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Recent Tasting Notes
From the Beginner’s Pu’erh TTB.
Had a gongfu session with a ceramic gaiwan. Gave the leaf a five second rinse, let it sit for five minutes, and then gave it another five second rinse. Steeping times: 5 seconds, 5, 5, 5, 5, 10, 25, 40, 80; 10 minutes. (whopper of a jump, right?)
Dry leaf aroma: leather, earth.
Heated bowl and wet leaf aromas: sweetness of cocoa. Holy cocoa!
The soup right off the bat is dark red in color and has a creamy texture. It takes the first several infusions for the sourness of fermentation to disappear completely. Traveling in the box may have helped some. There is an underlying sweetness that totally takes over at the fifth infusion, which is clear of fermentation and in appearance. Five to the end taste very much the same, of loam and leather and a bit of chocolate. The aftertaste is very sweet and tastes like Raisinettes.
This shou doesn’t taste or feel rich – it’s a milder one. One could drink this in the summer no problem (regardless of the fact that today was overcast and cooler summer day). Aptly named. I think this is off to a good start for aging. Good beginner shou, too.
Gongfoolery with my tea pet, Winona: https://www.instagram.com/p/BHNMeUbB9bC/
First Steep – 1 minute
The tea is red brown in colour and bares a sweet malt and wood scent.
In flavour the first few sips taste similar to it’s steeped scent, the malt is sweet but fresh and fairly light with some dry wood in the after taste. Despite the complex nature of the tea it’s smooth in this steep. Further sips reveal some soft smoke.
Second Steep – 2 minutes
More malt and more smoke in this steep, though on the whole it remains smooth and velvety. It’s a medium strength in this steep but even so it’s a light medium because it’s so smooth and easy to drink. Perhaps an increase in dryness which is moderate at this stage but even so the flavour makes up for it. Also because of the increase of strength the sweetness of it reminds me of brown sugar.
Third Steep – 3 minutes
Even softer than the first steep at this point, though the sweet malt still lingers to dance upon my tongue once more. I wish to say more about it but I’m struggling, there is no wood or smoke present, perhaps the last thing I can say is that the dryness has increased substantially.
Conclusion: It mentioned that this black tea was made using the Dianhong processing method and I can see many similarities between this tea cake and Dianhong in terms of flavour. Personally I am a lover of Dianhong and often keep it in stock so it was good news for me to have something like this that I can show some familiarity with. However, a Dianhong in cake form is a new one for me; though I have had it in tuo like buds before which I suppose is similar to a cake. Either way this tea was divine and I was upset to have finished it so quickly. I am not sure what this tea gained from being in cake form over loose leaf but it doesn’t really matter, the result is wonderful.
For pictures and more information please view my blog:
First Steep – 30 seconds
The colour is light yellow and bares a fresh sweet grass scent that is very soft.
Flavour is sweet and creamy though subtle with grass and floral tones. Very easy to drink and very fresh. A touch of dryness in the after taste but not much. Further sips bring out a little bitterness.
Second Steep – 45 seconds
An increase in everything, it’s sweet yet bitter but still creamy. Floral notes that resemble sweetpea are mixed with fresh grass and damp wood. I am surprised by how quickly this steep has thickened in flavour.
Quick break since I have become tea drunk already
Third Steep – 30 seconds
This steep is much better, stronger than the first but toned down from the second. It’s thick and sweet and creamy all in one and it dances around my mouth for along after taste. Bitter in the right places and slightly dry. Grass and sweetpea tones remain but the damp wood has toned down.
This one actually reminds me of an Oolong in this steep, I remember having a Japanese Oolong that was similar.
Fourth Steep – 60 secondsSome bitterness is present but the sweetness still thickens the tea soup and leads to a lingering aftertaste. Despite an increase in the bitterness it’s still fairly smooth and creamy, though not as much as the previous steeps. Also the dryness in the aftertaste has increased significantly.
Fifth Steep – 80 seconds
Another increase in bitterness, so much so it’s outshining some of the sweetness. I would say the bitterness even gives this a sort of musty clay like flavour at this point. The smoothness has gone and so has most of the cream.
Conclusion: I have changed my steeping parameters in terms of time than I usually would, purely because of the tea. I felt the second steep was too strong and it was changed at that point to attune with the tea to try and get the best elements from it. It’s a sort of trial and error situation that occurred, but in the end I believe I did it justice and it lived up to it’s curious and impressive nature.
This teas main attributes are it’s smoothness and freshness which made for a very pleasant drink. My only negative comment would be that I was hoping for a few more steeps before it reached this level of bitterness. However, for such a young tea it did surpass my expectations. I’m torn between ageing this tea further or finishing it this year. I suppose time will tell with that question.
For pictures and more information please view my blog.
Not so much a tea review (it will come shortly) but just a few notes.
I have been very busy recently thanks to a new job and trying to sort my life out in general. I only work 14 hours a week but then mix in my hobbies, my tea tasting and my etsy shop (as well as house cleaning) then my time is pretty busy at the moment. It’s for the best as I have a source of income purely for me now which will help with tea supplies and goods. I have already joined White2Tea club and spent £75ish on one Yunnan Sourcing order and one Crimson Lotus Tea order. My big one from YS arrived today so I have been using my Jade handle cha hai with built in strainer and blue glaze tea cups. Super happy with them.
Along with my new bits I tried this tea, and am still going through it, in fact I’m only on my third steep. The reason I stopped is because it’s been so long since I had a rest and a decent Sheng that I’ve gotten tea drunk! My head is whirling away and I’m sat rocking myself with a smile on my face while I watch some Japanese drama on Netflix. I really needed to relax today and I am happy to have been given that chance. Thank you tea drink Gods for helping me to relax, even if you are fucking up my writing a bit.
An afternoon tea session with one of my favorite type of teas, stuffed citrus. A super smooth and creamy mandarin delight. This is just good medicinal awesomeness. The puerh and mandarin create such a beautiful balance with each other and this is aged just nicely. As much as I loved the Red Star this is worlds apart. Lasted for almost a dozen nice infusions.
About 7.5 g of leaf/peel in a 8/1 ratio, 85ml Qing Shui Ni, boiling temps with a 15s opener and a 10s official first steep and counting in brief 5-10s climbs thereafter.
From the Beginner’s Pu’erh TTB.
Brewed with a ceramic gaiwan. Steeping times 2 x five, 5 x five, 8, 10, 10, 15, 18, 20, 30, 45; 1 min, 2, 4, 10.
The dry leaf on its own smells of tobacco, clove and fennel; resting in the heated gaiwan bowl, of fresh leather and red grapes. The wet leaf aroma evolves throughout the session. Beginning: grassy and muscatel. Middle: tobacco-y, smoky. End: very grape-like.
The soup color starts off as light orange but is deep yellow by the end. Thick texture; creamy at certain points. Cup 1 is very bitter, tasting of sour smoke. 2 through 7, unexpectedly, taste like smoked salmon. I need a bagel and cream cheese to go with this!
After this, there is a turning point: a grape note appears with menthol, replacing the salmon. Feels cooling in the mouth. The soup continues to become sweeter and fruitier. No more bitterness. At cup 16, the grape note is traded with apricot, and the menthol stays as an aftertaste.
This black was sent as part of the WHite2Tea tea club last month. It is a good black tea. The main note is malt with a nice semi sweet character to it. There was very little bitterness to this tea. To my knowledge this is not available on the website. Overall it was pretty good but not as good as some black teas I’ve had from Yunnan Sourcing lately. I steeped this one with Whole Foods 365 brand spring water. I normally use filtered water but have been experimenting more with spring water. In this case I don’t know if the spring water made a difference as I didn’t steep any steepings with Zero Water filtered water to compare. I stopped at one fill of my kettle or eight steepings. I figured I had had enough caffeine for one day.
I steeped this eight times in a 120ml gaiwan with 7.3g leaf and boiling water. I gave it a 10 second rinse. I steeped it for 5 sec, 5 sec, 7 sec, 10 sec, 15 sec, 20 sec, 25 sec, and 30 sec. The leaves were not done. I could have gotten a few more steepings out of them but I was done.
Not normally a fan of black teas to a great degree, but these W2T ones have been interesting so far. This one didn’t turn quite a beautifully red as the last one I tried, stayed a little more orangey-brown. Still tasted good. Interestingly, the dry leaf smelled kind of roasted/nutty to me. Wet leaf more malty than anything else. Tasted yams, some resinous, piney flavors. Not smokey at all to me. Lasted about as long as I’d expect a black tea to last. This is certainly the freshest black tea I’ve had – not sure exactly what it would be like if it rested longer. I don’t know how black tea develops in short term situations after production – or long term for that matter.
Flavors: Malt, Pine, Yams
Made the mistake of brewing the entire 20g at once in my ceramic tea pot. I’m still not half through it and I’ve already had to keep the leaves in the fridge overnight. Luckily it’s a super accessible shou and my SO who doesn’t really drink tea, let alone puerh, has started to ask for a cup or two.
It’s one of those shous that brew up nice and super black. Nice sweet creamy flavor with a really subdued earthiness instead of that strong “dirt” taste that usually throws off people who I’ve shared puerh with. It would be nicer if the melons were half the size since breaking them apart seems to me to be more work than if there was just a small cake, but otherwise this was a lovely drinker. I only wished I had waited until colder weather to try this.
From the May 16 W2T club
One of the lessons I was probably supposed to take away from school but clearly did not was to do your reading ahead of time. As I did not, I sit here rather too late at night with this hong cha that just won’t quit tempting me to infuse again, when more caffeine is the last thing I need. Should have heeded the other tasting notes regarding this tea’s unusual durability.
It’s like that old cliche – you made your tea, now you can’t lie down because of it.
Flavor notes omitted since TwoDog spoiled the answers already. Quasi-related aside, though – I’ve had yams that tasted (and definitely smelled) less like yams than Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong spring 2
The last from Dark Matter 2016 series
Well, before I jump into the tea, as of Sunday, I’ve a BA in Education; however, I must now go through more classes to become a certified History/English teacher. I went the long route, but I’ll be done within two semesters.
Now, the tea….
I’ve been drinking plenty of this. I took 7g of the melon and used a 150ml Gawain for the tea. I must say that the past couple days have been enjoyable with this tea. I must say that the wood, wet earth, thick mouth-feel (creamy?), moss, and cocoa notes are pleasant. I told my wife that this was similar to a thick dark beer; quite malty. Anyway, I would say that it’s a “Winter” tea, since I usually go for White, Green, Raw pu, or Oolongs in the Summer months. However, this is a typical morning tea for me….And considering that the price is right, when I’m able to purchase a large quantity in the Fall, I will.
Overall, it’s a solid tea. I’d just prefer to drink it often in the colder months.
Flavors: Cocoa, Creamy, Earth, Malt, Moss
I boiled up a session with this tea for my daughter and her boyfriend this last weekend, 5g tea, 500ml water, boiling in a small pot. I try to keep the boil low so that too much water does not boil away.
This session I boiled the leaf for 10 minutes (the soup was not red enough for me after 5) and poured off 250ml which I replaced with fresh water and reboiled. I repeated this several times, increasing the boiling time like 15, 20, 25 min. Even after the 4th boiling this tea was still making fairly dark soup but we had to knock it off by that point and I was not ashamed to discard the leaves.
Flavors: Smooth, Spices, Wood
First I have to say that I am rather miffed that W2T doesn’t sell this one, because man is it good! I could see it becoming a daily drinker for me for sure, but alas, no dice. These pretty little leaves are made from the Cai Cha varietal, which is pretty popular in Wuyi, used to make Jin Jun Mei, Lapsang Souchong, and Tan Yang Gongfu, so it gets around. The aroma of the dry tea is nom…om nom nom. Strong notes of chocolate, and you know, the info sheet wasn’t lying when it said cumin, and that is pretty awesome. There is also a creamy undertone and a slightly tangy dried fruit note as well.
Brewing it up, the aroma of the tea is immensely rich, heavy notes of chocolate and molasses with notes of saffron and malt. The aroma and taste remind me of a cake I make on occasion using chocolate, saffron, cumin, and lots of molasses…this cake is stupidly rich, especially when you count the saffron vanilla glaze. Seriously the similarity between this tea and my cake concoction are uncanny, I never need to go on the hunt for cheap saffron again if I just keep drinking this tea. You can get many steeps out of these tea, it has decent longevity.
This one is made from a wild varietal native to Wuyi, and of the teas from this set I have looked at so far it sports the largest leaves. Big ol curly things that certainly look like something from Wuyi! The aroma is GOOD, I spent the entire time my kettle was zombie-ing its way to life sniffing the leaves, and I picked up notes of honey and cocoa, yams and toasted oats, and a distant floral note reminiscent of magnolias of all things. I think this is the first red tea I have had that has that note, which is awesome.
Awww, the floral notes vanished upon steeping, but that is ok, because the taste is still really good. I am not sure it is some sort of psychosomatic thing, but wild trees always seem to taste…well…wild, more like nature and less like food. True there are the notes of yams and cocoa, but there are note of pine wood, mineral, mountain air, and in later steeps the gardenia notes gently return. It is like walking in the mountains and drinking water from a spring…if somehow that water was already tea. This was a wonderful session that lasted many steeps, drinking it made me feel like I was in another place, even if the effect was all in my brain, it was nice regardless.
Ah, good old ‘Lapsang Souchong’ as it is more commonly known in this part of the world, though this is a far distant from the usually coarse and smoky tea that gets brewed in a big ol’ pot on a cold day, this is refined and not at all smoky. This is also super fresh, it and the next tea were both processed a few weeks ago. The aroma of the leaves is yammy and yummy, notes of sweet potatoes and peanuts blend with a piney resinous note, like this tea was stored in a pine barrel.
Tasting the tea, it has a slight tannic quality at the start, not bitterness, just more dry than super smooth, it goes well with the malt, yam, and pine wood quality, giving this tea more briskness than the previous one. In the later steeps it gets sweeter, the pine notes become more like sap and the starchy yam notes definitely turn into straight up brown sugar sweet potatoes. This tea has some serious longevity, I was able to sit with it through many many steeps.
5 grams to ~90 ml with ~200 F water, +/- 5 degrees. A darker yellow gold liquor than the Spring and Autumn from the basics set, it appears to be slightly cloudier as well. Initial aroma smelled of honey sweet grass, although the taste had only a touch of sweet to it. The first steep was thin, almost, with a lingering sweet note I enjoyed.
Second steep may have been for too long as it definitely hit a bit hard with the bitter tobacco taste and astringency. Third steep was overwhelming tobacco, bitter, and astringency—my best succinct description of the taste of the later steeps is if you took tobacco, stuffed it into an old shoe for a day, lit the shoe on fire, waited a minute to rescue the contents and then were to brew the results into a flavor. I tried a couple more steeps just to see where this went from here, the answer was not very far. With short-ish steeps, the tobacco bitter becomes tolerable, but still a predominant note. A little more hay and light, but nothing I particularly enjoyed.
The aftertaste was a nice, smooth pu erh savory taste. So far, I’d say I preferred it over the Spring 2015, which I had a hard time noticing much else besides the raw/sour bitter and the tart astringency. The Autumn had some of that raw edge still as well, but definitely more mellow with some sweeter characteristics and grass hay tastes becoming stronger, although still not something I’d want to drink for pleasure. The Huangpian was less of an immediately enjoyable flavor to the others even, but is something heavier, with more depth and flavors that I am more curious about to see what the magic of time does to it.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Grass, Honey, Smoke, Tobacco
Amazing bitter dark, dark chocolate aroma. Taste does NOT taste like chocolate whatsoever, really, despite the aroma, :(. It has strong malt base, color is not as dark as I would have expected from the smell. Definite earthy bitterness (almost musty in the same way very dark chocolate starts to taste like musty dirt), but it doesn’t really increase across steeps and is very manageable, the taste was kind of similar in profile to mild/moderate strength coffee in a lot of ways in my opinion. Didn’t really get much cumin or cinnamon until the fifth steep (started catching a tingle of cinnamon or something on the tongue at that point). Held up a lot better to resteeping than the other two I tried so far.
I think what I’m starting to learn from this month’s White2Tea club is I don’t really like black/red tea very much, heh.
Flavors: Bitter, Earth, Malt, Musty
Second, back to back with Zheng Shan Xiao Zhong Spring 1 for comparison (shout out White2Tea club, :P!). Much more tempered, lighter malt aroma compared to the Spring1, hints of wood and mineral. A pretty, but confusing shade of red orange or orange red, it is less cloudy than the Spring1 as well.
Much smoother in taste than the Spring1 with a shockingly sweet back of the throat taste comparatively. Still malty, but more rich chocolate in tone with a mineral fullness (not getting any pine, really though, despite the description…), much more enjoyable than the Spring1. More noticeable astringency due to the taste, but not really that much overall. Slight hint of bitterness to the aftertaste, becoming stronger with increasing steeps again.
Flavors: Chocolate, Malt, Mineral, Sugar, Wood
Rich aroma with strong chocolate tones. Beautifully bright red orange color with a hint of opacity. Leaf is black and long, a little twisted. Flavorwise, strong and rich with a malty base and a hint of pine at the back. Earthy vegetal taste (yam?), surprisingly bitter and raw aftertaste to the back of the throat that gets stronger in later steeps, perhaps due to it being processed only about 3 weeks ago (kind of starts approaching the taste of dirt and 100% dark chocolate, honestly). Overall, quite bracing. Not a lot of astringency, but what’s there lingers in the wake of the bitterness with a bit of a cool tingle.
Lazy, so I’m putting my notes for Spring 2 here too:
Spring 2 was definitely the better of the two. The leaves were floral in aroma over the standard malt, which is a trend I’m starting to notice with some of the higher quality blacks. The liquor was a more orange, less red color than many black teas. Still had quite a bit of a raw, sour potato quality that the Spring 1 had, although less intense (I’m guessing this is due to how new these teas are at a few weeks, as it also exudes a rather exuberant energy despite/because of this). This may be more due to my having more practice at brewing blacks, though, at this point then the teas themselves…
Anyway, the yam flavor is definitely stronger and more prominent on this one. It stands out and perseveres throughout the steeps, although the malty, earthy cocoa-ish profile is here as well and most prominent in the beginning, giving way to that really distinct earthy sweet tuber-ish taste after a couple of steeps.
It was interesting and more pleasant to drink than Spring 1 with a lighter taste overall and better balance of flavors, I can see why it’s higher quality. I’ll have to try the Spring 1 again tomorrow just to make sure this is a fair assessment, though, haha.
Flavors: Chocolate, Earth, Malt, Pine, Potato
White2Tea mentions in their description that this is a great entry point for beginner ripe drinkers however it should also be stated that it’s pretty happening for us non beginners as well. This is the shu you want when it’s time to sit back and relax with a good sized pot and plenty of time on your hands maybe even a friend or two.
10g of dark chunk, 180ml zini, boiling temperature, one rinse which fell into my mouth and down my throat by accident, strange how those things happen. 10, 10, 15, 20…and up increments for endless amounts of creamy, earthy sweet, little medicinal tang, ripe infused comfort. Pretty gorgeous looking hues of molasses too. I keep saying I’m more of a sheng guy but these lovely little shu chunks keep crossing my puerh path. If they keep tasting this good and making me happy I can live with that.
Note: Another Dark Matter 2016 selection.