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Recent Tasting Notes
I finally received samples of Bitterleaf’s 2020 sheng lineup. Since I liked last year’s Full Frontal enough to grab a bing of it for daily drinking and figured this was the closest thing to it in this year’s selection (I believe Bitterleaf has said as much in one of their Instagram posts), I ordered 100g straight away instead of a mere taster.
I tried to pick two mountains totaling as close to 8g as possible for my new 120ml Yixing jiangponi clay gaiwan which I’ve been absolutely loving so far, but the best I could do without going through the whole bag was around 8.4g. I rinsed the lil peaks for half a minute filling the gaiwan to less than full, but this turned out to be too long (or not enough water) as the wash turned out really intense. Despite the seemingly heavy compression, the mountains aren’t too tightly compacted and open up rather quickly, hence I proceeded with the brewing normally as I would do with any sheng.
Right out of the gate, I was very impressed. The early brews were the most floral I’ve ever experienced with any tea. Typically I have a hard time even picking up on floral notes, but this tea literally tasted like I was munching on a bouquet of flowers. I’m no expert on flowers, so the best description I can give is that to me they tasted like white flowers. Bloom is a very flavorful tea, but didn’t come across as an overly intense tea to me as some can be. Even more impressive though is how strong and long-lasting the aftertaste is, only building up as you keep drinking through the early infusions. Around midway through the session I reached a point where the aftertaste was essentially just as strong as the taste while having the tea in your mouth.
Speaking of impressive, Bloom is one of the most full bodied teas I’ve had in a long time. Thick and creamy in the early steeps, the tea coats your mouth and offers a very satisfying textural experience. As the infusions progressed, I began to feel a very pleasant active sensation at the back of my tongue and in my throat, like an almost euphoric massage. As I said, very impressive.
The tea has a lot of upfront sweetness, in the late steeps concentrating in particular on the sides of the tongue. While there’s some green character perceptible, it is largely overshadowed by everything else going on. While I struggle to describe some of the flavors in particular in the mid steeps and also didn’t take notes as I wasn’t expecting to be reviewing this tea based on this first session without it having had any rest at all after arriving, I found this Jingmai surprisingly dynamic and certainly an engaging tea to session. Time seemed to fly by very quickly while drinking it.
There’s certainly some astringency in a tea this young, but I never found it to rise even close to being an issue. For most of this session I actually did two infusions with the same water before reboiling, with the temperature typically having dropped to around 95°C for the second steep. This resulted in every other infusion being a bit more heavy hitting and the ones to follow a bit sweeter. Both approaches worked very well and mixing them up helped make the session even more interesting than it normally would have. I only continued up to a two-minute steep, but the tea was certainly still going at that point.
All in all a really superb tea, especially for the price. This one was like Full Frontal on steroids. It has everything I love about that tea, amped up to the max, and more. Perhaps the one slight disappointment I had was how quickly the flavor started dropping once it did, but by the two-minute steep the tea most certainly still had plenty of strength – just compared to what had come before it seemed much weaker. This will likely improve with age anyway, so certainly a very minor gripe.
As this marks my 100th review here on Steepster, I was a bit worried of not having any kind of special tea planned in advance, but this one somehow managed to really impress me and is most certainly worthy of commemorating this occasion!
Flavors: Floral, Sweet
I’m mainly a sheng drinker and typically only reach for an oolong when eating stir fry, curry or other Asian food. I bought this high end dancong last year (slightly over $1g iirc) , sampled fresh and was underwhelmed. This morning I was in the mood for something different than the young sheng I usually blast my system/tastebuds with, reached into my dancong bag and grabbed this. My oh my what a difference a year makes. Super oily, sweet, plums, lychee, hoisin and sesame oil notes complimented by notes of herbs I have yet to taste (and I have a big herb garden. Typically I only crave roasted oolongs when eating food that’s heavy on toasted sesame oil as they go together so well. I rarely drink them on their own. I could drink this stuff all the time. It steeped forever too. The qi is great too but different then sheng. A chilled out wave of relaxation and contentment. I’m beginning to understand oolong fanatics. I only wish I had a Peking Duck to go with this but they’re a little hard to come by in a small town in Central Pennsylvania at 9am. Luckily I have about 2 sessions left so I see a Peking duck in my near future
Bitterleaf kindly threw in a full bing of this with my recent order, so I decided to give it a shot while the tea was at its greenest. The artwork is a looker and the cake loose enough in compression to make breaking off leaves a breeze without much risk of breaking too many of the leaves themselves. The appearance of the dry leaves can be deceptive, as their dark hue reveals a very verdant green color when reintroduced to water.
The bing gives off a pleasant sweet fragrance, whilst the wet leaves reveal more of a vegetal character. My order included a 120ml Yixing jiangponi clay gaiwan which I intend to dedicate to dry stored sheng of all ages, so Mickey made a natural choice for breaking it in. I used 8g of leaf and freshly boiled water as is standard for me. I didn’t keep notes as this was more of a casual session, but I used more or less my standard brewing times for sheng.
For such a young sheng, the first thing I noted about the tea was how fragrant it already is. Typically I find young raws processed according to my tastes to lack fragrance in the first year, but gradually start to develop it as the months and years go by. Then, as I took my first sip of the rinse, what immediately hit me was the potency of these leaves. I’ve had the year of the rooster and year of the dog iterations of this tea, and I can say this year’s harvest is a real powerhouse. The trout this year was even worse than last year from what I hear, resulting in even denser, more concentrated tea than many of last year’s offerings from Yunnan. If this tea is any indication of what to expect from the rest of this year’s teas, I’m excited to taste them.
The flavor is immediate. Aftertaste is much more subtle, but it’s there and lasted me hours after the session. Sweetness is the most prominent characteristic. There’s definitely a verdant freshness present in such a young tea, but it’s not a leafy or grassy greenness, rather more of a vegetal character. While it’s been a few years since I last had it, I’m reminded of the Yunnan Sourcing spring 2015 Da Qing Gu Shu and Jinggu teas in general. I got hardly any bitterness and astringency was kept largely in check. Later longer steeps saw a growing roughness creeping in, which in my experience seems to be typical for young teas and tea produced from younger trees. I found longevity to be good, but stopped the session prematurely to avoid dealing with the roughness.
Overall an excellent tea and one that performs well above its price point. I prefer this year’s iteration to previous vintages I’ve tried and it’s the first one I can recommend without reservations for someone looking for a quality tea that doesn’t break the bank. Mickey is a great daily drinker for immediate consumption, but the added potency and frankly crazy oiliness present in the tea soup this year make this one a great candidate for aging. Not a tea I would have caked myself as I tend to prefer teas that are a bit closer to midrange or even high end, but definitely a tea that I’m happy to receive a bing of and one that will be in regular rotation this summer.
Flavors: Sweet, Vegetal
Bitter End Xtra is undoubtedly a high end tea. It gives almost neverending sessions and with passing years, it should brew even longer and display more complexity. Today I got 21 steeps (that would be almost 300ml/g), but it is clear that one could push it even further.
The dry leaf aroma is fairly standard as far as young sheng goes – it is sweet and metallic with a strong dry grass character. After the rinse, I get the impression of a forest with a sort of cooling sensation. Over the course of the session, the aromas then become quite complex and elusive until they settle into a mix of fruits and flowers towards the end.
As expected, the tea is bitter, although not in any particularly negative way. The bitterness is far from overpowering. As TJ Elite mentions, it is not abrasive. I would say that there are two kinds present.
In the first quarter of the session, there is a fast grapefruit-like bitterness that subsides quickly. Other flavours include licorice root, straw, apricot pits, and beech wood, with some black pepper and grapefruit notes in the aftertaste. The liquor is very active in the mouth and there is no astringency whatsoever. The cha qi creeps up fairly slowly and at this point it is mostly energizing.
Later in the second quarter, there is a very long-lasting woody bitterness that can linger on for more than an hour after drinking. The texture is buttery and reaches peak viscosity. I also get a notable apple flavour around these steeps. They carry the strongest mind-numbing sensations accompanying the drinking. The effect of the tea seems much more meditative than before.
In the second half, bitter flavours recede, allowing other aspect to come to the fore. The third quarter of my today’s session was actually the most flavourful! Fruity and floral flavours dominate with notes such as banana and yellow beans. Mouthfeel is more on the oily side, although not as full-bodied anymore.
Around steep 16 is when some astringency finally appears. From then on, the flavours gradually weaken and the overall character becomes increasingly floral with no bitterness left.
Flavors: Apricot, banana, Bitter, Black Pepper, Dry Grass, Floral, Flowers, Fruity, Grapefruit, Green Beans, Licorice, Metallic, Oak wood, Straw, Thick
Had this yesterday evening as an excuse to break in some beautiful new teaware that I recently received in the mail from Viter Ceramics! The tea was sweet and fruity; delicious as always – I’m really looking forward to this year’s pressing! The shibo is GORGEOUS and pours like a dream, as well. It’s the perfect size, the cup it came with is stunning and it feels great to hold/drink from.
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NnSEdOp5zI
Downside to a large tea stash is that sometimes samples get neglected; such is the case for this dancong that was a free tea sample with an order at one point. At the time, I just didn’t have an appreciation for dancong so I waited to try it, and then it wound up forgotten about until recently. The dry leaf is still stunning, and the liquor its producing in this session is enjoyable; more of a heady floral with very slight nutty and cherry undertones than marzipan/almond but I suppose cherry and almond are often a bit indistinguishable. Still, I can’t help but wonder what my experience would have been like when it was fresh…
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5Rqe_kr99A
This is a tea I received a free sample of. At one year of age, it finally felt like a good time to give it a shot. The parameters and brewing times were my standard ones for sheng. I won’t repeat them here, so go look at one of my other reviews for reference if you so wish.
Full Frontal sips very clean, most of the flavor arriving in the aftertaste, immediately after you swallow. This is exactly what I look for in quality pu’er, so high marks here. The tea soup is quite oily; taste floral and dense. Though light in nature, the liquor is very flavorful and the aftertaste long-lasting. In the mid steeps the floral notes are joined by soapiness in the aftertaste. I mean that by no means as a negative. In my experience Jingmai teas tend to express very little bitterness, but in its stead a fair amount of astringency or dryness. That was not the case here, with only a modest amount of astringency at best appearing in the late steeps.
The leaves themselves are very small, presumably at least in part due to many trees in Jingmai being mixed leaf varietal as I understand. This no doubt contributes in part to the strength found in the early brews. Many small-leaf teas tend to brew out quicker than their large-leaf counterparts, but for me Full Frontal continued to deliver perfectly acceptable results till the two-minute infusion which is where I stopped. I wager they had at least one more good brew in them, so longevity is good.
Personally I’ve never been a fan of Jingmai. I’ve had one sheng that I liked from there in the past — one also of the floral kind — but the teas veering more towards honied, greener notes I’ve always hated. This tea on the other hand I can wholeheartedly recommend. I might even pick up a cake myself as the price is more than reasonable relative to the quality.
Flavors: Floral, Jasmine, Olive Oil, Soap, Sweet
I’m on a black tea kick right now, and this is one of several black teas that I had over the weekend. Here’s what I wrote on instagram during the session:
“I’m sipping on some incredible Dianhong at the moment!! The dry leaf smells so good; sweet notes of brown sugar and fruit, with a hint of sweey potato. The taste of the first few infusions completely blew my mind; very brown sugar bruleed sweet potato & yams with rich notes of malt, buckwheat honey, molasses, brandy, black cherry, stonefruits, and fig!! A little brightness at the top, but then full bodied, dense sweetness. Totally going to be pushing this until there’s absolutely nothing left for the leaves to give…”
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdVubZ6fZaU
My experience with yellow teas thus far has been that they typically range from ok to really good and they’re often pretty nutty – peanut/hazelnut are consistent notes for me in particular. The dry leaf of this one smells a little nutty, but also strongly of timothy hay so I wasn’t sure exactly where it would go…
I steeped maybe five or six infusions, which was about as long enough of a session as I wanted. The tea was a little astringent, and tasted like freshly mowed grass and dandelions on a sweltering summer day – as well as a little bit like more fresh/greener hay. I don’t mind hay notes in tea, but grass (and especially “lawn clipping” grass notes) are not a flavour I gravitate towards, and I was sad this wasn’t nuttier. However, maybe because of the current world situation and the fact it was an especially cold, grey and drizzly day I actually really responded quite well to those more “summer vibe” type grassy notes…
I’d be curious where I land in the future though during retastes…
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNITXkO5nJ8
A total bop.
(Also, hits just a little different after watching Tiger King…)
From a couple nights ago now; I was doing stacked infusions. Not a session with longevity, so only got two full cups of tea before it died off. So, that’s four steeps since this cup was big enough to stack two at a time. Quick tangent; what is ON the cup!? To me it looks like an apple but I’m not totally sure!? Anyway, even if the session was short it was also quite lovely!! Sweet, a little creamy, and very cucumber & snap pea & pea blossoms in terms of taste.
Also just love this wrapper art so much.
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnnoXzBVi-s
One of the few times that, in the last year, I’ve had a Gongfu session without some type of photo documentation. This was the second tea that I steeped up during my virtual tea session with Teajay, an instagram tea friend! I’ve had this cake for a long time without trying it, and it just happened to come up in conversation so that was enough motivation for me to finally pull it out and give it a try!
The cake itself is very dry, brittle and flakey – with a looser style of compression, as well. I was able to break myself off enough leaf for the session using just my hands pretty darn comfortably. It smelled nice; like sweet grass or hay!
Unfortunately this tea doesn’t have the longest leaf life – after five steeps it was very tapped out. However, it tasted excellent! I’m relieved by that; the company description didn’t sound super promising to me but I wanted the cake anyway because I ADORE the wrapper art. It’s a cheap cake, so I figured I’d be willing to shell out the cost of the cake for the artwork alone if it had been a print – so it was kind of more like buying art for me, with the bonus of getting tea as well? It’s nice that I actually liked the tea though!
The taste is a little greener, but still has a strong timothy hay type of flavour as well as a mix of some of my other favourite white tea tasting notes so that was exciting! A touch of creamy cucumber flesh and peel, clotted cream, malt, verrrrryyy soft hints of red fruit, and of course just a smidge of honeysuckle too. Easy to drink, good mouthfeel and strength of flavor! I wish I’d captured some type of picture, but it was kind of nice to go back to a place where the focus was more on the tea and not the camera,,,
Excited for the next session of this!
I’m really enjoying all of the virtual tea sessions I’ve been having with tea friends – it’s something I’ve done even before Covid-19 but I will admit that it’s increased since all the self isolation and I don’t mind one bit. Last night I had a multi hour (and multi tea) session with a local Montreal tea friend, Teajay, and this was one of two teas that I steeped up!
It was also a fun way to participate in former Steepster friend, Boychik’s #puparty tag – basically an encouragement for all of the instagram tea community to brew and share some pu’erh tea virtually with one another! This was obviously the one that I chose! It tread the line between bitter and sweet beautifully, with notes of bitter greens, cane sugar, and ripe stonefruit & red fruit all mixed in. Great huigan, and really warm body feel after I got a few steeps in! I ended up brewing it out completely, over nine lovely steeps.
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKnJS2eJ2ac
This was a freebie sample during BLT’s Anniversary sale last year, and at the time qualifying for the specific tier of purchase it was offered with was the only way to get it. It’s now offered on the site though, and that’s a good thing because as far a mini compressed “coins” (or, in this case, mountains) go this is an impressive one!
I drank this today with a comic book and some lemon poppyseed scones, and it was great! It starts so light and refreshing, with crisper citrus, floral, and timothy hay notes. Over time is gets thicker with more of a brown sugar sweetness layered over hay, date, and candied lemon peel notes. The flavors of the tea and consistent sweetness compliments the scones marvelously. The best is taking a bite in between steeps and letting the tea infusions wash the lingering lemon sweetness from the palate. I love that this tea seems to be able to take lonnngggg steeps without tapping out easily in terms of flavour, or getting bitter/weird. I will probably grandpa the rest of the leaves after another steep or two, as it’s taking a while for the compression to loosen and I don’t know that continuing gongfu will be the best route to get the most from this tea…
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qm06jH8NQE8
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Dates, Floral, Hay, Hot hay, Lemon, Lemon Zest, Straw, Sweet
As I think I mentioned in a previous tasting note, I’m moving into a new apartment right now. The new apartment isn’t very far – it’s literally in the building adjacent from the apartment complex I’m currently living in. I’ve been moving slowly after I get home from work – but it’s dark/late/very snowy so walking stuff over has been slow moving.
Up until this weekend, anyway – I was lucky enough to have a friend help me move, so I packed up a TON of boxes all at once then she helped me load up her car and we drove the boxes over. We did a giant haul on Saturday and today; but I haven’t started unpacking anything yet there. So, I’m kind of in this weird stasis in my old/current apartment where I don’t have practically anything left unpacked – but all the things I need to kind of “live” (bed, kitchen supplies/food, laptop, bathroom stuff) are still in this apartment.
This was officially my last Gongfu session in this apartment as I had managed to whittle myself down to one set of teaware for brewing, my kettle, and one box of tea. So I brewed a nice session this morning – and then afterwards I washed out the teaware/kettle and packed it and my tea up to move over. So, I officially have NO tea/kettle in the apartment I’m “living in”. At least I should be fully moved into the new apartment in the next two or three days – just means I’ll have to get all my tea fix in at work over the next few days!
Anyway… Thoughts on the tea!!
This black tea is for the lovers of sweet and fruitier tasting teas; the dry leaf was so fragrant with overripe red fruit and peach notes with an undertone of leather!! The session was four amazing infusions w/ a mix of honey, malt, overripe peaches, syrupy cooked down red fruit notes (pomegranate, strawberry, red current), and just a hint of sweet woody/leather undertones! I had it with a pint of Quebec strawberries, and it was honestly so delicious – but also the best ‘final’ session in this apartment!
Also, how have I not had this tea before now!? It was so good! Best straight black tea I’ve had in a long while, for sure.
(Has anyone see You, on Netflix? I feel like this song would perfectly integrate into it’s Soundtrack…)
This was from a little while ago so I’m relying on instagram tasting notes…
This is a very thick & intensely bodied shou with a strong petrichor, decaying wood, & overall ‘forest after a heavy downpour’ type of vibe – however it’s very smooth and comforting with a soft finish and underlying sweetness. There’s even a little bit of a Nuo Mi Xiang herb note (AKA sticky rice herb) that tastes wonderful wit the earthy wood character of the tea. The pop of blackberry juices adds brightness, and plays into that forest feeling, a welcome pairing!! I enjoyed this session with many blackberries, which seemed fitting with the art for this tea…
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n06InmdDYHI
As far as I can remember, I haven’t had a purple (Zi Juan) varietal made in sheng before. I’ve had a the Purple Beauty green tea, which although I found very unique, I couldn’t quite get behind; and then also some Kenyan white and oolong teas. I am also still yet to try a black tea from this varietal, which I think should work well. In spite of my inconsistent reception of Zi Cha, I decided to get a whole cake (albeit a small 100g one) of Dragon Blood, aiming to try to understand it better than a couple of sessions from a sample allow for. And after my first session with the tea today, I am glad I did. The profile is reminiscent of Purple Beauty, but the overall experience is more positive.
The dry leaves smell of forest floor, smoke – a sign of things to come. On the other hand, the aromas emerging from the wet leaves are so unique I can’t place them at all. The scent is a bit cedar/forest like, a bit like an aged sheng, but also unlike anything I know. Maybe if I were familiar with the dragon blood incense, I could make a better comparison. The aroma in the empty cup is then very woody and sweet, which matches the aftertaste to a certain degree as one would expect.
The rinse is already very flavourful – citrusy, mushroomy, and metallic. It has a frothy texture and a buttery aftertaste. The first infusion has the profile of an aged sheng, with a good sweetness and a strong note of citrus zest. It is very smooth and viscous initially, then a little powdery, and sandpaper-like after swallowing, without much astringency. Some astringency does however appear from 2nd infusion onward. The taste profile then becomes more woody and smoky, with flavours of conifer trees, carambola, copper, bok choy, and charcoal roasted aubergine. There is a strong woody sweetness throughout that persists into the aftertaste, which also displays notes of licorice root and pine needles.
I was also happy to learn that the tea has a strong defocusing cha qi, which is exactly what I needed today. It helps me fight some mild paranoia and makes me want to dance at the same time.
Song pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEOYY4rLJrE
Flavors: Astringent, Butter, Cedar, Char, Citrus, Citrus Zest, Earth, Forest Floor, Fruity, Licorice, Metallic, Mineral, Mushrooms, Pine, Smoke, Sweet, Umami, Vegetables, Wood
Apparently this weekend was, unconsciously, Jingmai themed…
Yesterday was National Hot Tea Day so I was drinking some sweet & floral 2019 “Full Frontal” raw puer, among other things, to celebrate. This is great though; very typical in its sweet and floral profile – exquisite notes of lilac, agave nectar, honeysuckle, and jasmine with a bit of greener undertone and tease of fruit!! Managed to capture some sunlight too; I can’t wait for summer to bring more natural lighting to my apartment…
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwOQ_WNrf_8
Had this one late this afternoon; first taste of the brick I bought. I steeped it this kind of loose cross between grandpa style and Gongfu; basically I brewed the leaf directly in the teacup but it was a small enough cup and I drank the tea quickly enough that I don’t think it could be called grandpa brewing…
I was reading The Sirens of Titan, which is a book that my manager kindly lent me when I told him I was interested in putting a stronger focus on doing more reading this year outside of the comics and graphic novels I already devote a large amount of time to. I’m about halfway through the book now, and I’m really enjoying it!
In terms of the tea, this is gently astringent with notes of underripe banana, white cherries, and heady florals. Finishes a touch bitter, with a softer moutheel! It’s in love with a lot of the notes I’d expect from a young Jingmai sheng, though I did expect it to be a bit more overly sweet and floral. It’s still very good though.
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=olzw8qi6Ptw
I think, in a way, this is sort of loosely a song meant to be paired with the book too?
White Crow is a delightfully aromatic white tea that I am almost positive will age gracefully. It brews quite dark for a fresh tea, but it’s still safely within the white tea category.
The dry leaf aroma is nice – sweet and floral, but the real party for the scent receptors comes after the rinse. There is a kind of nutty, spicy, floral note I am familiar with from Silver needle teas. Underneath it, there hides a complex bouquet reminiscent of burnt food, roasted corn, bread toast, black cherry, cranberry, and others.
The liquor tastes more savoury than it smells. It has a very nice tartness as well as flavours of wood, nutmeg, apricot, light hay, and honeysuckle. After swallowing, one is presented with a strong expansive aftertaste that comes with a cooling and drying sensation predominately in the throat. It has a sweet & sour character with a noticeable muscovado sugar flavour. Texture-wise, the liquor feels quite light in the mouth and is somewhat bubbly I’d say.
Flavors: Apricot, Astringent, Bitter, Brown Sugar, Burnt Food, Cherry, Corn Husk, Cranberry, Drying, Floral, Hay, Honeysuckle, Nutmeg, Nutty, Pleasantly Sour, Spicy, Sweet, Tart, Toast, Wood
Nice Yiwu for the buck. Having assaulting my tastebuds and zapping my brain with border area gushu for several months this tea being young tree sat on the back burner. I did 8 steeps and found it has decent body, slight oiliness , sweet, grassy and floral notes similar to the Gaoshan maocha I’ve been drinking. At $.11g I was not expecting any other qi than a slight caffeine kick. Surprisingly I have a slight tingle in the forehead, tightening of the chest and relaxed shoulders. Not a big attitude adjustment but nice. If you want stereotypical Yiwu character on a budget this tea is a good choice. It doesn’t have the thickness or qi of ancient trees but all the flavors are there and it produces a nice headringer. I personally prefer more intense border area for Yiwu but prices of Banna teas in general are astronomical so if I were looking for nice fruity oily teas with big qi on a budget I’d opt to pay a bit more and go with ancient arbor tea from Jinggu or Wuliang which although doesn’t have the typical Yiwu character performs on par with many Yiwu teas that are much more costly.
Drank this one in the morning the day after #adventageddon – I was really happy to have the freedom to select whatever teas I wanted throughout the day. It’s not that it wasn’t fun doing so many advent teas, but there were a lot of other things I was craving throughout the month that I just didn’t have time for on top of my advent teas…
That also means, for the astute, that I had this one on Christmas Day! So, Merry belated Christmas to my Steepster friends – what teas did you have on Christmas Day? Any significance to the choice?
I started my session of this in our backyard – which is kind of a “Garden” of sorts!? There is a massive crabapple tree there, and it was quite beautiful with the the frost on the dying apple hanging from the branches. Eventually I had to move back inside though to finish my session; in part because my water was cooling too quickly and in part because I was cooling too quickly.
Admittedly, I don’t really know what the tea tasted like. Is it weird to say I was too excited about picking out my own tea that morning to actually pay attention to the flavour it was producing!? I do know I liked it, and I remember it being a bit astringent as well. I guess I’ll just have to brew it again sooner rather than later to nail down exactly how I feel about it…
This is a pleasant and balanced Yiwu tea — balanced between thickness, softness, minerality, astringency, bitterness, throatfeel and aftertaste.
Beautiful and healthy velvety leaf. Fruity and syrupy aroma, often with fleeting florals. The flavors are definitely there, though maybe understated beyond the sweetness which is a mix of sweet vegetal and powdered sugar, and hints of caramel and stonefruit. The aftertaste is a dynamic and complex mix of fruits including concord grape skin, black plum/skin, apricot, peach, green melon, blueberry? and others I can’t pick out — perhaps something tropical — along with a light syrup-butter-caramel vibe. Some minty sweetness and cooling, for which this tea is named, does show up in the throat, though it is modest. The most pronounced aspect of this tea is also part of the aftertaste. I get a major floral violet impression from the lingering sweetness and purple-like bitterness and it’s downright awesome. It seems to be the base upon which the fruits mingle. Pleasant and relaxing energy that fills my whole body with a sense of comfort and heaviness. Overall, it’s a very balanced sheng that I would recommend to drinkers willing to pay the price but it is no longer available.
I tried to buy a whole cake without even ordering a sample (glorb knows why) but the inventory numbers lied, so I was stuck with a sample. I’m glad Bitterleaf was able to work that out with me because this tea is a treat.
Flavors: Apricot, Bitter, Blueberry, Butter, Caramel, Flan, Fruity, Grapes, Green Melons, Jasmine, Mineral, Mint, Orchid, Pancake Syrup, Pastries, Peach, Plums, Powdered sugar, Stonefruits, Straw, Strawberry, Sweet, Thick, Tropical, Vegetal, Violet
Last of my run of 6 Bitterleaf huangpians is “Be Yourself”. This one seems the most ready for casual drinking now. It is smooth, inoffensive and quite tasty.
Dry leaf aroma is mostly floral and honey-like, but there are also notes of cake, cut grass, and gasoline. Wet leaves smell quite different. The fragrance is hard to describe, but it reminds me of various foods like fried potatoes, bok choy, courgette flowers, and coriander seeds.
The taste is sweet, creamy, and vegetal with a decent umami. There is basically no astringency and only a touch of bitterness. Mouthfeel is milky and super smooth with a medium to full body. All in all, a very easy-to-drink tea. The aftertaste is not as prolonged as I would like, which is probably the main ‘issue’ I have with it. There is a light camphor note, which is nice though.
Flavors: Bok Choy, Cake, Camphor, Coriander Seed, Cream, Creamy, Cut grass, Floral, Flowers, Honey, Potato, Sweet, Thick, Umami, Vegetal, Zucchini
Among all the huangpian from BLT, this one is probably the boldest. I haven’t had many Hekai/Pasha teas, but I feel like it represents well the character that people tend to talk about in relation to greater Bu Lang area. I have no doubt this tea would age well, but I don’t think I have the capacity to stock up on tea like this.
The dry leaf smell reminds me of clean smoke, pine, but it has a sweet, metallic character that I noticed in all the huangpian teas I’ve been sampling. There is still some light smoke even in the wet leaf aroma, accompanied by notes of mushrooms and dark, bio-rich soil. There is also a very strong honey fragrance in the cup.
The taste is very astringent, crisp, and tangy with a sour finish. It is somewhat reminiscent of Yunnan green teas of the slightly smoky, woody, and grassy kind. There is a definite dry grass flavour, as well as a pear-like fruitiness. In the aftertaste, notes of fermented fruits/alcohol, rosemary, and myrrh emerge. Overall, it is a pungent profile, although not overly complex in its current young state.
Another positive for “Don’t be Sad” is the thick, colloidal texture. Together with the astringency, it makes for an engaging mouthfeel, which is further complemented by a strong numbing sensation on the sides of the mouth.
Flavors: Astringent, Dry Grass, Earth, Forest Floor, Fruity, Herbaceous, Honey, Metallic, Mushrooms, Pear, Pine, Resin, Smoke, Sour, Tangy, Wood