389 Tasting Notes
Shocked (okay, not really, all things considered) I haven’t yet written a note on this tea. I shared some with a new friend who primarily drinks bagged blacks with oat milk, and they are head over heels for it. Yesssssss.
This might be my favorite black tea… absolutely top three, I’ll say, in case I’m forgetting two whole teas somehow. I was shocked the first time I tasted it, as the amount of flavor that comes from these leaves is incredible — brown sugar, fig/raisin, a whisper of nuts. Rich, thick mouthfeel with no astringency. Assam has a whole new meaning to me now.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Fig, Nutty, Raisins, Rich, Smooth, Thick
I can finally say with confidence that my teas have adjusted to the mountain, and I (perhaps have also adjusted, and so) can taste them again. Hallelujah, amen.
This is especially true with the sheng I have been babying in my crocks, and this little firecracker came out of one of them yesterday. Gong fu’d last night, then Western steeped 10g all day today (I think I’m on infusion 5… I definitely left steeps in the tank last night, based on these numbers).
This is perhaps not my favorite bouquet of flavors, but holy mother, does it have a story to tell. This may be the most distinct sheng I’ve had the pleasure of drinking. PJ’s assessment on his blog holds true, insofar as there is camphor and soooome smoke, but my little piece has transformed right past the minty hint of Crest toothpaste into herbaceous screaming and horehound bittersweetness. This 5th steep has some chamomile that is threatening to send everyone home to bed. It’s glorious and jarring and not subtle or really even balanced in any proper sense of the word. The mouthfeel is round, my guts are warm, and I had a great time, I swear, but no, I will not marry you because I can’t live like this every night, but also I hope you have the best life, you Wild Big Tree. Muah.
Flavors: Bay Leaf, Camphor, Chamomile, Fennel Seed, Ginseng, Herbaceous, Iodine, Licorice Root, Sage, Star Anise, Sweet, Thyme, Traditional Chinese Medicine
Oof. I like this. I have been trying to be less precious with my samples, and so grabbed this on a whim and brewed it western style last night. First sip took me aback, so I gong fu’d it today to see what was up.
There is a numbing camphor belt that develops around the center of my mouth — tongue/cheeks/roof, all get to play in the halo. Nut skins, florals, dried fruit, spices, toast… it’s smooth and complex and the qi is so lovely (ie. not making me want to crawl out of my skin, a feeling I’ve been having more often than I’d like lately).
I do not need a cake, for reals and truly, but I’d spring for one of these if I did.
Edited to add: I’m drinking this western again tonight and having the same sensory experience that I’m just now remembering I had last night: “This tastes like makeup smells… in a good way.” I guess that’s baby powder and whatever eau du essences… just popping in to bookend: “I like this.”
[End sample, persued by bear.]
Flavors: Camphor, Dried Fruit, Floral, Oats, Spices, Toast, Walnut
The second of four from derk from White Antlers… thank you again. <3
This dry leaf smelled fruitier than the Hei Shi leaves, but the steamed leaf was immediately savory and herbaceous, briny and seaweedy.
The transformations these leaves made… oy. Broth the first: nutmeg (not quite betel?), malt. Broth the second: oop, nope — this is not sweet at all. Like a buttery olive, like mild white pepper — barnyard and hay. Smooth mouthfeel, saliva producing… much more warming than the Hei Shi sample.
Here I stop and wonder: this is delicious and a journey, but would I ever crave it, chase it? I feel bad that I don’t think so. :/
Third steep, now there’s some bitter that hits on the back roof of my mouth, while everywhere else is ridiculously smooth to the point of luxurious. Indistinct hay and grasses. But then zip zop, later steeps become drying to the point of numbing, I start buzzing, I feel like I need food to tamp this down… but am distinctly not hungry.
Woo, a ride.
Flavors: Barnyard, Bitter, Brine, Butter, Dried Fruit, Grass, Hay, Herbaceous, Malt, Nutmeg, Olives, Savory, Seaweed, Smooth, White Pepper
derk sent me some liu baos originally from White Antlers, and so I thank you both for the pay-forward and pick-me-up kick in the pants to plug back in here. I started with this one from Hei Shi village as one of the two youngest samples, and I’ll work my way older over the next couple days…
I dutifully took my little set of notes, then found derk’s notes, and had that magical feeling that someone had been right here before me. I love that.
I did not realize before I sessioned that this is unprocessed material — so to liu bao what maocha is to puerh. What a revelation and a treat to experience these flavors that transform into that classic betel-medicine profile. Though if this is 10 years old… I suppose it’s some kind of aged, hehe. I don’t know enough to understand what steps stand between this and Liu Bao writ large.
Dry leaf was old books and old fruit leather; steaming gave up baby powder, muscatel, juicy peach?, strawberry. I’ve been tending toward longer steeps lately, and a 30 second wake-up made my first pour the most beautiful. Heady fennel, vanilla, and allllmost cocoa — but not quite — I settled on malt. Gorgeous and ethereal.
Wet leaf quickly went deep to tobacco and medicinal (herbs, iodine… funny how we all recognize so simply what is such a complex olfactory hit), though the lid kept on with baby powder and vanilla. Second steep brought me to the meadow — wildflowers (derk said heather, and that is JUST the thing I was wracking my brain for — yasss!) and the gauzy bitterness of breezy grasses. The third steep brought more grass, but I found the malt again along her backbone. Guh. This wasn’t long-lived, but it didn’t need to be.
The 2013 from Buyi village is loaded into my pot now. I’m excited.
Flavors: Baby Powder, Buffalo Grass, Fennel, Fruity, Herbs, Iodine, Juicy, Leather, Malt, Meadow, Medicinal, Muscatel, Strawberry, Tobacco, Vanilla, Wildflowers
Yoinked this sample out for an easy grandpa while gaming tonight. The syrupy sweetness is underpinned by a thick handful of autumn leaf, grabbed from the bottom of a month-old pile. It’s mature and roasty and duffy in a way that not every shou mei achieves. An enjoyable and easygoing cuppa, for sure.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Honey, Sweet
The first puerh in a minute to inspire a note. There’s a smokiness that is, just for an instant, a whiff of old cigarette… and in the time it takes to think, “That actually… doesn’t seem appealing, does it?”… it’s gone. Replaced by fresh tobacco and lovely huigan. Full mouthfeel, yes saliva. Many steeps, handle it!
I probably bought this for the promise of smoke and an elevated experience, which is properly what I got. I couldn’t really justify $300 for any cake, but I do understand the appeal and, reluctant though I am to admit it, the price point.
Flavors: Smoke, Sweet, Tobacco