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Recent Tasting Notes
I bought three of these to see how the differed, and I never posted the review.
If ya care enough for a long read, go ahead!:
The balls are super tightly compressed, so I can’t get much aroma of this one. I think I smell dry wood or hay, with a dash of spice. I warmed up my gaiwan and plopped the pebble inside. The aroma opens up to vegetal, sage, and other herbaceous scents. I washed this twice and prepped for brewing. The taste is odd but sweet, heavy, and full. The aftertaste has a pepper kuwei bitterness. I described this one as “muted”, “overpowered”, or “blocked”. The taste was sweet with some tang, and it was very vegetal and peppery. However, the leaves give off an intense fruity scent. The taste was nothing to write home about. Honestly, I had trouble differentiating between the flavors. They didn’t meld well. On the other hand, the qi was incredibly heavy! It’s a definiete stoner tea; I actually almost passed out.
Same case as before, but I picked up some silky greens (?) from a sniff. I warmed the brewer up and popped this inside. The character was sweet with some smoke. The leaves are darker and have a mahogany aroma. I washed them twice and brewed away. The taste was bright and airy with bitter greens and a lot of sweet fruit. The astringency was present, but it wasn’t too overwhelming. A cooling sensation appeared and it was a nice feeling at the back of my throat, and it followed down to my chest. However, a direct lemon note appeared, and the brief citrus wiped clean all flavors. The brew went dull, and a overwhelming bad qi feeling took over. The feeling was crippling, and it hurt my stomach.
Same as Ball 1, except I got cooked greens as well. Again, warm pot place ball inside. The scent is sweet like an yiwu, but it also has a few flat tones. I swooshed the ball around and gave it another sniff, and I picked up an odd plain tone; it smelled off clean plastic. Another swoosh, and I picked up some dark honey, and bitter prune. Odd. I washed the ball twice and scorched away. The taste was bittersweet with a nice huigan. I could hint at some mouth dryning, but it was otherwise smooth. The taste reminded of lincang material. The brew becomes grassy and begetal bitter. The sweetness would be comparable to a green melon. The brew fades with an oak drying bitter. I didn’t hint at any qi with this one.
All and all, I didn’t care too much for these; however, they make good travel buddies.
Flavors: Bitter, Grass, Green Melons, Hay, Pepper, Stonefruits, Sweet
My first YS tea.
Somewhere between the hype, my cynicism and my tea snobbery, I have always been suspicious of Yunnan Sourcing. I have met many who rave about Scott and his site, but I could never bring myself to buy any of his teas. A recent tea friend found out I had never tried YS and quickly sent me over three teas. This is a live review of the first one I tired, Old Arbor Yi Wu 2016.
As part of my tea snobbiness I am very particular about the use of old arbor/old tree. To me you can not begin to suggest pu er tree is old till the tree is around 200 years. While I cant accurately pin point the exact age of a given tree, one look at the leaves of this tea suggest the tree was quite young. The main indicator of age that I look for when judging pu er tea is the meatiness of the stem. As a tree gets older the branches that the leaves sit on get more thicker. Older trees have fuller thicker branches, while younger trees have stems like twigs. Right off the bat I noticed small twigs in this tea suggesting a younger tea. The leaves other were bitsy and broken up a bit, leaf size was not that consistent in size and on the smaller side for a pu er.
I am taking this tasting a little more seriously so I am using the three cup method. The shape of you cup can greatly affect the flavor of the tea. A while cup will spread the flavor out in your mouth allowing you to taste complexity, while a taller cup will focus the tea more and will enhance the aroma. I am using both style of cups as well as an in the middle traditional three sip cup this way I can see the tea from multiple angels. I am brewing in a 100ml porcelain gaiwan.
The smell of the first steep wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It smelled pretty clean, no funkiness, but there was no strong characteristics to the tea either. A taste from the three sip cup matched the aroma, not distinctly bad, but I couldn’t pick up any strong flavor notes. To clarify when I say no strong notes, what i really mean is no confident notes. Of course a tea can and should have subtle flavors, but even though they are subtle they should be confident. A tea can have a subtle blueberry note, but it should be clear it is blueberry. Often times, as is the case with this tea, a tea doesn’t really have any characteristics; its just kinda there. When I tasted the tea in the wide rim cup I was able to pick up on notes of prunes and sour plumbs. The after taste of this tea is somewhat drying and unpleasant.
The second brew provided a little more character in the aroma. To me it smelled like orange peel aged shou pu. (Which can also be described as orange peels and earthy, not a good sign for a young pu er). The taste of the second brew was well…bad. The pu er began bitter, but not is a characteristically bitter, was as you would see in a Bu Lang Shan, instead it was the type of all over your mouth lingering bitter that is a flaw. In total honesty, when I took another sip of this tea in an inhaled to airrate it, the taste got so bad I stopped and spat it out. It tasted like manure.
The third steep lost its aroma a bit, which I didn’t really mind. The smell still held that orangeness, the the earthiness and turned into aroma that while I couldn’t quiet place remind me a an amaro liqueur. More bitterness on the palate. This time there was a small fruitiness on the finish and the bitterness seemed to be more centered in the front of my mouth. There was also a dampness to the tea which reminded me of being on a porch during a rainy day. The tea leaves my mouth dry.
I tried to have another steep but after taking a sip I just stopped. This to me is the final test. Even when I can’t objectively tell which tea is good or not I can always tell by if I finish it. If I finished the tea that means I enjoyed it and it was good. This tea I can not finish.
This tea is the same has what I simply call the bad pu er flavor. Orange, earthy, bitter and unpleasant. It displays no unique characteristics of its terroir and might as well be from anywhere in Yunnan. Needless to say I am unhappy with this tea and would not suggest it.
The final flavor notes for this tea are: Manure, Earth, Orange, Amaro, Bitter.
Flavors: Bitter, Earth, Orange
First installment of my taste tour through Yunnan. I picked some samples from Yunnan Sourcing that hit different areas throughout Yunnan just to note any characteristics that teas from one region had in common. I stuck with all YS productions and kept everything around the same price range, just to maintain a little consistency. Ages were 3-5 years old or so.
So, here we go:
Region 1/4: Western Xishuangbanna – Menghai county. Location 1/3: Ba Da mountain
Fairly interesting experience. Has a lot of herbal and green flavors, with some fragrant smokiness and a vague fruitiness to it (straight up Juicy Fruit gum flavor.) The thing I like most about it is that once the main puer flavors peter out, it sort of transforms into a green tea, with some vegetal and corn flavors, even a little roastiness. That went on for about two or three steeps.
YS suggests some pine needle flavors, and that is absolutely true. It is very pleasant and refreshing.
No bitterness and very little astringency. Not super long-lasting, but nice enough while it lasted. I really enjoyed the unique flavors it presented.
Dry leaf: EARTHY, SMOKY, SWEET (hay, pine needles, dill, parsley, mesquite smoke, some sandalwood, light sugar and honeysuckle notes). In preheated vessel – stronger smoke notes with syrupy sweetness.
Smell: SMOKY, HERBAL, SWEET (campfire, pungent green herb, zucchini, saccharine sweet)
Taste: WOODY, HERBAL, VEGETAL, SWEET, EARTHY (green woodiness, fresh dill and parsley, pine needle, sweet floral, zucchini, roasted corn, char. Aftertaste of saccharine sweetness, sweet minerality, hints of citrus.
Bought this one in a recent order. It is malty with a note I don’t like much. It’s not really a bad tea just not as good as the other Jin Jun Mei from Yunnan Sourcing.
I brewed this one time in a 16oz Teavana Glaass Perfect Tea Maker/Gravity Steeper with 3 tsp leaf and 200 degree water for 3 min.
I’m not one for Autumn tea, but I found this sample and decided to give it a go. The leaf is dark green and loosely compressed with very sweet scents of winter honey, apricot, and candy with soft floral snap dragon quality. I warmed up my gaiwan and placed a bit inside. The scent opens into roasted marshmallow, caramel, crème, and cool whip. This was such a treat. I washed the little dessert leaves and prepared for brewing. The taste is sweet and with a creamy thickness. A warm vanilla pops up along with some vegetal tones. The huigan is thick and dripping. The aftertaste is like honey nut cheerios. The second steeping brought a cooling sensation that lingered in the back of the throat. On an exhale I’m greeted with stonefruit and peaches. However, the brew suddenly becomes extremely bitter and “rusted”. The astringency grew tremendously, and it dominated the sweet silky tones. The dessert tones and mild floral qualities vanished, and they did not appear again. The qi was moderate with a nice prickling of the neck. The session ended with a decent head buzz and a confusing search for the succulent sweetness.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Cream, Grass, Oats, Peach, Smooth, Sugar, Sweet, Vanilla, Winter Honey
I dismissed this one a bit quickly after sampling it upon arrival where I got mostly wood notes and hints of what it may have once been. After letting it hang in the pumi for a month or two… I get it now.
The rinse is already a thick soup with a vibrancy that extends to the back of the throat. Lovely mouthfeel from the start.
I may have gotten the center of the cake, as the leaves are taking more than a few steeps to come apart which may have preserved these spring-like and high floral notes. Aromas reflect what’s in the cup. Spring meadows upon meadows of wild flowers and interesting complex wood notes all competing for my attention.
The first few steeps are highly floral(honeysuckle and other northern flowers) with a crisp, vegetal complexity that reminds me of dried radish greens and dried herbs. Nice complex sweet apple wood base. Depth is evident early on. Vibrancy and qi spread throughout the mouth and go down the throat into the solar plexus. Yep, I’m all plugged into this tea. This sensation is also something I picked up in the ’16 Han Gu Di, but the experience is more intense with the Da Si—probably the result of 3 years of settling into itself.
From steep 6 to 9 there’s still more to discover, as the compressed portions have yet to fully expand. It’s got a consistently thick body, but increased levels of qi and a complex sweetness (brown sugar, orchid nectar, and pungent honey) that lingers on the sides of the tongue as webs of crystalized sugar and moves straight towards the back of the throat. I’m relishing this huigan which compliments the waves of qi pulsating from my head as it floats to the ceiling.
These kinds of steeps keep on going past 10, 11, and 12. This is a nice one that all sheng pu heads should try. It’s far from my budget, but I would be most grateful if any magnanimous individuals would like to donate a sample. :)
Note: I moved the tea leaves from the gaiwan to the nixing teapot after steep 6. I suspect this is what brought out more those complex sweet notes and enhanced the mouthfeel. This is one of those mind-clarifying shengs.
I bought this a while back and am just getting around to drinking it. It is a nice ripe with little bitterness and a fair amount of fermentation flavor. I would say I noticed the earthy taste until the sixth steep. Wasn’t really paying attention to the specifics but it had a nice sweet taste.
I brewed this twelve times in a 150ml gaiwan with 10.9g 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, and 2 min. I could have gotten a couple more steeps out of the leaves.
Flavors: Earth, Sweet
Another unique and enjoyable tianjian from YS. The dried leaves are smallish and have a nice black cherry aroma and slight hint of pine wood charcoal. The tea soup is incredibly clear with a light yellow hue.
This one starts out like a black tea and gradually evolves into a sheng pu’er in later steeps without astringency or bitterness. It’s a bit more subtle in flavor than the other tianjians I’ve had. I picked up some fruity black tea, black cherry, stinging nettles, and pine resin. No noticeable smoky flavors here. This one has a nice granite/limestone mineral base that lasts throughout the session. The mouthfeel and textures are excellent here and get better with each steep, making it comparable to a nicer sheng pu’er. Good energy and longevity in these leaves too. I got over 10 full-flavored steeps and lost count.
I’ve noticed how tianjians evolve quite rapidly in almost every aspect, which is part of their charm. I’m glad I purchased 2 bags.
When I added this to my cart I doubted myself. I’ve never drunk black tea.
Well I can’t tell if I’m feeling the qi or just super excited about this tea’s smell and flavor. I love it when I just can’t wrap my head around a tea. I don’t understand how this can smell and taste soooo good. Scott is spot on with the sweet potato description but there’s a roasted sweetness behind it and oh my god the smell of the wet leaf has this tropical fruit/flower (maybe passion fruit ?) note that drives me crazy.
Wow, what an amazing tea. I think it’s got good qi too. I’m sitting here with sun on my feet, listening the birds tweet and need nothing more in life. I remember why I gravitated to this, the sweet potato description. I had read gaba tasted like that and I wanted to try that. Yep I’m relaxed. Off to buy more.
Flavors: Fruity, Roasted, Sweet Potatoes, Tropical
There’s something festive about this cake, so it seemed appropriate to submit a review now (December 2016). The spice, fruit, and sweet smokiness just remind me of over-the-top holiday seasonings and celebrations, a lot like the current microbrew holiday ales – rich, spicy, fruity, and awesome. It has a long-lived aftertaste that is warm, spicy, and fruity. What a great treat to sip in front of a fire.
I think it’s fair to say this tea is a bit over-the-top, but it absolutely works. It’s brimming with flavor and it delivers tastes I haven’t normally come across – Xiaguan smokiness comes close. Anyway, it’s a wonderful experience – and at 100g, it’s portioned and priced just right for those curious enough for a taste.
Dry leaf: SMOKE, SWEET, HERBAL (barbecue sauce, mesquite smoke, menthol, cilantro, Mexican hot chocolate, autumn leaves, dried cherries)
Smell: SMOKE, SWEET, SPICE (mesquite smoke, citrus, cherries, coriander, cilantro, spices – like exotic, don’t-really-know-the-name, pungent spices)
Taste: FRUIT, HERBAL, SPICE (orange peel, coriander, barbecue, mesquite smoke, menthol “coolness”, savory grassy-umami, cilantro, dried cherry, pine resin and pine needle, damp wood notes, peppercorn, and yummy hard-to-pin-down “exotic” spices)
This tea has the nicest appearance of about any tea I have ever seen. It consists of slightly flattened, closed to barely-opened buds that are all covered in shiny golden hairs. The smell of the dried leaves is fresh and has that typically dianhong-ish aromatic sweetness that reminds of sugarcane or even caramel. That same sweetness is present in the smell of the wet leaves.
The cup is very nicely golden-colored, with a smooth and balanced taste. The aforementioned sweetness is somewhat less bold and prominent as in some other dianhongs I have had, giving a somewhat subtler feel to this tea. Alongside of the sweetness there is some fruitiness, and I also taste something damp-foresty or mushroomy in there (not sure if I like that). The finish is slightly peppery and mineral. The sip is very smooth and has almost no (and certainly no unpleasant) astringency.
Flavors: Caramel, Creamy, Forest Floor, Malt, Round , Sugarcane
Summary: Inexpensive for age buy from YS, at great value. Starts with robust smokey hay and mushroom and finishes sweet grassy. Big body.
Prep: 5g, 60cc gaiwan, boiling. Rinse, 10s, increasing from there for about 12 steeps.
Sessions with this tea: 1.
Taste: Starts off with smokey hay, and salty mushroom in a rounded, robust-feeling flavor, with a lovely cool sweet dew aftertaste. Minimal minerality, mild bitterness and mild astringency. The savory flavor drops out and it turns into sweet grass after 6 steeps, remains cooling throughout. Previous reviewer mentioned melon, I could see that. Big hui gan.
Body: huge burst of bright concentrated energy in my neck and upper chest. Mouthfeel is “rounded” throughout. Salivated and continued feeling and tasting this tea for like 2 hours after I finished.
Flavors: Grass, Hay, Hot hay, Mushrooms
Summary: Inexpensive for age buy from YS. Starts bitter and finishes bland floral, with heavy mineral feel throughout.
Prep: 5g, 60cc gaiwan, boiling. Rinse, 10s, increasing from there for about 13 steeps.
Sessions with this tea: 3.
Taste: Starts off with old leather, mild bitterness, somewhat heavy mineral but more of a mouthfeel than a flavor. I don’t get any tobacco notes as previous reviews mention. Sweetens over time, but never becomes sweet, most of the bitterness drops out. Slightly hint of floral in later steeps, but ultimately it becomes almost bland.
Body: not pleasant drying sensation in the jaw, tingles back of the head, solid feeling in the chest, gives medium jittery energy. Mouthfeel is mineral throughout.
Flavors: Leather, Mineral
Just a great tea. The Spring was well reviewed and this is no different. Even the 5 sec rinse I drank had excellent mouth throat feel with some cooling. I’ve been doing like mr mopar and resting 10 minutes after the rinse…liking it, seems like the tea wakes up.
Flavor: Wow, fruity ! Apricot and raisins. Perfect hints of astringency and bitterness. It did get a bit too bitter when I pushed to 60 sec steep too early (4-5 steep). Good cooling and throat feel.
Qi: Relaxing and slightly energizing. Conscious of breathing.
A good cheap example of a slightly aged sheng. Reminded me quite a bit of W2T’s 2009 Yiwu.
Flavors: Apricot, Raisins
i have brewed this in a gaiwan and one of my sheng clay tea pots. i have to say, the storage is really present with a gaiwan (i actually throw off the first three rinses) but my clay tea pots seem to mellow out the tea nicely and gives it much more character. this is well priced for an aged tea.
This small cake has a good bit of compression, but I find that breaking chunks off works just fine and it opens up in the teapot quite readily. Prevalent pepper notes in the front give way to a fruity aftertaste. Unlike any other young sheng I have tried, likely won’t be for everyone. Am happy to finish up the cake, but at the same time I don’t know if I will be buying more.
Flavors: Fruity, Pepper
I am not one for shou puerh. I usually drink it in phases, so my palate is by no means accustomed to these teas. However, this was a very nice tea. The leaves are heavily compressed and crumbly. They carry a heavy earth scent with some cedar, mushrooms, and a very light fruitiness. I warmed my gaiwan up and placed the rock inside. I shook the pebble about and opened the lid to be created with some smoke and earthy spices. The classic damp wood tone was present, but it was in the background behind bell peppers. The brew is thick and dark with smooth clean notes. I like shu; because, it’s so warming. The drink is filled with sweet earthy mineral tones. A nice clean aftertaste coats the tongue. The drink is nice and relaxing. Later steeping brought on a sharp cherry tone and some root flavors. Oddly, I picked up on some herbaceous notes on the next steeping. The sweetness in the mouth is incredibly long lasting with molasses sweetness. The qi is heavy and warming with a nice massaging relaxation. I really liked this tea, and I thought it to be very good!
Flavors: Cedar, Cherry, Earth, Herbaceous, Mineral, Molasses, Mushrooms, Smoke, Smooth, Sweet
This is a funky and unusual tea with a complex array of enduring flavors; tart plum, mint, earthiness, dark coffee. There is a pungent sharpness to it and a slightly bitter backbone, as well as a smooth and reasonably thick body. The mouthfeel is highly dynamic and an absolute star here. Quite an experience altogether, and one that may require multiple sessions to fully appreciate.
Out of my last YS order this was definately the immediate stand out as I could smell it opening up the box. I smelled apricots, and I could not believe it was coming from this and not a sheng sample. I’ve brewed it gong fu style and was unimpressed. It did tease out that lovely fruity aroma, but I find most black teas more enjoyable western style.
I brewed this at work today in a travel infuser. The leaves were more tightly compressed than I thought and I ended up with half the infuser filled with leaf by the time everything unfurled. I steeped it multiple times over the day with the leaves staying in the infuser the entire time. After all that punishiment I could not be more pleased with this tea. It was strong, rich, and flavorful with just enough of a tannic flavor to keep it interesting, but it never got too dry or bitter. Lighter steeps have that lovely fruity aftertaste. Almost my entire YS order was devoted to tea I could abuse like this at work and this so far is the only thing that has far exceeded my expectations.
Now if only it came in 200g cakes.
Was really expecting to like this one since I love peaty smoke/Islay whiskies. But the smoke on this is more like smoked meat which to me is odd flavors for a tea. But just a personal preference that I don’t like that which is why I still gave it a 70
I like the fact that this has such a different flavor and smell because a lot of my young sheng has similar notes. Also, I find the wild purples just don’t agree with me. The energy/Qi feels chaotic and quite often they mildly turn my stomach. This isn’t a young sheng thing…don’t have this problem with any of those.
Flavors: Meat, Smoke
As others have noted, this is a nice counter point to YS’s lovely Da Qing Gu Shu. Beautiful leaf that smells nice but not as amazing and floral as the Da Qing. Wet leaf is really vegetal/skunky smelling (nobody else uses this word…perhaps tobacco is a better term)
Taste – This ones notes are more vegetal (brussel sprouts) although it is mostly noticeable in the first few steeps. It quickly shifts to the jasmine flowers followed by stone fruit aftertaste. The taste gets going super fast with 10-15 sec steeps. Astringency and bitterness are there but just the perfect amount.
Qi – Puts me in a great mood, good energy and relaxation. Just a good all rounder although nothing sticks out particularly and it’s not super strong Qi
Flavors: Floral, Jasmine, Stonefruits, Vegetal
For as long as I’ve been alive, I’ve hated black tea. Although I grew up in a family of chai drinkers where the kettle was always whistling and strong black tea with milk was served all day long, I was the odd one of the bunch that could never stomach the stuff. The smell and taste of it literally made me sick to my stomach and my aversion to it continued well into adulthood. So after spending over 3 decades assiduously avoiding black tea, my turning point came recently when I discovered this Yunnan black.
I picked this up with my Yunnan Sourcing order for my father who enjoys Golden Monkey tea but had been paying nearly 4x as much for it at Teavana. Out of curiousity I took a whiff of the tea leaves and was intrigued by the delicious malty smell, which was nothing like the black teas I’ve experiencd. So I set aside a small sample for myself.
The first time I brewed this tea it was too tannic and it reaffirmed all of my misgivings about black tea. I stashed it away for a future tea swap and forgot about it. A few months later as I was organizing my stash, I stumbled upon it and decided to give it another go.
This time I under leafed, using a scant teaspoon of leaves for 110ml of water off the boil, steeped for 3 minutes. First steep there was rich, yummy maltiness and chocolate. A moderate amount of tannins but not too off putting and they went away after the 1st steep. The second steep had strong notes of caramel, maple syrup, and some cocoa. The third infusion was sweeter with an astonishing brown sugar like flavor. The later steeps threw off even more brown sugar and left a maple-like sweetness in the throat.
I’m very impressed by this tea. It’s robust flavor, natural sweetness, and low bitterness make it a winner in my book. It’s quickly becoming a part of my regular tea rotation and marks the beginning of my adventure into the world of black tea.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Chocolate, Fruity, Malt, Maple