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Recent Tasting Notes
One of the joys of pu’er is exploring the various terroirs of Yunnan. Hekai is right in the middle of all those regions in Menghai county that tend to be overpriced, and perhaps even over harvested. This tea seems to defy all of that—it’s inexpensive relative to 2015’s maocha prices (still at $36 for 200 g!) and quite pungent. Really, Hekai is where you can get the pu’er version of quality dry chardonnay.
The leaves on this cake are mostly highly fragrant, silvery plump buds. The aroma is dynamic and evolves with each steep—making it hard to place initially (perhaps sweet pistachio?). Around the 5th steep I smelled roasted peanuts. This is wonderfully full-bodied with a pleasurable mouthfeel, potent qi, nice huigan, and a bittersweet, dry chardonnay-like aftertaste that stays for quite some time.
Key flavors are cotton candy, moscato grapes, broccoli rabe and mustard greens, and in that order. It starts to fade at steep 7, but the leaves still give tasty cups of tea until they fade completely at steep 13 or so. What a great value!
I’m digging through old samples trying to sip down some of my collection but it’s very slow going. When I first got serious about puerh a couple of years ago I figured that if the tea was meant to be drunk aged, I should try to buy stuff that was old. Since I was just getting into it, however, I tried to do it on a budget. The result is a bunch of teas like this one, made with chopped leaves and very, very smoky.
It really makes sense that the higher quality teas from over a decade ago wouldn’t be kicking around in the back of someone’s warehouse for more than a decade, but I keep hoping. Of course quality teas do exist, but I have to be willing to pay up for them, which I’m starting to do.
At any rate, this tea is a better than average example of the genre. It is no longer available but I bought a sample from Chawang Shop at a reasonable cost about a year ago. I was hit by a strong smoke aroma pretty much then the water first hit the leaves. I was surprised to find that it dissipated almost immediately and left a tea that was a light straw flavor with hints of tropical fruits. This was the first (and best) steep. After that, the smoke pretty much dominated for the next 4 steeps. If I didn’t like smoky teas, I probably would have dumped it and moved on. However, the finish was better balanced, and hinted that there was a good tea lurking under all that smoke.
I kept drinking and the smoke slowly faded, but the underlying tea faded at pretty much the same rate, and the finish began to get a bit of that ash flavor that smoky teas sometimes produce. Around the 5th steep, the tea developed a sweetness that was stronger than the smoke and the taste became more like leather, with smoke underneath. The finish also improved: no more ash, though somewhat bitter.
The later steeps were quite pleasant, but I had to pass through smoke and ash to get there. I probably rated this too high, but that first and later steeps were really pleasant, and I do like a smoky tea. One funny note: I didn’t really notice much cha qi, but the first time I had this tea I rated it high for cha qi. May depend on my mood?
Rather dark brew from this one. The taste is on the mild side with sweet notes throughout the steeps simple mouth body and easy to brew. Ideally to be drank when working on other things as complexity is not within this tea making it one to enjoy while being busy. Depending on the price and storage conditions it could be a daily morning cup while driving to work. I think a little wet storage on this would make it pop a bit
Comparing notes to the 2006 Benshan.
This particular tea has more of a woodsy and roasted taste profile while the 2006 has a slight cocoa (dry chocolate) taste. I prefer the cocoa taste notes, especially when the tea thins out. For those who like a medium roast profile, being less than most roasted tgy have, this is a tea that can last for hours. There isn’t much that has to open up for this leaf which helps with a consistent brew. My suggestion with this, as with most roasted teas, I advise to drink some water between steeps because the back of the throat dries out pretty easily after 20oz; this is my experience. My personal preference for Benshan is of a lower roast while tgy is higher and overall I prefer the roast profile found in wuyi teas. This is surely a hit for many, but the few (such as I) this leads to just a sampling.
This has a pleasant apricot color. The scent of the liquor is mineral and rock though. The taste is like a white tea, but not a great white tea. It’s kind of drying and I mainly get rock and some mild grassiness. Subsequent steeps didn’t really reveal any new flavor notes. S’okay but nothing I need again. Glad to have tried it, thanks to James for sending a share of the Sheng Olympics my way. :)
Had this one a couple days ago but kept a few notes on it.
The first couple of infusions were very light with light vanilla/floral notes. The tea had a silky feel to it which I like.
Infusions 3-5 had a bit of bitterness creeping in, more apricot notes coming through and the vanilla/floral notes seemed to disappear. Other than the first two infusions, it was pretty much a typical young sheng.
2016 Sheng Olympics
I can only be honest when I review tea and unfortunately this isn’t something I want to keep drinking. The other Laos tea I had the other day was wonderful, in fact I want to buy a cake; rather, I will. This tea though… not feeling it. The intimidate dryness after the sips is quite annoying since there isn’t a taste to associate with it. This tea lacks depth, taste, and anything inviting for me to drink it again. Hopefully the blue will be better, but I will try that tomorrow and continue with an oolong for the night.
After reading about the concept of insect feces as tea, it was only a matter of time until I drank it. This product is said to be a home made product from the early 1980’s via Chawang. A short excerpt:
“Local people put medicinal herbs and old tea leaves into a bamboo basket and let them natural fermentation to produce aroma to lure insects lay eggs, after some months larvae eat the leaves and leaving the droppings there. People take droppings out and dry them in the sun, then fry the droppings together with tea and honey in the iron pan for 20 minutes so that the final insect feces tea is ready for drinking.” (http://www.chawangshop.com/index.php/1980s-guangxi-chong-shi-cha-10g.html)
How could a tea addict not let these words brew curiosity within themselves of an unknown journey that this would provide? This is something that I knew I would approach with a lot of time dedicated to the thoughts of brewing it as well as tasting it.
The first steep had a flash wash just to wake it up; I wanted my antique poop to be more alive when I tasked it! The first session I stuck with the typical 10 second steep as I would with a liubao or raw puerh I have no idea what to do with. The first thing you notice is, this is poop; just from the look alone, there is no denying that I just put poop in my teapot. The first steep I decided to sniff it awhile while it cooled. There is a medicinal smell in there mixed with a bit of that ‘dirty’ smell that luibao tends to have. The first sip took me by surprise as I was expecting more of a dirt taste and dryness. Initially I tasted some wet hay that is in the drying process. The similarities of luibao and this tea are evident from the look, smell, and taste. What I like most about this is how smooth it is. Interestingly, it leaves an oil like texture on the back of the teeth once you sip it down. That feeling is enjoyable until I remembered that it’s basically poop lubricant that I’m running my tongue across to assess the feeling.
Upon finishing the first session, I decided that I needed to go on to the next. Surprisingly this resteep very well. The next steep has a lot of the same qualities that you find in a really dried out white tea. It’s quite nice to have mixed in with the luibao taste. The oil like feeling has gone away which is unfortunate now because the after taste is quite dry. Little pieces are finding its way in my cup as they may be dissolving and getting smaller. Now I’m drinking and eating poop that’s older than me; isn’t that a weird concept?
I went ahead to four total steeps with a total of 22’ish ounces brewed and drank. In regards to the price: At $8 for 10g, it seems high but you have to keep in mind that you won’t be using 4g for a session. I think the price is lower than it could be, it’s actually a great deal for the experience and age of what it is.
Shout out to Honza for including a sample of this in my last order. The other two Chawangpu cakes (Mengsong and Hekai) tasted a bit off due to shipping and the dry DC winter, but this sample doesn’t seem to be affected by its transcontinental trip or the environment.
The dry leaf came as one whole tightly compressed chunk and smelled like charred sandalwood with subtle hints of fruit. The wet leaf aroma is reminiscent of a smoky yesheng purple tea varietal without being overly so and with more sweet grass in the background. The leaves are mostly small and only somewhat broken due to my poor prying efforts.
Initial steeps are much brighter, lively, and savory than I expected. The smoke, though still there, moves to the background after the 3rd steep revealing classical pu’er flavors of camphor (some have interpreted as gasoline), dried fruit, sandalwood, sweet peas/grass, and other sharp savory/floral notes I associate with an unmanaged tea garden.
The tea soup is very pure, bright, nicely thick, and oily. Good Bulang energy that stays in my chest instead of my head which I like very much. Not much in the way of mouthfeel, but pleasant savory/borderline floral aftertaste.
It’s a comforting tea. Not impressive, but that’s fine. I think I know what Jakub meant when he said he was unable to tell why he liked this tea so much. It’s certainly worthy of drinking now or aging. I don’t like smoke, but here it’s actually comforting and interesting. If the price stays this low, I may just add this to my next purchase from Chawangshop.
Addendum: 9 steeps later, the tea leaves are still flavorful with good strong energy. I’m only now noticing the mouthfeel and cooling/tingling sensation that accompanies the huigan. This is good base material. I anticipate the off taste of the two cakes mentioned to improve as the teas acclimate.
2015 Chawangpu Mensong Old Tree raw – Chawangshop
Price: £10.51 ($15) / 200 cake = £0.05 (0.07) / g
I got this as a 16g free sample with my order.
Summary: A good tea that shows a restrained bitterness for a young tea and a good honey sweetness.
8g in gaiwan.
Dry: Concentrated bright herbal. Good base. Not off the scale brightness. Promising. Honey. Med high compression. Brown, grew, silver leaves.
Wet: Slightly subdued bright concentrated herbal, light smoke, rounded fruit. Hot strawberry jam. Some complexity.
Rinse: Unusual – very light peach.
10s – Light peach. Subtle,sweet fruit. Very mellow for a 2015 tea. Finish lingers with a soft bright but soft fruit. Body is good.
15s – Light yellow. Similar to the other Chawangpu teas: bright fruit dominates, but the brightness is rounded with this one and not in your face. It leaves a fresh green fruit in the mouth. Little bitterness; no astringency.
20s – Light/med yellow. The aroma of the liquid is very sweet medium bitterness turning sweet. The high sweet notes are there. This does not taste like 2011 Menghai Mensong, the only Mensong I have had. Although it does share a deep woody sweetness in the throat. A further tasting has shown definite honey, the main appeal of the 2011 Menghai Mensong for myself.
25s – Light/med yellow. The bitterness with bright round sweetness gives a nice tangy finish. This is quite good.
35s – Light/med yellow. More in the bright, bitter notes. Sweet finish. Good mouth action.
50s – Light/med yellow. It is going to high mountain oolong, but is currently treacle/honey.
40s – Light/med yellow. Becoming astringent. High mountain oolong, but still ok.
1 min – Pale yellow. Sweet. Astringent.
From the aged oolong buy:
I started with 1 minute steeps and worked my way up, b/c flash steeping oolong never works for me. Also used a gaiwan.
I agree with LP – the aroma is just “no.” Also agree with Allank that there’s definitely a whiskey note to the flavor, and with Jim in that it’s a very complex and interesting tea.
Based on the appearance and aroma I assumed it would have a roasty flavor, but it doesn’t. It’s actually quite smooth. Whiskey is really bang on. I actually quite like it. After three steeps, the flavor starts to evolve; it becomes slightly sweet, even a little fruity. And then it fades. Fifth (sixth?) steep was 2 minutes and the flavor was very meh, so for my last steep I went all the way to 5.
I’ve never had a tea like this one, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to try it. I have enough for one more session, I think I’ll try it in my clay pot and see how it affects the flavor.
2014 Laos Ban Komaen (Black) Gu Shu Raw – Chawangshop
Price: £33.68 ($48.00) 200g cake = £0.17 ($0.24) /g.
8g in gaiwan.
Summary: A pleasant tea which exhibits a fresh delivery of medium bitter lemon notes and a lingering honey sweet finish. Endurance lacks, but what shines here is the good form, good slightly oily body, and slight complexity in the early steeps.
Dry: Med bright, concentrated herbal.
Wet: Straw, med bright concentrated herbal.
Rinse: Light yellow
5s – Light yellow. Juicy raisin sweetness with brighter sweetness returning after the swallow. Good body. 82/100
10s – Light yellow. There is a fresh fruitiness that is in most young shengs. However, this one is a little restrained and carries a little astringency – very pleasant though. Has a decent thickness to the flavour. 83/100
15s – Light yellow/orange. Well rounded flavour. Bitterness is not as sharp as a Naka, and it is met with a honey-like sweetness. I detect a light oiliness in here which is a plus. 84/100
20s – Light yellow/orange. The sip has a concentrated bitter lemon and sweet note, reminding me of honey and lemon flavoured drink for cold and flu. Flavours are a bit cloudy. For example the base becomes a bit clay like and astringent, spoiling that pleasant sweetness. 80/100
25s – Light/med yellow/orange. Flavour is thin, mainly a deep straw note. The bitterness has faded and the sweetness is cloudy. 76/100
30s – Light/med yellow/orange. Getting astringent; losing flavour. 75/100
35s – Light yellow/orange. Flat. Still a little bitterness with a quick sweetness, but the juicyness and vibrancy have gone. 72/100
Flavors: Honey, Lemon
I found this to be a nice tea from Chawangshop, even better than their 2006 oolong. It’s got a semi aged taste, a bit of that aged fruity plum. Not too roasty. One thing I did notice on the downside was a hint of mustiness. Not that overpowering, though, and I’m somewhat new to aged oolongs so I’m not sure if this is common? Anyway, I like this tea especially for the price. I put 50g away in a tin for aging and will drink the other half now.
From LP’s Aged Oolong group buy. Used all 5.5 (give or take) grams in my new Taiwan Tea Crafts stubby pear pot. I must agree with what others have said about this tea, particularly one reviewer’s observation that this is reminiscent of the DHP brick from White2Tea (I think it was the Sept. club). It’s interesting to compare this to an inexpensive aged 2008 DHP brick I got from a vendor on Aliexpress; this tea is much more subtle, gentle, refined even. Lovely mineral/wet rock sweetness, well roasted and I would guess the aging has smoothed over the sharp edges. The Aliexpress tea is decent, but much more harsh and can get bitter when pushed. One of these days I’m going to try Bana Tea’s DHP brick and see how it compares to these. Overall, a very enjoyable DHP.
From LP’s Aged Oolong Group Buy 2015.
Totally agree with what others have said about this one.
I think this has been aged well &/or the aging process works well on DHP. I think it added some complexity and tamed what might have been once a bit too roasty for me. It was very much on the edge though.
Chocolate notes and thoughts of coffee were prevalent throughout the session (which has been going on since yesterday – a little bit goes a long way), and I didnt get any bitterness, it wasnt too sharp like some DHP, and wasnt too soft like some aged Oolong I have had from this Group Buy. I could taste some fermentation or storage flavour I get from Puerh, but quite subtly, and only in the earliest steeps.
This is defo something I would consider buying, (…aaaaand its gone, we must have got the last one) If only to share with any friends coming round mine. This wouldnt be my usual go-to for a dark roast Wuyi but I enjoyed the session a lot, and thats all that matters right?
Flavors: Chocolate, Coffee, Roasted, Toasty, Wet Earth, Wet Rocks
AKA Bug Shit Tea
OK, this is the review that you all have been waiting for… drumroll please….
So what does this tea look like? It came in a little plastic bag, and the dry tea looked like little grains. I put about 3g in my gaiwan. I took a whiff, and it smelled very musty and earthy. Then I took another whiff as my wife walked by, and it smelled a lot like poop. Then my wife said ‘excuse me’ because she had farted. True story….
Anyway, on to the brew. I hit it with the hot water, waited about 30 seconds, and poured the tea into our cups. A number of floaties hung out on top, then most of them sank. That’s when it got real. It looked to me like rat poop was in our cups.
The tea soup was golden brown and on the light side. Then we sipped…
It tasted like musty soil. That’s the best way I can describe it. Very musty, light, and earthy. Not terribly unpleasant, but I can’t say I enjoyed it. Two steeps was all I could take. The qi was on the strong side and was very bright.
So, that’s the poop scoop. As for the rest of my sample, I am offering it first to Liquid Proust, as a reward for his diligence in dealing with his last two group buys I have been part of. PM me, LP, if you are in!!!
I decided to try a new tea on my last Chawangshop order. This is a hei cha with golden flowers. Frankly I don’t know how to describe this tea, it is very unusual. It brews a light golden brown. The soup is not thick like ripe pu erh, but the leaves look like shu, with lots of tiny gold dots everywhere, and a number of stems. The flowers, I assume, impart a very unique taste that I can’t put my finger on. It is an easy going tea, though I’m not sure if I like it. My wife enjoyed it. It’s only a couple bucks to sample so if you are curious, give it a try if you place an order with them!
This is one delicious oolong! It was included as a free sample with my last order. It is very smooth and sweet, it almost seems aged, I was surprised that it is a 2015 vintage. Dark leaves and a fairly dark brew. It is one of those ‘bug bitten’ teas that supposedly imparts a honey flavor. This tea does indeed have a very pronounced honey sweet fruit flavor, almost orangey. I’m really impressed with the oolongs I have been trying from Chawangshop.
2012 Lantingchun TF “Mang Fei Cha Hun” Early Spring Raw Puerh – Chawangshop
Price: £21.63 ($32.00) / 357g cake.
8g in gaiwan
Summary: Early steeps show interesting, textured and green tasting tea, but later brews reveal a tea that has way too much smoke to compensate for astringency and sourness. It does have good energy and is cheap for a cake though.
Dry: Subdued concentrated herbal. My tea is completely loose leaves. Colour is lighter shades of brown and some silvery. Some dust.
Wet: Straw, dry medium smoke, light concentrated herbal. Some black char on some leaves – that is black specks that can be moved off the leaves. Could this be due to not cleaning the wok from the previous batch?
Rinse: Light/yellow gold.
10s – Light/yellow gold. Quite smoky on the sip and into the finish. Tobacco smoke. Slightly astringent with a good powerful body. It has not strong bright herbal and is instead mild leather and is green. I’m not noticing any obvious fruit to name so I’d say green fruit.
15s – Med yellow/golden. Very smoky with a concentrated fruit that starts bitter and becomes sour. It fills the mouth well, but carries medium astringency. It is quite oily.
5s – Light yellow/gold. Not particularly fresh; it is more stale. The smoke and bitter/sour fruit give it a rough texture. I quite like this.
10s – Light yellow/gold. Astringent, drying, sour fruit, smoke that isn’t integrated well. A vegetable note – asparagus. It’s thick, concentrated and heavy going. It’s different.
15s – Light yellow/golden. Very astringent. Its like drinking a cigarette in water. Not good.
Flavors: Asparagus, Green, Smoke
2004 Dehong raw – Chawangshop
Price: £4.04 ($6) / 50g = £0.08 ($0.12)/g.
£26.96 ($40) / 500g brick = £0.05 ($0.07) / g
Summary: A fun tea with a strong cumin like spicy note. Not complex, impressive or oily.
Dry: Dark brown, flat piece. High compression. Some dust. Spicy, raw beetroot attack!
Wet: Soil, aged aromas: furniture polish, bird cage, old building. A faint hint of cumin. A lot going on here.
Rinse: Light golden (not orange).
Rest for 1 hour 20 min.
10s – Light/med golden. Tastes like soil and it quite watery.
15s – Light/med golden brown. Light soil with a refreshing spicy note that lasts from the sip to the finish. Medium thickness. No bitterness or astringency. Flavour is quite basic. 74/100
20s – Light/med brown (golden has gone) Thin liquor. Light furniture polish with a spicy note, which is similar to cumin, but very mild cumin. 75/100. I’ve had a tea like this before from Yunnan Sourcing: 2005 Wild Tree “Ye Sheng Cha” Raw Pu-erh tea brick of Dehong.
25s – Med brown. Produces a medium thickness when the flavour comes in, which is peppery spice, light smoke and light furniture polish. Slightly astringent this time. Body has a dryness to it. The finish has a dry spicy note.
30s – Medium brown. The spiciness takes a step back and the furniture polish is stronger. It washes down smoothly. I can still taste the spicy note after finishing the cup.
35s – Med reddy brown. Still going to the max.
Rest 20 mins.
40s + 50s – Soil, spice, astringency. Fizzes on the swallow.
From the Group Oolong buy… I really enjoyed this tea. It is similar to the tiny brick in a recent White2tea club offering. I think it helps to know what you’re getting yourself into with these aged dhp bricks. They are like whiskey in a lot of ways. This one tastes like dark oolong was aged in an oak barrel – a very strong vanilla note coupled with roasty oak undertones. It is really fun to drink, in my opinion. A tiny chunk goes a long way, kind of like shu pu erh. I think it helps to use a gaiwan and do short steeps.
1990s “Jin Gua Gong Cha” Chawangshop
Summary: Airing out this tea for a week has massively improved it. It gives a good aged taste which hints at 2000 Green Peacock by Essence of Tea. However, the furniture polish note is still too bright to fully enjoy this tea.
5g 100 ml gaiwan. The sample has been open and airing out for approximately one week.
10s – Not unpleasant like the last time I tried this tea. Still smoky. Has a nice aged taste. Still on the bright furniture polish, but only slightly.
15s – Med orange/golden. Open aged flavours. Some kipper smoke. This is much improved after airing out. It leaves a pine smoky taste.
20s – It has flavours in common with 2000 Green Peacock by Essence of Tea: log burning smoke, bright pine smoke – all softened of course. However, currently it is not as good as that tea. It leaves a bright furniture note in the mouth, and it’s currently not too pleasant. In time I’m hoping this will be less bright and more round.