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Recent Tasting Notes
I admittedly have less experience with aged sheng than young sheng, so I’m in the deep end here ;^) Upon rinsing the tea, I noticed aromatics like sweet tobacco, dry wood, raisin / date and a spicy minerality. As the session progressed, the more youthful aromas started to peek through…stewed peaches, stone fruit and a bit of buttery pastry. The first two steeps have a clean, dry wood flavor. Not super complex, but clean and enjoyable. The more youthful sweetness starts to build later in the session – I am getting a bit of stone fruit flavor along with a cooling sensation and very subtle huigan. This tea is either fairly simple, or it is difficult for me to unpack all its complexity, but I do like it. The astringency throughout the whole session was very drying and intense. Definitely a tea to take it slow with. The qi was moderately intense and very enjoyable. I don’t think if I would go for a beeng of this, but glad to have tried it! I highly recommend their Whatever ’95 ripe puerh, going to get a brick of this as soon as possible :~)
Flavors: Dates, Mineral, Oak wood, Stonefruits, Tobacco
Got a 12g sample of this and figured that 11 years old it’d be safe to drink the whole sample on an empty stomach…WRONG! I got a small amount of stoner qi but a ton of caffeine which makes me nauseous. I feel like I drank a quart of gas station coffee… There is a nice bitterness and menthol/tobacco character. I’m reminded of a menghai factory tea. Ok but for the $ there are far better teas of a similar age…
Next to the single tree lbz maocha from clt this may be my favorite sheng of 2017. Super complex. This tea is the only sheng I’ve had that has a bit of the pea soup aroma I only get from Japanese sencha. There’s lots of menthol and evergreen, tobacco and earthiness. Big uplifting qi. What more could one ask for?
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Flavors: Floral, Orchids, Sweet, Sweet, warm grass
A sample of the bronze level was included in my order, and I’m so glad it was included!
The immediate taste was floral with a bitter aftertaste. The description on Bitter Leaf’s website was incredibly accurate. Although the bitterness was strong in the initial steeps, it went away after 3-4 steeps while the sweetness stayed.
I’m still new in the pu erh world, but this is one of the samples that I’ve tried that I’d consider binging it if BLT has a sale (the other being W2T’s Poundcake). Another reviewer here commented that the gold level is much smoother and better in general, so I’d be curious to try that as well.
A side note: the leaves expanded to the point that it kind of blocked the sprout of my tiny clay pot. It hasn’t happened with other raw pu erh, so maybe Plum Beauty has bigger leaf? I’m not sure, but it was slightly inconvenient/annoying.
Flavors: Bitter, Floral, Sweet
Time for another semi-aged tea. This is only the third aged sheng I’ve tried, so I’m still very new to aged teas. The sample I received consisted of one larger chunk and some loose bits to round out the weight. The large piece was very close to the 12 grams I intended to use for this session, so only a few additional bits were required. I brewed the tea in my 180ml wood fired teapot made from clay from Dehua. The teapot has a very small opening, so I had to break the large chunk into three or four smaller pieces to fit them inside the pot. I rinsed the leaves just short of ten seconds and let them rest for just over five minutes due to time constraints before proceeding to do a total of nine infusions. The steeps were around 10s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 25s, 35s, 60s, 85s and 2 min. 10s respectively.
The first steep brewed a cloudy pale yellow. I should note however that I had this session in an apartment with minimal lighting available, so any visual remarks I make in these notes are not necessarily the most reliable. The tea was still light, but it had flavor already. There was some fruitiness on the front while the finish tasted of creamy vanilla. The overall impression it left was soft. There was a certain semi-aged quality to the tea, although it’s hard to pin down exactly what it was. Those who have drunk more aged sheng than me probably have some idea what I’m talking about. Maybe it’s a whisper of smoke in the finish or a tiniest bit of sourness. I’m not sure if it’s necessarily even a taste, but more of a feeling. The body was light, maybe light+. The tea never really got thicker than that or water thin.
The second steep brewed a pale, slightly more orange yellow. The taste was greener, more mineraly. The semi-aged quality was still there as well. I could still detect hints of the cream from time to time. I can’t be sure if I could feel the tea already starting to affect me a little, but I made sure to not drink it too fast. You need to respect the tea. This infusion seemed to have a cumulative effect where the tea gradually coats your tongue and it starts to taste sweeter as you keep drinking it. I noticed this in some of the later infusions as well. The sweetness seemed to bring out the creaminess, giving an impression of a creamy sweetness.
The third steep was slightly darker and could maybe barely be called an orange. I sort of got the vanilla as a really bright note. There was also another bright “side flavor” running concurrent to the tea that I can’t identify. While the overall impression was very bright, there were also deeper semi-aged flavors running underneath. The tea was slightly drying and it was possible to get some lightning-fast bitterness when you swallowed. The bitterness became very noticeable once the tea cooled down.
I started extending my steeping times perhaps a bit too early and a bit too much as the fourth infusion ended up being very bitter. Once the tea cooled down a little it did reveal some subtleties beneath the bitterness, but I wasn’t necessarily the best person for discerning them. My best attempt would be some sort of vegetal vanilla. At this point I could feel the tea rummaging my belly quite a bit.
The fifth steep had a bright mineral taste to it. It left your tongue a bit sandpapery. There’s more to it, but it’s hard to discern. Perhaps it’s a touch of sourness. The next steep was more clearly astringent while the mineral was less bright now. This was one of the steeps that got sweeter as you kept drinking the tea. The seventh infusion I steeped maybe a tad too strong, but the tea remained similar to the last two steeps: mineraly and astringent.
The tea started tasting a lot simpler in the eighth steep. Clean, mineral, astringent. The last steep I did was even simpler. Non-sweet sweetness, with that semi-aged tinge still there. Strength-wise the tea was still okay, so on that front I’d say it was still good to go for a round or two, but I’d seen what I wanted to see and decided to call it here.
Mad King is representative of its age and still retains quite a bit of its youth while displaying semi-aged characteristics as well. The storage has been clean and dry. Compared to Whatever 98, Mad King is more dynamic in terms of flavor and the flavor profile appealed to me more. There’s still some bitterness and astringency in the tea and while it does not kick quite like a young gushu, the tea did affect me in a similar fashion to a young raw. It left me feeling restless and a bit agitated for the rest of the evening, so if you are looking for a gentle tea, this might not be the tea you are looking for. I guess the tea could be considered drinkable now, but personally I’d give it at least a few more years. The tea is still far from full maturity and drinking it now would be a waste of its potential. Taking age into account, I think Mad King offers fair quality for the price, if you are looking for a semi-aged tea to age yourself.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Cream, Mineral, Sweet, Vanilla
This is the oldest tea I’ve drunk to date and besides one semi-aged Xiaguan tuo my first foray into aged sheng. Perhaps my expectations were too low, but the leaves in the sample I received were larger and more intact than I’d expected; not that this is necessarily gushu or anything, but still. My sample consisted of one long, thin ten-gram chunk of the surface layer along with accompanying individual leaves. I’m not sure if the cake was just originally pressed loose or if it has loosened over two decades, but the compression in the chunk I received was fairly low. There wasn’t much aroma to the dry leaves, which obviously means there weren’t any funky storage related odors either.
I brewed this tea in a gorgeous new wood fired teapot I purchased through Bitterleaf Teas. It’s made from clay from Dehua and I’m dedicating it to aged and semi-aged sheng pu’er. Since it has a really fast pour, I used the same ratio of leaf to water that I would use with a gaiwan, so 12g to 180ml. I rinsed the tea once for 10s and after a ten minute rest I proceeded to do ten infusions, for 10s, 10s, 12s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s, 2 min. and 3 min. The rinsed leaves had a somewhat fruity scent of dark hay. After cooling a little the smell almost reminded me of an apricot pie.
As I mentioned, I don’t have much experience with aged teas, and as such I struggle with describing the first couple infusions as my palate was trying to get accustomed to the flavors. The first steep was fairly strong, yet gentle and smooth. I struggle with descriptors like woody, so I’m not sure if I’d use that word here, however I was detecting some smokiness in the tea and it made me quite thirsty without being drying. The second infusion while still having base notes to it also felt brighter in a way, to the extent that it felt almost prickly on the tongue.
The third steep was really mineraly, with an almost metallic finish. It was increasingly drying and also coated your tongue with a sensation that made you feel like it was burned. The mineral taste continued in the next steep, but this time merged with something else and perhaps even hints of cream. The mineraly nature was only ramped up in the fifth steep, which was super, super mineraly and almost too much for my tongue to handle.
In the sixth brew the mineral character finally settled down a little, starting to be about even with something else that was beginning to emerge in the tea. At this point I noticed this tea might taste better if you let it cool down a little. While the mineral taste continued in the next steep, it was joined by hints of some mineral sweetness that was starting to emerge. The steep was also very clean tasting in general. At this point I noticed the muscles in my lower back starting to ache and soon after I noticed feeling very calm and relaxed. The qi continued to move upward, growing more intense. It spread to my upper back, chest and head. It may have even made me feel a bit tipsy.
The eighth steep was similar to the last one in flavor, with maybe a touch more of that hinting mineral sweetness. At this point I was starting to get a vibe from the tea of it being somewhat medicinal, of it being fairly cleansing. I took my time brewing the ninth infusion, because at this point I was starting to feel quite tea drunk and my motor control was starting to be a bit wonky. The taste was still chiefly mineral, but instead of the prior hinting sweetness I got some of the earlier creaminess in the finish, which was a weird combination with the mineral taste. I should note this was the first time the flavors were starting to drop off a little as well.
The tenth steep was the last one I did and this was where the color started to fade for the first time, although this wasn’t reflected nearly to the same degree in the actual flavor. There weren’t any notable changes in the taste, so I decided to stop here, figuring I’d seen what this tea had to offer. The tea could have possibly gone on for an infusion or two, but that would have most likely required extra long steeps and I didn’t see enough value in trying that.
All in all an interesting first step into the world of aged pu’er. I generally don’t tend to like mineraly flavors very much, so the flavor profile wasn’t really for me. The flavors also shift very gradually without any dramatic changes at any point, so flavor-wise this isn’t the most dynamic of teas. I think rather than the flavor the cha qi is the highlight here, and although not the most intense pu’er I’ve drunk, I must admit I was caught off guard. I could see those seeking the tea buzz you can get from a young sheng but without the stomach twists drinking this tea. In terms of body the tea is fairly light and the longevity and the way it brews seem very similar to me to how a younger average sheng behaves. The tea brews a woody orange. Fairly light, nothing super dark. This to me would suggest that you could easily age this tea for at least another ten years if not more if you wanted to. How it would age, I have no idea.
Not the tea for me, but a valuable experience in learning more about pu’er and aged teas. More reviews of aged raws are to come.
Flavors: Cream, Metallic, Mineral, Smoke
I feel like I’ve had this one in my cupboard for a long time; and I feel bad that I just haven’t gotten around to trying it. In fact, I probably would have continued to take ages trying it were it not for the fact that I let my little sister pick my final tea out for the night.
This was obviously what she picked; I think it’s the first time ever she’s gone for a tea that wasn’t flavoured. I’m almost 100% positive the deciding factor was the smoking monkey on the packaging. Now, I probably would have preferred to try this one Gong Fu but it’s just too late at night now to get into a Gong Fu session/commit to that much tea consumption. Plus, like I said, I’ve put off trying this one for so long now that even if it IS Western style, at least I’m finally trying this one!
So, here are my jot notes from the cup:
- I did forget to do a rinse; I’m just not in the habit of doing one with Western teas…
- Lighter in flavour than expected and very fragrant
- Thick mouthfeel and medium bodied flavour
- Body notes: apricot, peach skins, raisins, fresh clipped grass, and peat/moss
- It’s surprisingly sweet and bright!
- Top notes: raisins or craisins? Something sort of in that vein…
- Finish reminds me of lemon peel/zest; just a HINT pithy
- Also a bit herbeceous, especially in the aftertaste: almost a thyme like flavour?
- And then overall there’s just a very mineral/wet rock kind of undertone
I don’t know that it would be fair to say that I really enjoyed this one; but it was a lot better than I’d kind of expected it to be. To be completely fair, Raw Pu’erh just generally isn’t my thing – I much prefer ripe. I’ve noticed though that Yiwu pu’erh is probably as close an exception to that rule as I’ve gotten though: they’re generally fruitier and I can handle that kind of profile much better than I can other sort of Shengs.
I will try this one Gong Fu – but it may take a while for that to happen. At least, in the mean time, I can say that I have at least tried it in general.
This was an interesting tea. It started out with a light straw flavor with just a hint of mint in the nose, but around the 3rd steep it suddenly got quite aggressive, powerful and woody. Both guises were fairly complex and enjoyable. From the first, the cha qi was pretty close to overwhelming. I’m getting a full-body effect and general lassitude.
Flavors: Straw, Wood
This sheng is very complex and had a lot going for it. I think that it’s exceptional, especially considering that it’s a higher-end sheng, and is a tea I would save for a special occasion. It was very fragarant, and was complex in a lot of ways. Overall, I would reccomend getting at least a sample of thist ea, becuase its one that I believe that everyone should at least try once.
You can read my full review here!…
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Floral, Fruity, Hay, Medicinal, Sweet
Thanks to bitterleaf for this sample as part of the puerh TTB. I started by heating a yixing pot with 205 water and putting the leaves in for a sniff. I got wet wood, slight ferment, but not as strong as their black beauty. As well as dark fruits, or maybe overripe fruits.
Giving the tea a quick rinse, then making the first infusion. I got a dark clear liqour with a strong aroma of wet wood, wet earth, caramel and still dark fruits. Sipping it, produced much the same, sweet with a hint fermentation. Not too strong, with just a touch of sourness, maybe dark plums or something.
Second infusion was very similar with just a slightly darker thicker color, though even with a fine strainer, Im still getting a tiny bit of tea dust in the bottom of the cup.
Third infusion is slightly lighter as well as smoother with the sweetness coming up more and the wetness dying down a little , this is a quite nice tea. Smooth and sweet, but not quite as intense as the black beauty.
Flavors: Caramel, Sweet, Wet Earth, Wet Wood
Got this as part of the traveling sheng box. I started by heating the yixing with near boiling water. Putting the dry leaf in , I got a fairly intense chocolate and wet earth smell, also a bit of fermented aroma that you sometimes get with ripe puerh that hasnt come down a bit yet.
After a quick rinse, and just one as the tea seems very clean and didnt need more than one. The chocolate aroma became more like dark sweet chocolate and less like baking chocolate. Also wet wood and maybe caramel or dark fruit.
Tasting the first brew it was all chocolate, wet earth and wet wood. Nice but seems like a year or two in a dry climate would mellow this tea considerably and make it truly nice. Also its very sweet and quite nice as an after dinner tea to help in digestion.
Second brew was much the same although the wetness is coming down just a little at this point for more of a dark sweet flavor. Much nicer this brew, possibly 2 rinses could have helped this.
I have a feeling this is going to brew out many brews as the tea liqour is quite dark and thick, which tends to indicate a strong long brewer. This tea is really perfect with desert or after dinner to aid digestion.
Flavors: Dark Chocolate, Sweet, Wet Earth, Wet Wood
I’m surprised no one else seems to have reviewed this one? When I saw it up on Bitterleaf’s site I was FASCINATED by it. It just looks so… different.
And of course, I cracked the bag of it today too and immediately I was just drawn to the visual look of the dry leaf. It’s so weirdly shaped; I definitely see the “crab legs” comparison. The leaf itself is also weirdly tender/bendy – unlike tea leaf this has a LOT of give to it. I kind of just want to play with it, if I’m being honest…
So, I made this one up as a pot of tea – and originally I only steeped it for about six minutes because generally speaking that’s kind of my sweet spot with herbals/tisanes. When I poured my first cup, it was VERY mild/delicate though. Essentially, it just tasted like somewhat sweetened water. Which I suppose, in a way, it sort of was. I finished the cup and it was nice enough, but I was sure that there had to be some other flavour this tea could offer so I grabbed the tea leaf that I had just strained out of the water, and popped it right back in there to steep Grandpa style while I finished off the pot.
Even after a near hour of steeping, the liquor of this ‘tea’ is still practically clear like water. It has the FAINTEST yellow hue to it, but it’s just so soft and delicate. The flavour is like that too; just a very refreshing, smooth and delicate profile. It’s like sweet water, but now with the longer infusion it also has some very delicate floral notes and a finish that’s really raisin like. I’m actually really enjoying it, even if it is SUPER delicate/mild. There’s just something so unique and fascinating about it, too.
I feel pretty genuine in saying that I’m not sure I’ve tasted anything like it. It’s something I REALLY want to keep exploring/messing about with!
I figured that I should catch up on these notes while I’m up early (by means not on my own freewill).
I hardly noted anything with this session, other than the flavor profile. I was drinking this at work in my Kamjove and working, so my mind wasn’t fully on the tea at hand.
Notes: Nice fully earthy body, with a reminder of a rainy Spring day. A lot of “earth” aromas and flavors.
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Flavors: Creamy, Herbs, Medicinal, Menthol, Orange, Vanilla
A comparative tasting of Plum Beauty Bronze vs. Gold
I was gifted either end of the Plum Beauty spectrum by a generous teafriend, so I did a side-by-side gaiwan tasting after two rinses, necessitated by the ball needing to be prized apart by fork after the first rinse and then re-rinsed on its essentially still bone-dry interior.
One thing was not expecting was that even at the post-rinse stage, prior to first steep, the odor would have led me to correctly identify which tea was which even if the leaf was not viewable. The gold has a most enticing aroma, while the bronze, not to put too fine a point on it, smelled like young pu.
The trend continued into the cupping – the bronze was certainly not bad, but embodied evetything about why I rarely drink young pu. It wasn’t bad, per se, but really didn’t bring anything much to the table that would lead me to choose it over even a decent, inexpensive oolong or aged pu of dubious material (hi zhuancha!). A bit rough, rather thin, altogether unprepossessing.
The gold, on the other hand, had a much fuller mouthfeel and left a nice aftertaste behind. It may have been somewhat overshadowed by my rather recent experience with F*ck What U Heard, which it simply isn’t on the level of, but it was an excellent drink and one which I am going to add a few of to the stash, as I expect it might be a splendid treat when I don’t want to mess around with separating something off a cake (or don’t have access to any more of W2T’s splendid but high-dollar beengs).
A definite eye-opening experience into just how much difference the initial leaf quality really can make.
Purple tea is something that I think everyone should try, but not everyone will like. It has this uniquely vegetal taste that’s hard to pin down, and an odd smokiness that’s slightly medicinal, kind of similar to a middle-aged sheng, but not quite. What I like the most about this tea is how rapidly the flavors evolve from steep to steep, and how noticeable the evolution is. With most budget-friendly pu-erhs, the flavors evolve in a more subtle way until they eventually fade out or drop off, but this tea’s flavors don’t fade—it’s almost as if they’re replaced, which I find really interesting…
Flavors: Floral, Pleasantly Sour, Smoke, Sweet
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Flavors: Brown Sugar, Dates, Sweet, Wet Earth
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Flavors: Bitter, Floral, Menthol, Smoke
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Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Creamy, Floral, Pleasantly Sour, Sweet