31 Tasting Notes
At the risk of sounding ignorant, I am going to call this tea the Assamica version of Bai Mu Dan, which consists of first flush silver bud/two leaf mix. The tea is classified as black on Steepster for previous years, Mariage Freres refers to the leaves as green, and silver tips can be considered a white tea. Someone who knows more about Darjeeling tea can edit the description as needed.
Used 1 tbsp leaves in 140 ml gaiwan, just under boiling water, quick steep. Tea is same color as other white teas I’ve had, ranging from clear to yellow brown. Similar peony taste, and I got a sniff of lavender on the first steep, and camphor in the taste. A little sharper and more astringent than Bai Mu Dan, which is welcome, it cuts the floral taste a little.
Would serve this to my sister as a sweet love fest sort of family tea. Special event. Left to my own devices, though, I can be found digging in my puerh fridge for dirty, wet, fruity, cigar flavored earth.
Flavors: Camphor, Floral, Green, Lavender
Received a sample of this fresh 2014 Taiwanese oolong from a friend. Brewed up about 2 grams in 115 ml, did a quick rinse of the leaf in a strainer first, then proceeded with gongfu steeps in a Jian Shui pot which may have been a poor choice. I read oolong on the label, the leaf looked dark, but when I brewed it I saw it is green oolong and not a dark roast.
This tea is incredibly floral, heavy on the gardenia, or orchid or pea flower. Since this is a natural flavor and not artificially added, it is quite lovely. But the tea is too green for my liking. The soup is greeny-brown, which is okay, but it was very astringent and the sweet flower flavor then went sour on the tongue afterward and lingered. Had two cups and didn’t want anymore. I would probably love this more deeply roasted, the roast would have given a sweet lingered taste instead of the sour. But then I might as well be considering a black tea, because some of this same floral taste was present in the Wild Purple Dehong Black I reviewed recently.
This is probably a really good tea, just not my taste so I will leave off a rating.
Flavors: Garden Peas, Gardenias, Orchid, Pleasantly Sour
I was surprised to receive an unopened 10 g sample of this from a Steepsterite. Even more surprising is that Camellia Sinensis reviewed and boosted the rating for this tea, most likely to justify the price they are charging at $58.25 for 1.76 oz. The 10 g sample I got is thus a $10 sample! Much thanks for the opportunity to try this.
Tai Ping Hou Kui is one of China’s 10 Famous Teas, and the real stuff is grown from a larger leaf tea cultivar known as Shi Da Cha. To be the genuine stuff, it must be from one of three villages in the Anhui Province at the foot of Hwang Shan (mountains). The pluck is 1 bud/ 3 leaf and then a repluck is done at the local small factory by hand to remove 2 of the four leaves. This is part of the expense of this tea, as no branch without the bud should be picked, and the leaf with the bud must be perfectly straight. Next it is partially dried in bamboo, and then heated three times in the bamboo over charcoal. After this the leaves are laid flat by hand onto mesh screens and a roller is used on the screens to press the straight leaf/bud combo flat and straight. Then the tea is dried in the screens.
After all this, yet another quality inspection is done and the final product is sorted and graded. The top quality earning the title of Tai Ping Hou Kai must have 1 bud/1 leaf exclusively. Any leaf missing a bud, chopped bud, any 3rd or 4th leaves, any loose leaves, any chopped leaves must be labeled Hou Jian and sold under that name.
A tea is not a Famous Tea worthy of the title unless it is what it is supposed to be. The criteria for this tea is one of the strictest and extensive, not to mention all the processing involved. It must be judged by this criteria, especially with the high prices associated with this tea. This tea is also made and sold from villages outside of the Three, and may be just as good, but it is sold as a fake and few would ever be able to tell.
This tea is not fake, but my sample is Hou Jian. Being a sample, and undergoing all the shipping and handling would no doubt break buds off. But in 5 grams brewed I found 1 intact bud/leaf, a few broken off buds, lots of extra leaves and a lot of chopped leaves. Looking at the rest of the bag, it is all leaves and chop. The mix is dark green with some yellow ones, the color should be more of a uniform medium green, not dark green.
As a Hou Jian, this tastes pretty good. Because the leaf is already heated over charcoal 3x, you get the taste of a stronger Dragonwell flavor without needing to fuss over the water temperature. The tea is already scorched so it can take hot water. I got a good 5 quick steeps of 5 grams in 115 ml water before the flavor gave out. Very warm, a little spice from the char, yellow soup. For me the flavor is like a Dragonwell/Longjing but more intensely so.
Would I recommend this? Sure, but not at this price. You can get basically this same tea at 1/5 the cost on a lot of other sites. They will call it Tai Ping Hou Kui too, but only charge you $13/oz. Still pricey, but even Hou Jian has a lot of processing behind it. I am doubtful that the real Tai Ping would be sold outside of China and especially not to a western buyer. It is an imperial product. So, buy yourself some “Tai Ping” and know that Camellia Sinensis isn’t really doing anything different from other western vendors, but their price is high and it is going to be Hou Jian no matter where you buy it, so might as well just get the best price you can someplace else.
My rating is for taste, I quite liked the tea.
Flavors: Dry Grass, Green, Spicy
I purchased 25 grams of this, which for a cake is in the average price range for White2Tea of around $98. Because of the humid storage, and the age on it, I know the tea will be long brewing (lots of steeps) and a little goes a long way. 4 grams in my new 70 ml brown Yixing from Origin Tea. Gonna use this pot specifically for these really aged long soaker puerhs. Proceeded with my 15 sec steeps on forward mostly on a boil and then a little cooler 195-200.
Humid storage flavor and smell evident throughout, but eventually this integrates well into the tea producing a strong aged cigar tobacco smell and taste. A touch of camphor early in the first steep. No smoke in this despite the heavy tobacco smell. Even my strainer smells like cigars with just a few tiny bits of tea in it. Still a good astringency here and mildly bitter, the astringency is pleasant though. Fills the mouth and then turns into tongue buzzing, just like cigar smoke does, most noticeable in the first 5 steeps.
Pleasant qi, warming and relaxing, scalp buzzing around my ears but not highly caffeinated. I won’t need to follow this up with a shou. A drink straight out of the gentleman’ club, not a talker, think John Houseman in a leather chair in “Scrooged,” looking up from a newspaper.
This tea is incredibly clean, and red amber. Still got some years to go to mellow out completely. Almost a shame it got pulled out of the Guangdong humid storage, even 3 more years on this would be amazing.
Flavors: Camphor, Musty, Tobacco
This tea showed up at my house today…or was it yesterday? Maybe the day before. A Baggie from Doc Yang-chu. He didn’t tell me he was sending me something. You just never know about these medicine doctors, their minds are like a maze, all you can do is say “thank you sir” and swallow your prescription.
Weighed out 4 grams loose, one rinse, and let the water cool as he suggested. 40 ml steep to fit my tasting cup. Lovely smelling leaves, some pepper, some floral, spicy, teensy touch of smoke (barely visible black dots of wok char). He described floral notes in his review. Someplace. I can’t remember. Didn’t taste anything myself except bitter if I let it go too long while unplugging the Yixing with a toothpick.
Ok. Doesn’t taste like much, sat on my bed to research and think what to write. Then my neck wouldn’t support my head. Completely stoned in my eyeballs. I can’t bloody think. The doc put weed in my tea. Checked the Baggie. Hm, nothing. Dug around in the pot, several 1 bud/1 leaf sets of the tea variety.
Back on my bed, tried to do a search to find the cake, other reviews, research before writing. Am incapable. Spelling things wrong. Tried finding images, I don’t what happened.
I did find a link to what is called Brilliant Tea Mountain Jingmai, a luxury spa where you can take a puerh tea vacation called Holy Journey to Brilliant Tea Mountain Jingmai. Brilliant spa.com. You can get your entire body exfoliated with Jingmai tea which you can pick yourself if you want. Got hung up on the photos and the campfire night with Original Performances. Had a fantasy of doing my own Original Performance of a Latin Chant directly followed by “Hey Big Spender” from “Sweet Charity” including the bar chair.
What the vacation write up at the spa leaves out is the paragraph “We plan to keep you pleasantly stoned on puerh the entire time and we swear you won’t remember a thing. And we’ll never tell.”
I will research this cake later. In fact I plan to bottle it and take tablespoons as needed at work when no one is looking. It is pure cha qi and nothing else.
But I can guess why the doc’s wife insisted on ordering this cake immediately.
Oh no, another talker. This one arrived in mummy wrapping, i.e. The Paper, white and brown, bug bit and iron-creased. I could smell the wet tomb storage immediately. Should really air out what gets dug up out of the ground. But if our friend here on Steepster is correct, this tea is meant for avoiding. Couldn’t hurt to have a teensy, weensy bit of a sip, now could it?
Stuck my pick in the back, and tea easily broke away, like dried bones. No complaints when I weighed what gave, 5.6 grams. Got out my tasting 60 ml senchado, which is tiny kyusu meant for small sips of fine gyokuro, but I have dedicated it for puerh tasting. Two rinses, water is clear. Them bones is oily. Had to nudge it around in there to see the dark red & amber swirls float away from the leaves. The ghost rose up.
“Noooooooo! No! Leave me alone! Who are youuu?? Gah, a white woman! Probably a Jew.”
Yeah, yeah and this ain’t Egypt, sweetheart.
Did 10 shots of this in a 40 ml Jian Shui tasting cup. The most intensely camphorated tea I’ve ever tasted, like a cold, dead finger down my throat. Embalming fluid.
Earthy, wet tomb flavor which actually comes and goes, oddly enough. Still a bit dry on the tongue. A good airing is well necessary, this cake arrived in plastic. But for sure this tea has been wet stored, despite the description saying these cakes were dry stored. However, it appears this tea company can churn out 100 ktons per year of tea so perhaps there are a lot of these cakes around. Could explain the low price.
Hobbes reviewed this tea a few years back on his blog, however I tend to remember the cute and wistful, almost memory-like photos of his children rather than the teas he drinks. Of course he drinks an awful lot of tea too, even he can’t remember it without handwriting and typing out his notes. Anyway, he records this as a Yiwu. He thought it could be a 2001 and I am inclined to agree, except the cake really does fall apart easily. Could be the wet storage sped this one along a bit.
Cake is $149 or so at Daniel’s chineseteashop. Or $30 at jiujiucha.taobao.com plus the sale of your last born in shipping and agent fees, if you use one.
I need a good, serious session with this tea when it is good and aired and exorcised and stops yelling at me. Big leaves in this mixed with some smaller leaf chop, and a few stems, including one Big Hard Stiffy. Can’t bend that one no matter how many times I hit it with boiling water, and It has the little round suction cup at the base which attached to the branch. Lower down in the tree maybe. All the leaves turn very brown in the cup. Needed longer steep times on this to coax the oily leaves, and a bigger pot to let the larger ones unfurl.
As for psychotropic effects, I got very warm, and didn’t feel anything except I found myself standing and pouring my tea all over the counter. Where is the cup? Over there…
Am two fisting this now with a shou in case those cold fingers wrap themselves around my neck. The camphorated finish is long, even after the Rishi shou I am swallowing, the cold is still at my throat.
Flavors: Camphor, Earth, Musty, Peat, Plums
Wasn’t sure what to expect with this one. I have several black teas around, including a black tea puerh cake. Usually black tea is about controlling the bitterness, or dumping in milk if all else fails. Wild Purple puerh can be really astringent and this is pretty much the same leaf. So I debated whether to grandpa a bit of this or gongfu, went with the gongfu in xisha clay. The leaves are long and very lightweight, so 3 grams of this is actually a lot of leaf. The usual 100-115 ml of water on the boil, one rinse. Braced myself for bitter.
The results? A floral smelling soup that actually transfers into the cup! Tastes like roses and the wild sweet pea blossoms I liked to nibble on when I was a kid. I am not a chaser after florals in tea, but this flavor is naturally present! Completely smooth with a touch of leather and wood, like a train trunk. Steeping cup after cup, the sweet smell and taste brings tears to my eyes. A harsh day at work melting away.
I don’t give high scores lightly, not that the scoring system is all that meaningful for me, but I really doubt I will ever taste a finer black tea than this.
Flavors: Leather, Peas, Rose, Wood
Received an 8 g sample of this from Mandala Tea, and thought it is one of their pressings, so I didn’t think anything in particular, aside from expecting the usual fruit n floral pleasantries that Mandala is known for in their young sheng cakes. Not the “tie me down and make me beg for mercy” type of drink. In fact I was eating ice cream at the time. Noted the compression in the cake chunk, took two rinses to git ’er to open up. Nice amber tangerine color. Took a whiff n sniff of the liquor.
Wait, what? This isn’t a Mandala tea at all. Whiskey, leather and apricot wood with a touch of smoke, this is serious. Nope this is a factory tea, but it is only 2014 and this cake is a 2009? Something is going on here. We have the usual aged flavors of what I associate with a Menghai, but at half the kick and not the astringency Mengku has had for me before.
A few small burnt particles from the wok gives the touch of smoke here, but it is not overpowering. Digging around in the Yixing I see a few tips, small leaves and a couple larger whole leaves. Six steeps and I am feeling mighty fine, beautiful cha qi, got my mental clarity on. But looking at the listing on Mandala, I am either really, really tea drunk or confused. A 400 gram cake for only $29? I am hallucinating or this is the deal of the century.
Researching this cake, I found it priced at $18.90 on EBay from Red Lantern Tea. Yep, that would be AllanK’s hated seller of the slow mule courier shipping. (Aside: seller has 100% feedback, 3000+ ratings). Then I found a review from shogun on TeaChat dated 2008, for this 2009 cake. A mistype? Or did shogun drink an Autumn cake. Or is this cake pressed from older material? Would that explain the nice aging going on…shogun noted a yellow tea soup, high astringency, and a “hay like” flavor, none of which I am tasting here. He paid $7 for this cake back in the day.
Or…has Mandala taken a middling tea cake and turned it into something wonderful. What I might be tasting here is a fine aging job from incredible storage. This cake is a bit of a conundrum with how old it actually is, but I can definitely conclude 100% that Mandala’s storage is fantastic, simply has GOT to be. No storage flavor and I think this tea is perfect now. I punished these leaves with boiling water all the way and got only a mild bitterness and astringency throughout, at a level I personally prefer. I want my tea to have at least some light bitter and astringency, I am not a drinker who likes tea to taste like food.
Could go another year or two for the lightweights new to sheng, but to me this is ready. The market for this cake prevents Mandala from charging a whole lot more, which is a boon for us, and sad for them because their fine storage here should be worth more, here is the breakdown:
Mandala: $29+ 5 shipping = $34 × 15% coupon = $28.90 for 400 g of tea at top quality storage.
Red Lantern: $18.90 + 9 shipping (by mule) = $27.90 for 400 g of tea at unknown storage.
Garret, I hope this doesn’t make you cry, because your aging here is top notch. Go buy this, people, 10+ steeps in and this is still going for me, tea this finely stored is a steal of a deal. Mandala will raise the price someday, once the other sellers wash out of this cake, and it will still be worth twice the money. Bravo, you have made a silk purse of this one.
Hope some pu-heads with better harvest knowledge than I can clear up the date conundrum I found on TeaChat.
Flavors: Apricot, Smoke, Smooth, Wood
Oh my, this is a young chick of a tea with her thigh high boots and orange fur leopard trimmed midriff top on, popping apple gum to cover up the grilled burger she had for lunch. I bought this cake, I will admit it, primarily for the label. I am guessing Amerykah=America, but as it happens I was born and raised in a town called Amery. The label is pure video game except that the pixels also resemble cross stitch. This tea looks like home to me, and we had tacky chicks just like this! Except this chickitea is jailbait right now.
Having bought this cake, I happened to get a sample too in a recent order, so I am drinking the sample. Put all 10 g’s into the Yixing, water ranging from 100-115 ml (the max my cup holds). Sample I got is really tippy, lots of buds with some larger leaves, a couple leaf sets and some orange and red-brown leaves.
Two rinses and then first steep, and she kicked me into the row of lockers because I told her that her breath smelled like beef jerky. That first steep smelled like smoked meat. Liquor is dark tangerine. A few small burnt particles from the wok in my strainer. This smell was gone on subsequent steeps. Soup was cloudy until the fourth steep. Intensely bitter and astringent throughout, with cooling on the throat and down the hatch, or maybe I just opened the door to get some air from that hairspray.
Hints of floral and and sweet fruit want to come out of her young PMS, banging on the door saying “Let me out!” I don’t think so. Off to Lincoln Hills for this girl, the local population can’t handle this one. She can have a guitar…maybe in a few years she can play a few sweet notes for me. This definitely looks like a Menghai blend with far less smokiness than you normally get from plantation cakes or tuos. Good cake to age and get that Menghai flavor without the smoke. This is not a usual factory blend, so to me this seems far better than trying to buy a 7542.
Took her to six steeps, 10-15 seconds for all because I had so much leaf going. Still has further steeps to go, but I have had enough. This is an incredibly strong young Sheng, even my strong system is challenged with this one. Gonna need an old man shou later to balance this one out.
This tea will make a nice girlfriend for my son someday if he keeps on the monk track he is currently on. Not gonna rate this young gal yet, she is new with so much aging yet ahead.
Flavors: Apricot, Floral, Grass, Meat
Oh boy, this is yummy! Huge roasted leaves, the roast is strong when I opened the pouch. It is definitely not machine roasted, at least not entirely if at all, because it doesn’t have that fake roasted taste I so despise in roasted oolong. I can taste a charcoal here.
The photo on White2Tea shows a yellow soup, but mine is reddish brown. But I brewed it in a zhu ni clay tea pot I use for oolong, maybe the pot added color. Deep spiced fruit, sort of like spiced red apples and nuts. The weather has been cool here so this is a pleasant cup. Or cups, if you will. Got a good six steeps out of 5 grams in 100 ml before the flavor started to fade. Giving it a little rest, might steep it once or twice more before I head off to bed.
Flavors: Apple, Roasted, Spices