I got one of these 100g mini-beengs in 2007, bought ten more at the beginning of 2009 and have been drinking them up and gave a few away as gifts. I’m down to 2 and 3/4 cakes left and will miss ‘em when they’re gone as they are great for drinking with meals (especially oily/greasy stuff like a lot of Chinese food). Tons of oompf for such a tiny package – little beengcha, little leaves, big flavor. Mellowed a bit since the first taste I had, but age has had little effect thus far and I doubt the tea will survive to a point where it’s effect is really significant.

10g with 225ml water in a seasoned “shi piao” Yuan Kuang Lao ZiNi yixing teapot. Double rinse to break up very tight compaction. 1st infusion 20 seconds; 2nd infusion 25 seconds; 3rd-6th infusions 30 seconds each.

Leaves are tightly compacted but not as absurdly tight as an iron-cake and it is possible to break of chunks using just fingers. There’s a lot of buds but grading ripe puerh is tricky – while graded piles are segregated in wo dui prep, most is done on the basis of size after being broken down in active fermentation so these fairly uniform leaf bits contain buds, rolled bits of young leaves, and thin broken twigs of the sort that connect 2 leaf and a bud sets. Still, the cakes are pretty equally brown and gold with a reddish reflection. Embedded paper has started taking on some tea oils but still an overall matte appearance. Not much dry fragrance beyond dry clay-rich loam. Same note dominates in heady wet aroma but with warm moist leaf litter base. Coppery sweetness in aroma like candied pecans/walnuts. Did I mention clay? Always reminds me of sculpting in the same room as an operating kiln. Liquor is dark red with clear transparency but the color makes it nearly impossible to see through the tea without back-lighting.

Heavy, heavy body. Mouthwatering tacky quality similar to currants/prunes but there really isn’t a fruit note except maybe a fleeting hint of prune in the aftertaste. Flavor hits at the back, near the throat first and then you notice the flavor in the rest of your mouth. This is all about the moist earth flavors. Sweetness is pleasantly metallic. Like the comforting sweet smell of bronze antiques or lightly rusted cast iron. Mmm, boy it’s rich. Lots of woody tastes – less acidic than orchid bark, but moist chopped hardwood bark a definite. Aroma suggests resin and pepper but these are not really present in neither flavor nor nose. Long finish of unglazed clay wares. For all its earthy characters, it is not dirty. These are humus and refined base soil material notes, not dust or dung. I’ve seen some people call the barnyard smell of wet-storage puerh as “pu-erh like” (or “poo-air” like the common mispronunciation of the tea category); this does not have that off-characteristic. Puerh ought to have a clarity despite its earthen qualities in shous or aged shengs. Sure, this is a wo dui processed tea and has an old building character to it, but no farm animals here and the mustiness is kept to the wet leaves. Rich, potent, and smoooooth with long lasting but clear finish.

I love this tea and it is a staple for drinking with food. So why the rating? The rating reflects the reality check of the real level of this tea – it is not a superb, must-try tea. It tastes really good and makes a good gift for folks who actually drink good tea, but it can not compare to a well-aged cake or many teas that cost 10 times as much. There is a huge presence of flavor and you can pick out all kinds of tastes if you try – ranging from toasted white oak, teak, dried bullrush, and water lily – but the complexity is not something that you really jump at and in six infusions prepared gong fu cha, there really is not much shift in flavor. On the plus side, it it reliable and can cut through the impacts of drinking alongside a meal, but monodirectional flavor doesn’t earn a high score in my book. You don’t reach for a $100 bottle of wine to drink with every meal, however much you may enjoy it; same goes for this good everyday tea.
I’d still recommend this to friends, but I can’t find any more to buy.

195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 30 sec

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Tea Geek.

My focus is on Chinese Wulongs and Pu’er but I’m all over the place. I tend to follow a seasonal progression of teas, following the freshness curve of greens through summer and rounding the cooler months out with toastier teas and Masala Chai.
With the exception of Masala Chai milk tea I’m a purist at heart. While I was originally snagged by Earl Grey with bergamot and make blends for gifts, I very rarely go for scented teas or herbals and can’t remember the last time I bought a tea that was blended. Pure tea is just more interesting to me than the product of mixing flavors. I do understand and appreciate their existence, though.

I upload some blends I make or special prep teas I nab under the company name “Green Raven Tea and Coffee” and the vast majority of these posts will be blends crafted to create flavors/characteristics not inherent in any one particular tea.
I’ve worked as a tea buyer for a smallish cafe and try to keep apprized of shifts in offerings even when not selecting for a business so I wind up sampling a ton of wholesale samples from a couple companies in particular but try to branch out to as many companies as I can find. Until Steepster integrates some form of comparative tasting feature, none of my cupping notes will make it onto my reviews unless wrapped up into something I feel compelled to drink multiple times on its own.

Since all the cool kids are doing it, here’s my big fat ratings scheme:

0-12…..Ugh, don’t wish on anyone
13-25….Bad, won’t touch again
26-37….Huh, not worth the effort
38-50….Meh, unremarkable
51-62….Okay, good tea
63-75….Tasty, really good tea
76-87….Yum, wonderful
88-100…Wow, really spectacular

There shouldn’t be many postings at all from me ranked 26-50 since unremarkable teas are unlikely to make me remark on ’em but to “earn” a score 37 or below I have to be disappointed to the point where others may ask for a refund or turn down offers even when free or offered as a gift (beyond stale).

I’ve got a ton of respect for anything rated 63 or higher.

For a tea to get 71 or more, it has to be pretty special and kinda blow my socks off.

The 90s are reserved for wonders that make me reevaluate my views of the world of tea as a whole.


Santa Rosa, California, United States

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