135 Tasting Notes

reviewed Purple Clay Gaiwan (90ml) by Various
135 tasting notes

I got this years ago – it was my very first gaiwan, and my first encounter with any brewing style other than Western (except for matcha). It retains heat quite well for a gaiwan, presumably thanks to the zisha which makes up the bulk of its body. The white glaze inside prevents it from becoming seasoned and provides a nice background against which to view tea leaves.

It fits snugly into its base and is easy to use with one hand – even a friend of mine who has quite small hands was able to use it without a problem. However, the lid is actually a bit too symmetrical. It can create a tight seal which requires some force to dislodge, risking spillage and potentially getting hot tea all over one’s hand. So, it works well, but requires a tad of extra care to use.

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This gets more use than any of my other gaiwans thanks to the very small amount of tea required to fill it – I usually use around 3.5 grams. I usually drink tea before I leave for work at 8am, so unless I want to get up very early, I can’t stretch a session out for hours. As such, to get the maximum number of steeps out of my tea, I need to use a small brewing vessel.

I gave this a 100 rating, but it isn’t perfect for every tea. No vessel is! This one’s ideally suited to most teas that require under-boiling temperatures, but it struggles to retain enough heat for hei cha or sheng. Even some oolongs taste a little watery brewed in here. I’ve also found a few teas with leaves long enough to stick out the sides of this before they grow limp in the hot water. However, solving either of these ‘problems’ would require compromising this gaiwan’s qualities (by making it retain too much heat for delicate teas, and by increasing its volume), so I don’t consider them real issues with the vessel.


I still use this gaiwan frequently a few years later. I mainly use it when I want a small amount of a good hongcha and for green high mountain oolong. Sometime greens and whites find their way into it but never puerh.

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It’s delicious and warming! A fantastic tisane for the colder seasons. Re-steeps as well as many teas with no more volume needed. Also nice that one can eat it after it’s steeped out.

Flavors: Toasted, Wheat

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 2 OZ / 55 ML
Cameron B.

I love buckwheat tea! It’s been a while since I had some, I really need to fix that… :)

Avery F.

It’s perfect for any time you can’t decide whether you want tea or cereal :)

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There’s a smoky, sort of ‘dark’ dimension to the scent of this tea that I don’t usually expect from sheng. The flavour is tart and bitter, with an initially very wet feel, fading to dry astringency. The smoke is there too, an aftertaste in the back of the mouth. The aroma is hay-like. An interesting and unusual tea, although not really to my taste.

Flavors: Astringent, Drying, Hay, Smoke, Tart

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 2 OZ / 55 ML

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I didn’t especially like this tea, and that surprised me. It’s definitely smoky, and smoke is one of my favourite flavours in pretty much any context. However, unlike other smoky hei chas I’ve tried, or lapsang souchong, this has just a single note of smoke taste. Those other smoky teas have a ‘deep’ smoke and a sharper smoke, while this one only has the deep layer. It’s also surprisingly bitter.

Flavors: Bitter, Smoke

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 2 OZ / 55 ML

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Visually, this is a very beautiful tea. The flavour is mild, sweetish, with a light taste of overripe fruit. The scent is hard to identify. Later steeps are tarter and slightly astringent, which in the case of this tea improves the taste.

Flavors: Astringent, Dried Fruit, Fruity, Sweet, Tart

190 °F / 87 °C 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 2 OZ / 55 ML

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This tea smells fishy in quantity, but individual mini bricks don’t have a noticeable fish odour. Brewed, it’s somewhat light-tasting, though not quite mild. The taste is slightly thinner and more tannic than is usual for shou – more like a standard black tea – but the earthy, fungal flavours one expects from shou are present as well. It would make a decent ‘daily’ tea, in part because of the convenient format.

Flavors: Mushrooms, Tannin, Wet Earth

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 90 ML

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This is a very well-balanced black tea that shows some complexity even with Western-style brewing, which can sometimes lead to more muddled flavours. The aftertaste is briskly bitter, while the main flavour is warming, a tad malty, and very full. It’s nice.

Flavors: Bitter, Malt, Roasted

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 13 OZ / 384 ML

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Western style, this was pretty much a normal black tea, with a slightly bitter aftertaste of a sort I didn’t particularly like. Tried it gongfu style and it was not great. The leaves are coarsely chopped – not crushed or chopped finely, as for a teabag, but they still release flavour and caffeine faster than whole leaves would.

Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Fruity

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 3 g 13 OZ / 384 ML

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Quite floral, with a faint overripe fruit taste. The aftertaste and texture are odd; while the initial flavour is just slightly bitter, the aftertaste is heavily tannic. The initial texture is smooth and wet, but changes to a dry tannic sensation. The leaves are long and whole.

Flavors: Bitter, Drying, Floral, Stewed Fruits, Tannic

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 2 OZ / 55 ML

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I like trying unique teas, especially those from areas of the world not known for tea production. It’s always something of a gamble and can lead to all kinds of surprises.

While I’m usually not into flavoured or scented teas, there are definitely exceptions. Hei cha which is not pu-erh tends to be my favourite category of tea, but I like some teas of all types. Smoky, creamy, and honey-like tastes generally appeal to me the most.

Top five teas I’ve had thus far (in no particular order):

Mekong Breakfast from Rakkasan Tea Company

2015 Gao Jia Shan “Cha Duo Tang” Wild Harvested Hunan Fu Brick Tea, from Yunnan Sourcing

Asahina Gyokuro “Hon Gyokuro” from Hojo Tea

Any good Lapsang Souchong

2018 Cha Yu Lin “Liu Bu Xi Village” Tian Jian Basket Tea from Yunnan Sourcing


Rural New England

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