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Flavors: Earth, Rice, Wood
Sipdown no. 3 of August 2019 (no. 89 of 2019 total, no. 577 grand total). A sample.
I haven’t done a proper tasting in a while. Too hot, too stressed, too busy on the weekends.
I had rinsed this one weeks ago and never got to it — I let the leaves dry out and started over today with a rinse, then a 15 minute wait.
Then: gaiwan, boiling 5/5/7/7/10/10/20/30/40/60
The description says this sample is a 2007 vintage.
I was a bit disappointed, but I don’t think it is the tea’s fault. I have a feeling my water may have been stale — I just used what had been sitting in the kettle.
The tea had a very dark, clear amber liquor which persisted through 10 steeps. It did not give off the usual strong buttery aroma of white chocolate. Instead, though that was present it was somewhat faint.
Instead I got something spicy. I identified it as cinnamon, but then I wondered whether that was because I’d had some Prince Vladimir before. I felt vindicated when I read that others also got cinnamon. I also identified a sort of mustiness which I attributed to my mistreatment of the tea and the possibility of not great water, like maybe I had boiled some algae, but then I read that others got that as well.
I also found espresso and toffee notes. But I missed the white chocolate, buttery, coco-ness I have found in other shengs.
Flavors: Butter, Cinnamon, Cocoa, Espresso, Musty, Toffee, White Chocolate
Sipdown no. 3 of June 2019 (no. 75 of 2019 total, no. 563 grand total). A sample.
I am logging this here even though the sample packet says Vintage 2008, not 2011. According to the description, 2008 was this cake’s debut year, and it won the 2011 competition for aged — so I wonder whether the 2011 reference is in fact the “vintage” of this. But be that as it may.
I was going to try this a few weeks ago but I have been so busy at work that I have been really flattened on Saturdays and only slightly less flattened on Sundays. I just haven’t had it in me to do a real tasting in a while. I originally rinsed this with the intent of drinking it several weeks ago. Then I let the leaves dry out and started over today with a rinse at boiling and a 15 minute wait.
Then: gaiwan, 5/5/7/7/10/10/20/30/40/60
The tea has a sort of a dull gold color in the early steeps and becomes brighter with an apricot hue with later steeps.
The first thing I noticed about this one on the initial rinse was how very chocolatey it smelled. Not white chocolate so much as cocoa. That was what I tasted in the earliest steeps, too. Around steep three, a smoky note came out with a bit of a bitter downturn, but then it smoothed out and became more white chocolate and butter in the later steeps. And something distinctly arboreal that for lack of a better descriptor in the Steepster suggestions I am calling “wood.”
It’s not really wood, though, so much as leaves. But not dead leaves — living ones. Leaves and wood together equals trees.
I think the trick for me with pu erh is not to try to get through them like they’re a chore, but taste them as a treat every now and then when I have the time to put into them.
This one was quite enjoyable, but I have to attribute most of that enjoyment to absence making the heart grow fonder. If I drank this on the heels of another Bana sheng, I would probably not appreciate it as much.
Flavors: Butter, Chocolate, Cocoa, Smoke, White Chocolate, Wood
Sipdown no. 13 of April 2019 (no. 62 of 2019 total, no. 550 grand total). A sample.
Another single serving Bana pu erh sample. I rinsed with boiling water and let it sit for 15 minutes (actually more) and then steeped in the gaiwan at boiling for 5/5/7/7/10/10/20/30/40/60
It is similar to the Purple Tip of yesterday, in that it has a sort of a smoky/dusky aspect to the aroma and flavor. I didn’t find the mouthfeel as oily, and the color is a bit different — pale yellow with particulate matter in it for the first couple of infusions turning to a darker gold-apricot.
I kept going back and forth between the Purple Tip and this one as to which I like better. The do have similar aromas and flavors. Just when I’d convince myself that the Purple Tip was richer, though, I’d have a steep that made me think this one was — and just when thought that this one was a lot more smoky than the Purple Tip, a steep would reverse that impression.
It has a lot of the same character, at least to me. I consistently taste butter/white chocolate/cocoa in sheng. This one also had a coffee note in the third steep that I think came from the combination of smoke and cocoa.
But it also has a sort of a cool, menthol aspect to the aftertaste which I didn’t get with the Purple Tip. It leaves a very soft feel in the mouth.
I had this while trying to binge watch the original Dr. Who through a trial with Britbox. I’ve watched some Dr. Who from time to time, never religiously, though I watched all of Torchwood and quite liked it.
But now I’m going to say something certain to provoke strong reactions. I am not enjoying the original first season much at all.
First of all, I know it was 1963-64 but the production values are pretty awful. The acting is like strong amateur acting, not really professional. The writing is ponderous. It goes on and on and on about a very simple plot point and then some woman screams, and then it goes on and on again. Not much substance.
I’m also not liking the directing — the cave men speak perfect 20th century English! So do the other folks from other planets.
Indeed, I found the first series with the cavemen borderline unwatchable. The second, with the Daleks is sort of campy and has fun moments, but for the most part, also ponderous.
I feel kind of sad that I feel this way. I had such high hopes.
Maybe it will get better. I hope so.
Flavors: Butter, Cocoa, Coffee, Menthol, Roasted, Smoke, White Chocolate
Sipdown no. 11 of April 2019 (no. 60 of 2019 total, no. 548 grand total). A sample.
A while ago, I bought a packet of Bana pu erh samples. It turns out, these are the perfect size for a single tasting in my gaiwan.
I intended to taste and write about this one last weekend, but after rinsing and letting the leaves sit, I never got to it. So I let the leaves dry out, and then I tried again this weekend. I rinsed again and let set for more than 15 minutes.
Then: gaiwan, boiling, 5/5/7/7/10/10/20/30/40/60
The liquor started out almost opaque and gold, and with subsequent steeps became clear and amber. The mouthfeel had some interesting changes in the middle steeps. A couple of them were so smooth as to verge on oily.
The aroma and flavor didn’t change much from steep to steep. It’s a little smoky, a sort of dusky aspect. Also a bit more fruity than some others I’ve had, apple maybe? But the primary aroma and flavor was the buttery, white chocolate, cocoa flavor I’ve come to expect from shengs.
This one isn’t bitter, and isn’t sweet. But it has character.
Flavors: Apple, Butter, Cocoa, Smoke, White Chocolate
The brick smells a little like leather.
I think I didn’t use enough tea. I put in around 2.7g. I think it needs more because honestly, I found this one uninteresting.
Gaiwan. Rinse. Boiling 10/10/20/30/40/60/120/240/300/360
The first steep was a sort of a dark amber color and smelled slightly alcoholic, like brandy. It didn’t taste like that, but honestly, I didn’t get a lot of flavor. The second through fourth steeps had a coffee note to the aroma and an earthiness to the flavor, but I didn’t get the sweet note I was hoping for. The rest was pretty unremarkable.
I have to rate this fairly low given my impressions. But I hope next time with more leaf I can revise that.
On the upside, the leaves flaked right off when I took to them with the pu erh knife.
Flavors: Alcohol, Brandy, Coffee, Earth, Leather
I had the same problem trying to break bits off of this cake today that I did with another yesterday. It was a little easier because I was able to stick the knife into the end of the rectangle.
The cake doesn’t have much of a smell at all. No fishiness, no leather.
Gaiwan. Boiling. Rinse, 10/10/20/30/40/60/120/240/300/360
I think I didn’t use enough leaf, and I’ll increase it next time.
The color started at a cognac and gradually became lighter instead of becoming darker first.
On the upside, there is no fishiness, and there is no standard earthy/mushroomy flavor.
On the downside, and probably as a result of too little leaf, it gave up the ghost pretty early. I could have stopped after 4, which is when the flavor started to fade.
Before it did, it started with a sweet, molasses-like note that was prominent in the first two steeps. In steeps 2 and 3, a nutty, pecan note came out. In steeps 3 and 4, there was a coffee aroma.
The tea has a smoothness and complete lack of objectionable qualities. Giving it a provisional rating in the mid-80s until I can try it again with more leaf.
Flavors: Coffee, Molasses, Pecan
This tea seems to be hitting its full potential now. It is far from my favourite, but well for a fuss-free leather-like black tea.
It has a sweet, leathery scent with fleeting floral, butter, nutty and earthy aromas. Taste is also mostly sweet and leathery. The charcoal bitterness is quite nice, but otherwise there is not much more to it beyond some woody notes.
Flavors: Bitter, Butter, Char, Cranberry, Drying, Floral, Leather, Nuts, Oak wood, Sweet, Wet Earth, Wood
This black tea was not interesting the first time I tried it (I rated 57), so I decided to try a more humid storage for this one. Unlike my other black tea cakes, I store it with shou. I am not sure to what extent that has had an effect, but there is sure an improvement, especially in the aroma (thus also giving a much more interesting aftertaste) and the body. The taste is smooth and balanced with a biting, expansive aftertaste. I find it quite floral, spicy, malty and creamy with a honey note, but not really sweet.
Flavors: Biting, Cream, Floral, Honey, Malt, Spicy
Return to Planet Pu erh.
This one has a rather singular smell in the packet. I would describe it as “dark” or maybe “hearty.” There’s no fishiness at all, and only a little leather. What I get is more deep and rich, like a really moist tobacco or, for some reason, a really concentrated butterscotch. Where that is coming from, don’t ask me — it may be more of an association than a flavor. If you’ve had those really dark, deep, rich butterscotches that make you understand where the “scotch” part comes from, that’s what I mean.
I rinsed and then steeped at boiling for 10/10/20/30/40/60/120/240/300/360
The tea starts out with an astonishingly bright orange colored liquor, but by the second steep it has become a dark, cognac color. I swear, I did not read the description that said cognac before I called it that — even more surprising because by steep 2, I get a cognac flavor (and again, I swear, I didn’t read the description first!)
Steep 1 is smooth, and a bit more earthy and mushroomy, but steep 2 is cognac, for sure.
The third steep is similar to the second, as is the third — but the fourth is a little less “round” and the fifth has a sweetness that I’m finding tends to come out in shus in the middle steeps. It must have something to do with the breakdown of the sugars in the leaves? The sweetness here isn’t like the brown sugar and molasses notes that I adored in the Life in Teacup, but it is very nice.
By the sixth, I start detecting a bit of a fade. The color becomes lighter though still reminiscent of brandy.
I enjoyed all 10 steeps. While I still think the Life in Teacup is the most stunning of those I’ve had recently, this is lovely. I had to bump up the Life In Teacup’s rating so I could rate this one high, but not as high as it.
Flavors: Brandy, Butterscotch, Earth, Mushrooms, Tobacco
The continuing adventures of the pu-erh n00b, in which the orchid theme from today’s oolong also continues.
The dry leaf of this one also smells like sour tree as did the Bana sheng of yesterday, but with a dusky, low note as well.
The package says to use lower heat for this one, so I went with 195F in the gaiwan for 5/5/7/7/10/10/20/30/40/60
I think when I started trying sheng in earnest, I expected something different. Mostly, I expected that the tea would undergo significant, transformative changes from steep to steep. What I’m finding is that hasn’t been the case. There are subtle changes in some instances, but I’ve been surprised at the consistency in flavor between steeps.
This one started out with a very light liquor — I’d call it white with a yellow tinge. Not white in the sense of white tea white, where it is pretty much the color of water, but something that gives off a definite sense of the color white. The color gets more yellow and a little darker with subsequent steeps. Around the third steep, I noticed a pinkish tinge.
The flavor is similar to that of the other Bana shengs I’ve had recently in that it makes me think of flax, but with a subtle difference in that it has a more floral quality and is a little sweeter. The tea has a soft, energizing mouthfeel.
The second steep brought out a nutty note, cashew perhaps. With more steeps, the flax aspect dissipated and the floral aspect became more prominent as the tea became generally milder, though on the fifth steep a weird step back toward sour came in, and in the seventh, a sugary, brown sugar note came out.
I wonder whether this would be more or less interesting with hotter water?
In any case, I enjoyed it, maybe just a tad more than the other shengs I’ve had from Bana. rating accordingly.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Floral, Nutty, Smooth, Sour, Sweet
Adventures in pu-erh part sheng.
I bought this a while ago in a 50g packet (not a brick). The tea in the packet has an interesting smell I can only describe as “sour tree.”
I put about 2.7g into the gaiwan, rinsed with boiling water and let sit for 15+ minutes.
Then I steeped at boiling for: 5/5/7/7/10/10/20/30/40/60
The color, for the most part, was a medium gold and clear, though it darkened a little with later steeps.
The aroma and flavor were difficult for me to describe. As with a prior sheng, I kept thinking about linen and cloth. Flax, I guess. Maybe flax seed? Or some other sort of seed. Sunflower?
There’s a little bit of leatheriness, but not in the same way as with shu.
The first steep was surprisingly sweet as well as sour. In subsequent steeps, the sour went away (or I got used to it) and a cooling note came out. Camphor? Menthol? Eucalyptus? This topped out around steep 6.
I also got a bit of fruitiness that reminded me of the last sheng in the early steeps. Pineapple maybe.
Later steeps had a notes of tree sap/resin.
I found it surprisingly similar to the Norbu I had last week, the bamboo one. But without the bamboo. Rating it the same.
Flavors: Leather, Pineapple, Rainforest, Resin, Sap
Another goodie from work.
Honestly, guys, I feel super spoiled at work with all the free tea and food that I’ve been getting. I mean, definitely don’t get me wrong – I am LOVING it. I just feel like at this point I haven’t done a whole lot to earn it!?
This was some damn good Sheng though! I chipped a piece of it off the cake in the office this morning and drank it Grandpa pretty much from 8:30AM all the way up until like 3PM. It was the sheng that just kept giving. I had set aside so many other teas that I was intending to drink throughout the day too, but couldn’t put this one down. It was just wickedly smooth and sweet, with very thick and jammy fruit notes. Sort of like sipping on the tea version of an apricot/peach/nectarine preserve? Some of that more “green” grassy and vegetal/peppery taste to the undertone and finishing notes but mostly just the best fruity body/profile. Mouthfeel was lush, and thick – really coating in the mouth. It simply would not get bitter, and though there was some astringency throughout drinking this one (in top notes) it was at a very reasonable and enjoyable level that seemed to better the experience of the sweet stonefruit notes – it kept it in check/from being too sweet or syrupy.
Honestly, this was AMAZING. As a not terribly heavy Sheng drinker, I think I could very easily have this quite often and not grow sick of it. Yummmmm!!
Adventures in pu-erh, day 2.
This one came loose. It has big, coarse, dark leaves that look rather like the leaves of a Big Red Robe oolong. They don’t smell at all fishy, for once. They smell of earth, soil, and something aromatically volatile, like resin.
I rinsed twice and steeped in the gaiwan with boiling water. I went 10, 10, 20, 40 (an accident, I meant to do 30), 40, 60, 120, 240, 360, and 480. My attention span being what it is, I wanted to stop around steep four. But nevertheless, I persisted.
And I’m glad I did because somewhere around the four minute steep, the tea changed. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
The tea started with a medium copper liquor (the run off looks pink, as I’ve experienced before and find interesting), which got darker through the first four or so steeps to a cognac color and then lightened up again.
Through the entire experience, I was very conscious of drinking something that came from plants. The early steeps were heavy on the leather, earth, and mushroom notes, but then became more woody. Like sticks. The leather notes faded away as did the mushroom ones. The tea became milder and almost sweet.
Around steep four, it became something different, very mild, with a flavor of its own that I’m having trouble defining. The character was like cocoa to me, but the flavor wasn’t quite that. I also want to say it reminded me of whisky, but not in an alcohol sense if that makes sense — there wasn’t anything chemical about the flavor. Maybe it’s tobacco and I’m getting it confused with those other smells that come out of mens’ clubs with heavy wood furniture and red leather upholstery.
Yeah, I’m going with tobacco.
Anyway, it’s a really interesting tea that is worth hanging with. If I’d continued, so would it have.
Flavors: Earth, Forest Floor, Leather, Mushrooms, Resin, Tobacco, Wood
Got this tea a year ago from Bana during their 20% off sale after reading Oolong Owl’s review (basically it’s good beginner sheng).
So I didn’t actually use this as my beginner sheng, but treat it as the many samples I’ve since acquired. I’ve drunken a good variety of sheng now and can honestly say that this cake is not for the more advanced.
The beginning steeps are flavorful but never gets bitter, both savory and sweet. However, the flavor pretty much dies down after 3-4 steeps. Maybe my palate is more insensitive, but I use the same thermos when doing gongfu each time, and usually I use up the thermos (about 700 ml) for one session. For this tea, I have about 1/3 left.
It’s a fine tea. I get about 3 great steeps and a bunch of mehhh ones after that. Flavor is straightforward and forgiving. Oolong Owl is correct that it’s good for beginners.
I might try western brewing this next time.
Flavors: Sweet, Umami
Reviewing for the Sheng TTB#3, in 2018 so this 2012 material has a few years on it now from when some of these other reviews were…
100C, 4g in ~80ml. Immediately opens up with juicy thick peach flavors and is very throaty and low notes in that sense. I noted that it was so delicious I don’t even want to swallow. By mid-steeps, this only had some mild bitterness, so it can still use a few more years of aging if you’re into aged whites. It is very floral though! and I’d hate to lose that as much as I like aged whites. I think this is in a good place right now…I just wish I had more of it! I wonder if the floral character of this white is because of the Jingmai region…
All in all: very floral, rich, and full. Highly recommend if you can get ahold of more.
Flavors: Floral, Peach
At 10 years old, this tea is boring and watery for the first few steeps — I’ve brewed it at 6 and 7g/100ml, and will up it to 8g next time — but around steep 4 it reveals an interior life: flowers and the prickle of camphor and a little barnyard. By steep 5 it begins smoothing out, and the huigan becomes notably cooling. Whether I’ve brewed it well or poorly, the most remarkable thing about this tea is the cha qi. In general, I react most strongly to the caffeine in tea, but here the qi is super calming and fuzzy-brained. A real two-hit stoner high — I can only drink this tea on a weekend.
Gongfu style, 5g/100ml.
First ~3 steeps (1 rinse): 90C. I had previously tried this at boiling, immediately after bringing it home, and it had a lot of qualities of young sheng I don’t like: bitter, hops, and hay-like. despite that this is now 14 years old. Checking the website, Bana Tea company recommends 85C, with a REALLY low leaf:water ratio. I didn’t want to kick the leaf:water down that far, so I tried 90C—it is much better now. The dry leaves smell like less acidic dried cranberries—maybe like dried goji berries? Definitely a dried red sweet berry or fruit. The liquor tastes like dried sweet fruits, with a strong sweet aftertaste exactly like dried dates. By steep 3, some of those young sheng notes started to emerge. This was dry stored which might explain that.
Steep 4-9: I got brave and went back to boiling. Again I was faced with these IPA/young sheng bitter notes, but still had that hui gan, which eventually gave way to a floral almost like you’d get from an anxi oolong. I will say that this is a very energetic tea, I am super pumped right now.
Steeps 10: of course I lose track. Oh well. Bitterness has given way to just that sweetness, without losing its strength provided I go to 30s-1min steepings. Astringent in the middle of the finish but the lingering sweet fruit notes remain though now its more of dried apricot rather than date—just a little bit of a tang.
I don’t know if you should brew this at 90C or 100C, probably depends how big of a baby you are about bitter tastes like IPA beers or young sheng (I am a huge baby about it). This maintains a lot of its energetic youth in my opinion.
Update now in the summer months and after its been brought home and resting. This has definitely smoothed out now that its been rehydrated. Still clear dry storage, but toned down on the bitter notes. Much improved!
Flavors: Dates, Dried Fruit, Floral, Hay, Raisins