23 Tasting Notes
Thanks to a kindly organized group buy through the CommuniTEA Discord, I now have a few quarter cakes of YS aged mao cha teas, which I am slowly starting to sample.
Yesterday I under-dosed some of the 2020 Lao Wu Mountain. Today I have a bit more time and attention, so I upped the grammage a bit for this one.
Overall the impressions are similar. These two struck me as smelling the most “ready” from the bag (the quarter cakes were neatly sealed, so yes, they have a bag). I mostly took the loosest, most outside leaves. They are of medium size but still intact, making them quite large when dry. Their wet fragrance is clean but with a certain ”farm house” warmth. The drink they produce is neither very bitter nor very sweet, but a bit of both, like how gunpowder tea would taste if it were a sheng.
It has a light drinkability, which is not something I’d usually expect from pu erh. Overall it paints the same picture that they would paint to sell you an artisan Saison beer: a bit of thirst quenching countryside biology nature tradition stuffthings. Also, it may keep well with age, but may be best enjoyed while still fresh, idk.
Grateful to be able to drink something without the taste of regret again. Meanwhile, two months further down the road, my own YS parcel has reached a customs somewhere (it started its travels a month before this one). In theory the advantage of the cheapest shipping option is that you could restrain yourself from buying more stuff while waiting. In practice these last three reviews will tell you how that worked out for me.
Edit: the more I push this thing, the more camphor like it becomes. Didn’t have this note on the Lao Wu mountain.
Flavors: Barnyard, Camphor
As I’ve found little info on this apparent house brand I will supply a bit myself.
Many brands have cakes marked 7542, suggesting similarity to the famous Dayi production. I’ve bought what should be a true 7542 to contrast, but I can’t give you a comparison yet, as the Dayi is 4 years younger and I decided to take them on in drinking order.
I tried something different for a change and attacked from the beeng hole, as I’ve seen others do, so going around the backside, and it was hard to push a prick through, and stop sniggering, and ohh that’s so childish.
As I’ve apparently pried off and put aside 6g, I’m having a slightly more serious ratio than normal.
The brew is a darker shade of orange, closer to a light black tea. The first infusion is soft, with some character that I hoped to explore in the following (flash) infusions, but there it quickly turns into bitterness. It’s a cleaner and less coarse bitter than with many, but also much greener still. Honestly it’s quite like paracetamol, and so says the stomach.
So, a dense, clean and green cake. Perfect for further aging they’d say. As my cupboard has managed to smoothen out some other teas in the past, I guess I’ll have to give in to what “they” say here.
Dang, now I have to properly re-wrap it. And find out if the nominally 4 years younger cake tastes, well, older.
As I ran out of sheng stock by way of a rather decent mini cake (that I might have to track down and document for posterity later) and China shipping times presently tend towards infinity, I decided to make do with a local factory tea source, which I eventually found in puerthea.eu .
This sheng was their oldest offering and subsequently the most expensive per-gram item in my cart. My order was almost instantly sent out for shipment and, being local, it arrived the next day. Now I rather like smokey tobacco notes, but I draw a line if even the hong cake smells of indoor smoking. Or maybe I don’t, because yay, I can drink sheng again.
This raw beats my familiar degree of aging by a decade, and is indeed quite smooth. It is also a bit thin, making the second hand smoke one of the most forward flavour aspects. Only in the very end there is a hint of the old bitters to make you wonder whether the smoke may be part of the tea after all. I doubt it, but choose to ignore it. (And how dare you call me a sheng slut.)
Leaf is the familiar factory grade of “small and choppy”. (Although in fairness with these tuos, I may of course be the main cause of choppiness myself.) Not too punchy on caffeine. I honestly think that this kind of tea is more fun when it’s still a bit zesty; old wine needs some body. For another alcohol analogy, I don’t mean anything bad when I say it’s like going back to supermarket brand pilsener from craft beer, only to find it needs to be drank by the due date. It has that pleasant familiarity. And the second hand smoke to go with it.
Flavors: Orange Zest, Tobacco
So my review this morning of the Thai red naturally prompted this one of the Thai green. It is essentially the same slightly scruffy material, now processed as a green, a style
which it wears far less awkwardly than the red.
Warm dry leaf is sweet and grassy like a biluochun or maofeng.
In the review on the red I touched upon the subject of my tap water, which leans towards reasonable for most teas. Except ‘fine’ greens, which it can simply destroy whilst amplifying the fertilizer up to 11. So for an everyday green tea I look for something not too fragile. This Thai securely passes the mark. I didn’t really manage to carry the warm fragrance over into the first few cups, but neither did they carry anything of a bitter edge, so perhaps I could have pushed it some more.
Subsequent steepings, as you have it, take on a bolder green profile, where this particular tea leans towards the earthy rather than the grassy notes of a maofeng. This time I don’t have to be poetic to say that it reminds me of an African green tea. And somehow (and that’s not only confirmation bias) I did expect that from the description.
Once more I can’t really judge the old tree thing, but I can see how this could be made into sheng pu erh as well, so once more I regret not to have a sample of that. I would be interested to compare the bitters: this one has that clarity that is par to the course for a green, and I just wonder whether the sheng has that kind of cigarette-y bend to it that I have come to associate with that style.
Overall, enough to chew on.
Flavors: Bitter, Sweet, Warm Grass
In my order from moychay.nl the two largest bags were 50 grams of Thai red and Thai green.
I was stupid enough not to have ordered a sample of the Thai loose sheng variant as well;
and I have yet to sample the Thai green.
The inflated bag size is due to the large and unruly leaf shape, which is essentially as advertised. The hot dry leaf gave off a complex aroma which at that point I could not readily pick apart, but it must have been a mix of the bag note, which is indeed apple-y, and the wet leaf note, which after some effort I pinpointed to be (Dutch) beef stew.
It was evident that my water absorbed some high notes as usual, rendering the apple
note nonexistent in most steepings, which leaves me no other option than to describe
the flavour as if it were a half-and-half mix of black tea and bone broth.
So. It is once again confirmed that tea can come in any flavour save garlic and onion (although this one came close).
And it can get away with it, perhaps due to not actually being greasy. So if I had to sell this tea, I would perhaps have opted to describe the experience as “a very evident terroir vaguely reminescent of African green tea, but ultimately transcending any comparison”.
Meat issues aside I can’t say that there is anything that struck me as confirming the “old trees” label, but then again neither was the price. Not very much in the way of Qi.
Overall judgement: sympathetically different, though slightly too different to really recommend in general. Looking forward to compare it to the green.
Flavors: Apple, Broth
Unlike the wintery cure-for-all thick woolly blanket that is Liu Bao and / or Golden Flowers, this tea is more akin to drinking a raspberry lemonade out in a log cabin, which I suppose is an all-season form of entertainment. Wet leaf aroma is that of a young, peppery pipe tobacco, while the taste is exactly that of a cinnamon lychee (which, yes, is a thing, yes).
The 2006 edition not having much in the way of fermentation flavour, black tea (hongcha) serves best for a reference. The spice aspect made me wonder if this tea embodies what Assam should really taste like, but I lack data at that point. In actual fact An Hui is geographically related to Qimen / Keemun, which I suppose should have been a pointer for the familiar fruity black-tea aspects instead.
Qi-wise I gambled I’d be looking at a gentle evening tea, and indeed I suppose it won’t keep me from sleeping tonight. The tea is actually compressed together but not too tightly, so as it didn’t expand as much as a I had expected, I under-pitched a bit (even for my standards).
Had a decent little piece of bamboo leaf in it though – Sander in his video establishes that this mellows out bitters, so maybe it would have been a bit less civil without. At any rate, I’m glad of having access to this tea.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Lychee, Spices
Again, sampling a sample as part of a birth year tea selection. Being a young parent is such a strain!
The smell from opening the vacuum foil is a light (as in, not heavy / heady) raisins and cognac. After the second brew the leaves hint of nitrate, which is funny for wild trees. Maybe it is just me expecting the smell. Preceding and subsequent wafts distinctly and consistently yield endives. Endives and green tea — might make a good alternative Christmas menu recipe.
If I do very short and light steeps I can leave most of the bitter in the pot and yield a vegetal, warming green tea. Cha qi is a solid, calming buzz. Very present!
I can definitely see this one develop with time. There is still a lot of bitterness to be transformed, but it is not as coarse as some that I know. Overall, I think of it like a prodigy in puberty: certainly promising, already more refined than its peers but not yet fully formed.
Recommend? Yes, for aging. Is this the birth year tea to stock? Undecided, because I need an excuse to order more samples soon :)
The rating is about present drinking pleasure only.
I’m sampling this tea because I’m considering to stock it as a birth year tea. The fact that it took me 2 years to start sampling is telling.
Never had such a young Sheng before. Also never had this kind of quality, unless maybe from wet storage (not my favourite).
At first smell it seemed to be no different from a middle aged factory Pu. From its age I would have expected to encounter quite a bit of bitter, maybe similar to a green tea.
Instead, I am getting a pretty mild brew, with less bitter tones than many an aged factory sheng. The main flavour is mushroom, which I would normally consider not enough to go by, but it sits on a wider palette here. The initial steeping, as well as the leaves after early brews, have a dark green association to them, like extra vergine olive oil, which manages to give some plant context to all the more familiar ‘adult’ flavours of a sheng. (Which I would simply summarize as tobacco and musty bitterness.)
Later steepings and leaves are less subtle, and more musty bitter. And then milder again. This is a contrast with the factory shengs I’ve known — they seem to have no end to the musty bitterness.
(Initially I thought this wasn’t much of a quality, and recently I’ve learned that indeed it is not: the younger plantation teas used for these cakes tend to be unsubtly bitter. But now I’m thinking,:will that still transform into something else with very old age?)
Next time around I put it in clay to have it tell me more of its story. (It seems to compensate well for my local tap water.)
The other birth year sample I have yet to taste is the Big Snow Mountain. In hindsight I could have had more different samples: more expensive ones (as the hobby has stuck now) but also cheaper ones that came out later in the year. The downside is that then there suddenly is way too much to choose from. But yeah, maybe time for a next order :)
Recommending because it’s pretty OK. But not stocking up on it yet because it doesn’t enchant me yet. On to the Big Snow Mountain!
Flavors: Mushrooms, Olive Oil