526 Tasting Notes

92
drank Lao Man E 2014 Spring by Tea Urchin
526 tasting notes

One of the last teas from the swap with derk became my choice for an evening session as I wait for my yogurt to ferment, after an active day of repotting plants and cycling. Thanks for the sample my friend! Lao Man E is becoming one of my favourite pu’er production areas, and having a variety of examples of that style is great. Moreover, this tea is still available for sale at a very reasonable price! :)

It has got quite a dark orange colored liquor, I’d say this is pretty clearly in the semi-aged category now.

Interestingly, the aspect of this tea that impressed me the least is the aftertaste. There is definitely some huigan, but it’s nothing spectacular. Plus I found the aftertaste to be generally a bit muted and lacking complexity. The other negative, as far as drinking the tea now is concerned, is the fact that it gets astringent already around steep 5, and by the tenth infusion the astringency is pretty damn strong. One would expect that this will improve with aging and as a result, the longevity should get better too.

Now, with that being said, this was a very enjoyable session nonetheless. The aromas are unexpectedly pungent and complex, which I find to be quite rare in teas around 6 years of age. Taste is not overly complex, but it’s definitely a profile I like a lot. Liquor texture is interesting too and quite unusual – being buttery yet foamy, and super light yet full-bodied. And of course, the cha qi is amazing. The energy this tea is creeping, disorienting and extremely calming, without being aggressive or rushy. I haven’t had a proper gong fu session with the W2T’s Pin, but this tea made me dance for real, derk (see music pairing).

As for the particular tasting notes, I could smell cookies, grass compost, and a light, clean smoke from the wet leaves; and some flowery scents in the empty cha hai. Early infusions possess a light bitterness, but it’s not abrasive at all. In fact, I would say these are much more sweet than bitter, which changes a bit later on, but without throwing off the balance too much. There are flavours of courgette, citrus fruits, toast, and brown sugar. Around steep 6, more sourness akin to yogurt develops, alongside grapefruit bitterness that’s increasingly present. In the eighth infusion, I got a distinctive tangerine note too. Throughout the session, light medicinal notes keep appearing, which may or may not be a sign of aging being decently fast. The aftertaste also has a sort of apple flavour going on.

Music pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMAyGBnVktE

Flavors: Apple, Astringent, Biting, Bitter, Brown Sugar, Brown Toast, Citrus, Citrus Fruits, Compost, Cookie, Cut grass, Floral, Grapefruit, Medicinal, Smoke, Sour, Sweet, Toast, Yogurt, Zucchini

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

Glad you enjoyed this one and that it made you dance :)

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93

Jiu Tai Po has all the marks of a pu’er I would like to add to my collection. It has a unique flavour profile, pungent taste, long aftertaste with a strong huigan, full body, and a grounding cha qi. If I were to describe the tea with two words I’d say it is, above all, thick and grainy.

The dry leaves have a sweet floral aroma that reminds me of hot and humid summer days, in the preheated pot there’s also a citrus and parsley like scent. Wet leaves, on the other hand, display a very strong grainy aroma.

The rinse presents a crisp, malty, and vegetal liquor with a sweet apple note to it. It’s quite different from the subsequent infusions though. Soon enough, a pungent mix of bitter and sweet vegetal flavours takes the center stage. The profile is grainy with notes of sunflower and very much like wheat beer, just much more bitter. Aftertaste bring more of floral orchid-like notes, some lemon tart sweetness that keeps a sour bite, and a spicy vegetable broth umami.

Texture-wise, the liquor is extremely thick and creamy, at once numbing and cooling in the mouth. The cha qi seems to be more of the heady kind rather than inducing pronounced bodily sensations.

In short, this one gets one of the easiest ‘recommend’ badge from me :)

Flavors: Alcohol, Bitter, Broth, Citrus, Floral, Grain, Grass Seed, Lemon, Orchid, Parsley, Pleasantly Sour, Spicy, Sweet, Thick, Umami, Vegetal, Wheat

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 3 OZ / 90 ML

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84

[Spring 2019 harvest]

I am big fan of black teas made from the ye sheng varietal, and this one won’t change that. I slightly prefer the light roast version, but both are good.

The aroma of dry leaves presents no surprises – it is sweet and leathery with a roasted meat note in the background. Wet leaf scent also has the expected notes of tobacco and oak wood, but is more floral and earthy than I would have thought.

Taste is pretty savoury and bitter, with a tart backbone and an earthy finish, which reminds me a bit of an aged loose leaf shou. There are flavours of burnt food, fireplace, and curry leaves. Liquor texture is fairly thick and bubbly, but also somewhat coarse and astringent. The highlight of the session is the long-lasting aftertaste which starts off with a sort of umami character, but eventually molasses sweetness arrives to take hold.

[Spring 2012 harvest]

Along with the 2019 version, I also bought one from 2012 as a chance to do an interesting aged black tea comparison. The main takeaway is that the aged tea is slightly sweeter, quite a bit smoother, and less pungent than the fresh one. It also has a softer, more coating texture.

The aromas are generally a bit more muted and subtle here, but possess an intriguing complexity. Before the rinse I can smell notes of strawberries and forest, while afterwards it is a more woody scent.

The taste is also more woody than the 2019 version, and has some notes of black pepper, cranberry, cinnamon, and eucalyptus that I did not detect in the other one. There is a noticeable throat-cooling sensation that really distinguishes the aftertaste of the two.

All in all, I don’t have a favourite among the two, but the aged one is a very elegant tea. It is reminiscent of aged whites and tian jian.

Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Black Pepper, Burnt Food, Cinnamon, Cranberry, Earth, Eucalyptus, Fireplace, Forest Floor, Leather, Meat, Molasses, Oak wood, Plants, Roasted, Strawberry, Sweet, Tart, Tobacco, Umami, Wet Earth, Wood

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec
ashmanra

Love this note and the comparison!

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74

[Spring 2019 harvest]

Even though I do enjoy Silver Needles on occasion, I find that I don’t go for them very often compared to other white teas and most of the time it’s just a casual brew while working.

This one is one of the sweeter and simpler among the lot. Dry leaves’ smell is sweet with a strong note of hot hay. After the rinse, more fruity aromas emerge, such as those of papaya and watermelon, but also dry grass and salt.

The taste is very sweet and floral/grassy and the mouthfeel is soft and velvety. I haven’t got much else to say about it, it is inoffensive, but also not that interesting. Because of its forgiving nature though, it is very well suited to casual brewing.

Flavors: Dry Grass, Floral, Fruity, Hot hay, Melon, Mineral, Plants, Salt, Sweet, Tropical

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 1 min, 0 sec 6 g 4 OZ / 130 ML

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82

[Spring 2019 harvest]

Being familiar with Laoshan green teas, I finally decided to give a shot to a Laoshan black tea. The verdict is somewhat similar to my impression of the greens – the tea is complex, unique, and priced very well. However, that also means that I wouldn’t select it when just want a classic black tea.

Dry leaves exude an aromas of peach, raisins, plum, pine wood, and toasted bread. That is already intriguing, but the wet leaf smell is even more strange. It’s hard to pin down, but some associations I have written are: incense, dark chocolate, aluminium can, sea salt, meat, and canned peach.

The taste is bitter in a subtle rather than in-your-face way. It reminds me of walnut shells, lemon skin, cloves, burnt food, grapes, and sugar. There is also a light smokiness to it. Finally, the liquor mouthfeel is milky, viscous, and mouth-watering.

Flavors: Biting, Bitter, Burnt Food, Cloves, Dark Chocolate, Drying, Grapes, Lemon Zest, Marine, Meat, Metallic, Milk, Peach, Pine, Plums, Raisins, Salt, Sugar, Toast, Walnut, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 30 sec 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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72

This tea seems to be hitting its full potential now. It is far from my favourite, but well for a fuss-free leather-like black tea.

It has a sweet, leathery scent with fleeting floral, butter, nutty and earthy aromas. Taste is also mostly sweet and leathery. The charcoal bitterness is quite nice, but otherwise there is not much more to it beyond some woody notes.

Flavors: Bitter, Butter, Char, Cranberry, Drying, Floral, Leather, Nuts, Oak wood, Sweet, Wet Earth, Wood

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 1 min, 0 sec 5 g 6 OZ / 180 ML
derk

Dang, I forgot I had this and still haven’t tried it. Wish my memory had been jogged before I placed a black tea order. How’s the caffeine in this one?

Togo

Average caffeine levels I’d say, just about noticeable, but not rushy.

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80
drank Naka Ancient Tree Sheng by JalamTeas
526 tasting notes

I drank this tippy Naka yesterday and here’s some new observations about it.

The wet leaves now have a slightly peaty aroma. Interestingly, the most complex and distinctive fragrance emerges from the empty cup/cha hai. It is perfumy with notes of honey and black locust flowers.

Taste is quite bitter, tangy and mineral, the bitterness being present even at lower brewing temperatures. It also has a returning floral/herbaceous quality, which at times reminds me of this cough syrup I used to take as a kid – Stoptussin. Other flavour notes include some spices, grapefruit skin and wood. The astringency is decent and turns into a drying, cooling aftertaste with a lasting bitterness.

Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Citrus Zest, Drying, Floral, Flowers, Grapefruit, Herbaceous, Honey, Mineral, Peat, Perfume, Spicy, Tangy, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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77

This tea is fairly average in everything but the aroma, which is very nice with notes of pastries, tropical fruits, wild garlic and many other floral/fruity ones. The taste is somewhat sour and displays flavours of pine resin, lemon tart, broccoli and grass, with lime leaves and rapini emerging in the aftertaste. Mouthfeel is not too engaging and quite astringent for that matter.

Flavors: Astringent, Broccoli, Floral, Fruity, Grass, Lemon, Lime, Pastries, Pine, Plants, Pleasantly Sour, Resin, Tropical, Vegetables, Vegetal

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 130 ML

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79

[Spring 2019 harvest]

This tea is nice, but I find I tend to prefer less tippy black teas, which are more robust, display more complexity, and are also often cheaper. The most notable aspect of it is the soft and velvety mouthfeel I’d say.

As for the dry leaf aroma, it has notes of cocoa and bread, while the wet leaves smell of wood and cranberry. The taste profile is actually not that different. There are flavours of cocoa butter, sugar, tree bark, plum, and burnt bread. It is more tangy and tart than an average black tea of similar kind I think.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Burnt Food, Cocoa, Cranberry, Plums, Sugar, Sweet, Tangy, Tart, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 30 sec 5 g 4 OZ / 130 ML

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76

I can’t detect much change in this cake as compared to a year ago, but it does seem to be a bit sweeter and more medicinal, have a slightly thicker body, and a more pronounced cooling and numbing sensation in the throat.

None of the developments are too surprising, but it’s nice to see a Silver Needle cake heading in the right direction. I am not sure what is the common wisdom on aging pure bud white teas, but it’s clearly not very common when one looks at the market with aged white teas.

Flavors: Citrus, Medicinal, Pine, Salty, Sweet, Thick

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 30 sec 5 g 4 OZ / 130 ML

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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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