334 Tasting Notes

Yet another of the new tieguanyin offerings from Verdant via the Liu Family.

This one really works for me. In general, I’m not a huge fan of tieguanyin teas. Too floral for me. And too many times a venue (like a Chinese restaurant) has offered me “oolong” tea, and I’m expecting wuyi, and I end up with a mug of flowers.

But this? The age brings out that mineral oolong thing, and mutes the floral while retaining a lot of sweetness. I could see this becoming a leaf I keep in the pantry pretty regularly as a slightly softer alternative to Da Hong Pao.

Flavors: Orchid, Peas, Vanilla, Wet Rocks

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 6 OZ / 175 ML

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I use an extremely fine screen when dealing with any tea that is either (a) not whole leaf or (b) very broken or dusty.

And yet, this tea still manages to fill my cup with things which then stick in my teeth. I have no clue how they can be small enough to get through the screen and then big enough to be visible along my gums, but there it is.

Also, it clumps into itself very badly and clogs my yixing spout so that I end up with a lot of overly long steeps because it is taking longer to pour the water out of the pot than I actually want the length of the steep to be. This results in “burning out” the leaf in too few a number of overall steeps.

I bought this tea specifically for convenience over picking apart an actual brick of pu-erh and it has been the precise opposite.

I don’t recommend this tea unless you’re going to cold brew it and strain the result through cheese cloth.

Flavors: Decayed wood, Earth, Loam

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 12 OZ / 350 ML

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Another new leaf from Verdant’s partner the Liu Family.

This is even more disarming than the big red robe tieguanyin was.

Starts out like a very soft black tea, and by the 10th steep or so, suddenly you’re drinking tieguanyin with its bright, floral notes.

Very exciting to see these kinds of experiments happening.

Flavors: Cocoa, Floral, Malt

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 7 OZ / 200 ML

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(Sorry, couldn’t help that)

Our tea-of-the-month arrived yesterday and lo! A great variety of new teas from Verdant’s partner, the Liu Family. Very excited to go through them all here. I drink, and have drunk, a lot of Da Hong Pao. It is a flavor profile I know well. Heck, I have a purion pot just for big red robe oolongs. So a unique new twist on this personal favorite should be fun.

The leaf looks and smells for all the world like Da Hong Pao. Long, lightly twisted deep brown with rusty highlights and that cocao & cedar wood aroma. The wet leaf is malty.

It is in the cup where it kind of ceases to be big red robe. This cup is soft and warm and lacks the mineral sharpness of Da Hong Pao. All the obvious notes are here, but there’s a backbone that big red robe presents strongly which isn’t here — which isn’t to say that’s a bad thing, it’s just obvious what this tea is and what it isn’t.

There is a very subtle drying astringency at the long finish which is pleasant. There is some, but not much, hui gan at the back of the throat.

Flavors: Cedar, Cocoa, Malt, Wet Rocks

190 °F / 87 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 7 OZ / 200 ML

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I’ve been enjoying this tea all week “grandpa style”. Loose leaf in the bottom of a deep, glass mug, and just keep adding hot water as it runs out. Eventually all the leaf sinks out of the way so you can drink easily, but my dentist makes me use a glass straw so that she doesn’t lose 30 minutes of her life every six months scrubbing tea stains off my tea, so I can just dive right in and not worry about that. Shi feng is a great tea for drinking this way. It really has to sit in the same water for a long time before it starts to seem over steeped.

Brewed this way I get a very soft, round, thick, almost sweet cup. There’s a long finish which transitions to a drying astringency, a bit like sautéed mature spinach.

The “flavors” list doesn’t let me indicate “buckwheat” which is what I really mean by wheat.

Flavors: Artichoke, Broccoli, Kettle Corn, Wheat

175 °F / 79 °C 0 min, 30 sec 5 g 14 OZ / 400 ML

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Opening the dry leaf, and getting a nose full, then while preparing my rinse and smelling again, my brain is shouting “wait… this isn’t sheng?” But, when you consider that the sheng Verdant sells also comes from Qianjiazhai, perhaps that’s not a complete shock.

However, as I slurp my way into the first steep, it becomes clear that there’s no age on this leaf. Light, floral and completely lacking any of the thick maltiness of the zhu rong I had this morning, this may be leaf fit to become sheng, but it is not sheng.

The hui gan here is at the front of the mouth only. Heavy coming to the gums from the palate but only running back if I swallow.

Later steepings bring out melon notes.

Highly recommend this tea as a “gate way” leaf for introducing people to sheng pu-erh.

Flavors: Garden Peas, Jasmine, Lemongrass, Melon

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 6 OZ / 175 ML

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It has been a long time since I’ve had this tea, and a long time since I’ve had something other than my daily drinkers which is also similar to those daily drinkers.

There’s a lot here that reminds me of golden fleece. A hard to place spice. Anise? Cinnamon? Clove? It’s something I know from an ethnic holiday cookie and I absolutely can’t put my finger on it but it is bubbling up huge roils of sense memories. Almond? I think it might be almond, like a marzipan… YES. It’s marzipan. Wow, that hurt.

And it shares that cedar wood aroma that Golden Fleece has.

The hui gan is pretty substantial. My whole mouth is thick and it is watering all the way down my throat.

I need to remember to keep this leaf around more often. There was a stretch where all my non-Laoshan black teas got muddled and I didn’t know which ones had been which (I should have consulted Steepster to remember!) and now that I know, this one needs to stay on the short list.

Flavors: Cedar, Marzipan

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 6 OZ / 175 ML

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I had a panic recently when I discovered that no “smoked wuyi” was listed anywhere on Verdant’s website anymore. Thankfully, that’s just because they shortened the name and no longer explicitly refer to it as “smoked wuyi” black tea.

I spent a week in New England at the end of September and now having returned to Houston I am deeply anxious for cooler Autumn weather down here, having gotten a wonderful taste of it up there. In an effort to put myself “in the mood” I am enjoying once again this cozy, warm brew.

It is a lot of fun to get meaningful hui gan from a tea like this.

I share a yixing between this tea and Upton’s “black dragon” so your milage may vary considerably.

Flavors: Caramel, Hay, Smoke, Toffee

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 10 g 8 OZ / 250 ML

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Haven’t reviewed a tea in a long time, now.

Mostly because I’ve been just drinking the same old leaves that I love. Life has been far too complex to try new teas.

But pu-erh is a fickle world and what you can get changes all the time so you always find yourself moving on.

This tocha is packed very, very tightly and is a somewhat awkward medium size. It makes picking it very tricky. But, I have a well seasoned yixing for sweet shou pu-erh so we’ll get good results, regardless. I used a long rinse (even though I rarely do rinse at all) because the leaf is so densely packed it needed time to open up.

There’s nothing I’d call unexpected here in terms of flavor, but this isn’t a 1990 Kumming, is it. The tea shows its relative age in the long finish and pronounced hui gan.

I definitely remember finding the previously available 1999 much more exciting. At 23 cents a gram this is an excellent daily drinking tea provided you have a good system for picking apart tea this tightly packed.

I admit, as the world of sheng seems to explode, I lament how increasingly difficult it seems to be to find top shelf shou. The sheng snobbery seems to be squeezing out any apparent market.

Flavors: Dark Bittersweet, Loam, Molasses, Wet Wood

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 20 g 11 OZ / 325 ML

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This tea was included in the last tea-of-the-month set (along with the roasted oolong and the bilochan as points of comparison).

I have to say I’m a bit confused with this tea being described as an oolong. The appearance both dry and wet, the aroma both dry and wet and the resultant cup all seem to me to be very much a green tea.

I enjoyed it very much, but I found nothing oolong about it at all.

180 °F / 82 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 4 OZ / 125 ML

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