110 Tasting Notes
Big thanks to Mr Mopar for the opportunity to try this tea. For starters, this is the first aged bamboo tea I’ve tried that exhibits any real bamboo flavor and that’s clearly made with quality material. The soup is super thick and the storage is clean. The initial smooth bitterness and bamboo essence remain constant through a dozen of so steeps. This is followed by a woody, slate like mid taste with slate remaining in the finish. I typically get slate notes from LME teas but this tea lacks the thunder of any Bulang teas. It’s soft like an Yiwu but not quite. If I had to guess the origin I’d guess a blend from western Yiwu with a fair amount of Youle providing the woodiness. The stems are thick and robust indicating old tree material. The qi? Well this stuff calmed my ass down on a frustrating day in which I’d have been tempted to chuck my computer out the nearest window and left me grinning about the events that created these situations…a sure sign of a good tea. I’m learning that there is a good reason that pre 2004 Changtai teas sell for WAY more than post 2004 teas. There’s no comparison in the quality. Sure some of stuff from 04 onward is good for the price but the earlier stuff is in another league entirely. This isn’t a tea I would drink every day but if it were available on the open market I’d probably by a tube for those times I had a hankering for something woody and bambooey (is that a word?) with happy qi. I have a tube of bamboo stuffed jinggu from 2017 aging in my hotbox. If it’s this good in 10-15 years I’ll be a happy camper.
So apparently quite a bit of tea from this part of Laos is masqueraded as eastern Yiwu as it borders the area and has similar material. The alleged story behind this tea is that Covid shut down the border making it impossible to sell the raw material in Yiwu so those who harvested the tea had to process it themselves which was done in a somewhat primitive manner. The result is a tea less complex and thick than a GFZ or WanGong but still pleasant and most importantly deep powerful qi that’s almost as good as tea from the above area at a fraction of the price. The flavors remind me of other Laotian teas I’ve had which is to say they taste like lemongrass to me. Culinarily speaking, this is a bright refreshing tea that goes well with a summer hike or a bowl of pho soup. None of the deep complexity of a good Yiwu but all the qi and an excellent tea for grandpa style brewing on a hike. If you want something with qi almost as good as GFZ area tea and don’t mind a simpler flavor profile with little mouthfeel (for $90 a cake instead of $500) this is a tea to try . Note, this tea also seems to be processed in a manner that retains a bit more bitterness, resinous notes and a whiff of smoke that I reckon may make it more suitable for aging than most newly pressed sheng. My stomach problems have forced me to cut my consumption of young sheng way back and most of my tea consumption has been natural Taiwan stored Yiwu…but at this price I bought a few cakes and threw them into heated storage for the long haul 6 months in and the smoke and acrid off notes are already faded.
Not much has been said about this tea and the few reviews I’ve read have been rather lukewarm. These are my thoughts on this tea after consuming about half a cake and I’m having a session whilst writing this. Perhaps I’m off base here but to me this is one of the best performing moderate priced semi aged Yiwuish blends readily available on the western focused market. Many boutique teas from this era like YQH are showing that the light processing that makes them approachable when young can lead to a dull tea when aged. Conversely more heavily processed boutique teas like the BYH from this era may have a huge backbone and resinous quality that enables them to age well but with their dry storage still have another decade or so before they’d be something I’d reach for on a regular basis. I wish some of these teas would be available with traditional HK storage as I think they’d be perfect for consumption now.
Back to this tea. The processing and storage both strike me as moderate resulting in a tea that is great for drinking now. The body and bitterness are medium and there is a good balance of aged bottom notes (incense, tobacco, leather, dates) and original top notes (herbs, floral, tropical fruit in later steeps). These top notes remind me of some YQH I’ve had from the era that were sealed storage for most of their existence. There is also a whiff of cedar and some smaller leaves that make me suspect some Yibang in the blend. The tropical fruit notes remind me of Manzhuan while I’d guess the more herbal notes are indicative of Mansa. Just my speculation.
The stamina, huigan and price are moderate. The qi is a wild card. Sometimes I get very little from the session. Sometimes it knocks my socks off but it is always balanced. One of the interesting things about it is it often qualifies as creeper qi. During many sessions there was a building mild qi throughout the session followed by a huge wave of relaxing qi 20 minutes after the session was over. My dad, who is much less sensitive to qi than I confirmed this after leaving my house and having a huge burst of qi hit him while driving.
This tea is not as amazing as CYH teas from the era but it’s 1/3 the price and to me represents a solid tea of moderate age and price that is ready to drink now.
Sure. I haven’t posted a review on here for a while but felt the need to mention this one. Going to do a few more regarding some little hyped teas I think are worthy of trying
This was laying untouched in my sample bag since last year’s harvest and I think my stomach has sufficiently healed to where I can have an occasional young sheng. Upon reading the description I figured that this is one that’d pass the grandma test, lighter, effeminate and flowery. Not my usual brew. Sold mouth and throat feel. Sweet melon and blossom notes dominate the early steeps. I’m reminded of a white Zinfandel infused with elder flowers. With my window open I can smell my lilac tree in bloom which enhances the experience. The qi is warming and relaxing but does not override the fact that I have an 8 hour day ahead (home health) and I couldn’t get anyone scheduled bc no one would answer the phone….When I was a Darjeeling drinker I sneered at those stereotypically mild and flowery teas like a Margaret’s Hope first flush while touting the glories of a robust fruity and spicy Jungpana or Singbulli second flush. I guess I’m guilty of the same with Yiwu tea. I will always prefer the more potent Eastern teas…however this tea does have a nice floral delicacy I can appreciate on a cool blossomy May morning. If mild Darjeeling is your thing this tea is a perfect transition to young sheng. I got a dozen good steeps. I recommend sampling all the ZSL teas as they are all solid quality Yiwu area teas that are reasonably priced and ship quickly to western locations
I really like this one, especially after resting a few months in my storage after being shipped in harsh winter conditions. Smooth, deep, rich and sweet with hints of wild cherry, vanilla, old oak barrel, pipe tobacco and leather. Not much camphor or forest notes one finds in the burlier eastern Yiwu teas but a smoother affair. I realize that very few have tasted a 20-40 year old bottle conditioned English old ale/barleywine but there are several similarities. For a somewhat similar and possible to find beer experience I’d compare it to Fullers vintage ale only much less aggressive. Everything about this tea is mellow and smooth. The storage is very clean yet fully fermented. The qi is deep, relaxing and meditative. Not stupefying or jangling, just nice. Pure yin energy. A silk hammer of a tea. All the TS aged sheng are worth sampling (although many samples I’ve tried were dried out, astringent and in need of some rejuvenation opposed to the cakes) but this is my favorite of the bunch. Early on I preferred their 2000 Mansa but as I continue to live with these teas the subtle beauty of this one won me over. It’s very difficult to find a clean 22 year old Taiwan stored Yiwu for $.65g these days. This tea is a must try.
Not saying I’d pay $300 a cake for this. Not saying I wouldn’t either. I will say that if all the cakes of young Jinggu that I bought thinking I’d drink up quickly perform like this tea in 18 years I will be a happy camper indeed! First 2 steeps show light smokiness, sandalwood and spice. Next few steeps and the wild character peeks through with hints of grapefruit and tangerine peel. By steep 6 my face is numb and this stuff is much darker. Could be that I oversteeped it while grinning and staring at the floor. Anyhow no biggie. No astringency at all and now an oaky, fruity, funky taste that reminds me of a well aged Armagnac (minus the acetone) emerges. From here out it’s wood, spice, leather and citrus peel. My only gripes are I’d prefer a heavier body, although the huigan is long lasting. One can’t expect syrupy body from a wild tea… and the price…which means I’m trying to talk myself out of paying $300 for a cake of wild tea that I know I want. For a comparison, this stuff knocks the socks off the Qianjiazhai teas from EOT and those are excellent wild teas. I still have one session left with which to decide…one thing for sure, 4 years ago when I was new to pu I bought lesser teas for more money.
For teas in the $100ish a cake range, this gets my vote. I’ve only had Yiwu teas from BGT in the past so this Menghai area tea is new to me. This is smoother than most Bulang blends I’ve had and there’s just a touch of orange peel in the finish so I’m guessing it’s got some Nannuo in it as well. It still has plenty of bite and sharp woody, tobacco notes. Calm focusing energy and pretty good stamina. I actually think I’d prefer this stored in Hong Kong as I think it would make it much sweeter. As it is, it’s rather dry and burly. Im learning that I prefer Taiwan storage with Yiwu as it preserves some top notes and wild foresty character while I prefer the sweetness a HK aged Menghai tea provides. Of course Taiwan Sourcing is a great place to get Taiwan stored Yiwu as well. Not sure, I may cake this. I don’t drink much Menghai area and I have a fair amount already but this stuffs a deal.
Woody, thick and on the dry side for the area. Very clean storage and steeps forever. Not much florals or fruit. This ones about the wood, tobacco and maybe sandalwood incense. A contemplative brew for a dismal day. Deep relaxing qi and overall smooth vibe. $220 for a 21 year old cake of tea of this quality is pretty reasonable. This is not a tea to knock your socks off but rather to soothe and warm. Nice yin vibe.
I had to add this tea because it has to be the most unique tea I’ve ever tasted. The material is ancient tree Assamica growing wild in the rainforests of Manipur, India. The tea is processed like a sheng and sold as such but it got oxidized while being transported for processing. If anyone got to try the Hua Tzu Pop Peak from Pu-erh.sk the processing flavors are similar but the material is quite different. This tea is sort of like a hybrid between an orthodox black and sheng but it’s own thing. It is definitely the most Indian tasting tea I’ve ever had. By this I don’t mean Indian tea but like Indian food and incense in a good way. About 10-20 years ago a Sunday morning trip to State College, Pa meant a visit to House of Kashmir, a hippie incense shop and t shirt owned by a guy from Kashmir followed by a Sunday brunch at the India restaurant across the alley. Take all the exotic scents from the incense shop, the flavor of the dosas and especially the rice pudding with grapes almonds and seasoned with cardamom and rose water chased with a mango lassi and you have the essence of this tea…sort of. You know how a good yancha draws an amazing parallel to many Chinese dishes or how a baozhong draws a parallel to a Bangkok curry? This tea combines the elements of fine Indian cuisine and toiletries in an amazingly pleasant way. I’ve been drinking single estate teas since 1991 and have never tasted anything remotely like it. The qi is also a blast from my past. In the early 90s, fresh out of high school and with little direction in life I smoked a lot of weed and worked in a boot factory. A typical workday started by smoking a little cheap ditch weed on the way to work, getting yelled at for getting there at 7:03, running to the cafeteria and chugging a quart of Folgers coffee. Yes friends after 10 steeps I can almost smell the ink and acetone and hear the drone of the burnishing wheel. Oddly fond memories for a middle aged therapist. The qi is a little too speedy and fogging for my tastes that prefer a sedating blissed out Yiwu buzz but it’s not jittery like a Jingmai. The closest I can compare it to is like an early 2000s fake Red Mark tea like the one sold by W2T…but like other aspects of this tea I really can’t compare it to anything else. For $.35g I recommend trying it and can guarantee you’ve never had anything remotely like it. Oh yeah and be sure to try the Nilgiri winter oolong. It’s like a tea version of a jasmine infused while Zinfandel in a tea…
Great writing on this note! I felt like I could smell that shop and the food, even though it is not terribly familiar to me. You really did give a peek into the senses of the past and the experience of the tea.
I’d love to try this based on your impressions, Natethesnake, but I’m not too keen on speedy feels. The 35g size makes it worth a try, though.
I hear ya Derk. If not for the speediness this would be a regular in my gaiwan. I typically reserve it for early mornings before I need to engage in a laborious task. It’s not unpleasant like a Jingmai can be though.
Had the 2020 spring for the first time a few days ago and had to come back to read your impression of the 2019. I adore this note. Hope you’re well and drinking amazing tea :)