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Recent Tasting Notes
My hit rate with Mei Leaf teas hasn’t been the greatest. The teas I like from them I’ve really liked, but the majority of them have been rather disappointing and lackluster. Although there have been a few exceptions, generally speaking nearly all of their teas have also been rather overpriced. That might have to do with the British pound and them being based in London rather than China. I wasn’t planning on ordering any new teas from them, but as I ended up ordering some teaware from them, it made sense to throw some pu’er samples in my cart as the shipping was rather expensive and my goods not so much. This tea was one of them.
Supposedly from Bing Dao and gushu material no less (make of that what you will), I believe this is the most expensive sheng they are currently offering, although I could be wrong on that. Mei Leaf offers 5g samples of their pu’ers, and since that is a bit light for a proper session for the teaware I like to use, I ended up ordering two sample packs. My largest gaiwan is a silver lined one that’s 165ml. Ten grams would be a bit light for that, but weighing my samples I was very happy to see the first one contained 5.5g and the second 5.4g. That’s just about ideal. All tea vendors should take note: the first step in making me a happy customer is being generous with your samples. Small sign of good will can go a long way.
While transporting the samples from home to where I was actually having the tea with some company, I had them in a small ziplock bag, and while the leaves themselves outside the bag didn’t really seem to have that smell, smelling the empty bag itself at my destination I was smelling straight up strawberry marshmallows. That’s pretty rad. I rinsed the leaves briefly for five seconds, giving them a few minutes to soak up the moisture while I sipped the rinse. Since the sample was essentially in loose form, the wash was already quite strong. The notes were leaning toward dark and foresty, with your typical young sheng creamy hay notes present in the finish.
I proceeded to do a total of eleven infusions, the timing for these 6s, 6s, 8s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s, 2 min. and 3 min. respectively. Night Forest Muse starts off dark and mossy, subtle yet potent. This tea is a true depth bomb. The experience is extremely layered, without any clear distinctive flavors you can pick out. While no flavors jump out at you, the tea is very potent and the body thick. The aftertaste is long and stable, with cooling noticeable in the airways.
The strength continues to build up with subsequent infusions along with the body and mouthfeel, with the tea becoming very full and expansive in the mouth. Despite its strength, the tea never becomes overbearing, always remaining palatable. The enigmatic nature does not lift and Night Forest Muse remains a subtle and nuanced affair. At times the tea does develop some edge to it in the form of some acidity and astringency, but this never grows to a level where it starts to detract from the experience and in fact at times contributing to it.
In the mid steeps the tea soup is so viscous in the cha hai that shaking it sharply from side to side, the tea liquor moves in one direction, a little bit in the other and then comes to an immediate stop. It feels really heavy. It is in these mid steeps that you also start experiencing the huigan. People in the west often use the term very loosely and it can mean different things to different people. What I’m describing here is the closest thing to how I understand the term — a literal returning flavor, distinct from any other type of sweetness, originating from the throat and the back of the mouth. Some people seem to describe nearly every tea as having huigan, for me it’s a rare thing.
After a few more steeps, the tea develops an immediate upfront sweetness as well, which lasted up till the point where I stopped. Like with most teas, the other flavors started tapering off around this point, with some harshness accompanying the sweetness, but never beginning to dominate the tea. At the point which I stopped the tea was still going, but I was feeling pretty bloated so I decided to call it there.
All in all Night Forest Muse was a capital tea! One of the best teas I’ve had in recent memory. I wasn’t expecting that, given my track record with Mei Leaf teas. This is a tea that’s very hard to try to put into words as it really is more of an experience than anything else. This was only further confirmation that I should be focusing more on Lincang and Mengku specifically as I’ve always loved teas from there. Alongside Bulang it is definitely one of my two favorite regions.
As for the price… $0.77/g. Perfectly reasonable to me. This definitely falls in the $0.5/g to $1/g bracket and smack in the middle sounds about right. Even though my pumidor is short on space, I ordered a bing right after the session, so yeah, this tea is worth it for me.
Flavors: Astringent, Hay, Moss, Olive Oil, Sweet, Tart
London was the final stop on my Eurotrip during which I dropped by Mei Leaf in Camden. I’ve been curious about their GABA teas but didn’t want to commit to a large quanity so I ordered this iced. A few sips later and I ran back to the shop to buy the 70g brick. That’s how impressive this tea was. It had a smooth, fruity flavor with a honeyed sweetness. Some hints of spice and baked fruit.
I didn’t know GABA tea could taste like this. My only basis for comparison are a budget GABA oolong from TTC and an Alishan GABA green tea from Taiwan Sourcing. Both had some off-ish notes and struck me as something one would tolerate drinking in exchange for the health benefits of GABA. Not so here. It’s a delicious tea that’s enjoyable on its own.
Flavors: Fruity, Honey, Spices, Stewed Fruits
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Flavors: Cut grass, Floral, Herbs, Sweet
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Flavors: Coffee, Cream, Tobacco
When trying to get into Shou Pu’erh we bought a lot of it, this being one of them. While not the most flavorful of Ripe pu’erhs that we’ve tasted it is any easy drinker. That classic moisture rich toiled soil taste that is distinctive to ripe pu’erhs is present and is reflective of what a good Shou should provide. While it lacks some of the richer fruity notes and earthier base, it is a pu’erh we’d would recommend for those trying to figure out the base flavor profile of a ripe pu’erh
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Compost, Decayed wood, Dirt, Earth, Espresso, Leather, Medicinal
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Flavors: Almond, Chestnut, Nuts, Pastries, Roasted
Malty with a sweetness that remembers gum candies or dried sweet fruit (red fruits or figs).
Nice sweetness in the aftertaste. Down deep there’s a hint of the typical puerh’s earthy/minerality.
Flavors: Dried Fruit, Honey, Malt, Red Fruits
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Flavors: Apricot, Cookie, Dried Fruit, Toast
I did 2 rinses and 9 steeps of 10 seconds and I added 3 seconds each steep. I used a Juanshui clay teapot of 200ml during this tasting.
Before the rinse, I got some earthy chestnut notes followed by a slight burnt aroma.
I got more or less the same aromas but I also got a very light citrus smell after the second rinse.
In general, I can say that all steeps had one thing in common: there was a combination between warm notes on the one hand, and a sharp taste on the other hand. What it is exactly difficult to describe and that is why it is such an interesting tea to drink.
1st steep: during this steep, there were no exceptional and intense flavours. There was a slight earthy and blackcurrant taste. It was earthy from the start and then gradually changed into more blackcurrant notes. There was no bitter and / or astringent aftertaste. Drinking this tea gave a very pleasant feeling in the mouth.
2nd steep: still a bit earthy but a bit less than the first steep. Some blackcurrant notes in the middle and these died out slowly towards the end. In the end, it gets bitter and that is why this steep is a bit too intense for me. On the website, it says this tea is not bitter but I experienced some bitter notes.
3rd steep: This one is really difficult to describe. I got some warm notes in combination with very sharp notes. This steep is not as intense as the previous one and tastes a lot better. In addition, the aftertaste is a lot less bitter.
4th steep: some slight burnt notes in combination with blackcurrant. The aftertaste is even less bitter than steep 3. Really enjoyable to drink.
5th steep: this steep is not as intense as the previous ones. No burnt and earthy notes and also no bitter aftertaste. This is a really enjoyable steep to drink.
6th steep: very light flavours during this steep. Some slight earthy notes in combination with a very light citrus flavour. The citrus flavour is only barely noticeable.
7th steep: This steep is more or less the same as the previous one. Light earthy flavour in combination with some citrus notes. These notes are very light and barely noticeable.
8th steep: very light earthy tones in combination with some sharp lime, citrus notes. This is a really nice steep to drink. Pleasant feeling and taste. `
9th steep: no earthy flavour. Only some very light citrus notes. This creates a clear and fresh taste.
As I have said before, this tea is a tea of extremes. It’s the combination of two opposites: warm notes and sharp, fresh notes. I did not fully experience this combination during the earlier steeps but once I noticed it, the game was on. For me, this is one of the main reasons this tea is really enjoyable to drink. It’s difficult to describe but once you have tasted this tea, you know exactly what I mean.
Did 8 steeps, 15 seconds for the first steep and added 5 seconds to each steep.
The smell of the dry leaves is just jasmine flowers. Nothing more, nothing less.
After the rinse, the smell was quite something! Light jasmine notes, followed by warm honey and even a light grassy finish.
1st steep: While drinking the first cup, I got jasmine flowers in combination with the flavour of vegetal green leaves. Starts with a heavy green taste followed by light jasmine notes.
2nd steep: only light green notes at the start followed by light jasmine flowers. No heavy aftertaste; only a few notes of green leaves.
3rd steep: I immediately got heavy green notes again at the start. This particular flavour stays throughout the whole steep but you also get some light jasmine notes. The jasmine flowers do not stay long so this steep is mainly green flavours. During this steep, the leaves start to become more astringent so I immediately get a dry mouth after finishing my cup.
4th steep: I got a lot less green notes at the start while getting more jasmine flavour. I would describe it as a medium jasmine flavour, a slight jasmine aftertaste and even some slight floral notes throughout this steep. During this steep, I also got a cooling sensation on my tongue.
5th steep: some light green notes with a heavy jasmine flavour followed by a really astringent and green finish.
6th steep: during this steep, I got jasmine flowers from the start and this diminished gradually. Nothing heavy just light and pleasant flavours.
7th steep: from the start, I immediately got a cooling sensation on the tongue. I got light jasmine notes from the start that gradually diminish. The big difference with steep 6 is that I got hit by a really green aftertaste.
8th steep: this is definitely the last steep. Only a light jasmine flavour. Nothing major at the start and only a light jasmine flavour in the middle, which dies out slowly.
I’m not sure if I want to buy this tea again. It’s possible that I overbrewed it but I didn’t really like the tea this time. I’m planning on doing another tasting in a few months.