368 Tasting Notes
Here’s proof I really just don’t handle flowers well. I poured myself a cup of this and turned to my wife and said “I’m not going to be able to tell any difference between these eleven teas” and she said “Really? This one is completely different!”
I will say what I said yesterday:
This is high quality leaf. The mouth feel is great. The floral thing isn’t soapy or cloying.
There is a difference between “not my taste” and “not good”.
All the new Anxi varietals from Master Zhang are slowly but surely making their way onto the Verdant website, but the one I opted to open first isn’t one of them, so apologies for the sparse details and lack of photo.
I freely admit that floral teas, even green oolongs which aren’t even scented with flowers it is just the natural floral nature of the leaf itself, are not really my thing.
That being said, Master Zhang’s tieguanyin has always surprised and impressed me and this is no exception. I can’t claim to find the notes described by David’s team, but I tend to get overwhelmed by flowers.
The cup has excellent mouth feel, very thick & velvety. I expect the floral to dissipate in a couple of steeps and for other notes to emerge.
I was surprised that their steeping notes called for 205 water, rather than a more typical 190 for oolong.
Finishing this, today.
I have to say, these two Xingyang sheng offerings have really changed the way I think about sheng.
I’m starting to think that I may simply have, early on, leapt into far deep of the end of the pool and tasted a lot of highly challenging sheng without realizing it didn’t have to be that way.
Which I realize maybe creates the impression that these sheng are unimpressive or unremarkable or something like that, but that’s not what I intend to say. What I intend to say is that perhaps some of the flavors I experienced in the past were less about being a challenging mature tea and more about being something undesirable that had crept in.
While recognizing that I don’t want to be one of these people who goes down the sheng rabbit hole and never comes out, I may need to do some additional exploration to learn more.
OK, let’s do this right today:
Dry leaf: very little aroma, as I find to be typical of tuocha as they get packed so tightly.
Wet leaf: There is a surprising dry sharpness here. An almost sandy, beach bleached drift wood kind of thing happening. I don’t know as I’ve ever caught that aroma in a tea before.
And to be clear, when I say sand here, and below, I am not referring to sediment or cloudiness in the cup. The steeps are surprisingly clean and clear for a tuocha.
Long rinse to open the tuocha. They have completely fallen apart by the end of the first steep.
First steep was dark amber in color and was full of a light, round caramel sweetness.
Second steep was much darker, almost molasses in color, and the flavor opened up dramatically to include wet wood and a sandy finish.
Third steep is so dark I can’t see the bottom of the cup (wider than it is deep, so this is really saying something) and the flavor softens again, still intense, but not sharp or dry. Hui gan begins strongly at the back of the throat. So much so it is almost like a post nasal drip symptom.
Fourth steep, the color lightens a bit, no longer at all red, purely a chocolate brown, now. The flavor opens up to old leather and puffed rice.
Fifth steep is still chocolate in color, with the flavor remaining strong, however the sweetness is giving way to a kind of tangy quality.
Sixth is a longer steep time and we’re back to dark amber and those sandy notes again.
Seventh – everything beginning to soften. I’ll get a few more steeps out of this to enjoy, but I think we’ve hit the limit of anything interesting going to happen here.
(Context, I started a new role two weeks ago in a different division of a company I’ve worked at for nearly a decade. The day I started, the office my new boss works out of was hit with a surprise FDA audit which lasted two weeks. So, I barely got five minutes of his time in an environment where I have a lot to learn, and need to hit the ground running. By the time I did my previous review of this tea, I was kind of losing my mind with panic as it felt like there must be something huge I should be doing that I didn’t know I should be doing.
All is well now, and all should remain well.)
I’m not in a good headspace to do anything formal with this tea this morning, but it is the last of the January TotM pu-erh samples and so I do want to talk about it.
I love old shou. I really do.
I will confess, I’m not a huge fan of the 3-7g tuocha, however. They tend to be very tightly packed and thus take a while to open up.
These, however, do not. With a 10-20 second rinse, they open right up. First steep is a teensy bit thin, but by the second, you’re into that syrupy, deep, mellow shou flavor.
There is something genuinely different, if subtle, about the difference between, say, a five and a ten year old shou. Not as obvious as the differences between a five and ten year sheng, perhaps, but very real. The sweetness changes somehow.
It reminds me of what happens to your taste as you grow up. As a kid you want gummy worms. Pure corn syrup in bright colors. As a young adult, you want sweet cocktails. By middle age, you’re content with dark chocolate or a well made toffee. They’re all sweet. They’re all dessert, so to speak, but there’s something quite different going on in each case.
Old shou is like that for me. It is sweet. There’s no real way around that. But it isn’t a gummy worm or lemon drop martini kind of sweet.
By the end of this session, I may even be in a good mood.
Another from the January pu-erh sample from Xingyang via Verdant.
The dry leaf has very little aroma. Clean, fresh, a faint whisper on a spring breeze.
The wet leaf is green, bright and smells of cedar.
The first cup is goldenrod in color, a bit cloudy. It tastes of sandalwood and green beans.
The second is not yet quite amber, still with some particles. The flavor sharpens quickly to pine and lemongrass.
The third is amber, particles clearing. The flavor intensifies and hui gan begins.
The fourth is again amber, further clearing. Notes shifting to collard and camphor.
The fifth, color begins to brown on toward caramel. Quite sharp on the palate now.
Six continues in much the same.
Shared this tea with a novice tea drinker on Thursday, lunch.
I’ve been trying a lot of the Duyun from my former co-worker, and since we aren’t selling it here yet, I can’t list it and review it here yet. Hence my absence.
We had a fantastic, rambling and animated conversation driven largely by the chi movement of this sheng tea.
I was impressed how accessible it was to my friend, as I still find sheng rather challenging, myself, and I’ve been serious about tea for a decade or more now.
This really is some great leaf.
Long time followers (if I have any) will know that I am probably the only serious pu-head out there who is rabidly excited about shou, and really just not interested in the rabbit hole that is sheng — mostly because everyone I’ve ever known who got seriously into sheng eventually stopped drinking any other varieties except sheng but rarely. That aside, I am excited to see Verdant finally solidifying their partnership with Xingyang and being able to offer some “serious” pu-erh options after what has felt like a long drought.
I’m doing my first serious, formal cupping in a long time, the tea deserves it, so forgive me if it isn’t pro quality.
The sample came as pieces broken from a cake, and from what I can tell, it was pressed extremely hard. One long rinse and two steeps before the bigger pieces fully opened.
The dry leaf has a clean, gentle, pine & camphor aroma.
The wet leaf catches you by surprise as much stronger and sharper even after just a rinse.
The first cup is hay colored, the second is golden rod, the third & fourth — honey.
The liqueur becomes more intense along with the color, of course, although even by the fourth steeping not much has changed in terms of the notes that are present — the balance between them shifting somewhat.
Primary is, of course, the sharp, pine & camphor notes ubiquitous to all sheng. There is an abrupt astringency which dries the front of the mouth quickly after the swallow. Nothing floral or fruity at this stage. However by the fourth steep the sharpness softens. What is emerging from behind it has not completely revealed itself to me, yet.
Steep five is almost the color of a candied orange slice, but not that dark. Emerging now with sandalwood, clove (in the nature of the astringent action in the mouth), and beginning to peek out from way in the back is that spikey punch of flower you get from slightly over steeped jasmine — unpleasant in a delicate white tea, but apt here.
Steep six and I’m still seeing a lot of sediment, although I don’t know if that is from the sample portions being broken up rapidly or if it is the nature of this brick to be so.
Softer altogether now, and so it may be that #5 was the turn. Intensely drying mineral notes here, wet slate, river rock, bonsai soil… forget hui gan this tea is all about throat closing dryness. And yes, I realize I just described an intensely drying cup of tea with all wet metaphors, find me a cup of tea that tastes like dry rock or arid soil. ;-)
Yes, getting into seven I can see this tea has a lot left to give, but there will perhaps be little of surprise left to discuss, so I will end things here.
Certainly a reminder to me of why sheng is good, but also a reminder to me of why sheng is a rabbit hole I don’t want to get lost down. :)
Flavors: Camphor, Clove, Jasmine, Loam, Pine, Wet Rocks, Wood
Apologies that there is no photo nor proper write up on this tea, as it isn’t on the Verdant website yet. It just arrived as part of January’s TotM ph-erh selection from xingyang about which I am very excited.
I was flat on my back with flu-like symptoms from Monday mid-day until yesterday morning. Once able to be on my feet without my heart racing or my vision going black for more than 30 seconds at a stretch, I went ahead and decided to fight fire with fire and pulled out this tea to start cleansing the system.
I have a full brick of the Xingyang 2008 golden buds that I haven’t even gotten into yet, but I did review the 2002 a few weeks ago. This picked loose KT952 is a shockingly mellow cup that packs a massive chi wallop. The caffeine, the chi movement and the woogy flu symptoms got into this like cage match event and I was just kind of along for the ride. But 15 steeps and 6 hours later I was functional enough to go to my ballroom dance lesson.
I don’t want to talk too much about taste, as my tongue is a disaster when I’m ill, but the cup was extremely pleasant, and didn’t contain any obvious, strong or “stuff you get used to” type flavors that tend to keep a lot of people at arm’s length to pu-erh.
A former co-worker with family in Duyun has begun sending me samples of their local green tea with the hopes that we may, at some point, be in a position to sell it. Stay tuned.