41 Tasting Notes
Rinse smell is soft and inviting, with promises of complex floral and honey notes in the aroma. Tasting this rinse, there is already a density and sweet, creamy character to this tea, though it’s still more water at this point… There is a sticky, candy-like aroma from the leaves. The first proper infusion is clear like golden morning light, but still tinged by snow-pea green. As I sip, the first thing to strike me is the rich texture which drags itself down the tongue leaving fresh vegetable and wild honey sweetness in its wake.
The next notable element is the tea’s qi, or energy. Though not yet overpowering, I do feel a sudden rush to the head, which eventually settles behind the brow. This is a thick and sweet young sheng, active and full of life.
The subsequent infusion glows a darker and deeper gold without the hints of green from before. Its taste is more pungent, with notes of flower pollen and beach grass. There is also a bitterness present in this infusion, hiding just beneath the surface, which leaves behind a back and forth interplay between it and the sweetness in the aftertaste.
The third cup is clearer and crisper, with a more forward but fast passing bitterness. The creamy and desserty qualities I associated with the 2013 San Ke Shu become more apparent, in a way that is almost reminiscent of a Taiwan Oolong such as Jin Xuan, being both milky and vegetallay sweet at the same time.
The fourth infusion is crisper still, admirably structured and with a texture approaching what I would call ‘minerally’. Subsequent infusions remain full, alive, bitter, sweet, with a pungent floral complexity. In my very humble opinion, this is a nearly perfect young raw puer. As things stand, I can’t really see any reason to sit on this cake or put any portion aside for aging- this is already a very real tea, with a character that is direct and pure. Each steeping is enjoyable, and brings me back to why I love tea.”
Flavors: Candy, Cream, Floral, Honey
Up today is the cousin of last week’s tea, Autumn 2015 Nuo Wu Village, another young Bing Dao are sheng from last fall’s harvest. I let the rinsed leaves steam in the gaiwan for a moment before taking the first whiff, which is deeply pungent, earthy and fruity. The first infusion is just as it should be; textured and sweet with fruit and tobacco tones. It is also bitter and forward in the best way, and not at all without aftertaste lingering throughout the palette. I love the look of the leaves right now as well, alternatingly light and dark green with lots of buds and stems.
The second infusion is probably creamier, and much of what I wrote last week about the Ba Wai is applicable here; the tea is vibrant, oily, and bitter, with notes of tobacco, diesel, wild grass and tropical fruits. I find the third infusion to be just a little fuller and more mellow. There is a relaxing and stoney cha qi (tea energy) that accompanies this cup as well, which serves as a contrast to the active and intense flavor profile of the tea.
On steeping four the tea continues to mellow, like a fast and turbulent mountain stream settling into a wide and meandering flatland river. This probably a cake I would let age a year or two (or ten) though before really getting into it; it’s just a little bit of a rough ride, even this many steepings in, with its intensely raw flavors and vibrant green leaves (this coming from a guy who likes it raw, too). There is astringency (not bitterness) in steeping five, so this will need to be worked out a bit… Of course that’s just what one is getting into when drinking tea that hasn’t even had a year to sit. Maybe I’ll try to snag one of these before the price jump in autumn, because a full year of aging makes a big difference in my experience. I’m unfortunately though not currently in the market for tea to age (got enough of that I’m still waiting on to see how my storage conditions are. Might do a bit of a write up on that this coming fall).
Still, this tea is really something, just a hair too raw still for my tastes. Maybe more mellow Yiwu teas like Ge Deng are drinkable this young, but kick-you-in-the-teeth-Mengku-pu might need a little more time to settle into itself. On the later infusions, I’m enjoying some musky floral notes that call to mind the trees that are just starting to flower here in Colorado. It remains thick and bitter, which, as I’m told, bodes well for aging. Really this is a tremendously complex tea, and a really good find from Mr. Wilson at ye olde Yunnan Sourcing.
Flavors: Grass, Tobacco, Tropical
Text of the blogpost:
Not pictured: lots of snow
The dry leaves smell intensely pungent and fruity, definitely some attractive leaves in there too. I give them a quick shake in the heated gaiwan, and the smell turns almost boozy, with glimpses of tropical fruit. I sip of the rinse and the profile is already quite clear: pineapples, sugar cane, green nettles. The wet leaf aroma is light green sweetness, like an early Spring day. Now that I think if it, I don’t remember where in Yunnan this tea comes from, which is just as well.
Leaves after the first steeping, just starting to open
The first cup immediately gives it away as another Mengku tea, with its very active kuwei (bitterness that immediately transforms into sweetness) and creamy green flavors. I check quickly to confirm this an indeed, Ba Wai appears to be situated about 2km south of Bing Dao, one of the most famous, and one of most lucrative, puer growing villages in Yunnan. Scott seems to have struck some measure of gold this tea and its cousin, Nuo Wu (review pending); this is quite good, even compared to Spring teas of the same price point (and many at price points above this one if we’re being honest).
There are fruity and rummy notes dotting a base of creamy sweet goodness. That said, the kuwei is really the star of this show, being forward and sharp as a tea from near Bing Dao should be. On steeping five (or maybe four :S), the soup is a bright gold. Though it has softened somewhat from the initial steepings, the flavor remains deep, pungent and sugary. I start to push it a little harder wth the next infusion, and a coarser, more lingering bitterness emerges. Keep in mind that I probably caused this with a long steeping, and also don’t mind it anyway… Goes to show how much life these leaves have though.
Tea table succulent
The last steepings finally show a bit of autumn-wateriness (leaves picked in the fall have a higher water content than those in the spring), but there’s still sweetness and texture, so this might fade as these cakes dry out a little more… This is still a very young tea after all.
Overall a very nice tea, especially at the $64 price point, I think that it outperforms many other in the $50-$100 range. If you like this kind of tea, there’s really nothing wrong with it, and would probably age fine if that’s what you’re into. If nothing else, this could be a really nice summer-time tea.
Flavors: Creamy, Grass, Rum, Stonefruits, Sugarcane
Full post here, but text below: https://cuckoossong.wordpress.com/2016/04/14/2015-autumn-ge-deng-yunnan-sourcing/
With my most recent order, I decided to sample the most expensive cake in Scott’s most recent autumn line just to see what the fuss is about… I plan to sample through the majority of his 2015 autumn teas eventually and post them up here, hopefully this will be a good benchmark.
When I warm up the dry leaves they smell intensely pungent and sweet, with a typical Yiwu straw aroma. I resolve to just drink the rinse, which is a very pure pale yellow. And it’s good. Nuanced, complex, and actually already plenty thick, there is subtly interwoven sweetness and bitterness that one expects from high quality Yiwu teas. The rinsed leaf smell is also of note; there is a very specific meaty aroma that I can’t quite place my finger on, perhaps in the realm of saucisson, weirdly enough.
The first real steeping reflects a very elegant and proper Yiwu tea, with balance and poise, no one element really clamoring for my attention, but still with plenty of moving parts in play. The bitterness really lingers though, which is no complaint. Minutes after this cup, my mouth still tastes of wildflowers and honey. The second infusion is yellow and DENSE, bordering on gold. Very pungent soup, and the bitterness has picked up also. Tasting notes for this infusion are as follows: Wild honey, orchids, sweet grass, a little cream.
I continue to be surprised that an autumn tea can be so rich. Most I drink are either watery or lacking this kind of thickness and vigor. I suppose the $88 price tag on a 250g cake isn’t for nothing… I wouldn’t say this tea is life changing or anything, but it’s certainly worthy of some mad respect. The price tag just makes this difficult for me, because $88 is already the upper end of what I’d usually spend on a full size cake. Of course price is subjective and only has meaning in the context to ones own pu budget, and I certainly wouldn’t call this cake a waste, so I resolve to forget about price and continue drinking.
Now in the middle steepings, this tea is smooth and creamy, having settled a bit from the rowdiness of the second and third cups brewed from these leaves. I’m not really sure what else to say about this tea right now… I think fans of Yiwu will love it, and even then there’s something in here for everyone, whether its sweetness, bitterness, complexity or the thick, textured mouth feeling the tea leaves in its wake. Perhaps one strike against it is that there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of huigan (lingering throaty sweetness). In fact, it’s the bitterness that lingers more than the sweetness, which again is not necessarily bad, just something interesting to note.
The later steeps are silky smooth, quintessentially inoffensive Yiwu tea with tender grassy and floral notes. Not a bad place to end up, in the scheme of things… Very nice tea overall, no critical flaws and a lot going for it. Again, the price tag means I won’t be springing for it, unless I ran into some unexpected cash, and even then there are a couple other big ticket items on Yunnan Sourcing I’d purchase first. But especially for fans of Yiwu tea in particular, I think this is still a solid buy.
Flavors: Creamy, Honey, Orchid, Sweet, warm grass
Blog post with pretty pictures:
Text of the review:
For a tea from relatively less mature trees, the aroma of the rinsed leaves is surprisingly sweet and thick. I can already smell the usual suspects for a tea from this region- honey, tobacco, and wildflowers. The first infusion yields a pale yellow tea soup. At the first couple sips, it feels perhaps a bit thin, but is textured and has real huigan (lingering sweetness and aftertaste). I find it to be grassy, with light honey suckle and sugar cane notes. The second infusion is a much darker yellow with a thicker flavor profile; there is an almost syrupy sweetness and some encroaching bitterness that I can tell is about to pick up… Otherwise the same grassy Lincang profile as the initial steep.
The third infusion brews a beautiful golden liquor. There is some bitterness indeed, but still not as much as I’d be anticipating… It is still sweet, dense and highlay enjoyable. Because of the relatively low price point and age of the tea trees, I keep looking for something to find wrong with this tea, but I’m still grasping. Perhaps there is a touch of dryness, but that could be from my own storage conditions. Of course, tea doesn’t have to be expensive to be good, just as it doesn’t have to be cheap to be bad.
The fourth infusion is bolder, with a heavier emphasis on tobacco and dark straw. Now the huigan is starting to feel a little thin, and a bit watery. At steeping five it might be petering out a little, which is fine at this price point. There is still sweetness and layered raw puer complexity, but it’s fading rapidly now into dry grey tones. Again though, this still gave four solidly enjoyable steepings which is more than can be said for other teas in this price range. My feeling is that Scott presses teas in this range as more “store now, drink later” types of affairs (e.g. San He Zhai, Mang Fei). The base material is fine, but not really enough for me to enjoy it as a young tea by itself. In five to ten years though I could see this being an enjoyable middle aged tea…
That said, it’s still going on steeping six… Plenty on sweetness, and retaining its Lincang flavor profile of wildflowers and honey. This bodes well for aging, it’s just not quite there as a young tea.
Note that I could also see this as someone’s first foray into young raw… I’d absolutely endorse it as such
Flavors: Floral, Grass, Honeysuckle
Well this is awkward. I got this cake on a whim in the spring because it was still pretty cheap and I was willing to buy blind. I proceeded to kind of poo-poo it on Scott’s site as lacking in taste even though it did have huigan and qi. Busted it back out this afternoon to see if anything had changed and hohooo booyy it was nothing like my initial sessions with it. I noted only a very light watery-ness, and otherwise it was brimming with flavors, from tangy apricots, to smokey moss, and even some hints of leather hanging out in the background. No idea what happened to this one over the last ten or so months, but at least it makes me hopeful that Colorado-dry storage isn’t killing my cakes.
Flavors: Apricot, Bitter, Peat, Sweet, warm grass
Well this is different. Scott uses the descriptor “mushroom-y” about three times in the description on his site, so its hard not to think of that… It’s certainly more earthy and less fruity/flowery than most fresh shengs, there’s a hint of garden soil, lots of mint, and it’s bitter enough to hold my attention. As with the rest of Scott’s 2015 teas, it feels very clean. I can’t find any evidence of smoke or wok charring, and it’s very smooth and buttery despite leaning more towards the savory side of the flavor spectrum. Good stuff overall.
Flavors: Butter, Earth, Mint, Mushrooms
Sampled this one, wasn’t expecting much, but certainly am not disappointed. It is light bodied and floral, as expected from Jing Mai-Shan, but is BITTER in the best possible way. Very sweet and inviting, with one of the better huigans I’ve had in recent memory… Loses a couple points for wok-charring, unfortunately, otherwise a very good tea. Reminds me most of the Yi Bi, of all things.
Flavors: Bitter, Floral, Straw, Tropical
This is an enjoyable middle-aged tea. While it may not have the same depth that gushu does, it’s not at all lacking in complexity. There is smoke, meaty flowers, peat moss, and even a hint of fresh bread. Soup is dark orange, not a terrible amount of qi, but it is smooth and has plenty of huigan.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Floral, Peat Moss, Smoke
Clean, creamy and sweet are the operating terms here. This one, in addition to the Huang Shan, reminds me of Mengku terroir, with its cool frosting-like bite and pungent floral profile. There is bitterness here, but it comes on only as the briefest of afterthoughts once the sweet creamyness peaks. The soup feels heavy and spicey , in fact its brewing orange, but maybe I’m just pushing it too hard… The leaves do look pretty dark though. This one might be a good example of a young sheng thats actually good in cold weather. There’s plenty of huigan and kuwei…. at 52 dollars, the cake seems like a really good value. If you’re building a collection, I’d advise you to sample it.
Flavors: Cloves, Cream, Floral