Bitterleaf Teas

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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

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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Another Gongfu session from yesterday.

So this tea is very, very young and I also gave it no time to rest after receiving it in the mail; so with that in mind take my thoughts with a grain of salt – this tea is definitely going to change a lot with time. I was just so excited and hyped up about having new teas that I wanted to drink something from my recent BLT haul right away and TheWeekendSessions was also steeping this one yesterday so I figured this seemed as good an option as any tea, especially because we’d be able to compare notes!

For once, since I was trying to match his session, I actually measured the amount of leaf I was using – often I just eyeball it and trust that I know my weights enough to be pretty spot on with what I’m intending (one of the cool skills I picked up from working in store for DT is a pretty damn accurate judge of grams, just from muscle memory). So, this was 3.5g of tea in a 50ml gaiwan – with water just below a boil.

Instagram thoughts:

Simple, sweet stonefruit notes early on; pleasant but mellow. I want more; either more brightness or a denser, sweeter stonefruit. Those fruit notes give way to more of a bitter, green quality and tame astringency. I had one oddball infusion that tasted like a sort of resin-y maple to me, but aside from that outlier steep I found later steeps to have a more bitter tree sap and wood taste, with a smidge of peppery spice. I wish any and all of the present notes had more intensity though. Not terrible, not amazing: somewhere in between those two things.

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/BzRM6EIgudU/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHb24Nte3is&list=LL1M1wDjmJD4SJr_CwzXAGuQ&index=15&t=0s

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 g 2 OZ / 50 ML

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79

Gongfu from yesterday!

I have 100% had this tea before – but apparently I’ve not reviewed it before so, uh, my bad. Anyway; this was my morning Gongfu session yesterday because I had a real craving for a nice, clean shou and that basically perfectly describes this tea. I paired it with some Rainer Cherries from the local market, because cherries and amazing and shou just goes so well with them and, well, bam! I was set!

Something like ten infusions – I didn’t track ‘em, I just enjoyed. I did fully brew out the tea though because I was having such a lovely time with the session. I chose rainer cherries in part because I just really like them, but also because they’re sweet and tasty but not as dense and intense in sweetness as your typical red cherry; just a simpler, less complex flavour – which is good when you’re drinking a shou that is full bodied and can handle the sweetness level, but not nuanced and aromatic enough to match the qualities of red cherries…

Which is this shou! Super thick, dark and heavy infusions right off the bat that are full bodied and smooth. Really this is just a very, very earthy tasting shou with a hint of wood and mushroom; it’s quite tasty but really not all that complex in its flavours or delivery of them. BLT is correct when they say you don’t need to rinse this tea; it’s so clean that you can just enjoy it right away. That’s awesome! It’s just that, on the flip side, there isn’t really an evaluation of flavour to be had with this tea – what you get is what you get, just in a slope of intensity depending on where in the session you are.

Makes for really good no fuss drinking, though!

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/BzQkay9g4iG/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ir6nk2zrMG0

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73

After rinsing the leaves, their wet aroma gave off no alarming or obnoxious smells; some of the immediate sourness and strength, which is present in some young shengs, was not present here. The smell wasn’t necessarily dull, but it gave me nothing to fear continuing. 

The color of the liquor began as a very light yellow, and didn’t stray far from this throughout the session. The tea was clearer than some of the tea I’m more acquainted with, but still wasn’t entirely transparent. Sipping the first steep, there was an immediate sweetness that resonated on the tip of my tongue, and lingered on my lips. As I swallowed the tea, it tingled the middle and back of my tongue. The body of this tea was rather thin, but not distastefully so. The dominant flavor at this point was still the light sweetness, which edged on floral, but was not so bright. The second steep highlighted the lower half of this tea’s flavor, which is a vegetal, somewhat grassy, and slightly bitter, taste. This type of flavor is very common among young shengs, especially ones less than three years in age; however, this component of the tea did not hit as hard as it does in some others like it. The sweetness was not overpowered by this vegetal taste, but it did become clear that there were two fighting flavors in the tea. This part of the tea ramped up against the sweeter counterpart up until steep 6. During this, a underlying and faint creaminess established itself in the brew; recurring, but not very prevalent. Steep 6 was a turning point in flavor, as the vegetal / bitter flavors plateaued, and faded every steep past 6. The sweetness had calmed by this point, but came out on top as it became the dominant flavor in steep 6 +.  This was a nice surprise, and gives the drinker a reason to keep steeping beyond the first few. This said, it is worth nothing that the harder you brew this tea, the more vegetal it will taste; similarly, the quicker you drink it, the less you’ll taste of it’s sweet flavor.

In conclusion, this young sheng doesn’t bring much to the table in terms of complexity or body feel, but it is an excellent value for a daily drinker – $36 for a whole 200g cake, which, at one year’s age, is an incredibly tame young sheng. The sweetness may dull with age, but if the body of the tea is to beef up over the next few years, I could see it evolving into a very interesting brew. 

Specs:
6.8g / 100ml 
100c (boiling) water
Steep time = 5x seconds, where x = steep number

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 30 sec 6 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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Gongfu!

This cryptically named sheng is a tea I received as a free sample from BLT a few orders back, one that I’m just now trying – or, rather, just tried yesterday. I didn’t measure the leaf; just sort of filled the 100ml teapot I was using until it looked reasonably full; additionally I only steeped five infusions, even though this could have handled more – but I looked up at the clock and it was about 10:30PM so I felt I should probably stop drinking tea for the evening at that point…

Here’s my summary on instagram of the flavours:

Whatever this actually is, it brews up quite lovely! Very sweet initially, I found this sheng finished lightly and pleasantly bitter and somewhat resin-y, with a lovely huigan. It’s a touch floral; maybe notes of violets!? At the same time I found that the sweeter notes had a bit of a mellower “orange” stonefruit (peach/apricot/nectarine) note. Thanks BLT for the interesting sample!

Photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/BysPBnxgkdv/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIx39OS0_Ls&list=LL1M1wDjmJD4SJr_CwzXAGuQ&index=107

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80

No notes yet. Add one?

Flavors: Earth, Peach, Sweet, Yams

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Gongfu Sipdown (605)!

Finished this one off last weekend, I believe. I’ve been holding onto this little coin for a long time; I got it in a travelling tea box years ago – back when I was still living in the condo building in Regina. I don’t even remember which travelling tea box, it was such a long time ago…

About six of seven steeps total; it was late at night and I was only loosely tallying. Plus, after the fourth steep I was pretty tea drunk and I felt like I was floating. To be fair, I hadn’t eaten in, like… Six hours? So I was riding that sheng pretty hard. This was sweet citrus/lemon (with pithy peel notes), floral undertones that built in intensity throughout the session, and a bit of a greener note with some “snap” to it. I like a tea that bites back! This is a lovely tea though, and I’m glad I waited to brew it because I doubt I’d have appreciated it as much three(ish) years ago when I first acquired it.

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/ByILalNAt6X/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zm_UDoLn-CI&list=LL1M1wDjmJD4SJr_CwzXAGuQ&index=30&t=0s

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reviewed Babe Tea Pets by Bitterleaf Teas
468 tasting notes

Bought one of the red pigs to commemorate the year of the pig, me being a product of 1983. The craftsmanship is evident, nice rough texture, a kind of unfinished touch that I appreciate much like a pig itself. Pig’s about as long as the width of my palm.

The only reason I’m writing about this pig…

I spent some time working with a few Juniper Ridge employees earlier this week harvesting juniper in northeastern California. One of the employees was Pablo, a stoic yet hilarious dude.

The day started off with finding a lost pupper wandering around in the previous night’s snow (really wish I could attach photos!). She was going to come home with me. The town vet lived next to the property we were working on. The vet took the dog into town to their clinic where an employee recognized the dog and called her owner. Still feeling kind of sad about that. The dog was so sweet.

After dealing with a full day of alternating snow, sun, clouds, rain and wind, a healthy round of beers was indulged. Pablo opened up a little and joked about having a pet pig and after eating a horrendous dinner at a Mexican restaurant (all the food in the town of Alturas is near inedible), he said he was going to make carnitas out of his pet pig. With a healthy buzz going around, of course we all got out our phones to share pictures. Pablo really does have a pet pig. And it’s HUGE. He has this HUGE pet pig at the likely small city lot he lives on. Apparently some people that sell pigs as pets lie and say they’re exactly that, pets, but a lot of them end up the size of something which ends up at a carnicería. So maybe Pablo wasn’t joking about making carnitas out of his buddy.

Anyway, the trip was awesome, my work clothes smell like juniper and chainsaw exhaust and I have my own tea pet pig that I’ve now named Pablito. Here’s to my year!

Roswell Strange

I’m still hunting for the perfect pig tea pet – I think I’d like to make a tradition out of that getting a tea pet matches each zodiac year and since I’m year of the pig/boar this seems like a good place to start. Glad you enjoy this one + cute name. I name all my tea pets too.

Mastress Alita

I’m year of the dog, 1982, but I’m very un-doglike (I’m such a cat-person). I still don’t have a tea pet; I figure without a tea tray there is little point in getting one yet. But I think I’d want a cat (which aren’t very popular, being the animal that was left out of the Chinese zodiac), or a fish. Cute pig!

The last house I lived in was on Alturas Dr. Considering my parent’s cooking, seems the inedible food still holds up…

Roswell Strange

1995 – but I don’t know if I’m a typical “Year of The Pig” since I’ve never done any research into the zodiac meanings at all.

Ooh – I have three cat tea pets and some fish as well! I love all of them :) If you end up going for a cat, I recommend Bitterleaf – they seem to always have at least one style of cat tea pet in stock and they’re generally all super cute/adorable.

hawkband1

Seconding Bitterleaf! I have one from them too. It’s really cute.

derk

Yeah, Bitterleaf always seems to have a revolving door of cute kittehs.

Mastress Alita, I don’t even have a proper tea tray. It’s some cheapo wood decorative black tray I bought at Goodwill that I covered in a tea towel. Certainly not something I can get wet and wild with so both my pets sit in a rinse bowl also bought from Goodwill. I have no idea what the hell the vessel’s original purpose was because of its strange shape but it works and accommodates Pablito and Balompié.

Roswell, I’m jelly you got that old man you named Leopold. It’s just so damn weird. I swear I’ve seen a pic of Leopold before on your Instagram or something.
Am I correct in thinking he’s from Bitterleaf?

Roswell Strange

He is definitely from Bittrrleaf! I love Leopold; he’s 100% my most unique teapet. And people seem to either adore him or hate him – super polarizing.

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