323 Tasting Notes

I have to confess that, lately, the early steepings of sheng have been very overwhelming for me. I find myself kind of wincing through them to get to the more accessible steepings that come later.

This seems like the wrong attitude to have when enjoying a 2004.

That being said. This liqueur actually seems to mellow just by allowing it to rest in the cup for a few moments.

The resinous tang of rosemary is here, and there are suggestions of softer, warmer things to come in later steeps (I’m on #3 now).

I am hesitant to rate this tea until I’ve prepared it on more than one occasion. I find the more tea I drink, the less comfortable I get with the whole numeric system idea.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

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95

I’m always amazed at green teas that are so sharply, deeply, assertively vegetal as wet leaf but which produce thick, soft cups.

This is one of those teas.

Suger snap peas. Fresh from a garden, not the store. Maybe just a bit over-ripe, a bit of the sugar has gone bitter, but that’s what makes them nutritious, right?

The color of this liqueur is fantastic in my pale green gaiwan with the emerald koi around the edges.

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec

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98

The wet leaf here actually has a very similar aroma to the golden fleece, but sharper. You know this is going to be black tea, not red.

My wife just handed me a square of Theo 70% chocolate with orange and I’m trying to get that off my palate more thoroughly before I start insisting that this tea has notes of bitter cacoa and orange zest ;-)

That being said, the two pair remarkably well. This tea lacks the long, lingering sweetness of the dian hong, but it has a thick mouth feel and does linger, although not nearly as long.

This is a truly excellent black tea. Something like a fig reduction over lamb — a risk, too easily off the rails but so fantastic if the balance is just right.

I suspect this is a tea that can very easily be mis-steeped.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
Bonnie

Too true. It does take a shorter steep than most! But well worth brewing…a fine tea!

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drank Golden Fleece by Verdant Tea
323 tasting notes

I think the best thing I can do is compare this with the Yunnan Rare Grade leaf distributed by Upton Teas that I’ve been drinking for the past few months.

Everything about that tea is huge and bold and fruity sweetness.

By contrast, the golden fleece is more refined. Yes, the dry leaf aroma is big, and I’ve already waxed very poetic about the wet leaf. But at the same time, the actual notes themselves aren’t as … sticky.

Instead of syrupy sweet roasted fruit, this is more of the kind of caramel scents you get off a toasted bread that awakens the sugars in the bread or fresh baked honey top bread.

Molasses instead of honey.

The cup is also more refined. There is no astringency whatsoever. But rather than this making the cup sweeter, it somehow stretches that sweetness out rather than over the course of 5 to 20 seconds, more like 5 to 20 minutes. The flavors from the cup have been rolling around my mouth all morning even though I’m only on my fifth steeping after about two and a half hours.

Unlike other Yunnan gold, this tea retains more of the kind of roasted, toasted flavor one gets from the leaf into the cup. But again, very subtle.

The key with this tea really is the way it lingers. Be sure to only drink this when you have the time to let it stay with you and to be present with it.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
ScottTeaMan

Nice review Jim. Upton’s Rare Grade has on my list. Now I have two Yunnans on my list! Roughly, what are your steep times? :))

Jim Marks

They are actually shorter than indicated on the reviews because Steepster only goes down to 15 seconds.

I’m doing traditional gongfu style steeping here, utilizing two identically sized gaiwan. I put the dry leaf in one, pour in the water, lid it up, and then strain it into the other which is the one I drink from.

My first few steeps are essentially as quickly as I can get the thing lidded up and poured without rushing or spilling. Maybe 3 to 5 seconds. Once I notice that the water does not look like a full steep the instant I’m done pouring it I’ll start counting. By the 10th steep or so I’m usually up to about 15 seconds. With pu-er, when I know I can go well past 10 steeps I’ll eventually steep for 1 minute, 2 minutes, 4 minutes… that’s usually the limit.

I tend to think of the steep times a bit like an exponential curve. Starting out very small with very little change in between each but rapidly expanding to longer times and bigger deltas.

ScottTeaMan

OK…….Thank you! WHat size are your gaiwans, and how full with the leaf? Have you ever used a Yixing pot for such quality Yunnans? I’ve also seen Yixing Gaiwans.

Bonnie

I have an Yixing Gaiwan that I use exclusively for Puerh. Love it. Has a handle which makes it easier for a klutz like me.

Jim Marks

My gaiwan are something like 4 ounces. As I said on the first review of this leaf I followed David’s instruction in the video he posted and used one gram of leaf per ounce of water — or 4 grams in this case.

I have not yet begun to invest in yixing because we have been embarking on a host of home improvement projects and the budget simply has not allowed for it. Also, I want to get a suite of them, all matching, but also quite plain in style, and that seems to be hard to find in high quality. Also, identifying high quality online is difficult, and finding plain styles in retail shops is also difficult. So, as yet, I have not purchased any.

“Someday” I hope to have a yixing for sheng, shu, dian hong, lapsang souchong and da hong pao. But that’s something like $250 investment at a minimum right there, so it has to wait.

Spoonvonstup

Jim- your explanation of steep times like an exponential curve is excellent. I often find myself struggling to explain the method to others and you’ve put it so well. I hope you don’t mind if I quote you on it from time to time.
Very excited to taste the Golden Fleece carefully myself. Thanks for these reviews!

Jim Marks

Every now and then, being a former math teacher pays off.

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drank Golden Fleece by Verdant Tea
323 tasting notes

I guess I’ll be the first civilian foolish enough to talk about this tea.

As soon as you unseal the bag and get that heady aroma that’s been trapped in there, you know you’re in for something different.

I actually got out a kitchen scale, weighed my gaiwan, and then weighed in David’s recommended gram of leaf per fluid ounce of the vessel.

Uncharacteristic of myself, I even gave the leaves a rinse so that I could ensure the first steeping I drank came off “awake” leaves.

The aroma off the wet leaves will leave you speechless. It is like that sensation you get when you walk into a humidor. I don’t mean the tea smells like cigars, although, to some extent I think perhaps it does, what I mean is that there is a particular physical sensation that goes beyond smell, when you walk into the damp, close, still, thickly scented air of a humidor. And smelling this tea leaf once wet, is like that.

With the first steep I understand what Geoffrey and David have been describing in terms of texture. Drinking this tea reminds me of the sensation one gets in the mouth after engaging in wuji qigong for the better part of an hour. There is at the same time a thickness of the mouth but your mouth is watering at the same time. I’ve now been typing, and taking a conference call, and haven’t sipped the tea for perhaps ten minutes and my sinuses are still registering all the aromas and tingling sensations and my mouth is still watering and thick.

I can actually feel the small heavenly circle flowing rapidly and if I were to stand up and correct my posture, I suspect the grand heavenly circle would open up almost immediately.

My ears are ringing.

I actually need to wait a few steeps to even begin using adjectives to describe the aromas off the leaf or the cup or the flavors from the liqueur. Neither my mouth nor my brain are entirely awake right now and I know that strictly speaking neither is this tea. So, expect a follow up later today with all kinds of pretentious wine tasting words in it.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
Bonnie

Your beginning leaves me on the edge of my seat anticipating more later! Great start! I would have been timid to tackle this one first. Bravo to you Jim!

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I’m cheating, I really have nothing new to say about this tea, but I just received my box from Verdant which includes GOLDEN FLEECE. When I saw the lengthy, lamenting review that all the original leaf was sold out I was kind of crushed and annoyed. Why write such a review for a tea no one can ever have? I know it wasn’t the intent to rub our noses in it, but my ego wanted to take it that way. So, imagine my shock when David did a YouTube tutorial on how to steep this tea! Are they really this cruel I wondered?

So I went and checked the site and lo and behold, they have it in stock! Of course, I immediately ordered some, and now it has arrived.

But I already was steeping my yunnan gold when the box arrived, so a proper tasting will have to wait.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
Joshua Smith

I felt the same way with the first batch. I found the tea two hours after it had sold out, and was just a little bit crushed. Mine just came in the mail today, but I didn’t get it until 5 because of my internship. I eagerly await your review, since I will not be able to really drink, carefully taste, and review anything until Friday.

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In a recent video with a sheng pu-erh, David of Verdant Teas recommended using less leaf with a sheng than one would use with other teas. This surprised me. Most everyone, especially the hard core yixing people, are all about cramming as much leaf into the pot as they can.

So, I decided to try this leaf again using about half of what I’d been using in the past.

I am now wishing I had my order from Verdant back so I could steep the Farmer’s Coop sheng this way instead of how I did.

Steeped this way, most people wouldn’t find, at least this particular, sheng tea all that unusual. Most of the notes here are similar to lighter black teas, oolongs or Darjeeling type teas. Almost all the wooly, wild, sharp notes I tend to associate with sheng are gone.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
gmathis

…which makes it sound just about to my liking! Making mental note for future reference.

Jim Marks

This particular leaf is, supposedly, an exclusive offering at “Central Market” grocery stores.

Joshua Smith

I wish I had read this before I started with my Mt. Yiwu ’04 sheng…

Bonnie

Good point!

Bonnie

Good point!

ScottTeaMan

I tend to use less leaf, which in this case is a good thing…….

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I’m sad that I’m still the only one drinking this tea (apparently).

This truly is a fantastic set of leaves.

If you have any interest in Darjeeling and have never had a first flush, try this one.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
Charles Thomas Draper

I am going to buy this. If you are raving about this I know I am going to be in for a treat.

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After a weekend of excessively rich meals (Teala’s seafood enchiladas, Backstreet Cafe’s lamb chops, Hugo’s Mexican brunch…) with the in-laws I feel in desperate need to get back to basics. This calls for many cups of pu-erh.

As much as I know about, appreciate in, and enjoy partaking of fine foods, I have to say that as I age, I find myself more interested in knowing about them and talking about them and less interested in actually eating them. Indulging leaves me feeling at the same time soft and stiff.

Many cups of shu will get me back to feeling firm and limber in a day or two.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec

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I am rarely, if ever, active here. But I do return from time to time to talk about a very special tea I’ve come across.

You can hear the music I compose here:
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