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Recent Tasting Notes
Very easy to separate into a nice pile of unbroken leaf. Primarily whole long, healthy-looking leaves mixed with only a few pieces and stems. Pleasant aroma from the dry leaf. The wet leaves smell sweet – honey-like but a complex and full aroma. Clear, deep gold tea liquor. The scent of the liquor is surprisingly light – leather and tobacco with sweet and floral notes mixed in. Crisp, bright and clean flavor in the sip. Lighter at first but it intensifies in later infusions. A quiet sweetness with a complimentary spiciness. Full and powerful mouthfeel. Good texture throughout the first 5-6 infusions and then it fades. A pleasant bitterness builds which eventually becomes mouth drying. Nice aftertaste but it does not linger too long. Good Cha Qi and the tea left me with a welcomed calm energy. I only picked up a sample from YS because these cakes have been sold out for a long time. Even if the cake was still available, I doubt that I would purchase it for the tea lacks the complexity and durability I would expect of material from the Banzhang area.
I’ve had this ripe puerh cake sitting around for a while, so I figured I should get around to reviewing it before I finish it off. I purchased this puerh cake at Tea Trekker in Northampton, Massachusetts during my marathon seven hour drive from Syracuse, New York to Portland, Maine. I had just ordered three or four new cakes online, but I couldn’t pass up a well-reviewed, cheap shou. I was also kind of wrapped up in the novel experience of being able to buy puerh tea in a physical tea shop instead of just on the internet. I later found the same cake for a lot cheaper on Yunnan Sourcing, so perhaps the whole buying tea in a store thing is a bit overrated.
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This cake is from Yong Pin Hao Yi Wu Tea Factory, which I had never heard of before purchasing this cake. As you could probably guess, the factory is located in Yi Wu, Mengla County, Xishuangbanna Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China (phew!).
Xishuangbanna is all the way in the south of Yunnan Province, right up against the border with Laos and Myanmar/Burma. Yi Wu is in the northeastern part of Xishuangbanna.
I couldn’t find much interesting information about Yong Pin Hao online, but I did discover that Yong Pin Hao has been producing puerh tea since the early 2000’s, a relative newcomer to the Yunnan puerh scene. The cake is comprised of 2008 leaves, and was pressed in 2009.
I used about nine grams of leaves for this review. This puerh cake was lightly compressed and very easy to break into pieces. Like most shou puerhs, the leaves are predominately dark brown or black. Some of the leaves have some really neat golden hairs.
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The smell is a bit odd here. It’s not that this puerh smells bad, it’s just completely devoid of any aroma whatsoever. At least there is no yucky fishy/funky/bad puerh smell.
The back of the cake seemed to have a lot more of the gold colored leaves.
I broke out my shou puerh Yixing pot from Yingge, Taiwan for this session. I decided to be a bit minimalist and go without the tea table for this review. I was locked out of my dorm room, so I was left with nothing but my lovely tea towel from Yunnan Sourcing. Check out the Ancient Tea Horse Road design!
I started off with a ten second rinse to open up the leaves, and then moved to quick ten second steeps.
The first steep was a nice light brown with a red tint. The most noticeable aspect of this tea is the very light fermentation. This does not taste like most generic “budget” puerhs since it is much lighter in color and flavor. The camphor notes are also very strong and in your face, which I really enjoyed. Oddly enough, I’m not entirely sure what camphor is or why it is a common flavor note in puerh teas, but I have tasted enough puerhs that I can recognize it. The camphor flavor is really hard to describe, just like the muscatel note in Darjeeling teas.
The second steep tasted similar, but was a bit darker since the leaves opened up a bit more.
If you can imagine the typical shou puerh taste, but just lightened up a bit, then you have the general idea of how the tea tastes. This tea has a really nice thirst-quenching, “juicy” quality to it. Perhaps this is a result of the lighter fermentation. The mouthfeel is very smooth and thick, almost coffee-like, even with shorter steeping times.
This puerh is definitely more nuanced and subtle that most budget level shou puerhs out there.
The finished leaves were pretty generic, nothing too interesting. The leaves were quite varied, with some full sized leaves and some leaves that were tiny and broken up. Judging by the leaf appearance, this is not a super high quality puerh, but it certainly gets the job done when I am craving a ripe puerh.
This tea might not wow you with its complexity, but it is a solid “daily drinker” shou puerh. It is definitely a step above most of the $20-$30 shous I have tried. One reviewer on Yunnan Sourcing describes this tea as “the standard of affordable quality shu.” I would definitely agree with that statement. I’m not sure if I would buy this tea again, but I’m certainly happy that I purchased it.
I found the notable light fermentation of this tea to be quite pleasant and unique, and it certainly fulfills the shou puerh craving that I often get late at night. For some reason, ripe puerhs don’t seem to affect my sleep as much as other teas, even though they do contain a sizable amount of caffeine.
After looking through my reviews so far, I have also noticed that I seem to be much more picky with my sheng puerh tastes. Budget sheng puerhs can often be quite terrible, but cheaper shou puerhs seem to be more consistent across the board. Perhaps by shou puerh palate is not as refined. Luckily I have plenty more puerh cakes to work with!
~“I am in no way interested in immortality, but only in the taste of tea.” ― Lu T’ung (Chinese tea poet)
Guess what? I quit my job at the school yesterday! YEAH! I was really trying to hold out for the last 6 weeks of the school year, but yesterday I realized I was done. The constant disrespect & lack of interest from the students, the stress of all the noise, lack of sleep…It finally got to me, so I calmly packed my stuff up at the end of the day (I’ve already been packing things up, so there wasn’t much left anyway), and resigned. I’m so happy to be home, returning to my pajama lifestyle of students, gigs, gardening, food, & tea! Now I’ll have time to really enjoy my tea drinking & reviewing again too!
And here’s a tea I haven’t reviewed!
I have a ton of this in my cupboard, both from my own purchase of some, & from Sil sending me a baggy full. I guess I’m just going to have to say that although I adore most of the black teas from YS, this is probably among my least favorites, which is why I haven’t reviewed it before now. I just haven’t found the best way to steep it. I’ve tried several, & today I’m trying it gongfu: 5G + 4oz tiny teapot X 15/30/45/60 sec etc
The resulting tea is tart & tangy, kind of like under ripe apricot. There are also bready notes & herbaceous notes, & although it’s drinkable, it’s not really something that appeals to me this morning. I also have tea from Da Hu Sai Village 2013 that has been processed as a Sheng Puer, & I have a feeling that is a much better use of these leaves, although I haven’t tried that one yet. I think the tangy qualities will translate wonderfully.
Anyway, I’m going to keep trying this black version in a variety of ways, starting with turning the rest of what Sil sent me into a cold brew. Hopefully one day this week I’ll also try the Sheng to compare them :)
Addendum: SO it turns out that this makes an excellent cold brewed ice tea! Just thought you guys would like to know!
This isn’t like any tea I’ve ever tried. The brick is so dense it requires a chisel. For sure, this is not typical cultivated tea. The previous tasting note called this thing “Wild Child”. I don’t think I could’ve come up with a better name. I’m picking up deep forest flavors (something I love in sheng pu’er): pungent herbs, vegetal sweetness, pine, camphor, smoke, and pleasant tobacco notes (there is such a thing). I don’t detect any bitterness since I’m doing 5 second steeps. That said, DO NOT over brew this one. This one is full-bodied, interestingly textured, has a long aftertaste and strong cha qi, moving from the mouth down towards the gut and through the rest of the body after each sip. Given it’s potency and complexity, I’d say it would age nicely.
Still pretty new to Pu-erh.
I really enjoyed this tea. Gungfu style in a 80ml Gaiwan. Sweet boxed yellow cake aroma. Cornbread. Purple color liquor. Smooth and easy to put down many cups. I think I’m getting the feel for age on a Pu-erh with this one.
Flavors: Cake, Caramel, Smooth, Sweet
Just starting in the world of Pu-ehr so I don’t have the best vocabulary yet. This one is enjoyable overall.
Scent of wet wood from liquor. Aroma of sweet candy from lid. Cacao, smokey flavor, yet very smooth and not bitter at all. Sweet actually.
Brewed in my glass flask as close to Gung Fu style as I can get. Quick steeps.
Flavors: Cacao, Chocolate, Smoke
This is my second day with a Xi Kong from Yunnan Sourcing which I purchased due to an older tasting note found on Hobbes’ blog. I enjoy both Manzhuan and Yi Bang shengs (from Mengla County of Xishuangbanna) and Xi Kong is located between these two so I was quite confident about my interest in Xi Kong teas. Even though it is from an autumnal harvest, it is powerful and full of character. Beautiful whole dry leaves yield a fresh grass scent. The dark gold tea soup has a pungent aroma with hints of flowers and fruit. The sip has an enticing mix of fruity sweetness and malted wheat grain with the occasional hint of bitterness thrown in to catch you off guard. Solid endurance (11 infusions so far). I think this was a good purchase decision for I do love this tea.
Note: as suggested, I did increase my leaf amount by about a third since this is from an autumn harvest.
I needed a sheng this morning. Bad insomnia last night and only got 4 hours of sleep. So I found this one that I hadn’t even tried yet. I started drinking on the 4th infusion. I’m not worried about wasting tea. I have so much of it and pu-erh always tastes better to me anyway after 4 or 5 infusions.
This tea doesn’t taste like any sheng I’ve had. Wow, is it ever different. It brews up almost a dark golden colour. How do I describe the taste? It doesn’t have the sweetness or apricot notes I love in some shengs. It does have a faint sweetness but also coupled by a bitter edge. Definitely pine notes. That is the most prominent thing about this tea. Strong pine notes. I’m also picking up hay in the background.
I can’t decide if I like this tea or not. I definitely don’t hate it, I may add more to this note as I have a few more infusions. It’s giving me a good energy lift this morning.
I suppose this can be a polarizing tea, before looking it up I tried my sample to remove any biases price or otherwise related. I recognized xiang as smell didn’t make out the gu hua part until after. The smell was too muddled for me to get anyone thing out of it I would say complex but they all came at once and disappeared just as fast which made me think this was a blend. The sip was just as confusing I tasted a bunch of banna notes first it seemed like hekai sweetness then nanuo fruity/floral but ended with a sour strange taste that was off putting. Being puer I figured give it a chance maybe it will improve.
Long story short it didn’t as a tell tale sign (for me personally because I always feel wasteful and disrespectful to the producers if I don’t finish all the leaves have to give ) I dumped the session before hitting brew 6 or 7. Sure enough I looked it up it was a blend, also the name was in reference to osmanthus flower which I loathe anyhow so maybe I am not the best to judge this tea.
Not to be a snob but I am not partial to blends well to clarify leftover/scrapes blends which this maybe or maybe not be but the flavors/aroma were out of sync. instead of being layered. I do not underestimate the art or skill it takes to make a good puer blend, it’s far from your average english breakfast random hong cha tossed in willy nilly. Puer being so complex and multifaceted with endless variables. I mean no disrespect as I stated it must be near impossible to make a good blend for young sheng non-plantation tea.
Feels good to start running through my samples and find things I don’t like as my wallet is battered and it’s fresh tea season.
This tea is good. I is somewhat malty and has definite notes of cocoa or chocolate. It does not seem to have other additional notes but I only brewed this western style this morning, who knows what would come out in a gongfu session.
I brewed this once in a 16oz Teavana Glass Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper with 3 tsp leaf and 200 degree water for 3 min.
Flavors: Cocoa, Malt
The buds are a blend of green, cream, brown and pink tones with some downy hairs present which give them a high reflective shine. They smell soft yet earthy, floral and herbal with some sweetness.
Steeping Method: Gaiwan 100ml
The liquid is extremely light in colour with a gentle musty and earthy scent. Flavour is just as soft but has a sweet, floral yet earthy notes that are slightly damp. Also a hint of smoke.
Remains soft but with a slight increase in the earthy notes. Also the hint of smoke is more noticeable, though it remains fairly creamy and floral.
Less sweet and no smoke to speak of, but it is still earthy and floral. Reminds me of a mature Bai Mu Dan.
Extremely light and all that remains is the soft, floral aftertaste.
A very mild tea that was refreshing throughout. I do love the buds, the colour and shapes of them are wonderful to steep. Due to it’s severely mild nature I am not sure what to think of it exactly, it was nice, it was different, but would I want this often? I don’t think so. It may perhaps be too delicate for my palate.
What a great bargain from Yunnan Sourcing. I bought this knowing nothing about it, except that it is “gong tin” heavy, and I usually like a solid gong ting (meaning tribute grade, I think). Being only $14, I added this to a recent order. It is quite good. Dark but not musty, fairly smooth with some bitterness. Early steeps were sweet and jammy. I wish that had held on longer, it was a perfect example of sweet fruit in a ripe tea. Later steeps were still very good, with more subtle fruity notes. This tea has a very high quality to price ratio. Only available on the YS China site, though they have some not so costly shopping options these days.
A great deal right now on Yunnan Sourcing’s China website. I purchased 100 grams of this last month, along with a number of tea ware and puerh items that were on my wish list… Such wonderful natural flavor. I am a big fan of Autumn pickings, that are often more robust and filled with stimulating energy.
The hand processed needle like tea leaves unfurl gently and yield a cup of light amber/green tea that has a distinctive aroma not unlike some dragonwell (long jing) teas that I have enjoyed, but the flavor is more robust. Nutty, toasty and very pleasant. A real winner here for a bargain price.
Flavors: Almond, Chestnut, Roasted nuts, Sweet, warm grass
This tea has almost zero fermentation flavor. Its got a nice camphor wood flavor that improves as you resteep the tea. There is also another flavor that I did not like so much, sour in the early steeps then changing to something else. I don’t know how to describe this flavor I found undesirable. Overall this is not a bad tea, just not my favorite.
I steeped this ten times in a 120ml gaiwan with 10g leaf and boiling water. I steeped it for 5 sec, 5 sec, 7 sec, 10 sec, 15 sec, 20 sec, 25 sec, 30 sec, 45 sec, and 1 min. I think it would have gone five more steeps.
My sample is listed as 2011, but I’ll put the note here.. Still getting accustomed to sheng.. I had this after the 2008 Often tuo sample, so I was smart enough to change my steeping parameters for this one! Just a little bit of astringency in this with a dry mouthfeel, but a nice subtle sweetness building to a nice creamy texture at steep 7 or so.. Definitely a nice sheng, in my opinion :D
What is wrong with me? Why can different days have such different tea experiences?
I’ve drank this before and had moved it over to the “for work” pile – normally that pile is decent but not really that special teas.
I’m not sure what I did at home last time to make me think that, but at work today, using my normal Hodgepodge steeping, this was amazing. Over leafed, cooler water, fairly long steep times and this was hot really dark chocolate, with some burned sugar notes. Fantastic – too good to be drinking at work – now to see if I can recreate that at home. (interesting that others were saying stone fruit – what is wrong with me?)
The first thing I noticed about this was the fermentation flavor, it was thick with it. It was also sweet and relatively tasty. This is definitely a good puerh but needs some aging to mellow out. I put it through eight steeps and there was fermentation flavor even in the eighth steep.
I brewed this eight times in a 120ml gaiwan with 10g leaf and boiling water. I steeped it for 5 sec, 5 sec, 7 sec, 10 sec, 15 sec, 20 sec, 25 sec, and 30 sec.
ZSXZ is one of my favorite styles of black teas, and this is a really nice version of it. I drank the last of what I have at work today. It is just so good, so chocolaty, no rich, everything I like in a Fujian black tea.
Am I a little sad to see this one go – not really – I’m hoarding quite a bit of 2013 which, IMHO, was even better than 2014. I’m quite sure there will always be a version of this in my cupboard – here’s hoping for 2015.
Thanks to Marzipan for this cake!
I was confused when I posted this photo on Instagram, I thought it was a shou cake! https://instagram.com/p/01Bot9xh4F/
But no, it is a delicious black tea! I found the flowers to be present but not overwhelming. This is NOT an overly sweet tea. Good stuff and very different from anything I’ve tried before :)
This one just tastes like wood and tobacco for me. xD I don’t get the tobacco taste in most teas…it took me a few sips to really pick it out. Haha!
But yup. There it was.
Also, this one tastes a bit smokey, which is odd. Don’t think many others have tasted that!
Oh well. Thanks for the sample, Terri!
Flavors: Smoke, Tobacco, Wood