Bitterleaf Teas

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Recent Tasting Notes

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…

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/B4axc1cA4FH/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWN81V7ojOE

Flavors: Fruity, Smooth, Sugarcane, Sweet

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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!

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/B4fJZaqgmHh/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgjKlTHbE0k

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Drank Grandpa!

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!

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Western Style!

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?

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88

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

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 12 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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Gongfu!

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.

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/B3PDiSFAg_K/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qritXcYLg4g

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Gongfu!

I’ve actually avoided this tea prior to now, as I generally don’t enjoy bitter profiles in any of my teas but this tea sample was part of the Spring raw puer sampler I picked up and I figured I might as well try it with as open a mind as possible. My verdict!? Bitter, yes, but a lot more pleasant than anticipated and amazing huigan. Not a tea that I will likely brew to completion, but still drinkable and if you push far enough in to the session it rewards you with salivating sweetness!

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/B2r0_zlgf58/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVddzeC9upM&list=LL1M1wDjmJD4SJr_CwzXAGuQ&index=299&t=0s

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72

7.3g (2 waffles), 100ml gaiwan, 205F
rinse – thick
5s-thick, musty?
8s-thick, musty floral
10s-drying, coating
5s- frutier, hint of bitterness

Long lasting fruit aftertaste. not sure how much I like this though I have more to play with. Thinking about running this at 195F to see how it goes.

Flavors: Bitter, Drying, Floral, Fruity, Musty, Thick

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C

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More Gongfu!

Was feeling in the mood for yellow tea over the weekend, so brewed up a session of this. I actually have quite a few yellow teas right now so I had a bunch of options, but I went with what I think is the oldest yellow tea in my stash – you know, gotta sip down some of the stuff I’ve been hoarding for ages…

I choose to think of those older teas as “unintentionally aged”. Usually they’re pretty good despite their age, but generally do seem a little less awesome than when they’re fresh. I don’t think I ever drank this fresh though, so I don’t have a point of reference other than other yellow tea I’ve tried. Can’t remember if I actually ordered this or if it was a freebie…

Here’s what I wrote on instagram:

I only just started this morning tea session but the tea is already brewing out sweet jammy peach and apricot notes, toasty peanut and hazelnut with a greener undertone and a finish that tastes pleasantly of burnt sugar and soft smoke. Probably the sweetest yellow tea I’ve ever had..

I also see someone here on Steepster has described this as tasting like cotton candy and, honestly, I get it!

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/B2JyONIpkHg/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPAB-9_IiaQ

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85

Gongfu!

Nabbed this one in the sheng sampler BLT put out earlier this year; however I likely would have picked up a sample even if it wasn’t in that sampler. I’ve been on a MAJOR yiwu kick this year, and while I think there’s generally a profile associated with Yiwu sheng that I know and love – sometimes a tea will have different characteristics that my golden Yiwu standard, but I’m developing an appreciation for them as well.

That describes this tea pretty well – it’s a bit greener and slightly more bitter than what I usually love about Yiwu (sweet, syrupy, tangy fruit…) but it’s still really good, and that fruitiness is there, you just have to look a little harder and push through a couple more bitter steeps. Ultimately, this is a beautiful tea with a great huigan that settles into something very enjoyable and smooth. I brewed out the session, and immediately afterwards I just felt this sadness about only having a sample of the tea and not a full cake of it…

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/B2K8hRLp0yY/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNoafUU4Ikw

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Steeped this one Gongfu during the work week, but I wasn’t overly into the session – I found that the tea was really quite intense and bitter no matter how long I steeped for, and I tried A LOT of variance over the course of the session. It was like drinking down crushed up Asprin in water. Some bitter pu’erhs, at least, eventually give way to more sweetness either in the aftertaste or if you push past enough infusions – that never happened.

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/B1eES39A-Pj/

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

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90

made in a new-ish Jianshui Zitao pot dedicated to Huangpian. fruity, sweet, very smooth throughout the steeps. so far, my favorite of the new huangpian’s from bitterleaf this year.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 3 OZ / 80 ML

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89

Loved it the first time. Was prepared to purchase. Second session wasn’t as impressed. If I place another order I’ll get a sample. But still experimenting with other samples so will keep searching.
Did short steeps 5 sec < . Tried 185-205F.

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

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20

Didn’t like. Reminded me of cardboard, but pretty good cardboard.
Did short steeps quit after. Wasn’t awful, just blea, meh.

Preparation
5 g 3 OZ / 75 ML

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80

5 sec steeps gradually increased up to 10 sec. Don’t push too hard.
Tea is light and refreshing.

Flavors: Citrusy

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

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One of the coolest parts about travelling to Winnipeg for a week was that it put me in the same city at TheWeekendSessions which was a really rare opportunity for me to connect with someone from the tea community in person. So, with some planning, we set aside time to meet up for tea and exchange some samples!

TheWeekendSessions was an absolutely amazing host, and I had such a nice time sitting down with him and just talking over some tea! This is what was selected for us to drink while we talked and measured out some tea samples – though we drank a maocha version of this tea and not the compressed version. I do actually own the compressed version, so it’ll be interesting to try that tea out in the future and see if I see any big differences between the maocha and compressed forms.

Sadly, I was coming off a cold when we met up and was still a little bit stuffy – so I know that my palate was 100% off, I could tell immediately when the tea was poured that I was only going to be getting a muted version of the teas actual flavours. That’s definitely disappointing, but also something that really was unavoidable. Still, I enjoyed the tea a lot! I found that it started off pretty mellow with just a hint of sweetness that I would maybe liken to sugar cane? And then, as we got a few steeps in, there was a more noticeable bitter top note (like crushed advil) that was really short and fleeting, that gave way into a much, much sweeter and fruity lingering note – like honey dripped on the tip of your tongue? The kind of sweetness that makes you salivate a whole lot.

Thanks again TheWeekendSessions for hosting me at your home! It was such a pleasure getting to put a face to the name – I really look forward to exploring the samples you gave me, after I’m no longer sick – of course.

derk

Isn’t it great to meet with teaheads?

Martin Bednář

Sounds like a nice time.

mrmopar

No one understands a tea head like another tea head!

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82

I get where the name came from, but my first reaction was thinking about the INFERIOR apple (stone fruits are the best fruits and I won’t hear any different) and almost didn’t get this. but I’m a sucker. a sucker for dianhongs and I am VERY glad that this ended up in my cart bc this is SO GOOD. it was cherry/peachy and malty and I love it. I forgot that I was steeping and so the first round it was slightly medicinal, but still enjoyable.

tea-sipper

Wait.. the description calls this peachy but the name is “red delicious”? Hmm

annie

dianhongs are sometimes also called red tea (or I guess Yunnan red tea so it’s not confused with rooibos? I dunno?) but YES. it is peachy (I also got cherry notes) and delicious :)

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I had this yesterday in the cute lil’ cat gaiwan that Bitterleaf has and I cried. but the crying was probably just that I had been wanting some dianhong (or all of the dianhongs) but have mostly been sticking to getting rid of all this green (+also some oolongs) tea that I’ve been hoarding like some kind of monster. THIS is a beautiful dianhong tho, rich…fruitiness? that’s what I remember, which isn’t helpful…and I wrote on the back ‘drink in one year’ so….I guess I’m saving the rest? okay future self.

tea-sipper

Happy Dian Hong! :D

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82

More Gongfu shared w/ roommates!

I brewed this one up in a yixing pot for the roommate who said she preferred pu’erh teas – but I realized about halfway through our shared session that she had meant shou pu’erh over sheng. So, I really enjoyed this tea but neither roommate seemed to love it quite as much. They still liked it, I think – but it just didn’t land the way some of the other teas I’ve served have and I ended up drinking the bulk of the session.

Flavors: Apricot, Grass, Green, Lemon, Sugarcane, Tangy

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82

I love BLT’s “Year of the…” Yiwu series so much – but I was especially excited for this year’s production since I was born in the year of the pig! I basically waited on pins and needles this year for the release, and when it finally happened I blind caked the tea. I also got a smaller sample bag of it though, since I picked up the large sheng sampler they put out this year.

The wrapper art is BEAUTIFUL, for the record! It’s very hard to top the Year of the Dog design, but this is damn close…

Here is my session summary pulled from instagram:

It’s still a touch rough around the edges from being so recently pressed, but this #puer packed some delightfully sweet and tangy fruity top notes, with a greener body w/ hints of anise and a pleasantly bitter undertone. The finish was all green beans & sugar snap peas; lovely crisp, sweet lingering vegetal notes!!

I really look forward to seeing how this tea develops over time; really happy to have it a part of my stash!

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/B0L_WDRgX2j/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyLOqxbj9uc

VariaTEA

Today I was thinking how you didn’t have instagram that long ago and now you’re a pro :P

Roswell Strange

I try XD I think in December I’ll have had my account for two years? Feels like it’s been much longer though!

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Smooth and mild. Woody and mildly bitter. Relaxing qi. I think this tea will open up and offer some rather interesting flavors over the next year. Beer comparison: English mild brewed with Kent Golding hops. As it is now, not a tea that really excites me but I’ve had similar teas that really developed in the following months and have a feeling this may do the same. If I were feeling adventurous I’d gamble on a cake but I have enough of the sample left to revisit in the fall and decide then.

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Bitterleaf deciding to call this tea simply Naka tells you something about the prestige the area has garnered. I tried this tea last summer right after it had come out, but like many other teas from that spring, I ended up coming to the conclusion that it needed more time. I’m trying not to repeat the same mistake with this spring’s teas, and as I wait for my Bitterleaf ’19 teas to tighten up a little, I’m starting off with a few samples from last year that I reordered to revisit them. This tea is one of them.

Placing the dragon ball in a pre-heated gaiwan, I’m smelling chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. That’s rad! I’ve never smelled anything like that coming from a tea. My standard 30s rinse for a dragon ball. Sadly the cookie aroma is gone now and replaced by a much more standard sheng aroma. The wash has a great, oily body. Great vegetal sweetness. Very aromatic in the mouth and nose. Aftertaste is prominent, very floral. Already my breathing is beginning to grow slightly labored and the back of my head is starting to prickle. With a few minutes having passed, I proceed with the infusions, the leaves now properly soaked up.

I did a total of fourteen infusions, the timing for these 20s, 8s, 8s, 6s, 6s, 8s, 10s, 12s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s and 2 min. respectively. Naka starts off light and subtle, but with a heady qi right out of the gate. The flavors are mostly sweet and mineral in the early steeps, developing more into the vegetal and green territory in the middle steeps with a touch of astringency. Once I helped the ball come undone after the third steep, the strength increased notably as one would expect and I was able to stick to sub-ten second infusions for the first half a dozen brews.

The body stayed on the thick side throughout the session, never really faltering, but there wasn’t really much going on texturally apart from some occasional oiliness. What I’ve already said about the flavor pretty much covers it, so really the main focus here is the qi. It was very noticeable and on the aggressive side, albeit not as unfriendly as some Bulang teas for example. Toward the end I was feeling quite intoxicated and giggly, with my muscles aching all over. Driving my car a couple hours later I was still feeling quite high and not fully grounded.

All in all an interesting experience. I should note that flavor-wise I recall my previous session last year being quite similar. I’m thinking the body was probably less pronounced, but I don’t really have a clear recollection. Interestingly I got no qi whatsoever, which is why that first session was ultimately quite underwhelming. I’m saying this to those interested in buying this for the qi and potential tea drunkenness: There are never any guarantees when it comes to cha qi. With some teas I get it, with some sessions I get it, other times I don’t. Everyone experiences these things differently and even you yourself will experience the same tea differently each time. That being said, this tea hit me pretty hard. Not as hard as some others, but harder than anything I’ve had recently.

While the flavors are straightforward and subtle, the longevity is excellent and this seems like one of those teas that could resteep for the rest of the day as long as you’re happy with the brews. Toward the point where I stopped, Naka had gotten somewhat refreshing and fairly smooth overall, with most of the harshness gone. There’s some huigan, but I didn’t get a crazy amount. The astringency does build slightly in the late steeps, but at least for someone like me who’s quite accustomed to it as a mainly sheng and dancong drinker, it never got too harsh.

I’m not sure I’d ever buy a tea just for the qi, and this tea is no exception. While certainly a quality tea which is reflected in the price, I’d rather pick something more textural and dynamic. Can’t wait to get to tasting spring 2019 sheng!

Flavors: Astringent, Floral, Mineral, Sweet, Vegetal

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 7 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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Gongfu from last night, steeped in a Yiwu yixing pot.

Happy to report that, across six steeps (short session; was late at night), this still tasted wonderfully of juicy green pears!

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcdrN_CY-LA&list=LL1M1wDjmJD4SJr_CwzXAGuQ&index=11&t=0s

Flavors: Pear

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Another from my recent BLT order – brewed Gongfu.

I didn’t really worry about not resting this one before tasting it; I bought an entire compressed kilo of it so it’s not like using 7g of it for this session is really going to deplete my stash. I will have plenty of time to revisit this tea as it changes and really get to know it quite intimately…

I think I summed it up pretty well over on instagram: Very sweet, syrupy liquor. Bright, juicy notes of overripe green pears w/ a subtle bit of creaminess. Pleasant bitter finish, and good, mellow body feel. However, there was also a bit of a floral element that combined with the strong, juicy and distinct pear/orchard fruit notes kind of reminded me of fresh quince!? As a whole it was super good though; arguably the best thing I’ve steeped up Gongfu this entire vacation, actually.

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/BzN8MIqA1hI/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEZerH1KAr4&list=LL1M1wDjmJD4SJr_CwzXAGuQ&index=45

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