100 Tasting Notes
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Upton describes the pre-chingming teas thusly, “The festival of Chingming (Qingming) is a 2500 year-old tradition in which people visit the burial sites of their ancestors to pay respect. It is significant in Chinese tea culture because it serves as a demarcation between a distinct pre-Chingming plucking period and the subsequent plucking period occuring after the festival date (usually around April 5). Pre-Chingming teas are prized for their delicacy and subtle, fresh nuances.”
This Golden Monkey is very intense and chocolatey if steeped in the 4-5 minute range as Upton prescribes. Try a shorter infusion—only then do the subtle fruity flavors come out, revealing a glorious cup that will compel me to try other early spring teas from China.
A rating of 1, really? maybe best not to give a numerical rating to teas you don’t like altogether, because it can skew the ratings for a tea, like this sencha which IS grassy and wonderfully evocative of the ocean environment it hails from. I’ve had many cups of this sencha and, for those who like this type of tea it is one you can really sink your teeth into. Keep the water below 190 and steep for 2.5 minutes max and you’ll avoid any bitterness.