This is my first review in a series of six samples from China Cha Dao

Experience buying from China Cha Dao: I responded to an offer on Steepster for free samples. Received exactly what was stated in the offer: fresh tea and very generous sample sizes. On their website on eBay they have a good variety of tea for reasonable prices.

Age of leaf: Stated as 2011. Received in mid-summer, brewed in late summer 2011.

Packaging: small, clear bags with small label printed with the full name of the tea.

Dry leaf: long, slender, dark brown leaves. Slight scent, something burnt, like paper, gunpowder, or something (reminds me of the smell from my cap gun when I was a kid; wild!). I am guessing this is due to the roasting it goes through?

Brewing guidelines: loose in glass Bodum pot. Stevia added. (I wanted to start with shorter steeping times than the other reviewers to get a wider perspective—-range of flavor—-for this tea.)
…………….1st: 195, 2’
…………….2nd: 200, 3’
…………….3rd: 212, 5’
…………….4th: 195, 6’

Aroma: rich, almost like coffee.

Color of liquor: medium brown, like a lightly roasted coffee.

Wet leaf: slightly different smell than the dry leaf, more pleasant, perhaps sweeter? Lots of large, very dark leaves, a fair amount of smallish pieces (chopped?), and a few stems. Some of the leaves are so dark they look almost burnt (due to the roasting?). Leaves on the top of the water with some hanging vertically during the 1st steeping, some hanging vertically, and some on bottom, during the 2nd, and all sitting on the bottom during the 3rd and 4th steepings.

Flavor: (I struggled with how to describe the flavor, and I finally settled on this description) The taste is similar to the smell of the leaves, with a rich, roasted, robust flavor (the three R’s?!) reminding me of coffee. The third steeping tasted somewhat burnt (which I did not taste in the first or second steeping), but that was possibly because I used water that was too hot for it; I chalk that up as a learning experience: don’t steep this oolong in boiling water! Tasting it at room temperature, it tastes almost chocolaty. It held flavor all the way though to the fourth steeping (even at boiling!).

Value: Free 10-gram sample (Thank you Jerry Ma @ China Cha Dao tea on Ebay!). His regular tea is very reasonably priced, I judge ($7/125grams).

Overall: I am a newbie when it comes to oolongs (I’ve only had about three to four), so I invite you to read my review from that point of view. This may be the most challenging review I have written to date, trying to pin down the flavors and aromas.
I like this tea! It gives me somewhat of a sense that I am drinking coffee, as seule771 has mentioned in her review (I like coffee, but my wife does not, and she does not like this tea either). There is something else about it that I like which is hard for me to put my finger on; I think it’s that it tastes fresh. There is nothing stale or off-putting about the flavor in this tea at all. Although it is rich and robust, it is nonetheless somewhat mild tasting, and still enjoyable (I don’t know if you can have rich, robust and mild in the same cup, but that’s the best way I can describe it for now!). There certainly seem to be subtle flavors stealthily swimming around in my cup that I am missing (as a few of the other reviews has eluded to), and that’s all the more reason for me to drink a tea like this: to discover the wonders hidden in this cuppa!

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(Updated 6-3-2014)

After about three years I changed my avatar from the picture of a green teacup with steam rising (one I created using Paint) to this dragon gaiwan. This is one of my favorite gaiwans, although I haven’t brewed any tea in it as of yet.

You can call me, Joe.

What, How and Why I steep:

I typically expect, and shoot for, at least three flavorful steepings out of (just about) any tea I brew up.

I generally start at the times and temps below ( = minute(s), " = second(s) ), then add 5F and 30" for each successive steeping:
Chinese Green - 175F, 1’ ;
Japanese Green - 160F, 1’add 15F, then decrease by 15";
White - 160F, 2’;
Oolong - This varies;
Indian Black/Chinese Red and Herbals - a little off the boil, 2’; why do I start with such low temps & short steep times? So as to ‘spread out’ the flavor over multiple steepings. I have found this to work with every tea I have tried so far. Also, I am not looking for intense flavor in that first cup (i.e. Western style), I would prefer to taste it—and savor—it over many steepings.
Pu-erh - Beginning in 2014, I finally chose to dive into pu-erh! Standard parameters when I brew ripened pu-erh in my 150 ml gaiwan (I also own an 11 oz Yixing):
First I do a 15" rinse with near boiling water. Then for each successive steeping I add Stevia.
……….1st: Near boiling, 0.5’
……….2nd: Boiling , 1’
……….3rd: Boiling , 1.5’
etc. Until there is no flavor, or I ran out of time and energy.

I hope to ‘streamline’ my reviews going forward, so, hopefully, they are a little less technical and dry (and perhaps even stilted), and a little more organic and experiential (and hopefully, flowing); this somewhat new approach to reviews is a kind of metaphor for where my life is headed right now, and is one reason why I write reviews: as a kind of time-capsule of where I was in my life at that time.

Tea Rating scale:

1 – 29: There is no reason to even think about drinking this stuff again.
30-49: I may drink it if someone else brewed it up, but I would not bother brewing it up myself let alone bother buying any.
50 – 59: I like something about it, and I may brew it up if I already have some, but I would not buy any more of it.
60 – 69: I like a few things about it, and I may buy it if the price is right.
70 – 79: This is a tea I enjoy and would drink fairly regularly as long as it is reasonably priced.
80 – 89: A tea I will drink as often as I can, and will likely try to buy some when I run out (as long as it’s affordable).
90 – 99: This has everything I look for in the best of teas: beauty in appearance, a delightful aroma, and most importantly, depth and yummy-ness in its flavor.
100: Perfect.

My primary interest is in artisan loose-leaf Chinese green, red and ripe pu-erh tea, although I enjoy a white and an oolong tea every now and then as well. Here and there I brew a few of the other true teas and an occasional herbal.

Since I choose to live on a very limited income (‘Voluntary Simplicity’), I have to be very conscience about how much I pay for tea. In reading their Tea Enthusiast’s books, Mary Lou and Robert J. Heiss sold me on the wonders of artisan teas. Thankfully I have found that there is affordable, artisan tea out there; it’s just like anything else that has true value: it takes hard work, dedication and at least a little persistence to find it.

I came to tea out of a desire to find something to help calm and focus my mind as naturally as possible. My mind is very active, so to speak, and at times I find it very difficult to focus and keep myself centered. For years now I have been practicing Yoga daily along with others things to help me to stay relaxed and present, but I found I wanted a little something extra to help me start the day; the theanine in green tea seems to help me in this.

I have been enjoying loose-leaf tea since November of 2010.

I enjoy connecting with others about tea.

I drink Stevia with just about all of my tea (no sugar or artificial sweeteners).

I drink a pot of green tea every day in the AM (usually steeped three times over the course of the day), sharing it with my wife.

Each tea in my cupboard is carefully and colorfully labeled in a tin or in a jar that used to hold something else (I love to reuse things!) .

I have three teapots: a glass Bodum – I don’t use the metal infuser/press anymore (greens), a 16 oz glass Victorian (to brew greens and whites, and to use as a pot to decant other teas into), and an 11 oz Yixing (ripe Pu-erh only). (New in 2014) I also one a number of gaiwans ranging in volume from from 125 ml to 250ml.

I tend to be direct, straightforward and honest when I post anything to the discussion boards. I take the approach that everything I say is stated with the implied disclaimer: In My Humble Opinion (i.e. IMHO). I may occasionally emphasize this point, where appropriate. I view your comments in the same way. You are in no way obligated to read what I have posted. And I am in no way similarly obligated to you.

Sitting with my cup of tea I greet the day in anticipation of new discoveries along the way.


Midwest, USA

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