20 Tasting Notes
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.