M&K’s Tea Co. Cherry Blossom Oolong (Sakura Phoenix)

(Tea Provided For Review)

I decided to try this Sakura Phoenix tea today because it felt the most interesting of my samples as it is a Chinese oolong mixed with pickled Japanese cherry blossoms. I am not sure if I have ever had a tea like this before; I have had both Chinese Oolongs and pickled cherry blossoms, but never blended together.  M&K to describes this as:

M&K's is proud to offer our exclusive Sakura Phoenix tea! We take the famous Feng Huang Chinese oolong tea picked from wild and independent (Dancong) tea bushes growing on the mountainside, and combine the tea with pickled Japanese cherry blossoms, which retain their unique cherry scent straight from the tree they were picked from in Kyoto, Japan. Sakura Phoenix tea combines tastes of  honey and cherry blossoms with an aroma of garden orchids.  
*We highly recommend you "rinse" this tea before you drink it (because of the salt on the cherry blossoms as well as the Phoenix tea opening up with a rinse). Simply pour boiling water over the tea, allow it to sit for about 10-15 seconds, discard the water, and then proceed with a normal brew!

Dry Leaves: The dry leaves smell strongly of salt which is not surprising, I am a little disappointed that I could not smell any of the base Dancong. As for the tea leaves they are pretty typical of Dancongs, mostly dark brown although there are hints of yellows and greens. As for the pickled cherry blossoms they are in pretty good shape.

First Steeping
Temperature: 190oF
Brewing Time: Twenty Seconds
Aroma: Salt
Flavor: Orchid, Almonds, Salt and Floral
Tasting Notes: I was not planning on steeping this for as long as I did, but I had a bit of a problem with my camera, I’ve had problems with my camera not focusing on liquids before, but nothing like today. Anyways I hope you like out of focused blurry images; because that is what you are in for today. Nevertheless this is a very interesting tea, but first I must admit I did rinse this tea quite a lot; I did three rinses each for five seconds with boiling water to get most of the salt off.

This is a very sweet tea although if you are expecting a strong cherry taste you may want to look for a tea blended with hibiscus instead of pickled cherry blossoms, nevertheless I rather enjoyed it. I suspect most of the sweetness comes from the cherry blossoms, as the base tea has a lot of heartier tastes.  This sort of reminds me of a Mi Lan Xian for some reason. Anyways I decided to describe this as both Floral and having and Orchid flavor because when I brewed this tea it had a very noticeable Orchid taste and a slightly murky floral aftertaste.

Second Steeping
Temperature: 195oF
Brewing Time: Thirty Seconds
Aroma: Salt
Flavor: Orchid, Almond, Peach, Salt and Floral
Tasting Notes: Like the last infusion there is not much of an aroma which is quite a shame, because I suspect the base tea may have a nice aroma, I already mentioned the base tea reminds of a Mi Lan Xian since the Dancong flavors are starting to become stronger.

I prefer this infusion over the last since the salty flavor is starting to wane although more of the base tea and cherry blossom to shine, although the contrast is disappearing as well.

Third Steeping
Temperature: 200oF
Brewing Time: Forty-five Seconds
Aroma: Salt and Floral
Flavor: Floral, Almond, Peach and Honey
Tasting Notes: I am sad to say the Orchid flavor is gone; instead it started to become indistinct from the murky floral aftertaste although it was rather interesting to have a very strong murky floral flavor and aftertaste.  I am happy to say the salty notes are gone entirely, but I feel the pickled cherry blossoms were perhaps a little too salty I feel I missed out a lot the delicate early flavors. As for the flavors they are pretty much as strong as the previous infusion, but with some new honey notes, although without the salty contrast they feel much stronger. From here on out the almond and honey notes start to shine and the floral notes disappear around the sixth infusion.  

At the time of writing this M&K is currently selling 42.5g for $7.29 which seems fair although I’d be happier to pay more for 50g. My major criticism of this tea is the pickled cherry blossoms. While I did rinse this three times I feel it was a little too salty especially considering that I actually remembered to rinse it, I have had pickled cherry blossoms before, but I don’t remember them being this salty. I have a sneaking suspicion the cherry blossoms blended in this tea were intended for confectionaries rather than for tea, but at the same time I have not seen pickled cherry blossoms that looked as nice as these did. And then there is the possibility that I just had a very salty sample. I think this is worth checking out, especially if you do not drink a lot of straight teas, I imagine this would be a nice transition from flavored to straight teas since I could actually taste the tea. I have had a couple Cherry blossom flavored teas before, although they have all had green tea bases and blended with hibiscus and cherry flavoring, but this in my opinion is a much better tea.  


What-Cha's Vietnam Dragon Cloud Green Tea

What-Cha Vietnam Dragon Cloud Green Tea
Origin: La Bang, Thai Nguyen, Vietnam
Harvest: March 2015
Cultivar: Hybrid of Ta & long Jing


This is the first of What-cha’s new 2015 Vietnamese teas I decided to try, I originally was planning on having the Ta Jin Xuan Green tea first since I was amused at the idea of a green tea being made from a Jin Xuan hybrid, but ultimately I decided to sample this late one night since I was not expecting much of this. And I kind of regret choosing this first because it is amazing and the other What-Cha 2015 Vietnamese teas may pale in comparison to this. Before I gush about how much I love this tea, What-cha describes this as:
A splendid Vietnamese green tea with the cool minty tones associated with Long Jing coupled with the powerful grassy strength of typical Vietnamese greens, it very much lives up to its rich pedigree.
Dragon Cloud is a great example of the tea experimentation currently ongoing within Vietnam, it is a hybridisation of the native Vietnamese tea cultivar 'Ta' (meaning 'our' in Vietnamese) and the famed Chinese cultivar 'Long Jing' used in the production of Dragon Well.

Sourced direct from the Trong branch of the Vu family who operate a number of small farms around Vietnam, with one family member typically managing a single farm. The Vu family were one of the first to cultivate tea in Thai Nguyen, now considered one of the foremost Vietnamese tea regions.

Dry Leaves: The dry leaves are very green and have a fresh grassy aroma; it smells much cleaner than the typical long Jing. The leaves are a little on the small side and feel to be young buds which is amazing because of how inexpensive this tea is. 

Temperature: 167oF (+ 5o for each subsequent steeping)
Brewing Time: Ten Seconds (+ 10 Seconds for each subsequent steeping)
Aroma: Grassy
Flavor: Grassy, Nutty and Mint
Tasting Notes: This is a very powerful tea, What-cha warns about over brewing it, and even from just letting it steep just for ten seconds the brewed liquor is incredibly potent. While at the first steep it feels very much like your typical Long Jing, it lacks the sweetness of many. While at first this feels like a very powerful tea, it does have a soft side, sort of reminds me of a Bi Lo Chun. 

I was not really fond of the minty aftertaste, although I am not a fan of mint flavors to begin with, but the mint was an interesting contrast to the very clean Grassy and Nutty notes.  I decided not to follow my normal template and list my notes for the first three steeping because I could not notice significant change in-between any of them. I did get seven steeping out of this, although the leaves probably had more to give, but by the seventh steeping I was bored. I am not saying this tea is bad per se, but I would have preferred for the tea to change over time and it just didn’t.

Perhaps my style of documenting my tea tasting notes is lacking, while I am sure there was some change happening between infusions, but I could not tell. Oolong Owl tends to describe her tasting experience in numeric form with on a 1-10 scale and perhaps if I tried to train myself to judge intensity rather than strength this post could have been a better post, but at the end of the day even if I felt more competent in my ability to accurately describe this tea and the changes that happen over time I doubt I’d feel any different about it. 

I absolutely love this tea. At the time of writing this What-cha is currently selling 50g for $6.60 and I am confident that this is going to replace Long Jing as my green daily drinker. 


Crimson Lotus Tea Spring 2015 Kunlu Shan Slumbering Dragon Sheng

Origin: Pu’er
Harvest: Spring 2015
Elevation: 2000m
Tree Age: “As old as the earth itself”

Today I decided to try Crimson Lotus Tea’s Kunlu Shan Slumbering Dragon, another of Crimson Lotus Teas that I am hoping not to fall in love with. This is a rather interesting tea according to the description the trees that were used to make this cake, supposedly the trees are as old as the earth itself so anywhere between 6,000 years and 4.5 billion years and frankly those trees are too young for me to be seen in public with. Crimson Lotus Tea describes this as:
This is a rare puerh. Of all the tea we sell this is the hardest to source and the hardest to pick. There is a village in Kunlu Shan that isn't even on Google maps. Once you're there you need to hike another 3 kilometers into the mountains to get to these trees. The hike is often steep. You gain 500 meters and it takes more than 3 hours to get there. No one there knows how long the trees have been there or anything about their history. When you ask locals the age they simply reply that they are as old as the earth itself.
On the north slope of a steep mountain ridge, surrounded by dense forest, these trees reach to the sky. The trees at 20-40 feet tall literally scrape the ceiling of the forest. Impressive does not begin to describe these ancient beings. The Chinese call these trees '高杆'/gāogān which means "Tall Pole".
These skinny trees often grow in a trio and remain branchless until near the top. Barefoot, only the young and the brave, carefully climb to the top to pick the Spring harvest. There are no ropes, harnesses, or soft landings. It is dangerous work. In an attempt to conserve their strength for the ages these trees each produce precious few buds and new spring growth. A day's harvest for a young eager picker often maxes out around just 2kg. After roasting and sun drying perhaps half a kilo is all they have to show for the days work. It took them 2 weeks to harvest what we bought.
In 2014 we had a chance to buy a small amount of leaf from these special trees. We pressed just ten 100g cakes. Five we sold and five we kept for ourself. Out of all we sourced last year this puerh was the most unique. The flavor is strong, pure, natural, and quite bitter, but with a transcendent chaqi. We made certain to visit Kunlu Shan to get more this year.
We named this puerh "Slumbering Dragon" because of the visual image of these ancient trees growing so peacefully in the mountains. They seem to us like dragons of a previous era in a deep slumber for eons. The strong energy in this tea mirrors the strength of dragons in our active imaginations. 
We present this tea as is. This is unblended, single origin, high altitude, wild tree puerh. It will not taste like a lot of the puerh out there. It is strong and intense with a very pronounced bitterness that can linger. The intensity of bitterness will fade with age. Our 2014 has mellowed quite nicely. The energy in this tea is quite strong, it will sneak up on you. We hope you get a chance to try this amazing and unique tea.
I’ll be honest, this is one of the few teas I actually read the vendor’s description before sampling the tea itself. Normally I try not to let the vendor’s tasting notes or description bias me, but I knew this was an expensive tea and I didn’t want to make a mistake when brewing.

Dry Leaves: I’m always impressed at how much better other people are at breaking up cakes, once again my sample at first looks like maocha, but it is obviously from a cake and someone more skilled with a pick (certainly not from someone who routinely stabs himself while trying to break up a cake). The dry leaves has a slight sweet and fruity aroma.

First Steeping
Temperature: Boiling
Brewing Time: Five Seconds
Aroma: Fruity and Camphor
Flavor: Super Bitter, Bitter and Citrus Peel
Tasting Notes: Like always I did three quick five seconds rinses, and used a little more than 5g of loose leaf. I initially thought I was poisoned, I have never had something so bitter and sharp and I liked it; perhaps not enough to drink this often, but this has an amazing sharpness. I had a lot of trouble identifying any flavor because of the lingering bitterness, but I think there was some citrus peel taste, but I am not exactly sure. According to CLT’s description their 2014 has mellowed out quite nicely so I suspect if this is anything like the 2014 it will be nicer in a year.

This was the sharpest bitter tea I have ever had even though the bitterness lingered for an absurdly long period of time, I waited around five minutes or so between steepings for it to go away even though I started chewing on a sprig of mint. As for the aroma it is a little weak I did get something fruity that I could not pin down as well as camphor. Despite the bitterness I enjoyed this tea; this is definitely a puerh person tea.

Second Steeping
Temperature: Boiling
Brewing Time: 10 Seconds
Aroma: Fruity and Camphor
Flavor: Bitter and Citrus Peel
Tasting Notes: Again I had quite a lot of trouble trying to identify what I was tasting beyond the very sharp bitterness. I almost described this as kuwei and while I can certainly see someone who likes a pleasant bitterness in their shengs to enjoy this tea I don’t feel comfortable in describing it as such because of the lingering aftertaste.

The liquor is getting slightly darker and the used leaves smell wonderfully fruity, but this is definitely ones of those teas meant to be hidden away and forgotten.

Third Steeping
Temperature: Boiling
Brewing Time: 15 Seconds
Aroma: Fruity and Camphor
Flavor: Bitter and Citrus Peel
Tasting Notes: Again bitter and I had trouble identifying anything beyond that bitterness.

I almost decided against posting this since I had so much trouble with how it tasted, but it has an amazing Cha Qi, I’ll admit I got very tea drunk off the first infusion something that does not happen to me much (perhaps because I tend to drink a lot of cheap young puerhs meant to be drank immediately). I have never had a tea like this before, it does not feel like one of those puerhs that is not drinkable in its current state, but I feel like this is going to get so much better as it ages. I decided to publish my thoughts on this tea because I think it is a good tea, as many of you may know I only write about teas that I enjoy or find interesting on this blog and this Slumbering Dragon fall between both those categories. This tea made me feel like a tea novice again, I loved how Slumbering Dragon made me feel overwhelmed and inexperienced. At the time of writing this Crimson Lotus Tea is selling a 200g cake of this for $120 and it is worth checking out if you have a little extra in your tea budget although this is a very unique puerh so if you do plan on purchasing it come with an open mind.  


What-Cha Vietnam West Lake Golden Flower Lotus Green Tea

Origin: West Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam

I’ve been looking forward to this tea since What-Cha started selling Vietnamese teas. I absolutely love Lotus scented teas, although I do not often have the chance to drink them, since more often than not I find tea of dubious origin with a foul smelling perfume or dried lotus petals or stems. So I was very excited when I heard Alistair was sourcing a Lotus scented green tea and even more so when I discovered it wasn’t littered with garden waste (of course I had no reason to expect What-Cha to source a tea with filler. Regardless What-Cha describes this as:
An incredible rare tea produced on Hanoi's West Lake possessing a brilliant lotus aroma and taste!
It takes in excess of one thousand lotus flowers to produce a single kilogram lotus green tea! It is this extremely laborious process which accounts for the tea's high price.
The green tea base is specially sourced direct by Hatvala from a farmer in Tan Cuong, Thai Nguyen province.

Dry Leaves: Immediately after opening the bag I am immediately hit with the strong lotus scent. Definitely smells like this is actually scented with real lotus rather than a perfume, it lacks that chemical character you find in many perfumes. It might be a little overwhelming, I have quite a sensitive nose and I felt a little light headed when smelling this. As for the leaves they are mostly dark blue and tightly coiled in vaguely oval shape.

First Steeping
Temperature: 160oF
Brewing Time: Thirty Seconds
Aroma: Lotus
Flavor: Lotus, Floral and Sugarcane
Tasting Notes: I brewed this slightly below What-Cha’s recommended parameters, I intended to start with a full minute steeping, but I was feeling really light headed from the aroma of the liquor. This is incredibly creamy, probably the creamiest tea I have ever tasted.  Other than that it feels more like an oolong than a green tea because of the floral notes.

I got tea drunk off the first steeping. So far I love this, although I can already tell this tea is not for everyone, the floral notes while lovely are a very overwhelming. The leaves and the actual tea itself has a very pungent aroma, as a person with a very sensitive nose and often get headaches around people wearing perfumes and colognes I did start to get a headache while drinking this, although this did not defer me from drinking more.

Second Steeping
Temperature: 165oF
Brewing Time: Forty-Five Seconds
Aroma: Lotus and Orchid
Flavor: Lotus, Floral, Fruity and Sugarcane
Tasting Notes: The aroma of the used leaves and tea has gotten even stronger! And it is even creamier than last time, while the mouthfeel is starting to feel very syrupy. There was a new aroma this time, it smelled a little like orchid, but a more accurate description would be cymbidium. Other than that the individual tastes are pretty much the same as last time, but there are some new fruity notes, definitely on the lighter side of the fruit spectrum.

Still tea drunk and my headache is getting worse. This is quite an interesting tea, while I have had a few lotus scented teas in the past I have not had one like this; the other lotus scented teas in the past I felt I could taste more of the base tea than this. I am not sure if this is good or not, since this feels like a pseudo-oolong and the more I drink the more I realize I am missing the vegetal notes often found in green teas.

Third Steeping
Temperature: 170oF
Brewing Time: One Minute
Aroma: Lotus and Orchid
Flavor: Lotus, Floral, Fruity and Sugarcane
Tasting Notes: Pretty much the same as last time except everything is stronger and it is once again creamier than before. I rather enjoyed this tea even though it is a tad too aromatic for me to comfortably drink as often as I like. I already mentioned my sensitive nose and my disposition to get headaches around strong smells and while I did not particularly enjoyed getting tea drunk off this and a headache at the same time I did drink the entirety of my 25 gram sample and would buy more when What-Cha gets more in. But I’d feel irresponsible if I did not mention how uncomfortable this tea made me while drinking it, even though I did continue on despite that discomfort because I love this tea that much.

While I do love this tea I do wish I could taste more of the tea itself, this is incredibly scented I do not even want to hazard a guess at how many times this tea was scented with lotus, but I do feel the serious flaw of this tea is that the lotus scent masks the underlying flavors and scent of the tea itself. Currently What-cha is selling a five gram sample of this Vietnam West Lake Golden Flower Lotus green tea for $4.95 and I wish I could afford to drink this tea more often! This is definitely not a daily drinker, at a little under a $1 a gram although I do think it is worth checking out if just once. 


White2Tea 2015 Milk, Cream & Alcohol

So I’ve been sitting on my new White2Teas for a little bit, which surprised me  because of how much I was (and still am) looking forward to trying them, perhaps because my ever growing pile of samples is getting dangerously tall. Nevertheless I decided to start off trying my Milk, Cream & Alcohol since it has the best design and I forgot to buy a sample of Poundcake. I am starting to think I am subconsciously forgetting to purchase all the teas I want so I can justify a second and third purchase soon after receiving the first.  Regardless of my forgetfulness White2Tea describes this as:
Menghai area character. Built to be a quality daily drinker. A blend that has all of the traits of a classic style raw Puer, at a price that anyone can afford. Drink now or store for the long haul.
Like all White2Tea’s description it is short and somewhat lacking for such an interesting tea.

Dry Leaves: The cake is tightly compressed, quite a lot of variety in the leaves. I see an awful lot of white and silvery tips. There is a fruity aroma.

First Steeping
Temperature: Boiling 
Brewing Time: Five Seconds
Aroma: Fruity and Pine Needles
Flavor: Vegetal, Tobacco and Pineapple
Tasting Notes: This has an amazing pungent aroma; there is a very strong fruity scent as well as an incredibly clean pine needle smell. This has a nice cha qi, not necessarily strong, but pretty good for such a young sheng. I can certainly see one getting tea drunk off this tea in fact I did, but not until the fifteen or so steeping. Other than that there is a Tobacco taste that I did not really care for, the stronger vegetal notes and slightly weaker pineapple made this worth drinking despite the tobacco taste.

This was quite an interesting first steeping; it has some bitterness that quickly disappears because of the very sweet pineapple notes. At this point I could already tell I love this tea and will buy a couple cakes, perhaps even a tong of it.

Second Steeping
Temperature: Boiling
Brewing Time: Ten Seconds
Aroma: Fruity and Pine Needles       
Flavor: Tobacco, Green Bean, Pineapple and Wood
Tasting Notes: The initial bitterness is a little stronger than the previous infusion, although like the last it is overwhelmed quickly by the sweet pineapple notes. I was a little disappointed to see the Tobacco notes become the strongest and most prominent, nevertheless this is still a very drinkable tea for me as someone who does not care for teas with strong tobacco notes.

The vegetal notes of the last have become green bean-y, which may be a sign that this is the type of sheng that should be drank now rather than aged and judging by the price I feel that is a pretty safe bet, although this is a White2Tea and in my experience I have not had (or read anyone else who thought) that White2Tea’s teas were suitable or benefit from aging.

Third Steeping
Temperature: Boiling
Brewing Time: Fifteen Seconds
Aroma: Fruity and Pine Needles
Flavor: Tobacco, Green Bean, Pineapple and Wood
Tasting Notes: The aroma is still amazing and is pretty much unchanged from the first infusion. At this point it is hard to decide what is better the aroma of this tea or the taste; right now I’m leaning more towards aroma, but in later infusions the tastes definitely become the star. Thereis not much more that I can say about this tea, in its present state it is a little simple, the kind of tea that I have no trouble drinking often and last longer than many teas I’d consider as daily drinkers.

As I already said I love this tea and will buy more of it, for some reason when I was drinking this I kept thinking of White2Tea’s 2002 White Whale even though it does not taste similar to it. Last time I had the White Whale I was starting to think it was getting a little old for me, the next time I order something from Whtie2Tea I’ll have to pick up another cake and see if I want more of it. Nevertheless the obvious difference between 2015 Milk, Cream, & Alcohol and 2002 White2Tea is that this is nearly two thirds the price of White Whale and twice the size, although this is nowhere as smooth as White Whale and in its current state is much simpler tea. At the time of writing this White2Tea is selling a small 25g sample of this for $2.35 and the whole 200g cake for $17.50 and is definitely worth checking out; because of its modest price I’d recommend buying a cake as a sample.