17 Tasting Notes
Am I tea, or am I soup? This, I feel, is walking a thin line. It feels like a very thin ‘buckwheat’ minestrone.
Whatever it is, it reminds me of my younger years microwaving Ready brek every morning before trundling off to school . Or babushkas toasting buckwheat slowly over a fire.
It’s nutty, it’s malty, it’s like congee in a teapot. Thick with ‘bits’ in and that nice sweetness you get from those weird roasted pyramidical seeds. It has the hint of a buttery can of creamed corn.
A nice change of pace, but I’d avoid putting in your nice Yixing pot. You don’t want it turning blue do you? Probably best in a gaiwan, or just throwing it in a cup.
All that said, it’s very tasty.
Flavors: Malt, Rice Pudding, Roasted Barley, Vanilla, Wheat
This is a standard ‘every day’ shou. I used 10g in a 150ml duan ni (Fang’gu shape) pot with boiling water and rinsed twice. The first few steeps were a bit on the pale side, but it got nice and dark after steep 3. It’s good for about 5 infusions, after which it weakens noticably.
Worth noting that this just arrived from China after a 2 month wait and I haven’t let it rest or aired it out. So this might not be entirely fair.
The tuo is quite loose in compression, but possibly my example was a bit on the dry side. Inserting a pick had tea practically falling off the tuo.
It tastes pleasant, mine has a vague concrete note, probably from the floor piling or storage. The main flavour notes are earth, wood and nut shells, more specifically it’s like concrete dusted walnut shells and the smell of fresh rain. It’s lost any of the ‘wo dui’ and gives a nice clear reddish soup. There’s a slight hint of charcoal minerality or smoke at the very end.
Not bad tea, very clean and transparent soup. It’s dry (mildly astringent) without being sour and never bitter. Smooth, but not creamy or thick in mouthfeel and in terms of ‘energy’ this is very mild.
It just doesn’t ‘stand out’ much. If you’re looking for an everyday non-sweet, nutty cup of shou, this could be a winner.
Good, but a bit boring (it’s pretty cheap). So we’ll say 3-star tea. Maybe it’ll get better after a few months of ‘awakening’. I have a lot of tea to get through though, and the five cakes I have will be in storage for quite a while before I revisit it.
When I was young, we would boil up ‘black walnuts’ and pour it over the muddy ground to summon worms (which we used as fishing bait). This reminds me of those wet steaming ground puddles.
Flavors: Walnut, Wet Earth
This really is a ‘first impression’. I’ll update my note later.
So this tuo is enormous (250g) and it’s not very compressed, so it’s fairly easy to peel off in-tact material from the outside. I’m brewing it in my new Zhuni pot which is 110ml and I decided to use around 5g of leaf with boiling spring water. The material is meant to be Lao Man’E.
This tea took me completely off guard. It’s as if I took a bite out of an after-eight chocolate wafer – and then with the aftertaste lingering, took a drink of a V93 shou. Kinda, sorta. That’s until it takes a hard right turn down a pine forest lane.
The smell off the leaves is impressive. Woody and camphorous. It has that skunky whack on the nose. But the smell coming off the broth is vanilla, cocoa and cream.
EDIT (after steep 3): the smell on the leaves slowly becomes more smooth and creamy once you get past that third steep…
What starts out as an unexpected creamy and almost shou-like beginning turns ‘very sheng’ to pleasantly sour astringency (what a plot-twist). I had a glass of water next to me and each sip I take becomes sweet in the throat.
Mouthfeel is thick, oily and creamy at the start reminiscent of rice milk, but it does thin out after the first few steeps.
Sorry if this text is a bit “all over the gaff”.
What’s so odd about this is that it’s recognisable in various components to lots of tea that I’ve had, but at the same time completely different in this combination. It’s all jumbled up. Very strange, in a good way.
I am just going to have to break this up and drink more of it.
Flavors: Camphor, Creamy, Mint, Pine, Pleasantly Sour, Vanilla
Brewed in Yixing, Zhuni 125ml / 5g tea with spring water.
I read previous tasting notes (from 6 years ago) stating that this tea was incredibly smoky and bitter (no surprise, that’s exactly what I’d expect). That’s largely disappeared now.
The cake looks to be well produced, with large leaves and little brittleness. That usual ‘aged’ smell is present on the dry leaf. I put it into a steaming hot pot and I’m getting a slightly acidic ‘guava’ note off it along with the usual ‘sheng’ notes (and a barely detectable smoke).
I was able to easily loosen a chunk from the side of the cake with minimal breakage (didn’t have to use a pick at all). So the compression isn’t overly tight which (I imagine) helped speed up the ageing process a bit.
The wet leaves are aromatic and I get that spruce scent with a tropicality and a hint of forest floor.
A clean, vibrant and golden hued brew proved consistent across all of the steeps I did.
Nice and fruity first glass, I mean… it still tastes of a well mellowed sheng. Mouthfeel is good too. Very smooth now, with absolutely no bitterness and very little astringency. It makes you salivate and has a good hui-gan. There’s smoke in the distance, but it serves to accentuate the sweet/savoury barley-water mouthfeel.
The second steep I’m getting a bit more ‘sweet rock’ minerality in the roof of my mouth. Also a bit of ‘clover flower’ sweetness on the after taste.
Third steep, still performing well, but I understeeped a bit – silky mouthfeel is still there, but a bit thinner. The energy is good, fairly strong at this point. Very warming.
Fourth steep – left for longer – still similar, but I’m getting more sweetness ( the clover has moved toward sugar-cane). Excellent body, like a thick wine or barley-water. Quite a bit of oil visible on the surface and it coats the tongue
Revisiting the leaf gives an intensely bright metallic and sweet scent.
I’ll stop here, but this could definitely go on. Overall this hits the balance of savoury and sweet dead-on and has an extremely pleasant complexity worthy of many revisits.
A solid and well produced tea that has aged well (11 years old atm). If you’re familiar with a decent middle-aged (dry stored) 7542 you will have a close idea to how this feels and tastes. Energy is great.
Allowing for ‘value’ (an 11 year old Dali production is currently just under $500, this is $22).
This is 5 star tea. It’s been well stored, tastes excellent and the taste ‘lasts’. Very enjoyable. I would highly recommend it.
Flavors: Dry Grass, Roasted Barley, Sugarcane
I got this from Puershop Canada.
The label itself reads: ‘YINCHAOTUOCHA’ / ‘Kunming Chun Cheng Cha Change Chu Pin’.
So it’s a ‘silver bud tuo cake’ put together in a Kunming factory from (what looks like) Spring Lincang material. It could be a later picking though, as there’s quite a bit of stem.
A 50g tuo, so this is a bit on the ‘mini’ side and very simple in terms of packaging (doesn’t strike me as very fancy stuff). Also fairly tightly compressed. That combination could lead to a lot of powder or broken leaf. It might be a good contender for me to test ‘steam’ a tuo.
Nicely browned with age, a lot of hairy buds and tips are visible (and a fair bit of stem, which makes me suspect this is a later harvest). Pleasant but subtle dry leaf scent (floral) with a fairly heavy rolling on the leaves I’d guess (as it’s fairly dark).
Brewing 5g in 190ml Yixing ‘Qing hui ni’ (原矿青灰泥) so ratio is 1:38 (possibly a bit on the light side).
I followed the brewing guidelines provided. So, a 15-20 second rinse followed by fairly long steeps (First steep 15s, 2nd 10s, 3rd 15s and so on). I coudn’t seem to over-brew it, which is nice. I even forgot about a steep and let it sit for a minute or two but it was still perfectly drinkable.
The long rinse helped to open up the leaf and provides a very thick-bodied, gloopy and oily soup with a deep amber shade and a nice aged smell.
The wet leaves are very fragrant indeed with a green wood aroma and edge of spiced bark. It’s bordering on a cedar resin in odour. (Edit: The cedar/camphor smell really picks up after a few brews).
I was worried the long steeps would end up undrinkably bitter. But tastewise it’s a pleasure. Echoes of smokiness are still there in the background, and there’s definitely some astringency (in the earlier steeps), but very little in the way of bitterness or harshness. It definitely has a nice rounded taste.
A thick, oily mouthfeel with dryness on the tongue with a bit of a camphor ‘tingle’ later on (steep 4). The main attraction is definitely the mouthfeel and the camphor (though it’s fairly light).
For only 5g per brew, this seems to make about 4-5 solid infusions. Definitely worth its pricetag, but boy, it still has a kick and you don’t need to use much leaf.
After that, still pleasant (and a bit sweeter) for another 4 infusions, but the soup thins a bit after the third steeping (or possibly you just need to steep much longer).
It’s an ‘intense but short-lived’ sheng, that I’d put down to the seemingly heavy rolling on the leaves. That can be quite nice, just don’t expect a huge amount of steeps.
Strong in terms of energy/effect as I was feeling quite happy after the third glass.
Excellent value for a ‘budget’ aged sheng and highly recommended if you want an affordable option to hit a few times a week.
I’d say this is 3-4 star tea right off the bat, and I’ll keep experimenting with it. I wish the tuo were larger and I might have to get some more.
Flavors: Cedar, Green Wood
Brewed in a Nixing 125mm pot with a 5s pour and I used 10g. Flushed once.
First impressions are good, it reminds me of the V93 (also Dayi, so no surprise) which I’ve been drinking. The leaves on this smell of vanilla and autumn leaf pile. There is a thick mouthfeel which is creamy and smooth; reminiscent of oat-milk or rice-milk. Light hints of brown sugar that never really fully appear.
Zero ‘Wo Dui’ smell (or taste) and a very clear/clean broth which starts out copper. It gets darker quick, to a reddish soy-sauce territory on steep 3-4 (I’m still only steeping for 8 secs there).
A ‘starchy’ rich and malty ‘red bean’ (or Asian yam) taste rises up. It’s not quite savoury, but neither is it sweet. The leaf has a woodland smell, still with a distant waft of sweet vanilla. That woodiness is entering the flavour of the tea (steep 5 or so), not camphor or pine, just a pulpy hardwood log in the autumn leaf mulch.
Still, no bitterness and still milky in the mouthfeel.
This now is apparently where it sits and just keeps chugging for a while (still going on steep 10).
A nice shu. Comforting like a warm hug.
4-stars again (would recommend). Notably smooth stuff. With the buttery mouthfeel and hint of vanilla, I can’t help thinking I’d like to add some maple syrup…
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Brown Sugar, Forest Floor, Malt, Vanilla
‘Ma Bei’ (Horseback) Tuo from 2007. Stored with me in Montreal for 2 years at 60%-70% humidity, purchased from Kunming (dry storage).
Test: I broke off 6g and steeped it in a little 125ml pot with a 5s pour. Very bitter, smokey with high astringency on the first 5 or so flushes.
Left the pot overnight and carried on steeping it in the morning. It turned into sweet greengauge plum after about 10-11 steps and still has life. At that point, sweeter and very drinkable.
Scent on the leaf has changed to subtle floral notes on the latter steeps. Leaf grade isn’t too bad. Lots of chopped leaf, but fair sized material.
It’s ‘nearly ready’, but it seems like it’s going be a good one. Definitely approaching 4-stars, and I’m sure this will taste better after jarring for a month or so.
Not bad for 0.04C/g.
Flavors: Bitter Melon, Plums, Smoke, Spices, Stonefruits
OK – so this has been sitting in the bottom of my ‘shu box’ for years. I picked it up back when it only cost $6 or so for 4 bricks and it got relegated, untasted, to the bottom of the box due to poor reviews.
I’m going through some shu, so I figured ‘why not?’. This afternoon is time well overdue.
It’s not actually that bad. The harvest area is listed as Simao (which just means Puehr these days). More specifically Yiliang (Kunming) factory. So ‘generic’ I guess.
So I’m using a 220ml Yixing pot for this brew with 14 grams of leaf. It’s not a ‘stand out’ tea by any means, but it doesn’t deserve to be shat on. It’s very similar to Dali/Taetea productions which are well-liked.
First and second washes discarded, second wash I tasted – it wasn’t bad, but I could taste the familiar concrete warehouse flavour. Yum! It dissipates fairly quickly.
By the first proper cup, this had moved toward a more pleasant woodiness and earthiness. The tea giving the usual ‘Coca-cola’ darkness right from the start. Creamy mouthfeel.
Thick and smooth shu. Slight tightening in the throat. It’s getting some camphor going on after brew 3. Much darker now and peaty with some walnut hints. The camphor has an edge of sweetness, but it never really develops into dried fruit territory. It makes me think of old varnished school tables. Or perhaps chewing on a hot wet pinecone.
I think this is good for about 8 or so brews, but probably best enjoyed after a greasy meal and a fine accompaniment to charcuterie (or more traditionally dim-sum).
I just happened to be trying out some Nem Chua (cured pork).
I give this 3 stars. Quite standard ‘cheap shu’ with a pleasant hit of camphor on the end-steeps. Not bad, and very warming on a winter day. Nice and mellow that’s for sure.
I would recommend trying it, but not recommend spending much. 15g of tea was putting out about a full kettle (2L) of tea before it started to fade out.
For what I paid that’s around 0.18 cents for 2 litres of perfectly acceptable tea. I passed some to my partner (who is not versed in tea) and they found it pretty enjoyable.
Flavors: Camphor, Decayed wood, Peat Moss, Pine, Walnut