107 Tasting Notes
Coming back to this tea after not touching it for about nine months. I’ve learned a bit about brewing in that time, so I’m ready to go off script and brew this by not following the brewing advice at all. This actually worked out well, because this tea is lovely. I brewed gongfu this time, about 7g in a 100ml gaiwan, water at a full boil. The brew is sweet, with a wonderful taste and aroma of cocoa and dried fruit, figs or prunes (I don’t know, I’m terrible at identifying specific flavors sometimes) but the slightly malty finish is what gives this away as being a black and not a roasted oolong. I hate nearly all the black teas I drink, but this one is an exception.
There is no way to do this tea justice with a mere tasting note, and anyway I lack both the palate and the vocabulary to speak with any authority about things like “stonefruits” and “vegetal” and “astringent” and stuff like that, particularly with a tea like this.
I’ll be honest, this is been kind of a crappy year so far. I do believe with all my heart that the secret to happiness is gratitude. And so, I am grateful for many things. And while I try to be zen about things as a general rule (I wear a ring with “this too shall pass” engraved on it), sometimes shit just gets shittier. And when you happen to do what I do for a living, most days you feel like Sisyphus at the rock and wonder why you even try. Which is why sometimes you need to spend the money on a tea like this one, and you need to drink it, because life is short.
Tiger above me
tiger below; slowly now-
fall. This tea is sweet.
This tea elicited a rather odd response from me. Dry leaf aroma was dirt, but the wet leaf aroma and flavor was another kettle of fish. Well, not fish exactly… So here’s what happened: I’m sitting in my office, and I take one sip of this tea, and for some reason I hear myself yelling aloud “BEETROOT!, BEETROOT! BEETROOT!” whereupon a malevolent looking beetcreature dressed in black and white stripes arose from my office floor. Spewing black tea from its giant maw, its head spun around 360 degrees, and it looked me dead in the eye and yelled “IT’S SHOWTIME!” So anyway I gave him the tea and thankfully he went away.
TL;DR: I’ve had black tea about 167 times and it just keeps getting worse every time I drink it. /end pop culture references
Below is the review I wrote for a tea labeled “2008 Often” from the PU TTB. Now, based on the reviews from other people, it’s quite possible I got tea that was mislabeled (maybe it was Old Bear?) or stored by someone in a pile of smokey sheng samples. Or maybe it’s just how my palate has processed this tea. So, for what it’s worth:
I have vivid memories of my grandfather, who passed away many years ago. He was a gruff old man, and big as a house. My mother and aunt used to joke that they got his pants from Omar the Tentmaker. My grandfather loved an enormous glass of red wine, the kind that comes in the gallon jugs with woven straw bottoms, and he loved his El Producto cigars, which he purchased by the crateful.
When I first brewed this tea, I had an immediate sense memory that took me back to that cramped NJ apartment where my grandfather sat in his recliner, glass of wine in one hand, television remote in the other, cigar clenched in his teeth, most of the time lit, mercifully (but rarely), unlit. The sense memory is not actually smoke. This is indeed a smokey sheng, but the smell is the smell of a my grandfather’s cigar stubs, soaking wet with his spittle, piled in one or more of many gorgeous marble ashtrays he brought back from his trips to Italy. Wet tobacco with a slight whisper of red wine. Wet tobacco tea, utterly smothering anything else there might be, even 10 tossed steeps later. This sheng rivals Old Bear for smokiness.
I cannot say I don’t recommend this tea, because some folks like a smokey sheng. But for anyone who dislikes smokey things like lapsang souchong, lit//unlit cigars, or smokey sheng in general, this tea may not be for you.
From the PU TTB: I think this might be the oldest sheng I’ve ever had. It starts out, well, frankly unpleasant. Overwhelming storage/musty old basement. Once it gets going, there is a tarty fruity sweetness; somewhere in that old basement, underneath the leather books and ossified apples, there’s a pleasant sourness. But the overwhelming note is camphor, even after numerous steeps. It does get a tad bitter when pushed. Some 10 or 15 steeps later I am tea drunk as hell. Upshot: I didn’t love it enough to want to buy more, but I am still drinking it and it’s not just for the buzz. Approaching 20 steeps and this tea is showing little sign of weakening. And it’s growing on me a little.
One of the the things I love about being a tea club member is that it isn’t just about new teas, but also new experiences, and this tea is definitely an experience.
First off, I don’t know about this tea as being a “puerh/white tea blend” as per the description, b/c as far as I know, the description from w2t says nothing about puerh. Anyway, this is my first time drinking white tea and it’s baffling. Does white tea always look like a pile of decomposing leaves, but taste like honey? It smells like honey too. Seriously, this is one of the most wonderfully aromatic teas I’ve ever had. I gongfu’d for a few steeps (the first, aka “the rinse” was the best IMO), then I decided to just grandpa drink it from my gaiwan for awhile, and that was also quite nice. What a lovely lingering sweet aftertaste.
I tried boiling the spent leaves and I might have overboiled; at one point I tasted the tea and it was nice. I was going to take it off the stove but got distracted by having to pee, and when I came back it was too late. Like, “I should have eaten that avocado yesterday” too late. Still drinkable, but disappointing nonetheless because I knew I had screwed up. Luckily, I have more of this tea and next time I’ll be more careful.
Overall, I loved it.
Flavors: Dates, Honey, Sweet, Vanilla
I’m not sure if this is one of the W2T shengs I’m supposed to review for the pu ttb, or if it was from a swap. Anyway, 4g into my 75ml yixing. Water just off boil. It starts out incredibly light, bordering on weak, but then the bitter, gut busting florals crash the party and by steep seven I am done. I did try water at a full boil to see if it would make a difference, and it didn’t seem to… the tea just got more bitter and mouth-puckering with each successive steep. I’ll take Little Walk over MCA for an easy drinking, affordable everyday young sheng any day. This one is just not my cuppa.
I got some of this tea with my order from The Chinese Tea Shop, along with a lovely yixing pot and little carp teacup. Love the pot, love the cup, do not love the tea.
The first Liu Bao tea I ever had was from Chawangshop, a tea that I nicknamed “Liubao Dirt Tea” for its singularly undrinkably feculent flavor and aroma. I donated it to a curious teahead on r/tea, warning them that the tea tasted like dirt, and not surprisingly they too deemed it undrinkable.
I was encouraged to try a better Liu Bao by my fellow Steepsterites, before writing it off entirely. So I got this. Reputable tea company? Check. Aged enough? Perhaps not. Now, some people say a Liu Bao has to age for at least twenty years before it’s any good. And maybe that’s what the problem is. Or maybe I just don’t like Liu Bao. Maybe on my tongue, what is a magical earthy elixir to some is just dirt water to me. Bitter dirt water.
Ever watch the crazy survivalists on the television show Naked & Afraid, deep in the jungles of places like Borneo and This Place Will Kill You, bodies covered in insect bites, bleeding, wracked with malnutrition and dysentery? To fight off dehydration, they dig a hole in the mud and wait for it to fill with water and parched as they are, when their raking thirst is finally quenched by that murky liquid, the look on their faces always looks to me as if they’ve just drank Liu Bao.
Into the crock this goes, and I’ll try to post another review in about nine years.
From the aged oolong buy:
I started with 1 minute steeps and worked my way up, b/c flash steeping oolong never works for me. Also used a gaiwan.
I agree with LP – the aroma is just “no.” Also agree with Allank that there’s definitely a whiskey note to the flavor, and with Jim in that it’s a very complex and interesting tea.
Based on the appearance and aroma I assumed it would have a roasty flavor, but it doesn’t. It’s actually quite smooth. Whiskey is really bang on. I actually quite like it. After three steeps, the flavor starts to evolve; it becomes slightly sweet, even a little fruity. And then it fades. Fifth (sixth?) steep was 2 minutes and the flavor was very meh, so for my last steep I went all the way to 5.
I’ve never had a tea like this one, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to try it. I have enough for one more session, I think I’ll try it in my clay pot and see how it affects the flavor.
I drank this tea all day while working from home. It was a cold, rainy day, and this shu was both warming and energizing. While I like the loose version of this shu, for some reason the cake seems to be much more to my liking. Actually, this one is definitely one of my all time favorite shupus. The smoothness is just unparalleled. I must get a cake.