1500 Tasting Notes
I used my last sampler, and I still wasn’t satisfied. I used cold water, mixed it into a paste, put it in a double wall tumbler with hot water, shook it, and poured the drink into a small cup. The tea wasn’t nearly as clumpy and better mixed, but was still grassy and bitter. It had the trademark Lishan creaminess, orchid, plumeria, and even buttery bread complexities, but they were undercut by the bitterness.I’m not sure if I used too much matcha. I used a single serve sample for 14 oz, which should allow for more diffusion of the powder. Maybe I’m a clutz, but I have not had this kind of issue with regular matcha. I may just have to try this matcha again in the future, but right now, I’m not sure I’d recommend it without some practice. If you do ever decide to get one, make sure your matcha skills are on point or use a filter, maybe a smaller amount? I could just be unrefined because I do not drink matcha as much as I used to. I am still impressed with its complexity and that Red Blossom is doing something original, but the price and bitterness are deal breakers for me personally. I’m also not going to rate it because I do not think I’d be the best judge, unless someone has had the same experience.
Flavors: Bitter, Bread, Butter, Cream, Dirt, Floral, Grass
I was stoked about this one. I haven’t had a first flush in close to a year, let alone Jun Chiyabari. I only had 5 grams of it, and I divided it up in 3 oz for some small cold brewing, and 2 grams for semi-gong fu and western.
I have only started it recently, not letting it exceed 30 seconds. It’s got some green woody bitterness and some typical first flush peppery astringency. You can read their notes too get an accurate idea of what you will have. It’s pretty green to me, bordering on being olive like with a bit of hoppy and citrusy zest. Woodsy camphor and balmy menthol definitely in there too. Tiger Balm was always citrusy for me anyway, so I’m not surprised. I actually didn’t camphor was a tree, and an oil used in balm, so it was cool to learn that. Every time I journey into more obscure teas, the more flower language and modicums of herbology I come across.
I’m still not finished with the tea yet, going through 1.5 minutes second time, and it’s more citrusy and blamy. Still twiggy.
I’ll have to write another note to see how far I get. I usually stop early with first flushes because of their astringency, but this one has very oolong like, so we’ll see.
… next morning, and the leaves smell too bitter and astringent for me. I disposed of those, and then retrieved my cold brew from the fridge. So much smoother. Citrus, orange, creamy, floral, refreshing and juicy in layers. Sip starts out honeysuckle, then light orange blossom, full on citrus, light spice, and creamy, juicy finish. Tasted like orange or lemon water. Yeah, this one was significantly better cold brew for me.
Overall rating is above an 80. High quality tea, and definitely for first flush lovers, though cold brew is the easy way to go. Despite drinking tea for over 20 years, I still like the more flavor forward teas. I’m so thankful to get to try this sample. I cannot recommend Zhao Zhou enough.
Flavors: Astringent, Bell Pepper, Bitter, Camphor, Citrus, Green Wood, Herbs, Hops, Olives, Pepper
I’ve had this sample for a while, and rediscovered it entombed in my White Lotus bag Whispering Pines sample as I was trying to find what happened to my other Zhao Zhou Jun Chiyabari black tea sample. Hysteric understates my mentality when trying to find my sample-because it was not where I thought I put it. So sifted through layers of my reused bags to see if I put it in a weird place, and I decided to finish off the whopping 7 grams I had of this at once in a full teapot using flash steeps.
I think this tea is underrated because it combines a higher oxidized tea with gardenia scenting. I wasn’t in love with it at first because it was cloying and bordering on tannic, but it’s grown on me as I’ve fallen in love with similarly profiled teas like Qilans. It is sweeter and ruddier, but I like it enough to at least have two cups of it. I get notes of incense in the dryleaf smell, and woody incense again in the taste, gardenia, brown sugar, and a little bit of tannin.
I still wouldn’t buy this, though I appreciate it now more than I have over two years ago.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Gardenias, Jasmine, Rose, Tannin
So I played with this one more. I am having fun to see how it changes. It hasn’t lost anything, and I keep on finding different smooth traits each time. I used tumbler today, and the first brew was caramel coconut spinach with some texture, and the second was creamy egg yolk and milk tasting. Again, it’s why I kind of think of Irish Cream. It’s not as sweet or obviously riddled with whiskey, but it’s thick and creamy like irish cream. Maybe flan is a better descriptor. Again, not dessert sweet cause it’s still a straight grassy green oolong, yet it’s totally something you’d eat with a chease cake, brie, or something soft.
Flavors: Custard, Egg, Flan, Floral, Lily, Milk, Thick
I tried the High Mountain GABA, and I did it in imprecise 30 second steeps. It was extremely sweet and forgiving.
Trying it out, it had the baker spices and mulled wine the company writes about. I made some mulled wine to compare it. It was pretty close, but the spices were more in the aroma and accented the teas natural hong sweetness. I personally didn’t think it was that green, and the tea was very brown and a little ruddy. The spices and wine were most pronounced in steep one, but steep two onward were more savory. I kept on getting brown sugar, corn, chicory, and barley in how I tasted the tea. Later notes became more sweet and plummy, but not intense with a little bit of florals, maybe gardenia if you want to stretch.
It’s very good, and I like that it’s not just a funky fruit-corn tasting tea. I definitely calmed down, but was a bit more alert than I wanted to be at 9:00 last night. Focus and clarity resonated. I wouldn’t reach out for it because I like greener oolongs, but I think it’s very good and memorable. I’d rate it a 84-87.
I swear I added this one. I am losing it! Oh well.
I’ve actually had this three times, one of them from Bloom Coffee Roasters-a company that I am not sure is any longer in Lansing. It’s Spirit Tea’s staple yunnan breakfast that is dense with malt and other layers, thick with the dark chocolate malt profile a lot of people look for in their tea. It’s barely astringent, but has some bitterness that is actually kind of nice, and like any good yunnan, balances the savory elements with the sweeter and darker ones.
It usually brews an intense amber orange when I make it gong fu, or a glowing red-orange black if I do longer steeps. It can do western well, but I prefer gong fu. It also survives tumbler grandpa, and when I went lighter, it was sweet savory malty-but more prominent on the chocolate.
The malt is the most overwhelming this about this tea which pushes me away from really loving it, but it’s got enough honey sweetness , apricot-y sourness, and other layers to keep me engaged and to keep it distinct from others. It doesn’t really have the same yam profile most Yunnan’s do, which is pretty interesting. Maybe sweet potato in the tannin and sweeter aftertaste, but leans more fruity.
I wouldn’t drink this one all the time, but I really like it. Any Yunnan Tea lover or malty-breakfast tea lover would highly enjoy it for its full body. I’m impressed with how malty it can get without sacrificing its complexity, and you can still taste a lot of the same things if you add some cream and sugar to it like a English Breakfast-I don’t recommend that often. It’s also $12 for 50 grams, and it’s actually not a bad price for this one. I’ve been extremely critical of Spirit before, but I am changing my mind as I try more of their teas and as they add more diversity to their collection, especially as they have less common teas like Lishan Tie Guan Yins, higher end Thai Blacks, and others.
Flavors: Apricot, Butter, Dark Bittersweet, Dark Chocolate, Honey, Leather, Malt, Pleasantly Sour, Tannin, Tea, Thick
Saw this on Nichole’s blog, and reading the description, the milk oolong was not a usual Jin Xuan: it’s actually a Shan Lin Xi Jin Xuan. So with that and stellar reviews of the company from many bloggers, I got some.
Of course, I began with the Green Oolongs.
Yunnan Black-cake style black.
I tried it out first to give it a chance and at behest of dark chocolate notes and crashing from pneumonia symptoms. It’s smoother than most Yunnan Blacks with some pu-erh like qualities, very Cabernet like in parallel notes. It was more malty and tannin heavy than I like in my blacks, though not bad. Only got through four rebrews though before I gave up.
If I were blind tasting this, I would have thought Shan Lin Xi because of it’s thick, sweet profile and high mountain misty quality green and florality. I do get orchid and some definite hazelnut in layers, but not so much on the “fudge.” Maybe oolong spinachy milk in the viscousness? Still good, though I have not made up my mind on it yet. I do like it very much in comparison to other Jin Xuan’s I’ve had.
High Mountain Oolong
It’s an Alishan, and I forced myself to try to be surprised I liked the it best, yet I was not. It’s technically more vegetal than the Milk Oolong, and very nutty with a slightly higher oxidation while still being green, buttery and naturally sweet. I finished it quickly.
The Bai Mu DAn
Higher trichomes than normal, some needles with the rest of the silver leaves. Very crisp and vegetal, cucumber, bready, light, and malty. I have yet to get the muscat grapes described. Maybe white grapes. Good and I still need to play with it.
Haven’t done the Ceylon yet or the lemongrass. They’ll come in the future. Oolongs impressed me overall the most. The milk oolong was more distinct, though the High Mountain Oolong had the fullest flavor. The Bai Mudan is the highest quality, though it’s finickier to brew than expected. I was very pleased with everything I got though, and am enjoying my new tea journal.
Splurged on this one, and figured it be good if they are keeping this vintage around for a slightly higher price. I’ve only begun drinking it tonight, but the aroma and flavor are the right mix of delicate and full. Rounded texture, and the tea opens up at an even pace after 20 seconds, slightly getting bigger, and not revealing its secrets and layers immediately.
Coconut shells and meat comes to mind every time, with some lime qualities that I’d associate with a green Qin Xin they described, with a creamy texture. There are some similarities to Camelia Sinensis Lishan, though this one is more heavy in the coconut department so far. It’s interesting they wrote caramel in the notes because I usually don’t get that for most green oolongs. I am for this one, and it’s spinachy milk water so far that I am enjoying slowly. Kinda reminds me of Irish Cream somehow…exaggeration probably. I will add more to the notes as I continue tonights session.
I saved some for Leafhopper in the trade, and I look forward to seeing what she thinks.
Adding more to this, it does fade out kinda quick after steep 4. I did it again western at 2 minutes, and it was smooth and consistent.
Flavors: Coconut, Cream, Creamy, Irish Cream, Lily, Lime, Milk, Spinach, Thick
I’m being lazy and writing all the tea notes on one page, but I may do a detailed review of each one later. I got this with 50 grams of the 2019 Lishan, and was ecstatic. This package was my 2021 end of the year self care pick me up.
I’ve gotten through half of the teas so far, so I’ll list them based on the order I tried them in as I backlog.
No. 540 Li Shan 2021 – 1800m
15-20 sec increments, repeated a 20 second rinse 4 times, and then longer minute steeps after based on aroma and color.
Insanely good and sweet smelling, having a great mix of savory vegetable with floral, sweet, and tropical ones. It smelled like fruit loops cereal, and initial steep had a sweet corn butter taste, and later steeps got vague fruitier and more floral with some healthy buttered and sweet greens in the body, bordering on caramelized despite being a greener Qing Xin. Maybe it’s the barley note they write about? Definitely a fan.
No. 540 Li Shan 2021 – 2000m
Same methods as above, and definitely more delicate and floral. The comparison I made in my head was between the lower elevations caramelized sugar, and this one was more like soft, powdered sugar. I got baby’s breath for some of the florals, definite orchid. Zhao Zhou describes this one as greener with a goat milk density to it, and it is. Both teas are very similar, and oddly enough, carry a bit of a chamomile like milky profile. Insanely uplifting, and has a clear meditative quality that’s really nice. I prefer the lower elevation overall, but I think I would have to always get some of this in comparison for a calming afternoon or evening.
No. 547 Wenshan Baozhong 2021
Of course a bazhong was next
15 sec parameters, 20, 15, 20, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 80.
LOOOOOOOOVED this one. I was surprised how complex this one was, and it meshed insane floral and fruity qualities that were more pronounced in the lishan. I’m gonna be basic and use Zhao ZHou’s description:
“It has a lily of the valley scent, which changes slightly to other flowers later, slight hyacinth, rose, chamomile. Great experience to meet this tea. Its taste is characterized by deep green notes, florality, a bit of citrus, and later some buttery biscuit. Delicate throbbing, focus. A great accompaniment to hot summer days from morning to afternoon. We hope your tasting is as enjoyable as when we first met this tea.”
It’s still green, but I was hit with jasmine, rose, citrus, butter, bready notes, and freshly steamed and sweet snap pea green. Hugged myself with it. Sad I only had 5 grams.
No. 539 Shan Lin Xi 2021 – 1400m – 10 g
I had 5 grams of it. 20 sec steeps in increments. They compared it to the 2017 vintage, which I had in the previous oolong sampler I got from them, and like that one, had a lot of coconut, butter, almond, and lots of spinachy green goodness and umami. Some gyurko qualities like they describe, but more nuanced and not quite as marine. I really like it, but Baozhong is my favorite so far because of its complexity.
Here’s what I got left to try:
No. 218 Formosa White Jade 2021
No. 341 Taiwan Primeur Green 2021
No. 546 High Mountain Gaba 2020 – 10 g
No. 648 Red Jade Ruby 2020
I know I should just make my own notes for each. However, I can just copy my drafted reviews and make pages when I have the brain power….I mean…“discipline.”
Other than that, I HIGHLY recommend this sampler for Taiwan Tea lovers. I’m a little bit dodgy about the Red Jade varietals, so it will be interesting to see how they taste. More notes soon…I’m behind.
Coming back from Florida three days ago with my Zhao Zhou order arriving!
This was gifted with another Jin Chiyabari First Flush sample with my order, and I was pretty ecstatic. I followed their parameters using 150 ml of water, 5 grams of tea, and 15, 20, 25, 15,10, 20 sec steeping time.
The tea was full bodied and herbaceous, floral. First steep had a citrusy and grainy aroma and thick viscousness. Lemon peel, herbs, hops, bread, malt. Second one was much the same beginning to lean into the beer character. The fourth steep was the most complex and full on tasted like a citrus beer with lemon and orange in a wheaty aftertaste, some grass herbs and hops from the trichomes. Thick as ever. Later steeps grew bitter and more herbaceous.
I’m definitely happy for this one. I’m not sure I’d reach for it, but it’s the kind of style white tea I like that still has enough fruity elements and texture to keep me going. There are more first flush black qualities in this tea than white qualities since it’s not delicate. It’s a little malty, but refined and zesty. The citrus and texture felt great on my throat as I am sick and recovering from Bronchitis and my booster. I wish I saved some for a cold brew, but with how cold it is in Michigan right now, I’m satisfied with my hot cup. Not sure if I’ll rate it-but at least an 80 min.
Flavors: Beer, Bread, Citrus, Citrus Zest, Floral, Grassy, Herbs, Hops, Lemon Zest, Malt, Orange, Thick, Wheat