189 Tasting Notes
I’m looking to start aging some sheng Puer cakes finally. I’ve been into Gongfu cha and loose tea for about a year and a half now and only got my first cake a month ago. I’m surprised I didn’t get more interested in that sooner, but then again it was more that I couldn’t afford to and hadn’t found the right cakes to purchase.
I ordered a sample of this because I love Moonlight White and I’m hoping this one will be nice for aging since it is a really good price for the size of it.
I tasted the rinse infusion just out of curiosity. It had a subtle honey taste and primarily a taste that reminds me of Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka.
After rinsing, the leaves have a bit of musty smell typical of Puer, but they also have a nice charming perfumed aroma with hints of spice. This is the aroma I’m used to with Yue Guang Bai, though I feel like this cake has a bit earthier scent than I’m used to and is maybe a bit more muted.
The first actual infusion tastes similar, light honey notes with a black tea body, the fruity tones I’m used to in Moonlight White are very subdued in this one if they are even present at all. By the second infusion, it’s tasting a bit more like raw honey with a creamy note, but I wouldn’t say it’s sweet. It’s the flavor of honey, not the sweetness. There is still a black-tea-like body present.
This tea is peculiar. It has some nice qualities and some that are not so nice to me. The flavor starts out somewhat enjoyable for me with the honey-like flavor, but the black-tea kind of flavor afterwards is not that enjoyable to me. After leaving the room and coming back, it definitely smelled like I had brewed black tea. With other Moonlight Whites I’ve had, the fragrance is much more perfumed and spiced, almost like a white wine or a nice scotch. This one just isn’t hitting me that way.
It’s not a bad cake. If you like the flavors, the current price is a really good one for such a large Puer cake. Would be good for beginners looking to experiment with Puer brewing techniques, but I don’t think I could recommend this tea for aging. It just doesn’t seem to have the complexity I’d want for a tea I’m going to age. Considering this one is already 7 years old, I don’t really see it developing qualities that would really change my mind.
All that said, if you like black tea with a bit of sweetness, this may be exactly the tea for you.
Flavors: Cream, Honey, Musty, Tea
The scent of the dry leaves in a warm gaiwan is just lovely, a mix of old books or old board game boxes mixed with petrichor and some tiny hints of apricot.
After a rinse, an intense plum fragrance exudes from the leaves, with a light vanilla note and still some of the aged books or old house kind of smell.
I tasted the rinse infusion. It smelled a bit of sweet dough and it had a slight dusty taste and a light overall flavor with a gentle sweetness. The flavor reminds me of the white stick you get in a Fun Dip candy. YUM! This is a rinse I enjoy drinking and will not be tossing out!
After the first infusion, the wet leaves have a more bright and sweet aroma like wet grass and soil during rain. The tea liquid smells like sweet dough with a hint of cinnamon, like cinnamon roll dough. The taste is complex, light, and sweet, with powdered sugar and subtle fruit qualities.
The second infusion has a deeper dried fruit flavor, is a bit less sweet, but is really mellow and rich. There’s a nice enjoyable quality to it. I taste faint notes of dandelion and burdock. If I swish the tea around in my mouth there’s even a bit of a wet fur taste that comes through.
The third infusion has just the most rich and delicious scent. I’m reminded again of sweet pastry dough with a hint of cinnamon, or perhaps horchata. As flavor goes, it is still rather light and mellow. I am having an interesting experiment tonight, as I just brewed a gaiwan of the loose Moonlight White from Jingmai (also from Bana Tea) a while ago. I purchased that tea on my own and this brick tea is a sample from a friend. I’m trying to decide which one I’d like to purchase on an upcoming order soon.
Having the two back-to-back is odd. They have similarities, but are very distinct. The loose tea is from 2012 and much younger. It has sweet and bright qualities, and a little more honey like sweetness. It almost tastes more like a white tea than a Puer. On the other hand, the brick tea is from 2007 and has a more complex nature with the aged earthy-musty notes blending with the sweet notes. The result is more a dulling down of the sweet tones than an enhancement of them, or perhaps this harvest itself is not as sweet as the one from Jingmai, as the cake tea is from a different source. The cake certainly has a mellower and perhaps weaker flavor, but the additional element of the aged taste creates more complexity and richness. Moonlight white is a tea you must brew more deeply than most other raw puer. It simply doesn’t give a bold flavor with very quick infusions unless you pack your gaiwan really full with it. I’m brewing 5g per 100ml right now and am having to add 10-15 seconds to each infusion. It has no bitterness or bite that you may expect from a raw Puer, even when young.
With both versions of this tea, if the flavor intensity and quality were mapped, they’d form a basin. The first few infusions are rich and flavorful, then the next several seem weaker, but the later infusions, pushing toward 6-8, become more rich and flavorful.
I’m on the fifth infusion of this tea, and I can tell that it would benefit from being brewed in a thicker gaiwan with higher heat retention, as the one I am using has very thin walls. I just didn’t want to bust out a larger one when drinking this tea alone. The flavor is subtle still, a bit unremarkable. I will raise the temperature for the next few.
These later infusions are mostly tasting of a light mustiness and a subtle fruit-like flavor.
I really love the aroma and flavor early on, but feel like it is tough to push much flavor out of it after the first few infusions, even if infusing it for a couple minutes or more. It’s definitely subtle. I’m curious how it will age, however.
I’ve had a chance to revisit this tea in my thick-walled larger gaiwan and I can say a few things now with certainty. Firstly, I prefer the loose version from Jingmai that Bana sells over this one quite a bit. At first, I think I was appreciating this tea a lot more because it was given to me by a friend and it’s of a varietal that I really like, but if I am to be totally as objective and unbiased as I can be, I feel this cake has a subdued flavor compared to the loose Moonlight White from Jingmai. I felt the cake was more complex at first, but I don’t feel that way now. It just had some more flavors I wasn’t used to, but those flavors have overridden and hidden some of the more subtle complexities that made me really fall in love with the loose version. This cake version, after a few sessions, hasn’t had the lasting appeal of that version. It’s a unique tea, but compared to other compressed raw Puer, I don’t feel it really competes for a place in my collection.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Musty, Pastries, petrichor, Plums
Let’s review some grocery store Puer cake! This is fun simply because you can find these at most Asian grocers, so depending on where you live, this may be the only Puer cake you’ll be able to purchase in person and not online. They’re usually only 10-15 bucks a cake, and because of that, I’ve avoided them, thinking they’d probably be poor quality tea. Let’s find out!
After a rinse, there are some really warm aromas of roasted nuts, sweet tobacco, and leather. The flavor is mellow and round, slightly sweet… earthy, nutty, and with an aftertaste of leather. This is surprisingly non-offensive for a cheap and likely mass-produced tea. There’s a tiny hint of mustard in the taste.
There’s nothing particularly outstanding about this Puer, but as ripe Puer goes, so many of them have very similar flavors to me. I’ve only had one or two where I thought “Hey, this is unique!” Otherwise, they most often seem to just have a similar mellow, enjoyable taste, granted they aren’t too musty. This one isn’t, so no worries there.
So, my verdict is… if you just want a nice everyday kind of Puer cake for helping to get you familiar with Puer brewing, or just to have some tea that you can shamelessly brew without breaking the bank… this isn’t a bad choice! Even if you’re just curious about using a compressed tea cake and aging it, why not give one of these a go? It may not be the most remarkable tea out there, but it’s worth its price for the quantity you get.
Flavors: Earth, Leather, Roasted nuts, Tobacco
The scent of this Puer after rinsing is vegetal with heavy hints of damp forest floor. The lotus scent in this is just barely detectable, a slight licorice-like hint.
The infusion is a sort of dusty yellow and it tastes like paper bag, with lingering flavors reminiscent of fallen tree leaves. The lotus flavor is also just barely detectable.
After the second infusion, the lotus smell is still very subtle in the damp leaves, and there is a scent that reminds you of old, cool weathered enclosures, like an old basement or garage. This infusions yeilds more lotus flavor amid a background of raw puer that is still fairly paper-tasting with vegetal notes as well. There’s a sort of spicy sensation and heat that lingers in the mouth, and a bit of tanginess that sticks to the tongue.
Not having any idea on the age of this tea (it was a sample given to me by an acquaintance), I can already tell it’s somewhat young. On the third infusion, there’s a good deal of bitterness in the taste. I can’t speak for others, I’m sure there are those who would enjoy a tea like this, but I’ve had quality raw puer, and this is not what I consider that to be. There’s not much complexity to the flavor. I’m reminded of sticking a Phenylthiocarbamide test strip in my mouth. Those of you who have done the “supertaster” test, know what I’m talking about, though I’m apparently not a supertaster, so I’m not talking about the full brunt of the bitterness you would get from that experience if you were. As the tea cools, the taste I am getting is more pepper with hints of lotus. I can’t say this is bad quality tea, just as much as I can’t say it’s good quality. It’s just not doing much for me. There’s a lingering sweetness in my mouth now that intrigues me, so I’ll push it one more infusion and see where that leads.
On the fourth infusion I’m getting much more spicy and vegetal notes on the scent of the leaves. It’s more pleasant than before. The taste now is a little more rich and vegetal, less like paper, but it is still a bit bitter and the lotus is a very faint aftertaste. When I have to bend my thoughts to try to accept or enjoy a tea, it just isn’t for me.
Flavors: Anise, Bitter, Paper, Vegetal
Thanks again, Garret, for the sample!
This mao cha has a heavy smell of smoke, or smoked meat. After a rinse there are some green vegetal notes coming through in the aroma and still a good amount of smokey smell.
The taste of the first infusion is a bit light, a bit of a tart fruit like flavor, reminds me of the smell of hedge apples or the taste of an underripe pear.
By the second infusion, the leaves have released some sweet citrus aromas and a bit of floral. This cup tastes more buttery and citrusy, and smells a little smokey still. As the tea cools there are hints of anise and pepper in the flavor.
The third infusion has a sort of alcohol taste in the aftertaste. I can’t decide if it’s like having a dry white wine or more like hops in a beer, but it’s one of those. There’s still a bit of smokiness as well.
The fourth infusion is a little creamy with wood notes and smoke.
Overall, this tea has a lot of changes from one infusion to the next. It isn’t really the type of flavor spectrum that I seek out, but it’s an interesting tea nonetheless. It seems like one that might age well.
Flavors: Citrus, Creamy, Pepper, Smoke, White Wine, Wood
Thanks, Garret, for the sample!
An initial rinse of these dark leaves reveals a very fresh, cool scent that smells like sweet dough and mineral. There’s also a nice scent of petrichor, the smell of the air when it rains. A very faint hint of vanilla whispers by.
The first infusion brings out more aromas, this time of sweet cocoa and hooka smoke. The infusion is a gorgeous dusty rose color. The flavor is very delicate and sweet. It doesn’t have the mustiness of a lot of ripe Puer teas. There’s a cooling sensation or hui-gan that stays in my mouth long after finishing the sip.
After the second infusion, not surprisingly, I’m getting rose on the nose. I felt something very “rosy” about this tea. Apparently it’s not just the color. By this infusion, the brew is a deeper color, reddish. The flavor is not as sweet this time. It’s got a bit of wood or leather quality to it now, but it is still very smooth and enjoyable. It really leaves a lasting taste in the mouth. There’s a very buttery flavor that coats the gums. You can lick it off of them and taste it very distinctly, an interesting quality I’ve never noticed in a tea before.
The third infusion is rich and again somewhat sweet. It’s mellow. This is the cleanest tasting ripe Puer I have tried.
I pushed my 4th infusion a little bit longer to see what this would taste like with a stronger brew. I’m not noticing anything different. It has consistently good flavor. In fact, I think it tasted better when brewed a bit more delicately.
This is a very enjoyable Puer tea and a milder one. Some ripe Puer tea I’ve had that was mellower tasted bland and uninteresting, but this one is truly relaxing and shines in its subtlety. This is exactly the right kind of tea I’d need to relax after a long day.
Flavors: Mineral, Pastries, petrichor, Vanilla
This is a really strange tisane. The flowers are large and a beautiful red. They smell like smoked meat, particularly like a beef snack stick, the sort of long… thin snack sausages you can find in nearly every convenience store in the US… like a Slim Jim.
The infusion brews a sort of amber color. The flavor is surprisingly sweeter than I expected, a little bit fruity but more umami, kind of a tomato flavor, with a hint of smoke that follows in the aftertaste. It’s a little bit tangy like hibiscus, but not nearly as bold.
I can’t believe how much I actually enjoy this. It tastes a lot like tomato juice but with a smokey aftertaste. After the smokey aftertaste dies out, the taste left in my mouth reminds me of dried apple chips, especially tart green ones like Granny Smith.
I feel funny rating this tisane higher than the green smiley face on the scale. Haha. I feel kind of nuts for liking this.
Flavors: Meat, Smoked, Tangy, Umami
I was told this tea was a nightmare of bitterness and the person who gave it to me said they wouldn’t feel right even giving it to an enemy. Haha. This was an invitation to adventure for me.
I brewed the kuding cha in my gaiwan for about 2 minutes at 185 degrees. I was surprsied that the tightly wound leaf didn’t really open up much in that amount of time. You could resteep this several times.
The brewed tea is a pretty pale green. The aroma after brewing reminds me of two things… freshly opened plastic hard-cases like you find electronics often packaged in… and the smell of old buildings. Neither are bad to me, I should mention, just uncommon for a tea. There is also a heavy aroma of wet hay and clay-rich mud.
Wowwwww, oh goodness wow. That is some bitter tea. What’s strange is that the bitterness isn’t just straight-up gag-reflex inducing bitterness. It’s the kind of bitterness I can see those who like bitterness enjoying. I am not a big fan of bitter flavors in general. I can’t even eat grapefruit, so this is definitely not a tea for me, but let me see if I can describe this taste a bit better. The taste starts out like the taste of paper and is even mildly sugary sweet. If you hold your breath while moving it around in your mouth, you can’t even taste the bitterness. It’s only after swallowing the tea and breathing that the bitterness really sneaks in. Or maybe the effect sort of diminishes after a sip or two.
On the second infusion the tea is a lot less bitter, or maybe I’ve gotten used to it!
I’ll be honest. It’s not nearly as terrible as what I expected. I think if you have a guilty pleasure for bitterness or “antique” aromas, or are just really into traditional Chinese medicine, this could be a good tea for you.
Flavors: Bitter, Paper, Sweet
Never had a silver oolong before. This tea from Nepal looks similar to a Taiwanese Bai Hao, an open-leaf style oolong with loosely curled strips and some fuzzy white buds in the mix, though this is more green. There’s a very distinct and familiar smell to this tea that I can’t quite figure out from smelling the dry leaves. It smells like old book pages and something else… I believe the aroma I am getting is pine wood, similar to a pinewood box (fuku masu) for drinking sake when it is wet and full of sake.
When I pulled the lid off my gaiwan after the first infusion, the first words to come out of my mouth were excited expletives, as I wasn’t expecting the intense aroma that drifted over to me. It’s hard to describe, but the scent smells like fruit flowers, maybe a little like orange blossoms, and is very vibrant and uplifting. It reminds me of the aroma of some of the best white teas I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy. There’s a good deal of the scent I’m familiar with in a good quality first flush Darjeeling as well, sort of perfumed, a bit earthy, and lightly fruity.
The brew is very sweet. The taste is very floral with hints of citrus and definite notes of pear.
On the second infusion the aroma is of flowers and fruit, maybe raspberries. The taste is a bit more perfume-like, reminding me once again of orange blossoms. The infusion is a pale creamy yellow. Oh, hey! Look at that. I just checked the website to read up on this tea a bit and they also describe it as having an orange blossom note.
This tea is really vibrant and enjoyable. The energy of this tea is more invigorating than calming.
The fourth infusion tastes more like orange blossoms and herbs. It’s really sweet and relaxing, very spring like.
This tea is incredibly aromatic and seems to be best when brewed somewhat lightly. If you go too heavy on the leaf, it becomes astringent.
Flavors: Fruit Tree Flowers, Orange Blossom, Pear, Pine
This is a very nutty and mellow tasting sencha. I had it stored with other tea samples and it seems to have taken on flavors from some of them, so I’m not going to do an in-depth review. I can say though that this one is mellow and a bit sweet, pretty good tasting. I’m getting hints of anise but I think that is from other tea scents that got into it.
Flavors: Nutty, Sweet