Bitterleaf Teas

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Recent Tasting Notes

81

Grandpa style!

I’m quite certain that this isn’t the first chenpi production I’ve had from Bitterleaf Tea, but I can’t for the life of me remember the name of any previous ones they’ve released. I did enjoy this dragonball brewed up grandpa though – I drank it over the course of the morning yesterday in between hard good testing for me and it was thick and warming with really deep and robust petrichor notes to the shou and a medicinal and coating orange undertone. While it was challenging to see the tea leaf while drinking because the soup was so dark and opaque, I noticed after I was dumping out/cleaning the mug that the chenpi was these very long “threads” that seemed to have been woven in with pu’erh, which I thought was pretty cool!

I’ve got many of these dragonballs, so looking forward to lots of cozy infusions as well as trying this out Gongfu!

TeaEarleGreyHot

Were the “threads” retaining the leaf, or serving some other function?

Roswell Strange

It was just like long ribbons of cut orange peel – not actual thread. Maybe a poor choice of words on my part. The whole dragonball came apart as it steeped; I just liked the visual of these long orange peel strands.

TeaEarleGreyHot

Nice! Of course, I must ask whether it does justice to Shakespeare, that is the question! And can you review it in iambic pentameter? ;-)

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86

Greatest Hits is a blend of Yi Wu ripe puer and it is really quite good. The cakes are sold out now, but one can still get some of the little coins.

The tea is medium bodied and super smooth, rich and dark. The profile is well balanced and nutty. It indeed has a strong milky sweetness like the description mentions. Besides that, the aroma reminds me of orange liqueur and butter toast. There is also a good huigan to be found and a sort of milky mouthfeel.

Flavors: Alcohol, Butter, Milk, Orange, Smooth, Sweet, Toast

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 8 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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WandaVision Binge Watch – Ep 4

On a pairing front I have to say that the name of this tea really says it all. It was one of those obvious “slaps you in the face” kind of teas that you go “OH! Obviously this is what should go with this episode” and so it’s what I did. The cold open of the episode immediately validated that feeling for me.

On a taste level, it was probably good that I switched to something more delicate and calming after several pretty richly flavourful teas. I loved the silky smooth notes of clotted cream, cucumber pulp, and timothy hay. There was also this quality that I liked that (and this is gonna sound weird) I can only best describe as the smell of what you make your own paper. I don’t know if anyone else has ever done that before, but you basically make your own weird goopy paper pulp and spread it very thin then use pressure to make it stay together as a sheet. There’s a distinct aroma to that process, and this taste like it – but in a good and nostalgic way.

This is also the episode where alllllllll the caffeine I had been consuming really started to catch up with me and by the end of the episode I felt like I was buzzing/vibrating from a combo of adrenaline/excitement from the plot developments mixed with so much caffeine…

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91

Geek Steep S1E19 – Frankenstein (Novel)

Gongfu!

One of the things I’ve most enjoyed about our “longer” fandoms this season is when I’ve had the chance to explore multiple pairings – either taking completely different approaches to my pairings or looking at the things that may not have worked the first time and finding ways to correct that.

When we decided on Frankenstein I had two very different ideas of how I might want to pair it and I got to explore both of those “paths”. The idea behind this one was that I wanted a kind of dark and deeply earthy shou pu’erh that kind of said “Hey, I’ve been buried six feed underground” to capture that state of decay and darkness that is at the core of this novel as a piece of Gothic Literature – and which is reflected in the ambiance of the novel/narrative. It just… felt right, y’know?

Then around November Bitterleaf teas released this tea and it seemed too perfect to not capitalize on it. It was a shou/black tea hybrid – this “unnatural” combination forced together to try and create something new, the name was fucking perfectly spot on, and I got to go down the Shou road that had been in my mind. I ordered a cake, paused reading the novel (because I was about 1/2 way through at that point) and waited until it arrived so that I could finish it with this tea that destiny seemed to be telling me pair with it.

I’m glad I did – it was brilliant with this novel! At least in the tea sessions I’ve had thus far, the shou really does dominate over the black tea, and the flavour is this glorious mix of malt, just a bit of stonefruit, and thick petrichor and decaying wood. It’s so dark and it has that eerie “hunting for body pieces” vibe that I wanted, in a very good way. It’s just such a brilliant pairing for the novel – and I know that’s NOT a modest thing to say because I thought of the pairing, but I’m gonna give myself that pat on the back because I just love it.

Also, definitely don’t regret caking it either – this is the kind of profile I’d enjoy super easily outside of the setting of this podcast as well.

Our Website: https://www.geeksteep.com/
Our Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/geeksteep/

My Geek Photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/CKH2MbRAni6/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElGOGTZ6ax8&ab_channel=L%27Imp%C3%A9ratrice-Topic

Listen to us on Buzzsprout:
https://www.buzzsprout.com/1286036/podcast/website

DB topic:
https://steepster.com/discuss/42133-geek-steep-a-new-tea-and-fandom-podcast

tea-sipper

That is a great tea to pair with Frankenstein! I finally read Frankenstein this year. I liked the elements of it best that aren’t typically in every popcultural Frankenstein thing. I was surprised there was very little mention of the creation of Frankenstein’s monster.

Roswell Strange

Yeah, Victor really glazes over the creation process XD

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88

Thank you Whiteantlers!

This is a backlog from yesterday. I’ve avoided opening this one because I put Bitterleaf Teas on a pedestal of pricy. But then I looked at the 2016 date, and the time was now.

This tea is interesting and doesn’t have the same astringency as most Dan Congs, or the Ripe Heady florals of most of the Yashi’s I’ve drank. Russ’s notes cherry were interesting because it does have a weird tang and fruitiness that resembles cherries, but lighter pink ones instead of the red ones that usually come to mind. The note itself had the soft tartness of some cascara, or coffee cherries, and that’s what I’m going to pick for my palette vocab today.

The tea’s overall character though is very milky, floral, and laced with minerals. The tea’s color itself is a very creamy yellow in shorter steeps and orange color in longer steeps, and the flavor with the mouthfeel create an almost dairy like sensation. The minerals that follow up are like mineral water, and while slightly sweet, they just add a lot of texture in every brew of the tea gong fu. Otherwise, the flavor is pretty light and I needed to add more leaves in the next session to get more flavor, and grant a medium for the bizarre cascara notes. Aroma packed a much more extreme profile that was almost like japanese milk candy. I’d almost use lychee to describe the smell, but I am so frickin’ tired of that note moniker, and the fruitiness is not tropical and not prominent.

I really liked this tea because it was easy to drink and combined my favorite elements unique to oologs. You don’t get heavy minerals combied with a creamier flavor often, Dancongs also usually go to astringent extremes between the floral, fruity, and toasty, but this one is very balanced. If I didn’t feel weird about the shipping, I’d probably would have gotten some this myself, but thankfully, Whiteantlers gave me the opportunity to drink this up.

I’d also add Hugo Tea’s Yashi Dancong they have is pretty similar to this one and a little bit heavier in its body, and has cheaper shipping costs in U.S. It does have a little bit more sourdough flavor to it, but it’s comparable. This one still highly appeals to me-I’m bumping up the rating to reflect that as I sip it down today.

Flavors: Cherry, Cream, Floral, Milk, Mineral, Sugar

White Antlers

So glad it went to an appreciative home, Daylon! :)

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Finally getting around to trying this tea and having owned it for, oh I don’t know, four years!? Maybe even five, potentially…

I brewed it up Grandpa style and I just don’t think that was the best way to steep it up – especially the first time when I didn’t have a great understanding/grasp on what the usual flavour profile is. I found it rather green/vegetal and biting, with a lot of dryness and tobacco notes. Not the kind of flavour profile that I personally gravitate towards in sheng, and it was just so concentrated that it made for a rough cup. I still drank a few “top ups” of my grandpa brew to not have wasted the leaf and see if it would improve, but…

Not my thing.

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76

This is a one of the most woody ripe pu’er teas I’ve encountered. Especially in the aroma there is a strong note of wood chippings, complemented by grape juice and red currant.

The taste is a little fishy / marine at first but also very clean. It gets more mineral and bitter as the session progresses, displaying flavours of mead, cranberry, wood, shellfish, and betel nut. The liquor is medium bodied with a soy milk like texture and a decent astringency that is also present after swallowing as a constrictive and a little abrasive feeling in the throat and back of the mouth especially. The aftertaste is cooling, sweet and mildly sour. It lasts for a while, but lacks pungency.

Flavors: Astringent, Berry, Bitter, Cranberry, Drying, Fishy, Grapes, Marine, Mineral, Sawdust, Wood

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 8 g 5 OZ / 150 ML

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1st steep 3 minutes: Enjoying this as my first cup of the morning while I answer work emails and start on my soil lectures!

This one is lightly malty and really delicious. It’s reminding me a lot of another tea I can’t put my finger on.

2nd steep 4 minutes, 30 seconds: I steeped this up then got distracted cleaning the bunnies, taking a shower, then doing yoga, but this is still tasty! There’s still a lot of the same flavour from the first steep and it’s great lukewarm haha.

As it cools, there’s definitely some first flush Darjeeling notes here – some hay and the lightest malt.

3rd steep 6 minutes: Still delicious with those hints of Darjeeling. Really enjoyable cuppa, all thanks to Cameron!

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 3 min, 0 sec 3 g 14 OZ / 414 ML
Cameron B.

That’s a lot of distractions, ha ha! I still need to try this one…

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I am a little bit conflicted about this Dan Cong. It has a complex and nuanced character, long-lasting aftertaste, a super interesting texture and a strong cha qi. This is no doubt a high quality tea on multiple levels. Yet, on the whole, I am not super thrilled about drinking it and I am not even sure why. Maybe I will warm up to it later, my second session today was already much more agreeable than the initial one.

In terms of aromas, there are notes of stonefruits (peach), yeast, milk, tropical fruits and orchid before the rinse. Afterwards, the smell is pungent and flowery with hints of rose and straw. Finally, there is a nice spicy scent of vanilla, cinnamon and scones in the empty cup.

Taste-wise, the session starts off sweet, floral and very mineral. There are flavours of apple, wet rocks, rapeseed and fruit tree flowers. Later on, I also found notes of cloves, hazelnut and fermented fruits. The aftertaste is spicy and warming with additional flavours of apricot and kumquat.

Some of the most interesting things about the tea is clearly the mouthfeel. It is very soft and creamy with a sort of misty quality to it. Body is medium to full and has a drying finish. Another notable fact is the sedating and heady cha qi. In my experience, it’s a tea to zone out rather than to keep you focused.

edit: Yet another mark of quality is just how long the tea lasts without getting flat or overly astringent. Today, I got 17 infusions pretty easily, more than 300ml/g.

Flavors: Apricot, Cinnamon, Citrus Fruits, Cloves, Creamy, Drying, Floral, Flowers, Fruit Tree Flowers, Fruity, Hazelnut, Milk, Mineral, Orchid, Peach, Rose, Stonefruit, Straw, Sweet, Tropical, Vanilla, Wet Rocks, Yeast

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 4 OZ / 110 ML

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90

Gongfu!

The fact this tea is as old as my youngest sibling, who is a full blown teenager now, is really messing with my mind tonight…

I avoided golden flower tea for a long time because I was worried I might be allergic to the spores, but I’m glad I eventually tested it out and didn’t have a reaction because fuck me it’s good. This is thick and sweet, with bright fruity top notes of juicy Pink Lady apple & red currant jam bleeding into the main sip (especially in early steeps) with more of a smoked oak/applewood, forest undergrowth, and tobacco profile rising from the undertones into the body and finish. A slight bit saline in late steeps. Beautiful and nuanced, this is the perfect warming & cozy start to the day!

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CJWY-pXgua6/

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXzHrf4geuw&ab_channel=DavidDeanBurkhart

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88

Having greatly enjoyed the sample of last year’s White Crow, I decided to get a cake this time round before the tea sells out. I am happy that they are pretty similar. So much so that I am actually finding it hard to observe any distinct features of the younger one, although it is true that the last time I’ve had the 2019 tea is almost a year ago. In any case, it’s one of the best white teas in its price range and I can highly recommend it, both for drinking now and for future aging.

Flavors: Apricot, Brown Sugar, Cherry, Corn Husk, Cranberry, Floral, Hay, Honeysuckle, Nutmeg, Nutty, Pleasantly Sour, Spicy, Sweet, Tart, Toast, Wood

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 3 OZ / 80 ML

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55

I was a little disappointed with this tea. While it wasn’t bad by any means, it’s extremely well-reviewed, and I was expecting it to be quite exceptional as a result. However, at least to me, it was just an average sheng – nothing really special about it. A bit astringent, a bit tart… Not too bitter, probably as a result of being huang pian.

Flavors: Astringent, Hay, Tart

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 2 OZ / 55 ML

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73

With Good Vibrations, BLT present a fairly simple, satisfying shou. The material is on the coarser side of the spectrum here, which is probably partially responsible for the relatively light body. The taste profile is of the nutty and earthy kind.

Dry leaves mostly smell of leather with hints of cannabis and forest floor. After the rinse, the aroma reminds me of hospitals a little. Apart from the underlying nutty and earthy taste, there are also flavours of molasses and egg whites. The lasting aftertaste is pretty smooth and refreshingly cooling, but doesn’t introduce too many new flavours.

Flavors: Cannabis, Earth, Forest Floor, Leather, Medicinal, Molasses, Nuts

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 7 g 5 OZ / 140 ML

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55

Very strong scent and moderate taste of pecans. Some smell of caramel, some of red wine, I think – maybe of oak? All the flavours are balanced, but they almost cancel each other out to some extent. It’s alright, but not an exceptional hei cha to me despite the somewhat unusual flavour profile.

Flavors: Caramel, Oak wood, Pecan, Red Wine

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 55 OZ / 1626 ML

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55

A balanced hei cha. It didn’t really impress me. Mushroom flavours predominate early on, followed by some mild honey-like sweetness, followed by nuttiness. A bit more shou-like than most non-shou hei cha, though I could still taste that ‘golden flower’ sweetness. Medium body.

Flavors: Honey, Mushrooms, Nuts

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 2 OZ / 55 ML

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79

Tried the 2020 Spring version. Surprisingly mild – but an extremely well-balanced tea. I like Dan Cong oolongs in general, and this is one of the best I’ve tried. The scent is deep and full. The taste is somewhat mineral, with a bit of fruit and possibly milk. The texture is also very reminiscent of milk.

Flavors: Fruity, Milk, Mineral, Round , Smooth

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 100 OZ / 2957 ML

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62

A very strong fruity flavour and scent! Quite sweet. Easy to oversteep – I found it worked well just below boiling, for a shorter time than I’d usually use. There’s some sweet potato flavour as the steeps go on, though it doesn’t go all that many steeps. Tried the 2020 Spring version.

Flavors: Fruity, Lychee, Sweet Potatoes

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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68

There was an initial lychee note, then some more floral flavours. Possibly a bit of lemongrass. Minerality in later steeps. Very refreshing; slightly milky texture, though not as much as some other Dan Cong oolongs I’ve trued. Tried the 2020 Spring version.

Flavors: Floral, Lemongrass, Lychee, Mineral

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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73

First tasting
Fresh out of bag and shipment, given no time to breathe yet.

Aroma of soup: old library, woodchips, a little fishy in first brew (even after two rinses), wet wood, tobacco leather

Flavor: woodchips, sweet moss, gentle astringency

Color: rich orange amber

Flavors: Astringent, Leather, Tobacco, Wet Wood

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 5 OZ / 147 ML

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90

Thank you derk and White Antlers for another thing I would never try unless it being sent to me?

It’s weird. It’s not tea, it’s parasitic plant growing on tea-trees. Related to mistletoe. Maybe healthy. Maybe… well, see comments under derk’s note; there are few scientific papers shared! The caffeine-level is very low though!

Anyway I decided to brew it in the morning. Food pairing was cereal kaiser roll with cheddar. Yummy. Anyway back to the tea. Brewed grandpa, two teaspoons. The derk’s note is just correct. Fresh air aroma, some herbal note. The taste is DELICIOUS somehow. Mineral-milky-mild. Slightly sweet, especially as aftertaste, refreshing and cooling.

So weird, but so nice!

Preparation
Boiling 8 min or more 2 tsp 10 OZ / 300 ML
White Antlers

Glad you enjoyed it. Sounds like an all around great breakfast!

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This is what I consider to be one of the strangest steepable things in my cupboard, behind the insect tea-poop tea from Liquid Proust (which I haven’t worked up the nerve yet to try). Crab legs are parasitic plants that grow on puerh trees and seem to either grow only in the Jingmai region or are collected only from there, based on some cursory internetting. They really are shaped like segmented crab legs. Little paddles.

I received this from White Antlers and sent most of it out and about into the world, reserving only 5 grams for myself. That 5 grams ended up in my liter teapot tonight, steeped with boiling water and left to brew while I did stuff around the house, maybe 30 minutes.

It brewed a sparkling clear yellow golden color with an orange tint and smells of clean high-mountain air. The taste is mild and pristine! Mineral tingles, very slightly sweet and tart with an almost nutmilky finish and a lingering light sweetness in the back of the mouth. It also produces an herbal cooling sensation in the mouth and I can feel my chest opening. It is incredibly refreshing now that I’m drinking it lukewarm. My housemate chugged two mugs in a row and the biggest smile spread across her face. She loves it!

This is what I imagine as the antithesis to insect tea-poop tea. So clean and pristine. It’s fascinating, really.

Preparation
Boiling 8 min or more 5 g 34 OZ / 1000 ML
Martin Bednář

I just thought about brewing this one several times, but I wondered if it contains any caffeine (seems it does). So I decided always I need something caffeine-free in the evening when I thought, or something caffeine-strong in the mornings.
Glad it is tasty and I think I will try French press that to my family instead drinking it alone.

mrmopar

Yep, only in JingMai does this plant grow. I have read about it and probably need to try some one day.

White Antlers

derk thank you for sharing the box of Swedish Death Purge Tea. I no longer have many people in my life due to death, estrangement and distance, but now I can feel like, on some level, people are having a cup of tea with me. : )

Leafhopper

This looks really unique and interesting! And I understand your reluctance to try insect-poop tea.

Togo

I served the Chong Shi Cha at one of our tea parties telling the guests to guess what it is, lol :D
The theme was that of “unusual” teas, so they should have been prepared for weird stuff. We didn’t have any crab legs though!

Madeline

So cool!! Is insect poop tea made out of actual insect poop? I did a quick google, but I am in disbelief. Glad someone else can be the guinea pig on that one!

Leafhopper

Togo, I’d love to hear how your guests reacted when they found that out! I’m also interested to know how much insect poop is actually in this tea.

derk

It’s pure poo produced by worms that ingest herbs and tea leaves. Chawangshop has a particularly good description: https://www.chawangshop.com/1980s-guangxi-chong-shi-cha-10g.html

I, too, am curious of the poop tea reactions.

Martin, according to the paper I linked, the caffeine content of crab legs is “quite low.” I didn’t notice any caffeine effects and I’m sensitive.

mrmopar, I see Dragon Tea House sells an amount as low as 50g.

White Antlers, your pleasure is my pleasure and many others’.

Martin Bednář

derk: yep, I have noticed it contains caffeine, but indeed very low amount, especially compared to green tea they have tested as well. So, let’s call it caffeine-free blend then :D

Leafhopper

Derk, that description from Chawangshop is … interesting. For something that’s supposed to settle your stomach, I think it would do the opposite! :D

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80

Gongfu!

I had this with some plumcots for lunch a few days ago! I’ve been drinking so much Shou lately that it almost felt weird steeping up an oolong, but this was a really nice one. Approachable flavour with mild minerality, gentle orchid notes, and a touch of woodiness, but mostly medium bodied fruit notes – lucuma, & fruit leathers made with assorted stonefruit. I would have expected a bit more sweetness/vibrancy given the “punch” part of the name, but it definitely delivers on the fruit!!

Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CG739jEgVtn/

The elephant tea pet is new, and I am obsessed with how cute she is!

Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2D5PG0W9oSA&ab_channel=GoodnightGoodbye

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