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Recent Tasting Notes
A very approachable red tea with complex aroma and taste. Needs a longer first steep to awaken the leaf when made in a small teapot. Also good steeped western. Rich osmanthus in the nose; luscious tropical fruit flavors mixed with cacao-cocoa, malt and cedar; tenacious aftertaste. Energy flows throughout the body and pushes outward.
This tea has many similarities to my favorite Yunnan wild red tea https://steepster.com/teas/the-essence-of-tea/100896-2022-spring-da-xue-shan-wild-red-tea but it’s not as potent or pungent and is maybe a little flatter in taste. It does have that sweet and comforting cocoa and sweet potato presence of Fengqing red teas, though. Woodier than the Da Xue Shan.
Flavors: Baby Powder, Banana, Cacao, Cedar, Cocoa, Floral, Fruity, Grapes, Malt, Mango, Orange Blossom, Osmanthus, Passion Fruit, Peach, Red Fruits, Resin, Strawberry, Sweet Potatoes, Tropical, Woody
A Ruby 18 with heft. The mouthfeel of this tea sets it apart from other Ruby 18s I’ve had. Thick and fluffy with a big character of dark, varnished wood and some savory malted barley. Restrained tones complement the bold, woody flavor; black cherry rounds out the bottom and Ruby 18 wintergreen mintiness comes through in the top. Mild honeyed malt aftertaste. Tannins are prominent after swallowing, leaving the mouth very dry, but with that sensation comes a penetrating calm felt deep within my body that causes my eyelids to droop in warm intoxication.
This tea is quite the contrast to the cheekier and fruitier character of other Ruby 18 reds out there. Those are easier for me to appreciate with lighter body and bolder cherry and wintergreen character. But this is pleasant in its own way. The tea has power over me, rather than me having power over the tea. It feels nice to drink on a wet December morning, squishing around the backyard while taking care of my tea plants.
Above was gongfu preparation, with multiple short steeps (15 to 25 seconds) to mitigate the tannins. Would recommend this way over western.
Flavors: Cherry, Dark Wood, Drying, Forest Floor, Honey, Malt, Malty, Savory, Tannic, Thick, Varnish, Wintergreen, Woody
If I make a purchase from a vendor that carries a Mi Xiang black tea, chances are good it’ll end up in my cart. It was an extra draw that this one is from Shan Lin Xi. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of honey, raisins, dates, pastry, malt, and wood. The first steep has notes of honey, raisins, dates, plums, pine, pastry, malt, and wood. As expected, the honey is the dominant presence, especially in the aftertaste. The next steep leans more toward plum and nectarine, and is quite sweet with a bit of a drying finish. Steeps three and four have hints of cinnamon, though that might be the honey, fruit, and pastry notes playing tricks on me. Steeps five and six introduce grass, cream, florals (orchid?), and more of that piny/sappy quality typical of SLX and bug-bitten teas. In the next two steeps, the fruit starts to fade and the malt, wood, and grass get stronger. There’s a touch of astringency in the finish, though this is still a very soft tea overall. The final steeps lean into tannins, raisins, malt, grass, and wood.
This is a nice Mi Xiang that is quite similar to others of its kind. I liked the stonefruit, though it could have lasted longer. The pine and florality indeed remind me of Shan Lin Xi. I would definitely consider buying more of this tea, though I’d be equally happy with the ones from Camellia Sinensis or Cha Yi, which are easier to find and possibly cheaper.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Cream, Dates, Drying, Floral, Grass, Honey, Malt, Nectarine, Orchid, Pastries, Pine, Plum, Raisins, Sweet, Tannin, Wood
This is a really nice tea, although not very complex. The aroma is sweet and floral with notes of custard, honeysuckle, and, above all, fern and fiddleheads.
The taste is crisp and green, but at the same time sweet and warming, which is not the most common combination. It is a touch grassy, but not too much.
Flavors: Custard, Floral, Grass, Green, Honeysuckle, Sweet, Vegetal
One of the more interesting TheTea’s 2021 sheng selection. This tea shines in its complex residual fragrance, whether it is in the cup or in the long aftertaste. Additionally, I also like its airy, albeit somewhat unfocussed energy. As it is not very rushy for a fresh sheng, it can work well for meditations.
The aroma in the pot is really good too – sweet and forest like with a touch of gasoline. In the empty cup, it is sweet, nutty and flowery. There, I could further detect notes of pear pastries as well as sunflower and fenugreek seeds.
The taste is pungent, quite vegetal and bitter, with really nice huigan. While earlier steeps have more grainy flavour, later ones are sweeter with notes of yeast and sunflowers. The liquor has a coating and somewhat watery texture, and a mineral, cooling feel to it.
Flavors: Bitter, Floral, Flowers, Nutty, Pastries, Pear, Sweet, Vegetal, Yeast
This is an overall very strong tea, not necessarily one to serve to strangers. It has a complex aroma, bitter flavour profile with a fragrant aftertaste and a punching, heady cha qi. I would recommend quite short infusions generally, the tea can then also last for a pretty long time.
The aromas remind me of blackberry, winter honey, pine sap, and sawdust. It is a meaty and sweet, foresty scent. Wet leaf bouquet is more like beeswax and cocoa.
The taste is bitter and woody with a good astringency. There are flavours of honey, curry leaves, baked aubergine to be found, while the aftertaste is quite folwery. Texture-wise, I find the tea soft and colloidal with a coating finish. Also, the piercing bitterness can be felt almost as much as a mouthfeel than as a taste.
Having some western cups before heading out for the evening. Really nice mix of sandalwood, nuttiness, passionfruit, pomelo, honey and plumeria. Second steep expresses a lot of pear rather than passionfruit. Best Gui Fei style oolong I’ve had and it comes from my favorite high mountain, Shan Lin Xi. The Gui Fei oolong I’ve had before have been too much for me, whether it be nutty-roasty, honeysweet, citrusy or tannic. This one is simply delicious. It is very fragrant and has a lingering aftertaste.
Perfect for late summer late afternoon.
Flavors: Fruity, Grapefruit, Honey, Mineral, Nutty, Passion Fruit, Pear, Plumeria, Sandalwood, Sweet, Tangy
This Liu Bao has a great taste and clean liquor, but it is lacking in terms of texture I’d say.
The aroma is elegant, earthy, and nutty, slightly marine with hints of bog vegetation. The tea tastes savoury and earthy at first with a strong medicinal presence and flavours of tamarind and fish skin. The aftertaste starts off cleansing, cooling, and bitter like anise. Additional notes include soy sauce, nuts, molasses. Soon it transforms into a sweet finish that lasts for quite a long time.
Flavors: Anise, Bitter, Earthy, Fish, Marine, Medicinal, Metallic, Molasses, Nuts, Nutty, Soy Sauce, Sweet
This tea smells somewhat like a dark roast, I expect it will benefit from further resting. The aromas are surely coming through though – with notes of rhubarb pie, blackberries and other forest fruits, cherry wood, and muscovado sugar.
The taste is sweet and woody with a distinct black currant flavour, and followed by a savoury and lightly sour aftertaste that also bring a bitterness akin to burnt bread crust. There is also a pleasant slick mouthfeel present throughout the whole session.
Flavors: Apple, Ash, Berries, Black Currant, Blackberry, Bread, Brown Sugar, Burnt Food, Cake, Cherry Wood, Molasses, Rhubarb, Sweet, Wood
3 years is no time at all to a tea well made and well stored. I had a modest-sized 2019 harvest from Leafhopper that I decided to split between 2 western brews instead of one gongfu session.
I don’t know anything about this leaf since the The Tea doesn’t have a description on their site for it right now. But I am convinced my sample of the 2019 harvest was of the TTES #8 cultivar and not a ‘wild’ tea because both western sessions I had of this tea screamed at me: https://steepster.com/derk/posts/398397 In my sense-memory, an undeniable deadringer. Same year and everything. Leafhopper, I see you’ve had What-Cha’s tea, too. How do the two compare for you?
Anyway, awesome tea! Not often I’m blown away by western preparations of tea, nonetheless those distractedly brewed at work and with water cooler hot water. I have mad respect for this leaf. It has everything I want from a high-powered black tea while managing to be wonderfully refined in taste and possessing great structure. Malty and savory in a way that doesn’t bog me down thanks to the bright citrus and fruity berry tones combined with the full, smooth body, cooling finish and both light astringency and sweetness (that was a mouthful) —
Hot damn! This tea sings.
This sheng is somewhat average in many respects. The one thing I will remember about it is its pungency and bitterness with a cooling floral fragrance in the finish and aftertaste. I suppose it may be a decent option for long-term aging.
The mouthfeel of the medium bodied liquor is airy and creamy. Besides being quite bitter, the tea also has a persistent underlying sweetness that gets intensified as the huigan steps in. The taste is quite mineral and grassy with some grainy notes early on and a bready flavour in the second half of the session.
Flavors: Bitter, Bread, Floral, Grain, Grassy, Mineral, Nutty, Sweet
Thank you for this one Leafhopper!
Session parameters: 15 sec rinse with 3 oz, 5 oz here on out or less, then 20 sec, 10, 25, 35, 45, and then I went into more western parameters in the minutes. Brews were super forgiving, and pushing the tea got more rounded flavor.
It’s pretty unique, and there were more Tie Guan Yin characteristics in it. Tasting it blind, earlier steeps were nutty, but very heavy in orchid and woody florals. Early steeps were extremely light leaning in a floral watercress profile with not bitterness, only slight lettucy profiles and maybe cucumber. There is also something subdued about it that almost makes me think mineral, as in mineral water that’s light. Sometimes, there is a little bit of pithiness. Otherwise, I couldn’t quite pin down the sweeter note. It leaned towards water chestnut personally on the surface, maybe grapefruit or apricot territory if I’d describe any fruit. Watercress and orchid for sure in the early steeps, more pronounced oolong floral soup in the later ones with a hint of fruitiness, definitely fresh lettuce or spinach and growing green bitterness sneaking in. Not prominent, however.
Reading the other notes from leafhopper and TheTea, I can kinda see some of the other qualities like the almond and blood orange, but it’s too vaguely citrusy rather than a full citrus fro me.
Either way, I liked this tea a lot because it was unique and a greener one. Apart of me wonders if there was a light roast to preserve it in some way. I liked what it could do anyway.
Flavors: Citrus, Creamy, Floral, Lettuce, Mineral, Nutty, Orchid, Orchids, Spinach, Spring Water, Sweet, Vegetal, Woody
This is a complex and smooth tea that reminds me of aged, lightly oxidized white tea at times. I also like its pleasantly enveloping qi.
In the aroma I detect prunes and cherry wood, while wet leaves give off notes of port wine, fern, honey, and gardenia flowers.
The liquor has a superb oily mouthfeel and introduces a funny constrictive feeling in the back of the mouth. Its taste includes many flavours such as juniper, blue grapes, dandelion flower, burdock, prunes, fallen leaves, and acorn. The aftertaste is long, sticky and sweet with good minerality and herbaceous character.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Berry, Cherry Wood, Dandelion, Gardenias, Grapes, Herbaceous, Honey, Maple Syrup, Mineral, Oily, Plum, Prune, Red Wine, Smooth, Sweet
Roasted Version, same year:
I’m feeling lame-I do not feel like importing another tea right now, because I know I will for a bunch of other teas soon, so I’m reviewing here.
I tried the roasted version of this tea a few nights ago and loved it. It was oddly smoother than the unroasted one, and heavy on the grapefruit and mineral. I’d even write honey, passionfruit, floral, rose, salt, mineral, rock sugar, and rocks.
The roast didn’t show up until I rebrewed it the third and fourth times, and complimented the fruity notes perfectly. Later notes were a little bit more pithy too, but it lacked some of the astringency of the unroasted version. It eventually got more thin and roasty too with more pith.I’d have to try them side by side to get a definite opinion, but I may have liked the roasted one more. I’d likely change my mind because the unroasted one lasted a little bit longer and kept flavors longer (oddly), but it’s nice to see how a roast can actually enhance fruity flavors when made masterfully.
Another Leafhopper tea, used for the heat of the summer solstice this morning. Following a sweet theme of tea today, this one distinctly reminded me of peach or lychee soft candies or maltose. They’re almost like gummies, but covered in powdered sugar. I am getting that heavily here after each 5 sec flash steep of the sample in my Manual Gaiwan, roughly 4 oz at the beginning and 5 later on. It’s a little grassy and has a lot of similarities to an Bai Hao, but so much smoother. There’s barely a hint of autumn leaves, and instead, there was a slight hint of the grassiness that disappears after the second steep, and only reappears after steep 7, where I stopped.
I was very happy with this one, even if it felt short lived by short steeps. Loved the flavor punch and insanely 3d, juicy texture.
Flavors: Candy, Fruity, Grass, Honey, Juicy, Lychee, Powdered Sugar, Resin, Tropical Fruit
Thanks Leafhopper. Now that I have a short break between summer school and now, I’m plowing through my teas. The samples from the swap make it easier to mentally organize what to go through. I still need to try derk’s mystery tea too.
This one was good and similar to the later season I have. It’s in a Dong Ding style, and it was the best after steep two. Buttery, nutty, vegetal with a little bit of the “violet roast” note that I’ve gotten from this processing before in steep four. First steep is orchid, nutty, a little bit salty, a little bit sweet under a forward charcaol foreground. Later steeps are more floral and vegetal and a hovering oatmeal cookie note. I used shorter steeps under 20, and minute steeps for later steep six at about 4 minutes.
I enjoyed this one, and I think it did well for being a little bit older.
Flavors: Brown Toast, Char, Charcoal, Cookie, Floral, Green, Honey, Nutty, Oatmeal, Orchid, Roasted, Toasty, Vegetal, Violet
What a beautiful tea. It has a bright and pungent profile, a mix of floral and fruity notes with decent bitterness. I also really like its light and airy mouthfeel with a distinct presence and the grounding qi.
Aromas are pleasant and mostly range from apricots to stewed green vegetables. In the empty cup, I can also smell flowers and bubblegum.
Flavours then include apple leaves and juice, parsley, fresh grain/oats, and lemon ester. The aftertaste is expansive with a sweet and sour character. It presents more of a bright fruity sweetness rather than honey-like as is common for sheng.
Flavors: Apple, Apricot, Bitter, Bubblegum, Floral, Flowers, Grain, Green, Lemon, Oats, Parsley, Sour, Sweet, Vegetables
Very elegant and comfortable tea with no rough edges to it. However, it is also lacking a bit of “spacial sauce” to be truly spectacular imo.
Leaves have a floral aroma mixed with notes of cookies and caramel, which transforms into a more herbaceous, earthy and fruity one during the session. It reminds me of root vegetables such as celery and of pear.
The taste is woody and mineral with a significant floral sweetness. There are notes of wet rocks, slightly unripe pears, bread, as we as a fenugreek-like bitterness. The mouthfeel is cooling and numbing, while the aftertaste mostly floral and also a little drying.
Flavors: Bitter, Bread, Caramel, Celery, Cookie, Drying, Earthy, Floral, Fruity, Herbaceous, Mineral, Pear, Roots, Sweet, Wet Rocks, Woody
I’ve tried this twice, and I hesitated on whether to get more than 30 grams because it’s up my alley, or staving off because shipping prices and my need to go through my oolongs…which I inevitably will. Quickly. No doubt. Don’t speak.
I know what you’re thinking, and I don’t need no reasons, don’t tell me ‘cause oolong. Anyway, my memories, well this tea is inviting, though price is altogether mighty frightening. As I sip, the tea is pretty close to TheTea’s description:
" Fruity and milky, made from Jin Xuan bush with zero astringency typical for many high mountain oolongs.
Here you will find: grassy freshness, almonds, strawberries, yogurt, cream and notes of white flowers (lilly of the valley, lilly). And something fresh and vivid you can literally name: mountain breeze."
It’s got the trademark milky smoothness of a jin xuan, and it’s very fresh like a Maofeng or Baicha, maybe even a Cuifeng, but of course, smooth as only an oolong can be. The florals weren’t surprising, but the fruitiness was. Aroma has a stronger sweetness than the actual tea, but the tea has a weird creamy strawberry yogurt aftertaste that’s refreshing. I get it both gong fu and western, though I still think I need to crack the tea.
The lily of the valley, cream, and grass are the most prominent, yet the strawberry brushes the aftertaste. Aroma is more pronounced gong fu, but flavor has been more rounded western in longer steeps. Despite all of that, the tea has been pretty forgiving of my mistakes.
I’ve done this too many times, but I’m going to come back to it even though I’ve shoved enough purple prose into the review. I’m sold on it being a tea I like and something for people looking for a cleaner quality Jin Xuan or greener style tea. It’s more grassy than spinachy having more freshness than most of the straight Jin Xuans I’ve had, and I like it actually has more forward fruitiness instead of “hints” of fruit. I was exaggerating a little on price because it’s not the most expensive tea they have by any means, but it’s a step up from the usual price of a Jin Xuan deserving of more discriminating buyers.
Flavors: Almond, Cream, Creamy, Floral, Freshly Cut Grass, Grassy, Lily, Rainforest, Strawberry, Yogurt
A month ago, I finally decided to put in an order for three teas from The Tea. Given I ordered days just before conflict escalated in Poland’s neighbors, I am grateful I got some and pray for things to change, and hopefully, I can figure something out for my students to help support those in conflict.
Leafhopper highly recommended this one, and I got two oolongs in smaller samples with 50 grams of this bad boy. At first, it was very similar to What-Cha’s Wild Tongmu tea, but the third and fourth steep had a rounded and pronounced pineapple and lychee flavors that made me forget that I was drinking a black tea. For moment, I sipped it falsely thinking it was a Shanlinxi. It’s still maltier and sweeter than one textured by a longan, with a bit of a rise in astringency that hits my palette with some acidity. There were hardly any vegetal qualities except maybe wood. Like Togo said, it’s smooth with a cooling and warming effect at the same time. I did not realise that was already written when I posted the note! Either way, it’s an incredible Example of a Wuyi/Lapsang Black that tastes like cooked fresh pineapple, and I’m thrilled to write more about it.
Flavors: Citrus, Dark Chocolate, Floral, Lychee, Malt, Pineapple, Vanilla, Wood
After more than 20 years, the tea has a weak aroma and taste with an interesting sweet aftertaste. However, the cha qi is just superb – soothing and meditative, spreading warmth all over my body.
While the aroma is weak, it is also utterly unique and indescribable. The taste is a bit woody and sour – at times it reminds me of butter cookies or cut grass. The aftertaste is crisp, sweet and savoury with notes of plant stems and meat.
The tea liquor has a medium thickness and a creamy mouthfeel inducing a lot of salivation and a cooling sensation in the throat.
Flavors: Butter, Cookie, Cut Grass, Meat, Plant Stems, Savory, Sour, Sweet, Wood
From the dry leaves it looks more like a black tea.
Dry leaves have a sweet tobacco aroma. After a rinse it gets interestingly herbal with dry flowers and wine cork.
Thick body and a noticeably sweetness with flavours of camphor, vanilla, baked pears, tobacco and honey. The aroma has a peculiar earthy note that I can’t pinpoint (maybe from the storage).
Very sweet and round with no sharp edges, mouth coating honey aftertaste. Strong aroma from the empty cup.
Cleaner liquor, with a light bitterness and a spice-tingling finish. Qi makes me feel heavy and slow. Huigan is long and clean with honey sweetness.
4 and 5
Less sweet, a bit sharper with more spice pungency. Caramel. More acidic cacao aroma from the leaves. Something’s going on inside my forehead.
more chicory/dark herbal flavour and aftertaste. Feeling sleepy but with some energy and heat in my chest. Citric aroma from the leaves.
Medicinal herbs with sharp bitterness/astringency. Weaker aroma.
Final thoughts: Nice experience. The most enjoyable part doesn’t seem to last many steeps, maybe because of the very small leaves. Strong Qi. I’m thinking maybe the flavour profile on this one is not so exciting for me (has actually something in common with a black tea).
The wrapper art of this producer is amazing.
‘Tis the season to raid the tea museum for rare, expensive, or just very good teas I wouldn’t normally let myself drink. This competition grade Bai Hao has been in storage since the end of 2019. I steeped around 5 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 190F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 35, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
Dry, the aroma is of autumn leaf pile, muscatel, lemon, and berries. The first steep is deceptively light and delicate, with notes of honey, autumn leaves, and muscatel. Further scrutiny reveals raspberry, other berries, sap, and floral notes. The second steep is even sweeter, with lots of blackberry, raspberry, muscatel, lemon, sugarcane, honey, and floral flavours. Hints of orange and peach appear in the third steep. I let the fourth steep cool when I went to get my booster shot, and came back to a cup with extra lemon, berry, muscatel, and rose notes. There’s that autumn-leaf-like flavour one gets in Bai Hao, but no bitterness or astringency. The fruit starts to fade in steep six, letting the florals and honey have centre stage. I also get hints of spice. The last few steeps have some tannins and malt, but enough honey and muscatel to make them tasty.
This is a lovely example of a tea type I like, and as such, it gets a high rating from me. It’s too sweet, decadent, and pricy to be in regular rotation, but it’s a wonderful occasional treat. I bought a 10 g sample, but would consider getting a larger quantity since I think the price (US$36 for 50 g) reflects the quality.
Being able to taste teas like this one is the reason I invest so much money, time, and care in this hobby. It’s both accessible and complex, and makes me want to hone my ability to detect and describe flavours so I can deepen my appreciation of top-quality leaves.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Berries, Blackberry, Floral, Honey, Lemon, Malt, Muscatel, Orange, Peach, Raspberry, Rose, Sap, Spices, Sugarcane, Sweet, Tannin
[Spring 2019 harvest]
This one has a classic MLX aroma at first – sweet, perfumy with a hint of cake scent. Once wet, the leaves smell like drinking hot apple and smoking shisha next to a clean fireplace in a wooden cabin.
The liquor has a slick, colloidal and not too thick texture with mild bubbliness. It is numbing and I find it actually very easy to drink, especially before some mild astringency arrives around steep #4.
The taste is also super smooth. It is more savoury and mineral than the average MLX and reminds me of hot apple cider at times. There are also flavours of apricots, ghee, wet rocks, molasses and caramelized carrots. In the warming aftertaste, I also get a hint of wild honey.
Flavors: Apple, Apple Skins, Apricot, Bitter, Butter, Cake, Caramel, Carrot, Cinnamon, Fireplace, Fruity, Mineral, Molasses, Nutty, Perfume, Spices, Sweet, Tobacco, Wet Rocks, Winter Honey, Wood