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Recent Tasting Notes
I tried the gold dragon ball today:
It started out tasting like flowers and green herbs together, nice backbone of bitterness, really intensely flavorful. The aftertaste quickly turns cool at the tip of my tongue and the front roof of my mouth, while I continue to feel those big flavors deeper in my throat. After a short delay, my throat starts to turn cool and almost numbing, too. This tea tastes like a big burly guy dressed in some sort of delicate Brian Froud faerie costume and pulling it off in a super sexy study in contrasts sort of way.
The next few steeps were more bitter and dry brown medicinal herbal instead of green fresh herbal. Verging on exhilarating old books. Fuzzy numb tongue after. Dry thick herbiness sticking to tongue, my throat feeling tight.
Later steeps mellowed out in rich savory bean broth. Not much aftertaste or astringency anymore, just savory yums with eventually some bitter vegetal notes joining in.
I got a lot of housework and stuff done in between steeps – it kept me chill and productive and happy for hours and hours today. Might have to grab a few more.
Leaves are long, kind of like loose pu erh. I wasn’t sure what to expect even though I had other yellow teas before.
First steep… OMG It’s cotton candy!! Literally the only thing I can think about. I was so shocked that I had to keep going and see if the taste continues.
Future steeps are still very sweet… reminds me of the honey taste of sheng, but it’s more forefront and cotton candy-like.
Very interesting since I’m more used to green tea having umami flavors and being malty. This is a pleasant surprise, and I would definitely repurchase!
Flavors: Cotton Candy, Honey, Sweet
This one started out with light bitterness in the front, then gentle deep flowers on the exhale. It felt SO BIG – it’s not that the liquid is thick, exactly, it’s that the lingering aroma in my mouth felt like huge flowers physically just crowding my mouth full. I felt like I was suffocating on giant petals, and what a way to go!
In later steeps, the bitterness lingered a bit longer and the aftertaste got correspondingly sweeter. Eventually I started getting a touch of woodsiness in the sip, some fuzziness in the mouth, and the aftertaste lost its flowers and moved towards sweet straw.
tldr so very worth it for the bizarre and beautiful sensation of a mouth crammed full of enormous flowers.
1 rinse, smells sweet and light
8s: Salty! A little buzzy feeling on the tongue, like licking a battery. Light woods linger, not actually particularly sweet but pretty nice. Texture was fairly soft.
12s: Still super salty and more clearly acidic. Roof of my mouth feels dry after, then oh hai huigan. Cool dry breath.
17s: Mostly the same, but a bit of woodsiness is the first flavor creeping in, and I feel like I’m starting to get overall buzzy too.
25s: Feeling wild-eyed. I don’t love the dry sensation, and the buzz is starting to veer a bit manic (though the huigan is getting milder). This one is purely about sensation and texture for me – I’m getting almost no flavor to speak of.
32s: Less salty by far, smoothing out, though some of the acidic buzziness remains.
40s: I’m stopping here because the dryness has reached my throat and is starting to bug me, and I don’t want to feel any more buzzed right now. I have a bit more sample and a dragon ball of this, think I’ll put them aside for a few years then check in again.
Very interesting tea. This is the first very aged Kunming tea I’ve tried. The flavor profile kind of reminds me of mid 2000s Guangdong sheng, but much milder tasting. There is a camphor-like note here, but much milder than with Guangdong or Hongkong teas. No bitterness at all in the liquor either. This tea makes me relaxed and sleepy, and the leaves still look very green. While I wouldn’t get a full cake of this, I found the experience very educational.
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Flavors: Astringent, Floral, Vegetal
One thing I liked about Plum Beauty Ripe was how smooth the texture was, and if it wasn’t for the earthy tasting notes, you could have convinced me I was drinking a hong. Another thing I liked about this tea was its energy, because despite this teas humidness, it made me feel tea drunk. However, it was still really humid and could benefit from resting in the pumidor for a bit longer.
You can read my full review here…
Flavors: Dirt, Earth, Salt
Brought this one to work today so I can spend a whole day with it. I’ve heard good things about this one (it’s another from Dark Matter 2016), so I’m excited to give it a go. As I’m at work, I’m brewing this one western style.
First steep is a pretty orange/amber. It’s lightly earthy, with a touch of forest mulch, and a little sweetness. Most shou I’ve tried isn’t this sweet straight from the get-go, so that’s a nice surprise. It’s also lighter and less pungent altogether – both in terms if liquor and flavour. It’s not your typical “muddy” shou.
Second steep is very similar. It’s still very light-tasting, but smooth and with an almost buttery quality. The leaf is still pretty compacted, although the liquor is slightly darker this time. Mild-earthy-sweet is how I’d describe this.
Third steep is, again, similar. The liquor is much darker this time – the black/brown that I’m used to seeing with shou. The creamy smoothness is perhaps a little more pronounced, but it still retains a nice balance between earthy/sweet. It’s very easy to drink, and not at all funky.
Fourth steep is still pretty much the same in terms of flavour! I get the impression that this is a tea that could keep going and going, although I’m starting to experience a slightly drying mouthfeel.
I’ll probably carry on a little longer with this one, but probably not for more than another 2 steeps. I’m sure it still has a fair bit to give, but it’s making me feel quite thirsty because it’s become drying – and my still-fairly-sore-throat really isn’t enjoying that very much. I’d return to this one again in the future, though – it’s a great, drinkable shou!
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Flavors: Herbaceous, Herbs, Walnut
So, I think this might be the smoothest, cleanest tasting Shou that I’ve not only only had in recent memory but perhaps just in general? I’ve been sitting on a sample of it for a little white now and I honestly didn’t have any intention to brew it up any time soon but some people were talking about it a while back on the Slack chat & I got curious. I have to wholeheartedly agree that it almost doesn’t even taste like Shou…
I did not take individual steep notes, nor did I weigh out the amount of tea leaf I use/time my infusions. Basically I just found a chunk of my sample that looked satisfying/about right and then went with gut feeling. Sometimes I like to be really precise, but other times I feel like just rolling with what my gut tells me to do produces some of the most relaxing, peaceful sessions that experience wise are the most satisfying to be doing.
By my best estimate I’d wager I had around twenty infusions all in all give or take a couple. For me, this was an all day sort of tea that I broke up over several hours. Have like five or six infusions, go do something else for a few hours, come back and repeat. I listened to a few different things throughout but the best was popping on a Bears in Hazenmore EP and enjoying listening to that. I mean, fitting band name aside it was just nice music to listen to.
Taste wise I feel like the best way I could sum up the entire session would just be by saying that on the whole the profile was very, very clean and smooth with the most consistent flavour notes being things like sweet dates/figs, wood, and petrichor. Obviously over roughly twenty infusions you’re going to experience some variation and a lot more flavours kind of weaving in and out of the steeps, but those were the main ones and ultimately the most enjoyable as well.
Highly, highly recommend trying this tea if you get the chance to.
Another 2018 Sheng Olympiad session today with a sample of the Bitterleaf Teas 2017 Huangpian brick.
It has a fairly thick texture, very light but sweet & floral taste without the face-punching bitterness of a typical young raw. Decent chaqi off it too. Impressive for the price at 10c/g.sw
Flavors: Floral, Sweet
Today I am talking about a beauty of its own – I am talking about the Nectar Top Shelf Spring 2016 Milanxiang Dancong by Bitterleaf Teas! Already those dried leaves spread out such a very nicely baked scent with a very herbal citrus hint of Ginger and ginseng plus a very nutty typical texture of pine nuts and grape seeds. Even in their dry stage those leaves really watering your mouth in expectations of the coming taste. Rinsed once, soaked in boiled water and steaming up the heat of their first bath the whole aroma gets even more heightened with a deep pickled cherry kind of flavor or like cherry jam. Beside that there is a very certain herbal note to it which reminds me again of ginseng but with a fruity aspect of lychee or best to say Chinese longan to it.
The sweetness level is very dominant but well balanced with the herbal aspects and the finish of a slightly subtle elegant grape seed bitterness at the end of it. But taste-wise there is a lot more going on and slightly different because this sourness within the aroma of longan before isn’t that much noticeable anymore. Instead there is a more lychee going on but first and foremost a very clear and straight to the point pine apple juicy flair to it. But the pine apples do not work alone they got a very lovely ally within their fruity fusion – Maracuya (Passion Fruit). Calling those the main actors so far there are some small but not unimportant cast member left like very sweet red apples and Asian pear. In the case of this Milan Dancong there isn’t a very intense warming or tingling feeling within the mouth region but instead this whole fruitiness covers your tongue, palatal, inner cheek sections and throat with a fine layer of this artistically composed symphony of aromatic pleasures for a very long time – it nearly sticks like the best glue ever to every tasting buds your inner mouth section could possible offer. Altogether the whole tasting experience reminded me a lot of a very nicely well-orchestrated multi vitamin juice. There is a certain floral aspect to it too but quite hard to put it to a certain flower typ – most I would say orchid and a hint of magnolia would suite the description the best. Talking about the herbal aspects again the two main parts which put this taste in line the best would be ginseng and cinnamon bark. There is definitely a honey sweetness to it too but more like a subtle layer very fine and thin on every of those named aspects before. This Milan Dancong is a total winner!
Got a little warmer and I was in a mood for young sheng.
1/13 ratio and 212F
Beautiful leaf, takes boil treatment well. It was sweet floral with minimal astringency. I pushed it a bit at later steeps. Got bitter but I was rewarded with strong long lasting huigan. Very enjoyable session
1/10 ratio and 212F
I started in my ruyao pot and after couple steeps transferred to yixing. It was a better choice for this shou. Dry leaf smells a little smoky and it tastes smoky too. Pleasant smoke like grilled fruits. Tastes of dried fruits, some leather and spice, date and even dried persimmon( me thinks) It tastes clean and middle aged. Very enjoyable, I recommend to try it
1/10 ratio and 212F
Breaking in my new teaboat with Grizzly Bear. I really enjoyed this shou. It’s very clean and zero funk. Sweet and earthy, spice tingling. Later steeps brought pretty noticeable minty cool flavor. I think it’s a great shou and would be perfect choice to introduce someone new to puerh. That’s how clean the taste is. Good at pushing, didn’t get weird or bitter. Should I say how budget friendly it is?
1/10 ratio and 212F
So yum and impossible to overbrew. Thick dark and sweet. Mandarin rind compliments it nicely. Some spice and medicinal flavors I love. Very enjoyable first tea of my day!
1/10 ratio 212F cuz it’s Huang Pian and somewhat aged too. It’s honey sweet, citrusy with some humid notes but tastes clean. Easy drinker, good at pushing. Maybe gets a little more sour at pushing but not bitter or astringent. Qi was nice and relaxing. I can see it as a good candidate for grandpa style
1/10 ratio and 212F/100C
Very nice material, you can see from the pic.
1 rinse. Didn’t smell funky to me. Moderately sweet smooth and earthy in the beginning.
I went away and when came back continued the session. I was glad it was on a break cuz the chunk opened up completely.
This was kinda refined shou (if shou can be refined) smooth and somewhat medicinal bitter taste which is not a negative thing , it only brings more complexity in my opinion.
Very interesting shou, thank you bitterleafteas for a great session!
Finally tried my Sugar Glider!
I was so excited to try this/get my hands on it that I built a whole order entirely around getting a sample of this tea because I knew so badly that I needed to experience it. Of course, when I did finally get it I definitely had to give it a proper photo op!
It was really nice drinking a pot of this one out doors in the crisp spring air in my backyard. That crab apple tree is so pretty; but this time of year all the fruit just kind of rots off and scatters around the ground. It’s sort of gross, but also very pretty? I don’t know – weird aesthetic vibes. We’ve got a picnic table right under it though, and that’s where I sat and drank my tea. It just felt nice to be outside the house – I really enjoyed brewing in the front yard over the summer, but it’s been a while since it was nice enough to do that.
Taste wise this tea was delicious though! It was very, very smooth and though I didn’t find it horribly intricate/nuanced the mix of flavours I did experience were all very lovely and well represented. Mostly, notes of malt in the body of the sip but some sweeter red fruit undertones; kind of like a jammy pomegranate/raspberry kind of thing? More of a cocoa and honey top note, in addition to the malt.
I feel like drinking it Gong Fu would maybe reveal a little more layering and evolving flavour but this was just a straight forward pot. Tasty, though! Super, super tasty!
Fuck yeah, Sugar Glider!
Companion review to the 2016 autumn Bohetang I reviewed last time. The sample I received was practically mao cha. I used 8.7g in a 130ml gaiwan and did a total of eleven steeps after rinsing the leaves briefly for five seconds and letting the moisture soak in for ten minutes before proceeding with the brewing. Timing for the steeps were 5s, 5s, 7s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 20s, 25s, 30s, 35s and 45s. I did drink the rinse and it turned out to be shockingly strong, bright, fruity, even bitter.
The first steep following the rinse was very bright. I’m not quite sure if fruity is apt here. The tea also had some interesting savoriness to it. While the body was only decent, the qi made you calm and focused. The second steeping had close to no taste when it entered your mouth, but it left your tongue feeling very sweet. The tea felt warming in the body while being very cooling in the mouth, making it feel like a wind tunnel.
The third brew was bright, mineral, astringent. It coated your tongue in a way that let you keep tasting it over and over again while also having a calming effect. In the fourth brew I tasted fruit, possibly orange, mandarin or something of that nature. The tea also had a common young raw pu’er layer to it along with some harshness that was potentially a mixture of astringency and some bitterness. At this point I could also pick up an orange peel aroma from the leaves.
The fifth infusion was bright and mineral, continuing to have a hint of a harsh edge to it. It had a bitterness that persisted in the mouth. The following infusion ended up being dominantly harsh, which resulted in me holding back on the steeping time for all subsequent infusions. The tea left your mouth sandpapery and coated your tongue with a prickly mineral sensation. A high level of bitterness is revealed once the liquor cools down.
The seventh steep produced a soup with a mineral character with a metallic edge to it. Despite attempts at holding back on the brewing time, bitter was the dominant flavor in the eighth steep. It was almost a creamy bitterness. Not really a bad kind of bitter, but not quite a pleasant bitterness either, although it wasn’t too far off. Surprisingly the ninth brew offered more body. The taste was mineral with very little astringency and close to no bitterness.
The tea began to simplify in the tenth steep, continuing to present a mainly mineral character with perhaps a hint of mineral sweetness as well. I did one final steep and the tea was beginning to be rather simple and plain now, while still maintaining quite good strength. The leaves could have quite possibly brewed at least a couple more times in this mineral, slightly sweet fashion, but I doubt there would have been anything more of interest in store.
I’m not very familiar with the Yiwu region and this was my first Gua Feng Zhai, so this tea was very interesting to try. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, but this tea turned out to be more of a wild mare than I’d anticipated. While the early steeps exhibited clear quality markers, the middle steeps were often dominated by bitterness and/or astringency, until finally settling to a quite typical mineral/sweet profile. While the bitterness and astringency were at no point so excessive as to make the tea unpleasant, the tea wasn’t particularly interesting or enjoyable either. Although this might be a tea that would benefit from slightly different brewing parameters like a lower temperature, I’d say that this is likely a tea that you would seek to age rather than drink now. I found Bitterleaf’s two other high-end teas that I’ve tried – Oz and Mint Condition – to be more to my liking. Both have a very soft profile and really nice cha qi. If you have your sights set on Windfall and are intending to order a sample, I’d recommend picking up a sample of Mint Condition as well as it shares the same price point and is another Yiwu tea.
It could be that this is the kind of high-caliber tea that is still beyond me or perhaps it still needs more age to be properly appreciated. Either way, I still have some of my sample left so I’ll be trying out this tea again in another six months or so. If my impressions of it change dramatically, I will do a follow-up review, otherwise not.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Fruity, Mineral, Sweet
I’ve had a sample of this in my pumidor for a few months now. I thought right around now might be a good time to start sampling teas from autumn 2016, so this’ll be the first one I’ll be reviewing. I used ten grams in a 140ml gaiwan and did a total of ten steeps, timing for these being 5s, 5s, 5s, 7s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s and 75s. I rinsed the leaves briefly for just over five seconds and let the moisture soak in for five to ten minutes before I began brewing. As is customary for me now, I drank the rinse, and I was quite surprised to actually taste the mint this area is supposedly famous for. It wasn’t subtle either. I honestly did not expect to taste the mint, because that’s what usually happens to me in these situations. Of course my perception could have been influenced by subconsciously expecting mint, but whatever the case, I was still very pleased with just the rinse alone.
The first proper infusion was still reasonably light both in terms of flavor and texture, but it was very enjoyable nonetheless. The mint note was still there, but somewhat muted now. The second steep offered more body and was quite a bit stronger and bolder in general. It had a darker green taste and a definitive cooling effect that was present in all of the early steeps.
The next brew was nice and refreshing, like a really nice green tea with some mineral sweetness. At this point I was REALLY feeling the qi, though. It’s not restless or rushy, though, you just feel it affecting your body even if it’s not clear in what way exactly. At this point I was thinking this is a really nice tea. Then I got to the fourth infusion and experienced a nice mouthfeel, but more importantly the most AMAZING throat feel. Even my mother whom I was drinking with commented on it specifically and she’s definitely a tea novice who has never even heard of such a thing as “throat feel”. You could feel the tea along the full length of your throat and the sensation persisted long after you’d swallowed. At this point it was clear that this is a phenomenal tea. I honestly paid close to zero attention to the actual taste in this steep. One could describe it similar to a great green tea with maybe a hint of astringency now.
The fifth steeping was otherwise pretty much your standard fare – green, mineral, astringent – but had an AMAZING, strong returning sweetness. Probably the most notable I’ve experienced. In the sixth steep I was starting to get the mint again. Otherwise the tea was still reminiscent of a really nice green tea. The aftertaste in this infusion was particularly strong and long-lasting. Some very mild underlying bitterness revealed itself if you let the tea cool down. I could really feel the qi building up at this point.
The seventh steep had an incredibly strong mineral sweetness. It wasn’t the sweetest pu’er I’ve drunk, but still shockingly sweet. The next brew offered some nice body and while the flavors were slowly beginning to simplify, the sweetness was still really nice. At this point the qi had built up so much that although I wanted to keep drinking, my drinking nearly ground down to a halt. What I was experiencing wasn’t a bad sensation at all, but I simply felt like I had to slow down or I would drink myself under the table.
The flavors continued to simplify more noticeably in the ninth steep and the tea wasn’t as nice tasting as before. The tea was beginning to become more astringent as well. I did one last steep just to see how the tea would fare and now the soup had become notably more bitter and astringent, although it still wasn’t awful though.
Overall this was a fantastic tea. I’d rank it up there with Bitterleaf’s 2016 Xigui which I was very impressed with, although I think that tea still probably holds a small edge over this one. Regardless, both represent the highest echelon of sheng pu’er that I’ve had the privilege of experiencing so far on my tea journey. Apart from the noticeably larger average leaf size compared to most spring teas, I couldn’t tell this was an autumn tea. While still not cheap, at half the price of the Xigui which is a spring tea, Mint Condition represents a really good value if you are looking for a tea of this caliber, but at a more affordable price. Probably the best of all, this tea is perfectly drinkable right now, while most likely holding great aging potential as well. I ended up ordering a cake based on this session, putting my money where my mouth is. Next I’ll most likely be reviewing Bitterleaf’s 2016 autumn Gua Feng Zhai to make a purchase decision on it as well. You can look forward to that next.
Flavors: Green, Mineral, Mint, Sweet
This was a free sample that I received with an order. The bulk of my sample consisted of a large 20g piece of the cake, from which I gently separated 8.7g into my 130ml gaiwan being able to keep any additional breakage at a minimum thanks to the seemingly rather loose compression similar to Bitterleaf’s 2016 Xigui that I reviewed last time. I gave the leaves a brief five second rinse followed by a ten minute rest while I sipped the rinse. The taste was still very light, but quite floral.
I proceeded to do a total of nine infusions, timing for these being 5s, 5s, 7s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s and 75s. The flavors themselves in the first steep were light, while the extraction itself was perhaps even a hair on the stronger side. Similar to the rinse, the tea was floral, or at least that’s the only word in my vocabulary to describe it, but also sort of… earthy? The taste reminded me of something food related, but I couldn’t put my finger on what. The steeping that followed was similar. Floral, but also now mineral. It was pretty much a bolder rendition of what had come before.
In the third steep the flavor had advanced. It was now mineral on the front while being metallic in the finish. Again it reminded me of something food related, but something different this time. There was perhaps some mouth cooling going on now as well. While there was less going on in terms of taste in the next infusion, the tea was getting a bit better than before. There was what I perceived as growing astringency, but it lay somewhere between drying and astringent without really being either. The cooling effect was now much more pronounced than before. This steep was nothing amazing, but pretty good.
The fifth brew was softer, brighter, very mineral. There’s still the same sensation at the back of my tongue similar to the last steep and I realize it’s actually bitterness and not astringency that I took it for. I’m so used to most young raw pu’er that I drink being astringent but not bitter, so I often forget that sheng can also be bitter. As the tea cools down, the bitterness becomes much more pronounced.
The tea was finally mildly bitter up front in the sixth infusion while the general taste was still mineral. The bitterness bordered on being almost pleasant. It certainly added to the flavor rather than detracts from it. The finish was perhaps slightly vegetal and the lingering aftertaste it left in your mouth was rather nice. The cooling also made a slight comeback. Quite interestingly, the next steep had a finish similar to the finish of cream. The tea was bitter on the front, but the bitterness went away right after you swallowed. The taste itself was pleasant, but hard to describe beyond that. Nothing spectacular, but not a bad infusion.
Curiously, the bitterness seemed almost absent from the eighth steeping. There was now some more body thanks to the extended brewing time. In place of the bitterness you now got some astringency, which grew in your mouth over time. There isn’t much to say about the taste; the tea was simple, nice. The final infusion I did was notably more bitter than before, so I decided to call it there.
After reviewing Oz, I pretty much set myself up for disappointment no matter what I was going to drink next, because very few teas are going to compare. I found Take My Breath Away to be a decent tea. It’s not the kind of tea I would personally seek to acquire a bing of, but in terms of quality and value it represents about what you’d expect. There are probably people to whom it appeals as it is, but I would expect most people to be seeking to age it. On that front, although I’m hardly anything more than a novice, I have a feeling this tea has good aging potential. The already very manageable bitterness is only desirable in that respect and should serve the tea well along the years. The biggest problem for this tea is that this particular price point of mid-to-high midrange is very competitive and the upper limit of what a lot of people are willing to pay for tea, so they are very careful about what they buy. If you’re not seeking a drink-now tea and have your sights set on this one, give it a shot and see what you think.
Flavors: Bitter, Cream, Floral, Metallic, Mineral