Bitterleaf Teas

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Recent Tasting Notes

Grandpa Style!

Bitterleaf always absolutely crushes the sourcing of their Jingmai productions, and this 2024 pressing is no exception. Smooth, fresh, and floral with heady notes of orchids, lilac, and pea blossoms with just enough gentle astringency pushed forward from this brewing style. Usually, I take the “cake is sample” approach with each year’s production of this series but this year I tried to scale back how much I spent on Spring teas so I could focus on putting a dent in some of the teas I already have. I might already be regretting that decision, though…

Tea Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/C8FwvT0RfsG/?img_index=1

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOz9YSAe8bk

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Gongfu!

My Spring tea order from Bitterleaf arrived this week, so I’m steeping up a session of the 2024 Red Dragon Yiwu Shaihong black tea in my Pokémon gaiwan. I know I should wait for these cakes to have a moment to settle following their trip across the globe, but I couldn’t resist breaking into at least one of them right away – new Spring teas always get me so hyped.

…and this tea is incredible!! Thick and syrupy right off the bat with pungently sweet notes of waxy red fruits and almonds extract with undertones of maple, walnut, molasses, and golden raisins. Malty in its overtones, but floral and heady in the finish. I feel heavily invested already in the complexity and flavour impact of this black tea. I mean, just wow. It’s going to be very, very hard not to immediately dive into the white tea and sheng pu’erh cakes made with this material. Very hard.

Tea Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/C7m34p3OHFo/?img_index=1

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-YQpoH3-PQ

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Prepared in my Jian Shui gaiwan, and served in my porcelain teacup via my glass cha hai. Filtered Santa Monica municipal water boiled then allowed to cool for a little while.

No scale or thermometer, so guessing at quantities/temp.

Dry leaves are long and wiry with plentiful golden sections. Smells like Autumn: hay, grain, and hints of leaf litter, pumpkin, and books.

Orange peel/butterscotch liquor.

Delicate faintly grainy aroma.

Flavor follows the nose and is joined by low cocoa notes, pumpkin bread, and dried fig. Finishes almost savory (wood/leaves) with a bready returning sweetness reminiscent of oat cakes. Lovely gentle roast quality throughout. Good longevity.

Creamy (but not slick or oily) mouthfeel. No astringency.

The infusion is subtle compared to the promise of the dry leaf, yet still satisfying. High quality leaves, processed with care.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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72

Way too floral for me, but at least that dies down after a steep or two. I wish I could get more of the sweeter notes that I expected, but at least the creamy, buttery finish comes through. I still think it’s an excellent tea that holds up over many steeps and has nice flavor development, it’s just not my favorite.

Flavors: Butter, Floral

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 30 sec 5 g 100 OZ / 2957 ML

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89

I’m going through these dragon balls slowly, since I know Bitterleaf is sold out of them. So good! Definitely honey notes, a bit of caramelized sugar, and a starchy, bread-like finish. It goes strong for many steeps – I got seven good ones (and a weak eighth because I always try to go too long to get as much as I can out of a tea that I can resteep). Thoroughly enjoyable, and comforting to have since I’m on the last bit of All Day Breakfast, which I will miss greatly.

Flavors: Bread, Caramelized Sugar, Honey

Preparation
Boiling 1 min, 0 sec 5 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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Gongfu!

I believe this mini cake of compressed white tea was offered exclusively as part of the 8th Anniversary sale, and I was really excited to snag it since BLT typically knocks their white teas out of the park. As I’m slowly savoring this session while listening to the soothing ambiance of the rain outside, I’m finding this tea reminds me a lot of Skinny Dip; my favourite recurring white tea production that Bitterleaf carries. It’s very smooth and fresh with a lot of natural sweetness and both a creamy taste and mouthfeel. Initial steeps tasted a lot of ripe green melons to me, though now, as the session starts its decrescendo, I’m getting a more familiar mix of brown sugar and cooling cucumber pulp – some of my favourite tasting notes in white teas.

Tea Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/C6l2QhhOC_3/?img_index=1

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcxoTcgv5Nc

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Grandpa Style!

Slowly but surely I’m putting a dent in this cake. It’s soft and smooth, and the gentle notes straw and white Spring flowers. In particular, I keep latching on to the fresh, dewy taste of lilacs and orchids and the sweet honey-tinged notes of Prairie grass in the finish. It’s been very relaxing, and I don’t think I could have asked for a better tea to sip on throughout this lazy afternoon…

Tea Photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/C6PVCEeOuKp/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=46T0LDRsHCc

MadHatterTeaReview

I’m inspired to pull out my sample of this today!

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Gongfu!

Enjoyed this session with the one piece of teaware I ended up bringing home from World Tea Expo this week; I couldn’t resist the rich teal colour contrasted with the intricate red and orange dragon motif. Not only is it all my favourite colours rolled up into one teacup, but it’s perfect for the Year of The Dragon as well…

This Dianhong is also extremely lovely. All the namesake flavours are reflected in the taste profile, though perhaps the floral notes the least. Each sip starts with a warm, rich flavour of malty dark chocolate, toffee, and rye bread before finishing with a bouquet of ripe stonefruits and guava. I found the tender flavour of peach and the sweet tropicals were what lingered the most, with the flavour gently blanketing my palate long after each swallow. The beauty behind the combination of chocolate and guava is a pretty recent discovery for me, so seeing those tasting notes pop up naturally within this tea was very interesting to me!

Tea Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/C46aHq7OT8j/?img_index=1

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

Leafhopper

Reading the name of this tea always makes me want to do a big Bitterleaf order!

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Oh no. So fishy. Verging on ripe puerh, definitely not a flavor I’ve ever experienced with a black tea before.

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72

A very dark-roasted Iron Goddess Oolong with flavors of Corn Flakes, Charleston Chew, marshmallow and chocolate, vanilla cookie, Three Musketeers bar, salted caramel, and coffee. Some delicious flavors, but it starts off light and grainy in the first steeps and ends a bit cloying in the later steeps when the marshmallow becomes a bit too artificial tasting. The wet leaf aroma has a powerful strange bitterness like burnt sugar, creme brulee with sliced strawberries, and Special K Red Berries cereal. Overall interesting complexity and surprising marshmallow and chocolate notes, but lacks balance. There’s also a persistent corn/grain note, especially when brewing Western style, that detracts from the other flavors.

Flavors: Burnt Sugar, Chocolate, Coffee, Cookie, Malt, Marshmallow, Strawberry, Vanilla

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 30 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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95

Floral bomb. A whole bouquet of flowers in the aroma and taste. Lilies, gardenias, rose perfume, fresh rain, pine forest, strawberry candy, freeze dried raspberries, green pear, jasmine, pistachios, and steamed white rice. Elegant, confident, powerfully full-flavored and floral. Like a rich, sophisticated, impeccably dressed woman with expensive old perfume that smells of roses and the humid green jungle. This is a tea of remarkable quality and refinement.

Flavors: Floral, Jasmine, Lily, Pear, Perfume, Pine, Rice, Rose, Strawberry

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 30 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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63

Sipdown 28 – 2024

Sad to say I didn’t love this as much as I thought I would. The fruitiness outshines the magnolia/any floral qualities and Bitterleaf wasn’t lying when they said there’s a banana note. It’s interesting, but just wasn’t something I wanted to return to.

Flavors: Banana, Fruity

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65

Nice flavors, but very light and delicate. Vanilla yogurt, dandelion, pear blossom, bee nectar, crab apple, canned peaches, fresh apricot. Just too light.

Flavors: Apple, Apricot, Dandelion, Honeydew, Peach, Pear, Pollen

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 30 sec 4 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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90

Powerful, delicious Dianhong. Big bouquet of vanilla poppyseed muffin, roses, mulch, plantfood, and sticky pipe tobacco. Strong flavor of dark, sweet tobacco, dark chocolate and chewy caramel (Reisen candies), and roses. Looong lingering vanilla sweetness, like poundcake. No bitterness or astringency at all. Excellent.

Flavors: Caramel, Dark Chocolate, Rose, Tobacco, Vanilla

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 30 sec 7 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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Gongfu!

Sneaking one last session this afternoon before taking off for World Tea Expo tomorrow morning!! Despite mostly having a more savory and vegetal profile, something about this session reminded me of some of the Jingmai productions that I love so much from Bitterleaf. Maybe it was the soft and silky mouthfeel of the liquor, but I think more so it was the undertones of lavender that seeped into the body of any longer infusions throughout the session. A fascinating blend of florals and brothy umami notes.

Tea Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/C4oSF7hOh0_/?img_index=1

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sox6ApFi9Is

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78

Vegetal and fruity. Starts with dried apple chips and nutmeg on the first steep, then opens into roasted parsnips and carrots, baked apple, persimmon, green pear, dried apricot, and some mint. More apricot and floral notes (flowering pear tree?) come out in later steeps. Clean and refreshing.

Flavors: Apple, Apricot, Carrot, Floral, Fruity, Mint, Pear, Vegetal

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 30 sec 6 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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87

Sipdown 29 – 2024

Just a really great green oolong. So fresh tasting- like green beans, peas, and clarified butter.

Flavors: Garden Peas, Green Beans, Peas

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87

Purchased the Element tasting set from Bitterleaf recently and this is the first I’m trying of the set. First thing I notice is how beautiful the leaves are- super bright green! Next thing I notice is how fresh smelling it is, which translates to the flavor.

Super vegetal and slightly floral. Really solid tiegaunyin.

Flavors: Butter, Green Bell Peppers, Lilac, Stewed Vegetables, Vegetable Broth

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89

Sipdown

I’m still thinking about this tea today and regretting passing on a cake years ago. I finally allowed myself to indulge and finish this leaf within TWO sessions. It’ll be missed…

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Gongfu!

This was a bit of an unexpected session as, though the dry leaf smelled so strongly of rich Dutch cocoa and rye bread to me, the steeped tasting notes were pretty unexpected. I’d describe this as a pretty overall sweet and full-bodied hongcha, though the front end of the sip was much more fruity tasting with notes of guava jam and other red fruits and the backend was burnt sugar and rich golden English toffee or salted caramel. Maybe with just a hint of espresso and a fleeting note of that cocoa I’d initially picked up from the unsteeped leaf. Very, very much right up my alley.

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

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68

Sipdown 42 – 2024

This was ultimately just okay. A bit better than the rating I originally gave, but it just never wowed me.

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68

I love the fancy crocodile lady on this bag. Bitterleaf art is so unique and fun. I wish I loved this tea as much as I love the art with this particular tea, though. I’m just not wowed by it. It tastes pretty average- a touch smoky? I’ll finish off the little bag I got but wouldn’t get it again.

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79

Sipdown 32 – 2024

I quite enjoyed this and will probably repurchase at some point.

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79

This smells SO good. Syrupy sweet. The sweetness in the aroma mellows out in the flavor. The syrupiness morphs into more of dark honey, with some slight bitterness playing off of the honey notes. I get fuzzy, fresh apricot coated in a super dark honey. Also getting some longan and jujube.

Flavors: Apricot, Honey, Lychee, Peach, Stonefruit

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