21 Tasting Notes


It is a beautiful piece. It smells good, looks good, tastes good. I did not have to think twice when choosing what to buy. I have already mentioned my new interest in 2011 sheng and I have ordered several samples lately to confirm that I really enjoy drinking them now. This has been one of the blind purchases when I simply trusted my instinct more than any review.

The smell of dry leaf is sweet, the smell which stays in the cup is sugary and thick. The tea broth is sparkling yellow and gives away its sweetness easily with a simple look. It is aromatic, sweet on the tongue with a trace of caramel and in further infusions it uncovers its rawer side at the back of the tongue.

Given the fact that the cake is very young, it can have a powerful impact on a sensitive drinker so for those who prefer softer flavour it is better to keep the steep time shorter. Nevertheless, its rawer, more “aggressive” side of fresh young cha qi is quite interesting too. The aftertaste takes its time before entering the scene but when it comes, it is refreshing returning sweet, bringing the strong aroma of the tea back to life.

If you had a chance to taste 2010 YS NanNuo YaKou, a sample I reviewed here last year, you would probably find her 2011 sister more complex, more aromatic, thicker and also sweeter. When I tasted NanNuo YaKou, I was not very impressed by the sample as its fresh characteristic was not what I was looking for in raw puerh at that time. However, my taste has developed or changed and now I am looking for the exact opposite.

And all this makes me think that the more I taste tea as a simple ordinary consumer, the more I realize how much I do not enjoy comparing anything. I do not like saying what is better and what is worse as I somehow do not believe in these categories, at least they do not work for me. I agree, of course, that the quality of leaf, environment as well as processing is definitely an enormous part of the final outcome and it is something to be taken into account, especially when one is a vendor or a producer.

As a consumer I believe that I can choose intuitively what I like, or what speaks to me. I can therefore say that for me this cake is great which is absolutely subjective statement and again, I am not sure how different it can be after a few years of aging. I really like its fresh flavour as this is something I value the most at the moment but again, all of this is changeable and impermanent.

2011 YS “Ban Po Lao Zhai”
Aroma: Strong, sweet, floral
Flavour: Sweet, thick
Bitterness / Smokiness: Some, very light / None
Aftertaste: Returning sweet, refreshing, long-lasting

Read the whole review and photo documentation here: http://teadropping.blogspot.com/2012/02/strange-encounters-2011-ys-ban-po-lao.html

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I received a sample of this excellent cake a few months ago and at that time did not feel like trying it. I told myself to wait for the best occasion, as this is what has proved to be a good thing to do. Once the moment comes, everything is perfect. This little sample showed me something very important. I tasted some younger old-tree leaf in autumn 2011 and did not find special pleasure in tasting the leaf so young. This one recruited me!

It is very good, true, but I cannot say it is so much better than other young old-tree leaf samples I drank before. I guess I probably was not ready for appreciating it. Or maybe I was looking for something very specific, something to be found in more aged leaf.. I am now discovering a plethora of flavours which to me seemed a bit boring before but now I simply welcome the change.

This yiwu cake was produced (almost on my birthday) last year by Chawang Shop and you can read all the important information above. I found the leaf to be very nice, rather light green with lovely hairy tips here and there. The light green colour shone beautifully especially after the first rinse and throughout the first hour of the session before it started to oxidize. I enjoyed taking the lid off many times just in order to see the young spring energy embodied in perfect shape.

The flavour is really delicate. It is floral, sweet but very special, it almost reminded me of greener type of oolong from Formosa. I used to drink them a lot few years ago and did not miss it but now, it was as if with each cup I was going through the pages of my old diary. It is quite aromatic, the element I never looked for when drinking shengpu. I however enjoyed every sip of this little wonder. It is a cake with great potential but I cannot say if drinking it in a few years time will be even more satisfying, I can only tell that at this moment it is really worth it.

2011 Chawangpu Yiwu GaoShanZhai Xiao Bing
Flavour: sweet, aromatic, floral, light
Aroma: sweet, fresh, floral, pleasant and promising
Bitterness / smokiness: none
Aftertaste: pleasant, refreshing

To read the whole review see: http://teadropping.blogspot.com/2012/01/2011-chawangpu-yiwu-gaoshanzhai.html

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This cake is a nice piece of sunshine conserved in Chinese leaf. Youle has easily become one of my favourite areas, I like its bittersweet taste, changeable profile, it is never boring and as far as I can say thanks to my brand new experience, it ages nicely.

As I do not have much experience with aged tea, I really cannot say much about its expected characteristics. I can only tell that to me, it tasted almost like some lighter excellent shupu. It is rather sweet and earthy, less fruity and flowery but still sweet. It smells wonderful, like a mixture of old wet leaves and soil with all its richness and beauty.

Drinking this tea, I enjoy the sweetness which turns into bittersweet aftertaste at the back of the tongue. I left the leaf longer than I usually do as I wanted to taste the whole potential of the tea, it reacted nicely. When steeped longer, the amount of bitterness develops and brings with a tone of bitter almond.

To read the whole tea session review, see the blog:

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drank 2008 GeDeng by pu-erh.sk
21 tasting notes

A few days ago after a longer period of taste cell capacity loss (flu) I decided to examine myself and taste one of the older samples I have had at home to see if perhaps I have been recovering well. The sample is 2008 Gedeng from pu-erh.sk. For those who might have not known, GeDengShan (革登山) is a famous Mengla tea mountain. As this tea belongs to very delicate ones, having a good olfactory impression would therefore prove the test positive and lucky me, I have smelled something.

It consists of strangely shaped large leaf and some stems, falls apart nicely when using needle in a moderate way. Dry leaf in a hot teapot smells after ripe plums, wet leaf brings a different smell, rather soft and light, something like vanilla or gentle tone of strawberries. The smell is promising, however, I had to struggle with proper brewing method.

It took me a while to understand that this particular tea needs her time, it is a good teacher of Tao. The first time I was probably too impatient and tried to squeeze her up too many times in very short time. The second tea session I decided to use my intuition and dedicated the first infusion 30 second long bath (5g / 80 ml). It was a wise thing to do.

This tea is too delicate to be pushed in any way. You just cannot help it, brewing tea is the real art of conversation skills. I perhaps did not ask the tea properly the first time I tried to make her adapt to my own needs. It should have been done the other way round, I know now with all respect. This tea needs care. If you allow her time, she will give you much pleasure.

Do not expect any intense flavour, the aroma is a sort of clue for your imagination but the flavour keeps its secrets. If you are patient enough, after a few cups it will appear in all its beauty. It is not one of those kinds of tea you can drink without your full awareness. Well, of course you can but believe me, in this case it is a complete waste of time. I cannot tell you much about the particular characteristics, this tea is very hard to define. Each time I try, it simply runs away. It does not like being categorized. It is simply good.

To see the photo documentation and read the whole review, see my blog entry:

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This cake si QiuCha, 秋茶, tea picked in Autumn (despite confusing information on the vendor’s site) which is also composed of very long stems and large leaf. I was interested in both, the Autumn Yiwu harvest as well as the stems effect. Some people praise the stems for adding a special ingredient to both aroma and flavour and I was wondering how different it could be.

This tea asks for attention from the very first touch. It is simply beautiful. When separating the stems and leaves, they fell apart willingly and spontaneously as if they were giving me the permission to taste them. I must say this is a very special cake in all aspects. It smells wonderful, sweet and fresh. I was trying to figure out the aroma during the whole tea session and unfortunately did not come with anything better than sweet old Yiwu (how poor, I know).

The first rinse was of very deep colour, I therefore expected the first infusion to be the same and it really was.The first infusion has a very deep sweet tone within, it covers all the tongue and throat and it is very promising and calming. The flavour is however as if covered under the lid. There is almost immediate huigan though, sweet, mouth watering, intense and nearly infinite. It brings a special tone of almond skin, coming from sweet to slightly acidic with nutty background trace, offering a symphony of tastes.

This tea is definitely a nice surprise. Its chaqi is very friendly, warming and relaxing and it nicely underlines the whole smooth and pleasant character of the cake. I have had just one single chance to meet this interesting piece but I am sure it will always be a special encounter in the future, especially with such a name (GuanZiZai is Chinese for Avalokiteshavara)

2006 GuanZiZai “Nanlahe” Yiwu 605 [Autumn harvest], 400g
Date of production: November 2006
Type: Raw selected large leaf and stems from YiWu area
Flavour: Sweet and fresh, very interesting
Aroma: Sweet and fruity
Astringency: None
Bitterness / Smokiness: None
Aftertaste: Very long and pleasant

To see the photo documentation or read the whole review, follow the link to my blog:

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I have had the cake at home for a few weeks already and have been coming back to it once in a while to get a more complex impression of its character. It is a nice cake with quite dark broken leaf which had been chopped on purpose (this is at least the official story from the vendor). Some cakes with large leaf are intentionally pressed with the leaf broken which is said to be the tradition, or in order to age well. In my personal humble opinion this tea would be more interesting if pressed more carefully and less traditionally.

The smell of dry leaf is sweet and fruity, and it is not hard to identify the typical Nannuo aroma, it is intense fruity and spicy. The cake is pressed medium light, it is easy to separate chunks of leaf. Due to its rather broken character, it is however quite difficult to get a regular sample and separate the leaves well. After unwrapping the cake there were quite many small particles and fragments of what used to be leaves, and since it was stored in dry environment it is also quite fragile. It seems to contain some amount of stems and huang pian too, yellowed leaves which are normally culled from Pu’er maocha before pressing, but may be worth brewing nonetheless .

The colour of the first infusion is very dark despite short steeping time, it even resembles some hongcha (red tea) in both taste and look. It is sweet on the top of the tongue and very citric afterwards. The citric and a bit minty flavour is so intense that it even paralyzes the tongue for a while. It seems to be the former astringency transformed through some years of aging already, as there are still gentle bitter-astringent tones present in the flavour.

Despite the lemonish trace, the flavour is still sweet and fruity, thirst quenching and refreshing. The leaf is very potent but due to the rather broken character of the leaf it is easy to overbrew it. Everything comes out of the leaf particles immediately in water, you can taste the whole complex character of the tea in the first few infusions. The later infusions are less intense, more mellow but the overall characteristics of the flavour and aroma develop quickly. The rest of the session you can enjoy less citric and more fruity and sweet tones and go like this for approximately ten or twelve infusions, depending on the amount of leaf and water.

Too see some photo documentation of this tea session and to read the full review see my blog entry: http://teadropping.blogspot.com/2011/11/2005-nannuoshan-menghai-banzhang.html

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The dry leaf is beautiful dark green, long, and easily separable. Wet in a hot pot it smells intensely after raspberry and blackcurrant. The first infusion is rather light yellow, with an ochre tone, it smells after fruit and honey. The taste is very intense, typically NanNuo, something I really enjoy, with absolutely amazing huigan.

This tea is just fascinating. Being quite young, it offers typical bitter kuwei which goes hand in hand with returning sweet and altogether it creates a wonderful palette of tones. The bitterness gets stronger in the second, third and fourth infusions, it is never paralyzing though. After the sixth infusion the taste becomes much more balanced, still accompanied with wonderfully intense Bergamot orange trace, provoking sweet aftertaste and mouth-watering effect. This tea’s got simply everything.

2010 Pu-erh.sk NanNuo
Astringency: Some
Bitterness / Smokiness: High / None
Aroma: Sweet and spicy, interesting, typical NanNuo
Flavour: Bittersweet, intense with Bergamot orange special bonus
Aftertaste: Intense, immediate, sweet and refreshing

To read the whole review, see my blog:

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The taste of this tea is pleasant, I could hardly say anything else considering the fact that I like drinking Nannuo teas very much. I enjoy their combination of flavour, aroma and aftertaste.

The leaf is perfectly separable with bear hands, you don’t need a knife or a pick, it goes apart itself as if it hasn’t even been pressed. It smells intensely and the leaf seems to be of high quality: long, clean and dark green (not too dark though). When you see the sample, you must admit it definitely is a very nice cake that smells after blossoming flowers.

The smell however, again as with 2010 YiWu Zheng Shan, reminds me of fresh green tea which does not belong to my most preferable characteristics. Despite the fact that I nearly overstuffed my teapot with the leaves and therefore expected a higher level of kuwei in first few infusions, I was surprised by its unchangeable and rather weaker character. Since there were no bitter highs, there were no sweet lows either and the huigan was nice but absolutely in tune with the flavour of the tea. It just tasted the same from the very beginning to its very end.

I identified a strange presence of astringency in the first infusion and was expecting its higher intensity later, it however turned out to be that special kind of “numbness” people often describe when drinking ancient tree cakes. In this particular tea this tongue-paralyzing effect as if you were chewing mint leaves is quite high. It therefore as if suppressed the rest of other taste traits and it was quite hard to feel anything else. The tea got suddenly weaker around the tenth infusion and with the intention to squeeze the leaves up a little bit I was getting very similar results for the rest of the session.

To read the whole review, see my blog:

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I like the leaves of this particular sample: clean, easily separable and simply beautiful. The smell of dry leaf is sweet, fruity and ripen, I was even able to identify a hidden tone of chocolate dipped cherries. I truly enjoyed the way the tea broth got thicker, the taste rounder and sweeter with every infusion. The aftertaste came with a nice refreshing citrus trace. The fourth infusion was surprisingly creamy, I was not expecting this to appear and it was really a nice surprise. After the 6th or 7th infusion I could feel a slight trace of astringency and dryness, perhaps due to the little aging of the cake. Nevertheless, it was all in norm and did not affect the regular taste much.

It is in general a very friendly cake and I would recommend it especially to those who would like to try some of the young ancient tree cakes and do not know which one to go first. I must say it is one of the best Yiwu cake samples I have tried so far. However, I seem to run out of words when describing typical taste of this particular area.

If you want to read the whole review, see my blog:

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If I’d tasted this particular tea a few months ago, I would’ve probably said: what a lovely green tea! It smells wonderful, like a fresh meadow full of blossoming trees, the colour of the tea broth is sparkling yellow with a fresh green undertone. It just smells, looks and even tastes like very good fresh green tea.

Well, these are the qualities I am not usually looking for when buying a sheng sample. Why do I buy samples from 2010 then? Good question. Having tried many samples from previous year I’ve found out that the year is not always the most important deciding factor when considering the potential taste. Even some very young sheng cakes can really surprise you. I would definitely say it about 2010 YS Yiwu Purple cake for example. Yiwu Zheng Shan is, however, not the case.

The smell of dry leaves is fruity, but not very intense and rather citric than sweet. The smell of wet leaves is not sweet either, it even offers a trace of smoky tone but very very tiny. The taste is best described as above mentioned fresh green tea, not bitter though, just slightly astringent. I must admit I did not even find the typical yiwu flavour or aroma in the infusions , despite trying hard to find it..

What I like about this tea is the huigan which comes back powerful, refreshing the mouth and tongue with a sweet mouth-watering effect and stays quite long to give this tea higher credit just in time. It might be simply one of those cakes which is good to be put aside to your tiny tea storeroom (if you happen to have one). Then you can wait a year or two and meanwhile enjoy some other well-ripen treasures.

If you want to read more about this tea session, see my blog entry:

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