244 Tasting Notes
Last night I drank a small samples from Liquid Proust which he labeled “2008 Ye Sheng Liu Bao.” I’m not sure where it came from, but it was pretty tasty. Much nicer than the other one or two Liu Bao I’ve had. The leaf had a slight basementy aroma but was not too offensive in that regard. After a rinse, I also smelled sweeter notes.
The flavor started with a little bit of dampness and a deep earthiness – a good dirt flavor. There was also a slightly vegetal quality to the finish. Almost like I was just eating shovels full of dirt from a vegetable garden after a rainstorm. The flavor shifted a little bit after two steeps, with less dampness and the vegetal finish becoming more yeasty or bready. Two further steeps later, the tea got nice and smooth with a good nasal earthy flavor and slightly spicy and vegetal notes. This continued on for another 6 or so steeps afterwards.
I think I should try to get a few more Liu Bao to try sometime. I’ve enjoyed other hei cha I’ve had, but this is the first time I’ve really had an enjoyable Liu Bao. I’m not sure how much I want to get into it though. Even if I buy more expensive and nicer hei cha, I just have a feeling like it’s not really going to compare to a lot of puerh. Perhaps it’s unfair to compare the two and I should just view hei cha as an interesting deviation from the norm rather than a type of tea that should be compared against puerh.
3g/60mL, Boiled Water
Hmm, this one didn’t quite do it for me. It had some good qualities, but it was really kind of just a “meh” tea. The leaf smelled a little bit roasty and chestnutty, maybe a bit of autumn leaf.
The flavor started out a little bit sour, which I would attribute to the roast most likely. Also some nutty, a bit of floral as well. After the sourness went out, around the third steep, a bit of a nice mineral note came in as well, along with just a smoother feeling in the mouth. Unfortunately, just as it was getting a little bit nicer, the flavor died…like it only went for around 5 or 6 steeps. I’m thinking this one wasn’t a huge fan of the boiling water that I hit it with, so I got some roughness and a shortened session.
The flavors for this one were much “higher” than other DHP that I’ve had. I think that could be part of why this one just didn’t seem to have the depth I was hoping for from it. I don’t have a whole lot of experience with Da Hong Pao or even Wuyi oolongs, but I would consider this a lower quality DHP than the others I have tried.
Flavors: Floral, Mineral, Nutty, Roasted, Sour
I bought this tea when Chayo Tea had a sale a couple weeks back. I couldn’t pass it up – even though it’s almost certainly overpriced at $3/5.5g mini-tuo. The dry leaf smells heavily of barnyard – and all its associated scents: straw, hay, manure. After a rinse, the aroma was very strong – I got tobacco, floral, herbal, and true to the tasting notes on the tea’s site, a touch of “cat piss.” After smelling that, I got a little nervous about tasting this tea.
On the first two steeps, the tuo wasn’t really opened up all the way, so I was getting lighter steeps. There was still quite a bit going on – floral, honey, and pinesap notes with a barnyard finish. Not a lot of body to the tea at this point.
In the next three steeps, the tuo opened up all the way. I started to get a touch of tobacco flavor on the front of the sip, along with the same honey and pinesap notes – not particularly sweet – and the floral flavor was mostly gone. The tea also started to pick up a bit of astringency which sat in the corners of my mouth. It had a sticky mouthfeel, helped in part by that astringency. The finish did have a weird note to it that could be described as cat piss…I don’t know what’s more disturbing: that I got that flavor from a tea or that I didn’t hate it.
The astringency died down most of the way over the next couple steeps (except when I accidentally oversteeped it once), but i was still getting a sticky, sappy tea.
Around steep 10, the flavor started to die down some. The tea first got a little bit gentler and less funky, with a bit of a creamy mouthfeel. After that, the flavor dropped off a little bit more suddenly, and was most of the way gone by steep 12. The last couple steeps were mostly flavorless, reminding me that this is a mini-tuo with leaves as chopped up as is standard for this form of pressing. There was an odd and mostly unpleasant finish to those last couple steeps – almost platicky or rubbery.
There wasn’t a whole lot of info as to this tea’s origin or age on Chayo Tea’s website. I think it’s overpriced for what it is, at $35 for 12 mini-tuos before any sales or discounts. It’s really not particularly high quality material, being pretty chopped up and all that. I will say that I do not regret buying it though – it’s interesting and a rather uniquely flavored tea as far as my experience is concerned. Absolutely not something you would want as a daily drinker, but tasty enough and something that’s kind of fun to experience. I suspect I will keep some of my remaining 11 and toss the rest randomly into any upcoming tea swaps I make. I would guess this tea is maybe a few years old. Doesn’t have the astringency of a fresher tea – maybe 2010-2012. Not sure of course as its not listed. Also – don’t google “Cow Cunt Puerh” trust me. Again, this gets a decent rating not for how good it is, but for how interesting it is. The flavor was complex and a little bit tough to figure out.
Flavors: Astringent, Barnyard, Floral, Honey, Pine, Sap, Straw, Tobacco
A Dark Matter tea! Pulled this one out of my sample bag and decided to give it a go today. This is a really nice hong. The dry leaf smelled of chocolate and malt. After being bathed, they got a bit of a grapey note as well.
The first few steeps had notes of honey and malt. I think I ramped up my steep times a bit too quickly, as the tea soon got a little bit rough and drying. After that passed (about 4 steeps in) the tea became very smooth and drinkable, with the same honey and malt tastes, though the malt became more prominent, along with a slightly fruity aftertaste, more blackberry than grape. Maybe like really dark grape jam but I’d say blackberry over grape. Around the 7th steep, the fruitiness started to drop off, and I started tasting mostly malt with a slight salted-chocolate note to it as well. In the final steeps, I got a light woody note which I often seem to get from steeped out black tea. This was a tasty black tea for sure – not really heavy on the chocolate or the fruity, rather it is nicely balanced.
Flavors: Blackberry, Chocolate, Fruity, Honey, Malt
This was a pretty tasty Dancong I thought – I was glad this one turned out nice after I was slightly disappointed with the Shui Xian I tried from Zen Tea. Still a sample I bought when they had a big sale a way’s back. The highlight of this tea was a nice and sweet Lychee flavor, but it was also accompanied by floral notes and a slight bit of malt or honey. Again one that I didn’t take great notes on due to being preoccupied while I was brewing.
Flavors: Floral, Honey, Lychee
This is pretty solid for something I picked up on ebay as an afterthought when I was ordering a new gaiwan. I brewed it up in my Jianshui teapot and gave it a couple long-ish rinses to get the compressed chunks to open up – I think that’s the way to go with these Xiaguan tuos. The dry leaf had a pretty signature Xiaguan smoky/tobacco aroma to it, but I didn’t get much of any smoke in the flavor.
I didn’t take particularly detailed notes as I was busy talking to a couple teafriends as I brewed this out. There was a slight floral sweetness and I also got a fruity note that reminded me of apple interestingly enough. I once or twice got a touch of bitterness, but even when I accidentally oversteeped it by a decent amount, it wasn’t at all bad. I’ll definitely want to revisit this and pay a little bit closer attention, but I’m pretty happy with this one after this session.
Flavors: Floral, Fruity, Leather, Smoke, Tobacco
I bought a sample of this tea along with a little clay pot from Taiwan Tea Crafts. I’ve determined that this pot will be for darker oolongs, including wuyi and yancha. Still in the hunt for a clay pot that pours quickly enough for young sheng. The dry leaf of this tea has an aroma of a dry autumn leaf pile – a note I often pick up from roasted teas. After a rinse, the leaf smelled roasty with a bit of a hint of coconut.
Rather awesomely, the first three steeps tasted quite a bit like toasted coconut. Maybe I was tasting the orchid note that Shui Xian is supposed to have, but I was just getting toasted coconut. I also picked up on a bit of a mineral taste and maybe some honey sweetness as well.
For the rest of the session, the coconut drops out, replaced by a floral note which makes me think that I may have just been tasting and interpreting an intense floral flavor as coconut – but that’s still what I got from it for sure. Flavors get a little bit lighter but remain balanced and sweet. The occasional nutty roasty note reminds me that this is a very well roasted tea – done with a lot of skill I’d say.
The first really good shui xian I’ve had and it’s from Taiwan! When I make another order from Taiwan Tea Crafts, I definitely might pick some of this up, as it’s a very fair price. I got in a bit of trouble for encouraging people to pick this up in teachat by claiming that it tastes like toasted coconut ;)
Flavors: Coconut, Floral, Honey, Nutty, Sweet, Toasted
Ok – I almost gave this tea a not so favorable rating, but I gave it another shot. Turns out it’s just a little finicky. As in I had to lower my water temp to 200F and flash steep it for the first 8 or 9 infusions. I don’t want to give the impression that this tea is horrendously bitter or astringent, but I found that when I increased the steep time too quickly, it took on an odd mineral bitterness, which really reminded me of the softened tap water at my house that I don’t use for tea because it overpowers the flavor of the tea. Oddly enough, at lower steep times/temps, that mineral note was still present but came across as more of a sweetness. I’ve never experienced something like that in a tea before. On to the meat of the review – the dry leaf didn’t have much of an aroma, and after a rinse there was a thick and creamy straw aroma with a cooling note on the gaiwan lid.
The first three steeps are decently light with a very minor cooling effect in the mouth – light enough that I suspect I wouldn’t notice it if this tea weren’t called “Mint Condition” with pictures of mints on the packaging. The flavor in these steeps is mostly straw with just a slight bit of mineral sweetness.
After the first three steeps, a light and tasty fruity flavor starts to appear and grow more prominent. It becomes the dominant flavor in the beginning of the sip, followed by the punchy mineral note on the finish – sweet as long as it’s not oversteeped. The body thickens up a little bit, but doesn’t get particularly creamy or viscous. This flavor lasted through around steep 8, when I finally started increasing the time from flash steepings.
The rest of the session was a little more watery tasting, with the mineral note receding some so the light apricot note could shine just a bit more. There was a bit of a nice throat feel with these late steeps that wasn’t present through the rest of this session.
Other than the 24K huangpian (I just don’t like huangpian much) this has probably been my least favorite tea from Bitterleaf so far. That is not to say it’s a bad tea however, just not to my tastes. I find the mineral and fruity combo to be inferior to that of the 2016 Year of the Monkey Yiwu, and the bitterness that it possesses to be inferior to most Bulangs in which I like the bitter notes. The cooling effect is minimal and didn’t add much to my experience with this tea. Maybe it was just the weird association with my nasty tap water – I don’t know. Not bad – but to me there’s much better tea to be had for the money Mint Condition commands.
Flavors: Apricot, Fruity, Mineral, Straw
One of the teas I still have from the apparently now defunct IDEStea. Pretty solid green Taiwanese oolong. Doesn’t get too vegetal or chlorophyll tasting. It does better with 185F than boiling. It starts off with mostly floral notes, but at about three steeps in picks up a pleasant melon aftertaste. The body is silky and smooth. Towards the end of the session, the melon note becomes more cucumber.
Flavors: Cucumber, Floral, Honey, Melon, Sweet
Oh lookie, I found a tea from one of my first loose leaf orders. I guess I hadn’t actually finished the Vietnam sampler pack! This tea was pretty decent, but my tasting notes were kind of funny. The dry leaf smelled floral and green – kind of like a high mountain Taiwanese oolong – that comparison was reinforced after I smelled the wet leaf and it had a kind of buttery aroma going along with the floral.
This tea’s name is well deserved. It was floral…with a floral finish. It was slightly more interesting than that sounds however. The floral note in the front of the sip did not taste exactly the same as the aftertaste. The aftertaste was more creamy and crisp for most of the session, though it did start to pick up a bit of sourness towards then end. I would say the aftertaste was the highlight of this tea – a nice and sweet floral aroma filled my mouth after I swallowed, lasting a good couple minutes. I don’t know different floral flavors well enough to pick out which ones I was tasting, but there were certainly different flowers represented in the flavor/aroma of this tea.
Flavors: Creamy, Floral, Green