93 Tasting Notes


Okay, I bought this through YunnanSourcing so I could technically post mine as a different tea since storage conditions are different, but I feel that may be “cluttering” the list. It is the same manufacturer, year, wrapper, mass, and even most of the description. A little more than $7 cheaper even after shipping is totaled in…

This is my favorite organic certified shu bingcha I have on hand. Okay, it’s the only certified organic ripe cake I’ve got at the moment. My bing purchases tend to be sheng puerh, but this was a deal and the price does not reflect the quality at all. I have my $15 cake of this sitting next to a $150 shu from the same year but displaying far less balance. Now, this isn’t big on complexity – sure, there are levels of favors but I don’t foresee this ever blowing me away with range. But it’s durable as all hell and easy to brew. Laid back ripe tea and comforting. I reach for it when I’m drinking alongside food and expect the tea to be the major element of the meal (for instance, I went and got some pot stickers, chow fun, and steamed rice ‘cause I felt like drinking this tea and wanted something to go with it).
I bought this March of last year. It has smoothed out a bit, losing some of the leathery edge it once had and the primary heady stained wood note is now mostly just in the aftertaste on longer infusions. The cake has nice flexibility for a youngin’ – it isn’t very difficult to wriggle free intact leaves or chunks without breakage. Not quite as much give/sponginess as something that’s spent some time in the Xishuangbanna area or Hong Kong, but still soft for only a few years old. This time around, I used a biiiiiiit more leaf than I normally would for casual drinking. Used a solid chunk plus about 2g of loose bits that came off with it.

Used 30g with 200ml in a seasoned shi piao style zi ni yixing teapot. Single rinse to separate a little bit… probably should’ve done two. I feel a little guilty going at this concentration with so few infusions, but boy does the tea taste good at the high end. Used 90ish degree C water for the rinse, 88 degrees for the 1st infusion, 85 for the 2nd, 78 for the 3rd. Back up to 85 for 4th-6th infusions. Steep time was approximate and ran 30, 30, 50, 30, 45, 30 seconds. If I had continued, I would start reducing infusion time to 15 seconds by the 9th infusion since the leaves are only starting to break up from compaction on the 6th brew and a touch of astringency is noticeable in the back of the mouth and throat.

Dry leaves are rich chocolatey brown with the fragrance of leaf litter in a woodland and dry bark. Wet leaf aroma is spicier – stained hardwood, cinnamon, birch, willow, redwood, and rich loamy soil over the leaf litter and mossy base. There’s a wet granite note that pops out saying “Ima gonna be a crisp tastin’ tea!” but contradicted by a prune note that suggests smoothness. Leaves are dark brown to the point of near blackness and leave a reddish stain surrounding themselves. Liquor is clear orangey brown honey color for first infusion, steadily getting darker to an infusion that allows nearly no light through and deep dark brown with reddish reflection in last couple brews. Unfired wet clay aroma to the liquor.

Sweet and smooooooooth. Hearty body. Not quite so thick you could stick a fork in it, but close. Feels like a 1:2 honey in water dilution in mouthfeel and lingering crisp sweetness. Nice florals pop out of the baseline black wild long grain rice flavor. I’m not a big fan of wild rice but like when the flavor presents in shu puerh or some red teas. Florals are mostly in the aftertaste, but include violets, tulip, chamomile, and impatiens. Toasty wood notes – mostly hardwood, but theres a smell of redwood planking being warmed by the sun, buckeye wood and foliage, dried ferns and moss, scrub oak, wheat bread toast, and bay laurel/faint eucalyptus. Right at the end of a draught I get a brief rough patch in my throat and a pruney-cherrywood flavor accentuated by a note of Japanese Maple and tobacco leaves in the nose. Aftertaste is a light woody currant-sweetness and faint but very long lasting honey-and-butter-on-multigrain-toast characteristic. Afteraroma is warming and follows through with the wet granite that the leaf aroma advertises.

Nice noir-ish tea. Really evokes the spirit of a hardwood-bedecked P.I. office, backwater docks in the misty pre-pre-dawn darkness, and cobbled alleyways. Not dirty or dank in any way, but only a little step from it. This tea isn’t really foresty… At lower concentrations and longer infusions it can be like a woodland, but really this puerh is a fairly clean example of a ripe tea.
Satisfying, rich, and mouthwatering.
Nom nom nom.

180 °F / 82 °C 0 min, 30 sec

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Tried this earlier, treating it like I’d usually treat a sencha – lukewarm water around 70-75 degrees C, 4g per 150ml with a steep less than 45 seconds. Really didn’t have much flavor to convey other than dustiness and an off-taste like old bruised lettuce that’s been sitting out too long. Pushing the concentration seems to work better than the time and temp is working best around 85ish degrees C. Should prolly tweak around some more, but this tea really doesn’t inspire me to try too much… May have been okay at one time, but this is stale.
I thank AmazonV for this, as it’s interesting to taste the tea and then see what the company says about it. Had myself a good laugh when I saw they consider this to have “perfectly balanced flavor.”

2g per 60ml in a glazed ceramic gaiwan. 1 minute steep with 85 degree C water. Got a slackened second infusion out of it using a 2 minute steep and 84 degree C water.

Dry leaves are composed of 6 parts leaves (old cut grass-green with white reflection), 4 parts twig (pale yellow-green), 1 part stem (reddish brown). Dry fragrance is similar to a handful of dry hay. Slight off-ripe note like old wilted lettuce or rotten apricot in a plastic bag that you can’t quite smell but leaves an odd tint to the air in the room. Wet leaves slightly yellowish green and mashed together like most senchas… Not very much aroma at all. Wet leaf aroma is like the smell of sea foam, but very light. Liquor aroma kinda musty, like wet dust and a faint aroma of hedge trimmings. Liquor is clear and medium yellow. Hansa + Cadmium yellow with a little tiny bit of Zinc white mixed 1:1 with linseed and mineral spirits using oil paints. To those who don’t paint or feel this is too far a stretch at euphemism, I’m pretty sure this will come out looking exactly how it did going in.

Flavor? Couple bits of well-rinsed seaweed floating in the water I’m drinking. Body is sort of broth-like; thicker than I expected. Flat. When slurped, I can get more flavor, but it’s like slurping water from a stream with a lot of algae in it. Musty non-fruit “ripeness” through to aftertaste. I get the same sort of quality in the aftertaste of 7up that has sat out for a few days (well, remembered taste – I don’t drink that junk any more). Afteraroma similar to the exhalation after breathing in around washed up, withering brown kelp – sort of an oily sweet-sour impression in the nose.

Can’t call this okay or even unremarkable… won’t be buying it. Still, interesting to fiddle with for a spell to try to make something out of it. I get the distinct impression that this is the sort of “premium” tea companies oftentimes use to flavor/scent.

185 °F / 85 °C 1 min, 0 sec

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I’m convinced this is the best quality tea Peet’s offers on a regular basis. They do (or used to, anyway) offer a DanCong special for mail orders for a couple weeks around January after they got the tea in. The tea buyer has a strong tendency towards Indian teas, but it’s obvious from talking to him that DanCongs are a special exception for him to the point where he purchases incredibly small production lots of only enough for a dozen or so 1oz tins. Those teas are a massive step above this one, but the standard commercial Phoenix Oolong is good, especially considering the size of the company.
A week ago I stopped into one of Peet’s locations for a pot of this and was smacked with disappointment, even after taking control of the variables, which most of the staff do for you, removing that control from the customer. I’ve certainly felt disappointment with a tea I’ve known to enjoy before, but it’s rare that I’ll be really be affronted with the emotion. Today, I’m taking more control and choking up the last experience to water that’s been reheated too many times and a canister of leaves that’s been exposed to coffee-scented air too often. Fortunately, this time is the best tasting I’ve ever managed to get from this tea.
Considering where this tea stands compared to other Phoenix Oolongs, the amount of excitement/boredom inherent in it, the level of consistency of leaves, and the “volume” of expression it conveys I certainly consider this a “good” tea, but I can’t justify a rating of 60 or higher.

9g with 175ml in a rong tian style zi ni yixing pot. Single rinse immediately poured off. Only did three infusions with 85 degree C water – 30sec, 15 sec, 15 sec.

Leaves range from very long to very small… black and very dark green with a grayish reflection. Dried apricot dominates the dry fragrance. Wet leaves are much lighter, mossy green with yellowish stripes. Wet leaf aroma is a little more herbal-spicy, like basil, with a peach fruit note. There’s also a toasted grain note very similar to plain Cheerios. Liquor doesn’t carry much aroma compared to the wet leaves, but has a distinct toasted honey note. Liquor is pale yet richly hued yellow and clear.

Flavor and mouthfeel is like honey dissolved in water and a light peach accent in the nose. Wheat toast sweet and sour in the aftertaste. Balanced, medium body. Faint cedar woodiness in afteraroma. Really straightforward in expression of sweet, sour, slightly weighty, and crispness. Slight peppery astringency in the aftertaste along the sides of the tongue.
Doesn’t shift a whole lot over three brews.

Not spectacular, but easy drinking, and something I don’t mind having alongside food as I don’t have to worry about delicate complex characteristics I may be missing out on.

185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 15 sec

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I picked this up today at Tillerman Tea in Napa, California’s Oxbow Public Market. This shop very quickly became my favorite retailer to buy from after being introduced to it a couple years ago. While they may not have half the ambiance of larger tea shops (it is a very nice looking stall in a communal market), they more than make up for it with incredible customer service, in-depth knowledge, dedication to freshness, and consistently high quality. I’ve learned plenty from stopping into places such as Imperial Tea Court and Teánce, but this is the only place where I regularly learn something new with every visit and usually get an engaging, friendly discussion along with my fine tea.
This time around, I walked out with a true gem. This is a spring 2010 traditional LiShan rolled oolong by teamaster Chen Huan Tang. Higher oxidation around 30%, compared to contemporary Jade oolongs around 20-25%, and with a lighter, more balanced roast than most “roasted” Taiwanese oolongs. I was surprised to hear this is the highest elevation growing area in Taiwan, around 2,000 meters – placing it near the highest in terms of tea cultivation worldwide.

I can say with confidence that this is the most wonderful Taiwanese rolled oolong I have been acquainted with. Whilst presenting distinctive characteristics and very heavy aroma, it excels in balance. Even the afteraroma that lingers well beyond 15 minutes on the 11th infusion (tried to test on the 10th but – oops – had another cup before it started to diminish) is balanced with an equally lingering, crisp, clean aftertaste. The progression of infusions is both dynamic in flavor yet somehow consistent in cup profile. Every infusion features layers of aromatics, tastes, and tactile impressions that shift throughout each draught with increasing range up to the 6th infusion where it holds through the 10th without diminishing a bit. I can not point to a single “peak infusion” since it is only a character shift with the range of different flavors being maintained until I ran out of water in the first round. I am sort of blown away that the “opening up” of flavor is so gradual and fluid to the high plateau it reaches starting at the 6th brew. I’m used to these rolled oolongs (heck, most oolongs and puerhs in general) presenting in a 1-2-3-4 series of flavor steps followed by a steady decrease… This is more like a smooth ascent up a sloping hillside.

Let’s see… Onward to the notes… Better be a bit more specific than usual per the parameters.
In a small glazed ceramic gaiwan I used 4.02g with 53.12ml-60.35ml water heated to 84 degrees C with progressive infusions continuing down to 75 degrees C or until I ran out of water. First four infusions at 15 seconds, then increased up to 45 seconds through to the 10th-13th infusions and added 5 seconds per infusion from then on. Had to stop at 20th infusion, though there is still a very full flavor. Water temp never exceeded 87 degrees in the kettle and no heat was added once brew temperature was achieved for each round. Water was municipal East Side Petaluma tap water (piped-in Russian River water treated with sodium hydroxide for pH and gaseous chlorine as residual disinfectant, pH 7.8, about 130ppm total hardness), aerated, run through a Brita filter, and aerated again prior to heating in a stainless steel electric kettle. Last thing eaten was a vanilla and fudge drumstick ice cream cone 3 hours earlier. Single rinse with 4 second contact time to open leaves a tad, take in wet leaf aroma, and take a baseline photo.

Leaves are glossy, dark green with yellow stems. Dry fragrance is sweet lettuce-leafy with a cream-like tang. 4g covers about half the area of the bottom of my gaiwan. By the 8th infusion the leaves have filled the volume to where the lid rests and by the 20th it is necessary to push the leaves about with the lid to stir as they exceed the water line. Wet leaves carry heavy perfume of many flowers, spices, foliage, and heavy dairy products. Most significant of these are carnation, butter lettuce, basil, thyme, lavender, cinnamon stick, balsa wood, apple peel, freshly washed hair (odd but distinct and pleasant), mulched grasses, brown pear, and churned buttermilk. Leaves take a little while to expend with my short infusions but are almost exclusively intact 3 leaf and a bud sets with deep spinach green leaves up to 8cm long with fresh sea lettuce elasticity and slightly firmer texture closer to nori. Terminal buds are very small and just emerging from the twig. Twigs are olive green after infusing. Liquor is clear, light-yet-saturated Chardonnay-yellow with a couple dust-sized particles with no sieve used. Liquor aroma carries on aromas of leaves but less spice, more cream and chlorophyll-sweet. Very soothing and full aroma – actually has a rich tactile impression in sinuses or mouth when breathed in.

Full, buttery body. Body is equal to or greater than most puerh I’ve had. Leafy-pear sweet, cinnamon stick and pink peppercorn spice, basil and honey-infused cream sour, glutinous umami, faint marble salt note, and the mellow bitterness of marsh grasses. Mouthwatering crispness circles in and out in a perpetual cycle for over 5 minutes after a draught. Heavy nose of tropical flowers and foliage, rice, cream, chives, and squash. Name a type of monocot plant and there’s a similar muted aromatic or flavor characteristic. Cycad or palm fronds most similar to me, but there’s even a bit of pineapple hiding in the aftertaste. Wet terra cotta or baked adobe brick mineral “ting” alternates with rice/grass pollen in crisp flavor that moves about the tongue. Very, very smooth, but a bit of light whole-spice wetted cinnamon and clove astringency begins to appear in near the back of the tongue from the 9th infusion on. Breath is thick, sweet, perfumed, heavy, and refreshing when exhaling immediately after swallowing. This is accompanied with or followed by a sort of pleasant warming rush from the chest cavity to the five radial points (most notably a rush to the head). Sort of forces a “Woah” or “Mmmmm” like how a refreshing cold beverage forces an “Ahhh”. Lingering rice-like sweetness makes the mouth water for the duration of the slowly-receding aftertaste. Very soothing.

I’m really astonished by the lasting quality of the tea and how I can still conjure up over ten distinct flavor characteristics in the 20th infusion. At the 16th brew it tastes like the 6th steep of a “really good” LiShan oolong. The cinnamon note remains mild but increases a bit with each infusion. Definite note of pear but most of the fruit is in the aroma and nose and takes the form of the smell sliced fruits emit from a dehydrator. I’m playing it safe with coolish water and short brew times out of the desire to maintain flavor and really am not worried in the slightest about risk of producing bad flavors by overbrewing. The most significant astringency is still much less than spinach leaves and the bitterness never reaches the level of mineral water. I’m sure I couldn’t produce a bad tasting brew from this without stewing in boiling water at high concentration. It would be a shame to drive off so many lovely florals, though. Orchid, gardenia, tulip, carnation, water lily, wood rose, ginger flower, orange blossom, lavender, and a whole slew of mixed wildflowers pushed off by excessively hot water would be sort of heartbreaking after taking in what this can offer.

There’s two summary metaphors I can think of to embody this tea:
The essence of sitting on a warm, sun-heated deck surrounded by rich, fresh, green, mist-covered fields and fern-filled woodlands in the emerging morning sun of springtime.
Or –
The root personification of “Woah” a la Keanu Reeves.
Take your pick.

Light – but not Jade – oolong awesomeness.

180 °F / 82 °C 0 min, 15 sec
Thomas Smith

At $28 for 25g this is a total steal! Will have to buy more (if there is any) once I polish it off.

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This is a case where it is perfectly safe and reliable to go by the retailer’s description. Roy really hits the nail on the head with this one.
I’ve gone through a lot of this tea, and wound up having to buy and season a teapot for it. I’m very glad that these old bush WuYi oolongs are potent enough and roasted to a degree where they can actually benefit from some aging. I doubt any would survive in my collection long enough to actually develop, though.

10g with 150ml water in a young zi ni rong tian yixing teapot used for WuYi YanCha. Two quick rinses without filling the pot all the way. Infusions progressed from 15 seconds to 2 minutes with about 5 seconds tacked on for each infusion. Used one kettle of heated water for every three infusions, using fresh water each time, starting with 83 degrees C and ending with 90 degrees C for the 22nd infusion, when I gave up.

Dark, brown leaves with red tinge on the stems. Dry fragrance sharp charcoal and cocoa with antique wood furniture and faint tobacco leaf notes. Wet aroma brings in mineral characteristics – wet gravel, granite, limestone, sandstone, sea spray saltiness – with old windblown tree woodiness. Cypress resin note. Aroma packs a wallop. Perfume lingers in the sinuses with peppery, dried brown kelp, carnation, tulip, grilled squash, and dry grass smells shifting around after sticking my nose in the pot. Leaves are not nearly as intact as many other oolongs – there’s a few entire leaves but most have been ripped/broken some way or other. Color takes on a patchy brown-olive appearance with red striping on veins and twig. Liquor is golden with orange-brown tint… Would look brown in a deep mug. Liquor doesn’t carry the sharp punch I got earlier, but still has the myriad of different aromas plus some. More dried herbs, lupine, succulents, sage, and clay topsoil… Reminds me of the smell of being at the rocky coast on a grassy cliff where a fire had burned not too long ago. Charcoal and light pepper still present.

Flavor is not sweet, but the nose and aftertaste leave an impression on your sinuses and tongue as though you just drank something sweet. Thick body. Sharp peach-pit astringency ripples through from front to back and hangs in the throat, causing a gravelly-like effect when coupled with the flavor, while the forward palate recovers with the mouthwatering effect. Really feels like I just swallowed dry gravel or cocoa powder, hahaha. Grilled veggies and nectar in the nose. Bittersweet chocolate. Caramelized onion fleets through in waves throughout a draught. Slurping really accentuates resinous wood and burned grass notes. I take that back – burned grasslands. The distinctive aroma of scorched rich soil is there in an odly refreshing way. This isn’t smoky, it’s roasty/flamed. Each infusion is different up to the 16th, where median water hyacinth and buttered wheat toast with honey hold on as a base flavor. Interesting flavors that pop out before then include vanilla bean, pie crust, apple peel, toasted sourdough crust, peach skin, dried orange peel, bergamot fruit, kumquat, Buddha’s Hand peel, papaya, yellow peach, apple-pear, soapstone, kale, mustard, cardamom, clove, overcooked grilled zucchini, pumpkin seeds, allspice, white peppercorns, sunflower seeds, broiled aged sheep’s cheese, pistachio, honeysuckle, and sweet potato. Lots of different flavors and each infusion has a different tactile impression ranging from dry to hydrating, thick to medium body, and at times cycling through all in different parts of the mouth simultaneously. Higher leaf concentration really aids in complexity on this tea. Burned wood note is prevalent in earlier infusions. Hotter water puts emphasis on wood notes and crushes the spice and florals.

This may not be a very approachable tea for some folks. The first few infusions are sharp and maybe even too harsh for some if too hot of water and/or too long a steep with no rinse. There is a ton going on and it sort of demands your attention… to the point where if you are drinking alongside delicate foods, it will take your attention from the food. Not something I’d want to brew as a full mug since I would not be able to appreciate the range of flavors produced in successive infusions and when prepared at dilute concentrations of 3g per 150ml or less, the taste is overrun with the woody-peach aroma. Despite these restrictions, I can not justify a score in the 80s. This thing is an exciting enough tea that I can’t sit with a cup of it to study – I wind up studying the tea! Yeah, I’ve tried this and wound up drawing the leaves in the middle of my page of notes. I may not count this among my “favorite” teas that are a bit more comforting and easier to brew or sit back and drink without thought, but this is a terrific tea that redeems the name of Shui Xian from the bulk Chinese Restaurant teabags and iffy “water Immortals” and “Amber Oolongs” that may come from the same varietal but do not hold a candle to this guy. This is probably the second or third most exciting tea I’ve had from Imperial Tea Court, and I buy a lot of tea from them. The most potent oolong I aim to keep in stock.

185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 30 sec

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Used 2g with 60ml water in a small glazed ceramic gaiwan. Single rinse with infusions progressing 15 seconds, 20 seconds, and 30 seconds for 3rd-9th brews with 83 degree C water. 10th-12th infusions I used 86 degree C water for 1 minute.

The leaves are very pretty. Every single leaf has at least a little gold on it and pure golden buds make up the vast majority of the tea. Dry fragrance is kinda dusty and the hairs floating in the air around the tea are apt to make you sneeze. Dried apple and slight wood note. Wet leaves take on a gorgeous chocolate brown color with a yellow reflection. Wet leaf aroma much more dynamic, with cedar, apple, clove, cinnamon, and woodsmoke. Yeah, a bit of cocoa too, but I think I may have been looking for that characteristic subconsciously. Liquor is also gold, though in a deeper cup it looks like it would take on an orange color. I’m surprized by the clarity – I was expecting some haziness from leaf hairs suspended in the infusion, but I guess those that separated didn’t make it through my fine filter (same sieve doesn’t prevent bi luo chun or yin zhen from looking cloudy, though). Liquor aroma carries the notes of the wet leaves very well, but leaves the smoke characteristic behind.

Low end of full body or high end of moderate body. I was expecting to sacrifice some body with the lower temperature, but it’s still pretty thick. Plus side is the lower temp really did promote the expression of orchid and orange blossom floral notes in the nose. Really no hint of these in the liquor aroma, so it’s a pleasant surprise accent. Apple crisp sweetness pervades throughout. Leaves the tongue sweet as well, and the barely-noticeable astringency plays nicely off the lingering, mouthwatering finish. Wheat, barley, cinnamon, clove, raw sugar, baked pear, buckwheat crepe, kumquat, balsa and cedar woods, a bunch of different types of apples and apple-pear, and a touch of port-grape note. Flavor consistency is sort of remarkable… 12 infusions each expressing just varying degrees of the same notes. As it diminishes, there’s a buttermilk quality that comes out, again accented by apples but this time more of an apple strudel with cinnamon. Nice, comforting sweet taste to wrap up with. Though it leaves me with the impression of finishing a very small piece of apple pie with vanilla ice cream and now I want seconds…

Brewed a 13th infusion with 86 degree C water and forgot about it. Came back 9 minutes later for it – still smooth, crisp and tasty, though the water chestnut note I associate with leaves at the end of their run is prominent. Same basic flavor, but less body and spice notes barely noticeable.

Very tasty, soothing, smooth red tea. Prepared with hotter water it gives more pronounced flavors of wood and resin, but with cooler water you’ll be rewarded with lighter, more dynamic flavors and more of a mouthwatering effect.

180 °F / 82 °C 0 min, 30 sec

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Reached the last of my small supply of this, so brewing a bit weaker than I normally would and it started losing flavor about a quarter the number of infusions I would get using 8-9g.

5.75g with 225ml in a seasoned squat shi piao style duan ni yixing teapot. Single rinse. Start off using 83 degree C water and a 15, 30, then 45 second steep but moved on to a minute for the 4th-8th infusions and 2 minutes with 87 degree C water for the 9th.

Leaves are in many different sizes and shapes, ranging from broken down bits the size of small Keemun leaves to leaf sets larger than most whole-leaf oolongs. Smells like opening a bag of dry potting soil or an old but well cleaned barn. Wet leaves release the same clay-loam aroma, but also wet river rock crispness, stripped willow bark sweet vegetal aroma, and a bit of oven-dried orange peel woody citrus. Beech wood and unground nutmeg and pepper spice aromas. The leaves look an awful lot like spent leaves of Oriental Beauty Oolong (Dong Feng Mei Ren/Bai Hao Oolong) leaves, but a little darker green. Liquor is clear orange-amber with a reddish tint (infusions beyond the 4th brew are just clear amber, but stay richly hued). Liquor aroma does not convey the soil characteristics and incorporates more of a bisque-fired clay note and crushed walnut meaty nuttiness.

Rich body. Not super thick, but feels kind of “sticky” – the lower end of chewy full body. Light acidity and faint astringency along margins. Similar tactile impression to whole/4% milk. Mouthwatering with balanced umami, sweet, light sour, and faint bitterness. Usually I shy away from mentioning sour or bitter when talking about a tea I love, but these qualities are present to varying degrees in most teas whether we decide to call attention to them or not and here they really help tie the flavor and tactile impression together in a rich flavor. Most puerh I drink may have some complexity in the aroma and provides a good base flavor, but this guy actually moves through a good range of progressive tastes as well. Base is a vegetal-wood flavor – again, reminding me of stripped willow bark or the smell of sapling trees. Moist leaf litter, but no mustiness. Paprika, almond, terra cotta, mild unground peppercorns, apricot, bittersweet chocolate peanut shell, old redwood planks, cattail, a touch of prune and chipotle all move through in the flavor and nose. It is much more like a rush of people getting on a train than a dance in terms of flavor progression – the flavors present, then merge and change instead of flitting in and out as they tend to in more delicate teas. The body really does seem a conduit for the flavors. When slurped, more of the apricot and wet wood-cocoa character is present (and a sort of legume/cooked beans flavor not noticable in the draught) but the many other flavors are relegated to aftertaste. Aftertaste is crisp, slightly corn-and-rice sweet, and mouthwatering.

Lasts much shorter than the 20+ infusions I got off this using 12g in the same amount of water, but first 6 infusions are really good and disappear altogether too quickly.

Really yummy tea at a steal for the price. That said, I would not want to drink this every day. While it could hold its own against food, I feel I need to drink this on its own to give it the attention it deserves. Livelier than you may expect a tea with this level of body.

185 °F / 85 °C 1 min, 0 sec

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I’ve had this tea many times and the honey fragrance has always been there but never really stood out to me over other characteristics. This time, I used more leaf and was rewarded with more honey in not just the fragrance, but in the aroma, nose, afteraroma, and flavor as well.

8g with 150ml water in a zi ni rong tian yixing teapot dedicated to Phoenix Oolongs. Single rinse with immediate pour – 10 second contact time. Multiple infusions in rapid succession using 85 degree C water.

Beautiful long, dark, twisted leaves with stripes of yellow, mossy green, deep red-violet, gold, and dark sienna on an umber brown background. Average length is over an inch in twisted, dry form. Fragrance is toasty, sharply nutty (pecans, filberts, and chopped almonds), and while not sweet smelling it leaves a sweet impression within the sinuses. Wet leaves are much lighter green like iris leaves with olive leaf dark patches, though the light yellow stripes are retained. More clove and honey in wet leaf aroma with antique wood cupboard sharp, slightly musty note and a hint of tobacco leaves. Clear, yellow liquor has mild but thick, soothing sweet aroma – more nectar-like than honey… Ripe nectarine or honeysuckle and a baked bread aroma like ripping open a fresh wheat roll. Tropical flower aromas flit in and out as well. Very much like the aroma of a greenhouse.

Smooth up front with a bit of astringency in the throat as the flavor recedes. Honey on wheat toast aroma. Lightly sweet and mouthwatering. Myriad of fleeting flavor notes pop in and out with each sip. Peach pit tang is dominant and potent when slurped yet mixed evenly in a balanced, delicate flavor melange when taken as a draught. Ginger-like umami. Really warming from the head all the way through the belly. Spice notes include practically every spice I have in my cupboard and every herb I’ve grown but clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, star anise, thyme, and basil are the first to really make an impression. Ginger flower, sorrel, rosemary, orchid, chocolate-mint flower, and amaryllis florals present in nose and many reappear for aftertaste. Gives my breath a sweet and vaporous feel for a long time. While not an actual flavor or aroma, the combinations of tastes, sensations, and aromas produce an effect reminiscent of honey in warm cream. Makes me think of buttered cinnamon French toast with agave nectar or lavender honey drizzled over it. Roughly 2-3 minutes after drinking, a second (or is it third or fourth?) aftertaste comes out of nowhere with more of those wheat toast and crystallized honey flavors.
Seeeerious lasting capability. I’m falling asleep before the tea is and really running out of capacity in my stomach. Not declining at the 12th infusion, where I typically start wrapping this up at when I use just a little more than half this strength.

Mild in flavor but rich in expression and a sort of thick-air quality emanates from this tea (even greater in the mouth and when swallowing). Many different flavors and aromas. Not the most complex, but more so than the vast majority of teas out there. It seems to take a slight step down in intensity and expression compared to some other Phoenix Oolongs as a tradeoff for comforting feeling. This is one of those teas that can produce a bit of a “tea drunk” feeling and sure helps promote the idea of curling up and falling asleep… Toasty, warm and sweet… Definitely a comforter.

185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 30 sec

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drank Big Leaf Puer by far leaves
93 tasting notes

4.5g with 115ml water in a seasoned squat shi piao ZiNi yixing teapot. Single rinse went a little longer than intended – 20 seconds.

Not many “big leaves” left in this little tin since I’ve gotten to the bottom. These seem to be graded for size and what I’m reviewing here are mostly broken pieces of the leaves (no bits as small as a BOP grade, but only a few the size of OP or longer). Originally the tin was populated with leaves about on par with average WuYi oolong leaf length… Having had puerh with leaves nearly as long as my hand’s width or longer it’s hard to consider this “big leaf” but it is certainly longer than most loose shou puerh and longer than the standard loose leaf puerh offered by this company. Dry fragrance kind of dusty-earthy like old unswept wood floor with some water damage. Wet aroma much sweeter and woodier. I sort of laughed when I read the note the company claims of citrus, but it actually is there in a dried orange peal kind of aroma. Color is deep amber-brown with good clarity.

Body is comparable to sugarwater. Pretty full and tacky but not heavy enough for me to consider chewy or really rich when comparing to other dark teas. Smooth with a bit of a blood orange crispness. Juicy mouthfeel. I agree on the citrus quality, but it is citrus oil not citrus juice. Really, if there is a fruit in the taste it is grape but that is under the base flavor of dried vines and wet wood. The woody notes here are like standing dead wood – an old tree or vines that have finally bitten the dust after many years and are left standing in a woodland. There is a clay slurry effect in swallowing, like the body thickens as it goes down to the back of the mouth. As it cools more sweet and vegetal qualities come out… I’m picking up a bit of green apple peel snappy faint acidity and astringency in the fourth infusion. Sort of a copper metal sweetness throughout but most obvious in aftertaste. Afteraroma and nose remain true to the flavor but carries a faint bit of wet ash, producing a light rubbertree sap note in the nose.

Drinking exclusively the larger leaves carry pretty much the same flavors and aromas I’ve written here, but body is reduced. I’m surprised I’m getting the same number of infusions (11) out of the broken leaves as the more intact ones before the flavor starts going.

Calming and soothing tea. Not too exciting, but unoffensive. Pretty darn approachable for an inexpensive loose puerh, but it isn’t hard to find better ones for slightly cheaper. Good for drinking after a meal.

200 °F / 93 °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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