Sterling 2017 Spring Mengku Raw Puer

Tea type
Pu'erh Tea
Pu Erh Tea Leaves
Apricot, Bitter, Drying, Floral, Fruity, Musty, Thick, Creamy, Mint, Sugar, Vegetal, Astringent, Earth, Mineral, Sweet, Vanilla
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Edit tea info Last updated by TJ Elite
Average preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 9 g 4 oz / 130 ml

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From Bitterleaf Teas

Our 2017 Sterling raw puer is a beautiful marriage of high quality tea and a low price tag. Each of these 50 gram “chocolate bar” bricks are pressed using high-end Mengku (Lincang) material. Just like the bricks themselves, this tea’s flavour and texture are dense and very upfront. There is a noticeable fruity and floral fragrance, combined with a honey-like sweetness that lingers. After a year in Kunming storage, this tea is in an excellent stage for drinking young.

By now you’re wondering: If this tea is from supposed quality material, then why no “high end” price? The material used for this pressing is essentially the leftover maocha from the bottom of the bag. Similar to huangpian, the ends of a large bag of maocha are not necessarily composed of the most visually appealing tea. There are, however, plenty of buds and lots of perfectly good smaller pieces of tea that lack nothing in quality.

The presence of more broken leaves may lead to a little extra astringency, as well as a few rogue bits of tea escaping your gaiwan or pot. However, we feel that picking a little leaf out of your teeth here and there is a minor tradeoff for such a big flavour though.

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8 Tasting Notes

1186 tasting notes

It’s been a while, Steepster! I am doing an Instagram tea challenge, #SeptemberSipdown, and it’s gotten me back into drinking teas :) huzzah! This tea fit the bill for a tea I bought but haven’t tried yet (my bad) – so I am doing a gongfu sesh with my Bitterleaf gaiwan on this fine Friday morning. Did about a 15s rinse with boiling water (upon reading reviews, will lower the water temp for subsequent steeps), then two consecutive steeps of about 12s each to fill my small mug. Fruity, a bit sharp, but also mellow. This is good stuff! Smooths out as I drink more of it. Lots of energy in the first few sips as well (hello Friday!!) but seems to be mellowing as I get more caffeine in my system haha. Won’t overdo it with my caffeine intake, but enjoying this one. I do get apricots.

Happy to be getting back into some tea this month – I really should be taking advantage of this working from home thing more to be having more gonfu tea sessions!

Flavors: Apricot


Welcome back!


Thanks @ashmanra! Good to be back :D hey are you on Insta? I am much more active on there with my tea! send me a dm and I’ll send you my instagram tag :)

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537 tasting notes

Sipdown at work. Drinking raws has gone so much better for me since I stopped trying to boil them.

190-195F, shibo, 1 rinse
1 square
10s- apricot/vegetal
10s- apricot/creamy
12s- same
15s – apricot, sugary (more as it cools), creamy, lingering minty cooling aftertaste.
several steeps after this but no new notes

I did find this last session to be more enjoyable.

Flavors: Apricot, Creamy, Mint, Sugar, Vegetal

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16045 tasting notes

Gong Fu!

Something like eight infusions total, with life left in the leaf for more – I just never want that much Sheng in one go, it seems. I paired this with starfruit, mostly because I had a lot of starfruit sitting in the fridge that was going to go bad soon. I was going to steep one of the “pieces” off the bar, but this ended up being surprisingly tightly compressed and hard to break apart that neatly. So, it was like 2/3 of a piece…

I was a bit taken aback by the upfront/forward sweetness in this tea. I say this completely uninfluenced the starfruit I was also enjoying, but the taste was sort of like drinking a really nice fruit salad, with perhaps a bit of citrus mixed into it and a pinch or two of good quality sugar on top. Definitely lingering sweetness, as described by Bitterleaf themselves, too! It was really damn nice! Broken up by some intermittent bitterness in some of the steepings; not sure if that was a more bitter undertone to the tea coming out or a result of my being lazy with measuring the time for each steeping. Maybe a bit of both? Regardless I was still really pleased with the session as a whole!

Shanie O Maniac

Starfruit is one of my favorites. I should try pairing some with various teas when I get home from the funeral on Wednesday. Also one of my favorites is Dragonfruit. That stuff is wonderful in cottage cheese. I wonder how IT would pair with tea?

Roswell Strange

You’d definitely need to go with a light bodied tea if you don’t want the flavor of the tea to swallow up the taste of the Dragonfruit since it’s such a mild taste. General rule of them in flavor pairings is to match intensities. I’d recommend a Chinese green that’s on the sweeter, fruitier side (less nutty like dragonwell), a white tea like Silver Needle, or something with more floral notes like a jasmine silver needle or pearl tea, or a delicate floral leaning oolong like Baozhong where both the floral and melon notes in the tea would be great complimenting flavors.

Roswell Strange

**rule of thumb

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42 tasting notes

I’ve been drinking Bitterleaf’s Sterling (Mengku 2017 Spring) sheng today. This is a choco-bar style tea, though it requires a bit of pick-drilling before you can break a square off. Quite astringent but has a good taste towards the end of a sip. Gummy mouthfeel and lingering taste, greenish at the top of the mouth plus vaguely metallic and some sweetness. It isn’t my favourite profile, but it does go down very easily!

The squares open up fast despite being quite dense. Leaf is chopped. The square I broke off was 4.3g, which is a bit more leaf than I usually use – it didn’t make it too strong, however. A cooling feeling stays in the mouth for a long while after.

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28 tasting notes

Wouldn’t normally enjoy singin’ that corner baggie blues but this Stirling is music to my taste buds.

I kinda like broken leaf anyways for the extra minerality and because the gong fu session gets goin full steam right away.

Keep it comin’ Bitterleaf. Got any other bottom bag material?

Update: I’ve drank through about 75g of this tea over the last 6+ months and still find it quite enjoyable. Will be ordering more for this coming summer and having it in my rotation as maybe not a daily but two or three times a weekly drinker.

Being a tea that is the left over bottom of the bag material gives it a unique mix of materials and qualities. Lots of buds (especially smaller buds), some bits of huang pian, broken leaf, and a higher than normal amount of beat up and oxidized bud and leaf. I wouldn’t say I prefer a more oxidized young raw but I do enjoy them for variety. These qualities combine to give a richness to the tea that could almost border on muddy but does stay pretty clear and crisp.

Good bitterness when pushed and good balance of more bitter than astringent (just how I like it) with a not overpowering sweetness. Nice hui gan, good texture, many steeps.

I recommend breaking into this choco style brick the way you would any normal brick or cake. The compression is not too heavy. I find that if I try to break off a square piece I end up making even more dust and broken leaf and that these bricks don’t seem to like to break at the perforation anyways.

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123 tasting notes

Bitterleaf just released a ton of new teas, this one included. I received a free sample of it with a recent order before the tea was officially released and was confused because the bag only read Spring 2017 “Sterling”. I’m glad to finally know what it is.

I used my fairly standard nine grams in a 130ml gaiwan. Boiling water as always. A brief 5s rinse, followed by a five minute rest to let the chunks soften up a little to help me break them apart a bit. I did ten steeps, timing for them being 8s, 6s, 8s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s and 2 min.

Sterling started out quite powerful right out of the gate. While the flavors themselves were light, the strength was good. The taste was clean, vegetal, mineral, earthy. The mouthfeel was nice. The second steep was similar. Strong, earthy, mineral. The mouthfeel continued to be very nice and the tea had a strong, floral aftertaste. I try not to be influenced by product descriptions and other reviews when drinking and reviewing teas, but I think Bitterleaf’s use of the word “dense” in describing the taste and texture of this tea is spot on.

In the next infusion the tea was beginning to get sweeter. The soup was still really dense, but not overly strong. The taste was similar to before: earthy, mineral, vegetal. Those who have had Mengku/Lincang teas before would likely recognize the basic taste. While still dense, the tea lost a bit of body in the fourth steep. The taste was vegetal, maybe a bit creamy, and for the first time there were small hints of some bitterness and astringency.

While the texture continued getting thinner in the next infusion, the mouthfeel remained quite nice. The tea was strong, earthy and bitter, with a vegetal finish. There was also a sort of vanilla flavor when you breathed out through your nose. The flavor in general in this steep was quite rich. Steep six remedied the body issue by being big and full in the mouth. The mouthfeel was quite good and there was even some throat feel. The taste was mainly earthy and vegetal and there was some sweetness and bitterness as well.

The seventh steep had the right balance of sweet, bitter and astringent. The overall tone leaned toward dark. The sweetness had a density to it that made it almost syrupy. Even now the tea continued brewing up strong and dense and the flavors themselves were really full and long-lasting. The next steep was cleaner and clearer. There was almost a sudden void of flavor up front, but the huigan was fast and noticeable. The resulting sweetness was strong and long-lasting. The broth continued to feel big in the mouth.

The second-to-last steep presented yet another experience that differed from before. The tea was soft. The feeling of it extended all the way to the back of the mouth. The flavors were light, gentle. Mainly sweet and mineral. This infusion was more about the feeling than flavor. The feeling that was left in your mouth was great. In the last steep the flavors were starting to taper off. The body was good, but the taste was starting to be reminiscent of mineral water. The mineral taste itself though was very rich and I could taste them all around my mouth. I decided to call the session there just to be on the safe side.

I will say that I am a fan of this tea. You tend to run into a lot of hyperbole when it comes to tea, especially pu’er, but what Bitterleaf says about this being high-quality material without a high-end price tag is not wrong. While this might not be the most aesthetically pleasing tea, the material itself is clearly very high quality. As long as you are fine with young teas and are not averse to possible small levels of bitterness and astringency, this is a great tea to drink right now. For someone relatively new to raw pu’er, this could be a great introduction to higher end material at a very friendly price. At the same time the tea has enough to satisfy more seasoned drinkers as well. Despite the tea having my personal recommendation, I am likely not going to be purchasing it for myself, although I could see myself giving it as a gift to someone at some point. I already have so many teas in my rotation along with countless samples to go through, that I’m not really looking to add another drink-now tea to the mix.

If you haven’t compiled your latest Bitterleaf order yet, I recommend throwing one of these in there! You can thank me later (actually thank the fine folks at Bitterleaf).

Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Creamy, Earth, Floral, Mineral, Sweet, Vanilla, Vegetal

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 9 g 4 OZ / 130 ML

Enabler…. :P

TJ Elite

Guilty as charged. :D



Shanie O Maniac

Wow. What a detailed review. Someday I hope I can have as discerning of taste buds as you.

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