880 Tasting Notes

72

This was one of my most recent sipdowns. I finished the last of what I had of this tea last night. As the previous reviewer noted, the tea pellets were not as tightly rolled as one would expect from a tea of this type, looking a little more like small snails than round balls. As Chinese gunpowder green teas go, this one was a good bit quirkier, more likable, and more complex than most, but it was still by no means a truly spectacular offering.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. Teavivre recommended a water temperature of 194 F for this tea, but I tend to be more comfortable brewing Chinese green teas under 190 F, so I opted to use 185 F water for the entirety of the session. After rinsing 7 grams of loose tea pellets in 5 ounces of 185 F water, I started my session off with a 5 second infusion. Fourteen additional infusions followed. Steep times for these infusions were 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, and 3 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry pellets emitted aromas of cooked cabbage, straw, hay, roasted carrot, smoke, char, and honey. After the rinse, I noted new aromas of spinach and peas. The first infusion introduced a subtle grass scent. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of hay, straw, grass, spinach, peas, cooked cabbage, smoke, and roasted carrot that were chased by hints of honey, lemon, and caramel. The subsequent infusions introduced aromas of cooked green beans, butter, and green olive. Stronger lemon notes appeared in the mouth along with belatedly emerging char hints. New impressions of minerals, butter, seaweed, cooked green beans, roasted barley, and green olive also appeared alongside hints of malt and wood. By the end of the review session, I was still able to detect subtle impressions of minerals, spinach, grass, and seaweed that were backed by fleeting honey, straw, roasted carrot, and cooked cabbage hints.

This was a pretty solid gunpowder green tea. It was a bit rough around the edges (some fairly pronounced astringency here and there), but overall, it was a likable tea. Gunpowder green teas are rarely ever super high end and are mostly just intended to be regular drinking teas anyway, so it is not really fair to expect them to compare to higher end Chinese green teas. For what this was, it was pretty good. I would imagine that fans of such teas would find it rather enjoyable.

Flavors: Butter, Caramel, Carrot, Char, Grass, Green Beans, Hay, Honey, Lemon, Malt, Mineral, Olives, Peas, Roasted, Roasted Barley, Seaweed, Smoke, Spinach, Straw, Vegetal, Wood

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 7 g 5 OZ / 147 ML

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95

This was my most recent sipdown as I finished my 25g pouch last night. The weather here changed very suddenly a couple days ago, and since I have been once again dealing with sinus issues as a result, I have been spending a tremendous amount of time nursing hot beverages. Not wanting to cause ridiculous insomnia, I have been consuming tisanes in the evening. Though I do not go out of my way to drink it often, I am a huge fan of wild jujube. I am happy to report that I found this one to be an excellent offering.

I prepared this tisane gongfu style. After a brief rinse, I steeped 6 grams of jujube leaf in 4 ounces of 185 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was chased by 18 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, and 15 minutes. I actually could have kept going for at least one or two more infusions, but I decided to stop where I did because it was getting late.

Prior to the rinse, the dry jujube leaves emitted aromas of toasted rice, toasted walnut, spinach, turnip greens, and roasted Brussels sprouts. After the rinse, I noted new aromas of collard greens and roasted carrots. The first infusion brought out a subtle roasted barley scent. In the mouth, I noted unexpected mushroom notes along with the expected impressions of turnip greens, spinach, collard greens, and roasted Brussels sprouts. Notes of ginseng, honey, vanilla, sugarcane, and toasted walnut started out as hints of flavor lingering in the background before coming out powerfully on the finish. Subsequent infusions introduced aromas of vanilla, ginseng, sugarcane, mushroom, honey, and seaweed. Notes of toasted rice, roasted carrot, and roasted barley emerged alongside impressions of baked bread, soybean, umami, seaweed, butter, minerals, grass, and radish. By the time I ended my review session, I was still picking up on notes of umami, minerals, butter, roasted barley, spinach, turnip greens, and toasted walnut that were balanced by hints of roasted Brussels sprouts, collard greens, mushroom, sugarcane, vanilla, and ginseng.

An almost unbelievably aromatic and flavorful tisane, I currently wish that I had purchased more of this when I had the money. This made for an excellent evening hot beverage that had the added benefit of temporarily clearing my sinuses while also serving as a sleep aid. If I were to directly compare it to anything, I would compare it to vegetable soup broth. I always crave vegetable soup when I am sick and/or when the weather starts to turn cold, so this really hit the spot for me. Definitely make a point of trying this offering if you are at all into Chinese herbal brews.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Butter, Carrot, Grass, Herbaceous, Honey, Mineral, Mushrooms, Roasted Barley, Seaweed, Soybean, Spinach, Sugarcane, Toasted Rice, Umami, Vanilla, Vegetal, Walnut

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

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93

I am once again starting to clear out my backlog of tea reviews. I think I finished what I had of this tea right at the end of October. It was either the last or next to last sipdown of the month. As silver needle white teas go, I found it to be tremendously enjoyable. It was oddly a heavier and more accessible tea than many of its Chinese counterparts.

Naturally, I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea buds in 4 ounces of 185 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was followed 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 dry tea buds emitted aromas of hay, eucalyptus, vanilla, and malt that were underscored by hints of smoke and corn husk. After the rinse, I detected stronger corn husk and smoke scents along with aromas of cream, celery, and butter. I did not notice any difference in the tea’s bouquet on the first infusion. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of hay, smoke, eucalyptus, cream, corn husk, and butter that were backed by hints of vanilla. Subsequent infusions introduced scents of green beans, sugarcane, apricot, fennel, puff pastry, and marshmallow as well as well as a subtle honeydew aroma. Stronger vanilla notes emerged in the mouth as well as belatedly emerging impressions of malt and celery. New impressions of minerals, green beans, sugarcane, apple, puff pastry, honeydew, marshmallow, apricot, fennel, and orange zest also emerged. At the end of the session, the tea liquor had grown a bit astringent, but I could still pick up mineral, celery, cream, fennel, butter, and sugarcane impressions framed by accents of hay, honeydew, apple, vanilla, and eucalyptus.

This was an absolutely fantastic silver needle white tea, one that I would honestly rank up above some of the better Chinese silver needles I have tried. I think I would even put it above the few Darjeeling silver needles I have tried to this point. I would recommend it highly to anyone with an interest in quality white teas, especially someone looking for something more exotic than the traditional Chinese offerings.

Flavors: Apple, Apricot, Butter, Celery, Corn Husk, Cream, Eucalyptus, Fennel, Green Beans, Hay, Honeydew, Malt, Marshmallow, Mineral, Orange Zest, Pastries, Smoke, Sugarcane, Vanilla

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

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87

It is finally time to get the last of the Zhangping Shui Xian mini cake reviews posted. I had one each of the 2016 and 2017 “Premium Floral” Cakes, consuming them in back-to-back gongfu sessions at the end of last week. I found both to be very good, definitely a few steps above the regular Zhangping Shui Xian “Floral” Cakes offered by What-Cha. Just to be clear, this review will specifically detail my experience with the 2016 cake. I will review the 2017 cake in a separate review at a later date.

As mentioned in the paragraph above, I prepared this tea gongfu style. I plopped the whole cake into my 160 ml celadon gaiwan, rinsed it in 203 F water for about 10 seconds, and then steeped it for 10 seconds to start. This initial infusion was then 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 mini cake emitted aromas of cream, butter, custard, honeysuckle, and gardenia. After the rinse, I detected new aromas of steamed milk, sugarcane, grass, and vanilla. The first infusion brought out subtle orange blossom scents. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of cream, butter, and grass that were chased by hints of sugarcane, orange blossom, tart cherry, and gardenia. The subsequent infusions brought out mineral, cinnamon, baked bread, mushroom, and almond aromas. Notes of steamed milk, custard, vanilla, and honeysuckle came out in the mouth along with new notes of minerals, coconut, almond, apple, orange zest, pear, mushroom, cattail shoots, and baked bread. The previously mentioned impressions of grass and tart cherry grew a little stronger as well. By the end of the session, I was just able to pick up on lingering mineral, cattail shoot, grass, tart cherry, orange zest, and butter notes that were underscored by fleeting hints of cream, baked bread, pear, apple, vanilla, and sugarcane.

Much like the other Zhangping Shui Xian mini cakes sourced by What-Cha, this was a subtle and delicate tea that often emphasized body and texture over aroma and flavor. Unlike those other teas, this one was more consistent in terms of body and texture, and the aromas and flavors present were a little more prominent and were layered in a more appealing and sophisticated fashion. Honestly, this blew the other Zhangping Shui Xian mini cakes out of the water, but I also doubt that I would have appreciated this one as much had I not taken the time to try the others.

Flavors: Almond, Apple, Baked Bread, Butter, Cherry, Cinnamon, Coconut, Cream, Custard, Gardenias, Grass, Honeysuckle, Milk, Mineral, Mushrooms, Orange Blossom, Orange Zest, Pear, Sugarcane, Vanilla, Vegetal

Preparation
8 g 5 OZ / 160 ML

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61

Okay, this was one of my first sipdowns of the month. At the time I decided to crack this tea open, I had actually been looking forward to trying it for some time. I understood it to be a throwback tea, the sort of Taiwanese oolong that was popular in the United States prior to the introduction of many of the higher end teas that are more popular and widely known among serious American tea drinkers today. Naturally, I was curious about it. After working my way through my sample pouch, I can honestly say that it was kind of what I expected it to be, dark, roasted, and simpler than many of the Taiwanese oolongs to which I have grown accustomed over the years.

I prepared this tea in the Western style. After a brief rinse, I steeped 3 grams of the loose leaf and stem mix in approximately 8 ounces of 205 F water for 3 minutes. This infusion was then followed by two additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were 5 minutes and 7 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, I detected a woody smell emanating from the dry leaf and stem mix. After infusion, I noted cinnamon, peach, malt, and honey aromas. In the mouth, I detected notes of cinnamon, honey, malt, wood, brown sugar, prune, toasted walnut, and roasted carrot that were underscored by delicate hints of peach. The second infusion did not see the nose change all that much aside from the introduction of subtle roasted carrot and toasted walnut scents. The tea liquor was also largely the same in the mouth, though I began to note subtle impressions of minerals and somewhat stronger peach notes. The third and final infusion saw minerals come out on the nose. Notes of minerals, wood, and roasted carrot dominated the mouth, though I could still detect some fleeting impressions of toasted walnut, brown sugar, malt, and cinnamon in the background.

All in all, this tea was pretty simple, but also pretty decent. I would not choose it over any of the higher end Taiwanese oolongs that are readily available these days, but this tea was still pleasant and an educational experience to boot. Drinking something like this also gave me an appreciation for just how much the American tea market has expanded over the course of my lifetime. We have gone from more or less only having access to oolongs like this to being able to hop online or truck over to the nearest tea shop and pick from tons of unique and high quality Taiwanese, Chinese, Indian, Nepalese, Vietnamese, Thai, Kenyan, and Ceylonese oolongs. I remember drinking teas like this at Chinese and Taiwanese restaurants as a child, and though a tea like this would not be something I would reach for regularly today, it is the sort of tea I would choose to knock back on a cooler afternoon or evening when I am not in the mood for something complex or exotic requiring patience and consistent focus. In other words, it was an appropriate beverage choice for this time of year, especially for a late evening at work or a lazy weekend afternoon. In the end, I cannot justify giving this tea a high rating, but for what it was, there was nothing wrong with it. Try it if you are curious about historical tea styles that were widely consumed in the U.S. and other Western countries prior to expanded access to higher quality teas.

Flavors: Brown Sugar, Carrot, Cinnamon, Dried Fruit, Honey, Malt, Mineral, Peach, Roasted, Walnut, Wood

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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94

This was another of my October sipdowns. I think I finished my 50g pouch of this tea back around the start of the fourth week in the month. This may come as a shock to some of you, but I would honestly place this as perhaps the best Fuding Bai Mu Dan I have tried to this point. I, of course, have not tried a tremendous number of such teas in recent years, but I have had some nice ones over the course of the year, and of the ones I have tried, this one ended up being my favorite. That is saying something too considering that several of the others I tried were also excellent.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After the rinse (about 10 seconds), I steeped 6 grams of the loose leaf and bud mix in 4 ounces of 176 F water for 6 seconds. This infusion was chased by 17 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, and 15 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry leaf and bud mix produced aromas of pine, honey, sugarcane, straw, and almond. After the rinse, I detected new aromas of peanut, hay, and cucumber. The first infusion then introduced a scent of butter. In the mouth, the tea liquor offered up notes of pine, straw, hay, butter, almond, and sugarcane that were chased by hints of cream and peanut. The bulk of the subsequent infusions introduced soft peony and cream aromas as well as scents of lemon zest, malt, and basil. Stronger cream and peanut notes appeared in the mouth alongside belatedly emerging cucumber notes, slightly spicy, peony-like floral impressions, and notes of minerals, lemon zest, zucchini, honeydew, nectar, malt, oats, and apricot. I also noted some subtle basil, chamomile, and thyme notes that lent a cooling quality to each swallow, lingering in the mouth afterwards. By the time I got to the end of the session, the tea liquor was mostly washed out and was also beginning to display mild astringency, though I was still able to pick up on notes of minerals, cucumber, cream, hay, straw, and pine that were chased by fleeting hints of butter, malt, chamomile, basil, and lemon zest.

This was such a fun, quirky, and satisfying white tea. It was very approachable, though it also displayed tremendous depth, complexity, and longevity. I should also note that I found the mouthfeel of the tea liquor to be consistently appealing. Aside from the little bit of astringency that emerged on the lengthier final infusions, I really do not have any complaints with this tea. I think fans of Bai Mu Dan and those who are curious about Fuding white teas would be tremendously pleased with this tea and recommend it without any hesitation.

Flavors: Almond, Apricot, Butter, Cream, Cucumber, Floral, Hay, Herbaceous, Honey, Honeydew, Lemon Zest, Malt, Mineral, Nectar, Oats, Peanut, Pine, Straw, Sugarcane, Thyme, Zucchini

Preparation
6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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90

I’m still desperately trying to get back in the swing of posting reviews on a more regular basis. Obviously, I am not making much progress in that regard. With that in mind, this was a tea I finished back around the third week in October. I generally like smoked lapsang souchong as a morning and/or afternoon tea when fall weather starts to set in, and after rediscovering this tea in one of my storage totes, I immediately put it on my monthly drinking schedule. Even though it had a little age on it when I got around to trying it, it had held up amazingly well in storage. If anything, the significant rest period I subjected this tea to actually improved it; the smoke and pine tar characteristics teas like this so frequently present had mellowed somewhat, allowing a host of other aroma and flavor components to express themselves clearly.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a very quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose leaf material in 4 ounces of 203 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 leaf material emitted aromas of pine tar, pine smoke, cedar, and char. After the rinse, I detected stronger pine smoke, pine tar, and char aromas as well as subtle scents of malt and coffee. The first infusion then introduced a hint of cinnamon to the nose. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of pine smoke, pine tar, char, cedar, and coffee that were balanced by more delicate impressions of cream, malt, roasted barley, and vanilla. There was also a little bit of vague vegetal character present in the aftertaste. The subsequent infusions did not see the tea’s bouquet change all that much. I was able to pick out some hints of cooked green beans, but otherwise, that was it. Stronger coffee and roasted barley notes appeared in the mouth alongside mineral and caramel impressions. There were also some hints of cinnamon, brown sugar, grass, and cooked green beans, though that last note gradually grew a little stronger. By the end of the session, I was still picking up notes of minerals, malt, cream, and cooked green beans that were underscored by hints of cedar and pine smoke.

This was a lovely Taiwanese lapsang souchong, but I honestly would not recommend gongfuing it unless those of you who still have some of this tea absolutely have to try it that way. In my opinion, teas like this were not really intended for gongfu; the amount of broken leaf material in teas such as this makes for very messy brewing and a rapidly fading tea liquor. Fortunately, I also tried brewing this tea in the Western style, and the result was amazing. I was even able to pick up all of the same impressions I got from the gongfu session. Overall, this was a great Taiwanese tarry lapsang souchong. If you are a fan of smoked black teas and have the opportunity to procure some of this tea, definitely acquire some of it. I highly doubt it will disappoint.

Flavors: Brown Sugar, Caramel, Cedar, Char, Cinnamon, Coffee, Cream, Grass, Green Beans, Malt, Mineral, Pine, Roasted Barley, Smoke, Tar, Vanilla

Preparation
6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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96

This was the last of the 2017 Donyi Polo tea samples I acquired from Teabox in the second half of last year. It ended up being my favorite of the group. I was especially impressed by this tea’s depth and complexity on the nose and in the mouth as well as the thick, silky mouthfeel of the tea liquor.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of the loose leaf and bud mix in 4 ounces of 194 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was followed 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 leaf and bud mix produced aromas of baked bread, honey, sugarcane, malt, and sweet potato. After the rinse, I detected new aromas of molasses, caramel, marigold, eucalyptus, and cucumber. The first infusion brought out scents of rose, violet, and chocolate. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of sugarcane, baked bread, malt, honey, marigold and sweet potato that were chased by subtle rose, chocolate, and violet impressions. The following infusions introduced aromas of vanilla, lemon zest, tangerine, geranium, and wintergreen to accompany a suddenly amplified chocolate aroma. Stronger rose, chocolate, and violet notes appeared in the mouth along with belatedly emerging impressions of cucumber, caramel, molasses, and wintergreen. Impressions of minerals, vanilla, wintergreen, geranium, tangerine, watermelon, and lemon zest also appeared. By the end of the session, I was picking up dominant notes of minerals, malt, wintergreen, cucumber, watermelon, and lemon zest that were backed by hints of mixed flowers, eucalyptus, and sugarcane.

This was an absolutely gorgeous tea. Despite such an odd and complicated mix of aromas and flavors, everything present in this tea worked well together. There were no rough edges. The combination of depth and complexity on the nose and in the mouth and the rich, silky, thick mouthfeel of the tea liquor made for a truly decadent drinking experience. A true connoisseur’s tea, I recommend this one highly to anyone looking for a quality Indian oolong and/or a great tea from one of India’s less widely heralded locales.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Caramel, Chocolate, Citrus, Cucumber, Eucalyptus, Floral, Geranium, Herbaceous, Honey, Lemon Zest, Malt, Melon, Molasses, Rose, Sugarcane, Sweet Potatoes, Vanilla, Violet

Preparation
6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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70

This was one of the 2017 oolong samples I ordered from Teabox in the second half of last year. At the time, I was making a concerted effort to try teas from the Indian states/regions that were less widely acclaimed for their tea production. Basically, I was snapping up teas from places like Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, and Bihar. This particular tea was produced at one of Arunachal Pradesh’s more revered tea estates. Shortly before ordering this tea, I had tried a Donyi Polo black tea and loved it, so I was eager to see what one of the estate’s oolongs was like. I then put off trying it for no real reason, eventually working my way through it towards the end of last week. Honestly, I found it to be a mixed bag. I enjoyed the tea’s complexity, but found its texture unappealing while also being underwhelmed by its astringency and lack of longevity.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose leaf material 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 leaf material emitted aromas of wood, hay, coriander, toasted nuts, wheat, and cucumber. After the rinse, I found new aromas of lavender, lemon, grass, violet, and vanilla. The first infusion brought out malt, menthol, and fennel scents. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of wood, lavender, hay, wheat, grass, fennel, violet, and cucumber that were backed by impressions of toasted cashew, malt, and lemon. Subsequent infusions brought out aromas of mandarin orange, dandelion, marigold, and field greens. Stronger lemon and malt notes appeared in the mouth along with belatedly emerging impressions of vanilla, coriander, and menthol. Entirely new notes of minerals, apricot, mandarin orange, marigold, dandelion, and field greens also appeared. As I ended my session, the tea liquor was still yielding very subtle mineral, dandelion, mandarin orange, malt, wood, and lemon notes that were underscored by fleeting hints of apricot, lavender, and violet.

This was a quirky, complex, and challenging tea with a highly unique and very appealing mix of aroma and flavor components, but it also yielded a good deal of astringency and harsh texture while fading quickly. Again, this tea was a mixed bag. It displayed very clear strengths while also displaying very clear weaknesses. Fortunately, I did enjoy a lot of what it had to offer (and to be fair, this tea had a lot to offer), finding its strengths to somewhat outweigh its weaknesses. In the end, I would be willing to give it a somewhat cautious recommendation to those interested in some of the teas from India’s less widely known centers of tea production.

Flavors: Apricot, Coriander, Cucumber, Dandelion, Fennel, Floral, Grass, Hay, Lavender, Lemon, Malt, Menthol, Mineral, Nutty, Orange, Vanilla, Vegetal, Violet, Wheat, Wood

Preparation
6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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57

As mentioned in my previous review, I actually had two of these Zhangping Shui Xian oolong mini cakes, one from 2016 and the other from 2017. My last review dealt with the 2016 tea, and this one will deal with the 2017 tea. Of the two, this was a considerably less likable tea.

As with the earlier tea, I brewed the entire mini cake in a 160 ml celadon gaiwan. After a brief rinse in 203 F water, I steeped the cake for 10 seconds. This infusion was chased 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 tea cake emitted aromas of cream, butter, custard, and gardenia. After the rinse, I noted aromas of grass, wood, and apple. The first infusion brought out aromas of vanilla and cattail shoots. In the mouth, the tea liquor offered notes of cream, butter, custard, wood, and grass that were underscored by hints of apple. The subsequent infusions brought out aromas of steamed milk, cinnamon, blueberry, sour cherry, and baked bread. Cattail shoot and vanilla impressions came out in the mouth along with very subtle hints of gardenia and new mineral, cinnamon, steamed milk, pear, sour cherry, and orange notes. I could also occasionally detect subtle hints of blueberry, but they were generally fleeting. The final few infusions mostly offered mineral, cream, butter, orange, and custard notes that were backed by hints of grass, apple, and cattail shoots.

I was not huge on the 2016 version of this tea, and I liked this more recent offering considerably less. It was very bland overall. The flavors were often subtle and did not have much staying power. Also, I had the same complaint with the earlier version of this tea, but I again noted that the tea’s more vegetal characteristics lingered in the mouth after each swallow in a way that struck me as being distinctly unpleasant. That being said, I must also give credit where it is due and remark that I enjoyed this tea’s texture considerably more than the 2016 version. In the end, this struck me as being a stunning example of a truly mediocre tea. If I were to assign a numerical score to it, I would give it a 50 and not think twice about it, but since I cannot grade this version separately, I have decided to average the scores of the two different versions of this tea that I have tried.

Flavors: Apple, Baked Bread, Blueberry, Butter, Cherry, Cinnamon, Cream, Custard, Gardenias, Grass, Milk, Mineral, Orange, Pear, Vanilla, Vegetal, Wood

Preparation
8 g 160 OZ / 4731 ML

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Bio

My grading criteria for tea is as follows:

90-100: Exceptional. I love this stuff. If I can get it, I will drink it pretty much every day.

80-89: Very good. I really like this stuff and wouldn’t mind keeping it around for regular consumption.

70-79: Good. I like this stuff, but may or may not reach for it regularly.

60-69: Solid. I rather like this stuff and think it’s a little bit better-than-average. I’ll drink it with no complaints, but am more likely to reach for something I find more enjoyable than revisit it with regularity.

50-59: Average. I find this stuff to be more or less okay, but it is highly doubtful that I will revisit it in the near future if at all.

40-49: A little below average. I don’t really care for this tea and likely won’t have it again.

39 and lower: Varying degrees of yucky.

Don’t be surprised if my average scores are a bit on the high side because I tend to know what I like and what I dislike and will steer clear of teas I am likely to find unappealing.

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