The Essence of Tea

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Recent Tasting Notes


Thanks to Derk for sending me this tea! The cat pee description kind of turned me off, but the rest of the notes made me curious. I steeped 6 g of leaf in a 120 ml porcelain pot using 195F water for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds, plus some long, uncounted steeps.

The dry leaf aroma is of grapes, mango, black cherry, malt, and, um, blackcurrant. The first steeps have syrupy notes of grapes, dates, raspberry, apricot, mango, blackcurrant, florals (let’s say osmanthus, though I’m still not 100% on identifying that), hay, cream, and malt. It tastes like fruit leather in the best possible way. Along with the fruit, I get bread, honey, herbs, and spices in the next couple steeps. Steeps five and six have a strawberry/banana/apricot/currant fruitiness balanced by the bready, herbaceous, floral, honey, beer-like qualities. The next few steeps are still fruity, but the honey, bread, yeast, hay, and herbs are more prominent. Later steeps feature jammy berries, florals, malt, minerals, wood, and slight tannins.

Despite its occasional funkiness, this is a lovely, complex tea with great longevity, basically no astringency, and lots of fruit. I wish I’d started with longer steeps to bring that out a bit more. I may not be quite as enthusiastic about it as Derk is, but I’d highly recommend this tea.

Flavors: Apricot, Banana, Beer, Black Currant, Bread, Cherry, Cream, Dates, Floral, Grapes, Hay, Herbaceous, Honey, Malt, Mango, Mineral, Osmanthus, Raspberry, Spices, Strawberry, Syrupy, Wood

195 °F / 90 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

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I blind-bought this cake on an impulse. It’s not a smart time for me to be splurging on tea, but here we are. This hasn’t been with me long, and I think it needs more time to adjust… but I did want to jot down first impressions so I can come back and have my mind blown later. No pressure, little cakey-poo.

Impressions are not much, honestly. I felt like the entire session had a straightjacket on it, the leaf being pleasant enough but not really offering up anything in the way of distinct or interesting tasting notes. Classic Bulang tobacco, if I may be so bold, but muted. I read over Tea_Ass’s 2yo note just now and it feels like we drank different teas. This one’s going in my crock, then up the mountain, then into a sunny window… and then I’ll pull it back out in a few months. Qi is nice enough; I do feel more grounded and relaxed than when I sat down with it (a function of the ritual or the molecules, hmm?).

I drove up the mountain and signed all my papers today. Keys in two days. Met some super cool neighbors next door, and one across the way who lives alone and reminds me of Eeyore and I love her. Met some other townsfolk, too, and feel like they’re my people. I’m excited and a little dreading how much work moving + prepping our current place to sell is going to be all at once. But. Excited.

Flavors: Tobacco


Sometimes a tea purchase is self-care. I’m just sayin’. We all believe in self-care, right?


I do believe in self care! Bags and bags and crocks and drawers and shelves full of self care over here! o_O


Congratulations! So if the neighbor is Eeyore (I love Eeyore people), does that make you Pooh, Piglet, or Owl?

Mastress Alita

I’m an Eeyore person too, with a fair bit of Rabbit mixed in.

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Sure is fun to run into good stuff as I trip along in my puerh education. Thank you for this chapter of study, derk.

Warming leaf is smoky… grilled meat, dried apricot, medicinal, herbal. Pours golden liquor that smells like smoky mushroom broth, hay, dandelion smear. The first steep is thick in the mouth, with hay and camphor. Clear apricot huigan.

Back at the wet leaf, whew: smoked white beans, kelp, cooling herbs, camphor. Drydown on the lid smells like ink. Pour still smells of smoke, with medicinal notes like iodine and some tobacco coming through. Some new astringency in the mouth alongside the smoke; body is surprisingly lighter than the first steep but quite smooth, with clear camphor… ah, there is the qi hit… biiiiiiiing!… apricot huigan is strong and distinct — no real sweetness in the actual liquor yet, it’s all in the return. There’s something a little sour in here, too, just accenting everything.

Wet leaf is now aligned more with the liquor — smoky-medicinal. The taste starts mellowing and melding everything together. Smoke starts dissipating, sweetness pokes through a bit more in the liquor.

Super chonky in the beginning… I think I’m on steep twelve or so as I write this, and it is still turning out lovely cups that lean more comforting than curious. Beautiful.

I connected little more open-heartedly with the 2010 Ben Pen I had recently, but this reminded me of that quite a lot — especially with that delicious smoke. I want everyone to love tea in their own way, but I can’t relate to not loving smoky puerh, hehe. I am absolutely thrilled that the Ban Pen is still available, a little sad that this one isn’t… but they are both going on my tea map as reference points of lurrrrrrrve. <3

I found this issue of Global Tea Hut’s magazine dedicated to the Mengsong area, and it covers Baotang specifically. Pretty great resource:

Flavors: Apricot, Astringent, Beans, Broth, Butter, Camphor, Dandelion, Dried Fruit, Grilled Food, Hay, Herbal, Herbs, Iodine, Medicinal, Mushrooms, Seaweed, Smoke, Sweet, Tobacco

7 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

Great tea <3

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Playful bitterness. Bitter can be angry, but this isn’t that. Super wet.

Not the most concentrated liquor; I was tempted to stuff in more leaves, but the water was already barely covering them. Maybe they are a little dry? I started pushing steeps longer to try to compensate.

I steeped the hell outta this and never arrived at the sour-sweet cherries or any other promised bits. Watered out and away. Feels like something could be wrong.

derk, thank you, and have you had this recently? Maybe I should try adding a humidity button to the other 3g?

Flavors: Bitter, Watery


Oh no :( Haven’t had it for several years, though it’s one of only a few cakes stored in its original bag. I’ll sample soon, and in the meantime, take it out of the bag.


How are you storing otherwise?


Cakes are piled in a couple of stoneware crocks with some terra cotta what are they called… saucers used as lids that I intermittently dampen with distilled water. Have the crocks sitting in front of my sliding glass door so they get sun-warmed.


Cool, I’m starting in a crock-wise direction down here, too. I’ll be interested to hear how you find this one.

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A refined and gentle tea with qualities quietly confident. I’m not encouraged to analyze.

Very warming on a spring day.

Thank you for the sample, The Essence of Tea.

Flavors: Allspice, Bell Pepper, Creamy, Fruity, Mineral, Moss, Oily, Peach

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Sipdown! Very sad to see this one go. the smokiness and complexity of each steep just did not stop! Will be hounding my friend to steep whatever he has left of this the next time we have a tea hang

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Got a lil sample of this from my friend Joe like a year back. It’s been chillin in the back of my mini pu-house until today, I figured I sip it down while re-arranging things and making room for spring teas. It’s got a wonderful campfire smokiness to the dry leaf, and the smoke is carried through the first half of my steeps. The tea soup is smooth and perfectly unctuous, with some minerality to the tail end of each sip. I also notice a nice cooling effect on the tongue, to go along with the warmth of the brew. A nice tea to accompany me while I do my spring cleaning

Flavors: Mineral, Smoke

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A tea friend of mine gave me a sample of this sheng some years ago and I am grateful for the experience. With >10g it’s quite a big sample so I went for flash steepings with 80° C. The wet leaf smells clean and floral with a little bit of earthy notes. 8 years (of dry storage) should have mellowed this Sheng out but oh boy, was I wrong.

The first steepings present the tea really bitter but not astringent with lovely floral notes of orchid with a hint of the earthy flavors to come with camphor. The steepings 3-5 show how fullbodied this tea is while licorice root makes it quite tasty. It’s also animalistic with a decent horse fur aroma. The aftertaste of dark chocolate / cocoa was surprising and are the reason why these were my favorite steepings. 6-9 were harsher and sweeter, the minerality shines through. The earthy flavors shift into bitter melon and now the increasing astringency left my mouth dry. Some rock candy and licorice root are sweet aftertastes, but these aren’t pleasant steepings if you don’t like young Shengs from Bulang or similar harsh teas. While the tea was becoming lighter colored in steeping 10 the flavors became more balanced. This indicates that I used too much leaf even for flash steeping. Some zesty citrus gave the astringency a nice twist. But after that the tea looses aroma and even the bitterness mellows out in steeping 13 with increasing zestyness. I increased the temp to 90° C for minute of steeping. After 16 steepings I stopped as I was quite tea drunk and it’s becoming late, but I think there would have been 4-5 steepings left which I will try to drink tomorrow.

Clearly this tea is not at it’s prime now but already shows some of it’s great potential. It’s a quite unique blend of delicate aromas and bold / harsh bitterness. I don’t think the bitterness will disappear completely for at least a decade as this tea was bitter from start to finish. By any means this is enduring fellow is nothing for a quick and easy sip, but it’s nice to see how many faces a tea can have. This review and rating reflects my experience now and not a potential future. It’s a pity that this tea isn’t available anymore as I like this style of Sheng. If you got a bing, store it for some years. And if you don’t have the patience or just don’t like it: PM me :D

Flavors: Bitter Melon, Camphor, Citrus, Cocoa, Fur, Licorice Root, Orchid

175 °F / 79 °C 0 min, 15 sec 10 g 3 OZ / 90 ML

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5.3g in a 90 mL hongni pot.
wet leaf aroma of grape jam, smoke, toast, and wood.

1st: honeyed taste. edge with some astrignency and malty taste like oversteeped hongcha. 2nd: not strong taste, but a floral aroma on breath.
3rd: grape jam and smoky.
moves to base steamed/oversteeped young ish sheng taste thereafter. Guess the additional heat retention of the pot did it no favors. Still young and heady in effect, so not too comfortable. Probably will pass on caking this one.

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i bought this last year and haven’t gotten around to it until this past week… anyway.

3.7/90. wet leaf is smoky, honey, berries. can’t remember if youle is a small leaf varietal or if this is just my sample, but the leaves are very small, hongcha-like. leaf is quite green still, so storage was likely quite dry for this to be from 04. first steep is a honeyed and dried jujube taste w slight bitterness underneath. good mouthfeel and rounded. aftertaste is kind of grassy and sweet. later is honeyed graham crackers with berry, sort of minty aftertaste. 4th was oversteeped. smokey note and bitterness, then quick burst of clarity and focus, nothing after. Not very strong on fifth and fell off completely after. a ginseng like note in the fifth, and then just leaf taste Hard to tell in pic, but leaves are quite young sheng like in appearance. also small.

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November 2023 Sipdown Challenge – a bold tea

Taking bold out of the context of taste or mouthfeel, this tea makes me feel all nice and inflated. It swells in the body and expands in the mind. Good stuff, and delicious. Looking forward to another harvest.

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Everytime I drink this , it’s the greatest moment I’ve ever lived.

Today it tastes like a really – and I mean insanely – fruity, complex and rich ale made with a variety of herbs. Gruit.

Feeling: restorative and enlivening elixir, it pushes and courses, clears and fills and swells

Flavors: Banana, Beer, Black Currant, Cinnamon, Fruity, Herbs, Mango, Oily, Osmanthus, Passion Fruit, Rich, Tropical, Wheat, Yeast


I am glad you had an amazing tea today!


Thank you! I was at the gym tonight. The combo of this tea and weightlifting had my scalp tingling with euphoria :)

Martin Bednář

Well, it seems like a lovely tea and well, I would love to have similar tea :)

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Upfront and penetrating aromas (osmanthus!!) and tastes. Bright and deep, fruity and sweet, fluid and full, smooth, almost sticky but leaning more soft and oily. I don’t know how to say this without turning people away, but it has a strong cat pee character. Reframe that as black currant, ginseng and hops and you’ll be in love. Throw in strawberry, grapes, mango, apricot, banana and dates and I guarantee you won’t turn your nose up at it. There’s probably some tropical fruit out there that embodies this melange. Turns more honeyed plum and passion fruit with forgotten steeps. Long, cooling finish and savory-fruity osmanthus aftertaste with spice notes. Also, it’s very easy to brew and long-lasting. I know a lot of people brew leaf only once but if you do that with this tea, I will weep at your folly. This is what it sounds like when a derk cries.

Now a word about the energy. This is powerful stuff. It knocked my socks off, unscrewed my head, screwed it back on straight and had me FLYING. Intensely uplifting, beautifully intimidating. I’m scared to try this gongfu with more leaf.

Highly recommended for anybody that can appreciate the, um, black currant character.

Album pairing: AIR — Moon Safari

Flavors: Allspice, Apricot, Banana, Black Currant, Bread, Chocolate, Dates, Fruity, Ginseng, Grapes, Herbal, Hops, Licorice Root, Mango, Mineral, Mint, Nutmeg, Oily, Orange Zest, Osmanthus, Passion Fruit, Plum, Soft, Sweet, Tropical, Winter Honey

3 g 10 OZ / 300 ML

That may make me chuckle all day!


I need to try this one. I have a sample tucked away. Maybe anniversary week in the mountains of NC near Traphill.


Oh yum!,
Absolutely, I must get my paws on some of this cat pee tea! Pardon my litterbox humor, ha!


I would be happy to send you some, TeaEarleGreyHot. Send me a PM if you’d like. Essence of Tea has so many good teas that I do suggest an order, especially for you as a lover of pu’er.


Today I brewed a cup for a coworker who drinks coffee but not tea. He said the tea was ‘doing things inside of me, hitting many systems at once. It’s filling my whole body. It is sticking with me." He’s sensitive to these feelings. I could sense the energy moving within him, and while he seemed overwhelmed by it, he kept commenting on how good it made him feel.


That’s impressive!

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10g/100ml to start. 10 second rinse and 5 minute wait.
This is a really good tea. It has had enough storage to even it out and sweeten it but not too much as to wet age the sheng aspect away. It has a wheat granary style sweetness that I think David does a good job finding and storing. Long leaves and many hearty brews over a couple of days. Would write a touch more but this is no longer available in the market. Good tea, invigorating and a little buzzy kick in the mouth on the early steeps. Sweet water at the end.

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 10 g 100 OZ / 2957 ML

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EDIT: Remembered that I tried a shu pu in here a few weeks ago (December 11th, so awhile back) for the first time that had a slight fishiness (Huang Chen Hao LME Shu that LP was carrying a while back). I’m surprised it stuck out here though, since initially I thought it might’ve been the Vesper Chan branded 2017 樟香春韵 (also LP sold a while back as the Vesper Chan Camphor Flavor) I also had in it a few days ago that definitely doesn’t have any fishiness to it. Guess keeping a spreadsheet was useful! It’s odd to me that it could’ve affected the tea so much later though I haven’t used it much recently.


8g pack in a 100 mL duanni pot. A lovely tea for the price, and would probably pick up a much larger quantity if I had a place to store it. It had a milky creaminess to it along with the woody medicinal taste and a touch of coffee-like taste that a friend and I both really enjoyed. Very easy drinking; probably hard to mess this one up. The initial cup/rinse had a slight fishiness to it that I was confused by, but the rest was fine. Not too strong of aftertaste on this one, maybe some fleeting sweetness occasionally. Was scared off by the strong roast in the name, since I’ve definitely tried roasts that killed off the tea taste, but I’m glad that the note from a Teaforum member who’d tried it before when I placed the order swung me to try it.

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I had this tea at least 10 times and I still find it quite elusive. I had sessions where it was delicious, and others where it was very insipid, bland or plain bitter/astringent. This notes represent a satisfying session. I think this tea needs to be brewed with particular care and attention.

Dry leaves: sour plums, tobacco, light smoke. Beautiful.
Wet leaves: very fruity and layered fragrance, with a touch of smoke, wood, plums

the liquor feels medium-light, but at the same time carries a lot of flavours that spread in the mouth after swallowing, lingering with the help of a controlled astringency. It’s plump with smoke, hay, fruits and fermentation. Pleasant acidity. Beautiful aroma.

Some bitterness. The body is light but with good tannic presence. Light sweetness and forest floor aromas make the tea feel “alive”. As it cools down feels a bit like “melted ice”.

Austere with light umeboshi acidity. Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico comes to my mind.

Incense, very ripe fruits, dried flowers. Sense of “purity” and “cleanliness”. Light cooling sensation.

Qi is present but light and comfortable. Slightly relaxing, improves focus. Flavours of cured meat with herbal/root bitterness. Juicy mouthfeel. Aroma gets sharper.

Warming. Chalky mouthfeel. More incense and bitter herbs. light camphor.

Boiling 5 g 3 OZ / 90 ML

YiWu is tough for me to het a handle on as well. JingMai the same way. I just can’t get the hang of them it seems.

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Brought this one out last night to start. A special tea for sure. It has that kick in the mouth BuLang punchiness and goodness. Reminds me of all the good things I have in life. Family , and the friends I found on this site years ago. Happy Thanksgiving all I am glad to have you in my circle. The last few years have been rough on us all and I hope today finds you all well and blessed.1

10 tsp 100 OZ / 2957 ML

Happy Thanksgiving to you!!

Evol Ving Ness

Happy day of thanks to you!


Happy Thanksgiving, mrmpopar!

Martin Bednář

Happy Thanksgiving!


Happy Thanksgiving :)


Happy Thanksgiving, cuz! I am so thankful my friend Sandy told me about Steepster all those years ago. You all mean so much to me.


Yes, very thankful for Steepster and the wonderful people collected there. :D

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Tea that I have received from derk, originally apparently from ashmanra, with prolonged California stroring, one month in Czech customs warehouse and now with me… for a week or so.

Derk noticed, it is very bitter. That discouraged me, so I took only three grams (from 7) and prepared gongfu. Quick rinse that I tossed out.

Several — rapid, short, longer, long steeps. I haven’t counted time nor number of steeps. I started about 10 seconds and ended up with 5 minutes maybe.

Honestly, it doesn’t deliver much. It starts with forest floor, quite dry one. Then there is some bitterness, but not overpowering, not in a single steep. But alas, it doesn’t deliver much more. It is rather boring. There is, again borrowing words, this time from Tea-ass, pekoe aroma (and taste). Light, unharmful tea. Last steeps are rather vegetal and the astringency arises, but not upsetting my stomach.

Flavors: Bitter, Drying, Forest Floor, Tea

205 °F / 96 °C 3 g 10 OZ / 300 ML

If this one is from me, I have no memory of it. Lol

Martin Bednář

Maybe I just misunderstood the comment you wrote under derk’s note.


Ah yes, I was just offering tea condolences to her. I didn’t actually send her the tea. :)

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2020 Essence of Tea Xu Jia Liang Zi
6.8g, 100 mL gaiwan, 212f, Brita filtered tap
dry leaf is dried sweet fruit
8s rinse
Wet leaf is a sweet and smoky honey, in the vein of a green oolong smell

6s: a light honeyed pea-like floral sweetness, with a dried minty edge in slight aftertaste, much like LP’s Bubble gum yesheng I had last week. Aftertaste transitions into a light honeyed taste as it fades

12s: a smoke light edge in the taste, with more prominent crisp crushed mint note that lingers on the tongue. Slight tingling in lower legs and warming in lower back. Leaves tongue sort of dry and teeth feeling oddly dry in that uncomfortable way when you bite into something too hot or too cold.

16s: that same sort of sharp smoky, but not quite bitter taste. Honeyed and rounded, again with the minty edge. Sort of a soapy floral in aftertaste, again reminiscent of LP’s bubble gum sheng.

Not sure if it’s the water, my storage, or brewing temp. or what, but I was expecting more from the reviews on EoT page. I’m not a huge fan so far, especially given sample $/g. Sample cost (96c/g) aside, I guess I haven’t drank as much young sheng as many Westerners into puer, but I’m curious what this will age into. Yeah yeah, me and everyone else. That said, I’m certainly not willing to gamble this kind of money on a cake that I don’t particularly like and would have to probably age 50 years in this climate (knock on wood) to see any changes, and I’m hardly sure we’ll even be around by then. I really need to hop into the heated storage game sooner or later… Anyway, as of current, I’m not sure if I’d agree with refined in the tea’s description, rather than boring. I do consider softer, gentler profiles “refined” in some instances, but this one just strikes me as boring.

30s: Ah, bitterness. Mint edge in aftertaste, which then fades into a lighter floral rounded taste. I would stop here, but I’m determined to get my money’s worth out of this session, whatever that means.

1 min: bitter and astringent. Minty edge in aftertaste. I changed my mind and will just accept this one as tuition and toss into thermos…

Overall: slight warming, some burps throughout. I’ll pass on this one. Even taking cost aside, I couldn’t see myself drinking through even a 200g cake of this (which at 71c/g is quite hard to argue for when you can buy very nice mid-aged boutique productions instead…). Had dinner beforehand as usual, and can’t seem to escape the later stomach pains after drinking young puer, even though it’s not like they feel particularly punchy to me. What happened to being young and invincible??! Doubtful.

Lots of off-topic rambling today. Anyway, in sum, tastes like an upgraded version of LP’s bubble gum yesheng. Wouldn’t buy more of either, though if you’ve tried one or the other, they’re very similar in my mind.

Edit 10/2: this was actually quite interesting from the thermos. There’s a very creamy aspect in the way of milk oolongs almost, but very fruity/floral otherwise. I never know if these unexpected things are normal or if it’s because it’s starting to go bad from being in the thermos for over 24 hours lol. I drank two mugs pretty quickly since I had to run off to something else, and started sweating suddenly on my forehead, so that aspect is retained in thermos. A short headache and then I felt like I was burning up for a few minutes. Probably won’t do that again. Still wouldn’t purchase a cake, but it’s been quite a while since thermos has yielded anything unexpected.

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Coming back to this tea a little over a year later.

The impression in the mouth and body remains mostly unchanged. Where it has changed the most for me is in its aromas.

The dry leaf at a short distance smells like limeade sweetened with brown sugar, a touch of cherry. In hand, it’s verging away from the previous experience’s prune into cherry, tangier, without as much that dried fruit richness; dates. Warmed leaf is tangy fruity with a deep sweetness — cherry limeade, dates, brown sugar, a chocolate undertone. Surprisingly, none of this carries into scent of the rinsed leaf which is like wet vegetation and uncured tobacco. The color of the liquor is a golden honey brown. First few cups’ aroma is of roasted barley.

The body is rather thin and astringent but refreshing. It is somewhat fruity with a mild, smokey dark bittersweetness that comes out on the back of tongue. The first steep is cooling in the mouth only, presenting as a small puddle of mintiness where the bitterness also sits. Fluffy sweetness is cut quickly by astringency and acidity. I begin to get warm and sweat but it’s nice on this day of stifling heat. Aftertaste is the same as before — mostly cherimoya with some apricot — though less pronounced. After that fades (rather quickly), the mouth is left with a tingling, metallic feeling. The leaf still needs to be pushed hard after the first few steeps to bring it back to life. In later steeps, the smoke shifts from feeling to taste. The tea is not dense with flavor and has the longevity of plantation leaf. Body feeling more subtle than before; then again, I’m pregnant with a super burrito baby.

This tea is in a state of change, with those more acidic notes of middle age pushing through. I feel like this is definitely going to head in the tobacco-dried fruit-chocolate direction with hints of cola spice, but I do think the leaf needs a more humid environment than mine to successfully age into that. Right now, I’d put this at 70.

Flavors: Acidic, Apricot, Astringent, Bitter, Brown Sugar, Cherry, Chocolate, Dark Bittersweet, Dates, Lime, Metallic, Mint, Peat Moss, Prune, Roasted Barley, Smoke, Tangy, Thin, Tobacco, Tropical Fruit

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As part of my unhurried exploration of Meng Song area sheng puer, I’m having a Sunday afternoon sit-down with Essence of Tea’s 2014 Da Meng Long Gushu.

The dry leaf smells like fruit punch in the forest. Warmed leaf has a thick and rich date-caramel sweetness with faint wet smoke.

The tea is pouring golden orange with a brown tint.

At the lips, it’s rich with dates. There’s a bit of tang to the cup and early a quick bite in the throat. Bitterness is certainly there, structured, and passes at some point (who knows, I’m relaxed) after the swallow giving way to a strong returning sweetness. The aftertaste is drying and creamy, impression of cherimoya then apricot. After that fades, a metallic-astringent feeling/taste lingers; it’s pleasant, my tongue tingles far past the last sip. A comforting, expansive warmth in the throat and chest, a relaxing cool. Once the initial bitterness and astringency pass, the leaf needs to be brewed harder to elicit its hidden richness.

There is lingering depth of feeling to this tea. It rushes with a slow, smooth rumble and recedes like a warm wave break spreading across the sand, barely touching your toes before heading back out to sea. It courses and flows and grounds.

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