1544 Tasting Notes
Leafhopper Sample Backlog:
Tried the Random Oolong from Taoist Meditations yesterday. It is a more medium roast oolong, but green enough to keep the floral qualities. It is heavy with orchid and some wood, some oat notes, but the roast actually brings out a fruitier dried peach note-maybe some honey sweetness. I brewed it 3 times in my Eclipse, using the entire sample in 12 oz, 195 water. I more or less did it grandpa style, but I pushed the plunger to separate the tea from the rest of the water after 4 minutes. The rest of the time, I adjusted the plunger to get more of the water for my cup. It slightly changed the flavor by shifting around the concentration of the tea. I would push it down, then pull it back up after a while for more tea “breathing room.” It helped prevent the tea from getting too dry.
I liked this one a lot because it was well balanced. It was fruitiest in the second grandpa session, but the most floral in the first, and the woodiest in the third with more fruit in aroma and flavor. I wouldn’t need over an oz of it, but I was happy to have it to break up some of my nuclear green tendencies.
Side note: I don’t recommend flavored teas in it. The silicone trapped the coconut, lemongrass, and cardamom flavors from one of my chai teas, and although I was able to take off the seals and rinse/wash them easily, the odor remained in for a while after air drying it for 6 hours. I didn’t have too much residue from my Jasmine scented green tea, so I can probably use other lightly scent teas, though maybe not Chai and Earl Grey. Luckily, it didn’t affect my dragon well at all, but I don’t fully trust it. Straight teas it is then.
I have not used this feature in a long time, though honestly, there have not been a lot of developments in Thermos until around 2018-2019-at least here in the US.
So, this is the most outrageously expensive thing I’ve gotten for tea, probably being the most conspicuous of my consumption-I paid around $120 us for it. For the most part, my tea tumblers are finnicky, and I was really intrigued with the idea of a more durable and versatile thermo. The glass ones are usually too fragile to temperature-I drink hot tea with my in cold Michigan weather, and lo & behold, the glass breaks. I’ve even had plastic break for my Gongfu2Go infuser from Crimson Lotus due to temperature change. As for metal thermos, they can get bent if they fall out of a backpack and be more difficult to clean in terms of tea stains or odor removal.
Getting to the point, this one is unique because it’s designed for hardcore tea snobs. It’s double walled with ceramic coating to prevent you from burning yourself, and to maintain as much tea flavor with no metal as possible. Since it works like a French press, you can actually seal off remaining water and the leaves off from the main vessel when you are done brewing. Residual water still stays with the remainder of the tea leaves so they aren’t totally dry, but they are easy to reuse again and again. it was designed with an extra portable tea cup that you can store in the top vessel so that you can pour water out of the thermo and into the cup, so you can enjoy the ritual of the tea-pinkies up in all.
Now, getting into what I actually think. The design is brilliant, and I’ve been able to coax more flavor from more difficult teas using it. The temperature difference between the outside and inside of the thermo is insane given how thin and light the thermo is. I also got a lot more control over how strong my tea brews, making it really friendly for black teas, oolongs, and sheng pu-erh. The fact that there are two ways to filter the tea prevents a significant amount of build up giving me an insanely pristine cup of tea every time. I also like that if the water of the tea is too hot, I can just pour it into the Nectar cup and wait for it to cool off. The way the thermo pours water into the Nectar looks like an in person instagram post-it’s that aesthetic. Cleaning this by hand is easy so far, and the ceramic coating is nicely hydrophobic, so it doesn’t stain as easily as some of my other teaware.
Clearly, I love this thing so far for more forgiving grandpa or western style brews, but I’ve got a few hiccups and I need to test it on a work day when I’m traveling or a more concentrated session for gong fu. The thermo needs to be more idiot proof to fully justify the cost. The lining for sealing/screwing on the pieces is kind of thin, and there are times when I’m hesitant if I’m putting it on right. I have a firm grip and tend to over screw things, so I run into the possibility of stripping the lining as I seal it.
I also still don’t feel comfortable with dropping it despite the good material it has. It’s sturdy, and while the ceramic is stronger than your usual mug-it’s reinforced with metal-but I still think this needs to have a lot more care and consideration. I’m not confident I would take this thing on a hike-I paid a lot of money for it, and so I would not to risk it getting damaged.
Despite my complaints, I don’t regret buying this thermo and recommend it for hardcore tea drinkers. Casual drinkers would love the design, but people really devoted to drinking tea might be the only group of people comfortable with how much it costs. It’s improved making tea significantly for me, and the ratio of water to the cup makes it so I can actually sit down and enjoy my tea slowly rather than staying on guard in my kitchen next to a kettle all the time. It’s versatility is incredible and helps me enjoy some of my more difficult teas in a more forgiving style of brewing where I might have problems before. I also haven’t tested cold brewing it-and I have high hopes for what I can make. My only criticisms are based on my confidence in how durable it really is and the large investment it takes to own one. I hope there more thermos are made like this in the future for a more affordable cost, and I highly recommend it for people on the go who want to enjoy the tea they spend 20-90 cents per gram on.
Finally opened my bag. This one had HUUUUGE leaves, and I brewed it in my fancy Chufunyu Eclipse Thermo…more on that later.
Tasting this out, I did semi western with a lot of leaves-maybe 5 grams. I preferred this tea over the Lishan Glory because it had a much rounder body and taste. It’s a little bit more vegetal, but really well balanced and easy to drink even in earlier steeps when it was more or less a rinse of 45 sec.
I basically sipped the tea at different intervals in a nearly Grandpa sort of way. It’s hard to explain since I’m brewing my tea in the Eclipse, which gives me a lot more control of how much the leaves are stewing. Sometimes, I let the leaves just sit, then I would cut off the water flow at different times, but I didn’t time it. Here’s a guesstimate: 45 sec sip, 1 min 20 sec sip, 2 minute brew-cut off leaves. Put in hot water again, 1 minute sip, 3 minute, then cut off the leaves. Pour hot water again, and more or less…grandpa style.
Tasting notes of what I got: Cream, Honey, Wood, Pine, Lemon Zest, Lilac, Coconut hints, Ample Butter, and Spinach. Overall, the tea had a heathered honey and milk/wood kind of taste. Sometimes, I though “forest dew” because there’s something misty and earthy about the tea. It was really pleasant, and fruitier notes immerged more mid brew and a little bit towards the end. The vegetal bitterness took over a little bit in later steeps, but adding more water improved it.
I need to try this again using more traditional methods gong fu or western, but I was able to push a lot of flavor out of it. The tea is also extremely flexible. It doesn’t change too much in terms of flavor and notes, but it yields a good experience every time-so I’m not complaining. I enjoyed it highly, and know I’m going to drink it again soon.
Flavors: Butter, Coconut, Cream, Fruity, Honey, Lemon Zest, Lilac, Pine, Rainforest, Spinach, Vegetal, Wood
Backlog from an old note:
Rebranded as Hugo Grey. Opening the back was a little overwhelming-bergamot bambed in my face. I opened it again a day later, and the peppery yunnan black base came through. Here are there notes:“grapefruit peel | applewood smoke | lemon zest” and that is more accurate in tems smell. In terms of taste, it’s doubtless Earl Grey, but with a scotch caramel body accented by cocoa, caraway, and pepper notes amidst a malty body. It could be a little drying like biscuit, but also pleasantly bitter sweet.
My only criticism is that the bergamot is a hair too strong. Otherwise, this tea does resemble some higher rated teas like Whispering Pines Earl Gold, which is impressive to say the least. This one is good western or gong fu. I’d love to see it in sachet form for the convenience of having an affordable high grade leaf.
And to the now. It’s good in sachet form. The recent sachets have higher quality leaves than before. The bergamot bleeds through anything, so if you want easy cologne, just get a few bags and put them in your jacket pocket. The sachets used to be so much cheaper. I used to get it for 42 bucks for 100 sachets, but now it’s 48. Gottta love inflation
I still like this one. It’s great in a tumbler, and it actually cuts some of the harshness out of the way with more water.
Cold brewing it works super well too. The bergamot, malt, caraway and cocoa are very pronounced, and it doesn’t use it’s pithiness. Mind you, I use two teabags worth and use cold water straight to let it sit in my bamboo tumbler, getting strong quicker than leaving it in the fridge. I still easily reuse them, and gets more drying after a few hours instead of a few minutes.
The pithy and earthy qualities would divide some people and detract them. The bergamot is also overwhelming for some. Most of my student really like this one’s profile, but others think it tastes too woody or grassy. That can be avoided with shorter steeps, yet I like it’s got more roast and character than some Ceylons. I also am preferential to Chinese blacks, so I keep coming back to it. Personally, it’s my slightly higher end work/breakfast tea for sustaining, mild energy and grounding. I personally like this one more than the Chai so far, but I still go back to the Jasmine Bai Hao they sell despite that tea being more astringent.
I recommend this tea for people who like Earl Grey and earthier/chocolatier tea.
Flavors: Bergamot, Caramel, Caraway, Citrus, Cocoa, Drying, Earth, Grapefruit, Malt, Oily, Pepper, Roasted, Scotch, Wood
Finally giving it some attention, I upped the grams to 7 and lowered the water volume to roughly 2-3oz in my clay shiboridashi at 195 F.
Here’s the intervals so far: 15, 20, 10, 15, 10, 10, 15, 20, 25, 10, flash steep, and 3 minutes and I’m continuing to drink it now as I write.
More flavor came through this time, leaning heavy into melon in the aroma and the taste in later steeps. Floral as ever, very heavy in the honeysuckle and plumeria territory. Unlike a lot of other lishans, this one leans more into a even steamed milk flavor than a fruity or floral forward one in longer steeps, but the shorter steeps do the tea a huge flavor with the ratio I’ve got right now. Earlier steeps in the session were also generally milkier and more soft white, yellow, and purple florals, but the vanilla character as well as the honeydew melon and pear are extremely pronounced in the second 10 second range of flash steeps, and push the temperature into the higher 190s.
The accidental three minute one was a little too bitter and spinachy, but retained the tropical florals and pushed the tea into a condensed milk profile mid-sip. It wasn’t perfect and a little too green that way, but the complexity wasn’t lost thankfully.
As of now, I am mostly getting melon. Aroma throughout this session has shifted and actually caramelized into a fesh sugariness you get from dried pineapple or fruit in the spell. Maybe sugarcane is a better descriptor, because the tea is still green and partly vegetal. Either way, I know I can keep brewing this one for at least two more brews before it loses lustre.
In terms of rating, I’m still undecided. I would have initially leaned more into the 80s at first, but the much stricter gong fu parameters and short steeps made a huge difference . The western style sessions have more balance/dimension than normal oolongs, and definitely more complex than some Jin Xuans or Four Seasons that have a similar grass creamer, distinctly Taiwanese oolong flavor. My pickiness stems more from the fact that I’ve had a lot of Taiwanese Lishans and have a little bit of prejudice towards certain teas and price ranges, but I really am enjoying this company, and I do think the tea is very smooth and good.I can easily see people newly getting into higher priced Taiwanese oolong really liking it because it’s so balanced and sweet compared to other teas, and of course any oolong lover, though they might be more nit picking about flavor. Right now, I’m going to rate this one an 85 because I’m between liking and loving it.
Flavors: Apple, Butter, Cream, Creamy, Floral, Green, Lettuce, Melon, Milk, Pear, Plumeria, Soft, Spinach, Sugarcane, Vanilla
I’ve almost completed a sipdown. I really like this tea overall-the flavor is perfect for anyone looking for a more affordable Jin Jun Mei. It was only $6 for an oz, and that’s not bad for the quality.
The cocoa and honey notes are obvious in the aroma and in the taste, with a little bit of longan fruitiness in the aftertaste. It can get a tannin-dark chocolate bitter or muddled if you overbrew it, yet it’s far more forgiving compared to other blacks. The only downside is that I don’t get much more than 3 solid cups or brews western, rarely over 4-5 gong fu. The complete profile and flavor is satisfying enough for me, though.
I’d easily recommend this tea to people newly getting into drinking teas without cream or sugar, or if you are looking for an affordable alternative for more expensive Wuyi Blacks or Fujian blacks. I haven’t tried it out as more English style tea yet, but I think it would stand up to sugar more than it would cream unless you use a generous amount of leaf. I still need to play with it more gong fu and western to be sure. Tumbler style and western are best so far in my opinion.
Overpriced, but complex Gong Fu so far in 15-20 sec increments going up each time. The style leans more into a Baozhong, but the taste is a little bit closer to a Tie Guan Yin. Orchid and dense vegetal florals are the most prominent note about the very light smell and taste of the tea. Like the black, it’s got a cedar profile that sneaks into the orchids, especially during steep three. It’s also long lasting and has a little bit more vegetal and fruity build up towards the end.
Unlike Taiwanese teas, this Michigan made tea is more floral than it is fruity, but it’s a different kind of vegetal that I notice in more Chinese teas. I’m half tempted to put peony in the florals for the notes. The later notes are also more complex whereas the earlier notes are softer and more floral. It’s forgiving, but some complexity can be lost when I push the tea too far.
So far, it’s certainly stands its ground in taste and complexity against Taiwanese and Chinese teas. In terms of price, I hesitate more. I got this one to try out Michigan Terroir and support a cool business. I prefer the black tea a little bit more even if I prefer the softer profile of this one. The black tea stands out a little bit more overall, so I’ll see if I change my mind as my snobbery fluxes.
Simply put, I like this tea and impressed by the tea, but I’m not sure if it stands out enough from its predecessors to justify the price.
Flavors: Apricot, Cedar, Floral, Freshly Cut Grass, Incense, Orchid, Peony, Wood
Michigan Grown and processed Black tea.
Yeah, this one stands up against many Yunnan Blacks. I won’t go into too much detail, but it was long lasting western. The profile is extremely close to a Bai Lin or Golden Monkey Picked Yunnan black. The flavor leans heavier into anise, licorice, and cedar, with malt and cocoa in texture. I do think it’s overpriced, but it stands out. I’ll have plenty to play with, and I don’t regret trying it. This note is a placeholder for now.
Flavors: Anise, Cedar, Cocoa, Licorice, Malt