107 Tasting Notes

This is the lone sheng pu’er sample among the massive pile of ripe samples in my recent Yunnan Sourcing order. I’ve never seen Jie Liang talked about anywhere else, but Scott mentions it in his descriptions for the Lao Man’e teas on his site. He describes it as being very similar to Lao Man’e, though even more intensely bitter. Since Lao Man’e is my absolute favorite tea, I naturally simply had to try this tea out.

For this session I used my standard setup of 7g in my 100ml Yixing jiangponi gaiwan. I used a single intact piece, which meant the tea would start off a bit more slowly, helping control the potential intensity. The rinse and the first couple infusions were quite thick and incredibly sweet. There was virtually no bitterness, but I could sense an underlying potency waiting to be unleashed.

Once the chunk had properly come apart, the expected intensity did indeed arrive. The tea was intensely bitter, but you could tell it had mellowed out quite considerably since its youth. For a seasoned Lao Man’e drinker such as myself the bitterness was perfectly palatable, but for those more faint of heart the tea could certainly still be too overwhelming. The bitterness is very persistent lasting for a long time, but unlike most bitterness of such kind I didn’t find it unenjoyable at any point during the session. The bitterness is accompanied by an almost equally intense sweetness and an underlying fruitiness completes the tea. The fruitiness is reminiscent of the grapefruit note I get in Lao Man’e yet not quite the same.

The tea has excellent longevity and I would highly recommend sticking with it till the end as the 2 min. infusion was actually my favorite of the session. In the late extended brews the bitterness and intensity start to die down, which reveals the more subtle and nuanced aspects of the tea. In addition to the aforementioned fruitiness, I noted a different kind of character which helped set the tea further apart from its cousin Lao Man’e (at least the young teas from there). The lack of association makes it difficult to describe, but it was a nice quality nevertheless.

I ordered this sample purely as a curiosity. Since I own two different vintages of Lao Man’e gushu, I never expected to even end up considering purchasing a cake of this tea. At first I wasn’t sure what to think of the Jie Liang. While it does still have quite a bit of intensity left in it, I do prefer teas that have plenty of kick to them, so for my tastes the tea has mellowed perhaps a bit too much even. Early on the similarities with Lao Man’e are also so plentiful that one must ask is there any point in having both. But over time the tea does reveal its own unique character distinct from Lao Man’e, making it worth existing and experiencing.

What sealed the deal for me was the cha qi. During the session I experienced very little qi, but then half an hour after I’d already stopped it suddenly caught up with me. I suddenly had a massive headache, my face felt like it was melting and I was all wobbly. It’s been a while since a tea has made me so tea drunk. While not necessarily purely enjoyable, the qi was very fitting for a tea like this and most certainly elevated at least my experience with the Jie Liang. While the headache and muscle pains faded, I was left energized for the rest of the day.

So now I want a cake of this tea. The price is certainly quite high, but very reasonable given the quality and age. A young Lao Man’e will set you back about as much, and we’re not even talking about gushu. I would consider this tea to be really early in its semi-aged stage, but it has a good head start and will hopefully develop into something even more interesting in another five to ten years. Personally I still prefer Lao Man’e, but I’m now a fan of Jie Liang as well.

Edit: I just realized my gaiwan is actually 120ml, not 100ml. I had it right initially, but seems I’ve been confused about that for many weeks now. It’s not a huge deal, but I’ve been slightly under-leafing my teas per my own standards. Good thing I caught that.

Flavors: Bitter, Fruity, Sweet

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 7 g 4 OZ / 120 ML
tea-sipper

There’s nothing like your face melting and saying “I want a cake of this”. haha

TJ Elite

Indeed!

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I’ve only tried a handful of teas from Mengsong, so I’m still formulating an idea of what the characteristics of teas from that area are. If I had to try to describe what I’ve noted about them so far though, I’d say it’s that they seem to be quite aromatic and carry a very unique fragrance in the mouth.

Like with the other Yunnan Sourcing 2019 premium ripes I’ve been reviewing recently, I used half of my sample, so 13.2g in this case, along with the same teaware consisting of my trusty 160ml Yxing zini teapot as well as a teacup and cha hai both made from Jianshui clay. I gave the tea a good, fifteen second rinse, which I drank. It had good body. The taste was sweet, with a somewhat sour and drying finish (in a good way). The sweetness made me think of really juicy, more watery than sweet cherries. A stone fruit of some sort for sure. An underlying mineral character was also present. The aroma of the wet leaves was really nice. Sweet and plummy.

The first proper infusion had a slick texture to it. While the taste wasn’t weak, it was surprisingly restrained. There wasn’t much upfront flavor to speak of, while the finish consisted aside from some minerality solely of bassy notes. The same sour, somewhat drying character was still there. I could feel some fragrance slowly beginning to build up though. So far a very mature, quite elusive tea.

Thankfully the flavor opened up over the next three infusions, growing stronger and fuller with each steep. The liquor had a very solid and stable body across the infusions. The texture, while not stellar, was also well above average and displayed great consistency over the session. It was very smooth, gaining a really buttery quality in the fourth infusion, which is where the tea peaked both in terms of strength and texture, not dropping too quickly after that.

As far as the progression of flavors, the sourness first developed into a more recognizable taste of sour cherries, which was also joined by a touch of bitterness and astringency in the finish. After this the tea made a big shift and turned dominantly earthy. The aforementioned buttery fourth steep had an interesting saltiness to it. I recall some people using “soy sauce” to describe some ripes. While it’s probably not quite right, I think it’s an accurate enough descriptor for the lack of a better word. In the finish I picked up on perhaps a whisper of some dark, fermented fruits, possibly some woodiness as well.

After the fourth steep which acted as a nice halfway point, while the tea retained its earthy, fermented quality and the mineral character running throughout this session, the Mengsong began getting a bit fresher, with perhaps just a touch of some berry sweetness creeping in. In the final brews, the source of the freshness and slight cooling revealed itself to be camphor.

So what are my thoughts on this tea? I think the material is good. It’s been fermented well. This is a good tea. But it isn’t a tea for me. While I got some enjoyment out of it, had some fun with it and found it somewhat interesting, the flavor profile wasn’t really for me. While I do love certain types of sourness such as the kinds you find in rye bread and yogurt, the sourness in this one didn’t appeal to me. It was interesting though as I haven’t run across it too often in ripe pu’er. I think for me the lack of any notable sweetness is what ultimately kills this tea for me, as has been the case with other ripes as well. While I don’t like my teas too sweet, I usually like to see at least some.

Taking a look at the strengths of the tea, while not quite good enough to be selling points for me, the body and texture are well above average and hold stable throughout most of the session. The tea holds up surprisingly well even in the later infusions. While not the most fragrant shu at this point in time, there is definitely a faint fragrance that builds up in the mouth and this is something that will hopefully improve over time. Personally I found this tea somewhat more demanding than your average shu, demanding more attention especially in the early steeps. I feel the wet piling has preserved a lot of the original character of the tea and fans of Mengsong teas will likely be able to appreciate it the most.

Flavors: Camphor, Cherry, Drying, Earth, Mineral, Sour, Soy Sauce, Sweet, Wood

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 13 g 5 OZ / 160 ML

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I’ve been wanting to try this tea since it came out, but it’s always been one of the ones to get dropped out of my shopping cart mainly due to the price of even a single session. While Hai Lang’s Lao Ban Zhang ripe was a really good tea, there’s just no way it’s worth its price tag. This one I hoped would offer a similar experience at nearly half the price.

Since I only ordered a 10g sample, I was expecting to have to try to fill my pot to slightly less than full to keep my leaf-to-water ratio comparable to the recent ripe reviews I’ve done, but when I weighed my sample I was amazed to discover I’d been sent 13.1g – precisely the amount I’ve used for two of the last three teas. This made things a lot easier for me. The teaware used was the same as in my other recent ripe reviews: 160ml Yixing zini teapot and a cha hai and teacup both made from Jianshui clay.

I gave the tea a longer close to 20s rinse, which I drank. It was strong. Brief bitterness which quickly transformed into sweetness – trademark of the Ban Zhang area. The sweetness was more specifically a berry sweetness. I could also pick up on some earthy chocolate notes in the finish. Some mouth cooling was also present.

Moving to the first proper brew, I was now greeted by an even more powerful bitterness, a really nice middle of the tongue kuwei. For a flash steep, the body was really good. The taste was very dark chocolaty, not too sweet. The finish wasn’t drying but slightly salivating. After just a few sips I could already feel my head pounding and my eyes began to water. The texture was thick and velvety, simply divine. The mouthfeel was full and expansive. My tongue was beginning to throb and grow numb. The taste is very mature. I’m picking up hints of something alcoholic in the finish.

The bitterness only ramped up in the second infusion. I was assaulted by intense coffee bitterness, which however faded rather quickly. The mouthfeel was perfect. Smooth, the soup gliding down effortlessly. The surfaces in my mouth were left feeling very active after swallowing. As I continue drinking, the initial coffee switches back over to the dark chocolate. As I bring my cup to my nose, the liquor in it smells of vanilla syrup. The bitterness is more persistent now than before and the qi somewhat energizing yet also calming and slightly bliss inducing.

Needless to say I was very impressed.

Unfortunately the highlight of the tea – the mouthfeel – began to diminish from this point on, never being able to recover even with extended steeps. Thankfully the strength held up much better and tapered off much more gracefully. The progression of flavors didn’t prove particularly dynamic, however. The dark chocolate was first replaced by roasted coffee and dark wood. After that Jun Ai became more of a standard shu affair, offering sweet, earthy and mineraly tones. I only did a total of nine infusions, the last three being fairly simple and dull in terms of texture.

So overall Jun Ai left me feeling mixed. It started off incredibly strong, but quickly lost its most attractive qualities. The material is obviously very high quality, but the choice of using only very fine grade leaves seems to result in what I’ve noticed in many other similar teas: the tea brews up strong right from the start, but also brews out rather quickly.

In terms of taste the tea is certainly very nice and enjoyable but nothing particularly special. Similar flavor profiles are not hard to find in other ripes. Similar to many of the other high-end Hai Lang Hao shus, those who appreciate and value mouthfeel and the way a tea feels and makes you feel will certainly find a lot to like here, at least in the early infusions. I was truly excited about those first few brews, but it’s such a shame the fun was over so soon. Not that the tea suddenly turns bad after that, just that it seemed to become just a shadow of its former self.

So I definitely like this tea. I might even say I like it quite a bit. But I don’t love it. It’s been a long time since I had the Lao Ban Zhang ripe, but I feel like I probably enjoyed this one more. The LBZ was too overwhelming for me in terms of its qi; in this one I only experienced some initially, but after that is was a much smoother ride. Whichever you prefer, the two certainly are comparable.

Given all that I’ve said about the Jun Ai, when you factor in the price, it’s not an easy tea to recommend unfortunately. Even at 50¢/g it would be a big maybe. This is undoubtedly one of the highest quality ripes in existence, but that doesn’t mean that the price of Ban Zhang area teas is directly proportional to their quality. Still, this is a tea that could certainly be worth a sample though, for a really special session.

Before beginning to write this review, I’d already concluded that a brick of this wasn’t even a thought worth entertaining. As I’ve been typing this, however, a crazy part of me has began to think “maybe.” I’m not currently putting much money into my other hobbies, so I could certainly afford it if I wanted to. If I were to buy it, it would be in part just to have something luxurious to pull out once or twice a year for years to come, as well as to see how material of this caliber would age in the long term.

A question I found asking myself was, “Would I feel regret drinking this tea if it didn’t change or improve at all over time?” And the answer was “no.” Sure it would be a ridiculously expensive tea to session, somewhat overpriced certainly, but ultimately we are talking about the cost of a movie ticket or two annually. I can’t even dine at a fine restaurant for that price. And if the tea did improve – or simply change – well, that’s what the tea journey is all about.

So did I just convince myself to buy this tea? I don’t know. We’ll have to see. I certainly can’t recommend anyone else to do the same and claim it would be a rational thing to do, but we humans as much as we want to convince ourselves that we are beings based on reason and logic, ultimately after all the painstaking logical thinking we tend to follow our heart and make the choice we want to make, not necessarily the one we concluded we should make.

Edit: So yeah… I may have just ordered a brick.

Flavors: Alcohol, Berries, Bitter, Coffee, Dark Chocolate, Dark Wood, Earth, Mineral, Roasted, Sweet

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 13 g 5 OZ / 160 ML

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Of the dozen or so ripe samples I ordered recently from Yunnan Sourcing, this is one of the ones I was most excited to try. For a fair comparison, I used the same teaware as in my last two reviews: 160ml Yixing zini teapot accompanied by teacup and cha hai made from Jianshui clay. The amount of leaf was also near identical – half of my sample, in this case 13.1g.

For boutique ripes like this one I’ve recently abandoned flash rinses in favor of doing a longer 10–20s one and drinking it instead of discarding. This one was strong and flavorful for a ripe, immediately piquing my interest. It was sweet and bitter, with some berries present in the aftertaste, which was strong and stable. In the wet leaf aroma I could pick up currants, sour bread and some charcoal.

With the leaves primed, the first proper brew was strong indeed! Very bitter, in a good way. I could even taste the grapefruit note which alongside the notorious bitterness is one of the trademarks of Lao Man’e for me. Capital! As the infusions progress, the bitterness gradually fades a little, allowing the fruitiness to shine through and present a more balanced tea. While there’s more tartness than sweetness, there’s definitely some huigan to complement the bitterness, not too much though.

The body starts off good but not impressive. However, as you’d expect it does improve with extended brewing times. The texture is very smooth and the tea goes down easy. As the steeping times grow longer the soup becomes increasingly more oily. In the mid steeps I experienced some cooling sensation which is also where the tea was at its most refreshing.

As the infusions progress, the tea grows smoother and smoother, the seventh infusion actually being my favorite of the session, presenting the perfect balance between the bitterness and the zesty fruitiness while also being as smooth as can be. As the tea begins to lose steam, the texture starts becoming more chalky, resulting in at least the impression of it being slightly chocolaty as well. While the grapefruit doesn’t fade completely, the taste starts to become more earthy resembling a more typical shu. I may have picked up on some plums as well.

And there you have it. What a tea, what a tea! Those who have been following me for a while likely know that Lao Man’e is my favorite sheng pu’er production area and man did this tea deliver. It’s nearly everything I could hope for in a Lao Man’e ripe. I’m incredibly impressed at how this tea manages to retain most of the character of the young raws from this village while rounding off some of the harshest edge of the bitterness and offering you all that ripe pu’er goodness. The wet piling process has been truly immaculate.

This is without a doubt the fruitiest ripe pu’er I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking and I have no idea how they accomplished that, especially given how incredibly dark this tea brews up. Great, pleasing bitterness is one of the most sought after qualities in a ripe pu’er for me and while this one isn’t perfect, I do enjoy the bitterness in this one a lot. I did manage to make the bitterness somewhat abrasive even by my standards by trying to push the tea a little bit harder in one of the middle steeps, so I would recommend paying attention while you brew.

The qi in this one is one that builds up over time. In typical Lao Man’e fashion it can make one feel a bit restless, but thankfully at least I didn’t find it to grow too potent over the course of the session even if it did start to get a bit heady toward the end. I was using a fairly large vessel for a single person, though, and a somewhat heavier ration than I typically would, so more sensible sessions will probably be fine.

For those who are curious about how this compares to the Hai Lang Hao ripe pu’er brick, I did review that one a couple years back and my thoughts on it back then were quite mixed. For a proper comparison I did order a sample of that tea as well and just finished drinking it right before beginning to write this review. I wasn’t a fan of it before and now I think I’m ready to say I don’t like that tea. The cha qi in it really doesn’t agree with me and for me the lack of sweetness or any other notable flavors besides the bitterness just kills that tea for me. That’s my short take on that, but obviously feel free to order samples of both teas if you are curious.

I’m going to hold off on making any purchase decisions until I’ve tasted my way through all the ripe samples I ordered, but I’m going to tell you right now that this tea immediately became my favorite ripe of all time. It’s that good. Unless there’s another really great tea among the samples I have, I’m likely going to be picking up at least two or three cakes of this one, if not more. While this is not a cheap tea, it’s priced really reasonably in my eyes relative to the quality.

If you’re not a fan of bitterness or single-origin teas, this one’s likely not for you. Otherwise I highly, highly recommend picking up a sample as this tea deserves to be experienced, even if you don’t end up loving it.

Flavors: Berries, Bitter, Chocolate, Earth, Grapefruit, Plums, Sweet, Tart

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 13 g 5 OZ / 160 ML
Togo

I am glad you liked this one so much! :)

It is interesting that I preferred the Hai Lang Hao’s Lao Man E shou over this one by quite a margin. However, since I still have both, I am planning to do another round of comparison soon. For one, I expect this one to have settled much more with another year under its belt.

TJ Elite

I’ll definitely finish my sample of the Yunnan Sourcing one before ordering any cakes, just to make sure this session wasn’t an anomaly. While I’ve really liked nearly all the Hai Lang Hao ripes I’ve tried, the Lao Man’e didn’t agree with me three years ago and drinking it today I didn’t notice any improvements. I still have half a sample of that one left as well, so perhaps my next session will be more favorable, but I’m actually not looking forward to revisiting that tea, I gotta be honest. I also have a 10g sample of the Hai Lang Hao “Jun Ai” and that one I am very much looking forward to trying.

mrmopar

Now I have to try both of these. Awesome review!

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Time to test out the Badass King! Similar to the YS Hekai, I used half of my sample in my 160ml Yixing zini teapot, which ended up being 13.1g. My teacup and cha hai were also the same, both made from Jianshui clay.

The scent of the wet leaves after the rinse is quite sweet and herbaceous. The taste mirrors this in the rinse and early steeps. The tea is cooling, herbaceous, high-noted and fragrant. Definitely complex and multifaceted. The initial qi is almost immediate and quite calming.

As the infusions progress, hints of bitterness start to emerge, along with an active, perhaps even somewhat titillating feeling at the back of the tongue. At this point the qi has switched gears and I’m starting to feel quite alert. The body is quite thick, especially once the tea cools a little. I’m now getting dark cherries in the aftertaste and this is reflected in the wet leaf aroma as well, which is quite rich at this stage.

As I entered the mid steeps, the tea suddenly got incredibly sweet all of a sudden. Actually a bit too sweet for my taste. I was now getting some hints of dark wood in the finish and gradually some touches of dark chocolate started to reveal themselves in the aftertaste. This was accompanied by an appropriate growing bitterness, which thankfully counterbalanced the sweetness by eventually overtaking it. Unfortunately the nature of the bitterness wasn’t enjoyable in the same way as say in the Hekai, it just kind of was, but it was still better than nothing.

Things continued to improve, with the chocolate gaining a nice acidic quality to it. This was also joined by touches of a winey, alcoholic character. There was some rounded, slightly peppery upfront bitterness, which was replaced by a subtle sweetness in the aftertaste alongside a pleasant lubricating feeling from increased saliva production.

The mouthfeel improved with the extended infusions toward the latter half of the mid steeps, inducing slight euphoria and becoming very oily in texture. The qi returned from energizing back to calming. The taste was full, yet subtle with incredible depth. At this stage it was no longer easy to pin down any individual flavors as they had all begun to blend together to form one whole.

Once we got to the late infusions, the taste obviously simplified a lot as expected, but still retained more depth to it than your average shu. There was also still plenty of body, even requiring some effort to swallow at times. The taste was fairly typical but difficult for me to classify. I’d likely say more earthy than woody, but probably a mix of a bit of both.

I had no expectations going in, but man was this a great session. While I liked the Hekai ripe a lot, I was even more impressed by the Ba Wang. At its most complex, this was honestly probably one of the most complex teas I’ve drunk, and I’m not talking just ripes. Then again it’s a blend which would help in that. Whereas the Hekai is an exemplary single origin tea, this one is a great showcase of what a skillful blend of premium ripes can bring to the table.

Whereas I’d quite possibly say that purely in terms of taste I actually preferred the Hekai to the Ba Wang, I noted in my review for that tea that for whatever reason it didn’t have that wow factor for me, whereas this one did, to a degree. That just goes to show that taste is but a single facet of a tea and not even number one priority for me personally. The Hekai is a great tea in its own right, but Ba Wang as a whole most certainly ranks higher in my book.

As such I was certain Ba Wang would be the more expensive of the two, but no, it is slightly cheaper. That makes it all the more easier to recommend. I think it’s in a great place already, but in the same breath I will note that this is definitely a tea that I would recommend storing for at least a minimum of five years to get the most out of it. I’ve noted great changes in much lesser teas than this and would expect a blend like this to hold great potential within it. Obviously ultimately it’s up to you.

Flavors: Alcohol, Bitter, Cherry, Dark Chocolate, Dark Wood, Earth, Herbaceous, Pepper, Sweet, Tart

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 13 g 5 OZ / 160 ML

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I recently ordered over a dozen ripe samples from Yunnan Sourcing. This ended up being the first one I tried. I weighed my sample and put half in my 160ml Yixing zini teapot – this ended up being 12.9g. My other teaware consisted of a cha hai and teacup both made from Jianshui clay.

The Hekai starts off sweet and fragrant, moving to pleasingly bitter in the early mid steeps. After this I experienced a complex woodiness before the tea started simplifying. While not the most viscous tea, there should be enough body to satisfy most people. Mouthfeel is a similar story and the light syrupy texture offers enough tactile feel to not make the tea feel disappointing in the mouth.

I don’t seem to be very sensitive to the wet pile taste in young shu, so I might not be the best judge of this, but at least to me this Hekai tastes quite clean, without crossing the line of tasting TOO clean. I found the tea to have a quite noticeable, mostly grounding cha qi and I even felt quite lightheaded after the session, so I would recommend eating something before and after the session. For those looking for a really casual brew this might be a bit of a minus.

All in all I was very pleased with this tea. It actually reminded me a lot of the Yunnan Sourcing 2016 Golden Needle ripe, which I’m a big fan of, but which unfortunately sold out rather quickly. That tea has more of a berrylike, winey character in typical Bulang fashion as I recall, while this one is more woody, etc., but their profiles share a lot in common. I’d actually say this one is probably somewhat higher quality, while in terms of taste the Golden Needle may have had more of a wow factor on me. While I’ve noted the Golden Needle to have aged nicely so far, I’d expect the Hekai to possibly have even higher potential in the long term.

The Hekai is a very nice ripe and relative to the price especially so. While it’s somewhat more expensive than your average shu, the quality should be very noticeable to a seasoned drinker. I’ve drunk many a tea that offered similar quality at double the price. Those who haven’t been fans of single origin ripes in the past are unlikely to be converted by this one, but to others I would definitely recommend sampling it if you’re at all interested.

Flavors: Dark Bittersweet, Sweet, Wood

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 13 g 5 OZ / 160 ML

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While I let my Bitterleaf 2020 dragon balls chill just a while longer, I decided to dig into this one. Mine is from the non-smoky batch. I must say that the pressed long straws are quite attractive and will help brighten up a tea session.

I used a 130ml gaiwan with a 1g/15ml ratio, steeping times similar to how I brew most sheng. For the first one or two infusions the aroma I got off the wet leaf was akin to that of cooked vegetables like zucchini and eggplant, but after that transformed to an uncanny smell of standing next to a cotton candy stand with that hot, burnt sugar smell. That’s pretty rad.

This tea is very sweet, as one might expect from Jinggu. Immediate upfront sweetness with plenty of flavor. This tea is honestly just straight up liquified cotton candy. Sugarcane is the best way to describe the sweetness and there is even a barely noticeable slight toasted note to this tea as well. Bitterness and astringency are vanishingly low as far as I can tell. The body is really solid and taste very pure and clean.

Overall Lucky Draw is an extremely approachable and very good tea for the price. It’s a great daily drinker and very forgiving to brew, likely making it well suited for brewing grandpa style or iced. I like it a lot and so does my mother who now wants a tin after hearing how affordable it is. I’m actually curious enough myself to order a tin of the smoky variant for comparison.

The tea’s straightforward nature can also be one of its biggest caveats for some. While very pleasant and easygoing, the tea doesn’t have much in terms of complexity or depth to it. The flavor does change gradually over the infusions, but not to a degree that would make Lucky Draw a particularly engaging or rewarding tea to session. The finish is also fairly short, with the aftertaste not lasting particularly long. Don’t expect a qi bomb either and while the leaves themselves have nice aroma to them, in the mouth I didn’t find this Jinggu to be the most aromatic sheng.

As long as you know that you’re looking for something easygoing and straightforward, none of the shortcomings I just mentioned matter. Lucky Draw is a tea that’s very difficult to genuinely dislike and one that will be in regular rotation for me this summer.

Flavors: Cotton Candy, Sweet, Toasted

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 9 g 4 OZ / 130 ML

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I finally received samples of Bitterleaf’s 2020 sheng lineup. Since I liked last year’s Full Frontal enough to grab a bing of it for daily drinking and figured this was the closest thing to it in this year’s selection (I believe Bitterleaf has said as much in one of their Instagram posts), I ordered 100g straight away instead of a mere taster.

I tried to pick two mountains totaling as close to 8g as possible for my new 120ml Yixing jiangponi clay gaiwan which I’ve been absolutely loving so far, but the best I could do without going through the whole bag was around 8.4g. I rinsed the lil peaks for half a minute filling the gaiwan to less than full, but this turned out to be too long (or not enough water) as the wash turned out really intense. Despite the seemingly heavy compression, the mountains aren’t too tightly compacted and open up rather quickly, hence I proceeded with the brewing normally as I would do with any sheng.

Right out of the gate, I was very impressed. The early brews were the most floral I’ve ever experienced with any tea. Typically I have a hard time even picking up on floral notes, but this tea literally tasted like I was munching on a bouquet of flowers. I’m no expert on flowers, so the best description I can give is that to me they tasted like white flowers. Bloom is a very flavorful tea, but didn’t come across as an overly intense tea to me as some can be. Even more impressive though is how strong and long-lasting the aftertaste is, only building up as you keep drinking through the early infusions. Around midway through the session I reached a point where the aftertaste was essentially just as strong as the taste while having the tea in your mouth.

Speaking of impressive, Bloom is one of the most full bodied teas I’ve had in a long time. Thick and creamy in the early steeps, the tea coats your mouth and offers a very satisfying textural experience. As the infusions progressed, I began to feel a very pleasant active sensation at the back of my tongue and in my throat, like an almost euphoric massage. As I said, very impressive.

The tea has a lot of upfront sweetness, in the late steeps concentrating in particular on the sides of the tongue. While there’s some green character perceptible, it is largely overshadowed by everything else going on. While I struggle to describe some of the flavors in particular in the mid steeps and also didn’t take notes as I wasn’t expecting to be reviewing this tea based on this first session without it having had any rest at all after arriving, I found this Jingmai surprisingly dynamic and certainly an engaging tea to session. Time seemed to fly by very quickly while drinking it.

There’s certainly some astringency in a tea this young, but I never found it to rise even close to being an issue. For most of this session I actually did two infusions with the same water before reboiling, with the temperature typically having dropped to around 95°C for the second steep. This resulted in every other infusion being a bit more heavy hitting and the ones to follow a bit sweeter. Both approaches worked very well and mixing them up helped make the session even more interesting than it normally would have. I only continued up to a two-minute steep, but the tea was certainly still going at that point.

All in all a really superb tea, especially for the price. This one was like Full Frontal on steroids. It has everything I love about that tea, amped up to the max, and more. Perhaps the one slight disappointment I had was how quickly the flavor started dropping once it did, but by the two-minute steep the tea most certainly still had plenty of strength – just compared to what had come before it seemed much weaker. This will likely improve with age anyway, so certainly a very minor gripe.

As this marks my 100th review here on Steepster, I was a bit worried of not having any kind of special tea planned in advance, but this one somehow managed to really impress me and is most certainly worthy of commemorating this occasion!

Flavors: Floral, Sweet

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 8 g 4 OZ / 120 ML
Togo

Sounds awesome!

mrmopar

Awesome 100! You always do such nice reviews.

tea-sipper

Congrats on 100!

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Bitterleaf kindly threw in a full bing of this with my recent order, so I decided to give it a shot while the tea was at its greenest. The artwork is a looker and the cake loose enough in compression to make breaking off leaves a breeze without much risk of breaking too many of the leaves themselves. The appearance of the dry leaves can be deceptive, as their dark hue reveals a very verdant green color when reintroduced to water.

The bing gives off a pleasant sweet fragrance, whilst the wet leaves reveal more of a vegetal character. My order included a 120ml Yixing jiangponi clay gaiwan which I intend to dedicate to dry stored sheng of all ages, so Mickey made a natural choice for breaking it in. I used 8g of leaf and freshly boiled water as is standard for me. I didn’t keep notes as this was more of a casual session, but I used more or less my standard brewing times for sheng.

For such a young sheng, the first thing I noted about the tea was how fragrant it already is. Typically I find young raws processed according to my tastes to lack fragrance in the first year, but gradually start to develop it as the months and years go by. Then, as I took my first sip of the rinse, what immediately hit me was the potency of these leaves. I’ve had the year of the rooster and year of the dog iterations of this tea, and I can say this year’s harvest is a real powerhouse. The trout this year was even worse than last year from what I hear, resulting in even denser, more concentrated tea than many of last year’s offerings from Yunnan. If this tea is any indication of what to expect from the rest of this year’s teas, I’m excited to taste them.

The flavor is immediate. Aftertaste is much more subtle, but it’s there and lasted me hours after the session. Sweetness is the most prominent characteristic. There’s definitely a verdant freshness present in such a young tea, but it’s not a leafy or grassy greenness, rather more of a vegetal character. While it’s been a few years since I last had it, I’m reminded of the Yunnan Sourcing spring 2015 Da Qing Gu Shu and Jinggu teas in general. I got hardly any bitterness and astringency was kept largely in check. Later longer steeps saw a growing roughness creeping in, which in my experience seems to be typical for young teas and tea produced from younger trees. I found longevity to be good, but stopped the session prematurely to avoid dealing with the roughness.

Overall an excellent tea and one that performs well above its price point. I prefer this year’s iteration to previous vintages I’ve tried and it’s the first one I can recommend without reservations for someone looking for a quality tea that doesn’t break the bank. Mickey is a great daily drinker for immediate consumption, but the added potency and frankly crazy oiliness present in the tea soup this year make this one a great candidate for aging. Not a tea I would have caked myself as I tend to prefer teas that are a bit closer to midrange or even high end, but definitely a tea that I’m happy to receive a bing of and one that will be in regular rotation this summer.

Flavors: Sweet, Vegetal

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 8 g 4 OZ / 120 ML
Togo

Sounds great! I am looking forward to getting some fresh sheng, so far I haven’t pulled the trigger though.

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This is a tea I received a free sample of. At one year of age, it finally felt like a good time to give it a shot. The parameters and brewing times were my standard ones for sheng. I won’t repeat them here, so go look at one of my other reviews for reference if you so wish.

Full Frontal sips very clean, most of the flavor arriving in the aftertaste, immediately after you swallow. This is exactly what I look for in quality pu’er, so high marks here. The tea soup is quite oily; taste floral and dense. Though light in nature, the liquor is very flavorful and the aftertaste long-lasting. In the mid steeps the floral notes are joined by soapiness in the aftertaste. I mean that by no means as a negative. In my experience Jingmai teas tend to express very little bitterness, but in its stead a fair amount of astringency or dryness. That was not the case here, with only a modest amount of astringency at best appearing in the late steeps.

The leaves themselves are very small, presumably at least in part due to many trees in Jingmai being mixed leaf varietal as I understand. This no doubt contributes in part to the strength found in the early brews. Many small-leaf teas tend to brew out quicker than their large-leaf counterparts, but for me Full Frontal continued to deliver perfectly acceptable results till the two-minute infusion which is where I stopped. I wager they had at least one more good brew in them, so longevity is good.

Personally I’ve never been a fan of Jingmai. I’ve had one sheng that I liked from there in the past — one also of the floral kind — but the teas veering more towards honied, greener notes I’ve always hated. This tea on the other hand I can wholeheartedly recommend. I might even pick up a cake myself as the price is more than reasonable relative to the quality.

Flavors: Floral, Jasmine, Olive Oil, Soap, Sweet

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 7 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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Bio

I’ve been drinking loose leaf tea since around 2014 if I remember correctly, but the summer of 2016 is when I really became passionate about tea and I started brewing gong fu style at the start of 2017. While oolongs were my first love, I drink mostly pu’er these days. I do drink other types of tea with varying degrees of regularity as well, so I don’t discriminate.

I only review pu’er and don’t designate scores to any of the teas to encourage people to actually read the reviews and not just look at the scores. I tend to be thorough, so my reviews can run quite long, but I do try to always gather my thoughts at the end. These tasting notes are as much a record for myself for future reference as they are a review of the tea, so the format is something that’s geared to satisfy both.

You can follow my adventures on Instagram as tujukki.

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Finland

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