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Recent Tasting Notes
I bought this at the San Francisco International Tea Festival in 2018. I’m using it for the prompt “a pricy tea”… certainly there are more pricy teas out there, but this works out to close to $1 a gram which is pricy enough in my opinion!
I’ve been hording this, but making a cup this morning, I’m reminded why I was so charmed by it at their booth. I usually don’t get the claimed chocolately notes often in Chinese black teas, but this one is strong… the aroma is very chocolately, with a touch of a lemony-orange citrus scent, and a floral overtone, like a rosy sweetness. The flavor of the cup is very chocolate and sweet potato forward, with some notes of honey, orange zest, and florality.
Very satisfying cup. I don’t normally resteep tea leaves as a western brewer (blasphemous, I know) but I did this morning, and while not quite as potent as I prefer, the second cup still has a lot of sweet potato/yam flavor.
Flavors: Chocolate, Citrus, Floral, Honey, Lemon, Malt, Orange, Orange Zest, Rose, Sweet Potatoes
This was the first ripe Pu-erh tea I have ever had and it was also the tea that began my love of Pu-erh. Starting in 2018, Denong incorporated aerial fermentation in their production of tea which creates an extremely clean tasting Pu-erh without any hints of impurity or fishiness. This tea is crisp, woody, with hints of Chinese herbal medicine and settles comfortably in the stomach. I remember tasting it for the first time at Denong and I just felt my soul levitate because of how good it tasted. It is also made of very high quality tea material and I predict it will develop beautifully with age. For the price point, this is one of the best ripe Pu-erh teas on the planet right now and I am already planning to purchase several extra. I highly recommend you try out this tea if you have never tried Pu-erh before.
Flavors: Medicinal, Wet Earth, Wood
I started keeping a blog for tea reviews because it’s a bit hard to figure out which teas I’ve reviewed - Steepster’s sorting algorithm kinda sucks -- plus versions on FB, and this is just better for my own record keeping.
This morning, I wanted to have a tea session with a shou puerh….and I accidentally made this tea instead. Oops. Sometimes, you have to let the tea decide what you’re drinking.
This tea has got a lot of sweetness to it with a lot of herbal notes bordering on vegetal. And, it’s really easy and smooth to drink. In later steeps, there’s a cooling effect like menthol or mint. I can feel the cooling effect in the back of my mouth and throat. It’s very pleasant. The tea has a nice relaxing effect.
This tea seems to like short steep times at about 190degF (10second intervals), and increasing either temp/time brings out a bit of herbal bitterness that isn’t bad, but was unexpected.
Despite Denong’s description of floral flavors, I didn’t really get a sense of floral scents or flavor notes until much later infusions (#5). Everything read to me as sweet herbal notes.I’ve got about enough to do another tasting later. I took a look at their pricing for this cake and I won’t be able to afford to replace it once I’m done. I’m very grateful to be able to sample this tea. If you get a chance, I recommend it.
More detailed steep information at:
this is the 2019 Golden Branches Ripe (shou) Puerh. I was excited to really do a session with this since the Tea Festival tasting was so promising.
It did not disappoint. Their description calls out the sweetness of this tea due to drought. Plants under duress will often produce sweeter tasting flavor profiles.
From Denong: Tasting Notes: Smooth, Herbal, Fruit
The first 2 steeps are a mild sweetness on the tip followed by what I expect from most puerhs — earthy flavors. Then later steeps switch the profile — stronger flavors of rich damp earth & wood that are mellowed out by that sweetness. It works and balances out many of the flavors inherent in puerhs that I don’t prefer.
The earthy & wood flavors are strong but not overpowering and kinda devolve into a bittersweet cocoa flavor. And this tea has some Cha Qi like Woah! There’s a mild astringency that dries out my tongue and a tingling sensation that follows that fills my mouth and head.
However, the farther you steep it out (by 6) the sweetness starts to fade and I find it similar to what I expect from a ripe puerh. Flavors are not overwhelming but the sweetness that I enjoyed is gone.
Short steep times are the order of the day — starting at 10s, 15, 12, 15, 25, 30, 45, 60s, etc.
Still, it’s pretty darn good and I can see drinking this on occasion.
I bought this from Denong Tea at the SF Tea Fesitval. I was tasting their puerhs and also tasted their black tea, which was an immediate YES PLEASE!! (I also bought the 2019 Shou & Sheng Puerhs)
This is an amazingly well balanced black tea that is completely in my preferred flavor profile. I generally followed DT’s brewing recommendations for Gong Fu brewing; 3-4g for 118 ml at 195-205 deg F (alas no time recommendations).
I used 5grams @150 ml (same ratio)
The dried leaves smell of malt, cocoa, and mild roast. With the leaves warmed, the smell of brownies. The leaves are thin, wiry, and look like the stem & 2 first leaves.
TL;DR – this is an amazing tea. It starts with hints of burnt brown sugar/molasses on the tongue, moving towards a smokey, malty, cocoa flavors; much like a very mild sweet cigar. This has a fair amount of viscosity. A very pleasing astringency is present — drying out the tongue, lips, roof of my mouth — but this is never bitter. The finish is extremely long and addicting; I want more of this tea after finishing each cup. This tea is neither sweet or savory despite my descriptions. It somehow maintains a balance between the two.
1) 20sec – 197 degF. Not bad. I can tell that this will be good but I didn’t brew quite long enough for the flavors to take a foot hold. Should have been 30 seconds.
2) – 40 sec – 197F. The color is a dark orange Amber. The brown sugar/cocoa flavors are coming out counterbalanced by smoke and malty flavors. No bitterness and good “hui gun” astringency!! I think 40 was too long. 30 seconds would be better BUT 4 stars even with the slight over brewed.
3) 45s @ 195F. Still amazing flavor. Color is still dark orange Amber. Leaves are only half furled.
4) – 60s @195F. The flavor profile is changing slightly. It’s starting off smokey and burnt cocoa followed by hints of brown sugar
I won’t go on but it went for a while until I felt the leaves were starting to wash out (about 7 steeps). Then I threw the leaves and did a cold brew of 350 ml overnight. And the resulting cold brew was still pretty damn good. I might just cold brew this tea until the water is clear.
Flavors: Cocoa, Honey, Malt, Smoke
I received a sample of this with a free tin of black tea I received from Denong for answering a survey (had to pay for international shipping though, which at USPS rates was equivalent to the price of the tea itself). The sample bag read 3g (woo…), but when I weighed it, my scale said 2.8g, some of it pure dust. Only thing worse than receiving a sample of less than 5g is not even receiving the amount stated on the label. Fortunately Bitterleaf Teas was recently giving away 50ml gaiwans to those who ordered dancong, so I at least had a vessel suitable for such an amount.
I gave the leaves a brief rinse for under ten seconds, with no rest in between before brewing. I did ten steeps, the timing for these 8s, 8s, 10s, 12s, 15s, 18s, 25s, 35s, 45s and 60s, drinking from a silver cup.
The Song Song Cha starts off surprisingly strong right off the bat with a massive body in the early steeps. I don’t know if the silver played any part in this, but the tea is very flavorful for a shu. The flavors are very clean and crisp, being conveyed without anything obscuring them. The tea has a very prominent camphor note running through it, accompanied by cooling as you’d expect along with herbaceous notes.
As we transition from the early steeps to the middle ones, we sadly lose the body but gain some sweetness, one that I’d label as a berry sweetness. The taste becomes extremely clean — and frankly cleansing — like the purest of spring waters. The tea is devoid of any dankness or earthiness and simply tastes like the cleanest, purest of waters, with fresh, herbaceous notes to it accompanied by slight berry sweetness. The overall presentation is fairly subtle and over-brewing just ruins the experience — I know because I tried. The clarity this tea has in its mid-steeps is unrivaled. One infusion had a slightly oceanic vibe to it and this together with the other notes conjured up the image of enjoying aromatherapy in Greece, somewhere by the mediterranean.
Unfortunately as we enter the late steeps, growing dryness starts to get introduced and infusion ten actually caused a persisting burning sensation in my mouth, which made me want to end the session there.
Overall the Song Song Cha is an extremely clean tasting shu for its age. Coupled with the camphor and herbaceous notes it very much makes me think of a dry stored ripe from the ‘90s. Now in my book that is not exactly a compliment. While I’m not a fan of dank or overly earthy teas, ultra clean shus are also a bit of a turnoff for me. My personal preference tends to veer toward younger, light to medium fermented teas with preferably some bitterness to them when pushed a little. Somewhere in the age between 2-10 years. Too much older than that and we start risking the tea becoming a bit too clean for me. Of course that’s just a generalization and obviously simply my personal preference. I don’t mind some earthiness as long as it’s not excessive.
The tea has good strength, but the roughness toward the end impacted the longevity. I’m not sure if you could brew past that, but I wasn’t willing to find out. All in all an interesting tea to try. Fans of ultra clean shus with herbaceous or medicinal notes might find something of interest here, but otherwise I wouldn’t go out of my way to seek it out. I realize now I haven’t checked the price point so let me go do that.
Oh. So this tea is $85 for 50g. Don’t know if that makes this the most expensive ripe I’ve ever had, but it’s certainly up there. At that price, I certainly can’t recommend this tea. Drinking it, I did not get the impression it was an ultra-premium ripe at all. It was certainly thick in the early steeps, but at anything past 30¢/g I’d be looking for a luxurious, rewarding mouthfeel, incredible aromatics and a long-lasting finish. This tea did not offer that. It’s good, clean, well processed, but not even close to being worth that kind of price.
Flavors: Berries, Camphor, Drying, Herbaceous, Sweet, Tart
The second ripe in my Denong Tea order. Unlike the New Factory Edition, this one is much more loosely compressed, closer to other boutique label shu productions. The material looks nice, for a ripe. Just like the previous review, I used my 120ml silver teapot again. Since with the New Factory Edition I found that I could have leafed it even a bit harder, I decided to go with 9.7g this time. A ten second rinse, followed by a rest of a few minutes to let the moisture soak in. I did a total of eleven infusions, the timing for these 12s, 10s, 10s, 12s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s, 2 min. and 3 min.
I don’t know how much of it has to do with me sticking mostly to fancier ripe productions, but I’m usually the kind of person who has very little issue with drinking freshly pressed shus. Fishy is not a word I would likely use to describe these teas had I not heard others using it, but with this tea I can kind of see where people are coming from. There’s definitely something off about the first couple steeps and I had to discard the first one as the second rinse since I did not find it drinkable.
Overall the tea is very earthy, with touches of muddiness, chalkiness and mineral tones to it. There’s some sweetness in some steeps, but overall the tea is characterized by its distinct lack of sweetness rather than the presence of it. Combined with the disappointingly thin body, these two factors made for a quite unenjoyable session for me. While the tea is quite mellow overall, it is a fair bit stronger than the New Factory Edition and I ended up over-leafing it by some degree. For this amount of leaf the lack of body is a huge disappointment. Even the longer infusions later on don’t really improve this.
The tea does clear up as the steeps progress, developing some texture and notes of dry wood. It most definitely improves from the initial infusions, but I still wouldn’t necessarily say it gets good, just better. Once the tea starts tasting a bit watery, you really need to start pushing it to revitalize it. Eventually it starts tasting a bit like a really woody hong cha. I’m not sure about the longevity as I ended the session at a point where the tea could have possibly kept going, but it would have definitely required extended steeps and continued getting thinner and thinner.
After the positive impression left by the New Factory Edition, Cherishing Destiny was a rather big disappointment. I highly recommend rinsing it at least twice if drinking it young and while it does improve toward the mid steeps, I think for the price what it has to offer is abysmal. There may very well be plenty of room for improvement, but it’s impossible to say really. In its current state at least the tea comes off as very underdeveloped. This is exactly the kind of tea where the fact that Denong doesn’t offer samples for most of their teas really sucks. With ninety grams of my 100g bing left, I really need to hope this one improves if I give it five years.
Flavors: Earth, Mineral, Mud, Sawdust, Sweet, Wood
Denong is a Chinese company specializing in premium and ultra premium pu’er. A couple years back they finally established their US branch. Although I’ve heard them mentioned here and there, there doesn’t seem to be too much buzz surrounding them here in the West. Curious to try their offerings, I finally placed my first order with them. I ended up picking up two of their ripe pu’ers, this being the first one. For many of their teas they don’t seem to be offering samples, the option of picking up a 100g bing instead of a full-sized one being the closest thing to that. That was the case with the two teas I got, this and the Cherishing Destiny ripe.
My bing seems quite tightly compressed, which might result in it aging slower under less humid conditions. I ended up using my 120ml silver teapot, which I may end up using for evaluating ripes from here on just to eliminate the guesswork of having to try to pick the right type of clay to suit the particular tea. Usually it’s Yixing, but I’ve found a few teas complemented better by Jianshui. I went with 9.5g which is pretty close to my normal ratio for shu, probably a little heavier than most people, less than some. Single rinse for ten seconds, followed by a rest of five to ten minutes. I did a total of eleven steeps, the timing for these 10s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s, 2 min., 3 min., 5 min. and 8 min.
Sweetness and earthiness are the tea’s two defining characteristics throughout the session. The texture is smooth and the earthy character aside the tea sips very clean from the first brew. While not the darkest tea, the broth develops a deep mahogany hue in the middle steeps. The sweetness grows ever so prominent as the steeps progress, without ever becoming overly so. The combination with very clean notes of dirt is not something I have encountered that often. Other notes you can expect include nuttiness, berries, wood, even savory. I also encountered notes of tobacco in one steep which was interesting for a ripe, along with some mineral metallic notes in another.
I did not encounter much qi, perhaps a slightly calming, grounding effect, which is pretty typical for shu. For me the things that stood out about the tea were the way how it traveled all the way to the back of the mouth just by taking a regular sip and the way how it went down almost effortlessly as you swallowed. For those with less experience with pu’er this might sound weird, but these are truly the hallmarks of a great tea. Combined with the smoothness, this was a tea that was a joy to sip. In terms of taste it’s not overly dynamic, but there’s nuance to be found and the strong long-lasting sweetness is something many fans of pu’er will appreciate. With the extended steeps toward the end the soup grows dense and heavy, showing great longevity. I stopped after the close to ten minute steep as the tea was finally starting to show signs of growing watery, but those wanting to get absolute everything out of their tea could have carried on with progressively long brews.
Overall I enjoyed this tea. As far as premium ripes go, I wasn’t crazy about it, but I enjoyed it and the quality was evident. The problem is comparing it to other ripes around this price point I’m not sure it’s worth its price tag. Crimson Lotus Tea’s Storm Breaker is roughly the same price per gram and it’s a tea I’d likely recommend over this one. There are other examples as well. That being said, fans of smooth shus with astonishing huigan may want to give this one a shot if the price is not an issue. On the merits of its quality and my overall enjoyment I’m going to award it a recommended status as this is a tea I would absolutely recommend were it cheaper. For me the 100g bing is perfect as I do definitely want to revisit this tea later and am curious as to how it will develop, but a full-size bing would be simply too much for me.
Flavors: Berries, Earth, Meat, Metallic, Nutty, Sweet, Tobacco, Wood
I had a session with a friend using 7g or so in a 190ml pot. I put the large, whole piece in and gave a 20sec wash. We went through ten infusions and at the end of our session, I brought the tea home and got another four infusions out of it. In the first part, the beginning three steeps developed in a tame and predictable arc. Then, on the fourth infusion, the chunk opened up and developed thick medicinal notes followed by a fungal base for steepings 6 to 10. This fungal base kept the tea going strong. The medicinal notes were an eye-opener for me since I did not know this potential of the brick. It got more complex than usual for the eighth and ninth infusions with hints of sweetness overlapping with faint wood and the already present medicinal elements. I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to stop but my friend and I had already had a lot of tea.
I came home satisfied. When I took the tea through the last four infusions, the mushroom base changed into a sweetness that steadily declined. I felt warm and full and wanted to have another session with this brick soon. I felt alert but relaxed, mellowed out by this tea.
It’s at a good place in development – nine years of age and moving to the clearer side. My ratio is about 1g/13ml. This tea needs a 15s wash hot and it is ready to go. Leaves are not too sleepy. After the rinse, the first steep is really just things waking up. Second to fourth infusions are where it is important to me to get the steep time and temperature right. If I nurture the tea well in those infusions, I can get about 13 infusions total. 渥堆 is not awful – it melds with the medicinal notes in the tea and will back off by fourth infusion. After that is a fungal period, then sweetness, little wood notes here and there. I do not experience cocoa or bitterness.
Sweet Clarity is a light tasting sheng, leaning sweet and vegetal. The main feature of this tea is the powerful aftertaste that is of honey and wildflowers. The energy is relaxing and calming.
Full review on Oolong Owl http://oolongowl.com/2016-sweet-clarity-sheng-puer-denong-tea/
(Gongfu, 6g per 100mL, 100C).
I picked up the beeng from a local tea shop that carries puerh supplied through Bana Tea Company. I was intrigued by the dry leaf’s sweet and spicy scent—my nose almost tickles from the peppery smell!
The rinse’s nose is wet hay which conceals the up front flavor upon taking a sip: very herbaceous like both basil and mint with maybe a hint of anise, that delicious combination I’m sure we’ve all tasted in a delicious bowl of pho. The lasting taste is floral with less savory notes, and some minerality.
1-2: 10s Now we begin. Nose is extremely sweet, like a honey dipped apple. There’s some woody bitterness going down, but its pleasant. The finish is only ever so slightly sweet. This has some nice layers to it
3: 20s bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter—tastes like an IPA almost! But I don’t totally hate it unlike IPAs…I might kick the time back down on this one.
4: 10s. That’s better. Sweet going down, but lasting dryness in the front of my mouth and sweetness in the back of my mouth. IPA is a great way to describe this, this is almost hoppy. I’m now realizing this review is in complete and total contrast to ramblingbutterflythoughts’. I’m way less experienced in puerh so I might be in the wrong here, or maybe something has happened to the tea cake I have that makes it taste pleasantly bitter. Or maybe our perceptions are just very different!
5: 15s, this is still bitter but with a sweetness throughout. I’ve referred to this before as “grape skin” but I’m sure there’s a better term for it.
6: 20s The aroma is now like reeds and honeysuckle together, it reminds me of walking by a river. The bitterness has waned, its now letting the sweetness through! There is some earthiness present in the finish.
7: 25s. I’m noticing my cheeks are a little numb. I was struggling to write this grant I’m working on but now I’m typing away…none of it is any good of course, but the qi seems to have loosened me up just enough :). The reedy taste is now replaced with the taste of chewing on sugarcane, bringing me back to spending time with my grandmother in Mexico
8-10: I took a break for some lobster mac and bacon-onion halibut…the latter sort of fell flat so I’m glad to return to my pu after taking a couple hours of a break. It is mostly sweet and clean tasting now, reminds me of a very strong, mineral white tea. The longer I keep drinking, the drier my mouth gets. This is still a young sheng, after all
????: Honestly I lost track. I’m super full and the tea is getting sweeter and lighter. A great tea and I eventually wound down the session once I got to the minutes-long power steeps without much change in color of the liquor. I look forward to breaking into this cake over the years and seeing what happens with the early hoppiness.
Flavors: Anise, Bitter, Green Wood, Hay, Herbs, Hops, Mint, Pepper, Sweet
Well, other than a futon, installing shelves into my curio cabinet (one day that will get done) and maybe a nice rug, my tea room is done! I christened it by painting for the first time in months, I still desperately need new painting supplies, but I have enough to fiddle around still. It feels so good to have my own space, specifically have space that has SPACE, my bedroom was so cramped, now I actually have floor space which is awesome. Plus I only messed my back and hips up a little from moving furniture, which is astounding for me, usually I mess myself up bad because I can’t every wait for help.
Today I am looking at an early spring 2016 Sheng from Denong Tea, their 2016 Denong Commemorative Raw Pu-erh, made from Xishuangbanna material. I have come to really enjoy their teas I have tried, especially the ones from Xishuangbanna, so I was excited to sink my teeth (tea-th?) into this tea. Of course the description says the tea will only improve with age, so really this is like the preview before the movie, and with Puerh I always find having a preview before the main event is just the best, because this is not a type of tea you just buy on a whim, usually it is an investment in both money and time. So, let us see what this tea has to offer! The aroma of the dry leaf had a surprising amount going on, wet hay, a touch of camphor, savory and buttery undertones, bok choy, and my favorite part, the distinct note of rained on peonies. Not just normal peony flowers, but ones that are rained on, bringing out more of the bruised flower and mineral note. It just might be the most floral Sheng I have run into, and to pick one of my favorite flowers to smell like made for a very enjoyable sniffing session.
Into my baby gaiwan the leaves go for their rinse and first steep, the aroma is still pretty potent! Notes of orchid, peony and distant wildflowers blend with watercress, bok choy and tomatoes. It is both savory and floral, which is fun combination, like having a meal next to a bouquet of flowers, and that is classy. The aroma of the liquid is more on the savory side, with bok choy and tomatoes with a hint of cedar wood and distant orchids…like you are at the same table but someone wandered off with the arrangement and left you with the ghost of a smell.
So this is my kind of Sheng, it is light and sweet and for the first three steeps there is no bitterness at all. I know the hardcore Pu-heads like that bitterness, not me though, it almost always reminds me too much of beer and there are few things in life I loathe more than the taste of beer. Luckily for me I don’t have to worry about it, I can just sit back and enjoy the sweet notes of peony nectar, the savory bok choy and watercress, and the touch of cedar wood that pops up towards the end of the third steep. The mouthfeel starts out light, but by the end of the mouth it is smooth and pleasantly cooling, later steeps bring in a subtle thickness that accents rather than distracts from the delicate taste.
The middle three steeps pick up a bit of bitterness, it is more the bitterness of romaine lettuce than hops so I am perfectly ok with that. Can I just take a moment to be amused how some bitter tastes I actively seek out and others make me convulse with disgust? Taste preferences are so weird, I find myself wondering often what causes such contrasting reactions in what is really a small difference. Anyway, tangent for a different time, for now this tea is the focus! The cedar notes from the end of the first part of this session becomes stronger, as does the cooler sensation in my belly. This tea really starts to bloom around steep four, as in it starts to become quite floral, the delicate peony nectar notes intensifies as does the sweetness, and that sweetness just lingers for ever. I had to run an errand between steeps six and seven, and I swear I could still taste that lingering sweetness a good hour later.
The leaves have really fluffed up in these later steeps, barely fitting in my gaiwan, and the golden liquid looks like sunlight, which matches the nectar sweetness really well I think. Mostly here are the end the taste is sweet, peony nectar and a gentle buttery bok choy note with subtle mineral notes. The mouthfeel continues to be smooth and gentle cooling, and the sweet aftertaste continues to linger. This was a really enjoyable tea, not one that was epiphany inducing, but still one that I found very tasty and especially enjoyed the floral notes.
So, the other day I reported on a bit of Minecraft news that excited me, a beautiful looking Chinese Mythology mash-up pack, but it seems that the day after the pack comes out a big update will come out. I have been waiting for this update for so long, finally Purpur blocks and a new End! Of course I might have to redo my epic ‘Temple of Remembered Starlight’ build at the End (poor Endermen will need a new house) but it might be worth it to see the new End ships and castles.
Today I am looking at another Sheng from Denong Tea, their 2016 Early Spring Sweet Clarity Raw Pu-erh, made from Xishuangbanna arbor material harvested early spring of this year. If this tea is anything like the other Shengs I have had from them I am in for a treat, their 2015 Xishuangbanna was my favorite so I am excited. The aroma of the leaves is reminiscent of the way the air smells in the mountains after a summer rain storm, a bit green and wet, a bit mineral, and very crisp and clean. There are notes of gentle freshly cut hay, fresh spinach, daisies, and apples, the notes are subtle while being very aromatic.
Giving the tea a rinse and first steep, the aroma of the leaves takes a turn for the fruity! Where there was a gentle apple note in the dry leaves, the wet ones bring out stronger apples and fresh pears. There are also notes of wet hay, rain water, mineral, and an undertone of buttery spinach at the finish. The aroma of the liquid is very light, notes of gentle apple and pear with a sweet daisy and hay quality at the finish.
The session starts out surprisingly thick, it feels as though my mouth has been coated with golden pear juice, though not sticky, just that same fruit juice thickness. And of course speaking of fruit the first several steeps are very fruity and sweet! Notes of apples and pears (I am thinking specifically Gala Apples and Asian Pears) with a gentle building hay and honey note. The entire first three steeps have this distant interesting daisy note, specifically a note that I taste with my nose since it does not have the taste of daisy. The interplay between nose and mouth can be hard to explain sometimes!
The middle steeps, which were steep four through eight, have a difference from the beginning steeps by being a touch bitter. The bitterness is one of raw spinach, and as bitterness in Sheng goes it is very mild, especially considering it is not accompanied by a dry mouth that often comes with bitterness. The note of pear is not as strong as previously, but the apple note is still going strong, as is the hay and an aftertaste of honey. The mouthfeel is still thick and pleasantly juicy, so far I am finding this to be a very refreshing and easy Sheng. Any body feel it is giving me is light and feathery, making me feel mellow and relaxed. I find myself more and more drawn to Sheng with a mellow Qi rather than a very strong one, since usually I find the stronger effects to be rather uncomfortable, so if you want a tea that kicks you in the face with Qi this one not so much.
I kept this tea going until steep twelve, the finishing steeps rivaling the beginning steeps for my favorite, the thick mouth combined with wildflower honey sweetness along with a slowly fading apple, crisp spring water, and a distant field of wildflowers make for a wonderful finish. As it reaches the end of its life the mineral quality of the spring water taste becomes the aftertaste and lingers along with a slight honey sweetness. The website for this tea says it is perfect to sip on a quiet afternoon, and they are not wrong, the mellow and relaxing quality makes it a great accompaniment to an afternoon of doing nothing.
Sometimes, miniature painting is a giant pain. I have this really neat mini of two ladies with their arms around each other, in a most obvious ‘we are kinda posing while looking natural’ pose, in renaissance garb. Since one of the ladies is a bit shorter I decided it would be really cool to make it as my mom and myself, problem is, this miniature has some seriously ugly faces. Not even in the way that some of the older miniatures have where it is hideous but fun (think epic shouts or was supposed to be an elf but really looks like an orc with a face scar.) No these are ugly as in they look like potatoes with noses, so that means any real definition I have to get with shading, and since the features are sooo small I keep losing it under layers of paint, meaning I have stripped this miniature twice and this is my third time giving it a go. Curse of the potato people!!
Miniature woes aside, today I am taking a look at 2015 Early Spring Harvest Enchanting Beauty Raw Pu-erh from Denong Tea. A spring harvest from Xishuangbanna described as being fruity, smooth, and soft…just what I like in my younger Shengs. The aroma of the tea is pretty potent, sweet notes of grapes, apples, and apricots blend with a surprisingly floral note of magnolia. Seriously, first time I have ever run into a magnolia note in a Puerh, usually that is one I find in Oolong. Magnolia trees are a thing in the South, so that note is hugely nostalgic to me and it goes really well with the fruity notes.
Into the gaiwan the little cake chunk went, rinsed and first steep concluded it was time for sniffing again. No magnolia this time, instead it is a balance between fruity and green, with notes of apricot, apples, grapes (the white ones specifically) raw spinach, and a bit of hay at the finish. The aroma of the first steep is sweet grapes and apricots with a touch of fruity tartness and a bit of raw honey and pollen, very mellow and pleasantly sweet.
The first couple of steeps are light and delicate with a smooth and gentle mouthfeel. The notes confuse me, they are very Oolong like, with notes of gardenia and magnolia combining with apples and a bit of grapes, it reminds me a bit of a Dancong. The third steep starts to change, bringing in a lemon zest and spinach note, finally reminding me that this is a Sheng rather than an Oolong. The best part about the first part of the session is the aftertaste of slightly under-ripe apricots being both sweet and a bit tart.
On to the middle steeps! So a lot of younger Shengs I find the middle steeps to be brisk and bitter, but not these, instead of bitterness we have sour lemony quality which has the delightful effect on my salivary glands that eating a lemon would. Toss in a growing tart fruit quality and a dry to thick and wet mouthfeel and this is a refreshing ‘my mouth is awake now’ Sheng. At steep five the lemony note is joined by cooked spinach giving a savory quality and the dryness has faded away entirely. This quality carries on to steep six and starts to have a very long lingering smooth texture.
For the end of the steeping session, the vegetal notes start to fade, as do the lemony sour notes, instead all that is left is crisp sweet apples and a bit of honey and lettuce. It is thick and sweet with a lingering honey note and long lasting smooth mouthfeel. Conveniently this tea does not bother my belly at all, so I was able to see this session to its finish. That finish was a gentle fade of apples and apple blossoms and a touch of mineral. I really enjoyed this tea, but I am a sucker for fruity shengs.
I am back from my wee hiatus, feeling better, though still with a bit of recovery left to go, but I am able to write at least a little so as far as the blog is concerned I am perfectly fine. The past weekend was Evo (and I apologize to my twitter followers, I was quite vociferous compared to usual) and what a fantastic one it was. For the first time Street Fighter finals were aired on ESPN, an awesome achievement! It has been fun watching tournaments change over the years, as esports and the FGC become more pro, though I do miss how the commentators have had to clean up a bit, meaning the FGC’s distinct lingo is sadly dying. Not that it stops Ben and myself from still using it to the confusion of those around us!
Today’s tea comes from Denong Tea, Elegant Tranquility, a 2015 spring Sheng Puerh from Lincang. I actually have not had a lot of experience with Lincang material as a Sheng (pretty decent amount for Hongcha) so sadly I won’t be able to say ‘oh yeah, this is classic Lincang’ instead it is a bit of an adventure into the only lightly known! I will say this, the combination of the name and the wrapper is so evocative, definitely one for the wrapper collectors out there. The aroma of the tea is very springy, fresh and light with notes of spinach, hay, sharp eucalyptus and a slight undertone of raw honey. It has a subtle woodiness as well, but it is fairly light.
The aroma of the leaves after a rinse and first steep is so green, sharp notes of eucalyptus and lemon leaves, cooked spinach, crushed hay, thyme, and a bit of greenwood and bamboo at the finish. The liquid smells light and a balance of green and sweet, with hay and honey balancing out spinach and bamboo with a hint of lemon leaves.
I was pleased with the initial thickness of this tea, from the first steep onwards it has a great mouthcoating thickness, and considering this tea has a really light start that is impressive. The first couple of steeps are green, with notes of spinach and hay, with a building lemon leaf and eucalyptus leaf finish, giving a great cooling effect. Around steep three it starts to pick up some kale like bitterness and a touch of dryness in the middle that quickly switches to lingering lilac nectar sweetness, that floral note was surprising and pleasant.
So here is where things get weird, around steep four the sweetness increases, as does the lemony aspect, now the tea vaguely reminds me of lemon cake! It went from being spring like in the beginning to summery in the middle, how fun! I really like how instead of being bitter the middle has a sour quality, it goes really well with the sugar cane like sweetness and the green fresh spinach and lemon leaves. Towards the end of the middle steeps, so steep six, it gets a fresh crisp bamboo note and the gentle eucalyptus note builds to an intense cooling. I had a bit of a sore throat while I was drinking this tea and the cooling was immensely soothing on it, so points there.
One of the biggest compliments I can give this tea, it is a young Sheng that doesn’t give me the dreaded gut-rot stomach ache. Even mild ones can start to cause discomfort towards the latter steeps, this one not so much, so I was able to outlast it. The finishing steeps are a combination of eucalyptus cooling and sugar cane sweetness, with a very long lasting sweet aftertaste. Definitely a tea where you want to go a bit between steeps to really appreciate how long the aftertaste lasts. The last couple of steeps also picked up a wet slate note at the middle, and the eucalyptus notes start to fade until gone, though the sweetness remains. The very last steep was the only one without a thick mouthfeel, it was light like water. This tea is light, though not at all dull or boring (as some teas touted as light can be) and I greatly enjoyed my session with it.
I love playing Ark, I really do, being able to frolic in a survival setting with dinosaurs and watching my little world grow from a guy in undies to a god on a T-rex is very satisfying. What I don’t love is how it seems with each update the lag and crashes get worse, to the point where every time I play I either die to a glitch losing a lot of valuable gear or resources…or I end up rage quitting because I am so frustrated. I wish so much that the developers would take a break from adding cool stuff (not that I do not appreciate the new Redwood Biome) to fix the glitches that keep piling up, the game is barely playable in its current state. Gamer woes!
Last week was wonderfully cool and I celebrated the cooler weather with some Shou! I find myself enjoying it sooo much more when the weather is not scorchingly hot, to me that is Sheng weather. I took a look at Denong Tea’s 2005 Denong Ginseng Scent Ripe Puerh Tea, a Shou made with Xishuangbanna material and exudes a ginseng aroma. It is not blended with ginseng, so if you are a person who is not a fan of strong ginseng no need to run in terror of this tea. The aroma of the nuggets of tea (the tea itself is sold as a box of already broken tea brick, so no need to break out the puerh knife) is woody and a touch sweet, the woody note is a blend of dry pine and dry fruit wood, with a distinct note of dried peat. There is, of course, a ginseng note, smelling of gentle licorice and a medicinal cooling quality that makes my nose tingle.
I decided to brew this tea in my new serpentinite gaiwan, carved stone holds heat like a beast making it perfect for Shou. The aroma of the wet leaves is soggy pine wood, wet loam, forest floor, and a camphor, licorice, gingery note, a pleasant medicinal quality at the finish. The liquid is surprisingly sweet after such earthy, robust, leaves. Notes of licorice, red dates, wet leather, and pine sap waft out of my cup.
The first few steeps were light and sweet, it seemed like this tea was a bit slow to wake up, but once it did, wow. Notes of gentle red date and thick wet wood and loam blend with more gentle notes of peat and a touch of moss. Towards the end of each of the steeps a gentle tingling coolness blend with a tick sweet brown sugar and ginseng note linger for a long while after the steep. This is one of those instances where I really perceived the ginseng note with my nose more so than my mouth, picking it up on the inhale in the long aftertaste.
I actually decided to put this tea on hold until the next day, since I fell asleep, this Shou has a very relaxing feel to it. After a wake up rinse, this tea was ready to go again with a richer color and richer taste. Strong earthy loam and wet wood mix with an intense sweet red date and pine sap. Like the earlier steeps there is a cooling and thick sweetness that lasts well after the cup has been drained. I will admit, the finish is what is really selling this tea for me.
The final steeps go out with a gentle sweetness, the loamy earthiness is still there but it fades fast. What is mainly left is the wonderfully sweet red date note and the pleasant lingering thick sweetness at the finish. I pulled several steeps out of the tea, pretty much bowl steeping it at the end to try and pull as much of that red date sweetness out as I could. I really liked this Shou, it was distinct while also being mild, it could make a really great everyday drinker, I foresee myself getting a box when colder weather comes around.