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Recent Tasting Notes
This was from a little while ago so I’m relying on instagram tasting notes…
This is a very thick & intensely bodied shou with a strong petrichor, decaying wood, & overall ‘forest after a heavy downpour’ type of vibe – however it’s very smooth and comforting with a soft finish and underlying sweetness. There’s even a little bit of a Nuo Mi Xiang herb note (AKA sticky rice herb) that tastes wonderful wit the earthy wood character of the tea. The pop of blackberry juices adds brightness, and plays into that forest feeling, a welcome pairing!! I enjoyed this session with many blackberries, which seemed fitting with the art for this tea…
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n06InmdDYHI
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
Apparently this weekend was, unconsciously, Jingmai themed…
Yesterday was National Hot Tea Day so I was drinking some sweet & floral 2019 “Full Frontal” raw puer, among other things, to celebrate. This is great though; very typical in its sweet and floral profile – exquisite notes of lilac, agave nectar, honeysuckle, and jasmine with a bit of greener undertone and tease of fruit!! Managed to capture some sunlight too; I can’t wait for summer to bring more natural lighting to my apartment…
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwOQ_WNrf_8
Had this one late this afternoon; first taste of the brick I bought. I steeped it this kind of loose cross between grandpa style and Gongfu; basically I brewed the leaf directly in the teacup but it was a small enough cup and I drank the tea quickly enough that I don’t think it could be called grandpa brewing…
I was reading The Sirens of Titan, which is a book that my manager kindly lent me when I told him I was interested in putting a stronger focus on doing more reading this year outside of the comics and graphic novels I already devote a large amount of time to. I’m about halfway through the book now, and I’m really enjoying it!
In terms of the tea, this is gently astringent with notes of underripe banana, white cherries, and heady florals. Finishes a touch bitter, with a softer moutheel! It’s in love with a lot of the notes I’d expect from a young Jingmai sheng, though I did expect it to be a bit more overly sweet and floral. It’s still very good though.
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olzw8qi6Ptw
I think, in a way, this is sort of loosely a song meant to be paired with the book too?
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
Nice Yiwu for the buck. Having assaulting my tastebuds and zapping my brain with border area gushu for several months this tea being young tree sat on the back burner. I did 8 steeps and found it has decent body, slight oiliness , sweet, grassy and floral notes similar to the Gaoshan maocha I’ve been drinking. At $.11g I was not expecting any other qi than a slight caffeine kick. Surprisingly I have a slight tingle in the forehead, tightening of the chest and relaxed shoulders. Not a big attitude adjustment but nice. If you want stereotypical Yiwu character on a budget this tea is a good choice. It doesn’t have the thickness or qi of ancient trees but all the flavors are there and it produces a nice headringer. I personally prefer more intense border area for Yiwu but prices of Banna teas in general are astronomical so if I were looking for nice fruity oily teas with big qi on a budget I’d opt to pay a bit more and go with ancient arbor tea from Jinggu or Wuliang which although doesn’t have the typical Yiwu character performs on par with many Yiwu teas that are much more costly.
Drank this one in the morning the day after #adventageddon – I was really happy to have the freedom to select whatever teas I wanted throughout the day. It’s not that it wasn’t fun doing so many advent teas, but there were a lot of other things I was craving throughout the month that I just didn’t have time for on top of my advent teas…
That also means, for the astute, that I had this one on Christmas Day! So, Merry belated Christmas to my Steepster friends – what teas did you have on Christmas Day? Any significance to the choice?
I started my session of this in our backyard – which is kind of a “Garden” of sorts!? There is a massive crabapple tree there, and it was quite beautiful with the the frost on the dying apple hanging from the branches. Eventually I had to move back inside though to finish my session; in part because my water was cooling too quickly and in part because I was cooling too quickly.
Admittedly, I don’t really know what the tea tasted like. Is it weird to say I was too excited about picking out my own tea that morning to actually pay attention to the flavour it was producing!? I do know I liked it, and I remember it being a bit astringent as well. I guess I’ll just have to brew it again sooner rather than later to nail down exactly how I feel about it…
This is a pleasant and balanced Yiwu tea — balanced between thickness, softness, minerality, astringency, bitterness, throatfeel and aftertaste.
Beautiful and healthy velvety leaf. Fruity and syrupy aroma, often with fleeting florals. The flavors are definitely there, though maybe understated beyond the sweetness which is a mix of sweet vegetal and powdered sugar, and hints of caramel and stonefruit. The aftertaste is a dynamic and complex mix of fruits including concord grape skin, black plum/skin, apricot, peach, green melon, blueberry? and others I can’t pick out — perhaps something tropical — along with a light syrup-butter-caramel vibe. Some minty sweetness and cooling, for which this tea is named, does show up in the throat, though it is modest. The most pronounced aspect of this tea is also part of the aftertaste. I get a major floral violet impression from the lingering sweetness and purple-like bitterness and it’s downright awesome. It seems to be the base upon which the fruits mingle. Pleasant and relaxing energy that fills my whole body with a sense of comfort and heaviness. Overall, it’s a very balanced sheng that I would recommend to drinkers willing to pay the price but it is no longer available.
I tried to buy a whole cake without even ordering a sample (glorb knows why) but the inventory numbers lied, so I was stuck with a sample. I’m glad Bitterleaf was able to work that out with me because this tea is a treat.
Flavors: Apricot, Bitter, Blueberry, Butter, Caramel, Flan, Fruity, Grapes, Green Melons, Jasmine, Mineral, Mint, Orchid, Pancake Syrup, Pastries, Peach, Plums, Powdered sugar, Stonefruits, Straw, Strawberry, Sweet, Thick, Tropical, Vegetal, Violet
Last of my run of 6 Bitterleaf huangpians is “Be Yourself”. This one seems the most ready for casual drinking now. It is smooth, inoffensive and quite tasty.
Dry leaf aroma is mostly floral and honey-like, but there are also notes of cake, cut grass, and gasoline. Wet leaves smell quite different. The fragrance is hard to describe, but it reminds me of various foods like fried potatoes, bok choy, courgette flowers, and coriander seeds.
The taste is sweet, creamy, and vegetal with a decent umami. There is basically no astringency and only a touch of bitterness. Mouthfeel is milky and super smooth with a medium to full body. All in all, a very easy-to-drink tea. The aftertaste is not as prolonged as I would like, which is probably the main ‘issue’ I have with it. There is a light camphor note, which is nice though.
Flavors: Bok Choy, Cake, Camphor, Coriander Seed, Cream, Creamy, Cut grass, Floral, Flowers, Honey, Potato, Sweet, Thick, Umami, Vegetal, Zucchini
Among all the huangpian from BLT, this one is probably the boldest. I haven’t had many Hekai/Pasha teas, but I feel like it represents well the character that people tend to talk about in relation to greater Bu Lang area. I have no doubt this tea would age well, but I don’t think I have the capacity to stock up on tea like this.
The dry leaf smell reminds me of clean smoke, pine, but it has a sweet, metallic character that I noticed in all the huangpian teas I’ve been sampling. There is still some light smoke even in the wet leaf aroma, accompanied by notes of mushrooms and dark, bio-rich soil. There is also a very strong honey fragrance in the cup.
The taste is very astringent, crisp, and tangy with a sour finish. It is somewhat reminiscent of Yunnan green teas of the slightly smoky, woody, and grassy kind. There is a definite dry grass flavour, as well as a pear-like fruitiness. In the aftertaste, notes of fermented fruits/alcohol, rosemary, and myrrh emerge. Overall, it is a pungent profile, although not overly complex in its current young state.
Another positive for “Don’t be Sad” is the thick, colloidal texture. Together with the astringency, it makes for an engaging mouthfeel, which is further complemented by a strong numbing sensation on the sides of the mouth.
Flavors: Astringent, Dry Grass, Earth, Forest Floor, Fruity, Herbaceous, Honey, Metallic, Mushrooms, Pear, Pine, Resin, Smoke, Sour, Tangy, Wood
Last tea for the day, doing 4 reviews in one day may be my new record. This one is really solid. It did not wow me as much as “Keep Smiling”, but even here it’s hard to find any drawbacks. It’s full bodied, smooth and flavourful with a character that’s oscillating between floral and fruity.
Dry leaves smell sweet and metallic, while once wet, there is a distinctive apple aroma as well as a flowery scent. The liquor tastes sweet and juicy with very little bitterness or astringency. There are notes of fermented fruits, apple, banana, and various florals. The profile is not so far from a Taiwanese mountain oolong. The aftertaste is very fragrant and slightly cooling with flavours of sugarcane, straw, and rapeseed. One of the highlights is the thick and creamy mouthfeel, it really elevates this tea above the average in the $0.1/g category. I also found the cha qi fairly defocusing and disorienting – this tea may not be the best to drink while working, but it’s hard to judge that from one session alone.
Flavors: Apple, banana, Floral, Flowers, Fruit Tree Flowers, Fruity, Metallic, Smooth, Straw, Sugarcane, Sweet, Thick
This is a fragrant and fairly balanced although light tea. I liked the 2018 version quite a bit more, so I wonder if there is short term improvement to be expected from this one. We will see. The 2019 one seems to lack some punch to it – it’s somewhat boring to be honest.
The aroma is a mix of fruit tree flowers and a metallic one. Specific scent include likes of peach, orange blossom, and peat. The taste is light throughout the session, but the main flavour notes are cream, wood, and an ever present fruity sweetness. The aftertaste is cooling with a slightly more vegetal character, a bit like okra. Texture wise the liquor is smooth and silky, but quite light bodied.
Flavors: Cream, Fruit Tree Flowers, Fruity, Metallic, Orange Blossom, Peach, Peat, Sweet, Vegetal, Wood
ok, this tea took me by surprise. It is so flavourful and tasty! The best huang pian I have tried for sure. The pungent and complex yet balanced character it has is rare to get even among standard sheng. Highly recommended!
The dry leaf smell is vegetal with notes of green peppercorn and cream. The aroma changes considerably after the leaves are immersed in water. Scents reminiscent of freshly cut grass, petrichor, gin, tobacco, dungeon, and peat come to the fore.
Taste is bitter, sweet and tangy with a beautiful fruity tartness. Among all the flavours I would highlight those of forest, lemon, spinach, and grapefruit skin. The aftertaste is warming and long-lasting, changing over time from bittersweet to spicy to floral. There are notes such as butter, cinnamon, black pepper, and a strong orchid fragrance that persists.
The mouthfeel is soft and the body medium thick. The first couple of steeps are drying on the sides of the mouth, and I get a tingling sensation at the back of the mouth throughout the whole session. The cha qi is very pleasant. I would describe its main features as being awakening and chest warming, but the tea does also heighten my perceptions overall.
It is hard to come up with any negatives of this tea whatsoever. Maybe at times one would like a thicker body, but that’s not necessarily always the case, and the mouthfeel here is more than interesting enough. At $0.11/g, this may even be the best value for a sheng I have ever come across.
Flavors: Biting, Bitter, Black Pepper, Butter, Cinnamon, Citrus Zest, Cream, Floral, Flowers, Forest Floor, Freshly Cut Grass, Fruity, Grapefruit, Herbaceous, Lemon, Orchid, Peppercorn, petrichor, Spicy, Spinach, Sweet, Tangy, Tart, Tobacco, Vegetal
I recently got a lot of fresh huang pian from BLT, this being one of the bricks. I plan to use them for drinking at work as well as in the evenings.
I have to start this note with a qualification. I think I overbrewed the first few infusions because I didn’t take into account the extent of leaf breakage. Maybe next time my impression will be better, unhindered by this issue. Despite that, the tea lasted for 10 strong infusions, so it does not seem lack longetivity. Overall, it is a floral sheng that is more about the mouthfeel than the taste.
The dry leaf smell is quite weak and lacks the crispness common in young sheng. Instead, it is more earthy and deep with a floral sweetness. Wet leaf aroma is more complex with notes such as cream, cut grass, bell pepper, gasoline, and seaweed.
Taste-wise, I found the tea to be a mix of metallic and floral with an astringent finish and a sour bite in the throat. The aftertaste is expansive and cooling with a strong huigan. I detected flavours like sourdough bread, stewed vegetables, vanilla, and apple.
The mouthfeel is quite numbing and throat-clenching. As for the cha qi, it is mellow but noticeable, with a calming and mind-clearing quality.
Flavors: Apple, Astringent, Baked Bread, Bell Pepper, Cream, Cut grass, Floral, Marine, Metallic, Seaweed, Sour, Vanilla, Vegetables
With the growing prices of pu’er, huang pian has been gaining popularity over the past few years. Most western-facing vendors have been focusing on offering much more affordable versions of material coming from highly revered areas and old tree material, but Go Big or Go Home while hailing from Yiwu breaks this trend by being an even more affordable alternative to an already very affordable tea.
I received a free sample of this with an order and now having finished the bag I can say that I’m a fan. As you’d expect from an Yiwu, the tea is sweet, honied, maybe a bit fruity, with perhaps hints of vanilla and a woodiness that appears in the later steeps. Bitterness is virtually nonexistent. Depending on the water you’re using, brewing temperature, how broken your leaf is and how hard you’re pushing the tea, you can start to get some dryness and astringency in the later infusions, but overall the tea is very forgiving to brew.
While simple and easygoing, the tea is not lacking in strength, body or longevity, nor did I find it boring. I think for the price Go Big or Go Home performs really well; better than many teas costing several times more that I’ve tried. Ultimately a daily drinker as you’d expect, but I liked it enough to buy two bricks as presents.
Flavors: Drying, Fruity, Honey, Sweet, Vanilla, Wood
Lao Man’e is my favorite pu’er producing area, so I always jump at the opportunity to try a new production from there. Last year Bitterleaf only offered this bitter varietal loose; this time they’ve gone ahead and pressed it into cakes. I used my standard parameters: seven grams, 100ml gaiwan, freshly boiled water, sub-five-second rinse, five-minute rest. As expected, the wash was strong, hella strong. Mineral, creamy. I followed up with a dozen infusions, the timing for these 5s, 4s, 5s 8s, 8s, 8s, 10s, 12s, 18s, 30s, 50s and 75s. The tea could have easily kept going, but I was well hydrated by that point and decided to call it there.
As you’d expect from a Lao Man’e, the tea is strong, with the characteristic grapefruit note present. There is certainly bitterness, but it does not persist and typically only last for a matter of seconds. Honestly, I would hardly describe this tea as bitter, while many factory productions, etc., I’d certainly characterize as hella bitter. But I might have a very different tolerance and affinity for bitterness than most, so you can certainly take that statement with a grain of salt.
This is one of the fruitier Lao Man’e I’ve tried, with minimal dryness or astringency and instead a juicy, salivating effect. While it is a very good representation of your typical Lao Man’e, it is at the same time one of the more unique ones I’ve had. It is both a lot creamier in the early steeps than I’m used to, later revealing a strong earthiness in the mid-to-late steeps. The bitterness does become increasingly prominent as the infusions progress, but this is countered by sweetness, creating an enjoyable dynamic.
The overall experience is surprisingly smooth for a Lao Man’e, having unexpected parallels to the Crimson Lotus “Danger Zone” which I reviewed recently. I finished up my sample at work and can say that this tea would make for a nice daily driver for me were it not for the price. And I say that as someone who does not like drinking the same tea more than once every month or two at most. The cha qi is also positive in nature, helping to energize you without being aggressive or too overbearing.
For a bitter varietal Lao Man’e, this one has a surprising amount of depth and isn’t boring or one dimensional like many of them can be. The bitterness is playful but not abrasive, which is exactly what you want to see. All in all a tea I can recommend and one that is in my view a vast improvement over last year’s Bitter End Xtra.
Flavors: Bitter, Creamy, Earth, Fruity, Grapefruit, Sweet
From the weekend!
I know this is a favourite of my manager – well, an earlier year’s version of this material anyway. I picked it up this Spring because I was curious to try it given that he likes it, and because it was really cheap.
I can see why he likes like – it’s got a nice coating sweetness and it pretty smooth and easy going. I imagine this would be _really_hard to over steep and brew poorly and he drinks most of his sheng Grandpa style so that’s a quality that would be very appealing for him. The session, for me, was pleasant but I found that I wanted a bit more depth or nuance to the flavour – however I do think this is a perfectly good tea for its price point. I imagine I’ll finish the rest of my sample Grandpa style…
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWN81V7ojOE
Flavors: Fruity, Smooth, Sugarcane, Sweet
Yesterday afternoon’s tea session – ‘7 Star’ 2009 Tian Jian Anhua Heicha! This was a freebie sample, but one I was happy to receive as I’d debated ordering it anyway ^^
The liquor steeps up a gorgeous amber colour, and the aroma is mildly smoky with wisps of wet potting soil. As someone who hasn’t massively delved into the world of heicha, I found this tea didn’t have the body or intensity of others I’ve tried and I did find myself missing it – even with really pushing steep times for infusions I couldn’t reach the heavy, thick flavour I wanted. The trade off is that this tea is incredibly smooth and damn near impossible to brew in a way that tastes off – which would make it a prime candidate for a daily drinker tea, or lazier session/grandpa style of brewing.
The taste is sweet and smooth, permeated by soft campfire smoke and wet pine wood notes. Early infusions had the faintest hint of black currant in the undertone and finish. Very clean tasting, and as the session continued it almost had a crispness to the finish. I suppose that’s the cooling note described? However that feels like a bit of a stretch to me. Overall, I enjoyed this tea! With a slight expectation switch, I found it really approachable and easy going!
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgjKlTHbE0k
Made this last week around the end of the week; I was helping a coworker set up some educational tasting and I was brewing steeps of this in between the set up to share with her. I picked it out for us since she’s not really a pu’erh drinker at all and I thought the floral notes from this sheng might be something more approachable for her since she does tend to like more floral, green oolongs.
However, my plans were kind of foiled because all four infusions (it was a very short session – one of the cons that sometimes happens when you try to Gongfu at work) came out really tropical and fruity tasting. Like passionfruit!? It was medium bodied and a touch tangy and while there were some florals it wasn’t what I’d expected and the taste didn’t win her over. However, I enjoyed it!
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OxOHtD0RDw
I’m surprised I’ve not written a review for/had this tea before!? It tasted very familiar and I swear that I had – but maybe I’m thinking of the non Huang Pian version of it? I do own that one as well…
Regardless, this was very lovely! It’s sweet and smooth, with those lovely and distinctly “Jingmai” character floral notes that I’ve actually come to appreciate a lot in a nice young sheng. I thought it coated my mouth in a nice and refreshing way, and also had some crisper vegetal notes – like snow peas. Very sweet, lingering finish also.
Just a feel good cuppa!
Followed through with my comment in my last note and finished off the last of this one steeped up Western style because I actually found it pretty nice when prepared that way. Still a little bitter, but just more of that sweet note that can best be described as the sweetness you experience after the bitter taste of chewing up an advil…
I figured this might tasting a bit less bitter to me if prepared Western style, and just slightly under leafed – and the logic was that if it was less bitter it would then also be more enjoyable. Despite forgetting I was steeping it and leaving it for a solid nine or ten minutes to steep, I actually liked it a lot more than expected. It was still a little grating-ly bitter initially and I found myself experiencing a good deal of scratchy-tongue astringency. However, it also rewards you with lingering sweetness on the tongue after the initial bitterness, and after a third or so of the mug I had acclimated to the bitterness and no longer found it all that bad. It was actually enjoyable, even.
So I guess I’m finishing this one off Western style?
I had this as my evening tea and it positively surprised me. I had a few Man Zhuan teas that are significantly more expensive, but I actually preferred this one. Of course, it doesn’t last as long. However, even taking that into account, I think it is a bargain. The tea has a strong fruity fragrance, a good body and a long sweet aftertaste with a slightly cooling sensation. Even though I didn’t take detailed notes as this was my only session with it, I think it ticks all the boxes I would like from a raw pu’er in this price category. The taste is really pungent for a huang pian, and although I could detect some general similarities with the other Man Zhuan teas I’ve had, this one I found more balanced and agreeable taste-wise.
Flavors: Fruity, Metallic, Peach, Sweet, Umami
A nice Friday morning/afternoon session at work to round out my day – I brought this one in from home because I was craving shou (and I don’t keep any in my work stash) and when I opened up my shou sample drawer this sample was sitting right on top. Serendipitous, I thought!
Overall this was a very nice session, but I don’t think I like this shou as much as some of the other BLT offerings that I’ve tried. However, it simply must be said that the name they’ve selected for this shou is spot on! Right from the start, and throughout the whole session, this was a very smooth shou without any off notes to it – I think it’d be incredibly approachable to even the most new pu’erh drinkers. I did find, when I pushed the steep time a bit longer in the middle of the session, that infusions had a light bitterness hanging off the end of the sip. Much like a car teetering on a cliff’s edge, my impression was that with this shou one would walk a fine line between smooth, silky notes and a deep plunge into bitterness if the tea was oversteeped or, perhaps, over leafed.
What ultimately stops me from really enjoying this one as fully as I’d like to is that, smooth as it is, there isn’t really much substance to the tea’s taste. I would like some type of flavour note to bite back at me a little bit in the body of the sip – either a sweeter brown sugar or fruity type note or a more robust earthy/woody characteristic. As is stands, I found this rather pleasant – but simple.
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qritXcYLg4g