314 Tasting Notes
From the Here’s Hoping TTB
This was a very interesting tea. I was initially put off by the strong roasted aroma, but the taste was an unusual balance between the heavy roast (not nearly as strong in the taste as in the nose) and a sweet maple flavor. The light, sweet, maple flavor rode over a heavy dark roast, and the contrast was very interesting.I brewed it using gong-fu style, which was a mistake, since the maple faded faster than the roast. Surprisingly, this didn’t seriously affect my enjoyment of the tea. It subtly changed to a more tobacco flavor over the course of about 3 steeps, but maintained the same character of a light flavor riding over a heavy one. I liked it so much that I’m keeping the last 7 grams, so I can try it western style.
From the Here’s Hoping TTB. This is my first real disappointment from the TTB. This is a CTC tea, but I’d at least hoped for a good strong breakfast tea. However, it was weak and bland. I suspect this may have just be too old; either too long in the box, or maybe an older tea that was added. Second steep of 7 minutes: nothing there.
From the Here’s Hoping TTB. I should almost write two different reviews for this tea. My first cup was OK; not terribly strong, but with pleasant spice flavors. Nice but not special.
For the re-steep, I tried to approximate the directions on the package, and mixed the steeped tea with hot milk. It was really good! I don’t think I’ve ever actually tried chai with milk before. It reminded me of a weak latte but with spice rather than coffee flavor. BTW: I couldn’t taste the coconut at all.
From the Here’s Hoping TTB. This tea has a very unusual flavor. I asked my wife, who is better than me in identifying aromas, and she said miso soup. It’s not an exact fit, but it’s close. There’s a lot of other stuff in there too: smoke, spice. Reminded me a bit of chai. I found that the more I drank the less I liked it; it was just kind of funky.
I’ve been drinking this alongside the TU 2007 Bang Wei, and to be honest it has been a bit disappointing. I previously rated this tea as a 92, and noted lots of fruit, but this time around I’m detecting much less fruit. I’m hoping there isn’t a problem in my pumidor.
Tasting Notes 1st steep (10s): Light nose. Rich taste has tobacco and spice, with hints of straw and stone fruit. The fruit is especially obvious in the finish. Excellent mouth feel. Fairly strong cha qi. 2nd steep(10s): Nose is much stronger, with smoke added to the tobacco. Very big, rich flavor is dominated by the smoke and tobacco, with the fruit just barely noticeable. I’m feeling the cha qi in my neck and shoulders. Makes me want to meditate. 3rd(20s): Smoky nose and taste. The best thing about this tea is the texture and the cha qi. The taste is good but not great. In later steeps the flavors became quite bitter, though the smoke reduced enough for me to see some fruit. However, the finish was strongly smoky and bitter, which made the tea less enjoyable. I still wound up rating this as an 88 because 1) it was very interesting, and 2) the nose was great throughout and the taste was very good for the first few steeps.
I’m concerned about the great difference between my notes for this tea a year ago and what I see now. I see the following possibilities: 1) My storage has somehow driven out the fruit; 2) the tea has just aged; 3) the comparison with the very fruity Bang Wei made this tea look less fruity than it really was. To be honest, my ratings for this tea have been drifting downward, probably as I detect less fruit. I’ve noticed other teas have also drifted lower in my ratings, partly I suspect because I fall in love with a fresh, fruity tea and then age it until the fruit is gone. I think I’m going to have to sip through my pumidor to see how my other teas are faring (I’ve been drinking mostly samples this year, since the sample situation has been getting out of hand, as in boxes and boxes of sample envelopes cluttering up my study.
I’m shocked and a bit embarrassed that I haven’t reviewed this tea yet. I’ve certainly had enough of it. I drank it in parallel with the TU 4 Peaks Man Lo E, as i’m planning an order and trying to decide which tea to buy. This one was the winner, though I liked them both.
1st steep (10s): Light nose. Isn’t nearly as strong as the Lo Man E, but the flavor is more fruity. Astringent without being bitter. Very unique flavor is floral and fruity. 2nd (10s): Much more tobacco than fruit. Very astringent without being bitter. 3rd (20s): Mature nose of tobacco with hints of fruit and spice. Taste is a mix of stone fruit, tobacco and some bitterness, especially in the finish. By the 5th steep, the fruit is really obvious. The tea is still very potent (though I’m now up to 40 s steep, which is my usual). The bitterness has given over to sweetness, though the astringency has remained.
I’ve found that the so-called curated puerh vendors tend to have a house style. This is largely due to their buying teas that reflect their own taste. After drinking about 8 Bitterleaf teas in 3 days, I can conclude that at least part of the Bitterleaf house style is that they really like teas with a thick texture in the mouth.
This tea is an exemplar of that style. It is thick and fills the mouth with flavor. The first steep had good tobacco flavor with some straw and wood. Good texture and finish. Lots of interest in the mouth; flavor varies during each sip. 2nd steep: Good nose. I really like the texture. Flavor good but not as complex. 4th (30s): Medium nose is tobacco and spice. Taste has a touch of bitterness but also some spice, wood, and perhaps a hint of fruit. Great mouth-feel and texture, and an excellent finish. I’m also really feeling the cha qi.
Funny: after writing my notes I read the vendor blurb and they talked about strong orchid aroma, so I took a sniff and thought: “Oh, so that’s what orchids smell like.” There was a definite aroma that I thought of as a blend of straw and spice but could certainly be orchid. It was pleasant but not IMHO that powerful.
Part of my buying strategy is to find vendors whose taste is similar to mine. This tea punches all of my buttons. It isn’t as fruity or floral as I would like, but is rich and complex, which are my main criterion for judging puerh. There was some bitterness around the 4th steep, which is usually a negative for me, but in this tea, it just felt right.
I’m sipping through a pile of samples from Bitterleaf, trying to decide if they will be the source of my big birthday order. So far, the results are mixed. I almost ordered a cake of this unseen, since I really enjoyed the 2017 Year of the Monkey Yiwu. I’m glad I didn’t because I didn’t like this one nearly as much.
The first cup was very sweet and viscous in the mouth. Not much taste other than the sweetness. 2nd steep had a bit more flavor, but nothing to write home about. Reminds me a bit of a silver needle puerh but without the floral character. Later steeps were disappointing. Not much there. Glad I didn’t buy a cake.
This isn’t a bad tea and might not be a bad way for someone to ease into puerh, but it just didn’t have enough character for me to want to buy more.