45 Tasting Notes
I tried this a week or so ago and did not like it. Trying it again tonight because I think I used too much leaf last time and maybe just wasn’t into in that night. And I have two cakes of it do figure out what to do with. I liked the previous version of this tea so I was sure I’d love this one. But now I’m remembering I wasn’t in love with the previous year’s cake at first either but it grew on me as I kept drinking it. Anyway, I’ve been listening to ballet music ‘til my ears bleed and I NEEDED TEA so might as well drink something I have a ton of, right?
I’m a little confused about what year this tea really is. The Yunnan Sourcing description says it was a March 2018 harvest pressed in 2019 so they’re selling it as the 2019 version of the tea…but the sticker on the back of the cake says 2020? There’s some Chinese I can’t read at all on the sticker but I’m pretty sure it says something about March 28, 2020. I dunno if that means it was harvested 2018, pressed in 2019 and then the 2020 date is like a release date or something? Or one of the dates given for this tea is wrong? I think the older cake I have was sold as 2018 and the sticker on the back also said 2018.
The 2018 had more fruity white tea flavors, I think. The 2019/2020/whatever-it-is cake seems like it’s leaning a bit more toward black tea already. Not completely black teas, but I feel like I’m getting more of that malty tongue-coating black tea type thing with this one than with the 2018. But I thought that was supposed to develop over time and this is supposed to be a fairly young cake? First gongfu steep isn’t super strong and has the fruity white tea flavors I expected but after that it smells and tastes more like black tea. But like black tea you made in a cup that still had a little white tea left in it. I don’t hate it like the first time I drank it but I’m not very excited about it. Hopefully it’ll grow on me like the 2018 did. Or maybe it’ll at least be something I can drink for sanity and the soothing powers of caffeine when I have to explain to my niece for the 9473736485th time why ballet newbs don’t get pointe shoes. Or something equally repetitive. I have a feeling these dance lessons are going to require a lot of tea. And eat into my tea budget (not that I have a shortage of tea, but still, the thought of running out is terrifying!). I’d forgotten how expensive dance paraphernalia is and how much more stuff ballet requires than other styles I’ve practiced.
I wasn’t really planning to drink this tonight but I found a container of homemade potato leek soup I’d stashed away in the back of the freezer and snarfed down way more than I intended because I was going to do some stretching ‘cause I foolishly said I’d give my niece some dance lessons for her birthday. So I did what any reasonable tea fiend would do and filled up the kettle and started looking around for a tea that’s supposed to help with digestion. Not that adding a bunch of water on top of a bunch of soup is going to make me feel any better when I fold myself in half…but hopefully it at least allowed some time for things to settle.
I found this stuff at Costco a year or so ago. I had one of these honey teas a while back while visiting an area with an absolutely massive Asian grocery store so the idea of stirring marmalade-looking goo into hot water and calling it tea wasn’t completely new to me but it still amuses me every time I scoop some out of the jar. I ignore the instructions on the jar and just use a heaping spoonful in a mug of water. I think there’s more sugar than honey in it despite the name. It’s sweet but not insanely so. At least not with the amounts of tea goo and water that I use. The ginger is there but it’s not super crazy intense burn your face off ginger, just enough to make your tongue tingle a little. There’s enough citrus to give it a slight bite but it’s not really sour. I think the balance of flavors is pretty good. And it’s fun to nibble on the bits of peel left in your cup when you’re done. It’d be a fantastic evening tea…except that I seem to have really weird dreams if I drink it right before bedtime. Not sure what the deal is with that.
I think this was the first tea I tried from Yunnan Sourcing and the first white tea I tried gongfu style. I think this was my first shou mei too. It was nothing like the western style steeped silver needle and white peony teas I was used to but I liked it. I liked it so much that this session is with the last ball of my first package. I have another package waiting so it doesn’t feel like a real sipdown but it’s still some sort of milestone since I seem to rarely finish off a package of tea.
The tea smells fruity. What kind of fruit? I dunno, all of them? Steeping gongfu style, the first couple steeps have some fruity flavor but it’s mostly a sweet dried grass sort of flavor. It doesn’t really taste like any kind of hay I’ve ever had the misfortune of inhaling (family used to raise horses) but it definitely seems like some kind of dried grass. The rest of the steeps are much heavier on the fruit flavors. White grape juice came to mind but it’s been years since I had white grape juice. Sweet but with some tartness, a sort of thick-ish mouthfeel, the aftertaste is sweet and sort of mouthwatering. It has that throat-coating feeling I usually get from sweet, syrupy type drinks like fruit juices and bottled sports drinks. I don’t know if it’s a great description but I sometimes describe this sort of drink as feeling gooey in my throat. Anyway, I could almost convince myself I was drinking hot white grape juice. This tea seems to handle any steeping style and isn’t too particular about steep time or temperature. It can go quite a few steeps gongfu or at least a couple steeps western. I meant to gongfu this time but a few steeps in I started reading and forgot I’d poured in the water so I just added some more water and pretended I meant to steep it western style. Oops. It still tasted good so I can’t be too upset with my distractable little self. I think when you do longer steeps like this you get more flavors mingling together instead of just fruit juice. I got fruit but also some of that dried grass flavor and a little floral.
I liked these shou mei dragon balls a lot better than the little individually wrapped shou mei squares Yunnan Sourcing also sells. I thought the squares were less fruity and I was annoyed that the packets weren’t sealed well so they weren’t great for throwing in bags or pockets. I don’t enjoy having to pick pocket fuzz off my tea before I can steep it. The aged shou mei dragon balls were okay but I think I might like these unaged ones more. I like the price more, anyway.
I forgot to do any sort of special tea for Valentine’s Day this year so I thought I’d make a cup of this now. I drank a ton of this last winter but it’s been a while since I drank it. I suspect it comes from some big tea wholesaler since there are a lot of similar looking heart shaped rose ripe pu-erhs out there but I’ve always gotten it from my local tea shop (which I love and miss hanging out at!). I don’t think it’s the most amazing quality ripe…the leaf is really broken up and there’s no info about growing area or harvest year. I like it for mindless drinking when I’d feel bad about not paying enough attention to the nuances of fancier teas. I usually drink it western or grandpa style. If you make it strong enough, it goes nicely with a splash of cream and a cookie. It doesn’t last many steeps for gongfu but I’m no good at mindless gongfu anyway so no big deal.
I’ve been drinking this for the last few days and it helped me through the freezing cold weekend. I knew I wanted a cake as soon as I saw it go up on the YS site. I have so many of these tangerine teas now that I’m not sure why I needed another one but I did enjoy it. Out of seven tangerine/mandarin teas and a couple of others in other citrus fruits, White2Tea’s Mini O’Bitters has been the only one I haven’t loved.
It smells deliciously orangey both dry and wet. The cake seemed more tightly pressed than some I’ve poked at but the large pieces of tangerine peel make it easy to chip off chunks. I was kind of surprised by the size of the tangerine pieces. When I brew the whole tangerines stuffed with tea I usually break up the peel pretty small and White2Teas chenpi cakes have had tiny bits of peel but this tea has some big bits. Very orangey flavor. It’s not a subtle “use your imagination and maybe you’ll taste orange” tea. The tea flavor is there too but so much oranginess. It makes me happy. I gongfu-ed a few steeps and then went to a more western or grandpa type style because that was just easier while I worked on things. I found the spare filter for my Thé de Chine mug (recently cracked the one that came with it but had I’d saved the filter from another mug that tragically died after being knocked off the side of the bathtub…tea and bubble baths, try it but maybe don’t knock your mug on the floor) so I was was using that and it was easy to adjust the water amount for longer steeps. One of these days I’ll try a tangerine tea in yixing but I haven’t decided which teapot will be the designated citrus pot. I feel like I don’t use my yixing pots enough but I find them more of a pain than glass or porcelain.
This might be the oldest moonlight white I’ve tried and possibly the highest grade (but none of the others have really said much about how fancy they are except for saying they’re tippy). It broke my brain a little bit. I’ve heard that as moonlights age they become more like black tea but until this one I hadn’t had any that really reminded me of black tea. Some sniffs smelled like white tea, some like black. The flavor was mostly black tea with that tongue-coating maltiness of fancier blacks like golden needles. Being white but also black-ish was sort of like White2Tea’s Hot Brandy, which is a blend of black and white. I usually enjoy a good tongue-coating feels-like-you-could-chew-it black tea but I was really more in the mood for a fruit juicy type white tea. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it more when I’m in more of a black tea mood. I like the small 100g size of the cake. I wish more pressed teas came in 50-100g sizes. The smaller cakes are easier to store (at least for the size and shape of my tea storage boxes) and I’m less nervous about buying small cakes if I’m not sure if I like something yet. I’m not thrilled about the plain white wrapper on this tea, though. I think I’m going to have to make some kind of label or outer wrapper or something for it so I remember what it is.
Eek! This tea might be a little young for me still. I was hoping it’d be similar to YS’s Lucky Pig mini but it’s quite a bit more bitter. I tasted a little bit of sweetness and I think it’ll be something I like in a couple years but right now it’s not a favorite. I think Lucky Pig might be losing it’s bitterness faster because the tiny single serving tuo shape is aging faster than a cake. I do like Golden Pig’s size, though. The small cake is a good size for gifting or travel or if you think you want more than a sample but maybe not a giant cake of anything. I also really like that it’s double wrapped with a thin tissue paper type inner wrapper and a thicker outer wrapper. The tissue paper wrappers tend to tear too easily for my liking. And a double wrapper helps keep tea crumbs from escaping and gathering in the bottom of my tea boxes! Anyway, Golden Pig is more bitter than I enjoy right now but I think it has the potential to age into something I’ll think is really tasty. I’ll stash it into the raw pu-erh box and try to remember to check on it in a year or so to see how it’s changing.
This was last night’s tea for me. I enjoyed it quite a bit. I think Mengku is “my” region for raws so I wanted to try a few more in my most recent tea order to be sure. I don’t think the description mentions Mengku at all but it’s in the tags on the product page. For some reason the Mengku raws I’ve had have been easier on my stomach than raws from other areas. I also have the Golden Pig small cake so it’ll be interesting to compare the two little piggies.
This reminds me of a younger version of YS’s Buddy raw, which is also a Mengku tea. A little fruity, a little floral, a little bitter, a little sweet. It seemed a bit more astringent than Buddy and gets bitter faster if you oversteep. You know how sometimes you smell or taste something and you think “this is like [some thing]…but not”? There’s something there that reminds you of something but it’s not exact? I smelled orange blossom but spicy. I really like spicy floral scents and orange blossom. Putting the two together was unexpected but it kind of worked for me. I wasn’t able to steep this one until it lost flavor because it made me so sleepy. I think I did 5-6 steeps and it probably could have gone for several more. I’ll try to make better notes while I sip next time if I’m not as sleepy. Definitely going on my reorder list so I can keep drinking it but have at least a few of them stashed away to age a few years.