Tieguanyin Tea Reviews

Danica kindly offers to perform 6 Tieguanyin tea reviews for the Autumn 2007 Pre-Launch Offer.

Setting: Three grams of each tea in a competition tasting set brewed for five minutes with boiling water.

Tieguanyin Tea Reviews #1:
Packet 1

Aroma in the empty cup is indistinct and vaguely like burnt caramel meets steamed vegetables.  After a minute it develops a more traditional creamy scent, then back to vegetable, then back to creamy burnt.  Not pleasant or consistent.

Liquor is a dark gold with the same vegetable-burnt aroma as the cup. The taste is bitter and green, somewhat like roasted green tea.  Reminds me a bit of japanese bancha.  Feels thin, lacks body, no aftertaste.  Unpleasant and not what I was expecting!  I would guess a low grade of tea.

Leaves are definitely primarily machine-picked and of uneven size; some broken.  A dark dull olive green, probably due to the baking.

Tieguanyin Tea Reviews #2:
Packet 2

Nice sweet aroma in the cup of caramel and creamy vanilla sweetness, evolving into a sweeter, fruitier nose rather like vanilla peaches.  Much later we get some burnt vegetable like in Six, but only after a few minutes.

Aroma of the liquor is burnt-creamy, a nice amber-gold color, and it has a roundness and body that six lacks.  The bitterness--which I believe is the roast-- blends with more complexity into a vegetal flavor, with no sweetness.  Slight roasted green aftertaste.  Still reminds me of japanese bancha, but definitely a higher quality than the version above.  This is actually drinkable.  I could see bancha drinkers drinking this.  I would

Leaves are of even size, machine picked with more broken leaves and stems than the previous batch.  Possible even leaf size and more skillful roasting/ baking can account for the better flavor...

Tieguanyin Tea Reviews #3:
Drunken Concubine

Aroma in the cup of creamy vanilla with a consistently strong, scent, no burnt or caramel.  Simple--actually simpler than five--but more consistently pleasant.

Aroma of the liquor is creamy and very green.  This is clearly a less roasted tgy than the previous two.  Liquor is a pale gold, attractive, and the brew is slightly bitter, more astringent than the previous two, with creamy notes and a similar creamy-green aftertaste.  Good balance for a simple, lighter tea.  This seems to be the tea I liked before--it's good competition-style too!

Leaves are a richer, deeper green. Also machine-picked, of uneven size with some broken pieces.  Only two stems in the batch I brewed.  Possible from the same leaf group as six but roasted less?

Tieguanyin Tea Reviews #4:
Golden Scholar

Aroma in the cup is green and creamy, slightly more complex nose than four; moves into a well-rounded sweetness that quickly dissipates. It's as if this aroma is trying to be complex then gives out rather quickly.

Aroma of liquor has vegetal notes rather than the sweeter/ creamier notes of the cup; but it's not as pleasant as four.  The liquor is a transparent yellow-gold, darker than four and also two.  As a clearly less baked tea than five/ six, I expect this to be of a lesser quality than four based on the nose.  The flavor of the baking blends quite nicely with the vegetal/ creamy quality of the tgy.  It's definitely a smooth tea.  However the body of the liquor isn't quite as thick as I'd like it to be, although it's pretty good. There is some nice aftertaste, a pleasant mix of creamy, vegetal and a hint of sweet.

Leaves are uneven in size with no stems in the current three gram sample.  More even in size than six and four; a darker olive green than the baked teas, about same as four--may be a little more baked than four.  Machine picked I assume.

Tieguanyin Tea Reviews #5:
Orchid Aroma

Aroma in the cup is the most complex so far--it's vegetal and floral, with a creaminess that emerges into a rather lovely vanilla orchid.

Aroma of liquor has vegetal-creamy notes, more complex than four and also quite subtle and pleasant.  Liquor is translucent gold; based on aroma I expect it to be a more complex, subtle tea than four.  This is borne out in the extremely smooth, pleasant taste of the liquor and the enduring creamy-sweet aftertaste with a subtle vanilla and orchid flavor.  Good body as well.  Extremely nice to drink.  Best tea so far.

Leaves are a dark olive green, fairly consistent in size with a lot of broken pieces.

Tieguanyin Tea Reviews #6:
A Friend's TGY from HK

Aroma starts out sweet and vanilla then becomes sharply fruity burnt vanilla and caramel.  The three notes continue to blend into a pleasant, perfumy scent. Clearly a more highly roasted/ baked tea than four, three, two.

Aroma of liquor has the burnt vegetal characteristic of five and six, however the emphasis is on the vegetal with some floral and fruit notes.  It's a little sharp, but pleasant.  Liquor is a clear amber.  The tea is somewhat astringent, but it has a sweet aftertaste with a floral/ vegetal notes.  Not great body. Five had better body and roundness but less sweetness.

Leaves are more oxidized than any of previous batches; some stems; of relatively uniform size with broken pieces.

Tieguanyin Tea Reviews #7:
Champagne Goddess

Dry leaf aroma: creamy vegetal with a spicy floral note reminiscent of orchid and grass.  Nicely complex.

Cup aroma is green with a wonderful floral nose right off the bat.  This rounds into a pleasant creamy vanilla center to the floral, which becomes richer, then sweeter and fruitier.  It becomes more burnt sugar and floral as time passes.  Very strong, pleasant nose performs extremely well.

Liquor aroma is vegetal and floral, with some of the simpler, creamier notes of two.  Very pleasant bouquet.  The liquor is a darker transparent gold, which suggests that perhaps this tea was baked more than two, three and four.  The liquor has nice body although not as round as two, and the aftertaste isn't as long-lasting as two.  It doesn't have the creamy vanilla central note that some of the other teas do.  It's very smooth and easy to drink, Jonathan described it as 'dry,' however I wish it had more of an aftertaste.

Leaves are a dark olive, but lighter than two and especially four, which suggests it may be more baked.  They appear fairly uniform with no stems and many whole leaves--not as many broken pieces as some of the other samples. 

Tieguanyin Tea Reviews Round Up

  • #1 is not good for drinking.

  • #2 is good to drink, but it's a really basic kind of 'peasant' tea that reminds me of a chinese tgy bancha.

  • #3 is really nice and easy to drink.  It's not complex but the creamy and vegetal notes that it does are done well.  It's also got nice body and a light aftertaste.  If this is the one I had before it is a very delightful tea that easily yields a satisfying flavor.

  • #4 is clearly more artisanal but it doesn't achieve the promise of its complexity.  Its liquor doesn't have great body and the aftertaste fades quickly.  Not a great value for the money in terms of this particular audience's satisfaction.|

  • Orchid Aroma (#5) is a fancier version of four, I like it a lot because it is smoother, and has nice body and aftertaste.

  • Champagne Goddess (#7) is definitely the most complex in terms of aroma and its clearly artisanal crafting.  It is extremely easy to drink, and comes together in a lovely green note that balances bitterness and smoothness beautifully.  However it doesn't have as much of an aftertaste as I think it deserves.

Tieguanyin Tea Reviews Conclusion

If I was buying tea and on a budget, I would buy #3; if I was going to spend a little more I would get #5 and/ or #7.  #5 is easier to comprehend, #7 is more like a fine white wine--somewhat subtle and complex and really a refined drink, especially in these proportions.  It would really be a knockout if the aftertaste was more prominent!

#5 & #7 are quite expensive so I definitely think you should offer a tea that is a little cheaper for 50g as well.  I would probably buy #5 & #7, and that delicious tgy wang that I drank from m&js was at that same price point.  However some of these people who drink tons of the same tea every day might be put off by the price point.  To that end maybe the silver packet, or if you are going to offer a cheapie tea then go with #4.

I think #5 is a really easy-to-understand tea, whereas #7 is for a more sophisticated palate.  I didn't 'get it' when I tried to brew it gongfu style; it's best qualities actually came out by brewing competition style!  That brew turned out to be like a fancy wine, which reminded me why they say that tgy is the champagne of teas.  But a regular person wouldn't necessarily get it.  I would even say something in the margins regarding how to get the best of #7.

I think for a cheapie tea #3 is decent.  It's much better than the tgy that Teacuppa offers for a similar price point.  And it delivers satisfaction without breaking the bank.

Thanks for this extremely fun and wonderful opportunity to taste these tieguanyin tea reviews!

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