempt any additional infusions.
Prior to infusion, the dry leaf material produced aromas of bread, malt, cocoa, brown sugar, and sweet potato. After infusion, I noted new aromas of earth, butter, roasted peanut, stewed tomato, geranium, and prune. In the mouth, the tea liquor offered a unique mix of earth, cream, stewed tomato, cooked green bean, brown sugar, sweet potato, orange zest, malt, bread, cocoa, grass, lemon zest, pine, roasted peanut, geranium, roasted almond, butter, hay, prune, and roasted walnut flavors. Additional impressions of black cherry, oak, and blackberry were little more than background notes. The finish was creamy, malty, and vegetal, but it also displayed a pronounced woodiness, powerful astringency, fairly heavy roasted nut notes, and something of a lingering fruity character.
Overall, this was a pretty good Nepalese black tea, but it struck me as having some obvious flaws. First, its flavors frequently came across as muddled. There were times where the balance of the tea liquor was lacking. It was also a bit lacking in texture, and the finish was a bit too astringent for me. Still, this was not a horrible offering, pretty far from one actually. I’m happy that I took the opportunity to give it a try.
Flavors: Almond, Astringent, Blackberry, Bread, Brown Sugar, Butter, Cherry, Cocoa, Cream, Earth, Geranium, Grass, Green Beans, Hay, Lemon Zest, Malt, Oak, Orange Zest, Peanut, Pine, Prune, Sweet Potatoes, Tomato, Walnut
This was one of my recent sipdowns, coming from around a month or two ago. I wasn’t planning on reviewing this tea just yet, but Mean Baby, the naughtiest tortie in recorded history, decided to wallow my current review notebook and rip more pages out of it. She nearly shredded the page containing this review, so I am now typing it from loose pieces of notebook paper that have been pressed back together. Anyway, I had huge expectations for this tea after being floored by What-Cha’s absolutely incredible Li Shan black tea. In comparison, this Shan Lin Xi black was not quite as good, but it was still a high quality offering with a ton to offer.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick 5 second rinse, I steeped 6 grams of the loose tea leaves in 4 fluid ounces of 194 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was chased by 17 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, 7 minutes, and 10 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of honey, plum, black raspberry, bread, sweet potato, black grape, and cinnamon. After the rinse, aromas of roasted almond, roasted peanut, and roasted potato appeared. The first infusion added aromas of brown sugar and violet. In the mouth, the tea liquor offered notes of honey, roasted almond, sweet potato, pear, bread, roasted potato, plum, cream, and butter that were balanced by hints of roasted peanut, black grape, and brown sugar. The bulk of the subsequent infusions added aromas of dark chocolate, red apple, molasses, orange zest, lychee, malt, peach, pear, elderflower, and maple syrup to the tea’s bouquet. Stronger and more immediately notable impressions of roasted peanut and black grape emerged in the mouth alongside notes of minerals, red apple, caramel, rose, dark chocolate, orange zest, lychee, violet, malt, and elderflower. Subtle hints of cinnamon, ginger, earth, molasses, black cherry, black raspberry, peach, elderberry, and maple syrup could also be detected here and there. As the tea faded, the liquor continued to emphasize notes of minerals, butter, cream, bread, malt, roasted almond, roasted peanut, roasted potato, dark chocolate, caramel, and orange zest that were chased by elusive hints of brown sugar, honey, pear, earth, sweet potato, red apple, lychee, and maple syrup.
This was an interesting and satisfying tea with tremendous poise, depth, and complexity. I greatly admired the harmonious and sophisticated layering of its aromas and flavors and adored the smooth, silky, creamy texture of its liquor. At the same time, I was hoping for a little more longevity and a more dynamic presence in the mouth. I wanted more intensity, but this tea was consistently mellow, relaxed, and gentle. Perhaps my expectations were unfair. I often find myself wanting a little more out of teas from Shan Lin Xi, even those that I find to be very enjoyable, such as this one. Definitely try it if you are looking for an elegant Taiwanese black tea.
Flavors: Almond, Black Raspberry, Bread, Brown Sugar, Butter, Caramel, Cherry, Cinnamon, Cream, Dark Chocolate, Earth, Elderberry, Elderflower, Ginger, Grapes, Honey, Lychee, Malt, Maple Syrup, Mineral, Molasses, Orange Zest, Peach, Peanut, Pear, Plum, Potato, Red Apple, Sweet Potatoes, Violet
It’s getting late here, but I want to get at least one new tea review posted before I head for bed. This was my most recent sipdown and a tea I had been looking forward to trying for months. After going through several Yunnan, Fujian, and Guangxi silver needles over the course of 2021, I had a couple pouches of Fujian Wild Silver Needle, this one from What-Cha and one from Whispering Pines Tea Company, left to try. Both came from the spring 2021 harvest in Zhenghe, or at least I think that’s the case. I still haven’t tried the version offered by Whispering Pines, but I finished this one off today. My overall impression was that it was a great offering with a fairly unique character compared to the other Fujian silver needles I have tried.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a 10 second rinse, I steeped 6 grams of the loose tea buds in 4 fluid ounces of 194 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was followed by 20 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, 7 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, and 30 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea buds emitted powerful aromas of almond, peanut, hay, straw, and cinnamon. I could tell that this tea was going to offer a different experience immediately. Silver needle white teas usually offer a very gentle dry bud fragrance, but this tea was incredibly aromatic. Looking at the dry buds, they were also smaller and thicker than other teas of this type. After the rinse, I detected strong aromas of kale, peas, broccoli, and cabbage. The first proper infusion then added a somewhat subtler aroma of fresh green bell pepper. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of almond, peanut, hay, straw, green banana, kale, broccoli, snap pea, cabbage, cream, vanilla, and sugarcane that were balanced by subtler impressions of pear, cinnamon, and minerals. The majority of the subsequent infusions added aromas of white pepper, cream, butter, sugarcane, moss, green wood, and green banana to the tea’s bouquet. Stronger and more immediately notable impressions of minerals came out in the mouth alongside notes of butter, green bell pepper, chili leaf, white grape, moss, green wood, and watermelon rind. An interesting melange of white pepper, white peach, apricot, macadamia, guava, coconut, pineapple, birch bark, orange zest, and honeydew swirled in the background. As the tea faded, the liquor continued to play up clear notes of minerals, hay, cabbage, broccoli, cream, peanut, almond, butter, and green bell pepper that were underscored by lingering moss, straw, orange zest, green banana, white grape, green wood, guava, white peach, apricot, honeydew, and watermelon rind hints.
This was a very unusual tea. It came off as being a little more rustic than other Fujian silver needles, but it also produced an aromatic and satisfying tea liquor of tremendous depth, complexity, and texture. Definitely one for the connoisseurs, this would most certainly not be a tea for beginners or casual drinkers. In the end, this was a very worthwhile tea, but if you haven’t tried at least a couple of different Fujian silver needles, hold off on trying a tea of this type for now.
Flavors: Almond, Apricot, banana, Bark, Broccoli, Butter, Cabbage, Chili, Cinnamon, Coconut, Cream, Green Bell Peppers, Green Wood, Guava, Hay, Honeydew, Kale, Macadamia, Mineral, Moss, Orange Zest, Peach, Peanut, Pear, Peas, Pepper, Pineapple, Straw, Sugarcane, Vanilla, Watermelon, White Grapes
This was another of my more recent sipdowns. I’m trying to get some reviews of a few teas I drank recently out of the way because my 2022 notebook is falling apart. Each time a page falls out, I prioritize posting whichever reviews are contained on that particular page. I’m sure this notebook would have held up better if my cats didn’t love to wallow it so much. Anyway, this was the most recent Zhangping Shui Xian offered by What-Cha. In general, I find Zhangping Shui Xian to be very hit or miss, but this was a great one.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After rinsing the 8 gram cake for 10 seconds in 165 fluid ounces of 194 F water, I kicked off the fun part of my drinking session with a 10 second infusion. This initial infusion was chased by 18 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 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, 20 minutes, and 30 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the tea cake emitted aromas of cream, butter, custard, gardenia, violet, bread, and orange blossom. After the rinse, aromas of grass, sugarcane, and vanilla emerged. The first infusion then added a slight lettuce scent. In the mouth, the tea liquor offered up subtle notes of grass, cream, butter, sugarcane, bread, orange blossom, and vanilla that were backed by hints of lilac, lettuce, gardenia, violet, custard, and orange zest. The majority of the subsequent infusions added aromas of orchid, lilac, honey, orange zest, daylily, and apple to the tea’s bouquet. Stronger and more immediately detectable impressions of lettuce, violet, custard, lilac, and orange zest appeared in the mouth alongside notes of apple, pear, plum, cucumber, minerals, daylily, and white grape. I also picked up on extremely pleasant hints of orchid, honey, white peach, apricot, snap peas, daylily shoots, caramel, and butterscotch. As the tea faded, the liquor continued to offer dominant notes of minerals, apple, orange zest, bread, lettuce, grass, cucumber, and sugarcane that were chased by fleeting hints of butter, white grape, plum, violet, daylily, daylily shoots, snap peas, gardenia, lilac, orange blossom, cream, and caramel.
Zhangping Shui Xian can often be gritty, prickly, astringent, and somewhat bitter, but this was a very smooth, elegant offering with tremendous balance. Had I not already known that this was a premium cake, it would have been easy to tell as the quality of the tea leaves used in its production was clearly very high. Normally, tea cakes will layer the leaves so that the highest quality and most intact material is at the top, hiding lower grade material below it, but that was not the case with this particular cake. It produced very little grit, and most of the leaves seemed to be intact. Overall, this tea was a winner and a wonderful example of what Zhangping Shui Xian tends to offer at its best. I wish I had picked up more than one cake.
Flavors: Apple, Apricot, Bread, Butter, Butterscotch, Caramel, Cream, Cucumber, Custard, Floral, Gardenias, Grass, Honey, Lettuce, Lilac, Mineral, Orange Blossom, Orange Zest, Orchid, Peach, Pear, Peas, Plum, Sugarcane, Vanilla, Vegetal, Violet, White Grapes
This tea is so fancy – probably too fancy for how often it became a side for Japanese takeout in the last two years. To taste it’s like matcha but without the prep (and the additional caffeine) and that makes it golden in my books.
It contains notes of bright verdant grass, creamy nut milk, sweet snowpeas, powdery flower pollen, and a hint of melon – all things I barely register when I’m chowing down on toro nigiri. I’m glad I’m taking the time to savour this “farewell” cup though. It’s a gem.
Steep Count: 3
Flavors: Creamy, Floral, Grassy, Melon, Nuts, Peas, Pollen, Sweet, Warm Grass, Umami
This was another tea that I tried in either late 2021 or shortly after the start of the year. I recall it being a tea I had been meaning to get around to trying for a while. Roasted Jin Xuan is generally something I enjoy, so I had high hopes for this offering. It mostly lived up to my expectations too. Though I had tried better roasted Jin Xuan prior to trying this tea, it was still a fun and likable offering that I would feel confident recommending to just about anyone.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After rinsing 6 grams of the rolled leaf and bud sets for 10 seconds in approximately 4 fluid ounces of 194 F water, I started my review session off with a 10 second infusion. This initial infusion was followed by 15 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 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, and 10 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry leaf and bud sets emitted aromas of toasted rice, roasted barley, coffee, cream, and bread. After the rinse, I noted new aromas of smoke, green olive, parsley, sugarcane, and vanilla. The first infusion added cooked spinach and cooked cabbage scents. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of cream, butter, toasted rice, and bread that were chased by subtler impressions of sugarcane, grass, coffee, vanilla, pear, roasted barley, daylily, and longan. The majority of the subsequent infusions introduced aromas of vegetable broth, daylily shoots, roasted carrot, and balsam. Impressions of minerals, parsley, smoke, cooked lettuce, cooked cabbage, vegetable broth, sour plum, daylily shoots, and balsam appeared in the mouth alongside stronger and more immediately detectable notes of grass, coffee, daylily, vanilla, and roasted barley. I also detected hints of roasted carrot, cooked cabbage, nutmeg, cinnamon, green olive, sour cherry, and green apple. As the tea faded, the liquor emphasized notes of minerals, cream, butter, toasted rice, cooked spinach, cooked lettuce, grass, and vegetable broth along with suddenly amplified roasted carrot impressions. Hints of pear, green apple, green olive, roasted barley, vanilla, sugarcane, balsam, and sour plum continued to round out the mix through the very end of the session. I should also note that some late emerging hints of popcorn were present as well.
For a light roasted Jin Xuan, the fact that the roast was so present surprised and intrigued me. I was expecting much lighter and faster fading roasted characteristics, but this tea did not provide the experience I was anticipating. What I got was a very grainy, grassy, vegetal tea with pronounced and durable aromas and flavors contributed by the roasting process. I would have liked to see more floral and fruity characteristics, but overall, this was a pleasant and nicely balanced roasted Jin Xuan with some interesting and memorable quirks.
Flavors: Bread, Butter, Cabbage, Carrot, Cherry, Cinnamon, Coffee, Cream, Floral, Fruity, Grass, Green Apple, Lettuce, Mineral, Nutmeg, Olives, Parsley, Pear, Plum, Roasted Barley, Smoke, Spinach, Sugarcane, Toasted Rice, Vanilla, Vegetable Broth, Wood
A gentle but slightly punchy tea for this beautiful and quiet morning. The twisted leaf is a dark chocolate color. It bathes in a brittle desert wood aroma. Strangekess occurs with the wet aroma as marine notes mingle worh compost and deep woods. Not fishy like a pu er but a pure marine aroma, almost as if standing by the ocean. Though the ocean I refer to is the Northwest, such as Washington or Oregon. The ocean smells different in different places. A woodsy orchestra of flavor. Twigs, wet branches, slight compost, wet forest floor, and a mix of other boards of wood. The mouth feel is soft with a bit of astringency. Good morning.
Shae! Thank you so much for the sample! The hotel ran out of hot water in the breakfast area. I didn’t feel like waiting so I just put cold water in. Even cold steeped the notes come out fairly quickly. Chocolate notes, baked vegetal notes, squash, slight woodsy notes. This very much reminds me of the New Zealand black. The aroma of the wet leaf PEPPER! Sorry. I smelled it a second time just now and it reminded me of raw orange and yellow peppers. Also a mic of earth, wet twigs, and something herbacous I can’t quite put my finger on… Can’t wait to see how this one unfolds when it’s hot.
I purchased this tea last year after reading some glowing reviews on Steepster. I often find Red Jades to be too astringent, but this one was recommended as being smooth. I also very much enjoyed the Yu Chi Assam What-Cha carries, and I was hoping this tea would be of similar quality. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml porcelain pot at 195F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of sassafras, menthol, malt, raisins, and sweet potato. The first steep has strong notes of sassafras, menthol, and malt, with hints of cinnamon, cream, raisins, red grapes, and sweet potato. Some tannins are present, but they’re not overwhelming. The next steep is very similar, though the sassafras is stronger. Steeps three and four add notes of juniper, molasses, and honey, and that menthol flavour resolves into wintergreen (though maybe this is a result of reading Derk’s tasting note). Later steeps give me more honey, molasses, malt, sweet potato, and bread, though there’s still plenty of sassafras and wintergreen. I accidentally let one of the later steeps cool down and can notice the plum and nectarine Eastkyteaguy mentioned in the aroma. The final steeps have lots of tannins, minerals, bread, honey, and malt.
This is one of the smoothest Red Jades I’ve had, though I still prefer other types of Taiwanese black tea. The sassafras and wintergreen are especially prominent, which I think is the point of this cultivar. It never gets overly tannic as other Red Jades have done in later steeps, and the complexity of flavours is impressive. I hope Alistair gets this tea back in stock.
Flavors: Bread, Cedar, Cinnamon, Cream, Grapes, Honey, Malt, Menthol, Mineral, Molasses, Nectarine, Plum, Raisins, Sarsaparilla, Smooth, Sweet Potatoes, Tannin, Wintergreen
Red oolongs get less attention than they deserve, so I was happy to see this sample in my last What-Cha order. (Then, of course, I let it sit for over a year. . . .) I steeped 5 g of leaf in a 120 ml pot at 195F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of apricots, berries, grapes, flowers, roast, and honey. The first steep has notes of cherry, banana bread, apricot, plum, honey, and roast. The next steep adds muscatel and jammy berries, with a bit of a drying finish. The next couple steeps have even more baked cherry, blackberry, plum, honey, butter, banana, roast, nuts, and florals. The fruit kind of melds into a general impression, but I can pick out individual flavours if I try. The next couple steeps are a little more drying, but still have that intense cherry flavour. The roast and nuts are becoming more prominent. I finally get some jasmine in steep six, along with a more pronounced grape/raisin note. The cherry persists over the next few steeps, while the tea increasingly has notes of roast, wood, bread, and minerals.
This is a lovely dessert tea with a distinct cherry flavour that I haven’t found too often elsewhere. Some of the other fruity notes are muddled, though that could be because I wasn’t using enough leaf. I’m not sure this would be an everyday tea for me, but I’m glad to have tried it.
Flavors: Apricot, banana, Berries, Blackberry, Bread, Butter, Cherry, Drying, Floral, Grapes, Honey, Jam, Jasmine, Mineral, Muscatel, Nuts, Plum, Raisins, Roasted, Wood
I received this tea as a free sample in my last What-Cha order. It’s always nice to try something new from Jun Chiyabari, which produces some of the best, most interesting teas from Nepal. I steeped around 2.5 g of leaf in a 355 ml mug at 195F for 3, 4, 5, and 7 minutes.
The dry aroma is of cocoa, roasted almonds, malt, and wood. The first steep has pronounced notes of fudgy darker chocolate and roasted almonds, plus malt, cream, barley, brown sugar, hints of red grape, and wood. The tea has a slightly drying finish and a vegetal aftertaste along with the chocolate (Togo describes it as bell peppers). The next steep introduces flavours of butter, honey, and bread, though the chocolate is still the star. The final couple steeps have a more attenuated chocolate flavour and have notes of earth and chilli leaf, which is something I’ve tasted in other Jun Chiyabari teas.
This is a lovely chocolate tea, though it lacks some of the complexity I’ve found in other teas from this producer (Himalayan Spring comes to mind). I wish I’d gotten more fruity flavours, as other reviewers have. Nonetheless, it’s a cozy, well-crafted tea that I should have consumed during the winter.
On a related note, Alistair is offering 1 pound for each review that is submitted on his site until the end of June. I’ve been contributing to my Jin Jun Mei and Lapsang fund for a few days now. :)
Flavors: Almond, Bread, Brown Sugar, Butter, Chili, Cocoa, Cream, Dark Chocolate, Earth, Grapes, Green Bell Peppers, Honey, Malt, Roasted Barley, Tannin, Vegetal, Wood
I’ve held this off, and was time to finish the 2021 sample. Thank you Alistair for this one, and now, I can properly appreciate it. Whole and golden kissed black needles fell into my tea vessel, having decent length and much larger than usual ceylon size.
So I started indecisive between gong fuing my sample or having it western. Everyone recommended 3 minutes, so I started it out that way in my Manual Tea Brewer (westernized gaiwan) with a slight sip. Light, citrus, caramel, smooth. Not expecting that. A little bit too light, so I let it sit more…then one or two minutes extra as I did some chores. I’m not going to say anything new other than its a smooth and easily drinkable ceylon. I get notes of malt, caramel, oats, citrus rising in the mouth, and a caramel, almost cocoa finish ending in tannin. There was some extra bitterness, but a chocolate kind if tea bitterness.
There was mild astringency, and I was impressed with how smooth the body is. What-cha aims for smooth qualities in all of their teas-hence why I buy from the company so often. It’s got the trademarks of Ceylon teas, but it’s so much easier on the palette than the majority I’ve had.
I decided to go so much shorter, brewing 10 seconds, and it was smooth dark chocolate malt, tea tasting, with some healthy citrus and tannin.
Another 10-15 seconds, less water-3-4 oz, and citrus/orange leads the way. Malty finish still there with a little bit of tannin, yet precisely balanced and mildly drying.
I am going to be able to get more cups, but before I do, I’m pretty much set on what I think. And I have to workout. Time is of the essence.
I’m thankful that Alistair included it because I’m usually one to snub Ceylons and some Assams. I know they are essential for most breakfast teas and the blends I drink regularly, but they’re usually too drying, astringent, or tannic for me. This one was a lot more balanced and resembled some good Yunnan blacks, though the chocolate toffee tannin aftertaste is distinctly Ceylon. Keep in mind I’m using “chocolate” as an approximate adjective and not a accurate one, but it’s got the same bittersweetness chocolate does, and that’s what a lot of people like in their tea. It’s not super robust, and it stands on its own legs easily while being soft and nuanced enough to drink it straight.
Although I won’t have this in my consistent rotation (because I pay too much for other tea), it stands out as one of the easiest to drinks Ceylons I’ve had yet. I think it’s a good stepping stone noob tea, and I’m glad Alistair used it as a way to expand some palettes here on Steepster.
Flavors: Caramel, Citrus, Dark Bittersweet, Dark Chocolate, Drying, Malt, Oats, Orange Zest, Smooth, Tannic, Tea, Toffee, Wood
December 2020 harvest.
Worth steeping this gongfu with high leaf:low water, so that when you initially warm the leaf and every time after the tiny teapot or gaiwan lid is lifted, you’re greeted with incredibly complex and nuanced aromas. Chocolate (milk and dark), almond and macadamia, soft grainy malt, mouse fur and cedar chips, heavier notes of pomegranate molasses, old leatherbound books and dank forest earth. Plenty of musk melon-papaya weaving throughout. The bright acidity of raspberry lemonade and orange-ginger seems to aid in differentiating those rich aromas. The complexity and range of aromatic notes remind me of an Ehtiopian Yirgacheffe coffee.
The taste is less spectacular, kind of alkaline.
Brewed western is also good. A thick and chewy cream taste and texture can dominate. But it still tastes like a golden tip tea.
Grandpa, not so much. The leaf leaves a firm ring of tea scum around the glass.
The visual is off-putting.
Flavors: Alkaline, Almond, Cantaloupe, Caramel, Cedar, Citrusy, Cocoa, Coffee, Cream, Creamy, Dark Chocolate, Fir, Forest Floor, Fruity, Fur, Ginger, Grain, Hay, Leather, Lemon, Lemon Zest, Malt, Milk, Molasses, Nuts, Nutty, Orange, Orange Zest, Papaya, Paper, Pomegranate, Raspberry, Wet Earth
Ouch. A tea without my note.
And I have it at work for… quite a long time. It was in the first batch I took with me to the office and I am drinking it very slowly, though it is opened bag… so maybe my notes are affected with age, not a good store (it should be at least in some air-tight container, instead the original opened bag).
Well, happens. This tea I had today at work, while having my head buried in material inventories, which must be exactly down to gram. Checking it each month is stressful job, but luckily it was correct.
I am not sure about used tea — two pinches are…?
This tea was today mild, grassy, when warmer it was buttery with umami, but as it cools down it became rather freshly cut grass, a bit seaweedy and smooth. Umami was in the same level as in hot cup.
As I do not have much (if any) experience with Japanese sencha, I can not compare it. Nor with senchas from other terroirs. However it was fine and quite easydrinking cup. Shame, I let it opened for so long. It is mostly because I do not have kettle with temperature control at work; and using too hot water doesn’t suit this tea well. Tested!
I am not sure about the harvest either. I have original label there… but of course I haven’t checked it. I assume it could be from 2020, because it was one of the teas I have received from White Antlers.
This was one of my sipdowns from late last year and a tea that I have dreaded reviewing in the months since. I always host posting negative or mixed reviews, especially from vendors whose offerings I tend to like, but that is unfortunately what I have to do here. This tea was just lacking overall.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After my usual 10 second rinse, I steeped 6 grams of the loose bud and leaf rolls in 4 fluid ounces of 185 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was followed by 16 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 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, and 15 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry leaf and bud rolls emitted aromas of osmanthus, cream, butter, and bread. After the rinse, I discovered new aromas of vanilla, grass, and sugarcane as well as a considerably stronger osmanthus scent. The first proper infusion added subtler aromas of toasted rice and grass. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented delicate notes of cream, butter, lettuce, grass, and bread that were backed up by hints of vanilla, toasted rice, osmanthus, and sugarcane. Aside from subtle orchid, lettuce, and vegetable broth aromas, the rest of the infusions did not add anything of note to the tea’s bouquet. Somewhat stronger and more immediately detectable notes of toasted rice, osmanthus, vanilla, and sugarcane emerged in the mouth, while notes of minerals, orchid, peach, pear, and steamed milk made themselves known. A heavy and at times overbearing vegetable broth presence quickly emerged and muddied the waters. Interesting hints of sea salt, apricot, balsam, plum, and white grape were just barely perceptible in the background. The aftertaste was odd. It reminded me of candy, like something along the lines of SweeTarts or Smarties. As the tea faded, notes of cream, butter, vegetable broth, and toasted rice came to dominate, though they were accompanied by a suddenly amplified sea salt presence and a late golden apple impression before mostly giving way to lingering hints of orchid, osmanthus, pear, grass, vanilla, lettuce, sugarcane, white grape, and steamed milk.
What-Cha usually does a good job of sourcing Jin Xuan from Thailand, but this tea was a misfire. It was all over the place and generally just something of a mess. Bizarrely, the osmanthus not only did not seem to mesh with the base tea, but it was also lacking in strength and presence. Jin Xuan usually accepts floral scents wonderfully and displays natural stone fruit aromas and flavors that one would expect to mesh perfectly with osmanthus, so I have no clue what happened here. I hate to say it, but this was easily one of the most disappointing What-Cha offerings I have tried. I cannot recommend it to others.
Flavors: Apple, Apricot, Bread, Broth, Butter, Candy, Cream, Grass, Lettuce, Milk, Mineral, Orchid, Osmanthus, Peach, Pear, Plum, Salt, Sugarcane, Toasted Rice, Vanilla, White Grapes
Thanks to Daylon for sending me a sample of this tea, which I’ve wanted to try for a while. It’s usually out of stock, and I now understand why. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds, plus another few long infusions.
The dry aroma of this tea is an intoxicating blend of peach, lychee, pineapple, lemon, roasted almond, malt, violets, and other flowers. My nose was glued to these leaves for an inordinate amount of time. The first steep presents lemon first, and then reveals malt, roasted almonds, sweet potato, violet, zucchini, orange, pineapple, straw, and soy sauce. Lemon zest is noticeable in the next steep, as are notes of chocolate, baked bread, rose, cream, peach, and pineapple. Orange comes out in steeps three and four, along with all the other complex notes this oolong has to offer. I also notice malt and wood more in these steeps, along with orchid and orange blossom, though at this point my brain is overwhelmed and is probably just throwing out flavours at random. The next couple steeps are more malty and vegetal, with the same amount of citrus but less pineapple and stonefruit. I’m beginning to detect some minerality, and there’s a noticeable soy sauce aftertaste. By the one-minute mark, all the fruit except the citrus has disappeared and the tea leans on its malty, bready, vegetal, floral, and sweet potato profile, with whispers of tannins but no real astringency. The final steeps give me citrus, malt, pine, wood, minerals, roasted almonds, and tannins.
My whole review of this tea could have been “Wow!” This is what other black teas want to be when they grow up. As Daylon has mentioned, it’s very similar to the Lapsang from TheTea.pl, though I think the range of fruits is even wider. (This would be a perfect opportunity to break out my newly acquired 2021 Lapsang from TheTea for comparison!) This tea has excellent longevity and lovely, complex, comforting aromas and flavours, especially in the first few steeps. Thanks again to Daylon for giving up some of this tea for me to try.
Flavors: Almond, Bread, Chocolate, Citrus, Cookie, Cream, Floral, Lemon, Lemon Zest, Lychee, Malt, Mineral, Orange, Orange Blossom, Orchid, Peach, Pine, Pineapple, Rose, Soy Sauce, Straw, Sweet Potatoes, Tannin, Vegetal, Violet, Wood, Zucchini
Backlog: This one is elusively light. I’ve put off writing about it to properly describe it, but doesn’t usually last passed the 3rd or 4th cup. It’s smooth, sweet, floral-vaguely rosey, balanced, and honeyed in a bright amber liquor, but then it fades to a light orange or yellow. The second steep is kinda in the chocolaty category of blacks, but honey dominates. I haven’t really pinned it down-it burst in flavor once then becomes weak.
I’d say it’s a good one, but a more subtle tea overall unless I gong fu it at a ratio that is just right. Over leafing it muddles the flavor gong fu or western, but it’s way too weak with too little leaf, and too malty tumbler.
Flavors: Caramel, Floral, Honey, Malt, Smooth
Let’s see if I can keep the reviewing train rolling today. This was another of my sipdowns from earlier in the year and yet another tea that impressed me greatly. I had no clue what to expect of it prior to trying it, since Rohini teas have always seemed so variable to me. The Rohini Tea Estate always seems to produce interesting, quirky, high quality teas, but what they produce does not always hit the spot for me. Fortunately, this tea did. It was a real knockout.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a 10 second rinse, I steeped 6 grams of the loose tea leaves in 4 fluid ounces of 185 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was followed by 17 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, 7 minutes, and 10 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of bread, cream, vanilla, and grass. After the rinse, I detected aromas of violet, mandarin orange, coconut, sugarcane, and dandelion. The first infusion then introduced aromas of butter, roasted almond, and roasted peanut. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented pleasant notes of cream, bread, butter, dandelion, dandelion greens, vanilla, grass, and sugarcane that were balanced by hints of roasted almond, coconut, banana, green apple, mandarin orange, coriander, white grape, and pear. The majority of the subsequent infusions collectively introduced aromas of pear, white grape, dandelion greens, geranium, caramel, and cashew. Stronger and more immediately apparent notes of roasted almond, pear, coriander, mandarin orange, and white grape emerged in the mouth alongside impressions of minerals, tangerine, violet, carambola, geranium, fennel, and caramel. I was also able to pick out delicate hints of apricot, yellow plum, cucumber, honey, cashew, and roasted peanut. As the tea faded, the liquor continued to emphasize notes of minerals, cream, bread, violet, dandelion, dandelion greens, butter, grass, roasted almond, and sugarcane that were backed by a melange of lingering vanilla, white grape, cashew, pear, honey, banana, fennel, and mandarin orange flavors.
Honestly, this was easily one of the most unique and satisfying oolongs I have ever tried. My only real complaints with it were that the tea liquor was a bit thin, and some of the more interesting aroma and flavor components never emerged to the extent I would have preferred. Aside from those two quibbles, I could not find anything to fault, and again, this tea was awesome regardless.
Flavors: Almond, Apricot, banana, Bread, Butter, Caramel, Cashew, Coconut, Coriander, Cream, Cucumber, Dandelion, Fennel, Fruity, Geranium, Grass, Green Apple, Honey, Mandarin, Mineral, Peanut, Pear, Plum, Sugarcane, Tangerine, Vanilla, Vegetal, Violet, White Grapes
Last month I had fun going through the prompts multiple times, but I did overdo it when I attempted a fourth passthrough. (And made it!) That was my fauly!I love the Sipdown Challenge, though!
Since I have finished early, I will proceed at a leisurely pace to use it as inspiration, and this African tea was a brilliant option for today.
Heat index yesterday was 107F, or 41.6C. (Thank you, Alexa, for converting that for me.) Today is supposed to be several degrees hotter and we are under an extreme heat advisory.
This tea is brilliant, and I think if at all possible it is going to be a cupboard staple for me. I have steeped it three times now. The first two steeps had auch rich caramel flavor. As I went out to the garden to make periodic short, planned strikes at the work that needs doing there, I could still taste that thick brown sugar. The color of the steeped tea is a very rich amber/brown.
Good golly, I love this tea. Thank you, Superanna.
First prompt for June – an African tea! And it is one of the best African teas I have tasted.
First, it is filthy, ridiculous hot outside. A family cancelled lessons today so I have some free time and I decided to plant the flowers that have been languishing ever since I put my back out last week and haven’t been able to stand without screaming. My back was better today, so I figured I had better get them in the ground.
Just as I got too hot, a shepherd’s hook fell over from the weight of a freshly watered basket, and I had to throw the hose and catch the very heavy basket while the hose drenched the blanket I was using to kneel on to plant the flowers in the beds. Sigh.
When I finally got inside, I wanted cold tea FAST and I remembered Verdant email about flash chilling gong fu tea in a cocktail shaker and how it develops a foamy head. I chose this tea, and man oh man, was that a good choice.
This tea came out sooooo burnt caramel flavored. It is golden with a foamy top. I got a phone call from Ashman just as I poured the water, wandered off, and forgot I was making tea for a minute, but wandered back in time. I am sure it is a little oversteeped, but it is still really, really good.
This is a great method when you want good quality tea without sacrificing its flavor and with no sugar. (Most of our iced tea is sweet.) Since it isn’t sweetened and it s good tea made gong fu style, there isn’t the issue with it needing time for the flavors to meld. I plan to do this again – probably often – this summer.
I still have half a flat of vincas to plant and it is pushing 100F. Sigh. Back to it.
Edited to add: finished planting and came in and made second steep. Timed it properly this time. Golden sweet, light, and burnt sugar now more than burnt caramel. Still foamed when shaken, although I think greens foam even more, probably due to natural saponins.
Again with no note from me? How?
This fulfills the prompt for a tea with a color in the name for the April challenge. It also fulfills the desire to drink something amazing today.
The color is a rich gold, and the aroma made me think at first that I might want to use this as a “woody” tea, but I have already chosen who will fill that spot, and on tasting, this medium-to-thick bodied tea is honey up front, with a little baked sweet potato. A bare hint if mineral?
We both sat and sniffed the pot after the tea was gone, and you could have convinced anyone that it had held honey mixed with a little hot water.
Marvelous. A gift from Superanna.
Mastress Alita’s sipdown challenge, March 2022: A tea with spinach/artichoke notes
Spinach and artichoke aren’t notes that spring quickly to mind when I drink tea – although, I do associate the former a tiny bit with Dragon Well/Long Jing style. While not quite as pronounced, this Da Fang tastes a like a close relative of Dragon Well: it’s nutty, with a squeeze of lemon on a light, calcium-rich leafy green base. It brings to mind Gomae (spinach, sesame sauce). It’s pleasingly smooth, and without that bitter kale-like note that some green teas have; it’s a forgiving tea.
I love this tea’s profile and am glad What-Cha included it as a sample (I even horded my last cup’s worth, but open packets of green tea need to go at this time of the year). I’d definitely consider picking up more at some point.
Steep Count: 3
Flavors: Citrus, Floral, Lemon, Mineral, Nutty, Smooth, Spinach, Vegetal