47 Tasting Notes
This is a tricky little one. I have no experience with aged oolongs. Zippo. This tea right here is it. So, I have no other points of reference. Take everything that follows with a grain of salt!
I struggled with this tea. I first tried it four months ago and didn’t like it. Literally tasted like a charcoal briquette and some lighter fluid. It has been “airing out” and I decided to give it one more chance. I can say that it certainly has improved. Would it continue to improve with more airing out? Yes and no.
Yes – the roast is prominent. Very medicinal, phenolic. This aspect has definitely died down to something palatable after letting it breathe for four months. Probably would continue with more airing out.
No – the flavors simply aren’t there. The point of aging is to add complexity and layers of flavor. The interesting flavors that are here (prune, baking spice, orange-citrus) are light and not particularly long-lasting. It’s as if this tea has simply been aged too long, and the leaf has lost its potency.
There you have it. An interesting experience, but roasting an oolong to hell and back and letting it sit for twenty years is a lot of trouble for a return that isn’t very great.
Dry leaf: charcoal, lighter fluid, medicinal/phenolic, some prune and dry dark fruit sweetness – like some dry, dusty, left-in-the-cupboard old prunes. In preheated vessel – medicinal, lighter fluid, some prunes.
Smell: charcoal briquette, ash, vague dark fruit flavors and dry baking spices
Taste: arrival of charcoal briquette. Development has dry medicinal notes and hints of dry baking spices. Finish has slight creaminess and light hint of prune. Aftertaste slowly builds to orange-citrus, but is very light. Some hints of milk chocolate as aftertaste fades.
There are two things to note about our little Iron Arhat here: 1) despite being one of the more expensive Wu Yi options from Yunnan Sourcing, it is still comparatively and relatively inexpensive (thank you, YS!) 2) it’s worth it. It clearly bridges the gap between costing more and thus having to deliver more. Not every tea with a higher price does that!
It is a complex, rich, and intriguing tea. Richness provided by cocoa and nutty notes, sweetness provided by red fruit notes, full body rounded out with cherry wood and mineral notes. In addition, and importantly, there is a noticeable sourness to it, but in a VERY GOOD way. If you have experienced the American phenomenon of “blue raspberry,” then you know what I’m talking about. It’s a raspberry sweetness that is cut through with some mouth-watering sourness that just lifts the flavor profile up and makes the flavors more intense and enjoyable. If “blue raspberry” means about as much to you as “Iron Arhat” does, well, then think slightly under-ripe raspberry or even sweet grapefruit.
I’m a sucker for pretty much anything from Wu Yi as it is, but what a treat this Arhat is. Inspired indeed!
Dry leaf: Mexican chocolate, cocoa powder, dry dark chocolate, waxy scented-candle sweetness, mineral sweetness, hint of dry cherry and dehydrated strawberries. In preheated vessel – sweet minerality and green leaf come to foreground.
Smell – roasted and sugared nuts, praline, roasted peanut, dry red fruit sweetness (dehydrated strawberries)
Taste – NUT: heavily roasted (but not burnt!) almond and pecan. SWEET: Mexican chocolate, cocoa powder, cherry wood, sweet minerality. FRUIT: raspberry-infused dark chocolate, raspberry. Is “blue raspberry Sour Patch kids” a stretch?! I kept getting those notes!
Final destination on the taste tour through Yunnan. What a treat it’s been!
Region 4/4: Puer/Simao. Location 3/3: Ai Lao
NOTES ON TEA
Not bad for its price point. It is a light, fruity, and sweet raw at its present age. Has much in common with a Dragonwell green tea experience. However, the flavors can get a bit thin at times. I found myself pushing it quite early on (3rd infusion) in order to maintain body and flavor.
Overall, it is very refreshing – nice floral and fruity sweetness, with a bit of honey notes. Minerality and hints of smoke prevent it from becoming too sweet and boring. Some citrus notes pop up that help to awaken the palate and make everything interesting again.
Dry leaf: sweet, citrus (almost like an orange candy), fresh grass, floral. In preheated vessel – some sweet prune and raisin notes come forward
Smell: not much in the nose – some light grassy and hay notes, some mildly sweet vegetal notes, some dried apricot.
Taste: honey, light floral sweetness, light citrus, a sort of Turkish Delight vibe, fresh grass, dried apricot. At times has a development very similar to a green tea, with a finish that is reminiscent of a white tea. Something like a rocky minerality is present, but is in the background. Light citrus and lemongrass notes in aftertaste, also honey in background. Some smokiness (campfire – not unpleasant) wafts in and out when brewed harder. The smokiness is almost less of a flavor and more of a vehicle for some added body and sweetness.
NOTES ON REGION
Can’t really pin this one down. There are no common flavors that the three teas shared. The Wu Liang was very smoky and vegetal, the Jing Gu sweet and foresty, and the Ai Lao light and fruity. Overall, I can simply say that I feel like this region gives you some good return for your money. The Wu Liang, despite its ashiness, had the vegetal strength that the Menghai area teas had. The Jing Gu gave a great old arbor depth of experience. The Ai Lao, despite its lightness, was sweet and enjoyable. All are at a fraction of comparable teas.
It is a region worth exploring. It seems to offer something for everyone, and at a bargain.
Nearing the home stretch of a taste tour through Yunnan…
Region 4/4: Puer/Simao. Location 2/3: Jing Gu
Well, looks like Yunnan Sourcing will be getting even MORE of my money…
This thing is delicious. It has a great balance of savory and sweet, and both of these aspects are bold and interesting. Tobacco/smoke/hay/foresty notes combine with fruit/cake/herbal sweetness. The balance between the flavors is incredible, and kept me and my palate happily busy for quite a while.
Flavors are long-lasting, deep, and complex. Also, despite its youth, this tea is easily drinkable right now. I mean, this old arbor (60-350 yo, per YS) is no 1600 yo gu shu, but it sure is hard to beat ;)
An affordable investment in a high-quality experience!
Dry leaf – fresh herbal and fruit, mineral sweetness, some floral sweetness, dried fruit (peach). In preheated vessel – stewed fruit, prune sweetness
Smell – wood smoke, wood, forest floor, pound cake (noticeable chocolate cake aromas in empty cup)
Taste – sweet tobacco, very pleasant and light smokiness (like pipe smoke), hay/straw, thick savory sweetness like high-quality chocolate, poundcake (?!), dried peach, light lemon curd aftertaste; some white peppers notes in finish
Our final stop on our tour of Yunnan regions. We return to where it all started – PUER…
Region 4/4: Simao/Puer. Location 1/3: Wu Liang
A fairly vegetal and herbal experience, this one. There are some pleasant honey notes, which I found fairly thick, but they are in competition with the overt vegetal notes.
There are also some noticeable char notes in the nose, but the smokiness and ashiness are not particularly strong in the actual taste.
Overall, I would say this needs to be aged to a more appropriate puerh drinking age. The flavors are still a bit unsettled, underdeveloped, and rough around the edges. But, the price is reasonable and there is certainly some initial strength of flavor that has promise for the future.
Dry leaf: fresh dill, parsley, pollen, mesquite smoke, hint of honeysuckle, wildflower honey
Smell: green vegetal notes – spinach, zucchini, squash; char; dark honey
Taste: herbal/parsley, vegetal, some notes of char/ash, straw and hay, and English breakfast tea. Finish of fairly thick honey notes and pleasant tannin. Aftertaste has a cardboard or linen-like driness and taste.
Well, like someone who only spends two days in Paris while traveling, my pit stop in Yi Wu wraps up a little too soon…
Region 3/4: Eastern Xishuangbanna / Yi Wu. Location 2/2: Man Zhuan (Mengla county)
Notes on tea:
Overall some interesting flavors. Complex floral, fruit, and sweet herb notes that have a dynamic base of earthiness, grain/cereal/hay, and minerality. Some strong flavors come out in the first few infusions. Some sessions had muted and dissipated flavors after five infusions or so, but this could be the result of the tea’s youth. Light floral and fruitiness with a mineral base remains in later infusions.
Notes on region:
I’m noticing some similar characteristics even among other Xishuangbanna (i.e. Menghai) teas. The Juicy Fruit gum and the fresh parsley notes are the most prominent. However, the Menghai teas were much more upfront and bold with their flavor. Yi Wu teas had more apparent sweetness (particularly floral sweetness, some fruit notes and hints of chocolate), but nothing like the bold sweetness of Lincang region.
In terms of price, I really can’t figure it out. What I sampled were definitely quality teas, but they were on par with the quality I have had in other regions. Yet the Yi Wu teas cost substantially more than other regions. I found the sweetness stronger and more complex in the Lincang teas, at half the price. Menghai teas also offered some similar flavors, but with more strength (again at a lower price.)
It is important to note, however, that I was definitely at the cheaper end of the price scale, so there may be a much more substantial return if you are willing to spend more.
Dry leaf: sweet herbal, fruity, dried peach and mango. In preheated vessel – same flavors, but weirdly smelled weaker and more watery.
Smell: fresh parsley, dried peach and date, sweet fresh hay, hints of earthiness
Taste: floral – orange blossom, sweet/savory herbal (parsley), honeysuckle, dried date and peach, honey, grain/cereal, hints of mesquite smoke and spice cake. Aftertaste is creamy and fruity (peach/date). Minerality becomes pronounced in later infusions.
Fun tea. If you are a tieguanyin fan, you will likely enjoy this product. There are substantial floral notes in-mouth, with a unique citrus aftertaste that follows. There is a bit of a dancong “edge” to it – that sort-of cilantro bite that can be stronger or weaker depending how you brew it. A worthwhile tea to investigate for tieguanyin and dancong lovers alike!
Of note are the large, beautiful leaves. Quality picking.
Dry leaf – light honey, honeysuckle, fragrant floral, creamy, floral sweetness like rose, some mineral sweetness, green oolong herbal/green notes. Very TGY like. In preheated vessel – pomelo comes through – like mandarin oranges and sweet grapefruit.
Smell – fragrant floral, creamy, sweet, lily of the valley, orchid, oolong green leaf, creamy and sweet nuttiness like macadamia nuts
Taste – arrival is floral with creamy development. Some butteriness and herbal notes – bay leaf and light cilantro, orchid. Aftertaste of citrus and sweet citrus, creaminess with floral overtone, candy orange flavor. Later steeps have herbal and grassy umami. Pleasant sweet citrus aftertaste still in later steeps.
The Yunnan tour has made it to a pretty hip pit-stop…
Region 3/4: Yiwu / Mengla county. Location 1/2: Ge Deng mountain (Mengla county)
Well… a few disclaimers first: 1) my sample was the bing-hole. A challenge to brew – what I could break off had many broken leaves that got bitter very quickly, and what I couldn’t break off led to an ultra-compressed chunk of tea that very slowly gave up its flavors. 2) It’s seven years old. Could be suffering from those awkward puerh adolescent years where it has lost its bright, youthful flavors but hasn’t developed its rich, mature flavors.
OK. That said, the flavors, from arrival to aftertaste, were all fairly muted and short-lived. That’s about all I can say. Nothing unpleasant, but nothing that grabbed my attention. Also, although this fit in my price parameters for my little Yunnan tour experiment (~$50-$60/cake), it is worth noting that these Yiwu cakes are only 250g rather than 400g like the other regions. For what should be a substantial jump in quality given the price differential, I just didn’t see it.
Frankly, it does remind me of a couple of other (granted, cheap) Yiwu teas I have had, but I will save my review of the Yiwu region until after I have my second sample from the area.
Anyway, I have just enough leaf left for a quick session in a 60ml gaiwan rather than the yixing pot I have been using. I will update the review if something develops out of this.
Dry leaf: straw, sweet herb (faint spearmint), dark honey, baking spices. In preheated vessel – dark wild honey, green leaf, chocolate notes.
Smell: ashy, bitter green herb, hints of floral (lily), dried parsley
Taste: straw; old, cheap chocolate; dried date, dried herb (parsley again), some hints of ashiness that come and go. Aftertaste has short-lived honeysuckle and light dried fruit sweetness. Hints of artificial grape and bitter cherry. All of the flavors are fairly muted.
The northern excursion of the Yunnan tour wraps up!
Region 2/4: Lincang. Location 2/2: Bang Dong village
Notes on tea:
Great tea. Starts off with complex, rich flavors that last several infusions. Most noticeable was a rich, fruity flavor that had a base not unlike dark chocolate. Intense and rich. Towards the end of the session, development and finish continue to develop with new grassy and fruit notes.
Although I didn’t get a bunch of different flavor notes off of it, all of the flavors were deep and complex. Sessions were interesting and very engaging. In addition, for a young tea, it shows quite a bit of finesse while still remaining powerful and flavorful. Based on my experience, it is easily in league with more expensive teas…
Notes on region:
OK, so two teas isn’t exactly a representative sample size… But, I really like what I found. Both teas (Bang Dong and Qing Mei) had quite different flavor profiles, but the nature of the flavors was similar – complex, deep, not easily described with single notes. I found myself saying things like “fruitcake” and “fruit-infused chocolate.” Also of note was their noticeable sweetness. Both teas had complex sweetness – saccharine and fruit sweetness that was accompanied by a solid base of “darker” flavors – spice cake, dark chocolate, etc.
I will be returning to this neck of the woods soon. Outstanding experiences, both of them. We’ll see how the fabled Yiwu teas stand up to these guys as the tour of Yunnan continues…
Dry leaf – dried apricot, some leafy herbal notes, hints of grape. In preheated vessel: light sweet tobacco, fruit leather, sugarcane
Smell – grassy herbal – hay, a bit smoky, wet hay, wet soil
Taste – light tobacco and stable notes, fruity richness, cherry cordial, dark cherry-infused dark chocolate, some dried apricot notes. Later infusions had grassy/hay development and some baked apple notes in the finish.
My tour of Yunnan is heading north for a change of taste – er, pace.
Region 2/4: Lincang. Location 1/2: Yong De (Qing Mei Shan)
Wow. What a great experience. Complex flavors throughout, but they all play nice with each other. Dynamic session that offers a different experience with every cup.
The flavors were great – I couldn’t pin down individual notes because they all came through like a musical chord – harmonious and inseparable. How’s that for a pretentious metaphor! Seriously though, things like “apple butter”, “fruitcake”, “Dragon Well” all described the experience much better than “nutty”, “apple”, etc.
This will be purchased (whole cake) again, guaranteed. Unique and solid session.
Dry leaf: sweet, notes of citrus, honeysuckle, wildflower honey, apricot, mint, dewy grass. In preheated vessel: fruity and sweet, apricot and strawberry preserves, some candy grape notes
Smell: floral, woody, baked apple, apple butter (cooked apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves), sweet nuttiness like green tea (Bi Luo Chun)
Taste: sweet/savory base similar to green tea (Bi Luo Chun and Dragon Well), fruity and rich notes like apple butter and fruitcake. Other notes include clove, muted mint notes, apricot preserves, chestnut, and hints of maraschino cherry. Some tingly sensations akin to clove, mint, and menthol. Long-lasting aftertaste – some white pepper notes.