102 Tasting Notes

It took a lot of work for me to get something from this tea. I started with a one-minute infusion and tasted very little, so I continued on to three minutes. I found a faint sweetness and a musty, earthy taste redolent of the cedar that Verdant mentions in its tasting notes, but even then I felt I was tasting not so much a delicate tea that needs patience and dedication to tease out its complex essence (an approach that I adopt when tasting lightly oxidized Oolongs), but a cup of lightly vegetal hot water. I guess I do need to have that “wow” or “aha” moment when I drink a tea. Emily Dickinson defined poetry this way: “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” I want that kind of experience when I drink tea.

Interestingly, this tea gave me a different kind of buzz than other tea. Maybe it’s all that energy packed in those buds.

David Duckler

Hi Triumph,
It looks like one or two other people have had that very light experience you describe with the Yabao. I find that a lot of the flavor in this one is in the aftertaste, and that it does not have the same gripping mouthfeel as a conventional sheng pu’er, but that the spice and textures at play make it more than worth while. Try using more tea leaves next time. Using 3-4g of this looks like a lot more tan 3-4g of Tieguanyin. Sometimes I fill my gaiwan 1/2 full with leaves, and do pretty long steepings, which gives the riches textural interest in the tea.

I am sorry that you had a less-than-perfect experience with this one. I share your values of needing that moment that you describe of being gripped and fully consumed by the tea. A tea that I think is just really pleasant is not worth importing for me, as it is an incredible series of hoops to jump through to get these small farm teas through customs and over here. I hope that you find the “aha” in the Yabao. If not, I will send you a sample of the new yabao I am looking at bringing in with your next order. It is less cedar and more honey spice.

Doug F

I’ll try adding more leaves next time. It’s not that I didn’t like it. I found it interesting and I could sense some of the flavors that you mentioned coming through. I do generally love the teas you find and I’m grateful to you for doing what very few people must be devoting themselves to; namely, going to great lengths to connect us with local farmers and providing us with memorable tea experiences. I look forward to making my way through your catalogue!

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Working my way through my Verdant Oolong samples and after three sessions with this tea, I have a handle on my feelings about this tea. First of all, the infused leaves are beautiful—I leave them on a white plate during the day to marvel at the size and brilliant green color with lightly bruised edges. The fragrance of the brewed tea reminds me of daylillies and cut grass and the first mouthful is nicely balanced between the vegetal (fresh steamed spinach or chard) and the floral. There’s a sweet fruity fizz that asserts itself after as few seconds—pleasantly so. This isn’t the kind of tea that is likely to have me writhing with pleasure—I tend to favor black teas and pu-erhs—but I can appreciate the unimpeachable excellence of its qualities and I defer to others who insist this is one of the best Tieguanyins available.

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Incredible tea! Three infusions saw no diminution of the melting butter, baked fruit, and chestnut flavors that mix with the smoky essence to create a complex yin/yang experience. While I have always appreciated the delicacy of non-roasted, lightly-oxidized Oolongs, I tend to favor heartier teas in general and this gives me all the fruity flavors of an OOlong with the body of a smoked black tea. Like an album you fall in love with and can’t stop listening to, I can see myself pushing repeat on this tea for weeks on end.

Spoonvonstup

I love the album metaphor; I think I won’t be able to help quoting you on that one.

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This one took me by surprise. Maybe a bit unheralded, but from the heady camphor scent of the dry leaf to the sweet cherry flavor that establishes itself at the deepest levels, this tea might be my favorite Verdant Sheng of the three I’ve tried. I would really like to see how this sheng develops in the next few years, because right now it is delicious.

Spoonvonstup

Cherries! I did not catch that the last time I tried the Yiwu. I will definitely have to go and try this one again.

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I actually found the leaf quality in my cake to be pretty good, with many large intact ones. There was a nice honey note sneaking through in early tastings with a pleasant citrus aftertaste, but all in all the tea was a bit flat and ashy, which I’m chalking up to its youth. I’ll probably put this away for a while and revisit it in a year or so.

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All of the flavors are in perfect balance—earthy, smokey, fruity—an exciting and complex Pu-erh that will be awesome when aged. The dry leaf is unlike any I’ve seen in a green Pu-erh. You can tell that care was taken to preserve the flavors in the large beautiful leaves. Sweeter and more floral than I expected but balanced by a hint of fine leather and cinnamon.

David Duckler

I am glad that you like this one! I am hoping to invest in the remaining tongs of this harvest and age them for as long as possible. I agree about the possibilities over time… I hope that you have just as much fun with the Yabao and Yiwu.

Doug F

David, I’m having a great time working through these samples. Thanks again,
Doug

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I’ve been drinking both green and ripe pu-erhs for a few years but I can’t claim that I have the experience or refined tastes of the people at Verdant whose sample packs of Pu-erhs and Oolongs came in the mail yesterday. I steeped this teas using the Western method prescribed by Verdant (five 2.5 minute infusions) and while the tea is quite good for a youngish sheng, I wasn’t having the epic experience I was expecting from the tea—based on the comments of other tasters (some of whom are affiliated with Verdant). Maybe I’ve been drinking some pretty good shengs, or maybe it’s a case of having high expectations, but I didn’t have the aha moment I’ve had when drinking the best examples of other types of tea. This just didn’t outpace the other shengs I’ve had by such a degree that I would pay the steep price; while I would like to support the farmers who make this, I feel I can get a satisfying pu-erh experience for $30 a cake rather than $40 an ounce. I have enough tea for a couple more tastings, so I hope to be able to revisit this review soon.

David Duckler

I am sorry that this one did not live up to expectations! The Farmer’s Coop is probably the most polarizing sheng that I am importing. It really depends on what you are looking for in sheng pu’er. Having tried so many shengs (and so many terrible ones!) while over in China, I might be starting to get jaded towards the most eccentric profiles. It is easier to find a sheng of classic perfection- the sweet, deep, slightly camphory flavor, with developing mustiness and a lingering smooth aftertaste. I am always happiest with a pu’er when I am taken off guard by surprising flavors I didn’t expect. The farmer’s coop does that for me, and many others with its bizarre nutty and almost numbing taste, and green tea sweetness. not everyone agrees though, and even long time tea drinkers sometimes find this one lacking. One of my closest friends decided that they disliked this tea, until months later I pulled it out when the weather was just right, steeped it up in a gaiwan and didn’t tell them what it was. Suddenly, it was their favorite in the world!

You might try steeping it Chinese style if the larger pot brewing method isn’t working out. It generally yields more complexity in the gaiwan and yixing pot. Also, you can always try less leaves and longer steeps. I would assert that when this tea is tasted with other classic sheng pu’ers in mind, it might have the possibility to disappoint, but when you drink it without comparison, it strange and unexpected qualities come through, making it well worth the $13 an ounce. In the next few days, I may write a special section on brewing this one up and post it to the product page. In the meantime, I hope it gives you more the next time around.
Happy tasting!

Doug F

Thanks David, I fully acknowledge that I may be off on this one. The nuttiness wasn’t there for me and that could definitely be due to the steeping method or the amount of leaf I used. I’m grateful to you for providing me with the opportunity to try such unique teas and I will report back after I try steeping it Chinese style. Oh, and I’m sorry I got the price wrong. I must have been looking at the Artisan at the time.

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This was one of the highlights of the last few years of tea drinking—a truly memorable cup. Like a darjeeling on steroids, fruit, sugar and herb notes were powerful without being overwhelming. The dry leaf was a thing of beauty in itself. While I’ve had a couple of ordinary teas from this fledgling estate, when they get it right, they can produce some of the best teas in the India/Nepal region.

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While not a fan of the trend away from the prolonged withering process that made second flush darjeelings distinct from first flush teas and created the deeper, richer, ripened fruit taste I like in older second flush teas, this offering from Upton (only samples left) is tremendous. The dry leaf is a beautiful mix of sienna and silver and the aroma is so fertile, fecund, and fruity it could be used in a sachet. The infused leaf smells like honeysuckle and the taste—a near first flush delicacy of flavor that leaves a pleasing honey-lemon aftertaste.

Kitty

I had to look up a new word today (fecund)! Thanks for expanding my vocabulary. I purchased this one in July but it is yet unopened. I look forward to trying it!!

Doug F

I’m using mine sparingly.

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I had to add more about this incredible tea: scent of burning cannabis coming from the cup. You can follow the different sensations as it travels from mouth to throat. Spicy on the tip of the tongue, fruity on the middle and then the tea really explodes with a deep chocolate bomb towards the back of the mouth. Truly wonderful.

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I love tea and living in a place that is cold or cool nine months of the year, tea is a constant source of warmth and education. I always drink tea straight and rarely drink flavored teas or Tisanes, except for the occasional Rooibos. I’m a proud father of two young boys, an avid skier, motorcyclist, reader, and runner. I have a doctorate in English (dissertation on Emily Dickinson.)

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