593 Tasting Notes

93

Revisited this tea after a long time. I was blown away when I first sampled it a few years ago and then made the mistake of buying a large bag that turned out to be totally lackluster so I didn’t bother with it again until recently. After many sessions over the past few months, I’ve learned that this tea is best enjoyed at peak freshness. That’s true for most greens but especially so with this one.

When fresh, it’s incredibly aromatic and vibrant. The leaves emit a wonderful scent of blueberry jam, nectar, and flowers. It slowly brews to a pale translucent green liquor with the taste of warm blueberries, hay, and white tea florals. The blueberry note is unique and not one you typically come across in green tea. Subsequent infusions bring out corn silk, sweet peas, and light vegetable broth.

The flavor has evolved a bit (or devolved depending on your point of view) as the tea has aged. The fruitiness has all but disappeared along with some of the delicate notes and the tea has settled into more of a beany / vegetal flavor. Still good but not as craveable as before.

A few additional observations. This tea requires a good amount of leaf. I had best results when using half the 7g sample pack for a 120ml gaiwan. It has a tendency towards bitterness so not recommended for grandpa steeping. Like I said above, the flavor fades quickly so its best enjoyed when fresh and I wouldn’t recommend stocking up unless this is going to be your daily drinker.

Flavors: Beany, Blueberry, Corn Husk, Flowers, Hay, Vegetable Broth, Wax

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 30 sec 7 g 8 OZ / 240 ML

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95

Yum! This was such a delicious tea. Wenshan Baozhong is one of my favorite oolongs but I’ve never had it roasted before. The name suggests an ashy tea however it’s anything but roasty. The roasting has transformed the usual heady baozhong florals into something completely new. It evokes the flavors of roasted fruit, chocolate, maple syrup, stroopwafel, and candied pecan. Bears many similarities to a good dong ding but with a lot more sweetness. There are none of the oily and woodsy notes that I sometime struggle with in yancha and dan cong. A very clean tasting and approachable tea for everyone.

Flavors: Caramel, Chocolate, Elderflower, Maple, Peach, Pecan, Roasted Nuts

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C

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78
drank Cooking Matcha by Sazen
593 tasting notes

Ever since I gave up on acquiring a taste for straight matcha, I’ve been searching for the best bang-for-buck non-Uji matcha that can work in lattes. I had been using Yuuki-Cha’s Yame matcha for some time now which made wonderful lattes but it was still ceremonial grade and felt like overkill. Powdered kamairicha was next but turned out to be a bust. I learned that powdered green tea does not equal matcha. Recently, I decided to give culinary matcha a try. Years ago, I had an extraordinary culinary matcha from Den’s tea that was better than even some higher grade stuff and hoped to strike gold once more. Sadly, it didn’t happen this time.

This culinary matcha superficially resembles ceremonial matcha with its verdant green color but differs considerably in flavor. It’s not as fragrant, sweet, or robust. Froths up okay and has a a vegetal, swiss chard like flavor with a slight bitterness. The flavor doesn’t hold up when milk and sugar are added becoming muted to the point where I can barely tell its there.

Still tinkering with brew parameters but so far not terribly impressed.

Flavors: Vegetal

Preparation
1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML
Mastress Alita

I too can only take matcha in latte or smoothie form, and have switched to more cost-effective culinary matcha. I’m using the one from Mizuba Tea Co.

LuckyMe

Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll check them out. And yeah, matcha is wonderful in desserts and drinks but too in-your-face for me on its own

Mastress Alita

Same. I need a balancing sweetness to take the edge off the bitter/umami.

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81

An interesting experimental batch from TTC. This is a scented tea made using local Taiwanese Bergamot instead of the familiar Italian variety found in Earl Grey tea. Tasting it, however, I can say there’s a world of difference between the two. Real bergamot has a distinct perfumey flavor. Even though it’s a citrus fruit, bergamot flavored tea isn’t very citrusy. This on the other hand is more citrus forward and would not be mistaken for bergamot. Smells and tastes like juicy tangerine and citrus rind. Occasionally, it gives impressions of lemon scented kitchen cleaner and Hi-C. When ambient brewed, the bergamot mingles with the underlying Jin Xuan to produce delicious rose and gardenia florals.

I think this would appeal to people seeking a citrusy or orange scented tea but doubt it will win over too many Earl Grey afficionados.

Flavors: Citrus, Lemon Zest, Orange, Tangerine

Preparation
Iced 5 g 20 OZ / 600 ML
Evol Ving Ness

What does ambient brewed mean?

LuckyMe

@Evol Ving Ness it means steeping at room temperature for a few hours then adding ice. It’s my short cut method for cold brewing.

Evol Ving Ness

Ah, ok. Thank you for explaining. I do that overnight and no ice.

LuckyMe

Cool. I ambient Brew for only a few hours though. Any bitterness from steeping that long?

Evol Ving Ness

No, but I am cautious about the teas I steep this way. I go light on leaf with those that are prone to bitterness.

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92

Another budget Yuuki-Cha tea. This time it’s gyokuro which is normally considered a premium tea. However, this unique variant is processed like bancha consisting of leaves and stems. I’m not a huge fan of gyokuro as I find it too umami heavy for my taste but went for it here as it looked super interesting and the price was good too.

The smell out of the bag is a mixture of umami, nori seaweed, and flowers in a grassy meadow. I’m still working out the brew times and temperatures, but I generally start between 135 – 150 F and gradually increase the temperature 5-10 degrees per infusion for a total of 4 steeps. The first steep produces a fatty, umami laden cup with a texture reminiscent of animal fat. Trust me, it tastes better than my description. It has a slight edge that tiptoes around bitterness without ever becoming bitter. Pale green liquor that smells like brussel sprouts and earth.

Second infusion brings out a subtle earthiness, wheatgrass, and cabbage. Third infusion is 160-165 F and has a more familiar sencha-like flavor. Light wheatgrass, matcha-like creaminess, and straw. Fourth and final steep is mellow and rather washed out.

Overall, an enjoyable Gyokuro with a rich flavor and complexity beyond just umami. It doesn’t resteep as well as pricier teas but acceptable given the style and price point.

Instagram photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/CTiC14orvVd/

Flavors: Butter, Grass, Lettuce, Straw, Umami

Preparation
145 °F / 62 °C 1 min, 0 sec 3 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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93

Did a big Yuuki-Cha order last month and this is one of their budget senchas that I picked up. For the price point, it’s not a bad tea. Grassy, medium bodied, with a gentle astringency. Nice fresh flavor and color. It has a familiar Japanese green tea flavor but lacks the complexity of better sencha. A solid tea for the office.

Flavors: Astringent, Freshly Cut Grass, Umami

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 0 min, 45 sec 3 tsp 7 OZ / 200 ML

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81

Didn’t enjoy this one as much as the regular Wenshan Baozhong from the same harvest. This is a rather basic, one dimensional baozhong. Floral/lilac overtones, medium body, and a vegetative brothy flavor. No real depth to it though and taste doesn’t evolve much either.

Flavors: Floral, Grass, Lilac, Perfume, Strawberry, Vegetable Broth

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62

This could have been a good tea if it weren’t so hibiscus heavy. It’s my fault though for not realizing the roselle listed in the ingredients is the same as hibiscus. The dried fruit pieces in this blend – mango, grape, papaya, pineapple, etc. – smelled wonderful and sounded like a promising combination but were completely overwhelmed by all of the hibiscus. It ended up tasting like a slightly sour fruit punch. Couldn’t really taste any of the other ingredients. Adding sweetener, something I am normally loathe to do, helped balance the flavor a bit and brought out some of the underlying citrus and grape.

Flavors: Fruit Punch, Sour

Preparation
Boiling 5 min, 0 sec

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97

There’s a reason why this is my favorite high mountain oolong. It’s a sublime and refined tea that’s been consistently good year after year. This latest crop was no exception. It has those lush florals I love. Big hits of magnolia, orchid, and lily of the valley. This is balanced with tropical fruit, vanilla, and pastry cream. Full bodied with a silky texture and lingering floral finish. It also has good staying power. I got 7 quality steeps from it.

About a month after opening the pouch, I noticed there was a noticeable degradation in flavor. Not in a bad way but the tea had lost some of its nuance and tasted more vegetal and savory. Switching from gongfu to grandpa style helped rescue the tea. This brought out a whole new character and tropical flavor that I hadn’t experienced with gongfu.

Instagram photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/CSASh1PLmzP/

Flavors: Butter, Flowers, Nectar, Orchid, Pastries, Pineapple, Tropical, Vanilla

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 45 sec 7 g 5 OZ / 160 ML

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77

I struggled with this one a lot. Couldn’t coax out the flavor I wanted despite multiple efforts at brewing it. Brisk and vegetal with a nutty green bean taste. Borders on astringent at times but doesn’t become bitter. The nuttiness becomes dominant as it steeps and it also presents toasted grain and fried vegetables along the way instead of the more subtle grass and water chestnut notes in the aroma.

Not the best dragonwell I’ve ever had but certainly not the worst either. It’s possible that something was lost due to the shipment delay.

Flavors: Nutty, Vegetal

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C

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Bio

My Rating Criteria:

95 to 100: Top shelf stuff. Loved this tea and highly recommend it

90 to 94: Excellent. Enjoyed this tea and would likely repurchase

80 to 89: Good but not great. I liked it though it may be lacking in some aspects. I’ll finish it but probably won’t buy again

70 to 79: Average at best. Not terrible but wouldn’t willingly drink again

60 to 69: Sub-par. Low quality tea, barely palatable

59 and below: Bleh

Fell into tea many years ago and for a long time my experience was limited to Japanese greens and flavored Teavana teas. My tea epiphany happened when I discovered jade oolongs. That was my gateway drug to the world of high quality tea and teaware.

For the most part, I drink straight tea but do appreciate a good flavored tea on occasion. I love fresh green and floral flavors and as such, green tea and Taiwanese oolongs will always have a place in my cupboard. After avoiding black tea forever, Chinese blacks have started to grow on me. I’m less enthusiastic about puerh though. I also enjoy white tea and tisanes but reach for them less frequently.

Other non-tea interests include: cooking, reading, nature, philosophy, MMA, traveling when I can, and of course putzing around on the interwebs.

IG: https://www.instagram.com/melucky

Location

Chicago

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