59 Tasting Notes

Currently sipping on some of this shu. I’ve left the whole tuocha in the bottom of my cup, and I’ll refill once I get low.

It’s an odd sight: the top of my brew is a light clear brown, but down at the bottom, I can see this bloom of dark red spreading out around the little tuo-cha. So far, it’s pleasant, light and sweet (reminiscent of blooming teas and the smell of a bag of those Valnetine’s Day candy hearts), but I wonder what I’ll be tasting when the dark ruddy cloud fills the whole cup?

It’s a pleasant enough tea to drink while working. Having it in a big mug, it makes more sense than I remember when I first tried this in a gaiwan months and months ago. I’m still not completely sold on why rose and shu pu’er should go together, but I also can’t hold anything against the innocuous little tou.

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Pulled this out of the old big-bag-o-tea-at-work and thought, hey! sheng! how did this get in the bag? Sounds like a nice afternoon tea.

Steeping in my brew basket.. quick “improv gongfu style” steepings.

The leaves smell pleasant enough (smoky, metallic shine, a faraway berry that’s almost musk-like). The nose reminds me of Banzhang, but I honestly haven’t looked into what makes up this particular recipe. Liquor is an orangey color.. auburn?

First steeping:
Hm.. not too much here, in terms of either taste or texture. I know there should be something here, so it’s a bit like playing hide-and-seek. Flavor? Where are yooou? Maybe it will come as I sip and the cup cools…

After sipping through half of my cup, I’ve found a little more. There’s a whisper of metallic smoke in the taste. The body of it reminds me of the last dying breaths of a sheng.. way into the 25+ steepings, where you have mostly just body, overlaid with ghost reflections of all that’s come before. Only issue here is that I don’t have any aftertastes and textures for this body to play with (since this is the first steeping), so I’m left puzzled. Most of what I get is in the aftertaste/texture. My tongue feels puckered.. dry only in the front of my tongue, but luckily not in the back of my throat. It almost feels like I’ve burnt my tongue, but goodness knows the water here at work can’t get that hot. The aftertaste is also reminding me a bit of a Chinese restaurant jasmine-green (some astringency on the sides of my tongue links of with dinner-grade jasmine perfume, plus the mellow vegetal grassiness).

Overall, mellow, but strangely absent. Since I’m working at the same time, the lack of complexity or..er…flavors are fine, but I’m a little sad. Guess I’m spoiled for sheng pu’er these days and was looking forward to a bit of unexpected sparkle and surprise. It’s also a young brick, so on the plus side, I don’t feel like I’m getting kicked in the teeth with a bucket of smokey, bitter coins!

I’ll try the next steepings with less water and hotter water to see if I can get this shy one to open up into something fun. No “chaqi” to speak of so far, but I am feeling a bit of the jitters creeping up on me.. Perhaps if someone were smoking, I would have an uneasy stomach, but luckily, this isn’t China.

Second Steep
Used much less water here, and steeped it for close to 40 seconds (normally, on a second steep of a similarly aged sheng, I would do 10-15..). There we go: there’s something in the cup this time. The color is a pretty orange (like some of the leaves outside).

I’m getting much more Banzhang now, but the taste reminds me much more of Banzhang fannings I’ve had on occassion (ends of bricks, or taking from the bottom of a pouch because I’m just drinking by myself). By that, I mean there’s grainy wood on the underside of the sides of my tongue. In other shengs, I’ve found this appealing, but I think that’s because it is so often paired with a chocolate or hazelnut or cream texture and taste in the middle. This one is hanging out by itself, reminding me of a dock in the middle of a bay. Where are you going? What are you pointing to? It’s just out by itself in a body that is sweet… simple and generic, with no berry or fruit specificity.

The puckering is still there, layering up on itself like quilts. Atringency turning to true bitterness, but not so unpleasant because it’s all concentrated on the front of my tongue, not the back.

Aftertaste seems at first nonexistant, or just a bright vegetal vibration that tapers off in a second or two. After a minute, I realize this now reminds me of citrus and spice. It doesn’t taste that way.. I just find myself reminded.

It’s certainly caffeinated (hello diuretic!), but in terms of energy. this feels more like a sloshy, unruly caffeine that wants to shake out into my arms or leave my with water in my shoes.. not a feeling of calm and center. As it cools, I realize that I do not want this to cool. The woodiness and astringency are bullying their way to the forefront as all of the other aspects fall asleep. Doing this from little cups would certainly eliminate this issue.

I wonder if I can get another steeping out of these leaves? It’s kind of terrifying to imagine steeping a sheng of this age for over a minute on the third steep, but I think that’s what’s called for. Adventure time.. ho!

Third Steeping
Well, I did it. Tiny amount of water, and steeped for almost a minute and a half.

No disaster here, though. I had to sneak in a peanut butter cracker sandwich while this was steeping, since it definitely made me hungry. The first sip was actually pretty nice with the aftertaste of salty peanut butter.

This steeping is definitely more full and flavorful, but at the same time, it continues to feel as if this tea was already mostly steeped out before I started drinking. There are some floral elements, notes that remind me of nut skins in a savory sweet sauce (black bean or garlic?). These are all whispers and implications, so I may be working a little hard to pull them into substantial references. Mostly, this reminds me of a young sheng that is nearing the end of it’s steeping arc.

Conclusions
I’m not sure about this one. A friend and I put together a JASetea order quite awhile ago, and this is some of what’s left. On the whole, I’m perfectly fine not having a brick of this to age. The description emphasizes the high quality leaves and the classic recipe. Sure, fine. I don’t think there’s anything that stands out negatively.. except that nothing much has stood out during my steeping. It’s a wallflower plastered underneath the wallpaper, behind a giant chair. When pushed for more complexity and interest, it seems to just push right on over. At it’s best, it was sweet and mellow, with nothing to stick out and grab the interested sipper. Safe to the point of boredom. But then again, I don’t know if I would recommend this to someone who’s afraid of shengs, because it has offered little reward today, and it can get overly woody, wooly, and metallic. It’s no kick in the face, but it’s not much of anything else either.

To be fair I am steeping this at work in a brew-basket, not in my little gaiwan, not in spring water at just below boiling. This will probably be more generous in more loving conditions, but still.. I have my doubts about what this really could be giving, even treated in the most pampered way.

Has anyone else tried this recently? It’s been sold out for sometime from JASe Tea, but apparently it’s been a big hit with some pu’er bloggers? I’m not sure myself.. it mostly just leaves me puzzled.

One more update
The caffeine from this is harsher than I previously thought. Sure, it is a little chilly back here, but not enough to leave me shivering and my teeth chattering! Whoooo… I have no upset stomach, but I would not want to be balancing any fragile things right now. Generally, I am blissfully immune to caffeine’s stimulant effects. I don’t think I’ve had a reaction like this since the days of spending 8+ hours sampling teas with no breakfast or lunch in me.

Charles Thomas Draper

They are sold-out other than samples.

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Wow! I have to share something amazing quickly here:

Someone brought Whoppers malted milk balls to work and put them out for us all to share. I grabbed a handful, and then rooted around in my sack-o-tea-at-work to find an afternoon pick-me up. Luck put the Mi Lan black into my hands. THANK YOU, Lady Luck!

So, I ate a whopper, then I took a sip of this tea. Ugh- so delicious. The malt and milk chocolate really bring out the rich herbaceous qualities at the base in this tea, and emphasize the notes of fruit until it feels like I’m have some good and VERY purple concord jelly.

If you have this tea and if you like malt balls, you must give this pairing a try! Omnomnom..slurpityslurp. A match made in heaven.

This is the afternoon pick me up I needed.

Bonnie

See…purple is good…I’ve seen purple edges on tea before.

Spoonvonstup

Yes- purple is great. This tea tastes both purple, blue-green, and a lovely dark chocolatey shadow.. reminds me of a lot of the Song dynasty Jun glazes I saw at the MIA last weekend.
Take a look at this incense burner, and you’ll see the colors I am tasting: http://www.dynastyantique.com/ebay/items/7885/1.JPG
Just imagine the malty beautiful chocolatey brown of the taste of Laoshan black dusted on the edges or (even better) filling the vessel as a liquid, and that captures the taste pretty well.

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Yum- this is a great afternoon tea. Longjing from this year’s spring sent by a friend.

Nutty and buttery (in a sweet way, not savory) with a texture that reminds me of pudding, plus the background layer of sweet, cool greens. Also a tiny bit of green apple skins.

Yeesh, I have to be careful to leave some buds in the cup to keep steeping and not eat them- they are quite tender and delicious. Looking forward to snacking – er- sipping on this all afternoon. I don’t often find myself in the mood for real Dragonwell (love ya, Laoshan!), so now that I am and I have it in front of me, here’s to soft and sunny!

Kashyap

longjing is great for summery days

chadao

I’m with ya on this tasting note. I just shared a gaiwan of Shi Feng Long Jing with a friend today. It made my day that much more blissful :D

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drank Tieguanyin by Unknown
59 tasting notes

Had another mystery tieguanyin this morning. Didn’t taste like a spring picking, but then again, the bag had been open, and I think this was something I received in 2011. First sips reminded me of breakfast.. a little thick and very slightly roasty, with berries and darker flavors couched within the usual sweet green TGY.
Leaves were large and beautiful, but as it sat in the cup, it turned and barreled towards metallic and lemony. Ah well, you were yummy while you were…. I bet you’ll still be nice for big ol’ morning pots.

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drank Yunnan Black by Unknown
59 tasting notes

Again- tea of yesterday evening (iced.. cold press) and first tea of the morning. Much more buckwheat coming out from a long steeping.

Kashyap

love using Yunnan blacks as marinades for chicken and bases for soup

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How is it the afternoon already? A whole half day has gone by, and no tea yet for me!

I rumage around in my big-bag-o’-tea-to-drink-at-work, and I find.. a little tucked away sample of this! I thought this was all gone, everywhere! shifty eyes yummmMMM!

I am loving this magic bag.

Quick notes: orange cream, roasty toasty, salted caramel ice cream
particularly this ice cream (don’t look, ye of weak wills!):
http://www.jenis.com/products/Salty-Caramel-Pint.html

I also love the feeling of this one on my tongue, both as I’m drinking and after I’ve finished the sip. The movement of flavors across my tongue.. like light in the water, or rolling waves of electricity. Or, as TeaEqualsBliss said it the other day:
flavors that move like a football-stadium-crowd-wave

I’ve found all exquisite teas share this movement, where my tongue feels like it’s changing colors like the lights on a deep-sea jelly-fish. A real treat to have this in my cup at work, and to have it linger so long in between sips.

Bonnie

Now that’s a good one. OK Jellyfish tongue! That’s a cool one. You sound tea drunk!!!! Funny!!!

Spoonvonstup

Not tea drunk now, but perhaps I was when I thought of it! :D The image came to me while drinking some pu’er a few weekends back, and it’s been stuck in my head. How do you describe that feeling?

Bonnie

You mean the feeling the fuzzies or like after novocaine when your tongue is coming alive again? Morphing? I think what you said was quite fine and perfect!
I have tasted wine that was like descending rapidly into a cellar on an elevator through one flavor after another. The tannin in the wine kept tripping me over and over again with the ripe fruit. It was amazing. I counted at least 12 levels that I can remember which pleased the winemaker to no end. I’ll never forget it.

Kashyap

funny you mention Jeni’s as I get to work with them and occasionally add by tea and coffee inputs….she is a lovely lady and its so great that a fellow Ohio business is getting so much love

Autumn Hearth

This is one I really really would love to try, must fine someone with enough that are willing to part with a serving in a swap.

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drank Yunnan Black by Unknown
59 tasting notes

Had several cups of this iced (cold brew) last night. I love how well Yunnan Blacks do this way- always refreshing with a really ..uh.. thick mouthfeel (like jelly? but not weird!)

Used more leaves to make a pot of this hot this morning: extreemly strong cereal taste in this one (reminds me of a breakfast of granola, vanilla cream/yogurt, and berries).

Garret

I’m with you on that. On my April trip to China, I visited and sipped hong cha’s from several regions. My faves are all out of Wuliang area in Yunnan. And their ability to not only hold their own with age, but even improve with age is wonderful. While hong cha from other regions seem to go downhill fast after a 9 months to a year, the Yunnan grown blacks are just picking up steam! I love them from 18 months on – some up to 3.5-5 yrs. It’s magic, I tell you!

Bonnie

Yummmm

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I’ve been drinking this one all day (just leaves in my cup.. adding water as I run out). So it’s official ladies and gents: cannot be oversteeped.

I love how springy-boingy and fresh this feels in my mouth. Not a trace of heaviness, dirtiness, fishiness- nothin but sweet flaky yumminess topped with a bit of mint and cinnamon sparkle. Do you know any other shu blend that could sit in a cup like so and still be delicious, 8 hrs later?

Best comparison is with Rishi’s Vanilla Mint Pu’er, which I got from time to time at the now-closed Teashop nearby. I enjoyed that one’s taste, but inevitably after awhile, it started to build up with sourness and stingy dirt (unpleasant), usually before i finished one mug. This certainly turned me off of curling up with the mug all day. No such thing here.

I therefore believe this blend is the Perfect Expression of This Concept (pu’er+sweet+bit o’ mint).

All is balanced. All is yummy. Time to refill my mug….

Bonnie

This must be Alchemy Blend Day! I love this one too! I mentioned in another note that these are like my tea-catnips…they make me crazy I love them! (Yeh no comment about I was already crazy!)

DaisyChubb

I definitely want to try your mug method after all the success you’ve had with high quality teas! It’s definitely worth the try.. for some reason though it’s making me think of winter! I don’t need winter yet, but you don’t need snow to curl up with a nice cup of tea, right? ;)

gmathis

Here’s to can’t-mess-’em-up cuppas!

Spoonvonstup

Has anyone else tried a cold version of this? I left mine brewing in the fridge over-night, and it was delicious: reminded me of some kind of awesome gum-candy

Invader Zim

This is one of my favorite blends, awesome cold, amazing hot, infinite amount of steeps, isn’t finicky, and not too expensive…damn good tea!

Spoonvonstup

@DaisyChubb The mug method is great for those teas that can do it! I just throw leaves in the bottom of a mug, then add water. When I’ve almost finished, I refill. It’s very convenient for doing tea at work: we’ve got a “hot water” dispenser so I don’t have to worry about boiling and reboiling, but I also don’t have to worry about remembering to take out a brew basket and figuring out where to put it.

@Bonnie : D No such comments ever form me. We’re lucky to have you. Hurray for alchemy day!

But mug-method definitely has it’s place. There are many teas that can do mug-method, but they should also be done in pots and brew baskets and gong-fu style. just because it would be a shame to miss out on how good they can be! Just like the person who’s wonderful hanging out in the house in jeans and a t-shirt, but gussy them up for the ball? and your jaw will be on the floor! You love them both ways (but you also make a mental note to self: find more opportunities to get gussied up together- it’s fun!)

inguna

Thanks for the mug method description.
I considered ordering this blend but I have a dislike for spices in tea. Weird I know …
But inspired by your review I might give it a try.

Angrboda

‘springy-boingy’ My new favourite adjective!

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This was our evening tea last night and our morning tea today.

I owe this tea a real tasting note; I’ve been thinking about what to write since I first tried it in the spring. I will not do that justice today- let this serve as a reminder and placeholder.

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Bio

I generally drink Chinese teas.

I love things that are interesting, that force me to stop and think about and enjoy what I’m experiencing. Even better are those teas you just have to drink with a friend so that the outpouring of tastes and memories find a sounding board in a trusted companion.

I’m into tea as an experience rather than just a thirst quenching beverage. I love to learn- there’s so much to learn about tea.

I also prefer my teas to be exceedingly delicious, if at all possible. Luckily, I have great tea friends and teachers that can hook me up with the good stuff.

Something I’ve noticed about my ratings:
I tend to use Steepster more like Yelp and less like Twitter. I’ll generally only review a tea once in its life (though that review and rating might be edited over time to reflect changes in my own understanding of it).
I do not generally log each tea I’m drinking as I drink, since that feels like a distraction- I’d rather just drink the tea!
I tend to only review teas I really love or that I really did not enjoy. If it falls somewhere in the middle of “meh” and “that was pretty good, I suppose,” then I won’t be compelled to sit down and spend time giving a nice, fleshed out review and rating.
As such, it might seem like I give out high scores willy-nilly. Instead, I’m doing my first round of rating mentally off-site, and presenting only the teas I really want to share with everyone.

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Richfield, MN

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