Notes on Tea

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Updated: 51 min 16 sec ago

Totem Tea Golden Hand Taiwan Black

Wed, 12/13/2017 - 16:01

I must admit that when I think of the name "Golden Hand" I also think of "Goldfinger" by Shirley Bassey. Totem Tea named this Taiwanese tea for the "golden tips of the leaves" and because the tea is "completely handmade". Indeed, the dry leaves are dark with golden highlights. The single note of chocolate from the dry leaves is not indicative of the many notes of the liquor.

The recommended steeping parameters are 150 mL, 195F, 30s. I steeped the entire 5+ gram sample in approximately 150mL of 205F water for 30 second infusions.

The first infusion was robust. The liquor was medium to full bodied. There was no doubt that this tea was a hong cha. It was malty, sweet, and fruity. The second infusion revealed dry, fruity chocolate notes with a tart red fruit tail note. I detected a creamy texture on the middle to the back of my tongue. There was a lingering woody taste which I identified as cedar but I think this is my default woody note in the same way that rose is my default floral note when it comes to tea tasting. The flavors did not stop there. The cooling spice effect of Ruby 18 was also present as well as a warm, wet soil taste, though clean, not funky.

I steeped this tea two more times both of which were increasingly less robust than the previous one. The third infusion retained the creamy textured tail note. The liquor tasted of a chalky, unsweetened chocolate and produced a lingering drying effect. The fourth and final infusion was floral with a rough bark taste, and a chocolate tail note.

The best of the session was the second infusion. If I steeped this tea Western style if I could extract an entire cup of second-infusion flavors?! The multi-dimensional quality of the second infusion can be explained by the fact that this tea is a new cultivar derived from Ruby 20, Ruby 12, Jin Xuan, and Is Jun Chun.

Golden Hand Taiwan Black and other samples were provided by Totem Tea.

P.S. I received several sticks of incense with my tea samples from Totem Tea. I never thought it was appropriate to be in a scented environment when drinking tea. Therefore I have been reluctant to burn the incense. However, I did pair the young sandalwood incense with the Old World Qing Xin Oolong, a tea review I will post soon.

Song Yi Tea Roast Lishan Oolong

Tue, 12/05/2017 - 16:01

Every time I've prepared this roast oolong, the day has been overcast and misty, if not raining. I strongly recommend it for those kind of days, but before I share my complete notes, I want to introduce the tea company. Song Yi Tea is a fourth generation tea company based in Taiwan. The original plantation located in Nantou County dates back to 1898! In addition to the Roast Lishan, Song Yi also offers Dongding, Alishan, Shanlinshi, Jinshuan, Tie Guan Yin, and Sun Moon Lake Black. Some of these teas come in straight and roast versions. I received a sample pack from Song Yi and today I review the Roast Lishan Oolong.


Steeping parameters (recommended): 1 gram per 50 mL boiling water; I steeped 3 grams in 150 mL of 212F water
Dry leaf appearance: medium tightly rolled balls, dark green to dark brown in color with visible stems
Dry leaf fragrance: custard fruit, toasted, nutty
Infused leaf appearance: large, dark leaves
Liquor color: clear, bright, amber
Infusion 1 (65 seconds): lightly toasted, nutty, fruity
Infusion 2 (55 seconds): smooth roast, nutty, fruity; infused leaves smelled like charred vegetables
Infusion 3 (65 seconds but should have been 55 seconds): subdued, heavy-feeling liquor, heavy roast, light smoke
Infusion 4 (65 seconds): lighter
Infusion 5 (75 seconds): ghost notes

I prepared this tea again steeping 5 grams in 5 ounces of 195F water with 30-second infusions. The rinsed leaves smelled like sweet roast and nuts. The first cup was light bodied, sweet and fruit. The second infusion had an upfront roast and sweet char and a lingering tart, red fruit. The third infusion still had an upfront roast but with less edge. The fruit was still present though it was ephemeral. The lasting note was woody. The fourth cup had a softer roast note. The sweet char was back but the fruit has disappeared. The woody taste was aged cedar.


I find that roast oolongs can be hit or miss. Many are over roasted. This Roast Lishan Oolong had a strong roast note but it did not dominate the many other lovely flavors. The second infusion in my first session with this oolong was outstanding! Smooth roast, nutty, fruity; infused leaves smelled like charred vegetables. However I preferred the second session with this tea. If you buy this tea, try it both ways and let me know your preference.

Roast Lishan Oolong provided by Song Yi Tea.

Tillerman Tea Organic Chingjing Gaoshan Oolong - Winter 2016, Spring 2017

Mon, 12/04/2017 - 16:01
In my last review, I featured two oolongs (Wenshan Bao Zhong) from Tillerman Tea from back to back seasons grown by different farmers. Today I present two oolongs -from consecutive seasons, but this time the farmer is the same: Chingjing Winter 2016 and Chingjing Spring 2017. Chingjing (Cingjing or Qingjing) is named for the mountain on which it is grown. These teas were processed from the Qing Xin cultivar by grower Yen Ching-Yu (Katie).

The suggested parameters for both teas were 6 grams per 100 mL at 195F for 40 seconds or 3-5 grams in 8 ounces for 90 seconds. I averaged the instructions and used 3 grams in 6 ounces of 195F water starting with a 3-minute steep.


Dry leaf appearance: small, tight (in comparison to the Spring 2017) balls of varying shades of green with visible stems
Dry leaf fragrance: sweet, buttery, corn silk
Infused leaf appearance: large leaves
Liquor color: yellow
Infusion 1 (3 minutes): buttery, savory
Infusion 2 (3 minutes, 30 seconds): buttery, savory herb like tarragon
Infusion 3 (4 minutes): ghost note of butter

If you steep 3 grams of the this tea in 100 mL for 30-second infusions, you get buttery notes for three steeps. Extend the fourth infusion for 30 seconds to get a floral character like a tea with blended with cornflower.


Dry leaf appearance: larger and looser (in comparison to the Winter 2016) balls of varying shades of green with visible stems
Dry leaf fragrance: sweet, buttery
Infused leaf appearance: large leaves
Liquor color: gold
Infusion 1 (3 minutes): buttery with a floral center, light to medium bodied, lightly conifer scented steam
Infusion 2 (3 minutes, 30 seconds): depth of flavors with a lingering coniferous note in the back of the mouth on the cheeks
Infusion 3 (4 minutes): floral, fruity (cantaloupe), lingering dryness


Another pair of enjoyable oolongs from Tillerman Tea. Playing around with steeping parameters will reveal different components of each tea. I honestly don't have a preference between the two. I can say that my favorite infusion of the Winter 2016 was the second one. That tarragon note! This tea pairs well with a pesto sandwich, by the way. My favorite infusion of the Spring 217 was the third one. I really enjoyed floral and fruit layers. Yes, pair this tea with cantaloupe. I did.

Both Chingjing Gaoshan Oolongs provided by Tillerman Tea.