Bitterleaf Teas

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Recent Tasting Notes

85

As I still have the 2019 cake, I wasn’t in a rush to try the new one immediately. I was craving this specific tea today, as it happens once in a while, so after a couple of months in storage, I decided to break in the 2023 vintage today.

The tea deliver what I would expect. It has that supremely balanced taste that is sweet, fruity, woody, and nutty at the same time. I also enjoy the thick, oily mouthfeel.

The tea has a floral aroma, with notes of gum, berries, fruit jam, flowers, wood, shellfish, as well as honey.

Flavors: Berries, Floral, Flowers, Fruity, Hay, Honey, Jam, Marine, Nutty, Shellfish, Sweet, Thick, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 30 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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80

A nice black tea with complex aromas, sweet and spicy taste, and a very soft mouthfeel. Speicifically, I can smell bourbon vanilla, wood, and dried fruits like cherries. The taste is also woody with flavours of honey and black currants.

Flavors: Astringent, Black Currant, Cherry, Dried Fruit, Honey, Soft, Spicy, Sweet, Vanilla, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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86

A funny blend, certainly the first time I drink pu-erh with a Dan Cong oolong. There is an integrated character, but also one can pick out the individual teas. In the end, the experience of this tea is a bit more like and aged sheng actually. However, instead of a cohesive whole, one can feel the two poles pulling – the pungent oolong and the smooth shou.

The aroma has some sweet floral notes, a bit like apricot and rice. The tea is strong with a smooth creamy and cooling mouthfeel and an astringent finish. It has bitter, sweet, earthy, medicinal and herbaceous flavours. Specific flavours remind me of mint, gin, nuts, and barley.

Flavors: Alcohol, Apricot, Astringent, Bitter, Creamy, Earthy, Floral, Herbaceous, Medicinal, Mint, Nutty, Rice, Roasted Barley, Sweet

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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87

As a basic Yunnan white tea, this one more than fulfils its purpose. It is fragrant with a pungent sweet and floral taste as well as engaging mouthfeel and aftertaste. It doesn’t rise beyond that to a special one, but it also doesn’t pretend to.

The taste is actually quite multi-layered, with bitter, fruity and grassy notes, buttery flavour and a flowery finish. The tea also has a numbing, creamy mouthfeel. Its aromas remind me of eucalyptus, honey, leather and pear.

Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Butter, Creamy, Eucalyptus, Floral, Flowers, Fruity, Grassy, Honey, Leather, Pear, Sweet

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 30 sec 5 g 5 OZ / 140 ML

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For my first tasting of this tea, I’ve just tossed a small chunk into a mug for a very mellow, laid back Grandpa style infusion. As expected from the name it is a very, very smooth brew with heavier feeling notes of cocoa intermingled with such a clean earthiness. Like flourless dark chocolate cake and damp potting soil, but with soft undertones of black cherries and unwashed beets. The chocolate note in particular is delicious and captivating as it’s neither excessively rich or bitter. Just very dense, and soooo velvety. I’ve managed to stretch this bad boy out for pretty much the whole day now, and it’s been a great comfort on this cold afternoon where I want nothing else but to hole up under the covers with big fuzzy socks and a good book…

Tea Photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/C2De7Nnu2sx/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBnHzexAu9A

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60

Tried both gongfu and granpa, it didn’t surprise me in terms of flavours.

I didn’t found persistence or distinctive fruity flavour

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Gongfu!

This black tea is scented with magnolia blossoms. I’m quite a fan of magnolia scented oolong, so I wasn’t about to pass on this first chance to try a magnolia scented black tea. Honestly? Possibly the best black tea I’ve tried from Bitterleaf. From steep one this was highly aromatic and sweet with a beautiful mix of fruity and floral notes. Magnolia, of course, was a big one but I also tasted a mix of lush elderberry and elderflower, rich cocoa (especially in the undertones), guava, and lilac – but also banana jam. Lots of banana jam. In particular, the Banana & Bourbon Vanilla jam that I used to buy semi-regularly from a specialty shop in Toronto.

It’s a really wild flavour note to be experiencing in a scented black tea, but it absolutely made my morning and has caused me to fall immediately and heavily in love with this tea. Very unique and amazing experience – and honestly lots of longevity. Six steeps in this morning and this beauty was still going strong; I would have kept brewing until I’d totally killed the leaf but I had to skedaddle to make it to work on time…

Tea Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/C1sRVecOCFo/?img_index=1

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Db5mZ-SJ3J8

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82

This is a very pleasant tea for snowy days like today, including its relaxing cha qi. Its character borrows clearly from the two ingredients that make up the blend, but I find that they act in unison to a large degree.

Dry leaves smell sweet and earthy with notes of malt, fireplace, nuts and sauerkraut. The wet leaf aroma is quite different, I can detect cherry, chocolate, incense, and marine notes.

The liquor is full bodied with decent thickness. Its flavour ranges from earthy and sweet to more woody, herbaceous and savoury. There are also hints of sour taste. Specifically, it reminds me of cacao beans, moss, and beetroot besides some of the notes mentioned before.

Flavors: Ash, Beetroot, Cabbage, Cacao, Cherry, Chocolate, Earthy, Fireplace, Herbaceous, Incense, Malt, Marine, Moss, Nutty, Sweet, Woody

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 5 OZ / 140 ML

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Gongfu!

Steeped this up while trying to block out all the tempting Boxing Day sales. This shaihong (sun dried) black tea is one of a handful of tea orders that arrived in the middle of Adventageddon that I’ve been waiting to have time to properly steep up, so it’s a good one to be drinking to remind myself that I absolutely don’t need to buy more tea right now!

Though the liquor is such a deep red colour, the tasting notes of this medium-ish bodied tea are surprisingly much more bright and lively than expected. Sweet, jammy red fruits and golden honey dominate the profile. Red currant or pomegranate jellies spring to mind. They’re balanced out by a bit of a deeper undertone and backend of the sip – a little bit of leather, and a warming whisp of allspice. Some expected malt. All together something about this makes me think of fruit cake, or the more German style honey-based “Gingerbread” I’ve tasted that has much less molasses and brighter top note sweetness than what we typically associate to Gingerbread here in North America. Very pleasant, and it’ll be interesting to see how the flavours deepen and change with age…

Tea Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/C1UyzGyOpIm/?img_index=1

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KllxH4qxZZo

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75

Gongfu 4gr in 60ml gaiwan. 95°. Rinse 10s then 5s first infusion +5 fot the next ones.

All’olfatto molto interessante, profumo di liquirizia e terra, al sapore invece malto, terra, liquirizia. Mi sarei aspettato una dolcezza maggiore.

Dopo 4-5 infusioni ricorda moltissimo il tostato di un hojicha sia al sapore che all’olfatto.

Non mi ha convinto tantissimo, devo riprovarlo magari abbassando un po’ la temperatura verso i 90°

Costs: 0.14 $/gr

Flavors: Earthy, Licorice, Malty, Toasty

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

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83

What a dancong!
It surprises me with his smell of citrus and taste of a lemon pie

Flavors: Citrus, Cream, Mineral

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

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85

Really interesting white, not over sweet but a perfect balance of sweet and bitter.
Smells like a bai mu dan or a shoumei, but tastes more elegant with floral, grassy notes.

Flavors: Floral, Grass

Preparation
190 °F / 87 °C 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

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Gongfu!

For my first spin of this sheng pu’erh I popped the whole mini into a large Western style mug to drink grandpa style throughout the day. In the future, I would probably snap this coin in half as I found the full coin a bit too astringent for my own preferences with this steeping method. However, the sweet notes of orchard and stone fruits was pretty exceptional – very peach and nectarine heavy with a pleasantly woody undertone. A bit like dried bamboo shoots with their uniquely sweet yet umami grass flavour!!

Tea Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/C0KfIuyRw8R/?img_index=1

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDolks5qv3g

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82

Gongfu 4gr in 60ml gaiwan. 95°. Double rinse 10s then 5s first infusion +5 fot the next ones.

Molto buono! Un ripe puerh davvero dolce, mi ha ricondato tantissimo il waffle di W2T, forse un po’ più delicato.
Il pezzo di cake si è aperto alla seconda infusione, ed ha donato da subito dei colori molto scuri, non è un ripe da inchiostro, però sa mantenere un bel colore.

Costs: 0.10$/gr

Flavors: Earthy, Nutty, Sweet

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

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79

This is a very floral and bitter tea. It shares similarity with pu-erh from proximate localities such as Naka and Hekai, but it is noticably less mineral than the former tends to be.

The aroma is nutty and vegetal with notes of wild garlic and ghee. The tea has a watery texture that’s unremarkable, and a bitter-sweet taste with cooling high floral notes. The aftertaste is quite long-lasting and floral again. It brings also a strong drying sense. There are further flavours of apples, bay leaf, baked lemon, and green olives. Throughout the session, I also feel a pleasant chest warming sensation.

Flavors: Apple, Bay Leaf, Bitter, Butter, Cooling, Drying, Floral, Garlic, Lemon, Nutty, Olives, Sweet, Vegetal

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80

Gongfu 4gr in 60ml gaiwan – 90°C, flash rinse, first three infusions are flash, then 10s, +5s for the next ones. (Total Infusions: 17)

Grazie alle prime tre influsioni veloci il tè si è mantenuto bilanciato per tutte e 17 le infusioni.
Nelle prime infusioni si riceve un buon profumo e gusto di frutta, seguito da una leggera cremosità
A metà del viaggio conducono la degustazione la cremosità e i sapori minerali, che persistono quasi fino alla fine.

Ottimo dancong, si sente tantissimo la differenza con altri oolong che invece sono aromatizzati con sapori di crema e latte, che rimangono piatti e non evolvono.

Anche il prezzo non è niente male.

Costs: 0.34$/gr

Flavors: Creamy, Fruity, Mineral

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

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83

This must be one of the most expensive shou I ever tried. While it is surely a nice experience, not lacking in any respect, it also doesn’t have any particular wow factor. Thus in relation to the price ($0.84/gram) I cannot recommend it. Overall, I find that this tea has a higher degree of fermentation than what I often associate with my favourite examples of the category.

The leaves offer a very fast extraction, but one need not worry about excessive bitterness. The taste is nutty and savoury rather than bittersweet. It is metallic and reminds me of Guinness at times. The aftertaste has notes of yeast and meat broth, but also a very long-lasting brown sugar sweetness. The liquor texture is a bit watery overall, with some drying and pulling sensations that stay for a long time and provide for an engaging session. Cha qi is pretty noticeable too, but I wouldn’t buy the tea because of its energy either.

Flavors: Beer, Biting, Bitter, Broth, Brown Sugar, Drying, Metallic, Nutty, Olive Oil, Sweet, Umami, Yeast

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 8 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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87

Another Lao Man E, this time a white tea. Even though it’s from 2023, the oxidation level is fairly high.

While one may expect that for white tea, the quality of the material is paramount, here we have a plantation tea that works very well as a white tea.

Dry leaves smell of sawdust and fur, while wet ones more like cumin and incense. The tea is medium bodied and has a really distinctive character that sets it apart. You have the classic grapefruit bitterness present in many Lao Man E teas, but also many woody, nutty, mineral, and herbaceous notes. It is both smooth and a bit astringent, sometimes reminiscent of gin, at other times of burnt butter. The aftertaste is then more sweet and flowery with notes of apricot and gardenia flowers for instance.

Flavors: Alcohol, Apricot, Astringent, Bitter, Burnt Food, Butter, Cumin, Fur, Gardenias, Grapefruit, Incense, Mineral, Nutty, Sawdust, Smooth, Woody

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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Grandpa Style!

Chose to brew this grandpa style so that I could come back to the it off and on throughout the work day, and my big takeaway is really just that sweet is definitelyyyy the right word for this tea. Though it started a little on the lighter side with brighter notes of honey, it’s settled into a very rich and golden syrupy profile with practically all the decadent brown tasting notes I could want: caramel or toffee, brown sugar, and so much malty, decadent and starchy baked sweet potato. I’m sure it’s also amazing when brewed gongfu, but wow, this is a pleasant and super no fuss tea to enjoy this way. It was such a grounding presence throughout the day!!

Tea Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CzXDN7Dvr8q/?img_index=1

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSQN2n1cpK0

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70

No notes yet. Add one?

Flavors: Bitter, Mineral

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

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86

Questo te bianco mi ha sorpreso incredibilmente, non dolce o stucchevole come molti altri bianchi, è molto bilanciato, ne berrei litri e litri.

Gongfu 4gr in 60ml gaiwan. Rinse 15s. 10s +5s every infusion. (Total infusions: 15)

Costs: 0.18$/gr

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

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drank Grizzly Bear by Bitterleaf Teas
3206 tasting notes

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This seems to be the same tea as Grizzly Brown, and I would have reviewed it there but it was in my cupboard the way the flake came labeled….as Grizzly Bear. One tasting note under Grizzly Brown does refer to this tea as Grizzly Bear so I think they must be the same.

A twenty second rinse yielded really pale color. Making this western style, the thirty second steep was much darker but not inky black like a lot of shu can get.

The aroma is so clean and fresh. Color is now much like any black tea. Fills the mouth with a menthol or camphor coolness, fresh clean dirt, under-the-house crawlspace vibes, not much of the heavy barn manure and horse tack aroma. Lots of mineral.

I had my usual half serving of oatmeal with honey and cardamom for breakfast and was starving already at 9:30 am, so I am having a slice of pound cake and this tea. I am pretending that the tea is so healthy that it will whisk away all the calories and consequences and erase all traces of this cake from my upcoming bloodwork. I can dream, can’t I?

Welp, I guess the first piece of cake was too small. Still peckish so I cut an even smaller slice and resteeped, again about thirty seconds, maybe less.

I am steeping in a Stump pot and decanting into a sterling pot that is under a chandelier. As I pour, the color changes from orange to ruby red to deep blood red as the light reflects from the bottom of the pot. That color was worth the price of admission right there.

The tea in my cup looks dark brown, though! Now the earthiness has amplified and the mineral taste has faded. Now we are in an open barn where my grandfather stored hay and had a stall for a mule that grandmother used for ploughing the corn fields. The manure and barn scents are there, but there is a fresh breeze blowing through the barn. As the tea cools in the cup, the fresh minty lift of menthol is back.

I will steep again later because these leaves clearly have more to give.

This is less oily and mouth-coating than my beloved Mengku Palace but very nice. It isn’t super comolex but it is very enjoyable and I think this tea would be a great introduction to shu puerh. I often use puerh as an introduction to tea for people who say they really only drink coffee, and it has failed to capture them.

Thanks to looseTman for inspiring me to get out some shu and thanks to White Antlers who sent me this tea. (I think, and if I am wrong about where it came from, please forgive me!)

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78

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Another sample from Bitterleaf. I really like their sample packets, they’re this soft, textured white paper but then they’re lined on the inside. The white background just looks so nice with their artistic labels too.

Anyway, this tea. It’s very nice, super smooth and soft with a mellow earthy hay flavor and tart dried apricot notes. Based on the name I would expect to find more floral notes, but maybe they just don’t show up with my heathen Western steep ha ha.

A very smooth and easy-drinking white tea for sure, not sure I would choose this one specifically since it doesn’t really stand out to me, but would happily drink it.

Flavors: Apricot, Barnyard, Creamy, Hay, Oats, Smooth, Stonefruit, Sweet, Tart, Thick

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 5 g 16 OZ / 473 ML

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Sipdown! (44 | 359)

Lovely white tea – I found it very creamy and it had a nice thick texture, almost like a green oolong. Flavor-wise, nothing really stood out to me, just the usual suspects of hay, oats, and dry autumn leaves. A subtle sweetness and maybe a hint of pollen. The description mentions wildflower and I could see that, definitely not getting “apply pie” though ha ha.

Really enjoyed sipping this one in the afternoon, very cozy and satisfying while having a mellow, relaxing flavor. :)

Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Creamy, Dry Leaves, Earthy, Hay, Oats, Pollen, Silky, Smooth, Sweet, Thick, Wood

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 5 g 16 OZ / 473 ML

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