42 Tasting Notes
Well, like someone who only spends two days in Paris while traveling, my pit stop in Yi Wu wraps up a little too soon…
Region 3/4: Eastern Xishuangbanna / Yi Wu. Location 2/2: Man Zhuan (Mengla county)
Notes on tea:
Overall some interesting flavors. Complex floral, fruit, and sweet herb notes that have a dynamic base of earthiness, grain/cereal/hay, and minerality. Some strong flavors come out in the first few infusions. Some sessions had muted and dissipated flavors after five infusions or so, but this could be the result of the tea’s youth. Light floral and fruitiness with a mineral base remains in later infusions.
Notes on region:
I’m noticing some similar characteristics even among other Xishuangbanna (i.e. Menghai) teas. The Juicy Fruit gum and the fresh parsley notes are the most prominent. However, the Menghai teas were much more upfront and bold with their flavor. Yi Wu teas had more apparent sweetness (particularly floral sweetness, some fruit notes and hints of chocolate), but nothing like the bold sweetness of Lincang region.
In terms of price, I really can’t figure it out. What I sampled were definitely quality teas, but they were on par with the quality I have had in other regions. Yet the Yi Wu teas cost substantially more than other regions. I found the sweetness stronger and more complex in the Lincang teas, at half the price. Menghai teas also offered some similar flavors, but with more strength (again at a lower price.)
It is important to note, however, that I was definitely at the cheaper end of the price scale, so there may be a much more substantial return if you are willing to spend more.
Dry leaf: sweet herbal, fruity, dried peach and mango. In preheated vessel – same flavors, but weirdly smelled weaker and more watery.
Smell: fresh parsley, dried peach and date, sweet fresh hay, hints of earthiness
Taste: floral – orange blossom, sweet/savory herbal (parsley), honeysuckle, dried date and peach, honey, grain/cereal, hints of mesquite smoke and spice cake. Aftertaste is creamy and fruity (peach/date). Minerality becomes pronounced in later infusions.
Fun tea. If you are a tieguanyin fan, you will likely enjoy this product. There are substantial floral notes in-mouth, with a unique citrus aftertaste that follows. There is a bit of a dancong “edge” to it – that sort-of cilantro bite that can be stronger or weaker depending how you brew it. A worthwhile tea to investigate for tieguanyin and dancong lovers alike!
Of note are the large, beautiful leaves. Quality picking.
Dry leaf – light honey, honeysuckle, fragrant floral, creamy, floral sweetness like rose, some mineral sweetness, green oolong herbal/green notes. Very TGY like. In preheated vessel – pomelo comes through – like mandarin oranges and sweet grapefruit.
Smell – fragrant floral, creamy, sweet, lily of the valley, orchid, oolong green leaf, creamy and sweet nuttiness like macadamia nuts
Taste – arrival is floral with creamy development. Some butteriness and herbal notes – bay leaf and light cilantro, orchid. Aftertaste of citrus and sweet citrus, creaminess with floral overtone, candy orange flavor. Later steeps have herbal and grassy umami. Pleasant sweet citrus aftertaste still in later steeps.
The Yunnan tour has made it to a pretty hip pit-stop…
Region 3/4: Yiwu / Mengla county. Location 1/2: Ge Deng mountain (Mengla county)
Well… a few disclaimers first: 1) my sample was the bing-hole. A challenge to brew – what I could break off had many broken leaves that got bitter very quickly, and what I couldn’t break off led to an ultra-compressed chunk of tea that very slowly gave up its flavors. 2) It’s seven years old. Could be suffering from those awkward puerh adolescent years where it has lost its bright, youthful flavors but hasn’t developed its rich, mature flavors.
OK. That said, the flavors, from arrival to aftertaste, were all fairly muted and short-lived. That’s about all I can say. Nothing unpleasant, but nothing that grabbed my attention. Also, although this fit in my price parameters for my little Yunnan tour experiment (~$50-$60/cake), it is worth noting that these Yiwu cakes are only 250g rather than 400g like the other regions. For what should be a substantial jump in quality given the price differential, I just didn’t see it.
Frankly, it does remind me of a couple of other (granted, cheap) Yiwu teas I have had, but I will save my review of the Yiwu region until after I have my second sample from the area.
Anyway, I have just enough leaf left for a quick session in a 60ml gaiwan rather than the yixing pot I have been using. I will update the review if something develops out of this.
Dry leaf: straw, sweet herb (faint spearmint), dark honey, baking spices. In preheated vessel – dark wild honey, green leaf, chocolate notes.
Smell: ashy, bitter green herb, hints of floral (lily), dried parsley
Taste: straw; old, cheap chocolate; dried date, dried herb (parsley again), some hints of ashiness that come and go. Aftertaste has short-lived honeysuckle and light dried fruit sweetness. Hints of artificial grape and bitter cherry. All of the flavors are fairly muted.
The northern excursion of the Yunnan tour wraps up!
Region 2/4: Lincang. Location 2/2: Bang Dong village
Notes on tea:
Great tea. Starts off with complex, rich flavors that last several infusions. Most noticeable was a rich, fruity flavor that had a base not unlike dark chocolate. Intense and rich. Towards the end of the session, development and finish continue to develop with new grassy and fruit notes.
Although I didn’t get a bunch of different flavor notes off of it, all of the flavors were deep and complex. Sessions were interesting and very engaging. In addition, for a young tea, it shows quite a bit of finesse while still remaining powerful and flavorful. Based on my experience, it is easily in league with more expensive teas…
Notes on region:
OK, so two teas isn’t exactly a representative sample size… But, I really like what I found. Both teas (Bang Dong and Qing Mei) had quite different flavor profiles, but the nature of the flavors was similar – complex, deep, not easily described with single notes. I found myself saying things like “fruitcake” and “fruit-infused chocolate.” Also of note was their noticeable sweetness. Both teas had complex sweetness – saccharine and fruit sweetness that was accompanied by a solid base of “darker” flavors – spice cake, dark chocolate, etc.
I will be returning to this neck of the woods soon. Outstanding experiences, both of them. We’ll see how the fabled Yiwu teas stand up to these guys as the tour of Yunnan continues…
Dry leaf – dried apricot, some leafy herbal notes, hints of grape. In preheated vessel: light sweet tobacco, fruit leather, sugarcane
Smell – grassy herbal – hay, a bit smoky, wet hay, wet soil
Taste – light tobacco and stable notes, fruity richness, cherry cordial, dark cherry-infused dark chocolate, some dried apricot notes. Later infusions had grassy/hay development and some baked apple notes in the finish.
My tour of Yunnan is heading north for a change of taste – er, pace.
Region 2/4: Lincang. Location 1/2: Yong De (Qing Mei Shan)
Wow. What a great experience. Complex flavors throughout, but they all play nice with each other. Dynamic session that offers a different experience with every cup.
The flavors were great – I couldn’t pin down individual notes because they all came through like a musical chord – harmonious and inseparable. How’s that for a pretentious metaphor! Seriously though, things like “apple butter”, “fruitcake”, “Dragon Well” all described the experience much better than “nutty”, “apple”, etc.
This will be purchased (whole cake) again, guaranteed. Unique and solid session.
Dry leaf: sweet, notes of citrus, honeysuckle, wildflower honey, apricot, mint, dewy grass. In preheated vessel: fruity and sweet, apricot and strawberry preserves, some candy grape notes
Smell: floral, woody, baked apple, apple butter (cooked apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves), sweet nuttiness like green tea (Bi Luo Chun)
Taste: sweet/savory base similar to green tea (Bi Luo Chun and Dragon Well), fruity and rich notes like apple butter and fruitcake. Other notes include clove, muted mint notes, apricot preserves, chestnut, and hints of maraschino cherry. Some tingly sensations akin to clove, mint, and menthol. Long-lasting aftertaste – some white pepper notes.
A tasty white tea that has some cross-over with black tea characteristics. Because it is not purely bud material like silver needle, there are some oxidized leaves that impart some malty, nutty, and sweet potato notes. It actually tastes like a blend of silver needle and some mellow black tea.
Very drinkable and tasty, although it does have a substantially “heavier” profile than a silver needle – fewer light aromatics and more malty notes. A good choice for a winter white tea.
Leaf – milky black tea blend, sweet fragrant floral, creamy honey, honeysuckle. In preheated vessel – sweet woody and floral notes, pungent honey, very fragrant
Smell – honeysuckle, papaya, milky tea, strawberry cream; hint of sour cherry
Taste – wild honey, honeysuckle, milky black tea, papaya, soft green herb, dried date; hint of sesame seed in finish. As steeps progress, gains more black tea flavors – malt, peanut nuttiness, some hints at sweet potato
Wrapping up Western Xishuangbanna / Menghai county in my taste tour through Yunnan…
Region 1/4: Western Xishuangbanna – Menghai county. Location 3/3: Bu Lang mountains
OK – first, the tea:
WIth absolutely no proof and very little experience to guide this opinion, I think this tea will age well.
I’m drawing this conclusion based on a recent session that I had, which followed me eating a bowl of cereal. Normally I session tea well after I eat, but Bu Lang kept tying my stomach in knots. So, off to pantry I went to prep myself for battle.
My previous sessions yielded notes that had things like “PARSLEY” underlined several times. It was herbal – really, really pungent, dried parsley, herbal. It still is… But, my post-cereal session muted the effects of the parsley notes and instead highlighted the underlying sweetness and fragrant, sweet floral character of the tea.
So, following this kind of empirical evidence, I’m guessing that with age, the pungent herb character will die down, and what will follow is the sweetness I noticed. The pungency, I think, will work to its advantage with age. Lots of strength to build off of.
I wasn’t a huge fan of this tea at first, but now I’m scratching my head. This may be worth buying now and forgetting about for a few years. Could have something really special on your hands. Right now, though, the initial experience is sort of a nice parsley tisane…
OK – now, the region:
Based on this limited exposure, I noticed all three Western Xishuangbanna teas shared the parsley/dill herbal notes in some fashion. Also present in all three teas was a vague fruitiness that I can only describe as Juicy Fruit gum – sort of light peach, orange, berry, gummy sweetness.
I would also venture to say these really do need some age on them before you get a lot of decent flavors out of them – I’m talking at least 5-7 years. Pasha was the oldest of my group (5-6 yrs), and it was also the clear winner in terms of taste.
Anyway, interesting group. Really enjoyed Pasha, and after my Raisin Bran battled the parsley notes in Bu Lang and revealed some nice depth of flavor, I am certainly intrigued… For the price, probably worth an investment to age.
Dry leaf – pungent dill and parsley, light menthol. In preheated vessel – light smoke, fruity, saccharine sweetness
Smell – light ash, pungent green herb, petrichor (always wanted to use that word – rainy, wet, earthy, mineral)
Taste – dried parsley, tomato stalk, petrichor, pollen, white pepper. Aftertaste – light mineral sweetness, cardboard, light menthol, some hints of orange, peach, and berry. Some chestnut notes in later steepings.
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