38 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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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.