35 Tasting Notes
The tour of Yunnan continues…
Region 1/4: Western Xishuangbanna – Menghai county. Location 2/3: Pasha mountain
This is a very approachable and enjoyable young raw (although at this point, I guess it does have a few years already under its belt. Time flies!)
Great balance of sweet, fresh herbal, some fruit, and some savory notes. Lingering fruity, saccharine, and mineral sweetness in the aftertaste. I noticed some smoky and ash flavors when I brewed it up in a gaiwan, but in a yixing, sweet and fruity flavors were definitely highlighted.
Dry leaf: (SWEET, HERBAL, FRUIT) sugar sweet – sugar water, light herbal (bay leaf), crystallized honey, honeysuckle, hint of candied apple. With heat – fruity and syrupy – grape syrup
Smell: (HERBAL, FRAGRANT) wax, green stem, fragrant wood, bay leaf
Taste: (HERBAL, SPICE, SWEET, FRUIT) savory fresh green herb – thyme/bay leaf, light smoke and ash, white pepper, some honeysuckle sweetness. Taste is sweet from the get-go – syrupy, saccharine, herbal sweet. Some indistinct fruitiness again – Juicy Fruit, tropical fruit, candy chews. Aftertaste becomes saccharine sweet, honeysuckle, hints of grape and cherry syrup, some cereal heartiness and sweetness like oatmeal
First installment of my taste tour through Yunnan. I picked some samples from Yunnan Sourcing that hit different areas throughout Yunnan just to note any characteristics that teas from one region had in common. I stuck with all YS productions and kept everything around the same price range, just to maintain a little consistency. Ages were 3-5 years old or so.
So, here we go:
Region 1/4: Western Xishuangbanna – Menghai county. Location 1/3: Ba Da mountain
Fairly interesting experience. Has a lot of herbal and green flavors, with some fragrant smokiness and a vague fruitiness to it (straight up Juicy Fruit gum flavor.) The thing I like most about it is that once the main puer flavors peter out, it sort of transforms into a green tea, with some vegetal and corn flavors, even a little roastiness. That went on for about two or three steeps.
YS suggests some pine needle flavors, and that is absolutely true. It is very pleasant and refreshing.
No bitterness and very little astringency. Not super long-lasting, but nice enough while it lasted. I really enjoyed the unique flavors it presented.
Dry leaf: EARTHY, SMOKY, SWEET (hay, pine needles, dill, parsley, mesquite smoke, some sandalwood, light sugar and honeysuckle notes). In preheated vessel – stronger smoke notes with syrupy sweetness.
Smell: SMOKY, HERBAL, SWEET (campfire, pungent green herb, zucchini, saccharine sweet)
Taste: WOODY, HERBAL, VEGETAL, SWEET, EARTHY (green woodiness, fresh dill and parsley, pine needle, sweet floral, zucchini, roasted corn, char. Aftertaste of saccharine sweetness, sweet minerality, hints of citrus.
A thick, creamy, rich tea. For me, a good ripe is like a good Irish stout – an earthy and creamy richness balanced with a grainy dryness that hints at sweetness but never quite gets there. I would say this tea fits squarely in that sort of realm.
This tea definitely shines when you use plenty of leaf – don’t be cheap otherwise you will left with a brew that is a little too dry and sawdusty. I used 9 g for 90 ml and was a very happy (and caffeinated) camper.
The only drawback is that I feel like it does not develop a great deal. This could be due to two things: 1) it is not a blend of different leaf sizes, thus leading to a more uniform experience, and/or 2) I’m not a ripe connoisseur and generally find most ripes to be a little less complex than other teas. Take what you will from that!
Either way, definitely well above cheap ripes – no off flavors or wateriness here. Quality brew.
Dry leaf: EARTHY – rich soil, coffee grounds, cream of wheat. In preheated vessel: nutty sweetness, cherry cordial
Smell: EARTHY, WOODY, SWEET – cream of wheat, oatmeal, cherry wood, dark chocolate with cherry, rich soil, cola
Taste: EARTHY, SWEET – cream of wheat, oatmeal, coffee grounds, cocoa powder, pumpernickel bread, faint cherry wood sweetness, hints of dried date and fig, hints of bourbon in later steeps
There’s something festive about this cake, so it seemed appropriate to submit a review now (December 2016). The spice, fruit, and sweet smokiness just remind me of over-the-top holiday seasonings and celebrations, a lot like the current microbrew holiday ales – rich, spicy, fruity, and awesome. It has a long-lived aftertaste that is warm, spicy, and fruity. What a great treat to sip in front of a fire.
I think it’s fair to say this tea is a bit over-the-top, but it absolutely works. It’s brimming with flavor and it delivers tastes I haven’t normally come across – Xiaguan smokiness comes close. Anyway, it’s a wonderful experience – and at 100g, it’s portioned and priced just right for those curious enough for a taste.
Dry leaf: SMOKE, SWEET, HERBAL (barbecue sauce, mesquite smoke, menthol, cilantro, Mexican hot chocolate, autumn leaves, dried cherries)
Smell: SMOKE, SWEET, SPICE (mesquite smoke, citrus, cherries, coriander, cilantro, spices – like exotic, don’t-really-know-the-name, pungent spices)
Taste: FRUIT, HERBAL, SPICE (orange peel, coriander, barbecue, mesquite smoke, menthol “coolness”, savory grassy-umami, cilantro, dried cherry, pine resin and pine needle, damp wood notes, peppercorn, and yummy hard-to-pin-down “exotic” spices)
Edit: This deserves a re-review!
Baked flavor is much more pleasant when drunk in the afternoon. It still has that medicinal vibe, but it is carrying more depth and flavor than when my previous session. Hard to put into words, but is becoming increasingly enjoyable.
Also, the fruit flavors on this are outstanding. This tea has the strongest and most flavorful hui gan I have ever had in a tea.
Definitely allow time for the tea to breathe and settle down from its baking. Open the package to clear the vacuum seal, then close and allow it to breathe a little. I would also recommend drinking this in the late morning or afternoon. The flavor is much more approachable that way.
The fruit flavors on this thing are incredible. I am really starting to enjoy the give-and-take from the slightly bitter, medicinal bake and the fruitbasket that is the hui gan.
Dry leaf: HERBAL, DRY SPICE, CITRUS (dry wood, dill, cilantro, cocoa powder, some baking spice notes, hint of dried red fruit. In preheated vessel – green stem, coriander, citrus, light lemon oil)
Smell: NUTTY, FLORAL (savory, green stem, nutty, floral – orchid-like?)
Taste: NUTTY, FRUIT, CITRUS, FLORAL. In the mouth, there is a base of woody “green stem” and black tea blend that, in initial steeps, combines with light nut oiliness and orchid-like floral notes. There are also notes of baking spices and cilantro. The finish accentuates floral note and sharp fruit/herbal notes. Aftertaste is complex, with peach, red currant, cilantro, and coriander.
Initial steeps are really fun – there is quite a bit of complexity and the flavor certainly changes between steeps. The in-mouth experience is not super complex, but the aftertaste is a lot of fun to explore and enjoy. After about 6 steeps, the in-mouth flavors are a general woody/green stem tea flavor, but the aftertaste remains strong and continues to develop for several more steeps.
This definitely accentuates the pleasant sharp, pungent notes of dan cong – what a lot of folks seem to associate with as “soapiness.” Definitely a fair observation, but I relate these flavors to the sharpness of red currant, with the pungency of cilantro and coriander. You can overdo it with your brewing parameters, but when done right, it is a tasty experience.
Final note – be sure to use enough leaf. It can be a bit watery without a fair helping of leaves in the vessel. You really have to gong fu this sucker – FILL UP the vessel with leaves and use short steep times.
Go get yourself some soap tea and bring back memories of cussing in front of your mom and being sent to the bathroom with a bar of soap in your mouth. Great times! (Just kidding – it really is pretty tasty soap!)
[PLEASE SEE SECOND REVIEW BELOW. KEEPING THIS REVIEW UP TO SAVE INITIAL THOUGHTS AND FLAVOR NOTES]
Dry leaf (NUT, HERBAL): roasted peanut and peanut shell, dill, bitter green
Smell (SMOKE, MEDICINAL, VEGETAL): antiseptic, burnt toast, baked rolls, bitter greens; notes of buttered green beans; hint of apricot
Taste (MEDICINAL, BAKED, VEGETAL, FRUIT): burnt toast, baked rolls, cinnamon-raisin bread; pleasant bitter greens, buttery, green beans, cilantro. Aftertaste is thick and fruity – stonefruit (apricot) and tropical fruit (pineapple and mango)
Not quite sure where to place this one. The leaves are certainly “deeply baked.” By the end of the session, you have black – BLACK – leaves. The real question, I think, is does this baking improve the standard tieguanyin experience?
I’m going with no. The baked flavor is weird. It is noticeably antiseptic-like and medicinal, with some burnt-toast thrown in. I don’t mind char or smokiness when it works, but this just didn’t. It wasn’t awful or unpalatable, but just weird and sort of flat. The bake/roast/char flavors did not carry other flavors and develop complexity.
That said, there were some nice TGY flavors happening. The aftertaste, in particular, was thick and fruity. A very nice treat. So, overall, certainly not a bad tea. It was an interesting experience, but not one I’m going back to.
As a final note, I’m not ready to write off roasted/baked TGY just yet. Thinking of trying another vendor to see if different processing makes a difference. But, frankly, I’m missing the rich experience of a green TGY. A lot of the complexity, I feel, was killed or overridden by the bake.
Dry leaf – FUSTY, HAY, FRUIT: tobacco, old book, leather, some fruit and spice notes. In preheated vessel: soaked prune and date, raisin, wet hay
Smell – FRUIT, HAY, SWEET: light prune and date, stable, tobacco, hay and straw, noticeable caramel sweetness
Taste – FUSTY, HAY, FRUIT, SWEET: autumn leaves, stable, light tobacco, old book, dill. Finish and aftertaste develops fruit and sweet notes: caramel, turbinado sugar, dark dried fruit, lemongrass, hints of berries.
This is a good young, affordable raw that has some aged flavors going on. The old book, stable, “fusty” flavors are definitely there, but there is also a good deal of prune/raisin sweetness. Most surprising is a caramel note that just kept popping up. In addition, there were a few fresh notes that popped up as well – berry, lemongrass, and dill.
I have been brewing this in a young yixing pot and just dumping the contents into a thermos so I could drink it at work. I have to say that either the pot or the thermos method really limited the scope of the tea to the fusty flavors. I think my young pot still likes to steal some of the fruity and sweet flavors. I was surprised at the complexity when I brewed it in a gaiwan on the weekend.
Once again, an inexpensive daily drinker that just gets better the more time, and attention, you give it.
EDIT: Had another session with this one, and dug more into the interior of the mushroom and got more base material. Had forgotten that this has some smokiness to it until it airs out a little. Smokiness is combination of campfire and bbq/mesquite smoke, not overwhelming. Transforms in the mouth to dark/burnt caramel and toffee, with herbal (dill) and fragrant (incense). Finish and aftertaste lighten to green leaf/herbal and hints of red apple.
[Spring 2015 picking]
Dry leaf (SWEET, HERBAL, NUT): dark malt, mossy green notes, some red fruit. In preheated vessel – strong nut notes, green herb, blackstrap molasses, beer wort
Smell (SWEET, EARTHY): caramel, sweet potato, malt
Taste (SWEET, EARTHY, NUT, FRUIT): sweet potato, brûléd marshmallows, dry baking spices, light malt and caramel, raw almond, dried date, green stem notes, dark ripe cherry
Two main things with this one: 1) it tastes like sweet potato casserole in a cup, 2) it is very dynamic.
So, regarding point 1 – it is delicious. Great balance of earthy, sweet, dark and light flavors.
Regarding point 2 – every time I sessioned this tea, I got something new out of it. The flavors were constantly evolving – sometimes fruitier, sometimes earthier, sometimes greener, sometimes sweeter. Really a fun tea to have and to look forward to drinking.
I have to admit, I had a period of disinterest with black teas. They always have that one recognizable English breakfast-y sort of thing that takes me back to my bagged tea days. Familiarity breeds contempt, as they say. But after two great experiences just this year, they are really climbing pretty high up on my list. Dynamic and complex, and generally a very affordable brew.
This is the PERFECT November treat.
Dry leaf – SWEET, SPICE, MINERAL, NUT (primary light cinnamon/Mexican chocolate and wet rock minerality; notes of dark caramel and bitter green leafiness. In preheated vessel – pungent green leafiness and dried apricot)
Smell – MINERAL, SWEET (wet rock minerality, walnut, bitter leafiness; notes of cinnamon chocolate and dark caramel)
Taste – MINERAL, NUT, SWEET, EARTHY, SPICE, FRUIT (In mouth – mineral, dry nuttiness, some cinnamon and spice notes, tea leaves. Finish lingers on cinnamon and some chocolate/dark caramel. Aftertaste mouth-coating and complex, with sweet cinnamon, root beer (sarsaparilla), red fruit, apricot.)
Overall a tasty Wu Yi oolong. Flavors in the mouth are pretty standard – dry minerality and some nuttiness, hints at the cassia/cinnamon of its name. The aftertaste, however, is complex and coats the mouth. Multiple flavors pop out in different parts of the mouth – some fruit, some spice, some nut, some earthy-sweet.
Be sure to take the time to sit back and let the aftertaste develop. This tea doesn’t give away very much in the mouth.