20 Tasting Notes

90

I decided to start out the 2018 Sheng Olympiad with this one. On the balance, I found it fairly similar to the 2004 YQH Tejipin (of which I own a cake), albeit with less smoke, somewhat weaker qi, and a pronounced cooling note in the finish that occasionally made its way into the top taste on a few steeps. There was a bit of sourness in this tea, but nothing oppressive. Overall, an excellent tea, and a strong start to the series. If only it weren’t sold out basically everywhere.

Flavors: Menthol, Stonefruits

Preparation
Boiling 7 g 4 OZ / 125 ML

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90

Stored noticeably more wetly than its companion Menghai 7542, this is nonetheless a noticeably better tea. The storage taste, while strong on the first steep, dissipates quickly, leaving behind an initial sweetness that transforms into a lively, piney bitterness. The bitterness lingers for quite a while in the finish, although admittedly in a subtle way. There’s appreciable qi in a light, head-fogging kind of sense. The durability’s good, and the tea’s at least a little thick.

I’d happily buy a cake of this, were it not presumably priced somewhere in the stratosphere. I can see why Dayi has the reputation it does.

Preparation
Boiling 7 g 4 OZ / 125 ML

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80

An enjoyable example of a dry-stored, older Menghai tea. It can be somewhat gentle, but gets a bit of a piney kick when pushed. Some smokiness in the initial steeps, especially if it’s left to cool, but it’s far from overpowering. No real qi, not particularly thick, and it gives up faster than I’d like, but with all that said, it’s nonetheless enjoyable. I’d consider buying a cake, but only at the right price (probably way lower than this would command).

Preparation
Boiling 7 g 4 OZ / 125 ML

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92

In contrast to The Oolong Drunk below, I brewed this one at boiling, like I pretty much always do for young sheng. Like him, I found it thick and full of strong qi; however, at boiling, the flavor was anything other than delicate. The front taste fills the mouth with a low-register savoriness that retains hints of prickly tartness even into some of the later steeps; the first steep or two had a distinct hint of orange buried somewhere in there, but that quickly drops. Initially, there’s almost no bitterness, even at boiling, with the finish lingering and sweet. However, somewhere by the fifth steep or so, this finish gets replaced with a long, drying bitterness not unlike the bitter orange of marmalade. Ordinarily, I’d find this off-putting (marmalade is one of the few bitter things I actively dislike), but it mingles well enough with the other flavors that I find myself enjoying it.

On the whole, this is a complex, durable tea that’d almost be worth trying for the heavy, calming qi alone. That said, while I can’t quibble with the quality, the flavor profile isn’t quite to my taste and, at the asking price, I don’t think I’d get a bing. Definitely worth trying, though, and I wouldn’t fault anyone who purchased it.

Preparation
Boiling 7 g 4 OZ / 125 ML

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75

This is an interesting one, albeit more as an example than for its actual qualities. The description doesn’t lie; the tea is elegant, almost to a fault. The taste is essentially single note: a smooth, slightly bitter flavor that seems typical of the region, but which I have a hard time describing. It’s quite mellow, with low astringency and a bit of thickness; early cups left some tingling and my tongue and the session’s concluded with a nice lingering throat-tightness caused by the tea’s light bitterness carrying over into the finish.

That said, the tea is subtle: I didn’t really notice the finish much until the end of the session and the qi and caffeine are both present, but only if you search for them. I didn’t find much durability here, either, having to start pushing it harder than I would have expected after the first couple of steeps. My sample was very loose, almost like maocha, which may have exacerbated that.

I’m not sure I’ve actually had anything that’s single tree before, which is why I grabbed the sample. As I said, there’s definitely a purity here, but it results in a loss of dynamism. The flavor presents itself at its boldest in the first several cups and then fades (a bit faster than I’d have liked) without really changing much. I have no regrets about having the sample, but I also have no desire to go in for a cake.

Preparation
Boiling 7 g 4 OZ / 125 ML

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82

This tea is chopped—chopped, and compressed hard enough that the last five gram portion of my sample fell out of the bag with an audible thunk. Breaking that apart took a bit of effort and was only really possible after the rinse. Fortunately, though, it did open up after a steep or two and I could get on with the session without too much difficulty.

The liquor itself brews up an orange-ish brown that’s relatively light for a tea of this age and is indicative of the relatively dry, humid storage this tea’s seen in Malaysia. The taste reflects that as well, with a tart cherry note predominating, along with a cooling finish and some tingling activity on the tongue. It’s got a decently thick mouthfeel and provides a qi that gradually sneaks up on you.

It’s not without its flaws, though. The durability’s merely tolerable—the chopped leaves give up the ghost pretty quickly—and there’s a bit of an unpleasant bitterness not unlike burnt coffee that clashes with the rest of the flavors. It’s not a dealbreaker—you have to look for that flavor and it’s pretty brief—but it does mar the experience a bit. Previous sessions with earlier parts of the sample have been intensely smoky, though this quality’s been absent this time around. My guess is that there’s some variability in the cake.

This was the second sample of this tea that I’ve ordered, as I found myself unable to remember what I thought of it the first time. I’m not sure I’d purchase it in the current market; it’s a pretty decent tea, but I think EoT has some comparable offerings that are better. That said, it’s pretty enjoyable and it’s not the sort of thing I’d complain about owning.

Preparation
Boiling 7 g 4 OZ / 125 ML

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Having been on a bit of an aged tea kick lately, despite the seasonal influx of new tea, I decided to pick up a sample of this with my most recent Essence of Tea order. I’ve brewed it gong fu a couple of times and taken it into work for a grandpa-style session once so far, and I can safely say it’s a pretty solid tea, although one better suited to gong fu.

The parameters here are for my most recent session. My work session with this was a little underwhelming—mostly smoke, not a whole lot of flavor or durability—and I was suspicious that I had underleafed, despite using my normal quantity of tea. Thus, this time, I went for broke on the leaf quantity, pretty well packing the gaiwan. I was rewarded for my efforts with tart, cherry-like flavors that gradually subsided to reveal undertones of softer vanilla. There’s definitely some smoke on this tea, though it’s mostly faded and present primarily when smelling the gaiwan lid; similarly, the camphor in the name seems to appear mostly in the aroma and maybe a bit in the finish.

In terms of less immediately tangible properties, the tea’s texture was nothing remarkable, although not too thin. There’s a calm but noticeable qi, and the caffeine levels seem to be pretty low, which is kind of a feature. The tea proved reasonably durable through the session, though it fell off a cliff towards the end—my steep time increments jumped from five seconds to thirty seconds or more pretty quickly.

For the price, this is a pretty solid tea. If you squint, you could think of it as a budget version of the YQH Teji, as the storage seems to have had similar effects. I’d definitely recommend sampling it, and it might be worth a cake.

Flavors: Cherry, Vanilla

Preparation
8 g 3 OZ / 75 ML

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93

This tea is wonderful. You would be forgiven, if you were ducking in-and-out of a session that someone else was managing, for thinking this is an elegant, almost understated tea—all soft mouthfeel and gentle florals, with calm, uplifting qi and maybe a little bit of honey dancing around the edges of the flavor. However, its demure exterior belies a tea with some serious punchiness, which you might first notice in the long, lingering finish (again, characterized by the florals that dominate the nose and top taste). Push it just a little, especially in the early steeps, and you’ll find the mouthfeel turning viscous and slick, and the liquor picking up some of the almost soapy notes of, say, a 7542 of similar vintage. This potential for aggression translates into quite a bit of staying power, if you’re careful; I never manage to keep track of my infusion count, but I didn’t move on from flash infusions for the first four-to-five steeps or so.

I bought 50 g of this a couple of years ago; unfortunately, it seems to be sold out, now. If you can track some down, though, it’ll be worth your while.

EDIT: I steeped this overnight and came back to it late the next day. At this point, the tea tasted almost like pure honey, which was a very pleasant surprise given that I had only noted hints of honey during the main session.

Flavors: Floral

Preparation
Boiling 7 g 4 OZ / 125 ML

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95

To cut to the chase, this is among the best ripe puerhs I’ve had, and it rates well among all puerhs in general. Although the leaves were a little reticent to open up thanks to some fairly tight compression, once they did, they offered up a dark, viscous liquor with herbal, medicinal notes and a lengthy finish. At its peak, I got some distinct dark chocolate, not unlike cocoa powder, towards the swallow. The endurance was pretty remarkable for a ripe (around 12 steeps), as was the qi, which peaked with a sort of languid bliss around steep seven or eight. I found only one really off note: a fishiness in the initial aroma, which didn’t persist into the flavor. (This was a five gram sample that languished in the bag for about half a year; that may have had something to do with it)

The main issue here is the price tag, which is comparable to a number of premium shengs (Treachery of Storytelling Part 2, 2004 YQH Dingji, etc.). I’m not sure I could recommend investing heavily in this tea over those, but it’s worth having at least once.

Flavors: Dark Chocolate, Herbs, Medicinal

Preparation
Boiling 5 g 3 OZ / 75 ML

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85

Decided to finish off a sample today that I’ve had lying around for a little over a year. This is a strongly minty tea, both in the aroma and on the tongue, with some initial pine-iness, as well. The durability here is unremarkable; neither is it a marathon tea nor giving up in a few steeps. Similarly, qi is debatable, with the tea leaving a vague calmness that, while pleasant, may be mostly caffeine. That said, the flavor’s great and the mouthfeel thick and syrupy, so on the balance, this is a winner. I’m not mourning the fact that I missed out on this tea, but I do feel an indistinct regret.

Flavors: Mint, Pine

Preparation
Boiling 8 g 4 OZ / 125 ML

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