37 Tasting Notes


So here I was drinking the same tea two days in a row. Inconceivable! (Yeah, also just finished reading The Princess Bride).

A couple of days ago I had my first session with this tea where I pushed it pretty hard with the timing (15/10/10/10/15/15/15/20/25/30/45/90/…) and thought it was good but not very complex. kieblera5 noted in the comments on that tasting that they really enjoyed it, so I decided to give it another try.

I did a second session last night with much shorter steep lengths (5/7/9/11/…seconds) and got a lot more out of it. Aromas of tart stone fruits (sour cherries through apricots) dominated the session, but hints of cloves and stewed figs made brief appearances toward the end. The cup had wonderful sweet, spicy, citrus, tart and herbal notes, with cloves making an appearance or two.

The first steep felt like the tea was still opening up, but from then on it was a great ride. Steeps 5-8 were my favorites with a well-integrated flavor profile of the above tastes and numerous exclamation points in my notes. Steep 19 was a bit of a hail-Mary at 10 minutes. This tea did not give me heartburn like so many young shengs do, so that’s a big plus.

I did all this in a single session starting at 10:30 PM and finishing up at 1 AM. I was pretty tea-drunk by this point and the wife was fast asleep so I woke up the cats, arranged them as an audience in front of me and proceeded to recite the history of Florin as documented by the great historian S. Morgenstern (not the abridged version that William Goldman did; it left out all the subtle satire on the excesses of European royalty). By 4 AM the cats were asleep with limbs akimbo and two were snoring, so it was time to call it a night.

I’m upgrading my rating on this and will probably procure some more as it’s a great sheng to drink now. Recommended for those who like an accessible young sheng that’s primarily sweet-tart-spicy.

Flavors: Citrus, Herbaceous, Spicy, Sweet, Tart

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 7 g 100 OZ / 2957 ML

The cats were asleep after you recounted S. Morgenstern’s brilliant novel? Inconceivable!


I have been reading the digital version redone by William Goldman and was really ticked off when chapters were missing because he said we would not miss them anyway. Hey, I’d like to be the judge of that. Where did you find an orginal by S. Morgenstern?


It’s actually a joke. S. Morganstern IS William Goldman


Ubacat — I found it in a used bookshop in Florin


Roughage — Right? I mean, ours are just common strays so they have no appreciation for history or satire. A Florin cat, on the other hand, would probably be sitting at attention and drooling by the end.


UbacatMzPriss is, of course, correct. Reading the book just puts me in a silly mood. In truth, I’ve never been to Florin ;)


@TeaExplorer – I want to go to Florin myself. I need to pull this back out and read it again. I do that every couple of years.

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Well my nearly year-long tea buying hiatus has ended. I know what you’re thinking … how did he do it? Easy. I stayed away from the friendly enablers here on Steepster for much of it. Also traveling a lot for work helped.

I bought samples of the current shengs from Mandala, and this one was first into the gaiwan.

I started with a flash rinse, a 5 minute pause and a 15 second opening steep. This first steep was unusual for me. I got a numbing sensation on the top of my tongue like when you eat a dish heavy in cloves, tingling in the back of my throat, and a lively mouth feel in a citrus-spice way but which was really neither. I was unable to put my finger on any definite notes.

Subsequent steeps were more conventional. Medium bodied, with a rotating array of spicy, tart, sweet and fruity notes taking center stage. The aroma was primarily tart stone fruits, with some apricot in the later steeps. I got a calming energy that was good for focusing on work.

I pushed this tea pretty hard in terms of timing, ranging from 10 seconds to 3 minutes over 15 steeps, and the 7 grams of leaf filled my 100ml gaiwan to the brim. I never got any smokey notes, which is good since I don’t tolerate those well. The sample was a single chunk pried from a cake. It had loose compression and I was able to tease individual leaves out of it without too much trouble.

I’m going to have to try this again with shorter steep times to see if more complex notes emerge.

Overall quite enjoyable and a possible candidate for buying a cake to age a few years.


Flavors: Citrus, Spicy, Sweet, Tart

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

I really enjoy this one :)

Terri HarpLady

I also was on a long tea buying hiatus, trying to just drink up what I already have, and recently placed my first significant tea order in months, basically all the 2015 YS blacks, because I didn’t have any of them yet!


Funny, the 2015 YS blacks are what broke my will power as well. I placed the Mandala order a couple of days later.

Terri HarpLady

I think I’m allowed to order off one website per month…lol…


Hiatus what is that????


mrmo — It’s nothing you need to worry about, unless your stacks of tea storage boxes qualifies you for an episode of Hoarders. Even then, don’t worry unless you think the episode might be especially memorable.

Terri HarpLady

It probably would be! LOL


kieblera5 — I’m in the middle of a second session where I’m not pushing the tea so hard in terms of timing, and I’m really enjoying it a whole lot more! I’m going to have to upgrade my rating.

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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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Joined December 2013
Updated October 2015

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

Doing limited swaps once again, but please try to not overwhelm me!

On Instagram now as teaexplorer. Only pictures of tea-related things, perhaps occasional cats and interesting outdoor shots. No food pix, I promise! I want to use the pictures to supplement my reviews here on Steepster.

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.


Florida, USA

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