23 Tasting Notes
OK. So I’m holding space here for a proper review. This is just an initial impression.
I need to let the cake properly humidify but I couldn’t resist pulling off a little chunk.
Brewed in a 90ml Zhuni pot with 4.5g of leaves with boiling spring water.
At the first smell of the leaves (after the wash) I’m transported to a camphorous, mulchy woodland in autumn with my nose over a bowl of steamy vanilla rice pudding covered in apricot jam.
If you’re familiar with a nice patisserie it’s not a million miles away from a decent ‘oranais aux abricots’. The type with custard-cream and almonds a little burned on the edges.
The spicy apricot jam smell fades to a tart but softened apple pie filling after a few steeps. It definitely has the baked goods thing going on.
I’m always struck by how softened fruit acidity can be right on the edge of camphor (or how close those scents can be).
Colour of the soup is dark brandy, but less of the viscosity.
I’d say that’s a pretty good start.
Mouthfeel isn’t thick and is quite soft with zero astringency. It’s creamy, mildly sweet and smooth. Very ‘vanilla pudding’ in taste.
One negative point is that I’m getting a little sour tart aftertaste (it was pretty dry) so I hope that’ll go away after a short stay in the pu bin. The flavour doesn’t seem to linger much. It’s also falling a bit flat… but I think this is due to the dryness and hopefully it’ll round out.
This is something that I’d recommend trying right off the bat. For the money, it seems incredibly good $/g. But I’ll update this if things don’t turn out well.
As a first impression at least, on a relatively dry cake, I’d give this a solid 8 out of 10 (for now). Hopefully, it’ll live up to itself in a few weeks.
Flavors: Apricot, Pastries, Rice Pudding, Stewed Fruits, Vanilla
This is the first tea I’ve tried from William ‘Famer-Leaf’ of Youtube fame. So I have some high hopes!
The leaves come apart easily when I prod it with my pick from the edge. It’s simple to grab about 4 grams of whole leaves. I’m just sampling this right now, so I’m using a 75ml porcelain Gaiwan and boiling spring water.
Initially, it tastes very ‘green’. Kind of like a bitter sencha whack (which makes me a bit worried, I’m not expecting sencha flavours). It’s a rounded flavour note. Bitter without being astringent at the start.
It definitely makes you sweat and it has a bit of body to it. Not ‘thick’ or particularly ‘oily’. The soup is pale yellow with a slight green hint. Mouthfeel is pleasantly soft.
By the third steep I’m tasting the dry subtle tartness of asian Pomelo fruit and maybe grapefruit-seed oil. Bitterness is getting stronger and slight astringency. So I take a swig of fresh water.
The lid smells like citrus rind.
Boom. With the fresh water comes sweetness. Sweet like sugarcane syrup all the way down my throat moving to a more buttery/golden syrup. It has a nice ‘lasting’ flavour on the tongue.
Later steeps and I’m in pomelo territory again but milder and a little sweeter, a bit more floral (orange blossoms). It has that bitter edge I like in a nice marmalade. It’s definitely in the pomelo territory, less the orange.
Nice. I’m going to have to give this more of a shot and play around with brewing parameters. So I won’t mark it as ‘recommended’ for now (which is a bit pointless, I think his stock is all sold out). I’ll put another note up once I’ve given it a few more tries. But this is a very solid first impression.
I’m a bit stuck though, the leaf smell is like a citrus hinted green tea. Which I didn’t expect at all from a young sheng (then again, I don’t drink that much young sheng).
Energy is strong though and I probably shouldn’t have tried this at 11pm.
I’ll mark this as 80 for now and I’ll revisit it over the weekend.
Flavors: Bitter Melon, Citrus Fruits, Citrus Zest, Fennel Seed, Grapefruit, Maple Syrup, Sugarcane
I’ve got and love the 2006 version of this. So I’m comparing the age really at this point. I purchased these from King Tea Mall and they appear to be fairly ‘dry stored’.
Still pretty raw and bitter, this doesn’t have the ‘baked goods’ flavours present in the older cakes. I haven’t let this ‘air out’ either. I just couldn’t resist chipping off a chunk to brew up.
The compression isn’t rock hard, but it’s tight and you can see some nice silver haired buds present throughout the cake. No green remains.
I’m steeping it today in a little 90ml porcelain gaiwan and I used 4.5g of leaves. Boiling spring water with a quick 5-sec rinse.
The initial steepings are mild grassy and floral. The scent from the lid is strongly one of honey or honeysuckle flowers. The leaf smell is musty and sweet but without any fermentation whiff. Very clean.
Somewhat typical XG flavours are exhibited, but it is initially mildly sweet, hay-grassy and floral. After steep 4 it starts turning more sour and leathery and is very reminiscent of stuffed vine leaves with the mild and pleasant astringency of olive stones.
These later leaf smells remind me of stables and a wet spring day.
The vine-leaf and olives would lend themselves well to a good Mediterranean meal.
The body on this isn’t thick at all but is smooth and the broth is clear and a glowing orange/amber.
I’ll stick to drinking my way through my 2006 stack (for a few years). But this is a favourite ‘daily drinker’ class from XiaGuan and I’m happy that I have a stack ageing. If you like the more savoury and bitter notes this would be a winner.
4 out of 5 for me.
Flavors: Hay, Honeysuckle, Leather, Olives, Vineyards
A quick review on this. I possess just one of these ‘premium’ 250g tuo and I should have ordered more. I just noticed the price double, don’t you hate when that happens? It’s mildly irritating.
It’s made of decent early spring material from 2007 and has aged very nicely.
I tested it in both Duan’ni and Zhu’ni pots – the Duan’ni polishes off any edge, but this tea has hardly any of that.
I’m looking, in my glass, at what resembles a thick-robed brandy.
Silky and full-bodied, with a soft in the mouthfeel.
The flavour begins with hints of straw and leather but gets more starchy and progresses toward a mild-sweetness very reminiscent of stewed pears (or maybe softened peaches or apricots) with a little demerara sprinkled on top.
Mildly fruity, but without any tartness or sign of sourness. Possibly a bit of an almond-skin or walnut astringency in the later steeps.
It also just keeps going… I’m on brew 12 now? I lost count after 9.
This really is very drinkable and would be a classy every day tea.
It isn’t punchy at all, Though not ‘thick’, it’s definitely full in body and plenty of this silky body holds through all of the brews which is fairly rare. In my experience (so far) this usually fades away far more noticeably.
I’ve added this to the list for future buys and I’m on my first brew, so I’d call this a very positive first impression. (I’ll edit this if I get bored of it or change my mind).
4 to 5-star tea and a solid ‘would recommend’.
Flavors: Apricot, Brown Sugar, Butter, Hot hay, Pear, Stewed Fruits
This is an interesting tea. I got a pack of 5 tuo as I wanted to experiment with some of the Nanjian Tu Lin stuff..
They seemed quite dry stored but the tea is dark in colour and heavily compressed. I seem unable to get full leaves off it – so lots of mainly broken leaf. Too easy to make lots of tea dust.
I’ve tried this in several pots over the past few days. Today I’m going with 4g in a 90ml Zhuni Bian pot that I have and boiling spring water.
The star attraction here is the mouthfeel. it’s very thick-bodied, but also very ‘smooth’ and there is apparently no flavour spike.
The smell from the lid gives sharp zesty notes of freshly sliced lemon-rind, but then a fruity almost ‘cherry coke’ or morello waft and some sort of jammy ‘tartness’ reminiscent of prunes. Maybe a camphorous ‘zing’ on the high note. There’s a distinct ‘wine must’ or fermented fruit on leaves after the first wash.
As brews go on, the smell on the leaf drifts toward the more ‘pine-woody’ territory.
Sticky foam residue on the interior, so lots of oil.
Tastewise, the first few steeps are mildly bitter but also creamy which wasn’t expected. Mild vanilla notes. Thick and sticky and a bit of spice at the back of the throat.
The following few steeps just get a hint more of astringency, but there’s no flavour boom that you get with some sheng as it opens up. It remains ‘creamy’ and develops into a barely detectable sweetness in my cheeks.
This is interesting tea for a great price. It doesn’t pack any kind of wallop and has turned well, rounding into a very creamy and thick souped tuo. So maybe it’s a bit one-dimensional in the way that it’s mainly about mouthfeel and not really about taste.
I’m going to experiment with a higher leaf ratio and a gaiwan, but I suspect it’ll just make later steeps sour. I’ll also try steaming this apart to see if I can get more ‘full leaf’ out of it… not sure it’ll work though.
4-star tea! I’d heartily recommend it, especially if you’re down with that slightly slimy/oily thick mouthfeel. I know there are some that dislike it.
Flavors: Astringent, Creamy, Rhubarb, Stewed Fruits, Thick
Am I tea, or am I soup? This, I feel, is walking a thin line. It feels like a very thin ‘buckwheat’ minestrone.
Whatever it is, it reminds me of my younger years microwaving Ready brek every morning before trundling off to school . Or babushkas toasting buckwheat slowly over a fire.
It’s nutty, it’s malty, it’s like congee in a teapot. Thick with ‘bits’ in and that nice sweetness you get from those weird roasted pyramidical seeds. It has the hint of a buttery can of creamed corn.
A nice change of pace, but I’d avoid putting in your nice Yixing pot. You don’t want it turning blue do you? Probably best in a gaiwan, or just throwing it in a cup.
All that said, it’s very tasty.
Flavors: Malt, Rice Pudding, Roasted Barley, Vanilla, Wheat
This is a standard ‘every day’ shou. I used 10g in a 150ml duan ni (Fang’gu shape) pot with boiling water and rinsed twice. The first few steeps were a bit on the pale side, but it got nice and dark after steep 3. It’s good for about 5 infusions, after which it weakens noticably.
Worth noting that this just arrived from China after a 2 month wait and I haven’t let it rest or aired it out. So this might not be entirely fair.
The tuo is quite loose in compression, but possibly my example was a bit on the dry side. Inserting a pick had tea practically falling off the tuo.
It tastes pleasant, mine has a vague concrete note, probably from the floor piling or storage. The main flavour notes are earth, wood and nut shells, more specifically it’s like concrete dusted walnut shells and the smell of fresh rain. It’s lost any of the ‘wo dui’ and gives a nice clear reddish soup. There’s a slight hint of charcoal minerality or smoke at the very end.
Not bad tea, very clean and transparent soup. It’s dry (mildly astringent) without being sour and never bitter. Smooth, but not creamy or thick in mouthfeel and in terms of ‘energy’ this is very mild.
It just doesn’t ‘stand out’ much. If you’re looking for an everyday non-sweet, nutty cup of shou, this could be a winner.
Good, but a bit boring (it’s pretty cheap). So we’ll say 3-star tea. Maybe it’ll get better after a few months of ‘awakening’. I have a lot of tea to get through though, and the five cakes I have will be in storage for quite a while before I revisit it.
When I was young, we would boil up ‘black walnuts’ and pour it over the muddy ground to summon worms (which we used as fishing bait). This reminds me of those wet steaming ground puddles.
Flavors: Walnut, Wet Earth
The factory that produced this is Menghai Banzhang Zhengshan Tea Factory. I’m definitely going to be looking for more of their stuff.
This really is a ‘first impression’. I’ll update my note later.
So this tuo is enormous (250g) and it’s not very compressed, so it’s fairly easy to peel off in-tact material from the outside. I’m brewing it in my new Zhuni pot which is 110ml and I decided to use around 5g of leaf with boiling spring water. The material is meant to be Lao Man’E.
This tea took me completely off guard. It’s as if I took a bite out of an after-eight chocolate wafer – and then with the aftertaste lingering, took a drink of a V93 shou. Kinda, sorta. That’s until it takes a hard right turn down a pine forest lane.
The smell off the leaves is impressive. Woody and camphorous. It has that skunky whack on the nose. But the smell coming off the broth is vanilla, cocoa and cream.
EDIT (after steep 3): the smell on the leaves slowly becomes more smooth and creamy once you get past that third steep…
What starts out as an unexpected creamy and almost shou-like beginning turns ‘very sheng’ to pleasantly sour astringency (what a plot-twist). I had a glass of water next to me and each sip I take becomes sweet in the throat.
Mouthfeel is thick, oily and creamy at the start reminiscent of rice milk, but it does thin out after the first few steeps.
Sorry if this text is a bit “all over the gaff”.
What’s so odd about this is that it’s recognisable in various components to lots of tea that I’ve had, but at the same time completely different in this combination. It’s all jumbled up. Very strange, in a good way.
I am just going to have to break this up and drink more of it.
Flavors: Camphor, Creamy, Mint, Pine, Pleasantly Sour, Vanilla