61 Tasting Notes

Today I sipped down my last 3 g of this middle-aged raw pu-erh “iron cake” from 2001, which I acquired last year from YS. Steeped in 80ml boiling alpine spring-water, starting at 30 seconds after a brief rinse, and stretching out to 10 minutes in the eighth infusion. All were a medium golden in color, not the deep orange depicted by YS. The tea had a mild and pleasant aroma, with no smell or taste of compost or fish, and was perfectly drinkable. There was some residual astringency, which complemented the vaguely minty flavor that lingered on the tongue for several minutes after each sip. Silky smooth, but although inoffensive, the tea did not excite or thrill me. It was like having a luncheon date with someone incapable of discourse beyond light pleasantries and talk of the weather, without ever getting deep or very interesting at all. I could share a table with this tea again, but would I pay $45 for a 25 g packet in order to do so? I don’t think so, and I certainly won’t be dropping $540 for an entire cake. I could recommend this tea for an experience or two, but I think that you, too, will tire of Gloria Upson after a few encounters, long before you get around to playing any ping-pong.

Flavors: Astringent, Celery, Peppermint

Boiling 0 min, 30 sec 3 g 3 OZ / 80 ML

2005 T8653’s are about the same but much easier on the wallet. Aging conditions in a more humid area benefits this one too. Taiwan has been a good place for the ones I have.

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This is a solid, clean, semi-aged raw puer which improves over the first several infusions. The 25g portion I received was included in my Feb 2020 Premium Tea Club box. It is labeled as “wild” which I take to mean that the pedigree is not well defined. It could be descended from a standard cultivar but without records or a lineage lost to time, or it could be something that was spread by animals either as seed or vegetation from an unknown origin, either recently or long ago. This makes the statement of it being “pure” a rather dubious claim, I think. If the trees/bushes were noticeably OLD, it’s safe to say it would have been claimed to be “ancient”, too, as that is seen as more valuable. I just don’t know. That said, There was no hint of what I recognize as “assamica” varietal in aroma, flavor, or leaf size, nor the sweetness or pubescence of the Camellia taliensis species.

I started with 5g of carefully-flaked cake and rinsed for 20s in boiling spring water and proceeded with 30s successive infusions in 3 oz boiling spring water. Each liquor was just a tad bit darker than pictured in the YS photo. #1 was notable more for what it lacked: no fishiness or “humid” flavor or scent, not very astringent, but not very flavorful at all. The leaf hadn’t really opened up yet. By #3, the leaf had opened up considerably And there was a slight woody-tea aroma, and some bitterness had become apparent, but still no off-putting flavors or scents. The flavors intensified in #4 and lingered nicely in the mouth. By now the leaves were a deep brown color. After a 15 min. pause, I resumed the infusion series with boiling water for 20s, 45s, 1 min., and 1 min., achieving the same deep golden, crystal-clear soups as before. In #5, the bitterness was very pronounced, but so was the tea fragrance and woody-tea flavors. Still not any trace of the promised “fruity sweetness”. I know my senses of taste and smell are keen again, as I enjoyed a variety of meats, breads, fruits and veggies today and over the past week. Infusions #6, #7, and #8 were much the same as #5, but less astringent. Stopping here, but might re-steep some more tomorrow. I think perhaps the storage on this might have been a bit dry over the past 19 years. It certainly has strong caffeine, as that has kicked in and made me perspire! But that isn’t the only thing I expect from tea.

Boiling 0 min, 30 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 88 ML

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Not my cup of tea. The leaves appeared dirty and decayed, and tasted more of an old woolen blanket than tea. Aroma didn’t appeal to me either.

Boiling 1 min, 0 sec 5 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

perhaps you received a spoilt brick?


Perhaps. It’s in the compost heap now, but if you’ve got a positive review for it, I’d love to read it!


Ooos, I now see that you already added one! Not sure that I want a mouth full of the dusty Himalayas :-)

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A very interesting pu-erh! Made of whole, rolled leaves that are olive-green once brewed. If I’m decoding the recipe “6515” correctly, they are considered grade 1 leaves, though I’m not entirely sure what that means! Importantly, this tea is highly compressed. “Brick“ is the right description, and in fact if you tap on one side, the entire block resonates and almost rings as a ceramic block might. There are two consequences to this: firstly, it is very difficult to pick apart the tea to withdraw a brewing portion without creating a lot of crumbs and breakage, the leaves are so crisp. But even so, the leaf pieces were pretty big, once infused. Secondly, the tight compaction slows the aging, and this may explain the youthful vigor of the resulting tea. Or, maybe the storage since 2004 was on the dry side.

Youthful vigor! The fragrance was mild and pleasant without perfume, flowery, or fishiness. A bit of mintiness. The liquor packed a punch with slight bitterness, strong astringency (is this called “brisk”?) with mint and camphor, and a lingering aftertaste of green tea and a drying mouthfeel. The sixth steep was much like the first, with progressively longer infusions, starting at 20s, up to 2 min. Enjoyable now as a good morning wake-up brew. But I bet this brick will taste much nicer in another 15 years, if stored humidly.

Flavors: Astringent, Camphor, Mint

Boiling 5 g 3 OZ / 88 ML

KunMing isn’t the best place to age tea for sure.

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What a pleasant surprise! This was a free gift sample packet slipped into my recent order from YS. And it might actually be my favorite tea of the order! Only a couple of years old, but incredibly smooth, without compost or fish flavors, or any defect to my tongue or nose. Very rich, even the first 10 seconds steep rinse was a deep red color. The YS description is right on the mark, and now on my 10th steeping this brew is still thick, rich, and satisfying. I’ve added a full cake to my wish list already, what a value!

Flavors: Cocoa, Dates, Dried Fruit, Rich, Thick, Tobacco, Woody

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

Sounds good. How noticeable / obvious is the woody flavor? Thanks!


looseTman, The wood flavor is there, but not in the front. Sometimes wood is the only thing you can taste, but this tea is much richer and more complex. In fact, I’ve now bought two full (250 g) cakes of it. Yummy!


So it’s subtle, not prominent?
“…richer and more complex.” certainly sounds good.
I wonder how it compares to 2018 Yunnan Sourcing Lucy Ripe Pu-erh?


Have you tried the 3 other shou in this series?
– “Bu Lang Mountain”
– “Jingmai Mountain”
– “Me Song”

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Golley, I sure wanted to like this tea, but I just can’t. It tasted stale and lifeless. Each of the stuffed oranges is smaller than a ping-pong ball, and a dull green in color. I broke it apart and used the entire content of tea plus all of the orange skin in the brew. 4 min western style steeping. The black tea component was nondescript, unimpressive and dull. The orange skin contributed just the faintest of citrus flavor. The 2nd and 3rd steepings went downhill from there. There was no indication of a production date or expiration date on the packaging, and I can’t help but wonder if these are from the same batch that were reviewed here some five years ago. Because they certainly taste old, and not in a good way. It is not offensive, or foul, but it could’ve been so much better! If you like citrusy teas, then I recommend going with something else. Even just tossing a few fresh orange peel bits into a cup with a Lipton tea bag from the grocery store will outperform this king orange in zing, depth, and complexity, and at 1/20th the price. Bigelow’s Constant Comment is a hundred times better. The best thing I can say is that I bought the smallest sample package possible (3 pieces), so the price of this education was minimal.

Flavors: Orange, Tea

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 8 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Post-CoVid Tasting Note: It has now been two months since I recovered from Covid, and my senses have returned to normal. So, as promised, I am reevaluating this tea. After a 5-second rinse of a 5g portion of tea cake in boiling water, I brewed the leaf in 8 oz. boiling spring water for 3 min., which produced a straw-yellow infusion. To my nose there was a pungent aroma of young sheng puer in the hot infusion. There was some astringency on the back of my tongue, but the taste was not bitter. Nor did I detect the strong floral notes and sweetness of typical of other C. taliensis teas. I have enjoyed those flavors in jing gu white pekoe silver needle and jinggu sun-dried sun-dried silver needles white pu-erh tea, but here they did not present themselves until the infusion had cooled to ambient, and even then were subtle. While hot, there was a lingering aftertaste of gardenia flowers. I think this tea would make a very refreshing iced-tea brew! I find that even 10 min after my last sip of the cold tea, there is a lingering taliensis flavor. As a hot tea it may still be a bit young to fully enjoy the puer qualities. The leaves are still a light olive-green in color and the cake was loosely compressed. A second infusion of 2 min. was less astringent, but equally flavorful. This is a bargain-priced and unique puer that is certainly worth trying, which purists may find either delightful or, at least, surprisingly unusual.

Bought this in spring 2022 from the YS “.us” site. [UPDATE: I have deleted most of this very negative review because it appears I have Covid, and have lost most of my sense of taste. Not fair to slam this tea under that circumstance! Look for a fresh review in a month or so, assuming I survive.]

….If Camellia taliensis intrigues you, please please buy the 25g sample size first.

Disclaimer: I am one of those individuals for whom stevia sweetener tastes bitter instead of sweet. If the reputed sweetness of this tea comes from a similar compound, it is possible that my taste buds simply don’t taste it the same way as other peoples’ might. Again, start with a sample size instead of a whole damn cake!

Flavors: Brisk, Floral, Gardenias, Orchids, Vegetal

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 5 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

Oh no! I hope you feel better soon and get your sense of taste back quickly!


Quick recovery to you.


Well wishes to you and your olfactories.


Thank you all, I’m feeling good after a somewhat lousy Saturday. Got the PCR positive result today and a script for antiviral (thanks CVS test-to-treat minute clinic). I can taste some salt and sour now, still waiting on the rest. Since I still need my caffeine kick, I’m swilling down the smoky teas I dislike, along with low grade (fishy/composty) ripe pu-erhs that are far easier to drink without functional taste buds! I told myself it’s the priciest 400 year old raw puer, and enjoy it… Because it tastes like… Hot water. :-)

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Wow! This is a truly delicious tea, and the description by Yunnan Sourcing is spot-on. The aroma is heady and I can immediately sense its assamic descent. Taste is rich, malty and sweet, like stewed stonefruit. Some astringency arose in the second steep, also greatly enjoyable. I’ll buy more for sure! Steepings #3 & 4 were 12 hr later and also satisfyingly tasty.

Boiling 1 min, 0 sec 5 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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I received this packet as part of the “Smoky Tea Lovers Sampler Set” form YS, not because I particularly love smoky teas, but because I wanted to try some of the varieties available and see what was out there. These leaves were supposedly harvested in spring 2021, and so they’re just barely one year old. Nevertheless they were deep dark brown as dry leaf, and stayed dark brown through steeping. I’ve added a photo of the spent leaves. The tea liquor was a deep honey color. There could be no doubt that this tea was intentionally smoked over wooden fires. In the first steeping, I got an overwhelming fragrance of pine smoke very reminiscent of the aroma in my jar of smoked paprika. I was unable to smell anything else. Flavor wise, although I detected sweetness in the back of my mouth, the overwhelming flavor profile was as though I had been inhaling campfire smoke through my mouth for an hour. I didn’t really taste anything else, probably because the smoke residue deadens the sense of taste, and I actually developed a numbness on my tongue and the inside of my lips. I would only pair this tea with very strongly flavored foods, and I have a hard time imagining when I would want that level of smokiness except, perhaps, when eating meats. The second steeping was much less pungent and far less flavorful, and I see no reason to try a third steeping. They might as well have smoked wood shavings or forest leaf-litter to achieve an equivalent product. I just don’t like this and now I have to try to get the flavors out of my mouth. As bad as it is, I’d still drink it over rooibos. Maybe this will come in useful as a dry rub for oven roasted meats. I’ll have to try grinding some up.

Flavors: Smoke

Boiling 1 min, 30 sec 5 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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In the year since I posted my first tasting note on this tea, I have continued to drink it, and ordered several times again from Tealyra. Even at work I will pull out one of these sachets every day or two and enjoy a cup. I have noticed that the leaves in the sachets are somewhat larger than the leaves in the bulk bag I keep at home, but the taste is the same. The sachets contain less leaf than I would normally use, probably around 1.0 to 1.25 g per sachet. Today I used 2 g and brewed in 8 ounces of boiling spring water for 2 min. The liquor was deep brown, and so very aromatic! And with every sip both my mouth and my nose was filled with deliciousness. Malty and sweet, this is a fine black tea that stimulates not only the sides and back of my tongue but also the roof of my mouth all the way back. It’s almost fruity, but not quite. And delivers a good caffeine kick! The second 2 min. Steeping was equally deep brown, but not nearly as aromatic. Flavors of leather and tobacco were evident alongside the now-tempered malty sweetness. With the sachets, I let it go 3-4 min and get one steep out of them. No fannings or dust either way.

Flavors: Leather, Malt, Tea, Tobacco

Boiling 2 min, 0 sec 2 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Left-coast reared (on Bigelow’s Constant Comment and Twinings’ Earl Grey) and right-coast educated, I’ve used this moniker (and Email) since the glory days of AOL in the 90’s, reflecting two of my lifelong loves—tea and ‘Trek. Now a midwestern science guy (right down to the Hawaiian shirts), I’m finally broadening the scope of my sippage and getting into all sorts of Assamicas, from mainstream Assam CTCs to Taiwan blacks & TRES varietals, to varied Pu’erhs. With some other stuff tossed in for fun. Love reading other folks’ tasting notes (thank you), I’ve lurked here from time to time and am now adding a few notes of my own to better appreciate the experience. You can keep the rooibos LoL!
Photo with Aromatic Bamboo Species Raw Pu-erh Tea “Xiang Zhu” by Yunnan Sourcing, which is most definitely aromatic!



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