61 Tasting Notes
Flavors: Astringent, Celery, Peppermint
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.
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
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
Flavors: Orange, Tea
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
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.
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: Leather, Malt, Tea, Tobacco