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Recent Tasting Notes
December 2020 harvest.
Worth steeping this gongfu with high leaf:low water, so that when you initially warm the leaf and every time after the tiny teapot or gaiwan lid is lifted, you’re greeted with incredibly complex and nuanced aromas. Chocolate (milk and dark), almond and macadamia, soft grainy malt, mouse fur and cedar chips, heavier notes of pomegranate molasses, old leatherbound books and dank forest earth. Plenty of musk melon-papaya weaving throughout. The bright acidity of raspberry lemonade and orange-ginger seems to aid in differentiating those rich aromas. The complexity and range of aromatic notes remind me of an Ehtiopian Yirgacheffe coffee.
The taste is less spectacular, kind of alkaline.
Brewed western is also good. A thick and chewy cream taste and texture can dominate. But it still tastes like a golden tip tea.
Grandpa, not so much. The leaf leaves a firm ring of tea scum around the glass.
The visual is off-putting.
Flavors: Alkaline, Almond, Cantaloupe, Caramel, Cedar, Citrusy, Cocoa, Coffee, Cream, Creamy, Dark Chocolate, Fir, Forest Floor, Fruity, Fur, Ginger, Grain, Hay, Leather, Lemon, Lemon Zest, Malt, Milk, Molasses, Nuts, Nutty, Orange, Orange Zest, Papaya, Paper, Pomegranate, Raspberry, Wet Earth
Ouch. A tea without my note.
And I have it at work for… quite a long time. It was in the first batch I took with me to the office and I am drinking it very slowly, though it is opened bag… so maybe my notes are affected with age, not a good store (it should be at least in some air-tight container, instead the original opened bag).
Well, happens. This tea I had today at work, while having my head buried in material inventories, which must be exactly down to gram. Checking it each month is stressful job, but luckily it was correct.
I am not sure about used tea — two pinches are…?
This tea was today mild, grassy, when warmer it was buttery with umami, but as it cools down it became rather freshly cut grass, a bit seaweedy and smooth. Umami was in the same level as in hot cup.
As I do not have much (if any) experience with Japanese sencha, I can not compare it. Nor with senchas from other terroirs. However it was fine and quite easydrinking cup. Shame, I let it opened for so long. It is mostly because I do not have kettle with temperature control at work; and using too hot water doesn’t suit this tea well. Tested!
I am not sure about the harvest either. I have original label there… but of course I haven’t checked it. I assume it could be from 2020, because it was one of the teas I have received from White Antlers.
This was one of my sipdowns from late last year and a tea that I have dreaded reviewing in the months since. I always host posting negative or mixed reviews, especially from vendors whose offerings I tend to like, but that is unfortunately what I have to do here. This tea was just lacking overall.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After my usual 10 second rinse, I steeped 6 grams of the loose bud and leaf rolls in 4 fluid ounces of 185 F water for 10 seconds. This infusion was followed by 16 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, and 15 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry leaf and bud rolls emitted aromas of osmanthus, cream, butter, and bread. After the rinse, I discovered new aromas of vanilla, grass, and sugarcane as well as a considerably stronger osmanthus scent. The first proper infusion added subtler aromas of toasted rice and grass. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented delicate notes of cream, butter, lettuce, grass, and bread that were backed up by hints of vanilla, toasted rice, osmanthus, and sugarcane. Aside from subtle orchid, lettuce, and vegetable broth aromas, the rest of the infusions did not add anything of note to the tea’s bouquet. Somewhat stronger and more immediately detectable notes of toasted rice, osmanthus, vanilla, and sugarcane emerged in the mouth, while notes of minerals, orchid, peach, pear, and steamed milk made themselves known. A heavy and at times overbearing vegetable broth presence quickly emerged and muddied the waters. Interesting hints of sea salt, apricot, balsam, plum, and white grape were just barely perceptible in the background. The aftertaste was odd. It reminded me of candy, like something along the lines of SweeTarts or Smarties. As the tea faded, notes of cream, butter, vegetable broth, and toasted rice came to dominate, though they were accompanied by a suddenly amplified sea salt presence and a late golden apple impression before mostly giving way to lingering hints of orchid, osmanthus, pear, grass, vanilla, lettuce, sugarcane, white grape, and steamed milk.
What-Cha usually does a good job of sourcing Jin Xuan from Thailand, but this tea was a misfire. It was all over the place and generally just something of a mess. Bizarrely, the osmanthus not only did not seem to mesh with the base tea, but it was also lacking in strength and presence. Jin Xuan usually accepts floral scents wonderfully and displays natural stone fruit aromas and flavors that one would expect to mesh perfectly with osmanthus, so I have no clue what happened here. I hate to say it, but this was easily one of the most disappointing What-Cha offerings I have tried. I cannot recommend it to others.
Flavors: Apple, Apricot, Bread, Broth, Butter, Candy, Cream, Grass, Lettuce, Milk, Mineral, Orchid, Osmanthus, Peach, Pear, Plum, Salt, Sugarcane, Toasted Rice, Vanilla, White Grapes
Thanks to Daylon for sending me a sample of this tea, which I’ve wanted to try for a while. It’s usually out of stock, and I now understand why. 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, plus another few long infusions.
The dry aroma of this tea is an intoxicating blend of peach, lychee, pineapple, lemon, roasted almond, malt, violets, and other flowers. My nose was glued to these leaves for an inordinate amount of time. The first steep presents lemon first, and then reveals malt, roasted almonds, sweet potato, violet, zucchini, orange, pineapple, straw, and soy sauce. Lemon zest is noticeable in the next steep, as are notes of chocolate, baked bread, rose, cream, peach, and pineapple. Orange comes out in steeps three and four, along with all the other complex notes this oolong has to offer. I also notice malt and wood more in these steeps, along with orchid and orange blossom, though at this point my brain is overwhelmed and is probably just throwing out flavours at random. The next couple steeps are more malty and vegetal, with the same amount of citrus but less pineapple and stonefruit. I’m beginning to detect some minerality, and there’s a noticeable soy sauce aftertaste. By the one-minute mark, all the fruit except the citrus has disappeared and the tea leans on its malty, bready, vegetal, floral, and sweet potato profile, with whispers of tannins but no real astringency. The final steeps give me citrus, malt, pine, wood, minerals, roasted almonds, and tannins.
My whole review of this tea could have been “Wow!” This is what other black teas want to be when they grow up. As Daylon has mentioned, it’s very similar to the Lapsang from TheTea.pl, though I think the range of fruits is even wider. (This would be a perfect opportunity to break out my newly acquired 2021 Lapsang from TheTea for comparison!) This tea has excellent longevity and lovely, complex, comforting aromas and flavours, especially in the first few steeps. Thanks again to Daylon for giving up some of this tea for me to try.
Flavors: Almond, Bread, Chocolate, Citrus, Cookie, Cream, Floral, Lemon, Lemon Zest, Lychee, Malt, Mineral, Orange, Orange Blossom, Orchid, Peach, Pine, Pineapple, Rose, Soy Sauce, Straw, Sweet Potatoes, Tannin, Vegetal, Violet, Wood, Zucchini
Backlog: This one is elusively light. I’ve put off writing about it to properly describe it, but doesn’t usually last passed the 3rd or 4th cup. It’s smooth, sweet, floral-vaguely rosey, balanced, and honeyed in a bright amber liquor, but then it fades to a light orange or yellow. The second steep is kinda in the chocolaty category of blacks, but honey dominates. I haven’t really pinned it down-it burst in flavor once then becomes weak.
I’d say it’s a good one, but a more subtle tea overall unless I gong fu it at a ratio that is just right. Over leafing it muddles the flavor gong fu or western, but it’s way too weak with too little leaf, and too malty tumbler.
Flavors: Caramel, Floral, Honey, Malt, Smooth
Let’s see if I can keep the reviewing train rolling today. This was another of my sipdowns from earlier in the year and yet another tea that impressed me greatly. I had no clue what to expect of it prior to trying it, since Rohini teas have always seemed so variable to me. The Rohini Tea Estate always seems to produce interesting, quirky, high quality teas, but what they produce does not always hit the spot for me. Fortunately, this tea did. It was a real knockout.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a 10 second rinse, I steeped 6 grams of the loose tea leaves in 4 fluid ounces of 185 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was followed 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 bread, cream, vanilla, and grass. After the rinse, I detected aromas of violet, mandarin orange, coconut, sugarcane, and dandelion. The first infusion then introduced aromas of butter, roasted almond, and roasted peanut. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented pleasant notes of cream, bread, butter, dandelion, dandelion greens, vanilla, grass, and sugarcane that were balanced by hints of roasted almond, coconut, banana, green apple, mandarin orange, coriander, white grape, and pear. The majority of the subsequent infusions collectively introduced aromas of pear, white grape, dandelion greens, geranium, caramel, and cashew. Stronger and more immediately apparent notes of roasted almond, pear, coriander, mandarin orange, and white grape emerged in the mouth alongside impressions of minerals, tangerine, violet, carambola, geranium, fennel, and caramel. I was also able to pick out delicate hints of apricot, yellow plum, cucumber, honey, cashew, and roasted peanut. As the tea faded, the liquor continued to emphasize notes of minerals, cream, bread, violet, dandelion, dandelion greens, butter, grass, roasted almond, and sugarcane that were backed by a melange of lingering vanilla, white grape, cashew, pear, honey, banana, fennel, and mandarin orange flavors.
Honestly, this was easily one of the most unique and satisfying oolongs I have ever tried. My only real complaints with it were that the tea liquor was a bit thin, and some of the more interesting aroma and flavor components never emerged to the extent I would have preferred. Aside from those two quibbles, I could not find anything to fault, and again, this tea was awesome regardless.
Flavors: Almond, Apricot, banana, Bread, Butter, Caramel, Cashew, Coconut, Coriander, Cream, Cucumber, Dandelion, Fennel, Fruity, Geranium, Grass, Green Apple, Honey, Mandarin, Mineral, Peanut, Pear, Plum, Sugarcane, Tangerine, Vanilla, Vegetal, Violet, White Grapes
Again with no note from me? How?
This fulfills the prompt for a tea with a color in the name for the April challenge. It also fulfills the desire to drink something amazing today.
The color is a rich gold, and the aroma made me think at first that I might want to use this as a “woody” tea, but I have already chosen who will fill that spot, and on tasting, this medium-to-thick bodied tea is honey up front, with a little baked sweet potato. A bare hint if mineral?
We both sat and sniffed the pot after the tea was gone, and you could have convinced anyone that it had held honey mixed with a little hot water.
Marvelous. A gift from Superanna.
Mastress Alita’s sipdown challenge, March 2022: A tea with spinach/artichoke notes
Spinach and artichoke aren’t notes that spring quickly to mind when I drink tea – although, I do associate the former a tiny bit with Dragon Well/Long Jing style. While not quite as pronounced, this Da Fang tastes a like a close relative of Dragon Well: it’s nutty, with a squeeze of lemon on a light, calcium-rich leafy green base. It brings to mind Gomae (spinach, sesame sauce). It’s pleasingly smooth, and without that bitter kale-like note that some green teas have; it’s a forgiving tea.
I love this tea’s profile and am glad What-Cha included it as a sample (I even horded my last cup’s worth, but open packets of green tea need to go at this time of the year). I’d definitely consider picking up more at some point.
Steep Count: 3
Flavors: Citrus, Floral, Lemon, Mineral, Nutty, Smooth, Spinach, Vegetal
A light cup today, but full of flavor. Creamy and thick. The aroma is very sweet potato. Tastes of dark chocolate and cocoa with full bodied mouthfeel. It’s better with cooler water. A good choice for after lunch.
I’ll re-order this once I’ve made some progress with my cupboard numbers.
Flavors: Cocoa, Creamy, Dark Chocolate, Sweet Potatoes, Thick, Yams
Slightly spicy (warming, tingly?) on the tongue. Fruity/chocolate notes. Full mouth feel, creamy aftertaste. I like it – so much so that when I noticed I was running low I ordered more.
Temp 195-212F Some leaves in the strainer. Couple of minutes steep time.
Flavors: Chocolate, Creamy, Fruity, Spicy, Thick
I received this as a sample in my large Black Friday order with Derk in 2020. (Will I ever be finished reviewing these teas?) It’s from March 2020, so not that old in the scheme of things. I steeped all 5 g in my 120 ml teapot at 195F for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The dry aroma is of charcoal, toasted grains, and nuts. The first steep has notes of grain, Graham cracker, butter, honey, oats, walnuts, hazelnuts, and roast. The next steep has a bit of honeysuckle florality that reminds me this is a Jin Xuan. Charcoal, bread, and Graham crackers are more prominent in the next couple steeps, and the tea develops a slightly sour, vegetal taste. By steep five, the charcoal and roast are fairly strong and the tea is much less sweet. Sadly, I’m starting to lose interest, though there are many steeps to go. The rest of the session is all about the roast, with notes of minerals and wood appearing as it nears its end.
Whether due to my palate or my steeping parameters, I thought this tea was nice but fairly basic. The charcoal roast took over rather quickly, though I enjoyed the s’mores-like flavours and the florals. It’s possible I’m being too hard on this tea since the tap on my bathroom sink just broke and I’ll need to call the super to fix it.
Flavors: Bread, Butter, Charcoal, Floral, Graham Cracker, Grain, Hazelnut, Honey, Honeysuckle, Mineral, Nuts, Oats, Pleasantly Sour, Roasted, Vegetal, Walnut, Wood
Thank you Alistair for this sample. I decided to finally brew my 2020 sample during a cold, winter day with the mega storm passing through as I grade. Japanese blacks are always extremely woodsy for me, and are usually a strong hit or miss. This one is a happy medium with a nice bit of complexity.
I should have aimed to use more water to cut down on some astringency, but I did three flash point gong fu sessions. Eastteaguys florid description is on point. Like other Japanese blacks for me, there is a cherry wood quality to it that is pretty nice, and heavy with plum, dark chocolate, malt, drying straw, and sweet wood. It’s very earthy, and kind of feels like a darker hojicha. The texture is incredible despite the bitterness I got, and the color yields a deep red that’s gorgeous to look at.
It’s a good tea that fits a lot of what I like from most teas, though it’s a little bit woodsy and bitter for me to get more of. I could brew it more carefully next time to improve my enjoyment, but I know how Japanese blacks can be. I still recommend it for people trying out Japanese blacks. I could see this tea blending with roses pretty nicely personally.
Flavors: Astringent, Bread, Cherry Wood, Dark Bittersweet, Dark Chocolate, Dry Grass, Drying, Plum, Straw, Sweet
This tea shines more with cooler water. Every time I’ve pushed temperature, it gives more of a roasted flavor (a little burnt and unpleasant). It’s be wonderfully chocolatey, full bodied and smooth when the water is cooler. I also think it’s not as good when I overleaf.
Honestly, good but not great. It’s not as flexible as I would like. Not quite a sipdown…there’s a little bit left in the package.
Flavors: Burnt, Chocolate, Roasty, Smooth
First time trying out last night, and I was very happy with it so far. Huge, bulbous leaves heavy with intensely creamy florals. Visually, I kept on getting purple, blue, white, and yellow flowers in the taste and aroma. The flavor is extremely faint and light, but the texture is viscous while having just the right amount of floral flavor to taste like a light milky custard. Again, not straightforward in the flavor, but blooming in fragrance with some sweetness in taste.
Not rating it yet, but I like it. Only really down side is it does not last long. I only got 5cups using 1 min, 2 min, 3, 4, and 5, 5 being fiant.
The dry leaf smells wonderful a big wallop of fruity spiced compote but the experience is severely disjointed and displays only some of those notes within the watery body. Wet rocks taste but not mineral with vestigial oddities that I can’t place. A strange bitter-herbaceous finish that I imagine as the taste of chomping on some water-logged thistle flowers. Flowery-plum skin aftertaste lingers and with this third steep, the brew does taste like plum but not sweet. The first steep gave a warming/cooling camphorous rush in my chest which, beyond the dry leaf aroma, is my favorite part of this tea. I’m not going to bother going beyond this third infusion.
This is a good candidate for a home re-roasting.
Flavors: Allspice, Apricot, Bitter, Blackberry, Blueberry, Camphor, Chocolate, Coffee, Flowers, Herbaceous, Honey, Peat, Plum, Raspberry, Sour, Thistle, Wet Rocks, Wet Wood
Been drinking this western the past several days. It’s a pretty good tea this way, and I’m able to mostly avoid the parched throat effect. If oversteeped, it tastes like persimmon butter but with a very clean mouthfeel-taste, some kind of spice (allspice?) and plumeria, which I would have never guessed if I hadn’t read Tea Necromancer’s note from years past. Also bitter and a bit parchy.
The fruity flavors aren’t as pronounced or nuanced prepared western as with gongfu but it makes a gulpable and rather caffeinating cup.
Flavors: Apricot, Bitter, Brisk, Cherry, Drying, Flowers, Mineral, Persimmon, Spices, Viscous
March 2021 harvest, gone gongfu.
This is a very approachable oolong like most highly oxidized, or red, oolong. In character, it is much like a bug-bittern oolong mixed with a dark white tea.
The aromas and quickly developing, lingering aftertaste are really a treat. In the hard and shiny nuggets of the dry leaf, I pick up on white grape juice, muscatel and sweet, roasted notes. In addition to those, warming the leaf brings a strong aroma of honeyed, baked cherries — very natural. Rinsing brings the roasted notes more forward as roasted nuts, and they are supplemented by paper, plum, blackberry, cherry and some hints of resin; in general, sweet and tangy, roasted.
At first the aroma of the tea tends toward honeyed baked cherries. As steepings progress, the aroma turns into a dominant white grape-muscatel. With that transformation, the tea also becomes noticeably floral. Jasmine comes to mind and that fits my experience of some jasmine-scented teas of white, green and black types — many of them tend to have a strong grape note to my senses.
With the juicy, pleasing aroma also comes an array of fruit in the mouth. The main taste of the tea is rather woody with a light touch of honey, but as soon as I swallow, tangy fruit tones bloom and merge with the supple and fluid juicy tones. I pick up on apricot and cooked plantain mixed with cherry, white grape juice, muscatel, plums, blackberries. Soon after, a bright buttery-cream taste merges with the fruitiness in the aftertaste. It’s just the right accent, not overtaking the palate. Final steeps become woodier, more floral and drier as the butter-cream aftertaste persists.
The tea has a body like soft spring water and leaves an impression of being somewhat pectic and oily. Initial infusions have a clean and glassy mineral quality and a noticeable salivation effect. One thing I take issue with is the tea has a tendency to have a papery-tannic drying quality in the throat, making for a laborious swallow in the minutes after finishing a cup.
I admit I drink some snooty teas so when I do have a session with an affordable tea with easily accessible qualities, I get so excited at the idea of recommending it to newer gongfu tea drinkers. I don’t think you can go wrong with this Thai oolong, just be aware of the dry throat effect!
Flavors: Apricot, Banana, Blackberry, Brown Toast, Butter, Camphor, Cherry, Cream, Drying, Floral, Fruity, Honey, Jasmine, Juicy, Mineral, Muscatel, Oily, Paper, Plum, Resin, Roasted Nuts, Smooth, Soft, Spring Water, Sweet, Tangy, Tannin, White Grapes, Woody
I bought 50 g of this tea in my Black Friday 2020 blowout with Derk, and have finished a little more than half of it. I steeped around 7 g in my 150 ml clay oolong pot using 195F water for 25, 20, 25, 30, 30, 30, 45, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds. However, this pot pours much more slowly than my porcelain pot, so steep times are actually a bit longer.
The dry aroma is of citrus, stonefruit, orchids, other florals, cookies, and sugarcane. The first steep is very floral, with notes of orchid, honeysuckle, orange blossom, sweet pea, and other flowers, plus cookies, butter, citrus, peach, spinach, and grass. The second steep brings out cooked pineapple, citrus, cream, pine, herbs, minerals, and peach, plus sugarcane and even more florals. I see where Derk is getting green apple, though sadly, the cherry eludes me. It has a long peachy/herbaceous/vegetal aftertaste. The tea becomes a little more vegetal in the next steep, though with lots of fruit and florals to balance it out. By steep four, some nuttiness is apparent and the cooked pineapple is a bit stronger. The next few steeps continue in this vein, becoming more savoury and vegetal as the session goes on. However, the citrus, peach, orchid, and honeysuckle continue until almost the last steep, along with the grass, veggies, and minerals.
This oolong didn’t deserve to sit in my cupboard for over a year. It’s a lovely, uplifting Li Shan at a good price, and I will be buying more when I next order from What-Cha.
Flavors: Butter, Citrus, Cookie, Cream, Floral, Fruity, Grass, Green Apple, Herbaceous, Honeysuckle, Mineral, Nutty, Orange Blossom, Orchid, Peach, Pine, Pineapple, Spinach, Sugarcane, Sweet, Vegetal
This tea is for those who love the taste of sweet rice, which I happen to be.
I’ve had this tea maybe three or four times, but this time I got hit with a wave of vanilla into just wonderfully tasting rice! It’s incredible. It is a tea I might have to start gifting, because it is so non traditional and unexpected. I would be curious if you used the spent leaves on top of some cooked rice how it would taste… especially with some soy sauce. That might just be my lunch.
Flavors: Hay, Mineral, Rice, Vanilla