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Recent Tasting Notes
Sampled this sheng from Hou De, very nice large leaves…from what I’ve read, the larger fatter leaves and juicier thick stems suggest an antique plantation which has been partially recaptured by nature. Initial aroma of dried leaves are somewhat fruity and musty. After a quick rinse, the leaves smelled almost like smoked fish, I was a bit worried by this. But the smokiness dissipated with the first infusion—sweet hay, peach, hazelnut skin. Very smooth and getting good and relaxed off of this one. The second infusion was more of the same. Leaves starting to unfurl more and more. Lots of thick stems and twigs. Very few broken bits. Aroma from the steeped leaves is somewhat horsey and gamey. But tea liquor is beautifully complex and haunting, very smooth and silky. I brewed it 8 or 9 times gong fu style over the course of two days. Could have pushed it 5 more times, probably.
I know a lot of you enjoy various kinds of bamboo tea. I just stumbled across this video on the Hou De blog site and thought you would enjoy seeing the tea-making process.
I found it very beautiful.
I’m amazed at how tightly the tea is packed and how gentle the roast is.
I guess I expected the bamboo to burn.
Some of the best Yanchas I’ve had have been from Hou De and this Shui Xian is excellent. It is grown in an area of Wuyi where the soil composition consists solely of weathered rock, which I’m guessing is what gives it its characteristic strong, malty, minerally flavor. That and some heavy roasting.
I played with it a bit, searching for its tea soul.
My Yancha pot is biggish — 160 or 170 ml — and I filled it three quarters full of leaves. First infusion at 190-ish degrees, pour quickly after 15 seconds. First taste was leather and chocolate, almost dank but in a pleasant way; from the taste I would have guessed I was drinking an aged oolong. But the mouthfeel was a bit thin and the taste lacked complexity. I was slightly disappointed with the first cup.
Second infusion I decided to use almost boiling water. Wow. The heat brought the smokey charcoal taste right up front. Strong but pleasant. Lots of pepper and spice and a great roundness in the feel — a kind of mineral feel. Heavily oxidized as well as heavy roasted, I think, and I would bet this tea is from old bushes. Beautiful dark red color. Both color and taste were puerh like. I think it’s correct to call this tea as Yan Gu, “rock bones,” which describes such depth of flavor.
Third and fourth infusions, back to 190 degrees but I let it steep a bit longer — maybe a minute but not much more. Exquisite. Much more balance between the spice and charcoal. Cloves and nuts appear. Some fruit peeking through, dark berries; definitely charcoal and nuts and berries, maybe vanilla, too; more complexity. Very full feel, round and thick and a nice lingering dryness.
The soul doth rise.
I don’t know about you guys, but up until recently I’ve sought for the “correct” way of brewing yancha. Lately, however, I’ve gained the confidence to challenge convention. It’s kind of thrilling to taste what almost boiling water can do, for example. Or using more leaves than normal. Or shorter and longer steeps.
Also, I think staging teas is important. For example, I was drinking Taiwan dong ding the entire day before I tried this Wuyi Shui Xian tonight. The lighter tea with vegetal tastes set parameters which made the dark, spicy Shui Xian all the more vivid and challenging. In the morning maybe I’ll look for a more fruity tea.
I’m thinking that a tea’s soul is more differential than we’ve been told.
I’m adding a footnote to a previous tasting note. Today I brewed this using what I understand to be the brewing method of the Chao Zhou region, which is to fill a small pot (120 ml max) almost full with leaves. Don’t crush the leaves, but use as much as the pot will hold. Rinse twice as quickly as possible; it needs two for the leaves to open. Then fill the pot with water and immediately pour the tea. Don’t let it “steep” for more than a breath. You can reinfuse many, many times, so this way is no more expensive than using less leaves.
This tea was so good my head almost popped off. It actually compelled me to smile!
My understanding of the chemistry of this is that the leaves never get as hot as the temperature of the water. No risk of too much astringency (which is a concern with Dan Congs). And yet, you get a blast of tea oils nevertheless. And the aroma was strikingly more fragrant and different than before. Much more flowery (magnolia?) rather than just peachy, though peach is still there, too. Very full in the mouth.
I may also use this as an excuse to purchase another, smaller pot. Hehehe.
Let me first confess that I am a big fan of Tea Habitat’s Dan Cong teas and consider them the best Dan Congs available. I went the whole way and got a little Chao Zhou teapot from her, made especially for Dan Congs (same as Teaddict, I believe), I brew according to Iman’s instructions, pour low to high, etc., etc.
All of which is to say that this Dan Cong from Hou De is right up there in the Tea Habitat echelon. This is premium quality, old bush, not commercial grade Dan Cong.
The aroma is fabulously peachy, as expected from “Eight Immortals.” The thickness is very satisfying, really difficult not to gulp. Sometimes, a lesser Dan Cong’s aroma can be meretriciously ornamental. But this aroma is a precise index of the actual flavor of the tea. I filled my 120 ml pot half to two thirds full, steeped for just less than a minute. The characteristic Dan Cong astringency is perfect. I was left with a very good feeling.
Now I’ll modulate to slightly picky. The leaves were a bit broken in my package. Maybe it was the end of a bag. Maybe I wasn’t careful opening the package. The very first brew was a tiny bit cloudy, but subsequent infusions were brilliantly clear. I didn’t find this tea demanding. I agree with The Skua that it is mild, but only compared to a Yancha or something. Almost minimalist. But it’s a generous giver. It’s the kind of tea that could become a daily, especially given the entirely reasonable price.
I have a suggestion if you try this tea: Choose a Sunday when you can sleep late. The Saturday before, wash your best bed linens and give them an extra rinse so all detergent is rinsed out. Fresh, cool cotton. Drink this Dan Cong when you wake (don’t set a clock!). The clean, fragrant minimalism of the tea connects with the memory of the smell of cotton. Open a window, even if it’s cold out. The different, fresh smells and sounds and memories and dreams of the night before all connect. Your spirit moves around with little effort. It’s quite wonderful. I just happened upon that experience, but next time, I’m fixing for it.
This 2006 Yiwu puerh is what I would think of as setting the standard for sheng cha. By that, I mean it is high quality with the taste profile you expect from sheng cha from the famous Xishuangbanna prefecture, with little surprise. (Let it be said that I only had enough tea for one session; other sessions might have yield more surprise.)
The tea has a very pleasant, full, broad feel on the palate and back of the throat. I detected some vegetable tastes, ginseng, and mild fruit, maybe pears or white berries (if there are white berries), underlined with mild earthiness. I keep saying mild, but I want to stress it is also very full.
It was interesting to compare this to Norbu’s 2006 “Qi Cha” (please see my notes on that tea) from Yong De County in Yunnan’s Lincang prefecture, which I found more bamboo-like, less fruity. It would also be interesting to compare Norbu’s Yi Wu mountain bamboo roasted puerh to this tea — same mountain, different processing.
Spicy with cinnamon notes, this is a neat oolong. The cinnamon notes fade a little quicker than the general spiciness, but not so fast as to suggest anything but natural flavors; I just note that I don’t get more than 5-6 infusions from this one gong fu style. It can get all the way to bitter if overpacked in the brewing vessel or if not watched carefully.
This is one I only brew gongfu cha, never the brew/hold in thermos I do so often with other teas. It’s just too subtle and tricky for that, but quite rewarding—really, Dan Cong-like—in this. I use enough left to fill the gaiwan about 2/3 full after the leaf is wetted—about 1/3 full of dry leaf. Sorry, haven’t weighed this one out for a while—maybe ever—for a formal tasting with pics.
I’ve been drinking two different “oriental beauties”: Norbu’s Bai Yun (which is also Yunnan Sourcing’s “Wild Arbor Oriental Beauty”) and Hou De’s Taiwan Bei-Pu Bai Hao. Norbu’s is a Yunnan varietal made by Taiwanese tea masters who brought their Bai Hao skills to Wu Liang mountain. Hou De’s is the classic Taiwan oolong, harvested in the summer in the humid, foggy, northern part of Taiwan, after the legandary little bugs have poked holes in the tea leaves, provoking the plants into a juicy protest that produces more intense flavors.
Both versions of the tea have a beautiful, autumnal mixture of dry leaves — mahogany, golden brown, and the “white hairs” of the name.
Beginning with a half full pot of dry leaves, I brewed at 200+ degrees for 2+ minutes. Golden amber cup. Though honey is definitely present, it was not so pronounced as in the Norbu cultivar. And rather than berries, the taste was more of mild stone fruit, nectarines I would say, with lycee nuts. In the first and second infusions, I distinctly detected a mysteriously sweet pine. This tea is rounder and “wider” in my mouth, whereas the Yunnan varietal sent some bright vertical tracers up toward my nose. I find this tea generally round and horizontally mellow, whereas the Norbu perhaps asked for my attention a bit more. But it could also be that I tasted this second, after drinking an entire pot of the Norbu first.
The wet leaves show the quality of the processing, with little bundles of stems and leaves intact. They are an extraordinary golden-purple-red that are even more beautiful in my pin zi ni purple pot. My guess is that this tea is less oxidized than the Yunnan, with no roasting.
I found both these teas rewardingly complex. I intend to do another tasting, tasting the two in the opposite order.
8g, rinsed twice with 90 degree C water then brewed with 150ml 75 degree C water with infusions progressing 10 seconds each round, starting at 20 seconds.
This has become my standard method of brewing young loose Mao Cha or broken up young Sheng Cha and it’s the first time I’ve used it on one of my favorite Mao Chas.
Great tactile impression – body on par with chicken broth, light fleeting astringency, and lingering (and drippingly) mouthwatering effect. Fourth infusion’s sweetness reaches a sugary level. Sauteed broccoli and bamboo shoots definitely come to mind plus yellow plum undercurrent.
Alas, I’m down to only a couple pots left, and hopefully I’ll leave it alone for at least another year.
Picked this up about a year ago and it has changed a bit, but not any more than difference in brewing parameters could account for. Still very “green” – basically Yunnan white tea with a bit more color and “ripe” quality to it. Funny how a partial kill-green and some hand rolling affects color more than the flavors (at least while still young). The leaves do look different, though – more breakdown has occurred and it’s getting close to needing a sifting.
Made the mistake like I always do and stuck my nose in the foil bag to take a whiff. Like taking a deep breath through my nose of the dusty underside of a bed. Not only has this broken down a little, but it was a pretty downy tea to start with, so all those little hairs and minuscule tea bits had me coughing and almost sneeze. Like any loose aged tea, it’s better to add the leaves to a warmed pot first and then take in the dry fragrance.
Used 4g with 215ml water in a duan ni clay squat shi piao style yixing teapot seasoned for sheng puerh (rarely brews anything over a decade old). Pour time is around 15 seconds – seems the leaves are blocking water flow a bit more than usual – so tack that onto brew times for full contact time. Single rinse. Infusions progressed: 30sec-86C, 40sec-86C, 50sec-84C, 60sec-86C, 70sec-84C, 80sec-83C.
While there are a few full leaf sets, most of the leaves are single and have some breakage to them. Similar to FOP grade, but not homogeneous in composition. Buds are really long. Dry fragrance in the warmed pot is cottony, somewhat toasty-sweet, with a tinge of honeysuckle and a vegetal fruit quality that’s very familiar to me but I can’t quite place. I want to say cooked zucchini or brussel’s sprouts, but that’s not really it. Wet aroma tweaks that note into an easier to place fresh, wet kelp aroma. “Ripe” quality sort of similar to an uncut pluot or longan non-fruit notes but with some pruned orchid aroma as well. Overall, wet aroma screams Yunnan white tea and this carries through to the liquor aroma but there’s a bit more of a dried marsh grass sweetness to it. Liquor is pale yellow at the shallow end and heavier yellow where the cup is deeper.
Aroma similar to a drying freshwater marsh. Sedges and rushes with some somewhat sweet cottonwood leaves or wild rosebush foliage notes as well. Wet leaf aroma characteristics carry through to the liquor better than I’m used to (much less woody, though). Flavor light and sorta floral, but bamboo and fallen leaves come to mind above anything else. Cottony mouthfeel, again like a white tea. A bit of astringency in second infusion highlights this. By third infusion, the body is up to full force – not as syrupy as aged or shu puerh, but still thick. Mouthwatering. Sort of a sticky rice and nori similarity. Kinda eggy, but not nearly as much as as Yin Zhen. By sixth infusion it’s tasting a whole heck of a lot like Genmai Cha but replace the grass notes with dried wetland grasses (think the smell of a woven basket but a little sweeter). Aftertaste subsides but the effect of leaving your mouth and breath slightly sweet lasts a bit more than half an hour.
Yummy. I wish I could buy more… Suppose I could break up a green cake to simulate the characteristics and aging speed, but this tea obviously had a lot of special care put into it to preserve its qualities in loose form.
Prepared 10g in a seasoned 200ml duan ni squat shi piao style Yixing teapot. Rinsed twice to open up and remove small amount of broken down tea dust (rinses immediately poured off – about 10 second contact time). I progressed each infusion by about 5 seconds, starting at 15 seconds and finishing at 2 minutes and 45 seconds on the 28th infusion. Heated enough water for three infusions each with a downshift of 10 degrees C at most. Climbed from 80 degrees to just before a boil for the 13th infusion onward.
Leaves are clearly broken down and fairly oily – pretty luster. Coppery deep brown color with hints of silver and far-muted green tinted brown. A couple golden stripes here and there. While there are a lot of intact leaves, there is also heavier presence of twig and what looks like much older leaves mixed in than most of the new puerhs I get. In a warmed pot, the dry fragrance is a dry but cool oak woodland leaf litter mustiness with a faint mineral and black pepper spicy tinge. Hint of ripe red grape skins in there and crisp sweetness. Wet aroma musty and heady with just a hint of an aged port aroma… maybe a bit of clove and brandy. Liquor color is a gorgeous clear deep red with gold tint to the margins. Liquor aroma transmits mostly sweet mineral aromas with that crisp, toasty dried oak leaf and bark aroma as a base. Reminds me of the smell of canoeing down a clean stretch of creek on a cooler summer day with the smell of river rocks, willows, driftwood, sand and just a bit of algae mixing in a warming, relaxing medley.
All infusions shared a base of sweet toasted malt, slight tanginess of mineral clay and tannic dried leaves, incredible smooth and thick mouthfeel, and sweet woodsy lingering yet clean-feeling aftertaste with an evaporative orchid-floral effect. First six infusions were markedly different in prime attribute expression. 1st – mineral clay; 2nd – smooth cabernet sauvignon (ripe red fruit); 3rd – old vine zinfendel (peppery and plum); 4th – sweet toasted grains and dry eucalyptus wood; 5th – home baked wheat bread just out of the oven drizzled with honey (camphor afteraroma); 6th – hummus on toasted grain cracker with a touch of ripe plum and pear and very thin slice of 1-2 year old creamy cheddar cheese. Fruits gave way to a bit of moist leaf litter and bark aromas in later infusions, but the floral and sweet, toasty afteraroma and taste kept going. While the telltale water chestnut crispness started advancing through the 18th-28th infusions, I gave up long before the tea did. Dunno how many infusions I could’ve gotten out of this guy… The next morning I re-rinsed and brewed two pots with the old leaves 4-5 minutes with near-boiling water and it still tasted sweet, clean and mouthwatering but most of the unique flavor characteristics were gone.
Used this as the representative of an aged sheng puerh for my Ten Famous Teas of China tasting, and I feel bad for the folks who had to leave before we started brewing this beauty.
Trying a more formal tasting for the Shui Xian: 2.5 grams tightly curled leaf, 2.5 oz water in a gaiwan.
30 seconds 1st infusion—sweet, silky, earthy, toasty, warm, a bit too dilute, should have let it go longer, because the warm flavor is there, but nothing else yet.
1 minute 2nd infusion—now the grassy, herbaceous flavors are strong, but not bitter, and it tastes utterly different—chameleon tea! (this is why I am quite in love with it)
30 seconds 3rd infusion—what will it be this time? The hay/straw/warm toasty flavor is still noticeable now, but the grassy top notes are strongly present too. Mmm.
1 minutes 4th infusion—again, a nice mix, a little more of the grassy/herbaceous notes above the warm, toasted finish.
1 minute 5th infusion—nothing new to describe, just marvelous.
90 seconds 6th infusion, flavor fading a little, should have been a longer infusion….and can be a longer infusion…..returned tea to the gaiwan for another minute….and….warm toasty hay/straw still dominant, but a bit richer now.
And….checking kettle…there’s no more water left. I think I will call it done for now.
Just another love note to this interesting tea, which has such an interesting combo of sweet fruity (plum/peach/cherry) floral notes, and spicy herby backup (cinnamon, cloves, thyme). It is a bright light green deeply rolled tea that looks like it should be a new-style TGY, but when the water hits the leaves it’s much more Dan Cong-like. And the flavor varies and unfolds infusion by infusion, just delightful stuff. Today’s infusions deserve a higher rating—this is 95+ stuff.
Very nice session with this tea today, and shared some of the middle infusions—a little mellower than the first—with some of my tea-loving colleagues at work. I’m not sure the more aggressive early infusions are what I should be sharing with those mostly drinking jasmine and flavored blends…..but I love the spicy deep roasted flavor. Given how light and green the leaves are—I always am momentarily surprised by the deep wuyi/dan cong flavor profile of this one.
This is a very interesting tea. It is tightly rolled, unusual vs the other wuyi oolongs I’ve had, and looks fairly green in the rolled state, and unrolls to a deep green leaf. But the tea liquor reminds me more of a Dan Cong style of oolong—astringent, complex, toasted, sweet, spicy. And it has the ability to last through a dozen infusions easily, getting lighter at the end, but even the light infusions are still fruity/sweet/spicy.
I started this brewing with 3 grams of leaf in a 100mL red clay pot, water about 185 degrees, and infused at first for 30 seconds, and extended as long as 2 seconds by the end of the session.
This is probably the 4th time I’ve brewed some of this wonderfully delicate tea, but I goofed in a way that probably limited the potential of the infusions significantly: I used a too low leaf to water ratio, and I was let the water cool too long before the infusions—too much attention to the camera setup as I was working on photographing what I was doing. In spite of that, the tea was good!
Leaves are twisted, large, green to black, with a light sweet scent.
2.2 grams of leaf into my 6 oz glass pot, because the leaves are so pretty as they unfurl.
1st infusion 175°F/79°C 30", sweet, hay, floral, but too light, should have been longer.
2nd infusion water closer to 160°F/71°C (let it cool too long, misjudged), let it go nearly 2 minutes, again a very light, sweet, floral infusion.
3rd infusion 175°F/79°C several minutes, similar—light, sweet, floral.
4th and 5th infusions were with water just off the boil, several minutes’ steep, and were still lovely.
I’d try water closer to 195 and 30" steep with 3-4 grams of leaf for the same pot next time around; or 2 grams in my 2 oz gaiwans, same temp/time recs as above.
Finally, I may have used enough leaf to find this tea enjoyable. Packing my small gaiwan near to the top with these big twisted wires, I was able to get some really fun flavors out of this tea. The initial steep was a fruit and blossom bomb, with tons of white peach, papaya, and nectarine, all backed with subtle hints of cocoa powder, sandalwood, and white pepper. Underlying all of this was a subtle, silky texture and flavor of fresh, perfectly-cooked scallop meat, reminiscent of the really enjoyable pink shrimp flesh I found in a younger Hou De dan cong. Ramping up the amount of leaf and following Tea Habitat’s brewing guidelines (http://tea-obsession.blogspot.com/2008/01/how-to-brew-dan-cong.html) really produced a nice session this morning.
Based on the reviews of others, I’m fairly sure that my brewing of this tea was inadequate. I didn’t get nearly as richly colored a soup, nor was there really much depth to what I brewed. That being said, I was a bit bummed out. I found the tea a bit shallow. It’s aroma was excellent, however. It showed the bright spicy cedar-wood character that I found in 2007 leaf, but also had a nicely aged caramelized plum towards the end that made it rewardingly balance, at least in scent. I’ll have to work on brewing this tea better, to get better texture and more flavor depth. I’m sure it’s there.
I received the 2007 version of this tea in my recent DanCong sampler. Again, only my second DanCong, so my experiences may be a bit naive. The aroma on this tea is amazing. Rich, deep super spicy cedar wood and roast. Bark, smoke, and pith. In the aroma cup, it just pours out sage, burnt field grasses, and sauna. Wonderful. The soup is much more caramel, grayish brown. The flavor and texture is a bit harder for me to handle. I thought it was touch coarse and bitter right up front, then it smoothes out, gives some of the cedar, a bit of caramel roast, and then a harsh, biting ash character. Light sweetness balances it a little, but the flavor of this tea seemed a bit uneven, which is unfortunate, because the aroma is killer.