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Recent Tasting Notes
I thought I should finally get around to reviewing this shu as I’m half way through the tuo. The leaves I am using for this session are the bits and pieces that have collected in the wrapper and the box from breaking apart the toucha. Smooth and creamy is the first adjectives that come to mind. The smell of the dry leaves also has a sweet cream scent, which is accentuated when adding the dry leaves into a warmed yixing. After an initial rinse the warm leaves now have an essence of a library or or a used book store. The surprising thing to me is that even using the bits and broken pieces of the remnants of a dozen session the brew is still smooth and clean, the liquor is not a translucent red as with usual infusions, but cloudy. The infusion is every bit as fluid and viscous and flavorful as usual. Later infusions have a less creamy and more mineral quality, almost stone like not earthy so much as a quality of a glacial cirque filled with boulders, and granite escarpments with hints of moss and lichen. Not that I’ve ever hiked into a glacial cirque and eaten rocks or lichen, but that is the essence I feel as I drink. Wonderful.
The leaves that I’m using are from the Jas-eTea Menghai raw sampler. This is my first Menghai Pu-erh and only my third raw pu-erh. This is an earthy tea with a kiss of bitterness on the tip of your tongue. Pu-erh really is a special variety of tea. It’s rare for tea to drop me into such a state of relaxation as pu-erh. It’s a tea that I could drink for quite some time — provided there is ample boiling water and no one rushing me.
She sits at her kitchen table, about to take her fist sip of Della Terra’s S’mores that I made for her. I’m sitting across the table. It’s cold outside in the darkness and wants to snow. Billie Holiday plays in the background. We’re just sitting and talking, tea the only thing between us. Maybe there’s more. I don’t know. I don’t care. I’m just happy in this moment.
She tries the S’mores and loves it. She’s smiling over the steam rising from the cup. Tells me its awesome. I smile back. She takes another sip.
“I brought this,” picking up a plastic bag with various tea pouches I got in the mail from Jas-eTEa, “because I’m really excited to open them and smell them and maybe try one. With you.”
We open them all, the 2010 and 2011 Liu An Gua Pian and the 2011 Bi Luo Chun (Green Snail Spring). I ask her if she smells certain notes and tones in each. I shake some small, fragile leaves from the Green Snail pouch in my hand and we look at it and I talk about the pan-frying and how each leaf is rolled in the tea makers palm to give it it’s twisted “snail-like” appearance. Then I tell her how it was originally called Xia Sha Ren Xiang, which meant “fragrance to cause fear and trembling” and then how it was changed to “Green Snail Spring” because the Emperor didn’t think it sounded fit for royalty. She’s listening but not saying anything.
“I’m geeking out again. You can tell me to stop talking about tea whenever-”
“Stop,” she says and smiles, “I like it. Keep going.”
I put just over 2 oz of the dry leaves in my ingenuiTEA tea maker. I let it sit for a few seconds and ask her to smell them. There’s a lightness their odor, a dry flower or plant smell. Its quiet. Herbaceous but not heavy.
“This is my favorite part. Remember that smell,” I say. I turn around and pour some warm water in. I wait about 10 seconds. Discard it. I give it back to her. “Check this out.”
She smells it. Her eyes light up and she looks at me, says “Whaaaaaat…” and smells again, “that’s cool! That smells amazing.”
It does. It really does. Its my favorite part about the tea sharing experience. I don’t care if I’m not supposed to do it or if it’s not proper technique for this style; it works on everyone that I try it on. I call it “waking them up”. This particular tea has smooth, milky and dark chocolate notes when it first wakes up from its little pouch-bed. There’s wet and clean cedar, maybe oak, there’s heavy cream. Some smooth smoke but not much. She’s right, it is cool.
“It says I’m supposed to steep for three minutes,” I say, “but I’m not going to. I like my green teas on the lighter side. It makes a more delicate cup, a little harder to pick up on the nuances of everything going on. Makes me work harder.” I explain that I pour just a little shot into my cup halfway through the recommended steep time to get the initial flavors. Then, if I need or want to, I take the chance and let it steep more or drink the rest right there. Renegade tea drinker, I know.
I steep. I sip. This is what I love about green tea. The color isn’t lime or neon-green like people think it should be. My initial, brief steep has the slightest tint to the water that looks calm and inviting. There’s a very quiet fruit aroma mixed with a nutty-ness and a floral undertone. It’s very vegetal when its warm and (obviously) calms down as it cools. There’s the cooked greens initial taste (asparagus, spinach), then just the smallest bite from a mineral background but its welcome. Balanced it the keyword here. Nothing is overpowering and nothing is too little. The taste lingers like a light, calm sweetness. Not downy or cottony like I’ve had in other greens, it just sits nicely. Maybe not the best tea to give to someone who is trying green tea for the first time but definitely one to give when they’ve got some in their cupboard.
I’ve read that the beauty of tea is the experience of it. The sounds around you, the smells, the mindset you have before, during, and after. It’s what you associate in your mind with it and what you choose to ignore with it.
Tea is appreciating the moment and the beauty of what is in front of you.
She sits across from me, her hands wrapped around her mug. She looks at me and looks away. She smiles and sips.
Couldn’t agree more.
Pulled this out of the old big-bag-o-tea-at-work and thought, hey! sheng! how did this get in the bag? Sounds like a nice afternoon tea.
Steeping in my brew basket.. quick “improv gongfu style” steepings.
The leaves smell pleasant enough (smoky, metallic shine, a faraway berry that’s almost musk-like). The nose reminds me of Banzhang, but I honestly haven’t looked into what makes up this particular recipe. Liquor is an orangey color.. auburn?
Hm.. not too much here, in terms of either taste or texture. I know there should be something here, so it’s a bit like playing hide-and-seek. Flavor? Where are yooou? Maybe it will come as I sip and the cup cools…
After sipping through half of my cup, I’ve found a little more. There’s a whisper of metallic smoke in the taste. The body of it reminds me of the last dying breaths of a sheng.. way into the 25+ steepings, where you have mostly just body, overlaid with ghost reflections of all that’s come before. Only issue here is that I don’t have any aftertastes and textures for this body to play with (since this is the first steeping), so I’m left puzzled. Most of what I get is in the aftertaste/texture. My tongue feels puckered.. dry only in the front of my tongue, but luckily not in the back of my throat. It almost feels like I’ve burnt my tongue, but goodness knows the water here at work can’t get that hot. The aftertaste is also reminding me a bit of a Chinese restaurant jasmine-green (some astringency on the sides of my tongue links of with dinner-grade jasmine perfume, plus the mellow vegetal grassiness).
Overall, mellow, but strangely absent. Since I’m working at the same time, the lack of complexity or..er…flavors are fine, but I’m a little sad. Guess I’m spoiled for sheng pu’er these days and was looking forward to a bit of unexpected sparkle and surprise. It’s also a young brick, so on the plus side, I don’t feel like I’m getting kicked in the teeth with a bucket of smokey, bitter coins!
I’ll try the next steepings with less water and hotter water to see if I can get this shy one to open up into something fun. No “chaqi” to speak of so far, but I am feeling a bit of the jitters creeping up on me.. Perhaps if someone were smoking, I would have an uneasy stomach, but luckily, this isn’t China.
Used much less water here, and steeped it for close to 40 seconds (normally, on a second steep of a similarly aged sheng, I would do 10-15..). There we go: there’s something in the cup this time. The color is a pretty orange (like some of the leaves outside).
I’m getting much more Banzhang now, but the taste reminds me much more of Banzhang fannings I’ve had on occassion (ends of bricks, or taking from the bottom of a pouch because I’m just drinking by myself). By that, I mean there’s grainy wood on the underside of the sides of my tongue. In other shengs, I’ve found this appealing, but I think that’s because it is so often paired with a chocolate or hazelnut or cream texture and taste in the middle. This one is hanging out by itself, reminding me of a dock in the middle of a bay. Where are you going? What are you pointing to? It’s just out by itself in a body that is sweet… simple and generic, with no berry or fruit specificity.
The puckering is still there, layering up on itself like quilts. Atringency turning to true bitterness, but not so unpleasant because it’s all concentrated on the front of my tongue, not the back.
Aftertaste seems at first nonexistant, or just a bright vegetal vibration that tapers off in a second or two. After a minute, I realize this now reminds me of citrus and spice. It doesn’t taste that way.. I just find myself reminded.
It’s certainly caffeinated (hello diuretic!), but in terms of energy. this feels more like a sloshy, unruly caffeine that wants to shake out into my arms or leave my with water in my shoes.. not a feeling of calm and center. As it cools, I realize that I do not want this to cool. The woodiness and astringency are bullying their way to the forefront as all of the other aspects fall asleep. Doing this from little cups would certainly eliminate this issue.
I wonder if I can get another steeping out of these leaves? It’s kind of terrifying to imagine steeping a sheng of this age for over a minute on the third steep, but I think that’s what’s called for. Adventure time.. ho!
Well, I did it. Tiny amount of water, and steeped for almost a minute and a half.
No disaster here, though. I had to sneak in a peanut butter cracker sandwich while this was steeping, since it definitely made me hungry. The first sip was actually pretty nice with the aftertaste of salty peanut butter.
This steeping is definitely more full and flavorful, but at the same time, it continues to feel as if this tea was already mostly steeped out before I started drinking. There are some floral elements, notes that remind me of nut skins in a savory sweet sauce (black bean or garlic?). These are all whispers and implications, so I may be working a little hard to pull them into substantial references. Mostly, this reminds me of a young sheng that is nearing the end of it’s steeping arc.
I’m not sure about this one. A friend and I put together a JASetea order quite awhile ago, and this is some of what’s left. On the whole, I’m perfectly fine not having a brick of this to age. The description emphasizes the high quality leaves and the classic recipe. Sure, fine. I don’t think there’s anything that stands out negatively.. except that nothing much has stood out during my steeping. It’s a wallflower plastered underneath the wallpaper, behind a giant chair. When pushed for more complexity and interest, it seems to just push right on over. At it’s best, it was sweet and mellow, with nothing to stick out and grab the interested sipper. Safe to the point of boredom. But then again, I don’t know if I would recommend this to someone who’s afraid of shengs, because it has offered little reward today, and it can get overly woody, wooly, and metallic. It’s no kick in the face, but it’s not much of anything else either.
To be fair I am steeping this at work in a brew-basket, not in my little gaiwan, not in spring water at just below boiling. This will probably be more generous in more loving conditions, but still.. I have my doubts about what this really could be giving, even treated in the most pampered way.
Has anyone else tried this recently? It’s been sold out for sometime from JASe Tea, but apparently it’s been a big hit with some pu’er bloggers? I’m not sure myself.. it mostly just leaves me puzzled.
One more update
The caffeine from this is harsher than I previously thought. Sure, it is a little chilly back here, but not enough to leave me shivering and my teeth chattering! Whoooo… I have no upset stomach, but I would not want to be balancing any fragile things right now. Generally, I am blissfully immune to caffeine’s stimulant effects. I don’t think I’ve had a reaction like this since the days of spending 8+ hours sampling teas with no breakfast or lunch in me.
“Holy Pu-erh Batman!” The aroma was simply sublime. I started to salivate immediately after taking in such an intoxicating scent. It was what I would define as a “meaty” smell, broth-y, rich, and that was just how it smelled. As for the infusions. I didn’t find it as strong in the steep. Of course I am confident with a little tweaking in the leaf content and water temperature I can get this beauty to sing. As for now and my initial reaction I will say the mineral like flavor was strongest. The second steep however was far more exciting. I was far more flavorful and broth-y. Still I want more and expect I will get it once I get this one figured to my liking.
Added Notes (Hubby): Very earthy. The smell of the dry leaf was like that of freshly cleaned lawn that is getting ready for bailing. The first steep was very light. However, the second steep was much more on the flavor with an obvious earthiness.
Strong mineral flavor on the first steep. I can’t really go into any further detail from there. The second steep was more earthy and slightly floral. However, the mineral flavor still lingered but not as strong as the first steep. Not my favorite but I think I will just need to work with this one a bit until I find its sweet spot.
Added Notes (Hubby): Earthy woody notes with a background mineral note. Mostly gets a strong hay flavor.
WOW!!!! OMG!!!! I LOVE this stuff! I have added this officially to my “Must Have” list. After having this beauty I finally see why people rave about white tea. Until now I have never had such a flavorful white tea in my life. Of course I am not counting those that have been blended but strictly those that are straight. I found this so aromatic and sweet. Be sure to coat the tip of your tongue with this one to get the full effect. It just gets so much creamier and gives it a slightly sweet flavor. Unfortunately, the second steep didn’t hold up as well so I think I’ll just stick to one steep and as good as it is I just don’t mind at all.
I found this far lighter than expected especially this the aromas was so pungent and rich in floral tones. The first steep was heavier in floral tones but the body is light. The second steep was clearly a lot more complex with a number of unique flavor profiles combining to make the cup. Also, the floral aspect was dramatically less than the first steep. However, the overall cup was more full in body. A very interesting cup indeed. I enjoyed this so much based on the fact that it can change so much from one steep to the next. Very exciting when even a cup of tea can hold your interest.
Added Notes (Hubby): The aroma of fields in spring. First steep was very weak. Second steep was a lot more complex in flavor but still a little weak for his palate.
A deliciously light and broth-y, vegetal, with a full mouth feel with a fresh flavor. With as many green teas I have had in the past I must say this one left a memorable impression. I will be mentally keep this one on my “Must Have” list.
Plus Notes (Hubby): Tasted an earthiness tone with vegetal notes. Found the aroma nice and tasted delicious.
Thank you Jas eTea for the opportunity to sample this little gem.
Definitely prefer ‘more classic’ Menghai recipes to this 2007. Maybe it was produced at the edge of the tea boom and bust and got rushed through. I don’t see much potential for aging with this one. But, I have only had the 2007, I am not sure if there is another year that is much much better or not
This is a very memorable tea for me. After brewing my teas western-style for years, this Snow Dragon was the first tea I brewed in a gaiwan, JAS eTea actually sent it to me as a free sample when I bought my first gaiwan from them (a gaiwan that has sadly since hit the floor). I remember they enclosed a little hand-written thankyou note in the package too; that made me feel kind of fuzzy inside.. I love it when sellers show some piece of humanity in their products.
But this tea is not the same as I remember it back then. This may be in some part due to the fact that this tea is probably pretty stale now, as it’s been at least two years since I opened the package. Kind of a shame, because I remember being completely enamored with it at first. Of course, another contributing factor is probably that my tea-palate has developed considerably in that time, and I might be a lot pickier than I was when I first tried this.
I’m still struggling with this desire (in tea, and in life in general) to save the best things for special occasions. In all truth, I probably would have enjoyed this tea a lot more had I just gone through the whole package while it was still fresh, and/or I could appreciate it a lot more. But no, I decided that this tea was so amazing, so divinely tea-high inducing, that I had to hoard it away and wait for some specific undefined moment in life to enjoy it. What a silly idea.
The funny thing is, I’m actually finding this tea a little …well, trickier to brew than I remember. Even ten or so steepings in, it seems to very easily oversteep, resulting in a quickly bitter cup if I leave it steeping more than even a few seconds. I can either assume this is because the tea is old and stale, or consider that my novice tea-brewing efforts might somehow have…been better than they are now. Admittedly, back then I was very, very carefully focusing on every motion of the process in true Chinese tea-ceremony style, and right now I just have a plate on my desk that holds my gaiwan, fairness pitcher, and little fish cup, and am just sort of re-steeping as necessary while I’m doing other things (Like writing this, for instance).
This tea is still just as cute as it always was, rolled into tight curls that remind me of woodshavings, and just as wonderful to watch unfurl in the gaiwan, even if I’m not focusing on it as much as I used to. Watching those buds unravel is still one of my favorite parts of the tea-brewing process. The flavor is still very white-tea-esque, light and fruity and sweet fading to a greener flavor in later steepings. Overall, it’s still a very good tea when I focus on it for what it is now, and not in comparison to a distant infatuated memory.
Hah, life lessons from a teacup!
I decided to break this one out this morning, it’s been such a long time since I’ve had it. Last night’s networking event was definitely fun and I’m not used to drinking wine so this morning I have a bit of a headache. It’s the shu puerh to the rescue…. cures all ills.
This tea has a bit of fermentation smell still left in it but when you steep it up it’s just so smooth with a date like sweetness and notes of coffee and chocolate. I already feel it reviving me… yay
I wanted to note that I purchased this Purple Rhyme from Mandala Tea but since it is already in the database twice under two different sellers I didn’t see any point in adding it again since it is the same tea and manufacturer. Bonus in ordering from Mandala is shipping is cheaper than from other places and yet they have a great selection of pu-erhs for a domestic company.
Pretty much figured when I bought this there was zero chance I wouldn’t like it because Menghai shu pu-erhs are becoming some of my favorites. I did rinse this and then gave it a 30 second steep in the gaiwan. The wet leaves are intensely aromatic of forest floor aroma and coffee grounds. Charles is right about this being a very dark shu but I am loving it. It has an almost creamy and rich quality with dark stone fruit flavors. I did my first two steeps for 30 seconds in the gaiwan and tossed them in together in the same glass mug. This is a very eye opening tea.
For steeps #3 and 4 they only required about 10 seconds of steeping time before the tea liquor became very dark and flavorful. To me it is very earthy, and shiitake mushroom like. This is a great substitute for coffee being quite dark and robust, but it also has no bitterness.
I also have one of the Menghai Red Rhyme 100 g cakes and I recall that being a little on the lighter and sweeter side but they are both quite good in my opinion. I am not a pu-erh expert, I just know what I like. :-)
These leaves are so cool looking! Little tiny spirals.
This tea is categorized as a green tea, but it looks and smells like a white tea. It even brews to such a pale, white tea color and tastes a bit like a white tea at first. It isn’t until after a few sips that it is more recognizable as a green tea.
The tea starts out with a very fresh, dewy sweetness which builds toward a nutty tone, and sometime thereafter, a fruit-like flavor appears – apricot! There is very little vegetative tone to this tea, even in the subsequent infusions.
A truly memorable tea. I like this one a lot.
I am starting to crave Sheng. This is my fix today. I love that energy I get from these luscious teas. One cup and my mind is clear and focused. These are special teas. They seem to have an effect on harmony. And that is a good thing. I have a ton of samples to sip and ponder before I buy some cakes. I have to up the score on this one.
This tea has a lovely light aroma. It is very uplifting as well. The flavor is a bit thin although I may have had a light hand with the leaves. I am enjoying it. I have to retract my statement about the light hand. As I peered in the Gaiwan it appeared to be just right. So I am going to give this one a deeper steep. The tea has what I would call spirit. The longer steep has improved the quality. It is still mellow. This tea truly has the “feel good” quality. Very drinkable. A good everyday tea. Maybe in a few years it may evolve into a special occasion tea.
I am enjoying this very much. Brewed in the Yixing it delivers everything and more. I ordered five samples of Sheng from JAS eTea to try to get a better grasp of why this tea is so mysterious to me. Out of the five this is the clear winner. It was quite numbing in the first steeping with flavor I still cannot describe. It is better than last time I had it. I think that seems to be the norm with all Pu-erh. There is a certain energy from the better Sheng. A vibrant intoxication of the senses….
I have to admit I always start the day with fresh ground coffee. I also have to admit I am not myself until the first sip of tea. Tea touches your soul. The better the tea, the better the touch. For a young Sheng this tea not only touches you it massages you lovingly. It has one of the best aromas I have yet to encounter and the flavor is beyond good. The intoxication factor is high. This is not a tea for laying around and avoiding. A truly dynamite younger Sheng….
When I opened the sample bag I could smell the lovely complex aroma. I brewed this in a Gaiwan. It is complex and bold yet it is not bitter. After the first cup I always smell the empty cup to further determine the quality and this has to be one of the most beautiful aromas I have ever had the pleasure to smell. It was truly ethereal. This is a beautiful tea. . The dried leaves are already turning brown and it appears to be more mature than it is. I will say without hesitation this is one of the best Sheng that I have had. The liquor is a golden hue and the flavor is absolutely sublime….
I brewed this in the Gaiwan today. This is a very strong Pu-erh. The first steeping was somewhat fishy. I know I should rinse it. When I doused the leaves with boiling water for the second steeping the liquid becomes quite dark quickly. The fishiness is gone and the liquid is very robust even after a short steep. Flavors that I envision are old leather chairs in an old building with dark wood. To those who like Shu, you will love this. This is not for beginners. My GF would say it tastes like Chinese medicine. Well, maybe centuries ago this was.
This is another young Shu that is very powerful. I brewed this in the Yixing for about 30 seconds and the result is a very flavorful and strong brew. It has a coffee richness. I was generous with the leaf but not too so. Cup #2 is numbing and dark. Still coffee-like. This is nothing unappealing about this tea. Flavor, check. Aroma, check. Cha Qi, check.