ShanLinXi Highest Mountain Oolong Tea from Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company

ShanLinXiTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy:  Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company

Tea Description: 

This tea is a premium GaoShanCha. The special reserve teas are grown at very high elevations and take longer to grow. They take their time growing and develop a deeper, fuller flavor. This tea has a heavy liquor, it’s not dry at all or bitter. It’s very clean and refreshing. Explore this tea slowly with many infusions and you might catch such notes as butterscotch. We recommend brewing this tea gongfu style. Like our other teas, this tea is expertly grown, hand-picked, hand-processed and vacuum packed at the source!  Only our face-to-face sourcing directly with farmers insures you premium quality!  

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Wow!  This is an amazing tea!

The aroma of the dry leaf is intense.  It has a strong, sweetly floral fragrance.  The brewed liquid smells much softer, but I’m still able to pick up on those lovely notes of flower as well as hints of fruit.

To brew this tea, I grabbed my trusty gaiwan and measured out a little less than a bamboo scoop into the bowl of the vessel.  Because of the intense fragrance, I felt comfortable using a little less leaf than I usually would and after taking my first sip, I know I made the right call.  I use my instincts a lot when it comes to tea and more often than not, they have not let me down.

I performed a quick rinse (a 15 second infusion that is strained and discarded) and then infused the leaves for 45 seconds.  I strained the tea into a teacup and infused the leaves a second time, this time for 1 minute.  I strained the tea of the second infusion into the same teacup; hence what I am enjoying now is the combined first and second infusions.

And it is gooooood!

I drink a lot of tea.  And I’ve been drinking a lot of tea for many years.  For quite a few of those years, I’ve been writing about tea and before that time, I was creating my own tea blends.  So, I feel comfortable in saying that I’m knowledgeable about tea.  However, I certainly don’t consider myself a tea expert.  I think I could be drinking tea and writing about it for double the time that I have and I’m pretty confident that there is still a great deal that I don’t know about tea.  Tea is such a vast and somewhat mysterious subject.  Perhaps that’s why it keeps me intrigued.

And the reason I bring that up is this:  I am finding myself wondering how closely related are a ShanLinXi Oolong Tea (like this tea that I’m drinking) and an AliShan Oolong Tea?  If anyone out there has some knowledge they’d like to share with me, I’d really appreciate comments in the comment section.

In the meantime, let me tell you about what I’m experiencing with this tea.

The above description suggests notes of butterscotch.  And YES … I taste butterscotch!  I couldn’t believe it at first.  At first, I thought that my mind was playing tricks on me.  But no.  This tea has a lusciously sweet, delectable butterscotch-y taste to it.  I don’t often experience a caramel-y/butterscotch-esque note to an Oolong like this so I find myself amazed by this tea.

Sweet.  Yes, deliciously so.  Smooth.  No bitterness whatsoever.  No astringency.  No dryness at the tail.  No tangy sensation.  Just smooth from start to finish.  When I take a sip, It’s almost as if I have one of those yummy butterscotch candies in my mouth and it’s melting over my palate.

Once my palate became accustomed to the delightful sweetness of the tea, I started to pick up on notes of flower.  These are mere whispers of flower and the creaminess of the tea softens what sharpness the floral notes might bring to the cup.  I am also picking up on delicate notes of spice that complement the butterscotch notes.

For my second cup, I added 15 seconds onto each subsequent infusion and combined infusions 3 and 4.  This cup is less butterscotch-y than the first.  Oh sure, I still taste some of those delectably sweet notes.  The cup is still creamy and sweet, but I find that the distinct butterscotch has softened somewhat to allow my palate to experience the floral notes that were in the background in the first cup.  I like the way the butterscotch and flowery flavors play together on the palate.  It’s a really unique and delightful experience.

As I said earlier, I’ve been drinking tea for a long time but I don’t think I’ve experienced an Oolong quite like this.

Later infusions proved to be very enjoyable as well.  The flavor kept going strong with each infusion – I managed eight delicious infusions!  I found that with each cup, the creaminess softened somewhat from what i experienced in that first amazing cup and it was my favorite of the four cups I drank from these leaves.  But the three subsequent cups were quite lovely as well and I enjoyed discovering the layers of flavor that this ShanLinXi had to offer.

If you’re an Oolong lover, this tea should be a MUST TRY on your list.  Any tea drinker should try this, it’s an incredible tea!

Shan Black Tea (2014) from Shan Valley

Black_TeaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Shan Valley

Tea Description:

This is a first flush black tea, and is processed as is local tradition in Myanmar, the tea leaves are a little more uneven and have a balanced flavor. This tea is similar to the Kyaukme Black Tea.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Similar to the Kyaukme Black Tea from Shan Valley that I reviewed previously (as well as their 2013 Shan Black Tea), this black tea leaf has a very fine grind to the leaf that resembles a finely ground coffee bean.  But as I said with the Kyaukme Black Tea, I will say with this tea, don’ t let the fine chop on these leaves dissuade you from trying it.  It really is a splendid tea!

I recall the Kyaukme Black tea having an aroma to the dry leaf that reminded me very much of coffee.  I don’t experience that scent with this tea.  This smells a little more earthy.  There are notes of leather and fruit and even the slightest floral note to this.  This smells much more like black tea than coffee.

To brew this CTC tea, I used my Breville One Touch and measured 1 1/2 bamboo scoops into the basket of the tea maker.  Then I poured 500ml of freshly filtered water into the kettle and set the timer for 2 1/2 minutes and the temperature for 212°F and let the tea maker get to work!

I would recommend that you experiment with this tea (or any other tea that has a fine CTC cut to it) to find what time works best for your palate.  2 1/2 minutes is cutting it pretty close for me, but I really wanted some edge to the cup when I brewed this tea.  I am addicted to caffeine, you see, and I was experiencing a withdrawal headache.

Anyway, if you find that a CTC tea is too bitter for your liking when you’ve brewed it, try reducing the brew time by 30 seconds or 1 minute.  You may find that you love that CTC!  Sure, whole leaf is awesome … but just because the chop is fine on a tea doesn’t mean that it’s anything like that horrible dust and fannings that you’ll find in those tea bags from the grocery store.

The tea brews to a dark brown, almost black color.  It brews so dark that it almost looks like a cup of black coffee.  The aroma is rich and sweet with notes of molasses and hints of earth and leather.  The fragrance here is much softer than that of the dry leaf, and I’m experiencing none of the aforementioned fruit or floral notes in the aroma.

But that’s OK because really, when it comes right down to it, it’s the flavor that counts and the flavor here is so rewarding.  It’s a rich, robust cup of tea that has the vigor to get you going.  This would make a really good breakfast tea and would take the additions of milk and honey quite well if you like to add those to your breakfast cuppa.

This is a very flavorful cup.  It isn’t bitter but I suspect that if I had brewed it for another 30 seconds it would be.  It’s right at that edge that I was looking for to deliver me a cup full of gusto but not so much that I can’t enjoy it.  I AM enjoying this!  Immensely!

It has a deep flavor to it.  As I mentioned before, the aroma of the dry leaf is earthy with notes of leather and I do taste subtle notes of both earth and leather here, but they are much more subtle than the aroma suggests.  Malt!  A malty note that would rival your favorite Assam!  I taste a deep molasses-y sort of flavor, like caramel that has been made from molasses (if there is such a thing.)  I can taste a “burnt sugar” sort of flavor.

Last year’s Black Tea from Shan Valley had a very prominent cacao sort of flavor and I’m not experiencing that quite as much with this tea.  I’m also experiencing less of a roasted sort of flavor.  I still taste these notes, but they are less obvious to me than the malt and burnt-sugar/molasses notes that I mentioned before.  There is a fair amount of astringency, I would classify it as medium astringency.  As I continue to sip, I start to notice a sort of bake-y type of flavor that is reminiscent of freshly baked bread and I’m picking up on notes that are somewhat fruit like, hinting at notes of black currant, grapes, and plums.

I find that this flush is a little bit different from last year’s tea, and that’s why you want to try each flush, to experience all the flavors that each flush offers!  This one is much more rugged than last year’s Shan Black, but both are really wonderful teas and well worth experiencing!

Huoshan Huang Ya Yellow Tea from What-Cha Tea

HuoShanHuangYaTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Yellow

Where to Buy:  What-Cha Tea

Tea Description:

A rare tea produced only a few days each Spring that features a great bamboo nose and a slight nutty taste followed by a lingering sweet after-taste.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Yay!  Yellow Tea!  It’s been quite some time since I’ve tried a “new-to-me” yellow tea for review.  Yellow Tea is my all time favorite type of tea.  I love it.  And I LOVE this Huoshan Huang Ya Yellow Tea from What-Cha Tea!

To brew this tea, I used my gaiwan and measured one bamboo scoop of tea into it, and then I heated the water to 170°F.  First I rinsed the leaves with the water, by infusing them for 15 seconds and then straining off the liquid and discarding it.  Then I steeped the first infusion for 45 seconds and added 15 seconds to each subsequent infusion.  I strained each infusion into my very special Yellow Tea Yi Xing mug.  This mug is a little larger than my Ali Shan and Jasmine Yi Xing mugs, so I can fit 6 infusions of tea in the mug.  So that’s what I did.  I’m now sipping on the results of the first six infusions of this tea. HuoShanHuangYa1

Mmm!  Sweet and delicious.  The texture is creamy and smooth.  The sip starts out sweet with nutty nutty notes.  By mid-sip, I’m picking up on notes of flower.  The sweetness remains throughout the sip.  The aftertaste is delicately floral with a light sweetness.

What I like best about Yellow tea versus say, a white or green tea or even a green Oolong is that there are elements of most of these teas:  I taste creamy notes that you might find in these three tea types, but it’s not quite as heavy in texture as an Oolong or even a green tea might be.  It has subtle floral tones but they aren’t as sharp as with these other teas types.  And there is less of a vegetal note than with these other three tea types.  In fact, I’m having a hard time detecting ANY vegetal note to this cup, and I’m searching for it.  There is a very, very faint vegetal note hiding in the distance behind the sweet, nutty flavors and the notes of flower in the breeze.

It’s simply a wonderful tea, and this yellow from What-Cha is beyond wonderful.  Better than wonderful.  It’s absolutely, exquisitely perfect!

Li Shan Black Tea from Green Terrace Teas

LiShanBlackTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  Green Terrace Teas

Tea Description:

Our founder’s favorite tea – this is a rare and unique cultivar available only in Taiwan. Grown at elevations of over 2,000 meters, our spring harvest is both exquisite and complex in character. Non-astringent and mildly sweet, this black tea has floral and fruity undertones with notes of plum and honey. Its aroma of sweet, ripe fruit is strong and noticeable instantly after the leaves come in contact with hot water. If you’ve never had a quality black tea before, this variety is a must try. Best brewed with multiple, short infusions.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Oh my goodness, this is so amazingly good.

Once upon a time, I was introduced to one of the most amazing black teas I had ever tasted.  It was called Dawn by Simple Leaf.  Since that time, Simple Leaf has closed.  Sadness!  But since that time, I have found a few teas that stack up to that amazing black tea.  This is one such tea.  This tea … is just as good – if not better, than I remember Dawn tasting!

It’s SWEET, rich and chocolate-y.  Background notes of sweet stone fruit.  A honey-caramel sweetness to this as well as the sweet fruit and flower notes that fill out the background.  As I continue to sip, I notice more of the fruit and floral notes emerging, and the chocolate-y notes seem to back off just a bit to allow the other flavors to be discovered.  I notice some of the “berry-esque” notes that I would taste if I were eating a high quality dark chocolate.

This is well-rounded and even though it coats the palate with delicious flavors, it isn’t a heavy tea.  My palate doesn’t feel overwhelmed after I’ve had a sip.  The aftertaste is lightly sweet.

I used boiling water to infuse this tea, using about 1 1/2 teaspoons of leaf for 12 ounces of water, and steeped the tea for 3 minutes.  This produced a remarkably satisfying cup.  Smooth, rich, and invigorating.

A truly wonderful tea!  I’ve enjoyed all the teas that I’ve tried from Green Terrace Teas thus far – but this … this is my favorite.  This is one that everyone should try, especially if you find yourself missing Dawn or if you never had the opportunity to try Dawn!  Put this on your shopping list right now!

2014 Shan First Flush Green Tea from Shan Valley

ShanFirstFlushTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Green

Where to Buy:  Shan Valley

Tea Description:

This tea is considered to be the freshest and most sought after tea.  Shan First Flush Reserve tea is the first harvest in the year and only occurs once a year, usually in early April.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Oh, this tea is AWESOME!  I have really enjoyed the first flush teas that Shan Valley has offered this year.  They’ve been really lovely, and this tea is certainly no exception to that statement.  This is really a delightful green tea.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to try last year’s First Flush Green Tea from Shan Valley, so I wasn’t sure how this year’s first flush would differ from last year’s.  The dry leaf looks very much the same, dark in color (it almost looks like a black tea or a dark Oolong), but the color liquid these dark leaves produce is a pale greenish-amber color.  The aroma of the liquor is fresh and vegetal.

Right off the bat, I can tell you that I find the flavor of this tea to be more forward than last year’s first flush.  That is to say, I’m tasting a stronger flavor to the tea.  It still has it’s delicate nuances, but I taste more of the sweet, vibrant flavors than I remember tasting in last year’s first flush green.

It is lush and vegetative, reminding me of mild steamed vegetables.  And yes, I’m picking up on that bright citrus-y note that I tasted with last year’s tea.  I’m also getting a slight creaminess from this cup which I don’t recall experiencing from last year’s tea.  Imagine a creamed spinach but with maybe half of the “cream” eliminated from the dish and replaced with a squeeze of fresh lemon.  I get some cream, I get some lemon-ish notes and I’m getting that really fresh, exhilarating “green” taste. It’s a really invigorating and refreshing tea!

While I generally prefer most teas hot – and this tea is no exception to that – I really enjoyed this one chilled too.  After I finished my cup of this tea, I decided to resteep the leaves and take a sip, and I found that while the creamy tones were lighter in the second resteep, the flavors were still abundant in that second cup of tea.  Then I decided to go ahead and chill the rest of the pot, and I brewed a little more to make a half gallon pitcher full of green tea goodness, courtesy of the Shan Valley.  And it was so cool and absolutely lovely to drink on these hot summer days we’ve been experiencing.

Shan Valley has some amazing teas to offer – I highly recommend them to any tea lover!  This tea company offers a new and exciting tea journey!