78 Tasting Notes


I like Xiaguan for two reasons:

One, they’re cheap. ’Nuff said.

Two, the flavor profile most closely matches my very first pu’erh experience, which was in China at a family’s home. I still remember being amazed at this complex, earthy, savory and sweet, intriguing tea that was worlds away from what I knew as tea. Every time I drink Xiaguan it’s like a trip down memory lane.

The flavor profile here is that rich stable-meets-cigar-humidor flavor that is both challenging and intriguing for your palate. It is definitely on the more savory side of things, but there is a nice dried fruit, lemongrass, and hops sweetness that arrives in the finish and lingers in the aftertaste.

Highly recommended for the price. Also, grab a handful of walnuts while you drink – it goes well with the experience.
Dry leaf: stable, hay, tobacco, cigar humidor. In preheated vessel – some fruit notes of dried date and prune arrive.

Smell: strongly brewed black tea blend, hay, stable, tobacco. Some marine/seashore notes.

Taste: hay, strongly brewed black tea blend, black walnut, green tobacco. Hops-like bitterness and sweetness. Some black pepper and seashore notes. Dried date and lemongrass in finish and aftertaste.

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A fantastic tea. Great complexity – a balance of savory, sweet, spicy, and smoky.

It is also very dynamic – every infusion brought out a whole new balance of flavors: sometimes sweeter, sometimes smokier, sometimes spicier, etc. Highly recommend gong fu style with plenty of leaf so you can treat yourself to very engaging tea session!

There is an element to it that does require some getting used to. Some of the notes that come through are simply not that familiar. The carob and light malty-sweet smoke notes (for lack of a more accurate description…) are a bit strange at first, and are not something you find in other teas. So, give yourself some time to acclimate, and you will find yourself wanting to explore this tea more and more.

Last question – is there a bamboo aroma? I don’t know. Haven’t sniffed bamboo in a long time. I’ll sniff some the next time I go to the zoo and will report back.
Dry leaf: dark caramel, wildflower honey, grape stem, hints of sweet smoke; complex note like apple tart (cooked green apples, caramel, spices) comes through

Smell: dark caramel, carob, sweet smoke. Apple tart note still there. Leaf/stem note you get with roasted oolongs or black tea blends.

Taste: strongly brewed English breakfast tea, dark caramel, apple tart (green apple, caramel, spice), dry spice – allspice, hint of black pepper. Carob, dark chocolate, and dried tart fruit (cherries) in aftertaste.


I LOVE tian jian. I remember some of Scott’s other tian jians having qualities akin to black tea. This kind in particular hardly ever reaches the West, so much like maple-flavored things are nostalgic in the US, tian jian is marketed mainly to southern Chinese, many of whom will recall the “fragrance” of bamboo from their childhood.


The bamboo note is very interesting and adds some complexity to the brew. Too bad it doesn’t conjure up any fond memories for me. My childhood was filled more with tomato plants and poison ivy!


I’m also from the Northeastern US, but grew up with Chinese herbal concoctions so I find the medicinal notes of certain teas to be somewhat comforting, although not as much as Vermont maple syrup, and of course poison ivy. ;-)

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I had a sample of the autumn 2014 Da Qing and loved it. I decided to opt for an entire cake, but went with the spring version.

I have to say that the autumn version was more approachable as a “drink now” sort of tea – a bit sweeter, etc. This one definitely slaps you around a bit. All of the flavors (floral and vegetal) are pretty big, but nothing off-putting. The bitterness never surpasses what you would find in a fairly tame IPA. At the same time, I see a lot of potential with aging.

It’s a bit unfair reviewing this tea so young. It is still developing and settling down. But, man, there are some great flavors and lot of power. Excited to see what the next ten years will bring…

All-in-all, the experience is very balanced, and very dynamic. There are nuances in the flavor if you seek them out. Everything you would expect when paying a premium for gu shu.

Speaking of price, I paid $80 for this cake, and it was worth it. It is now up to $100. So, regardless of your tea budget, just be aware that this tea appreciates in price fairly significantly. You will pay a premium to get this tea with even just a couple of years age on it.
Dry leaf – apricot, bitter green leaf, sweet floral. In preheated vessel – more intense fruit notes – apricot, prune.

Smell – grilled zucchini (some smokiness, some sweetness, some vegetal notes), sweet floral, hints of orange and apricot.

Taste – combination of floral and vegetal: again, sweet floral and grilled zucchini. Some chocolate notes in development. Savoriness fades during development, floral ramps up, and then bitterness arrives in finish. Bitterness fades to citrus and apricot fruity sweetness aftertaste.


There’s a lot going on in this one. The 2016 version needed at least 8 months to settle before I could appreciate it. I’m glad I grabbed the few cakes I did last year. So far, this year’s prices have surpassed my budget. I’m waiting in anticipation for the rest of his 2017 line.


I’m with you on the prices – $100 for 250g is way beyond what I budget for tea. But, a lot of the 2017 stuff so far has been Yiwu-based, hence the relatively high prices. Given what sounds like a tricky harvest this year, it will be interesting to see what else YS got their hands on.


Perhaps you’ve seen Two Dog’s June blog post? It troubles me to think we’ll have a more limited harvest this year combined with potentially higher prices. One thing I’ve always been pleased with Yunnan Sourcing is is their ability to go far beyond Xishuangbanna to find very interesting teas at affordable prices. Waiting to see what he’s found is like Christmas.


Yeah, we will see. I pretty much have all the tea I need for 2017-2018, but I’m sure I could make some room for another cake or two ;)

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drank Bai Mu Dan 2007 by Nannuoshan
78 tasting notes

First white tea for me that had significant age to it.

There was an intriguing sweetness to it that was hard to pin down. It was sort of like coconut or carob, where the sweetness is balanced by a sort of woody/stem-y note.

Definitely a departure from a fresh white tea. Much richer base sweetness and much more complexity.
Dry leaf – honeysuckle, blackberry syrup, carob, sweet floral

Smell – cherry wood, coconut, marshmallow, blackberry syrup, fruit leaf (? – I don’t know, just sort of a fruit-sweet mixed with leafiness…)

Taste – coconut, carob, dark chocolate cherry cordial are predominant. Base flavors of English breakfast tea, some hints of tea with lemon juice.

Liquid Proust

I thought this said it tasted like crab. I need tea.


Ha! Well, I have had some teas with a pretty serious marine quality to them…


Mmm, I really liked that one

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Here’s a secret: Don’t cut the bricks. Don’t try it. You will end up with stitches and weak tea.

You’re welcome.

So, here’s the scoop: These bricks make Xiaguan compression look like sissy stuff. Honestly, when I broke up one brick I used a meat mallet and a steak knife. A saw probably would have worked too. They are too small and too dense to fiddle around with without resulting in some sort of embarrassing self-injury.

The other reason is that the resulting half-bricks just didn’t have enough oomph to make me very happy with the session. Now, I like strong brews, so this may not be the case for everyone. But, really, these half-brick sessions just didn’t have any decent flavor.

So, I chucked an entire brick (~10g) in a 150ml gaiwan. The difference was night and day. Great flavor, great staying power; very dynamic in-mouth.

So, why get DHP compressed as a brick? I guess if you were going to age it, the compression makes sense. Beyond that, I can’t really say it’s a great medium for your daily oolong drinking. But, that said, this is a great session. Don’t cut the bricks, don’t get stitches, don’t break your cheap steak knives, and you will have a good time.
Dry leaf: cocoa powder, peanut shell, hints of licorice/anise. In preheated vessel – some sweet/sour notes.

Smell: roasted nuts, sweet/sour, hints of dark caramel. Sweet, pungent herbal like anise or sassafras.

Taste: roasted nuts, cocoa powder, baking spices, nice woodiness, mineral, sweet/sour. Aftertaste of citrus and tart raspberry, sweet minerality.


Xiaguan compression is a killer.


I can at least get a knife in a Xiaguan cake. This DHP brick was Fort Knox – any attempt to break in only resulted in me getting hurt!

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After traveling around the tea world with Liquid Proust’s group oolong buy, I’m back in familiar territory. It’s been an adventure!

This little guy is interesting. The flavors were sort of Cheshire cat-like, appearing, disappearing, changing. Overall, I have to say that most of the flavor, for me, was nut, wood, and fruit. But, looking at other reviews, other folks had very different experiences, and I can’t say that I disagree with the notes they picked up on.

I did feel, however, that the flavor in-mouth got flat pretty early on in the session. This was especially true when drinking from a glass. When using a seasoned clay cup, the flavor was significantly improved.
Dry leaf: pine wood, peanut shell, raw walnut, sesame seeds, dark chocolate, tangy citrus. In preheated vessel – some sweet grilled veg notes, pine wood and tangy citrus become more prominent.

Smell: roasted nuts (hazelnut), dry baking spices, pine wood, citrus

Taste: roasted nuts, sweet woodiness, cocoa powder, some floral (rose? yeah, why not). Prominent rose aftertaste, along with peach, citrus, and underlying nuttiness to balance tartness of citrus.

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If you told me that you liked charcoal-roasted teas, I would point you in the direction of this tea. The roast is strong but approachable, and the other flavors beyond the roast are nice, with a powerful and lingering aftertaste.

Personally, i’m not a fan of charcoal roasting. I just don’t like the flavor. I started a bit of a discussion to try to figure out the appeal of charcoal roasting, which you can see here: https://steepster.com/discuss/16026-regional-oolong-group-buy-discussion?page=2

Please add your two cents. There is quite a selection of these sorts of teas, and they seem well-regarded. I keep feeling like I’m missing something.

Anyway, approachable roast with a thick, sweet, and fruity aftertaste.
Dry leaf: pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, dark cocoa powder, peanut shell, dill, roast coffee beans. In preheated vessel: coffee beans, prune, raisin.

Smell: charcoal briquette, baking spices, char, hints of honeydew melon

Taste: charcoal, generic nuttiness (peanut shell), Italian roast coffee bean. Aftertaste of char, some dark chocolate, thick melon sweetness, citrus, lemongrass, coriander.

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A Beautiful Taiwan Tea indeed! Nice black tea flavors with plenty of nuttiness and fruit sweetness. Really nice dark caramel notes throughout.

In terms of smokiness, this tea is lightly smoked (by its own admission on the package.) For me, the balance is just right. If you focus, you can pick up wood smoke flavors. Really, though, the smokiness is less of a flavor and more of a backdrop that causes the lighter flavors (like fruitiness) to pop, or adds a depth and richness to darker flavors like caramel.

Tasty stuff.
Dry leaf: chocolate, stewed berries, sweet/pungent herbal (licorice or sassafras), malt, peanut. In preheated vessel – chocolate and fruit jam notes prominent, dark caramel.

Smell: roast pecan, dark caramel, malt, fruit jam, stewed berries, wood smoke

Taste: roast pecan, dark caramel, light pine wood. Rich fruit jam (plum, blackberry) aftertaste. “Mincemeat” notes… Smoke notes are present, but not prominent.

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This is a pleasant drink. Despite there being several notes to pick up on, it really has a pretty straightforward profile. It is very mellow and savory, but it does have a few other things going on to make the experience pleasant – a little nuttiness, a little sweetness, some astringency that makes the whole experience somewhat dynamic in your mouth.

It’s a good workhorse, no-nonsense, morning tipple. If you enjoy a quality bagged black tea blend, then this will probably be up your alley.

Speaking of which, I haven’t tried this Western style yet, but it would be a good candidate. Frankly, Western style with a splash of milk would work very well. I’ll give it a go and report back if things don’t go as planned.
Dry leaf: milk chocolate, raspberry-chocolate, roasted peanuts. In preheated vessel – stronger nut aroma, some bittersweet green oolongy notes

Smell: savory, almost soupy, aroma (think vegetable soup with a sweet tomato base); milk chocolate, roasted peanut, peanut shell; savory bittersweet herb (bay leaf), black pepper

Arrival – very mellow: bittersweet leaf, astringent – like a bagged black tea blend
Development – some peanut nuttiness arrives, mellow flavors, astringency continues; some savory vegetable soup notes
Finish – milk chocolate, chocolate-covered peanut notes arrive
Aftertaste – short-lived; light nuttiness and bittersweet leaf notes

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Rating info.
100 – is it even possible?
90-95 – excellent flavor and value. Great representative of its category. Personally, I will purchase again.
85-90 – good taste and value. Good representative of its category. Worth the purchase.
80-85. fair taste and value, a few drawbacks. No regrets in purchase, but will likely not purchase again.
No rating – not my cup of tea.


Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

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