140 Tasting Notes
This sample is part of the Ripe Puer sampler I got from Mandala teas a while back. I drank it prior to writing this review (I usually drink tea while writing the review), so I can’t say too much about it in specific detail.
Shu Puer is a strange category to me in that I find most of them to be mediocre. They rarely have really distinguishing qualities and often taste rather similar to me. Further, they have never really “wowed” me yet, but this is what I like about them. They are easy to drink without giving too much attention to them. They are gentle and comforting, mild.
I will say this one didn’t have any real mustiness or leatheriness to the flavor. It was mild and easygoing all around and rather enjoyable. However it lacked any notes that really stood out. It got a little sweet in later infusions.
This is an all around good Puer to have if you want to drink tea casually and relaxed, perhaps with some conversation.
This tea has incredible flavor. I was sent two samples of this by Yunomi. They are packaged in little 1 gram foil pouches that are strip-shaped, so the tea could easily be poured into a cup or water bottle or wherever you want to put it really. The first one, I simply dissolved into about 5 ounces of warm water in a cup. The second one I decided to prepare like matcha, whisked in a chawan with just about 2.5 ounces of water.
Of these two methods, I really prefer the second. The result is a beautiful emerald green drink with a seafoam green froth. The mouthfeel is very milky, thick, and full, and not at all drying. The flavor is incredibly rich and green. It’s very nutty with hints of pistachio and edamame. The warm, nutty flavor really fills your mouth and nostrils. I wouldn’t say this tea is sweet. It’s more savory than sweet, but it is definitely mellow. There’s very little bitterness to this tea even mixed so strongly.
I have a lot of difficulty describing green flavors like this, but I think the emphasis is on a rather mellow, nutty kind of flavor more than a vegetal one.
When mixed into more water the first time I had it, the flavor was rather subdued, so I feel I may have used too much water. That time. The packet didn’t say how much water you should use it with. Maybe 3-4 ounces is ideal.
Flavors: Green, Nutty, Soybean
I’ve had this tea quite a while. I usually don’t think to review Shang Teas because I am impressed by really everything they offer and have at one time or another owned most of their teas. I don’t need to rate and review them to know them well. I’ve become pretty connected to them. I forget that others might like to know about their qualities. This review comes in the wake of a yixing crisis that led me to rediscover this tea.
If I’ve caught any of you yixing lovers’ attention now, what I mean is that I recently got a new yixing pot. I’ve been using it a few weeks now with some Gui Fei oolong, and while it has built up the most caramely, rich, sweet aroma and flavor, I have to admit I found myself wondering if the tea was really as good as I remember it from when I first brewed it in a gaiwan, so I got out my gaiwan and tried it in there. Sure enough, it was better than in the yixing pot. Whaaaat? I was sure I’d used it enough to be seasoned and not still extracting flavor?
Research led me to find that the type of yixing pot I have is thick-walled and low fired, so not only is the heat retention a bit too high for greener oolongs, but it is porous enough to steal their aroma. I had to put a lot of thought into how to re-season my yixing pot as the shape and thickness and clay type of it make it ideal for high-temperature teas, particularly red tea or puer. I don’t really drink a lot of either, so I had to decide which one I’d enjoy having more often and enjoy exploring more of (and sharing with friends). I went with red since I thought it would be better complemented by the sweetness already built up in the pot from the Gui Fei, and a friend mentioned the red color of the tea would complement the blue yixing clay well, which I agree with immensely. I’m reminded of Icelandic volcanoes when pouring the deep red-orange drops from the deep blue pot that is etched with a golden crackle design.
So out comes the golden needle to re-season the pot. It took to it well and blended well with the sweetness from the gui fei as I thought it would. I did the “un-seasoning” process of boiling it in just water for about half an hour to get the original tea scents I used in it out, but it only half did the job. I knew it wasn’t all gonna come out. Either way, it works well and in time it will grow to be more distinctly “red” and less “sweet oolong”.
As for this golden needle, it is really a mellow tea, even when using a lot of leaf. The flavor is light and there is really no bitterness or astringency in it like you might find in some Yunnan red teas. It’s just smooth and zen, the slightest bit tart. The flavor is malty and really this is one of those teas that isn’t super flashy with elaborate notes. This is a tea that tastes like tea and in that since it is humbling and simple, easy to appreciate. It has a little note of lychee, though that may be a lingering effect of the Gui Fei I had in this pot before, which has strong lychee notes.There are also little hints of dried fruit.
The second infusion of this tea is my favorite. It is rather sweet and syrupy. Really flavorful and forgiving. No bitterness or drying sensation. It’s a very juicy red tea, a real joy to drink. This could easily be a real favorite of mine if it was a hint sweeter, but I’m not about to go make it in a mug with some sugar. It’s great just how it is.
Flavors: Dried Fruit, Lychee, Malt, Tea
I am re-visiting this review to say a couple important things. First of all, I love this tea so much I have a $115 dollar yixing pot dedicated to it (I occasionally let some other fruity/floral unroasted oolongs in there, but not often). The seasoning on this pot just keeps getting more deliciously sweet and rich. It smells like caramel and fruit when I open it up. Secondly, LYCHEE!!! I had some trouble putting my thumb on what the flavors of this tea are the first time. I kept thinking apples and roses/magnolias… then I had a lychee fruit beverage yesterday and suddenly it hit me. Lychee has a really floral kind of fruitiness to me, and it is almost identical to the flavor of this tea (Lychee flavored Calpico is the drink I had, FYI, which is a creamy non-carbonated soft drink from Japan).
All that said, here is my original review from several months ago when I first tried it:
This is my first bug-bitten oolong! I’m so excited! I received this as a sample from Green Terrace Teas, a new company based in Taiwan. The samples were vacuum sealed in attractive gold foil packaging and labeled elegantly and clearly in both Chinese and English. I am very impressed by how professional these samples are presented!
After a quick rinse of the leaves, I am totally enamored by the aroma of this oolong. There are notes of apples, cream, butter, warm honey and magnolias (or roses). This is unlike anything I’ve encountered; the smell is so wonderful I sat and smelled it for a strong minute or two before brewing the first infusion.
Despite an even more floral aroma after a quick 30-second steep, the gold liquor yielded by this tea tastes very sweet and mellow. I primarily taste subtle notes of apples, honey and flowers. There’s a very evident hui gan. The taste is surprisingly mellower than the aroma.
The second steeping has all the same flavors. It is exceptionally mellow and honey-like with crisp notes of apple and floral magnolia tones coming through. The brew is a deep yellow color.
As the brewed leaves unfurl completely, they are gorgeously green with red-brown edges. The tiny holes from leaf hopper bites are quite fun to look at, and the tea has become noticeably more floral. By the third and fourth infusion, it is still sweet but more floral. I can see this tea lasting a good many steepings and I intend to sit and enjoy them without thinking and focusing on describing the tea, so I will end my review here. I’ve become rather tea drunk from this one tea. I feel like I’ve become flowing water.
This really is an incredible tea and one not to overlook.
Flavors: Apple, Creamy, Honey, Lychee, Rose
Big thanks to TeaBrat for this sample.
This stuff smells like heaven. There’s this wonderful sweet citrus scent to the brewed leaves, or maybe it’s the smell of spiced apples. It’s accompanied by notes of cinnamon stick and pine. This stuff smells like the potpourri smell you catch walking into some quaint little craft shop. It’s nostalgic.
Being made from Ya Bao, the infusion is rather pale, just a hint of yellow. It’s also slightly cloudy, which isn’t uncommon for fermented teas. The flavor is really unique. It has a bit of a smokey and peppery finish, but the main presence in the sip is like a cinnamon-apple peel kind of taste. It’s got a creamy body to it.
The second infusion of this got a little more strong in flavor. It’s got the tangy Sheng Puer vibe now, reminding me less of loose un-aged Ya Bao and more of Sheng. There’s a fizzy quality to this tea. It’s really nifty. In later infusions the smokier qualities emerge more. There’s a lemony tartness to it that I didn’t really think about at first, but after reading other reviews and tasting some more, it’s undeniable.
Flavors: Apple Skins, Bark, Cinnamon, Lemon, Wood
This Raw puer is really nice, less bitter than some other puer this young. There’s a sweet overtone and the undertone is of wood and white pepper. A little lasting bitterness stays in your mouth, along with the peppery taste.
The funny thing about Puer teas is that there’s so much info out there about how you can steep it 20+ times. Granted, that’s true, the question I find myself asking when drinking a Puer tea is… do I want to?
If I can make it through 5 or 6 steepings and still be interested that’s saying something. I love the Gongfu approach to tea, but for me to really do a lot of extended infusions means it has got to be cream of the crop flavor, or it has got to have some interesting changes from one infusion to the next. Sometimes if I don’t see that really happening over the first 5 or 6 I’ll just stop there because the water I use for tea is expensive relatively speaking… it’s about 35 cents a gallon and I have to walk over a mile with a glass jug weighing over 50 pounds to get more. Thankfully I have a little cart with wheels to help me with this, but pulling it up and down hills can still be tiresome. I’m veering off course a little bit, but these are my thoughts at the moment.
Back to the tea. I like how sheng puer teas tend to mellow out after the first 4 or 5 infusions, and I think this is when I enjoy them the most. Some people rinse them at least twice before drinking to get to this point sooner, and while I don’t do that myself, I can see the appeal. As I move deeper into the infusions on this one, there’s a bit of a sweet floral taste emerging, overtaking the wood notes, but pepper is still the dominant flavor.
This was not a bad puer. It’s not as complex or suited to my tastes as many others I’ve had, but it is also agreeable and nice to drink.
Flavors: Floral, Pepper, Sweet, Wood
This is a pretty mellow and easy-to-drink Puer. It’s really quite calming in that way.
The first tastes I got from the sip were of leather, earth, and dried fig. The wet leaves also smell of dried fig. The infusion color is a deep, dark brown as with most ripe Puer. There really isn’t much change from one infusion to the next, but it does seem to become even more mellow and with a bit of a dull sweetness to it. It’s a pretty agreeable Puer, despite not being a very complex-tasting one.
This puer may be a bit too much of a smooth-talker, giving me a bit of a cloying feeling. I think I need a little more to ponder on in my shu puer, a little more substance.
Flavors: Dried Fruit, Earth, Fig, Leather
This Wu-Long is made from white tea cultivar (Da Bai), the only one of its kind I’ve ever come across. Shang makes two varieties of this, and of the two this one is superior. Out of curiosity I had one of the folks at the shop fix me a sample of this and the other one and not tell me which one was which so I could decide which was better without a bias. I tasted both for a few infusions and compared to see which one I’d like more and this one was the winner for sure.
It’s been about a year since I purchased this tea and it has become even better with age. I have to say I made a major discovery with this tea today that I wish I had made earlier. That is that you should brew it at hotter temperatures like you might with any other oolong. I had always brewed it at 185F, the temperature I brew white teas. Oh foolish me! I tried it at 194F today while pondering on some info I have come across lately that talks about how oolongs get their distinct flavor from polyphenols that require high temperatures to dissolve. What a difference nine degrees makes!
The leaves smell a lot like golden raisins when dry and have a sort of wine-like scent after brewing. It reminds me of a second flush Darjeeling in many ways. The brew is incredibly buttery, sweet like dried fruit and has a splash of saltiness. In the second infusion there is an incredible spritz of floral notes along with it that sort of tingles the tongue and stimulates the saliva glands. The brew color is a beautiful apricot and the scent gives off notes of allspice and autumn forest. The tea is very wet and thick feeling in the mouth, not drying at all. The lingering aftertaste is honeyed floral and just sits in your mouth for a long time.
This is an all-star tea. It had been silently tucked away on my shelves for quite some time after I had gradually come to feel it wasn’t one of my preferred teas, but with age and some hotter water, this produced something absolutely transcendent. Way to go Shang Tea for pulling this off! White tea as oolong is a really unique concept in the tea world.
I’ll be coveting the rest of what I have of this. What a wonderful and appropriate tea for Autumn too. Really suits the atmosphere.
Flavors: Dried Fruit, Flowers, Honey, Salty, Sweet
This shouldn’t be this good… I didn’t expect it to be this good preparing it the traditional way matcha is prepared in a chawan with hwhisk (say it, HWHISK! haha), two chashaku scoops of matcha and about 2.5 ounces of water.
The caramel flavor is rich and thick, it blends well with the really rich and vegetal matcha. The color looks like greenish mud. The sweet caramel flavor lingers on your tongue long after you’ve finished drinking it. I imagine this stuff is more intended to be used in lattes or the kitchen, but I quite enjoyed it this way. There are some tiny whitish rectangular pieces in the matcha that were left in the sifter, though some made it through. I don’t know what these are. At first I thought they were pieces of stem but there were no coarse pieces in the drink after mixing, so I must assume they were sugar crystals or some other solidified form of flavoring that dissolves in the tea.
While this matcha is definitely not my thing, I can’t help but give it a high rating. It isn’t something I’ll purchase, but I do enjoy the sample I have quite a bit. I would say this might be a good matcha to use if trying to get into preparing matcha with a whisk but you don’t like the taste of matcha much. It could be a good gateway, if it weren’t for the fact that it simply doesn’t hold a froth. The bubbles dissipate very quickly and the foam is very thin and unstable. Ah well. The flavor is what counts with this one, I imagine.
Flavors: Caramel, Green
This matcha whisked up in a jif and smells nice and sweet. The flavor is a nice balance of vegetal, sweet, and bitter. This is a very well-balanced matcha so it is aptly named if it’s considered the “classic”. The color is a deep foresty green. There’s a bit of tanginess or sourness that lingers on the tongue after a sip, similar to lemon juice.
This one is actually pretty good. It has all the qualities I’ve been finding in the different matcha teas from Red Leaf all rolled into one, a good intermediary.
Flavors: Astringent, Grass, Sour, Sweet, Tangy, Vegetal