2019 Spring Lao Man’E gushu “Bitter” Sheng
Crimson Lotus Teas
8g, 212f, Simple Syrup water, 90 mL gaiwan

Will be interesting to see how water affects this tea… Last time I tried Simple Syrup on Bellwether and it reduced bitterness, which in that case, made BW feel a little less lively when brewing. I only ordered the single sessions of the bitter and sweet Lao Man Es from CLT, and based on my own taste preferences, will probably not opt to order more so we’ll see how this goes. As an aside, I hate 8g serving sizes because I’m forced to choose between using more leaf than I prefer, or having 1-2g leftovers that I have no idea when to use, so I usually have to go with the former.

Dry leaf: smells liked dried fruits, almost cherry-like, classic sheng profile. I’m never sure if my dry leaf notes are relevant anymore since storing all of my shengs together in Mylar probably doesn’t help.

Wet leaf: something surprisingly seaweed-y, tiny hint of vegetal smokiness

1x 5s rinse taste: I have a bad feeling about this session. Tastes like crushed pills of some sort, combined with how pencil shavings/graphite smells if it were a taste, plus something vegetal. A decent texture and sort of mint edged cooling that transitions into grapefruit-like acidity in aftertaste though.

5s: While mouthfeel is decent, the bitterness is quite unpleasant to me. This is my first Lao Man E I’ve tried, and I can handle (and sometimes welcome even) some bitterness, but this immediate crushed pill + pencil-like bitterness is not the kind I would choose to have. I suspect the water is playing some effect here to reduce the bitterness, so it’s not as bitter as it could be, both in its strength and how long it lingers.

10s: stronger bitterness, tinge of fruitiness the way the dry leaves smelled, then a quick fading vegetal mint-edged aftertaste with the bitterness present again in the aftertaste and lingering on the tongue before fading. Something about the bitterness in the aftertaste reminds me of high cacao % dark chocolate bitterness.

12s: the strongest bitter so far. That same weird combination of dark chocolate bitter and crushed pills with hint of mint on lingering bitter aftertaste.

3 days later: 12s: still that crushed pills sort of bitter, but rounded off with a soft mint like quality and something fruity, but not sweet. The fruity aspect could be from sitting out a few days, since I’ve noticed some teas will develop this when sitting out, prior to souring and going bad. Idk if mold, but I guess I haven’t died yet

15s: crisp sort of nondescript bitter, rounded off w/ that fruity sense, w/a touch of medicinal
Aftertaste fading quick.

255: strong fruity crushed pills bitterness again. Bitterness sits in throat for a bit.

Overall: probably some light cha qi. Some burps, nothing too extreme, but no other effects were noticeable/notable to me other than more jitters from caffeine than I expected. I had a full meal right beforehand, but the bitterness had a bit of a wonky feeling in my stomach. Nothing painful, just slight discomfort. This sample came as maocha, and I didn’t pay enough attention to dry leaves, but the wet leaves seem hairy enough that the steeps usually came out a golden honey hued yellow instead of a clearer yellow due to the furs.

So my notes stopped because several days later when I finally had time to continue brewing, I’m saddened to report that it went sour and I could no longer drink it. I also figured out why the one time I dumped old shou into the compost I caught a passionfruit smell a few days later, because it happened here too. I’m assuming it’s something to do with the process of going bad. Anyway, my $9 experience, gone just like that… I really would’ve liked to see where this went, but I doubt I’ll order more. It’s fascinating, but it’s not pleasant enough to where I’d ever reach for it purposefully.

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Just a chronicle of a stranger’s tea journey. Trying to learn!!

As of 4/21/21, I will no longer assign numerical ratings to a tea unless it is terrible enough to warrant one. There are a fair amount of solid teas out there, and reading mildly subjective reviews from others > very subjective numerical rating that gets skewed by Steepster’s calculating system anyway.

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