112 Tasting Notes


This Sheng Puerh certainly brews up to a beautiful golden color and one tasty cup of tea. But I get ahead of myself… you really should take a good inhalation of the dry leaves and smell the aromas of heaven and earth. Redwood forest, eucalyptus trees, and the smell of a distant campfire all come to mind. The first infusion brings out such a brilliant color, and definitely is assertive in it’s flavor. Smooth, bold, robust without being overwhelming.

Subsequent infusions are lighter in color and flavor but bring a new sweetness and aroma. A fascinating tea that leaves me wanting more to brew up. Too bad I only had a small sample bag to try!

200 °F / 93 °C 2 min, 0 sec

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This morning I forgo my beloved green teas, and ventured back to Yunnan for another round with one of my favorite teas from Rishi. Having brewed this up both western style, and in a gaiwan, I wanted to try this in my new little Chinese clay pot—gong fu style. Another success. This is proving to be one of the most adaptable (and forgiving) black teas that I can turn to when sitting quietly by myself, or sharing with friends. Nice bold amber color, heady aroma, and a lingering caramel aftertaste that complements the earthiness.

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I followed Den’s Tea’s instructions for brewing, even though a 30 second steep seemed short for this type of green, and they were absolutely on the nose. This is a wonderful Sencha, with a gorgeous light emerald color and nicely complex vegetal taste. There is a light taste of the ocean, and taste of the fields that makes for a very satisfying infusion. The second steep was just as nice, with a bit more taste of spinach. A really savory tea!

I also have to echo some of the comments from my fellow Steepsters (Steepsterites?) that Den’s service is really spectacular. My sincha teapot and teas were delivered extremely quickly, accompanied by a variety of reading materials about their teas, and a full catalog/price list of their offerings. Their packaging is top notch, assuring that your tea arrives in the best condition. I am looking forward to working my way through some of the samples they sent, as well as the Gyokuro Kin I purchased for a special occasion.

180 °F / 82 °C 0 min, 30 sec

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This is a really nice oolong from Taiwan, that creates a nice coppery infusion from the nicely aromatic leaves. Sweet, subtle and warming. The wet leaves have an amazing aroma, and can be steeped at least three times. A very good introduction to Taiwanese oolongs, that is very nice on it’s own or pairs up nicely with a variety of foods. I think I’ll go and make myself another cup!

195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec

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Everyday that I drink this tea, I like it more and more. It has such a nice full body, and beautiful balance of strength and delicacy. If you like really good Longjing (Dragon Well) tea or high quality Japanese Sencha, then you really should do yourself a favor and try this Laoshan Northern Green.

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This tea is amazing! I received this sample from Verdant Teas in with the rest of my order, and I have to say it is going on my shopping list. A beautiful roasted Tieguanyin that has a wonderful light aroma and nice lingering taste. It is highly addictive, and makes you keep coming back for more steepings. Truly one that you must try.

205 °F / 96 °C 2 min, 45 sec

if you like this one consider also ‘Strong Fire Oolong – Tieguanyin’ from the Tao of Tea…rich almost chocolate meets kombu flavors, dark knotted leaves, complex carob, caramel notes…

E Alexander Gerster

Thanks! I have not yet ordered from Tao of Tea, and this might give me a good excuse (as if I need one). Your description sounds fascinating. :)


send me an address and I could send you a sample of this


let me know if you want a sample of this I might have one…just send me an address

David Duckler

I am glad that you enjoy the 10-Year Aged Tieguanyin. The farmer who sold this to me was very proud to pull it out. He wanted me to notice how the creamy and floral notes of greener tieguanyin still come through, even with the aging and firing. So many of the samples I tried of the darker Tieguanyin felt burnt, they just tasted like caramel and brown sugar, which is a bit simple. Definitely be sure to steep this one out multiple times, as the flavor gets more rich in later infusions.

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This is one of those teas that has me mystified. I have read all the positive reviews, and I am a big fan of Yunnan Yabao tea, and yet this version tastes nothing like I had hoped. I have made three valiant efforts over the past week, doing multiple steepings at different temperatures, and all I get is tea water that tastes of old hay. :(
I’m not putting a numerical rating for now, since my experience was so different from everyone else — I thought I had a pretty good palate, but this leaves me with a big question mark…


white tea has a vibrant shelf life of about 6-8 months…and i would dare say if the tea is not a sheng pu-erh or a dan cong and is over 2 years old, I would expect it to be quite stale and flavorless and to have lost much of its complexity…my guess is your palate is fine…the tea is just…er….old

Jesse Örö

White tea is quite interesting. As far as I know, oxidation of whit tea is not fully stopped, as it is only sun dryed. So, theoretically it will oxidize with time, possibly changing, maybe even developing it’s flavour. But well, it is supposed to be drank fresh, and by your description I would think that aging white is not that good idea.

David Duckler

Yabao is a little different. In China it is actually aged, both loose and in bricks. The younger stuff tastes more similar to a white tea, though with more honey and less of the crisp vegetal notes. As it gets older, you get more and more spice out of it. I have a 15 year old brick of the stuff that has aged fantastically. I think it is treated more like sheng pu’er. As for the hay taste, I can see where you are coming from. I think it has developed a mustiness, but I like the way it pairs with the pine notes. This is the most intense Yabao I tried when picking one out. Most of what you get in America is much lighter. People are somewhat split with this tea. I do know a few people who dislike those notes you are getting and prefer an older brick version I have that is way sweeter and creamier. It is good to hear another perspective on it as I decide which one to bring in next. Thanks!

As for aging straight white tea: Definitely! My friends in China love to pull out their 20 year silver needle and white peony when I visit. Interesting stuff. My only concern is that it sometimes seems less rewarding than aging a more traditional sheng pu’er, since the changes are way more subtle.

I am working on finding some good white teas. I have tried over 50 samples from farmer friends, but I think I am closing in a source. When I do get it in, it will be absolutely fresh. I would be embarrassed to sell any tea that wasn’t supposed to be aged if it were more than a few months old. I buy before the picking and arrange 2 day air shipping to get the teas in the same week they are processed.

E Alexander Gerster

Thanks for your words on Yabao. It is interesting how we develop different likes and dislikes — which are based on a wide range of perceptions in our brain as well as the taste buds in our mouth. Even when I don’t “Like” a tea, I am generally glad to try it, because I learn something new! I tend to pick up on mustiness in teas (and wines, etc) that others don’t. Wish I could selectively turn it off. :)

David Duckler

I know what you mean. I always get at least 3 or 4 other people to come by for a tasting before picking out teas to bring in, because, like you said, so much of taste is based in the brain, and linked to memory. My favorite party game is to have everyone taste a tea and fill out a tasting chart, and then compare the radically different responses. (Super nerdy, but hey…) If you do end up ordering again, I will put a sample of another Yabao in the box that the people who disliked this one tended to like. Mysteries like this are what keep tea fun and interesting.


Wow! I am so sad to hear that this tea didn’t perform for you! I am also quite mystified, too. I wish I lived somewhere near Florida at all so I could come visit you and make this tea for you and find out what the difference was and what happened.

The only time this tea hasn’t been sweet, sparkling and delicious for me was when I brought some to work and experimented with putting it in a tea bag. The paper of the bag seemed to suck up too much of the flavor and replace it with it’s own paper-y aftertaste, and I realized later that I actually hadn’t put enough tea in the bags. This tea is really light, but really large in terms of individual bud size, which might lead some to just not use enough leaf. (First time I bought this tea, I asked for an ounce, and as the store measured it out, they just kept pouring, and pouring, and pouring……).

I even had this the other day iced, and it stood up to the tuna / risotto / roasted asparagus of my dinner meal. I filled a brew basket about 3/4 of the way with buds (maybe more) and put it in a tea pot that brews for two standard-sized coffee mugs. I filled the tea pot all the way with boiling (212 C) water, and then left it to go set the table and carry the food into the dining room. It probably steeped for five or six minutes. I then poured the tea out into two tall glasses that were about 3/4 full of ice (8 cubes). The cubes melted almost instantly, and then I added three more cubes to each to actually make the drink cold.
Even after all of that extra water melting in and the savory taste of the food, the tea was still the delicious thing I’ve loved so much! Extremely sweet in a sparkling way, very full and thick and unexpectedly floral.

Could you describe the three different ways you tried making this tea? I want to try a replicate it at home to see what I get out of the tea. As much detail as possible would be helpful, ie: how many grams of tea (or how much of a brew basket, etc), how big was the pot/gaiwan/etc, how hot was the water, how long did you steep, what kind of water did you use (tap, filtered, bottled, distilled, reverse osmosis)?

I will confidently back up what Verdant says about Yabao and aged white tea, and I’m sure there are many others around steepster who could do the same. I lived in China for about a year, and learned most of my Chinese spending my weekends at a tea market. There was one woman who specialized in selling white tea only, and she had several vintages of bricks of white tea that she was selling; about half of her shelves were full of beautiful bricks! Another good tea friend of mine had a stash of 1992 bai mu dan (white peony) that she pulled out for us to try on several different occasions: it still had that great texture of white tea, but the citrus-y notes of white peony had blossomed into something really full and juicy and intriguing and mouth-watering.
Yabao is really really fun, and it really does get more delicious over time. I would recommend it to anyone hands down as an easy to tea that doesn’t fail to impress.

Oh E.A.Gerster! I am so puzzled and sorry that this didn’t seem to perform for you like it never fails to do for me! If I’m ever headed over your way, or if you ever find yourself in Minnesota, I want to get together and make this tea for you (along with a bunch of others, of course! it’s always so fun to meet new tea friends).
Looking forward to hearing about the details about how your prepared this tea so I can experiment at home.

E Alexander Gerster

Spoonvonstup – Thanks for your post! I wish I was in the Minnesota area so I could share a cup, or two with you. :) I’ll send you a post with my various tries at this one, and maybe you will find out what I was doing wrong… Or that my taste buds need a serious tune-up. :)
Not many friends here in Miami that want to join me for tea. The one or two TeaGeeks that I know are pretty addicted to black teas, and are not too adventurous. More soon…

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This is one of those puerh teas that generally age well, if they are stored properly. When I first purchased my beeng (disc) of 2006 CNNP Yellow Label, I was surprised at the quality of the leaves (good mix of leaves and buds) and the pleasant, lightly smoky aroma. Be careful if purchasing through a local Asian market, as it does tend to absorb odors from around it, and you must give it a good sniff before purchasing. Better yet, purchase it from a tea vendor that has taken care to preserve and store it carefully.

As with most puerh’s of this type, the first infusion should only be for washing and awakening the leaves — trust me you will be sorry if you start out by sipping before the second infusion! I like the creamy earthiness that prevails, and multiple steepings can take amazing journeys through subtle woodiness, sometimes conjuring memories of a stroll through the forest, or of fresh sawed lumber.

This is not a terribly complex puerh, but if you value a good simple and interesting tea, often at a true bargain price, it may be one for you to try.

200 °F / 93 °C 1 min, 15 sec

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Rainy day in Miami. Hot and steamy outside, cool and comfortable inside. Time to brew up my sample of 2006 Artisan Revival Stone-Pressed Shang…

Beautiful leaves with a lovely aroma. First leaves I pull out are a bud and two leaves—open and full; a good sign. Gaiwan gets loaded up, leaves rinsed, then a three minute steep at about 200 degrees.

Clear golden amber liquor. Smooth, sweet, woodsy and a lingering earthiness. Hmm, and an extra aroma of what… flowers in a forest? This tea is good… seriously good. In fact, I turned off the TV to really focus on my second steep.

There is that aroma again. Alluring and sensual. Taste? Even better! Same smooth woodsy earthiness, with just a hint of dryness, like fresh hay. It looks as if I am going to write one of those over the top reviews… for a tea I just met. I would write more, but I think it is time to go back for a third steep. :)

200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec
Nathaniel Gruber

Yeah, it is a really, really amazing tea…and that is why it is the top ranked tea on Steepster!

A three minute steep time! That is something that I’ve never tried with this particular tea, and now that you’ve mentioned it I am going to have to try that out.

David Duckler

Nathaniel, you will have to let me know how your three minute steep goes. The Xingyang family workshop recommended 2 minutes, even in a small Gaiwan or Yixing for their pu’er, so why not this one? It is a good test of quality.

When I got this in, the woman who provides it in China told me that she took some liberties with my order. I had ordered an incredible stone-pressed brick, and was skeptical of any other, but when I tried this, I felt like I must have been in trouble, because it was too good. It took my wife to stop me from putting this on in private pu’er storage. I very glad that she did! More bricks of this one are on their way right now from southern Yunnan to exotic Minnesota where we are based.

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I have been drinking tea for most of my life, and enjoy learning about Tea Culture from all around the world. I learned early about Russian and British traditions first, since my parents came from Europe, followed by the teas and culture of Ceylon/Sri Lanka and India. Since I have been a practicing Buddhist for the better part of 25 years, I have strong ties to Asia, and have slowly been learning about the teas from each part of the world I encounter. It is a wonderful and interesting journey.


Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

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