368 Tasting Notes


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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This is now the second “brick” (this one is actually a very shallow tuocha) of shou I’ve bought from Verdant. I previously had a brick of the Lao Tong Zhi Old Comrades 2011. I have to say, at this point, I don’t anticipate all too frequently either (a) drinking sheng pu’erh or (b) buying shou in anything smaller than a complete bricktuocha.

Breaking up the tea myself gives me a lot more control over ongoing aging as well as breakage and it also means that early steeps are a lot more subtle because I’m hydrating a “slice” of leaves rather than completely loose leaves.

This 2008 already has some deeply musty notes while still retaining some of the sweetness of a young shou. There’s a definitely dominant presence of “flood damage” here. The whole room I’m sitting in has become overwhelmed with the scent.

While the chi impact compared to a sheng is far more subtle, it is still definitely active and I find the flavors so much more pleasing than sheng, I can’t imagine choosing the latter just for a stronger chi movement.

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 12 tsp 350 OZ / 10350 ML
Terri HarpLady

I was glad to grab a cake of this one while it was still available. I like both sheng & shu, really depending on my mood. Sheng definitely has a clarifying effect on me, which I sometimes can really benefit from, but I do also love the rich flavors of shu.

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I had to come back just to talk about this tea.

I received a small sample in the tea of the month box and I got really excited. Those of you who know my review history know that Upton Tea’s “black dragon” is one of my “gotta have it on the shelf at all times” daily drinking teas. I rave about black dragon because it is a strong, powerful lapsang that doesn’t make you think of pork rinds or bacon or any other kind of meat product. It isn’t greasy or salty or sharp, or whatever it is that makes a lot of people think of cured meat when they smell it. But, at the end of the day, black dragon is still a very smokey tea.

But this… this tea is a whole other universe.

I opened the sample pack and thought … 4H fair. The smell of feed hay in a hot, close barn. Those pellets you can get from the candy vending machine to feed the animals at a petting zoo.

The wet leaf? Oh man.

The wet leaf is like drinking the zoo. Seriously.

Do you want to feel six years old, with a balloon on your wrist and the sounds of exotic birds in your ears, arguing about whether to go to the monkey house or the big cat exhibit? Drink this tea.

Do you want to remember what it felt like to hug a sheep that hadn’t been shorn in a long, long time? Drink this tea.

I don’t see this tea replacing anyone’s beloved lapsang or caravan tea. It’s too different. It doesn’t fill the same gap in the line-up, I don’t think.

But it is a marvelously transcendent, nuanced, delightful tea. You must try it. You absolutely must, no matter how much you think you don’t like smoked tea. Try this one.

I’m just glad I have a well seasoned lapsang yixing to do this tea justice with.

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
Terri HarpLady

Glad you’re here, Jim. Glad you shared about this tea too!
And, of course, I love your post.
Especially that last sentence. I was talking with somebody about yixing the other day, & when they asked if I had one for black teas I said no. I’m using a yixing sized porcelain little pot (at this time) for my blacks, because I felt that if I added another yixing to my collection for black teas, I’d have to add several, LOL, to honor the various flavor profiles.

When Verdant announced that they were offering the tea, I immediately got some, & drinking it, I knew that my first ‘black tea’ yixing would have to be for the select smokey teas in my collection. And then I’ll have to get one for the Dian Hongs…sigh…and then…


Petting zoo tea! Love the imagery!

Jim Marks


I have a yixing for the following teas:

shou pu erh
yunnan golden
laoshan black (this has a unique enough flavor it needs its own pot)
lapsang souchong

I also have a purion for Da Hong Pao. Purion is like yixing, in that it is an unglazed clay pot, but it is specifically for wuyi type oolongs and pu erh. I’d like to get a second one for sheng pu erh at some point.

Those are the teas I drink often enough to make having invested in five pots worth the money. I use all these pots at least once a week.

I use gaiwain for all the occasional teas (verdant samples, green, floral oolongs, whatever).

Verdant now offers some lovely gaiwain — I prefer the wide, flat ones to the typical ones you see in the US which are tall and narrow.

I get my yixing from the Canadian tea site http://camellia-sinensis.com
They have some top shelf artisan stuff, but also some great entry level priced stuff too.

Terri HarpLady

I currently have 3 yixings:
lovely roasty Wuyi Oolongs
Then the aforementioned yixing sized porcelain for blacks, until I start buying separate pots for a few of them :)
Then I have an assortment of Gaiwans for other oolongs, greens, etc, & I agree, I prefer the short wide ones as well.
I haven’t looked at Purions, but I really enjoy the yixings I have, & am always looking at others, so thanks for the link!
I’m almost afraid to look…hahaha

Jim Marks

I’ve since added a yixing for black teas that aren’t laoshan black. Sure, they’re all distinct, but they aren’t so distinct that I feel like they can’t share a pot.

Amusingly, I don’t know that I could ever have just one pot for sheng because to me that’s really where the spectrum blows wide open and I’d worry that I’d be cross-tasting all the time, so I use a gaiwan for any sheng that come my way.

Terri HarpLady

Ha! Since we had this conversation 2 years ago, I’ve added several more yixings to my collection, including a few for different black teas, and have even been thinking about the same think you said regarding shengs…how can one have just one pot for all raw teas, given that some are smokier, greener, fruitier, purple…etc
This is actually something I’ve been contemplating for awhile now…I need more money ;)

Jim Marks

That’s why I just brew sheng in a gaiwan.

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After years of waiting, CS finally (FINALLY) got more of this in stock.

I haven’t had sheng in a long time, now. I’ve been focused on the world of seriously aged shou, laoshan black, yunnan golden, wuji oolong and my always beloved lapsang. In other words, the teas I have unglazed clay pots to steep them in.

So, I had to make this naka in my wide, shallow gaiwan (which I found thanks to Bonnie and her blog post with Fr. Evan).

It had been so long since I’d had a sheng that it was almost like starting over with a tea I’d never experienced before.

For those of you who are serious about sheng, this is a 10 year aged packed into bamboo tubes and it is not exactly entry level sheng. All the usual complexities and textures and tingling sensations one hopes to have from a fine sheng.

A 25g order will get you a small puck about the size of an incense charcoal. Be warned, picking this apart is difficult — they pack it very tightly!

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

The pot of gold at the end of an unbelievably long rainbow. I’m glad you’re enjoying the gaiwan. Now that Happy Luckys has an online store, I’ve encouraged them to place this particular gaiwan for sale because they’re harder to find (short and fat). Nice to see you here!

Charles Thomas Draper

I am glad you have returned. It was not the same without you…

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drank Golden Fleece by Verdant Tea
368 tasting notes

This isn’t so much a tasting note as it is a note to those of you who “follow” me here on Steepster.

I’ve grown frustrated with the technical problems with this site, and I’ve basically abandoned all other social networks (Facebook, G+, MySpace, Twitter, Instagram &c.) entirely. The fact that most of what is in my tea cupboard right now aren’t in the Steepster database and I can’t add them makes it very hard to know how to use or enjoy the site. I haven’t actually read tasting notes here in some months. I haven’t read them thoughtfully and consistently in well over a year.

So, I’m giving up the ghost.

I’ve decided to consolidate all my activities onto my two blogs. The one is cooking specific, and I co-author it with a friend, so that won’t change. I tend to focus on Lent-friendly experiments (useful for you vegans) as well as happy accidents and solutions to fixing failed dishes — we both try our best to infuse a fair bit of geek humor into the posts. But my primary blog is just where I spew out all my thoughts. Mostly about religion and politics (less and less of this) but also about disc golf, music, art, I’ll be posting photography there — and now also about tea that I’m drinking.

So if you want to know what’s in my cup, or on my mind, or in my eye, drop by my blog.

But I won’t be ’round these parts anymore.

(Yes, I am drinking some of the last of my golden fleece stash today.)

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

You will be missed. Thanks for letting us know your whereabouts.

Charles Thomas Draper

I have basically been scouring the internet blogs of respected tea experts. The Half Dipper, Disciple of the Tea Leaf and others. In all honesty and with no disrespect towards anyone, their honest and straight forward analysis of pure tea is what I desire in my effort to educate myself. I will definitely check your blog out because I have always enjoyed your reviews. Peace Jim

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The last month or so has had me toggling between that 1992 Menghai (notes of flood damage and deep forest loam) and the 2011 Lao Tong Zhi Old Comrades (quite sweet, a second brick of which is waiting for me in a PO Box in CA, which I can hopefully recover before too much time goes by, I’m nearly done with the first brick).

Those of you who have been reading for some time know that I have developed a great love of Yunnan golden over the past few years, and the website talks of sandalwood which is one of my favorite scents, and so it is with great anticipation that I dive into this new shu offering from the great folks at Verdant.

The dry leaf smells sweet and spicy, caramel and sandalwood indeed. But get it wet and suddenly you’re in the forgotten back room of a boot repair shop. Old leather, dust, mold and old wooden tools. Despite this, the mustiness coming off of this cup is unexpected. More like a very peaty Scotch than old leather.

This is clearly a young tea. I hope Verdant has the discipline to hide away a few cakes to put back on sale in 5-10 years time. I know I sure don’t.

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
Terri HarpLady

The women in my family (that would be me, myself & I, plus both of my grown daughters) all firmly believe that all men should smell like Sandalwood. I’ve also had this discussion with other women I know, & I like to think that it is unanimous.

Jim Marks

I currently blend sandalwood oil and frankincense oil for myself. Sometimes a hint of patchouli.


A Chanter that smells like church.

Jim Marks

It helps me remember where my heart is supposed to be when I’m not in the kliros.


The forgotten back room sounds amazing. What is sandalwood? I have heard of it but have no frame of reference for its scent.

Terri HarpLady

KS, it is the scent that Old Spice (original) is based on, I think.
Aromas are so wonderfully engrained in us, pulling us inward, bringing out emotions, awakening memories. I can’t smell roses without feeling nurtured & childlike. My grandmother, who was the most nurturing person I’ve ever known, smelled of roses (although I didn’t make the connection until my mid 30’s during a massage).


Thanks Terri. A scent I remember from years ago. You are right. Smells can instantly transport us through time.

Jim Marks

Sandalwood is a category of trees the wood from which retains its fragrance for decades after being cut — unlike most wood.

Typically when people discuss it they mean rather the essential oil which is harvested from it, rather than the wood itself.

This oil is often rendered down into an incense which is common in Buddhism, Hinduism and in some Eastern Christian settings (although frankincense and myrrh are more common).


When we moved in our present home, I was delighted that there was a grapevine in the backyard. When we had lived here eight months that the grapes were ripe and scenting the backyard, I remembered that as a child I got caught in a bear trap under my great aunt’s scuppernong vines, which were near the chicken house. I had completely forgotten it, until I smelled those grapes! (Not injured, don’t worry.)

Jim Marks

Sandalwood certainly isn’t the scent of the contemporary “Old Spice” (blech).

Terri HarpLady

Lol, Jim, but I think it’s in the original, probably not as an essential oil, but as a fragrance facsimile. Anyway, as essential oils go, sandalwood is wonderful, right up there with jasmine & patchouli, & rose.


Verdant is the only tea company that I know of that has blended frankincense with Oolong tea. (I love the blend)

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