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16 Tasting Notes

89

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

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

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!!!!

TeaExplorer

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 =:-}

TheTeaFairy

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

TeaExplorer

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?”

TheTeaFairy

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

TheTeaFairy

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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95
drank Golden Fleece by Verdant Tea
16 tasting notes

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?

Preparation
Boiling 4 g 3 OZ / 100 ML
Terri HarpLady

I’m overdue for a session with this tea, & even though I have some hidden in my attic, the voice in my head is always urging me to buy more. Did I also send you YS’s Imperial Mojiang? I haven’t actually done a side by side with those 2, but in my mind they are quite similar.

TeaExplorer

Teri – Although you included nearly the entire YS black tea catalog in the swap box[=:D], the Mojiang was not among them. I did, however, include 50g of that tea in a recent YS-US order and will give it a steep to see how it compares. Thanks for the suggestion!

Terri HarpLady

What? I didn’t include any of it? I don’t know how that happened, but I’m glad you’re getting some!

TeaExplorer

Terri – Mystery solved: Just went back thru our PM thread leading up to the swap. I placed the YS order with the Mojiang shortly before we finalized our boxes so there was no need for you to include it. I’m still overwhelmed at the sheer number of samples you crammed in to that box! I’ve got the Xingyang Golden Leaf ’98 Shu set aside for when I have a day off so I can dedicate an afternoon to it (hopefully next weekend).

Terri HarpLady

Aha!
Well, the box you sent me was no slouch either! I’m really just getting started on it. :)

Terri HarpLady

Regarding Tea Buzz: All the time! Especially from Shengs, but there are also several Shu’s & black teas that have a potent Chaqi effect, which I have described as the ‘front edge of a shroom trip’, like when you first feel your third eye opening, & all you want to do is meditate or do taichi or some similar type of mind expanding activity.(child of the 60’s…need I say more?)

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85
drank Black Gold by Mandala Tea
16 tasting notes

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.

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

Yay, glad you liked it!

Garret

What a nice review of this tea! Thank you for that. Funny, I see in your bio that you were a follower of the Grateful Dead as I’ve been listening to alot of live dead these last few days. I saw them alot between 86 and 93. Yes… some good seeds were planted and some good seeds were watered during that time. It’s how I got into Eastern philosophy, bodywork, meditation and TEA!! Hope it did you lots of good, too, my friend :)

TeaExplorer

It did me lots of good, but in a different way. I was in a period of stress in my life and the shows were an oasis of peace. In addition, the sense of community was overwhelming. For instance, I traveled to the show at the Richfield where Vince Welnick was playing his first gig with them. Had all sorts of travel mishaps and arrived 20 minutes after the start of the show without having had lunch or dinner. After the show my blood sugar had tanked and I was shuffling around the parking lot, having lost my traveling companions some hours earlier, when a random guy came up to see what was wrong. He got me a Gatorade and an apple, then brought me back to a dorm at Akron to crash. I woke up in the morning on the living room floor with about 20 other refugees from the show. We became friends and he sent me a T-shirt he had made (Dr. Seuss: “I am the Lorax and I speak for the trees”). Years later I’m walking down Duval in Key West wearing the shirt when a guy stops me. “My friend made that shirt” he says. Turns out he was one of the dorm mates from the floor I had crashed on years earlier, and in that moment my experience came full circle. I have a number of stories like that and they all center on the communities that would spring up around the shows. I took that spirit with me and applied it to the community around me back home. Not everyone was receptive, but the practice of opening myself to the people and the world around me was life changing. I feel a sense of that here on Steepster, where people are willing to give and share openly without judgment. It’s a rare thing on the Internet.

TeaExplorer

Oh yeah, about tea … There are a handful of companies which seem to offer the very best of what they can source such that I have no hesitation trying something from them which is new to me. Mandala is one of those, along with Verdant and Butiki (and probably others I have not discovered yet). I tend to want to get to know a tea before logging it, which could take anywhere from days to a month or more, so my logs tend to be sparse. I’ve got a dozen Mandala teas in my cupboard (not counting samples from swaps) and some of those will always remain on hand, such as the Phatty Cakes and Special Dark. You have a knack for this … keep up the good work!

Terri HarpLady

Applause to everything you said! I especially love the bit about the t-shirt. Life is awesome, & we’re all connected!
:D

Garret

I love stories like that one, my friend. It still happens to me. Even here on Steepster :) Thanks so much for sharing that one with us. And wow, thanks for the kind words about our humble company!! That means a lot to me.

With Dead scene, I definitely got opened up to the possibility of community, for sure. And while community isn’t always perfect, not trying for community is a far less appealing option, for sure!

Garret

the dead scene, I meant.

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87

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.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 0 sec 3 g 8 OZ / 236 ML
JustJames

rich honey notes……. lovely =0)

TeaExplorer

It is a very nice tea, although they’re “pretty proud of it” at $22 for 3 oz. :)

JustJames

ouch! then again you pay for the good stuff….

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85

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.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 1 min, 0 sec 4 g 8 OZ / 236 ML
Terri HarpLady

“Retronasal Exhale”
Now that’s an interesting term, which I think is the same as what I refer to as an “after aroma”, which I especially experience with Wuyi Oolongs like Big Red Robe. :)

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85

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.

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec 3 g 8 OZ / 236 ML
boychik

Welcome back!

TeaExplorer

Thank you! I actually went for a couple of weeks without steeping any of my teas. Just mediocre coffee from drive-thru places while on the run (gah!). It’s good to be back in my office with my tea table next to my laptop. It feels … civilized =:-D

boychik

its amazing how we can appreciate some small things normally we dont pay attention to

TeaExplorer

You got that right! I had been taking the luxury of my tea drinking habit for granted. Now that I’m back, however, I feel a profound sense of joy :)

Terri HarpLady

Yeah, glad to have you back! :)

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95

This was the first shu I bought based upon reviews here, but could not seem to warm up to it at first. To my palate it was all mushrooms, minerals and astringency. Based upon it’s relatively high energy, however, I kept returning to it whenever I needed a boost while working. In doing so I kept playing with the steep parameters until, finally, I hit upon a combination that really made it shine in my book.

I believe I was initially steeping too long for the amount of leaf I used, running in the 15-30 second range. Turns out it’s really good with shorter steeps. The combination I eventually settled upon is 7.8 grams in a 130 ml pot, one 20 second rinse, a 2 minute pause, then I gently break up most of the now-pliant clumps with a toucha pick. A steep pattern of 10/8/8/8/10/15/30/60 seconds brings out wonderful cedar flavor with undertones of sweetness, citrus and spice. I get hints of mushrooms and/or minerals in some steeps but they no longer dominate the flavor profile, and the astringency is gone.

To me this is a rich, robust, full-bodied shu and has moved back into my rotation as a favorite.

Preparation
Boiling
mrmopar

Yeah these rascals are pressed pretty tight. Sometimes I hit them with the rinse and let them set (after draining) in the Gaiwan or Yixing till the next day to open up. Lao cha nuggets are even harder than these are.

TeaExplorer

This one comes apart pretty easily when allowed to sit a couple of minutes after the rinse. Will try the overnight-sit-after-rinse with the lao cha nuggets.

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65

Purchased October 2013 from Upton. This was the only Pu-erh I ever had prior to finding Steepster. Now look at my cupboard! My taste buds thank all of you Steepster-ites who have since expanded my horizons. My wallet silently curses you.

Steeping Western style, per Upton’s recommendations, does not do this tea any favors. Gong Fu style at 10/20/30.. seconds, however, brings out a few interesting notes. The main aroma and flavor centers around shiitake mushrooms, with hints of wood, mineral, pepper and citrus making guest appearances in the cup.

Although this sounds interesting my final note reads “Overall not a bad shu, but not one I’d stock.” Compared to the various shu I’ve been introduced to here on Steepster this is just average at best and no longer holds my interest. As an entry point into the world of Pu-erh, however, it served it’s purpose.

Preparation
Boiling
TheTeaFairy

Yes I hear you…the wallet curse is the price to pay (no pun intended) for expanded horizons. But isn’t it worth it??? I say, hell yeah!

TeaExplorer

Oh, it’s absolutely worth it. But I’ve stooped to intercepting the mailman at the curb and secreting packages away in my shop until my wife goes to bed. It makes me feel dirty … so very dirty =:-{

TheTeaFairy

Hahaha, OMG, I can sooo relate to that one…

Stephanie

I found this to be a drinkable but kinda boring shu myself :) I’ve moved on to better things as well!

Terri HarpLady

It’s a good thing Tony & I live in separate houses. He has no idea of the extent of my tea fetish!

TeaExplorer

Stephanie: Judging by the handful of very nice Pu-erh in your cupboard, I’m not surprised you found it boring as well.

Terri: “Tea fetish” – I love it! That totally sounds like something that should be kept hidden =:0

mrmopar

At least I am not the ONLY one that has to intercept packages. I have been busted two days in a row this week……..

Stephanie

I am always very clear on days like today when I got tea in the mail that it was TOTALLY free and no I am not blowing all my money on tea, hahah

mrmopar

Yeah I tried that “free” with only $29.99 shipping. Didn’t work.

Stephanie

Haaaaa!! Today I literally got free tea from Della Terras Facbook promotion so it was legit ;)

boychik

I keep saying to my hubby that its just samples. I order to my grandma address ( she lives on the same block). Some times I feel that I’m a squirrel hiding my stush everywhere. The most important thing not to forget where;)

Terri HarpLady

My sons (21 & 24) often intercept the mail.
“Mom, you have MORE TEA
“must be a trade from one of my Canadian Friends.”
“It’s from China”
“I have friends there too…”

TeaExplorer

“I have friends there too…”
Hilarious! I’ve been chuckling over that for the past five minutes =:-D

Terri HarpLady

I do!! There’s Angel of TeaVivre!! She’s sent me things, although admittedly not all of them were free…

Terri HarpLady

Master Han, the Li family, & all the other Peeps mentions on the Verdant site…I mean I’ve never met them, but I’ve never met any of you guys either, still I Love you all!

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98

Note: the crop reviewed here was purchased from Upton in late December 2013.

This tea is OK steeped Western style, but seems to really shine with Gong Fu treatment. All experiments used 1 tsp (2.3 grams) of leaf.

I tried two forms of Western steeping, both with 6 ounces of water. The more traditional 4:30 steep produced a powerful aroma of raw honey with an undertone of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven, but was somewhat less impressive in the cup with just a muddled note of the underlying sweetness that was hinted at in the aroma. Two subsequent 6 minute steeps brought faint reflections of the first cup along with a hint of pepper in the final steep. Modifying this with 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 minute steeps produced a better cup, especially in the early steeps, with the honey aroma translating into a nice honey sweetness in the cup. Pepper again made an appearance in the later steeps. The liquor varied across the spectrum of red-amber.

It was the Gong Fu treatment, however, that made me order more of this tea. I pulled out my 90 ml pot, skipped the wash and jumped right into a series of 15 second steeps until the flavor started to fade around the eighth one, whereupon I lengthened each steep considerably. Early steeps smelled and tasted like raw honey, with Yunnan spice slowly increasing as I went. The sweetness morphed from honey to something less distinct out through the 16th steep (a hail-Mary at 10 minutes), but never left. The liquor was a beautiful golden color that seemed to glow in my little clear glass teacup. This was an outstanding session which I’ve repeated several times since.

I’ve never tasted legendary teas such as Golden Fleece. Until I get that chance this stands as one of my favorite Yunnan blacks.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
boychik

I think I should send you samples fr Teavivre yunnan golden tips so you can compare;)

TeaExplorer

If you could spare enough for a Gong Fu session, I would not say no :)

boychik

Sure. I recently ordered some nice cake from DTH ( I hope it’s nice) Usually it takes like 10-15 days from China. I want to include it for you

TeaExplorer

Cool … my order from Jing’s tea shop finally arrived … there’s some things in there you might be interested in.

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100

First a big thank you to mrmopar, whose tasting notes made me aware of this shu and whose guidance steered me to a reputable seller.

This is, without a doubt, the finest shu I have tasted to date. Rounded and full, powerful in the early steeps, but not overbearing and never bitter or astringent. Notes of leather, cedar, chicory, minerals, mushrooms, citrus and pepper make appearances in various combinations as the steeps progress, with each taking a turn at prominence yet never overshadowing the others. The aroma is refined and never funky. My notes show a range of earthy scents (clean damp earth, loamy earth, hints of peat, fresh rain, clean wet hay) with an underlying sweetness throughout. The liquor runs the gamut of reds, from nearly opaque through ruby, and will transition to a deep amber if you give it enough steeps.

It seems to benefit from adequate leaf quantity and fairly short steeps. Although I have not come up with a definitive Gong Fu regimen for this, I’m leaning towards a baseline of 6 grams per 100 ml (scaled up linearly to my pot size at 7.8 grams and 130 ml). I use 212 F water, give it a single 15 second rinse and a 2 minute pause to allow the leaves to begin to open up. My steeps run 15 / 6 / 8 / 10 / 15 / 20 / 25 / 30 seconds, with the first steep running a little long to allow the tea to finish opening up.

This is one shu I’ll buy more of to give a couple of cakes time to age. Absolutely stunning IMO.

Preparation
Boiling
boychik

Wow. I still didn’t have a chance to try. I need peace and quiet. Maybe after this weekend. I really enjoy the samples you send me and placed a small order from Puerhshop , just couldn’t wait;)

TeaExplorer

You should have enough for about 3 Gong Fu sessions in the sample I sent. This is a good shu for quiet contemplation. It does have a moderately high Qi that I start to feel around steep 4 or 5, so it may not be good late at night.

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Bio

I’m fairly new to the world of fine tea, having begun my exploration in earnest in mid-2013. I had given loose tea a try a decade ago but what I chose was not to my liking and I never finished the couple of hundred grams I ordered.

I’ve spent most of my life as a coffee drinker, and have studied and practiced the art and craft of coffee roasting for the past decade. I drink coffee until about noon, at which point my palate needs a change.

This eventually led me to try good quality tea one more time. The Internet is a great resource and I got pointed in a more solid direction this time. I started at Upton Tea with mostly black teas, a Jasmine-scented green and samples of some flavors. I’ve been enjoying three or four cups a day.

Then I stopped into a tiny Chinese restaurant in rural Pennsylvania and in response to my request for hot tea the proprietor brought me her personal Pu-Erh, which had just arrived from China, in a portable Gong Fu teapot. OMG … I found something new to obsess about! She kept bringing me hot water and I did multiple steeps until I could swallow no more. My research on this tea eventually led me here.

I’m a voracious reader and can consume a book a day when I have the time. I’ve been an obsessive geek since childhood and that spills over into all areas of my life, driving me to try to attain competency in more areas than I can count, especially technical subjects. I once took “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” on vacation and my wife asked why I wasn’t reading something fun. I had no idea what she meant.

I love almost all genres of music, but am most fond of Jazz (Miles’ Blue Period, Mingus), Delta Blues (Sleepy John Estes, Son House) and 80’s British alternative rock (The Smiths, Bauhaus, The Pogues). I also followed the Grateful Dead for a short while. Yup I’m getting old, but then 50 is the new 30, right?

I hope to make some of your acquaintances, and swap both knowledge and tea.

Location

Palm Bay, Florida

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