Bitterleaf Teas

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Recent Tasting Notes

D is for… Drink Me 2020 Nanmo Raw Puer!

Gongfu!

Tried this with a very interesting cheese pairing – a sweet and tangy lemon curd Wendsleydale!! Wasn’t totally sure how this would work out, but I find the tangy lemon/cheese notes are complimenting a similar sweet yuzu-like citrus note already present in this full bodied sheng! After the first few steeps, which were much sweeter, softer, & floral this sheng is picking up more of a cracked black pepper note with both some astringency and bitterness. The crumbly but creamy cheese helps mitigate some of the astringency, while the sweetness offsets the bitterness – creating an overall tangy sweet citrus bomb flavour between the two with hints of spice. It’s honestly a much more pleasant #teasession than expected since this combo was admittedly a bit of a gamble!

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CNSyE2aBTWz/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGzeOZuqB9k&ab_channel=MICKEYDARLING

tea-sipper

The name of the ‘drink me’ tea goes well with that cheese that looks like an Alice in Wonderland cake. :D

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83

In recent years, several Oolong productions from central Yunnan have emerged on the international market, often from Taiwanese cultivars, most commonly Qing Xin as is the case with this one.

It is a well-balanced tea, the mild roast brings out nice fruity sweetness and acidity to complement the perfumy, floral and relatively vegetal character. The aromas are fairly weak generally, and remind me of sweet perfume and grass flowers.

The taste also has a decent bitterness to it, as well as some nutty undertones. However, main flavours are in the neighborhood of plums, peach pits, acorn, dry grass, and nectar.

Where the tea really shines is the smooth metallic and powdery mouthfeel, and especially its pungent and lasting mineral aftertaste. The returning flavours include ones like fenugreek leaves, lychee, leafy vegetables (chard), and butter among others.

Flavors: Bitter, Butter, Dry Grass, Floral, Flowers, Fruity, Grass, Lychee, Metallic, Mineral, Nutty, Peach, Perfume, Plants, Pleasantly Sour, Plums, Smooth, Stonefruit, Sweet, Vegetables, Vegetal

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 8 g 5 OZ / 140 ML

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81

Grandpa style!

I’m quite certain that this isn’t the first chenpi production I’ve had from Bitterleaf Tea, but I can’t for the life of me remember the name of any previous ones they’ve released. I did enjoy this dragonball brewed up grandpa though – I drank it over the course of the morning yesterday in between hard good testing for me and it was thick and warming with really deep and robust petrichor notes to the shou and a medicinal and coating orange undertone. While it was challenging to see the tea leaf while drinking because the soup was so dark and opaque, I noticed after I was dumping out/cleaning the mug that the chenpi was these very long “threads” that seemed to have been woven in with pu’erh, which I thought was pretty cool!

I’ve got many of these dragonballs, so looking forward to lots of cozy infusions as well as trying this out Gongfu!

TeaEarleGreyHot

Were the “threads” retaining the leaf, or serving some other function?

Roswell Strange

It was just like long ribbons of cut orange peel – not actual thread. Maybe a poor choice of words on my part. The whole dragonball came apart as it steeped; I just liked the visual of these long orange peel strands.

TeaEarleGreyHot

Nice! Of course, I must ask whether it does justice to Shakespeare, that is the question! And can you review it in iambic pentameter? ;-)

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86

Greatest Hits is a blend of Yi Wu ripe puer and it is really quite good. The cakes are sold out now, but one can still get some of the little coins.

The tea is medium bodied and super smooth, rich and dark. The profile is well balanced and nutty. It indeed has a strong milky sweetness like the description mentions. Besides that, the aroma reminds me of orange liqueur and butter toast. There is also a good huigan to be found and a sort of milky mouthfeel.

Flavors: Alcohol, Butter, Milk, Orange, Smooth, Sweet, Toast

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 8 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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WandaVision Binge Watch – Ep 4

On a pairing front I have to say that the name of this tea really says it all. It was one of those obvious “slaps you in the face” kind of teas that you go “OH! Obviously this is what should go with this episode” and so it’s what I did. The cold open of the episode immediately validated that feeling for me.

On a taste level, it was probably good that I switched to something more delicate and calming after several pretty richly flavourful teas. I loved the silky smooth notes of clotted cream, cucumber pulp, and timothy hay. There was also this quality that I liked that (and this is gonna sound weird) I can only best describe as the smell of what you make your own paper. I don’t know if anyone else has ever done that before, but you basically make your own weird goopy paper pulp and spread it very thin then use pressure to make it stay together as a sheet. There’s a distinct aroma to that process, and this taste like it – but in a good and nostalgic way.

This is also the episode where alllllllll the caffeine I had been consuming really started to catch up with me and by the end of the episode I felt like I was buzzing/vibrating from a combo of adrenaline/excitement from the plot developments mixed with so much caffeine…

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86

Shou and black tea doesn’t sound like the weirdest combination, but I still wouldn’t expect it to turn out as well as this tea performs. It is fairly well integrated and balanced overall with more savoury character than a straight black tea would have.

Dry leaf aroma is an funny mix of fish, wooden cabinet, black cherry, and crickets. Throughout the session, the smell has some of more familiar notes from dian hong – malt and chocolate – as well as some notes of fireplace, hazelnuts, maple syrup, and grilled peach.

First infusion is fairly sweet and medium bodied with a creamy texture to it that is a staple of the session. The dominant flavours are in the neighborhood of chocolate and autumn leaf pile. Second steep is more woody with notes of corn syrup and peanuts. The next then brings the savoury and umami aspects, as well as a prominent nutty cocoa bean flavour and hints of cannabis.

The aftertaste is a little biting and this is where the shou character tends to take over the show somewhat. After a short while, the expected earthiness emerges, as well as some vanilla and hints of sour fermentation notes.

I really like the cha qi too, which is very relaxing and (body and soul) melting. I personally wouldn’t bet on this performing great if aged, but what do I know. In any case, it is a lovely tea to drink now.

Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Biting, Cannabis, Cherry, Chocolate, Cocoa, Cream, Earth, Fireplace, Fishy, Hazelnut, Malt, Maple Syrup, Nutty, Peach, Peanut, Sour, Sugar, Sweet, Umami, Vanilla, Wood

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 7 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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91

Geek Steep S1E19 – Frankenstein (Novel)

Gongfu!

One of the things I’ve most enjoyed about our “longer” fandoms this season is when I’ve had the chance to explore multiple pairings – either taking completely different approaches to my pairings or looking at the things that may not have worked the first time and finding ways to correct that.

When we decided on Frankenstein I had two very different ideas of how I might want to pair it and I got to explore both of those “paths”. The idea behind this one was that I wanted a kind of dark and deeply earthy shou pu’erh that kind of said “Hey, I’ve been buried six feed underground” to capture that state of decay and darkness that is at the core of this novel as a piece of Gothic Literature – and which is reflected in the ambiance of the novel/narrative. It just… felt right, y’know?

Then around November Bitterleaf teas released this tea and it seemed too perfect to not capitalize on it. It was a shou/black tea hybrid – this “unnatural” combination forced together to try and create something new, the name was fucking perfectly spot on, and I got to go down the Shou road that had been in my mind. I ordered a cake, paused reading the novel (because I was about 1/2 way through at that point) and waited until it arrived so that I could finish it with this tea that destiny seemed to be telling me pair with it.

I’m glad I did – it was brilliant with this novel! At least in the tea sessions I’ve had thus far, the shou really does dominate over the black tea, and the flavour is this glorious mix of malt, just a bit of stonefruit, and thick petrichor and decaying wood. It’s so dark and it has that eerie “hunting for body pieces” vibe that I wanted, in a very good way. It’s just such a brilliant pairing for the novel – and I know that’s NOT a modest thing to say because I thought of the pairing, but I’m gonna give myself that pat on the back because I just love it.

Also, definitely don’t regret caking it either – this is the kind of profile I’d enjoy super easily outside of the setting of this podcast as well.

Our Website: https://www.geeksteep.com/
Our Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/geeksteep/

My Geek Photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/CKH2MbRAni6/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElGOGTZ6ax8&ab_channel=L%27Imp%C3%A9ratrice-Topic

Listen to us on Buzzsprout:
https://www.buzzsprout.com/1286036/podcast/website

DB topic:
https://steepster.com/discuss/42133-geek-steep-a-new-tea-and-fandom-podcast

tea-sipper

That is a great tea to pair with Frankenstein! I finally read Frankenstein this year. I liked the elements of it best that aren’t typically in every popcultural Frankenstein thing. I was surprised there was very little mention of the creation of Frankenstein’s monster.

Roswell Strange

Yeah, Victor really glazes over the creation process XD

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84

I haven’t had many Ban Pen teas, so I was happy to get an opportunity to taste a fresh one with BLT adding 8 Ball to their 2020 line-up. It’s quite a masculine tea and not really my absolute favourite type of a profile. It is, however, distinct from most teas in my collection. Maybe the closest one would be Jiu Tai Po – a Jinggu tea with a similar bitter, grainy, and nutty character.

Objectively, this is undoubtedly a high quality tea. It is processed slightly on the greener side, as is quite common for Bu Lang sheng as far as I can tell. The huigan is very pronounced and the full-bodied liquor has a very soft and plump texture to it, coupled with a numbing and slightly abrasive sensation at the back of the mouth. The cha qi is creeping slowly, but ramps up to facilitate an all-encompassing peaceful state at its peak.

The dry leaf aroma is sweet and floral with a hint of gasoline and dry earth. After the rinse, the smell is more nutty and grainy. The dominant notes I pick up are musk and fenugreek leaves, but there are many others too.

First steep is already quite pungent with a lot of breadth. It is mineral, nutty, and bitter with an underlying sweetness to it. Floral and vegetal aspects arrive soon, as well as a nice sour tinge. In the first part of the session, there are flavours such as sunflowers, chard, alcohol, various seeds, and hops – the latter especially in the aftertaste.

Going towards steeps 6-8, I get more bassy impression with more of a typical punchy and granular Bu Lang profile carrying a hint of tobacco. Some floral and dry grass flavours with nutty undertones return subsequently, such as acorn or eucalyptus. Some fruitiness reminiscent of quince comes to the fore around the 12th infusion too. The crisp aftertaste has consistently floral character to it, mixed in with some bourbon too, interestingly.

I end the session after about 18 steeps which is just short of 300ml/g, a pretty good longevity for a young tea. I can definitely recommend the tea to anyone interested in getting a solid tea that showcases a village that’s maybe not as commonly found on the western market as a couple of neighboring ones. I can’t speak to how representative it is, but I think one gets their money’s worth, just about.

Flavors: Alcohol, Bitter, Dry Grass, Earth, Eucalyptus, Floral, Flowers, Grain, Hops, Mineral, Nutty, Plants, Sweet, Tobacco, Vegetal, Whiskey

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 7 g 4 OZ / 110 ML

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88

Thank you Whiteantlers!

This is a backlog from yesterday. I’ve avoided opening this one because I put Bitterleaf Teas on a pedestal of pricy. But then I looked at the 2016 date, and the time was now.

This tea is interesting and doesn’t have the same astringency as most Dan Congs, or the Ripe Heady florals of most of the Yashi’s I’ve drank. Russ’s notes cherry were interesting because it does have a weird tang and fruitiness that resembles cherries, but lighter pink ones instead of the red ones that usually come to mind. The note itself had the soft tartness of some cascara, or coffee cherries, and that’s what I’m going to pick for my palette vocab today.

The tea’s overall character though is very milky, floral, and laced with minerals. The tea’s color itself is a very creamy yellow in shorter steeps and orange color in longer steeps, and the flavor with the mouthfeel create an almost dairy like sensation. The minerals that follow up are like mineral water, and while slightly sweet, they just add a lot of texture in every brew of the tea gong fu. Otherwise, the flavor is pretty light and I needed to add more leaves in the next session to get more flavor, and grant a medium for the bizarre cascara notes. Aroma packed a much more extreme profile that was almost like japanese milk candy. I’d almost use lychee to describe the smell, but I am so frickin’ tired of that note moniker, and the fruitiness is not tropical and not prominent.

I really liked this tea because it was easy to drink and combined my favorite elements unique to oologs. You don’t get heavy minerals combied with a creamier flavor often, Dancongs also usually go to astringent extremes between the floral, fruity, and toasty, but this one is very balanced. If I didn’t feel weird about the shipping, I’d probably would have gotten some this myself, but thankfully, Whiteantlers gave me the opportunity to drink this up.

I’d also add Hugo Tea’s Yashi Dancong they have is pretty similar to this one and a little bit heavier in its body, and has cheaper shipping costs in U.S. It does have a little bit more sourdough flavor to it, but it’s comparable. This one still highly appeals to me-I’m bumping up the rating to reflect that as I sip it down today.

Flavors: Cherry, Cream, Floral, Milk, Mineral, Sugar

White Antlers

So glad it went to an appreciative home, Daylon! :)

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Finally getting around to trying this tea and having owned it for, oh I don’t know, four years!? Maybe even five, potentially…

I brewed it up Grandpa style and I just don’t think that was the best way to steep it up – especially the first time when I didn’t have a great understanding/grasp on what the usual flavour profile is. I found it rather green/vegetal and biting, with a lot of dryness and tobacco notes. Not the kind of flavour profile that I personally gravitate towards in sheng, and it was just so concentrated that it made for a rough cup. I still drank a few “top ups” of my grandpa brew to not have wasted the leaf and see if it would improve, but…

Not my thing.

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76

This is a one of the most woody ripe pu’er teas I’ve encountered. Especially in the aroma there is a strong note of wood chippings, complemented by grape juice and red currant.

The taste is a little fishy / marine at first but also very clean. It gets more mineral and bitter as the session progresses, displaying flavours of mead, cranberry, wood, shellfish, and betel nut. The liquor is medium bodied with a soy milk like texture and a decent astringency that is also present after swallowing as a constrictive and a little abrasive feeling in the throat and back of the mouth especially. The aftertaste is cooling, sweet and mildly sour. It lasts for a while, but lacks pungency.

Flavors: Astringent, Berry, Bitter, Cranberry, Drying, Fishy, Grapes, Marine, Mineral, Sawdust, Wood

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 8 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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1st steep 3 minutes: Enjoying this as my first cup of the morning while I answer work emails and start on my soil lectures!

This one is lightly malty and really delicious. It’s reminding me a lot of another tea I can’t put my finger on.

2nd steep 4 minutes, 30 seconds: I steeped this up then got distracted cleaning the bunnies, taking a shower, then doing yoga, but this is still tasty! There’s still a lot of the same flavour from the first steep and it’s great lukewarm haha.

As it cools, there’s definitely some first flush Darjeeling notes here – some hay and the lightest malt.

3rd steep 6 minutes: Still delicious with those hints of Darjeeling. Really enjoyable cuppa, all thanks to Cameron!

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 3 g 14 OZ / 414 ML
Cameron B.

That’s a lot of distractions, ha ha! I still need to try this one…

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I am a little bit conflicted about this Dan Cong. It has a complex and nuanced character, long-lasting aftertaste, a super interesting texture and a strong cha qi. This is no doubt a high quality tea on multiple levels. Yet, on the whole, I am not super thrilled about drinking it and I am not even sure why. Maybe I will warm up to it later, my second session today was already much more agreeable than the initial one.

In terms of aromas, there are notes of stonefruits (peach), yeast, milk, tropical fruits and orchid before the rinse. Afterwards, the smell is pungent and flowery with hints of rose and straw. Finally, there is a nice spicy scent of vanilla, cinnamon and scones in the empty cup.

Taste-wise, the session starts off sweet, floral and very mineral. There are flavours of apple, wet rocks, rapeseed and fruit tree flowers. Later on, I also found notes of cloves, hazelnut and fermented fruits. The aftertaste is spicy and warming with additional flavours of apricot and kumquat.

Some of the most interesting things about the tea is clearly the mouthfeel. It is very soft and creamy with a sort of misty quality to it. Body is medium to full and has a drying finish. Another notable fact is the sedating and heady cha qi. In my experience, it’s a tea to zone out rather than to keep you focused.

edit: Yet another mark of quality is just how long the tea lasts without getting flat or overly astringent. Today, I got 17 infusions pretty easily, more than 300ml/g.

Flavors: Apricot, Cinnamon, Citrus Fruits, Cloves, Creamy, Drying, Floral, Flowers, Fruit Tree Flowers, Fruity, Hazelnut, Milk, Mineral, Orchid, Peach, Rose, Stonefruit, Straw, Sweet, Tropical, Vanilla, Wet Rocks, Yeast

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 4 OZ / 110 ML

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90

Gongfu!

The fact this tea is as old as my youngest sibling, who is a full blown teenager now, is really messing with my mind tonight…

I avoided golden flower tea for a long time because I was worried I might be allergic to the spores, but I’m glad I eventually tested it out and didn’t have a reaction because fuck me it’s good. This is thick and sweet, with bright fruity top notes of juicy Pink Lady apple & red currant jam bleeding into the main sip (especially in early steeps) with more of a smoked oak/applewood, forest undergrowth, and tobacco profile rising from the undertones into the body and finish. A slight bit saline in late steeps. Beautiful and nuanced, this is the perfect warming & cozy start to the day!

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CJWY-pXgua6/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXzHrf4geuw&ab_channel=DavidDeanBurkhart

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88

Having greatly enjoyed the sample of last year’s White Crow, I decided to get a cake this time round before the tea sells out. I am happy that they are pretty similar. So much so that I am actually finding it hard to observe any distinct features of the younger one, although it is true that the last time I’ve had the 2019 tea is almost a year ago. In any case, it’s one of the best white teas in its price range and I can highly recommend it, both for drinking now and for future aging.

Flavors: Apricot, Brown Sugar, Cherry, Corn Husk, Cranberry, Floral, Hay, Honeysuckle, Nutmeg, Nutty, Pleasantly Sour, Spicy, Sweet, Tart, Toast, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 3 OZ / 80 ML

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55

I was a little disappointed with this tea. While it wasn’t bad by any means, it’s extremely well-reviewed, and I was expecting it to be quite exceptional as a result. However, at least to me, it was just an average sheng – nothing really special about it. A bit astringent, a bit tart… Not too bitter, probably as a result of being huang pian.

Flavors: Astringent, Hay, Tart

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 2 OZ / 55 ML

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73

With Good Vibrations, BLT present a fairly simple, satisfying shou. The material is on the coarser side of the spectrum here, which is probably partially responsible for the relatively light body. The taste profile is of the nutty and earthy kind.

Dry leaves mostly smell of leather with hints of cannabis and forest floor. After the rinse, the aroma reminds me of hospitals a little. Apart from the underlying nutty and earthy taste, there are also flavours of molasses and egg whites. The lasting aftertaste is pretty smooth and refreshingly cooling, but doesn’t introduce too many new flavours.

Flavors: Cannabis, Earth, Forest Floor, Leather, Medicinal, Molasses, Nuts

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 7 g 5 OZ / 140 ML

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55

Very strong scent and moderate taste of pecans. Some smell of caramel, some of red wine, I think – maybe of oak? All the flavours are balanced, but they almost cancel each other out to some extent. It’s alright, but not an exceptional hei cha to me despite the somewhat unusual flavour profile.

Flavors: Caramel, Oak, Pecan, Red Wine

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 55 OZ / 1626 ML

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55

A balanced hei cha. It didn’t really impress me. Mushroom flavours predominate early on, followed by some mild honey-like sweetness, followed by nuttiness. A bit more shou-like than most non-shou hei cha, though I could still taste that ‘golden flower’ sweetness. Medium body.

Flavors: Honey, Mushrooms, Nuts

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 2 OZ / 55 ML

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79

Tried the 2020 Spring version. Surprisingly mild – but an extremely well-balanced tea. I like Dan Cong oolongs in general, and this is one of the best I’ve tried. The scent is deep and full. The taste is somewhat mineral, with a bit of fruit and possibly milk. The texture is also very reminiscent of milk.

Flavors: Fruity, Milk, Mineral, Round , Smooth

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 100 OZ / 2957 ML

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62

A very strong fruity flavour and scent! Quite sweet. Easy to oversteep – I found it worked well just below boiling, for a shorter time than I’d usually use. There’s some sweet potato flavour as the steeps go on, though it doesn’t go all that many steeps. Tried the 2020 Spring version.

Flavors: Fruity, Lychee, Sweet Potatoes

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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68

There was an initial lychee note, then some more floral flavours. Possibly a bit of lemongrass. Minerality in later steeps. Very refreshing; slightly milky texture, though not as much as some other Dan Cong oolongs I’ve trued. Tried the 2020 Spring version.

Flavors: Floral, Lemongrass, Lychee, Mineral

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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73

First tasting
Fresh out of bag and shipment, given no time to breathe yet.

Aroma of soup: old library, woodchips, a little fishy in first brew (even after two rinses), wet wood, tobacco leather

Flavor: woodchips, sweet moss, gentle astringency

Color: rich orange amber

Flavors: Astringent, Leather, Tobacco, Wet Wood

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 5 OZ / 147 ML

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