139 Tasting Notes

I steeped this for a good 5 minutes, thereby ensuring that the the earthy, forest-floor flavor would be emphasized at the expense of any subtler flavors. That’s fine by me—what drew me to ripe pu-erhs in the first place is the muddiness. I’m more likely to do short, multiple steeps for green pu-erhs. This 2007 tea is very easy to drink: smooth and sparkly.

205 °F / 96 °C 5 min, 0 sec

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The sun comes out intermittently and teases us with spring, but when it leaves it feels like March. I’m not sure whether to have a fresh or floral spring tea to remind me that warmer days are coming or a darker black tea to warm my core. I spun the wheel and ended up with the last of this very nice Assam—not too heavy, pleasantly fruity, easy to drink straight any time of the day.

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Word has it that the first=flush season is not a good one, so I’m glad I have some of this stellar tea left. It has held up well—a heady mixture of honeysuckle, peach and freshly-mown grass, with that singular muscatel essence that makes tasting first-flush darjeelings the non-pareil experience in the tea world.

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drank Hu Kwa by Mark T. Wendell
139 tasting notes

The smell of wood smoke ignites some primal pavlovian need inside of me, especially on this bone-chilling day. The beautiful red hue of this tea begs for a glass mug and the deep, mellow taste never disappoints. This will always be a part of my inner circle of teas.

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I forgot I had purchased this and was reminded when I read Angrboda’s review. I brewed this western style for about 4 minutes. The infused leaf smelled fantastic—strangely, it reminded me of a hot day in the Florida Keys when the Bouganvilla is blooming. The initial flavor was chocolate and peanut but what lingered was a pronounced grape soda taste that reminded me of drinking RC and White Rock sodas as a child. The experience was similar to that of Master Han’s Wild Yunnan.

Overall, this is a mild black tea, with the typical Chinese black elements tempered by oolong fruitiness.

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I’m always surprised when I read a person’s comment that teas of this type don’t appeal to him or her; I have to restrain myself from ordering every Yunnan golden fleece/bud/tip from every tea purveyor on the web. The first time I had one, I was hooked like the first time I heard Bob Dylan on my parents’ stereo 40 some odd years ago. I even promote this tea to non-tea drinkers (like my wife) who don’t respond to the Assams and Ceylons that make up most blends. How can you not love the creamy, honey-sweet caramel flavors of these Yunnans?

This one from Upton is a little more lemony and peppery than some, but still retains the characteristics that make you feel like you’re drinking from the very wellspring of tea itself.

Rachel J

We seem to have similar taste in tea. I love Yunnans too and enjoyed this one myself. What are your brewing parameters to get full flavor without astringency? I am drinking Teavivre’s Dian Hong right now, and my water might have been too hot because it’s overly astringent for me though last time it wasn’t. With this Upton, I remember that I found a lower water temp to be helpful too. Let me know how you generally brew them please!

Doug F

Hi Rachel, I’m glad you found me! We do seem to have similar tastes. I haven’t had too many problems with astringency with the Dian Hongs; I brew them for 4 minutes at about 195-200 degrees. Do you use filtered water? I have a nice filtration system because our town water is kind of stinky. Maybe that’s a factor.

Rachel J

Thanks, Doug. I think I’m overly sensitive to astringency and bitterness. Funny because I don’t recall having these issues when I drank a lot of tea from 2006-2009. I use filtered NYC tap water which I’ve compared to spring water, and I think it couldn’t be the water. So, I am finding that I have to do no more than 3 minutes and no hotter than 190F to get the Dian Hongs to work for me. That seems to be the sweet spot.

Rachel J

Also wondering if you could recommend a good relatively inexpensive Dian Hong that is a good representation of classic Yunnan flavor. I really like this Upton and the Teavivre but am wondering what you think since you have probably tried more of them than I. I used to love Adagio’s Yunnan Gold, but now I don’t think it’s as good as these. Thanks in advance! Your tasting notes are very well written, and I’ve been enjoying them. :)

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Obviously, we’re dealing with a much different Yunnan black tea than the plethora of “golden” blacks with their rich caramel, and cocoa flavors—so much so that this tea seems more like a blueberry oolong: fruity, unassertive, with a kind of effervescence I find in herbal teas. I like it, but I place it alongside those teas (whites, yabaos) whose subtlety (not unlike a difficult poem) requires dedicated attention to unlock its flavors. If you drink a cup while working or reading you might very well forget you’ve had anything at all.

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I had been searching for a good aged Oolong and I’m glad I found this excellent tea. Like a great roasted fruit compote, this tea has a great depth of peach and plum flavors. The roasting burnishes the sweetness with a nice bit of autmunal smoke, perfect for this crisp fall day. By the way, Stacy is a pleasure to do business with and added some great samples to my order, including a rarefied Keemun that wasn’t even on the web site yet. I’m giving the other teas I ordered from her a few tries before reviewing them, but they are all quality teas.

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Okay, so I hate the appropriation of the word “artisan” by marketers to suggest that a product was made by hand in some remote workshop by a wizened old master who is the final link to some disappearing skill. It’s a sandwich for God’s sake! I am, however, a sucker for the word “ancient” when used to describe pu-erh tea.

It reminds me of Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner: mellowed with age, but with an inner intensity. You see this old man at a wedding; he seems inconsequential. You’re prepared to be dismissive until he starts to tell his tale and you realize what he has to say is wise, mythic, elemental.

Okay, so maybe this raw/green pu-erh is not mythic, but it does have a mellow, sweet, round feel that suggests the ancient leaf. But be prepared, the energy packed in these leaves is like the intensity of the Mariner’s gaze. It had me up half the night singing Springsteen songs in preparation for a concert tomorrow night in Boston.

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Even with a five-minute steep, this tea is so smooth. I’m being parsimonious with my 50 gram stash; this is one of the special ones.

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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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