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Recent Tasting Notes
Baked green apples and poached pears – need I say more?
In all seriousness, this is a solid and interesting GABA oolong. Sweet pome fruits dominate at the beginning and on the lingering finish, while in between they give way to a tartness (somewhere between citrus and pomegranate?). The sweet potato mentioned in the description definitely shows up in later infusions.
Flavors: Apple, Pear, Pomegranate, Sweet, Sweet Potatoes, Tart, Tree Fruit
Damn, getting back on here is difficult. It’s been awhile, huh? I have no clue how to start this thing. Anyway, in case anyone who used to pay attention to the reviews I posted here on Steepster hadn’t noticed, I have been away and generally unreachable for a few months now. Some things happened. Let’s just leave it at that. Prior to today, I had no intention of ever making any further contributions to this platform as a reviewer, but before I call it a day for good, I want to take one more crack at this and just see what happens. I’m starting this new test run off with a tea I drank last year and never reviewed here.
I prepared this tea in what I imagine to be fairly typical Western fashion. I rinsed and then steeped 3 grams of loose leaf material in approximately 8 ounces of 194 F water. I did not attempt any further infusions.
Prior to rinsing, the dry tea leaves presented aromas of hay, straw, grass, almond, and chili leaf. After rinsing, I noted new aromas of dandelion, violet, and lemon zest accompanied by subtler scents of fresh spinach and wintergreen. The 5 minute infusion brought out aromas of cream, muscatel, peanut, and baked bread. In the mouth, the tea liquor expressed smooth, satisfying notes of cream, almond, malt, violet, dandelion, grass, hay, straw, dandelion greens, lemon zest, chili leaf, green wood, orange zest, baked bread, peanut, and muscatel that were underscored by subtle touches of fresh spinach, wintergreen, butter, grapefruit, and green apple. The finish was nutty and smooth, displaying a pleasant balance of almond, peanut, cream, malt, lemon zest, and orange zest notes and mild-to-moderate astringency.
This was basically a typical higher end first flush Nepalese black tea, but it was a very likable and drinkable one. The tea liquor was very aromatic and displayed excellent depth and complexity in the mouth. There was nothing out of place or unpleasant about it. The way Jun Chiyabari just cranks out great tea after great tea never ceases to amaze me. This was yet another winner in their portfolio.
Flavors: Almond, Astringent, Baked Bread, Butter, Cream, Dandelion, Grapefruit, Grass, Green Apple, Green Wood, Hay, Herbaceous, Lemon Zest, Malt, Muscatel, Orange Zest, Peanut, Spinach, Straw, Vegetal, Violet
A mystery oolong pick from a joint buy with Leafhopper, May 2020 harvest.
Aroma in bag is fruity with dried cherries and has the Si Ji Chun cultivar-specific florality which I can’t describe. Dry in hand smells roasted. Warm brings chicory coffee, molasses and brown toast and the rinse displays a sour roast note with woodiness.
The aroma is of roasted pears, dried peaches, chicory and cinnamon. Happy and comforting. The taste is weak at first but does build. It starts slightly nutty and mineral with a background roast and floral character. Clean tulip and little bit sweet aftertaste. Next cups begin with a mellow burst of woody spice which transitions smoothly to an impression of a damp, overcast fall day — autumn leaf, muted petrichor, pine resin, a whisper of smoke, unripened peach still clinging to the branch, twiggy sweetness, all rather subtle. A touch of camphor lingers, like taking a cold breath. Later steeps are nutty sweet maybe with a bit of honey, roastier.
This tea could be perceived as flavorless; I’d say it has subtle depth. Even with a rinse, it does need a long first steep in a gaiwan, maybe 45 seconds, back off a little bit with the next and increase from there. I like the character of this tea. It’s comforting like a Chinese Wuyi shui xian oolong but much more unassuming, giving a clue to its Taiwanese origin.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Brown Toast, Camphor, Cherry, Cinnamon, Coffee, Dried Fruit, Floral, Flowers, Honey, Mineral, Molasses, Nuts, Peach, Pear, Petrichor, Pine, Plant Stems, Resin, Roasted, Smoke, Spicy, Sweet, Wood
I still have some and need to write a note on it. I was undecided for a while about it, but Togo nailed the complexities of it.
The tea is on the sweeter side and does not exhibit vegetal notes until later steeps western or gong fu, with a very prominent canteloup jackfruit note. I prefer it Gong fu, or with minimal leaves western because the tea is far from weak. It personally gets astringent in steep two and three, but out of all the experimental oolongs I’ve had, this is one of the ones closer to what I think of as an oolong. Going from the Lishan to a cup of this was nearly seamless, only this one is sweeter and has more texture gong fu. The later steeps are immensely yeasty and fruity. It’s also got a little bit of the mental cotton linen note I associate from Darjeelings, but this one has the same fruity and smooth floral profile of other oolongs.
It’s actually my favorite of the Indian Oolongs I’ve had, and while I’ve honestly neglected my What-Cha Indian teas, I’ve at least felt more compelled to come back to this one. I personally have been having some acid reflux/stomach aches that I get from Shengs with this one, which is also why I haven’t come back to it. Maybe I should make it a tea of the day?
Flavors: Cantaloupe, Drying, Fruity, Grass, Pepper, Sweet, Umami, Yeast
I’ve only had this one twice, but I’m not sure about it yet. It’s definitely honeyed, but it’s got a very drying herby quality to it that I’m still figuring out bordering between pepper and lavender. It’s either to thin or too intense causing some indecision for me, especially on whether to raise or lower the leaf ratio.
I’ll come back to it. Interesting one, but not sure if I love it.
Flavors: Herbs, Honey, Lavender, Pepper
Another kind of tea that Daylon is totally biased to. This tea was sooooo satisfying since What-Cha hasn’t had a Zhengyan Qilan in a while. This brings back the glories of the one I had horded in 2016. The roast is barely noticeable in flavor, but a little bit more present in the texture-the flavor is dominated by darker red berry notes like raspberry and really nice jasmine/magnolia notes. It’s not really long lasting, but I’ve been small with the leaves. There are other flavors that kinda remind me of chocolate a little bit….and I usually don’t use that to describe oolongs.
The flavor is just what I was hoping it would be! More notes to come!
Flavors: Bamboo, Chocolate, Cream, Floral, Jasmine, Nuts, Raspberry, Roasted, Smooth
Backlog, and thank you Alistair! I was wanting to try this one for a while.
So it’ a fun and very balanced light roast. I gong fu’d it in 150 ml, 185-190 F, time increments: 15, 45, 30, 55, 45, 60, 90, 2 min, 3 min, guess work….. you get the gist.
The charcoal was noticeable, but it’s not really distinct until the fourth steep. The roast is still present, and it combines with the florals in a cooked veggie/ buttery honey graham cracker note. The graham cracker profile continues until steep three with some florals, creamy texture, and almond nutty roastiness. Fourth steep is kinda like light roast coffee with some caramel in flavor/texture, and then some healthy amount of browning char. Later steeps are more like cooked vegetables and floral, mainly honeysuckles and grain accenting it.
I personally enjoyed trying this one. I would have really like this when I was first getting into tea, and it’s like a more balanced and creamy light roast Tie Guan Yin’s I’ve had, but better. I don’t think I’d reach for it due to my annoying snobby preference (the 2015 Qilan….soooooooo goooooood), but it’s a really nice light roast that is far from boring that I’d recommend for more intermediate drinkers.
Flavors: Almond, Baked Bread, Butter, Char, Charcoal, Cookie, Creamy, Floral, Graham Cracker, Grain, Honey, Oats, Roast Nuts, Vegetal, Zucchini
I’ve been meaning to type this one up for a while and have just now gotten around to it.
I like this tea as a late afternoon daily drinker. Is it particularly complex or unusual? No. Does it get the job done? Absolutely. This was among the first Vietnamese teas I’ve tried, and I’m glad it was. It’s a solid hit of dried fruit and a great partner for some light meditation.
This is a nicely ball-rolled tea, though visibly less tight than most Taiwanese oolongs. Although I rinsed fairly thoroughly, I had some fannings come through in most steeps. The color of leaves is mostly a uniform date-brown, though the odd less-oxidized leaf is visible in the mix.
The aroma of the dry leaves is heavily dominated by a cocktail of dried fruit. In descending order of predominance, I picked up dates, apricots, bananas, and a hint of raisins. The honeyed sweetness and slight tartness are underpinned by the smell of date syrup.
The wet leaves preserve the base of dried fruit, mixing its individual components into a strong, candy-like fruit leather aroma. A very bright woodiness (perhaps akin to cork?) was also present in the scent of the wet leaves. From the third infusion on, I also detected a hint of pink peppercorns.
The leaves produce a clear, honey-light-brown liquor.
The flavor of the tea, like the aforementioned aromas, is dominated by a deep sweetness accompanied by a mild and enjoyable tartness, with dates and dried apricots at the forefront.
A particularly long final steep (#7, ~3 min) revealed an interesting digestive biscuit note.
This tea brings about a pleasant sensation in the mouth, with very mild astringency on the sides of the mouth quickly giving way to light juiciness and a sweet, clean finish.
Flavors: Apple, Apricot, banana, Candy, Cookie, Dates, Dried Fruit, Green Wood, Honey, Peppercorn, Raisins, Stewed Fruits
As promised, I came back to this tea in order to examine it in greater detail after being very impressed by it during an impromptu evening session.
I brewed this tea gong-fu style, this time using a clay kyusu.
Upon initial examination, the dry leaves appeared very large, and they were twisted and rather delicate (unfortunately quite a few were broken, presumably during shipping; hence the choice to brew in a kyusu this time around). The colors visible ranged from white through green to nori-black.
Even when dry, the leaves are super aromatic. Just putting them into the kyusu, I was hit by a wave of enticing scents, predominated by seaweed and sweet corn-flavored battered peanuts (admittedly quite an esoteric note, but very dominant in my perception), shortbread cookies, roasted vegetables, teriyaki sauce, cashews, and chestnuts.
After the first infusion (I did not rinse the tea before brewing), the wet leaves were beautifully large and wavy. They gradually lost their white and black tinges and became more uniformly jade green from infusion to infusion.
The wet leaves gave off the same aromas as when they were dry, along with notes of sweet peas, sweet potatoes, carrots, and squash. The aromas of seaweed and teriyaki sauce overtook the corn-battered peanuts fairly quickly. The overall aromatic profile became more and more sencha-like on later infusions, though the finish remained strong and unique throughout the session.
The liquor was a pale shade of green and very clear.
The taste, especially on the first two infusions, was beautifully evocative of salt (though I would not call it “salty” per-se), the aforementioned peanuts, seaweed, sweet roasted vegetables, and buttery cookies. Zucchini was especially prominent towards the end. This tea has a sencha umami and gyokuro creaminess. A biting grassiness really shines in later infusions.
This tea has a mild astringency on its finish. Forgive my tackiness when I write that it sort of “dances on the tongue”, particularly the front. The tea is slightly and pleasantly drying.
The mild astringency of the tea quickly gives way to a lovely sweet, green finish which accompanied me out the door and was clearly present for a solid half hour after the final infusion.
Flavors: Carrot, Cashew, Cookie, Grass, Green, Kettle Corn, Peanut, Peas, Roasted Nuts, Salt, Seaweed, Smooth, Soy Sauce, Squash, Sweet, Sweet Potatoes, Umami, Vegetal, Zucchini
I drank this tea (2021 harvest) for a quick and dirty evening session without taking dedicated notes. I quickly regretted this after being just about blown away by it. I will definitely be revisiting this one in detail very soon, but seeing as this tea has no reviews as of the time I am writing this, I felt it necessary to sing its praises and offer some preliminary tasting notes. A green, grassy umami akin to sencha; above it, a layer of sweet vegetal-borderline-fruity notes; all topped with buttery overtones that remind me of shortbread (kind of like you get with some gyokuros). Held its own for at least five infusions. A really good one, especially for those fond of Japanese tea who are looking for something different, but not too different.
Flavors: Butter, Butternut Squash, Carrot, Cream, Garden Peas, Grass, Kettle Corn, Nutty, Peanut, Roasted Nuts, Smooth, Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Umami, Vegetables
I’ve really been enjoying this tea (2021 harvest) as an afternoon pick-me-up for the past couple of weeks. Spicy, chocolatey, reminiscent of baked goods and mildly fruity, with a strong yet balanced base of malt. It’s a pleasure to watch the tightly rolled buds unfurl further from infusion to infusion, with the liquor easily keeping its golden-auburn color and punchy flavors to their full extent for six or more infusions. Full-bodied and pleasant texture with a sweet, enjoyable finish that hardly wavers as infusions progress.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Caramel, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Cloves, Dates, Malt, Molasses, Saffron, Spices, Toffee, Vanilla
A fairly complex and rather enjoyable Darjeeling, even a year after picking. I picked up a pretty wide variety of flavors and aromas brewing gongfu style (started at 85C and worked my way up to 95C for the sixth and final infusion).
Visibly, the dry leaves are appealing, mostly green and yellow, with some brown leaves. The tea contains a notably high proportion of beautiful off-white hairy buds. It was clearly picked, processed and shipped carefully – very few broken leaves.
Smelling the dry leaves, I picked up notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, molasses, pears, cardamom pods, and maybe a bit of mint and wood.
Looking at the wet leaves, they were more uniform, predominantly yellow-green on early infusions, progressing to yellower tones on later infusions. Though the leaves are rather large and loose to begin with, they expand quite markedly as infusions progress.
Picking apart the aroma of the wet leaves was challenging due to its varied constituents and evolution through the session. A strong hoppy freshness was clearly present throughout. Particularly on the first three infusions, the leaves reminded me of Lebkuchen (that sort of gingerbread cake you can find at European Christmas markets): a heady spice blend (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom pods), dark brown sugar, and light citrus (Bergamot and lemon zest). Also, faint notes of white grapes and light wood and hay were present through all of the infusions. From infusion #3 on, a hint of candied/roasted nuts grew more prominent in the aroma.
The liquor is a very clear yellowish-green, and was even somewhat white on the first infusion (perhaps due to my having brewed it at 85C). Like many first flush Darjeelings, the liquor of this tea is more reminiscent in appearance of a white or green tea than a black tea.
The tea is light in body but very smooth and rather thick. It is all but completely free of astringency, even on long 95C infusions, barring a light and enjoyable catch at the back of the throat after swallowing.
The taste of the tea is dominated by lovely sweetness at the front of the mouth, though the citrus element certainly contributes to the taste (especially on the sides of the tongue), as do the various spices noted in the smell of the leaves. The woodier notes and hops become more noticeable as infusions progress.
The finish is relatively long, and is sweet and mildly woody/haylike (especially with later infusions).
After finishing the tea, the cup is left smelling of brown sugar and molasses; slightly gingerbread-y.
All in all, another great offering from What-Cha, and amazing value for money.
Flavors: Bergamot, Brown Sugar, Cake, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Cloves, Ginger, Green Wood, Hay, Hops, Lemon Zest, Molasses, Nutmeg, Pear, Roasted Nuts, Vanilla
A thoroughly enjoyable black tea from What-Cha.
Brewed gong-fu style. Started at 90C as recommended, but cranked the temperature up to 95C from second infusion on. Got seven solid infusions out of this tea (brewed for 2 min. on infusion #7).
Smelling the dry leaves, I picked up sweet, rich aromas of berries and honey.
The dry leaves are fairly consistent in their large size and are predominantly brownish-grey, though definitely having a noticeable purple tinge.
After a quick rinse, the berry scents are greatly accentuated, and blueberry stands out, alongside notes of polished/lacquered wood, cherries, and cocoa, as well as a faint roasted aroma.
After the first infusion (30s), the leaves became far more brown than purple. The berry aroma from the leaves came even further out into the forefront.
The liquor from the first brew was amber to golden brown. The liquor grew more golden as infusions progressed.
The tea is medium-bodied and very low in astringency, and is characterized by a very enjoyable sourness on the sides of the tongue that develops nicely from infusion to infusion.
The taste, like the aromas from the leaves, is dominated by berries and cherries with a muted honey sweetness. Grapes dominate more and more from the fourth infusion on.
The finish is relatively light but pleasant and quite long, sweet and reminiscent of berries and grape jelly or candy.
All in all, this tea certainly meets one’s expectations of a wild purple tea – it conjures up images of a leisurely forest foraging trip.
Flavors: Berries, Black Currant, Blackberry, Blueberry, Cherry, Cocoa, Dark Wood, Fruity, Grape Skin, Grapes, Honey, Jam, Raspberry, Wood
Thank you Alistair for the sample!
I decided that I needed to go through some samples as I went through some of my less oxidised teas. Of course I’m pulverising through my Gaoshan, but I’ve had some variety here and there. I also figured some people on the site are starting to get a little bored with how many times I’m going to use the terms buttery, floral, fruity, honey, or whatever to describe different ranges of pricy to superpricy oolong-or at least I was getting bored.
Anyway, I’ve neglected this one a little too long. I hesitated because I’m really not a big fan of Niligiri or Ceylon type teas since they are really what’s quintessentially tea to the American palette, and lean on the astringent and tannic end-never mind Alistair and What-Cha intentionally pick and market teas that are superior to their everyday counterparts. Seeing the review did change my mind a little, and gave me a little bit of hope.
What-Cha’s description is pretty spot on with the apricot. I brewed up this tea semi western using all of my sample and about 5 oz of 195 F water, going 1.5 min, 2 min, and 3 min respectively. I should have gone with regular western, but I was satisfied with the result. While I personally don’t taste the cascade that eastteaguy wrote about, I do get a healthy dose of oak, apricot, malt, and tamarind. Sometimes, it kinda reminded me of Thai Ice’d tea in the flavor despite having no additives. The first steep was heavier with the oak, but the middle steep had a little bit of honey sneaking through, and the third steep having a little bit of buttery goodness. There’s some dryness, but it’s balances out the sweeter and malty notes of the tea.
I personally don’t love this one and am still particular to Chinese, Taiwanese, and Himalayan teas, I am glad I got to try it. I think I am going to move onto my Japanese teas I’ve got left.
Flavors: Apricot, Drying, Floral, Malt, Oak
I bought some of this tea on a whim since I read it was a cross between a shou puerh and a houjicha. I love a good houjicha and have been meaning to dip in to the “aged wine” class of tea for a while now. My first impression of the leaf was intrigue, as the leaves were completely unfurled and had a nice sheen about them; they smelled lightly roasted and sour. The instructions said to use 4-5 heaping tsp. per cup and steep for 4-5 minutes so I did just that with a mug, tea basket, and silicone cover. What I found most interesting about this tea, is that with each steep, I felt I could pick up/taste different notes in the brew. I got 3-4 steeps out of this but I enjoyed the first 2 steeps the most. The steeps represented in minutes/steep was 5-6-10-12.
The first steep was very reminiscent of a regular sweet, caramel-like houjicha with a light roast. The roast smelled and tasted more smoky, other than what I usually deem a “toasty” flavor I get from a houjicha.
The second steep is where the notes start transforming from sweet to sour: in which it still tastes like a houjicha, but leaves a subtle sour, earthy/mushroom-y aftertaste.
The third steep required to be twice as long as usual to get the brew to the same tone as the last two. The result was a brew where the suble sour, mushroom-y aftertaste became the predominant notes with the houjicha flavor becoming much more subtle. The sourness lingers after drinking which turns in to an aftertaste taste of smoky mushrooms.
The third steep is where I stop for this tea in particular, but for the sake of logging, I tried the fourth steep a second time around. The brew is lighter than the past three, but it is still amber with a tinge of brown, albeit a weaker aroma. The body of the tea is also less smooth. As for the tasting notes, it tastes like watered down houjicha (go figure) mixed with rice & meaty mushrooms. The sourness is still present but much weaker as well.
Overall, this tea has grown on me and I do enjoy that it is like a more complex houjicha. It also holds up like an houjicha, but this one can get an extra steep in with hotter temperature and a longer steeping time, whereas an actual houjicha is much less forgiving in that aspect. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who dislikes fermented foods and drinks, as per the astringent notes that come out in the later brews, but I would recommend it to others looking for a thought-provoking tea experience.
Flavors: Caramel, Mushrooms, Smoke, Sour, Sweet
This is the first “dark” tea I have tried. Alistair from What-Cha says this tea is produced like a shou pu-erh so I have no comparisons to draw with tea of that variety being my first. I have the September 2020 harvest of this tea and I do wonder what aging will do to it. This brew was definitely an acquired taste for me given its strong medicinal, clean, damp and earthy clay taste on the first couple steeps. It was nice to drink this tea in the morning to wake up, and the feeling it imparted was enjoyable. It left a warm feel in my upper chest that felt like a relaxing hug lasting for an extended duration during and after the session; a different feeling from just hot tea traveling down the gullet. On the third steep, the strong medicinal feel starts to fade into a sweeter dough-like, lighter mossy clay/ loamy taste. I would say that from the third steep to the fifth steep was where the tea shined brightest, as the medicinal taste got weaker. It feels rewarding to get to those steeps in a sense.
The body of this tea is outstanding: very thick/creamy & smooth lasting all five steeps in my session. I brewed this tea western style in a porcelain pot and tea basket, as it is the only one I have currently. I am working on getting a clay pot or two for pu-erhs and roasted oolongs for gong-fu sessions in the near future, as I do wonder how much the teaware and brewing method affects the profile of the tea experience, but I am still learning about what’s what with unglazed pots, clay, and pu-erh tea, scrounging Reddit and forums for affirmation (lol), guidance and ideas, since they all cost a pretty penny. Off that tangent…
I did a 10 second rinse before my first steep in my teacup and I did end up drinking that supercharged, clean loamy brew. My first 3 pots were all 2 minute steeps, it held up and kept its dark brown hue for those steeps. Overall my 5 steeps, represented in minutes were: 2-2-2-3-6.
Flavors: Burnt Sugar, Clay, Creamy, Loam, Medicinal, Mud, Thick, Wet Earth, Wet Moss
This is the first houjicha tea I have tried, so I have no comparisons to draw with this review. I was pleasantly surprised by this low-caffeine dark roast for my introduction in to houjicha. The brew has a buttery smooth body, with a delightful, roasted sweet & nutty taste. (Alistair from What-Cha got the tasting notes for this tea quite spot on). This tea is now part of my everyday rotation for the evenings. It is a quick, tasty brew to unwind to and now is a staple tea for me. I would love to taste other variations of this tea sometime down the road when I exhaust my tea reserves.
I am a big fan of heavy-roasted oolongs and this houjicha reminded me of one of those, to an extent. I used to prefer more tart, fruity/astringent oolongs until I started trying more of the heavy roasted variety. I am also trying to get in to sheng & shou puerh tea, although it is intimidating given all the different “varieteas” involved with raw and ripe puerh.I steeped this tea western style following the instructions on the stickers: 185 degrees and a steep time of 60-90 seconds, usually starting with a minute and adding 30 seconds on each proceeding steep. This tea can be resteeped 2-3 times in total, although the body and smokiness leaves by steep #3, this can be fixed by of course by steeping for a bit longer.
Flavors: Caramel, Nutty, Roasted Nuts, Smooth, Sweet, Toasty
Derk generously allowed me to take a sample of this tea during our Black Friday extravaganza. Thank you, and I promise to get to all your other samples when I’ve sipped down more of my teas! I steeped around 5 g of leaf in a 120 ml teapot at 195F for 35, 25, 35, 45, 60, 75, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
The intoxicating aroma of the dry leaves is of honey, apricots, and citrus. The first steep has notes of honey, clover, apricot, orange, honeysuckle, gardenia, sandalwood, and sap. I find that lower-quality Bai Hao focuses on the high honey/fruit notes, while the better stuff also has lower woody/incense/sappy notes that I have trouble describing. The second steep gives me stronger fruit notes, including citrus zest, and is reminding me of an IPA. The florals become headier in the third steep, with more honeysuckle and gardenia mixing beautifully with the honey/apricot/citrus. The fruit backs off slightly in steep four, letting the honey, clover, honeysuckle, gardenia, and orange blossom come through. There’s also a tiny bit of a metallic taste. Near the end of the session, the fruit disappears and I get honey, autumn leaves, minerals, wood, and vague florals.
This is a fantastic Bai Hao that I wish I’d purchased for myself when I had the chance. As the better versions of this tea tend to be, it’s both lush and structured. This tea has made me want to revisit some of the other Bai Hao in my stash.
Flavors: Apricot, Autumn Leaf Pile, Citrus, Citrus Zest, Floral, Gardenias, Honey, Honeysuckle, Metallic, Mineral, Orange, Orange Blossom, Sap, Wood
Harvest: Spring, May 2020
I tried my best to scoop this with my teaspoon, but the leaves are long and gangly so I’m not entirely sure everything made it into the cup. There wasn’t a weight recommendation on the package or I would have measured, so I just went with it. The dry leaf smells to me like raisins, which I don’t like to eat but do love the flavor in tea. I taste sweet potato in the finished cup and, surprisingly, peach. I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted peach in a tea that’s not actually flavored with peach, so this was a nice surprise. I love stone fruits and black tea together. I will say that it’s lighter than I would like, not sure if that’s because I didn’t get enough on my teaspoon or if I need to increase the steep time. Compared to the Tiger Assam I had a couple of days ago, this isn’t as dark and luscious as I would have liked. Still enjoying it though, especially with that peach note.
Flavors: Peach, Raisins, Stonefruit, Sweet Potatoes
One small western cup left so it’s time to write a note! July 2020 harvest.
Off the bat, the dry leaf scent recalls a memory. Pulling English ivy down from eucalyptus trees growing on steep slopes in one of the coolest and dampest forested areas in San Francisco. A gem of a place, unvisited beyond a handful of local residents and the homeless who carved caves out of the Himalayan blackberry that had overgrown the lower slope of the area.
Do yourself a favor and brew this gongfu. Western steeps for me were too fickle. Some days they’d be a little too ‘tea’-like. Another time was one of the richest, sweetest cups I’d ever had. Every other time I was like, “This is some good tea, but it’s missing something?”
Gongfu is more consistent and offers a more explosive ginger/chili/menthol heating-cooling and intense honey-brown sugar returning sweetness. I find the aroma is more complex than the taste, especially so when it comes to the retronasal activity of the aftertaste, but not to any detriment. It all works together very well. There’s a ton of bug-bitten (is the elevation too high for this to happen?) juicy richness to this tea being a summer harvest, along with some classic baking spice-cinnamon. Plenty of rosewood and a hint of smooth malt in the bottom notes and rose florality higher up. Enough tannins to keep the flavor from being a sugar bomb. The aftertaste really blooms with those spiced honey notes and fruity muscatel-grape must tones. The session ends on a bright note with plenty of lemon pulp and malt-wood to the taste. I feel like I’m drinking an actual tea bush from the misty slopes of Shanlinxi (there goes my imagination again). This tea has terroir. Sorry for using a tea snoot word, but it’s true.
Dang. Taiwan puts out some amazing black teas.
Flavors: Bark, Blackberry, Brown Sugar, Cherry, Cinnamon, Cocoa, Eucalyptus, Floral, Forest Floor, Geranium, Ginger, Honey, Lemon, Lemongrass, Malt, Menthol, Mineral, Muscatel, Nutmeg, Orange, Osmanthus, Pine, Rainforest, Raspberry, Rose, Smooth, Spicy, Spring Water, Sweet, Tangy, Tannin, Tea, Vanilla, Wood