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Recent Tasting Notes
I’ve had this ripe puerh cake sitting around for a while, so I figured I should get around to reviewing it before I finish it off. I purchased this puerh cake at Tea Trekker in Northampton, Massachusetts during my marathon seven hour drive from Syracuse, New York to Portland, Maine. I had just ordered three or four new cakes online, but I couldn’t pass up a well-reviewed, cheap shou. I was also kind of wrapped up in the novel experience of being able to buy puerh tea in a physical tea shop instead of just on the internet. I later found the same cake for a lot cheaper on Yunnan Sourcing, so perhaps the whole buying tea in a store thing is a bit overrated.
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This cake is from Yong Pin Hao Yi Wu Tea Factory, which I had never heard of before purchasing this cake. As you could probably guess, the factory is located in Yi Wu, Mengla County, Xishuangbanna Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China (phew!).
Xishuangbanna is all the way in the south of Yunnan Province, right up against the border with Laos and Myanmar/Burma. Yi Wu is in the northeastern part of Xishuangbanna.
I couldn’t find much interesting information about Yong Pin Hao online, but I did discover that Yong Pin Hao has been producing puerh tea since the early 2000’s, a relative newcomer to the Yunnan puerh scene. The cake is comprised of 2008 leaves, and was pressed in 2009.
I used about nine grams of leaves for this review. This puerh cake was lightly compressed and very easy to break into pieces. Like most shou puerhs, the leaves are predominately dark brown or black. Some of the leaves have some really neat golden hairs.
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The smell is a bit odd here. It’s not that this puerh smells bad, it’s just completely devoid of any aroma whatsoever. At least there is no yucky fishy/funky/bad puerh smell.
The back of the cake seemed to have a lot more of the gold colored leaves.
I broke out my shou puerh Yixing pot from Yingge, Taiwan for this session. I decided to be a bit minimalist and go without the tea table for this review. I was locked out of my dorm room, so I was left with nothing but my lovely tea towel from Yunnan Sourcing. Check out the Ancient Tea Horse Road design!
I started off with a ten second rinse to open up the leaves, and then moved to quick ten second steeps.
The first steep was a nice light brown with a red tint. The most noticeable aspect of this tea is the very light fermentation. This does not taste like most generic “budget” puerhs since it is much lighter in color and flavor. The camphor notes are also very strong and in your face, which I really enjoyed. Oddly enough, I’m not entirely sure what camphor is or why it is a common flavor note in puerh teas, but I have tasted enough puerhs that I can recognize it. The camphor flavor is really hard to describe, just like the muscatel note in Darjeeling teas.
The second steep tasted similar, but was a bit darker since the leaves opened up a bit more.
If you can imagine the typical shou puerh taste, but just lightened up a bit, then you have the general idea of how the tea tastes. This tea has a really nice thirst-quenching, “juicy” quality to it. Perhaps this is a result of the lighter fermentation. The mouthfeel is very smooth and thick, almost coffee-like, even with shorter steeping times.
This puerh is definitely more nuanced and subtle that most budget level shou puerhs out there.
The finished leaves were pretty generic, nothing too interesting. The leaves were quite varied, with some full sized leaves and some leaves that were tiny and broken up. Judging by the leaf appearance, this is not a super high quality puerh, but it certainly gets the job done when I am craving a ripe puerh.
This tea might not wow you with its complexity, but it is a solid “daily drinker” shou puerh. It is definitely a step above most of the $20-$30 shous I have tried. One reviewer on Yunnan Sourcing describes this tea as “the standard of affordable quality shu.” I would definitely agree with that statement. I’m not sure if I would buy this tea again, but I’m certainly happy that I purchased it.
I found the notable light fermentation of this tea to be quite pleasant and unique, and it certainly fulfills the shou puerh craving that I often get late at night. For some reason, ripe puerhs don’t seem to affect my sleep as much as other teas, even though they do contain a sizable amount of caffeine.
After looking through my reviews so far, I have also noticed that I seem to be much more picky with my sheng puerh tastes. Budget sheng puerhs can often be quite terrible, but cheaper shou puerhs seem to be more consistent across the board. Perhaps by shou puerh palate is not as refined. Luckily I have plenty more puerh cakes to work with!
~“I am in no way interested in immortality, but only in the taste of tea.” ― Lu T’ung (Chinese tea poet)
I am on the fence with this tea (Autumn ‘14 harvest). Great quality leaves which results in a beautiful golden colored cup of tea. The name is very appropriate, because the taste is not overpowering in any aspect. I like to drink it before meditating because it won’t leave any taste to distract.
This tea has been getting some good press lately and I would say it’s warranted. The leaves are a striking dusky grey/black—long and twisted. The liquor is dark molasses and tastes something like a cross between an Assam and a Nepalese tea, malty and sweet, with hints of vanilla and pepper. It’s smooth and delicious—reminiscent also of Mandala’s Black Beauty—and immediately jumps to the upper echelon of teas I’ve tried in the last few years. Based on this and the two Darjeelings I’ve tried recently from Tea Trekker, it’s clear they choose their teas intelligently.
Given the bias toward Chinese teas on Steepster, I feel I need to carry the torch for the poor forgotten darjeelings, which are still the tea I feel compelled to drink most often. I don’t think I need to repeat what Tea Trekker has already provided in terms of description. I’ll just affirm that this is a tea where every component is in perfect balance, creating a harmonious whole. The perfume is perfect—not too strong or too subdued. It really is the prototypical second flush.
The dry leaf is among the most gorgeous I’ve ever seen and highly unusual for a darjeeling. The picture doesn’t accurately represent the length and thickness of the leaves. Both the wet and dry leaf have a strong aroma of soybeans, also unusual for this type of tea. The soybean remains in the flavor along with the classic muscatel taste. There’s absolutely no astringency or bitterness—the tea is incredibly smooth and drinkable. I’m still trying to decide whether it’s too subtle for my personal darjeeling preferences. It doesn’t grab your attention; instead, you must bring your attention to the tea in the same way some music can remain in the background, but once you listen closely, you realize how great the music is.
This is a nice “combo” tea. It’s all fully oxidized darjeeling, but some of the leaves have been left green to peek through in both the appearance and the flavor. It’s nicely dry and snappy, a solid afternoon pick-me-up. I think this would be a good one to feed to friends who are only familiar with tea-bag tea so they can start to understand the wonders of loose leaf.
Weeeeellll… I guess you can’t love them all. A little fairy told me that.
The color here is amazing, like pale amber. And the dry tea smelled nice, but the wet tea had a heavy earthy smell. I did two rinses and some short steeps.
This sample is from AllanK and he did warn me of the strong bamboo flavor, but it’s a bit overwhelming at first. It seems to taper off in later steeps. And even though the earthy flavor gets quieter, it lingers at the end of the sip. I can handle it a little better when it’s at the front of the sip and more pleasant flavors remain in the aftertaste.
I’m really grateful to try this one and I have enough for a few more sessions. Maybe I’ll learn to like it a bit more.
This tea is absolutely incredible. I had drank it before and liked it western style. I needed to gonfu this to get the full effect. This tea had strong notes of honey and fruit notes as well, perhaps apricots etc. This tea was naturally sweet. This was amongst the very best tea I have ever had. At one point I added fresh raspberries to it, but it was so good without them I stopped adding them, wanting to get the full flavor of the tea. I normally only rate ripe puerh to be this good.
I steeped this five times. I wanted to steep it some more, but I need to sleep tonight. I steeped it in a 150ml gaiwan with 190 degree water and 6g leaf. I steeped it for 15 sec, 15 sec, 20 sec, 25 sec, and 30 sec. The spent leaves had an honey like aroma to them, not the usual vegetal aroma you often get from oolong. This was as good as any tea I ever drank.
In fact, this is the last tea that Cha He will ever hold. I managed to break it tonight. It was as if the Cha He had tasted perfection and couldn’t bear to have another tea so gave its life. Does anyone know a US seller for tea presentation vessels, or Cha He.
Flavors: Apricot, Honey
The first time I drank this tea I was put off by the strong bamboo flavor, but it is growing on me. There is a sweet flavor behind that as well and I will have to gongfu this tea sometime soon. Today I brewed it western style as my morning tea. I brewed it once in an 18 oz teapot with 3 tsp leaf and boiling water for 15 sec.
Most of my Liu Baos I notice have this bamboo flavor, it must be common to Liu Bao. At first I thought it was poor storage on the part of Tea Trekker, but as the puerh I got from them did not have the same flavor I doubt it. It could be that these Liu Baos were stored in bamboo before I got them, that is common with Liu Bao.
Pleasantly fruity with a slight taste of toasted grain and a classic tea fragrance. Very good quality tea with little bitterness or astringency but not enough body to make a good breakfast wake-up beverage. It is meant to be served in perfect tiny cups with tiny, expensive sweets.
This tea still tastes more like an oolong than a black tea to me. It is good, somewhat astringent and quite malty and just a little bitter, just a little. It has a roasted barley taste to it like a da hong pao but not tremendously pronounced. There is another flavor behind that which I can’t identify well. This is a good tea but I don’t know if its good enough to buy again.
It should be noted that the leaves of this tea are dark black and rolled like a Tie Guan Yin oolong tea, not straight and wiry like the average black tea.
I brewed this once in an 18oz teapot with 200 degree water and 3 tsp leaf for 3 min.
Flavors: Roasted Barley
This review may be a little sketchy, because I drank it this morning before being called in to work. It is an enjoyable, slightly bitter tea that tastes much like an Oolong rather than a pure black tea. It has a little of that characteristic oolong bitterness along with some black tea sweetness. In fact, if you just saw this tea and didn’t know what it was you would definitely think it a heavily roasted oolong. However, it is fully oxidized. It is available from Tea Trekker and I think they do a good job of sourcing their teas. It is good enough so that I might buy it again but am unsure, so many teas to try after all. I steeped this twice in a 18 oz teapot, planning to steep it just once. The second steep I put into a thermos and took to work. First for two minutes then for three. I used 2.5 tsp leaf and boiling water. It is called frozen summit because it is so high mountain that you can get frost in the warmer months even the summer I think.
Very delicious Oolong. No harshness, bitterness, or astringency. This is lightly roasted so it has a great balance of cream, floral, and lots of natural sweet notes.
The leaves do open up to look like a hairy crab as the tea is named after :)
Flavors: Cream, Honey, Honeysuckle
I got this as a freebie with a Tea Trekker order and was looking forward to it since Golden Monkey is one of my favorite varieties. I was kind of disappointed. It was a rather thin brew with none of the nuttiness or slight fruit sweetness that I have come to expect from the monkey. I’ll try the rest in a gaiwan and see if that helps focus the flavors, but I’m not optimistic.
Origin: Fujian Province, China
Dry Leaf: Cute compressed squares of fall colors; greens, browns, rust, black, each wrapped in paper.
Method: 22oz ceramic teapot – 16 oz H2O
1 square = 10 grams tea
185F for 3 minutes
no rinse but I will if brewing gong fu style—-the square did open right up and is not tightly compressed but it is best to rinse :)
Wet Leaf: Long stems with 2 large leaves attached that have been rolled inside the squares.
Scents of honeysuckle.
Liquor: Clear, dark golden with scents of honeysuckle, cream, butter biscuit.
Flavor: Rich, flowers, nutmeg, peas, asparagus, clean mouthfeel-not too creamy.
Flavors: Asparagus, Flowers, Garden Peas, Nutmeg