16 Tasting Notes
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.