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Recent Tasting Notes
So I was going to take a stab at reviewing this tonight, in a measured and thoughtful way, but that sort of went out the window when for whatever reason, Steepster kind of shit the bed (at least for me) and I got all these wacky 404/dashboard? what dashboard?/these-are-not-the-droids-you’re -looking-for error messages. I know, I could have gotten a pen and paper and wrote down my thoughts, but that would have involved getting up and I was more interested in alternately staring at/smelling/drinking the tea. Which was, as others have said, completely weird. I could taste the roast, and sense the flowers yelling “help us help us” from the fire, and also there was buttered toast. What a long strange trip it’s been. Recommended? I don’t know. I don’t feel qualified to answer that question, even for myself. I should probably go to bed.
The last of the Basics set! I finally get to try an aged sheng. :) This cake has the darkest leaves so far, and the leaves (both dry and wet) have a musty aroma so you can definitely tell it’s aged. The tea brews up darker in colour than the others, more amber than yellow/gold. That musty note is definitely there – not the wet earth / forest floor impression that I get from shu puer, but something that reminds me more of old books, like the smell of a second hand bookstore. In early steeps, there are hints of that fresh zingy quality from the fresh sheng, but muted and smoothed out. It has a definite coating sensation in the mouth and throat, but that is also smoother and gentler than in the other cakes. It’s a bit warming in the stomach, and makes me feels relaxed. In later steeps, the bitterness and astringency ramps up, more similar to the younger teas, but the musty, aged quality is still there. There is a bit of sweetness or something in the aftertaste, but I don’t really get any fruitiness from this one at all. The back of my throat feels really coated, but my cheeks don’t feel all dried out from the astringency. I’m starting to get that mineral flavour that I remember from later steepings of the fresh sheng as well. Neat.
In conclusion, this “intro to puer” tasting set has been super interesting and lots of fun. I definitely recommend it for any puer beginners out there. :)
Flavors: Grass, Mineral, Musty, Sweet
Tea #3 in the basics set. This was definitely the most tightly-compressed of all the cakes. I don’t have a puer pick, so I’ve been using the probe from a digital meat thermometer, which worked reasonably well for the other ones but had real difficulty with this one. I’m not sure if it was due to my technique or the cake composition or both, but most of what I got off this one was little broken leaf fragments. Anyway, same as the others: 6g, boiling water, steeps of (very roughly) 5, 10, 15, 20, etc. seconds.
I found this one to be less aromatic than the Autumn one I tried yesterday, and the flavour was mostly a dried grass, freshly-cut hay sort of thing. In early steeps there was a fruitiness in the aftertaste, but that disappeared pretty quickly. In later steeps the bitterness and astringency came out more. This reminded me more of the Spring than the Autumn cake, but a bit less intense. I lost interest in it more quickly than I did the other two – maybe because the novelty factor of fresh sheng puer is wearing off, or maybe these older leaves are legitimately less interesting to drink.
Flavors: Bitter, Freshly Cut Grass, Hay
The Aged DHP was a lot smoother overall than the fresh. The dry leaves were long, dark, and spindly, and they smelled like wood, cigarettes, and roastedness. I also smelled a hint of something salty at the back of my nose, like soy sauce.
After a 5-second rinse with 90°C water, the smell of the leaves deepened into cigars and charred wood, but I didn’t get the burnt sugar/burnt pie crust sensation that I got from the Fresh DHP.
The first steep resulted in tea that was an ochre colour — much redder than the Fresh DHP. The fragrance was light, but sharper and woodier than the fresh stuff. Again, I couldn’t sense any burnt notes. This tea was definitely smoother, but there was a more alkaline aftertaste, especially on the backs and sides of my tongue.
What I find interesting is that White2Tea described this tea as “mineral.” I can see that, though I think what they consider “mineral” was what I was describing as flowers/sandalwood.
The Fresh DHP is made of black, gnarled nuggets of tea leaf. Dry, they smell of paper; there’s also a skunky sort of smell that reminds me of weed, unfortunately. I took about 3.8 grams of dry leaf and put them in a gaiwan. After rinsing them in 90°C water for 5 seconds, the smell deepened and the whole thing smelled fresh and wet with notes of graham cracker, blackened sugar, and burnt pie crust. The first steep was 10 seconds; the second, third, fourth, and fifth were 15, 20, 25, and 50 seconds respectively.
This didn’t taste as harsh as I was expecting. There was an orchid note there along with the note I’m learning to associate with roasted oolongs: green, wet, and sticky, like someone’s just cut into the heart of a plant and the wound is now welling with sap. There was a surprisingly soft aftertaste here like grass and orchids, along with that burnt sugar/pie crust note.
Man, this tea is weird. It looks like your typical dark roasted oolong — long, spindly twists of black leaf — and it even kind of smells like it too, with a sweet, strong smell of buckwheat and burnt sugar.
The first taste was of something extremely alkaline on my tongue, like I splashed some sort of industrial chemical on it. On the back and sides of my tongue the taste became more floral, like honeysuckle or lilies, with an aftertaste like rose or osmanthus. The colour of the tea was amber like beer.
Over subsequent steeps I felt that the texture and taste on my tongue was like that of fabric: cotton, denim, linen, thickness covering my tongue. The floral honeysuckle/lily flavour was also there — there was none of the juicy, grassy sweetness that the smell of this tea promised.
Then it hit me. Industrial chemicals? Flowers? Fabric?
It tasted like the tea embodiment of a dryer sheet.
You know, those little wisps of perfumed, polymerized fabric you put into the dryer with freshly washed clothes to make them soft and non-static-cling-y.
What the fuck? I’m mystified, but also kind of horribly fascinated.
Day #2 of my White 2 Tea Basics adventure, and I tried the 2014 Autumn. 6g in the gaiwan, 2 quick rinses, steeps of (very) roughly 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, etc… seconds. I was a bit surprised that it was actually quite different from the 2015 Spring. The early steeps were more aromatic and fruity, less zingy, and tasted quite strongly of stewed dried apricots. I was reading a review recently that mentioned an apricot flavour in a sheng puer and I remember thinking “apricot eh? I wonder if I would even be able to identify that… I haven’t had an apricot in ages”. The answer is apparently, hell yes. Anyway, I found this one to be a bit easier to drink, especially with boiling water, though it was also lovely at 90deg. Middle steeps lost the fruitiness and brought in some more bitterness and astringency, and in later steeps it faded into the same kind of smooth minerality – all this was quite similar to the Spring tea I tried yesterday. Whee! Looking forward to trying the Huang Pian tomorrow. :)
Flavors: Apricot, Bitter, Fruity, Mineral
This has to be the best cheap sheng I have ever had. $22 for 250g? That is a deal :)
Quite fantastic. Easily over 10 steeps and still enjoying the taste as it doesn’t dry my mouth out which I am thankful for.
Went on their site and was like: Yo man, get you some 1980’s authentic pu’erh and try to do it for under $300.
That didn’t happen so I thought: I should get some old bear.
But then I realized I spent over $200 on tea this month… so, dear bear, next month.
So my White 2 Tea order arrived in the mail literally hours before I had to leave for a 2 week vacation, so I unpacked the box (going “eeeee!!” a lot) and then left it all behind. I’m back now! So I’ve decided to start my puer education with the Basics Set, since that appears to be the whole point of it. :)
I also got the “standard ruyao gaiwan” with this order, and I really love it already. It’s easy to handle and so much less finger-burny than the glass gaiwan, lol. I always have a hard time figuring out the working volume of a gaiwan because (fairly obviously, I suppose) it depends a lot on how full you fill it with water. This one in particular is fairly wide and flared at the top, so small changes in water level can result in surprisingly large volume changes. So I stood at the sink with my gaiwan and a tablespoon, adding water a tbsp at a time and watching the level rise. I’m going to go with about 6 tbsp (3oz) even though it could probably fit 8 or 9 before actually overflowing. So, following the instructions that came with the set, 6g of tea, 2 rinses with boiling water, then steeps of 10, 10, 15 sec (I’m not fast enough to pull off a 5 sec steep yet).
I wasn’t expecting this to be particularly enjoyable (the description uses words like strong, aggressive, bitter, astringent) but I actually quite like it. The aroma of the wet leaves in the gaiwan is very fresh and bright. The liquor is pale to golden yellow, and the flavour is fresh, grassy, very “zingy”. I guess that zingy quality is the bitterness and astringency, but it’s not unpleasant, it’s just waking up the inside of my mouth in a big way. The mouthfeel has a coating, drying quality. I get hints of peach in the aftertaste, surprisingly long after taking a sip.
I tried a couple of slightly longer, cooler steeps (20sec at 90deg, 30sec at 82deg), and I think that mellowed it out a little bit, but this is still a very bold, in-your-face sort of tea-drinking experience. 5 steeps in and I’m starting to feel a bit overwhelmed by the bitterness, which feels like it is accumulating. This is so interesting. I think I’ll take a break and come back to it.
I took a break for something to eat and came back to it. I did several steeps at 90deg, which seemed like a better temperature than boiling. Then I did a few steeps without reheating the water in between, so the water was progressively cooler: 88, 85, 80deg – this mellowed it out considerably, and I started getting a lot of mineral, almost metallic flavours coming out. Then I tried staying at 80deg and adding 30sec at a time to the steeps. At this point it was starting to get lighter and less flavourful. So I went back to boiling water and tried a few longer steeps (3, 4, 5min). I think I’m pretty much done now – it’s quite mellow with just a bit of crisp minerality, and I’m losing interest. That was quite the adventure though. :)
Flavors: Bitter, Grass, Peach
Whoops, it’s been a while since I’ve logged anything. I’ve been rather busy as of late what with bumbling through the Real World with this job thing and bills and insurance and whatnot. When I found out I was eligible for a retirement investment plan thing I went full on into “I have no idea what I’m doing” mode for a good week or so until I (hopefully) figured out what to do with that.
Anyway, I think I’m slowly getting the hang of this…
In the meantime, I’ve mostly been sipping on some old favourites and didn’t get around to writing notes of new teas I’ve had as of late. Fortunately I still have some left for most of them so I can revisit and take notes when I can.
I rinsed this one once for 5 seconds and somewhat absentmindledly drank it by accident.
Now I’m on steep 2 or 3. Or maybe 4. I can’t remember which because my hands are on autopilot since my brain yells “MORE” every time it notices the cup is empty. It’s really starting to open up (in flavour and the ball unfurling) at this point though, which makes me think I’m on steep 4.
One orb that I forgot to weigh, 150 ml gaiwan that I tend to underfill. 5-10 second steeps.
Smooth and silky mouthfeel. There’s an edge of vegetal tartness/bitterness to it that complements the hint of floral sweetness and juciness I’m getting. The aftertaste (huigan? ugh I’ve forgotten a lot of terms as well) is quite prominent. Sweet sugarcane, I think? Man, I’ve got to work on identifying flavours better.
It’s been a while since I’ve been properly tea drunk but I think this can easily get me there. I’m feeling pretty tea buzzed right now. I’m feeling surprisingly alert and energetic (a little bouncy) yet calm at the moment.
It’s almost midnight so I don’t know if I’ll steep this to the end tonight or set it aside to dry and then work on it in the morning but there’s still a lot left in this tiny orb!
(Steep #x + 1 : so soothing. Aftertaste keeps getting sweeter and sweeter. I’m taking longer pauses between each sip to just enjoy the aftertaste. Also I’m surprisingly calm/content now considering I was feeling pretty down all day today. Tea is great.)
I’m taking a break from my Rediscovering Sheng Summer Tour to revisit my old friend the Black Dragon. Except this is a new kind of old friend, because this is my first Dancong. Got a sample of this from Oolong Owl. 5 grams into my gaiwan, 190 degrees, 30 second infusions up to a minute. Love it! Fruity and slightly toasty deliciousness with a lingering floral aftertaste. What fruit it is, I have no idea. Not at all Shhhy in flavor nor aroma. I just know I like it. Must try other Dancongs now.
OMG what is this oolong sorcery?!?!?! Clover Patch oolong?
This oolong has a potent aftertaste, probably the most potent tea so far. I think the entire block could smell my tea breath. It’s floral, fruity, citrus, buttery, linen, custard and wet leaf. Later infusions the aftertaste is stronger than the tea. I really enjoyed the tea, though I didn’t get many infusions. I would of sold my first born for more if it was more roasty and higher oxidized, but that’s just personal taste.
Full review on Oolong Owl. Review also has the other W2t club teas – Fresh and Aged Dahongpao http://oolongowl.com/august-white2tea-club-featuring-dahongpao-and-clover-patch-oolong-tea-review/
This tea was from the monthly White2tea club that Christina and I are sharing. They put some fresh Dahongpao in to try before and after having this one. It was for learning purposes only so I am leaving my review of both with this one.
The fresh dahongpao was really sharp and strong of roast. I couldn’t pick out too much about the actual tea because the roast was just so strong. I can see why this tea is normally not sold so fresh. The wet leaves had a strong aroma of roast too.
The aged dahongpao has really mellowed. There’s the roast, still there but not in your face so much. it still has a good strong roast but it is smoother. I had a few infusions of this trying to figure out why some people love this. I just couldn’t pick up other notes even though the roast had mellowed. I don’t know how to rate this tea. It just isn’t my own personal preference; but I enjoyed trying it out, and comparing the fresh with the aged.
This tea is from the White2Tea club that I’m sharing with Christina. I think this is my favourite out the the package.
I brewed gong fu and could really smell the floral notes before tasting. There was a mild roast and a good strong floral note. There’s a bit of buttery flavor underneath the light roast.
I loved it from the first sip!
Flavors: Butter, Floral, Roasted
Got a sample of this in a tea trade; I didn’t want to commit to a whole box but I’d been wanting to try it for awhile. I’ll be honest, it’s probably because it has the word “chocolate” in the name, which is silly really because there’s nothing chocolate about this tea except for maybe the appearance. The brew is really dark, thick, coffee-like. Early steeps are very strong (even at 5 seconds): musty, earth, sour, decayed wood. The mustiness fades in later steeps. Not much sweetness. I didn’t go more than 5 or 6 steeps into this, I didn’t have it in me. Considering I’ve been drinking a lot of Gyokuro lately, choosing this shou tonight was probably not the best idea I had today.
Thank you Boychik for this sample. This is a tasty and delicious black tea. There are notes of malt and sweet notes to it. I gongfud this through eight steeps but admit I was tired and probably missed the specific notes. For those who don’t like malt in black tea this has a very pleasant malt character, not at all overpowering. The maltiness slowly dissipated as I resteeped this. This tea would have essily gone twelve steeps I think but I was at my caffeine limit for the day.
I steeped this eight times in a 120ml gaiwan with boiling water and 7.2g leaf. I steeped it for 10 sec, 10 sec, 15 sec, 20 sec, 30 sec, 45 sec, 1 min, and 1.5 min.
Flavors: Malt, Sweet
I honestly can’t tell you what duck shit smells like…
But I’m pretty sure it doesn’t smell like this tea :)
The leaf smells kind of fruity, really, and although I can’t quite identify the fruit aroma, it kind of reminds me of juicy fruit gum (admittedly, I haven’t chewed juicy fruit since I was a kid, but that’s what came to mind.) It’s a sweet smell, and also somewhat floral.
Flavorwise, the tea itself is also sweet. I’ve been sitting here sipping it, and relaxing. I’ve been kind of lazy in my steeping notes lately, in part because I’m busy & although I’m drinking tea all day, and enjoying it, I’m not taking notes or anything, and when I’m finally at my computer I’m at a loss for what to say. Sometimes I just don’t feel like analyzing things either, I just want to enjoy a cup of tea without having to think about it too much.
So I’m several steepings in on this session. What to say?
It’s pleasant, sweet, & fruity, although I can’t quite name the fruit…not lychee, not peach, not grape, not citrus…WTF is it? I keep circling back to Juicy Fruit gum…
There’s also a gentle floral component, which I also can’t identify, but it adds a rich after sensation to the sinuses, and I have a nice thick Bassy mouth sensation.
Ensemble: harp & flowery woodwinds, probably a pentatonic scaled, joined by a low deep drone of didgeridoo, bass clarinet, bassoon.
GREEEEN SHROOOOOM! The wrapper is super cool! Breaking off pieces from a mushroom was a little difficult.
This young sheng is delicate with vegetal, peachy and amber notes. Moderate amount of dryness in the later steeps. I’m going to stash my shrooms away and see how they taste in a few months.
I tried it cold brewed as well and it was interesting as it was really thick creamy texture that was very nice!
Full review on Oolong Owl http://oolongowl.com/july-white2tea-club-with-2015-green-shroom-puer-tea-review/
I tried the shroom today. It was very interesting. After my first sipping, I thought it was very light and not very complex. I was sure I was going to be disappointed. But I really wanted another sip. And then another. I found it strangely addicting. It really grew on me. I think the addictive quality is a testament to the quality of the tea. The flavor got deeper and thicker, and it lasted a long while. It was bright and citrusy, with a perfect amount of bitterness. I enjoyed it very much.
Wow. Tea club treated us well this month. This mushroom is awesome in every way. It’s very drinkable now, with very little astringency unless over-steeped. Early steeps are fruity and sweet balanced well with a twinge of young tea astringency. The net effect is a sweet citrus fruit, like a sweet orange/grapefruit. Later steeps are creamy, sweeter, and still a little citrus-y. Reminds me of a dreamsicle. It’s great and I’m hoping there are more of these going up for sale soon because I’d love to hoard it.
Flavors: Citrus, Creamy, Grapefruit, Sweet
I had my first session with the ’shroom yesterday. I love the shape and the wrapper. I totally played Super Mario growing up. So fun!
I was eating apricots before I drank the first infusion, and the first sips of the tea totally made me salivate, making my mouth flood with juice. It was also a bit smoky. In the second steep, I noticed a spinach note that continued throughout my session. I’m not a huge fan of that note…as you probably have noticed I don’t drink much green tea, which tends to taste like spinach….but it didn’t bother me. There was a really nice thick, silky mouthfeel, especially in earlier infusions that kind of stole the show. I drank a lot of infusions. I totally thought I was going to stop until the next day, but after a break with some snacks, I returned to the tea to find it sweeten up nicely. I definitely felt a caffeine energy from this tea, but it didn’t kill my stomach, which is a plus! Overall, it’s a good tea, which is good, because I have 250g of it!