53 Tasting Notes
A few weeks ago I placed my first order with Taiwan Sourcing and was nervous it would take months to get here as there is a country-wide postal strike currently ongoing in Canada. To my pleasant surprise it arrived yesterday and it couldn’t have come at a better time because I am running extremely low on tea. Praise the tea gods!!!
For this session I used a 180ml gaiwan using 10g, one initial 10 second wash followed by a 10 second brew, increasing by 10 to 20 seconds for each additional infusion.
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Mmmmmmmmm. Mm. This is way more delicious than I thought it would be. I wanted to try some teas high in GABA for a few different health reasons and was expecting the value to be in the medicinal effects rather than the taste and experience. Clearly this tea provides both, and it’s absolutely glorious.
As described by TS themselves, this tea has a very strong sweet potato flavour. It actually tastes remarkably close to a classic holiday dish my family loves which is a sweet potato and marshmallow casserole (mashed potato on the bottom, baked marshmallows on top). After that first impression though the sweetness tastes less sugary and more of wildflower honey which makes sense given this is blended with osmanthus flowers. The liquor is a lovely shade of yellow, almost peach-like, and quite thin compared with some other oolongs I’ve tried. There is just absolutely no astringency, it’s smooth, and almost a bit cooling down the throat like mint in terms of sensation.
Later infusions of this tea bring out more savoury notes, still heavy on the sweet potato though. Remarkably there is a general pumpkin spice flavour towards the end, maybe cinammon and cloves or something. The overall taste is extremely clean with loads of depth and layers.
I can’t yet attest to the effects of the GABA as I imaging it takes a few days or weeks to build up in your system to have long lasting effects, but I will say this cuppa makes me incredibly relaxed, sociable, and feeling good. Highly recommend trying it!
Flavors: Cloves, Honey, Marshmallow, Osmanthus, Spices, Sweet Potatoes, Umami
To this day this is one of my favourite oolongs and teas full stop. It’s the first oolong I ever tried, and has single-handedly solidified my love of oolong processing, as well as high quality tea. I’m not sure if it’s actually soaked in milk or just has a natural cream flavour (will have to ask next time I pop by the tea shop this is from), although I suspect the latter.
I actually love making huge Western batches of this oolong in my large teapot, it handles long steep times very well with hardly any puckering astringency. I usually use 4 to 6 teaspoons with 90°C water, no idea how big my teapot is though. Steep time is anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes.
The soup always becomes thick and nutty like almond milk, but with an unbelievable toasty sweetness that I’ve rarely found in other oolongs. Usually roast/toast flavours dominate everything else. I think the sweetness and rich, complex flavour is what astounded me the first time I drank some. There was a moment of “What? Tea can taste this good without sugar or blended ingredients?” Needless to say my eyes had been opened wide from then on.
The flavour is very similar to freshly made candy coated nuts (like if you’ve ever driven past a nut processing factory). Lots of sugary notes like honey or sugarcane, toasted but not heavily roasted like a charcoal oolong, as I said very nutty, creamy like butter or whipping cream, and just an utter joy in every sip!
This tea makes me warm and fuzzy inside, perfect for rainy days or long winters.
I’ll upload a photo when I buy some more, I just used the last of what I had in stock.
Flavors: Cream, Honey, Roasted Nuts, Sugarcane, Umami
A co-worker received this from her mother and passed it along to me as she’s not a tea person (blasphemy!) Usually I detest when people try to buy or give me tea because 9/10 times I have better tasting ones at home, but I decided to give it a go because caramel nougat sounds like a great flavour and the blend is ostensibly organic.
I pretty much just brewed this Western style (96°C for 4 minutes) and was expecting a sweet desert tea like something from David’s Tea or another equally experimental company, but it completely took me by surprise and is way more savoury!
A caramel/malt flavour is definitely in your face, which I love, and I’m happy to report that it’s not much more sweet than a typical black tea. I can taste a bit of the hazelnut too which I assume is supposed to be the nougat part of the blend. Everything tastes balanced and is tied together by rather good black tea. Overall I’d say they did a great job emulating caramel nougat, and to be frank this is a pretty damn good blend. I probably won’t buy it, but I might order it at a cafe if I saw it somewhere.
Flavors: Caramel, Malt, Nuts, Sweet
This tea invokes a lot of nostalgia for me. I first discovered it during my last visit to Helsinki and quickly fell in love. I had taken the ferry out onto the Baltic Sea to visit the old sea fortress Suomenlinna where there was a quaint cafe stocked with all sorts of Finnish/Nordic goodies. Was very surprised to find high quality tea made so far north on the planet. The most magical aspect of this tea is that most of the ingredients this company uses (except the Camellia Sinensis and probably vanilla) were foraged in the Finnish wilderness! They also don’t use additives of any kind, including essential oils. So they are naturally organic, pesticide-free, and sustainably harvested. Excellent.
Although this is a black tea blend, NORD-T recommends brewing with 80°C water for about 4 minutes (Western style). I think this is a wise choice, although I tend to let my cup steep for another minute or two longer to bring out the spices and sometimes bring the temperature up a degree or two. The black tea flavour is much more prominent when you use 95°C water which honestly takes away from the experience of tasting mother nature in all her glory.
The flavour profile is pretty much as you’d expect, spicy and slightly sweet like a chai, but with less of a bite as there’s no ginger, and the spices used are more minimal. The vanilla ties it all together. This is noticeably different from any Indian chai that I’ve sipped. I will need to order more soon and will probably try some of their other tea blends too, many of which use more uniquely Finnish ingredients. I would give this tea a higher rating if the flavour wasn’t so similar to any other chai, but my god is it ever delicious.
Flavors: Cardamom, Cinnamon, Honey, Malt, Vanilla
It’s a cold, blustery day today and I just want to crawl back into bed, or like, an entire bathtub filled with delicious tea… Neither of those fantasies are about to happen so I’ll have to settle for some Mengku Spirit!
Not that that’s a consolation prize or anything, because this sheng is just lovely! It’s remarkably mellow for only being five years old. Sweet, mouth watering, with a slight lick of astringency, this pretty much hits all my favourite sensations with a tea. I feel so relaxed and almost giddy drinking this, like after you’ve eaten a huge meal at the holidays. Very gentle and warm qi. The compression on this cake is also excellent and easy to pull apart which I love.
The flavour profile is wonderful! Fruity and softly floral, vegetal, and ever-so-slightly earthy. I’m having trouble picking out particular flavours though. God I wish I had bought a ton more of this before the cakes sold out, going to snag as many samples as Scott has left online. I wonder if the 2014 Mengku Spirit is as tasty, will certainly have to try that.
I used 8 grams of tea in a 180ml gaiwan.
Brewed in 95°C water with one 20 second initial wash.
Managed to steep out 8 cups before the flavour dissipated.
Flavors: Earth, Floral, Fruity, Sweet, Vegetal
Now this is some great shou! The citrus balances with the light earthiness of the tea perfectly. I definitely recommend brewing this with a good chunk of the the peel for added citrus flavour. Overall I’d say the taste is sweet, almost malty/caramel, and spicy like one of my favourite dark chocolates with orange zest and ginger, or even mulled wine.
I’m glad I bought a few because I can’t stop drinking it this week, each tangerine makes about three gong fu sessions in a small gaiwan which is pretty decent. Lost some marks for only making it through four good steeps before the flavour dropped off though. At the end of the day, I can’t complain considering I payed $20 for 250 grams of these delightful tangerines.
Brewed with boiling water in a 180ml gaiwan, roughly 8 grams of tea.
After two rinses, I brewed the first cup for 15 seconds, increasing by 5 or 10 seconds each additional brew. Four strong brews in total.
Flavors: Caramel, Chocolate, Citrus, Earth, Malt, Orange Zest, Smoke, Spices, Sweet
Today I woke up and didn’t want to drink ANY of the tea that I’ve been happily sipping on over the last couple weeks. I wanted something new and exciting, alas, all I could find are a couple of these shou tuos (which I had buried at the back of my cupboard for emergencies as I was really not overly fond of this tea when I first bought it). I clearly need to buy more tea.
Anyway, to my happy surprise I liked these little tuos far more the second time around!!! I’m starting to think I happened to drink an off cake last time because there’s absolutely no compost/fishy smell today. This brew is woody, earthy, and slightly sweet when you drink it, but I will be honest — it smells like a barn. The scent of hay or wheat is strong, although not as prevalent in taste. My gaiwan is still stinky after rinsing it! There’s also a very nice leather/smoked flavour that I find is more common with shengs. The liquor is thick, rich, and pure black like coffee for the first four or five brews. Excellent re-steep value and mouth feel.
All in all, I’m now kind of wishing I bought more of these as they were very inexpensive at the time. I hope my third and final tuo tastes like this and not lacklustre/borderline disgusting like the first round. Fingers crossed!!!
Flavors: Earth, Hay, Leather, Smoke, Sweet, Wheat, Wood
I love this sheng so much that I have officially purchased my first full bing! I’ve never explored aging tea at home before, and I’m not sure if I really wan’t to become a collector who lives the whole lifestyle. All I know is that I just can’t get over how complex and delicious the flavours of this tea are, and I think it would be fun to watch it evolve over a couple years as a little project.
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I always brew this tea gong-fu style. I think when I first purchased a sample I used boiling water which was a mistake as it helped the astringent and bitter notes to shine rather than the more desirable ones. For this tealog entry I’ve used water that’s 95°c which seems to be the sweet spot. 20 second rinse followed by a 20 second first brew and we’re off!
The first thing I notice is how sweet, fruity, and leathery the leaves smell after waking up. The shift in aroma between the dried and wet leaves is stark, the dry material smells extremely grassy in comparison. The taste of the tea itself has notes of cherry, sweetgrass, and a soft leathery/camphor which all work well together to create rich flavour that ends with some desirable bitterness. The mouth feel is great, creamy and silky on the tongue and roof of the mouth (very similar to a milk oolong). The liquor is not very thick despite the creaminess which is an odd contrast. I also salivate a bit before that nice astringency takes its place.
While the flavours may be nothing terribly unique when individually compared with other pu-erhs, the combination and balance just makes me melt with happiness. My whole body relaxes and my mind calms down, sometimes I even feel tea drunk with some euphoria and caffeine. Excellent qi. These are the feelings I chase with tea and I’m just happy to have found one that resonates with me on this level.
Flavors: Astringent, Camphor, Cherry, Grass, Leather, Sweet, Vegetal
This organic black tea is fairly typical, malty and sweet with a burnt honey or molasses taste. There are no flavour notes that jump out at me as special, but I find it pleasing that it has such a strong flavour. I find organic teas can sometimes be more bland. The caffeine content seems to be somewhat high, unless I’m confusing it with a energizing cha qi (unlikely). Seems like a typical Assamica type tea despite coming from Yunnan.
This is the first black tea that I’ve brewed gong fu where the aroma from the wash made me want to drink it! It almost reminds me of cooking or baking a pie. I think this will be a nice harvest to drink through winter as it evokes a nostalgia that instills cozy feelings of quiet snow days and a full belly. This is probably the only reason I’m giving it such a high rating, otherwise it is a fairly average tea.
Brewed gong fu at 90°c
Rinsed once, followed by brews of 10 seconds, 15, 20, 30, 45, and 1 minute
After drinking a few more pots of this tea, I like it more than I said in my initial review. The malt evolves into a lighter caramel flavour or perhaps slightly burnt toffee when you get up to the fourth or fifth infusion. Changing my rating from 76 to 80.
Flavors: Honey, Malt, Molasses
This is an excellent oolong. It hits all of my favourite flavour notes and invites you to take a sip with a lush aroma. None of the flavours are overpowering. I can taste wildflower honey and nutty, milkiness for sure. The floral aspect to it isn’t quite as in-your-face compared with, for example, the King of Duck Shit Aroma which probably would make this a great daily oolong. The mouth feel and after taste is great, makes me salivate before finishing with a light astringency. 10/10 you can’t go wrong!
Flavors: Astringent, Flowers, Honey, Milk, Nuts, Orchids