499 Tasting Notes

84

Finally a Green Terrace Tea that isn’t stale or flavorless. After all the duds so far, I didn’t have much hope for the remaining samples. This was a respectable Li Shan although not the best one I’ve ever had. It has a brothy-floral flavor, a powerful Cha qi, and gives several good infusions.

Dry leaf smells of butter and shokupan bread. Wildflower aromas begin to emerge following the first steep. The brewed tea is thick, buttery, and floral with hints of vanilla, eucalyptus, honeysuckle, and dairy. The Cha qi was strong with this one, almost to the point of feeling nauseous which was probably compounded by drinking it on an empty stomach.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Broth, Butter, Cream, Eucalyptus, Flowers, Milk, Vanilla

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 45 sec 7 g 5 OZ / 160 ML

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76

Ever since I got into matcha lattes, my matcha consumption has went up dramatically. This also led to increased spending and because good Uji matcha isn’t cheap, I started looking for frugal alternatives a step above culinary grade. That’s how I discovered this powdered kamairicha at Yuuki-Cha.

Kamairicha, for the uninitiated, is Japanese tea that is processed like Chinese green tea, where the leaves are pan fired instead of steamed. The resultant tea is a Japanese-Chinese hybrid of sorts – fruity, nutty, and sometimes floral – and absolutely delicious. I’ve tried and enjoyed a number of different kamairichas and was intrigued to find it in powdered form .

Appearance wise, it has a paler green color than regular matcha powder. While the prepared tea does have an attractive emerald green color, it doesn’t froth as nicely and lacks the creamy mouthfeel of good matcha. There’s a noticeable chalkiness in the aftertaste. Taste wise, the grassiness and vegetal notes are a lot tamer which might appeal to people that don’t care for the aggressive taste of matcha. Holds up quite well to hotter water temperatures without becoming astringent.

For me, the real test was how it held up to milk and sugar. Unfortunately, it was quite underwhelming as the mild flavor gets further muted when prepared as a latte. It tastes like a pale shadow of a real matcha latte with the barest hint of greenness and lots of chalkiness. So it’s rather disappointing in this regard. I’ll have to experiment further with this tea, but for now I’m going back to my Organic Yame matcha for lattes. It’s more expensive then this one, but it’s the most affordable of the traditional matcha powders.

Flavors: Vegetal

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C

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55

Another dan Cong that probably sat too long in my cupboard. This one was earthy like crushed autumn leaves and very mineral. I got notes of spice, incense, and wood. Didn’t taste any of the floral or apricot notes described by Verdant. Quit after a few steeps because I couldn’t convince myself to continue drinking any more of it. Good thing it was just a sample so no big loss here.

Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Mineral, Spices

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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26

Ugh, this tea was blander than bland. Hot steeped, it tasted like hot water. When cold brewed, it tasted like cold water. Completely and utterly devoid of any flavor…like an empty canvas where flavor should be.

I’ve had a lot of bad teas in my lifetime but at least they had some discernible taste, be it sour, bitter, ashy, musty, whatever. But this is the first tea ever that had zero flavor or aroma of any kind, good or bad. The very epitome of bland tea.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 45 sec 7 g 5 OZ / 160 ML
Leafhopper

It doesn’t seem like you’re having much luck with this company. Are all these oolongs old?

LuckyMe

@Leafhopper, yeah I’m 0 for 3 so far and already thinking about where to order from next. I suspect these teas are old and/or low quality. A couple of them were definitely stale. It’s weird because they were all vacuum sealed with oxygen absorbers so in theory, should remain fresh for years.

Definitely disappointing as this company has generally positive reviews.

Leafhopper

I looked at their website and their prices seem unusually low ($16 for 50 g of Li Shan?). This would have been great if the teas had been any good.

Since you’re in the States and the shipping isn’t outrageous, I’d recommend Floating Leaves for some good high mountain oolongs. (Sorry if you’ve already bought and reviewed teas from them.) Their shipping to Canada is US$20 with no breaks for large orders, so sadly, I don’t order from them often, but in my opinion they provide some of the best high mountain teas out there.

LuckyMe

I was actually going to order from Floating Leaves last time but they were mostly sold out.

I ordered from them a couple of years ago and agree, Floating Leaves is quality stuff!

Leafhopper

Yes, Floating Leaves does tend to sell out of things quickly—for good reason!

I enjoy reading your reviews of less well-known Taiwanese tea vendors. I’d love to find an international company selling quality high mountain oolongs for bargain prices, though I doubt such a thing exists. TTC does come close!

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55

Another dud from Green Terrace Teas. This tea is kinda just meh all around. Stale and flavorless with a muted brothy taste. Doesn’t have those luscious tropical-floral SLX aromatics or flavor.

Once again, cold brewing came to the rescue and made this tea drinkable. I’m puzzled as to why it was stale when the tea was vacuum sealed. A little nervous about trying the remaining samples from this order.

Flavors: Broth, Floral, Musty

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 1 min, 0 sec 7 g 5 OZ / 160 ML

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59

Placed my first order with Green Terrace Teas recently. At this point I’ve done TTC and Tea from Taiwan to death and wanted to try something new. Ended up buying a bunch of samples of my usual go-to Taiwanese oolongs from here – Ali Shan, SLX, Dong Ding, etc. – and will be reviewing them in the days to come.

This Jin Xuan was the first tea I tried and as far as first impressions go, it left a lot to be desired. When I opened the pouch, it had that dreaded stale seaweed aroma, a telltale sign of lost freshness. The description promised milk and osmanthus but instead my cup tasted musty and vegetal, like raw turnips, with a little butteriness.

I was able to salvage the rest of the sample by cold brewing but this was a disappointing start. Hoping for better luck with the other teas in my order.

Flavors: Butter, Musty, Vegetal

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 0 min, 45 sec 7 g 5 OZ / 160 ML

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71

Not usually a fan of heavily roasted teas, but they’ve occasionally surprised me and in the interest of expanding my tea horizons, I decided to pick up a sample of this tea.

It does indeed have a deep roasted flavor and aroma. You can taste the roast but it’s not smokey by any means. I get notes of firewood, pumpernickel bread, and toasted nuts. These are ancillary though and the tea is predominantly dark and toasty

This may appeal to those who like dark tea but I prefer the subtle caramel taste of lightly roasted oolongs.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Fireplace, Nuts, Roasted

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62

Impulse buy from Trader Joe’s. I’ve seen passing references to barley tea in Japanese novels (Murakami) and was curious to finally try it myself.

While I’m glad to see TJ’s beginning to stock Asian bottled teas, this one was a miss for me. My better half, who shared the bottle with me, aptly described it as “like drinking watered down coffee”. I have to agree. This is a pretty aggressively roasted tea and has a slightly oily texture. Coffee drinkers and fans of dark tea might like it but for others like me, this is at best an acquired taste.

Flavors: Coffee

Preparation
Iced
Lexie Aleah

Harney and Sons has a Roasted Buckwheat tea. I didn’t care for it but a lot of people do like that flavor profile. I almost picked this one up from TJ’s myself but was skeptical. I enjoy TJ’s bottled Golden Oolong Tea quite a bit though. You might give that one a try.

LuckyMe

@Lexie Aleah, I love the Golden Oolong too! It’s similar to Ito-En’s Golden Oolong which is my favorite bottled Asian tea. Hope they stock more unsweetened bottled teas, especially green tea.

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100
drank Ureshino Sencha by Yuuki-cha
499 tasting notes

The third shincha of 2020.

I don’t think I’ve ever gone through a Japanese tea as quickly as this one. Usually it takes me a while to get through a bag of sencha but I’ve already polished off half the 100g pouch in only a month. Have to pace myself now so I don’t go through my stash too quickly because that’s how good this tea is.

This is a tamaryokucha, which is processed differently from regular sencha resulting in less astringency and a smoother flavor. It’s more forgiving to oversteeping and water temperature.

The tea itself has a subtle and unassuming appearance. Small broken leaves that have a mild grassy aroma. The brewed tea is a buttery sweet fruity explosion with nice umami and floral overtones. Smooth, crisp, and full bodied. Upping the leaf quantity intensifies the umami. Second steep is a denser cup, vibrant lime green with grassy chlorophyll flavors. The third and final steep is lighter but delightfully fruity and sweet. There was little to no bitterness and no sulfuric edge that Japanese greens can sometimes leave behind even when I really push the steep.

This was a marvelous tea exhibiting the best characteristics of sencha without any of the off-putting ones. It’s less finicky to brew and has more sweetness than other Japanese greens I’ve tried which I like . Easily the best shincha this year and the best Japanese green I’ve had recently.

Flavors: Citrus, Corn Husk, Floral, Fruity, Grass, Sweet, Umami

Preparation
165 °F / 73 °C 0 min, 30 sec 3 g 5 OZ / 150 ML
gmathis

Sounds lovely. I learn so much from my fellow Steepies—had never heard of tamaryokucha before!

Cameron B.

Yum! I really enjoyed the Tamaryokucha I tried from Obubu. I haven’t order from Yuuki-cha yet, as I’m always so overwhelmed by the endless number of teas! Plus 100g is a lot for me, especially when I’d like to try multiple things… XD

LuckyMe

@Cameron B, Yuuki-Cha is generally very good quality but yeah I wish they would offer smaller sizes too so I could sample everything

Mastress Alita

I’m at a point now that no matter how much I want something, if I can’t find it in 50g or less, I refuse to buy it. The only time I might make an exception is really heavy/bulky fruit teas that are quite heavy and I pretty much exclusively make as cold brew, which requires a lot of that bulky “leaf” per batch. But for plain tea leaf? No way. I have learned just how impossible it is for a single person household to get through 100g of the same tea…

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75
drank Da Wu Ye Dancong by Verdant Tea
499 tasting notes

Another Verdant sample that had been sitting around forever in my cupboard. Unfortunately it was far less impressive than the Old Tree Wulong I just finished prior. There were some intriguing aromas – orange peel, wet rocks, and sandalwood – however the taste fell flat. It was pretty forgettable, more like a generic yancha than a typically fruity dan cong. Woodsy with an oily texture. At times, there was a faint floral glimmer in the aftertaste but otherwise it didn’t offer much in the way of flavor.

Flavors: Saffron, Spices, Tar, Wet Rocks, Wood

Preparation
Boiling 5 g 4 OZ / 130 ML

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Bio

My Rating Criteria:

95 to 100: Top shelf stuff. Loved this tea and highly recommend it

90 to 94: Excellent. Enjoyed this tea and would likely repurchase

80 to 89: Good but not great. I liked it though it may be lacking in some aspects. I’ll finish it but probably won’t buy again

70 to 79: Average at best. Not terrible but wouldn’t willingly drink again

60 to 69: Sub-par. Low quality tea, barely palatable

59 and below: Bleh

Fell into tea years ago, and for a long time my experience was limited to Japanese greens and a few flavored teas. My tea epiphany came a few years ago when I discovered jade oolongs. That was the gateway drug to the world of fine tea and teaware.

With the exception of a handful of lightly scented teas, I drink mostly straight tea. I love fresh green and floral flavors and as such, green tea and Taiwanese oolongs will always have a place in my cupboard. After avoiding black tea forever, Chinese blacks are beginning to grow on me. I’ve dipped my toe into a few puerhs now but it’s still relatively new territory for me. I also enjoy white tea and tisanes but reach for them less frequently.

Other non-tea interests include: cooking, reading, nature, MMA, traveling when I can, and of course putzing around on the interwebs.

IG: https://www.instagram.com/melucky

Location

Chicago

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