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Recent Tasting Notes
Tea Advent Calendar – Day 14
I was excited to see a Whispering Pines tea in the advent calendar today and I was not disappointed! This is exactly the type of black tea I love: smooth and slightly sweet with notes of malt and sweet potato. It also re-steeps beautifully!
Flavors: Malt, Smooth, Sweet, Sweet Potatoes
I sometimes think the universe keeps plotting against me.
For 2 days now I have been drinking this tea so I can review it. And for two days life’s insanity has meant I’ve noticed little other than its hot or its cold.
Honestly, I think its ok. Nothing bad with it but at the same time, nothing exceptional either, at least to my tastes.
When its hot, there’s a flavor element there that I can’t really identify.
However, when its cold (which keeps happening more and more often) there is a mild pleasant sweetness to it. I think this might make an excellent iced tea. but for hot, I’d prefer something else.
I need to kick myself. I had decided to take advantage of materialism money greed weekend and stock up on that amazing PTA. And, since the sales were good, I decided to go a head and try a couple of new things. One of the new things was this tea.
Only it wasn’t new. Because I had forgotten to rate it. And so when I checked, I didn’t think I had it. What I get for checking Steepster and not what I actually have. So I have most of an ounce already and another on its way.
So to avoid this kind of error in the future, here’s a review.
At least its a heavily oxidized oolong and its not bad. But when I drink it, I think that I have Golden Snail and PTA in my drawer and I’d rather be drinking one of them.
And to give an example, I arrived at work at 8am this morning and made my first cup.
Its now 4pm and I am not going to finish the cup.
I’m so guilty. I never (or almost never) follow the steeping instructions listed on a bag of tea. I have found a few things that seem to work and I’m such a creature of habit that I never want to try something different. This tea is no exception. It recommends a half teaspoon of leaves steeped in boiling water for 3 minutes. That didn’t happen. In fact, I goofed on this one completely, adding too much water and not enough leaf.
Just to make a quick note about the leaves – they are beautiful. Golden yellow, fuzzy, soft, fluffy. Really so nice. As I mentioned, I botched this cup so it is very light in color and in flavor. I’ll have to give this one another try later.
I broke this cake up last weekend hoping to add some variety to the tea I have at work. I’ve had this cake for maybe 3 years?
2X rinse, 205F water, 100 ml shibo, ~5g?
10s, 10s, 10s, 15s, etc… I need to remember to bring one of my strainers to work.
A hint of camphor and earth off the liquid. Early steeps – smooth, hint of dirt/earth, nut skin or shell, faint bitterness. No off flavors or weird finish. Easy drinking.
Later – still smooth, almost cocoa, some vanilla, earthy, but light.
I like it.
Flavors: Camphor, Cocoa, Earth, Nuts, Smooth, Vanilla
I finally got around to tasting this tea from Whispering Pines.
The small brick was about 5.5 grams. I broke it in half to try in two sessions.
TL;DR Summary: Overall, this is a decent tasting tea. If you really like sweet fruity teas, then I’d recommend this to you. There’s hardly any astringency or bitterness no matter how far I pushed out the steep times. Personally, I liked the flavor profiles (with the dates & plums) but I really wanted more body and viscosity to the tea. IMNSHO, I think it’s a bit thin, which is why I’m not giving this a higher rating.
I think a leaf vs. water ratio would help or a CZ with a bit of crushed leaf. I probably should have just brewed the whole square instead of trying to conserve the tea. (Also, I really think this tea would be most excellent as a cold brew!!) The only other “ding” I would give it is that it didn’t last as long as I hoped, given the price point. Flavors started to wash out by steep 5.
I brewed this GongFu style.
Temp: 200+ deg
Steep times: 15s, 30s, 60s, 60s, 60s, 90;120
The dry leaf: hints of plum and fig
Leaf in warm gaiwan: Fresh plums, figs, prunes.
- 15s – First steep is the color of medium red amber. The wet leaf smells of sugar water and plums. It’s very sugary sweet! Did I accidentally add sugar? Nope. It’s just THAT sweet.
There’s hints of plums, figs, apricots with a very mild astringency with a drying in the back of the throat & back of my tongue. However, the tea soup is very thin and the flavors are hints of what this could be. (Maybe this should have been a 20-30 second steep)
- 30s – a little bit more body but not by much. There’s a hint of Chinese salted prunes in the leaf aroma. Broth: The flavors of plums & figs are much more stronger and distinct. It’s still sugary sweet.- 60s – Lets see what happens if I push it out? The color is much darker than the #1 or #2. I still get scents of plum and sugar from the leaf, but with the added scents of dates and fruit bread(?) The sugary sweetness is not as strong. Now I get the flavor of dates. I probably should have kept the steep to about 45seconds if I wanted to keep the sweetness of this tea for longer.
- 60s – The color is now lighter than #3; The leaf smells more of cooked plums/dates versus fresh plums & dried dates. There’s still some sugary sweetness in the leaf.
The tea brother definitely has more of a date flavor with the ever present plums. The sweetness is now in the aftertaste.
- 90 seconds — Flavors are starting to fade a bit. I don’t think the tea has that many longer steeps in it.
- 120 seconds — Flavors are definitely starting to fade. Still no bitterness and an extremely mild astringency.
Flavors: Dates, Fig, Plums
I got this as a sample in my order from Whispering Pines. I brewed this GF style and will try the recommended Western Brewing at a later date. (I’ll update this review when I do)
[11/12/19 UPDATE: See Western style below the GF write-up]
Tea amount: 3grams / water amt ~90ml
Steep times: 20 seconds + 10 second increments per WP’s GF brewing guide.
Water temp: 202 -212 deg F (my kettle sometimes is variable on the temp.)
SUMMARY: This tea does okay in a gaiwan. The flavors are good and what I’d expect out of a Golden Needle, but I’m left wanting a tiny bit more from the tea than it can probably give. Also, the number of steeps was acceptable (topping out at 5 for me)
- The tea leaves in a warm gaiwan give off a scent of chocolate.
- The wet tea leaves have high-notes of a hot chocolate drink and have low-notes of spent cocoa powder that’s been toasted and slightly burnt.
- The tea broth gives off scents of chocolate & honey with hints of orange.
The tea really requires a higher temperature water (208-212) and longer brewing time. As my kettle doesn’t quite keep at the prescribed 208degF that it says on the display, so the temp varies a bit for each steep.
1) 20 seconds @ 208F — not bad. Color of the liquid is a medium orange. The tea is mild in flavor tasting of chocolate & honey. There’s very little astringency.
2) 30 seconds @ 202F — This steep is not as flavorful as the 1st. There’s still the flavors of chocolate & mild orange, but it feels a bit washed out
3) 60 seconds @ 208 — Here we go with the higher temp. The tea is now a much darker orange than the previous 2 steeps. The flavors are a bit stronger — bittersweet cocoa, a tad more orange. There’s a tiny bit astringency and a hint of bitterness but I don’t mind.
4) 60 @ 202F - Flavors are milder than #3..not quite washed out, but definitely not as flavorful.
5) 120 @ 208 — Reboiled the water for this and keeping for a longer brew. It’s not helping as much as I’d hoped. There’s less flavor and more astringency, but still no bitterness.
I’m throwing the rest of the tea into a cold brew to leech out of the rest of the flavors overnight. Who knows, this might be more excellent as a cold brew. It’ll probably be definitely be better as a Western Style
I followed the recommendations for Western: 1Tb (~3grams) @ 8oz @212F for 3/5 minutes
This steep is a lot more mellow and less bitter than the 1st steep. I find myself preferring this one than the first. Similar flavor profiles to the first but much much milder.
I combined both of these steeps, and I have to say this combination is better than each individual part.
This tea is okay in either style, but I think there are better Golden Needles out there.
Flavors: Chocolate, Cocoa, Honey, Orange
Overall, this is a good tea with nice woody flavors, roasted nuts, and only hints of sweetness; this is mostly a savory tea. It starts off very mild in flavor with the 1st infusion and gets better from there. There’s a medium robustness in the tea with a good viscosity. I also got a lot of steeps out of this.
It’s a decent enough black tea, which is not quite in my preferred flavor profile, but won’t say No, if offered. The cha qi in this tea is pretty darn good.
I tried this GF style. (I’ll try this via WP’s recommended Western brew style later then update this review.)
Water: 150 ml
1) 15 seconds @ 194F – Liquid is medium gold amber and gives off a faint woody smell. The wet leaves give off high notes of fruit and low notes of roasted / herbal scents. The flavor starts off with roasted nuts & camphor — there’s the mild sweetness of nuts; then a mild creamy aftertaste with hints of tobacco. It has a mild viscosity that coats the roof of my mouth but not my tongue with a very long finish
2) 30 seconds @ 196 — This is a much better infusion. The liquid is reddish amber with smells of wood, camphor/eucalyptus. The wet leaf has nigh notes of cocoa and low notes of roasted nuts, bittersweet chocolate.
On drinking it, I taste nuts on the tip of my tongue followed by cocoa, mild camphor/eucalyptus and wood. My tongue dried instantly; there’s a mild cha qi hitting my head.
3) 45 sec @ 193 deg. The tea is definitely getting a much darker red and I smell more camphor from the liquid, but the scent of the wet leaves hasn’t.
It still tastes of nuts, wood, and cocoa nibs. The flavors are becoming more robust and I can taste malty flavors. Viscosity has increased and the astringency has hit my tongue! Cha qi in the head has increased too.
4) 60 seconds @ 195 — The color is slightly less than the #3 steep. The liquid definitely has a camphor/eucalyptus scent, but the leaf now has high notes of brown sugar.
The flavor profile is changing slightly too — nuts, wood, and now resin.
5) 75 seconds – @ 200F — This is interesting. The liquid has gotten darker by increasing the temperature of the water, but the flavors haven’t really changed….they’re starting to actually got less intense
6) 1min30sec @ 200F — The liquid is still an amber red, and the flavors are still there, although lessening to a degree. There’s a hint of things starting to wash out at this point, but I might be able to get a few more steeps out of it.
Flavors: Camphor, Cream, Eucalyptus, Roasted nuts
I ordered this tea from WP because, honestly, I liked the name. I have no vested interest in the tea or know about the hype surrounding it until I started looking at the reviews.
I brewed this following WP’s guidelines: 1 TBSP / 8 oz @212F for 3 minutes, then 5 minutes
(I will also try this GF style, then update this review)
Tea: 1.5 grams, which about fit in my TBSP at home.
Water: 8oz/237 ml
The wet leaf smells of sweet, dough-y, and has a scent that I associate with wild tree purple tea from Yunnan. The flavor is not very complex, nor is it simple. It has a medium viscosity with a thick aftertaste like cream. It’s not honey sweet, but has some honey overtones. The tea has a fairly long finish. 5 minutes: Not sure that I like the second steep. The flavors are just “okay”. It seems to have lost any complexity that it had from the first brew.
For this brew style, this is a very innocuous tea without much wow factor in the flavors. It’s not bad and I suspect that it’s a good beginner type tea for someone who is used to bagged tea from Tazo.
I’ve been drinking up the last of my favorite teas that I’ve been hoarding lately and I am so sad to see the last of this one go. I didn’t like the taste of black licorice when I was younger, but I love black licorice candy now and this tea smells and tastes like black licorice candy and creamy anise cakes (with that almost minty edge that black licorice has) with a toasty warmth from the black tea. It’s magic and is so deeply soothing. I feel like it calms down my fibromyalgia pain just a little (or else warms my heart enough to take the edge off). Definitely candied and dessert-like, but also grownup and complex to me. I think it’s safe to say that you’d have to actually enjoy the taste and scent of black licorice / anise to enjoy this, but it’s heaven if you do. A very unique dessert tea that makes me happy. I love the strong flavor and beautiful, deep gold shade of this tea.
It’s a rainy, gloomy day here today (I saw snow, though it didn’t stick thankfully!) and I feel so bleh with the ladytime pains I don’t feel up to housework, so I thought I’d do a little gong fu session with one of my old teabox teas (I really need to work on finishing those samples off!) This is the last black sample I had from the Here’s Hoping Traveling Teabox, so thank you to tea-sipper for organizing and to all those involved in that box for sharing their teas! I had a 2.3g sample and prepared it in my baby sized gaiwan.
2.32g / 40ml (gaiwan) / 205F / 30s|20s|25s|30s|35s|40s|45s|50s|60s|60s
The session lasted ten steeps, and I’ll admit I was surprised at the longevity of a black tea that had to be incredibly old at this point, as I rarely get such longevity even from fresh blacks and oolongs. My first steep ended up much longer than I planned, since I forgot how incredibly hot the little ceramic baby gaiwan is (I’m used to “cheating” with gong fu by always using my shiboridashi which is much easier to handle when it comes to heat retention and not pouring boiling tea all over my fingers). It had an aroma of orange peels, mandarins, and raisin bread, with a strong baked bread aroma present on the top of the cup, and the flavor of the tea was a strong pithy orange peel citrus note, with a less prominent lemony citrus note that produced slight puckering toward the end of the sip, as well as notes of malt and raisin bread, with a rather prominent astrigent/drying sensation on the top of the mouth. The second steep was less pithy with a more fruity and balanced orange flavor and a little stronger in the lemon note, with the malty notes also rounding out a bit and some florality becoming more present, but the tea was still quite astringent. On the third steep I overfilled my gaiwan to its limits of 60ml which made it extremely difficult to pour but noticed the extra water mellowed the tea out, with the malt/citrus/floral notes rounding out and the tea not having the bitter astringent bite on the finish, so the fourth steep I removed a few leaves out of the cup so I could fill it comfortably again at around the 40ml mark and got a flavor on par with the third steep, and the tea even seemed to have some rose florality pushing forward. It seemed some of the astringency was due to having too much leaf-to-water and now, while a bit drying after the sip, it was no longer unpleasant in any way. Most of the rest of the session continued with the tea reminding me of marmalade toast, with a bit of rose florality cropping up from time to time.
Considering the age of the tea sample, I was impressed with how much I got out of it, and had a nice, warming session on an otherwise dreary afternoon.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Citrus, Drying, Floral, Fruity, Jam, Lemon, Malt, Orange, Raisins, Rose, Smooth, Toast
Steepster has unfortunately now eaten my review of this tea twice, so let’s see if the third time is the charm. I generally don’t go for pu-erh or blended teas, so one would expect this tea to not do much for me, but one would be wrong. This was an absolutely fantastic pu-erh blend.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a 10 second rinse, I steeped 6 grams of the loose pu-erh, cacao nib, and vanilla bean piece blend in 4 ounces of 212 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was chased 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 blend emitted aromas of earth, mushroom, cocoa, vanilla, and marshmallow. After the rinse, I detected new aromas of malt, wood, and wheat toast. The first infusion introduced the aroma of old paper and a subtle scent of smoke. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of earth, cream, butter, malt, mushroom, marshmallow, wood, wheat toast, cocoa, and vanilla that were complimented by subtle notes of cinnamon, black pepper, camphor, smoke, and old paper. The subsequent infusions introduced aromas of cream, butter, molasses, and caramel. Notes of minerals and dried tobacco appeared in the mouth alongside subtle hints of molasses and a brown sugar note that quickly transformed into more of a caramel presence. As the tea faded, the liquor emphasized mineral, cream, wood, vanilla, cocoa, and caramel notes that were complimented by hints of marshmallow, camphor, wheat toast, butter, and mushroom.
At this point, all I can do is re-emphasize that I thought this was a fantastic blend. Nothing was out of place. Everything worked together. It was just beautiful. Brendan consistently does an incredible job with his tea blends, and this one was another winner. Anyone looking to craft a quality pu-erh blend should check out this tea and some of Whispering Pines’ similar offerings.
Flavors: Black Pepper, Brown Sugar, Butter, Camphor, Caramel, Cinnamon, Cocoa, Cream, Earth, Malt, Marshmallow, Mineral, Molasses, Mushrooms, Paper, Smoke, Toast, Tobacco, Vanilla, Wheat, Wood
It is a very clean, bright and cheerful puerh. Wood, molasses, camphor, limestone, a hint of dried apple. Some decay on the nose but none on the tongue.
It is a sunny-morning tea, full of optimism and promise. Kinda amazing how many dramatically different puehrs are there in the world. This is one of the better ones, but then again everything that I have tried from Whispering Pines was firmly above-average.
Flavors: Camphor, Dried Fruit, Limestone, Molasses, Wood
I’ve been having this with breakfast the last few days, and cold brewing the spent leaves. It’s a solid unflavored black, but no malt, which for me is strange in an Assam. Despite the lack of maltiness, it has a sweetness and full body that I enjoyed. And the spent leaves make a great iced tea.
Additional notes on this lovely tea. Last time I had it, my nephew was staying with me so I didn’t gongfu it. This time I did.
There is still that warm, comforting spice that I can’t name and it goes well with the oats notes. I still don’t believe it is cinnamon. What is it?? lol Anyway, it’s a warm taste. Lovely.
Lots of fresh red apples, apple skin, some berries… As it tasted when I made it as directed, it still comes off as a yummy lightly spiced-oatmeal-apple pie. Creamy barley notes, more raisin than honey sweetness. No bitterness at all, almost dessert-like and it’s rich, full. In the beginning, I got some sweet potatoes but only, in the beginning, it remained full of oats and fruity notes throughout all the infusions. Tasted some lychee and stonefruits notes somewhere in the middle. Warm, fruity, oat-y, yummy. I think I prefer my ‘Golden Lily’ this way now.
Flavors: Apple, Apple Skins, Baked Bread, Creamy, Fruity, Lychee, Oats, Roasted Barley, Stonefruits
First impressions from the first cup. I usually always do gong-fu but my schedule has drastically changed since having my nephew around. :) I prepared it with 1 heaping tablespoon, 212F, 3 min steep in 16 ozs water. The second cup for 5 min. infusion.
Soft, silky mouthfeel. A very warm, comforting spice that I can not name, not quite cinnamon but cinnamony-like. Oats, apple, berries, spices… It reminded me kind of a cinnamon-oatmeal-apple pie but in liquid form. Cream notes, barley notes, naturally but delicately honey-raisin sweet. Unique and wonderful flavors throughout the two infusions. The second infusion not as delicious as the first as it seemed that the oats/barley notes were more subdued. Am looking forward to a gongfu session with this to see where all these splendid notes come in and come out.
Flavors: Apple, Apple Skins, Berries, Cinnamon, Cream, Creamy, Honey, Oats, Raisins, Roasted Barley, Smooth, Spices
I got a sample of this on my last order.
Its a rainy and cold day. Just got into work and decided to give this one a try. As it was steeping, all I could think was someone had brought french toast into the office. Its not a sweet tasting tea, but the flavor reminds me of a rich pastry without the sweetness.
Its difficult for me to explain, but I really like the aroma and taste of this tea. I hope there is still some left when I’m ready for my next order.
Gongfu Sipdown (704)!
Many thanks to TheWeekendSessions for the tea sample! This is something that I picked up from him when I was in Winnipeg, and I was really, really excited about it! I knew WP was carrying this tea now – but I haven’t ordered from them in ages, and I generally don’t love making orders just for one tea so I’d not looked too seriously at it. However, I remember Butiki carrying this and it was amazing. One of the first straight teas I ever fell in love with – definitely a life changing tea!
So all that said, here’s what I wrote about it on instagram:
So yammy/sweet potato heavy with delicious malt, stewed plum, raisin, caramelized sugar, molasses, and cinnamon bread notes. Very thick, coating liquor and lingering sweetness. A really well rounded profile!
It’s basically love in a cup/gaiwan, and painfully nostalgic for me! I completely brewed out this tea, and it was definitely one of the best things I’ve drank all month!
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHEvjLJgWM8