25 Tasting Notes


This review is of the 2012 spring harvest, which as of this writing (12 March 2015) is still available on the Yunnan sourcing US site.

I’ve had this tea for over a year, and it seems to be getting better with some age on it. I use a little Yixing which I’ve dedicated to Yunnan black teas. With this much leaf in the pot, short steeps are in order (3/6/9/12/etc. seconds). I normally take it through 15 steeps, with the first 10 being the best but the last 5 are still quite tasty.

The tea starts off with lots of malt and sweetness, morphing into a honey note and finally into a bee pollen and honey sweetness that is just outstanding. Hints of Yunnan spice, sweet citrus and faint tartness appear at times, along with strong floral notes.

This is my benchmark Yunnan black tea for sweetness. I break it out at least once a week, and just placed an order for more. A truly magnificent harvest. Recommended.

Flavors: Citrus, Floral, Malt, Spices, Sugarcane

190 °F / 87 °C 8 g 5 OZ / 160 ML
Terri HarpLady

hey Bro!
Glad to see you posting again! :)


Thanks! It’s good to be back. I hope this year will be a little less hectic :)

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Finally got around to prying a chunk off this brick. Brewed gongfu style. Got some faint smoke in the first three steeps but then it subsided. Camphor, pine, citrus, pepper, and a nice underlying sweetness dominated the first six steeps, yielding to sweetness, slight pepper and a pleasant tartness in the next six. The liquor was a beautiful, clear amber color. Overall a very nice sheng which I’ll drink it sparingly to see how it ages over the coming years.

Flavors: Camphor, Citrus, Pepper, Pine, Smoke, Sweet

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

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I’ve done a number of gongfu sessions of this sheng over the past several weeks, trying to dial in the brew parameters. I landed on using much cooler water than I normally would to emphasize the sweetness, which can be significant in some steeps. This tea does not have a lot of caffeine so it’s a good candidate for an evening session for me.

I don’t get the honey notes the vendor describes. For me it’s more like sugarcane in the early steeps, along with some floral notes and a hint of Yunnan spice. A pleasant tartness creeps in during the middle steeps and remains through the end. I’ve been averaging 13 steeps per session.

Considering it’s reasonable price, I’ll lay in another cake or two for the future. It’s a good sheng for when I’m in the mood for sweetness.

Flavors: Floral, Sugarcane, Tart

180 °F / 82 °C 0 min, 15 sec 7 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

Might be fun to know the backstory behind the tea name :)


Yeah, I was thinking the same!


From the shop itself, here is the story.
“Early Spring silver buds from one special field (only) in Xishuangbanna are plucked, sun-dried and then compressed into this cake form. Most leaves harvested from this particular field are buds and so have a UNIQUE honey sweetish and very strong floral flavor. An excellent Pu-erh to drink now but can be drunk over the course of the next years with subtle changes in aroma and flavor.”

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I found this to be a very smoky sheng. Pine smoke dominated the aroma and flavor through the first six gongfu steeps before stepping aside and letting it’s true nature come through, although I got some smoke in the retro-nasal exhale through the 11th steep. Once the smoke did subside I found some floral notes in the aroma and a fairly strong and pleasant tart and sweet combination that finally tapered off around the 15th steep.

This sheng has some power and legs, but it’s just too smoky for my tastes.

Flavors: Floral, Smoke, Stonefruits, Sweet

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 7 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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I received this as a sample in my latest Mandala order. with only 10 grams to work with, I decided to split it into two 5 gram sessions in my 100 ml gaiwan. Since this is less leaf than my normal 6 to 8 grams in this vessel I tried to ‘short-pour’ the water a little to compensate. I took detailed notes but I will spare you from the dreaded copy&paste. Just the highlights follow.

The first session involved short steep times (5/5/7/10/… sec) to see what aromas and flavors I could unmask. The shu brewed up a beautiful medium burgundy color with aromatic hints of mushrooms, warm figs, raw sugarcane, vanilla and mulling spices over the 12 steeps I took this through. It was light to medium bodied with mild flavors of mushrooms, pepper, cedar, leather, minerals, allspice, cinnamon, and a noticeable sweetness tying it all together. Near the end I picked up notes of SweetTarts in one steep and Cinnamon Disc candies in another. In all cases the aromas and flavors were quite mild, causing me to really focus on the tea to get a sense of what was gong on.

The second session used longer steeps (15/30/45/… sec) to see how it reacted. Again the tea revealed only mild aromas and a light to medium body. Aromas of raw cane sugar, vanilla, caramel, and, oddly enough, grape gum (at the end) came forth. This session had significant sweetness in the aftertaste, some spice up front, mild shu flavors and a lively feeling on the tongue over the course of seven steeps.

I’m not going to rate this tea since I don’t really feel like I got a chance to know it. When it becomes available on the Mandala site I will buy a few ounces and put it in a clay jar for six months or so and try it again with my normal amount of leaf. I don’t have a great deal of experience with new shu, but this came across as ‘young’ to me. It seems to have promise and I’m willing to give it another try.




I love how you were able to describe all those notes, you’re like “the note extractor” lol. I’m really interested in this one, will keep in mind for next Mandala order, thanks for this review.


TTF: The spectrum of flavors were a nice surprise. This seems to be more of a contemplative shu than a bold in-your-face one. I am looking forward to buying more loose leaf so I can both dial in the regimen to my liking and see how it matures over the course of time. And because I trust Garret’s taste I will pick up a couple of cakes when they become available and salt them away for a while.


Great review! Thank you for this. This is most definitely a young ripe pu’er. But… this one is gonna age like a champ, especially the cakes. I certainly don’t want to wish time away (goodness knows it’s going to fast as it is) but 2 to 3 years after this pressing comes online, it’s gonna ROCK. – The Noble Mark cake is a blend of 4 leaves (Temple Stairs is 2) fermented in a similar fashion and on October 29th, the pressing will be 2 years old. I am already amazed at the difference in clarity in around 1.5 yrs. That same thing is going to happen to this cake. We’ll keep them stored in our pu’er room and they will blossom :) Love your reviews!

And by the way… I was just listening to a live dead show from 1989, sipping some ripe tea (year of the dragon), grooving to a very sweet Eyes of the World. Life may be sweeter for this…


Garret — I miss my live Dead. I’m old school so it’s all on tapes or CDs, and the office is still in boxes … need to finish unpacking!

How about you? Are yours in digital format, or are you ‘old school’ as well?

I was looking at “The Complete Road Trips” on LiveDownloads (http://www.livedownloads.com/packages/2,383/Grateful-Dead-Complete-Road-Trips.html). Although pricy (FLAC is $350), it covers multiple eras and fills in many holes in my collection. May have to add that to my wishlist! I thought I’d mention it in case you were not aware. —Jeff


I pretty much listen to all my live dead on: https://archive.org/details/GratefulDead You can stream thousands of shows and there are many that are downloadable, as well. I used to have many cassettes as I had friends who were tapers and then had access to many soundboards on CD because of a buddy who is in tight with Bob Weir’s wife, Natasha. That was nice. Now… I don’t have a collection anymore. Just online streaming and downloading when I just gotta hear a certain show in the car.


Woah … had no idea about the collection on archive.org. Very cool! Thanks for that =:-D

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I tried this twice so far in my gaiwan and was not impressed. The first time I used my normal starting point for an unknown shu of 6 grams to 100 ml water. The resulting tea had no off-flavors, but was rather mild. Two steeps in the middle of the 13 steep session rated medium body and my notes show “nice steep”, the remainder I rated decent, OK or just fair. I did pick up combinations of slight tastes of mushrooms, pepper, sweetness, minerals and citrus in these mild cups.

For the second session I increased the leaf to 8 grams. Although the cup was a little stronger, notes of earth (dirt) came out in all but two of the steeps. I gave up on steep seven when the earth taste did not go away.

I’m glad I only purchased a sample instead of a whole cake. Perhaps others will have a different experience, especially if they prefer a mild shu, but I made a note to not buy this again.

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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This review is from the Autumn 2013 crop.

I’ve steeped this Western style and it was good but did not blow me away. So I broke out the gaiwan and used the parameters on Verdant’s web page. ZOMG! It’s like a completely different tea :)

My palate is too uneducated to do complete justice to this tea. To mangle an old phrase, I don’t know much about oolongs, but I know what I like. And I really liked this!

Intense in the early steeps. I perceived the initial flavors as a super-intense loquat, but Verdant calls it “tart cherry and juicy nectarines”. OK, I guess I could also call it that. Also got a hint of cloves in the first steep and distinct cinnamon in the aftertaste throughout the middle ones. Stone fruits in the retro-nasal and sweetness in the cooling cup. Citrus notes emerged at the end.

I took this through 16 steeps over three and a half hours, and it was an incredible ride. I remembered seeing an email a week or so ago from Verdant that it was back in stock, so I headed over there to order some more. Oh noes! They’re out :(

Well I have enough for a few more sessions so I will sip it sparingly until the new harvest arrives.

4 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

«I don’t know much about oolongs, but I know what I like.» The beauty with tea is no one needs to be an expert to appreciate it :-)
Isn’t it amazing how you can achieve different results just by changing brewing methods/vessels?


TheTeaFairy: Isn’t it amazing how you can achieve different results just by changing brewing methods/vessels?
Absolutely, yes!

With many teas I can usually pick out notes in a Western cup that are isolated or magnified in the gaiwan. This tea, however, took me completely by surprise. Flavors came bursting out during Gong Fu that I never detected in the Western cup.

I’ve also noticed a slight difference when using the same parameters on a given tea but switching between a Gong Fu pot (Kamjove type) and a gaiwan.

And so, less than a year into this incredible journey, all I know is that I truly know nothing. And I’m OK with that :)


Great story about how changing the brewing parameters made a huge difference. I think I got this tea as a free sample last time I ordered from them (over a year ago), and I remember thinking I wasn’t impressed with it. But, I must have brewed it Western style, as I didn’t have a gaiwan then. Sixteen steepings, huh? Amazing!

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I call this “the bottle rocket”. It’s lifespan is brief but intense. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, depending upon what you are in the mood for. I reach for this shu when I want a modest infusion of energy, a rich and full bodied cup, and a minimal time commitment.

This shu comes out of the gate fully opened up in steep one, burns intensely through steeps two, three and four, and will give a flavorful medium bodied cup in steep five.

This mini bing is composed of tiny leaves that appear to be chopped up, yielding a cake where you can just snap a piece off the edge with your hands. My normal regimen is 6 grams shu in my 100 ml gaiwan, 212 F water, 15 second rinse, 2 minute pause, break up large clumps with a toucha pick, then 15/15/30/60/120 second steeps.

This is very smooth puerh with no harsh or off flavors or aromas. It is very rich in a good way. There is a mild pepper note, some cedar, a slight yet pleasant bitterness, and an underlying sweetness. I get sweet notes in the aroma (raw cane sugar, vanilla) over wood, clean earth and leather. It leaves me feeling energized but not wired.

I’m reminded of the scene from Blade runner when Roy Batty meets his maker, Dr. Eldon Tyrell, and is told “The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long – and you have burned so very, very brightly, Roy.”

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

Great review.


Thank you :)

Terri HarpLady

Nice review! And of course, I love the Blade Runner reference. I’ve only watched that movie SO MANY Times, although it’s been a few years since my last viewing, but I always seem to notice something new each time I watch it. :)


Blade Runner is among my top 10 favorite movies and, like you, I’ve seen it many times and I notice new things on every viewing. It’s one of those rare cases where the ideas explored in the movie far exceed those of the book it was drawn from. I’m going to put it in my rotation for a re-watch as soon as I get some free time :)

Terri HarpLady

I actually was thinking I’d watch it on netflix, but it’s not available for streaming, so I’ll have to add it to my Q

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I am reviewing the Spring 2012 harvest.

This is one of the few Yunnan blacks that I will gladly steep Western when in a hurry, and is a favorite when working at my desk in the afternoon.

I use 4 grams to 236 ml of 190 F water at 1/2/3/4 minutes, with the last steep reduced to 177 ml. The leaf responds quite well to this treatment. I get aromas of cocoa, honey, malt and occasional hints of vanilla. Although the cocoa does not translate into the cup the sweetness does, especially in the later steeps, accompanied by pleasant citrus notes and a hint of ginger over a medium black tea base. I find myself going “Mmmm” out loud without thinking about it.

Today instead of a hint of citrus I got significant Meyer lemon notes, which was extremely tasty. I’m not sure if it’s because this tea is changing as it ages or if I did something different and did not notice. I’ll pay attention to the next few sessions to see if that is a trend. If so, no complaints!

I’ve already got the spring 2014 harvest on my wish list for my next YS order, and am looking forward to comparing harvests two years apart.

Flavors: Cocoa, Honey, Malt

190 °F / 87 °C 1 min, 0 sec 4 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

Oh my! Yum to mayer lemons. YS is next on my “who to order from” list…but I must resist for now, just too many teas in the cupboard!!!!


YS is an especially dangerous site to browse. I usually put about $400 worth of stuff in my cart, laugh at my sheer folly, then spend the next three days painstakingly revisiting each page and deleting things until it gets below my threshold of pain.

My cupboard doors are bowing outward, but the spring 2014 harvests are coming in and it’s almost too hard to resist at least a few =:-}


Haha! How do you downsize a $400 order? Painstakingly seems like the proper word :-)
I know what you mean, the other day I started browsing through their pu’erh selection and nearly went crazy with envy! I just exited and have been desperately trying to avoid them ever since. You.are.not.helping. Just saying :-O


Several months ago I was joking with some fellow Steepster-ites about starting a ‘12-steep program’. The manifesto would probably go something like “I admit that I’m powerless over tea, and in fact just bought some more. Wanna’ see?”


Ahhh! That’s so hilarious…(and psst… yes…I do want to see…)

Terri HarpLady

TeaFairy, I’d be glad to send you samples of everything I have from YS, if you like.

TeaExplorer, LOL, you & I use the same shopping methods! I spent the weekend building & then destroying shopping carts from a couple of sites, YS was one. It will happen, as I have money in my playpal account from CD sales & such, just begging to be spent.

regarding 12 Steep groups: we did have a group going in the discussions boards for awhile, but everybody kept relapsing & bragging about what they purchased, hahaha


Aww, terri how generous you are…I need to stop ordering tea and swap more I think :-)
I will keep that in mind and PM you when the time is right, thank you so much! Things are out of control, I’m aiming at getting under 300, almost there, but more tea is already on its way!!!
In the mean time, my cupboard is open if you see stuff that is of interest to you :-)

Same goes for you TeaExplorer, I have plenty to share!!

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Fond of Puerh (raw and ripe), Yunnan Blacks, Oolongs. Occasionally drink Assam, Darjeeling, Keemun. Not a fan of flavored teas.

Taking a break from swapping for a while. The generosity of the Steepsterites has overwhelmed me, so now I need to focus on drinking what I have.

My profile pic is of a cat we fostered a few years ago. She is an undercover spy (codename: Tessa). You’d feel eyes on the back of your neck, turn around, and she’s be hidden somewhere up high, looking down at you. She’s now gathering intel on her new family.


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