121 Tasting Notes
This is elegant. Nose jammy. I would have believed it if someone had told me this was an artificially scented pu. But it just wasn’t what I needed. After a recent raccoon encounter (I’m okay), an exhausting set of repetitive conversations with medical professionals, and outrageously high bills to match despite having a pretty good insurance, I yearned for a tea that tasted like it understood my trials and tribulations. Really, I just needed a strong alcoholic drink, or if it was going to be tea, I needed something that would make me feel invincible against any more unexpected trouble. I needed a liquid mentor who had been through the bitterness of life before me and could show me the way.
Alas, this tea, if it was a person, would be that insufferably perfect and thus holier-than-thou concertmistress or prima ballerina from the suburbs whose parents were surgeons, grandpas senators, grandmas judges, and cousins European/Southeast Asian royalty. It just tastes like straight up inter-generational, oblivious, imperturbable privilege. It’s that guy set to inherit entire buildings in Manhattan who doesn’t understand the local pizza joint owner is joking when he theatrically demands $60 for a regular pie and fountain sodas, causing the poor man to come sprinting after us for 2 city blocks, tomato-stained apron strings flapping, yelling and waving the $40 of change in the air.
I felt this while working my way through the w2t ripe basics set, and I felt it again while finally trying Storm Breaker from clt’s shou sampler. I don’t respond to newer shou made with higher quality material in a way that corresponds to the greater price and hype. The leaves look nicer as they steep, and it’s easier to clean my brewing vessel after. But that’s it.
I know many others really liked this tea, but I found the notes to be too muted and tame. It’s kinda milquetoast. It seems to say, “all is most certainly right with the world, dearie” with such an eerie wtf calm that I almost feel offended. The idealized world where this tea belongs doesn’t exist for 99.9% of people, so I hope whatever is left of it in clt’s storage makes it into lovely silver teacups in someone’s 407th vacation home.
Meh. It’s not the tea’s fault. I’m just in a grumpy mood. Will try again next year.
Flavors: Chocolate, Jam, Sweet, Wood
I switched to a single button tea set that most comfortably brews 150ml at a time. When not drinking an extremely delicate tea, this half gong fu style works fine. In fact, it appears to work even better than usual for this tea. I discarded one rinse of 150 after waiting twice as long as I had in the past. The expected bamboo chopstick smell is gone much sooner with this method. The tea is almost unrecognizable. Smoother. Cleaner.
I also acquired a jar of buckwheat honey and tried some in the tea. The deep, bitter, molasses-like flavor of bkwht honey complements this shou.
Takes forever to loosen up. Brewed in a new tea set. Eventually lost patience after about 10 steeps and prodded the nuggets open with a pick. This changed the flavor and made the liquid cloudier. Next time I will try to stay patient. Sharing tea makes it enjoyable in a different way, but also impossible to take flavor/scent notes.
2. Smells like a breakfast cereal that I can’t place.
3-7 Has a temper if you oversteep, but smells dynamic. I do not have the time today to pay attention to each change. This sessions’s already been interrupted by 4 phone calls and a vast stream of texts. All I can say is that the mystery cereal is gone and has been replaced a sprightly vegetal thing. Throat feels a bit dry.
8. The energy is like the melodic line of “Once Upon A Dream” from Sleeping Beauty. The visual is princess Aurora waltzing with the birds and squirrel and the bunnies in the forest. https://youtu.be/LCCxnuLlS18?t=6
The harshness of newer sheng will give me a tummy ache if I go past 7 or 8 steeps, so I will stop here.
The color of the tea liquid is pretty. There are a few seeds mixed in with the leaf. You will taste what you smell in the wet leaf, which is a good thing here. I bet those who like smoother, blended whiskeys would enjoy this old, complex but rounded out shou with a subtle, sweet aftertaste. If Santa visited, you’d offer him milk and cookies. If Zatoichi visited, maybe you’d see if he’d like some of this even if he is usually more of a hojicha drinker. The wet leaf scent will make you feel like you are taking a wonderful hot spring bath in a very safe, secluded forest. I can see how others taste smoky mushroom or moss or nuts or leather or books. It is a nice gentlemanly older shou that will please most people. I prefer teas with more energy, but mugs of this would be an excellent choice to carry you through an interminable formal event.
Flavors: Caramel, Hay, Wet Wood
Btw, the humidity where I am is out of whack because of the onset of cold weather and the heat that is now on at all times. I bought humidity packs for the tea but have yet to figure out an optimal solution, and have also not yet cleaned/turned on the humidifier for humans in the house. I have been smelling rice on so many CLT productions. I wonder if it’s partly because I use a gaiwan more often now, and I smell the leaves directly and more easily. I also wonder if it’s because I have to figure out how to stabilize humidity at home.
Anyway, I really like this tea. I could tell it was going to be good from the very first sip, so I relaxed and did not pay close attention to the scents and such. There is almost no bitterness well into steep 12, and a very clean, consistent energy throughout. There isn’t much qi to speak of, but at this price point, that’s fair. I was afraid after steep 6 it was going to turn smokey like the expensive Dayi I hated, but it stayed pleasant. It is not nearly as astringent as the one I tried yesterday, 2017 Jinggu Bang, and that makes sense, because this is 1 year older. All in all, I felt reassured by this tea. The scent is subtle and would not be out of place at a high end spa.
I was not a fan of the intense fartlike opening notes, which may be an acquired taste. However, this tea has really won me over within 7 steeps (the first of which was a discarded rinse). The energy is like that of a clear-eyed friend with a fine strength of character who coaxes some sense and calm into you in the midst of chaos. We do not need such valuable friends to smell great.
I was not going to try this for another week, but the hive mind inspired me so into the gaiwan little mr. mushroom went. I agree with everyone who tasted vanilla and cocoa. I not so long ago had a real hot cocoa from scratch with a ton of vanilla extract dumped into it, and this tastes like it, except with an almost menthol like cooling aftertaste. I had Jade Rabbit earlier in the day, so I don’t know how much of it is from that. But what’s for sure is that this petite darling of the shouniverse would make a wonderful après-ski drink. It is like your peppermint hot chocolate w/ vanilla marshmallows went to a strict boarding school and matured into an elegant princess.
Flavors: Dark Chocolate, Menthol, Vanilla
1. Tasted but did not drink rinse. Seems like Jingmai.
2-4. Faint apricots and fresh rice. Perhaps the rice comes from Kunlu and the apricots from Bangdong. Do raws get scented w/nuomixiang as well?
I started this last night and took many breaks, finishing it today. Kept making me rather sleepy.
My primary experience was that it smelled like sweet rice. I also suspect Jade Rabbit will respond very well to boiling. Going past 15 steeps does yield something more, but the amount of time and patience it takes to get there with gongfu is not in my budget, esp since it makes me so sleepy. I think I will do 10 steeps and grandpa the rest next time.
Flavors: Apricot, Rice
I have ordered another filter just in case that helps, but it has not arrived yet. This had so much fine dust despite long rinses, being a fairly recent sheng, and in a form factor that I assumed would be cleaner than average. I filtered it 3x, and it still has a gross layer of visible floating dust. I can’t pay attention to the flavors or scents because I am thinking about the dust. :T I may have to use disposable teabags from now on.