107 Tasting Notes
For the last couple of days I’ve been drinking aged sheng, Yang Qing Hao samples mostly, but today I decided to go back to young sheng, trying to get through some samples from Chawangshop. I’ve been curious about this one for awhile. Well, I’ve been curious about Hekai in general. I have to say, at only $36 for a 200g cake, I will very likely add one of these cakes to my next CS order.
Wet leaf aroma is juicy fruit. Brew is smooth, sweet, and not too bitter at all, particularly with water just under boiling (200 degrees F). I did use boiling water initially and I found the tea to be on the bitter side. One of these days I will remember to count my steeps, but I’m sure I’m well over 10 and it’s only now starting to fade just a bit. The leaves are largely whole and beautiful .
This is an incredibly calming/sedative tea, but the calmness is juxtaposed with a serious hunger. I do not know if this is related to the tea or if it’s PMS or it’s close to dinner time and I just need to eat, but as my Irish wife often says “I could eat a farmer’s arse through a hedge backwards.” I honestly don’t know what I want to do more right now: keep drinking, eat, or sleep. Will likely settle on all of the above.
Got a gift of this tea from Grill, who is awesome. So… sweet apricots, hint of grass, slight pleasant bitterness with first steep; second steep slightly more bitter, third steep has gone into “way too bitter” territory for me. Four has calmed a bit. Five: I just noticed a little bit of smoke in the brew. I’m sure it was there from the beginning, but I was focused on the size of my tongue and the fact that it seems to be taking up an unreasonable amount of room in my mouth. Six: Ah, the bitterness has faded away and this tea has blossomed into something wonderful. Hello gorgeous, where have you been? Seven: la la la la la my face feels funny.
How this tea makes me feel:
Eight: Now. This. Fantastic.
Ten, maybe eleven or fourteen: I have never laughed so much drinking tea. Everything is hilarious right now. I’m on YouTube watching videos of screaming goats and I’m in hysterics.
10/10 would drink this again.
So I’m doing a comparison of some shu I got from Whispering Pines. I ordered a few ounces of the loose leaf a couple of days before the cakes were released. I’m not going to do a full review until another time when I can focus on one tea at a time and I’m in the right frame of mind for it. The 1357 Ontario loose is a smooth and mild shu. Clean, no funk. Wet leaf aroma is dirt, forest floor, mushrooms. Not terribly pleasant to be honest, but the flavor is decent. The flavors are primarily mushrooms and earth. WP also sent a small sample of the Ontario cake with my order. I’ll be honest, I don’t detect a huge difference between the loose and the cake. The chunk of cake I got was a small 10g sample, but still, it’s quite similar to me. The Gold Needle has a much more pleasant wet leaf aroma. It has a pleasant sourness but it’s not what I would call funky. Earth, mushrooms, a bit of hay. I prefer this one to the 1357, but not by much, and probably because there’s a tiny bit of sweetness present that I find lacking in the 1357, and if there’s one thing I like in a shu it’s sweetness. Overall, these shu are collectively not my favorite, and I’ll be honest I’m a bit crestfallen b/c so many others have raved about them. They are ok, but I’ve had better. I think a couple of years crock aging might be in order.
Many many thanks to Nicholas for sending me a sample of this tea. Just a tad over 4g in my 100ml gaiwan. Initial wet leaf aroma of cooked green vegetables, apricots and white grapes. (I know that sounds like a weird combo, but that’s my nose!) Initial steeps are smooth, soft, no smoke, no bitter, slightly sweet, lovely, & delicious. I found that I needed to push the steep times a bit after about five; later steeps are still ok but it does fade a bit and the first few steeps are the best.
This is a good starter sheng I think, because it’s so mellow. For me, not much in the way of qi, but that’s ok. I don’t need to get ripping tea drunk to enjoy a nice sheng. Unfortunately, I got sidetracked and lost count at my number of steeps, but I’m guessing I got to at least 12. This last one I steeped for 3 minutes and it was just ok. I have to say that if I had a tea friend that was interested in trying pu’er, I would recommend this tea; while not overly sweet, I can’t say enough about how easy to drink it is. I will probably purchase a bing. It would be interesting to see how it ages.
EDIT: I have a good amount of the sample left, and I think I will try brewing more like 6 or 7g in my 100ml gaiwan for my next session and see what happens.
Got a small sample of this in a tea swap. This is a wonderful shu for a cold October morning. Only $32 for a 400g cake. I’m still not 100% sure of the quality of my storage (heck I’m not even 60%) so I don’t want to add more shu to my collection right now as I already have quite a lot. But this is going on my wishlist for a future purchase. YS says this cake will age well and I believe it. It’s also a fantastic shu right now – mellow, tasty, lasting, and clean, with zero sourness or fermentation funk.
Edit: Just wanted to add that the aroma of the wet leaf is actually quite pleasant and unique. There’s a grape skin/red wine sweetness to it.
A few months ago I did a tea swap with the lovely Oolong Owl, and knowing how much I love shu, she sent me quite a bit of it. I am still working through those countless little baggies of joy. Today I came across one labeled “2006 Special Dark Loose Shu Pu’er – Mandala Tea.” She further states on the label that it’s not for sale anywhere but that she thought I’d like it, and that’s it’s very strong – so quick steeps. She is correct on all counts! Absolutely love it; it’s probably one of the strongest loose leaf shu I have ever had. The wet leaf has such a uniquely pungent aroma – it’s not the sourness of fermentation or storage funk at all. It’s something totally different. Oh, it’s baked bread! Yeast bread! It’s like having yeast bread and coffee all in one cup. Yum!
I was a little disappointed in the Mangnuo Tengtiao so I decided to try this because it’s my last Wymm sample, I don’t feel that great today, and I wanted an enjoyable if not comforting sheng session. The verdict is that I saved the best for last! This sheng is definitely spicier and less sweet than the Mangnuo, but also more complex and (thankfully) less floral too. When I have to really think about a tea, and struggle to figure out what exactly it is I’m tasting – that for me is a sign I’ve got a good one. It’s lively, slightly sweet but also spicy/peppery, but not bitter. The energizing qi hit me right away whereas with the Mangnuo, there was none at all. The only downside to this tea really is that it doesn’t last very long (less than ten steeps) but otherwise it was enjoyable for me. As for whether or not I’d buy it again, I’m not sure. There is such a huge world of pu’er out there to discover, but I also have about another 20 grams of this to enjoy, so who knows?
A sample from Wymm. Dry leaf aroma is familiar sweet like young sheng, but when the leaf is wet, a floral aroma emerges from the sweetness. One rinse. First steep was a flash steep and the flavor was too mild to really get anything from it. Subsequent slightly longer steeps of +/- ten seconds brought out more flavor, but still the brew is very light, somewhat sweet, with no discernible bitterness upfront, but it has that floral/medicinal (honeysuckle?) note that doesn’t usually sit well on my admittedly peculiar palate. Nice to try, but not in my wheelhouse so I wouldn’t likely go for this one again.
I am drinking the 2015 Autumn Laoshan Bilochun that just arrived a few days ago, and it is absolutely gorgeous. Lovely, delicate, tiny little leaves, bright green when steeped, vibrant & flavorful. Definitely one of my favorite greens. Also ordered the Laoshan flat pressed, as well as the Laoshan green; had the flat pressed last night (didn’t review it separately though, but I think I will soon) and it was also wonderful. Probably a tad bit sweeter and gentler than the Bilochun. The He family produces some wonderful green tea.
Got this as a sample with a recent Wymm order. In the mood for shu today so I chose this one because… well, it was there and it was loose and my pu pick looked surly and dangerous today. I love the dry leaf aroma: leather, earth, and mushrooms. When the leaf is wet the mushroom scent almost disappears, leaving just a deep rich, earthy, wet forest after-the-rain aroma. The color of the brew is really a lovely dark reddish orange, not unlike cola. Some mild sourness in early steeps eventually gives way to a smooth brew that coats the tongue and throat, and is robust and just a little bit sweet. I don’t know if it’s sweet like cherries because of the taste or if the appearance just gives the suggestion, but that’s what I’m getting from it. It’s also quite warming in the belly. And it goes on and on and on.
I don’t have a lot more to say about this shu. It’s pleasant enough and I’m glad to have tried it. The “third grade” in the name does make me wonder about the difference between all the grades though. I’ve never purchased the same shu in different grades and taste-tested them side by side. I think I’ll add that to 2016’s To Do list.