20 Tasting Notes

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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85

Thanks to boychik for the generous sample!

I brewed this Gong Fu style and it was surprisingly good. In my little clear glass teacup the amber colored liquor was so saturated and intense it appeared to be glowing. I smelled roasted chestnuts with a hint of spearmint in the early steeps, morphing in to ruby red grapefruit, then a whiff of cinnamon in the final steep. Nutty flavor with a bit of citrus stimulating the saliva glands gave the impression of a rich, lively tea. Intense in the early steeps, but never bitter or astringent. Just a hint of pepper appeared in the middle steeps, and in the later ones the overall flavor had diminished but retained delicate notes of it’s earlier character.

I used 4.8 grams to 130 ml of water, 2 second rinse, 1 minute pause, then 10 / 5 / 6 / 8 / 15 / 30 / 60 seconds for the seven steeps. In the first steep the tea had not yet opened up, so next time I’ll try a 5 second rinse, 2 minute pause, then 15 / 5 / 7 / 10 / 15 / 25 / 45 second steeps.

As other reviewers have noted this is reminiscent of what we used to get in Chinese restaurants years ago, before cost cutting and thin margins dictated using something much cheaper (at least in my area). It’s not a complex tea, but it plays what few notes it does have very well. At it’s price point this is something I’d keep on hand for when I’m in the mood.

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C

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I added four of these mini touchas to a recent order just to see what the fuss was about. I really tried to like this tea but the rice scent wound up turning me off. It sounded good on paper, especially since other people seem to like it, but it actually made my stomach a little queasy … I’m not sure why I had this reaction. Oh well, at least it was an inexpensive lesson.

cryptickoi

sevencups has some of the best mini-tuo’s I’ve found..

TeaExplorer

I had never heard of sevencups until now. That’s one of the things I like about this group … always broadening my horizons :)

Terri HarpLady

Yeah! Before I joined Steepster I had never heard of hardly any of these companies! :)
My wallet wishes I still hadn’t…sigh…

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67

First off, let me state that I’ve never brewed this tea western-style. But simmered in milk it is pretty good. I’m still playing with the proportions, but I’ve had some good cups so far. I’m trying to get to that intense tea-spice-milk balance they achieve in my local Indian restaurant but I’m not quite there yet.

I started with 8 ounces of 2% milk in a pan on the stove, brought it to just under a simmer and held it there, then added the tea and some Splenda and stirred it continuously. I tried 4 grams of tea and 5 minutes and although it was fairly rich and tasty it was just a little weak. I then tried 6 grams and 8 minutes and it was much better but not quite what I was shooting for yet. The tea flavor was there this time but I wanted the spices to be a bit more prominent.

I’m going to try the Upton Chai Spice Tea next. It has more cloves and may be closer to what I want. Upton was very generous with the Chai samples over the holidays this year. I received seven 15 gram samples of various blends in just 3 orders!

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 8 min or more
JustJames

if you have the opportunity i cannot recommend chico chai enough. and their sampler four is perfect. (i’m really drawing it out because i’m enjoying them so much, lol)

TeaExplorer

I was just reading your tasting note on their Original Chai and looking at their web site. I will order their sampler. Thanks for the heads-up.

JustJames

it’s a reasonable investment to try IMO, and they cater to allergies. i had zero clue the difference that a freshly ground chai could have. it was so awesome i’ve been holding off on my others, lol.

TeaExplorer

Color me intrigued. Order placed.

JustJames

cannot wait to read your reviews!

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90

I may need therapy … I’m developing an unusual obsession with this tea. There are about 75 Pu-Erh selections in my stash if you count samples, and I keep coming back to this. I’ve had the bing for two weeks and it’s nearly half gone.

I bought this in my quest for a reasonably priced every-day shu. I have numerous other ones that range from acceptable to pretty good, but this one continues to stand out.

It’s color starts as a dark red-brown, moving through coffee-color, then into the ruby red range over 6 or 8 steeps. It’s always been clear, never cloudy. There is a powerful sweetness in the aroma starting with pralines, moving through raw cane sugar and into brown sugar, which accompanies a scent of shiitake mushrooms. Flavors of cedar and leather are underscored by a strong sweetness that ties them together very nicely, and the flavors vary in prominence over the steeps. A delightful citrus note makes an appearance in the middle steeps. A hint of spice in early steeps gives way to pepper in later ones. There is a liveliness on the tongue in the aftertaste. I find this flavor profile to be amazing in such an inexpensive shu!

I’ve tried various leaf quantities and steep times, but have settled on 6 grams to 100 ml water, one 20 second wash, then letting it sit for two minutes to allow the tea to open up. I use steep times of 15 / 10 / 15 / 15 / 15 / … seconds until the flavor starts to fade around steep 7, then either lengthen the steep time significantly or dump the leaves into the iced tea container in the fridge.

I’ve over-leafed this by 20% with good results when I want an even stronger flavor profile. Doing so introduces a pleasant bitter note to the mix.

To use a dating analogy, I have some fine sheng and shu varieties that are like that best girl you would take out to dinner on a Saturday night. But when it’s Wednesday and you just want to have a great time with the girl next door over bowling and pizza, this is the one I keep turning to.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
boychik

goes on my shopping list. thank you

Roughage

Sounds like my view of the Xiaguan Tibetan Flame. :)

Roughage

By which I mean that it is a bit rough round the edges, but I still love it. Must learn to finish typing before posting.

TeaExplorer

I think it’s those slightly rough edges that I find attractive, especially since they strike my palette in such a good way.
BTW: If anyone wants a sample, send me a PM.

Terri HarpLady

We all need therapy, or maybe we are here in group therapy, like a 12 step meeting…full of enablers :D

TeaExplorer

So would that be a 12 steep meeting?

boychik

i would like to sample. send you pm

Terri HarpLady

12 steep…I like that :)

Roughage

I’m up for a 12 steep meeting! :)

mrmopar

On the list it goes.

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61

7.8 g / 130 ml / 212 F
20 second wash / 90 second pause

Steep 1 – 15 sec: Translucent red-ish liquid. Aroma of mushrooms growing in damp earth. Light flavor – has not blossomed yet.

Steep 2 – 15 sec: Dark coffee-like liquid. Prominent mushroom aroma. Taste is mineral and dirt (not great). Dirt faded a little as the cup cooled. I’m hoping this gets better.

Steep 3 – 15 sec: Dark coffee-like liquid. Peat aroma. Flavors more integrated and hard for my untrained palete to pick out. Dirt is gone (yay!). Leaves a dry feeling on the tongue, which is interesting.

Steep 4 – 20 sec: Semi-translucent dark red liquid. Faint wet earth aroma. I found myself sipping this without paying much attention to it since nothing really stood out, but it was enjoyable.

Steep 5 – 25 sec: Translucent dark red liquid. Mellow damp earth and mineral aroma. Tastes a bit like a Keemun at this stage.

Steep 6 – 30 sec: Translucent medium-dark red liquid. Aroma of wet moss on rocks. light black tea flavor. This seems to be nearing the end.

Steep 7 – 60 sec: Clear dark red liquid. Very faint aroma; can’t quite place it (mineral?). Flavor is mellow but surprisingly fruity and sweet when hot, fading out as it cooled.

Steep 8 – 180 sec: A hail-mary to see if anything is left. Clear medium red color. Faint aroma I can’t quite place. Faint earthy flavor. It’s pretty weak at this point.

This tea was never cloudy and never astringent. Very low caffeine and only moderate energy, good for an evening Pu-Erh; I’m slightly uplifted but not buzzed. This strikes me as a decent, affordable tea to drink while working late. Enjoyable except for steep 2 … will see if that repeats in the future or if it was a fluke.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

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67

7.8 g / 130 ml / 212 F / 1 wash
Steeps: 15 / 10 / 15 / 15 / 30 / 45 / 60

First steep was astringent and lacked depth of flavor. In retrospect this tea could benefit from two rinses.

The next two steeps yielded a dark, coffee-colored liquid. Astringency was diminishing and flavors were integrating such that no one thing stood out, which was enjoyable. Nice earthy aroma with no off-smells. These were my favorite steeps.

Steeps 4 and 5 were lighter in color, a reddish-brown. Astringency is gone, aroma diminishing, flavor becoming more delicate, but still enjoyable.

Steeps 6 and 7 are now a reddish-amber, aroma is faint but still slightly earthy. Flavor is very light like a green tea.

I consider this to be a decent value every day drinking tea when you don’t want to have to pay as much attention as you would a fine Pu-Erh. Caffeine level is moderate, so I could drink this after dinner and not be too wound up to go to bed three or four hours later.

Next time I would do two washes and stop drinking after the fourth steep. It might be interesting to see how this matures in another 5 years.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
SimpliciTEA

You mention doing two rinses. I have read that some Chinese Pu-urh drinkers do as many as three. So, doing a second rinse here would help mitigate the astringency?

TeaExplorer

Sorry for the delay; was AFS (away from Steepster). I don’t believe that astringency is generally reduced by additional rinses. In the case of this shu, the extra rinse helps the tea open up in preparation for a better first steep. The astringency in this particular tea diminished as the steeps went on, but that won’t always be the case with all pu-erh.

SimpliciTEA

Got it. Thanks TeaExplorer!

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Profile

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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