Bitterleaf Teas

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Recent Tasting Notes

90

Gongfu!

The fact this tea is as old as my youngest sibling, who is a full blown teenager now, is really messing with my mind tonight…

I avoided golden flower tea for a long time because I was worried I might be allergic to the spores, but I’m glad I eventually tested it out and didn’t have a reaction because fuck me it’s good. This is thick and sweet, with bright fruity top notes of juicy Pink Lady apple & red currant jam bleeding into the main sip (especially in early steeps) with more of a smoked oak/applewood, forest undergrowth, and tobacco profile rising from the undertones into the body and finish. A slight bit saline in late steeps. Beautiful and nuanced, this is the perfect warming & cozy start to the day!

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CJWY-pXgua6/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXzHrf4geuw&ab_channel=DavidDeanBurkhart

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88

Having greatly enjoyed the sample of last year’s White Crow, I decided to get a cake this time round before the tea sells out. I am happy that they are pretty similar. So much so that I am actually finding it hard to observe any distinct features of the younger one, although it is true that the last time I’ve had the 2019 tea is almost a year ago. In any case, it’s one of the best white teas in its price range and I can highly recommend it, both for drinking now and for future aging.

Flavors: Apricot, Brown Sugar, Cherry, Corn Husk, Cranberry, Floral, Hay, Honeysuckle, Nutmeg, Nutty, Pleasantly Sour, Spicy, Sweet, Tart, Toast, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 3 OZ / 80 ML

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55

I was a little disappointed with this tea. While it wasn’t bad by any means, it’s extremely well-reviewed, and I was expecting it to be quite exceptional as a result. However, at least to me, it was just an average sheng – nothing really special about it. A bit astringent, a bit tart… Not too bitter, probably as a result of being huang pian.

Flavors: Astringent, Hay, Tart

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 2 OZ / 55 ML

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55

Very strong scent and moderate taste of pecans. Some smell of caramel, some of red wine, I think – maybe of oak? All the flavours are balanced, but they almost cancel each other out to some extent. It’s alright, but not an exceptional hei cha to me despite the somewhat unusual flavour profile.

Flavors: Caramel, Oak wood, Pecan, Red Wine

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 55 OZ / 1626 ML

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55

A balanced hei cha. It didn’t really impress me. Mushroom flavours predominate early on, followed by some mild honey-like sweetness, followed by nuttiness. A bit more shou-like than most non-shou hei cha, though I could still taste that ‘golden flower’ sweetness. Medium body.

Flavors: Honey, Mushrooms, Nuts

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 2 OZ / 55 ML

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79

Tried the 2020 Spring version. Surprisingly mild – but an extremely well-balanced tea. I like Dan Cong oolongs in general, and this is one of the best I’ve tried. The scent is deep and full. The taste is somewhat mineral, with a bit of fruit and possibly milk. The texture is also very reminiscent of milk.

Flavors: Fruity, Milk, Mineral, Round , Smooth

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 100 OZ / 2957 ML

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62

A very strong fruity flavour and scent! Quite sweet. Easy to oversteep – I found it worked well just below boiling, for a shorter time than I’d usually use. There’s some sweet potato flavour as the steeps go on, though it doesn’t go all that many steeps. Tried the 2020 Spring version.

Flavors: Fruity, Lychee, Sweet Potatoes

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

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68

There was an initial lychee note, then some more floral flavours. Possibly a bit of lemongrass. Minerality in later steeps. Very refreshing; slightly milky texture, though not as much as some other Dan Cong oolongs I’ve trued. Tried the 2020 Spring version.

Flavors: Floral, Lemongrass, Lychee, Mineral

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

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73

First tasting
Fresh out of bag and shipment, given no time to breathe yet.

Aroma of soup: old library, woodchips, a little fishy in first brew (even after two rinses), wet wood, tobacco leather

Flavor: woodchips, sweet moss, gentle astringency

Color: rich orange amber

Flavors: Astringent, Leather, Tobacco, Wet Wood

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 5 OZ / 147 ML

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90

Thank you derk and White Antlers for another thing I would never try unless it being sent to me?

It’s weird. It’s not tea, it’s parasitic plant growing on tea-trees. Related to mistletoe. Maybe healthy. Maybe… well, see comments under derk’s note; there are few scientific papers shared! The caffeine-level is very low though!

Anyway I decided to brew it in the morning. Food pairing was cereal kaiser roll with cheddar. Yummy. Anyway back to the tea. Brewed grandpa, two teaspoons. The derk’s note is just correct. Fresh air aroma, some herbal note. The taste is DELICIOUS somehow. Mineral-milky-mild. Slightly sweet, especially as aftertaste, refreshing and cooling.

So weird, but so nice!

Preparation
Boiling 8 min or more 2 tsp 10 OZ / 300 ML
White Antlers

Glad you enjoyed it. Sounds like an all around great breakfast!

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This is what I consider to be one of the strangest steepable things in my cupboard, behind the insect tea-poop tea from Liquid Proust (which I haven’t worked up the nerve yet to try). Crab legs are parasitic plants that grow on puerh trees and seem to either grow only in the Jingmai region or are collected only from there, based on some cursory internetting. They really are shaped like segmented crab legs. Little paddles.

I received this from White Antlers and sent most of it out and about into the world, reserving only 5 grams for myself. That 5 grams ended up in my liter teapot tonight, steeped with boiling water and left to brew while I did stuff around the house, maybe 30 minutes.

It brewed a sparkling clear yellow golden color with an orange tint and smells of clean high-mountain air. The taste is mild and pristine! Mineral tingles, very slightly sweet and tart with an almost nutmilky finish and a lingering light sweetness in the back of the mouth. It also produces an herbal cooling sensation in the mouth and I can feel my chest opening. It is incredibly refreshing now that I’m drinking it lukewarm. My housemate chugged two mugs in a row and the biggest smile spread across her face. She loves it!

This is what I imagine as the antithesis to insect tea-poop tea. So clean and pristine. It’s fascinating, really.

Preparation
Boiling 8 min or more 5 g 34 OZ / 1000 ML
Martin Bednář

I just thought about brewing this one several times, but I wondered if it contains any caffeine (seems it does). So I decided always I need something caffeine-free in the evening when I thought, or something caffeine-strong in the mornings.
Glad it is tasty and I think I will try French press that to my family instead drinking it alone.

mrmopar

Yep, only in JingMai does this plant grow. I have read about it and probably need to try some one day.

White Antlers

derk thank you for sharing the box of Swedish Death Purge Tea. I no longer have many people in my life due to death, estrangement and distance, but now I can feel like, on some level, people are having a cup of tea with me. : )

Leafhopper

This looks really unique and interesting! And I understand your reluctance to try insect-poop tea.

Togo

I served the Chong Shi Cha at one of our tea parties telling the guests to guess what it is, lol :D
The theme was that of “unusual” teas, so they should have been prepared for weird stuff. We didn’t have any crab legs though!

Madeline

So cool!! Is insect poop tea made out of actual insect poop? I did a quick google, but I am in disbelief. Glad someone else can be the guinea pig on that one!

Leafhopper

Togo, I’d love to hear how your guests reacted when they found that out! I’m also interested to know how much insect poop is actually in this tea.

derk

It’s pure poo produced by worms that ingest herbs and tea leaves. Chawangshop has a particularly good description: https://www.chawangshop.com/1980s-guangxi-chong-shi-cha-10g.html

I, too, am curious of the poop tea reactions.

Martin, according to the paper I linked, the caffeine content of crab legs is “quite low.” I didn’t notice any caffeine effects and I’m sensitive.

mrmopar, I see Dragon Tea House sells an amount as low as 50g.

White Antlers, your pleasure is my pleasure and many others’.

Martin Bednář

derk: yep, I have noticed it contains caffeine, but indeed very low amount, especially compared to green tea they have tested as well. So, let’s call it caffeine-free blend then :D

Leafhopper

Derk, that description from Chawangshop is … interesting. For something that’s supposed to settle your stomach, I think it would do the opposite! :D

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80

Gongfu!

I had this with some plumcots for lunch a few days ago! I’ve been drinking so much Shou lately that it almost felt weird steeping up an oolong, but this was a really nice one. Approachable flavour with mild minerality, gentle orchid notes, and a touch of woodiness, but mostly medium bodied fruit notes – lucuma, & fruit leathers made with assorted stonefruit. I would have expected a bit more sweetness/vibrancy given the “punch” part of the name, but it definitely delivers on the fruit!!

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CG739jEgVtn/

The elephant tea pet is new, and I am obsessed with how cute she is!

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2D5PG0W9oSA&ab_channel=GoodnightGoodbye

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Gongfu!

Tried to have a nice & relaxing outdoor tea session last week but the weather wasn’t having it – so it was very windy and cold. The tea was still good though! VERY sweet liquor, eating early infusions, with syrupy red fruit notes at the top of the sip. The slips into more vegetal body and finishing flavours with fluctuations between floral and refreshing garden peas and more astringent collard greens. This might be my favourite from this year’s Spring puerh ‘dragonball’ sampler – that I’ve tried so far, anyway…

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CF7HqmNAnaO/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEzWKjdqRBA&ab_channel=ZellaDayVEVO

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61

Sipdown (283)

So Roswell Strange shared this with me (thank you!) and its a puerh and a non-flavored one at that so I was particularly worried about trying it. I don’t like puerhs so I didn’t have high hopes here. Yet I decided to brew it up yesterday as part of september sipdown.

I decided to use my gaiwan to brew it and full disclosure…I didn’t like it. However, I was incredibly surprised at my reasoning for not liking it because it was not for the usual puerh/muddy/mushroom/dirt/etc. reasons.

I tried really hard to write this note yesterday by the way but could not access the page. Kept getting a 404 error so instead I took very brief jot notes.

When I started drinking this, the first thing I noticed was a very drying floral quality to it. Like potpourri or like when you get something like the tiniest bit of sanitizer or deodorant in your mouth and it has this horrible drying/bitter quality to it. I got that for the first 5 steeps so those mostly got dumped.

At the 6th steep, I noted that it was still floral but the drying aspect was going away . I also thought it was maybe buttery or possibly had a pea note.

My notes for steep 7 are: floral, but better though still not great. Beans and grass. I then wrote “green tea?” since once I got through the more bitter steeps, it started to have straight green tea qualities. I am not a huge fan of straight green teas either but I do prefer them to puerhs so it was weird to be getting those tasting notes here.

Steeps 8-10 were similar to steep 7 but with a fuller body. They were also less floral. The more I steeped, the more I got oolong instead of green tea.

Ultimately, it was fine. I don’t think I would flag it as a puerh based on the flavors I got. In my case, that is a huge compliment. With that said though, it was not really a tea that possessed flavors I would want anyways. As such, I didn’t like it but I liked it more than expected. Is that a success? Who knows…

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Next in my exploration of Yiwu sheng is Windfall, a sample kindly sent by Bitterleaf Teas with an order.

Dry leaf was sweet plums with a hint of bitter-smoke and vegetation. Warmed aroma was of baked red and yellow plums. Rinse provides wet vegetation, forest floor, antique wood and aged florals.

First steep was viscous, mellow. I was reminded of 2016 Last Thoughts from White2Tea in many ways. Beyond that, the liquor was mouth-watering, metallic-brassy. Lingering cooked plum aftertaste. Body warm, sinking.

Second steep was a mishap and was very bitter, thick and oily. Bright tobacco, plummy caramel aftertaste. Clean feeling in the back of the mouth. I’m hot!

As the third steep went down, the texture turned fluffy — marshmallow fluff — a food abomination but good in this context. A plummy caramel taste traveled down the throat as bitterness concurrently rose from the depths.

I did a fourth steep and felt the tea to be very bitter and astringent in an unpleasant way. Any similarity to Last Thoughts vanished. Metallic with a heavy sweetness. The tea left me feeling very out of balance so I let the leaves air dry for consumption the following day but never got around to it. Nor any day this week. The dried leaves smell lovely and look pretty sitting in a tea cup but the desire to have a continuation of the session wanes more every day.

Maybe the abrasive, unbalanced power will age into something pleasant. For drinking young, notsomuch.

Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Caramel, Flowers, Forest Floor, Fruity, Heavy, Marshmallow, Metallic, Mineral, Plants, Plums, Smoke, Sweet, Tobacco, Wood

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 7 g 4 OZ / 110 ML

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80

It’s been a while, Steepster! I am doing an Instagram tea challenge, #SeptemberSipdown, and it’s gotten me back into drinking teas :) huzzah! This tea fit the bill for a tea I bought but haven’t tried yet (my bad) – so I am doing a gongfu sesh with my Bitterleaf gaiwan on this fine Friday morning. Did about a 15s rinse with boiling water (upon reading reviews, will lower the water temp for subsequent steeps), then two consecutive steeps of about 12s each to fill my small mug. Fruity, a bit sharp, but also mellow. This is good stuff! Smooths out as I drink more of it. Lots of energy in the first few sips as well (hello Friday!!) but seems to be mellowing as I get more caffeine in my system haha. Won’t overdo it with my caffeine intake, but enjoying this one. I do get apricots.

Happy to be getting back into some tea this month – I really should be taking advantage of this working from home thing more to be having more gonfu tea sessions!

Flavors: Apricot

ashmanra

Welcome back!

mrs.stenhouse12

Thanks @ashmanra! Good to be back :D hey are you on Insta? I am much more active on there with my tea! send me a dm and I’ll send you my instagram tag :)

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80

Gongfu!

I was excited to see the super cool mountain shaped tuo make a return at BLT, after the initial white tea that was pressed into this form. I was even more excited when I saw it was pressed into a Jingmai sheng!

I had this one earlier in the week during a lunch break on a working from home day. I didn’t take a lot of notes because I had a limited amount of time for the session, but this is what I did note down…

So fragrant, floral, and sweet with notes of fresh honey, elderflowers, peony, and dewy Spring grass. Sticky and coating liquor; a great midday treat!!

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CEHq29xAmuF/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cit_qcfg7rU

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Gongfu, and in a way a sipdown…

I was craving Yiwu yesterday afternoon so I finished off my last YoT Rat dragonball, from the sampler I bought earlier in the year. Thankfully I still have an entire untouched cake to still break into because this pu’erh is good!! Lovely huigan following a mix of syrupy stewed citrus and hint of more bitter greens and lemon rind/pith. Astringency increases over the session, but in subtle increments that I loved/appreciated – way nicer that being mouth fucked with astringency right out of the gate. The liquor feels thick & smooth but textured – if that makes any sense at all…

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CH3mf47gGE_/

Not really a music pairing here, because I was playing Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc while I was enjoying the session. Yes – I am getting into the series a little bit late, but I’m still really enjoying it! I started the anime last night too…

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Gongfu!

I blind caked this, like I do all of the YOT teas from BLT, but before I break into my cake I’m trying this in dragon ball format first! This Yiwu raw puer series is my favourite one that BLT does, and maybe my favourite from any company!? So far, this year’s pressing seems slightly more vegetal (fresh Spring/garden greens) than other years, but still has a softness to the liquor and gentle sweetness. I feel like I probably could have pushed my incremental steep time for this tea session so I’ll note that for the future. Looking forward to seeing how this sheng ages!

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CD9SLNmgFKx/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZglEUhOK-Z8

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81

Gongfu!

Last tasting note of the night – feels good to have Steepster back up and running, and to be clearing out some of this backlog of tasting notes. I think I’m about halfway through what I had built up during the freeze…

Between a bunch of new orders and teas sent for me to review, and the TTB I haven’t been having nearly as much straight tea as I used to – and even less of the new Spring pu’erh I’ve ordered. But early this week I found myself dipping into some of my Bitter Leaf Teas spring order with this “8 Ball” 2020 Banpen Dragon Ball while rereading Homestuck Act 1 and getting all those highschool nostalgia feels!!

To be honest, a tea named “8 Ball” is probably more appropriate for one of the later acts (fellow #homestucktrash will know) but regardless it’s a really interesting & pleasant sheng!! Good texture to the liquor, with a medium bodied notes of raw garden peas & bitter leafy greens that get rougher in the “meat” of the session. Really lovely huigan, though! Definitely not the type of sheng profile I normally gravitate towards, but I’m digging it!

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CDZe24DgGQx/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOscjUHPY-o

Shanie O Maniac

#homestucktrash

Oh geez the tumblr flashbacks.

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Grandpa style!

Had this one very shortly after my Spring order arrived – I was so intrigued that I couldn’t wait. The dry leaf is absolutely stunning – the leaves are just so raw and gnarly/overgrown looking, many significantly longer than the length of my hand, even disregarding the stems. I wish I knew more background on the processing/pick, because my first thought was that this is maybe the result of overgrown tea leaves from the period where China couldn’t get workers out to the tea fields because of Covid-19!? I don’t know if there’s truth to that though…

If there is, then what a brilliant way of re-purposing that tea leaf…

In terms of taste – I’m struggling to remember what it was like; I left this sitting in my queue for too long without detailed enough jot notes for myself. I wasn’t sure how much left to use for the brew; the leaf style is so much different that eyeballing isn’t as easy. I went with about eight of the very long leaves, and that might have been a touch thin?

I remember that is was very sweet though, and that I thought the name/description was appropriate for the taste.

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88

Back to short tasting notes – queue is growing.

Had this grandpa style and it was like drinking flower nectar!! I was definitely sad I missed the chance to get a cake of this one last year (so I’ve been savoring my sample), so blind caked this year’s pressing just to be safe!! Haven’t had a chance to steep that one yet, but excited to have a cake all to myself.

Photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/CCqdkF0Atuy/

mrmopar

Tea Hoarder! You are becoming like me LOL!

Roswell Strange

Hoarder is probably a very apt description for someone with 1000+ teas, tbh.

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Gongfu Sipdown (1286)!

A temporary sipdown – as I have a cake of this in transit currently from a tea order placed last year. This was my last dragonball from the dragonball sampler I picked up in the summer last year…

The sheng is so rounded and smooth tasting, with notes of creamed honey and fresh Spring flowers. I thought it was nice to finish off #teacember and 2020 in general with some sweeter teas; we needed some sweetness this year! I’m definitely brewing it very strongly this morning, so the astringency isn’t playing around with these later steeps – I need to remember to balance that with shorter steep times when the new cake arrives.

Photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/CJd-gAlAwMJ/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiKxaJwIYHU&list=LL&index=22&ab_channel=DavidDeanBurkhart

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