29 Tasting Notes
I received this tea as a sample. I’ve been experimenting with sheng recently so I thought I would try a session. The tea leaf is pretty beat up lots of bits and pieces which reminds me of the tibetan flame from the dame year that I have on hand, but this one is better.dry leaf smelled like smoke, similar or a lapsang but not quite as much pine tar. The Guoyan is very good, not great. The tea elicits a foggy feeling, and some tea drunkeness. the infusion fills my mouth with a brothy consistency indicating umami. I have not detected any bitterness in my 205 degree 30 second infusions. This is one of those teas that really grows on me, the first infusion was unremarkable in any way, but as I have been tasting through now the 5th infusion there is getting to be more to like. 6th infusion a sweet coating is taking hold in the back of my mouth, and now there is a cooling effect in my mouth. This is being brewed in a 175 ml yixing with about 10 grams of tea. Indeed, I like this tea a lot. And honestly it is a shame it is now gone.
I thought I should finally get around to reviewing this shu as I’m half way through the tuo. The leaves I am using for this session are the bits and pieces that have collected in the wrapper and the box from breaking apart the toucha. Smooth and creamy is the first adjectives that come to mind. The smell of the dry leaves also has a sweet cream scent, which is accentuated when adding the dry leaves into a warmed yixing. After an initial rinse the warm leaves now have an essence of a library or or a used book store. The surprising thing to me is that even using the bits and broken pieces of the remnants of a dozen session the brew is still smooth and clean, the liquor is not a translucent red as with usual infusions, but cloudy. The infusion is every bit as fluid and viscous and flavorful as usual. Later infusions have a less creamy and more mineral quality, almost stone like not earthy so much as a quality of a glacial cirque filled with boulders, and granite escarpments with hints of moss and lichen. Not that I’ve ever hiked into a glacial cirque and eaten rocks or lichen, but that is the essence I feel as I drink. Wonderful.
I’m not really entirely sure why I’m posting this review as I am confident my palate is off today. I’ve been sick for a couple of days and decided to do a bit of sheng pu drinking today. I’ve had this beng for about 3 years now and each time I have it it becomes more drinkable. I’m not quite sure if I really like the tea or if it just average. I’ve had both good and bad tasting sessions over the years. The early times the tea was an astringent mess of bitterness. One other time I had a session and can recall very pleasant young apricot like flavors. But during this current session I’m ot getting anything as far a flavors but simply a sweetness, a sensation at the rear of the mouth by the tonsils (if I still had mine). There is no astringency or bitterness at all, but not a lot of flavor either. I take several deep breaths from the yixing and can feel the same sweetness and coating in the olfactory gland inside my nose and the same coating sweetness in the rear of my mouth, but again there is no discernable flavor. Strange. But with all that said there is discernable chaqi and a bit of tea drunkeness, maybe tea tipsy is a better term as I’ve had teas with much better qi. At any rate, this is likely a throw away tasting note but even mediocre sessions provide context.
I’ve had this tea for probably 4 or five years and it was my first exposure to puer when I first purchased it. I remember opening the can the first time and thinking this stuff smells like the little pellets I feed my fish. Upon the first brew it didn’t taste any better than it smelled, very much a dui wei scent that I really did not like. I felt duped for paying what I thought at the time was a high price for yucky tea. Price paid was $13 USD for 96 grams. I did not like it at all so back on the shelf it went. I have tried it a few times over the last few years so I thought I would review it. Opening up the can tonight did not reveal any fishy smell. I smelled the tea in the tin for nearly 5 minutes trying to place the scent I knew it, but couldn’t place it. It has a very clean aroma, reminding me of a water fall with the scent of a forest and a scent of the negative ions around a misting waterfall. So strange how tea can literally transport one if given a chance to reflect.Rishi suggests on the tin to steep a TABLESPOON of tea to 8 ounces of water? Seriously? Who could or should waste so much tea? This tea consists of very very small leaves common among higher grade shus that I have tried over the years. My brewing was about 5 grams (eyeballed) in a 200 ml yixing 212 F water flash rinsed and then sitting for a couple of minutes. Again I smelled the warm wet leaves, with my nose deep in the yixing, breathing in the scent for a couple of minutes, trying to get a grasp on the scents. Again, a the best way I would describe it is a very clean earthy aroma, not dirt, but forest like, with a light hint of tobacco. Tasting it, it is a smooth tea, like butter, coating the mouth especially in the cheeks near the rear teeth. The experience is not bowling me over and knocking me upside the head even at this advanced hour, but rather a feeling of calmness and awareness that I have experienced with other higher grade puers. I really had low expectations for this tea, and it nearly ended up in the trash, but on this night I’m ever so glad I kept it. Five infusions and 45 minutes later I’m in that happy spot from a good tea and ready for some sleep. Well played Rishi, well played.
I’ve learned to enjoy sheng cha quite a bit more in last year and I still like this and even more appreciate the quality. I’m finally learning the difference in what makes a enjoyable sheng including harvest altitude, varietal. I’ve had a few professional cuppings of other sheng and this holds up very well with some of the better offerings I’ve had. I can’t really ofer a whole lot more than what I described last time other than the bitterness has all but been eliminated, whether by brewing method or an additional year I’m not sure.
So how good can a tea for $3.99 for a pound box of loose “leaf” tea, purchased on a whim at an Ethiopian market be? It turns out far better than I was expecting, and even better than other higher priced assam teas I’ve had. I typically drink Chinese teas and I didn’t have a typical english style tea pot to brew this in the proper english style, so I resourcefully used my trusty gaiwan. The dry tea has peat potting/ soil look to it and a malty scent, similar to a golden monkey or some of the Yunnan blacks that I’ve really enjoyed. My first cuppa, I went pretty heavy on the leaf, a heaping teaspoon in a 6 oz gaiwan. I steeped the tea in 210 F water for a little over a minute and poured out a very bright brilliant red cup of tea. I let it cool for a bit and took a sip expecting an insipid, soup of tannins and bitterness but was rather instead treated to fairly complex maltiness, followed sweetness detected at the point the mouth meets the throat, followed by a brisk yet mild astringency. The tea is actually smooth, and fills and coats the mouth entirely. It is rare for me to drink the same tea throughout the day, but I have enjoyed 3 sessions of this tea trying to figure out why I really like this tea. I am so glad I took a chance on this tea, I’ve taken chances before on Asian market teas and gotten burned. But I like this tea far better than other assam teas I’ve had at many times the price…
Thought I’d update this tasting log. For the last few weeks I’ve been doing all of my brewing in a gaiwan instead of a yixing. After drink a couple of steeps I reviewed my previous tasting note from about a year ago. This tea really seems to be aging, the color of the dry leaves have changed from a green hue to a very shu like brown appearance. As I mentioned before, the leave material is heavily processed meaning that the brick is made up of material in tiny pieces almost like it was run through a mulching lawn mower , but it still brews a very clean orange cup ut will gather a bit of sedimentation in the bottom of the cup. One thing that I noted this time that I did not mention before is the smokey aroma of the wet leaves. The astringency is all but gone and the tea is now much smoother than what I recall and has lost a lot of the young sheng characteristics. Not sure but I’m guessing the mellowing has to do with the size of the material in the brick. Also the leaves seem to give up after just 4 or 5 infusions but those first five are very enjoyable, a smooth feeling hat envelops the mouth, with apricot present and some flavors of a tippy black tea. I’m finishing with my sixth infusion now doing a very long 2+ minute steep to see if I can get just one last cup out of it. Nope.
What a beautiful tea two small leaves and a bud with lots of orange tips. Sweet flavor of malt and grains in initial infusions. Scent of cocoa on the lid of guiwan but no flavor of chocolate in the liquor. Subsequent infusions become more fruity with notes of orange pith . On this day it is hard to imagine a better black tea. It does seem to give up after about 4 infusions though but sublime up until that point.
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I’ve been on a iced tea kick, trying all of my teas iced, instead of the traditional hot. I still brew in my yixing but i have a 20 oz plastic cup that I completely fill with ice. I double the amount of leaf in the yxing and my 200 ml yixing fills up the cup and melts the ice as it cools.
Using double the leaf makes for one tasty brew that is perfect for a hot day and I get multiple infusions. My experience with both green and oolong and something I learned at World Tea expo is good tea is usually good tea both hot and cold… though I’m not sure about Pu (lol0. At any rate this tea is great iced. Initial infusions are very cream like and coat the mouth with an almost viscous quality that entire envelops the mouth truly cooling and truly quenching… just perfect. Growing up in the southern US (overly) sweet iced tea is a staple, a near food group until itself I never dreamed that unsweetened iced tea could be as sweet and refreshing as this tea is. What a joy to experience a healthy summer iced tea pleasure.