448 Tasting Notes

I rarely get to try a sheng this fresh, but after more than a month long journey from China to Ontario, I felt compelled to give it some time to rest and only broke into the cake I got today. Having been hit by a car while cycling earlier today (I came out lucky with no serious injuries), I won’t remember this day for the tea that’s for sure.

In any case, the tea didn’t leave a very strong impression on me in this first encounter of ours, I will try reserve my judgement though. It may need more time to show its true character. At the moment, it is quite crisp, grassy, sweet, and salty, with notes of seaweed and tropical fruits. The body is medium thick with a powdery and slightly astringent mouthfeel.

Flavors: banana, Grass, Green, Marine, Salty, Seaweed, Sweet, Tropical

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 3 OZ / 100 ML
MadHatterTeaDrunk

Glad you’re safe and not terribly hurt!

MadHatterTeaDrunk

Farmerleaf typically leaves a minimal impression on me right away. I got a sample of their stuff in 2017, but remember thinking, “Eh, it’s ok, but it’s too light.” However, going back to after it spent some time in my puerh storage, it opened up and was a better session down the road. That was the moment that made me go back to their site and snag a Spring 2014 Jingmai Shengtai; which hadn’t lasted long, but it was very nice (menthol, wood chips, slightly smokey).

Martin Bednář

Uh oh, accidents happen. But I am happy to see your are okay!

mrmopar

No more close calls please! We need all our people around on here.

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88

White Crow is a delightfully aromatic white tea that I am almost positive will age gracefully. It brews quite dark for a fresh tea, but it’s still safely within the white tea category.

The dry leaf aroma is nice – sweet and floral, but the real party for the scent receptors comes after the rinse. There is a kind of nutty, spicy, floral note I am familiar with from Silver needle teas. Underneath it, there hides a complex bouquet reminiscent of burnt food, roasted corn, bread toast, black cherry, cranberry, and others.

The liquor tastes more savoury than it smells. It has a very nice tartness as well as flavours of wood, nutmeg, apricot, light hay, and honeysuckle. After swallowing, one is presented with a strong expansive aftertaste that comes with a cooling and drying sensation predominately in the throat. It has a sweet & sour character with a noticeable muscovado sugar flavour. Texture-wise, the liquor feels quite light in the mouth and is somewhat bubbly I’d say.

Flavors: Apricot, Astringent, Bitter, Brown Sugar, Burnt Food, Cherry, Corn Husk, Cranberry, Drying, Floral, Hay, Honeysuckle, Nutmeg, Nutty, Pleasantly Sour, Spicy, Sweet, Tart, Toast, Wood

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 4 OZ / 110 ML

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83

I still have a couple of samples from derk to go through, this being one ticked off the list today. It’s a nice semi-aged tea that’s different from the ones I own in a similar age category. Instead of being herbaceuos or fruity, it is more on the nutty and bitter side.

In the aroma, I could smell some wet storage notes, but this didn’t translate into the taste. Instead, the profile was sweet, vegetal, bitter, and nutty (walnut skin, chestnut). The aftertaste was nicely warming with a touch of a camphor note to it.

I also quite liked the mouthfeel, something I often find to be a weak point of these kind of teas. It was soft and active with good viscosity, but felt light in the mouth at the same time. I also got a hint of a sedating sort of cha qi.

Flavors: Bitter, Camphor, Chestnut, Nuts, Nutty, Sweet, Vegetal, Vinegar, Walnut

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 30 sec 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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93

In my recent CS order, I added this sencha. It is much more expensive than your average sencha, but based on the description I wasn’t sure why exactly was it special. Having tried it now, I can see why its uniqueness may be hard to convey in words.

There are no specific aspects of it that are very unusual on their own I would say. The tea has an aroma of freshly cut grass, while the taste profile has a strong umami, nice grassy sweetness, good minerality and almost no harsh bitterness or astringency. It is very elegant and balanced, yet strong tasting. There are many fleeting notes to be uncovered, let me just mention lime and pine nuts, others escape my mind now.

The aftertaste is long, grassy, expansive and cooling with an interesting returning fragrance. Later on it gets a bit more spicy and herbaceous. Texture wise, the tea is viscous, thick and buttery, plus I get a good body warming sensation.

All in all, this is just such an elegant and tasty green tea that I think it might even be worth the high price for special occasions. The fact that it lasts almost twice as long as an average sencha just underscores that.

Flavors: Freshly Cut Grass, Grass, Herbaceous, Lime, Mineral, Nuts, Pine, Spicy, Sweet, Umami, Vegetal

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 45 sec 3 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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91

Here’s a yearly report on my Crimson Rooster cake. About one year after I got it, there are no off fermentation flavours left as far as I can tell. I can detect more umami, woody and creamy notes than I remember, and overall the complexity seems to have improved. I really like the cocoa bitterness present, which don’t seem to have faded since a year ago. The aftertaste then has a good nuttiness to it. As far as the aroma is concerned, a bit of leather and spices appears in the dry leaf smell, while the wet leaf aroma has notes of cream, chicken meat, clean wet earth on top of the ones in my previous note.

Flavors: Bitter, Cocoa, Cream, Leather, Meat, Nutty, Spices, Umami, Wet Earth, Wood

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 30 sec 5 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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89

As far as I can remember, I haven’t had a purple (Zi Juan) varietal made in sheng before. I’ve had a the Purple Beauty green tea, which although I found very unique, I couldn’t quite get behind; and then also some Kenyan white and oolong teas. I am also still yet to try a black tea from this varietal, which I think should work well. In spite of my inconsistent reception of Zi Cha, I decided to get a whole cake (albeit a small 100g one) of Dragon Blood, aiming to try to understand it better than a couple of sessions from a sample allow for. And after my first session with the tea today, I am glad I did. The profile is reminiscent of Purple Beauty, but the overall experience is more positive.

The dry leaves smell of forest floor, smoke – a sign of things to come. On the other hand, the aromas emerging from the wet leaves are so unique I can’t place them at all. The scent is a bit cedar/forest like, a bit like an aged sheng, but also unlike anything I know. Maybe if I were familiar with the dragon blood incense, I could make a better comparison. The aroma in the empty cup is then very woody and sweet, which matches the aftertaste to a certain degree as one would expect.

The rinse is already very flavourful – citrusy, mushroomy, and metallic. It has a frothy texture and a buttery aftertaste. The first infusion has the profile of an aged sheng, with a good sweetness and a strong note of citrus zest. It is very smooth and viscous initially, then a little powdery, and sandpaper-like after swallowing, without much astringency. Some astringency does however appear from 2nd infusion onward. The taste profile then becomes more woody and smoky, with flavours of conifer trees, carambola, copper, bok choy, and charcoal roasted aubergine. There is a strong woody sweetness throughout that persists into the aftertaste, which also displays notes of licorice root and pine needles.

I was also happy to learn that the tea has a strong defocusing cha qi, which is exactly what I needed today. It helps me fight some mild paranoia and makes me want to dance at the same time.

Song pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEOYY4rLJrE

Flavors: Astringent, Butter, Cedar, Char, Citrus, Citrus Zest, Earth, Forest Floor, Fruity, Licorice, Metallic, Mineral, Mushrooms, Pine, Smoke, Sweet, Umami, Vegetables, Wood

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 3 OZ / 90 ML
tea-sipper

An interesting one!

derk

I love the frenetic song pairing

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84

Boychik kindly sent me a sample of this tea together with a bunch of teas I bought from her, and I drank it today as I was craving some aged sheng. I definitely enjoyed it and found it to be quite easy to drink with no noticeable off notes. It ranks above average as far as the semi-aged sheng I’ve tried thus far goes.

The taste is very smooth and somewhat herbaceous (pine) and fruity, with a strong menthol/camphor note and a sour finish. Aftertaste is cooling with a lasting sweetness and notes of wood and papaya. I found body decently thick and the texture quite bubbly, especially in the first few steeps.

One downside of this tea is that it doesn’t really last beyond 9 or 10 infusions, but frankly for a 14 year old tea at this price, one probably shouldn’t expect much more.

Flavors: Camphor, Fruity, Herbaceous, Menthol, Pine, Smooth, Sour, Sweet, Tropical, Wood

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 9 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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90

Here’s a tea to remind one of the immense variety found in this plant and raw pu’er specifically. This Jing Mai is really quite different from anything I’ve had but it reminds me a bit of W2T’s If You’re Reading This (but it’s more floral) and some Dan Cong oolongs (but it’s more vegetal). The complexity of the tea and its uniqueness mean that you shouldn’t expect anything close to a complete description of its character from this note. As Scott says, this is a tea that should be experienced first hand.

Among the aromatics present, none were particularly dominant, but I could smell honey, decaying grass, roasted nuts, raisins, and there is a sort of metallic tinge to the aroma. Later on in the session, I get a scent of vomit and decaying apples.

The taste truly escapes any words I can attach to it. It has medium to strong bitterness and a very herbaceous, mineral character. There is a fruity sweetness and juiciness (raspberries and apples), medicinal notes (think cough syrup), strong umami and savoury backbone, floral fragrance (orchid and dandelion) that dances on the back of my tongue and gets somewhat overwhelming in late steeps, and other aspects including notes of bog and tree bark.

The bitterness fades fairly quickly and leaves a numbing sensation, especially on the sides of the mouth. The aftertaste is very long, floral and metallic with notes of sweet grass, straw, white wine, and blood, among others. Within about an hour after drinking I get a kind of a dong ding like aftertaste!

The liquor has a medium body with a decent astringency, while I would describe the mouthfeel as oily and active. Completing the experience is a strong, grounding cha qi, that is of the mind numbing and dreamy kind.

Song pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6ljyqDB15o

Flavors: Alcohol, Apple, Astringent, Bark, Bitter, Cut grass, Dandelion, Floral, Honey, Medicinal, Metallic, Mineral, Orchid, Raspberry, Roast nuts, Salt, Straw, Sweet, warm grass, Umami, Vegetal, White Wine

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 7 g 3 OZ / 90 ML

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83

[Summer 2019 harvest]

It’s always fun to drink teas without knowing much what to expect, but these experiences seem to get rarer as we move along our tea journey, at least unless we specifically design them to be such. Today was the first time I tried a Japanese black tea and I really wasn’t sure what to expect. It turned out to be a bit like an autumn flush Darjeeling with extra umami notes. The most striking feature was the long, pungent and abrasive aftertaste, but the flavour notes were quite interesting too.

Dry leaves smelled of stonefruit pits and burnt meadow/hay, while the wet leaf aroma was more on the side of sweet wood, butter, peach, and anchovies. In the empty cup, I could also detect lavender and aged red wine.

The first infusion was very sharp and astringent with a light body, but a bold spicy, tart and bitter taste. Subsequent steeps didn’t really have any of that bitterness, but had more sourness (rice vinegar), umami (soy sauce), sweetness (caramel), woody and malty notes. The texture also became very smooth quickly, while still retaining a lot of that astringency. The body was medium to light and the mouthfeel fairly bubbly.

Flavors: Astringent, Biting, Burnt, Butter, Caramel, Drying, Hay, Lavender, Malt, Oak wood, Peach, Red Wine, Rice, Sour, Soy sauce, Spices, Spicy, Stonefruits, Sweet, Tart, Umami, Vinegar, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 2 OZ / 50 ML
Martin Bednář

Interesting Togo! I haven!t notice any sharp and astringent flavours. And I prepared it grandpa. Abrasive aftertaste? No way.

But, that’s us. Everybody have different senses :)

Togo

haha yeah. Next time I will try a different method of preparation and see what it brings :)

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drank He Kai Old Tree Sheng by JalamTeas
448 tasting notes

It’s been a year since I started this little storage experiment with my two identical cakes of He Kai sheng from Jalam Teas. One of them is stored in the “natural” Canadian storage in my living space (I will call this one the “dry” one), the other one together with all the other cakes in a controlled environment (which I will refer to as the “humid” one). Let’s see what the difference is, if any, after one year.

From the very start, there is a startling difference in terms of the aroma. The “dry” version has a strong creamy, sweet, grassy, and milky scent, while the leaves of the “humid” version smell flowery with notes of honey and breckland thyme. The two are really quite different, but neither seems ‘better’ per se.

The humid one has a very slightly darker liquor and is less green in the leaves. The next significant difference comes about in the taste. The profiles are not that different, but the dry tea has a short finish, and is more subdued and metallic in general. The humid version has a much more pronounced taste with a stronger huigan. It is grassy with a biting finish and a sweet, cooling aftertaste. The late infusions seems to be more similar overall.

As for the mouthfeel, I’d say the humid tea thicker body, is more astringent and has a more distinctively creamy and lubricating texture.

It’s hard to extract any significant conclusion from this session, but at the very least it doesn’t make me disassemble my pu’er storage solutions :D

Flavors: Biting, Bitter, Creamy, Floral, Grass, Honey, Metallic, Sweet, Thyme

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 2 OZ / 50 ML
Rich

This is great intelligence. What are your pumidor parameters?

Togo

Generally between 62% and 68% in relative humidity (recently sheng seems to be stabilized at 62 and shou at 66) and temperature averages somewhere around 22°C (I don’t use any additional heating at the moment).

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Profile

Bio

Currently, I am a PhD student at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario. Apart from teas and mathematics, I enjoy sports and traveling, as well as music of all kinds.

I have been a fan of green tea for a while and only recently (in 2017) started exploring other kinds of tea in greater depth. I rarely drink blends or white tea and avoid artificially scented teas. Other than that I try to keep it varied. The one thing that I am currently missing in my collection are teas from India, in particular some Darjeelings.

My rating description:
100 _ Unforgettable tea, an experience that changes your life.
90 – 100 _ Excellent tea.
80 – 90 _ Very enjoyable, I will buy again.
70 – 80 _ I enjoyed it, but I most likely won’t be buying it again.
60 – 70 _ Decent.
50 – 60 _ Average, forgettable.
40 – 50 _ I didn’t really like the tea, but it is drinkable.
0 – 40 _ I would prefer to avoid the tea.

Location

Waterloo, ON, Canada

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