The Essence of Tea

Recent Tasting Notes

drank 2010 Mansai by The Essence of Tea
53 tasting notes

I may have spoken too soon last time when I mentioned that I was feeling a tendency towards shu pu’er, because they last couple of teas I tried were both shu, and they were hardly worth writing about. But I’ve also been doing a lot of homework on pu’er over the last several days, trying to learn all I can about it, and seems that “terrible” shu is relatively common.

From what I’ve read, shu/shou/cooked pu’er was developed in an attempt to mimic aged sheng. So it goes through a sort of speed-fermentation process to achieve this. Sometimes this goes over well, and the resulting product is ready to drink. But there’s also a chance that the fermentation goes off, and the result tastes like bad fish. Sometimes the “bad fish” shu will benefit from aging in the sense that it will sort of “air out” and the weird “off” flavors will mellow, but just how much shu pu’er benefits from aging after that is highly debated.

Really, a lot of aspects of pu’er seem to be highly debated or at least conflicting. I can already tell that reading about it is only going to get me so far… that’s why I just dropped $60 on a handful of assorted samples from puerhshop.com. Most of them are sheng, since I am honestly a little leery about shu since my last two encounters with it have ranged from “meh” to “ew,” but I realize that those off-flavors are not present in every shu, and there are certainly ones out there that I adore.

But the more research I’ve been doing, the more I’ve been intrigued by sheng. It seems that sheng holds a lot more possibility for variety than shu, and while there are certainly times when I just crave shu’s dark earthiness, I am intrigued by what’s out there in the sheng-world.

But enough rambling now, this tea. I didn’t even know I had it, and I must have gotten it in a swap or something because I’ve never ordered directly from EoT. I had a little sample amount of it stashed in an old Adagio sample tin.

This stuff actually reminds me of a white tea or maybe a green tea; rather clean and clear and crisp. A bit dry, and very easily turns harshly astringent if brewed a bit too long. I’ve read that dryness/astringency are characteristics of young sheng that subside with age, so maybe that would change with time? I suppose I won’t ever know since I only have this tiny sample size, but being such a novice to all this, I can’t help but speculate. With short steeps though, this is really a nice relaxing afternoon tea.

Looking at the leaves I’m noticing a lot of stem, like maybe 1/4 to 1/3 of the mix is stem. I’m not sure if that’s normal in a tea like this or not, but it’s an interesting note. The leaves are fairly broken, and there are a few buds mixed in with more mature leaves. The assorted shapes remind me a bit of looking into a bowl of chex mix. The color of the leaf is very nice, a sort of olive green mostly, but a few leaves are tinged with a lovely rusty reddish-brown.

Just another chronicle in my journey to understand pu’er!

Michelle

I feel like pu’erh is one of the deepest subjects in tea (no pun intended) but also one of the most difficult to master/understand. Still, it’s fascinating!

Grace

Good luck on the journey, there is soooo much to try!

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I found some of this tea in my cupboard. I remember ordering a small package of this tea at summer, appareantly I’ve tasted it once before. I feel bad of drinking this now, as this isn’t clearly anymore at its prime.

Taste is interesting. Slightly nutty, with strong oily taste and texture, with some burnt notes. Has definantly been an interesting tea, now tasting slightly weird, little off. Leaves do look ok, although not as nice as one would expect of Shifeng Mingqian… Hard to say as I don’t remember taste of this fresh, now I tend to think that this isn’t probably what its claiming to be. Nevertheless, tastes good, longjingish and looks beautiful in a glass.

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I just had a session with this tea.
My overall feeling is that this is nice tea, tastes like something I’d expect to pu’er from ‘90s to taste. Smooth, thick, slightly woody. Old tree deep inside of a dense forest, standing on it’s own in the middle of a forest opening.
Taste is quite simple, little too smooth for my taste. Presence of this tea is quite heavy, slightly disturbing in a way. Like that huge tree is blocking the sun, or something like that.
I’m currently looking for an affordable pu’er with at least a couple of decades of age, and this is one I am considering. I also have a sample of EoT Grand Yellow Label, waiting to be tested.
If you happen to have any suggestions of oldish sheng cakes that are around the same price category with this one, please hint me!

Joni Selinheimo

The name is Small Yellow Label. Excuse me but. “Whut?” o.0 You have so become the verbal son of Eetu. A poet. Just what the world needed. Another poet. xD

cultureflip

hey there, not sure if youre looking for sheng anymore but try the 2000 sheng from lifeinteacup.com i havent written anything on it yet but its good, cheap and not heavy or murky, its still got some youth.

Jesse Örö

Thanks for the tip! Life In Teacup is a good source, I’ll try that out.

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1.6 grams in 50mL tiny porcelain gaiwan (lots of broken bits because I was prying a bit off of one side and it got a little messy)
Water 205 degrees

Flash rinse—did not save—and only noticed later that a bit of water was left, like a grandpa-style ‘root’, that got incorporated into the first infusion, which is….strong. Campfire smoky gym socks strong. Still only a hint of bitter, but very powerful stuff.

2nd infusion, 10 seconds then poured, still very strong smoky umami stuff, but the sweet is able to show up at the front of each sip, and the aftertaste is spicy and herbaceous and bitter and still smoky.

3rd infusion, poured in, replaced kettle on stand, and poured out, less than 10 seconds: still very powerful stuff. I am so appreciating this lovely little gaiwan right now, the fit and the pour and the function for these fast infusions are just excellent. The tea is still transporting me back to childhood campfires, with a bit of sweet here and there.

4th infusion, same pour in/kettle/pour out, between 5 and 7 seconds, can’t be doing much more than rinsing what is already sweating out on the surface of the leaves, and still it has a powerful kick. A little more sweet apparent, though.

Side note: simply because I was in the mood for it, I started my day with some Tie Guan Yin, couldn’t exhaust those leaves with the time available before leaving for work, and am working on some more infusions after the leaves were stored int he fridge for the day, drinking one infusion of this to a couple of the puerh. It’s astonishing how clean and refined the flavor is in contrast to this rambunctious smoky pu!

5th infusion, still crazy-smokey-rambunctious, ham and campfire and sweet and bit of bitter herbs. 6th is settling in a bit, but I can see that it’s going to take a lot of infusions and a kettle full of water at 40mL per infusion to tame these leaves. 7th similar, the smoky veil is showing a little more of what is behind it, but still, powerful smoke.

If overwhelming, outrageous flavor now is a good predictor of aging well, this should be fabulous. But the kettle is empty and I do have to get some sleep eventually, so I’m setting the leaves aside for more tomorrow.

Took this tea out of the fridge again after 2 days (previously up to 8 infusions): starting the first few infusions with a meal of cheese and crackers, and like any good puerh, the tea cuts the richness well. And the strong cheese also helps mellow the smokiness of the tea.

By the 16th infusion, the tea is tasting more strongly of herbs and sweet anise, with the umami nearly gone.

The 25th infusion is still strong and deliciously herbaceous, astringent but not truly bitter. Very pleasant stuff.

Up to 30, and brewing by my thirst—some flash infusions, basically sweet water, to wet the palate, then a few more substantial, slower, showing persistent flavor beyond simple sweet water, amazing stamina this stuff has. Saying uncle at 32 infusions, that’s enough for now.

I am very encouraged to think of what this tea will be after it has settled a bit and the wildly smoky start has softened.

(Rating here is tough, because the early infusions were pretty rank, but they’re not representative—I think—of what this will be like in the future when I will want to be drinking it. Nor did the first day’s wildness fit well with the wonderful mellower later infusions—those would rate very highly indeed. So no rating for the session now, as a whole).

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec

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76

Not my favorite Guafenzhai but very good overall score

Strong huigan and qi – hope it progresses with aging!!

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 1 min, 0 sec
Charles Thomas Draper

I have a GFZ from Tea Urchin that is mind blowing….

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88

his Henglichang Bulang tea has gotten some mention from other bloggers with widely varying opinions. Thanks to Apache, I had a chance to try a sample. Luckily, I had not read any other reviews prior to sitting down for my session – so the scribbles in my little notebook were from an unbiased mind – relatively speaking…read more of my thoughts below

http://www.twodogteablog.com/2012/12/18/1997-henglichang-bulang-puer-te/

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
Bonnie

I really like your blog!

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91

This tea was the sample I received from EOT with my mom’s purchase. I will be using 6 grams in 4oz of water.

Dry smell: The dry smell is nice. It has a sweetness to it but also a dark, deep aspect. It reminds me a lot of the dragonwell from teavivre. It smells very much like green tea.

Taste: Surprisingly, there is no bitterness from such a young sheng puerh. It doesn’t have the crispness of a young green but has a lot of the vegetal flavors. It is slightly darker than a green and has a smoky taste

Wet smell: Very vegetal, not nearly as sweet, like string beans

Qi: There is vey little qi present if any at all. So far the only tea I have tried that has a noticeable qi is the 2011 mansai so I don’t have much to compare to, but it does not have nearly the same feeling.

Mouthfeel: This tea is very smooth. It seems to glide all the way from first sip to the swallow. It leaves no dryness at all like some other teas do. It has some thickness but not nearly as much as the 2011 mansai. The aftertaste is very nice, sweet, and vegetal. It also lasts for much longer than any other tea I have tried.

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93

This was my first real experiment with pu erh where I know what it is (young sheng). I admit I am pu erh ignorant and have been hit or miss about them, so the odyssey continues. I don’t tend to find them offensive I just tend to find them lacking in flavor or having cardboard elements.
This tea came in nuggets, but they were excellent looking – whole long leaves pressed together rather than the little broken pieces I have seen before. It came apart fairly easily and smelled great. Almost musty in a way, but musty like a garden shed in mottled shade – something fresh and deep, yet green.

This is like nothing I have ever tasted before.

It is almost floral, as though I am mouthing a damp garden in the rain with earthy notes taking over. These dry and come to the front as leaves of an old book. This one is a really synesthetic experience for me.
Mmm. And it fades into a sweetness at the end… perhaps from some kind of bourbon candy or … no, it is like an amaretto, a deep smoky amaretto, mixed with a harder liquor. Don’t misunderstand, there is no bite, just a smokey sweet aftertaste.

I think I’m in love. A tea that is damp gardens and old books on a rainy day with a dash of an amber sweetness? I couldn’t ask for anything else.
Thank you, Amanda for including this in the box you sent!!

Preparation
Boiling 1 min, 0 sec

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63

No notes yet. Add one?

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec

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91

Thank you to TeaEqualsBliss for sending me this tea. It’s a goodie!

Sweet with notes of cocoa and dried fruit (raisin and date), and while it has a heartiness to it, it is pleasantly mild flavored. It doesn’t taste bitter or too strong. One of those teas I’d happily drink every day.

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87

This tea saved it for me. Well, not just this tea, but this tea and many other fine, traditional, lightly roasted oolongs that rescued my palate from the high-firing, heavy roasts that my body rejects. To be blunt: there is something about drinking liquid roast (such as from tea or coffee), that I simply have not yet learned to love. With the help of fellow tea chums, I’ve learned to taste, appreciate and respect the variances and wonders of more heavily roasted, aged oolongs, but I’m still a long way from truly enjoying or looking past that roast taste in my cup.

And for the above reason, I am so happy to have access to these lightly roasted wonders. There is so much that I like, or absolutely adore, about the 2011 XiPing Anxi Tie Guan Yin. Hopefully my favorite tea blogger over at The Half-Dipper has not just dismissed me as a “fascinating girl-man hybrid” :). The tea is a treat for the senses. There is no denying its delicacy, its lightness, and the fact that it doesn’t offer much of a challenge, but it is just so good! The dry leaf provides the scent of orchids, which open and fill the room after a very quick rinse. The taste is well balanced, a combination of floral notes, wild honey and nuts. Citrus and almost somewhat of a woodsy flavor begin to appear in later cups, keeping the tea grounded. The tastes dance and evolve as the silky delicacy of the tea fills the mouth. The qi is calming, the aftertaste cleansing, and the durability outstanding. I am always amazed at how much these leaves have to give. The traditional, organic production methods add another layer of comfort and peace of mind with each cup. Somehow, this light, green, young leaf provides so much of what I look for in a well-aged sheng puerh. I will definitely be returning to this again and again, especially during those warming days of late spring and summer, or any time I simply want to relax and get lost and charmed by an elegant tea. Very much recommended.

Preparation
180 °F / 82 °C 0 min, 15 sec

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59

Very delicate!! Too delicate for the price, though. I expect a Nan nuo to have more floral potency than this, and more astringency too!!

I would have given it a higher rating, but the price is too high for the quality. There are better Nan Nuo teas out there, imho :)

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 30 sec

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95

Exceptional tea. It’s so understated yet full of aroma and emotion. On the nose there is a lot of cinnamon, and other spices with a lovely caramel body. In the mouth some of that wet leaf and forest floor show up. Dusty minerals and ‘brown’ flavors linger on the finish. The best part though is how the finish lingers for minutes.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 45 sec

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80
drank 2011 Mansai by The Essence of Tea
4550 tasting notes

Thank you to TeaEqualsBliss for sending me some of this Puerh.

This has a smoky flavor to it which melds nicely with the earthy notes. Notes of wood, and a bitterness that contrasts with the sweetness… I don’t usually taste bitterness in a Puerh, and this isn’t a distasteful kind of bitterness, but a savory one which adds to the richness and complexity of the overall cup. As I continue to sip, the sweetness seems to increase as the bitterness becomes smoother.

Enjoyable.

Bonnie

Lucky you!

ScottTeaMan

I really like Puerh teas, and have never had one with any bitterness. I’ve recently decided that for me, a really good Puerh is tasty anytime! I have been reaching for other teas in the hotter weather. The Bana Denong Wild 2010 was really good!

LiberTEAS

With this tea, the bitterness starts out as a savory bitter taste, and evolves toward a more sour note. It’s actually quite interesting, how this tea develops.

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89

Thank you to TeaEqualsBliss for sending me some of this Tie Guan Yin. It’s lovely!

This is quite different from other Tie Guan Yin Oolongs that I’ve tried. The floral notes are prominent, with very little vegetal quality. There is a slight toasted, nutty flavor to this cup and this complements the honey-esque sweetness of the cup.

Pleasant, silky mouthfeel, and an overall pleasing cup of tea. Very spring-like!

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86

I really enjoyed this one. It probably has (for me) the best price/quality ratio from teas I’ve tried from EoT. Its energy is very good, the tea tastes nice and complex. I could not find any weakness. More notes at: http://jakubtomek.blogspot.com/2012/03/1980s-bamboo-wrapped-tuocha.html

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79

A fine aged tea, nicely priced. It has still remains of youth in it, a lot of strength. More notes at: http://jakubtomek.blogspot.com/2012/02/1997-hen-li-chang-bulang.html

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88

I steeped this tea over the course of two consecutive days. I started yesterday morning, but found myself running late to work, and needing to abandon the session much to my dismay. I actually found it hard to pull myself away from the tea, and admittedly, had a bit of a sulk while getting ready.

While there was a decidedly humid aroma and flavor with the initial steepings, it quickly dissipated by the third steeping. The tea at all points of the session was remarkably clean however, never muddy.

The liquor was thick and coating well into the latter part of the second day. It presented an exceptional level of vaporous camphor, vaguely reminiscent of a blue basil which I planted this past summer in my yard.

The sweetness of the broth grew in intensity throughout the two sessions until the leaves were thoroughly spent.

One of the last, and for some reason most memorable, notes I detected was musty rose.

The tea was incredibly calming. I remained in a languorous state for some time following the second session this morning. I think I could possibly still taste the broth if I coaxed my memory hard enough to recall it some 5 hours on…

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93

This is an excellent example of an aged pu-erh tea. The taste is very true to the description: complex, very smooth, and without a hint of astringency. The notes I find in the flavor are decaying leaves, wood, earth, dates and leather. Quite earthy in fact. The tea has a wonderfully rich amber-brown color even on the first steeping. The whole experience of drinking this tea is like walking through a deciduous forest after a heavy rainfall.

There is a lot of energy in this tea as my head seems to be in the clouds now after a couple of infusions.

Overall this is an excellent tea and a good place to start exploring aged pu-erhs.

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93

This tea is coursing through my veins at the moment which frankly may become an issue as I need to cycle to work in a bit. The coating in my mouth is generous, and appears to not have any immediate plans to dissipate. My temperature is elevated, my palms are sweaty, my head is… well, it’s really rather blissed out at the moment. I want to stay with this tea all day right now. My furry drinking companion is looking at me in the oddest fashion. She may be wondering why I look so oddly contented. :) Happy.

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93

I posted on this tea at greater length on the EoT website, but wanted to make mention of it here as well. Oolongs were my intro to the culture of teas some years ago and will always have a special place in my heart because of that, however of recent I noted that my desire for them had begun to wane in favor of red or puerh. This tea however, changed this dramatically. I once again find myself looking for oolongs to steep.

While the aroma and taste of this tea are exceptionally complex (notes of roasted sugar cane, wood, earth…), it really is the effect of the cha qi that lingers with you at considerable length. During my first session with this tea, it sunk deep into my chest before radiating out into my limbs. It was so beautifully calming that I struggle to remember another time in my life that mirrors it. A truly outstanding tea that deserves attention.

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