Three Bears Tea

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Recent Tasting Notes

7g, duanni/100mL. Brita filtered tap. dry leaf is dead on for the geosmin/beets note. 10s rinse. Upfront is a slightly bitter woody geosmin. The aftertaste is like if beets had a sour tinge with the sort of floral side that some trad storage teas have. Somewhat durable and good texture. Slightly heady, overall rather chaotic energy, with bursts of heating. Tastes older than it is (as another reviewer on 3B site mentioned, wet leaf is a distinct two color mix), but feels really rough on stomach. Would like to get to my younger LB samples from 3B, but after this session, thinking I might have to wait a bit

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2008 Golden Flowers Shu Liu Bao
Three Bears Tea

6.5g, 100mL gaiwan, 212f, filtered Brita
dry leaf has woody profile, but nothing else of note

1×5s rinse

wet leaves have a smoky char sort of hint

3s: nondescript flavor w woody hint
5s: decent woody. A bit flat and papery in a way. Shous are starting to grow on me vs. before, but I can’t pick out specifics and most still taste pretty similar to me, enough so that I wouldn’t be able to differentiate all the shous i’ve ever tried apart in a line-up (except the worst ones)

10s: similar to before, but stronge

15s and 20s: not much change

30s: lightening

1 min: gaining a sweet hint. kind of flat but also my favorite infusion so far. Hm.

2 min: similar to before and touching on the light broad wood taste of the aged 90s LB from ThreeBears. Not nearly as complex, but enjoyably pleasant nonetheless.

3 min: lightening. A hint of plum that I’m not sure is present or just my imagination

thermos: lightly grainy, woody, sort of sweet. Nothing too exciting

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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Edit 7/13: I rechecked the Three Bears site and it looks like they’ve restocked. Not sure I can recommend as wholeheartedly at the current price point (nearly double the previous price if I’m remembering right), but worth trying I suppose. I’ll probably ration the rest of my tiny bag.

Late 1990s “Farmer Style” Heishi Mountain Large Tree Aged Raw Liu Bao

Reviews that are already on Three Bears’ site from the likes of legends such as Phyll Sheng should be enough to convince people (swung me enough to purchase a 50g pack since the larger sizes were out of stock even when I balked initially at why any Liu Bao should cost so much/g), but I’ll add my two cents here anyway. (I’ll also note that I’m a sucker for silly novelties/trivialities like having tea that’s older than I am.)

6.0g, 100 mL gaiwan, a mix of Poland spring and brita filtered water, 212f

dry leaves have a light dry stored smell, but that’s it. Lots of stems in here mixed in with the curled leaves, which was initially a bit offturning.

tea in prewarmed gaiwan didn’t enhance much in terms of aromatics

2x 5s rinse, plenty of saponins in the first so I did a second when I usually do just one. Smell of rinse has a strong medicinal hint, maybe angelica root/female ginseng (当归, something I remember my mom sticking into a bunch of broths at home)?

wet leaves have taken on a more medicinal hint, but I can’t fully place it either

gaiwan lid has a distinct warm sandalwood note (if I am to believe that the Tam Dao bottle I have represents true sandalwood), that I have never smelled in a tea before

7s: woody medicinal, almost something bitter, but not quite. Something lightly sweet that lingers. A slight cooling taste that lingers and fills mouth

10s: hint of something charred, but otherwise similar to before. something about this tea makes me want to sit and enjoy it slowly forever. not sure if it’s because it’s finals season and I’m just tired of everything though

15s: something about the lightly sweet, woody medicinal taste is deeply pleasant in a way I’ve never felt about well, drinking something ostensibly like a TCM concoction rather than for fun. words don’t quite do this justice.

20s: similar to before
30s:pleasant. a slight menthol lurking, leaving a soft peppery feeling in mouth

48s: lightening

1 min: sweeter, but losing deeper depth

2min: similar to before. still pleasant nonetheless.

3 min: light medicinal sweetness

thermos: grainy in that way of thermos’d aged sheng, with a hint of smoke and faded florals. Also woody medicinal notes, with the medicinal notes lingering slightly.

I don’t know if this is for everyone, since I doubt I would’ve enjoyed this particularly when I first started exploring teas and thought everything darker tasted like smoke and medicine (I was also in the terrible first time puer experience party where people end up avoiding puer for a long time afterwards due to trying bad puer initially). But generally, likes are harder to explain than dislikes, and this is likely the case here too. I can’t quite fully express why I feel this tea is so good, it just is. Definitely worth a shot if you like aged teas with a bit of depth in the woody medicinal notes.

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

Sounds good to me! And a vendor I’ve not heard of :)


@derk A little blurb about it here and r/tea is how I found out about it! Three Bears specializes in Liu Bao, so definitely something a smaller subsect of even the much more than average interest in tea Westerner knows about/cares for. I emailed Jason the other day and he said he’ll likely be adding some new teas this weekend, but bigger sizes of this LB in particular probably won’t be until late June/July. I’ve tried most of the things I have from them now (have yet to try the Betelnut, medicine, and the two new LB samplers; fwiw, IK others reviewing on the site have had plenty of good to say about other options, but I thought the rest I’ve tried ranged from okay to good but wouldn’t repurchase), but this is the one I’d definitely recommend trying out of their catalog.

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Nong Xiang Zhang Ping Shui Xian
Three Bears Tea

212f, 100 mL gaiwan, Brita water, 8.4g/1 square

dry leaf definitely smells more roasted w/ a hint of woody profile

1x 5s rinse. wet leaves smell of roast and spices. slightly tighter compression than the light roast ZPSX from Three Bears tea, but I was still able to use a puer pick to get most of it apart

5s: leaves smell slightly smoky. spinach and vegetal note in taste, alongside a toasty note from the medium roast. slight sweet aftertaste

10s: something reminds me of cinnamon here. roasted taste w lingering sweet floral finish. slight hint of mint + vegetal in aftertaste as well.

19s: stronger on mint aftertaste. leaves classic brown sugar-like scent in cup of roasted oolongs

30s: similar to before

1 min: roasted flavor w minty high florals on aftertaste. lightly sweet

2 min: nothing too exciting apparently, since I forgot to take notes

5 min: strong on roast, almost in a bitter sort of way. payoff is in mint and sweet aftertaste

10 min: lightened sharpness, but sharper sweetness

gaiwan overnight (oops): sharp roast upfront, somewhat bitter and unpleasant. vegetal/mint aftertaste.

thermos overnight: most heavier roasted oolongs I’ve tried don’t do too well in cold brews because they’ve all tended to taste like soap or roast for me. this wasn’t an exception, the overnight thermos just tastes of roast profile, with maybe something slightly sweet lurking in the background.

Flavors: Bitter, Floral, Mint, Spices, Spinach, Sweet, Vegetal, Wood

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 8 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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2015/2018 3 Cranes “2506” Liu Bao

7.4g, 100mL gaiwan, 212f, Brita filtered water

5s rinse smells like shou puer: mushroom and dank in a slightly fishy sort of way

dry leaves smell like the HK custom aged sheng I’ve tried before. Bit dark and earthy

wet leaves smell woody and slightly sweet.

7s: mouthfeel slightly thick. tastes like shou. slight black pepper undertones.

10s: much darkened in color. darkened flavors. still like shou.

rest of steeps pretty consistent, not sure exactly how many I ended up doing. don’t really get sweetness during gongfu steeps, but I’ve never been too perceptive to vendor listed sweet notes of shous, so it could be a me thing.

thermos brew: standard grainy sweet notes, but retaining a woody character.

overall, a nice daily drinker if you’re into this sort of shou tea profile, and Yunnan Sourcing sells it for even cheaper last I checked (so fairly easy on the wallet in comparison).

Flavors: Black Pepper, Earth, Mushrooms, Sweet, Wood

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

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2006 “Osmanthus Fragrant” Farmer Style Raw Liu Bao
7.5g, 100mL gaiwan, Brita water, 212f

dry leaves don’t have much smell

in prewarmed gaiwan: not quite osmanthus to my nose, but slightly sweetened

1x 5s rinse

wet leaves carry no osmanthus for me, but smell rather similar to some of the Xia Guan shengs I’ve tried, with their characteristic light smoke and dried fruit.

5s: taste upfront is sort of nondescript, but slight sweet dried fruit aftertaste, like a sheng.

12s: slight sweet, more woody. similar aftertaste

15s: back to nondescript w/ aftertaste

20s: a bit of bittersweetness and woodiness w/ aftertaste

30s: woody and lightly sweet

1 min and 2 min: both similar to before

thermos brew: slightly bitter and medicinal

Apparently osmanthus is one of the main liu bao profiles, but didn’t really catch it here. I guess the osmanthus teas I’ve tried are nauseatingly strong on it though, so this was a change of pace that I didn’t quite seem to acclimate to.

Flavors: Bitter, Dried Fruit, Medicinal, Smoke, Sweet, Wood

7 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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2009 “Gan Ku” Farmer Style Aged raw Liu Bao

5.1g, 100mL gaiwan, 200f

Of course I don’t especially like bitter flavors as much as the next person. And of course I believe that tea shouldn’t just be sugar water, etc. etc. At any rate the description was intriguing enough, and I’m not brave enough to try a ku Ding tea, so I thought this might be fun to try.

dry leaves don’t smell like much.

1x 3s rinse, which smells a bit grainy

wet leaves smell like young sheng, sharp and fruity

3s: tastes a bit smoky. A hint of medicine. something peppery on tongue.

5s: not too much flavor upfront, but leaves a slight sweetness on tongue afterwards.

10s: dried fruit like a sheng still

30s: stronger on medicinal note

1 min: still like before, but more fruity.

2 min: similar

1 min: not much to add. starting to fade.

2 min: slight mushroomy note

2 min again, but 212f on this and subsequent infusions since this doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. no notes added

5 min: a light sort of floral medicinal

10 min: lightened significantly

thermos overnight: standard thermos sheng profile.

Overall, this was unexpectedly soft overall and tasted similar to a dry stored aged sheng where I expected more harshness, especially as there was a note on my order to brew like a young sheng to avoid excessive bitterness. I suspect that my notes in large part have to do with the temperature I brewed at, which is 5 degrees under the arbitrary 205f suggested for young shengs, which maybe I’d adhere to when I have time to wait around for the temp to hit 205 since my kettle only does 10f increments. Unfortunately, this is start of finals time, and I am procrastinating my work everyday by brewing tea and making notes on steepster. (For the greater good, I assure myself!! I digress.) But even so, I thought the thermos brew might draw out bitterness, as it does for some shengs, but there was none here. Will add on notes in the future if I change brewing parameters to start with boiling.

Flavors: Dried Fruit, Floral, Grain, Medicinal, Mushrooms

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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Qing Xiang Zhang Ping Shui Xian
Three Bears Tea
1 square, 7.7g (not sure if my scale is undercounting again?), 100mL gaiwan, Brita water, 212f

dry leaves have a light oolong smell, slight floral, something toasty and sweet, so pretty run of the mill oolong.

in a prewarmed gaiwan: more vegetal, like a Taiwanese oolong

1x 3s rinse. I let it sit a couple minutes and then picked apart the leaves since they weren’t compressed too tight to begin with. Wet leaves smell like any Taiwanese oolong with the vegetal, kind of creamy note and very light bare minimum touch of smoke.

5s: nondescript vegetal with floral and sweet undertones. Leaves a sort of sweet fruit on aftertaste for my first sip, but later cups seems to be more minty of vegetal.

10s: slightly stronger flavors + more pronounced minty aftertaste

17s: same as before, slightly sharper upfront.

30s: vegetal upfront, floral finish with minty aftertaste

off to the cold brew bottle. Not to suggest this is a particularly bad tea, by any means. It’s just not interesting enough for me to sit here and continue to take notes about since I can roughly predict how future steepings will turn out.

I bought this for the novelty of trying out a Zhang Ping shui xian since I found it about it a few months ago and it seemed interesting enough and a harmless add-on to my Three Bears order. I’ve figured out by now that I don’t like under roasted oolongs, but I’m glad I tried this because it’s helped me to connect the dots on processing and taste. Every Taiwanese oolong I’ve tried (not that I’ve tried a ton, since I just haven’t liked any very much so far) has fit a standard flavor and brew profile, and I’ve just come to associate every oolong with these characteristics as a Taiwanese oolong. I didn’t realize until trying this that these aren’t the characteristics of Taiwanese oolongs in general, but instead of a light roast processing similar to every Taiwanese oolong I’ve had before. So feeling a bit silly because of that. Anyway, now if I tried this in a blind taste test I wouldn’t automatically assume it’s a Taiwanese oolong (though I probably would still be inclined to think of it as such), but rather just indicative of a light processing.

Tasting notes reflect unedited thoughts during steepings, so keeping the Taiwanese oolong comparisons there.

Flavors: Floral, Mint, Smoke, Sweet, Toasty, Vegetal

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 8 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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