121 Tasting Notes
I seem to be swimming against the current of popular Steepster opinion on this one, but here goes…
When I first started to “get into tea”, per se, 18 months ago, this was one of the teas that I tried that really convinced me to branch out more. Teapigs have a great product on their site where you can order 12 lots of 2x tea bags, from across their range (and you can choose the samples). I picked this one because I’d never tried an oolong and was curious. I loved it in bag form, so bough a box of loose (it’s ~50 g, I think). I brewed it Western style, a number of times, over Summer and have always really liked it.
But I never finished it off and I still probably have a good 30 g of it left. And with my recent oolong kick, I thought I’d give it a try with fresh perspective and a new method – in my Gaiwan! So, I prepped it in much the same way that I usually do with greener oolongs – water that’s no hotter than 90 degrees, covered the bottom of the Gaiwan with the dry leaf, and then rinse and leave to steam for about a minute before the first infusion.
What a difference! It’s virtually unrecognisable from the tea in my (admittedly quite murky) memories. Drinking it like this really brings out the best in it – each infusion was floral/orchid-like, with that lovely buttery note and mild vegetal flavour.
I was worried that with its age (it’s probably been open around 10 months, though I do keep it sealed with a clip and well out of sunlight), it would have lost some of its flavour. But it seemed to have been totally unfounded – the leaves lasted excellently well through around 9 short steeps (the longest I needed to get to was around 10 seconds). The ninth was milder and I had to stop drinking for boring personal reasons*, but I have nothing majorly bad to say.
I think my only critique would be that, unlike Verdant’s TGY for example, it was slightly bitter in steeps 5-7 (or maybe 4-6. Or 6-8. Who knows XD). That may, though, have been me slightly oversteeping, overleafing or using water slightly too hot (I usually just eyeball it, so it may not be too precise).
I think tomorrow I’ll do a blind test to compare this Dung Ding with the one that I was sent by the London Tea Club. It’ll also help me to score them more ‘accurately’.
*I went to the dentist to get a small, usually painless cavity filled. But they messed up and, without me even eating on it, the filling came out a few hour later. I’m in absolute agony. I’ve never had toothache before, but I swear – this experience is enough to put me off chocolate/sugary food/drinks for life. T_T
Flavors: Butter, Floral, Orchid, Vegetal
Today, I finally got around to finishing this. My first ‘real’ sipdown! Hurray for me? XD
But anyway, I promised myself I’d finish this tea in my Gaiwan – there was basically enough left (~3-4 g) for a perfect session. I pre-heated everything and gave the tea a quick rinse (perhaps unnecessary, but hey). After that, I got to work!
My first two steeps were around 5" each. The liquor was golden-yellow and really appley. Lovely, refreshing, sweet and so fruity. The scent, of both the wet leaves and the infusion, was similarly apple-like.
Steeps #3-5 (still only 5-10") developed into something special – it was like drinking cinnamon-stewed apples. Absolutely mouthwatering – it had a delicately spiced scent and a lovely, mouthwatering, rounded flavour of apples and cinnamon. It was so reminiscent of apple pie. It was also a really lovely tawny colour.
Steeps #6-7 (10-20") were equally wonderful, but the fruitness was now a little toned down; instead, these two infusions were more reminiscent of Chelsea buns. Notes of warm pastry, cinnamon, brown sugar and maybe a gentle hint of citrus and raisins. Really delicious.
Steeps #8-9 (30-60") were tasty enough for them to be “really good”, but definitely on a decline after the deliciousness of the first 7. The infusion was much paler, but those apple and cinnamon notes were back again, making these two bright and fresh tasting. There was a greater astringency to these cups, telling me that I was probably getting toward the end of this session.
Nonetheless, I didn’t want to give up too soon and it was so cold that a few more warming infusions would be welcome, the strength not really being an issue :P Steeps #10-12 (1-3’) were all much milder, but still carried a sweet, gently fruity flavour, now much smoother with a mild vanilla note.
By the end of the 12th steep, the leaves only had a very mild fragrance, so I conceded defeat and washed everything up.
This was definitely a wonderful tea. The leaves were initially a little dry, which did worry me a little, but I think it was totally unwarranted. Everything was sumptuous. The wet leaves, at the end, were lovely and mostly whole – they had a chestnut-and-dark-green colour, which was really nice in my glazed-inside-Yixing-outside Gaiwan.
I’ve also upgraded my score (90 —> 100) because I don’t really have any reason, now, to take 10 points away.
7 superb infusions (3-7 being highlights), followed by 5 good ones, reassured me of the quality. It left me feeling lively and content, able to really think clearly and in detail about my interview prep. And, perhaps most importantly, it tasted divine.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Cinnamon, Green Apple
After my indulgence with Cocoa Amore this morning, I didn’t really want anything particularly strong in the afternoon and, as I’ve been cutting back on my caffeine intake, a “light” green tea, such as this, seemed like an optimal choice!
Rather, though, than brew it as recommended in a Western style, I stuck to my trusty Gaiwan (that was definitely money well spent!) and used parameters that have been serving me so well in recent days (3 – 5 g in 100 ml, first steep no longer than 5 s). I emptied about half of my tube (probably about 2 or 3 g) in and did lots of short steeps using fairly cool water. I also kept the lid off, whilst steeping, as I believe is common practice when making greens this way.
Whether or not I “did it right”, or whatever, I certainly enjoyed this tea! In its flavour profile, it actually reminded me a lot of the Verdant Dragonwell I tried the other day. Delicious, buttery vegetables were a definite “main” flavour, with lovely hints of florals. It was also quite sweet! It remained punchy and quite strong (though that was certainly a consequence of the way I brewed it) through the first four or five steeps, and was still tasty in the sixth. The final two steeps I did (I know I was pushing it, but I’d rather try another steep or two than waste good leaves) were a lot lighter, though they still had enough flavour that I happily drank them down.
I did notice that the leaves, when brewed, were quite small, had a fair amount of stem and were sometimes a bit broken – this probably wasn’t as high quality as the Verdant Dragonwell. But given that it cost me a tiny fraction of the price of that tea, and it still gave me 5-6 delicious steeps, I guess I really shouldn’t complain! Perhaps not my favourite green so far, but definitely delicious and perfectly drinkable.
Flavors: Butter, Floral, Vegetables
So, I’m finally nearing the end of my bag of this really delicious tea. It’ll definitely be sad to see it go – today was yet another fantastic cup with all of those vanilla, chocolate and fudge notes that I’ve been enjoying so much.
As with some of the other WP teas I bought (though certainly not all of them), this was too expensive for me to keep a regular stock of. But I know I’ll certainly treat myself to it again, in future – for an indulgent, dessert-like tea, I’ve not yet come across anything more delicious! :D
Mmm… more green oolong :D This Li Shan oolong was a “special offer” kinda deal for London Tea Club members – when I heard about it, I was powerless to resist. I’m sure glad I didn’t.
When this tea arrived, in a very attractive, air-tight copper-coloured tin, I couldn’t wait to try it. The leaves smelled absolutely divine. So, today, I got down to it. I brought my beloved Gaiwan from Verdant downstairs and warmed everything up. I covered the base of the Gaiwan with the dried leaves and left them in the hot Gaiwan for a short while. I then lifted off the lid and was hit by an exceptional aroma, reminiscent of cinnamon buns/bagels/scones. It was unbelievable!
After a quick rinse-and-rest, I did a number of very short (~5s) steeps that produced an absolutely wonderful liquor – sweet, floral, spiced with a “thick” mouthfeel. It was perfection. And it carried that wonderful cinnamon-like note until the fourth or fifth steep. Even after that, the liquor was really delicious – increasingly floral and sweet, with the usual increasing lightness of well-brewed leaf.
From my, admittedly still pretty rookie, perspective, this was sensational. Can’t really fault it – the leaves brewed well through around 8 or 9 infusions (and probably could have carried on, but there’s only so much tea I can drink in a day :P) and was delightful and quite complex, right from the beginning. It made me feel lively and alert, but not jittery.
I’ll definitely be drinking more of this soon!
(The only downside to this tea was that it was very expensive – I paid £30 (~$45) for 50 g. That did include shipping, but puts this only second to the couple of WP teas that cost around that pre-shipping. Much like the WP teas, it is exceptionally high quality, as far as I could tell, and certainly “worth the money”, but wouldn’t be able to afford to drink this tea regularly. Then again, perhaps that’s the point and I’ll revere this tea, alongside the more expensive WP ones, as a real treat for special occasions!)
Flavors: Butter, Cinnamon, Orchid
With my recent appetite for greens and green oolongs, I felt the logical next step was to try a Sheng Puerh. This one came highly recommended, so I included a small bag in my first order from WP.
I took it down to London with me, for my interview at Kings, whilst I was staying with my boyfriend. And it was absolutely sensational.
With it being my first Sheng Puerh, I was obviously a little apprehensive. It smelled very strong and unusual, to my unaccustomed palette. I made it roughly according to WP’s Gaiwan recommendations – I used ~3g in a 100 ml Gaiwan. I did lots of short steeps using water that was just off full boil. I think, next time, I’ll try to use slightly cooler water (to tone down the bitterness).
The tea was really delicious. In colour, it was pale-green/yellow and the scent was so unusual – kinda vegetal, a little bitter, camphor, florals… So complex! On the palette, it was much the same – there was a bitterness, but it was light and quite pleasant and really “worked” alongside the surprisingly savoury overall flavours. I do think I’d like to try it a little less bitter in future, though, so like I said above I’ll probably use slightly cooler water next time!
I drank this tea with my breakfast, before the interview, and then spent the afternoon drinking it, whilst reading Malcolm X and just generally enjoying my day.
As with the Shou puerhs I’ve tried, I’m not really experienced enough to give this a score that means much, either to me or to the community at large (I don’t wanna affect the overall scores etc). But I’d definitely recommend this tea, within the context of “tea” on the whole.
And then today, I was intrigued to try my other Verdant sample. I have a box of DHP from my boss at the clinic, and I know that (like most roasted oolongs) it’s not my usual preference. They’re growing on me, certainly, and I think I’m getting better at identifying the more nuanced flavours, but I’d still always rather have a green oolong.
That said, on my second most recent visit to the clinic, the only oolong I had access to was the same style of DHP that he gave me. I made myself some up and, though it still probably wasn’t my tea of choice, it was good and it made me curious about the one from Verdant.
So, today, I finally conceded to that curiosity and gave it a go. I used my lovely Yixing Gaiwan (the inside is glazed, though) from Butiki and used half of the Verdant sample sachet – that felt about right as this particular DHP (as the photo shows) is quite loose and the Gaiwan was around 1/3 full by that point. I’d guess it had a limit of no more than 120 ml, but 100 ml was probably all I used.
Anyway, after doing all of the prerequisite heating of Gaiwan, pitcher and cups, I gave the tea a rinse and left it to sit for a minute or two whilst my Mum helped me do some interview prep. Then, during the course of the various practice questions we drilled, I started to make and drink this tea.
The first infusion must have been for no more than 10 seconds. And that was certainly enough for me!! The infusion was caramel coloured and certainly very tasty – and, if I’m honest, much nicer than the other DHP I made. I think that was massively aided by brewing method and more exact quantities of everything, though. This tea was smooth, roasty and definitely had those “classic” caramel/dark-toffee notes. And to Verdant’s credit, I actually do get the tingly-metal-and-mineral note that they try to describe. I didn’t read their blurb for this tea, beforehand (just the Brewing guidance), as I feel it usually biases me, but on retrospective reading, I could definitely get that idea!
Later infusions were longer and milder. The caramel flavour did build up over the first few steeps, though, as the roastiness subsided. It was definitely a smoother drink and all of the infusions were quite sweet, which I did enjoy and appreciate.
I’m still not 100% sure dark-roasted oolongs are for me. I know that this is the classic way to prepare most fine oolongs and it’s the most traditional, etc, but I’m just so enamoured by the greener ones that I’m becoming biased against anything else :P For those who like DHPs, this one seemed like a really good quality product. I certainly couldn’t offer any objective fault. The leaves looked really lovely in my Gaiwan – full, beautiful leaves. They had a really charming mix of dark-purple and dark-green, too.
So yeah… Roasty oolong lovers – give it a go!
(PS: I’m also finally confident enough about the number of such oolongs I’ve tried that I’m gonna offer a score for this. It did seem like a really high quality product and I could see no real reason to not offer it a pretty high, within my usual parameters. I may revise it, as I gain more experience, but it certainly seems fair for now!)
Flavors: Caramel, Metallic, Mineral
So after trying a really strong green from the Canton Tea Co. that just wasn’t for me (I mean – it was so vegetal. It was like pure asparagus. Sooooo strong), I’ve kept away from straight, Chinese greens for quite a while. I haven’t fancied them and I haven’t really wanted to try them.
But I had a sachet of this sitting in my room, from when I made my first Verdant order in… October or November. After my recent run of wonderful experiences with green oolongs (particularly Verdant’s exceptional Tieguanyin), I had a bit of a craving for something else green and thought I’d give this one a whirl. The reviews on here seemed to fall either into the category that tried it the “Dragonwell style” (or the variant of Grandpa style – or, as my boss at the clinic says, the “usual style” for green tea) or who tried lots of short steeps.
Given the Verdant sample sachet containing ~4 or 5 g, I think I’d just do lots of short steeps of this tea, as is my general preference for non-black teas. I emptied the whole 5 g into a glass pot that takes, at the absolute limit, 200 ml water. Using water that was as close to 175 degrees F as you can get from estimation, I got started!
My first steep was literally a matter of seconds. With that much leaf, in such little water, I knew it would pack a punch. So I poured on the water quickly and carefully, transported my pot into the sitting room, and then poured it all off. Tbh, even this may have been a little too long – the resulting brew was certainly flavoursome! It was sooooo vegetal. But, y’know, it fit what I was craving. As I poured from my pitcher into my cups, let it cool, and drank it down, it really hit the spot. Buttery, sweet vegetables with a lovely floral note.
I tried to be a little faster with the second infusion and I probably managed it – the resultant drink was refreshing and light, but still packing those delicious vegetal and floral notes. Really good stuff!
I must have done a further 4 or 5 pot fulls, before I finished, throughout the course of the day. As they progressed, I slowly increased the steeping time (and drastically increased it for the final one). The tea was always tasty, refreshing and light. Each successive infusion grew sweeter and lighter, with the floral notes becoming more dominant.
I’m still not sure I’d want to choose a “normal” green over a green oolong, atm, but I know I enjoyed this more than I probably would have done two or three months ago. And I’m 100% certain that my boss in the clinic will love this tea. As soon as the first 2015 harvest becomes available, I’ll be ordering some as a gift for him and his family!
Flavors: Butter, Floral, Vegetal
Ah; another day, another fabulous oolong. This is another of those oolongs that I could just continue to drink forever – light, refreshing, and so, so delicious!
I received this in January’s LTC delivery and was quite keen, given my recent oolong phase, to give it a try soon. Given I’ve now found steeping parameters, for such teas, that I’m happy with, I thought I’d give it a go in the Verdant gaiwan I’ve been using so much recently.
Pleasingly, it was a success – this tea was absolutely wonderful! The dry leaves had that charming, floral fragrance and, when wet, a stronger vegetal note came through (though the orchid and jasmine scents were definitely still present).
After a quick rinse, I did a ~15 second infusion that produced a lovely, quite strong infusion. It was full of intense, floral-and-vegetal flavour, with just a hint of roastiness that, along with the oolong’s butteriness, made this tea almost fruit-cake like. It was really exceptional. It also had a fuller body than the Ali Shan oolong I tried yesterday, which was interesting.
The next few steeps were a little less intense (by preference), but still really delicious. The slight roasty/smoky flavour came through a little more, but it was a gentle flavour note that worked surprisingly well with the floral notes.
I brewed this leaves a lot. Like, maybe ten infusions or so, this afternoon. I threw the leaves away as Mum was starting to cook dinner (an Iranian stew with lots of herbs and onions, which I thought might ruin the leaves a little), but I reckon I could still have steeped them another handful of times.
LTC have an option where you can buy bags (in the usual sizes) of teas you particularly liked from their boxes, so I may treat myself to some of this in the future. A truly fabulous oolong.
Flavors: Cake, Jasmine, Orchid
Whilst I’ve really grown to love Green Oolongs, I’m still undecided about darker ones. Using a lovely little glass teapot that I got from the London Tea Club, I gave some of this a session a day or two ago. The smell of the dry leaves is pretty potent – smoky and roasty!
The first infusion was mild (after a rinse, I probably only infused it for ~10 seconds) – it was surprisingly tasty, too. Kinda like… when you melt sugar and it just starts to burn. Not when it gets all extreme and bitter, but at the point when it’s clearly starting to char a little. It was lovely and smooth to drink, though.
The next batch of infusions were much more potent – I stuck to short steepings, and I know that the amount of leaf I used was OK, but this was definitely a different beast to the green oolongs I love! It was just so intense and strongly flavoured! Not, of course, that this is a bad thing – it was really good! Just so different.
Over the course of the two days I used these leaves for, the intensity wore off, as did the kind of ‘burned’ flavour, and it just became a tasty, lighter cup of oolong. It grew a little sweeter, as well-infused leaves often do, but still retained plenty of flavour.
I don’t think I’ll score this just yet (for much the same reason I don’t score Puerhs) – I don’t really know enough about these teas and I’m not really used to drinking them. But I could definitely appreciate this one – I imagine trying it (and my other, roasted/aged oolongs) more will give me a better perspective :-)
Flavors: Burnt Sugar, Caramel, Roasted