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Recent Tasting Notes
Paired w/ some blood orange for an outdoor tea session that was much more pleasant than the sheng session I had about a week ago that was just cold and nasty. I even got to enjoy the tea at my favourite hillside tree stump!! Nature’s “tea tray” – and what a good tea tray it is!
This shou is deep and woody with a pleasant mix of bitter oak, walnut, and syrupy raisin notes! I love how thick and warming this shou is, and the lingering sticky sweetness after each sip. There’s a bit of a molasses quality to it too – the dark sweetness and creeping and coating bitterness meshed together. The pleasant medicinal bitterness of the top notes and early infusions really complimented the blood orange in a way that made me think of chenpi as well. Really relaxing, and a good foray back into outdoor tea sessions.
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ag2jLAhgS4&abchannel=LeSaiint-Topic
So… uh… hi
Not gonna try and apologize for my absence other than to say the pandemic has just about killed me. Not in a COVID-way mind you, but my mental health has been so dang bad that it takes all my energy to make a K-Cup let alone have actual tea.
BUT! Today I decided to say “To heck with it” and gong fu. First time since 2019. And the tea I picked was from that lovely care package that’s been sitting in my drawer for a year now. I wanted to have something “Real” and when I dug through it, I found THIS!
First impression – Good golly this is drying. No really, it’s licking sawdust levels of dry, especially early in the session. As the session continues, the dryness eases up, but those first 6 or so pours, JEEBUS.
Second, with this called “Lumber Slut” I honestly expected it to be like eating a toothpick. However, I am happy to share it’s nothing like that. Oh, it’s woody, for certain. But the flavor is very complex. The first thing I thought was it tastes like copal incense smells, if that makes sense. It’s got a rich sweetness to it without being sugary. Then, as I explored, I noticed notes of leather and maple syrup (that got stronger as I progressed) with a strong tone of earthy and damp wood. Yes, there is wood here, not going to lie. There’s a LOT of wood in this. But like I said, it’s not “Chewing a toothpick” type of wood. The wood is tempered with a broad palate of other flavors that makes this absolutely delicious.
I will warn you, the hotter this is, the better. If you let it start to cool down it does taste like toothpicks. So I recommend having a relatively quick session. At least that’s what I found. I don’t have a proper kettle (just a glass Tea-Maker) and the water cools off fast. Also, from what I experienced, this isn’t the longest lasting tea you’ll find. About 16 or so pours and it was getting pretty weak, even with extended time.
But, for what I got from it, this was so dang good. For anyone out there who still has this particular version, I am extremely envious. I wish I could get more of this it was just so wonderful. So complex and rich.
Flavors: Leather, Maple Syrup, Oak, Sweet, Wet Wood, Wood
Feel like I need to revise my original review after some additional steeps. On a side note, this is going to be my last review on Steepster until I can edit my profile. This is frankly pure unadulterated bullshit that needs to get fixed like yesterday. Trust me I’m a professional.Previously I might have said this tea would be accounting middle-management if it were a job but I see now that this is a harsh if slapstick comparison. I’m save my best writing on this topic for a better platform, but the key to this tea is to go big. Mor leaf. Do this and you’ve got a burly delicious cup that offers dimensions and intrigue a-plenty for something marketed as a daily drinker. Forest floor and wood and PEAT dominate. It’s never smoky or chocolatey but hints at both.
For some the value on this cake might diminish when you think about the additional volume required to draw out the best performance, but frankly I’m thrilled to find such a great tea and don’t mind one bit.
Some folks like to add a song to their rating so here’s one appropriate for my feelings on both this tea and Steepster in general. Adios!
Petey – Apple TV Remote
Flavors: Forest Floor, Peat, Wood
I’m always western style brewing unless stated otherwise. I can’t edit my profile to say that, it’s broken or something.
I’m on a quest to try all my W2T shu and maybe find another gem. I’ve tried 3 different ones today; 2020 Bamboo Shu, Old Reliable, and Saturday Mass. So far Bamboo Shu is my favorite but Saturday Mass sure is interesting.
Old Reliable! Already managing expectations pretty well with that name – I wasn’t expecting a circus. The soup smell is funky and I liked it. Didn’t get a powerful funk, just a spunky, oatmeal lumpy affair. Unfortunately it didn’t translate to the taste as well as I would have liked but I’m happy to say that this tea was extra-medium in nearly every way and yet, reliable. Taste was mostly damp forest floor notes with a hint of wood. Not much sweetness from the brew. Mouthfeel wasn’t thin but… plain I guess. Bittered slightly as it cooled.
If this tea was a job it would be middle-management in a conservative accounting firm. Some people might really dig on the earthy woody profile. I need to try more brewing techniques and see if I can draw out something more to my interest. Maybe this one would be a good candidate to mix with other teas and see what magic you can drum up?
Flavors: Forest Floor
Drinking this for the first time and really liking it. The smell of savory baked goods (maybe bagels?) and hot brandy is intoxicating. I’m struggling to pick out flavors but the mouthfeel is so round and inviting. Aftertaste is just as entrancing; intricate, slightly cooling and oily, yet delicate. It went fast up until the last quarter, and then I had to make myself finish it. Didn’t cool particularly well, no overpowering white celery flavor, but kept an alluring black-dominated profile. I think the huge mouthfeel of this tea doesn’t sit too well cold, but IMO the hot is spectacular.
A lazy Sunday called for an appropriately named tea, so I sipped on this sample this past weekend! This years pressing definitely doesn’t come close to the level of funk that the original 2017 pressing had when it was fresh, which is a plus – however having had the 2017 fairly recently I can say confidently that it’s settled into something quite delicious and this tea isn’t at that level yet. Right now it’s got notes of wet potting soil, oats, and date paste with a thick brothy liquor. I’m looking forward to holding onto this sample and seeing what it becomes, but this thick and cozy tea session wasn’t anything to complain or rave about!
This is such a clean, easy-drinking shu. Absent of any funk, sour notes, flatness – it’s caused me to recognize the flat and sour in other shu I drink every day. It’s almost easier to talk about what it’s not, but the straightforward nature never seems to bore. I definitely get those cocoa notes in the flavor along with a hint of cinnamon on the hot. Earthy notes come forward and start to dominate as it cools, but the mouthfeel makes up for it, becoming a touch oily. Cocoa smell strengthens on the cooldown and I love a tea that finishes strong. My first W2T shu and it’s a daily drinker gem that’s high-class quality.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Cocoa, Earth
I almost don’t want to review this one because I don’t want to encourage anyone but me to buy it! But the spirit moves me to say this is the perfect tea, at least by my lights. It’s not the best at any one thing, neither the flavor nor the aroma nor the texture is perfect, but they all balance each other so well they combine into something perfect. It’s lightly sweet but also sour, it’s strong enough to keep me awake but doesn’t hurt my stomach, it’s easy to break into pieces and easy to brew, and it never disappoints. I’ve tried other shous with chenpi, including samples of other white2tea shous, and although I enjoyed them all none was as perfect as this.
Flavors: Caramel, Citrus, Molasses, Wood
Had this one last weekend and I’ve been putting off the tasting note because I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to say for this tea. I’m still not sure, to be honest.
This was the January Subscription tea – 100g of small batch shou in bamboo. I’ve had a mixed success rate with bamboo scented/stored teas, but I was curious about this one. I started by having it Western style, and I actually resteeped the leaf because I was enjoying it so much – I veeeerrrry rarely resteep tea when I’m having it Western style. It was so cozy and comforting – one of those cups of tea that just hugs you from the inside out and makes you feel safe and secure. However, describing the flavours… arg!
It’s smooth. Damn smooth and silky. Definitely had this toasted/fired note to it, but a lightness to the top of the sip that felt like it was the bamboo. It was weirdly complex and simple all at once. I will 100% need to try this again to be able to form some more proper thoughts, but suffice to say I liked it a lot.
Gongfu Sipdown (1332)!
Picked this one to sip on while I tested out a new gaiwan over the weekend. One of my favourite ceramicists, Inge Nielsen, recently began working with a new purple glaze and I immediately lost my mind and had to order a gaiwan using it. It’s truly stunning. I have a few people from her (though this is my first gaiwan) and the craftmenship on them all is just impecable, but this lovely purple glaze was just the cherry on top.
I picked this because, one, it was an easy sipdown – but also because Waffles is one of those teas that kind of just tastes great no matter what you do with it. It’s very forgiving, and whenever you use a new piece of teaware for the first time there’s bound to be at least a little clumsiness/fumbling as you figure out the best grip. Or… is that just me!? It might be, I am awkward as hell when I brew Gongfu – I have what I call “gaiwan claw” when it comes to pouring. This gaiwan has a nice flared rim though, which helps a lot. As does having killed the nerve endings on the sides of the two fingers that make the most contact with the gaiwan when pouring…
Flavors: Dates, Earth, Fig, Wet Earth
White2Tea Iron Arhat (铁罗汉)
4g in 100 ml Duanni pot
Filtered brita water off the boil
Dry leaves smell chocolatey and sort of inky but also some semblance of dried fruit notes
Wet leaves just smell like smoke
Infusion tastes lightly smokey with a sweet aftertaste
Some backstory. I’ve figured out by now that deeply roasted young yancha is just perhaps not for me. This note overall was pretty lame but I can’t seem to pick up the notes others get on these. I read all these beautiful descriptions of heavy roasted oolongs and yancha but whenever I try them for myself, I’m like “Man, this is some heavy smoke” and I can’t pick out much else. My parents got a Lao Cong Shui Xian that they love and my only thoughts on it were along the lines of “this is like drinking smoke, but medicinal tasting”. They no longer share their LCSX with me, haha. The best tea I can remember having is a Chinese yancha that was apparently packaged in 2006 and not opened by me until 2019 (a gift with 2 mini packs one of which I will always regret gifting away), and I suppose that with what I read about the smokey notes fading with time, made that the best thing I’ve ever tasted, except I can’t put my finger on why. Though I’ve been drinking teas all my life, I didn’t start writing detailed notes (and anyone who’s been gifted Chinese packaged teas will know why; many of them are packaged very nicely and yet provide little usable information on production and origin (let’s talk 100% legitimate info, it’s hard to escape fake marketing of which there is plenty of in tea and in general China) so it’s hard to tell apart the pyrite from the gold) really until I made my Steepster account and going bigger on my own purchases as I gained more interest in the brewing and culture. Because before, tea was a habit, not a hobby. A gram scale to standardize brews and gaiwan were the best bang for buck investments into the hobby I’ve made.
Anyway, I veered pretty far off the course, but overall I hope these reviews help some people, especially since many teas can be rather unremarkable and sellers can overhype like mad. Do the Ducklers legitimately taste the 30 notes they include on each tea? I don’t know (no hate, I love their (mostly) well-priced teaware but haven’t been blown away by any teas they offer), but I include what I do taste, and I would assume untrained palates are more like your average drinker. Yeah, drink whatever you like, and premium product for price whatever, but this is for fun, so I like the non-academic hobbyist aspect too. Hope Steepster’s able to get back to the olden days of less spam and more reviews, because when I can find reviews of teas I want to purchase, it’s nice especially as a student with a limited budget. Life’s for exploring after all. Teaforum, teachat, and r/tea are nice, but I do believe Steepster has the best setup for reviews (some things could use improvement and streamlining, but that applies to most of the world at large).
I veered off again. I’ll stop here and recommend this just for experiencing the unique and very pleasant aftertaste and now I get to claim that I’ve tried 3 of 4 big name Wuyi Yanchas hah. (da hong pao, Lao cong shui xian, and tie luo han). Maybe when I’m older and appreciate more smokey mellow things I’ll give rou gui a shot, but for now, I’ll save my money since I know I won’t like it in particular.
Flavors: Chocolate, Smoke, Sweet
2020 nightlife mini 7g, brita water off the boil, gaiwan gongfu
Smells like floral leaves. Tastes of light honey from the first infusion. Lovely, wouldn’t hesitate to buy a full cake on my next order from W2T.
Okay unfortunately I have no more notes as I had to finish an errand and forgot the tea. I stuck the leaves in the fridge and added them to a thermos with boiling water a few days later (no i didn’t die drinking tea brewed from couple days stuck in the fridge tea, I survived and still wrote this review). The brew turned out a little bitter and slightly sour, but it was okay I suppose. I wish I had more, but I will definitely order a full cake next time from W2T! if I had pleasant thoughts on Tiltshift, I remember this on the initial steep was even more obviously sweet (because most white teas have that subtle sweetness, but this was a bit more in your face).
Flavors: Floral, Honey
This is my favorite tea and I have been burning through these with WFH meetings. It’s so easy to pop one of these in my mug with hot water and keep filling it up. It’s not so intricate that you feel bad about drinking it mindlessly. It gets me at least 3-4 full cups of tea. I have always loved this tea but it has become my best friend the last few weeks. I had so many stowed away and I am almost out of them. Someone recommend more pu-erhs that can be drank grandpa style
First session of this $$$ shou – decided to go all in and blind cake this one & hold onto it as a bit of an aging study. My snap impression is that it’s quite sweet and fruity, with an almost tangy quality to the top notes of each sip – the first thing that came to mind to describe it was tamarind paste! I find the finish quite clean, too. Anyone else tried this? What were your first thoughts? I would be very curious to compare experiences!
Flavors: Earth, Fruity, Oats, Tangy
Gongfu Sipdown (1327)!
On a sipdown role!! Brewed this up a bit strong in one of my Arbee Ceramics pots. It’s got a lovely syrupy liquor with a mix of very golden honey, wildflower, and beeswax notes – some infusions had a sweet French Bread note as well, and a raisin-y fruit note to the undertones and finish. I agree with W2T’s description of this lapsang having a great deal of depth to it; I was pleasantly taken aback by all of the honey sweetness at first, but as I get farther into the session and started stacking infusions I felt as though I was settling into a place of comfort and familiarity with this tea. In my opinion, it’s not as unique as some of the other unsmoked Lapsang from W2T and I feel like I would be more much inclined to reach for Fruit Bomb or Strawberry Lapsang, but I’m thoroughly enjoying this!
The dry leaves smell surprisingly sweet, with notes of jasmine and grapefruit.
Subtle and complex flavor, like wildflower honey; there’s even a milky undertone in there bringing it all together. It’s a quieter experience than I usually go for – delicious, but the tea really demands all my attention or I’ll miss something.
Flavors: Grapefruit, Honey, Jasmine, Milk, Orange Blossom
I was craving simple teas today and well, that MlesnA Dimbula was maybe way too simple. And this one… it’s called Daily Drinker so I assume, it will be a good one, though a bit boring, puerh. Well, and this tea have double entry too; writing here as it has got more tasting notes here, though, the brand name is wrong.
I did 5 seconds rinse which I tossed out, and let the humidity absorb the leaf for 2-3 minutes (only!).
1st steep, around 10 seconds
Weirdly somehow mineral, expected some astringency and it is rather sweet. Grassy a bit, round and smooth. A bit drying in aftertaste.
2nd steep, around 15 seconds
Here comes the… drying notes again. Not really the astringency. Again, a mellow and round cup. It’s not much aromatic, somehow “typical” sheng. Wet leaf is a bit into tobacco, luckily not in taste. Chunk dissolved completely with a little help.
3rd steep, around 25 seconds
Maybe my tasting buds are sleeping today, or it’s same? Daily drinker for sure, it’s easydrinking, but kind of flat and boring.
I assume following steeps will be pretty much same/similar, so I will end my tasting note here. If something exceptional happens, I will update/write down in comments what I found out. It’s a nice tea, indeed good for daily drinking… and that’s not wrong. It’s not luckily somehow super-complex in tastes, sometimes it’s way too much and I certainly was looking for something like this today.
Flavors: Buffalo Grass, Drying, Green, Mineral, Round , Smooth, Tobacco
Had a short session of this on the weekend as the sunset – it was kind of perfect because the sky sort of looked like cotton candy and that fit surprisingly well with the tea. Soft and sweet with lots of light florals and undertones of sugar cane, white grape skins, and just a bit of bite in the finish! I always seem to overleaf this 50ml gaiwan just a bit too much, but this sheng handled it well. Plenty of steeps to enjoy overall, but this was definitely better in the second half of the session…
140 mL, 7g, gongfu, brita filter water off the boil
Couldn’t smell anything particular in the dry leaves/mini cake.
Tasted like a specific TCM the whole way through (神曲: Chinese medicated leaven) that comes in little bricks that you boil. Given that I had to take this often when I was having stomach issues when I was younger, it doesn’t necessarily elicit any pleasant connections for me lol. No other observations, but definitely not something I’d order again.
Update: used the leaves for compost and was surprised to smell a strong passion fruit note three days later. Had it mixed with leftover W2T tiltshift leaves. This mini certainly tasted nothing like that, so not sure what that’s from but I thought the smell was interesting and pleasant. :)
Flavors: Bitter, Medicinal