Norbu Tea

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Sipdown (243)

This is a sample that Sil shared with my years ago. It is still okay though given that it is one of my oldest teas. Okay being the operative word. At the start of the sip it seems like it is going to be astringent but that doesn’t follow through. Instead it gives way to blandness. It is okay. Nothing amazing but perhaps that is age since this is one of the oldest teas I have, well had. Thank you Sil for sharing!


I suspect age



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I have a sample of the 2009, which is what I’ll be talking about.

After yesterday’s awesome sheng, it seemed unlikely anything could live up to that. But this is a pretty close second.

As an aside, I think it actually benefits me when it comes to pu erh that I have so much tea. I probably got this when it was relatively young, and it now has had the benefit of age. A lot of the pu erhs in my stash, especially the sheng samples, are close to or over 10 years old.

The leaves of this don’t smell much and believe it or not, what they do smell like to me is urine. However, that is not what the steeped tea smells or tastes like (I am not pulling a Howard Hughes here, I promise).

I rinsed and let the leaves sit for 15 minutes before steeping 5/5/7/7/10/10/20/30/40/60 at boiling in the gaiwan.

Actually, that’s not quite true. The first time I tried to steep this I was doing about 3 other things at the same time, and it wasn’t until the timer was at around 6 out of 15 that I realized I’d actually put leaves in to steep rather than letting them sit after a rinse. I made the mistake of trying the resulting tea, which was really, really bitter and unpleasant.

The second time around I did better, though I did have to leave for my 11 a.m. appointment after the second 10 second steep. I resumed when I returned about an hour and a half later.

If I hadn’t read the other notes, I probably wouldn’t have identified a smoky note — but yes, a touch is there in both the aroma and the flavor. There is none of yesterday’s medicinal flavor, not even after the first steep.

Instead, it heads straight into a rather consistent flavor that is somewhat similar to yesterday’s sheng (also a Norbu) but without the occasional foray into medicinal, melon, or other things.

This one has the same sort of toffee-coffee-cocoa note, which as I ruminate on it is more like white chocolate than anything else. More of a sort of buttery reminder of cocoa than actual cocoa.

No. 2 tasted some and agreed with me. But then he said what he always says about tea: “it tastes like leaves.”

The liquor is rather consistently a light golden yellow and clear.

I’m so glad that after all this time I’ve gotten over my fear of pu erh. It’s been a very interesting and rewarding adventure so far.

Flavors: Butter, Cocoa, Coffee, Smoke, Toffee, White Chocolate


Another convert!

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Throughout my pu erh adventures of late, I’ve been hoping to find a sheng that was transporting, one I could write rapturously about. But none of the ones I’ve tasted have reached that level. They’ve all been good, just not rapturously good.

Enter this tea.

I knew something unique was about to happen when I sniffed the dry leaves and smelled Snickerdoodle.

I rinsed just over 2.5g in the gaiwan and let it sit for a while, then steeped at boiling for 5/5/7/7/10/10/20/30/40/60

The first couple of steeps were interesting, but not rapturously so. The first was a pale yellow (the color got more intense though didn’t change hue with subsequent steeps) and had a sort of medicinal smell, which I gather is what people refer to as camphor. Fortunately, it did not taste medicinal. It tasted slightly sweet, slightly nutty, and slightly vegetal, but mostly what I noticed was the smooth, soft mouthfeel.

The second steep had a savory-brothy smell and tasted smooth and vegetal.

The third steep is where it went rapturous. All of a sudden, a suggestion of coffee. And then toffee.

And then a sideways step on the fourth steep to melon. Honeydew.

Then back to coffee, toffee and — cocoa! Where it remained through all the remaining steeps.

Very delicious, very bizarre — it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around how a tea that is this light in color can have these confectionery flavors. But it did.

And that’s why it’s rapturous. Of course, it was a limited edition and once it is gone, it is gone.


Flavors: Broth, Camphor, Coffee, Cookie, Honeydew, Melon, Nutty, Sweet, Toffee, Vegetal


I haven’t dipped into puerh adventures at all yet, but I enjoy reading everyone’s notes, and have wanted to hear more about shengs, so this was satisfying and fascinating, even second hand! :D

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I think I’ve had sheng before, but it has been so long I don’t remember. And I certainly didn’t remember how to steep it. So I looked up an old Steepster thread and followed the instructions, including a suggestion of mrmopar’s to rest the leaves for 15 minutes after a rinse, and a suggestion by AllanK to start with 5 second steeps. I went 5/5/7/7/10 and after that I sort of improvised: 10/20/30/40/60. I used 2.8g of tea in a 50 ml gaiwan.

I find this tea somewhat fascinating. I was prepared for… well, not really sure what I was prepared for, just not this. The tea out of the packet is compacted into tubular shapes that are mostly dark green but also have some silvery leaves in the mix. They don’t have much of a smell. Mostly just a sort of vague woodiness.

The tea’s color is golden yellow, and its aroma and flavor reminds me first of bamboo shoots, which I think may be power of suggestion. But it is mild and vaguely woody, resiny. It also has a fruity note. Through the early steeps I had it pegged as pineapple, because it had a bit of a sharpness to it (not very sharp, just slightly) but over time that filed off and it reminded me more of another tropical fruit. Mango, maybe.

No bitterness, and a sort of non-sugary sweetness on the tongue. It doesn’t feel like pop rocks, but something about how it tasted reminded me of them. I also thought of linen and cloth fibers while drinking this. Part of that was probably because of the color.

It has a pleasantly fresh, but unobtrusive aftertaste.

I didn’t pick this to taste today because it said it was good for beginners. I picked it at random. But the fact that it says it is good for beginners is a happy accident.

I quite enjoyed it and am looking forward to further experiments.

Flavors: Bamboo, Mango, Pineapple, Resin, Wood


You did well! I had to learn the hard way so I am glad this worked for you too!


Thank you for your help!

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When I first went on a tea ordering tear, I ordered some things from Norbu and I got this as what I think is a very generous sample size. I certainly didn’t get a 250g brick. The packet says this weighs 25g.

It appears to be a piece of the bigger brick, because it is not loose. So now I need to do a quick crash course from the internet on how to pry loose tea from a pu erh brick. This is my first time, so please be gentle.

I broke out the tool I bought for this purpose a while back. It’s a bone knife similar to this:

I am using the Yunnan Sourcing “fill about a quarter of the gaiwan with tea” method rather than weighing the tea.

This makes me think I used a bit too much tea with the tuo cha because the first steep of this one, 10 seconds after 2 rinses, is the color of cognac. Not leaning toward espresso. In the sample packet, the tea has a fishy smell, but there’s not much of that after steeping.

Instead, there’s a lot of soil to the smell and a caramel/cocoa note that is not strong.

Second, 10 sec. This time the liquor is darker. Brandy headed toward dark amber beer color. There is no fishiness, just a mild, pleasant earthiness. I am getting mushroom here as well, though it is more subtle than in the Rishi I had earlier today. I’m getting excited about the possibilities of the various pu erhs I have. I am also thinking about my yixing pots. I need to remind myself which I seasoned for this type of tea. Very mild, very mellow, a softness in the sip that leaves a sort of freshness in the mouth. A slight sweetness at the end of the sip, as well.

3rd, 20 sec. OK, now I feel the need to bone up on my understanding of pu erh and how to tell better quality ones. I don’t know for sure, but I feel as though this is better quality than the Rishi I had earlier just because the flavor seems more refined. Smoother. This steep is darker still, sort of a mahogany color. I detect a sort of coffee note here, along with the mushroom. More sweetness is emerging.

4th, 30 sec. The caramel/coffee notes are at the top of the aroma. The color is redder, and a little lighter. The tea has lost some of its earthier aspects. The soil note isn’t present here.

5th, 40 sec. I’m getting a mocha note this time that is quite pleasant.

6th, 1 min. I’m not really getting much of a change from steep 5. The tea seems to have settled into itself. Since I’ve gone this far, I might as well go to 10, but I’m going to spend more time thinking and less time writing unless something amazing comes out of one of the next steeps: 2 min, 4 min, 6 min, 8 min.

I made it all the way to the end! I think forcing myself to do this will be good for me. I spend to much time running to the next thing, and not enough time just being.

I can’t say I noticed a ton of different in the last few steeps. But the tea remained enjoyable and flavorful to the end.

Flavors: Caramel, Cocoa, Coffee, Earth, Fishy, Mocha, Mushrooms


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Sipdown no. 44 of 2017 (no. 325 total). A sample.

I just had the first bit of this yesterday, and my perspective on it hasn’t changed — so I don’t have anything to add to my first note. Just recording the sipdown.

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A sample I’ve been eyeing for a while. My fail yesterday made me want to try another white. I’m a bit of a masochist that way.

This makes a pale yellow clear tea that smells sweet, like nectar. It also has a definite flavor, though I’m at a loss to describe it because it is, to me, anyway, extremely subtle. It tastes a lot like it smells. “Delicate and sweet” is about right — I’m not getting the complexity others who tasted this have, but then again my sample is quite old.

It’s pleasant enough, though I think white teas may just not be my thing — which is somewhat unfortunate as I have an awful lot of them in my stash.

I give it points for having a definite flavor. If I was going to drink white tea, I wouldn’t mind drinking this one.

180 °F / 82 °C 5 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 17 OZ / 500 ML

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When you want to drink tea like Uncle Iroh, this is what you drink. Lovely grass notes, yet deep and toasty

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This morning I finished off the last of my stash of this tea. I’m not a huge fan of puerh; I’m one of those who isn’t keen on the “dirt” taste. Believe me, I’ve tried several types of pu-erh as some part of me used to think I was missing something. At any rate, this is one of the few puerh teas that I find (found) drinkable. It is lighter and sweeter than other puerh, and not as earthy.

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This is not exactly a tea. More like hay. But drinkable.

Flavors: Hay

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Sipdown no. 50 of 2016 (no. 261 total). A sample.

I’ve had this one for a while, obviously, but it was vacuum sealed in its little sample packet and unopened. So when I opened it, a lovely, green floral scent wafted from the packet.

It looks like your basic Ali Shan, green and rolled. This one had some visible stems.

After a rinse, I put this through five steeps in the gaiwan. I did my usual 15 seconds for the first and added five seconds each time, except for the last one where I sort of lost count and probably let it sit for more than a couple of minutes. I didn’t do my usual anal note-taking thing on each separate steep. It’s raining outside and I just wanted to sip and feel the warmth, and enjoy without thinking about it too much.

I haven’t had that many Ali Shans, but I like them. I think I prefer Ti Guanyins, but in general I just like the greener oolongs. This one had a delicate orchid-like aroma and flavor in the early steeps. The liquor started out barely yellow and progressed to a solid, light golden color. The last steep made me think of chestnuts. There’s an interesting note that is a little salty, which mixes things up a bit. But I had to think for a while about what that note was, so it isn’t at all so salty as to be distracting.

Very nice, and though I may regret later not having better notes, I quite enjoyed drinking this without the anal critic in me scribbling between steeps.

Flavors: Chestnut, Floral, Green, Orchids, Salt

195 °F / 90 °C

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195 °F / 90 °C 3 g 2 OZ / 50 ML

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Drank this earlier this week and realized that something about older black teas is not as appealing to older oolong. Most of the oolong that are not reroasted tend to lose that roasty head and stronger body, all while creating a refined caramel taste. Black teas as they age seem to just lose some strength and astringency.What I get ut of trying this, which was still alright, is that what I should probably look for is a 3 to 5 year old CTC, Ceylon, or Assam tea to see if they lose the astringency and bitterness.
This tea brew up rather easy and I thought it was an oolong because of the date on it, not very often does a black come to me over 2 years old. Brewed this one up 4 times before I quit it, nothing that important struck me with this though :/


I’ve been thinking about trying to store some red tea for a few years. My ideas have been more along the lines of autumn Darjeeling or dianhong.

Liquid Proust

Dianhong goes flat :( Darjeeling would be a good idea though. I’ve been curious about Assam because of the Drunk on Red cakes.

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Received a 7g sample of this; trying it just a few days after receiving. ~60mL porcelain gaiwan. It’s been ages since I spent time with oolong, so I don’t remember what I’m doing. (Ha: I should have looked at Norbu’s site, which gives brewing guidelines. Whoops.)

Steeps ~5sec, 8sec, 10sec, 15sec, …

First infusion tastes clear and sweet and a bit roasty in the back of the mouth, with some buttery vegetal oolong-ness. Gaiwan aromas strongly and sharply bitter-grassy-sweet. Second steep more of the same sweet roasty flavours with more creamy rounded body. I haven’t had a lot of oolong recently and this is very nice. The aftertaste is sweet and dry. Third steep, gaiwan aroma becomes notably warm-spicy. Tea a bit more strongly roasty, with a hint of spice and the sweetness at the end. Next few steeps continue in the same direction, with some hints of floral starting to come in.

I suspect the flavours stay similar until it’s steeped out. It’s very nice. May have to order some when I’ve tasted my way through my stash.

Flavors: Roasted Barley, Spices, Sweet, Sweet, Warm Grass

195 °F / 90 °C 3 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

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This 2009 cake has been non-ideally stored — wrapped in paper in the back of a cabinet for the last 4.5 years. Oops.

Used a porcelain gaiwan, 2 ~30sec rinses, let it sit a few minutes while doing chores (leaves opened up nicely). First steep ~10sec, I like the aftertaste better than the taste. Astringency pretty low, though I can’t taste much behind it. Second steep backed off the timing to around 5sec, similar taste, though there’s a bit of a sweet aroma, bit stronger astringency. Third and fourth steeps 10 and 15sec; bit of floral aftertaste. Inside of gaiwan lid smells a bit smoky, a bit medicinal, and a bit vanilla-y? That nice round warm smell that comes with shengs sometimes. Next few steeps seem to be fairly similar, so I gave up early. Not in the mood for this sort of flavour profile right now.

Not really doing much for me. I’ll have to try again; it’s possible my sniffer’s busted due to springtime pollen.

Flavors: Medicinal, Smoke, Vanilla

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

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Sipdown no. 197. A sample.

I am slowly but surely making headway in the oolong sample department, aided by the fact that many of these are single-serving size samples. (Say that 5 times fast.)

This has the tightly rolled medium to lighter green look I expect from this type of tea, but what’s interesting is the aroma of the dry leaves. A really gorgeous floral note in there. Again, it makes me want to say lilac, though I am not great at identifying individual floral notes except for rose, gardenia, and jasmine. I rinsed it and steeped in the gaiwan at 195 beginning at 15 seconds and adding 5 seconds each time.

1. Light, greenish yellow, clear color. Milky, light floral aroma. Mild, light, green taste with a hint of butter and a floral aftertaste.

2. Yellower in color. More milky than floral, and there is a vegetal note. Folks have found asparagus and cabbage notes in this. For me it’s more cabbage than asparagus. Come to think of it, cabbage can have a note that straddles vegetable and dairy. There’s a slight green piquancy to it, as with cabbage so I think that’s what I’m tasting here. But I love cabbage, so to me that’s a good thing.

3. Color is more golden and less green this steep. The aroma has turned quite buttery. The dairy/vegetable straddle note is there and more intense this time, with flowers in the finish.

4. A straight up yellow color. Definitely cabbage in the aroma, more on the green side than the dairy side with that sort of nutty flavor quality that cabbage can have. It’s pretty complex, though. The flavors seem to change from sip to sip, sometimes they’re more heavily floral than others.

5. Brighter straight yellow, smell like buttery cabbage.

The leaves expanded nicely between steeps 1 and 2, and had pretty much completely unfurled by steep four. They steeped leaves are olive green in color and have a bitter green smell, a bit like collard greens.

This is an interesting one. It’s not as sweet and creamy as some I’ve had, more vegetal with that interesting cabbage note. I enjoyed it and its differences. I don’t like it better than some of the tie guan yins I’ve had, but it’s very good and I’d drink it again.

I would love to do oolongs all afternoon, but my taster needs a break as does my bladder. I think I might read for a while.

Flavors: Butter, Flowers, Milk, Vegetables

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The Nantou Spring Tips Green tea is amazingly wonderful. not bitter yet full of flavor. It has that milky taste that sits

Flavors: Bamboo

2 min, 30 sec

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additional notes:  Sipdown!  A good one.   I always think this is like a malty chocolate black tea but the resulting cup is even better.  It’s like the best sort of longlasting Darjeeling profile.  Heavy tang, grape, plum.  More complex than I can describe, even NINE years later.  Wow.  I wouldn’t mind having more in the cupboard.  I will miss this.   The company is still around!  But it looks like they are only wholesaling now.  Deserves way better than an 83 rating. Raising it.
2021 sipdowns: 37


Mmm! I need to give Darjeelings more attention at my house.

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Thanks for this one, Nicole! I didn’t realize this one was a Darjeeling despite trying this with one teaspoon a while ago. I should have known, because the leaves actually reminded me of a tiny leafed Darjeeling mixed with another black tea. I used two heaping teaspoons this time around. I’m glad only waiting eleven minutes after boiling didn’t ruin this one. (I usually wait 15- 20 minutes after boiling with Darjeeling.) The maple syrup colored brew definitely has a fruity something scent even before taking a sip. To me, the flavor is like a little bit of Darjeeling mixed with a light assam. It is like malty raisins, definitely something juicy to the texture. I think two flat teaspoons would have worked better for this one, as well as waiting a couple more minutes to brew. The second steep was much lighter, since I waited longer to brew it. I liked the first cup better. I have a little bit more in my sample to try to perfect this one!
Steep #1 // 2 heaping tsps // 11 minutes after boiling // 3 minute steep
Steep #2 // 18 min a.b. // 3 min

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To be honest, I was kind of upset that I pulled this tea out to drink (I have a box of 100+ samples to try so I grab whatever I get first).
Thankfully, this is actually pretty good. Not only is the tea a smooth ride down from my mouth through my throat and to whatever it ends up, it actually taste quite nice. Nice and mellow with a splendid aroma that is faint but pleasant.
I cut this one short at 10 steeps

Dr Jim

OOps. This is one I was going to send you as a sample. If you like the style, there are similar ones I could send?

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I normally drink a lot of Taiwan teas, and it was fun to give this Nepalese tea a try.

Really solid tea, unique character of Nepal for sure. Give it a try.

185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 30 sec 6 g 5 OZ / 160 ML

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Really? I filled up my gaiwan for this…I can smell what I call “mall puerh” a mile away, that incense-y store flavor you can find in a million cakes on EBay and Taobao. This is just sad, leathery old poor quality “tea” to which a few young “white buds” have been added in as a sprinkling. Some of the tea is just black leaf along with brown, leathery leaves. You can talk to me all day long about brewing it “cooler,” but nothing will improve this leaf. I can’t believe a company online which is trying to be nice actually would put their name on this cake, but whatever. I’m a person who wants to like a tea, but I’d rather drink dandelion greens from my yard than this.

From the Sheng Traveling Tea Box.

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 10 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

hmm. wow. I haven’t had a bad tea from Norbu myself but have never tried this one.


This is a good example of that “tastes vary” comment I made the other day. As you know, could be many different variables involved here but many people have enjoyed this particular tea (although I know nothing about the condition of your particular sample). Also, agree with TeaBrat and say that Norbu is a fine tea seller.


Not a tastes vary situation. This is about quality of base material and this one is intentionally deceptive in its creation. There are fresh young buds on top of old, poor quality tea. If the whole sample is evenly bad I could question the sample. Norbu seems to mainly source from India, the deception here is in China. This tea is either not what Norbu sampled for purchase, a bait and switch, or just unscrupulous wholesale source.

Dr Jim

Wow. I’ve got to jump in on the side of “tastes vary,” since I’m the one who put it in the box. This is one of my favorite teas, though it doesn’t really taste like a pu-erh: more like a white tea with character.


Cwyn – I must respectfully disagree for my experiences with this tea (I own a cake and I have enjoyed it at least six times) are totally different from that which you describe. After reading your comment, I pulled out my cake to look at it again. My cake is full of buds throughout. While I do not have your particular sample, I can say that I have shared this tea with a few people and reading over the other Steepster notes posted, your experience is definitely an outlier. Since you pulled it from a teabox, is it possible that somewhere along the way moving from person to person it might have been switched or mislabeled? As I am sure you already know, this is a rather light delicate tea and I have found that it performs better at a temperature below 205 degrees.

Dr Jim

The temperature is a good point. I found it OK at 200 degrees, but fell in love at 185. I also looked at my beeng, and it is salt-and-pepper. I then looked at a Mandala silver bud and saw the same thing. They both seem to be about 50% bud. I think it’s just the style.

Dr Jim

BTW: I checked my notes on the S&S TTB and I don’t think this was a tea that I added (though I own a beeng and considered adding some). Stacy from Butiki provided some tea to help start the box, including a sample of “Norbu cake”. It is possible that this tea isn’t white buds at all, but a different Norbu cake?


Really I have no idea, DigniTea, this was a sample with loose tea and a small chunk, and not a cake with the wrapper. I did not get 50% bud at all though. Maybe 3 white buds and a gaiwan full of leathery brown leaves.

The idea of the TTB was to choose some teas from the box and write reviews. This was my observation of the leaf and I don’t think the temp will change the leathery brown leaves. I can respect people may not agree on teas, but I’m not going to change my opinion.


Dr. Jim, increasing the temp and pushing the tea is a way to test if the tea breaks down under the pressure. Good base material will not. This is a normal way of testing puerh tea, the sample is mostly puerh tea.

Dr Jim

Sorry to re-open this, but I found a few grams of the Norbu that was added to the tea box (I removed a few samples before sending the box out). This is definitely NOT the 2011 Spring Norbu White Buds, as it has virtually no buds, while my beeng is full of them (though the bud to leaf ratio appears to be about 1:1). I can’t address Cwyn’s comment on the quality; she’s much more experienced in drinking pu-erh than I am, but at least we can say that Norbu is not mis-representing the tea.

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