Norbu Tea

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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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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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I have an interest in bamboo puerh teas because the method of production is so intriguing – fill sections of bamboo with tea leaves and then steam, roast, dry and age in the bamboo. The bamboo is reported to provide a unique sweetness to the leaves. I am able to appreciate the process by looking at this photo of a farmer making bamboo puerh:
The scent of this YiWu dry leaf is sweet with an interesting spicy note. The tea soup is deep dark gold in color. The wet leaves are whole and nearly 2 inches in length. The tongue and mouth feel alive and tingly after the first few sips. The initial taste sensations are earthy and spicy. The honey-like sweetness works well with a light woodiness. A bit of astringency is found in later infusions but not at all off-putting. Interestingly, I did not detect any remaining smokiness in the smell or taste. These leaves produce cup after cup of highly flavored sweet mellow tea. Multi-layered – sweet and woody with a light spiciness. This is a very approachable raw puerh.

195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 4 OZ / 110 ML

Neat picture! Intriguing tea.


Steph – yes, helps you appreciate the tea even more. Don’t you think?


For sure!


This tea sounds unique.

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Most of my white tea experiences have been with white teas from my local Asian grocer. This tea is bright and flavorful in ways I haven’t had before. I’m truly pleased!

3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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I need to take better note of things when i drink them but lately i’ve just been too lazy. Finished this one off today. An enjoyable puerh from when i knew almost nothing about puerh :) I don’t think i’d get it again but it was enjoyable and helped with staying hydrated today!


I’ve been tasting note lazy lately too


i think the summer has everyone being lazy..or possibly just more active OUTSIDE (i hope)

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