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Recent Tasting Notes
oops… took me so long to get around to reviewing this tea that it’s now sold out, but here goes.
Unsmoked xiao zhong is one of my very favorite kinds of tea, I find it easy to enjoy in all kinds of situations and with all kinds of brewing methods, and this one didn’t disappoint. It was less sweet than I expected, with more of a refreshing pine-needle flavor. Not much texture, but much more subtle and complex flavor than I was expecting for the price.
I really have no idea what the description means by “Xiaozhong technology”. is it a reference to the cultivar? the processing method? we may never know.
Flavors: Maple Syrup, Pine
This is the first time I’ve had either a GABA tea or a tea grown in Russia, so I don’t really have any expectations going in. This is apparently a red tea but it almost seems more like a heavily oxidized oolong to me. The wet leaves are a pretty bronze color with an enticing smell of berries and chocolate.
The tea itself tastes ‘brighter’ than I would have expected, a strong fruity flavor with a smooth texture. There’s an odd tangyness that I haven’t come across in black tea, reminds me of pineapple juice. Overall it’s almost too fruity for me, but a nice change once in a while.
Flavors: Black Currant, Cranberry, Pineapple
This tea brought back a surprisingly strong memory of planting tomato starters in little jars full of potting soil with my dad – the not-unpleasant smell of dirt with a hint of fresh green things. Intensely earthy with a little bit of bittersweetness and a viscous texture, just the thing to round off a heavy meal. I’m not sure I would have liked this when I first started drinking shou, but the taste has grown on me and at this point it’s downright comforting.
Flavors: Black Currant, Forest Floor, Wet Earth
I enjoy the Jin Guan Yin cultivar but don’t often see it for sale, so I had to pick this one up. The overall impression is of baked goods, lots of sweet and toasty flavors. Moderate body. This tea lacks the depth and intensity of more expensive yancha I’ve tried, but it still makes a tasty drink that is easy and forgiving to brew. The flavor and texture scream ‘autumn’ to me, I’d drink this one in a thermos while apple-picking.
Flavors: Honey, Toast, Walnut
A nice pick-me-up this morning. The texture is thin but the taste makes up for it, perfectly balanced between bitter and sweet. The flavor is very much dark chocolate with a little bit of woodiness to it, I’m not getting the fruit flavors that the vendor describes. This tea punches above its weight, it reminds me of much more expensive black teas. Well worth it for anyone who enjoys chocolate notes.
Flavors: Chocolate, Maple Syrup, Pine
I picked this up after reading about it on the Lazy Literatus’ blog because I was intrigued by a caffeine-free plant with more complex qualities than most herbals. The smell and taste are very fruity, almost too much for my taste. There’s also an interesting undertone of something sharper, maybe mint, almost like some Taiwanese black teas. If I drank this blindfolded I would have thought it was a black tea with added fruit flavor or maybe chrysanthemum flowers. The characteristic bitterness of tea is absent, but it’s still a decently strong and flavorful drink. It’s not replacing my daily drinkers, but I’ll keep this around as an herbal option for the evenings.
Flavors: Fruity, Mint, Pine
A nice tea, subtle as shou character goes, but with a creamy mouthfeel that lends it a positive over-all balance. Flavors include coffee, cocoa, black licorice, and autumn forest floor. That list implies it is intense in flavors, but instead it came across as a bit subtle as shou goes, just complex for the flavor range covered. Value doesn’t normally seem relevant for notes here but this tea seemed under-priced, especially for including a novel feel aspect and striking a positive overall balance (under $20 per full sized cake). It’s reviewed here along with another Moychay shou (but all that already covers the basic take):
A nice version of shou, typical for better and relatively intense versions. “Gongting” refers to use of finer leaf material. Flavor aspects transitioned from peat (which I interpreted as remnant of processing related flavor; it may or may not have been), into more earthy mineral, then cocoa and spice, hinting at dried fruit, finally including those and trailing into more autumn forest floor. The overall flavors were clean, intensity was good, mouth-feel full, and aftertaste pronounced. Pretty good as shou goes, reviewed further here in comparison with another shou version:
This is one of the more interesting and unusual shou’s I’ve yet to try, but then it is a huang pian version from a well regarded area. The flavor range was really subtle as shou goes. It would be possible to bump that by increasing infusion time but I liked it prepared in a typical strength, and it already had the most thickness and aftertaste of any shou I’ve yet to try prepared that way. Most of the flavor range is typical of shou, earthiness, underlying mineral, range that could be interpreted as dark wood or roasted chestnut, with one exception. An aromatic spice aspect that wasn’t completely familiar stood out, maybe sandalwood? That evolved towards an autumn leaf aspect in later rounds. I have no idea how this tea would change related to aging since usually strong flavors interpreted as fermentation related tastes that will settle are regarded as showing aging potential in shou, and this version is already on the subtle side while young. More in comparison review and more photos here:
Flavor aspect range includes a bit of petroleum or tar in the early going that transitions to roasted coffee, spice, and Guiness stout range creaminess after 2 or 3 infusions. Base for those more forward flavors includes mineral (along the lines of slate) and underlying dark wood tones. The tea is nice, but it might take a shou drinker to appreciate it. The thickness of feel is medium, substantial but not unusually so. Based on past experience with shou aging this tea might mature really well if those aspects clean up and settle into a slightly different form of complexity over the next two or three years. It doesn’t come across as murky or off, the effect as is now is clean enough, so I instead mean that the aspect set seems to enable transition to further creaminess and depth, possibly by picking up more spice range. More description, comparison review, and photos here:
A basic, sweet, clean flavored and mild shou. Complexity could be better but the flavors that are present are nice enough, earthy (of course) dark-wood tones over a mineral base with subtle transitioning traces of fruit, cocoa, and spice beyond that. The aspects are nice, for what is there, but overall intensity is a bit subdued. For someone looking for a mild, sweet, lighter shou it might be just the thing but more pronounced spice or earthy range might suit some, and this might lose intensity over time rather than improve character for being a bit mild now.
I bought a 2016 Taetea Menghai “Golden Fruit” shou version last year that this reminds me of. That “Golden Fruit” version seemed well received in online discussion because some people are on this page. For value it seems good, for relatively inexpensive and clean flavored shou. More comparison review with other versions and photos here:
A bit tart, with good balance and complexity. Flavors include dried fruit, warm mineral undertone, and earthy range that’s somewhere along the lines of pipe tobacco. I like the tea even though I usually don’t care for tartness in black teas. Dian Hong often include more cocoa and roasted yam or sweet potato flavor range but this one is different. I suppose that dried fruit and earthiness could also be interpreted as not so far off sun-dried tomato. I suspect this tea might be even better in another year since sun-dried blacks do tend to pick up a bit more complexity with a little age. It’s good tea, not great, but per my preferences good and also interesting in style, with nice depth and complexity and a decently full feel. Even for Dian Hong it can brew a lot of infusions, very nice brewed lightly (it probably wouldn’t do nearly as well made Western style), producing lots of consistent and pleasant infusions.
I bought this tea in St. Petersburg over New Years and it’s coming up on a year old now, I suppose potentially transitioning a little. The main flavors are plum and white grape, with a lot of sweetness and just a touch of bitterness, but not bitter in the same sense a lot of sheng are, nothing like aspirin. It’s more that slight edge that one might experience from tasting a tree bud (hard to think of foods like that; maybe like an unripe peach, but different in taste). If anything this tea might be too sweet and mellow for some sheng enthusiasts, leading me to wonder if it’s really going to improve or if this isn’t the kind of tea you should drink within the first year or two. At any rate I really like it as it is, and it seemed a pretty good value for pricing that seemed moderate to me. A more comprehensive review is here:
At the beginning, very nutty and floral-vegetable with slight herbal notes, the aromas transform into a pleasant, freshly bitter-sweet blend with subtle fruitiness. Slightly light body and rather coarse in the processing but altogether very tasty and multi-faceted.
Images and more at https://puerh.blog/teanotes/2017-bangdong-sheng-cha-mc
Flavors: Bitter, Fruity, Herbaceous, Nutty, Sweet, Vegetables
Heavily spicy, bitter-fruity, discreetly herbaceous and slightly astringent with very beautiful, intense citrus notes and a long-lasting sweetness.
Images and more at https://puerh.blog/teanotes/2016-meng-wang-sheng-cha-mc
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Citrus, Fruity, Herbaceous, Spicy, Sweet
Super heavy, soft and thick, intense after dark chocolate with a distinctive bitterness and subtle sweetness. Without any trace of fruitiness.
Images and more at https://puerh.blog/teanotes/2009-ba-wang-shu-cha-mc
Flavors: Bitter, Chocolate, Heavy, Sweet, Thick
Heavy and thick, bitter and earthy without unpleasant notes.
Images and more at https://puerh.blog/teanotes/2016-shu-neng-sheng-qiao-mc
Flavors: Bitter, Earth, Heavy, Thick
More atypical Hongcha – spicy and fruity without any great sweetness and without maltiness. Pleasantly bitter but slightly light.
Images and more at https://puerh.blog/teanotes/2017-dian-hong-cha-mc
Flavors: Bitter, Fruity, Spicy
This tea started out spicy, and had undertones of wood and moss. This sheng was lovely, and was very good quality (especially for the price tag). Along with this teas quality, it was full bodied and complex. It was full of tasting notes that kept evolving through out the session with it. Overall, I think this tea was great for what it was and I would recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of this region.
You can read my full review here: