198 Tasting Notes


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

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 tsp 3 OZ / 100 ML

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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

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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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

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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drank Dehong Mao Cha 2013 by Mandala Tea
198 tasting notes

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

195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

i liked this one a lot


Ooh, sounds lovely. I love me some smoky sheng.


Yep +1 on the smoky. I don’t mind it when its not smacking you in the face but subtle smoke.

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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

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

Your pleasure is my pleasure. Thanks for writing up your thoughts on this, my friend. In regard to your gongfu question via email – you are on the exact track. There are no rules. Following ones heart and being with each sip is, in my opinion, the most important part of gongfu anything :)

You’ve got this. You always have.

with gratitude,

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drank Lily by ESGREEN
198 tasting notes

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

205 °F / 96 °C 1 min, 30 sec 2 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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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

185 °F / 85 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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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

185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 30 sec 3 g 100 OZ / 2957 ML

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drank Tomo Sencha by Wegmans
198 tasting notes

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

160 °F / 71 °C 1 min, 0 sec 3 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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After infusing, the tea smells very nutty and vegetal, like green beans

The brewed tea is a sort of yellow-green color, kind of sickly looking if I’m being honest. The scent is quite umami and reminds me of gyokuru. The flavor is unique. It has a flash of bitterness, but an agreeable kind and underneath that is a rich bed of umami with very green and vegetal tones, and some hints of herb and mushroom.

On the second infusion, the flavor is dramatically different, much more mellow and subdued, more sweet and nutty. I imagine this is because most of the matcha was poured and drank in the first infusion. There’s a bit of a sour tang in the finish.

The third infusion is even more subtle and tastes something like green beans and nuts. There’s a little saltiness as well. I got this sample from an acquaintance, so I can’t say how old it is, and it certainly hasn’t been properly stored for a Japanese green tea since I got it. I have had it in a little plastic bag just sitting in a box of other samples for months, so I imagine I am not experiencing this tea in its ideal state of freshness. I’ll lean a little higher on my rating to account for that.

I don’t know if matcha-laced teas are really my thing. I’ve only had a couple now. I enjoy sencha because most I have had are very calming and don’t have an intense feeling from caffeine. Adding matcha to the tea makes it seem more invigorating and gives me more of the sensation of caffeine rush, so I don’t particularly enjoy that. This wasn’t a bad tea. The flavor was nice, but it’s not really something I prefer… a little too “edgy” for me, I think.

Flavors: Bitter, Green Beans, Nuts, Umami

160 °F / 71 °C 1 min, 0 sec 3 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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I’m a dedicated practitioner of Gongfu Cha and you can usually find me brewing my tea in a gaiwan. I tend to stick to straight teas and scented teas most often, though I dabble in tisanes and flavored blends sometimes. I use a Tokoname-ware kyusu for Japanese green teas and a chawan for matcha. I also have a small unglazed kyusu that I use for roasty teas like houjicha and genmaicha. I have a yixing pot seasoned with Yunnan red tea.

My favorite teas are Kenyan Silver Needle, Gui Fei, Da Hong Pao, Shan Lin Xi, WYMM Tea’s Mangnuo “Cane Tea”, Obubu Tea’s Sencha of the Autumn Moon, and Shang Tea’s Special Reserve Green.

To me, tea offers a time of peace and reflection in solitude, or sharing and enjoyment with friends. It has become a huge part of my life lately. I hold monthly tea gatherings at my home and run a Facebook page about tea called Lion Style Gongfu Tea: http://tinyurl.com/teawithlion

Aside from tea, I’m a creative person. I love to cook, create music, write fiction, draw, decorate, and do just about anything creative I can get my paws on. I also enjoy creating food and drink recipes.

I am really interested in Asian cultures in all aspects. I really love Japanese animation and video games as well.

I’m a friend to animals of all kinds. I couldn’t live in a world without animals. Conserving and respecting them is very important to me. I’m a lion at heart. :3

But I am mostly here on Steepster to talk tea! Let’s enjoy the world of tea together!

My Tea Ratings:
0 = Terrible
25 = Unenjoyable or harsh
50 = Average, I’m indifferent
75 = Enjoyable
100 = Incredible


Kansas City, USA



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