The Essence of Tea

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Recent Tasting Notes


Song pairing first: Pachanga Boys — Time

In the spirit of nostalgia and friendship, today I brought this out for a session with a coworker who has a history of puerh consumption.

I think it was too bitter for him, at least in comparison to the 2005 Changtai Yun Pu Zhi Dian we sampled first.

On the other hand, I was and still am at a loss for words. Nothing but wild associations with this sheng. At least there is often some inkling of shared subjectivity when describing sensate experience, of which I have some to offer but I feel it is inadequate.

This tea is a slow bewilderment that builds into a crystalline clarity. Something about winter in the high desert, pastel sunrises, icicles. It’s subtle beneath the balance of bitter, sweet and cooling. At times it’s woody, others leathery, or with impressions of cacao or fragrant desert wood or floral incense or frigid desert air. Lots of sweet vanilla-mint flavor. Mineral, tongue tingling, mouth-watering but still astringent. Pretty freaking amazing. Yeah, zing. Crystalline.

Thanks mrmopar <3 I bought a cake after trying it at the Great Table Commandeering.

Boiling 6 g 3 OZ / 100 ML
Martin Bednář

Nice song pairing :)


Awesome Derk! I really like this one. Glad you were sharing with a coworker. Such a good one to share with.

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So I’ve been on a yin trip lately and have accordingly been drinking mainly Yiwu (and a bit of aged Lincang). I figured it was time for a little Yang and broke out a sample of this. Yang indeed. I was immediately transported to 1990 when I was 16 and puffing on a Camel light at the skating rink. The security guard handed me a Pall Mall non filter and said try this son. This is a MAN’S cigarette. Indeed it was, just like this tea, brimming with toxic masculinity. Actually this tea doesn’t so much remind me of a cigarette but of a Parodi cigar. When most people talk of cigar notes in a tea they mean nice smooth cedary notes you’d expect from a fine Dominican wet cured stick. Not this tea. It tastes for the world like a Parodi, the Italian dry cured cigars you see in gangster movies. Bitter, spicy, strong and manly. The soup is thick and bitter but not as much bitterness or returning sweetness as a Lao Mane but close. It also has the slate and fennel notes I get from Lao mane teas but less pronounced. It’s also thick enough to satisfy an espresso drinker. The qi is also powerful but not of the calming euphoric meditative type I get from an Yiwu or the bombastic stoner qi I get from an LBZ. This stuff makes me spacey, lethargic and dumb. Like I lost a few iq points. I find myself looking for my phone while talking on it and reminiscing about Pall Mall cigarettes. I get a similar effect from adolescent red mark teas so I wonder if they got their material from the same part of Menghai. If you like a tea that is simple, potent and zonkering try this stuff…did I mention it was potent?

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Through the generosity of a tea friend, I am tasting my way through a number of samples of aged raw puerhs. I had also ordered a few additional raw puerhs to sample. When I first began drinking loose leaf teas, I tried everything (green, black, oolong, ripe, raw, etc), and gravitated toward mildly roasted Wuyi rock oolongs. However, I have always been curious if there are puerhs out there that I would love more if only I found the right ones. I already have a number of cakes in storage that were purchased several years ago with pure chance. With the help of a tea bud, I have already found a couple of puerhs I like in these samples, and I’m working toward sampling my way to my preferred sheng region, cultivar, etc.

I am creating tasting note placeholders here on Steepster as I go through the teas that I intend to come back later and add more detailed tasting notes. I was given enough sample material for at least two sessions (thank you!!) and so that will allow me get to know the outstanding character of each tea and those traits that are more common across raw puerhs.

So far I have tried:
2004 Yang Qing Hao “Te Ji Pin” Raw by Yang Qing Hao
2007 XiaGuan FT Shan 4th golden wrapper by Xiaguan Tea Factory
2008 Menghai “SPRINGTIME WATERRAW by Menghai Tea
2012 Baotang Raw by The Essence of Tea

Since this little summary of my experiment is posted under the 2012 Boatang Raw tasting note, here are my initial thoughts on this tea:

Brewed gongfu style in 70 ml clay pot with 5 gr of material. One rinse and very fast initial steeps of only 5 seconds, gradually increasing (very little).

Flavors/Aromas I pickup in this tea are a lot of sweetness. That’s very evident. I also get a little bit of cocoa in the early steeps, but it is nothing like the strong chocolate flavor that comes through with black (red) teas. It’s definitely tannic and possesses some bitterness, and in later steepings still reveals some young sheng characteristics. It’s smooth in the mouth and has very little astringency initially, but the tea does become more astringent after awhile. If I smack my lips, I get something like a blackboard chalk in the aftertaste.

In the 2010 “AUTUMN NAN NUO SHAN” brick, I felt some pretty strong qi or caffeine buzz or something going on very quickly. With this 2012 Boatang, I feel a little something in my body, but it came on slowly and is far more subtle.

Flavors: Bitter, Cocoa, Leather, Sweet, Tannin

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 2 OZ / 70 ML

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When I got this sample it had sourish notes of a tea that had gotten too dry or was sealed in a sample bag too long so I did my usual trick of wrapping it in paper and placing it in a humidified canister with other samples in similar condition. After a few months I’d forgotten about this tea and reread the description on the eot site and remembered that I had some. First 2 steeps were smoky and sweet. Oddly I’m reminded of Korean bbq pork with perhaps a touch of pineapple and cardamom. Steeps 4-5 are among the thickest stickiest shots of tea I’ve had in recent history and have a thick brown sugar caramel taste that reminds me of a Belgian strong ale. Steep 6 sees an enormous drop in thickness and the emergence of the tart and snappy but thin tastes of semi aged Wuliang yesheng like that of YS. At this point the qi hits and is of the relaxing clarifying type. At this point I keep doing long steeps expecting the kill steep is near but I’m rewarded with a slight return to thickness and continual shape shifting flavors. Excellent yesheng.

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Second time with this tea. The first time I had it, I didn’t really “get” this tea. But a second try has revealed its redeeming qualities. Loving the aroma on the lid of the gaiwan for starters, old tobacco and old rooms, filled with grandparents and comfort. The flavor and body are still perplexing to me, they’re so much lighter than my other liu bao experience, centered on a distinct and enjoyable candied pumpkin, but not much spice or fermentation, or seemingly depth or thickness. Likewise for the finish, nothing exceptional. But the feeling is fantastic, a giddy, calm joy, quite calming and settling, almost to the point of sleepiness, but not. Sometimes heavy qi teas make me feel very disoriented and disconnected, but this one feels light, clear, yet relaxed and happy.

Flavors: Candy, Pumpkin, Tobacco, Wood

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 60 OZ / 1774 ML

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Current count of yet to be tasted and written about teas in cupboard:

Pu erh: 11

Oolong: 22

And a bunch of pu erh samples, including this one.

I got a sample of this from Essence of Tea when I ordered some yixing pots from them a while back.

The next step in my pu erh adventure is to develop a more discerning palate. Right now I honestly have no idea how to judge the quality of a pu erh, be it sheng or shu.


In the packet, the sample smells like hay/grass/straw. All of the pasture elements are represented.

I rinsed and set this aside in the gaiwan for more than 15 minutes. Then I steeped at boiling for 5/5/7/7/10/10/20/30/40/60

The first steep was very, almost deceptively mild. I really couldn’t develop much of an impression of the tea after the first steep. It was sort of like my experience with some white teas. I can sense that the tea is there, but I can’t say that I really know what I’m tasting.

Subsequent steeps brought out the flavor, and a darker liquor that varied in shade from a lighter to a darker butter yellow with a tinge of brown at its darkest.

In aroma and flavor, this one spanned the gamut of things I’ve tasted in the other shengs I’ve tried recently. The second steep had a slight bitterness, but most of the steeps were the cocoa-toffee-coffee-white chocolate-butter melange I’ve come to quite enjoy. The fourth steep had some of the linen aspect that I noticed in my early forays, and was also, surprisingly, lightly floral.

The sixth steep made me notice a tingling on the tongue.

The seventh seemed sweeter than the others.

Can someone explain to me what qi is and how I know when I encounter it?

Flavors: Butter, Cocoa, Coffee, Floral, Grass, Hay, Straw, Toffee, White Chocolate


Different for each person. Could be alertness, calming, relaxing or sweating. Just a couple but I think mental alertness is the one I get most. Any kind of body feeling.

You are getting into puerh! Just sayin……. ;P


Hmm. I don’t really notice anything different yet. I’ll have to start paying more attention to the feelings as distinct from the taste.

I’m for sure enjoying my stay in pu erh land!


Sometimes a tea will give you an experience and sometimes not. I think being enjoyable to drink is the main thing that I like to find in a tea.

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When tasting the first steep my thoughts were like “oh great…another POLITE tea” as is was so mild and subtle. Funny thing is halfway through that steep my eyebrows became noticeably heavy…this was indeed peculiar. Second steep, notes of the Hawaiian Lehua honey my mom gave me began to emerge and this tea began to make sense. First steep had no notable huigan but this second steep made up for it. Third steep is thick with more honey and perhaps a bit of woodiness. At this point my whole body is limp and grinning at the floor pondering the patterns in the tiles. Now I’m at steep 10 and the tea is fading out as I ponder taking a hike as I have cabin fever from being cooped up with a stomach bug that’s finally relented after 5 days…will I venture out into the winter air or will I sit here and drink more tea? Decisions decisions….

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Having a sample of this one tonight.
Dumped the sample into the breaking tray. Looks to be bigger leaf and an almost purple hue to the leaf. Ye Sheng maybe? Not sure at this point. Got 10 grams out to brew with. Heated the water and pored some into the easy brewer and dumped. Tossed around. Very fruity almost like grape skin mixed with honey.
First brew after a quick rinse. Whispers of a touch of smoke. Very light. Taste very fruity and just on the tip of the tongue. Sweet on the aftertaste lingering.
Second brew, still flash steeping. Nice and sweet. A little more thickness and the mouth coating is starting. I saw a few buds mixed in so this may be some of the sweetness. I know there are two types of wild tea. Bitter version and sweet which this one seems to be. Starting to carry heaviness and some berry malt to it.
Third steep, a little more of the white grape creeps in. Starting to have a touch of bitterness mixed in as well. Very light though. Almost like drinking a sweet white wine varietal. Pretty close just without the alcohol.

Flavors: Berry, Bitter, Honey, Smoke, Sweet, White Grapes

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 9 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

Is that different from this?

The 2018 Secret Forest says “We pressed this tea last year and offered these cakes as preorders, which have now sold out.”



@TeaGull it is a sample from he previous year. I am intrigued to know if the current compares. I may have to find a swapper to check the new one out. I just wished they had pressed a bigger cake. I dislike the new smaller cake sizes.


I bought a sample of the 2018 and really enjoyed it. It definitely has Ye Sheng in it. It’s got some funky spicy and umami characters to it and a really love long mouthfeel.

Personally, I appreciate the smaller cake sizes, I just don’t need 357/400 more grams of anything these days. But, even this one is a little more than I want to spend right now.


I will probably start downsizing in the future as storage shrinks.
I agree about the Ys Sheng as it seems to have that edge to it.


I tried the 2018 secret garden as well as the Gedeng Guoyolin and Piercing the illusion and they all have that Ye Sheng vibe to them. Nice Chardonnay notes. Kinda like the Slumbering Dragon without the big bitterness. All would be worth caking but I already have enough wild tea to last a while…

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Tried a small sample of this included in a recent private tea purchase. I usually prefer spring teas to autumn, but this was certainly a nice treat. Aroma was floral and sweet. Early steeps were easy-going with a very light astringency and a floral, honey huigan. The body started off a little light, and remained that way throughout the tea, though it did pick up some as I reached the meat of the session. Around 6 or 7 steeps in, the astringency picks up – unsurprising for a tea this young – and soon grows to be the dominant part of the tea, though it is still floral in flavor, especially the huigan.

This tea feels lively in the mouth – both flavor and aroma were solid, where in a lot of autumn teas, aroma is dominant. A nice couple of sessions – doesn’t appear the tea is available anymore.

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Symphonic. Has it all. Apricot tops all the way to a shimmering mineral base. I hum along though I don’t know the tune yet. expectant with age to come.

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I received a sample of this tea ifrom mrmopar in a Christmas card! I wanted to try it with family at a time when we could sit and discuss the merits of the tea and really focus on it, rather than when we were sipping as we palyed games or had snacks. The opportunity came a few nights ago.

The dry leaves reminded me of a tobacconist shop, not something I was expecting from a young-ish sheng. It is an aroma I enjoy, so I had hopes for everyone to enjoy this sheng, even the shu drinkers.

The steeped tea is very, very lively. The briskness translates to such an energy on the tongue, and the aftertaste is sweet and pleasant. We were drinking it shortly before bedtime, and I thought that it would be a wonderful tea to drink as a daytime pick-me-up when energy is flagging but there is work to be done. It didn’t keep me from being able to fall asleep at my usual time, however. The flavor was reminiscent of green teas I have had that are brisk on the tongue with a sweet rising aftertaste. My youngest said it was very minty to her, more like spearmint than peppermint.

My eldest and youngest had a sheng at a tea festival, and the Chinese vendor told them that his sheng sample might not be what they were accustomed to. They bravely told him that they drank puer all the time! He laughed and told them it wasn’t like his, and handed them a cup…and they nicknamed it murder tea. Apparently, it was a VERY sour sheng!

Youngest was one of the people drinking this Bao Tang, and pronounced it very drinkable. It has helped her recover from her sheng trauma. We had numerous steeps before heading off to bed in sloshy contentment.

Thank you to mrmopar for a nice new tea experience!

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What a wonderful example of a good Autumn sheng.

You can tell from this tea how powerful these leaves are. There is much less of a dropoff from steep to steep compared to most Autumn productions. My front pallet is salivating while the back of my pallet is also ringing, great mouthfeel. Great energy, wouldn’t have expected this type of energy from a Autumn.

Fantastic example of how great Autumn sheng can be. This is easily the best Autumn I have tried. Expansive mouthfeel with great energy and flavor. 10 steeps deep and still pushing, VERY nice surprise for low initial expectations.

I would say the only characteristic in this tea relative to other Autumn productions I have tried is the flavor… Light sweetgrass-like scent and taste which is accompanied by a subtle astringency.

Wish I had more, but I will now need to try the Spring version of this tea.

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After several years of anticipation, I’ve finally gotten this tea in my cup.

Initial wafting of the dry leaves met me with freshness (almost menthol) that was unexpected for a tea of this age. I’ve not tried any Essence of Tea puerh before so I am not accustomed to what the storage taste may be. Waited about 2 weeks to air this out and threw it in the Jian Shui (my semi-aged sheng pot).

Now, I went this entire session with a somewhat confused demeanor. Any previously sampled semi-aged sheng that I have had did not resembled this at all; this tea was different. What a friendly tea. I still do not really know what stands this one on it’s own… Lacking smokiness and almost all astringency, it makes for a very consistent brew similar to other semi-aged sheng in my experience.

Wasn’t taken back by the energy, but I usually drink a lot more leaf per session. All-in-all I had a great 15-20 steeps of this and it was still giving when pushed to 20-30 second steeps.

Earthy tones and subtle fruit led this to please me very much for about an hour.

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It’s been a while since I tried this cake but I always remember it being a very fresh clean young sheng.

The dry leaves didn’t seem to have darkened quite as much as I was expecting but a lot of the fresh younger scent seemed to have given way to something a bit more aged. The colour of the brew was still a rather bright yellow but was definitely darker than before.

The flavour still had some floral sweet elements like when the tea was younger but has now given way to a lot more straw and wood elements. The body of the tea is still thick and there is a good energy that comes with drinking it.

Using it as a test of how things are ageing in UK climate, it seems as if it is a slower process but it seems to be producing good results, (it helps that I enjoy the younger characteristics of this cake as well)!

Flavors: Floral, Grain, Straw, Sweet, Wood

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 7 tsp 3 OZ / 100 ML

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Smokey in the first two steeps but it quickly faded. After that it’s unfading, gentle sweetness that lasts steep after steep. The mouth feel really embodies what it means for a tea to be “sticky.” When I drink it, I have the mouth feel of kinda of chewing on a sticky boba (from milk tea). The sweetness is not like honey or stone fruits but more like sugarcane and sticky rice.

I like this tea.

Flavors: Sugarcane, Sweet

Boiling 6 g 4 OZ / 110 ML

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A small sample I took from the previous Puerh TTB I believe. Humid storage and woody, maybe petrichor notes on the nose. A lot of the same in the cup too. Moderately dank – not overpoweringly so. Good body and color to the liquor of this tea. Tea was lively on the tongue and those damp woody notes were backed up by a very slight metallic sort of flavor I’ve tasted in other Liu Bao before. This was a nice one – I don’t think I would pay a premium price for it, but it was an enjoyable aged tea.

Flavors: Metallic, Nutty, petrichor, Wood

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

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Interesting fragrance, but very light in taste and reminds of white tea. A pleasant, calm tea for a longer infusion time.
Images and more at

Flavors: Flowers, Hay, Sweet

8 g 80 OZ / 2365 ML

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Soft and heavy, due to a certain humidity a very nice moss note which also makes the tea look much older.

Images and more at

Flavors: Heavy, Moss, Nutty, Vegetal, Wet Moss, Wet wood

8 g 3 OZ / 80 ML

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This tasting note is going to be short sorry!

I’d really say that this tea is wonderful for those who are accostumed to ripe puer and would like to start drinking raws, or the other way around. It’s a raw that has very comforting darker notes, such as vanilla, and almond, and some toasty flavours too. It’s like the perfect puer for a cold winter day, sat right next to the fireplace.

I couldn’t finish my session as I had to leave before I was finished, but from the 3 steepings that I did get in I’d argue that this is a very very good tea.

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No notes yet. Add one?

Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Bitter Melon, Citrus Zest, Herbaceous, Tobacco, Vegetal

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 2 tsp 6 OZ / 180 ML

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Obtained a full cake of this from a friend and very glad that I did.

This is the first raw puerh I’ve ever drank that had more than just that menthol feel… it had a minty taste. It is/was so unique. The tongue seemed cool and tingled after each sip with a nice sensation for at least 20-30 seconds. Fantastic feel and a decent texture to the liquid. Good dry age to this one at this point and I look forward to drinking the heck out of it this winter : )

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I got this as a free sample with my order and was quite surprised how much punch it had. The flavor has a perfect level of strength, which is a nice contrast to all the sweet light 2017s right now. The notes are daisy, stone fruits, buttered green beans, and slight char. It gets sharper in flavor each infusion, and also builds up some astringency, but a drinkable dryness. The energy of this tea hits after the session.

Full review on Oolong Owl

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 1 g 1 OZ / 15 ML

You tried the Jingdong yet?

Oolong Owl

I sadly didn’t get that one. I just have Secret Forest left to try for puer.


I still have some of the Secret Forest too. Message me your address I will pack you some Jingdong. Be warned potent like Lao Man’E if steeped too long.


Haha, yeah Jingdong is super awesome! :-)

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delicious stuff. Lovely ‘wild’ fruit taste, with less bitterness than others I have had from around this area. A hint of steamed darkened fruity leaf in there.

It just goes and goes with limited change to the taste of the steeps. Robust good leaf. Soft gummy plump mouthfeel and more candy huigan. So good :)

Flavors: Fruity


It’s like nature’s own haribo :)
If it just had a bit more of a punch to it I would get a tong.


oh man, these wild teas are gorgeous but soft arent they. I like them brewed with power & sometimes chop and change to benefit from the strength of one sheng then the fruit of wilds


I’ve been considering blending one of them with something that with a little bit more power, but that might overwhelm all those delicate notes.


good idea, I might try that too

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If my math is correct, this 6g pot of tea cost $60. Is it worth it? Well if I had Zuckerberg’s money I would get a tong of this as the flavor and qi are outta sight. First, the flavor/aroma . There is a state park near where I live called Trough Creek. The rims of the canyon are lined with cedar, oak, rhododendron and white pine. After the leaves have fallen in November and there is a rain followed by a warm day, a beautiful aroma of decaying leaves, evergreen mushrooms and decomposing oak fills the air. That’s the essence of this tea. The qi? This has all the nice tingly mood elevating properties of camellias much debated cousin but none of the goofiness and fogginess or paranoia. Just nice. Add a muscle relaxing property and a bit of mental clarity and you have it. I drank a pot of this at 2pm, took a convertible ride and it was like I was driving through a painting. I then went to a local jam session and each note played really resonated. Was this pot of tea worth $60? Well, I’ve payed that much for 50 year old English barleywine ales, 6 ounce bottle at that. I actually see a lot of similarities between old sheng and old beer. I also see how decades of aging really enhances the qi. None of the 10,20 or even 30 year old stuff I’ve had compares. I recommend this tea for very special occasions. I’m having a pot of 05 naka to see if this tea is really 10 times better proportional to cost. I’d say no but it’s definitely 3-5 times better. Makes me wonder how the puerh sk rareness will be in 50 years…

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