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Recent Tasting Notes
For a GeDeng rather light and with a woodiness that makes me think more of Bangwei. Even if the tea is not too heavy, the woodiness is accompanied by subtle vanilla and apricot notes, which make it quite interesting.
Images and more at https://puerh.blog/teanotes/2015-ge-deng-tu
Flavors: Apricot, Orchid, Sweet, Vanilla, Wood
Dry leaves smell mostly of greens, some brown sugar sweetness, and floral notes. After a rinse, I got a lot of green veggie notes, reminding me most of asparagus, and sticky tree sap. The first couple steeps were rather light, with some citrusy notes along with crisp green vegetal notes of spinach or snap peas, along with a buttery thickness. As the session went, the greens got a little bit more bitter/astringent, but that was not a prominent feature of this tea. The huigan was mildly sweet, but was more refreshingly crisp to me – kind of like a dry wine. An interesting and complex tea, and one that I’m fairly certain I didn’t fully get a feel for from just the sample.
I don’t even know where to start with this one, my first from Tea Urchin. Had this Lao Man E sheng puerh during a lengthy homework session and ended up stopping homework to revel in the beauty of this beast.
This sample came in beautiful thin sheets off the cake. The dry leaf is gorgeous and velvety, shades of beige, grey, brown, auburn, black. Very little broken material. Smells soft, woody and nutty. Warming the leaf brings forward aromas of powdered sugar, tangy fruit, buttery mango. The rinsed leaf aroma is woody, fruity, creamy like frosting, mango butter, apricot preserves. Drank rinse. Color of apple juice, oily, slides around mouth. Sweet like marshmallow? powdered sugar? Very clean.
Softly yet deeply sweet and bitter. Like a swirl, not layers. Hints of milk, slight tartness on sides of tongue and salivary glands. Instant chills like White2Tea’s 2015 Pin but not as electrifying or intense. The hair-raising effect is much softer and rounder, more feminine I guess. Had to put on music, started with “Ooh Child” by the Five Stairsteps https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrotsEzgEpg No idea where I went from there but I picked up the dog and sang and danced with her for a long while. Lots of laughing and smiling.
Third steep has some toffee in the mix. Fourth steep WHOA. Fifth, here comes the returning sweetness and deep calm. Liquor is dark red orange now. Sixth steep, watermelon like Tea Urchin mentions. Fruity candy tones. Oversteeped the seventh but still bittersweet, now with sour grapefruit tones. Eighth is vegetal, tart, some astringency that creates rough texture on tongue. Ninth milky and grapefruit sweet-tart but full-bodied that carries through for several more steeps. Ends still oily and thick with a buttery, nutty sweetness.
Spent leaf is amber-green, lots of whole, robust bud and leaf sets with fuzzy undersides. Looks just as good as the dry leaf though I do notice a little char on a few of the leaves.
Ok, I realize my notes are all over the place; sorry if there is confusion but this tea was dynamic and the energy was just incredible. I’ll have to come back to this Lao Man E with a bigger picture review of this tea. I’ll definitely be purchasing a cake of this to age.
Initial rating: 94+
2014 must’ve been an exceptional year for sheng (especially for those who love floral top notes) bc some of the best teas I’ve sampled are from this year. The Mu shu cha from YS and the Gedeng from Pu’er-sk being the biggest standouts. Being a fan of WanGong village teas I had to try this. Glad I did. If you are familiar with Scottish heather honey, subtract the sugar and leave the floral aromatics and you get this tea. Nice huigan, a bit of cooling. Warming smiley qi that makes this snowy Pennsylvania day feel like early spring. I’ve sampled several manzhuan teas this year and to my palate, this tea tastes very similar only much better.
A random sample in my last TU order! This Bao Tang reminds me pretty strongly of Yiwu in character, with a relatively soft and sweet flavor. There’s scarcely any youthful astringency to this tea. The sweetness is mostly vegetal and floral, not really leaning towards the cakey/vanilla sweetness that can be present in some Yiwu. The texture is where this tea really shone for me. It’s oily and thick both in the mouth and down the throat. True to TU’s description, there is a bit of a cooling sensation in the finish of this tea.
Definitely “rich, smooth and mellow”. Super duper clean. Very balanced. No fishy, musty or camphor which are all things I avoid in a ripe. Unlike another reviewer I did not find this tea to be too strong and also didn’t notice any coffee flavors. This tea has all the flavors I like in a ripe like dark fruits, chocolate, warmer woods, sweetness etc but none of these flavors stands out particularly stronger than others and the tea doesn’t demand too much attention in order to enjoy. These qualities, along with the $.15/gram price and the obvious high quality and cleanliness, make this tea a perfect daily drinker for my particular taste buds.
Drinking 6.5g of this right now in my trusty 100ml porcelain xishi. Quick rinse. First steep tea is still opening up. Second ok. At the third steep this tea starts to give up some well rounded mellow mids and some really nice thick mouthfeel somewhere between soupy and oily. Nice mellow calming energy too. Fourth steep some balanced astringency and an almost barely just perceptible bitterness, mouthfeel really nice, feelin pretty glowy and liquidy. Fifth pretty similar except maybe a tad bit more astringency which is still balanced. Empty tummy is feelin good right now too. Sixth, bitterness developing slightly and also there is a tantalizing hint of sweetness got my attention. Seven, definitely getting some sweetness now but probably could have pushed this steep a bit more as the mouthfeel is a bit lighter.
Up to this point I would say that the session has been very comfortable and warm. Nice gentle progression. Empty tummy still feeling great and and also feeling warm and glowy but now with a bit more energy and lighter feeling in head. Went through 500ml water so far and now leaves are going in 500ml thermos with 100C water for at least half an hour. I’ll check back in here later.
So over an hr in thermos this tea is pouring pretty dark. Could have pushed tea more during first half of session. Enjoying it a lot though as I really like strong tea and greatly enjoy bitterness. I’m finding that the sweetness, bitterness and minerality are doing an amazing dance together as the tea moves past my palate and through my throat. They are all three very present and taking turns singing their spiralling song on my tast buds but none shouting over the others. Light astringency and very present dynamic huigan.
Ok Tea Urchin you have my attention. I’ve been enjoying your samples and look forward to trying more of your teas.
Reviewing in 2018, courtesy of phi!
Dry leaf is like sugar, spice, and fresh fruits. On rinse there’s…a vegetal note but its like a low note?
Steep 1: the lid is like powdered sugar donuts. The tea itself is bitter which gives way to an awesome sweet fruit taste and is THICK :)
By steep 2: the lightness and bitterness stepped aside for some musty type flavors but not aged flavors…just more low notes.
Steep 3-5 were…uneventful. The tea died…
And On steep 6 it actually did come back to life as phi’s review reads (had not read it before I tasted the tea). It is now sweet, strong, thick, complex with a great huigan. Unfortunately it is also very astringent. Not a tea I’d personally order but those of you who can actually handle astringency should probably get on this.
Flavors: Bitter, Fruity, Musty, Powdered sugar, Spices
This is really an excellent Yiwu blend. Definitely delivers the quality I’ve come to expect from Tea Urchin. Thick and pretty leaves with an enticingly sweet aroma before water even touched them.
Like most good Yiwu I have had, the flavors of this were sweet and reminiscent of pastry/dessert. Cakey is how I would describe a lot of the really nice Yiwu teas I’ve tried, including this one. Creamy, vanilla, sometimes creme brulee or custard sort of notes. Also a lot of floral notes to it as well – later steeps become more intensely floral, bordering on soapy without getting unpleasant at all. There is a slight bitterness to the tea reminding you that you are in fact sipping a young sheng. The texture is very thick and leaves you wanting more after each sip. Qi is relaxing.
An excellent few sessions from this sample has me wanting a full cake. I think it would be good for many years, judging by other Yiwu cakes I have. I think Tea Urchin may be the source of my next Doomcart!!
Flavors: Cake, Custard, Floral, Sweet, Vanilla
The leaves were surprisingly easy to break apart. I’m VERY BAD at breaking cakes apart but had no difficulty with this. Leaves definitely looked aged.
I did a rinse of about 5 seconds, then did a 5 second first steep. It was a little rough around the edges but was unexpectedly sweet! I read other reviews on this tea and was expecting something more bitter. For some reason I associate cha qui with not yummy tea lol
Second steep is a pleasant surprise of honeyed camphor and slight smokiness. I don’t usually enjoy smokey tea, but this was well balanced.
The next steeps are a bit more savory. I tasted some plum notes as well.
Flavors: Camphor, Honey, Plums, Smoke, Sweet
Very well balanced mixture of spicy, discreet floral, bitter and astringent notes with pleasant stable character and great body. Reminds a bit of the 2012 EoT Baotang, albeit finer, more subtle and with less intensive Qi.
Images and more at https://puerh.blog/teanotes/2012-luo-shui-dong-tu
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Floral, Heavy, Smooth, Spicy, Sweet
My 50th review! What better way to commemorate this occasion than by drinking some Lao Ban Zhang? My sample consisted of one large intact chunk off of the cake along with a much smaller piece about the size of a large coin and then plenty of loose leaves at the bottom to round off the weight. I ended up using the smaller piece and nearly all of the loose bits to arrive at nine grams for my 130ml gaiwan, not wanting to bother with breaking apart the large chunk. The leaves have a very interesting blueish gray tinge to them when dry. The wet leaves at the end of the session were chiefly intact and the leaves themselves very rugged. The leaf quality is good.
I did my customary five second rinse, sipping the wash while I gave the leaves five minutes to soak up the moisture. Because of the small amount of water and the mostly loose form of the leaves, the rinse was really strong with plenty of body, but I don’t really have anything to say about the taste at this stage. I proceeded to do ten steeps, the timing for these being 5s, 6s, 7s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s and 2 min.
The tea started off soft and really oily with a big body. In terms of taste it was light and sweet. While there was slightly more color to the second steep, the tea continued brewing up somewhat cloudy. There wasn’t all that much flavor yet, although a green, astringent edge was starting to introduce itself into the tea.
The texture became quite smooth in the third steep. The flavors continued being very light. There was now clear astringency to the tea which was also accompanied by some bitterness. The fourth steeping actually presented the tea at its cloudiest, although the soup did mostly clear up for the subsequent infusions. By this point the tea had lost most of its body while there was still some oiliness left. It exhibited a clean watery taste with some astringency. A mild, brief huigan could also be observed.
There was finally some more bitterness and astringency in the fifth steep, which transformed into very minor sweetness. The infusion that followed had a soft, smooth, creamy body. The taste was mainly bitter now. This was probably my favorite steep.
The next infusion was a half split between sweet and bitter. I also got an interesting roasted note in this one, along with some cardboard dryness. Steep eight is when LBZ officially entered easy-to-drink mode. The tea was soft and sweet with a satisfying mouthfeel. Interestingly while I did not taste any bitterness upon drinking and swallowing, there was a pleasant bitterness to the aftertaste that I enjoyed. Overall this eighth brew was probably my second favorite. Really nice and something virtually anyone could drink.
The bitterness rejoined the sweetness in the ninth steep in a very pleasing mixture. This along with the prior infusion showcased the tea at its best. The sweetness lingered in a very satisfying way and this was only enhanced by the subtlest of bitterness. Steep ten closed the session. At this point I could clearly notice the tea starting to lose steam and the bitterness had turned from desirable to undesirable, which seemed like a good sign to end the session there.
So how did the King fare? While often pretty good, no Lao Ban Zhang I’ve tried in the past has really been able to hold up to the ridiculous hype and the inflated prices. This tea was no exception. For me the tea didn’t have nearly enough bitterness nor was the sweetness pronounced enough to make up for that. While fairly unremarkable in the early steeps, interestingly the tea was at its best in the late steeps, which I don’t really recall happening with other teas. I expected this tea to brew a lot stronger than it did, especially given the loose form it was in, but instead the strength was very average. Also, whereas the Hai Lang Hao LBZ ripe hit me with a ton of qi, this one did not.
None of this is to say that this is a bad tea. It is still very young, so it may need some more time to start to shine. It could be that these teas are typically preferred to be aged, but I don’t really know what the general consensus is. There are some quality markers that I was able to discern, but overall I’d say that at least for how the tea is right now the price is probably around four times too high. Hardly any tea could live up to the price tag and let’s just say I’ve yet to taste a tea that could.
I have enough tea to revisit this tea again six months from now and again six months after that. I’m curious to see if I’ll notice any development over that span of time. For my tastes it would seem that if I want bitter tea, the neighboring Lao Man’e would serve me better.
Finally on an unrelated note to this tea, I compiled some statistics about the reviews I’ve posted and thought I’d share a couple of quick observations. First off, the split between raw and ripe pu’er is about 2:1, which is where I want it to be. About one third of my reviews are positive recommendations and the distribution is fairly similar for raw and ripe. Again, this is about where I would like it to be. While I didn’t need to look at the statistics to become aware of this, my hit rate with the Yunnan Sourcing brand raw pu’ers is quite good so far, across all price points. Conversely, I’ve yet to encounter a Yunnan Sourcing ripe pu’er pressing that I was particularly impressed with. While the sample size is still too small to say anything definitive, the Crimson Lotus Tea ripe offerings seem to align well with my tastes. Lastly, Hai Lang Hao’s high-end offerings seem generally very good, raw or ripe.
To another fifty reviews!
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Roasted, Sweet
Warm and soft with an intense woody note, beautiful sweetness and subtle bitterness and a slight sourness, which even gives the tea a slight aggressiveness with increasing infusions. Lots of endurance and very beautiful, large leafes – a perfect example of good Bangwei!
Images and more at https://puerh.blog/teanotes/2007-bang-wei-tu
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Sour, Sweet, Wood
Sample from my Secret Santea this year – and very thankful for it :)
I’ve come to expect a certain “cleanliness” from Tea Urchin sheng – I haven’t had a whole ton of their teas, but just about all of them have had that clean feeling going for them. I don’t know if that’s really the right word, but that’s how my brain/taster/body process it. It manifests itself in both taste and body feeling. No off flavors strange sourness that can be common in puerh and no crummy feelings or roughness in the gut. It’s sort of become what I associate TU’s teas with – not that all others seem grubby in comparison, just that these are particularly…pristine?
This one is no different – it has a pretty heavy bitterness which I fully expected going into a Lao Man E tea. That kind of clean bitterness though – not really astringent and didn’t make my mouth feel funny or anything. That bitterness is followed by a nice sweetness, though the bitterness is what leaves the lasting impression in my mouth. Great thickness to the liquid of this tea. I didn’t really pick up on a lot of qi in this session.
Definitely one I would like to order at some point. I really ought to try to pick up more TU this year. Or maybe I should focus on drinking some of the tea I already have. What a crazy idea.
Sipdown/Group Buy Sample
This one found itself at the bottom of my stash somehow, so I figured I’d finish the last bit of the sample this morning.
Honestly, the one thing I enjoyed about this tea the most (for a younger leaf) is the fact that it wasn’t heavy in astringency/bitterness. Rather, it was pretty light, considering the age of the material. There were slight floral/straw/fruity notes throughout the session, but they didn’t stand out that much—I started to increase the time/temp to pick out some of the notes. Overall, it was an alright tea, but I prefer something with a bit more age and/or complexity.
Such a wonderful production. The first time I had it it was over-brewed. When I got a crack at it, it proved to be a most luxurious experience. This is a righteous puer with a personality and depth, decidedly and complexly feminine. Depth. The balance between fragrance and Bulangness might be attributable to when it was picked. I don’t know the details. It’s not bitter, which accounts for reviews that say it is a lighter Bulang, but this is not a light treasure. The fragrance from the gaiwan (gaiwan only this please) is magnificent. The thick, cosmic communications when you hold the broth in your mouth, no words. Then you sense the grounding, not bitter, of Bulang. They, Bulangs, aren’t necessarily bitter, actually, but unwaveringly grounded.
Flash infusions for the first 5 rounds for certain, then, on the next day, for it will certainly give you the business those five, start increasing time from 15s. Very highly recommended.
I believe I pulled this sample out of the Pu TTB last time I had it. The leaves didn’t have a particularly strong aroma either wet or dry – sweet, slightly floral. Green still for sure.
This was an easy drinking one, and not particularly complex, but I found myself impressed with the obvious quality and cleanliness of the tea, as I have been with just about everything I’ve had from TU. The flavor was soft and sweet, mostly floral in character, with some less sweet herbal notes coming in towards the middle of the session. The texture was nicely thick as well. Basically just a good and easy sheng to drink.
Flavors: Floral, Sweet, Thick
I received this tea, generously, from a passionate and inspiring Liquid Proust as an offering to broaden my raw puer vocabulary. I rinsed the tea quickly with boiling water and went to town on an immediately golden yellow tea.On first taste, there’s no astringency or bitterness that I can tell, just a juicy, cheek-clenching sweet and woody flavor. The mellow wood note is at the forefront and the sweetness lingers as a deep plum or stone fruit in the back of the throat.
The later steepings remain tame and tasty, floral and apricot notes definitely stand out now, but I taste no pepper or spice as other tasters have. I count this as a good thing. Having accidentally oversteeped one pot, this tea friend was very forgiving with little added harshness. Savory plum replaces the woodsy flavor, and jasmine with apricot wraps up the end.
This tea was delicious— it reminds me of a crisp fall evening which is quite the accomplishment as we don’t see too much autumn in Florida. I’m thankful to have tried the one; it sets my bar for middle (young?)-aged teas pretty high.
Flavors: Apricot, Floral, Jasmine, Plums, Stonefruits, Wood
If ever there was a poster child for name recognition driving sales, this tea must be it.
I haven’t the slightest whether this bears any resemblance to a Menghai 8582, and after trying it, I’m certainly not inclined to she’ll out the cash I’d need to in order to find out. Lest you get the wrong impression from this intro, however, I’ll skip to the point – there’s nothing wrong with this tea, but I’ve had similar experiences muxh cheaper from more unknown old cakes that were much cheaper. Tastes like dirt? Check. Easy drinking? Check. Costs 200? That’s a negative, good buddy.
As usual, this could be end user error, improper humidity in the room I drank, the cheap gaiwan I was using, an improper spring water, or probably a half dozen other things – but a similar conclusion was reached by the person I sent a bit of the sample to, so I’m forced to conclude that the reason this price is so (relatively) affordable for what is, is regrettably due to what it is.
I rated this tea highly in the past but was a bit disappointed this time. It’s possible that poor storage is to blame, I have had the foil pack in my closet for a couple of years, and am trying to sip down those older samples.
1st steep (10s): Nice big leaves. Smooth, but very light in flavor. Nice texture in the mouth, and some complexity. 2nd (10s): Better but still understated. No flaws, but still disappointing, However, as I drink the finish is becoming more interesting: very long and powerful with nice spicy flavors. 3rd(10s): Much stronger flavor, with an astringent woodiness. Great finish and I’m feeling the cha qi. Still not much nose. Late steeps were less interesting.
Overall, the tea was very smooth and approachable, but not very powerful. I suspect it might be a good candidate for the “mom test”. I’d been considering buying a cake but decided to pass. My rating of 89 is an average of several sessions, ranging from 91 to 87.
I’m shocked and a bit embarrassed that I haven’t reviewed this tea yet. I’ve certainly had enough of it. I drank it in parallel with the TU 4 Peaks Man Lo E, as i’m planning an order and trying to decide which tea to buy. This one was the winner, though I liked them both.
1st steep (10s): Light nose. Isn’t nearly as strong as the Lo Man E, but the flavor is more fruity. Astringent without being bitter. Very unique flavor is floral and fruity. 2nd (10s): Much more tobacco than fruit. Very astringent without being bitter. 3rd (20s): Mature nose of tobacco with hints of fruit and spice. Taste is a mix of stone fruit, tobacco and some bitterness, especially in the finish. By the 5th steep, the fruit is really obvious. The tea is still very potent (though I’m now up to 40 s steep, which is my usual). The bitterness has given over to sweetness, though the astringency has remained.
Smooth and balanced spicyness with a fresh-bitter aftertaste. Light Qi.
Images and more at https://puerh.blog/teanotes/2013-bao-tang-tu
Flavors: Bitter, Smooth, Spicy, Sweet