148 Tasting Notes


Dry – Sweet, Chocolaty, nutty, faint fruity-complexity
Wet – Chocolaty, creamy, honey, thick and a hidden fruitiness.
Liquor – Bright Golden/Mustard

Gong Fu in Yixing Gaiwan 5-6g/5oz

1st 1sec – Smooth, creamy and sweet up front. As it washes down, it has a more apparent creaminess with a deep chocolate note and honey sweetness with a woody/nutty background. The aftertaste is sweet, thick and chocolaty.

2nd 1sec – Smooth, creamy, sweet and tart with chocolaty notes up front. As it washes down, it is smooth and creamy with apparent chocolate notes and fruity complexity in the background. The aftertaste is sweet and tarty with chocolate notes.

3rd 2secs – Sweet, smooth, slightly tarty with chocolate notes up front. As it washes down it becomes creamy, chocolaty, with tarty fruit notes. The aftertaste is thick, sweet and chocolaty.

4th 4secs – Sweet, smooth, creamy and chocolaty with tart notes. As it washes down, it is creamy, chocolaty with tart fruity notes. The aftertaste is thick, creamy, chocolaty.

5th 7secs – Sweet, tarty and smooth up front. As it washes down, it is slightly cleaner but turns creamy and chocolaty with fruity tart notes. The aftertaste is sweet, tart-fruitiness and thickness.

6th 12secs – Sweet, smooth and tarty up front. As it washes down, it is smooth and creamy with mostly tarty fruitiness that feels almost wine-like. The aftertaste is thick but cleaner than previously with faint chocolate notes.

Final Notes – I loved this one, there are subtly and no so subtle differences between the standard grade and this Special Grade. This one has a deeper and more lasting chocolate note, while the standard version is a sweeter chocolate that fades faster. This one offers a higher complexity that is better balanced; the fruity-tarty notes are present the entire time becoming more apparent during the last steeps but never having a pungency or overpowering presence.


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Quick Note Thanks to Bonnie, again for sharing with me :)
Dry – Sweet, fruity.
Wet – Honey, fruity, apricot, citrusy/tart and just a hint of smoke.
Liquor – Bright Golden

Gong fu with Yixing Gaiwan 5g/6oz

1st – 15secs – Sweet, a muted honey taste and clean up front. As it washes down, it has more ‘fruity’ notes that feel smooth and pleasant but slowly gives a hint of bitterness. The aftertaste is sweet and clean.

2nd 30secs – Sweet honey but not muted, floral-fruity notes and hints of smoke up front. As it washes down, it has an apparent fruity taste with a raising bitterness that lingers for a bit before turning sweet in the aftertaste.

3rd 45secs – Floral-bitterness with slight honey sweetness up front. As it washes down, it is slightly vegetal but quickly turns bitter-sweet that lingers. The aftertaste is sweet with some lingering bittersweet floral notes.

4th 50secs – Floral bitterness, slight smokiness and some sweetness up front. As it washes down, it has fruity sweet note that turns bitter to bitter-sweet and lingers in the mouth. The aftertaste is sweet with bittersweet floral hints.

Final Notes I did six successful steeps with this one and I found it is really good. It sort of reminded me of Menghai Factory raws but with subtler nature. Made me wonder how an aged version of this tea would taste like. Really nice, specially for the age.

205 °F / 96 °C

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Quick Notes Thanks to Bonnie for sharing with me!
Dry – Hickory smoked salt rub, hints of orange and sweet.
Wet – Smoky and more citrusy, sweet and somewhat spicy.
Liquor – Light brown/caramel.

1st 3mins – Smoky, sweet with orange citrus hints up front. It goes down smoothly while retaining the citrus notes, it has a savory ‘back bone’ with the smoke that allows the rest of the other flavors to come up.

2nd 3 1/2mins – Smoky, sweet and tart orange up front. It is smooth and smoky with a full body, yet the citrus notes gives it a ‘juicy’ feel. At this point I can taste vanilla hints which I think most come from the jasmine since dried jasmine is subtly sweet but not perfumy at all.

3rd 4mins – Sweet, tart citrus with some smoke up front. The tea continues to be smooth while going down and has a more subtle smoke note, the orange is more present now and lingers a bit more in the mouth.

Final Notes
I loved this one! I usually avoid blends with tea, but this one is well done. (In case you are wondering why I usually avoid blends: it is because Herbals have completely different infusion times and sometimes temperatures from that of tea. Basically you end up having tea the first try, the second faded tea with some herbs and then over steeped tea with herbal tea.)

I liked this one. Thanks Bonnie!


I don’t think I’ve run into another mostly lapsang souchong mix like this one. glad you liked it.


Feels well balance, no overpowering from any element. It was nice. I though I would like it, and be once of those that you can drink every few weeks, but its more than attractive as an everyday one specially today! The windchill dropped the temps to 6-8f!!!


Yikes! It’s a good cold weather tea!


Yes it is! Thanks again. The weather is finally showing Winter traits. But at this point it was almost unexpected.

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Quick Notes From what I’ve gathered, ‘Golden Sail’ USED to be a great Puerh Brand. As the Guangdong Tea Import and Export Co. went to the what I call ‘the dark side’ of quantity over Quality production, this is no longer a ‘good’ Puerh Brand(opinions, you choose what you like). Apparently, 2006 and earlier are the last ‘good’ batch, sad to see Puerh go bad. To the tea.

Dry – Sweet, fruity, floral.
Wet – Honey, fruity,tobaccoy,smoky,bitter-floral.
Liquor – Deep Golden.

Gong Fu in Yixing Gaiwan – 6-7gm/4.5oz

1st 12secs – Smoky, savory floral notes with hints of tobacco and smoke up front. As it washes down the smoky and floral bitter notes turn sweeter but retain some of the tobacco notes. The aftertaste is sweet with tobacco hints.

2nd 12 secs – Tobacco, smoky, floral-bitterness that turn sweeter as it goes down; but once again, retaining the the tobacco notes while the smokiness subsides. The aftertaste is slightly sweet, tobbacoy and bitter that slowly becomes sweeter and refreshing over time.

3rd 10secs – Tobacco, smoke, floral-bitterness up front. As it washes down, it retains its tobacco and floral-bitter notes but slowly becomes sweeter (hinting honey) with floral notes and refreshing. The aftertaste is tobaccoy and bittersweet that slowly turns sweeter.

4th 10secs – Strong tobacco notes, smoky, floral-bitterness up front. As it goes down, it retains the tobacco notes but slowly becomes sweet and floral. The after taste is bitter-sweet floral with tobaccoy notes, it slowly becomes sweeter and refreshing, as well as lasting in the mouth and throat.

5th 12secs – Strong Tobacco notes, smoky, floral-bitterness up front. As it washes down, it is tobaccoy, floral-bittersweet that turns sweeter while maintaining its tobacco notes. The aftertaste is bittersweet, slightly floral with tobacco notes; as time goes by it becomes sweeter and refreshing, very lasting in the mouth.

Final Notes
I was able to do nine good steeps this way with very similar notes, the ninth being a bit ‘cleaner’ but still had some bitter-to-sweet changes. I did another session (a while ago) with shorter steeps and less leaf 3-4gm, it works amazingly if you like to have some hints of tobacco/bitterness with out it being in the front and body (mostly sweet).

I liked it this way better, It has a strong mouth feel that is not unpleasant and it slowly and somehow ‘cumulatively’ gets sweeter in the aftertaste.


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Extra Notes – I’ve been trying to log this one for a while. Steepster wouldn’t let me add it for some reason and the picture (using the website’s) doesn’t seem to load either, I had to change the name in order to get it here in the site is ‘2009 Feng Qing…’

About the Tea
I won’t make extensive notes about this one. I’ll just say this is my extremely cheap to-go Puerh. Scott described it as having stronger chocolate notes, but the sample Amy Oh sent me from Mandala is way more chocolaty than this one. However, this tea is amazing, especially for the price. It has some roasty note to it that gives it the (chocolate hint). But to me, this tastes a lot like dates/raisins. Its fruitier and aromatic, like a dried fruit. I have it in a ceramic pot that with lid designed to let it ‘breath’ the scent is more concentrated there but in a good way.

This tea does NOT compare to more expensive Ripes but deserves a really high rating because for the price you are getting something nicer that you’d expect. I drink it at work at every chance.


very nice review.I like that you put it in context of why you rated it as you have.


I felt like I had to. I love this one. I feel that for the price range its amazing. Sometimes it’s hard to convey that just with the score, also a bit unfair because I don’t want ratings to be based on price ranges only :P


It’s strange, I don’t taste chocolate or fruit in this, to me it has a very strong and sweet molasses sort of flavor/aroma. It’s funny how different people can interpret tastes so differently even though I’m sure we’re describing the same thing. And I agree, while it’s not a high grade tea, it is an absolute steal.


Its not strange at all. We each recognize/relate tastes profiles to whatever is the closest match in our memory. And I would agree with you Molasses is a good description, the fruit I was talking about is a dried fruit that tend to have that molasses like taste. If I were to give it another shot I would say dried Persimmon.

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Dry – Honey, Chocolate, Walnuts, Orchid/Plum
Wet – Chocolate, Honey, Orchid, slightly nutty.
Liquor – Reddish Gold / Bronze

Gong Fu Style in Yixing Gaiwan — 5g/4.5oz

1st 2secs – Thick and creamy up front with plum/orchid taste that is immediately overtaken by chocolate taste with honey sweetness and walnut notes. There’s a refreshing ‘juicy’ hint of plum and honey that turns chocolaty at the end.

2nd 2secs – Strong chocolate taste, honey with very present plum/orchid notes. As it washes down, the creamy chocolate notes become more apparent with nutty hits that resemble walnut and lasts in the mouth. The aftertaste is joint of slight chocolaty notes and apparent plum/orchid notes.

3rd 3secs – Chocolate, creamy, honey and plum/orchid notes up front. As it washes down, it is creamy with nuttiness but then turns juicier with plum/orchid notes. The aftertaste is sweet, creamy but has orchid/plum notes that linger.

4th 6secs – Chocolate, plummy/orchid notes and honey up front. As it washes down, it is slightly creamy with chocolaty-nutty notes, but slightly juicier with the plum/orchid notes. The aftertaste is creamy, but has strong/dominant plum/orchid notes that linger.

5th 10secs – Chocolate, creamy, honey and plum/orchid up front. As it washes down, it is slightly creamy with honey and chocolate notes that turn juicy again. The aftertaste is sweet, chocolaty and plummy.

6th 20secs -Honey, slight chocolate notes and plum/orchid notes up front. As it washes down, it is smooth chocolaty and then juicy with the plummy/orchid notes. The aftertaste is sweet, faded chocolate and plummy/orchid.

Final Notes
I did eight good steeps this way. When preparing it western cup style I prefer to do three steeps: 45secs, 1min 20secs and 2mins. I loved this tea, the Walnut/nuttiness of the dry leaf is amazing. I love chocolate and walnuts together so I love the smell.

It isn’t as chocolaty as expected but still very good. I went with ‘walnut’ because it reminds me of scent when I crack the shell and the the ‘prize’ out. I wanted to try it as a base for a blend, :/ didn’t work out as expected. Great tea on its own anyway!


This sounds fantastic!


It is! I had been ‘eying’ this one for a while, but never really went for it. I’m glad I did, it isn’t as chocolaty as I expected but the combined nuttiness more than makes up for it.

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Dry Leaf – Creamy, sweet, earthy.
Wet Leaf – Thick, creamy, bitter-chocolate, dates/raisins.
Liquor – Dark Bronze to coffee bronze (looks black).

Gong Fu in 4oz Yixing Gaiwan / 6-7g * 8 seconds wash

1st 20secs – Creamy, slightly sweet, earthy, bitter-chocolate and slightly leathery up front. As it washes down it is thick, earthy and creamy with stronger bitter-chocolate and leather notes. The aftertaste is creamy, sweet and refreshing.

2nd 8secs – (cake piece opened) Creamy, bitter-chocolate, earthy (slight leathery notes) and light sweetness. As it washes down it is thick, earthy with stronger leather notes and bitter-chocolate notes. The aftertaste is, earthy creamy and sweet.

3rd 7secs – Thick, earthy/leathery, bitter-chocolate and smooth up front. As it washes down the bitter-chocolate notes become more apparent as do the leathery ones. The aftertaste is thick, slightly earthy with bitter-chocolate notes and sweetness.

4th 7secs – Thick, earthy/leathery, bitter-chocolate notes, creamy and slightly sweet up front. As it washes down the bitterness is more apparent and last through the aftertaste. The aftertaste is is thick, leathery and sweet.

INTERMISSION All the steeps from the second to the seventh are incredibly strong and dark even though the times were kept under 11 seconds. The liquor resembled dark coffee until this point. Later steeps where a dark brown hue.

8th 20secs – Creamy, slightly leathery, chocolate notes and sweet up front. Washing down it is a bit ‘cleaner’ by comparison, the bitter-notes are bit ‘fruitier’ but still slightly resemble chocolate and have a slight leathery hint. The aftertaste starts slightly earthy and thick and turns sweet.

Final Notes
This is not my favorite brick. I like ‘cleaner’ tasting ripes, this still have some earthy that I usually find in some slightly younger ripes. If you love THICK, almost smoky tasting ripes this is for you. After the cake opens up the liquor resembles coffee and it has a strong mouth feel. What I did like about it is the aftertaste. Even though the steep is mostly bitter-sweet the aftertaste slowly becomes sweeter but once it turns sweet it is really apparent.


sounds delightful


It is. Usually ripes become ‘spent’ faster. This one held up well. Not my favorite but the aftertaste is lasting and sweet. Good ‘Cha Qi’ or mouth feel upfront.


You have interesting steeping rules. I’m more of a pioneer woman, puerh lunatic. I stab at my leaves, steep longer (20-30 seconds for most shu) and at 5 steeps I sometimes combine two steeps together.


Those sound like traditional steeps. Which I love for the Tibetan Brick, CNNP 2003 from Lincang and others. But I don’t like it on Shou that has smoky/bitter notes (it resembles coffee in taste) which I’m not crazy about. I might as well drink coffee for that.

I guess the difference is the liquor, the ‘cleaner’ ones (burgundy to brown but you can still see inside a glass pitcher) vs the ones that have more ‘dust’ in it and the liquor is murky?

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Not a Tasting note
I was drinking the last of my sample piece and comparing to other ripes I’ve had. This one deserves a better score. I already miss it. A really complex and juicy ripe.

The scent is nice, sweet and complex. The liquor is a beautiful Bright Burgundy color. The whole thing is a pleasure to steep and then drink. If only I could afford several cakes!

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Quick Notes This is a double Session review. Two for one!

Dry – Sweet
Wet – Sweet, Creamy, Malty, Bitter with chocolate notes, slightly citrusy and/or juicy.
Liquor – Brown-Bronze

Gong Fu in 5oz Yixing Gaiwan – 5g (loosen tea result of initial prying the cake)

1st 5sec – Creamy, slightly sweet and earthy with apparent bitterness that hints of chocolate. As it washes down it is brothy and thick with chocolate-like bitterness. The aftertaste is creamy and bittersweet that lingers in the back of the throat.

2nd 3secs – Creamy, bittersweet chocolate notes upfront. As it washes down it is thick and creamy with some sweetness that turns savory almost brothy with bitter chocolate notes. The aftertaste is sweet, thick, creamy, slightly savory and refreshing.

3rd 5secs – Thick, creamy, bittersweet with chocholate notes up front. As it washes down, the bitterness notes become more apparent and savory/brothy. The aftertaste is thick, bittersweet with brothy background that lingers in the mouth and back of the throat.

4th 7secs – Sweet, creamy and then bittersweet up front with weaker chocolate notes. As it washes down, it becomes brothy and bitter with chocolate notes. The aftertaste is creamy and bittersweet that lingers in the mouth and back of the throat.

5th 9secs – Sweet, creamy and bittersweet that is slightly juicy/citrusy. As it washes down, it becomes brothy and savory that slowly turns juicy with some bitterness. The aftertaste is bittersweet and thick, it still lingers but not as apparent as previously.

6th 17secs – Creamy, sweet, and bittersweet with juicy/citrusy up front. As it washes down, it becomes brothy and then juicy with bitter notes. The aftertaste is sweet with a bitterness that lingers in the mouth and back of throat, slightly juicier than previously.

(three steeps before I ran out of water)

1st 50secs Creamy, slightly earthy with sweetness and immediately bitter that hints of chocolate notes up front. As it washes down, it feels heavy and thick with savory and brothy body that is also bitter and slowly develops some sweetness. The aftertaste is thick, creamy but savory with bitterness that resembles chocolate notes. (slightly refreshing).

2nd 35secs Once again Creamy, sweet with earthy notes that turns bitter with chocolate notes up front. As it washes down, it feels thick and creamy; brothy/soupy savory notes that also wear bitterness that slightly resemble chocolate and develops some sweetness. The after taste is creamy, savory and slowly turn bittersweet with slight chocolate notes.

Third I steeped for a about 45 seconds. The steep was very similar to the previous but had a more ‘juicy’ feel and slightly less creamy.

Final Notes
I like Lao Ban Zhang as a Sheng more than Shou. You still get some of the Bitterness and ‘chaqi’ that characterizes Lao Ban Zhang but its different. To me this cake smells really sweet but it has a sour/bitter taste together with a brothy/soupy savory body as it goes down, its really good. But to me it reminds me of a Pho soup, its savory but it has a certain sour/bitterness to it, that can linger in the mouth. I love Pho, but only when I feel like it. This might be the case with this cake, that is something that you can love when you want it. I’m going to drink it a few more times to give it a fair rating currently I seat around the 78s to 89 range. Good tea, great tea if you want Ripe Lao Ban Zhang.


OMG this sounds SOOOOOO GOOD! Can we say SWEET AND CREAMY more? I was GIDDY reading this!!! :)


Indeed it is. I’m still not sure how I like it compared to others. If we ever do a swap I’ll send you some Tibetan Brick. I’m addicted to that one. SWEET and Creamy.


Ok, you got me JC, after reading your Phoenix reviews last couple of days, I now have to check them out… (hopefully, they don’t ship to Canada and I can maintain new year’s resolution!)


LOL! Less tea is not a good New Year’s resolution, I can understand “I will keep my tea fund under control”. So far I’ve incredibly happy with the Phoenix Collection. I think partially is because I’ve spoken to David to get recommendations based on my preferences or just on ‘current curiosity’.


Another David in the tea world?? What’s up with that ?? How many are out there??
As for my resolution, believe me, it’s a good one! Just means I’m gonna have more of the fabulous tea I already own :-)


Ahhh. Stocking up on favorites! I need to do that. I’m still doing a lot of exploring. I might use a partial budget for restock.

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Dry – Sweet, Vegetal, Nutty, Honey, Flowery.
Wet – Nutty, Honey, Vegetal, Peas, Butter.
Liquor – Pale Green/Yellow

Gong Fu – 5oz Gaiwan 4-5g (a very light tea)

1st 2secs – Sweet, smooth, creamy with nuttiness slightly resembling snow peas up front. As it washes down it turns savory and vegetal. The aftertaste is sweet, smooth and creamy that lingers.

2nd 2secs – Creamy, smooth and sweet with nuttiness that resembles snow peas and honey notes. As it washes down it is creamy and sweet vegetal that lingers through the aftertaste.

3rd 4secs – Creamy, sweet, vegetal, buttery nutty sweet corn and snow peas upfront. As it washes down it has a vegetal and slightly floral taste that slowly becomes sweeter. The aftertaste is sweet and nutty that lingers with creaminess.

4th 9secs – Creamy, vegetal, buttery, nutty sweetness and slightly floral up front. As it washes down it has a strong savory vegetal and nutty body. The aftertaste turns sweet again and it becomes sweeter, nutty and buttery.

5th 16secs – Vegetal, sweet, nutty, floral and lightly creamy. As it washes down it is somewhat floral that turns very savory, vegetal, nutty that is almost broth like, that slowly turn sweeter again. The aftertaste is sweet and nutty.

6th 30secs – Buttery, vegetal, nutty, sweet but not as creamy up front. As it washes down it is vegetal, savory and nutty that slowly turns sweeter. The aftertaste is sweet, nutty, and slightly vegetal.

Final Notes
Amazing tea, it has a very complex scent even when dry. It really amazes me how even though I can usually tell a green tea from a white tea by scent (some traits give it up), I never really paid enough attention to note exactly WHAT it is lets me know or gives it out. I still don’t have a word to describe it. But as I’m smelling and drinking this tea I ‘spot’ that something and lose it over and over.

Overall, the tea seems like a green tea that was progressing towards a white tea. It has the complexity of a Bi Luo Chun in some floral hints that come and go. It reminds me of a Long Jin, in its vegetal nuttiness and some other green teas with Buttery/creamy body, yet it still holds on to some of its sweet and nutty notes from a Silver Needles tea, that freshness almost juicy. This is the kind of tea that different people will qualify differently as they drink it as it crossess the boundaries of white vs green. Very enjoyable.

MINI NOTE I did longer steeps of 30s, 1:00m, 1:30m, 2:00m, etc. The shorter steeps seems like its closer to a white tea, not because its ‘weak’ but rather, the sweetness is more apparent. During longer steeps it is more brothy, the buttery character is more apparent and then in later steeps the sweetness is more apparent.
175 °F / 79 °C

Great review! This one sounds particularly nice.


Thanks Cody! It is! It actually caught me by surprise. I have around 2-3 green teas that are the ones I really enjoy, others I usually like but not enough to restock. This one however, feels really easy to fall in love with, its my first time with a ‘creamy’ white tea. I’ve had others that have a slight hint of it, but this one was more apparent. I’m pretty sure once I decide to take a small break of my Puerh ‘adventure’ I’ll stock this one.


I really need to put an order in with The Phoenix Collection. Your reviews make their teas sound very enticing and I’ve been on the hunt for pu’ers to add to my next tea acquisition.


Go for it. I recommend you trying them. I also do swaps from time to time. I need to restock some teas. I’ve been exploring so much that I’ve neglected re-stocking some of my faves.


JC, I’m assuming this is he tea you were referring to yesterday… I now understand what you meant by being confused and amazed :-) Your description makes it quite appealing!


You are right. Thanks, I had to try it several times to get it ‘right’. I have to laugh at myself when you are so busy enjoying the tea that I forget to write down what I tasted. I gave the rest of the sample to my friend at work today (green tea addict, mostly dragon well and Bi Luo Chun), I want his opinion on it.

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Discovered tea a few years ago and I’ve been exploring ever since. I’m looking forward to keep learning and enjoy tea as I do. Keep learning, those who “know” stop learning and become irrelevant to the world.

I’m adding the scale because I noted that we all use the same system but it doesn’t mean the same to all.(I rate the tea not by how much I ‘like it’ only; there are flavors/scents I don’t like but they are quality and are how they are supposed to be and I rate them as such).

90 – 100: AMAZING. This the tea I feel you should drop whatever you are doing and just enjoy.

80-89: Great tea that I would recommend because they are above ‘average’ tea, they usually posses that ‘something’ extra that separates them from the rest.

70-79: An OK tea, still good quality, taste and smell. For me usually the tea that I have at work for everyday use but I can still appreciate and get me going through my day.

60-69: Average nothing special and quality is not high. The tea you make and don’t worry about the EXACT time of steep because you just want tea.

30-59: The tea you should probably avoid, the tea that you can mostly use for iced tea and ‘hide’ what you don’t like.

1-29: Caveat emptor! I feel sorry for my enemies when they drink this tea. :P





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