20 Tasting Notes
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 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.
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.
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.”
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
A HUGE thanks to Terri HarpLady for sending me a generous sample of this excellent tea!
I used my 100 ml gaiwan and followed the Gong Fu regimen outlined on the Verdant site. The raw sugar and vanilla aroma was heavenly! Those notes came through in the cup along with occasional guest appearances of cinnamon, allspice, and something I refer to as citrus liveliness which appears on the sides of the tongue and triggers a saliva reaction. Wonderful aftertaste. I took this through 15 steeps and threw the remainder in a jar in the fridge to cold steep. This is one tea I’d like to always have some of on hand.
And, oh happy day, Verdant has a limited amount in stock right now! I’m off to add this to my cupboard.
Edit: I logged this a day after drinking it. Just noticed my notes had the comment: “Steep 7 – actually have a slight buzz!”. I’ve had teas that have energized me and some where I felt the caffeine, but this was the first tea I actually caught a buzz from! Has anybody else ever felt that effect with this tea?
Thanks to Terri HarpLady for the generous sample of this! I got to try it in both Western and Gong Fu styles, with some left over.
Brewed Western style (3.3g/8oz./208F/10 sec. rinse/1 min. pause, then 1/2/3/4/5 minutes), I smelled cocoa powder and tasted wonderful spice notes accompanied by a stimulating citrus essence that felt lively on the tongue in the first two steeps. The later steeps brought similar, although muted, tastes along with just a hint of Meyer lemon in the flavor.
Next I tried Gong Fu style (5g/100 ml/208F/15 sec. rinse/1 min. pause, then 15/15/20/25/30/45/60/80/105 seconds). A honey and lemon aroma coupled with a strong note of Meyer lemon dominated the first steep, which came across as being quite tasty. The middle steeps saw a shifting interplay of spices, citrus liveliness on the tongue and sweetness which were very enjoyable. The last couple of steeps saw an increase in the spice, but not to an objectionable level.
Of the two methods, I thought the Gong Fu preparation allowed this tea to show more layers of flavor, but if I were in a hurry I would not hesitate to steep it Western.
I’m just beginning my exploration of Chinese black teas so I’m not sure where this would rank in terms of other well known ones. Overall, however, it’s a very nice tea.
Thanks to boychik for the sample! I tried this tea both Western and Gong Fu style.
Western: 3.8 grams to 8 oz. of 195F water at 2/3/4/8 minutes. Wonderful aromas of malt and fresh baked bread (pumpernickel in the first steep!). The malty aspect comes through in the cup and the honey-like sweetness increases as the cup cools. A lively citrus note emerged in the second steep. The last two steeps were pretty mild but still tasty.
Gong Fu: 4 grams to 130 ml of water just off the boil and 8 to 10 second steeps. I don’t get the malty aspect with this method, but the sweet and citrus notes build very nicely. Unfortunately a strong spice note emerges in the middle steeps and builds throughout the remainder of the session, becoming quite strong around steeps 8 and 9 (my notes referred to it as a spice bomb!). The tea might have reacted differently at a cooler water temperature, but the sample is gone so I was not able to try that.
I liked this tea much better Western style. To me it’s similar to the Teavivre Golden Monkey, but the H&S had richer aromatics and slightly stronger honey notes in the cup.
Thanks to boychik for the sample! I first steeped it western style, 4 grams to 8 oz of 195F water at 1/2/3/4/5 minutes. Aromas of honey, spearmint, cinnamon, and grapes emerged over the various steeps. The cup was creamy, malty, quite tasty! The honey notes were more prominent in retronasal exhale than upon the tongue, but still very nice. The mild sweet potato aspect was most noticeable in the aftertaste, and a citrus note and pleasant bitterness emerged in the cooling cup. Later steeps had a hint of spice in the aftertaste. Overall a very nice cup.
Next I tried the remainder of the sample Gong Fu style just to see what that did (7 grams to 130 ml of 195F water in short 3 to 4 second steeps). Many of the same notes emerged one or two at a time over the various steeps, with sweetness in the early ones and the spice aspect emerging in the middle steeps. Although a decent cup prepared this way, the tea was more enjoyable when brewed western style.
Thanks to boychik for the sample! Brewed it western style. First steep was with water just off the boil for 3 minutes. I prefer my teas plain without milk or sweetener. This steep was bitter but not entirely unpleasant, with some sweetness and fruitiness (as best as my palate can make out) as the cup cooled. I tried the next two steeps at 195F (3:30 and 5:00 minutes) and enjoyed them more since the bitterness was gone and the sweet/fruit aspect was more pronounced. Next time I will try 195F for the first steep to see if it reduces or eliminates the bitterness there as well. Overall a very nice Assam, more complex than the one in my cupboard from Upton.