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Recent Tasting Notes


This tea served as a backdrop to some fairly deep emotional experiences today, but I wouldn’t necessarily attribute it to the energy of the tea itself. I just want to mention that the tea, as any good pu-erh should, has the capacity for being a meaningful companion :)

Otherwise, I liked its cooling, numbing and voluminous mouthfeel, as well as the sweet, floral aftertaste with hints of peanuts. The taste is somewhat bitter with interesting salty and umami notes, as well as mild sour touch. There are flavours of spices, wood, butter, vanilla, thyme, seaweed, and honey for instance. The aromas are not particularly distinctive, the leaves smell sweet and mineral to me. One intriguing scent I noted is that of bubblegums.

Flavors: Bitter, Bubblegum, Butter, Floral, Honey, Mineral, Peanut, Salt, Seaweed, Spices, Sweet, Thyme, Umami, Vanilla, Wood

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 8 g 5 OZ / 140 ML

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I received a bunch of Tea Encounter (And Zheng Si Long) samples from a freind of mine in a tea swap that I have been trying out over the last couple of weeks. Unfortunately, my most favourite one of those (the 2018 Xiang Chun Lin) is sold out at the moment. However, I also really enjoyed this Wa Long.

It is quite nutty, mineral and bitter overall. The pungency translates to a strong huigan and an elevating, mind clearing cha qi as well. On top, I liked the syrupy mouthfeel that is so characteristic for teas from this area. The aromatics of the tea were fairly weak, but one doesn’t usually drink these teas for their aroma anyway.

In particular, the wet leaf scent reminds me of forest, spring water, musk, fir, star anise, as well as vomit on one occasion. In the empty cup, I can further detect a cinnamon aroma.

The taste is mineral with a strong woody bitterness from the get go. There is a nutty and cooling aftertaste to it too. Second infusion is spicy and a bit sour with a good astringency and bite.

Infusions 3 and 4 are really quite thick, full bodied and nutty with a lot of substance. Notes of roast beef, bread crust, tree bark emerge. Fifth steep has a decent honey sweetness that stays for the remainder of the session as well.

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 7 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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This is a very pleasant Yi Wu tea, but that’s kind of the main take away for me. It has a cooling, expansive and long-lasting aftertaste. The body is medium to full, with a smooth and not very thick texture. Also, the tea doesn’t last as long as I would have hoped for.

In dry leaves, I can smell nuts, citrus fruits and a grassy meadow. Wet leaves also smell nutty with additional notes of olive and apple leaves, flowers, kale and vodka.

The taste is pungent, sweet and grassy. There are flavours like bark, honey, hazelnut, walnut skins and toasted grains.

Flavors: Apple, Bark, Bitter, Citrus Fruits, Flowers, Grain, Grass, Hazelnut, Herbaceous, Honey, Kale, Nuts, Olives, Smooth, Sweet, Toasted, Walnut

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 7 g 100 OZ / 2957 ML

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I received a sample of this semi-aged tea from a friend of mine and it is one of my favourites among the Tea Encounter samples. Unfortunately, the cakes are sold out at the moment. Maybe the only aspect where I found the tea relatively lacking is the longevity. I particularly liked the complex taste, lasting sweetness and the pure, meditative qi.

The tea greets one with a beautiful and unique aroma that is herbal and cooling. After the rinse, I additionally notice aromas of forest undergrowth, parsley, and smoked bacon. The empty cup then smells of ripe fruit such as durian (but nowhere near as pungent).

Initially, the taste is also pretty weird and unique. There are hints of yeast, forest and dog rose in the rinse, while first steeps has some unusual bitterness, thyme and camphor. The tea is pretty refreshing with its herbaceous bitterness mixed with some sourness as well as wild honey and brown sugar sweetness. The aftertaste is dry with notes of cedar and once again yeast and durian. Next few infusions also bring flavours of mint, Tomme de Savoie cheese, and ghee.

Once it gets going, the liquor is pretty thick with a custard like texture. Fifth steep also has decent minerality and a peppery character. Second half of the session brings more sweetness. There are notes of raisins, figs, apple sauce, but also wood and sage. However, some hints of bitterness persist almost until the end.

Flavors: Apple, Bitter, Brown Sugar, Butter, Camphor, Cedar, Cheese, Fig, Forest Floor, Fruity, Green Pepper, Herbaceous, Herbs, Honey, Meat, Mineral, Mint, Parsley, Raisins, Rose, Rosehips, Sage, Sour, Sweet, Thyme, Wood

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 7 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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This is a really good tea for the price. It has a great creamy mouthfeel and the fact that it doesn’t steep forever may be seen as an advantage in certain circumstances. I also like the calming, meditative, spacey qi that’s not too strong.

Dry leaves smell of stables, mountain forests (conifers, heather), and candy floss. In the teapot, I get a pungent and spicy mixture of aromas of peat, wild flowers, sunflower seeds, green peppercorns, and banana leaves.

The tea is thick and full-bodied form the first infusion, even though the taste is mild at first. It is fresh, mineral and zesty with notes of citrus and okra there. Next few infusions ramp up the intensity with flavours of beeswax, sweet grass, green wood, pawpaw fruit as well as courgette and squash in the finish. While the tea is sufficiently sour, the aftertaste is mostly sweet.

Flavors: Barnyard, Citrus, Citrus Zest, Cotton Candy, Creamy, Floral, Flowers, Fruity, Green Pepper, Green Wood, Honey, Mineral, Peat, Peppercorn, Pleasantly Sour, Spicy, Sweet, Warm Grass, Vegetables, Zucchini

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 7 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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This is an uncomplicated tea with an invigorating and mind numbing cha qi. It would appeal to anyone who likes floral pu-erh I think. Between the two sessions I’ve had with the tea, I liked the one in which I brewed it more aggressively. The tea benefitted from a more pungent profile and a resulting long-lasting floral bitterness that ensued.

In the dry leaf aroma, there are notes of caramel, cinnamon, flowers, and cake. After the rinse, it is a much more foresty affair with hints of moss, but also grapes and coffee.

The tea has a medium body, a grating texture that’s a bit like that of carbonated water and a numbing mouthfeel. It tastes quite sweet and floral throughout the session. Early on, it is also quite citrusy with distinct umami notes like mussels and lichen. Other flavours include kale, pear, sweet grass, and lavender.

Flavors: Caramel, Cinnamon, Citrusy, Coffee, Floral, Flowers, Forest Floor, Grapes, Honey, Kale, Lavender, Moss, Pear, Sour, Spices, Sweet, Warm Grass, Umami, Vegetal

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 7 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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This is a herbaceous tea and somewhat average among the ZSL long samples I’ve tried recently. It has big leaves and gives a good 200ml/g. It is a tea that is quite agreeable, but I doubt many would find it truly amazing.

The dry leaf aroma is sweet and grainy with a touch of fermented grapes. After the rinse, there are notes of grass compost, cape gooseberries and various flowers as well.

The rinse itself tastes mineral and savoury with a note of fresh grains. Honey sweetness permeates the whole session. It is complemented by flavours of apples and dry grass early on, and of wood, milk, and even garlic later. Infusions in the peak of the steeping curve are also somewhat biting and spicy. The mouthfeel is thicker and sticky there, otherwise I didn’t find the texture to be that noteworthy.

The aftertaste is body warming and biting. There is a lot of residual sweetness and a clover leaf taste.

Flavors: Apple, Berry, Compost, Dry Grass, Floral, Flowers, Grain, Grapes, Grass, Grass Seed, Honey, Milk, Mineral, Spicy, Sweet, White Wine, Wood

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 7 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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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

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drank ZSL 2019 Ma Hei by Tea Encounter
235 tasting notes

Got this as a sample to try, but don’t think I’d purchase a full cake? Not super into shengs right now (both due to cost and experiences).

4.7g, 140 mL, gongfu, brita water, temps of 180-190f (which I thought was right for shengs oops but apparently ~200f is better?)

Dry leaves no special notes that I can tell of
Infusion has a slightly vegetal smell
Wet leaves smell like wet leaves of white tea

Taste is similar to a less sweet white tea mixed with green tea (astringent?) notes
Nice slightly lingering aftertaste, not particularly sweet initially, but pleasantly refreshing, that involves into something subtly sweet and a bit minty even

Longer infusions now
Wet leaves smell of mint
Tastes more like a green tea now, with infusions having a more drying mouth feel but similarly pleasant

Flavors: Green, Mint, Sweet

180 °F / 82 °C 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 5 OZ / 140 ML

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Very fragrant dry, warmed and rinsed leaf. Brown sugar baked plums, caramel, wintergreen, cherry, wood, apricot, banana. Interesting mix of aromas there.

First steep was delicate with a light upfront bitterness. Here began the oily, coating liquor that moved into a viscous thickness. Mineral and very mouth-watering, caramel plum aftertaste.

Strangely, besides a passionfruit undertone, I didn’t write down any specific tastes after this as I think I was lost in the mouthfeel and the invigorating, positive energy. The aroma became quite sweet and strong, the liquor a touch spicy.

Somewhere around the 7th infusion at 30s (this pot has a 12s pour, so I get less infusions than a pot with a fast pour or a gaiwan), the tea became more vegetal and astringent with an intriguing apricot-violet aftertaste. I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced those two flavors tied so closely together like that. The brew finally became thinner in the 8th steep, and the next at 1 minute was more bitter-floral.

I really enjoyed the happy afternoon-type energy provided by this session and hope it’s reproducible. The texture of this tea is spectacular with such a viscous, coating feel that still allows the light, upfront bitterness and mouthwatering qualities to play.

I’m excited to see how this cake will age.

Now that I’ve finally tasted all my Yiwu-region teas, it’s time to move on. Since I’m off for 5 days this week, I think I’ll make a “Trip to Changtai.”


Flavors: Apricot, Bitter, Brown Sugar, Caramel, Cherry, Floral, Herbs, Menthol, Mineral, Passion Fruit, Plum, Smooth, Spicy, Thick, Vegetal, Violet, Wood

Boiling 7 g 4 OZ / 110 ML

Changtai! Hope you can enjoy the journey.

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Tea Encounter is having a sale right now, 10% off most of their pu’er selection.

It’s a pretty standard Yiwu-region/Manzhuan honeyed affair. It matches very well Tea Encounter’s description. Syrupy and spicy, fairly thick and smooth.

Strong floral overtones in the aroma leave their presence in the taste and as a retronasal bitter-flowery finish. First steeps swallow pleasantly with plummy wood beneath and produce some mouth-watering. Sweet but not too sweet.

The bitterness is pretty well integrated and what doesn’t disappear quickly lingers on the top back of the palate, mixing well with a pure dark honey aftertaste. Moderate menthol cooling felt in chest arrives in hand with a mellow energy.

Nothing stands out but I’d say its smooth character is this tea’s anchor. Good – and solid – but not my preference. I think this would be a great step up for those newer to sheng and those looking for a strong floral presence.

Flavors: Apricot, Bitter, Floral, Flowers, Honey, Menthol, Mineral, Orange, Plum, Smooth, Spicy, Sweet, Winter Honey, Wood

Boiling 7 g 4 OZ / 110 ML

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This is a fairly mellow, low-toned Yiwu sheng. Woody, forest floor dark feel mixed with plummy caramel sweetness. Body warmth and menthol cooling arrive quickly with the second steep. Later steeps become woody-bitter, lightly acidic-metallic and mouth-watering. The aftertaste is certainly the strength of this tea. It mostly a dry powdery, bittersweet violet with very long-lasting retronasal action. At times the aftertaste also presented with Juicy Fruit gum, honeydew-cucumber and blueberry skin florality — delightful. I’m not too drawn to this tea currently, but I could see it aging into a reliable daily drinker.

Flavors: Blueberry, Brown Sugar, Caramel, Cherry, Cucumber, Dark Bittersweet, Dry Grass, Drying, Forest Floor, Herbs, Honey, Honeydew, Menthol, Metallic, Mineral, Plum, Violet, Wood

205 °F / 96 °C 7 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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Unsure how to approach a note for this sheng from the Yiwu region, mostly because of its complexity. The long list of flavors at the end of this note (I also include aromas) is not a joke. Have some stream of consciousness notes from a few different sessions…

Dry leaf smells of sweet tropical fruits and flowers, orchid, rose. Warm has a deep sweetness like butter-caramel-golden syrup and pungent fruit punch. The rinse hits with a big camphor-minty note first. Unlike any tea I’ve smelled before. Rainforest — fruits, flowers, bark, everything, wet. Incredibly fragrant.

First session Prepared 6.x grams in a 110mL clay teapot with a long pour, boiling water.]

First steep of 10s is so thick and bitter. Wow. Aroma is like bark and vanilla marshmallow that hits on sip and fills the mouth. Swallows into menthol spice in throat. Balanced.

Second steeps of 10s is the same. Feel like I have honey breath even though it doesn’t taste like honey. Lingering perfume. I’m kind of speechless. Feeling grounded.

I don’t know where I stopped with this session, maybe 8 steeps.

Second and third sessions Prepared 4g in a 60mL porcelain gaiwan, water off boiling, flash steeps for the first six]

First steep: Lingering peach-apricot-osmanthus-caramel aftertaste. Clean and mouthwatering. Full, thick body leaves an oily swallow.

Second: Same, balanced astringency and bitterness, almost warming but mostly cooling, feel it in my arms, deep.

Third: Smooth, medium viscosity down throat, vaporous cherry aftertaste.

Fourth: Creamy, caramel, mineral, wet rocks, saline, deep woody base. Feel it in shoulders and arms. Pulling back into myself, heady.

Fifth: Aroma of cherrywood and osmanthus. Savory taste. Starting to feel bite in throat and some acid.

Sixth: Almost citrus tinge, metallic, seawater. I feel pink and brown. Flower petals reflected in clear stream water, can see different colored river rocks and pebbles beneath.

Seventh: Finally notice returning sweetness, cherry blossom aftertaste, still very cooling. Tired but active mind, sheng burps.

Went several more steeps, trailing off with notes.

I would need a cake to get a good grasp on this tea. It has a lot of dynamic qualities and a punchiness that I wasn’t expecting from a Yiwu tea. The sweetness also isn’t at the forefront like I’ve experienced with other Yiwu. This is some really good leaf.

Flavors: Apricot, Astringent, Bark, Bitter, Butter, Camphor, Caramel, Cherry, Cherry Blossom, Cherry Wood, Citrus, Creamy, Floral, Forest Floor, Fruit Punch, Fruit Tree Flowers, Fruity, Marine, Marshmallow, Menthol, Metallic, Mineral, Mint, Orchid, Osmanthus, Pancake Syrup, Peach, Rainforest, Rose, Smooth, Spicy, Sweet, Tannin, Thick, Vanilla, Vegetal, Wet Rocks


Lots of enticing sounding flavors there!

Martin Bednář

I agree with ashmanra completely!


Enabling me to buy based off your review…..


I have a cake of this and the 19. Excellent tea. A real shame I read most old Gedeng trees were cut down to plant tobacco and rubber. Some say the Mangzhi teas are similar but I’ve yet to find one that wows me. Gedeng like Yibang it’s own thing.

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One of my favorite tea mountains and a really good year for Yiwu area tea. Big, thick forest notes and smooth bitterness harmonizing with the sweetness. Notes of fruit and honey. Fairly long steeper. Nice drowsing yet alerting and contemplative qi. This is sold as gushu but I’m not sure of the age of the trees as the leaves are firm but the stems are significantly thinner than some top shelf GeDeng teas I’ve had. Those teas were twice the price and somewhat better than this tea but not twice as good…diminishing returns. If you want a solid GeDeng tea at a reasonable price this is the one I recommend.


Yiwu teas haven’t done much for me yet, but this one…

Nearly $0.71/g though. This has to be the most expensive sheng I’ve tried.


It’s $.58g if you buy the cake. The 2016&17 are much less but lack the punch the 18 has. Still not cheap but most other good teas from Gedeng start at $1. The same is true of most of the more potent Yiwu teas with real intense character and heady qi, like the border area teas from WanGong, GFZ etc. that often bring $1.50. Certain Yibang teas bring $3 as maocha. Ouch. The more affordable Yiwus tend to be the milder delicate teas like Walong and Gaoshan which do very little for me…but…in the past I’ve said the same about Manzhuan teas and called them polite as an insult but have grown to appreciate their delicacy in flavor and qi. Some of the YS Autumn teas like the Yibang have a good bang for the buck but high end Yiwu is generally quite pricy and unfortunately my favorite. Some lower grade teas are available but for the money I’d rather buy an old arbor northern tea like boundless by EOT or a Mengku area…

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Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

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I don’t get plums or bubblegum either . I don’t get much huigan. I do get cedar minty smooth bitterness that I associate with Banzhang tea though I doubt this is the real deal. It is clearly a clean stored Menghai area tea, judging from stem size likely a blend of terrace and younger forest tea. It is very pleasant and I get about a dozen steeps. Going by memory it reminds me a little of Hai Lang Hao 2005 Nannuo only a bit sweeter and milder in the qi department. For someone looking for a reasonably priced semi aged Menghai sheng for their collection this is a decent choice. Clean, pleasant, relaxing but subtle qi. Personally I don’t think I’ll buy a cake because I feel that there are similarly priced and aged Lincang teas that perform better for the price.

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I ordered a sample of this to try. It’s a clean semi-aged raw. I found it to be very straightforward. There is some Qi in the tea. I felt it in my head and especially around my temples, but for me, it wasn’t all that pleasant. This isn’t a knock on the tea. It could have been me. I have been drinking tea all day, so maybe I just hit my limit. The tea does not contain a lot of complex tastes that I can detect. I get some woody tannin bitterness, but also some sweetness. There is also some of the leatheriness you get with a lot of raws. I did not experience much hui gan. There was some lingering bitterness but not any returning sweetness that I could detect. I did not have any aftertaste. After writing my notes, I went looking for reviews and found Matt’s (Mattcha blog) notes about bubble gum, and I was like say whaaa? So, I went back and practically gargled the tea warm and cool to try to find some bubble gum. I might have found what he describes. It brought back an old memory of Bazooka bubble gum and how it was sort of chalky and sweet when first chewed. I needed his suggestion and a lot of searching to detect it, though. This is named Ban Zhang, but even Tea Encounter throws in a disclaimer, so it probably (almost certainly?) isn’t. I’m going to pass on this one even though other reviewers rated it highly.

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 2 OZ / 70 ML

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