167 Tasting Notes
Dry leaf: SMOKEY, SWEET, EARTHY (mesquite wood/smoke, wild honey, blackstrap molasses, baked pears, autumn leaves, green stem, light wood)
Smell: SMOKEY, EARTHY, some SWEET (bonfire, cured tobacco leaf, raw walnut, some wet rock minerality. In gaiwan – noticeable apple cider notes)
Taste: EARTH, SMOKE, OIL, PEPPER, FRUIT (autumn leaves, hay, leather, wood smoke, ash, resin, camphor, cooked walnut, nutty oily sweetness, bittersweet, peppery spiciness. In gaiwan, several fruit notes are present – plum, date, fig, pear, apple cider, stewed fruit)
SO… Cruising through Yunnan Sourcing’s page, I stumble upon Hai Lang Hao, whose cakes are well out of my price range – the first one I see is over $300. I chuckle to myself, but continue down the page. Lo and behold! I see a cake for $25 amongst its more costly brethren. I had to get it, just out of sheer curiosity.
The dry leaves themselves are a little disappointing – tons of spindly stems, some even with no leaves at all on them. So, basically I’m thinking this is the cake made with all of the reject material from his actual cakes.
That said, it actually is pretty awesome (and it’s not all stems – don’t get me wrong!) Assuming it is some of the reject pickings – I imagine they are still coming from the bushes that provide the material for his more expensive offerings. What does that mean? It means we can get some pretty awesome flavors for a bargain price.
Really enjoyable – brewed several times in “young” yixing pot and several times in gaiwan. Gaiwan brought out all of the fruit notes above. Yixing “stole” these flavors and provided an oily, nutty, smooth experience.
Dry leaf: FLORAL, SWEET (potpourri floral – lilac? – lemongrass, fresh honey sweetness, buttery, bittersweet green, salty sweetness)
Smell: FLORAL, SAVORY (lilac, honeysuckle, buttered toast, hint of cooked spinach)
Taste: CREAMY, CITRUS, VEGETAL, FLORAL, SWEET (buttery, lemongrass, orange and lemon peel, potpourri floral, honeysuckle, red apple, creamy sweetness, nut oil, hints of saltwater taffy, salty umami, very light sun-dried tomatoes, spinach)
This tea is like a rollercoaster. It rises up with very high floral notes, then plunges down to a thick, rich umami, vegetal, and creamy body, and then finishes bright, floral, and citrus-sweet. You know what? You could probably write a haiku about this yin-yang experience, but I’ll just stick to describing the tea…
Overall, the high notes are clear and bright and easily weave in and out on a thick, rich base of creamy vegetal flavors. It’s a quality tea for sure.
Now – the tough part. It’s definitely not cheap (although Taiwan Tea Crafts has some of the best pricing out there.) At $.50/g, it’s a splurge – especially since I ended up using a 2:1 g/fl oz leaf:water ratio. So, taste-wise it’s 92/100. Value-wise… hmm… It’s almost twice as expensive as other green oolongs… Is it twice as good as these other oolongs I’ve had? No. But, the 25g sample pack doesn’t exactly break the bank either. Will I purchase it again – most likely. So 85/100 on the price side of things.
Summary of the above, which got too long in my caffeinated state – delicious tea that proves its quality with an almost fine-tuned taste experience. Well worth getting a sample pack and enjoying your mountain experience.
(Spring 2016 picking) [edit – see comment below]
Dry leaf: HERBAL, VEGETAL, SWEET (bitter greens – like a green twig or stem – dried herbs: parsley and dill, tomato vine, corn, floral perfume, cocoa, Mexican hot chocolate, some sugary sweetness, honeydew melon)
Smell: VEGETAL, some FRUITINESS: (creamed corn, corn, sour cherry, artificial cherry, some peach and cantaloupe)
Taste: VEGETAL, HERBAL, some SWEET, BITTER (corn, green chestnut, roasted chestnut, dried herbs – parsley and dill, bittersweet floral, some butteriness, generally consistent bitterness. Aftertaste and finish – noticeable sour cherry and artificial cherry flavors, rock candy sweetness, bittersweet floral)
I tried brewing this tea a few different ways, including the traditional “tall glass” method. Personally, I settled on a small gaiwan (1:1 g/fl oz leaf : water), with the lid OFF. I find this little guy to be quite a challenge to brew. At one point throughout my experimentation, I managed to get a glass that had boiled cod flavors… The notes above reflect the best of what I was able to bring out.
Personally, I found the flavors to be consistently “sharp” – even the sweetness was a bit acrid – it reminded me of these old cough drops I had as a kid that were heavily flavored with artificial cherry. The vegetal notes consistently had a “green twig” and dried herb bite to them. When I adjusted the parameters to alleviate some of this bite, it ended up losing quite a bit of body.
I would love to hear how others have approached this tea and what they did to coax out the best flavors.
Dry leaf: EARTHY, FRUITY, CEREAL (sweet hay, rich compost, almond, grits, cooked corn, hints at molasses, coffee grounds, stewed berries, vanilla bean, dark dried fruit – prune, date)
Smell: EARTHY, BRINY (hay, compost, oatmeal, grits, bread pudding, pleasant “ocean” notes – brine, seashore)
Taste: EARTHY, CEREAL, NUTTY (hay, rich earth, leather, grits/cream of wheat, raw nuts – almond and Brazil nuts – dark mushroom, buttery, creamy vanilla, hints of vanilla bean, stewed fruit, red fruit, ripe banana, cinnamon, nutmeg). One very pleasant characteristic of this tea is noticeable bourbon note that weaves in and out on the palate during several infusions.
The only bad thing about this cake is that once you start to get to know it, you begin to regret only having 100g of it. For my palate, it is easily one of my favorite ripes.
Dry leaf: EARTHY, SMOKY, SWEET (noticeable barbecue-like sweetness and spiciness, hay, tobacco, campfire, hints of raisin, cola, black cherry, wildflower honey)
Smell: EARTHY, SMOKY (strong tobacco, hay, black walnut, campfire)
Taste: EARTHY, SMOKY, SWEET, FRUIT (tobacco, stewed tea, hay crispness, barbecue-like smokiness and sweetness, black walnut, dark honey, blackstrap molasses, cola, dark dried fruit – fig, prune, – stewed raisins, autumn leaves, hints of cinnamon, allspice, and clove). This tea has already changed significantly over the year I have owned it. It has gotten noticeably sweeter and more complex, and, frankly, more delicious.
If you are like me, you are met with a barrage of birthdays, anniversaries, Hallmark holidays, and various other things that require gift-giving with not the slightest clue of what to give. Make your life easy and get this tea for that special person on that special day. Or get this tea for yourself on that special day. Or any day. Great tea – great price – gift box included. What more could you want?
Dry leaf: ROAST, NUTTY, FLORAL (chocolately roast, roasted almonds and pecans, green leaves, floral, bittersweet)
Smell: NUTTY, FLORAL (is it fair to say that it smells like an oolong? Just that nice bittersweet green leaf meets nutty roast kind of smell. Some floral – orchid, I guess!)
Taste: NUTTY, VEGETAL, SWEET, FRUITY, FLORAL, EARTHY, and MORE! (roasted walnut and almond, roasted corn, brewed dark tea, wildflower honey, light chocolate, orchid, honeysuckle, autumn leaves, light roast and woodiness, mineral, hint of orange and grapefruit rind, tart raspberries). This is a dense tea – flavors are numerous and develop on the palate and throughout individual steepings.
You know what? I like this tea because it demands respect. Upon first tasting it, you are greeted with roasted nuttiness and some bittersweet notes – nothing to write home about, really. To be honest, it only starts to taste good – really good – when you sit down and give it the attention it deserves. Do that, and you’ll have yourself a rewarding experience.
Dry leaf: SWEET and VEGETAL (sweetcorn, sweet tomato vine, sun-dried tomatoes, stone fruit, melon)
Smell: VEGETAL, GRASSY, SWEET (sweetcorn, edamame, sweet grass, cooked spinach, hints of peach and baking spices)
Taste: VEGETAL, GRASSY, FRUITY, and much MORE! (edamame, corn, spinach, tomato vine, nori, mulched grass, honeysuckle, fresh peach and apricot, cantaloupe and honeydew melon, hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, cherry wood, minerality, brine, vanilla extract, mint leaf, canned pineapple juice). Thick in mouth – flavors are long-lasting and develop considerably from arrival to finish to aftertaste.
This is the perfect tea with which to lie in ambush at work. As someone dunks a green tea bag into their mug, bust some of this stuff out and let its aromas and beautiful green leaves work their magic. Then, casually remark, “Oh – I like green tea too!” At this point, watch their dismay as they behold your radiant green tea wafting of melon and springtime as they take their mug of boiled sawdust back to their desk.