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Recent Tasting Notes
Wrapping up Western Xishuangbanna / Menghai county in my taste tour through Yunnan…
Region 1/4: Western Xishuangbanna – Menghai county. Location 3/3: Bu Lang mountains
OK – first, the tea:
WIth absolutely no proof and very little experience to guide this opinion, I think this tea will age well.
I’m drawing this conclusion based on a recent session that I had, which followed me eating a bowl of cereal. Normally I session tea well after I eat, but Bu Lang kept tying my stomach in knots. So, off to pantry I went to prep myself for battle.
My previous sessions yielded notes that had things like “PARSLEY” underlined several times. It was herbal – really, really pungent, dried parsley, herbal. It still is… But, my post-cereal session muted the effects of the parsley notes and instead highlighted the underlying sweetness and fragrant, sweet floral character of the tea.
So, following this kind of empirical evidence, I’m guessing that with age, the pungent herb character will die down, and what will follow is the sweetness I noticed. The pungency, I think, will work to its advantage with age. Lots of strength to build off of.
I wasn’t a huge fan of this tea at first, but now I’m scratching my head. This may be worth buying now and forgetting about for a few years. Could have something really special on your hands. Right now, though, the initial experience is sort of a nice parsley tisane…
OK – now, the region:
Based on this limited exposure, I noticed all three Western Xishuangbanna teas shared the parsley/dill herbal notes in some fashion. Also present in all three teas was a vague fruitiness that I can only describe as Juicy Fruit gum – sort of light peach, orange, berry, gummy sweetness.
I would also venture to say these really do need some age on them before you get a lot of decent flavors out of them – I’m talking at least 5-7 years. Pasha was the oldest of my group (5-6 yrs), and it was also the clear winner in terms of taste.
Anyway, interesting group. Really enjoyed Pasha, and after my Raisin Bran battled the parsley notes in Bu Lang and revealed some nice depth of flavor, I am certainly intrigued… For the price, probably worth an investment to age.
Dry leaf – pungent dill and parsley, light menthol. In preheated vessel – light smoke, fruity, saccharine sweetness
Smell – light ash, pungent green herb, petrichor (always wanted to use that word – rainy, wet, earthy, mineral)
Taste – dried parsley, tomato stalk, petrichor, pollen, white pepper. Aftertaste – light mineral sweetness, cardboard, light menthol, some hints of orange, peach, and berry. Some chestnut notes in later steepings.
No notes yet. Add one?
Flavors: Bitter, Butter, Cannabis, Flowers, Hops
I do believe my pu-erh seems to be holding up okay in my homemade storage (which is in a wood drawer with a small cup of water and florist foam). I hope to drink down a few of my samples this year. I reviewed this one about a couple years ago but it was reviewed under the 2013 version of this tea. It hasn’t changed a lot in that time. It is still smooth with no bitterness and a nice light apricot taste to it. It’s not very complex but it does hold up well under many steeps.
Heavily fired aromas of charcoal, scorched almonds and peat. Underneath the brawn, there is plummy fruit and vanilla. Intense and punchy. Salted plums, minerals, strong charred notes and roasted celery on the palate. very long finish. low astringency.
The charred elements really dominate
Knowing the nature of these balls, came into this session with no expectations. Poured boiling water from high above to rinse, let the leaves sit for awhile and then did one more short rinse. First steep was pretty weak in flavor, but once the ball opened up I got a nice balance of sweet and very, very light bitterness. Nothing super distinct, but still good! I have a couple more of these so I look forward to seeing how they differ.
Second thing I’m trying from the #shengolympiad2017. I spilled most of the first steep, which I’m quite upset about, because what I did get to have of it tasted really good. Sweet and fruity, with a floralness that develops over a couple of steeps. Smooth, thick mouthfeel that becomes more viscous and mouth-coating throughout the session. This is a good one, and only a year old, so I definitely look forward to trying the 2010.
Flavors: Floral, Fruity, Smooth, Sweet, Thick
2nd purple tea varietal that I’ve tried. I like it. Medium fullness in the mouth. Has slight green apple notes to start and then finishes with an Agave (‘malty honey’) aftertaste which lingers on for a while. It is slightly astringent and a bit sharp but no bitterness when steeped at 185 F for a few minutes. I will tweak this review a bit later, as I don’t feel like I have the full grip on it yet.
Flavors: Astringent, Green Apple, Honey, Malt
I received 3.5g of this tea in one of the random boxes I’ve received from Liquid Proust a while back. I decided to drink it today as it seemed like a tea which should be consumed while at least moderately fresh.
The aroma from the leaves was slightly citrus, with a sweet floral/hay backbone. It expressed some typical white tea flavors, including that sweet hay/straw note common to the type of tea. The texture was velvety and soft, with some cream and milk notes to the flavor adding to the mouthfeel. It also often had a slight peppery finish, which was enough to make this tea decently interesting. It’s not something I’m likely to buy more of, but one which I am glad to have tried!
Flavors: Floral, Hay, Milk, Pepper, Sweet
Counted over fourteen steeps this was an excellent tea. There was a lot of fermentation taste at first. This taste was a little unpleasant but not fishy. It was think and rich in the first six or eight infusions and I think you could say there were notes of bittersweet dark chocolate in there. This chocolate taste disappeared along with the fermentation taste and the bitterness around steep eight. Well really the fermentation was only strong through steep four or five. Another note replaced this bittersweet note, a sweet note you would call it. Not really fruity or dates flavor, more of a neutral sweet note. Still this was one good tea. It is definitely worth buying a sample of. I have not yet decided if it was worth buying the whole brick yet. When I have drank it four or five times I will decide this. But it was one of the very best young ripe teas I have tried. Now as to cha qi, Scott says it has some, but I didn’t really feel it. Maybe I will feel it before I finish my cup who knows.
I steeped this tea fourteen times in a 160ml silver teapot with 14.3g 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, 30 sec, 45 sec, 1 min, 1.5 min, 2 min, 2.5 min, and 3 minutes. Again I definitely recommend a sample of this but I have not yet decided if it was worth buying the whole brick. If I drink it again and it is still this good I will judge it to have been worth it.
Flavors: Dark Bittersweet, Earth, Sweet
I started drinking this and thought to myself: Dangit, another one of the $90 cakes that I really like.
Then I looked at YS’s website and saw this is $37/400g… WHAT? You want to talk about a steal, wait for YS production sale and buy a full cake. This stuff is getting viscous and it leaves a trail of sweetness which is different than its toddler aged raw puerh taste going in.
Daily drinking material for sure!!!
The tour of Yunnan continues…
Region 1/4: Western Xishuangbanna – Menghai county. Location 2/3: Pasha mountain
This is a very approachable and enjoyable young raw (although at this point, I guess it does have a few years already under its belt. Time flies!)
Great balance of sweet, fresh herbal, some fruit, and some savory notes. Lingering fruity, saccharine, and mineral sweetness in the aftertaste. I noticed some smoky and ash flavors when I brewed it up in a gaiwan, but in a yixing, sweet and fruity flavors were definitely highlighted.
Dry leaf: (SWEET, HERBAL, FRUIT) sugar sweet – sugar water, light herbal (bay leaf), crystallized honey, honeysuckle, hint of candied apple. With heat – fruity and syrupy – grape syrup
Smell: (HERBAL, FRAGRANT) wax, green stem, fragrant wood, bay leaf
Taste: (HERBAL, SPICE, SWEET, FRUIT) savory fresh green herb – thyme/bay leaf, light smoke and ash, white pepper, some honeysuckle sweetness. Taste is sweet from the get-go – syrupy, saccharine, herbal sweet. Some indistinct fruitiness again – Juicy Fruit, tropical fruit, candy chews. Aftertaste becomes saccharine sweet, honeysuckle, hints of grape and cherry syrup, some cereal heartiness and sweetness like oatmeal
(Spring 2016 version of this tea). I expected to come out loving this tea, as I have had other milk oolongs before and I have to say I that I don’t particularly care for this tea due to: inconsistency, bitterness, easily over-steeped, requires two tsps (for me). It’s very inconsistent in that even when I steep it the same way it doesn’t always taste the same. I found that I only liked it when I steeped it at 190 F (2 tsps) for two or three minutes. It gets a bitter aftertaste if it is over-steeped, and when under-steeped there is no flavor there. When I get it the way I want it it can be a very nice tasting tea with a good creamy ratio (marshmallow/creme brulee sugar flavor) and no bitterness….but it takes a lot of energy to get it to that point and then it’s only that way for one steep. I might try it at a different season but hesitant to waste money on it again.
Flavors: Bitter, Marshmallow, Milk
The version I’m reviewing is the Autumn 2016 version. Really excellent tea, tastes more expensive than what it’s being sold for. Primarily chocolate with malty undertones. Not super complex, but tastes amazing, and has a bold feel (for any beer drinkers) like a stout in tea form. The price + taste will make this a regular for me.
Flavors: Chocolate, Malt
Didn’t have any expectations going in- just thought it looked interesting and ordered a sample. It is a bit different; in a good way. Normally I don’t like teas that are too subtle, but this one I don’t mind. It looks like Franken-tea when you first open the package….and it’s difficult to maneuver into a glass as it comes off in rectangle chunks. However, the taste is far less frightening than it looks. At first sip you get the taste of ‘nothing’, but then it has a unique honey raspberry (pecan notes when steeped at 205F) aftertaste which lingers on the palate. Very smooth tea with no trace of bitterness even when steeped at a high temperature. I chose to leave it at 185F and that seemed to work out the best for me. Overall, I enjoyed this tea and will probably order a few more samples if they’re still around. Would be more likely to order a larger amount if they weren’t individually packaged. Those who enjoy sweet/subtle tea flavors, or have experience drinking tea, might really like this…wouldn’t recommend for anyone who is new to tea. This was my first time trying this tea type so I think this has encouraged me to try more golden flower fu bricks.
Flavors: Honey, Pecan, Raspberry
This is the first Shui Xian Wuyi I’ve had. I thought I would do this right by grabbing a sample that is claimed to be sourced from Jiulongke, a small patch of tea gardens within the Zheng Yan scenic area. I’m still learning about Wuyi teas, but I have had true cliff Wuyi oolong before and this one seems to share some their characteristics.
These are large black, intact leaves that are highly floral after the rinse. I can’t recall any Wuyi with such a strong floral aroma. The first few infusions are thiiiiiiiiiick, smooth, and powerful. Very nice qi and strong mouthfeel that forces me to recline as I slowly sip. All the typical Shui Xian notes of prominent umami-like florals, cannabis, roasted barley, and sweet minerals (reminiscent of MSG) that cover the entire mouth almost like toothpaste. This sweet mineral note and strong mouthfeel linger for a some time after drinking.
This one goes strong until steep 8 or so. While it’s already enjoyable now, waiting at least a year or more for the flavors and textures to develop would pay this tea the respect it deserves and heighten the drinking experience. I could see this resulting in a richer tea liquid with some sweeter fruit notes.
Another sip down. Down to 100 teas now. Enjoying the last of this moonlight tea this morning. Trying to wake up but even though I slept well last night. I am so tired. Just can’t keep my eyes open. Even passed up having my green tea to go for something with a little more caffeine but I don’t feel a thing yet.
This is a delicious tea. It’s got the deep sweet honey taste with a malt and a bit of hay. There is supposed to be hints of flowers and lychee fruit in this tea but I am not getting it. On my 3rd infusion. Maybe my taste buds haven’t woken up yet.
So this tea is listed under blacks in YS’s website. Scott writes that it’s a white processed like a black tea. However it’s pressed like a pu-erh tea. Does that make it a pu-erh and does it age?
Flavors: Hay, Honey, Malt
While I enjoyed this tea a good amount, I couldn’t help but think how much better it could be. All the traces of a fantastic puer were there, but a little dull. Not sure if this brick is suffering from its awkward teenage years, storage issues (seems slightly too dry in my experience), or being stuck in a plastic bag in the TTB+ for too long. This honestly was a tea I enjoyed and would drink again, but I feel like a well managed brick of the exact same material would go from the good/forgettable category to fantastic. Please someone, for the love of god spend the money and drop $70 on a 100g brick to confirm this as I’m willing to bet a well stored brother of this sample would be excellent. As far as my 5g sample, there was some astringency but not the kind of ass kicking I would expect from LBZ material. It is nearing that 10+ year age within Scott’s dryer-ish storage so that likely explains this. The wet leaves had a fairly unique fragrance I couldn’t name.
Again I think this is a great tea from hints I got, but I only had a 5g sample that unfortunately may have suffered from prolonged zip lock bag disease. I’d be interested to hear others thoughts on the tea from more recent tastings.
This poor sample has been languishing in my stash for many months, being part of the first sheng sample order I ever made. I don’t know why I didn’t get to it sooner, it just didn’t happen. Unfortunately, its reward for such a long wait was sorry indeed. The dry leaf smelled moderately promising, not having any smoke or real weirdness. Unfortunately, after a rinse, the leaf had a barnyard aroma which reminded me far too much of manure. I was only able to drink two or three steeps partially before I gave up. It was just making me a little bit queasy. The flavors weren’t too bad – some bitterness, a bit of an earthy sweetness, and a slight metallic feel.
It might have gotten better for me if I had kept going and tried a little bit longer, but I really had no desire to do so. Barnyard notes aren’t always bad to me, but this one was just way too far to the ehm…rear end…of that scale.
Just realized I’ve nearly finished my supply of this without posting any impressions.
Prepared in my Jian Shui gaiwan. Filtered Santa Monica municipal water just off the boil throughout – from gaiwan to glass cha hai to bone porcelain cup:
Twisted, wilted, very dark individual leaves with some rust/gold tips remind me of talons.
No wash, steeped around 10 times, slowly moving up from 10 seconds to a full minute by the final pour.
Marigold liquor that grows more auburn as you extend the steep time – almost like the tea is blushing, embarrassed for me for steeping it too long. The aroma of the dry and wet leaves is consistent, singular, and difficult to find a direct analogy for. Hints of cream, straw, and low earthy and floral aromatics round out the profile.
The flavor adds a mild biscuit malt character to the nose, along with chocolate, toasted pecans, and some (wine like?) minerality (wet stones) in the finish.
Smooth, pleasant mouth-feel with no perceptible astringency unless you let it steep for several minutes.
As described, this is a mellow but characterful black tea with some qualities of an oolong. A very good value, and quite pleasurable on a rainy/Winter day.
Sheng Olympiad 2017
I’m happy to be able to participate in the Sheng Olympiad this year. Last year, as I started involving myself in the tea community via Steepster, I have also learned about LP and his group buys. Fortunately, I was able to participate in this one, so I’m quite excited to get start digging into these samples. :)
This is the first tea from the Sheng Olympiad to be had. I must say that I’ve been considering whether or not to purchase a Hi-Tech ball from YS eventually; however, I was happy to see that LP had included it in the Sheng Olympiad.
Notes: The tea started out quite sweet, with notes of apricot, honey, and stone fruits. After a few steeps in, I had noticed that the tea had subtle astringent floral notes in the back of the throat. The flavor lingered for a bit, but it was the kind of this is good feeling.
Side note: My three-year-old nephew wanted to try some tea, but I think he mainly wanted to play with the tea pets. When I told him to tell me what he thought about the tea, he took a sip, said, “Mmmm. Another cup please.” So, I think even children can give this tea a thumbs up, so to speak.
It’s great having a good cup of tea with others; especially one with a child who is completely new to tea, and yet can start out drinking the good stuff. My sister believes that tea is an obscure thing, and that there is no such thing as “relationships built on tea;” however, with the simple cup that her son had shared with me, had proven that people can and do bond together over tea. There is such a wonderful place in this community, and I’m utterly grateful to have had the opportunity to grow in such a wonderful community, with great people to share tea, stories, and experiences with. And maybe as my nephew grows up, he can start sharing tea with me more often, and realize that there’s no better way to bond than over a cup—or perhaps playing with tea pets as normal tea people do. :)
Interesting tea! Described as a “bitter-fest” on yunnansourcing, I don’t say they are wrong. Bitter indeed, the same bitter compound that I taste in grapefruit. The tea is not fruity or citrus in any way, just had the same bitter chemical. Light steepings are required to keep this palatable. I let one go too long and it was intense. I have labeled up my package with a note to myself to let this one age a very long time.