22 Tasting Notes
Unlike a lot of the teas I go for, this tea is by no means assertive or flashy. It is, however, thick, durable, and a pretty consistent qi bomb. The flavor is tough to pin down; maybe a hair alkaline, but mostly juicy, sweet, and without a hint of bitterness. It can be finicky, though; if you steep it aggressively, it’ll get really astringent really fast. So long as you can keep that in check, you’ll be rewarded with an excellent, long session that’s all but guaranteed to leave you in a state of blissed-out relaxation. I’ve seriously brewed this tea to calm my wife down from a panic attack before.
I’ve owned two cakes of this for a while, but it’s taken me some time to get around to reviewing it. This is up there with Last Thoughts and Treachery of Storytelling for me, and I’m very fortunate to have it in my collection.
I approached this one with a bit of trepidation. The leaf was very tightly compressed, leaving the first couple of steeps quite light and tasting mostly of storage with vegetal overtones; not the most pleasant of experiences. However, things started opening up on the third steep, where pushing it for about ten seconds rewarded me with a dark, thick liquor featuring a suddenly spicy aroma and richly savory flavor.
Having finally fully decompressed, the tea continued on in this way through the remainder of the session. Periodically, other notes would emerge, like a few remnants of lingering bitterness around the seventh steep, a little bit of a cooling finish here and there, some tingling on the tongue, and a faint sweetness that started coming through as the tea lightened in later steeps. The vegetal notes never quite went away, but stayed mostly masked by the savoriness; remarkably, no sourness ever emerged. Throughout, the qi remained calming and quietly potent, although unaccompanied by much in the way of serious caffeine.
All in all, this tea was a lovely example of well-done Hong Kong storage. The original material seems to have been of decent quality, as well, though probably not the stuff of legends. Definitely worth a try if you can deal with a bit of funk.
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
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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
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.