237 Tasting Notes
I’m drinking the 2007 You Le Shan today and finding it rather disappointing. I bought this as part of a package of samples from Zhi Zheng when they still had a webshop and I have quite enjoyed the previous samples. This one, unfortunately, does not impress. The light hay aroma of the dry leaf is pleasant and encouraging although perhaps a touch faded. Is this the warning I should have heeded? The liquor is dark straw coloured and the first sips have the promised pleasing bitterness to them but when that fades, there is a light sweetness and little more left to the tea. I have used most of the sample pack now and experimented with duration and temperature, but to no avail. This is not a bad tea by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t find myself wanting to spit it out and cremate its remains to avenge my offended taste buds. Instead I just find myself drinking it and going “yes, it’s smooth and mellow but also watery and insipid.” It has no body and I cannot feel the promised cha qi. Basically, I find it bland and unexciting. Perhaps it is something in me and my brewing set up, or perhaps this sample was past its best. Who knows? Ah well, I can at least grandpa the rest and move on to pastures new . I shall step out on the pu path with this new awareness secured in my mind and face the next tea tomorrow.
This is a sample that Paul sent me. I was drinking it for two days, so it has legs and can go the distance. The dry leaf smells of a light, sweet tobacco. It was loose and easily pulled apart into whole leaves even by hand.
The soup is a strong amber colour and smells slightly smoky. The tea has a solid smoky hit to start with before mellowing to a mix of smoke and astringency that is really pleasant, rounded out by a hint of sweetness that brings the whole experience together. I could see buying a beeng or two of this.
Flavors: Astringent, Smoke, Tobacco
I was lucky enough to be sent a sample of this by Paul at White2tea. It reminds me of ‘American Flagg’, especially the later ‘Amerikan Flagg’ reboot. Hmm, how do I do reversed Rs on here. I need some cyrillic, stat. I’m sure it’s just the name, and I have no idea if Paul is a Howard Chaykin fan but I cannot get that eighties comic goodness out of my head while drinking this. In fact, this issue best sums it all up:
Shame I can’t post images here. That would be proper cool and make the point better.
The tea itself smells floral when dry and fruity when wet, and it has a proper kick to it. Cwyn has given an awesome review of it, so I really don’t feel I can add much more to that. I can feel the energy of this tea giving me a kick in the seat of the pants. My mouth has gone dry and prickly, the bitterness lingers in my throat and the rounded, full-on flavour lasts for ages. I’m working on 10 second steeps at 95C (the slider says boiling but that is because Steepster is not communicating properly with Chrome once more) at the moment because I put a lot of leaf in the pot and I am feeling slightly incoherent from the onset of tea drunk. I guess that makes this a party in a teapot. Mmmm …
Flavors: Floral, Fruity
It’s rather hot here today, so sheng is called for and this was the sample that came first out of the tin. This is the last of the samples I bought from Yunnan Sourcing, so I can move on to my remaining Zhi Zheng and White2tea samples next.
This tea has not been heavily compressed and is easily pulled apart by hand. The leaves are large and have a lovely silvery furriness to them.
The dry leaf has a light hay and tropical garden aroma. It is heavy without being excessively floral. By way of contrast, the wet leaf smells more of grapes or something vegetal. The liquor surprises with its caramel and chocolate aroma.
The tea carries the chocolate notes through to the tasting and adds nuttiness and some grassy notes. There is a hint of bitterness that develops at the end of the tasting and into the aftertaste which adds a small amount of astringency that develops slowly while the tea pops on the tongue like space dust. The mouthfeel is rounded like a boiled sweet. There seems to be a lot going on with this tea and it becomes smoother with less bitterness developing as the steeps go on. I’m on my 8th steep now and am very happy with this one. I am glad that I have tried it, but I do have to query the price. I am not certain that it provides value for money, but perhaps the tea will age in interesting ways that justify that price tag.
Flavors: Caramel, Chocolate, Hay, Nutty
After a disappointing session earlier today I picked this one out of the sample tin. I bought it some time back and have been very remiss in sampling it. Fortunately my current sheng binge is really getting me through the samples.
The dry leaf on this is gorgeous. It smells of warm horse and hay. That’s a homely and comforting smell that suggests a great brew ahead. The wet leaf transitions to a smoke and hay aroma, and the soup is orange. The first few steeps were smoky and sweet with raw carrot notes and a citrus sharpness that became a lovely bitterness. There was some astringency and the tea sparkled on the tongue. As I continued to steep and drink, it became smoother with less smoke, no bitterness and more sweetness. The astringency remained with a change towards a grape note by the end of the session. I steeped this over a dozen times and will return to it tomorrow, so I guess you could say its endurance is pretty good. This is more like what I want from a sheng and I am glad I had this one after this morning’s disappointment. It’s a great note to end the day on.
Flavors: Astringent, Carrot, Smoke, Sweet
I bought a sample of this from Yunnansourcing some time back and have been trying to work through my backlog of samples this past week or so. I was quite excited to try an 11 year old sheng. The dry leaf promised much with its hot hay aroma. It smelt good and promised a robust and pleasing experience. Sadly the liquor failed to deliver. It has a nice bitterness at the back of the mouth and in the throat and is quite smooth, but in the end it left me feeling that something was missing. There is a slight smokiness, perhaps a hint of grape, a soupçon of sweetness but really not much more. Perhaps someone with a subtler tongue could plumb the depths of this tea but I found it rather shallow and my feet remained firmly on the bottom of the pool while my head and body remained above water. It is bland and underwhelming, and failed to enthrall me. If I wished to damn it with faint praise, I would describe it as nice. That is all it is.
Flavors: Bitter, Smoke
After the mildness of the 2012 Shuang Yu yesterday I opened another sample packet I had bought today and got quite the hit. The dry leaf promised something wild and robust with its solid hay and floral aroma. The brewed tea was a strong amber colour and provided the same hit in a different way. It is sweet and smoky with a mild tobacco edge and vegetal notes. The liquor is creamy and coats the mouth and throat so the smokiness and sweetness endure in the aftertaste. Despite its strength, there is little bitterness or astringency, only enough to enhance the other flavours. This tea is much more in my comfort zone than yesterday’s. I can wrestle with it and expect it to fight back instead of having to nurture it to bring out its best properties.
Flavors: Smoke, Sweet, Tobacco, Vegetal
Wow, I keep finding teas to write about that have no notes yet. This is a sample I bought from Zhi Zheng. I went to check the site and noticed that they have closed their web store which is a shame because their teas looked good. Anyway, after my brief flirtation with an Oriental Beauty this morning I decided to get wild with a sheng. This was the first to hand from the sample tin, so I decided to go ahead and see what it was like.
The dry leaf was in a big chunk in the packet. It was relatively loose and easy to pick apart. The aroma of the dry leaf was mild hay. The wet aroma only intensified that note. I steeped the first pot for 20 seconds and it came out incredibly mild. I think it needed longer to wake up, because the second steeping was better. It was still mild with a hint of astringency and a slight smokiness at he back of the throat. From there the tea developed well with each steeping. Floral notes and a hint of camphor crept in as the astringency changed to a grape taste that continued through to the end. By the end of the steeping, the grapes dominated. Throughout, the liquor coated the mouth nicely and was silky smooth. This is mild and refreshing, and really good for a hot summer day.
Flavors: Camphor, Floral, Grapes, Hay
Backlog from yesterday: I was gifted this tea by a good tea chum. Throughout I struggled to find much of anything in it, sadly. It is woody and rounded and slightly sweet. It’s not bad, but I found it a bit nondescript. I think the best description for it is ‘solid’. If you want a shou that is mellow and rounded but not too challenging, then this one would be a good choice. I could see using it as an everyday shou that requires little thought. I do wonder if I was really in the mood for a shou. That might be why I found less to it than I might otherwise, or perhaps I have been spoilt recently by other superb teas. Anyway, thank you to my tea chum. I enjoyed the tea even though I did not find it to be stellar. I have a couple more samples to try from my friend but I think I need to wait for the shou craving, because one of them is a mystery sample that he is testing me with. I really have no idea what to expect from it.