70 Tasting Notes
I received a free sample of this with an order a while back. I’ve also tried the regular Eden some months back, but at the time concluded it needed more time. My sample was essentially just a single piece of the brick. I didn’t have my more accurate scale on hand, but a simple kitchen scale that only has a display resolution of one gram hovered between 17 and 18g. I ended up using the whole thing in my 250ml Yixing clay teapot (Ben Shan Duan Ni). Massive, I know, but it brews amazing tea and the clay and craftsmanship are just stunning. Relative to the size the pour is actually really fast, seven seconds according to my mental clock, and the tea just shoots out like from a jet engine. Unfortunately I was forced to use a gooseneck kettle for this session and filling the pot full with it takes forever. Under such circumstances I would have never loaded in 17 grams for most teas, but since this was Yiwu, since it was huang pian and since it was all just a single tightly compressed chunk, I knew it would work out.
Just smelling the sample bag was quite an affair. Really fruity, with an artificial, candy-like quality to it. Then it clicked: gummy bears. The dry leaf smells just like gummy bears! I did a ten second rinse followed by a five minute rest while I sipped the wash. The liquor was mineral and fruity. More flavorful than you’d expect from just a single piece of compressed tea. I proceeded to do nine infusions, the timing for these being 20s, 16s, 16s, 16s, 18s, 20s, 25s, 35s and 75s. Sixteen seconds essentially represents a flash brew in this case given the kettle I was using to fill up the pot.
Little Eden lite started off light, mineral, slightly buttery with a bit of a sparkly mineral water sensation of the tongue. As the tea cooled, hints of fruitiness and sweetness started to emerge. After struggling to identify the fruit, the picture finally became clear and I knew what I was tasting: bananas, fried bananas with slight caramelization. That’s a new one for me.
Virtually every steep was very mineral, slightly sweet and varying degrees of fruity so I’m not going to repeat those things. Steep two saw the fruit moving from banana to perhaps a more peachy direction. Starting with the third infusion the tea started to feel quite easygoing, refreshing, hydrating and somewhat lubricating.
For the fourth steep I broke up the still largely intact large chunk into three smaller chunks and this really helped the color, which became immediately more yellow instead of pale and clear. The flavor was really nice now, not that I had complaints before, really fruity, really, really fruity. Not too sweet, not too dry. This tea is more mineral than I usually prefer, but overall it’s a very minor thing. The fruitiness was now a cocktail of bananas and a stone fruit of some sort.
The fruit moved toward apricot in the fifth infusion. I’m not sure if I was actually tasting some wood in the sixth steep or just thinking I could see this tea developing some of those notes in ten years’ time, but at this point the tea started reminding me a lot of Bitterleaf’s WMD and Hidden Gem. While there isn’t too much to say, the tea was good. Really good actually.
Starting with the seventh brew the tea was beginning to veer more towards acidic. The flavors were beginning to taper off as you’d expect, but the tea was definitely still going. I did two more infusions and while the tea could have most likely kept going with increasingly long steeping times, I decided to call it there as I’d frankly drunk a lot of tea by this point.
This tea really surprised me. This is most likely the fruitiest sheng I’ve had to date and just one of the fruitiest teas in general. Fans of fruity dan congs would likely be all over this tea. At eight cents per gram this might very well also be the cheapest raw pu’er I’ve ever drunk. This might be the bargain of the year right here. I’d call this tea really, really good and possibly the most drinkable young sheng I’ve encountered. I got absolutely no bitterness or astringency, not even a hint of them, can’t say how much of a role the clay played. I’m not sure if this tea gets bitter ever and it would most likely be a prime candidate for grandpa style.
As mentioned, fans of dan cong should definitely check this one out. Those who like Bitterleaf’s WMD and Hidden Gem will likely be onboard as well. For my tastes the tea is a bit too mineral tasting as mentioned, but other than that it’s a nice casual brew. This would make for a wonderful introduction for someone new to raw pu’er or even quality tea in general. While a high-quality tea, it should not be mistaken for a high-end tea. The thickness and mouthfeel didn’t really seem to be there nor did I get any qi. On the other hand the flavors are great, longevity seems surprisingly good and even after drinking probably over two liters of this stuff I didn’t feel any lightheadedness, dizziness or issues with my stomach. I think the aging potential is there if you just look at Hidden Gem, but drinking it now seems the most attractive option. Then again at $21 for 250g you could easily buy a kilo of this and drink half, store half.
I need to try the regular Eden again once it’s had time to chill out a bit more.
Flavors: Apricot, banana, Fruity, Mineral, Peach, Sweet, Tart
I bought a cake of this right after it was released. It has had six months to chill in my pumidor and today I felt like finally giving it a shot. This is the second Yiwu ripe I’ve tried, the first one being the Hai Lang Hao 2017 Yi Shan Mo. Premium and ultra premium ripes have been a growing trend in recent years and while not highest of the high-end, at 22¢/g Yi Wu Rooster is definitely priced above what most people are accustomed to paying for shu pu’er.
The dry material looks much more akin to raw cakes than your typical ripe. I recall Scott saying in his YouTube video for this tea that he suspects it was likely originally intended to be sold as a sheng and the decision to turn it into a shu was made later. The compression isn’t too tight at all and I was careful to maintain leaf integrity while I broke into the little pie. I used a suitable ratio of large chunks to smaller individual pieces in my trusty 160ml Jianshui clay teapot, 12g total. The tea was also drunk from a cup made from the same clay.
I gave the leaves a ten second rinse, followed by a five minute rest during which I prodded the larger pieces gently with my finger to help them come apart more easily. This was almost not necessary because of the loose compression. I proceeded to do nine infusions, the timing for these being 10s, 10s, 12s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s and 2 min.
The first infusion brewed up a cloudy diluted cola as you’d expect from a tea this young. The initial taste was that of sweet dirt. Really sweet. A really bright sweetness. There was a certain coffee/caramel vibe as well, but without any of the darker base notes that coffee has for example. Overall the flavors were really bright and forward, not veiled or obscured in any way. So far this was a quite unique tea. The aftertaste was long; coffee, caramel, insane sweetness.
The second infusion brewed much clearer. Darker, but nothing crazy. Certainly dark though. The taste was quite clean, but not 100% clean, more like 90%. The flavors were light in nature (nothing to do with actual strength), body medium or close to it, improved from before. I could taste some red berries, with some very minor bitterness in the finish. The bitterness was also accompanied by sweetness and there was some minor cooling in the mouth. The finish eventually turned into pretty typical shu flavors, but was accompanied by noticeable sweetness and the finish of berries. I might’ve started feeling the tea a little at this point. I don’t necessarily mean that in the sense of qi.
Steep three was likely the best so far. The flavors were coming across more clearly than in the previous steep, similar to the first one. There was slightly less body now, but still relatively similar to before, light+. The flavors were really lasting. One sip was enough and after that you didn’t want to drink more for a while since there was no point. The sweetness was really potent. I could feel it in my gums. I think I’d describe it as a date-like sweetness, although it’s been a while since I’ve had dates. There was some very minor bitterness in the finish. For a shu this is a quite potent tea. Not among the most potent ones I’ve had, but more potent than most. I’m not talking about flavor here. Not necessarily qi either, more just how much you “feel” the tea in your body. That being said, I did start feeling the effect of the tea on my tongue, a certain numbness starting to spread to it. Once the tea cooled it did actually get considerably thick. As you kept drinking the overall impression started veering more and more toward toffee and caramel notes, caramel coffee is how I’d describe it.
My first impression of steep four was that it was sweet. The tea was starting to develop some darker tones now as well. I could feel the tea at the back of my mouth. There was also something familiar that I was finding hard to place. A some sort of roasted note perhaps. While a gentle tea on one hand, it is also deceptively potent. I found myself having to slow down my drinking at this point. The fact that this was only steep four scared me a little.
Of course immediately after I thought that the fifth steep brewed much thinner, the tea beginning to simplify in the process. While the flavor notes were a touch “thin” now, they were still coming across swimmingly. We were now back to those berries. There was a definitive berry sweetness accompanied by underlying darker shu notes – ones I’d classify falling somewhere in the roasted category or perhaps slightly in the dirt/sand territory rather than in the woodsy or overly soily bracket. I’ve never drunk wine (I don’t drink), so I’m not entirely sure what it is people are talking about when they speak of tannins. However, right after downing the last of this infusion I could feel an unpleasant dry sensation at the back of my mouth/tongue, different from your typical astringency. This is something I’ve experienced before, in the context of Lipton black tea or bad coffee if my memory serves right, but I could be mistaken as it hasn’t happened to me recently. I’ve never experienced this in the context of quality whole leaf tea, so it was a bit of a surprise. I don’t know if it’s tannins or me developing a sore throat, so I’m not going to hold it against the tea too much. Moving on.
From this point on the tea became fairy simple and mainly sweet, but steeps six and seven still had a small amount of depth to the notes and complexity to the tea as a whole. I can easily see many people losing interest at this point, though. There was an increasing level of minerality and the tannins from steep five were still present in steep six, but disappeared after that. The last two infusions were not enjoyable anymore and I actually ended up tossing them. Steep nine was severely lacking in color as well.
Those familiar with my other reviews may know that my track record with Yunnan Sourcing’s sheng pu’ers has generally been quite good. The kind of teas Scott likes to source – strong, clean, pure – are something that appeal to me. When it comes to the Yunnan Sourcing brand ripe pu’ers, I’ve found them less to my tastes. None of them have been bad (although I hated my first session with Rooster King, it has improved since then), but all of them I’ve found merely okay, which is not enough to satisfy me. One exception is Wild Purple Green Mark, which I highly recommend, but that’s a blend of raw and ripe so it doesn’t really qualify as a pure shu. And now there’s this tea. I wasn’t sure what to expect given my track record with other YS ripes, but this tea is good. It is quite unique among ripes and highly enjoyable during the first half. The flavors are strong and well defined and the aftertaste very long-lasting in the first several steeps. The longevity is somewhat disappointing at this stage, but given the age of the tea, age of the tea trees, the region and the level of fermentation, it is not at all surprising. Hopefully this will improve with age.
In its current state, I would categorize this tea as perfectly drinkable right now. It is not totally clean tasting just yet, but unless you demand your shus ultra clean, I doubt you’ll have issues with it. Those specifically looking for those dirt notes will not find them here. For me this tea borders on being too sweet, and at some point in the future I could see it crossing that threshold. If you are eyeballing an Yiwu ripe, you know you’re most likely getting a sweet tea. Despite what I said about this tea being drinkable now, my personal recommendation would actually be to hold off for at least two to five years before drinking it. This is most definitely one of the less fermented ripes I’ve had and a lot of room has been left for it to develop. I think the potency I spoke of in my notes may very well stem from the relative “greenness” of these leaves. The steeped leaves look very much like sheng with a fair amount of age, but nothing even remotely close to fully mature sheng or much more heavily fermented shu that’s just black. Those who can find some green teas or less oxidized wulongs at times too potent or taxing on your body may want to let this tea age a fair bit like I intend to do. Drinking it now, while good, does not let the tea show its full potential.
To sum up my thoughts, while not as good as the absolute high-end ripes out there, this is a really good tea for the price. At the very least I would recommend a sample for those interested, but depending on your personal preferences this is not a tea for everyone. If you are a fan of Yiwu sheng, but have never tried a Yiwu ripe before, I would consider this a good introduction.
Flavors: Berries, Bitter, Caramel, Coffee, Dates, Dirt, Mineral, Roasted, Sweet, Tannic
I thought I was out of white2tea teas, but I’d forgotten I had a small mini bing or whatever people call these flat, dragon ball-esque coin things of this tea that I received as a freebie with my order of some samples. This has been sitting in my pumidor for a year now and it’s frankly a wonder it did not get lost somewhere between the cakes. I drank this away from home with some company and only weighed it with the wrapper on when I took it with me. My scale showed 7.7 grams, so I assume these are intended to be around seven grams which is fairly standard. The gaiwan I had on hand was 130ml, so I did this session filling it up to what I know to be around the 100ml mark.
Now, before we move on to the tea, I’ve done a long rant in the past about my weird relationship with white2tea (none of which I’m going to repeat here) and how I might not be the most unbiased person to be reviewing their teas, but I will do my best here to express my honest opinion. I’ve also mentioned in past reviews that I don’t drink a lot of multi-region blends, so I’m a bit out of my comfort zone here. As such, if I come across slightly harsher than normal, that’s why.
With dragon balls, I’ve found that a longer 30s rinse followed by a shorter second rinse / extended first steep at around twenty seconds works quite well for me. That is what I did here as well, thirty seconds followed by twenty seconds after a five-minute rest in between. The first rinse was sweet but still light. There was some body, however, and a nice, silky texture. The second rinse was still light in terms of its flavors, but the extraction itself was much stronger. The taste was clean, mineral, sweet and earthy. The nice texture from the first wash was carried over. I proceeded to do ten more infusions, the timing for these being 4s, 7s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 25s, 35s, 45s, 75s and 2 min. Somewhat irregular pattern for me in the middle steeps there.
Compared to the two washes, the first flash steep was really light and had lost its nice texture. I tasted mainly notes that I associate with a patch of soil in the garden. There was also some sweetness there. The second steep was stronger, really earthy/peaty with a dirty taste to it. Can’t say I was a fan. Slight creaminess in the finish, accompanied by a strong sandy note. The mouthfeel was now better.
The next three infusions were all strong and each stronger than the last. The flavors moved from a combination of leafy and dirt to increasing levels of bitterness, accompanied by at time sweetness, others extreme tartness or even sourness which is a rare one for me to encounter in pu’er. My tongue grew gradually numb from the bitterness, leaving it feeling somewhat similar to it being burned.
This is the point where I needed to start adapting to the tea to regulate it and as a result the sixth brew while still strong and bitter was also now smoother and more balanced. While steep seven was similar, some astringency was now starting to creep in and this culminated in the following infusion where all of the other flavors suddenly dropped off, leaving the tea dominated by astringency. I attempted two more brews, but if I’m being totally honest with you the ninth steep tasted like sock juice to me and the final infusion had hardly any taste to it besides some mild sweetness and astringency.
While we’ll likely never know what exact teas went into this blend, if I’m allowed to speculate a little, it seems fairly clear to me that there’s some Bulang material in this. The mid-to-late steeps are dominated by an aggressive bitterness that is quite familiar to me. As to what other teas went into this, it’s hard to say. The soft, more elegant start could very well come from a Yiwu tea or something of similar character, of which there are many teas out there. If there are any more than two teas in this, I found it extremely hard to tell as the more aggressive tea dominated everything once it got going.
As for the quality of the material, the silky mouthfeel at the start was actually pretty nice, so whatever material was responsible for that might actually be quite good. Once the tea got going, the strength was so good that I actually had to start adapting to the tea on the fly. What puzzled me though was the way the tea just suddenly died at the end. Considering I was holding back on my brew times, I would have expected that to extend the longevity, not diminish it. Perhaps I’m spoiled, but I’m used to teas typically winding down more gracefully. I’m not going to try to read too much into it since I’m no expert, but maybe this means the more aggro material isn’t necessarily gushu but perhaps dashu or younger.
Looking at the leaves at the end of the session, many of the leaves are quite big, but there is a quite high ratio of more oxidized leaves in the mix, many of these quite heavily reddish, not just small blotches. You of course see these in nearly every tea, but it’s usually just a leaf here and there. On the other hand I didn’t spot any leaves with burn marks from the wok.
So what are my thoughts? It wasn’t a bad tea, but it also didn’t really impress me. It is unclear to me where they were really going with this blend. A soft, elegant start, suddenly turning into aggressiveness? I’m going to compare this to Bulang teas, because most of the time the tea behaved like one. At 55¢/g, it’s really hard for me to see this tea being worth its price tag. If I wanted to buy a more aggressive Bulang tea, I could get one with ten years of age on it for around 10¢/g. The material wouldn’t necessarily be as good, but the tea would have gained complexity and notes that this young tea currently lacks. At 55¢/g you can also get crazy good Yiwu teas as long as you sample and find the ones you like. Therefore for me this tea would maybe fall in the 10–20¢/g bracket, not that it matters. Could be that it’ll age into something magical, but I leave that up to those willing to invest a hundred dollars and wait for a decade or two to discover.
And there you have it. If anything, this tea made me want to go drink some more Bulang teas. I should also maybe order some samples of aged Bulangs to expose myself to more semi-aged teas. So far Bitterleaf’s Dear Comrade has been the first aged sheng to click with me, but of course it sold out right after I ordered my sample. Any recommendations for aged teas to include in my next Yunnan Sourcing order are welcome.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Creamy, Earth, Mineral, Sand, Sour, Sweet, Tart
Ever since trying the Hai Lang Hao 2017 Yi Shan Mo ripe pu’er – and subsequently buying an entire 1kg brick of it – I’ve been somewhat infatuated with this village. Since then I’ve been on a quest to find a raw pu’er that spoke to me as well. Before this I’ve already tried Hai Lang’s 2015 offering as well as Yunnan Sourcing’s own 2017 autumn. The 2015 I’ve already reviewed, but found way too intense for me. The 2017 I drank a couple months ago, but did not write notes for as it did not come across as particularly interesting or noteworthy. I may have simply drunk it too young, a year from now it might be better.
I was probably not the only one knocked aback a little when I saw this and the Xiang Chun Lin listed among the first Yunnan Sourcing pressings for 2018. At 80–90¢/g, I believe these are the most expensive teas Scott has pressed to date. The prices are nothing outrageous for quality old arbor Yiwu, but in Yunnan Sourcing’s catalogue this hits a new price point. Since Scott typically demands a pretty clear correlation between price and quality from the teas he presses, I was interested to try this.
Since some of the past 10g samples I’ve ordered from YS have been clocking at close to twelve grams, I decided to weigh this one just to make sure I wasn’t going totally overboard. My sample was almost precisely 11g and after some deliberation I decided to use it all in the largest gaiwan I had on hand, which was 140ml. That’s a ratio of 1g/12.7ml, in case you are wondering. My sample was virtually entirely in loose form, a mixture of whole, intact leaves, broken bits and a couple minuscule pieces of the cake. I gave the leaves a brief sub-five-second rinse, followed by a ten minute rest while I sipped on the precious nectar that had grazed the leaves. The wet leaves carried the scent of peach and plum. This was carried over to the taste, which was strong, mineraly, with clear notes of peach. I could even taste the stone inside the peach, which was just uncanny. The finish was long and once the leaves cooled their scent became that of sweet, sweet peach tart. Simply amazing.
I proceeded to do a total of eleven infusions, the timing for these being 6s, 6s, 8s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s, 2 min. and 3 min. Yi Shan Mo started off strong, clean and mineraly, with incredible clarity of the liquor right out of the gate. I could feel a really active tingling sensation in my jaw and tongue of course. The back of the tongue especially, gradually extending back toward the throat. The taste was maybe slightly citric and tart – but the feeling in the mouth and throat was the highlight here.
The second infusion was powerful, but by no means overpowering or anything even close to that. It was clean, delicious, with a strong mineral vein running through it still. There was a touch of acidic tartness to give it the edge it needed. Super delicious tea. The feeling in the body was very notable. I could feel it in my chest, moving downward. When I breathed through my nose, I could taste amazing flavors in my mouth. Even after finishing the infusion, new, amazing, complex fruity notes were emerging on my tongue. Sensations and flavors were radiating from my throat, which was beginning to feel constricted while my tongue began to throb and grow numb. So much to write about one infusion. Based on how it started off, this was one of the best teas I’ve had.
Sold on this tea yet?
Steep three was strong, mineral, slightly tart. Somewhat creamy after you swallowed. Powerful, serene. Made you stop between sips and contemplate. The taste was slightly vegetal and oily, bitter greens one might say. The cha qi was quite prominent, but not overpowering and content in just hanging in the background. I got some huigan after finishing the infusion, maybe some lingering green bitterness as well.
I found the body of the fourth infusion somewhat disappointing. The taste had also devolved into “green leaf juice” with some fleeting bitterness, which was naturally somewhat disappointing after such a good run. The qi was still there, hanging around in the background. Steep five brought back the tartness, along with some sweet, sweet sweetness. The tea was aromatic, with some vegetable/garden/soil notes in the finish. The sweetness only intensified over time, later joined by huigan radiating from my throat. My mouth was left incredibly sweet. I predict this tea is going to develop an incredible sweetness over the years. Along with the sweetness, I felt a growing cooling sensation, expanding from my mouth to my nose. Eventually when I breathed it felt like someone was pressing an ice pack against the section where my nose and throat intersect. While this was going on, a small heatwave also washed over me, making me feel hot and cold at the same time and break into a light sweat.
Steep six was a mix of sweet, bitter and acidic. The body was acceptable and the finish great as always. The tea was quite aromatic if you did a long slurp. The somewhat intoxicating qualities present up to this point were still there as well. The brew that followed was super mineraly. The taste of bitter greens was present and the tingling sensation in my jaw and back of the mouth from earlier in the session made a return. Various aromatics emerged when you breathed out through your nose.
The eighth steep was bold and mineral, but also very singular with no complexity left. There was still perhaps some depth remaining, though. I was also still feeling the tea a bit in my chest, almost like it was telling me, “We’re not done yet.” The following infusion was very clean and acidic. The tea was maintaining good strength, even if the flavors hadn’t developed there yet. This was a nice, easy-drinking brew. Some sensation in the mouth could be observed still.
The second-to-last infusion was sweet and acidic – simple, but with a lot more depth then you would have expected. Even in its twilight, the Yi Shan Mo was surprisingly satisfying. The final steep was really sweet. Apart from the finish, there was virtually no harshness or tartness now, just a nice stone fruit sweetness. The finish was signaling me though that this might be the last good steep, so I decided to call it there.
If it wasn’t clear, I was very impressed by this tea. It’s not the best tea I’ve ever had or even the best Yiwu, but it’s up there. The impression left by this session is that this is a tea that is still really young and needs time to develop, but countless of the quality markers I look for in a good raw pu’er were there. This is why I keep going back and forth between wanting to give teas time before evaluating them and indulging in them early. I don’t drink tea for taste, or I should say that taste ranks fairly far down the list for me, so I’m starting to feel fairly confident in my ability to judge these kind of teas fairly even in their young state. Taste can change constantly, but other factors are generally more consistent over finite periods of time at least.
This is most definitely not a tea for pu’er novices as the price suggests, but fans of high-end Yiwu will find a lot to like. While not without flavor and at times actually quite delicious, at least in its current state I found the Yi Shan Mo much more of an aromatic affair and something fans of aromatic sheng will love. For such a young tea, the level of aroma and the depth and complexity it possessed was impressive. My experience with most young raw pu’ers I’ve had is that they can take some time to develop aroma, but this one is way ahead of the competition. Looking at a different spectrum, I found this tea to have a much heavier emphasis on body feel, sensation and cha qi than mouthfeel, texture and viscosity of the tea soup itself. It’s more about how it makes you feel rather than how it feels in your mouth and going down.
While the price is high, Yi Shan Mo certainly delivers. Quality autumn teas will naturally deliver better value for money, but as far as spring teas go, the price is representative of the quality. I will most certainly be purchasing a cake of this in the very near future and encourage all those who are interested to grab a sample. I’m glad to have finally found the Yi Shan Mo that is for me.
Flavors: Bitter, Citrus, Mineral, Peach, Sweet, Tart, Vegetal
The last of Bitterleaf’s 2018 Lao Man’e teas to be reviewed. I went slightly heavier on the leaf at 9.3g in a 130ml gaiwan which equates to 1g/14ml. To offset this somewhat I used only a couple of larger intact chunks with hardly any loose bits. I gave the tea a generous 10s rinse since it’s more heavily compressed than its brethren to give it a chance to start opening up a little. The wash was thick, but there wasn’t much taste yet. I proceeded to do fourteen infusions, the timing for these being 10s, 10s, 10s, 12s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s, 2 min., 3 min., 4 min., 5 min. and 7 min.
The first steep retained the thickness of the rinse, but despite the slightly extended brewing time compared to my typical parameters, the taste was still very light and slightly watery. The second infusion was much bolder, although still very light in nature. I would actually say I over-steeped this one just a little. The flavors were generic grassy hay, with maybe a hint of sweetness. The tea soup was still quite thick.
Steep three was again thick, bold, but also somewhat watery I’d say. The taste was rather basic; a bit grassy, a bit mineral, a bit sweet. The fourth infusion is where the tea finally got going. The mouthfeel was quite lubricating and the taste sweet, but also very tart. The acidity was one that made me think of the white part of a citrus fruit between the skin and flesh.
The next infusion brewed thick and oily. There was hardly any sweetness now, but the tartness was still there. The steep that followed was very similar, but I could now detect a hint of bitterness lingering in the background, but you really had to be on the lookout to spot it. It is also worth noting that the flavors were starting to get stronger now.
Steep seven really amped up on strength and the tea was brewing up really strong now. It was also extra tart, but also quite smooth. The lack of sweetness in these infusions may be a deal-breaker for some, but others will find themselves wanting more. Between infusions I finally broke apart the final tight knot left in the gaiwan by hand and as a result the tea brewed up extra strong. It was thick, thick, thick. Pleasantly acidic, blended with very minor sweetness.
Steep nine was super, super strong. Thick, syrupy. Slightly sweet, with some citrus fruit and bitterness. I was actually getting proper bitterness now, which was nice. It was nicely balanced with the sweetness and this was probably the best steep. At this point I was staring to feel warm. Steep ten continued along the already established lines. It was thick, sweet and tart. There was some bitterness as well. The tea soup was really smooth and kind of dense.
If you’ll believe it, the tea actually continued to get better in the eleventh infusion. It was thick, smooth, lubricating and increasingly bitter, but still nothing crazy yet. At this point the tea was staring to live up to its name. The bitterness was so nice. It tingled my mouth in a nice way. At this point I was surprised to realize that I found myself preferring this to the regular version of this tea in some ways.
Steep twelve was even more bitter than before, but still really smooth and palatable. Super smooth and still really thick and syrupy. There was a nice sweetness as well. While steep thirteen was smooth, sweet and fruity, it was also the first time I detected some slight astringency. The infusion that followed was the last one I did. While there was still body, the taste was watery and the flavors were clearly tapering off. I considered the tea done and called it there.
The Bitter End Lite surprised me. Based on the first half of the session I did not expect myself walking away recommending this tea, but in the second half it really came into full bloom. Two observations I made are that I feel I over-leafed this tea. I would consider 1g/15ml perfectly adequate with no reason to go above that unless you really want to. Second, my recommendation would be to break up the tea more than I did. The tight compression will take a long time to come undone, and otherwise you will get wildly inconsistent sessions in the first several steeps. We all appreciate leaf integrity, but a couple of broken leaves aren’t going to matter that much.
For the price this is a hella good tea. The strength is good, longevity is exemplary and somehow this brewed up way thicker than either of the two other Bitter Ends. I would have to revisit the regular version of this tea (I’m out though) since it may have already changed over the past two months, but I actually found this session more bitter than my encounter with the non-huang pian rendition. All three teas are good though and each have their own strengths. While this one is not necessarily quite as high quality and well suited for aging as the other two and more geared towards daily drinking, that does not mean you could not age it – while also drinking it – since it’s so inexpensive. Stock up on a few of these and you’ll be good for a while.
Flavors: Bitter, Citrus, Grass, Sweet, Tart
I was kindly gifted a pair of these with an order. I’ve never drunk pu’er (technically heicha) advertised coming from outside Yunnan, so I was interested to try this. I was drinking this away from home and thus didn’t have my 100ml gaiwan on hand. As such, I ended up making due with a 130ml one, which I filled up to around the 100ml mark.
Normally I rinse dragon balls for around thirty seconds, but I recalled the description mentioning these balls requiring only around twenty seconds, so I followed that recommendation. I let the moisture penetrate deeper into the ball for around five minutes while I sipped the wash. Both the dry and wet leaves have a quite smoky scent. Smoky at least to my nose. The tea soup itself was still quite light, but sweet and oily and perhaps a bit fruity. This tea was very promising so far.
I proceeded to do eleven proper infusions, the timing for these being 6s, 6s, 8s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s, 2 min. and 3 min. The first steep was still quite light, probably lighter than the rinse due to the shorter time, but the quality was there. The tea had a nice, soft mouthfeel, accompanied by a sweet taste with perhaps a hint of the smoke from the aroma. After the second brew, the dragon ball had already come apart completely. As one would expect, the resulting soup was now much bolder than before. The very nice mouthfeel continued being the highlight here. The flavors were soft and enjoyable. Sweet, maybe a bit vegetal if I stretch a little.
The third steep was even bolder. Quite bright. Maybe a touch tart. It kind of tasted like hot leaf juice, in a good way. It was also quite refreshing. The fourth brew was one of the money steeps. It was thicker and very flavorful. This is going to sound weird as it’s a first one for me as well, but what I tasted was egg yolk. Really, really good. The aftertaste was incredibly sweet.
While the fifth brew was still very flavorful, the tea was starting to show first signs of beginning to simplify. Texture-wise it was very easy to drink. The following infusion was really sweet, with the whisper of smoke making a small return in the finish. There was maybe some vegetal character as well and the texture continued being really nice.
The strength continued holding up in the seventh steep, but we were definitely entering the late steeps now. The liquor was sweet with a nice mouthfeel. Highly enjoyable. The sweetness left lingering in your mouth was crazy. Steep eight had a really wet and juicy texture. I could taste a fruity tartness, reminding me of the white part of an orange between the rind and the flesh.
Steep nine was very clean and still pleasant, but the flavors were now definitely starting to taper off. The soup was sweet, with a touch of orange rind present as well. The tenth infusion didn’t mix things up all that much. The soup was clean, sweet and mineral. Really nice and easygoing. Steep eleven was finally the last one I did. At this point I was starting to find the tea less enjoyable than before. It had flavor and sweetness, but it was starting to taste a bit diluted. Overall still quite pleasant though. Very clean and pure. I could have tried one more brew, but I decided to err on the side of caution and call it here.
Overall this tea was really good. I’m definitely a fan. This is a tea I can highly recommend to both those new to raw pu’er as well as seasoned drinkers. I got absolutely no harshness like bitterness or astringency and in terms of flavor Outlier should be quite approachable to new drinkers. At the same time there is a lot here for more veteran drinkers to enjoy. While priced as high as a quality Yiwu tea, it is as good as those teas and made quite affordable by being offered in dragon balls. If you’re wary of Outlier because of its origin, don’t be. This stuff’s good.
Flavors: Mineral, Orange Zest, Smoke, Sweet, Tart, Vegetal
Those who are familiar with some of my other reviews may be aware that I tend to seek out teas that are either exceptional or incredibly unique. At least on paper this one is certainly the latter. Though my experience with purple varietal teas is still quite limited, the ones that I’ve tried I’ve all enjoyed. The concept of blending ye sheng and shu pu’er was adventurous enough to entice me to buy a cake of this blind. While I’ve had it for a number of months, this was my first session with it.
I broke off twelve grams for my new silver-lined gaiwan, which Yunnan Sourcing began selling recently. Filled up to where the water just touches the lid, mine is about 165ml. For those who may have been eyeballing it, wondering if it’s worth the money, I would personally recommend it. While not the absolute highest level of quality with the same aura as a totally one-of-a-kind fully handmade piece of teaware, the craftsmanship is several steps above the cheapest standard level gaiwans and I find it great to use. This level of craftsmanship combined with the silver lining actually makes it a great deal in my opinion, like most products Yunnan Sourcing sells. Either of these things alone, this level of craftsmanship without the silver lining or the silver set in a cheap basic level gaiwan, would make you feel you were overpaying, but together they offer great value for the price. I’m not going to comment on the effects of the silver on the brewing as I’ve not done any sort of proper side-by-side comparisons, but I will say that for me the gaiwan has brewed great tea, and I don’t feel like I can say that about every vessel.
Anyway, back to the tea. I rinsed the leaves for good ten seconds, giving them a full ten minutes to get primed. The scent of the rinsed leaves was absolutely wonderful. To my nose it was that of sweet licorice. Really wonderful. I proceeded to do a total of ten infusions, the timing for these being 7s, 7s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s, 2 min. and 3 min. “Purple Mark” started out strong. I could taste bitter coffee mixed with brighter notes from the ye sheng. The soup was quite lubricating and hydrating and it coated your mouth with its flavor, not showing any signs of going anywhere anytime soon. I liked the tea already.
The second infusion was incredibly refreshing, exhibiting the taste of red berries with a ripe base. The body was good, but nothing crazy. More importantly, the texture was really smooth. This is a really flavorful and flavor-forward tea. The following third brew was nice and bitter. Very robust. It was accompanied in the finish by a sheen from the purple tea. The tea stimulated the tongue in a nice way, constantly triggering the sweetness receptors and making you salivate. This is a really engaging tea. I could feel the tea at the back of my tongue, near the entrance to my throat, as well as a cooling sensation in my throat itself.
Steep number four was bitter, REALLY cooling, and quite refreshing. I’d say the taste accompanying the cooling sensation was camphor, although it was a bit hard to pick out amid the other flavors. I’d definitely say camphor, though, with a bit of a medicinal edge. The tea continued to shine, displaying some woody and chocolaty notes in the fifth steep, now with a slightly grainy texture. A berry sweetness from the purple tea was present as well. I’m not sure if I’d go as far as to call it qi, but this is a really grounding tea. The aftertaste of this infusion was so sweet.
The texture of the next brew was smooth yet grainy. The taste was a mixture of cooling camphor and bitter coffee. A wonderful combo. I could also taste hints of caramel, which in all likelihood were notes from the ye sheng morphed by the ripe pu’er. The tea was still as strong as ever, which is to say strong. The seventh steep brewed probably the thickest yet, still very bold. The taste was… maybe a good kind of sour, if I had to describe it. The aroma left in the empty cup was that of intense caramel. Just wow.
Steep number eight brewed up a mixture of bitter and sweet. It was coating and lubricating, still possessing incredible strength. I could taste caramel, berries, as well as a ripu pu’er base of course. The body was quite big. Steep nine is where the flavors finally started to taper off. Now I was getting mostly just generic ye sheng and ripe pu’er flavors. The final infusion I did was the same deal. While there was still plenty of strength left and the tea could have conceivably been stretched on for several more infusions, it was staring to become quite singular and repetitive, so I decided to call it there.
This was a bomb of a tea, betraying its price point and any expectations I may have had for it. Fans of bitter tea and ye sheng rejoice! I believe I was expecting one of the teas, possibly the heavy base notes in the ripe pu’er, to drown out the other, but that ended up not being the case. While it’s quite obvious that this is a blend of two and exactly two teas, most of the time they are surprisingly harmonious together, making something you would not expect to work work. I don’t know if it’s the inclusion of raw pu’er, but this is also a very flavorful tea compared to most ripe pu’ers. The longevity is also quite good.
I went in expecting this to be mainly a ripe pu’er with some added layers from the raw material. In practice it’s not as clear-cut as that. I’d say this tea exhibits enough of both characteristics to not fall just in one category. This makes it interesting, because I’d both recommend this tea to people who love ripe pu’er, but struggle with getting into sheng, as well as those who love raw but just can’t understand the appeal of shu. The only downside is that one might have to be a bit adventurous to give this one a shot. But it’s cheap, so why not? I know I called this tea bitter, but I feel people have very varying sensitivities to bitterness. Some might find this way more bitter than I did, while others might not find it bitter at all.
While my expectations were not high going in, I came out a big fan of this tea. It will be interesting to see it age. Despite how weird it may sound, I definitely recommend trying out a sample of this tea, because it might really surprise you. I found it perfectly drinkable now, but in a few years it will have mellowed out a lot.
Flavors: Berries, Bitter, Camphor, Caramel, Chocolate, Coffee, Medicinal, Sour, Sweet, Wood
This is a review for the gold grade dragon ball. I wasn’t drinking this at home, so I didn’t have my 100ml gaiwan at hand, which would have been better suited. Instead, I ended up using a 130ml gaiwan which I filled up to a point which is about 100ml. I didn’t weigh the ball, so we’ll just assume it was around seven grams. I gave the ball a thirty second rinse which I normally do with these things and tasted the wash while I gave the moisture five minutes or so to penetrate deeper into the tight little knot. The taste was different from what I’m used to seeing from young sheng. It is possible I’m being influenced here by the name, but somewhat similar to the Hai Lang Hao 2015 Yi Shan Mo, I was definitely tasting some plum, although this time it was fresh plum, as opposed to the more jammy plum found in the Yi Shan Mo. As you’d expect from such a long infusion, there was body already and the stone fruit aftertaste was quite long-lasting.
I proceeded to do thirteen more infusions, the timing for these being 8s, 5s, 5s, 8s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s, 2 min., 3 min. and 4 min. While the body was still light and the flavors themselves light in nature, the tea started off with a fair amount of strength already. The flavor was quite unique: a floral sweetness accompanied by some sort of oily taste (not texture), perhaps rapeseed. The aftertaste was long and I could still taste it between infusions. In the second steep the oil and flowers were joined by white grapes. The texture had now improved and become quite luxurious.
The third infusion presented the tea at its boldest yet. I was now tasting more of the skin of the grapes than the flesh and while the floral notes were still present as well, the overall flavor profile had shifted more towards earthy/mineral tones. The finish was fresh and refreshing. Instead of oily, the fourth infusion had now become much more creamy, like melted ice cream, in a good way. The tea continued to maintain its luxurious feel.
Steep five presented the tea probably at its boldest. It was now much more earthy, lacking nearly all of the prior higher notes. The soup was thicker, more savory than before and quite brothy. The infusion that followed continued heading into a more mineral and metallic direction, which I didn’t particularly care for. At the same time, the finish started showing signs of a sweeter vegetal nature. The body was still holding up and the tea itself was quite refreshing and even a bit cooling.
While there was till strength, I was a bit surprised to find the flavors already starting to taper off around the seventh steep. At the same time the tea was beginning to lose my interest as it was starting to become more generic. The taste was chiefly mineral, vegetal and metallic. To prove me wrong, the next steep suddenly greeted me with a fairly thick broth which embodied the sweet taste of peas. While this is something I may have tasted before, it is something I’ve never identified before. It felt like another victory for my palate. All that palate training is paying off.
While the body didn’t maintain its high viscosity, the texture remained quite nice though in the ninth steep. There was still plenty of flavor and I was tasting more of the pea pods than the peas themselves now. The tenth brew was similar, but now started to show some signs of harshness. The taste was part mineral, part vegetal. Mouthfeel remained very enjoyable, smooth, almost oily, luxurious.
The small bit of harshness was gone for the eleventh brew, never to make a return. The strength remained good. I was still getting the peas. The texture was now almost a bit grainy. The sweet aftertaste was long and while it still had the peas, it actually reminded me a lot of vanilla. This made me start thinking that perhaps the two aren’t that far apart. Surprisingly the twelfth brew was still showing a lot of legs. The soup was full, sweet and lubricating. Quite enjoyable. The thirteenth steep was finally the last one I did. I was now starting to lose flavor proper and finding the tea itself less enjoyable overall. While there was still body and the familiar pea sweetness was there, I decided to call it here, because even if there were a couple more brews in these leaves, I made the educated guess that I’d seen all there was to see.
Overall the gold grade was really good. I received a free sample of the silver grade some months back and although I sessioned it, I don’t think I wrote a review for it. Although my memory of it is hazy, I do believe the two teas share some similarities like the early floral aspect and the emphasized texture and aroma. At the same time, my experience with the silver was that it was much more muted in flavor and became much harsher in the later steeps. The gold grade seemed to have much more strength, even better texture and it was just much smoother overall. Even though it’s not quite a fair comparison since I wasn’t drinking the two side by side, for me the differences were huge.
The quality of the material is very high and while this was one of the more enjoyable sessions I’ve had of late, at the same time this was one of those teas that are fun to try, but not something I’d necessarily be looking to revisit. And there’s nothing wrong with that, most teas fall in this category for me anyway. The gold grade is probably the most enlightening in the context of trying out samples of all three grades. For drinking now, it’s a really good tea. I actually ended up buying a cake of the ripe pu’er version made from the silver grade material, so those intrigued by high-quality shu pu’er might want to check that one out as well. It has my personal stamp of approval, for what that’s worth.
Flavors: Broth, Creamy, Earth, Floral, Metallic, Mineral, Olive Oil, Peas, Plums, Sweet, Vanilla, Vegetal, White Grapes
I was a bit too late to the party for the 2016 iteration of this tea, but once the 2017 became available, I grabbed a bing blind. When it comes to pu’er, I tend to either seek out teas of exceptional quality or ones that are incredibly unique. Based on the description at least, this one definitely falls in the latter category. As I want to save as much as possible of this special tea, for this review I ordered a sample a few months back and now was finally the time to break it out.
The dry leaves are really weird looking compared to your typical sheng. Many of them look like miniature pea pods or perhaps dragon scales, which would actually be quite fitting now that I think about it. The scent is also quite unique. In the pre-heated gaiwan, the smell of black currant really comes through, although most obvious on the lid. I used a single chunk of nine grams in a 130ml gaiwan and gave it a sub-five-second rinse followed by a five-minute rest while I sipped the wash. The soup tasted similar to its smell; black currants with maybe a bit of red mixed in.
I followed up with a total of twelve infusions, the timing for these being 5s, 5s, 5s, 7s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s, 2 min. and 3 min. From the first sip of the first infusion, I could tell this is a high-quality tea. It was quite incredible. Two or three sips in, I just wanted to stop for a while, because I felt I needed to take a moment to appreciate the tea. The texture was oily. I could immediately feel the vitality and life energy in this tea. There was a really nice sweetness and a combination of both fruit and berries, apricot and currants to be specific. The soup was super clean and pure and the flavors were really long lasting. The overall impression was very gentle. These are high marks.
As expected, the next infusion was way stronger. The compression seems to be on the looser side, so by this point the single chuck had practically come apart completely. The leaves are also tiny, really tiny, which contributes to the strength of flavor, while the age of the tea trees gives them the vitality they need to keep brewing steadily over multiple infusions. The tea continued being very sweet. The taste was chiefly that of black currants, but the acidic side of berries had become more emphasized. The long-lasting aftertaste from before was maintained.
The next two brews continued among the same lines. The taste of black currants started to become more leafy, resembling the taste of tisane made by infusing the leaves of said plant. Steep five was the boldest one yet. It saw a lot of minerality creeping in. Steep six swapped this with a very prominent acidity, but otherwise stayed true to form.
The seventh infusion, while not necessarily presenting anything new, combined multiple things at once, resulting in what was probably this tea at its most complex. The taste was very leafy with some sweetness as well. The oiliness was back and the soup was quite warming. I could feel a heatwave washing over me every twenty seconds or so over the course of a few minutes, which is totally new for me as usually it’s only a single wave or two. The tea was surprisingly complex with a lot going on and flavors that kept dancing around in your mouth.
The gentle, slightly oily texture characteristic for this tea was maintained for the eighth brew. The taste remained largely the same as what we’d seen before. Leafy, acidic, with a hint of berries in the finish. The acidity reached its peak in the next infusion where the taste was incredibly well defined and an uncanny rendition of the acidity in citrus fruits like grapefruit or lemon, but without the characteristic taste of that specific fruit.
From the tenth brew on we finally saw the tea beginning to simplify and the flavors starting to get thinner. The taste was nothing we hadn’t seen before. Leafy, acidic, with the occasional berries and touch of sweetness. The twelfth steep was the point at which I wasn’t enjoying the tea as much as before and thus I decided to call it there because I only expected the tea to start deteriorating from that point on.
I liked Slumbering Dragon a lot. Although the two Crimson Lotus shu pu’ers I’ve tried I’ve both really liked, while enjoying a few of their shengs to some degree, I’ve never really found anything I’d be seeking to purchase. This on the other hand is a winner. Although a tea I’ve already committed to buying, at least now I can say I do not regret that decision. The quality here is very high and albeit not cheap you are most definitely getting value for your money. I’ve had spring teas close to one dollar per gram or slightly over that while good aren’t necessarily of higher quality. For spring, this is definitely one of the better teas I’ve had in the around 40–60¢/g range.
This is one of the cleanest tasting teas I’ve had. Strength is good, longevity is good. You can definitely taste the clean environment these trees have grown in. One things the tea does slightly suffer from is that it’s not all that dynamic in terms of taste, but I find it less of an issue here than with some other teas. I didn’t get any bitterness or astringency or any other sort of harshness at all, unless you personally consider the acidic character such a thing. The acidity actually reminded me a lot of Bitterleaf Teas’ 2017 WMD which I reviewed recently. Specifically that vintage and not its 2018 counterpart as much. Fans of that tea might want to give this one a try. While I’ve yet to actually try ye sheng (pu’er), I’ve had both purple varietal hong cha and moonlight white and both the aroma and taste of Slumbering Dragon remind me of those teas, so fans of ye sheng might also be interested in what the dragon has to offer.
I think that covers most of what I had to say. I’m interested to see how this tea will age longterm. Crimson Lotus have pressed this tea again this year (available soon), so even if this vintage ends up selling out before you get to buy it, you’re not necessarily in any rush to try it. I may end up sampling the 2018 to see if it’s similar or different.
Flavors: Apricot, Black Currant, Mineral, Sweet, Tart
Having found the regular Bitter End more sweet than bitter, let’s see if its bitter varietal sibling delivers that Xtra bitter goodness. Since I only have ten grams of this tea and to ensure the speed of pour, I decided to go with 3.7g in a 55ml gaiwan. Good decision, it turns out, because this tea ended up going for twenty infusions! The timing for these were 4s, 4s, 4s, 4s, 4s, 4s, 4s, 4s, 4s, 7s, 10s, 13s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s, 2 min., 3 min. and 4 min.
I started off with a short rinse for about seven seconds, taking some time to cram the long leaves in, and tasted the wash while I let the moisture soak in and prime the leaves for about five minutes. The soup was bitter as expected and very cooling in the mouth. This tea was fairly straightforward, so I’m not going to go into it on any sort of steep-by-steep basis. Most of the time it presented you with a combination of bitter and sweet, occasionally giving you a glimpse of the fruity citrus flavors characteristic of this village. From start to finish the tea was very clean with great strength and longevity. The bitterness is not abrasive or persistent, but leaves the mouth fairly quickly. Notable cooling was present in the first few steeps, but then died down.
While Bitter End Xtra was not mouth-numbing like the Hai Lang Hao 2016 Lao Man’e, it should satisfy all but those seeking the most extreme sort of bitterness. While I enjoyed the tea and the quality is obviously high, one shortcoming it does have is that it’s not very dynamic at least right now. Not that teas from this village are necessarily the most complex and varied when young, but I’ve had Lao Man’es that offered a richer overall experience with more depth, although they’ve had a bit more age as well. While this is not something I normally do, I’m looking forward to trying a simple mix of Bitterleaf’s own regular The Bitter End and this tea. Probably a simple 50/50 blend. I’m hoping this will bring out the best of both teas.
If you’re looking for a bitter sheng, don’t be detered by the price. For me Xtra gave twice the amount of infusions as most raws, which can be equated to using half the vessel size to produce the same amount of tea. I’m glad I picked the smallest gaiwan I have for brewing this, because, man, I can’t imagine drinking twenty infusions of any larger quantity. This leaves only The Bitter End Lite to be reviewed. I’m interested to see how it compares to the other two.
Flavors: Bitter, Citrus, Sweet