What-Cha

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Recent Tasting Notes

94

I’ve had this hongcha in my tea museum for an embarrassingly long time. Alistair’s Ruby 18 and Taiwanese Assam were so good that I finally decided to try this one, especially as it’s the only one of his higher-end Taiwanese black teas that’s currently in stock. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 7, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds, plus some uncounted steeps.

The dry leaves have lovely aromas of blackberries, strawberries, honey, florals, and spice. The first steep is full of jammy red fruit (blackberries, strawberries, and currants), plus lemon, malt, bread, honey, geranium (thanks, Derk!), and clove. The second steep adds sweet potato, tangy orange, and almond in the aftertaste. The next two steeps add notes of cherry along with all the other red fruit, and the geranium, honey, and malt are a little more prominent. Steeps five and six have some malt and earthiness, but are still full of red fruit, sweet potato, cream, and lemon. In the next couple steeps, the fruit starts to fade, though it’s still very much in evidence, and I can taste the sweet potato a little more. The sweet potato and jammy red fruit continue over several more steeps, with malt, honey, grass, earth, and minerals becoming stronger near the end of the session.

This is the kind of lush, aroma-forward tea I gravitate toward. The early steeps remind me of Fruit Roll-Ups, especially if I’m not paying attention, and this is far from a bad thing. There’s never any astringency during my extended gongfu sessions. The body can be a bit thin sometimes, but that jammy red fruit keeps me coming back for more.

Flavors: Almond, Black Currant, Blackberry, Bread, Cherry, Clove, Cream, Earth, Floral, Geranium, Grass, Honey, Jam, Lemon, Malt, Mineral, Orange, Red Fruits, Spices, Strawberry, Sweet, Sweet Potatoes, Tangy

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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82

I was delighted to find this three-year-old sample in the vaults of my tea museum. I enjoy Laoshan black tea, but haven’t had any in quite a while. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml porcelain pot at 195F for 7, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The dry aroma is of cocoa, rye bread, honey, and malt. The first steep has notes of fudgy cocoa, dark chocolate, rye bread, honey, cream, and malt. The second steep adds faint cherry, minerals, and wood, but this tea is all about the cocoa. The next couple steeps are more roasty with hints of caramel. Steeps five and six are mineral, woody, and roasty with some sourness, but still, the cocoa makes it quite drinkable. The cocoa continues into the tenth steep, after which the tea has notes of wood, earth, minerals, and roast.

For such an old tea, this Laoshan Black stood up rather well. I appreciated its cozy, somewhat simple profile on this dull day. It didn’t change much over the gongfu session, but for a comforting chocolate tea, that’s okay.

Flavors: Bread, Caramel, Cherry, Chocolate, Cocoa, Cream, Earth, Honey, Malt, Mineral, Pleasantly Sour, Roasted, Rye, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML
Michelle

This sounds yummy, I might have to go find my favorite Yunnan for a chocolatey cup.

Leafhopper

It’s the perfect time of year for this tea! I’ve had LB from Yunnan Sourcing, but can’t really compare it to this tea because I drank it so long ago. I’ve never had LB from Verdant or Whispering Pines.

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88

I don’t think I can add anything that everyone else hasn’t already said about this tea.

It’s one of my favorite offerings from What-cha, and tastes like a delicious roasted pear-apple tart, with hints of almond and vanilla. The tea is very soothing and always manages to settle me into a relaxed mood.

Highly recommended if you like fruity, roasted oolongs.

Flavors: Almond, Apple, Burnt Sugar, Char, Fruity, Pear, Pine, Spices, Sweet, Vanilla

derk

Glad to see another fan. I ordered a 50g restock today :)

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Definitely halfway between a fully ripened tea and a black one as What-Cha states. It’s exceptionally clean and fresh tasting, more cool in feeling than warm. Smooth foresty-earthy, tangy ‘tea’ taste along with a tone of stewed fruits. There’s a brightness to it that I was never able to pin down even after finishing the last of the bag. And now that I’ve read the leaf was aged for a year in a jute bag, I swear that’s a complementary taste.

Western could manage 2 steeps only if leafed heavily. Gongfu gave 6 or 7 solid over-steeped infusions that retained the smoothness but left some residual bitterness.

Overall, I found it an easily approachable tea and one I could recommend as a first step to somebody looking to explore shou pu’er. I never took good notes, so I’m hoping eastkyteaguy will fill in someday!

Flavors: Cedar, Dry Leaves, Earthy, Forest Floor, Mineral, Round, Smooth, Stewed Fruits, Tangy, Tea, Wet Rocks

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80

Dry leaves smell floral with honey and hay. Wet leaves smell sweet and slightly stringent, more like a traditional black tea.

This is a sweet and gentle brew, with flavors of honey and sugar cookie followed by floral grass and hazelnut. The aftertaste has faint hints of peach and apricot sweetness.

Flavors: Apricot, Cookie, Floral, Grass, Hay, Hazelnut, Honey, Peach, Sugar, Sweet

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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88

This tea is delicious! I believe this was a sample with my last What-Cha order. It was a very small pouch with a single serving. The dried leaves look like pebbles or rocks and unfurl into whole leaves after a few minutes of steeping. It smells malty and definitely has a sweet honey flavor. Very, very good. Almost finished with this cup already so I’m going to attempt a resteep.

Flavors: Honey, Malt, Sweet

Preparation
Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Another adventure made possible by derk, thank you kindly! Opening the packet, the melba toast-and-chocolate scent nearly made me swoon. Even with a sloppy steep (I forgot to turn on the timer—this is why you should not trust me to cook Thanksgiving dinner), the flavor notes were all playing my song. The crust of toasted rye bread, with a little sweetness at the end. Dries the mouth just a little. Lip-smackingly good!

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There a few links in this note for reference and some childhood food-related nostalgia.

Persian teas from What-Cha:

(1A) “Persia Lahijan Hand-Made Black Tea” is how this was sold on What-Cha.
(1B) “Near Eastern Hand-Made Black Tea” is how this was labelled, for reasons, I assume https://steepster.com/teas/what-cha/97378-near-eastern-hand-made-black-tea

(2) “Persia Lahijan Black Tea” is a different tea, probably a different harvest and maybe not ‘hand-made’ https://steepster.com/teas/what-cha/94231-persia-lahijan-black-tea

Had this morning in light of tumultuous times in Iran and grateful I had the opportunity to procure a bag.

I love the aroma. Have you ever had a chocolate-covered potato chip? Two Dayton, OH, companies — Esther Price candies and Mikesells potato chips (cooked in peanut oil) — teamed up to release their own version sometime in the late 90s/early 00s? Getting off track (now I’m craving a Marion’s Pizza), but the aroma is like those tastythings but with a more greasy scent and a little earthy. So maybe more like Wendy’s french fries dipped in a Frosty?

The tea is a mellow easy-drinker. Smooth and medium-bodied with just a touch of astringency and a delicate malty-berry sweetness. Absolutely no bitterness. A friend of the forgetful mind. You can do either one long steep or eek out a second steep if the first one was timely.

This tea feels like a bit of a shadow compared to the probably-not-handmade version but it’s fantastic in its own way. It has to be up there with Dobra Cajovna’s Guria Likhauri black tea from Georgia in terms of drinkability. Really easy-going! If ever I were to have a trusty stand-by black tea in my cupboard, both would occupy that role no doubt. Unfortunately, neither are easily accessible in the States.

Flavors: Berry, Chocolate, Earthy, Malt, Peanut, Potato, Roasted Nuts, Smooth, Wet Wood

gmathis

Potato chip tea! There’s a flavor profile you don’t hear about much, but you’ve made it sound pretty tasty.

derk

It is delicious! I made a cup this morning for a coworker. He doesn’t have a strong sense of taste and doesn’t drink coffee – only the cheapest black teabags on the daily with Coffee Mate hazelnut creamer and sugar. He said this tea was really good and requested another cup.

gmathis

I love coworker reactions — even the ones where I’m told what I’m drinking smells like cologne or stinky feet. (You’d like her!)

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January 2021 harvest

Aromatic and warm floral-woody-sweet-fruity-bready fragrance with a mouthfeel that is juicy and viscous. The taste is clean, bright and warm, buoyant plummy-sweet with all the nuances of the aroma. Lingering aftertaste that eventually gives way to some gentle tang and mouth-watering. Calming, warming and nourishing.

This tea is seamless in its expression and opens up easily with a range of brewing times and temperatures, at least when prepared western-style. Beginner-friendly, especially for those who aren’t bothered with steeping the leaf more than once. I do think it tastes best brewed in a glass vessel which lets the sparkling sweetness shine.

I can’t help but smile every time I drink it :)

Flavors: Bark, Bread, Bread Dough, Cherry, Cinnamon, Dried Fruit, Floral, Fruity, Juicy, Lemon, Molasses, Nectar, Plum, Raisins, Rose, Rosewood, Sweet, Sweet Potatoes, Tangy, Viscous, Woody, Yeast

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec 3 g 10 OZ / 300 ML
gmathis

I can’t help but smile at that review. Sounds lovely.

Leafhopper

I’d probably like this tea! :)

derk

You’re probably right :)

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84

This was another of my recent sipdowns and a tea from which I expected a little more. Li Shan teas usually do it for me, and What-Cha tends to do a great job of sourcing stuff from Li Shan. While this was still a very good tea overall, I have had better Li Shan oolongs.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a 10 second rinse, I steeped 6 grams of the rolled leaf and bud sets in 4 fluid ounces of 194 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was followed by 17 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 12 seconds, 16 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minutes, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 7 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and 20 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry leaf and bud sets emitted aromas of bread, honey, sweet potato, and cream. After the rinse, fresh aromas of roasted almond, roasted peanut, butter, and green wood emerged. The first infusion then added a slight banana scent. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of cream, butter, bread, malt, honey, roasted almond, roasted peanut, and green wood that were chased by delicate hints of banana, golden raisin, sugarcane, green apple, pear, caramel, and chocolate. The bulk of the subsequent infusions introduced aromas of sugarcane, chocolate, orange zest, lemon zest, caramel, and vanilla. Stronger and more immediately detectable notes of caramel, chocolate, pear, sugarcane, and green apple emerged in the mouth alongside impressions of minerals, oats, orange zest, lemon zest, and sweet potato. Hints of grass, apricot, plum, cedar, juniper, peach, and cinnamon could also be detected around the fringes. As the tea faded, the liquor continued to emphasize lingering notes of minerals, cream, malt, bread, pear, roasted almond, roasted peanut, green wood, orange zest, and lemon zest that were chased by hints of honey, green apple, caramel, chocolate, sweet potato, sugarcane, and grass.

On the one hand, this tea offered a lot of the aromas and flavors I have come to expect of heavily oxidized and/or roasted Li Shan oolongs, but on the other hand, the oxidation was significant enough to bring out several notes I tend to get out of many black teas. Because of this, drinking this tea was something of an odd experience for me. It simultaneously reminded me of both Li Shan oolong and black teas, but it did not walk the line between oolong and black tea well enough to really stand out to me. It ultimately struck me as being a quality tea that had a few awkward characteristics and did not manage to do any one thing well enough to push it to the top of What-Cha’s small pile of consistently amazing Li Shan offerings.

Flavors: Almond, Apricot, banana, Bread, Butter, Caramel, Cedar, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Cream, Grass, Green Apple, Green Wood, Herbaceous, Honey, Lemon Zest, Malt, Mineral, Oats, Orange Zest, Peach, Peanut, Pear, Plum, Raisins, Sugarcane, Sweet Potatoes

Preparation
6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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77

This was another of my recent sipdowns. Like the review of What-Cha’s Taiwan Shan Lin Xi black tea that I just posted, I am also piecing this review together from the shredded remnants of my handwritten rough draft. Pet ownership is fun. The same cat responsible for shredding my current notebook enjoys making nests or little hoards out of things she steals from me. I’m certain that the pages she wallowed, ripped, and tore loose from the notebook’s binding would have quickly made their way into such a creation, and then there would have been no recovery of any information contained on them. The last time I stumbled upon a Mean Baby cache, I found ink pens, paper clips, bottle caps, rubber bands, cat toys, various coins, and a dirty sock. She had stuffed these items under the base of a floor lamp in my living room. I can only imagine where these notes would have ended up. Anyway, this tea represented something of a first for me, as I’m pretty sure it was the first tea from Sandakphu that I had ever tried. Bizarrely, I had previously tried several teas from each of the other major Nepalese tea producers, but at the time I was working my way through the sole pouch of this tea that I had purchased, I could not recall trying any other Sandakphu tea. It was a respectable enough offering with something of a different character compared to the other Nepalese black teas offered by What-Cha.

I took a break from gongfu brewing with this tea, opting to brew it Western style. I prepared it by steeping approximately 3 grams of loose leaf material in 8 fluid ounces of 194 F water for 5 minutes. I did not rinse the tea leaves prior to infusion, nor did I attempt any additional infusions.

Prior to infusion, the dry leaf material produced aromas of bread, malt, cocoa, brown sugar, and sweet potato. After infusion, I noted new aromas of earth, butter, roasted peanut, stewed tomato, geranium, and prune. In the mouth, the tea liquor offered a unique mix of earth, cream, stewed tomato, cooked green bean, brown sugar, sweet potato, orange zest, malt, bread, cocoa, grass, lemon zest, pine, roasted peanut, geranium, roasted almond, butter, hay, prune, and roasted walnut flavors. Additional impressions of black cherry, oak, and blackberry were little more than background notes. The finish was creamy, malty, and vegetal, but it also displayed a pronounced woodiness, powerful astringency, fairly heavy roasted nut notes, and something of a lingering fruity character.

Overall, this was a pretty good Nepalese black tea, but it struck me as having some obvious flaws. First, its flavors frequently came across as muddled. There were times where the balance of the tea liquor was lacking. It was also a bit lacking in texture, and the finish was a bit too astringent for me. Still, this was not a horrible offering, pretty far from one actually. I’m happy that I took the opportunity to give it a try.

Flavors: Almond, Astringent, Blackberry, Bread, Brown Sugar, Butter, Cherry, Cocoa, Cream, Earth, Geranium, Grass, Green Beans, Hay, Lemon Zest, Malt, Oak, Orange Zest, Peanut, Pine, Prune, Sweet Potatoes, Tomato, Walnut

Preparation
3 g 8 OZ / 236 ML
Leafhopper

I had to laugh at your cat’s hoarding instincts. I’m glad none of your tea has ended up in her nests!

eastkyteaguy

It actually has. She has been known to turn the garbage bin over to munch on spent tea leaves. She will also steal pouches of tea, tear them open, and then wallow and eat the dry leaves.

Leafhopper

Sounds like one determined (and destructive) cat! :)

eastkyteaguy

Oh, she is. Just in the recent past, she has stolen my wallet and hidden it, stolen my car keys, taken food out of my hands and run off with it, and stolen credit cards out of my wallet.

Leafhopper

Haha, she sounds like a toddler!

eastkyteaguy

I think she is a toddler. She’s one of the smartest, most inquistive, and most vocal cats I’ve ever encountered. You can look at her and just tell that the wheels are turning. She is constantly trying to figure out how to get more attention, how to get more food, how things in my house work, and how to get things she isn’t supposed to have.

eastkyteaguy

Just FYI, her name is Mean Baby.

Leafhopper

You named her well! Maybe you should invest in cat-proof bins for your tea, or lock it up and see if opening combination locks is one of her skills. If nothing else, you could post that on YouTube. :) I’m not sure how you’d go about protecting wallets and other important loose items.

tea-sipper

AH, I can’t stop laughing at Mean Baby’s name. And it sounds like a perfect name for her. :D

mrmopar

Too funny. We have one that will fetch a small ball of aluminum foil. Won’t bother with anything else.

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88

This was one of my recent sipdowns, coming from around a month or two ago. I wasn’t planning on reviewing this tea just yet, but Mean Baby, the naughtiest tortie in recorded history, decided to wallow my current review notebook and rip more pages out of it. She nearly shredded the page containing this review, so I am now typing it from loose pieces of notebook paper that have been pressed back together. Anyway, I had huge expectations for this tea after being floored by What-Cha’s absolutely incredible Li Shan black tea. In comparison, this Shan Lin Xi black was not quite as good, but it was still a high quality offering with a ton to offer.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick 5 second rinse, I steeped 6 grams of the loose tea leaves in 4 fluid ounces of 194 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was chased by 17 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 9 seconds, 12 seconds, 16 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 7 minutes, and 10 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted aromas of honey, plum, black raspberry, bread, sweet potato, black grape, and cinnamon. After the rinse, aromas of roasted almond, roasted peanut, and roasted potato appeared. The first infusion added aromas of brown sugar and violet. In the mouth, the tea liquor offered notes of honey, roasted almond, sweet potato, pear, bread, roasted potato, plum, cream, and butter that were balanced by hints of roasted peanut, black grape, and brown sugar. The bulk of the subsequent infusions added aromas of dark chocolate, red apple, molasses, orange zest, lychee, malt, peach, pear, elderflower, and maple syrup to the tea’s bouquet. Stronger and more immediately notable impressions of roasted peanut and black grape emerged in the mouth alongside notes of minerals, red apple, caramel, rose, dark chocolate, orange zest, lychee, violet, malt, and elderflower. Subtle hints of cinnamon, ginger, earth, molasses, black cherry, black raspberry, peach, elderberry, and maple syrup could also be detected here and there. As the tea faded, the liquor continued to emphasize notes of minerals, butter, cream, bread, malt, roasted almond, roasted peanut, roasted potato, dark chocolate, caramel, and orange zest that were chased by elusive hints of brown sugar, honey, pear, earth, sweet potato, red apple, lychee, and maple syrup.

This was an interesting and satisfying tea with tremendous poise, depth, and complexity. I greatly admired the harmonious and sophisticated layering of its aromas and flavors and adored the smooth, silky, creamy texture of its liquor. At the same time, I was hoping for a little more longevity and a more dynamic presence in the mouth. I wanted more intensity, but this tea was consistently mellow, relaxed, and gentle. Perhaps my expectations were unfair. I often find myself wanting a little more out of teas from Shan Lin Xi, even those that I find to be very enjoyable, such as this one. Definitely try it if you are looking for an elegant Taiwanese black tea.

Flavors: Almond, Black Raspberry, Bread, Brown Sugar, Butter, Caramel, Cherry, Cinnamon, Cream, Dark Chocolate, Earth, Elderberry, Elderflower, Ginger, Grapes, Honey, Lychee, Malt, Maple Syrup, Mineral, Molasses, Orange Zest, Peach, Peanut, Pear, Plum, Potato, Red Apple, Sweet Potatoes, Violet

Preparation
6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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92

It’s getting late here, but I want to get at least one new tea review posted before I head for bed. This was my most recent sipdown and a tea I had been looking forward to trying for months. After going through several Yunnan, Fujian, and Guangxi silver needles over the course of 2021, I had a couple pouches of Fujian Wild Silver Needle, this one from What-Cha and one from Whispering Pines Tea Company, left to try. Both came from the spring 2021 harvest in Zhenghe, or at least I think that’s the case. I still haven’t tried the version offered by Whispering Pines, but I finished this one off today. My overall impression was that it was a great offering with a fairly unique character compared to the other Fujian silver needles I have tried.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a 10 second rinse, I steeped 6 grams of the loose tea buds in 4 fluid ounces of 194 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was followed by 20 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 9 seconds, 12 seconds, 16 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 7 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, and 30 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea buds emitted powerful aromas of almond, peanut, hay, straw, and cinnamon. I could tell that this tea was going to offer a different experience immediately. Silver needle white teas usually offer a very gentle dry bud fragrance, but this tea was incredibly aromatic. Looking at the dry buds, they were also smaller and thicker than other teas of this type. After the rinse, I detected strong aromas of kale, peas, broccoli, and cabbage. The first proper infusion then added a somewhat subtler aroma of fresh green bell pepper. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of almond, peanut, hay, straw, green banana, kale, broccoli, snap pea, cabbage, cream, vanilla, and sugarcane that were balanced by subtler impressions of pear, cinnamon, and minerals. The majority of the subsequent infusions added aromas of white pepper, cream, butter, sugarcane, moss, green wood, and green banana to the tea’s bouquet. Stronger and more immediately notable impressions of minerals came out in the mouth alongside notes of butter, green bell pepper, chili leaf, white grape, moss, green wood, and watermelon rind. An interesting melange of white pepper, white peach, apricot, macadamia, guava, coconut, pineapple, birch bark, orange zest, and honeydew swirled in the background. As the tea faded, the liquor continued to play up clear notes of minerals, hay, cabbage, broccoli, cream, peanut, almond, butter, and green bell pepper that were underscored by lingering moss, straw, orange zest, green banana, white grape, green wood, guava, white peach, apricot, honeydew, and watermelon rind hints.

This was a very unusual tea. It came off as being a little more rustic than other Fujian silver needles, but it also produced an aromatic and satisfying tea liquor of tremendous depth, complexity, and texture. Definitely one for the connoisseurs, this would most certainly not be a tea for beginners or casual drinkers. In the end, this was a very worthwhile tea, but if you haven’t tried at least a couple of different Fujian silver needles, hold off on trying a tea of this type for now.

Flavors: Almond, Apricot, banana, Bark, Broccoli, Butter, Cabbage, Chili, Cinnamon, Coconut, Cream, Green Bell Peppers, Green Wood, Guava, Hay, Honeydew, Kale, Macadamia, Mineral, Moss, Orange Zest, Peach, Peanut, Pear, Peas, Pepper, Pineapple, Straw, Sugarcane, Vanilla, Watermelon, White Grapes

Preparation
6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML
TeaEarleGreyHot You are truly blessed to have such exquisite taste buds and the ability to discriminate so many unique flavors! Every time I read one of your reviews I am amazed!

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91

This was another of my more recent sipdowns. I’m trying to get some reviews of a few teas I drank recently out of the way because my 2022 notebook is falling apart. Each time a page falls out, I prioritize posting whichever reviews are contained on that particular page. I’m sure this notebook would have held up better if my cats didn’t love to wallow it so much. Anyway, this was the most recent Zhangping Shui Xian offered by What-Cha. In general, I find Zhangping Shui Xian to be very hit or miss, but this was a great one.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After rinsing the 8 gram cake for 10 seconds in 165 fluid ounces of 194 F water, I kicked off the fun part of my drinking session with a 10 second infusion. This initial infusion was chased by 18 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 12 seconds, 16 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 7 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, and 30 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the tea cake emitted aromas of cream, butter, custard, gardenia, violet, bread, and orange blossom. After the rinse, aromas of grass, sugarcane, and vanilla emerged. The first infusion then added a slight lettuce scent. In the mouth, the tea liquor offered up subtle notes of grass, cream, butter, sugarcane, bread, orange blossom, and vanilla that were backed by hints of lilac, lettuce, gardenia, violet, custard, and orange zest. The majority of the subsequent infusions added aromas of orchid, lilac, honey, orange zest, daylily, and apple to the tea’s bouquet. Stronger and more immediately detectable impressions of lettuce, violet, custard, lilac, and orange zest appeared in the mouth alongside notes of apple, pear, plum, cucumber, minerals, daylily, and white grape. I also picked up on extremely pleasant hints of orchid, honey, white peach, apricot, snap peas, daylily shoots, caramel, and butterscotch. As the tea faded, the liquor continued to offer dominant notes of minerals, apple, orange zest, bread, lettuce, grass, cucumber, and sugarcane that were chased by fleeting hints of butter, white grape, plum, violet, daylily, daylily shoots, snap peas, gardenia, lilac, orange blossom, cream, and caramel.

Zhangping Shui Xian can often be gritty, prickly, astringent, and somewhat bitter, but this was a very smooth, elegant offering with tremendous balance. Had I not already known that this was a premium cake, it would have been easy to tell as the quality of the tea leaves used in its production was clearly very high. Normally, tea cakes will be layered so that the highest quality and most intact leaf material is at the top, effectively hiding the lower grade material below it, but that was not the case with this particular cake. It produced very little grit, and most of the leaves seemed to be intact. Overall, this tea was a winner and a wonderful example of what Zhangping Shui Xian tends to offer at its best. I wish I had picked up more than one cake.

Flavors: Apple, Apricot, Bread, Butter, Butterscotch, Caramel, Cream, Cucumber, Custard, Floral, Gardenias, Grass, Honey, Lettuce, Lilac, Mineral, Orange Blossom, Orange Zest, Orchid, Peach, Pear, Peas, Plum, Sugarcane, Vanilla, Vegetal, Violet, White Grapes

Preparation
8 g 165 OZ / 4879 ML
Skysamurai

Wow!!! The flavors!!!

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92

This tea is so fancy – probably too fancy for how often it became a side for Japanese takeout in the last two years. To taste it’s like matcha but without the prep (and the additional caffeine) and that makes it golden in my books.

It contains notes of bright verdant grass, creamy nut milk, sweet snowpeas, powdery flower pollen, and a hint of melon – all things I barely register when I’m chowing down on toro nigiri. I’m glad I’m taking the time to savour this “farewell” cup though. It’s a gem.

Steep Count: 3

Flavors: Creamy, Floral, Grassy, Melon, Nuts, Peas, Pollen, Sweet, Warm Grass, Umami

Preparation
155 °F / 68 °C 1 min, 0 sec

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82

This was another tea that I tried in either late 2021 or shortly after the start of the year. I recall it being a tea I had been meaning to get around to trying for a while. Roasted Jin Xuan is generally something I enjoy, so I had high hopes for this offering. It mostly lived up to my expectations too. Though I had tried better roasted Jin Xuan prior to trying this tea, it was still a fun and likable offering that I would feel confident recommending to just about anyone.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. After rinsing 6 grams of the rolled leaf and bud sets for 10 seconds in approximately 4 fluid ounces of 194 F water, I started my review session off with a 10 second infusion. This initial infusion was followed by 15 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 12 seconds, 16 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 7 minutes, and 10 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry leaf and bud sets emitted aromas of toasted rice, roasted barley, coffee, cream, and bread. After the rinse, I noted new aromas of smoke, green olive, parsley, sugarcane, and vanilla. The first infusion added cooked spinach and cooked cabbage scents. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of cream, butter, toasted rice, and bread that were chased by subtler impressions of sugarcane, grass, coffee, vanilla, pear, roasted barley, daylily, and longan. The majority of the subsequent infusions introduced aromas of vegetable broth, daylily shoots, roasted carrot, and balsam. Impressions of minerals, parsley, smoke, cooked lettuce, cooked cabbage, vegetable broth, sour plum, daylily shoots, and balsam appeared in the mouth alongside stronger and more immediately detectable notes of grass, coffee, daylily, vanilla, and roasted barley. I also detected hints of roasted carrot, cooked cabbage, nutmeg, cinnamon, green olive, sour cherry, and green apple. As the tea faded, the liquor emphasized notes of minerals, cream, butter, toasted rice, cooked spinach, cooked lettuce, grass, and vegetable broth along with suddenly amplified roasted carrot impressions. Hints of pear, green apple, green olive, roasted barley, vanilla, sugarcane, balsam, and sour plum continued to round out the mix through the very end of the session. I should also note that some late emerging hints of popcorn were present as well.

For a light roasted Jin Xuan, the fact that the roast was so present surprised and intrigued me. I was expecting much lighter and faster fading roasted characteristics, but this tea did not provide the experience I was anticipating. What I got was a very grainy, grassy, vegetal tea with pronounced and durable aromas and flavors contributed by the roasting process. I would have liked to see more floral and fruity characteristics, but overall, this was a pleasant and nicely balanced roasted Jin Xuan with some interesting and memorable quirks.

Flavors: Bread, Butter, Cabbage, Carrot, Cherry, Cinnamon, Coffee, Cream, Floral, Fruity, Grass, Green Apple, Lettuce, Mineral, Nutmeg, Olives, Parsley, Pear, Plum, Roasted Barley, Smoke, Spinach, Sugarcane, Toasted Rice, Vanilla, Vegetable Broth, Wood

Preparation
6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML
Leafhopper

This tea was also too roasted for me, though my roast tolerance is pretty low.

eastkyteaguy

Yeah, this was a tea that I liked, but I can understand how it would not be for everyone. My appreciation for roasted oolong seems to be greater than that of most other people.

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A gentle but slightly punchy tea for this beautiful and quiet morning. The twisted leaf is a dark chocolate color. It bathes in a brittle desert wood aroma. Strangekess occurs with the wet aroma as marine notes mingle worh compost and deep woods. Not fishy like a pu er but a pure marine aroma, almost as if standing by the ocean. Though the ocean I refer to is the Northwest, such as Washington or Oregon. The ocean smells different in different places. A woodsy orchestra of flavor. Twigs, wet branches, slight compost, wet forest floor, and a mix of other boards of wood. The mouth feel is soft with a bit of astringency. Good morning.

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95

Shae! Thank you so much for the sample! The hotel ran out of hot water in the breakfast area. I didn’t feel like waiting so I just put cold water in. Even cold steeped the notes come out fairly quickly. Chocolate notes, baked vegetal notes, squash, slight woodsy notes. This very much reminds me of the New Zealand black. The aroma of the wet leaf PEPPER! Sorry. I smelled it a second time just now and it reminded me of raw orange and yellow peppers. Also a mic of earth, wet twigs, and something herbacous I can’t quite put my finger on… Can’t wait to see how this one unfolds when it’s hot.

Shae

I haven’t tried this one yet – it sounds really complex!

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91

I purchased this tea last year after reading some glowing reviews on Steepster. I often find Red Jades to be too astringent, but this one was recommended as being smooth. I also very much enjoyed the Yu Chi Assam What-Cha carries, and I was hoping this tea would be of similar quality. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml porcelain pot at 195F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The dry aroma is of sassafras, menthol, malt, raisins, and sweet potato. The first steep has strong notes of sassafras, menthol, and malt, with hints of cinnamon, cream, raisins, red grapes, and sweet potato. Some tannins are present, but they’re not overwhelming. The next steep is very similar, though the sassafras is stronger. Steeps three and four add notes of juniper, molasses, and honey, and that menthol flavour resolves into wintergreen (though maybe this is a result of reading Derk’s tasting note). Later steeps give me more honey, molasses, malt, sweet potato, and bread, though there’s still plenty of sassafras and wintergreen. I accidentally let one of the later steeps cool down and can notice the plum and nectarine Eastkyteaguy mentioned in the aroma. The final steeps have lots of tannins, minerals, bread, honey, and malt.

This is one of the smoothest Red Jades I’ve had, though I still prefer other types of Taiwanese black tea. The sassafras and wintergreen are especially prominent, which I think is the point of this cultivar. It never gets overly tannic as other Red Jades have done in later steeps, and the complexity of flavours is impressive. I hope Alistair gets this tea back in stock.

Flavors: Bread, Cedar, Cinnamon, Cream, Grapes, Honey, Malt, Menthol, Mineral, Molasses, Nectarine, Plum, Raisins, Sarsaparilla, Smooth, Sweet Potatoes, Tannin, Wintergreen

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML
derk

Mmm yeah! I’ve had The Tea’s Competition Ruby 18 a few days this week and am having difficulty unlocking it. So far it’s kind of muted and somber? What-Cha’s Ruby 18 was much more open and accessible in comparison.

Leafhopper

LOL, I was tempted to steal a sample of that Competition Ruby, but there wasn’t that much. I hope Alistair gets his Ruby 18 back in stock.

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83

Red oolongs get less attention than they deserve, so I was happy to see this sample in my last What-Cha order. (Then, of course, I let it sit for over a year. . . .) I steeped 5 g of leaf in a 120 ml pot at 195F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.

The dry aroma is of apricots, berries, grapes, flowers, roast, and honey. The first steep has notes of cherry, banana bread, apricot, plum, honey, and roast. The next steep adds muscatel and jammy berries, with a bit of a drying finish. The next couple steeps have even more baked cherry, blackberry, plum, honey, butter, banana, roast, nuts, and florals. The fruit kind of melds into a general impression, but I can pick out individual flavours if I try. The next couple steeps are a little more drying, but still have that intense cherry flavour. The roast and nuts are becoming more prominent. I finally get some jasmine in steep six, along with a more pronounced grape/raisin note. The cherry persists over the next few steeps, while the tea increasingly has notes of roast, wood, bread, and minerals.

This is a lovely dessert tea with a distinct cherry flavour that I haven’t found too often elsewhere. Some of the other fruity notes are muddled, though that could be because I wasn’t using enough leaf. I’m not sure this would be an everyday tea for me, but I’m glad to have tried it.

Flavors: Apricot, banana, Berries, Blackberry, Bread, Butter, Cherry, Drying, Floral, Grapes, Honey, Jam, Jasmine, Mineral, Muscatel, Nuts, Plum, Raisins, Roasted, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 5 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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86

I received this tea as a free sample in my last What-Cha order. It’s always nice to try something new from Jun Chiyabari, which produces some of the best, most interesting teas from Nepal. I steeped around 2.5 g of leaf in a 355 ml mug at 195F for 3, 4, 5, and 7 minutes.

The dry aroma is of cocoa, roasted almonds, malt, and wood. The first steep has pronounced notes of fudgy darker chocolate and roasted almonds, plus malt, cream, barley, brown sugar, hints of red grape, and wood. The tea has a slightly drying finish and a vegetal aftertaste along with the chocolate (Togo describes it as bell peppers). The next steep introduces flavours of butter, honey, and bread, though the chocolate is still the star. The final couple steeps have a more attenuated chocolate flavour and have notes of earth and chilli leaf, which is something I’ve tasted in other Jun Chiyabari teas.

This is a lovely chocolate tea, though it lacks some of the complexity I’ve found in other teas from this producer (Himalayan Spring comes to mind). I wish I’d gotten more fruity flavours, as other reviewers have. Nonetheless, it’s a cozy, well-crafted tea that I should have consumed during the winter.

On a related note, Alistair is offering 1 pound for each review that is submitted on his site until the end of June. I’ve been contributing to my Jin Jun Mei and Lapsang fund for a few days now. :)

Flavors: Almond, Bread, Brown Sugar, Butter, Chili, Cocoa, Cream, Dark Chocolate, Earth, Grapes, Green Bell Peppers, Honey, Malt, Roasted Barley, Tannin, Vegetal, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec 3 g 12 OZ / 355 ML
Daylon R Thomas

Yeah, I’m going to get on that….there’s so many I need to post.

Leafhopper

Yeah, you probably have more What-Cha reviews than me! Sorry I didn’t post this in the Miscellaneous Sales thread a little earlier.

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