341 Tasting Notes

As a birdwatcher, I love waterfowl watching the most. Ducks rock. Dabbling, diving – they’re all made of perfection. Pictured on the wrapper is a drake Ruddy Duck (he’s missing the white on his chin, but that’s alright since it’s for the sake of keeping the print coloring simple). I’ve seen Ruddy Ducks a few times so far, but only a drake in breeding plumage once. That blue beak is something to see firsthand. Winter is approaching. The ducks are on the move.

I obtained a sample from the Pu’erh Plus TTB. Brewed in a ceramic gaiwan. Gave the leaf a 5-second rinse and a 2-minute rest. Steeping times: 5 seconds xfive, 10, 12,15, 20, 30, 45; 1 minute, 1’30", 3, 6, 12, 20.

The dry leaf smells sweet and pepper, and, after sitting in the pre-heated gaiwan, of apricot and mint. The wet leaf is very aromatic, filling the corner of the room with a fragrance of white sugar and apricot.

The soup is clear, and has a full-body yet a gentle, bright mouth-feel. The color begins as pale yellow and ends as pale gold. Thick-ish texture sometimes. I used 200 degree temperature water for the first five infusions and then switched to 190. 200 produces a tartness that overwhelms the grassy and apricot notes. The huigan is weak.

190 is much better for the leaf. The heart of the session – infusions 6-11 – are lightly sweet and bitter. Qualities balanced, one not overwhelming the other. Slowly developing is a slight cooling aftertaste, which I mostly feel in the mouth. The sweet apricot aftertaste – the throat – is at its strongest at this point. For infusions 12 and 13, the menthol note has fully developed and even rivals the huigan, cooling the throat. The soup itself tastes sweet, bitter, and menthol-like all at once. 14 tastes mostly of menthol. The longer steeps for 15-17 produce a bitterness that outdoes the menthol. No more sweetness. Once again, the huigan is weak. But more than twenty minutes later, as I write this review, I still feeling the cooling in my throat.

5 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

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Prepared 3.7g in a ceramic gaiwan. I gave the leaf a flash rinse to get it going. Steeping times: 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 30, 45; 2 minutes, 4, 9, 20.

A hongcha with great aromas? Check! When I smell the leaf in the packet – wow! – was it super chocolate-like. Letting the leaf sit in the pre-heated gaiwan brought out gingerbread and tomato sauce notes as well as chocolate. The wet leaf smells of cinnamon, nutmeg, and a little bit of fudge.

The liquor is orange-colored, clear, clean-tasting, and medium-bodied. The first cup is light with malt with some sweet potato. From the second cup and onward (till the last), the malt has disappeared, and the sweet potato note is stronger. I also taste cinnamon and chocolate. They don’t pop out as much, but they are present. There is a consistent caramel aftertaste. The texture is smooth. As the description on the website says, this hongcha tastes – and feels, I’d say – “sweet and mellow.”

I especially this recommend this to hongcha lovers. Get a look at that leaf!

200 °F / 93 °C 2 OZ / 60 ML

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Obtained a sample from the Pu’erh Plus TTB.

Used 3.4g. Gave the leaf two 5-second rinses and a rest for one minute. Steeping times: 10 seconds, 8, 12, 15, 30; 1 minute, 2, 5, 10, 20.

The dry leaf smells earthy and chocolatey sweet. Sitting in the pre-heated gaiwan really brought out the chocolate; it was very hot cocoa-like. The wet leaf, in contrast, smells of damp earth and fermentation (unexpected and displeasing, since the dry leaf aroma was so nice).

The soup color is dark orange. I taste bittersweet chocolate and fermentation in the first three cups, which are cloudy. It isn’t until the fourth that the soup finally clears. I thought the fermentation would eventually too, but it didn’t. It was present throughout the session. Instead, the bittersweet chocolate note disappears and is replaced by wood beginning with the fifth cup. These notes of fermentation and wood last until the leaf gives up. It isn’t unappealing – the kind that’s stinky, fishy, mushroom-like. It’s rather light and not off-putting. Overall, this is a lighter tasting/feeling shou.

In his review from three years ago, mrmopar wrote that this shou was probably meant to age more and that he’d check on it in five years. I think it has a couple more years to go. It seems like it needs more time.

Boiling 2 OZ / 60 ML

This has some sheng blended in with it. I would agree on the added time for it.


interesting, ive never tasted a sheng/shou blend


I haven’t had a sheng/shou blend either. It wasn’t bad. Although I’ll never forget MarshalN’s post xD

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Obtained a sample from the Pu’erh Plus TTB.

I used 5.4g in a 60ml ceramic gaiwan. Gave the leaf a quick rinse and a two minute rest. Steeping times: 5 seconds x5, 8, 10, 12, 15, 20, 15, 20, 30, 45; 1 minute, 2, 5, 12.

The leaf smells sweet and herbaceous, of tobacco and apricot. As the session goes on, the more the leaf is washed with water, a very sweet apricot aroma takes over.

Clear, yellow soup throughout the session. The first few cups are quite bitter with some sweetness, and they feel punchy and buzzy in my mouth. Not truly surprising since the ratio of grams to water is 5.4 to 60. I’d also used boiling water. I guess this is the first time I “hit it hard” with sheng. I did feel my heart rate increase as if I’d spent some time exercising.

I lowered the water temperature to 200 beginning with the sixth cup. There isn’t much evolution in taste or texture after this point. Overall, the soup is still bitter but sweeter – there is more of a balance. Around infusion 11, a grassy note appears, replacing the bitterness. The soup then tastes like sweet grass and apricot until the end. In regards to the punchy feel, that slowly disappears.

The texture is a somewhat thick. My mouth dries a little after I finish each cup, but saliva quickly replenishes itself. There is huigan throughout the entire session, and it lasts for minutes. I enjoyed the sweet, apricot notes, and I felt contented every time I resumed the session after taking breaks. Bear in mind, I was enraged at one point and this sheng calmed me. Props.

2 OZ / 60 ML

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I obtained a sample from the Pu’erh Plus TTB. I think it’s this particular shou – the label didn’t say who the vendor was, but that it was provided by mrmopar.

Brewed in a ceramic gaiwan. Gave the leaf a 10-second rinse, then a rest for a couple minutes. Steeping times: 5, 8, 10, 15, 10, 20, 40; 1 min, 1, 2, 5, 12.

The dry leaf smells earthy and sweet, and the wet leaf aroma even sweeter, so much like dark chocolate. The soup color starts off as burnt orange and darkens to ruddy brown. A little cloudy in the beginning (viewing the soup from the pitcher), but eventually clears up by the end of the session. The first couple infusions are a little sweet with some thickness, mostly tasting of fermentation (I think). The middle infusions – 3 through 10 – taste just like the wet leaf aroma: very sweet with a bitter dark chocolate note. Creamy in texture. This was the heart of the session. One word I wrote down was “yum.” I also eventually tasted the Raisinettes note that I usually get in a chocolate-like shou. Infusions 11-13 are still creamy, but the chocolate disappears, replaced by cut wood.

Boiling 5 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

It is from the eBay seller Berylleb. An excellent trusted seller for me.


I have heard excellent things about Berylleb from you and Allan. Thank you for adding this to the box!


Welcome, its a good tea.

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Sample obtained through the Pu’erh Plus TTB and prepared in a gongfu session, with a ceramic gaiwan. I gave the leaf a 3-second rinse and no rest. Steeping times: 5 seconds, 8, 10, 12, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 45, 60, 90; 2 minutes, 4, 10.

I’m going to kick off this review my saying that, during the four months since I took the sample from the box, I think I inadvertently dried the humidity out of the leaf.

The dry leaf smells of tobacco, light apricot, and black pepper all at once. Having sat in the pre-heated gaiwan brought out more apricot and a little smoke. The wet leaf in the beginning of the session smells of the field grass, then changes to apricot in the middle.

The soup color is golden. Infusions 1 through 4 are incredibly sweet with apricot – with a little bitterness underneath – and have strong huigan. After the second, the soup has energetic mouthfeel. 3’s texture is thick and oily. I reheated the water to boiling since the temperature had fallen to 195-200. I would later confirm that infusing the leaf in 200< degree water produces sweetness. Boiling brings out bitterness as well. Infusions 5-8 taste of camphor and black pepper as well as a continuing apricot. The more I let the soup sit in my mouth, the more peppery it is. There is a cooling effect upon swallowing. At this point and this point only I feel qi, which is induces relaxation. (Maaaaybe because I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet. I started feeling nauseated just before my break – HEY I ACTUALLY NEED TO EAT, I remembered. Quickly fixed.)

After the first break, I go through 9-11. The soup tastes more bitter – same intensity as the apricot note. The bitterness strengthens in the aftertaste. The texture has become creamy.

Another, longer break. 12-14 mostly have bitter, grass notes with slight huigan. (I didn’t feel like boiling the leaf as the website suggests because I was hungry (just came back from exercising and all).)

Boiling 4 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

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I hadn’t had mugicha for almost six years until this summer. When I studied abroad in Kyoto, my host mother brewed a large pot every evening (large tea bags from the grocery store) and then let it refrigerate over night in recycled bottles. My host siblings and I each took a bottle to school each day. Sometimes, instead of ryokucha, my host mother would brew a hot cup of mugicha after dinner. I only remember that it tasted like…barley – simply barley.

In comparison, Den’s mugicha is more roasted and even tastes coffee-like. At first these qualities deterred me from liking it, so I diluted the infusion by more than 50%. The roast used to be a tad heavy and bitter for me. Slowly, I started using the directions more strictly. The cool roasted grain taste was very refreshing during the hotter days and evenings. I just finished the last bag (now being late September). Heating up it up after cold-brewing produces a comforting cup akin to houjicha.

Glad I decided to buy this even though I didn’t have a sample beforehand. Another plus is that it’s affordable.

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From the Regional Group Buy.

First brewed in a ceramic infuser mug, then in a glass tumbler with the same infuser.

Himalayan Golden Black looks somewhat like black Bi Luo Chun: small, downy, golden-tipped black curlies. My favorite aspect of this tea by far is the aromas. The packet is filled with the fragrance of bitter dark chocolate. I let the leaf sit in the pre-heated mug, covered, and this brought out cinnamon and cocoa powder. Ready for baking! Made me think of those microwavable cakes in mugs.

At first, I follow the packet instructions: 1 teaspoon per 8oz for 3-4 minutes. I like to get out as much as I can with loose leaf tea in general, so I go with 3 minutes. This produces – in spite of a rich golden color – a weak infusion. The chocolate flavor tastes watered down. I brewed the second infusion for 10 minutes. Even worse.

I couldn’t leave my experience with this tea at that since I didn’t think it’d be fair. I have another go-around with it later. I simply double the leaf amount. And this time, I timed the first infusion for 4 minutes. Much better results. Once I get passed the tannin and malt, the liquor is very flavorful and rich with notes of fudge-frosting brownies, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Liquid dessert. The next and last infusion is timed for 9 minutes and it tastes the same. (I had used a glass instead of the mug this time. Huge difference. I’m not brewing black/red tea in thick ceramic ever again.)

You may want to double the amount of leaf if you acquire this. It’s worth to do so. I’m very glad it worked out. The packet parameters make work for you – no harm in messing around.

Boiling 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Spur of the moment review! Hongcha is evocative of autumn for me. I decided to celebrate the equinox with this one! Merry Mabon to those who celebrate the Wheel of the Year! (sorry, S.G. Sanders, I backed down from shou because it’s sooooo warm today)

I gongfu’d 3g in my new 60ml gaiwan. The dry leaf’s presentation against a white background is just beautiful:


I last wrote a review six months ago (the numerical rating is from the first review). What particularly sticks out this session is that I identify different flavors. Sweet potatoes and orange zest particularly stick out, and then the almonds and cashews when I really concentrate. Not so much malt and no brownies this time – could be the difference in harvest year.

So smoooooooth. The mouth becomes dry after I swallow, but quickly fills again with saliva. Very nutty aftertaste. Returning notes of almonds.

I can’t help but keep sticking my nose into the gaiwan and savoring the wet leaf aroma. It simply won’t let up! Cocoa and caramel, grains and raisins.

There’s no place like hongcha, there’s no place like hongcha, there’s no place like hongcha.


Oooh that sounds good!


I can send you some, if you’d like!


Sure! I’d like that. Should I message you?

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From the Pu’erh Plus TTB.

Brewed in a ceramic gaiwan. The tuocha weight totaled 5.4g. I was going to give it two 10-second rinses and a ten minute rest, but it opened up very quickly, so only one rinse was necessary. Steeping times: 2, 2, 4, 4, 8, 18, 30; 1.5 minutes, 4, 15.

The tuocha smells of cedar wood. Letting it rest in the pre-heated gaiwan brings out an aroma of pulled pork, which gradually changes into honey BBQ sauce, and then to chocolate. The wet leaf smells of tapioca and smoky pine wood.

The soup is deep reddish brown, full-bodied, and creamy. It’s somewhat cloudy at first and takes up to four infusions to finally clear. I may should have kept the tuocha better. Who knows how long it’s been sitting in the little plastic baggie (kept in an open cardboard box). The first two infusions taste funky, which begins to lessen at the third, when I also taste a hint of chocolate. The fourth infusion has that cream of mushroom flavor I haven’t tasted in shou in a while, but it is also sweet (not incongruously so). Fifth infusion and onward, there is flat cedar wood note, almost paper-like at the end.

This might be my tastes since I haven’t had a mini tuocha in more than a year. More likely, this might be a lesson on how I should keep shou mini tuos if I ever stock on any.


Boiling 4 OZ / 120 ML

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I began drinking tea because its complexity fascinated me. I love learning about its history, its manufacturing processes, and its place in various cultures.

Japanese greens were my first love and gateway into the world.

My favorite teas are leafhopper oolongs, pu’erh (shou and sheng), and masala chai. My favorite herbal tisanes are spear/peppermint, lavender and chrysanthemum.

I’m currently exploring pu’erh, and any Chinese and Taiwanese teas in general. I’m not much into flavored teas, unlike when I first started. The only teas I truly dislike are fruity tisanes and the ones that have too much fruit. I do like hisbiscus, especially iced.

I like to write nature essays. I’m a birdwatcher as well as a tea enthusiast. The kiwi is one of my favorite birds. I also like Tolkien, Ancient Egypt, and exercising.

IMPORTANT NOTE, PLEASE READ: After two and a half years of having an account here, I will no longer will provide numerical ratings as an addition to the review because the American school system has skewed my thoughts on numbers out of a hundred and the colors throw me off. Curses! My words are more than sufficient. If I really like what I have, I will “recommend”, and if I don’t, “not recommended”.

Key for past ratings:

96-100 I adore absolutely everything about it. A permanent addition to my stash.

90-95 Superb quality and extremely enjoyable, but not something I’d necessarily like to have in my stash (might have to do with personal tastes, depending on what I say in the tasting note).

80-89 Delicious! Pleased with the overall quality.

70-79 Simply, I like it. There are qualities that I find good, but there also are things that aren’t, hence a lower rating that I would have otherwise like to put.

60-69 Overall “meh”. Not necessarily bad, but not necessarily good.

0-59 No.

If there is no rating: I don’t feel experienced enough to rate the tea, or said tea just goes beyond rating (in a positive way).


Westchester, NY

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