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Recent Tasting Notes
The scent of the dry leaves in a warm gaiwan is just lovely, a mix of old books or old board game boxes mixed with petrichor and some tiny hints of apricot.
After a rinse, an intense plum fragrance exudes from the leaves, with a light vanilla note and still some of the aged books or old house kind of smell.
I tasted the rinse infusion. It smelled a bit of sweet dough and it had a slight dusty taste and a light overall flavor with a gentle sweetness. The flavor reminds me of the white stick you get in a Fun Dip candy. YUM! This is a rinse I enjoy drinking and will not be tossing out!
After the first infusion, the wet leaves have a more bright and sweet aroma like wet grass and soil during rain. The tea liquid smells like sweet dough with a hint of cinnamon, like cinnamon roll dough. The taste is complex, light, and sweet, with powdered sugar and subtle fruit qualities.
The second infusion has a deeper dried fruit flavor, is a bit less sweet, but is really mellow and rich. There’s a nice enjoyable quality to it. I taste faint notes of dandelion and burdock. If I swish the tea around in my mouth there’s even a bit of a wet fur taste that comes through.
The third infusion has just the most rich and delicious scent. I’m reminded again of sweet pastry dough with a hint of cinnamon, or perhaps horchata. As flavor goes, it is still rather light and mellow. I am having an interesting experiment tonight, as I just brewed a gaiwan of the loose Moonlight White from Jingmai (also from Bana Tea) a while ago. I purchased that tea on my own and this brick tea is a sample from a friend. I’m trying to decide which one I’d like to purchase on an upcoming order soon.
Having the two back-to-back is odd. They have similarities, but are very distinct. The loose tea is from 2012 and much younger. It has sweet and bright qualities, and a little more honey like sweetness. It almost tastes more like a white tea than a Puer. On the other hand, the brick tea is from 2007 and has a more complex nature with the aged earthy-musty notes blending with the sweet notes. The result is more a dulling down of the sweet tones than an enhancement of them, or perhaps this harvest itself is not as sweet as the one from Jingmai, as the cake tea is from a different source. The cake certainly has a mellower and perhaps weaker flavor, but the additional element of the aged taste creates more complexity and richness. Moonlight white is a tea you must brew more deeply than most other raw puer. It simply doesn’t give a bold flavor with very quick infusions unless you pack your gaiwan really full with it. I’m brewing 5g per 100ml right now and am having to add 10-15 seconds to each infusion. It has no bitterness or bite that you may expect from a raw Puer, even when young.
With both versions of this tea, if the flavor intensity and quality were mapped, they’d form a basin. The first few infusions are rich and flavorful, then the next several seem weaker, but the later infusions, pushing toward 6-8, become more rich and flavorful.
I’m on the fifth infusion of this tea, and I can tell that it would benefit from being brewed in a thicker gaiwan with higher heat retention, as the one I am using has very thin walls. I just didn’t want to bust out a larger one when drinking this tea alone. The flavor is subtle still, a bit unremarkable. I will raise the temperature for the next few.
These later infusions are mostly tasting of a light mustiness and a subtle fruit-like flavor.
I really love the aroma and flavor early on, but feel like it is tough to push much flavor out of it after the first few infusions, even if infusing it for a couple minutes or more. It’s definitely subtle. I’m curious how it will age, however.
I’ve had a chance to revisit this tea in my thick-walled larger gaiwan and I can say a few things now with certainty. Firstly, I prefer the loose version from Jingmai that Bana sells over this one quite a bit. At first, I think I was appreciating this tea a lot more because it was given to me by a friend and it’s of a varietal that I really like, but if I am to be totally as objective and unbiased as I can be, I feel this cake has a subdued flavor compared to the loose Moonlight White from Jingmai. I felt the cake was more complex at first, but I don’t feel that way now. It just had some more flavors I wasn’t used to, but those flavors have overridden and hidden some of the more subtle complexities that made me really fall in love with the loose version. This cake version, after a few sessions, hasn’t had the lasting appeal of that version. It’s a unique tea, but compared to other compressed raw Puer, I don’t feel it really competes for a place in my collection.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Musty, Pastries, petrichor, Plums
I’m back from being away in the woods camping this weekend with my Sweetie. We did have a good time although I feel like I did a little too much birthday celebrating with food and drinks! It’s good to be back home again.
I’ve had this sheng for a long time, it came as part of a sample set I got with Bana a few years ago. I’m amazed that I never reviewed it… anyway this is the last of it and it looks like it’s also sold out on Bana’s site.
This is a very pungent sheng with interesting flavors. It’s fairly overpowering when you steep it for 1 minute or so, but at shorter temperatures it’s not bad. I get a slight smoke with a woodsy element and a bit of bitterness in the finish. I’m no sheng expert but it isn’t my favorite by far. It is kind of bracing and energizing, but I think I prefer something more mellow. Maybe it’s a matter of personal preference.
Digging into some old Bana tea samples. Their stuff is typically quite expensive, but they offer a nice sampler pack. This tea has very strong qi. It is a light color and has a crisp and refreshing flavor. It’s nice, kind of soft so to speak, with bitterness coming through in later steepings. It’s hard for me to tell how a tea like this will age, but it is good.
This Moonlight White is listed by Bana as a raw pu-erh, but if you were to just walk up to this sitting on a counter unlabeled, you might easily mistake it for a white tea. Some further research has led me to find that this tea is classified by some as a white tea and others as pu-erh. I’m intrigued. Bana’s steeping suggestions are to brew it like a pu-erh rather than a white tea, so that is what I did.
I filled my gaiwan half full with the leaf, which took about 3.5 g per 100 ml of water. After an initial quick rinse (I tasted the rinse just to be sure I wasn’t missing anything, and I wasn’t) the first steep was for 5 seconds. I’m brewing at 203F with the gaiwan lid off. This yielded a very light almost clear brew that smelled like cinnamon, tasted creamy and buttery as hell and if I had to compare it to another drink I’d say it was like drinking horchata. Wild!
Increasing 5 more seconds each time, a couple more steeps in the cinnamon sugar scent is still there, the creamy, buttery flavors are still there and there are subtle notes of fruit, perhaps honeydew or nectarine. The tea has a cooling feeling on my tongue and leaves it coated with a very silky mouthfeel that lingers long after I’ve finished a sip. As the steeps get later, I begin to increase by 30 seconds. The liquor becomes more yellow and with every new cup the light flavor of this tea greets me again offering generously buttery flavor with a hint of spice. The aroma of fruit and spice is intoxicating. The silky mouthfeel becomes a bit more of a dry mouthfeel after more steepings, but it doesn’t feel unpleasant.
By the 5th infusion the fruity aroma is much more prominent and I’m tasting it more too. It’s definitely more on the side of honeydew than it was before. There’s a faint maltiness that is so gentle and the cream and butter are still churning out generously. What reminded me of cinnamon and spice is gone now. The flavor seems to reached somewhat of a plateau by the 6th steeping and onward, as I add a minute to each steep to ensure I am milking the leaves enough for a full brew, but it never comes off as weak, lacking, or anything but rich and full (yet impossibly light for such a full taste).
By steeping 8, I’m surprised again! The brew is darker and the aroma and flavor are very obviously of amaretto! “What in the world!?” I’m thinking. It’s still buttery, too!
Steeping 9 and on seem to be getting more astringent and not quite as drinkable, so I think I’m done with this tea here, but what a great journey that was!
This tea’s flavor is delicate, yet full-bodied. It’s got a nice consistent creamy quality to it, for the most part, so you’ve got to listen hard if you want to note the changes from one steep to the next. For the most part, the changes are not as obvious as with an oolong or some other pu-ehrs, but if you give this tea the quiet space it deserves (perhaps enjoy it under moonlight), the spirit it shows you is just sublime.
Flavors: Butter, Cinnamon, Cream, Melon, Nuts
This is a really neat raw pu’er! It’s got lots of body and very creamy texture. The flavor is like nectar sweet and malt. Very clean tasting as well. Interestingly, no earthy, floral or grassy flavor, just really smooth. The colour of this tea is just a hint of yellow that gets more colour in later steepings.
Moonlight White also resteeps very well with very consistent flavor. Later steepings developed some dryness, but was still loaded in flavor.
Full review on my blog The Oolong Owl http://oolongowl.com/moonlight-white-jingmai-raw-puer-bana-tea-company-oolong-owl-tea-review/
This is a lovely ripe pu-erh still available on Amazon.com and direct from bana teas in Feb. 2014. Tea brews a beautiful dark mahogany color with hints of orange, taste is extremely mellow/gentle with a touch of woodsy and earthy taste highlighted by citrus notes. I has an overall sense of balance and is what I would consider to be “lovely”. I just ordered a cake after tasting this sample.
So a few months ago, I moved it from the zi-sha tea caddy and placed it in one of cardboard, one of those tubes. Wow, significantly improved! Much sweeter and rounder, very pleasant and nice to drink yielding many infusions without any blah, metallic taste or bitterness. So after two years and much fiddling, it’s finally an enjoyable cake. I mean really enjoyable.
Ok, so I placed it in the zi-sha tea storage unit (guan) for two weeks and decided to try it out again since the weather has warmed up again. I don’t drink greens/raw unless the weather permits… all that cold not good for the stomach qi. Here goes…
Underwhelming. That’s my basic impression. I got 9 infusions before I just got bored. 15s/15s/15s/30s/30s/1m/1m/3m/3m, all at 195.
There was a world of difference in the taste since going into the zi-sha tea caddy (yeah that’s the word). All of the harshness of the tannins had essentially vanished. There were some, but they decreased by about 90%, becoming only evident after about fifth round.
Round #1: slight smoke, marshmallows, silvery liquor, vanilla, wee bit sweet, whispers of a certain metallic taste that I’m not too fond of.
Round #2: liquor more yellow, a hint of green, sweet vanilla taste, more metallic notes.
Round #3: liquor same color, itchy eyes.
Round #4: smokiness is really evident now, with slight soapy taste, liquor now quite yellow, more bitter, mellow, smoky, bitter, especially at the blade of the tongue.
Round #5: liquor is now more pale, smoky taste, a little soapy.
Round #6: bitter (finally), vanilla taste returns, smoky aftertaste.
Round #7: bitter but a roundness to the bitterness, no smokiness. liquor is still yellow.
Round # 8 &9: essentially the same. i didn’t note any new flavors.
It was nice to see how much storing the tea can affect its taste. In this case storing in the caddy for only two weeks changed this tea remarkably. It made it more pleasant in terms of tannins and “that metallic taste,” but it also seems that if it were to stay in the zi-sha much longer it will be even more characterless than it already strikes me.
I’d recommend this tea but probably not at this price. I really have only sampled pu-ers imported directly from China and this was the first I just purchased here at a tea event.
The thing with really good raw pu’ers is that they taste better with each infusion. This one seems to bottom out fairly quickly, that is in terms of complexity and richness of flavors.
So much depends on storage. I had another raw pu’er which I tasted upon purchase and then once a month after placing it in a proper storage container. After three months, the tannins had mellowed and after 6 months it was a perfect balance of bitter, sweet and smoky.
This Bana cake has some nice smoky note initially but it goes away quickly. I’ve had this now for more than a year and a half and will now place it in a zisha container and see how it develops. It really needs to find its “sweet-spot.”
Thanks so much Amy Oh for this sample!
Well this certainly is a delicate tea. Very light, too bad I over-steeped the second infusion a little. Oh well.
Anyhow, after reading Amy’s note, I’ve decided that yes… it’s mushroom that I tasted! yep yep. I’m not sure what white button tastes like(is that the normal store bought kind?), but it was a very specific mushroom flavour that I am thinking of. Something I grew up with? Hmmm.
Anyhow, side by side with the Tamarind Pop, this one was my less favoured cup. I enjoyed it, but the other one drew me in more.
I don’t see myself craving it again for some reason but I’m really not sure why. If I ever figure that out I’ll post it… HMMM!
Thanks again Amy :)
I felt this tea was pretty astringent (read: BITTER) and VERY grassy, both in taste and in the nose.
The color is not murky…much.
I found that using a cooler water made it halfway palatable.
This tea is not one I reach for very often. Bana Tea Co. was nice enough to send me a complimentary small sample of a ripe puerh. I liked that.
The taste profile of this Pu’erh was so unique compared to other aged Shengs that it initially put me off. However, once I got used to the unique sweetness and rosy flavor of this tea, I came to enjoy it and added it to my collection.
Its complexity is medium compared to some of the best shengs, but it has a smooth / silky feel to it, a surprisingly sweet flavor and a noticeable rose scent. One of the things I like most about this tea is the really low stimulation effect / caffeine… it’s a tea to relax. I also enjoy how clear this tea is, and it has a really clean feeling when you savor it.
I view this as an excellent tea to add to a collection if you feel like trying something different once in a while. It is so light, has a calming / relaxing effect almost like chamomile tea, and a delicate rose perfume-like scent. This would be a great tea to drink before bedtime.
However, I wouldn’t drink this on a daily basis, as the taste profile is so far off what we’re used in aged raw Pu’erh.
Quick Note Thanks again to Amy Oh for sharing with me. I’m slowly but surely going through the samples :)
Dry Leaf Slight Sweet and bitter scent
Wet Leaf Sweet, fruity, bitter, floral.
1st 3secs Sweet and slightly bitter that turns savory and tangy. The sweetness is fruity and subtle, the aftertaste reminds me of a flavorful green tea.
2nd 5secs Sweet, fruity, bitter, slightly floral. The taste becomes savory and really tangy in the mouth but it retains the floral notes.
3rd 10secs Sweet and fruity, some bitterness/tangy that fills the mouth. There are floral notes and slight vegetal/savory notes that linger. The aftertaste becomes sweet in the mouth after a while.
I made about 7 steeps. It held up its taste through the steeps. I was incredibly happy when I finished drinking and decided to look up the tea here. While I was drinking I was thinking “Hmmm I know where this is from… This tastes like Lincang Sheng.” When I saw the description I felt like I aced a Pop Quiz!
I’m not a big fan of Lincang Sheng, for some reason I prefer it as a ripe, it retains some of it’s juicy/tangy properties with the ‘heavy’ properties of a ripe, but still this might be a good one to age at home (even when it says ‘vintage’ it is a REALLY young Sheng).
Quick Note Thanks Amy oh for sharing with me :) This notes are from my steeps at work (more traditional longer steeps than I usually do in gaiwan).
1st – 30secs Earthy with apparent sweetness, and VERY smooth, I would describe it as an ‘oily’/buttery feeling that coats your tongue. As it washes down it continues to be mellow and smooth and offers hints of toasty coffee and/or cocoa. There’s a slight bitterness that might be attributed to the cocoa/coffee or even slight leather taste to it that is pleasant. The aftertaste is sweet and smooth.
2nd – 35secs More toasty and cocoa-like taste that smooths into a mellow sweetness with cocoa notes. The coating of the tongue is present before it washes down and becomes slightly cleaner. The aftertaste is sweet and just slightly refreshing.
I made 2 other steeps with this one adding around 15-20secs to each. They were both good just a bit of astringency that may be due to the breaking of the cake in half (the coin shape) than the actual tea.
This is a great option for an every day puerh, it is easy to prepare and enjoy and it is surprisingly smooth for its age. At work is was pretty satisfying but if you want to explore its ‘notes’ I’d recommend using a gaiwan at home. It was easier for me that way.
I tasted this today at the LA International Tea Festival while visiting the Bana Tea booth. Aside from a very lovely experience of getting to meet the owner of Bana(at least I think she was), I tasted several tea’s and this one in particular stood out as a nice alternative for a good everyday pu-erh.
Now, drinking it at home, this tea tastes even better. Light the first infusions with a super smooth and slightly creamy texture, with a very light hint of earthiness. Feels almost like comfort food… if that even makes sense.
I’m overall glad I purchased this, tasted even better than expected. A more detailed note coming soon.