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Recent Tasting Notes
Big thanks to Mr Mopar for the opportunity to try this tea. For starters, this is the first aged bamboo tea I’ve tried that exhibits any real bamboo flavor and that’s clearly made with quality material. The soup is super thick and the storage is clean. The initial smooth bitterness and bamboo essence remain constant through a dozen of so steeps. This is followed by a woody, slate like mid taste with slate remaining in the finish. I typically get slate notes from LME teas but this tea lacks the thunder of any Bulang teas. It’s soft like an Yiwu but not quite. If I had to guess the origin I’d guess a blend from western Yiwu with a fair amount of Youle providing the woodiness. The stems are thick and robust indicating old tree material. The qi? Well this stuff calmed my ass down on a frustrating day in which I’d have been tempted to chuck my computer out the nearest window and left me grinning about the events that created these situations…a sure sign of a good tea. I’m learning that there is a good reason that pre 2004 Changtai teas sell for WAY more than post 2004 teas. There’s no comparison in the quality. Sure some of stuff from 04 onward is good for the price but the earlier stuff is in another league entirely. This isn’t a tea I would drink every day but if it were available on the open market I’d probably by a tube for those times I had a hankering for something woody and bambooey (is that a word?) with happy qi. I have a tube of bamboo stuffed jinggu from 2017 aging in my hotbox. If it’s this good in 10-15 years I’ll be a happy camper.
5.8g, 100mL duanni. Found a piece of what appeared to be charcoal today. Change of pace from the amount of tea seeds in my Qizhong cake, I guess. No I’m not salty. But I wouldn’t repurchase Qizhong either.
Anyway, this was nicely woody, with some hint of an almost chocolate-like note in the taste on top of the usual trad sheng taste. More exciting than usual. Some bright sweetness in aftertaste. Not mushroomy like the last few times? Died off quickly, which this duanni seems to do.
I encountered my first (I hope) foreign object in a black tea recently. I was scooping the spent leaves into the garbage and noticed a hard, round object the size of a cranberry, but couldn’t get a look at it without going through several days’ worth of moldy tea leaves. I hope this was a tea seed and not something worse!
Cake purchased from MrMopar. Haven’t ever taken detailed notes for this one. Remember enjoying it when I first tried it. The strong trad storage has really calmed it, and it was my first taste of trad stored sheng. I believe it was in drier storage afterwards.
The second time was several months later, which in the interim had been sitting in a Mylar with a 72 Boveda and some other samples. Not sure what that did to it, but it was notably bitter and much stronger than the first time.
This time was more calm, as I’ve pried off a bit and was airing off in a container (which I realized was not airtight…). There’s occasionally a nice sweet aftertaste on this in the early steepings, as well as some pepper-y notes that remind me of shou pu. Late steeps taper off into strong beets/geosmin taste (years in drier storage were not able to offset the effects of heavy trad storage). I seem to remember some mushroom-y notes as well. Can’t say it’s too complex, but perfectably comfortable daily drinker and in that price range (<25c/g).
Might add notes when the smaller session packs I’ve bundled are rehydrated if there’s notable change.
“Trip to Changtai, vol. 6”
Taking trip another way, I just faceplanted into a puddle of pond-stewed decayed wood and leaves. I swallowed a few mouthfuls and picked up camphor. The camphor alone kept me going for a few more steeps. I just couldn’t let myself lie in that puddle, so I did what you do when you think somebody nearby has glanced your folly. Get up, nonchalantly look around and brush yourself off. And dump the leaves in the compost.
It oversteeps really well, though, and pours very dark and a bit murky.
Looks like it’s Jinggu material. Now I have one point of reference for how Jinggu teas age. Don’t much care for Jinggu to begin with.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Bitter, Black Pepper, Bread, Camphor, Decayed Wood, Forest Floor, Nuts, Peas, Smoke, Spicy, Tangy, Vegetal, Yeast
I’ve only had one semi aged Jinggu, 10yr and it is rather meh but I have had a few young Jinggu teas that I really like, Long tang and Da Qing by YS and boundless by EOT (which I suspect is Jinggu) My gripe with these teas is they lose their character quickly, like in a year. I recently got a sample of 03 jinggu that I plan to try soon.
“Trip to Changtai, vol. 4”
Dry leaf smelled like gently smoked leather, leaf litter, plum undertone. Humid storage notes such as baked bread, nutritional yeast and damp concrete came out when the leaf was warmed and more of those humid notes presented in the rinsed leaf — beets and carrots pulled right from the soil. I also smelled tangy currant and barbecued meat.
The taste and body were mild, underwhelming. I couldn’t come up with anything besides a citrus tone, light, baked plum sweetness, wood, fast-moving bitterness and some tingly tannins. It tasted kind of shou-y. Very mild aftertaste, no returning sweetness. Plenty of that chesty, heart-bumping energy. The prankster in me came out to play.
This is like a much-needed rest day on a journey, a time to process your recent experiences, but your goofy traveling partner is constantly urging you to just “go for a walk around the block…”
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Bitter, Black Currant, Bread, Carrot, Citrus, Leather, Meat, Plum, Smoked, Tannin, Wet Earth, Wet Rocks, Wood, Yeast
“Trip to Changtai, vol. 1”
I asked the mechanic friend to pick a card, any card. He drew the youngest Changtai tea in my stash.
Dry leaf has lots of bitter woodsmoke overlaying sour plum and smoked flowers with a slight custard undertone. Warm leaf: woodsmoke, vegetal-buttery-caramel, sour plum. Rinsed leaf: smokey-sour, aged wood, floral and pungent
First steep starts off interesting with a very fluffy, rich, sticky sweetness (caramel-honey-overripe melon-marshmallow) that clings to every crevice in my mouth. Then whoosh, second steep brings massive greenwoody body. Green bitterness comes out as I swallow and it lingers. The sweetness is like sticky spiderwebs. The liquor is slightly coating and moderately drying. Smokeysweet aroma. Floral, light caramel, hint of blueberry perfume in mouth exhales through nose. Somewhat metallic in the aftertaste.
Third steep, mechanic friend says “witch hazel.” Fourth, the wet leaf smells very pungent and fruity. The bitterness dies down a bit. Fifth, sweetness is only available on the sip and somewhat in the retronasal aftertaste. Taste is general green astringency and bitterness. Some slight mouth cooling but overall body warming. Returning sweetness finally makes a meek presence. Sixth becomes very metallic in character. My gut’s a’gurgling so I’ll call it quits.
For a wild tea, this tastes very different from the others I’ve tried and I wonder if it’s due to processing methods. The sweetness gives me an Yiwu vibe, not Menghai, though a walnut-sour plum impression does draw me back toward Menghai. I’m only postulating since I don’t have a ton of experience but this seems like the kind of young sheng that would benefit from aggressive, humid storage. It is one of the greenest sheng I’ve ever had.
Addendum: I think the sweetness might actually be embodied as jujube but I haven’t eaten them enough to be sure.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Bitter Melon, Blueberry, Butter, Caramel, Custard, Drying, Floral, Flowers, Green, Green Wood, Herbs, Honey, Marshmallow, Melon, Metallic, Plum, Smoke, Sour, Sweet, Tannin, Vegetal, Walnut, Wood