73 Tasting Notes
Anxi Oolong Huang Jin Gui Lan Hua Xiang, Spring 2020
6g, 100 mL gaiwan, 212f
Brita filtered tap
This came as a free sample w/ my order from TJ a few months back, but I just got around to brewing it last night.
Dry leaf is creamy and sweet, in the light oolong sort of way that I associate w/ most Taiwanese oolongs I’ve tried.
wet leaf: A floral, but dry smell. Oddly enough, also reminiscent of egg tart.
7s: Light vegetal, floral sweetness.
12s: A well rounded sweetness. Nothing too interesting to my tastes. but not a bad tea at all.
Edges of mint aftertaste, just a hint.
17s: edges of mint + medicinal bitterness. Slight vegetal and floral sweetness as well. I can’t foresee enjoying continued careful steepings of this, so I’ll be cold-brewing the rest. Not really a fan of light roasted oolongs, but I’ll take the caffeine, and cold brews of just about anything generally turn out quite tolerable.
cold brew overnight: light floral, tiny bit of honey, and a dominating soapy note. Pretty boring as far as cold brewed oolongs go. Not sure how that bodes for the rest of my order from TJ. Had low expectations going in for this tea since the packet suggested a brewing temp. of 85C-90C so I expected bitterness or something, but this fell flat for me. To be fair, one could argue that cold brews don’t generally bring out the most interesting aspects of any teas, so I didn’t technically give it a completely fair shot, but judging from the cold brew, this tea might not have had too much to offer anyway.
Spring 2019 Wu Yi Shan Da Hong Pao
TL;DR: No, I didn’t buy this myself. And I’m glad I didn’t regift it, because this is a rather poor example of “quality” oolong.
212 f, Whole Foods distilled water roughly mixed (+-.005g for each ingredient) (consumer grade mg scales are finnicky) to Arby’s (Empirical tea) Simple Syrup water recipe.
Whole 8g packet
1x 5s rinse
dry leaf: smoke, and roasty, with caramel & dark chocolate notes, slight spices
wet leaf: sweet tinged smoke
5s: Bitter woody and slight medicinal. Something cinnamon-like, and edges/aftertaste is sweet then a slightly mint-edged vegetal. Brown sugar smell in empty cup.
5s: similar to before, with crisp edges & lightened bitterness.
7s: smoky, but lightened. Crushed mint & sugar finish per usual. A burp here and a couple later but I forget which steepings exactly. I won’t pretend to understand all the abstractions & nuances of cha qi, but this seems definitely impacted by the water, as this water was also bringing this reaction from a Chinese mini white tea shou mei cake/gifted by mom’s relative (not reviewed here as I’m too lazy to figure out the rest of the chinese on the label). Slight hint of dried fruit somewhere.
10s: similar, nothing exciting. Quite disappointing for the price tag. Far better teas out there for far cheaper.
18s: Nothing wrong w/ tea, but it has lightened significantly.
23s: Going to stop writing here. Poor longevity/performance downwards given how it’s dropped off thus far.
Based on the other two reviews here, there must’ve been a huge drop in quality vs. previous batches, or I just got horribly unlucky with a crappy pack. This is not a straight-up bad tea, but I refuse to believe that anyone sane is willing to shell out $28 for 8g of this more than once. It’s not that this tastes disgusting or whatever, but this is absolutely one of the worst performing oolongs I’ve ever steeped in terms of longevity, especially for something obviously not just lightly roasted, and has already been sitting for two years. Taste-wise, this is palatable, but not exceptional in a single way, be it mouthfeel, aroma, taste, aftertaste, or any other metric. The only reason I will probably remember this tea by is for how lame it was for the price. The numerical rating reflects my annoyance that I wasted my time mixing water for this tea and brewing this tea in particular, and since Steepster skews every rating to a high average anyway.
This is going to be an inherently flawed review due to the course of time over which it took place, but I’m posting it anyway for my own benefit, though it’s unlikely that I’ll be buying any more of this tea in particular. I started my first “real” 9-5 internship this summer (remote internships last summer cannot fully replicate the intensity of this) and it’s been far busier than I anticipated. Adult working life is no joke. I don’t have time to steep multiple infusions when I wake up and before work, and when I get back from work, I’m too tired or can’t have any more caffeine since it’d impact my already shoddy sleep quality. Weekends aren’t even particularly carefree, because there’s always things that seem to come up, and it’s hard to pass up rare moments to spend quality time with friends that just don’t happen over the course of the semesters, plus meal prep, etc. etc. I can’t pick random moments during the day to steep and write out notes because the lunch break timing is not really flexible. During the school year, I can pick my own times to take breaks, and everyone is too busy to hang out with anyway, so I can be a grouchy hermit and make tea while frantically completing readings (or pushing the readings until day before test or never).
Anyway, naive complaints about adjusting to adulting aside, onto the notes.
Both 6.5g, 100 mL gaiwan, 212f, 5s initial rinse
The first was with Whole Foods 365 spring water, the second with Whole Foods 365 distilled water, mixed with the Simple Syrup recipe from Arby from Empirical Tea. I tried my best, but consumer grade milligram scales are imperfect (I used grains setting and converted, since mine only does .001g sensitivity, so for one gallon, it was .225g baking soda instead of .221g, .1419g Epsom salt instead of .1415g, .046g gypsum salt instead of .0457g, and .100g instead of .0996g. I added 5 drops of silica, but TDS didn’t change (overall, landed at 83-85 ppm).
As I noted before, I’ve been sort of overwhelmed so both reviews took place over several days. I will note dates in each portion.
dry leaf dried fruit smell
wet leaf: strong dried fruit w/ light hint of smoke
5s: lightly bland upfront, then full on fruity sweetness that fills the mouth and lingers slightly before dissipating. A touch of smoke that fades. A burp that’s maybe qi, maybe something else. Not really sure. I always remember reading from Max Falkowitz’s pieces before about the best teas making you burp as a manifestation of qi, and I’ve only had that happen out of the teas I’ve tried before with this and YQH Jinhao Chawang (lost the tasting notes I did before unfortunately, but will review the next time I steep the sample). Even with Jinhao Chawang, there was burps interspersed throughout, but no other manifestations of what other people seem to experience with qi, which feels a bit lame, but I guess it is what it is.
7s: stronger taste upfront. Aftertaste reminds me of those dried round haw flakes that I had a lot as a kid + classic dried fruit profile with a hit of sugar. Can feel a bit of heat in my back, but it’s also summer and 80F in my dorm room not sure if that’s the tea. A burp.
12s: An initial hint of bitter that turns into sweetness from before. Still heavy on the sugar aftertaste (yes, like straight sugar). Dried fruit profile beyond initial touch of bitterness. slightly drying in mouth and on tongue.
6.29: whoops. Let it sit a few days. 13s: a light smoke, with restrained sweetness lurking. I also had a sweet porridge beforehand, so can’t pick up as much. But there’s a bit of drying on cheeks, even as sweetness surrounds. Still strong raw sugar note. A burp.
20s: strong. wow. A hit of lurking bitterness surfaces. More of the dried fruit mixed in.
Drying continues. slight florals as well, then sugar. A burp. Some sweating on the way to work, but also very hot out, so who knows.
6.30: Aided in a mix of Poland spring bottled water since I ran out of the WF spring water.
16s: A light smoky bitter at the edges of dried fruits. A burp.
23s: something almost cherry-like amidst everything else. A burp. Initially a strong touch of bitter, but the sweetness and rest come through after.
20s: lightening in taste. something like dried fruit/cherries w/o the edge from before. A burp. Some drying and sugar aftertaste.
7.3: Not sure how relevant this review is anymore, but will continue.
25s: soft in a medicinal sort of way upfront that transitions onto a strong note with something sharp & sugar cubes in aftertaste. drying on tongue.
28s: Not too strong of flavor upfront, but aftertaste of sugar cubes as usual. something lightly of smokey dried berries in the taste initially.
30s: Almost immediately sweet upfront with a touch of smoke. Something in aftertaste is getting softer, almost cotton-candy like in a way. A touch of bitterness.
33s: starting to fade out. Nothing too notable w/r/t changes. A burp.
355. Much lightened. Still a light sugar in aftertaste, refreshing.
45s: tossing into thermos since nothing particular to note anymore. Maybe a sour sort of fruit peel edge, with some sugar in ending, but that’s it. A burp.
thermos overnight: warm & buttery initially, with undertones of an edge. classic thermos puer grainy profile, but that may have been influenced by my thermos.
with Arby’s Simple Syrup water:
My original intention was to do a direct comparison, but I didn’t realize how busy I’d be overall, and didn’t complete either review as I would’ve liked.
dry leaf still very fruity in the aged dried sheng sort of way.
wet leaf smells fairly smoky initially, then dried berries smell. Tight compression on the piece of sample, so maybe will take longer to show
7s: Notably better texture, but not sure if that’s from the added silica. Similarly bland start as before, then something w/touch of fruit & apple peel turning into sugar-cubes aftertaste. May be too early to say, but not drying like steeps of this tea later last time. A burp.
10s: light smoky smell in gaiwan + lid. Sort of bland upfront, then sugary aftertaste that isn’t necessary
stronger than before, but seems to fill mouth more, in addition to not having drying feel of before. Also something of steamed vegetables in aftertaste. 2 burps.
15s: A light smoky vegetal. Similar sugar to aftertaste, but not as crisp. A more rounded sort of taste. something lightly herbal that escapes quickly. Dried berries.
several hours later: 20s: something sort of sharp upfront that quickly turns into sugary aftertaste. 2 burps.
23s: Quick hit of astringency and bitterness. Dried berries + something medicinal that lingers slightly. Sugary aftertaste present, but lighter. Some hint of sour, along w/ slight cool feeling in throat. Sugary aftertaste turns into something akin to mint maybe grassy. A burp.
28s: sharp + strong! turns into familiar sugar aftertaste. Something mint somewhere. Slightly drying on tongue, but that recedes fairly quick. 2 burps.
25s: smoky dried fruit. A hint of mint somewhere. Similar aftertaste to before, but mint on aftertaste. 2 burps.
30s: something like a honey-coated bitter, with edges of mint & crushed sugar, that goes from taste to lingering after. A burp.
33s: light bitter that recedes quickly. Ending edges are crisp sugar of before. 2 burps.
36g: young Sheng & warm w/ hints or spice taste that goes to sweet aftertaste
7/12: not that I should’ve been as surprised as I was, but the leaves had mold this morning when I remembered to get back to this. I would’ve liked to finish up the second review, but unfortunately will be unable to as I don’t think I’d purchase more of this. I will have to do more steepings with the Simple Syrup water recipe, but I have mixed thoughts on it. It definitely affected this tea, but in a way that sort of declawed the cat, so to speak. My parents don’t like me having too much young sheng (or any sheng, really) since they’re into all the TCM stuff, but imo, some of this tea’s charm lies in showcasing its edges juxtaposed to the crushed sugar cubes in the aftertaste. Simple Syrup brought out some different facets, but I don’t know if I’d necessarily prefer it against the original steeping.
2011 Xia Guan Jin Se Yin Xiang
Liquid Proust Teas
7.3g, 105 mL gaiwan, Brita filtered tap, 212f
dry leaves are pretty standard sheng smell
wet leaves are smoky with a hint of spice, soup, & dried fruit
15s: not much flavor, but a lightly peppery aftertaste. waiting for leaves to decompress some more.
15s: broth has a sort of grainy smell. slightly woody medicinal w/ a hint of citrus
20s x2: bitter upfront with hints of dried fruit later appearing. something vaguely citrus-y about it.
30s: leaves and broth both smell sweeter. Tea itself is bitter & brisk as usual. aftertaste picks up more of a fruity floral as well as a sort of cooling mint.
1 min: still strong on bitter notes that turn into a cool sweetness. Aftertaste had something of a soapy note
I got bored and tossed the rest into the thermos. Didn’t take notes on the result, and don’t remember what it was like, so probably as expected.
7.2g, 100 mL gaiwan, Brita filtered tap, 212f or just off the boil
dry aroma is a bit earthy
wet aroma just like a sheng, not much else I could pick up. tea smell has a bit of mushroom and age, but that could just be my cha hai starting to accumulate aged smells (oops)
5s: slightly dried fruity in the aftertaste. initial taste is a bit peppery, then slight sweet in taste and aftertaste.
3s: mildly sweet
5s: brew darkened. darker medicinal notes creep in, with hint of astringency and cool lingering feel.
10s: same as before. less sweet, more of a peppery bite in slight medicinal undertones
12s: bitterness is slight, but present.
did some more steepings, but this one was iffy for me, as the bitterness was a bit much. Even the thermos brew overnight didn’t remove bitterness, but merely lightened it and thickened brew w/ slight bit of grainyness/peanut-y of thermos sheng. Probably needs more aging to take off more of the harsh edges.
posted on the wrong tea yesterday. Oops. This is for the Huang Ya. Updated the correct Gan Lu review.
3.0g, 100 mL Brita water, 180f-190f
no strong smell, but slight sweet and malty
30s: wet leaves smell of cooked tomato like sour and sweet, which is a little strange. tastes slightly sweet, slightly thick. slightly lingering undertone of tomato, but passes so fast it may as well not have happened.
30s 2nd infusion: similar
forgot to note exact time, but probably similar to before. 3rd infusion note: light astringency and bitterness. sharp toasty note.
5.4g, 100 mL gaiwan
dry leaves have a slight sweet spice to them, as well as a slight sort of fruit in the way that some black teas seem to carry.
in prewarmed gaiwan, strong milk chocolate note.
wet leaves smell like any black tea leaves with a touch of sweet potato.
5s: classic slight yammy taste of black teas. Aftertaste is sweet and slightly lingering in a brown sugar sort of way. something also reminds me of celery.
10s: touch of bitterness w/ a sort of chocolate feel. A peppery hint.
15s and 20s: not much change.
stopped here. I have never been a fan of black teas (of the 红茶 sort) and this one didn’t change my mind. It’s the kind of thing where you know something is good quality-wise, but you just don’t like it anyway due to personal preferences. Tried it anyway since Sweetest Dew’s lineup is all worth trying, so overall, no regrets.
2.1g, 90 mL water, 180f
Meng Ding Gan Lu
leaves don’t have any strong smell to note, except maybe raisins or maybe that’s just the paper bag style that seems to give contents an odd smell. leaves in warmed gaiwan give off a slight warm, nutty smell.
1 min: weak
30s: strong beany taste w/ tannins, slight drying and astringency
1 min. 30s: more tannins
2 min: smoky note.
2 min. 30s: smoky
indefinite, cooled: tastes and feels a bit like a young sheng puer off the first steepings. Not sure what it was, but my stomach felt a bit funny afterwards and I connected the dots. Only really bitterness and sharp edged throughout though, and lacking in the complexity that a quality young sheng would have.
Maybe batch issues, or I got something different than the rest of the people reviewing on their site that seemed to have loved it. Plenty of great green teas out there; this is not one of them.
5.8g, 100 mL gaiwan
dry leaves smell like dried cranberries (Ocean Spray!) and a hint of dark chocolate
leaves in prewarmed gaiwan bring out strong toast/roast notes. still raisin and chocolate
wet leaves smell very smoky
5s: slight sweet & smoke that becomes a slight fruity aftertaste. empty cup smells like brown sugar from baked chocolate chip cookies. slight hint of bitterness.
7s: not super interesting
12s: more roasted
30s: soapy mint aftertaste. leaves also smell soapy.
10 min: still not much change so stopped pin cha here. slight osmanthus note on the lid. pretty disappointed by this one, especially since it started off well. soup never thickened for me, but that could be due to the local tap. Taste was pretty flat, which could be partly due to water, but also I’ve brewed plenty of teas fine with this water.
thermos overnight 212f w/ just remaining leaves from packet: dark hazelnut and roast. Quite good, though not sure if I’d repurchase.
100 mL gaiwan, 5.8g, 212f Brita filtered tap
dry leaves: not much scent
wet leaves: smoky, roast, dried fruits
5s: very light, slightly medicinal woody and leaves a lightly sweet aftertaste
15s: hint of bitterness. more medicinal and woody.
later infusions gain a citrus note.
Not sure why I didn’t make more detailed notes on this one, but seems like it was also during midterms season. Oh well.