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Recent Tasting Notes
Gongfu Sipdown (1470)!
Just wrapping this session right now – thank you Togo for sharing the sample!
This is very unique & pleasant with more syrupy and red fruit forward first steeps that progress into something a little more thick and jammy with undertones of dried chamomile flowers, prunes, parsley & distinct notes of pipe tobacco in the finish. Normally I would likely be turned off by a tea that has such a distinct chamomile note, as it’s not a type of tea I typically enjoy – however I think the really dynamic melange of sweeter fruity notes and that interesting tobacco note are both more than enough to make up for the one flavour I’m picking out of this session that isn’t landing with me.
All in all, I think I got a very solid eight or nine steeps before the flavour decline into spent leaf – most of them stacked two steeps at a time since I was using a pitcher/cup set much bigger than the pot I brewed in. One of the perks to working from home is deskside gongfu sessions, and this was a very splendid one!
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3mdyIbeXEY
Gongfu Sipdown (1429)!
Sipping down a neglected tea sample that I got from theweekendsessions a few summers back w/ the first volume of “The Last Man” – one of the last major Brian K. Vaughan comic series I’ve not dug into yet!! This Thailand origin sheng is really interesting – from the first rinse the leaves have such a fragrant and sweet peach aroma with undertones of herbaceous smoke. Early steeps mirror this, with mediun bodied syrupy overripe peach notes and slight smoky undertones coming through before sliding into a more medicinal herb forward cup profile with those stonefruit notes stepping to the back of the sip! The aftertaste is hard to nail down – maybe slightly bitter peach skins with rosemary butter!? Definitely some elements I like a lot, but a few that are resonating less strongly – mostly the finish. I am glad I tried it, though!!
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_tghL1skg&abchannel=TESSELBANDTESSELBAND
Compared to the other aged tea I got from Tea Side, 1988 Yuen Neun, this loose pu-erh is much cheaper. It did, however, also leave a weaker impression on me and it yields about 25% less tea overall too.
Dry leaf aroma is reminiscent of nuts, old books and bamboo. After the rinse,a string earthy note of peat emerges, coupled with a cooling eucalyptus wood scent.
The taste is also somewhat peaty with notes of fresh soil, plant roots, old dry wood and pine early on. The third steep has an interesting sweet vegetal flavour that remains fairly isolated in the context of the whole session. In the middle, I can taste cola, dry earth, fermented grains, black beans and yeast. It is still very much an earthy tea with a kombucha-like acidity at times. Towards the end, there is more nuttiness, a bit like hazelnuts I’d say.
The aftertaste is nutty throughout though and a little bit drying too. There are additional notes of root vegetables, betel nut, black cherry, milk, dark chocolate, and licorice root to be found after swallowing.
Texture of the tea is somewhere between creamy and colloidal, and fairly thick at its peak. However, it is not quite what I would call a full bodied tea. The cha qi was nice and definitely noticeable, but not out of this world. I found it to be a calming and a little meditative tea, with an occasional spine tingling as well.
An interesting tea that combines the refreshing bitterness of young sheng with heavier fruity sweetness and woody notes. It is by no means something I would drink every day, but there are times when it just fits perfectly.
The aroma has a base layer of woody, malty and grassy floral scents. Beyond that, there are nuances that are a bit hard to pinpoint. Some fairly unusual associations come to mind, such as PVC, human semen and cloves.
Taste is pungent and likewise multilayered. It is bitter, sweet, woody, but also herbaceous with a refreshingly juicy quality to it and a cooling, astringent aftertaste. Specific flavours include cranberry, chocolate, apple, fermented fruits and dried apricots. These are complemented by sage flower note and further dried fruit in the aftertaste.
The texture is reasonably airy, but the main sensation is mouth-numbing, which I guess makes the tea feel lighter than it actually is. The cha qi is somewhat energizing overall.
Flavors: Alcohol, Apple, Apricot, Bitter, Chocolate, Cloves, Cranberry, Dried Fruit, Floral, Flowers, Fruity, Grass, Herbaceous, Herbs, Malt, Sage, Sweet, Wood
This is a very clean tea, maybe a bit too much so. There’s no doubt it is gu shu material, but I don’t think the experience justifies the price, ultimately.
The profile is floral, herbaceous and bitter at first with notes of grass, milk, guava, and honey. Towards the end of the session, it gets pretty sweet too. Aftertaste is cooling with a lot of high florals and additional flavours such as peach and olive. The mouthfeel is oily with basically no astringency present – nice, but pretty standard at this price point.
Flavors: Bitter, Floral, Grass, Guava, Herbs, Honey, Milk, Olives, Peach, Smooth, Sweet, Thick
When ordering from Tea Side some time ago, I tried make use of their offering of various samples of aged raw pu-erh, a category I have very little experience with. This particular one is very much an educational experience rather than anything else, which easily justifies even the price of $2 per gram. Even though I won’t be rushing to get a cake of it, I can actually see myself looking for a similarly aged tea even in this price range in the future. To a large degree, I would find its value to be in terms of being just pretty distinct from the rest of my collection. However, one thing to take into account absent other considerations is that this tea lasts about twice as long as I would expect from teas with good endurance! In this particular session, I oversteeped some of the early infusions and I still ended up with about 400ml/g eventually (the last five steeps being boiled for several minutes on a stove).
Now, the tea itself is very earthy and woody, but ultimately I think it would count as an example of a “clean” aged tea for sure. The cha qi is calming and very pleasant, but much more subtle than younger examples of premium sheng I’ve had the chance of getting to know. I don’t know if it can be partly attributed to the tea, but I did relax pretty well after a stressful week and managed to reduce the tension in my neck and back. Somehow, one of the most memorable aspects is probably the mouthfeel though. The liquor is smooth, heavy, soft and incredibly oily. It is engaging from the first infusion all the way until the last, 22nd, one.
I can’t really think of many ways to describe the aroma, but it does have a milky and woody nature throughout. One scent that stands out among my notes from the middle of the session as quite an unusual and unexpected one is rose – I am not sure if I was imagining it honestly.
The taste, on top of the underlying earthy and woody ones, displays medicinal, nutty, herbaceous and flowery notes. There are flavours like cumin, tree sap, coca leaf, nutmeg, parsnip, fenugreek, vanilla, orange blossom and others. It is pretty sweet throughout, while retaining a nice bitter bite. Late in the session, the flavour profile moves more towards the mineral and higher notes, but still keeps significant earthiness present until the end.
Early on in the session, the aftertaste is very protracted, but it starts somewhat benign and ramps up over time. It is subtle overall, not pungent in any way and yet complex and evolving. Sweet, tart and camphor like sensations dominate, with notes of fireplace, molasses and licorice among others.
Song pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eE5Swq7N-Ns
Flavors: Bitter, Camphor, Earth, Fireplace, Flowers, Licorice, Medicinal, Milk, Mineral, Molasses, Nutmeg, Orange Blossom, Parsley, Plants, Rose, Sap, Smooth, Spices, Sweet, Tart, Vanilla, Vegetables, Wet Wood, Wood
On the tea side site this is actually spelled Ming dee. There is also a special storage version that less expensive and wetter aged. This is an interesting HTC production. More floral and has notes that remind me of a hongcha and aged white as well as a sheng. I get nice florals and cocoa along with the woody aged sheng thing. This seems to have more bite than the typical HTC sheng. The qi is the deep calming yet alerting content feeling I get from most Thai teas. I still prefer the 0802 as it has more similarities to a nicely stored Yiwu at a reasonable price but this tea is very solid and gives lots of steeps. It would be a good choice for a black or white tea drinker who wants to try some sheng as it’s not overly earthy and has some nice top notes for a semi aged tea balanced by chocolate and wood. I can recommend sampling any of the teas from tea side
I rarely drink tea that I have troubles finishing a session of, but this one is one of them. It just underscores my experience with Ye Sheng varietals processed into raw pu-erh , which has been lukewarm at best.
The main take-aways for me are that the tea is light bodied and has an overwhelming chamomile character. Since I don’t like chamomile tea (after drinking too much of it one year of my life), the taste profile didn’t sit well with me.
Other than that, there are notes of wood, cucumber, and fermented stonefruits in the dry leaf aroma. After the rinse, on the other hand, the tea smells very sweet, fruity and floral (but not flowery, more like marsh vegetation). The taste a very herbaceous character as I already mentioned. There are also notes of grass, alpine flowers, cucumber, parsnip and white peach.
Flavors: Cucumber, Floral, Flowers, Fruity, Grass, Herbaceous, Herbs, Parsley, Peach, Vegetal
I’ve been drinking a lot of Thai teas lately and this one is among my favorites. Like the other Thai shengs I’ve had this one benefits from a bit more leaf and pushing a bit harder than you would a Yunnan counterpart. I get about a dozen steeps and am rewarded with caramelized nuts, Red Man chewing tobacco, curry spices and a mild cedary note I typically only get from Yibang teas. Medium bodied, very clean storage and evidently very high quality old tree material. Deep meditative qi. Doesn’t have quite the depth of an Yibang tea but at 1/4 the price or less I’m in. If I drank this blindly and you told me this was a Taiwan stored Ding Jia Zhai or something similar I probably wouldn’t argue. Interesting thing is I’ve been sampling a good bit of young Thai and Laotian material and they taste nothing like Yiwu to me. They remind me of lemongrass soup. I’ve also sampled the 0803 which is priced the same and a similar tea but has a more bitter up front taste and lacks the cedar notes. I recommend sampling any of the teas from this vendor.
I tend to like bitter sheng and this one is no exception. There is substantial complexity, although the profile is not exactly my favourite. It has a full body and an active syrupy mouthfeel that’s not overly heavy. Also, the tea has a relaxing, almost sedating effect on the mind and a clear chest warming quality.
The dry leaf aroma is fresh, but not too green anymore. There are hints of apple as well as honey. After the rinse, I get a sense of hot hay, apricots, oats, and black cardamom. In terms of pungency it’s about average for sheng of this age.
The rinse itself tastes of seeds and vegetable oils with a citrusy finish. First steep is mostly sweet at first, but the bitterness gradually intensifies and peaks in the aftertaste in fact. It is a little metallic and flowery, while the next one is more herbaceous. Third infusion is now quite bitter. It is a herbaceous (wormwood) and slightly medicinal kind of bitterness. Subsequently, I also detected various flavours of parsnips, sugar, tobacco, fish skin, nuts, burnt butter, and mild woody ones towards the end.
As for the aftertaste, once the bitterness fades a bit, one can experience notes ranging from white wine (riesling), orange zest and vanilla all the way to sunflower seeds and black pepper.
Flavors: Absinthe, Apricot, Bitter, Burnt Food, Butter, Cardamom, Citrusy, Floral, Flowers, Green Apple, Herbaceous, Herbs, Honey, Hot Hay, Medicinal, Metallic, Nutty, Oats, Parsley, Sugar, Sweet, Tobacco, Vegetal, Wood
This is a fairly average sheng that’s quite mellow and sweet. Dry leaves smell of apricot flowers, cream, and cherry while after the rinse I get aromas of wood, beeswax and leather.
The taste is sweet above all else, with notes of cilantro, tree sap and stonefruit pits. Lightly astringent finish is followed by a mildly spicy and nutty aftertaste.
Flavors: Apricot, Astringent, Cherry, Coriander, Cream, Flowers, Leather, Nutty, Sap, Stonefruit, Sweet, Wood
A very nice Shai Hong from Thailand here. It has a well-defined profile of the sweet woody and mineral kind and a medium to full body. One can also steep it for a long time before the extraction speed falls below an acceptable threshold.
Before the rinse I get aromas of leather and dry earth. On the other hand, wet leaves smell more sweet and spicy with notes of molasses, rose hips and incense. The liquor texture is somewhat colloidal but still pretty smooth. It does carry some decent astringency that persists into the very sweet, rustic and floral aftertaste. The primary body feeling from this tea is definitely a warming sensation that spreads throughout. It’s a very nice winter tea and it’s also good for working since it isn’t very mind numbing.
Flavors: Astringent, Autumn Leaf Pile, Barnyard, Floral, Mineral, Molasses, Rosehips, Spicy, Sweet, Wood
A fairly simple and reliable tea, but it lacks something that would elevate it above similar teas meant for casual drinking.
The dry leaf aroma is flowery with notes of baked apples and stonefruits. After the rinse, the scent reminds me of macaroons and other biscuits, as well as olives. Then, in the empty cup, I mostly get a sweet florals.
The taste is mineral with strong honey notes and flavours of persimmon and mint tea, without the cooling sensation of the latter. The aftertaste is actually a little cooling and also brings hints of lemon zest into the picture.
Flavors: Apple, Candied Apple, Cookie, Floral, Flowers, Fruity, Lemon Zest, Mineral, Mint, Olives, Stonefruit, Sweet
An unusual shou, but not one I would be too eager to recommend unfortunately. If you are looking for a shake up to your standard shou and like savoury notes, this is definitely a good option.
The aroma is maybe the most unique and funky. When dry, leaves exude scents of red cabbage, chestnut, and malt. After the rinse (or two), I get further notes of butter, cranberries, leather, red apples, and mead / dark honey.
The taste is sweet and savoury with a little bit sour and bitter aftertaste. There are flavours of dried fruit, yeast, bamboo, soybean, sugar, earth, and leather. The soup is generally very cloudy and the mouthfeel lighter and more airy than most shou. It does get somewhat creamy in the middle of the session and a bit chalky towards the end.
Flavors: Apple, Bamboo, Bitter, Butter, Chestnut, Cranberry, Creamy, Dried Fruit, Earth, Honey, Leather, Malt, Red Apple, Sour, Soybean, Sugar, Sweet, Vegetables, Wood, Yeast
Here’s a tea that everyone into ripe pu’er should try imo. It is unlike any other one I’ve had. But it’s not just unique, it has a lot of qualities I look for in tea, which make it one of the best shou I’ve encountered. For starters, the complexity is almost unparalleled, even if we include other types of tea in the comparison. The full-bodied, voluminous, and coating liquor is very pleasing to drink. Also, it is a perfect tea for relaxed sessions with its strong cha qi that is mind clearing without inducing drowsiness.
And if that wasn’t enough, it has a beautiful colour too, something I don’t often pay that much attention to. The rinse has a bright orange colour that’s a bit more like an aged sheng than shou. Later on in the session, the liquor takes on an elegant crimson red, which coupled with extreme clarity, make this a visually very appealing tea.
Dry leaves smell quite unusual – main notes resemble candle wax, currants, and sawdust – indeed a weird sounding combination. The aroma gets more complex after the rinse, but it’s ever more strange. There are hints of yeast, vinyl, juniper, window cleaning liquid, nutmeg, coffee, milk. In spite of all of those associations, however, it is a kind of “sweet” scent.
There is considerable complexity in the taste from the get go as well. First infusion is nutty, sweet, mineral and mildly sour with a savoury finish as well as light woody bitterness. Flavours of walnut, gin and dry wood are among the most prominent ones here. Second steep brings new notes of fish meat, cocoa, cumin seed, brown sugar, and truffles. I lost track of all the associations, but it is quite a mineral and smooth affair throughout, with a noticeable red wine flavour in the middle of the session.
The aftertaste is a little astringent and acidic. There is a persistent woody bitterness which is very nice, as well as some floral notes. As for novel flavours, I noticed raisins, cinnamon, honeycu and blackberry leaves. Mouthfeel is among the highlights too, it is smooth, oily and quite mouth-watering.
All things considered, I greatly enjoyed every session I’ve had with this tea and will be saving it for special occasions. It’s a shame it is not pressed into cakes, because I don’t have the capacity to buy loose tea in bulk at present.
Flavors: Alcohol, Astringent, Berries, Bitter, Black Currant, Blackberry, Brown Sugar, Cinnamon, Cocoa, Coffee, Floral, Honey, Marine, Meat, Milk, Mineral, Nutmeg, Nuts, Nutty, Plants, Raisins, Red Wine, Sawdust, Smooth, Sour, Spices, Sweet, Thick, Umami, Walnut, Wood, Yeast
[Summer 2016 harvest]
The dry leaf aroma of this tea is very nice – medicinal, sweet and fruity. During the session, malty and herbaceous notes emerge on top.
Overall, the tea is tasty, easy to drink and has a good longevity at a very reasonable price. The taste is well-balanced with the dominant notes again being sweet and medicinal ones. There is a woody backbone and a slightly citrusy fragrance in the finish. In the aftertaste then, honey and wood are the associations that come to the fore.
The body is medium and the mouthfeel smooth and buttery with just a hint of a fermentation fizziness to it.
Flavors: Citrusy, Fruity, Herbaceous, Honey, Malt, Medicinal, Smooth, Sweet, Wood
This tea could definitely pass as a low elevation Taiwanese jade oolong. Even though the Qing Xin character is there, I also found it to be somewhat reminiscent of Si Ji Chun (in terms of its florals) and Jin Xuan (with respect to a mild milky taste varietals.
The tea is quite tasty, but honestly not too memorable. The taste profile is predominately sweet and vegetal with underlying grassy florals that come to the fore in the cooling aftertaste. The most unusual note I get is a watermelon flavour. The liquor is medium-bodied with a slightly drying finish, but not in an abrasive way.
In terms of the aroma, dry leaves exude notes of fruit tree flowers and wine cellar, while the wet ones smell very much like Taiwanese mountain oolongs – just more grassy. There is also a hint of celery in the otherwise sweet and floral aroma.
Interestingly, the cha qi is more aggressive and multi-faceted than the average Taiwanese tea. As for some specifics, I really like the mind clarity it induces. There is also a tingling sensation in the feet that I get sometimes.
With more complexity in taste and a more interesting texture, this would have been an exceptional tea – the way it stands it is ideal for neither casual nor focused drinking. Nevertheless, the price is about right for what it offers.
Flavors: Celery, Floral, Fruit Tree Flowers, Grass, Melon, Milk, Sweet, Vegetal
This is the last sample from Tea Side I was given to review. Thanks for allowing me to try this Bai Hao, as it’s one of my favourite types of oolong. I’ve tasted Bai Hao from Taiwan, China, India, and Vietnam, and am glad to add Thailand to that list. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 30, 20, 30, 30, 45, 60, 75, 90, 120, 180, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of autumn leaves, peach, and muscatel. The first steep has notes of apricot, peach, muscatel, stewed pear, autumn leaves, wood, and malt. The fruit intensifies in the second steep, and it indeed begins to taste like a honey black oolong, as Arby noted. The next couple steeps reveal sap and more honey, though also more malt and black tea-type flavours. There’s a tiny bit of citrus in the sixth steep, along with the pear, peach, and muscatel notes, but at this point, its transformation into a black tea is accelerating. By steep seven, it’s a malty, slightly fruity tea with some tannins, although it never loses its muscatel and stewed fruit notes completely.
While I found much to like about this Dongfang Meiren, it has more black tea notes than I’m used to in this type of oolong. Still, this is a minor complaint and it’s overall a pleasant tea. I imagine it would take well to Western or cold brewing.
Flavors: Apricot, Autumn Leaf Pile, Citrus, Honey, Malt, Muscatel, Peach, Pear, Sap, Stewed Fruits, Tannin, Wood
A huge THANK YOU to whoever put the Tea Side oolongs in the traveling tea box! I’m a pretty casual oolong drinker and had never heard of this company, but both of the ones I tried from them were outstanding. This one somewhat reminded me of a milk oolong, as it had a very creamy flavor and silky texture, but it was sweeter than most with notes of caramel and berries. The second steep was just as delicious as the first and I’m guessing I could get several more good steeps out of these leaves before they give out. I may be placing an order with this company in the future!
Flavors: Berries, Butter, Caramel, Creamy, Sweet
Before taping up the box to mail to Michelle last night, I removed a couple more samples that only had 1-2 cups left, including this one. I don’t really know much about GABA tea, but I will say that this is a very nice oolong! It’s super smooth and buttery with a delicate floral flavor. It actually reminds me quite a bit of a green tea (except smoother), which surprised me based on the dark brown color of the leaves. Not sure if it actually has any magical health benefits, but it was a fun tea to try!
Flavors: Butter, Floral, Smooth
Gongfu (from last week in Saskatchewan)!
Thank you to Tea Side for providing this sample for me to review! If an Old Fashioned is the cocktail that you use as a benchmark to see if a bar is quality or not, then in my mind I really nice Dian Hong functions the same purpose when evaluating new tea vendors. That’s why I wanted to try it, for sure!
Here’s what I wrote on instagram the day of, when the tea was fresh in my mind!
This was the second tea session of the day; a delicious Thailand Dian Hong made from ‘ancient tree’ material! I’m in a bit of a state of holiday vacation calm and serenity, and I have found my last few sessions have been more meditative. It has been challenging to stay in the present enough to retain flavor notes with the steeps, but this hong cha had a full bodied chocolate note, like high quality semi sweet baker’s chocolate, with a heavy undertone of dried plums, black cherries, and prunes & sticky, densely sweet figs – with a dark woody finish. It was hard not to remember those flavours as they lingered heavy on the palate. Thank you for the sample – it made for a lovely afternoon!
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHNPT_QPQ_U
Even though this is a Jin Xuan, which is a varietal I don’t usually go for, the notes on the vendor’s website and Steepster convinced me to give it a chance. Flavours of berries and caramel? Tastes like a Dan Cong? Count me in! Thanks to Tea Side for the sample.
I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma of these fairly large, loosely rolled nuggets is of berries, grass, and orchids. The first steep has notes of cream, caramel, grass, orchid, and raspberry. It’s quite silky, although it’s not quite in heady Dan Cong territory. All these notes intensify in the next steep, especially the berries. There’s also some indistinct tropical fruit in the aftertaste. The third steep has notes of raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, sour cherries, grapefruit, cream, caramel, grass, and faint florals; it’s a bit perfumey, with a big aftertaste. The berries start getting more tart in the next couple steeps; it kind of tastes like chokecherries. Subsequent steeps have fainter notes of sour berries, grass, cream, spinach, and other veggies.
True to what other reviewers are saying, this is not your typical Jin Xuan. It has the usual creamy, caramel flavours, but is much more fruity and perfumey than most other Jin Xuans. Is it like a Dan Cong? Sort of. It has a similar heady, fruit-forward profile with a grassy and floral background and a nice mouthfeel, but it’s missing the stonefruit and tropical flavours that I generally associate with Dan Congs. The sourness and grassiness also get out of control in the later steeps. Nonetheless, this is a very enjoyable oolong.
Flavors: Berries, Blackberry, Caramel, Cherry, Cranberry, Creamy, Floral, Grapefruit, Grass, Orchid, Perfume, Raspberry, Spinach, Tart, Tropical, Vegetal