Recent Tasting Notes


The dry leaves are green-white finely rolled balls; they unfold somewhat but not completely when brewed to reveal high-quality full leaves.

It produces a golden-white liquor that honestly reminds me more of white than green tea.

The leaves and liquor share a fresh vegetal scent with strong floral/jasmine notes.

Astringency is extremely muted.

The dominant flavors are jasmine (surprise) and a fruity taste. I’d say it’s melon of some sort. There’s also a pleasant, mellow vegetal taste that I could say is snap peas or something like that. Unfortunately, to some degree the jasmine overpowers the vegetal notes. I do not have much experience with jasmine greens, so I do not know if this is a flaw of this tea or of jasmine greens in general.

I did a second steep, for 3 minutes instead of two. I noticed more of the melon-like flavor. It’s almost a green apple flavor on this steep. The jasmine’s definitely still there. I could say there’s something almost soapy about this tea. I wouldn’t call it that, but it’s bordering on that. I believe the potential issue is that the jasmine flavor is very strong and to some extent overpowering the green tea base. This is not to say it’s not a good tea – I like it a lot – but I would like the jasmine to be a bit milder.

Since Teance is close by, I’ve stopped in there store to drink gong-fu style tea at their tea bar a number of times. The quality of the teas is always very good, but I’ve refrained from buying any due to their steep prices. Then I found this tea in a local store for literally around half of its price in-store. So I bought it. I am thoroughly happy with it, although it’s not mind-blowing. Its most distinctive feature is its sweetness, which is really quite pronounced.

175 °F / 79 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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Sipdown. I’ll miss this one. It is super-refreshing, almost minty. The 2013 is in stock now, and I can’t wait to try it!

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I’m almost out of this tea (very sad), but I’m excitedly looking forward to the Spring 2013 teas!

I don’t drink a lot of Darjeeling. This may be the only Darjeeling that I have had more than once. So, take this rating with an especially minuscule grain of salt. It has a savory aroma (as described) and a floral note that reminds me of roses after a cool spring rain. It is light bodied with a pleasant astringency. I think I finally understand what people are talking about when they speak of a “muscatel” note. When I smelled this tea, I was momentarily transported to a night this past summer when I opened a Martinelli Muscat Alexandria for some friends of mine.

This is a wonderful tea if you want something to drink many cups of or to go with food. (I brewed up a big pot of this at around 11AM to drink with my breakfast of curried lentils and rice.) I guess I should also note that this tea had a lot of broken pieces in it and really clogged up the narrow slots of my glass infuser.

Boiling 1 min, 45 sec
Kasumi no Chajin

If you want to try Della Terra’s Darjeeling, I can add some in our next swap.


Thanks! That would be great. I was going to message you today to let you know that I hadn’t forgotten about the samples you asked for, I’ve just been mostly busy with a hint of procrastination…

Kasumi no Chajin

cool. I’ll set some aside. no worries on timeframe!

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drank Madoorie Assam by Teance
1317 tasting notes

Oh look, a backlog. A very backlogged backlog actually wot I actually wrote two weeks ago. But there you are. Also, my formatting appears to have been stripped at some point… Deal with it.

Here’s another one from Auggy. I feel a bit like I’m neglecting Hesper June’s parcel, but Auggy sent me so many!

Auggy and I have discovered on several occasions that on the subject of black tea we tend to be Taste Twins. We like so many of the same ones, and we seem to look for the same qualities in them. The one where we’re the most different is probably Assam. I’m slightly sceptical about Assam. Not because flavour as such, because I do agree with her that Assam can produce an immensely good cup. I like it, when it’s well brewed.

Unfortunately, it does not always like me, and that well-brewed cup is diffciult for me to attain. Even when I think I follow all instructions to the letter, it’s still sometimes a game of chance whether I get a good, pleasant cup, or something just a smidge too astringent and bitter. This is actually a big reason for why I prefer the Chinese black teas over all others. They’re idiot-proof. Some of them, although not all, are almost completely impossible to ruin.

So I’m going at this one with some degree of caution.

The leaves smell nice. Slightly woodsy, and quite malty, and this repeats itself in the brewed cup. Emphasis on malty. Many Assams, when I’ve managed to get a good cup, have for me had a strong note of raisins or similar dried fruit, but I’m not finding any such thing in the aroma here. I kind of miss it a bit. It feels a little like there an element missing.

To my relief, the raisin note is there in the flavour though, and it’s the first one I encounter when sipping, followed shortly by a fairly long malty note with a woodsy highlight. I’ve just had pancakes for breakfast, so I’m not currently capable of detecting any other aftertaste other than pancakes. As it cools a little it does develop that particular note that I think is what Auggy describes as ‘good cardboard’, and I can see what she means by that description.

I managed to get me a good cup out of it today. Yay me!

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Ok I’m going to come back and write a better review later but I’ve been a bit obsessed with this tea since I got back from Berkeley where I got it from Teance.

3 word review—


Ok maybe a bit longer than that. I want to explain that this is a very good thing. It’s subtle not in your face but the sweet nutty flavors are there under the beautiful oolong exterior. I definitely get some grain notes that further emphasize the cheerio-ness I’m getting from it. Don’t get me wrong it’s no where close to being a flavored tea, not that I don’t enjoyed my 52teas(psst Frank, a honey nut cheerio green would be lovely me thinks)

190 °F / 87 °C 0 min, 30 sec

Yesterday we made a trek to Teance in Berkeley which is definitely one of the more upscale tea places I have ever been to (with prices to match)

I decided I needed to pick up one of these little fragrant leaf shengs, it sounded so appealing from the description and the bamboo leaf wrapping could not be cuter…

I threw the first steep of this away after I realized I forgot to rinse it. The second steep here is pretty nice, I am getting the sticky rice aroma for sure, there is a slightly sweet taste with quite a bit of astringency in the finish. Slightly earthy. I steeped it for around 2 minutes basket style, I will try for less steeping next time around. It is a very young sheng but I liked it. My rating might go up when I’ve had the chance to do a proper gong fu tasting.

Third steep here has gotten a lot lighter with some more fruity/apple flavors…

195 °F / 90 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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Xing Ren Xiang is an interesting creature among the Dancongs for me. I’ve only had a few Almond Fragrance Phoenix Oolongs – two from other companies and three from Teance. Each so far has held a significantly greener character than the other Dancongs I’ve had. It’s been a good long while since opening this bag, so I might as well give it a go. I really do not worry about year of harvest with Wuyi Yancha or Dancongs, but harvest time is interesting for me. Winter harvest versus spring harvest makes for a pretty dramatic shift and in the realm of many oolongs this is felt easily as a contrast between teas expressing aromatics versus teas expressing body or tactile dynamics. In dancongs, most winter harvest teas I’ve had certainly seem higher in astringency when compared to spring harvest, but I don’t really get as wide a spread in expressiveness of flavor characteristics in the spring tea. Flavor consistency and slightly easier brewing can be a good thing, for sure, but I typically go for a dancong when I want each cup to lend something different compared to the cup before. Unfortunately, greater aromatic expressiveness doesn’t mean aromatic steadfastness and some of the highly aromatic winter teas that change and shift so dramatically do not necessarily carry the same durability as spring harvest teas. 6-9 infusions sure is plenty (especially to wrap up a day full of drinking tea like today) but is kinda wussy compared to the 15-20 I’ve managed to coax out of some other Phoenix Oolongs prepared at high concentrations.

While this group of oolongs is generally categorized as “medium oxidized” due to dry leaf appearance and liquor intensity, looking at the infused leaves typically tells a different story. Most dancongs I’ve had range between 20-30% oxidation, with only those labeled Song Zhong Dancong exceeding this just slightly and “commercial grade teas” reaching higher. O’course, percent oxidation is largely speculative and just based on an estimate of what percentage of the infused leaf appears reddish, not really how long or in what stages it is carried out by a tea maker and does not necessarily translate to direct expression of certain characteristics. As it stands, lighter ox dancongs or – more importantly – less completely dried/cured ones tend to have more intense fragrances up front but aromas may dissipate in a shorter time frame. More completely cured teas may seem even better after a year or two from processing while higher moisture content examples stale a bit just after half a year. This tea falls in the latter group and has definitely changed considerably in dry fragrance. However, staling of one set of characteristics does not necessarily make for flat tea, and this had an overabundance of taste elements that have mellowed nicely.

Another thing about my preference for dancongs lies in my brewing style. I start off with a gongfu mentality and then screw it way up. While I sometimes use an appropriate 4-6g per 100mL, I do like to use absurd concentrations of 8-10g for really short steeps following a double rinse. Tonight I’m using 10g in 100-120mL water at 90C with infusions following a double rinse.

Picture of the leaves from the website is all wrong… These are very green leaves with yellow veins. Very long, intact twisted leaves that can’t fit in even a very shallow tablespoon, let alone a teaspoon.
Dry fragrance is pleasantly floral and lightly nutty (more akin to pumpkin seed than almond, though).
Wet leaf aroma hits almond on the head, but not the nut. The wet leaves give off a heady perfume of an almond tree orchard in full bloom. A truly wonderful aroma I associate with warm evening breezes in the Central Valley (one of the very few pleasant aromas to come from the agriculture there, really).
Liquor aroma holds true to the wet leaf aroma – now how rare is that? Usually the lid of the gaiwan can give a good preview to an infusion’s aromatic expression, but the leaves tell a totally different tale.

First infusion (5sec):
Moderate body.
Crisp and woody – oaky Chardonnay.
All flavor in front of mouth. Somewhat citrusy – pomelo skin. Flowery aroma fills mouth. Bullrush nose.

Second infusion (5sec):
Sandalwood resolving to incense cedar then balsa in aftertaste.
Brief but significant boysenberry sweetness associated with level of aeration for each slurp.

Third infusion (10sec):
Light forward astringency.
Persimmon flavor and aroma.
Lingering dried adobe brick-like mineral undertaste.
Woodiness stuck on balsa.
Crazy perfumey spicy afteraroma (between thyme and hops) and stevia sweetness pops up a minute or so after final draught.

Fourth infusion (10sec):
Much more intense – tannic.
Kind of a rust-like metal and peach pit tang.
Grape skin astringency.
Refreshing lingering crispness similar to taste of cool fog over a gravel road or the air right after it has finished raining on concrete.

Fifth infusion (15sec):
White rice, cinnamon, and a touch of muscovado sugar.
Dry grassland toasty character.
An oddly pleasant characteristic of blackened grilled whitefish.
Stevia-sweet late returning aftertaste from third infusion is present here as well.

Sixth infusion (20sec):
Vegetal overall.
Snappy astringency and light lemony character very similar to eating young Douglas-fir tips.
Yellow nectarine skin tangy taste.
Taste of sucking on a raw almond (with skin intact) – starts lightly toasty-woody and turns to lightly sweet and nutty.

I could get a few more infusions out of this (prolly three more good’uns) but it’s late and I’ve gotta work tomorrow.
Pretty darn vegetal example of a Phoenix Oolong. It’s muted a bit since I first bought it, but in a good way. Takes a while for anything resembling almond nuts to pop up in the characteristics of this tea, but the aroma of almond blossoms starts off heady and sticks as a background character in the nose throughout the brews. Really good tea and it keeps shifting nicely. Can be a bit intense, but short brews help out in this regard. I’m kinda doubting that what is being sold on the Teance website is Winter 2010 like it’s labeled, since it’s left their listing and come back since then. What I’m drinking here I bought last year in late winter and the bag was stamped as “new harvest” so I am thinking there might be a website mistake. Either way, it’s changed since I got it but it’s still very good.

195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec

pure tea porn…awesome!


Mm.. boysenberry is a word I’ve been looking for describe Dan Cong lately. A friend of mine just sent over a bundle of Dan Cong as a gift for Chinese new year, and some Xin Ren Xiang made it into my gaiwan just this weekend. I am pleased to see the style available elsewhere, as I loved the small sampling.
Definitely with you on the double-stuffed gaiwan approach. It is thrilling, and oftentimes one of the most rewarding types of tea sessions. I’ve also been finding myself drawn towards tea (in general) with long and dynamic steep-lives.
Loving your notes. Glad to see you back.


Really great notes, Thomas! I’ve been tasting a superb array of dancong samples at work, which we asked our sourcing agent in China to assemble and send to us recently. The orignal plan was to select one more dancong to add to our offerings, but the quality of the samples across the twenty or so varieties we received has been too high to make one choice a realistic possibility. So the idea of choosing one grew into choosing only three more to carry in the near future, and even that has been a bit painful. A Xing Ren Xiang has been one of the prime candidates, the other two being a Tong Tien Xiang and a Bai Ye.

In any case, the Xing Ren Xiang that we sampled really floored me, and I found that it definitely had almond characteristics from beginning to end. Though it wasn’t a simple and consistent picture of almond, but rather a transforming set of variations on aspects of almond. The initial experience of fragrance and flavor had distinct amaretto notes, along with that somewhat cherry-like top note in almond extract. It later unfolded into blanched and then raw full-skin almond flavor notes. I vividly remember taking the first inhalation of the first-steep bouquet on the underside of my gaiwan lid, and being very impressed with the dimensionality and deep layering of its fragrance, which took about 5-10 seconds for my brain to fully unfold. A truly intoxicating experience. I hope we do bring this one in for sale at some point, but I think we’re likely going to introduce one of the others first.

In any case, I love the wealth of information you provided in this note, especially because dancong is a particular obsession of mine now. I think you’d be fantastic drinking company, by the way. If you ever happen to pass through Minneapolis, I’d be happy to welcome you over for some gongfu cha. I also see that you’re in the process of sourcing some tea selections for this cafe you work for. If you ever want to try Verdant’s wholesale offerings, send me a PM and I’d be happy discuss the possibility of sending you a wholesale sampler kit based on what you’re looking for.

Keep writing! I always appreciate what you have to say.


its conversations like this one that really make the love of tea an inspiration and a community…its enough to make the linkage of people, from plant to plucking, withering to steeping, seller to buyer, random monk to blessed wanderer such a journey that its easy to be grateful for each step and each stone…thanks for making this medium a celebrational expression

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I absolutely love this oolong. It is light, floral, and citrusy. I love the fact that each steeping gives a new flavor profile. When I serve this tea to guests, they are always amazed at its yumminess.

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drank Roasted Twig by Teance
1 tasting notes

This tea is a perfect compromise between too light and too astringent. It is subtly nutty, and my friends have referred to it as somewhat “twiggy”. I love it. It is very calming, and the caffeine level is moderate enough to keep you alert but not to negatively offset your daily energy level.

205 °F / 96 °C 1 min, 0 sec

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I could drink this tea at any time of the day, which makes it very likable. It may not have a strong taste, but I like it that way. It is a little light on the floral flavor, however you can still taste “something” after each drink. I enjoy the subtly of the flavor. I was especially impressed with the number of times I could steep this tea. Even after my fourth steep I found the taste to be just as potent as the first steep.

Some places suggest a steep time of about 1 minute. I personally enjoy adding an extra 30 seconds to bring out the taste a little more. This is some pretty tasty tea – although I am a bit in favor of oolongs in general. Overall it’s a good tea that I think the general public, including non-tea drinkers wouldn’t mind trying.

205 °F / 96 °C 1 min, 30 sec

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drank Yellow Gold Oolong by Teance
4 tasting notes

This is a really tasteful tea. I particular enjoy drinking it after a heavy meal. The colorful and floral flavors makes it a pleasant drink for any occasion. I find that the floral taste really comes out when you drink take your time with drinking the tea. Take a breath in, take a sip, swallow, and breath out – it really brings out the color of this tea. Definitely a keeper.

205 °F / 96 °C 1 min, 0 sec

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drank Yunnan Tuocha by Teance
39 tasting notes

Pu-erh is one of those things I really enjoy, but I wish it didn’t last for so many steeps since I just don’t drink that many cups of hot tea most days. I had three cups at work, and I’m going to have a fourth before the day is over, but by tomorrow the leaves won’t be any good for the 5th, 6th, 7th steepings that I know it’s capable of.

Anyway, after rinsing with hot water, the first steep was a pretty mahogany color, but not as developed and rich as the 2nd and 3rd steeps were. The second and third looked like soy sauce because the button of leaves had broken apart. In that first steep and a little in the second too, I always get that very distinct dashi stock smell. It makes me feel like I’m drinking the broth from my signature udon noodle soup. After the first fishy cup, it starts to mellow out and get that ‘deeper’ flavor. Kind of malty and almost chocolaty. I am still surprised by the complete lack of astringency in pu-erhs.

As crude as it is to say pu-erh tastes like dirt, I really mean it in the best way possible. It tastes like rich, nutritious, alive soil. Soil where the earth itself is born and reborn.

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 30 sec
Jim Marks

You can absolutely steep pu-erh across multiple days. I do it all the time.

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drank Yunnan Tuocha by Teance
39 tasting notes

I prepared this one identically to the last pu-erh I tried (see notes on Ancient Pu-erh Tuo Cha by Rishi), rinsing and making lots and lots of short infusions.

At first, I got a smell of dashi (Japanese fish stock), salty, savory, and yes, fishy. The first steeps were a little bit like rich soil, but right now on my fourth steep I’m getting a distinct smooth unsweet cocoa flavor. It’s not bad. In many ways it’s similar to Rishi’s. I like the robustness on this cold Texas morning. Currently it’s 43 degrees outside and I’m in flannel pajama pants with the heater on!

205 °F / 96 °C 1 min, 0 sec

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Wowsers B. Bowsers.

One of the best greens I’ve had, and possibly the best version of this specific type I’ve had.

If I weren’t so lazy, I’d type proper notes. This tea certainly deserves ’em. And yet…

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drank Silver Needle by Teance
39 tasting notes

The last few days have been batshit crazy with apartment problems. First it was a leak in the ceiling, then it was water bubbling up from the floor. Then it was a bathtub that wouldn’t drain. Then it was a snapped off toilet handle. Then it was a screen door that won’t open. Did I mention that all these things happened in a 48 hour period? Now we’ve discovered that water from the leaky upstairs AC unit has not only been dripping through the ceiling, but has been seeping down into the wall behind boxes in our bedroom closet and hallway closet for god knows how long. Several ruined pairs of leather shoes, tote bags, blankets, and an old vacuum later, half of our apartment is currently torn apart awaiting the repair man to come back for the third day in a row and replace our carpet. So yeah, I needed something calming this morning.

I reached for this silver needle and blended it with some dried lavender flowers from Central Market (35 cents for half an ounce!) in hopes of a soothing start to the day. It tasted nice, but I definitely overdid the lavender since I could barely taste the white tea. The combination is promising, and it satisfies my desire for this tea to taste more floral.

185 °F / 85 °C 4 min, 0 sec

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drank Silver Needle by Teance
39 tasting notes

Today I graduated from college. As a gift, my uncle made me a ceramic teacup that he made on a pottery wheel, glazed, and fired himself. It is beautiful and tiny (only holds 4 ounces), which is perfect for sharing a pot with my boyfriend (my uncle made him one too!), and if I really want to get a lot of re-steeps from less leaves. It’s so smooth and squat, and cups nicely in my hands, no handle. The bottom half is a deep, velvet blue, and the top half is a golden caramel color, and there’s a drizzle of sky-blue/turquoise dripping down through both halves from the lip. The inside of the cup is a speckled robin’s egg blue with a big smooth blob of white glaze at the bottom. Simply beautiful, and I am in love with it. My boyfriend’s is gorgeous too.

Tonight I christened it with something simple and elegant to compliment the beauty of this little cup (and that doesn’t have so much caffeine that it will keep me awake). This silver needle is perfect to wind down from all the excitement of the day before I go to sleep. It also holds up to lots and lots and re-steeping. i drank two tiny cups tonight, and I’m sure I’ll have at least two more in the morning (all from an itty bitty half teaspoon of these light-as-air leaves.)

First 4 minute steep was light and comforting. Very delicate. It’s hard to describe the flavor. I want to say ‘sweet hay’, but I mean that in the best way possible. The second steep was 5 minutes, and I think by virtue of the leaves actually being mostly wet (the tea is so light, I still had dry leaves floating on top after the first steep), the flavor was a bit more deep and complex. The very light amber color matched beautifully with the colors and the ‘mood’ of the cup. Elegant, sophisticated, and understated. I find new and intriguing things about this tea every time I brew it.

I am bursting with joy, and I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by so many family, loved ones, and friends.

4 min, 0 sec

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drank Silver Needle by Teance
39 tasting notes

First impressions!

This is my first loose leaf white tea experience. The boyfriend and I took a trip out to the bigger Central Market in north Austin, and we got a few different baggies of tea. While I was perusing the shelves, I saw the name ‘Silver Needle’. Remembering how highly rated I’ve seen teas with that name on Adagio, I decided to give it a go. The promise of ‘melon’ notes had something to do with it as well. The tea is so light that I scooped quite a large volume of leaves before it would even register on the scale. I got a little baggie full for only 65 cents!

I came home and did a little research on steeping times. The consensus I found was quite a long steep, which surprised me. As the leaves were brewing, they turned from a light silvery color to a sage green. They also crackled and popped a little as they opened up in the water. Very nice. It took three steeps before the leaves were even completely wet since a lot of them just floated on top of the water.

Putting the cup up to my nose, I kept expecting to smell jasmine, but it was just a faint sweet, hot water smell. The tea was not astringent or bitter at all. It was very light. As I took my first sip, my Facebook newsfeed started blowing up with the first reactions to Osama’s death, so I was in quite an excited state as I was drinking this. I drank several cups while streaming President Obama’s announcement and live video of crowds cheering in front of the white house. I wanted to taste melon, and I think I only tasted a little as it started to cool because that’s what I wanted to taste.

I’ll give this another shot when I am not distracted.

180 °F / 82 °C 6 min, 0 sec

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drank Buddha's Hand by Teance
61 tasting notes

thicker, lasting texture with stronger aftertaste than many other lightly oxidized wulongs. Walker Tea Review 291. Score = 90

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savory at first with medium broth and fairly low astringency, but aftertaste missing some sweetness and endurance. Walker Tea Review #287. Score=88

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This tea has a nice smooth, delicate sweetness to it and a rich history dating back to the Mt. Lu Buddhist monasteries- the exclusive cultivators of Yun Wu during the Tang dynasty. The poets and writers would travel up the mountain, gather at these monasteries and drink Yun Wu tea with the monks to become enlightened. Maybe we too, can become enlightened when we drink it.

Does anyone find themselves enlightened after drinking Lu Shan Yun Wu?

180 °F / 82 °C 2 min, 30 sec

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one of the highest scoring teas of 2010 by Walker Tea Review (93). lower astringency for a green, with smooth texture and green sweetness.

As seen in Review #171: http://goo.gl/Mgbj

So good, I added it to a Reserve Tea Package: http://goo.gl/8cOL

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Had this tea last night at a puerh class held by the owner of Teance Fine Teas in Berkeley, California.
She outright refused to tell us its name, how it was processed, and why it was in such tiny bits in between the size of fannings and dust grade tea particles until we all tasted it. Looks like very finely sifted CTC tea (or coffee grounds) but what we were drinking was older than Cut Tear Curl manufacturing method’s spread into China. She did let on that animals were involved by asking “Are any of you vegan?” before pouring, and let on that some folks call it “Poo Air” based on its aroma, so it wasn’t a total mystery.
To clarify, many teas fall into the realm of non-vegan, and moreso than this one. Oftentimes there are bits of insects inside the leaves (I’ve found a live Walking Stick in a large retailer’s airtight tin of Bai Mu Dan that haad been sealed for over a year) and teas such as Oriental Beauty Oolong rely on herbivory and excretions by leafhoppers on the leaves to produce some of the inherent sweetness. If you’ve ever eaten an invertebrate in its entirety (insects, crustaceans, and mollusks are in the diet of most of the world’s cultures) you’ve consumed what’s in the animal’s gut as well and bear in mind that honey is basically bee puke, so try to put your squeemishness on hold for a moment.

Okay, flavor-wise this is a hard tea to put a rating on.
Elements of the flavor really demand a spectacularly high rating – tasting it really did have a “wow factor” both before and after learning what the heck it was we were putting in our mouths and swallowing. It blows away many puerh teas in terms of clean-yet-earthy taste, dense body, balance of body to liveliness, interesting tactile impression beyond simple astringency or thickness of body, range of expressed flavor, lasting quality in terms of possible number of rebrews, and length of aftertaste. However, I can certainly see this as a “love/hate” tea. If you dislike earthy tastes or can not stand the presence of any metallic, pepper, or wood notes you will not like this tea. Same goes if you only tolerate teas with a very short aftertaste.
If you like Indo-Pacific coffees – aged or monsooned coffees in particular – you may really enjoy this tea.

Winnie prepared this with a generous amount in a pair of gaiwans. I really have no point of reference to estimate the mass used… If it was equivalent to CTC, I’d say something like 8g per 150ml, but I got the impression it’s more like using fannings – more like 4g per 150ml. Brew time was intended at something like 10 seconds each infusion, but actual contact time ranged from 30 seconds to 3 minutes because of the time necessary to pour out through the tiny leaf bits (and then, if the pour was fast, it would take forever to go through the strainer). Water at about 95 degrees C was dispensed into a thermos that was used for each infusion, so temp probably started at about 85C and steadily declined to 70ishC until the water was refreshed.

Leaves are tiny little pellets. Hard and fibrous when dry – like sifted CTC. When wet, it’s possible with a bit of effort to squeeze/grind between fingernails into a semisolid.
Liquor is completely opaque, shiny dark dark dark red-brown in a wide, shallow 45ml cup. “Puerh is supposed to look like soy sauce when aged well enough,” Winnie said while pouring. I’ve had soy sauce and Turkish coffee less dark than this. Aroma is mellow woody base with a prune-like accent and tart&sweet aromatics of Balinese long pepper or Grains of Paradise. Blood-colored liquid sticks to the sides of a cup in a way that makes me think of oil… or the Venom Symbiote from Spiderman.

Surprisingly similar to two of the first four puerhs I ever had (young mini shou tuochas from Jingmai Shan) but a whole heck of a lot more complex. The whole tacky-thick body, light muddy yeast-like quality and feeling of “it tastes like a well-worn boot” very similar. This has a very slight astringency that balances the syrupy body a bit and goes well with the black peppercorn notes in the aftertaste. Coppery and malty like flavors provide a second tier on top of the woody flavor base. Very light aroma, but the nose while drinking presents notes of humus and damp leaf litter – very foresty. The afteraroma is mild again but has more going on with spiced bean notes (yes, this tea has notes of humus and hummus!), dried fruits like fig and raisins/prunes, clay, arbol chilies, toasted wheat bread crust, honey, barley, and oak bark.
What really sets this apart is the quantity of two effects I’ve only had in a handful of puerhs before and the presence of two effects I’ve never experienced in puerh before (only in aged, traditional oolongs).
First and foremost is the prevalence of the “Chen” note – an “antique” quality that arises out of the light camphor-like notes 20+ year sheng cha develop. As I’ve only had 12 teas that meet this criteria other than this one, it is a quality that really jumps to mind and this just rolls in it. The tea tastes like it has actually matured in character to a point where it has combined and produced tastes and sensations not possible in younger teas. This is not some hokey thing about “oooh, this tea is aged so it is gooood” either – it takes a certain amount of time for the oils, acid-sugar combinations, and fungi&bacteria byproducts to chemically interact based on ambient humidity and temperature fluctuations over years for a resulting change that affects the tea’s biochemistry at a level where the fundamentally acidic character of the leaves actually changes to a more alkaline state. Many, many people have tried replicating “chen” and was one of the drives to develop the wo dui style of manufacture, resulting in shou cha. Best anyone can do, though, is age in certain dramatic climate conditions with great effort.
Next is the perception created by drinking this of feeling sort of a swirling of energetics through the upper body and particularly the head. I tend to not buy into the concept of Qi, though I acknowledge the sensory effect of the supposed key physical points of qi in the body and of the loci where the chakras are purported to reside as well as the beneficial therapeutic effects of training in “energy movement” for physical and mental health… I just happen to have more faith in actual physiological connections within the body and chock bodily connections up to neural connections, hormone signalling, physical strain on connected groups, and psychosomatic reactions. However, it’s hard to figure into that the repeatable sensation of movement provided here. This is one of those rare teas that does invoke a significant, palpable feeling of motion along the deep tissue, skeletal, and nervous system corridors towards the head and swirling within. How can you feel something create a reeling effect in your head without affecting oxygen? Dunno what on earth to call this other than the tea’s “strong qi” despite my reservations about the existence of such a thing.
Then there’s the first quality I have yet to experience in a puerh – a “ripeness” I associate with aged and/or well-roasted oolongs. Like the phenolic sensation of biting into an almost-overripe apricot, plum or nectarine minus the actual fruit notes. The flavors associated with it are more spice notes of peppercorns, coriander, cinnamon, sage… just with that extra deep-chest “oomph” of ripe fruit. This really accentuates a beet note and he potent savory character of the tea.
Finally, this tea has heat to it in terms of spice. Not nearly as hot as actually eating a pepper, but it has a residual heat and even a bit of flavor that has me drawing similarities to Adobo and Chipotle Peppers. I’ve had puerh that exhibited some of these taste/aroma notes and some that draw perspiration after many cups, but this leaves the tingling heat of eating a steak that had been rubbed in powdered adobo, chipotle, paprika, and black pepper. That lingering spiciness stuck with me for well over half an hour after drinking… could’ve gone for an hour or more had I not had a different tea and dinner cutting it off. Funny thing is I was left with a strong desire for barbecue pork (I rarely touch pig) and got some pulled pork with mustard bbq sauce that mimicked the flavor and sensation.
Another interesting bit is the presence of flavor. It sort of pushes open the doors in your mouth in an effect somewhat similar to MSG, beets, or red meat. It’s a good example for most of the vocabulary I’ve adapted to my own use in my notes; It throws a bunch of tastes at you at once (“range” or what I call “horizontal complexity”) and then runs with a progression of flavors into the aftertaste (“depth” or “vertical complexity”) coupled with maintaining a steadfast predominant flavor (“static profile” or “baseline fidelity”) yet showing a shift of flavor and sensations in progressive infusions (“dynamic profile” or my infrequently used “realized complexity” when featured alongside steadfast character) and producing many, many infusions (a “durable” tea). It really covers all bases.

This tea is a truly unique experience, though you may have to muscle through a mental block against it to taste more than one cup. Really, if it were not for the generally mild aroma and the serious distinction I get of it being one of those teas you either love or you hate, I have no other reason to not score this a 100… I’m sure some would throw it to the very end of the other side of the spectrum, though. If you have the opportunity to taste this – the well aged version, not just this type of tea – you really should not pass it up. Kinda gives me a headache thinking of the fact I’m recommending people try a tea that has gone through both ends of a caterpillar, but there you have it. This excreted tea isn’t “shit” – it’s well harvested tea that was carefully processed then painstakingly turned and stirred whilst aging for decades then carefully introducing a single type of invertebrate in a controlled manner to eat the leaves, followed by hand-sorting the little pellets out of the tea mass and rested for more time still.
Remarkable in so many ways but still… Caterpillar droppings…

185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 30 sec

Now that is a suprise/different!


I dunno if I could get past where it came from to enjoy it. D:

Thomas Smith

Probably why the class leader and owner of the tea wouldn’t tell us what it was until we drank it!


The inventiveness of tea production never fails to amaze me.


Thank you for providing and crystallizing such unique and accurate terms as “baseline fidelity” and “realized complexity” to describe certain almost intangible aspects of the tea experience. I have been kicking around for quite some time the visual schema of an x-y-z axis that will portray, respectively, the range of flavors and mouthfeel, the depth of complexity and aftertaste, and finally the dynamic interaction of all aspects that combine for the lasting, intangible totality of the tea. Vocabulary and concepts that go beyond flavor notes (which I almost always find myself either overwhelmed by or completely at a loss for) to provide the overall sensory experience are always welcomed and appreciated by me.

I am also one who is wary of the spiritual and subtle energetic effects of anything, including tea. This is not because I doubt the veracity of such effects but because of the reality of certain spiritual forces at work in the universe that many are unaware of yet are subject to. And so, in short, one must be on guard whilst exploring unknown territory. “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Cheers, Thomas, and thank you again for your care in relating to us your thoughts and impressions!


Fascinating read! I am in awe of the detail.

Loved this especially “…— it takes a certain amount of time for the oils, acid-sugar combinations, and fungi&bacteria byproducts to chemically interact based on ambient humidity and temperature fluctuations over years for a resulting change that affects the tea’s biochemistry at a level where the fundamentally acidic character of the leaves actually changes to a more alkaline state.”

And you experienced the “puerh high”! Thank you for documenting it all.


This just sounds really exciting.

Thomas Smith

It is an exciting tea and I don’t know if or when I’ll ever have the opportunity to taste something like it again. I really trust the owner of this and she’s had it for over 20 years on hand, but you’ve got to be really dubious of anything labeled as 40 years old or older.
While I ding the rating on this because of the love/hate nature of it, it’s still firmly in my “WOW – really spectacular” range.

Geoffrey Norman

Not to sound ineloquent…but “DOOOD!” I want some. I didn’t know tea had its own Kopi Luwak!

Thomas Smith

Hey now, don’t go besmirching this wth talk of Kopi Luwak – most of the coffee that makes that junk up is underripe cherries from robusta hybrids and there is little to no quality control or even sorting after cleaning and milling. Coffee collected from Jacu Birds in Brasil, on the other hand…

Geoffrey Norman

Wasn’t drawing a direct comparison; merely being analogous. Either way, it’s on the wishlist.

Thomas Smith

Hahaha, yeah I have issues with niche coffee. I work in coffee at a much more hands-on level than with tea and so get caught up in a lot of hyped products like that :P
License plate reads TeaGeek, but I shell out hundreds of dollars of my own cash eahc year to attend coffee conventions and such even if it means having to live off ramen or leftover pastries from the coffee shop.

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I’m… “working on”… my tasting notes for this.
I’ll leave this logging saying that I had more than six infusions of this and the aftertaste lingered for an hour (and may have gone longer if I didn’t drink another tea and had dinner).
Strange tea, but not necessarily in a bad way. I’ve had a fair few Shou Puerhs that taste very similar to this in many regards and many that tasted far worse. Never had a Sheng that tasted like this, though…

No, this is not a hoax tea entry. Read Mike Petro’s experience with this type of tea here:


Poopoo Puerh? I didn’t know such a thing existed. You’re brave to try it, haha.

Thomas Smith

I’m writing an actual tasting note posting, but need to unravel it from the scribbles I took down with the other five teas I tasted at the puerh class I was served this at. The owner of the shop who broke the teas out from her personal stash refused to tell us what the tea was or why it looked so tiny and odd until we’d all had a cup. She did ominously ask “Are any of you vegan?” as she brewed, though, hahaha.

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drank Yunnan Gold by Teance
325 tasting notes

Nearly out of tea. Gearing up for a big order of known unknowns.

I have discovered that the key for the yunnan gold is to blend it with other leaves. This manages the sweetness well. Good options are TG’s malty black tea and, not surprisingly, a fermented pu-erh (which is also made in yunnan, and so, probably very similar leaves to the gold).

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