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Recent Tasting Notes
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 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
Opens up with the start of some aged flavor to it, but quickly turns youthfully punchy and bitter in a light-ish fashion as it opens up (more noticeable with some mild pushing in the mid game). Pleasant, but not particularly unusual in any way. I think more age will bring out some different flavor due to the punchiness, but not something that stands out as of now.
Flavors: Bitter, Green
From the Bana sampler pack I purchased. Excellent raw. Very well balanced. Somehow it had everything: light, floral, fruity, creamy, buttery. Starts off soft and silky. A tiny and pleasant sheng bite developed as I got into the 3rd steep, but less than I’d expect for something less than 3 years old. The two times I’ve drank it I’ve tasted notes of green pepper, creamy green bean casserole, or fruity juiciness like grape. I have more detailed notes on my blog https://runawaytea.wordpress.com/2017/12/20/a-taste-comparison-of-the-same-tea-with-different-water/. It tasted different with spring water. I would purchase this tea. It lasts about 7-8 steeps if you do the last ones for several minutes. Wish it lasted longer. Medium cha qi. Not too harsh on my stomach.
This tea is wonderful. You would be forgiven, if you were ducking in-and-out of a session that someone else was managing, for thinking this is an elegant, almost understated tea—all soft mouthfeel and gentle florals, with calm, uplifting qi and maybe a little bit of honey dancing around the edges of the flavor. However, its demure exterior belies a tea with some serious punchiness, which you might first notice in the long, lingering finish (again, characterized by the florals that dominate the nose and top taste). Push it just a little, especially in the early steeps, and you’ll find the mouthfeel turning viscous and slick, and the liquor picking up some of the almost soapy notes of, say, a 7542 of similar vintage. This potential for aggression translates into quite a bit of staying power, if you’re careful; I never manage to keep track of my infusion count, but I didn’t move on from flash infusions for the first four-to-five steeps or so.
I bought 50 g of this a couple of years ago; unfortunately, it seems to be sold out, now. If you can track some down, though, it’ll be worth your while.
EDIT: I steeped this overnight and came back to it late the next day. At this point, the tea tasted almost like pure honey, which was a very pleasant surprise given that I had only noted hints of honey during the main session.
2x rinse, 5g in 85mL F1 shuiping yixing
2x rinse, 7g in 100mL jian shui dragon egg
(plus a few other sessions too)
-very dark dry leaves
-sweet and rich, clean honey and honeysuckle flavors
-no aftertaste, but kept mouth wet/moist for a while
-no huigan, no chaqi, no kuwei…
Edit: this tea tastes good, but that’s all it has going for it, flavor. I got no body feels, no chi, no aftertaste, no kuwei…etc…so for $.94/g I think its just a good tasting, but boring, and expensive tea. For that price, I’d expect to at least get a little something, but nope…nothing.
To cut to the chase, this is among the best ripe puerhs I’ve had, and it rates well among all puerhs in general. Although the leaves were a little reticent to open up thanks to some fairly tight compression, once they did, they offered up a dark, viscous liquor with herbal, medicinal notes and a lengthy finish. At its peak, I got some distinct dark chocolate, not unlike cocoa powder, towards the swallow. The endurance was pretty remarkable for a ripe (around 12 steeps), as was the qi, which peaked with a sort of languid bliss around steep seven or eight. I found only one really off note: a fishiness in the initial aroma, which didn’t persist into the flavor. (This was a five gram sample that languished in the bag for about half a year; that may have had something to do with it)
The main issue here is the price tag, which is comparable to a number of premium shengs (Treachery of Storytelling Part 2, 2004 YQH Dingji, etc.). I’m not sure I could recommend investing heavily in this tea over those, but it’s worth having at least once.
Flavors: Dark Chocolate, Herbs, Medicinal
According to the bag, LA stored before I picked it up in Seattle from a friendly tea head. 8g to 100ml at 205F in a ruyao gaiwan, the rinse immediately wafted up a cloud of intense plum aromas, although sniffing the rinse was similar to sniffing stagnant, murky pool water, for some confusingly disappointing and unpleasant reason.
Thankfully, the tea didn’t taste anything like murky pool water, instead continuing that deep plum juiciness with a lightly astringent vibrancy and tension that built throughout early to middle steeps. A sweet (but not quite as sticky or rough textured as I’m used to) throat coating built up quickly, leaving a lingering presence long after swallowing.
The energy was very strong, although not in the caffeine kind of energizing way, more of a heavy, calm presence rooted in my skull. I had to take a break early on in this tea to get food, as it was getting overwhelming by steep 6, and I think I’d been nursing a bad cold, as the next day and the day after were spent in bed. When I came back to this tea much later, in fact, I didn’t get much more out of it as I think I’d left it too long in the warm weather, :(. Overall, of what I’d tried of it though, it was very juicy and deep, with an interesting sweetness and a kind of tight balance of flavors that I could have seen developing interestingly with more steeps.
Flavors: Plums, Straw, Sweet
Got a sample of this tea from Hokdor as part of the slackchat Secret Santea tea exchange. The leaf didn’t have much in the way of aroma when dry, but after a rinse, it smelled wonderful. Slightly damp and musty woodiness and a touch of camphor.
I only rinsed it once, and perhaps paid for this as the first steep was a little bit funky tasting, but that went away mostly by the second steep and fully by the third. The flavor started off with some damp woody sweet notes (not dank, just a bit moist) – as it progressed, the woodiness got a little stronger and cleaner. The texture was nice and thick, as shou should be. I didn’t really taste any of the camphorous notes I detected in the aroma. This was a really solid shou, very little fermentation or funkiness to it.
Flavors: Smooth, Thick, Wood
Prep: 60cc gaiwan, ~4g. Boiling water, 30s, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 60, 60.
Sessions with this tea: 2
Taste: burnt walnuts and spice. I think it is earthy or dirt notes, but to me they mixed together with some nut flavor. This had maybe a touch of sweet vanilla or nutmeg or something I couldn’t quite place my finger on which was very fleeting. Flavors very understated and very linear, did not change much across steeps.
Body: Thin mouthfeel, slippery sensation, minimal energy. No salivation, no feeling in my cheeks or throat. Where is the tea? Maybe I underleafed this one as well.
Overall a linear nutty shu which I have enough for one more session with, but will not likely seek out again. The flavor is enjoyable I mostly like tea with more body and is thick and chewy with louder flavors. Update: another session, no changes.
Prep: 60cc gaiwan, ~4g
Sessions with this tea: 2
Taste: Much richer taste than the Denong Wild. This was rich, savory mushroom which showed earthy notes and some nuttiness at later steeps. Tiny bit of quickly fading bitterness.
Body: Thin mouthfeel, not much energy. Apparently I underleafed?
Overall enjoyable flavor, weak in texture, may leaf a little heavier next time. Oh well!