44 Tasting Notes
The dry leaves smell slightly fruity and floral like a lighter dan cong. The leaves are really nice quality appearance-wise, with large full leaves and so far no leaf fragments.
Really nice roast tone on the rinsed leaves, with a floral tone peaking through. More charcoal tone on this than expected from the name and the dry leaf aroma, which I’m pleasantly surprised about.
The first steep bring out more of the fruit and florals over the lovely charcoal tone. The flavor is sweet and minerally with subtle slightly masculine floral notes retronasally.
The second steep really bumps up the aromatics with strong orchid aroma and bright fruit tones (not exactly citrus, but it is a brighter more terpenous fruitiness, so I get where Verdant is coming from with their description). There’s some crisp acidity to the thick brew that compliments the charcoal minerality, sweetness, and aromatics.
Third steep and beyond brings out more nutty-chocolaty charcoal roast tones bringing the fruits and orchids into balance, with an expected slow fade out to 7 steeps. Interestingly around the fourth steep a lighter, more feminine floral twist (gardenia or jasmine or something) sets in modulating the orchid aroma a bit, before fading out in the next steep to mostly complex mineral character. Maybe a little black pepper setting in late.
All in all this is a pretty nice yancha. Very pleasant to drink.
This tea has a unique character that separates it from the other black teas offered at YS. The aromatics are strong, sweet, and clear, with an aroma somewhere between wine and chocolate. There are hints of brown bread and dark fruit fragrances as well. This is a very clean black tea.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Chocolate, Floral, Fruity, Malt, Red Wine
Spearmint! This is an interesting black tea in that it naturally is pumping out some seriously minty aroma. I had the Spring 2015 Ruby 18 black tea from Taiwan Sourcing previously, and this is quite a bit different. The Spring batch was more complex with notes of licorice, cinnamon, and much more subtle mint. This Winter batch throws all of that to the wayside and pushes the mint fully forward. It reminds me a bit of drinking a wild arbor Yunnan assamica black tea, but with the fruity character replaced with mint. Pretty interesting but not a repeat buy for me.
Flavors: Malt, Mint, Spearmint
Insanely fragrant with tons of fruity and floral aromas. The notes of fruit are particularly prominent, reminiscent of cherries, plums, black grapes, or maybe pears. But the fruit tone is intermingled with the floral top notes as well, making this one very complex black tea. The body is substantial and the flavor carries the tiniest bit of smooth malt character, making it clear that this is in fact a black tea, and not some hyperfragrant oolong. The flavor also is slightly acidic (citric? malic?) also making it clear this is a Taiwanese black tea. Damn, this is really impressive.
Flavors: Floral, Fruity, Malt, Pear, Stonefruits
The Spring Arakai black tea is in many ways similar to the Summer Arakai black tea. First off, its delicious. Similar to the summer batch, it’s mildly malty with sweet fruited notes that dominate, with some floral-like perfume notes (quite oolong like! somewhere between dan cong and taiwan oolong) integrated. This, like the Summer, reminds me of a Taiwanese style black tea, while What-cha likens it to a Korean tea that I’m not familiar with (certainly makes me want to seek out the “Balhyocha teas” of Korea. The leaves of the Spring are whole, twisted, gangly, and well-structured, contrasting against the slightly more broken leaves of the Summer batch.
All-in-all, a really nice tea that is a slightly more refined version of the Summer Arakai with a bit more longevity and clarity.
Very balanced tea that has really impressed me. To be honest, this is my favorite aged sheng to date (despite my love for the uber clean almost unfermented character of the multi-hundred-dollar 2005 LBZ or 2002 red yi wu zheng shan from YS). I really think the balance of good storage conditions and tight compression have led to a really great tea.
The dry leaf is highly compressed, and has a subtle scent of camphor. A small chunk is all it takes to fill a gaiwan once its opened up, but due to the compression, I had to use a scale to really know how much to put in. The piece looks so small, but I know it’ll fill the gaiwan soon enough…
I rinsed the piece of tea with boiling water, and let it rest for a good 10 minutes before proceeding. The rinse released a pleasant aroma characterized by subtle camphor notes with prominent musky sweetness I usually associate with much younger teas. There are no off scents: zero smokiness, no sourness, no dank character. It’s just pleasant and clean.
The first two brews were 10s long, and resulted in a dark golden brew. Clearly the tea is still opening up, but these first sips were pleasant with full body, no bitterness, a bit of camphor as expected from the aroma, but also with a pleasant dianhong-like character with sweetness and a mild malty character. The sweetness lingers (hui gan?) and the bottom of my empty cup smells like honey and flowers.
The next two brews, again 10s long each, reveal a deep red liquor that maximizes the flavors from the first two brews, in line with the unraveling tea that is expanding in the gaiwan. Again, this reminds me quite a bit of a camphorous, slightly drying dianhong. The texture is pretty much identical.
The tea is fully opened up now. Steeps 5, 6, and 7 bring out even more sweetness, while also bringing forth a bit more drying character. The dryness really isn’t an issue at all, in fact I find it pleasant, since its perfectly in balance with the sweetness and body. The camphorous character is more in the background now.
Eight and 9 were pushed to 15 seconds, with a deep red color defining the liquor. There’s no sign of this tea losing steam, and the flavor and aroma are still strong as ever.
10, 11, 12, and 13 all were pushed from 20 – 40 seconds, and the color is becoming more golden in color again, losing its deeper red tone. The brew is smelling more and more like the later steeps of a dian hong, with a slight savory mushroom aroma. The body is still remarkably thick, and the sweetness and camphor are still there in the flavor but pushed the the background. Still very satisfying.
Overall, a great cleanly aged raw puer. Definitely grabbing at least one brick of this.
Nepal Golden Ring – Spring 2016
The tea looks similar to a ‘black gold’ pure bud bi luo chun black tea, and smells similarly malty and savory, but has a distinctly fruity aroma similar to a mild Darjeeling. The wet leaves blast the fragrance making the fruity aroma even more apparent. The flavor in the cup is indeed somewhere between a dian hong black tea and a Darjeeling black, with the full bodied satisfaction of a dian hong. There’s also a bit of a hint of a Taiwanese style black in there. For me, 1st flush Darjeelings leave a bit to be desired with regards to body and texture, and I love dian hong and other Yunnan tippy blacks, so this tea really hits a nice spot in being both satisfying and complexly floral.
Flavors: Floral, Fruity, Malt, Sweet