Precious A Li Shan Tea from Tao Tea Leaf

A_Li_Shan_OolongTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy: Tao Tea Leaf

Tea Description:

A Li Shan is prizes for its quality, considered by many to be the highest quality of Taiwanese tea. The tea is grown on Pear Mountain (Li Shan.) The mountain gets its name from its many pear orchards surrounding the area. The tea has a complex mixture of flavours. The first thing that comes through is the soft, almost creaminess followed by the sweet fruity flavours that can be detected in the aroma. The tea has a medium to light body and as a refreshingly smooth finish.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I find myself reaching for hot teas despite the rising indoor and outdoor temperatures. Iced tea certainly has a time and place, but for me, nothing can replace the comfort of a hot cup of tea. I tend to drink black or darker teas in the morning and follow them with greener, lighter teas in the afternoon and evening.

The beginning of the sip reminds me a little bit of sweet butter with corn. It quickly changes into something more floral, but lingers around just long enough to keep me interested. The rest of the sip is very green, almost a bit earthy. Flowers are still quite prominent and the buttery corn is nowhere to be found. I don’t detect a whole lot of fruit as the description mentions.. mostly leaves and flowers. I think that I’d like this cup more if it had creamier, fruitier elements. I do enjoy a floral oolong, but I suppose that I have to be in the mood for it.

This is a very nice choice to drink during the summer. It has a satisfying richness, but is still light enough to sip into the late afternoon or early evening. This tea would be a good choice for someone’s first oolong. It gives you a little bit of everything – flowers, earth, a hint of creaminess – without sacrificing body or the cup as a whole. I like that no single flavor takes over, but that they all contribute something, leading to a very balanced cup.

Rou Gui Oolong from Tao Tea Leaf

Rougui_Wuyi_OolongTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Oolong

Where to Buy:  Tao Tea Leaf

Tea Description:

Rou Gui is treasured for its cinnamon flavour as well as its impressive stamina.   This tea also has the unique ability to keep its distinct flavours after multiple steepings upwards of 7 times.  Rou Gui comes from the historic WuYi mountains in the Chinas Fujian Province. This area is also famous for producing other famous teas like Lapsang Souchong and the famous Da Hong Pao.  Rou Gui has a medium and very smooth body with hints of floral orchid with a lovely honey-like finish.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I’ve only tried a few different Rou Gui oolongs before, most of them from Nannuoshan, but so far I haven’t found one I dislike – the wide range of flavours experienced with the different infusions very much appeal to me so this Rou Gui oolong from Tao Tea Leaf is just going to further my exploration of the class. To stay consistent with the other Rui Gui I’ve tried I had a Gong Fu session with this one using my gaiwan.

The leaves for this are very dark, almost charcoal or black, and decently large. The smell of the dry leaf is very roasty with some fruity sweetness layered underneath. It’s perhaps a touch peachy? I did a ten second wash with this one; as the water hit the leaves my kitchen was instantly filled with a very robust, borderline earthy and roasty smell.

Infusion One: 10 Seconds – This is surprisingly sweet right off the bat despite quite strong toasted barley notes. It’s a little nutty and definitely has some stonefruit notes as well; like dried peach drizzled with honey. There’s maybe some cinnamon too, but not much. These notes comprise the start of the sip and the body. The finish tastes of corn chips and flax to me with a very intense  presence of raisins in the finish. I’m usually quite anti-raisin but I actually like the way it tastes here. The taste of the raisin lingers in your mouth for a very long time after swallowing; minutes.  For the most part it’s very smooth though it did leave my front two teeth feeling very dry. Leaves are barely opened up at all and smell quite roasty with cinnamon notes and something maybe vaguely like coffee grounds?

Infusion Two: 15 Seconds – Still tastes strongly of roasted barley but it a bit more nutty and has woody notes at the start as well as much more defined cinnamon notes. The body is comprised mostly of rich peach and raisin notes. The honey notes have also gotten stronger, and are tightly tying in with the raisin. Some floral notes have begun creeping in as well. I’m almost reminded of a roasted trail mix with dried fruit/raisins mixed in. This subtle transition of flavours is keeping true to what I’ve observed with other Rou Gui. The leaves smell subtly fruitier.

Infusion Three: 30 Seconds – Ooh! This was not a good pour; I spilled tea everywhere. The flavour is really starting to turn. I’m observing a dramatic decrease in roasted flavour. Definitely strong peach/raisin notes; the strongest so far. The peach is less so a dried peach flavour now, and closer to something fresh. Significantly more floral with more defined floral notes like orchid. Almost seems buttery. Leaves are almost completely opened up and smell sweet like honey and quite floral. There’s absolutely no dry feeling on my teeth from this infusion.

Infusion Four: 40 Seconds – There’s essentially no barley, nut or roasted flavour left. The liquor tastes quite floral with strong raisin and honey notes. The peach has faded quite a lot which is actually kind of disappointing; now that the focus is more on the taste of the raisin I’m losing interest. Also, it’s definitely very buttery. This is the lightest and most watery infusion yet. I’m sure I could probably get a decent fifth infusion but for my own personal tastes the leaves may very well be spent. They are, however, fully opened and smell sweet like honey and flowers.

This is definitely similar to the other Rou Gui/Cassia Teas I’ve tried but unique in its own right too – I definitely experience some more unique notes with the first steep like corn chips and flax, and I don’t remember really tasting raisin with the others I’ve tried. It’s definitely something I’d serve to other people and I would totally drink it again myself.

TangYang GongFu Black Tea from Tao Tea Leaf

Tang_Yang_Gong_FuTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy: Tao Tea Leaf

Tea Description:

Well known throughout the world, TangYang GongFu is a fully oxidized black tea from the Fujian province of China. The tea was created in the year 1371 during the dawn of the Ming Dynasty. This tea has a thick and heavy body and tastes bold and slightly sweet.  The brew is a perfect balance between the bitterness,  sweet, honey and fruit like flavors.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I may be ruffling some feathers of you Chinese black tea lovers out there, but I just want to put my honest opinions out in the open. Fujian Province makes the best black teas. Hands down. My favorite black tea of all time is Jin Jun Mei, (also known as Beautiful Golden Eyebrow) which is also from Fujian. Must be something in the water. Or the dirt. Or the air. Yup. It’s gotta be the dirt. Just looking at this dark chocolaty brown leaf of this tea is making me thirsty. I love seeing the little golden fuzzy twirls hiding out within, that coy, delicate bud just waiting to hit me over the head with its rich deliciousness.

Of course, I whipped out my trusty porcelain gaiwan and got down to it. I just had to gongfu brew this tea. I mean, it even has the word in it’s name!  I used 3g of slender, lightly twisted,  leaf in my 100ml gaiwan. I gave it a quick rinse for about 3 seconds before beginning. Even the rinse had already become a deep, rustic brown. I knew I was in for a treat.

The tea was gracious enough to brew up all of it’s goodness slowly, letting me enjoy every last drop to it’s fullest. The soup was thick and broth, and a brilliant red. The taste was heavy in my mouth, and the flavors lasted long after each sip. I got no astringency whatsoever, it was so even and smooth. The aroma is similar to fresh baked whole wheat bread, with perhaps some dried fruit snuck inside. Upon further inspection, I detect creamed honey and thick malt coating my throat. It still retains that bread quality without becoming toast. This would make for an excellent breakfast tea!