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
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
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
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
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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 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