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Recent Tasting Notes
Warning: Long Review Ahead
This morning I woke up and decided I would drink a shou with my cereal because I could pair that well; and because I was too tired to cook anything. Looking through the ones I had, I saw a vendor I rarely get to drink: Bana Tea Company. This was an easy pick!
The appearance was that of a broken piece of brick, because that’s what it was. Not much to it in terms of look or smell. Upon washing it… I realized I got myself into something I wasn’t ready for. This wasn’t going to just be a good tasting shou, this was clearly something else… something that would require words to explain it because it needs exposing. Well, how did I know this? From just the wash the leaf had an olive hue to it; one that was easily noticeable. This already told me something unique was going on here. Once I poured out the liquid for the first three steeps so I could drink a few ounces, there was an immediate clarity to the liquid that most shou do not have. Yeah, I got myself into more than I had though.
Now I have not had any other Wild Denong, nor did I read reviews of any of the ones from the past, so maybe I didn’t get whatever else did or even get what Bana was aiming for but here it is: From the first sip, I actually had a sensation of joy because this was the first ripe tea to imitate humid stored sheng. Yes, you read that right! I’ve heard many talk about it but never experienced it. Well, here it was, brewing a dark leaf and it was tasting like a dirty humid store sheng. Not the ideal drink to pair with my ‘breakfast of champions’, but it was so clearly there. It might not have been 100% correct, but the additional notes come from something I would describe as tian jian like… somewhat roasted, but still coherent with one another that the contrasting taste blend together to something smooth. I believe this is where the mysterious wild taste comes into play, something that’s hard to describe but we all know what we are talking about when we say ‘wild tasting’.
Still working through this to see what happens when it dies out, there’s not much to say negatively about this tea because at 100c for 10s this is putting out solid tea that isn’t textured or repulsive as shou tends to be after I hit six steeps because my throat tells me ‘stop with that cooked nonsense’. This is only three years old at this point which has me insanely curious about what the older ones taste like. In terms of price, this is a frickin’ bargain right now. Currently it is selling for $29.00 for 100g. For something this unique, it’s worth the investment to drink say 5g a month to see what happens. It’s actually cheaper than my favorite from Bana, and still favorite after this due to its sweetness, but only by a few dollars (2005 Ginseng scent ripe). I expect this to go up in price by a decent amount while it’s stock each year; looking at the 2010, only three years apart, the price is $47.00 for 100g. I’ll probably do some undercover investigating to see if someone will let me get some of the 2010 to sample so I know which one I prefer since I would only want one of these sorts of tea in my cabinet at a time. It’s truly unique and something that would be nice to have on hand to swap with or share with someone who wants to try something complex and new.
Sometimes, more like many times, little things that look like nothing turn out to be a big deal. This leaf has the color of something I don’t want to discuss, but taste wonderful. The smell is offsetting, but it’s liquid draws you in because It captivates your thoughts as you try to associate the words that fit the taste.
Puerh Tea TTB. This was really good tea. The year wasn’t labeled on the packet so I didn’t realize how old it was. It seemed to have some fermentation flavor but not too much. That flavor was neither fishy or unpleasant though. There was little bitterness in this one and a lot of sweetness. Even perhaps the flavor of dates to go out on a bit of a limb. This was really good. Gave it twelve steeps and could have continued but I have to get ready for a job interview.
I steeped this twelve times in a 150ml gaiwan with 11.5g leaf and boiling water. I gave it a 10 second rinse and a 10 minute rest. I steeped it for 5 sec, 5 sec, 7 sec, 10 sec, 15 sec, 20 sec, 25 sec, 30 sec, 45 sec, 1 min, 1.5 min, and 2 min. I’d say if I had the time to continue there were another four or five steeps in the leaves. This was really good tea. I wonder if it is still in stock.
Flavors: Dates, Earth, Sweet
The Trails of LBZ, Case 9 of 6
(Liquid Proust search for his favorite laser beam zensheng)
Obtaining some of this through a swap made me incredibly happy because this is a pricey tea. In that same trade I got some LBZ maocha from Tea Urchin as well so I really hope that what I sent to that person made them feel special as I did opening the swap.
Now many had told me that this was the one to compare the others to and if that was true I did it backwards because I should have done it first or second, but it wasn’t but two weeks ago until I had my hands on it. Blah, blah, blah… tasting notes:
The broken pieces are ugly; as I would guess for anything coming off a brick to be honest. The smell of this is quite strong which was unique. The first few steeps seemed to have been the brewing of astringent notes coming out. I’ve been told that true LBZ will drop off quick and become sweet so this astringency isn’t causing doubt for me.
Going into the fourth steep with nothing really to comment on, all of a sudden texture appeared. I’d call it creamy, but it’s really best described as buttery (but I never refer to sheng as being buttery because that’s an oolong thing to me).
Hoping that some fruity sweetness would come out, I was kind of met with this dirty nut from outside laying on the grass taste. While that’s not something bad, but it wasn’t what I had expected. This makes it much different than the others that I had drank.
The texture and taste stays the same throughout without much to point out after steep 8. Realizing the price factor on this tea and trying to evaluate it the best that I could, I ended up going 27 steeps all by myself. This lasted all morning and I ate nothing until I finished this session with a purpose; test those feels. So what is the conclusion? I felt absolutely nothing in regards to power which is odd. With no feels and a taste profile that is somewhat like a nutty yellow tea and a freshly dirty raw pu’er (if you know what I mean), I cannot sell myself on it. Honestly I could put this up against a lot of Mengku cakes and it wouldn’t stand out.
Honestly, I was disappointed and still am. Not only did I not eat anything so my body could feel the tea even more, I set aside the whole morning to do this because I knew it was a special occasion that I wouldn’t get again unless I paid a decent amount. As of today, the 2007 Mengku LBZ is the best bargain for feels when it comes to this search. With the Tea Urchin LBZ maocha , 2010 LBZ from YS, and puer.sk 2004 bamboo stored LBZ, I’m almost to the end of my road with these unless someone else comes along with a surprise.
Bana Tea Company has some of the best ripe pu’er. This mini cake is one of their cheaper offerings, but is pretty solid. It tastes a little young, but has a good earthy, bittersweet, molasses, brown sugar, mineral flavor. The last steeps are like drinking dessert with all sugar taste. There’s some dryness early on, but is very approachable mid to last steeps. I got 11 resteeps.
Full review on Oolong Owl http://oolongowl.com/2015-bulang-ripe-puer-mini-cake-bana-tea-company/
This tea was part of a couple of puerh samplers my daughter gave me for Christmas. I’m not much of a ripe drinker, but enjoyed the opportunity to sample such an old tea.
After a 10 s rinse and 5 minute wait the tea tastes very much like a traditionally stored sheng. The primary taste is wet wood, but there is some camphor lurking in the background. I’m feeling a fairly good amount of cha qi as well. Color is also sheng-like: burnt sienna, without any reddish tinge. 2nd steep): Really nice wood/camphor aroma. Brown color. Taste is slightly sweet; camphor with some fruit. Really nice finish. Later in the cup, the taste is kind of earthy/dirty and I’m finding I don’t like it as much. 3rd and 4th steeps: nose is wet wood; taste not so much. Becoming sweeter, and slightly nutty. 6th (2 m): Soft and fruity. Very little wet wood. Bumped my score up a couple of points.
My overall impression was that the tea was very interesting, but that I got tired of the wet wood flavor very quickly. Fortunately, only two steeps were really dominated by wet wood, though it was present in the first 4 of 5 steeps. My rating went up and down in inverse proportion to the woody flavor. Since I was comparing this to an old sheng, I did some tasting of the W2T 90’s Hong Kong storage alongside this tea. I liked the HK flavor better because there wasn’t much of the wet wood, though this tea was quite a bit more interesting, and had less camphor.
This was a very interesting tea, but not at all what I was expecting. Reading the reviews, I was expecting some horchata-like white, though I wound up getting that so much from the Tribute White that I almost wonder if I wound up with the wrong teas! This tea leapt forth with cranberries, gooseberries, and sour grapes from the fore, which settled down into plenty of berry salad mixed with a little tarragon. Early steeps had some tamarind in them as well. The tea never got sour in the mouth, but was a nice, calm sweet/bitter combination that was very pleasant, with a heady aroma of berries. It was…well, rather like a white tea had some age on it, and was allowed to calm down. Even though it wasn’t what I was expecting, it was still quite nice!
I reviewed this and the Tribute White from Bana with pictures here: http://writing.drab-makyo.com/posts/tasting/2016/04/07/bana-whites/
Flavors: Berry, Cranberry, Grapes
I’m not huge on whites, but these aged ones might yet win me over. I’m used to more medicinal and sharp white teas, but this one burst forth immediately with honey and malt and milk. In fact, it reminded me so much of my childhood breakfast of hot Grape Nuts and milk topped with hone that I was made hungry almost immediately. The early steepings were mostly honey and grain, while the mid steepings shifted to more of honey and autumn leaf pile, very tasty. The later steepings started to calm down quite a bit, still milk and honey, and the tea pooped out around six steeps, though it was tasty all the way through. I found myself quite tea-drunk, by the end, and my notes don’t make a whole lot of sense :)
I reviewed this with Bana’s Moonlight White with pictures here: http://writing.drab-makyo.com/posts/tasting/2016/04/07/bana-whites/
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Grain, Honey, Malt, Milk, Sugar, Sugarcane
1st steep (10s): Strong, rich aroma is leathery. With some spice. Smells old. Deep orange color. Good flavor and texture: coats the tongue. 2nd (10 s): Really nice. A hint of bitterness underneath a slighty sweet leather/spice flavor. Rich. Hard to separate the finish from the effects of the cha qi, but both are very powerful. 3rd (20s): There is a slight hint of ashes, similar to what I’ve seen in a few other old shengs. Not strong enough to be unpleasant, but not as nice as the previous steeps. 4th (30s): Sweeter than before, less ash. Later steeps alternated sweetness with the ash flavor and were less enjoyable.
The first two steeps were outstanding, but I lowered my rating because I didn’t like the later steeps as much. Usually I find puerh peaks at the 3rd steep (bear in mine I only use 1 gram per ounce of water and steep 10, 10, 20…). This peaked at the second, and was much less enjoyable in the later steeps. A very good tea, but after the first steep, I was hoping for greatness.
I picked this Da Hong Pao up from Bana with a loose pu’er as part of my search for more portable teas than the pu’er cakes I’ve taken a liking to. The brick was intriguing, but the ability to break it up with one’s hands sold me. I’m aiming to try it as a travel tea, but to start with, I did it gongfu style. Early on, I noticed a ton of caramel and roasty sweet flavors, like a caramel corn or those sugar roasted almonds that you get at fairs and festivals (but only really the skins, no real nuttiness). After that, the flavor settled down into more of a middle-of-the-road oolong (to my uneducated tastes), which was pleasant and made me think that this would be fantastic iced as well. My water started cooling off, so my steeping pooped out rather early, which is alright – the remaining leaf smelled plenty herbal and very fresh, which makes me think I could’ve gone further and explored more pleasant bitterness and astringency, but I felt I had had my fill. All in all, I’m sold, this will make a wonderful traveling companion.
I wrote a much longer review with pictures, but it wasn’t conducive to pasting! Check it out here: http://writing.drab-makyo.com/posts/tasting/2016/03/24/da-hong-pao-blocks/
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Caramel, Earth, Kale, Rice Pudding, Roasted
I received this tea as a sample add-in to an order of puerh samples.
The dry leaves appeared to be very heavily roasted, which was confirmed with my first whiff of the pot. Very roasted! I was therefore pleasantly surprised that my first sip was more fruity than roasted. The roast was there underneath, and was dominant in the finish. Still, a pretty good balance. The second steep (1m) had a better balance of fruit and roast in the nose, but not much fruit in the taste. Third steep was similar. All of the steeps were interesting, which I like, but in the end I’m just not into a tea that is this heavily roasted.
I started with several chunks rather than loose leaves, so the first steep was kind of weak. The taste started out as straw with a hint of leather but in the next few steeps the leather became much more prominent. It also became quite astringent. Chewy texture. Long finish, and I’m feeling some cha qi. Later steeps were sightly bitter and more astringent than I like, but with decent flavor. Not bad, but not my style.
I found this tea disappointing. The early steeps were extremely astringent, to the point where it was difficult to notice any other flavor. As the astringency faded, it became very acidic, with astringency lingering in the finish. Never felt any cha qi. Later steeps less objectionable but nothing special. It’s too bad, because there were interesting leather/earth flavors hiding behind the astringency, but they just weren’t able to overcome the handicap.
Since stopping Prilosec after sixteen years, I have been eating light as much as possible. Tonight my kitchen is in shambles because it is being renovated and I had no idea I would be unable to cook. Like an idiot, I bought fast food. Arby’s roast beef sandwich and fries and a Pepsi. I was miserable after eating light foods for so long.
Puerh to the rescue! I had the presence of mind to take my kettle into the living room earlier and my tea shelf isn’t affected by the destruction of my soffits and wiring, so youngest and I are having a nice pot of tea and reading.
I made this with just one half of a “coin” and boiling water. I actually oversteeped it, but I had also used a pot that was bigger than I realized so there was a bit more water than usual. That worked out well, and we still have a really strong brew. This is as black as coffee but tastes great and has already done much to relieve my bloated feeling.
We will get a few resteeps out of this, too. It is an earthy Puerh without fishiness, but it doesn’t have that cedar oil vibe that I love right now. This one may not have it, or it may be because of the oversteeping.
It is tasty, though, and doing the job I wanted it to do.
Steepster has GOT to be eating my tasting notes, because I can’t believe that I haven’t written one on this tea before. I have had gallons of it.
This is my puerh of the evening, hoping to combat the kind of horrible reflux that awakened me in the wee hours this morning.
This tea comes as small coin shapes that are scored across the middle so they easily break in half, somewhat like a tuocha in volume and diameter. I have had my “tube” for over a year. It was a Christmas surprise from hubby, purchased at Tin Roof Teas in Raleigh, NC..
This is an earthy puerh, not too strong and not fishy. I made two steps with a half coin, and the color is a medium orange “normal” black tea color, not the inky black you sometimes get with shu puerh.
This has been especially delightful tonight, as it is getting a wonderful oily body as it cools a little in the pot. I would call it creaminess, but when that thick mouthfeel appears in a puerh with mineral taste added in, I always think of oil, the way Murphy’s Oil Soap smells to me.
Good stuff! I will probably get another three steps or so out of this tomorrow.
Another sample that came with my Bana order (thank you Linda!), the dry aroma of these leaves in a prewarmed gaiwan is of freshly cut wood, muddy forest floor, and flowers. Wet, they smell like trees, flowers, and surf, a summer storm in a cup.
The first infusion is really light. It’s vegetal with wildflowers and a woody, slightly peppery finish.
Moving right along, the second infusion is round with flavors of grass, wood, and a nectar-like sweetness. Orange flowers come to mind, which has become a rather common mental association for me with many raw Puer teas.
On the third infusion, there’s a good amount of sweetness and the flavor is more rich. I can definitely taste this tea’s age, starting to develop some very nice rounded, sweet aged notes, but still with a good amount of the peppery spice and woodiness of its youth. Subtle flavors of goji or wolfberry emerge.
Fourth infusion, I’m starting to sweat. Is that the tea or just me? Woo! The flavor is quite strong, and a pretty even blend of the sharp woody taste and the sweet nectar-like mildly floral taste.
Fifth infusion brings out more sweetness. The flavor is quite full and rich. Overall, I think round is the best word to describe this Puer. It has a good balance of contrasting elements. I personally find it to have a bit of a punch, but some more hardcore Puer drinkers may find it on the easy side. The description from Bana is accurate that it has a good huigan and yun.
Flavors: Flowers, Goji, Nectar, Pepper, Sweet, Wood
The dry aroma of these leaves is rather woody and also smells somewhat like clay. That was unexpected. The wet aroma is very fragrant, perfurmed and fruity. I can’t put my finger on what type of fruit aroma it reminds me of. Maybe lychee or grapes. Maybe even peach.
The first infusion is a pale cream color. The flavor is astonishing… I’m reminded of Thai Tea, the popular black tea that is infused with vanilla and heavy cream and often served cold. I would say it has all of those qualities, but in a much lighter way. It tastes and feels very creamy in the mouth. The scent of the brewed tea is radiating notes of cinnamon, almost smells like a cinnamon roll.
The second infusion is a luminous yellow, like a low moon in the sky. In the flavor, there’s some white grape coming through now, along with the cream and spice notes from before. This rather young Moonlight White tea tastes much like you’d expect young white tea to taste. It has that dewy, green edge to it that a few years aging will slowly take away. Truth be told, I generally prefer this quality over older white teas. There’s something very lifelike, vibrant, and wholesome about it to me. I live in the city where I am unfortunately very detached from nature, so the life in young tea often helps to make me feel a bit more free and unbound. Feels like a natural getaway. I know there’s some debate over whether Moonlight White is white tea or Puer, but generally I believe it is white tea unless pressed into a cake, because it shares the processing method of other white teas unless pressed.
Goodness, the whole room smells like this tea. I left for a moment and was greeted generously by it when I came back. I’ve given the third infusion a stronger brew. The taste is now very generous with a medium yellow liquor. Up front, I get a very mouth-filling cane sugar sweetness, lots of cream flavor. It still tastes vaguely fruity to me; I think white grapes might be the best descriptor I can give, though if someone said peach I could see some of that in there too. This tea just has a really generous aroma, flavor, and sweetness. I wolfed down (lioned down?) this infusion, not purposely.
The fourth infusion continues much in the same way as the third, but the fruit-like flavor is waning and there is more of a creamy malty flavor replacing it. The fifth infusion has not diminished in flavor at all, and is similar to the fourth but with a bit more black tea like flavor in the finish.
This tea is a keeper for me. I’ll update the review if anything interesting creeps out in the late infusions, but for now I’m off to just enjoy this tea.
Flavors: Cinnamon, Cream, Grapes, Peach, Sugarcane, Tea, Vanilla
Got this sent to me by Linda Louie as a sample with a recent Bana order. Thank you Linda. Most of Bana’s teas are Puer tea from Yunnan so it will be interesting to try this white tea from Fujian from them.
The leaves of this tea are very, very furry and plump. Cute! The dry aroma of the white tea leaves in a preheated gaiwan is rather sweet, with a berry-like fruitiness, along with the usual white tea notes of fallen leaves and a bit of earthy forest smell. The aroma of the wet leaves after a first quick infusion made me say “wow!” It’s hard to describe. It has a tangy/tart kind of fruity smell that I can’t describe much better than that and a bit of a dewy smell that reminds me of cucumber. Along with this you get some more foresty or even hay-like scents of tall grass.
The liquor of the first infusion is pale yellow. This tea tastes beautiful and sweet, lightly floral. Peony aroma is what White Peony tea is named after, and this is the first time I’ve had a white tea that really smelled like peonies to me more than other things, though it’s a really subtle floral scent, a lot like the kind you also get from carnations or orchids. This tea is not a White Peony, but I imagine it is from the same dabai dahao cultivars used for those. It has a really delicate sweetness that I enjoy, close to sugar cane in flavor or even cotton candy, though let me emphasize it is light, unlike a mouth full of cotton candy.
Oh what a surprise in the second infusion. I did not expect to be met with such delicious spice overtones. Nutmeg and cinnamon come to mind, while the background is still somewhat floral and a bit green tasting. Have you ever eaten an orchid? They taste like a spicy cucumber. It reminds me of that a bit.
Third infusion, the wet aroma is incredible. Reminds me of all the cut flowers in a flower shop. The flavor is similar but a little more muddled than before and harder to pick out individual notes. Still rather delicate and enjoyable.
By the fourth infusion I feel the flavors have shifted to be a bit more earthy, leafy, hay-like, not as delicate or sweet. There’s a light aroma of muscatel on the wet leaves. I haven’t really mentioned the mouthfeel of this tea yet. I think it has a nice rather thick presence despite its light flavor.
The fifth infusion still has a good flavor with more sweetness returning to it and less of the earthy flavors. The sixth infusion brought out even more sweetness. Seventh did as well. I have noticed that good white teas seem to move in sort of a sideways S pattern if you were to graph their flavor over Gongfu infusions. The first few get better, then they lower in sweetness and complexity for a few, then they get better again after a few. I love the sweetness you can coax out of late infusions of a white tea, and this one works well for that.
This was overall one of the best white teas I’ve had from Fujian province, and as the first white tea from there to really convince me there’s a peony element to the aroma and taste, I think that it deserves some kudos.
Flavors: Cucumber, Flowers, Forest Floor, Grass, Sugarcane
Coolest shou pu! The ginseng is to be understood as cooling, not the licorice ginseng tea taste.
This ripe pu’er starts rich, earthy, nutty and sweet. No funk, bitter or dryness so it is really easy to drink. With each steeping the cooling sensation takes over. It’s not camphor in flavor, so it’s not minty per say, but the sensation of the aftertaste leaves your mouth feeling cold.
Full review on Oolong Owl http://oolongowl.com/2005-denong-ginseng-scent-shou-puer-from-bana-tea-company-tea-review/
I’m surprised I haven’t reviewed this yet. This was my first ripe Puer and probably the one I have the most experience brewing. And over the course of a couple of years as my brewing style has become more refined, I have learned to unlock the potential of this tea through Gongfu Cha. This review is a sipdown! :(
This time I am using a small round gongfu teapot. The first infusion is very smooth. The wet leaves smell like the forest floor during a heavy rain, when waters are pushing soil and leaves around, bringing up many earthy and leafy aromas. It also smells like sweet bread dough. The flavor by the second infusion is very sweet, the sweetest Shou Puer I’ve had. It’s subtle in comparison to the sweetness of some other styles of tea like white or oolong can be, but there’s a sweetness that lingers in the mouth and is quite sugary. It makes me salivate. The taste is like dates with an earthy backdrop. There are some mild wood flavors as well, hints of molasses. The third infusion really draws out more sweetness and is truly rich, especially as the tea cools.
This is an especially enjoyable ripe Puer. I may end up purchasing more of this.
Flavors: Dates, Sweet, Wood
Super delicious. Overall, the tea never really got too dark and lightened quickly after the first few steeps, but that didn’t stop the flavor train from going strong for 20 steeps..
First steeps are nutty, moving into a smooth, subtle sweetness. A little bit of spice in later steeps. Seems like a good deal.