The Phoenix Collection

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Recent Tasting Notes

90

8g of huge dry brittle medium brown leaves, the kind when you’re walking along a path, and they crunch underneath your feet. They barely fit in my teapot. The dry leaves smelled of dust, soil, dirt. The liquor was super dark, like espresso. The rinse smelled of wet earth, mud, and dirt. After the first infusion, the aroma changed. The liquor had a strong earthy, wet and rich soil aroma, and now a very faint aroma of dirt. The taste and feel were really not what I expected from the aroma either. First of all, mouth and throat feel. What comfort. It was so smooth, almost slick on my tongue, no astringency at all… And yet, the finish gave me a very slight powdery feeling or graininess on the tip of my tongue.

The way I’m going to describe the taste may not sound so appealing. It was like digging up a huge tree, and taking a bite of the roots. I know, I know, sounds strange but it is uniquely good. I looked forward to more infusions. In the second and third infusion, I got some spice, cinnamon-like, some minerals, some wet rocks. As I went through infusion after infusion, it was indeed relaxing, calming, each time looking forward to filling my teapot up. The finish was a subtle sweetness, with a little spice in the exhale, root-earthy-rock mixture. Hard to describe but it was an experience and I swear, if I were creative, this tea could help me write about nature.

Thank you so much, Derk for this experience :D

Yixing teapot, 8g, 130ml, 205°F, who know how many steeps, 5s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 25s, 35s, 45s, 55s, 65s, 75s, 85s… Etc.

Flavors: Cinnamon, Dirt, Earth, Mud, petrichor, Smooth, Spices, Sweet, Wet Earth, Wet Rocks

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 8 tsp 4 OZ / 130 ML
mrmopar

I am meeting Derk today in Cali. Todd will be joining us too.

Kawaii433

Ahhh that’s wonderful!. I just know you’ll all have a great time <3. Enjoy your tea and company.

mrmopar

I know. Can’t wait! I brought goodies..

Kawaii433

I hope you had fun :D. What tea did you all drink together?

derk

At an Ethiopian restaurant, we commandeered a few tables by an accessible power outlet. With a couple platters of food set out, Todd, mrmopar and I drank puerh while mrmopar’s equal half had an Ethiopian coffee. We had a very powerful and bitter Jing Dong, a 2013 NaKa, a 2003 Menghai 7542 and something else? I think I overdosed on great tea and even better company!

Kawaii433

Oooh that sounds wonderful and so fun, Derk <3

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61

I bought this from Rainbow Grocery co-op in San Francisco, and like The Phoenix Collection Yunnan black tea I bought there, this Everyday Green Tea does not having a matching name in the Tealist: http://thephoenixcollection.com/order/tealist.pdf

This is a long and thin, green-grey rolled leaf almost needle-like in appearance except for a few clumps of leaf that got rolled into a ball shape. The dry leaf is pretty aromatic with green bean, apricot, straw and chestnut notes and a light layer of smoke. I steeped 3g western style in 8oz of 175F water for two infusions. The brewed tea is that yellow-gold-brown that reminds me of cheap green tea bags and carries the same aromas as the dry leaf. In the mouth, the tea is rich and hearty with some astringency and with the same flavors as the aroma plus a hint of roasted corn. There is substantial bitterness to the brew that, if one is not careful with steeping times, can really overtake the sip. Somewhat surprisingly this tea has quite a strong aftertaste of apricot butter.

This definitely seems like an everyday, affordable green tea, but I must warn you, it’s not a delicate first-pluck-of-the-spring flavor. It’s a tea that seems appropriate for an autumn morning as the sun’s rays relieve the stiffness of last night’s frost or perhaps as a late afternoon tea in the summer.

Flavors: Apricot, Astringent, Bitter, Chestnut, Corn Husk, Green Beans, Smoke, Straw

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 1 min, 30 sec 3 g 8 OZ / 236 ML

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83

I bought this from the co-op. Yunnan Black Tea is how it was labelled but I don’t know which tea it is according to the Phoenix Collection Tealist, if it’s even any of those listed: http://thephoenixcollection.com/order/tealist.pdf

Solid, hefty daily drinker composed of all dark brown cut leaf. Plenty of cocoa, malt, dark wood, autumn leaf and a considerable mineral presence, even bordering metallic at times. Good for 3 steeps western. I’ve been using roughly 2 heaping tsp for 2.5/5/? minutes.

Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Cocoa, Dark Wood, Heavy, Malt, Metallic, Mineral

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 2 min, 30 sec 2 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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99

Here’s a loose, small-leaf shou puerh I picked up from the co-op, number two of the three Phoenix Collection puerh that are currently available there.

I started this session last night and opted to set the cup down after finding myself a little too caffeinated. Finished up this evening. Tonight’s vinyl spin: Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson — Secrets. What an incredible album!

Dry leaf has a definite fermentation-fishy-storage smell but it’s also sweet and dark with caramel, chocolate and walnut. A 15s rinse strengthened the leaf aroma and also brought out old damp wood and faint earth notes.

Last night’s session was 6 infusions, starting at 10s and working my way up to 30s. Any fishiness disappeared but the fermentation persisted in the liquor aroma, along with dark chocolate and some light earthiness. The deep mahogany liquor had a tiny bite but was otherwise smooth yet bold with a very alkaline quality supplemented by some bitterness and walnut and mineral flavors. When cooled, the chocolate of the leaf and liquor aroma came forward in taste. The fifth steep had a light addition of camphor. I was reeling with an uncomfortable caffeine buzz by the sixth infusion, so I left the leaf in my gaiwan for the next day.

Tonight, the tea took a major turn, starting with the seventh steep of 40s. It became wonderfully herbal and spicy in aroma and taste with notes of camphor, cassia and wintergreen and a fruity midtone. I worked my way through an additional 8 infusions while grooving away to my music selection. The remaining infusions saw the bitterness disappear and were consistently clean, herbal and spicy with camphor. They also developed a nice mineral tartness. With the ninth infusion I began to notice a really nice oily texture that carried through until the end. I also picked up an incredible hit of some type of incense toward the end. The final and 15th infusion was somewhere around 10 minutes, at which point the liquor developed a very thin almost milky sweetness. The leaves are still in the gaiwan, so I might keep pushing.

I am frankly really surprised at the quality and performance of this tea. It has blown every shou I’ve had out of the water in regards to longevity. The heavy and bold alkalinity in the the first third of the session was a little off-putting but I am so damn pleased I persisted. In retrospect, this tea could probably handle several long rinses to bypass that and take you straight into clean, herbal, spicy camphor territory.

Addendum: I got another 5 infusions, so make that 20 total. Faded into a light, sweet woodiness.

Preparation
Boiling 7 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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100

A cave of time immemorial. The outline of the falcon above. A sinking of the body into cool mineral soil. Libraries of worn braille in stone. Thick, smooth creases in the mumbling, shifting faces. Blind? No, I can see.

Do you remember? How could you forget.
It’s in your blood, it’s in your bones.
In these wet leaves, I know my home.

I purchased this Large Leaf from Old Trees Pu-erh from the bulk tea section at Rainbow Grocery. I was surprised to see several puerh from the Phoenix Tea Collection as well as a few daily drinkers, green and black. I’m not sure what prompted me to purchase this puerh since the dry leaf looks like it’s had better days, like an ancient pile of dry autumn leaves, ragged and with several large stems. Curiosity again?

It smells like what I imagine the best of aged puerh smells like. There are notes of clean soil and a very particular savory and spicy medicinal smell that I’m close to placing but just can’t get there. A hint of date syrup lies underneath. Warming and rinsing really brings all those notes forward, no new additions. The wet leaf shimmers like velvet under the light.

The first steep of 10s is a clear dark orange-red, thick, oily, and so smooth with a really pleasant soil note backed up by a strong minerality and savory quality. Silky, astringency and bitterness nowhere to be found. It retains this strength in character for many steeps. Right before I substantially increase the steep times, a very persistent and strong returning date sweetness emanates from my throat. I lost track of the number of steeps because I was in such a relaxed state, but the tea just faded away nicely, not leaving me wishing there was more to the session. Perfect.

I am so grateful to have tried a puerh with so much age. It’s an incredible tea and I’m regretting not purchasing more than one session’s worth. Though that does make for a good excuse to go on a day long bike ride from my new residence up north to the Phoenix Tea Collection and Museum in Lagunitas where I can hopefully purchase more.

Recommended for experienced puerh drinkers. This might be overwhelming or too strong of a flavor for a lot of people.

More reviews of what I think is the same tea can be found here: https://steepster.com/teas/chicago-tea-garden/10957-large-leaf-from-old-trees-pu-erh
As you can see, it has mixed reception.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 8 g 3 OZ / 100 ML
Hris

I just love teas that evoke a narrative, engaging all the senses and capturing the imagination. It makes the experience so much more special.

derk

Well said, Hris.

Nattie

Your tasting notes always make me want to try teas I’m almost certain I wouldn’t appreciate enough.

derk

Nattie, who knows, maybe you would!

Nattie

Maybe! Historically I have rarely loved pu-erh, but my tastes have been changing lately…

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Went to the Phoenix Collection/Tea Museum this weekend with some friends and did tea tastings with the owner, David Hoffman. It was such a cool experience and I wrote more about it a in a tea room review. This was one of about a dozen teas I sampled and wrote quick notes about on my phone.

I found this tea to have a musty cave sort of flavor to it. It was slightly malty as well. One of the friends I went to the Tea Museum with chose to take this one home and we split all the teas, so I have some of this to play with at home as well!

mrmopar

A lucky person you are!

Mastress Alita

Where is this tea museum located?

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I’m enjoying this so much that I’m already running low! This tea is nice and malty with a little bit of hay. It’s mellow, smooth, comforting, well balanced, has no bite and resteeps well. Quite good!

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 30 sec

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Went to the Phoenix Collection/Tea Museum this weekend with some friends and did tea tastings with the owner, David Hoffman. It was such a cool experience and I wrote more about it a in a tea room review. This was one of about a dozen teas I sampled and wrote quick notes about on my phone.

Served gongfu style, this tea was sweet, malty and hinted at fruit. The second round of steeping brought out some bitterness, but it was one that we chose to buy and try more of.

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Went to the Phoenix Collection/Tea Museum this weekend with some friends and did tea tastings with the owner, David Hoffman. It was such a cool experience and I wrote more about it a in a tea room review. This was one of about a dozen teas I sampled and wrote quick notes about on my phone.

This tea was buttery and has a taste of green vegetable. Broccoli? Asparagus? I’m not sure, but the tea was intriguing enough that I had to buy some to bring home.

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Went to the Phoenix Collection/Tea Museum this weekend with some friends and did tea tastings with the owner, David Hoffman. It was such a cool experience and I wrote more about it a in a tea room review. This was one of about a dozen teas I sampled and wrote quick notes about on my phone.

This had a very light airy earthy taste to it (can something be both air and earth?) and was also buttery at the same time. I’m not drawn towards oolongs and this one wasn’t captivating enough for me to want to take it home, but it was very nice.

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Went to the Phoenix Collection/Tea Museum this weekend with some friends and did tea tastings with the owner, David Hoffman. It was such a cool experience and I wrote more about it a in a tea room review. This was one of about a dozen teas I sampled and wrote quick notes about on my phone.

This tea is appropriately named! I’m not sure if the tea is named after the taste or if the taste is invoked by the name, but it tastes like a cool forest river… served hot. It has an earthy sediment like taste and reminds me of water in a redwood forest. It definitely wasn’t a tea I wanted to take home, but it was really interesting to try!

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97

This is the perfect tea for those who like white tea and like puerh. It tastes more like white tea really, but is a bit odd like puerh.

Really really good. I burned it on accident by going 212 on it, but tossed that brew and went about 160 and found a really nice tea. Proably would be good cold brewed, but havent tried that yet…it is SWEET, so if you arent used to that, just know its there.

Winter is coming so better for us to dirnk black probably, but this is a fun tea to have an probably the best of the white teas i have ever tried. tastes like silver needle but a bit better.

Preparation
160 °F / 71 °C 1 min, 15 sec

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90

No notes yet. Add one?

Flavors: Bark, Wet Earth

Preparation
200 °F / 93 °C 5 min, 0 sec 5 g 7 OZ / 200 ML

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100

I always rinse this tea first. Overall though its a super great and diverse tea with a variety of flavors.

Flavors: Honey

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 45 sec 5 g 200 OZ / 5914 ML

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80

Really nice and easy white tea. I enjoy starting out with a quick and hot steep then following up with a much longer 2 min + steep. This tea does really well with both styles of brewing.

Flavors: Dry Grass, Hay

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 0 min, 30 sec 5 g 7 OZ / 200 ML

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83

This last Sunday an amigo brought by the Bamboo Fragrance offering from the Phoenix Collection, the ripe variety from ’03. It is very tasty and remarkably beautiful, clear and sparkly. Full-on funk factor, umame, and quite warming. Good cha-qi.
I was given very quick infusions, fewer than five seconds. Very sweet. The mustiness of wet storage melds very nicely. Ironically, it still tastes quite clean. Nice tea especially for the funk-meisters.

Flavors: Earth, Peas, Sweet, Umami

Preparation
195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 4 OZ / 118 ML
JC

Sounds nice. I haven’t tried any of his Bamboo Fragrance Shou

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80

Dry – Sweet, earthy notes, somewhat creamy, dates, starch/rice.
Wet – Creamy, earthy, light spice/pepper, dry dark fruits, dates, yeasty, bitter cocoa?
Liquor – Burgundy to Red-ish brown.

1st 5secs Thick, tart, partly, fruity and some smoke?(roasted cocoa/coffee) notes up front. As it goes down, it has an apparent savory, brothy and filling body with some pepper-wood notes and a sweet and bitter-chocolate finish.

2nd 5secs First Sweet, thick, tart, earthy, creamy with light pepper notes and smoke?/roasted cocoa-coffee notes up front. As it goes down it has an initial sweetness, but a brothy and savory character is dominant. The finish is sweeter with tart/bittersweet cocoa notes.

3rd 7secs Sweet, thick, earthy, creamy, slightly tart with dark fruit notes, and faint roasted-cocoa/coffee? notes up front. As it goes down, it has some savory notes the dominate for a bit, but turns sweet again with spice and camphor and a sweet finish that has bittersweet cocoa notes.

7-8 steeps in total The steeps start collapsing at the 5th-6th and after that they are mostly sweet with minor tart notes and faded complexity. You can allow it to rest for a few hours or a day and push an extra one or two, but they are still weak.

FInal Notes
After the Feng Ling pot this one is more than welcomed. I feel like this one has some complexity and depth to it, which it is rare in Shou in general. It is in the between the lines of an amazing every day Shou or a good occasional treat.

Flavors: Creamy, Dark Bittersweet, Dates, Earth, Rice, Sweet, Thick

Preparation
Boiling
SarsyPie

I officially want to drink this! LOL

JC

I can send you some later. I’ve been really busy lately, but I can me up some time later :)

SarsyPie

OK. Thank you :)

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70

Ceramic Pot Puerh – Feng Ling Tea Factory, April 2000 100gm

Dry – Earth, Clay, Wood, Sweet.
Wet – Sweet, wood and earthy.
Liquor – dark brown almost black.

1st 5secs- Earthy, tart-bitter wood notes, talc/starchy and some clay notes up front. As it goes down, it feels starchy like talc and somewhat sweet, but flat at the end.

2nd 5secs – Think earthy, woody, some spiciness, starsh/talc sensation on the tongue and some sweet up front. As it goes down, it has some earthy wood notes and sweet finish. This steep has more live than the first one.

3rd 7secs – Thick earthy, woody, more apparent spicy middle with a starsh/talc sensation up front. As it goes down, it holds its earthy and wood notes while slowly developing sweetness that linger in the finish.

Quick wrap up
This one wasn’t a hit with me. I feel like people who enjoy imperial Loose Puerh and other traditional high fermentation ripes will get a better time out of this one. I will re-visit this one when I’m more in a Shou mood.

Flavors: Clay, Earth, Sweet, Wood

Preparation
Boiling 6 g 4 OZ / 130 ML
apt

It seems that the majority of pu’erh consumers feel that The Phoenix Collection is bad and not good. What’s your opinion on them?

JC

VERY honestly, I like David Hoffman, humble and nice guy. But it is a hit or miss. He does have some really good ones, but some that I’d rather not go back to. Although, some people can appreciate those. I’ve found well stored ones, but some that have been in obvious wet storage, which isn’t bad (there’s people who love them) but it would be nice before you put the money in.

apt

Seems like I should steer clear, I dislike humid storage. He seems to be a super inaccessible vendor, as his lowest amt for loose teas is 4oz and puerh is generally 1 cake minimum, and he barely describes them (I can’t even tell if it’s ripe or raw!)

JC

Ex. REally good Shou : Tibetan Brick High grade, Lao Ban Zhang Ripe, Beencha Puerh, Vietnam Been Cha, Lancang/Simao/Mensong Loose Leaf from old trees(although wierd looking). Shou I didn’t like : Tibetan Brick Standard grade (basically heicha), Yunnan Been Cha, The other Large Leaf from old trees ripes, everyday shou(blehh). I can do the same for the Sheng.

apt

I generally dislike Shou, it’s just repulsive to me, like wet-stored teas of any kind. Something about the aroma. I drank nice shou as well, I’ve tried a CNNP, a Yunnan Sourcing, and a mini-coin. I got the same vibe from a wet-stored aged Sun Moon Lake black tea.

A dry-stored sheng though, that’s gooooood.

JC

If you don’t like to talk to people stick to other vendors. I spoke to him about it, the thing is that he is mostly a whole seller so he has no need to advertise or market his Puerh, usually people go to tastings and buy on buy/order on the spot. I’m interested in visiting sometime. He has several old Puerh that is not even listed and some have been pleasant. But if you want to make sure every single is a hit, I’d advice staying with guys like Tea Urchin, White2Dog and other curators that don’t do much wholesales and describe a more limited catalog. :)

apt

yeah I was chatting with a Taiwanese Oolong wholesaler today, quite a nice selection. I e-mailed them with a question a while back, and they responded instantly. However, the lack of flexibility of sampling turns me off. I’m ordering with White2Tea very soon, actually.

JC

I’d recommend White2Dog. Paul has been very attentive and the tea has been as advertised. And I have to say, I feel you about sampling. I usually do research before buying anything and Puerh is not the exception. With Phoenix Collection it was a must because the information is limited. If lived in CA I would visit and taste on spot… I wish I could do that in all places actually LOL.

apt

I haven’t tried Paul’s teas yet, but I’ve spoken to him a bit and he’s been great to talk to. Next month (which is in 8 minutes) I’m ordering from him.

Sammerz314

Not a fan of this tea either

JC

Sam, I haven’t been much into Shou lately, but this one added the extra ‘clay’ and wood that I didn’t get too much into lol.

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80

If you’re looking for something special and VERY different, here you have it. Upon first impression, the chunk of tea, thanks to JC, looked like a chunk of dusty dirt with small plant roots embedded within. As the tea seemed very dusty, I decided to give it two washes instead of one. There is one way I can describe the aroma of the wet leaves… an intense wet forest moss… much more so than most shou puerhs I’ve had. I mean, it literally smells like dirt/forest moss! I would say the taste of the tea itself is somewhat consistent with the aroma… very interesting and pleasant. I recommend this tea to anyone who enjoys that earthy taste. Very unique tea. 80/100

Flavors: Earth

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 88 ML
JC

I liked this one. It is very weird indeed. I couldn’t define it as either Sheng or Shou, I know is not processed as a Shou, but it definitely isn’t a Sheng. It’s that blurred Heicha spectrum of wood and bark tastes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=6pt3SFeIBNk that thing on the floor is very similar to the Thousand Tael log.
Sammerz314

Thats pretty cool! LOL. Imagine buying something like that… its like 10,000 steeps worth of tea HAHA.

JC

I’d like the watch the video of you trying to pry a piece of that lol. ‘Ok guys, you hold it…. I’ll try to open and eventually get some tea out".

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72

A remarkable tea. This is the smokiest tea I have ever tasted but there is still a depth and complexity that make each brew a tangible experience. This is a tea that most people hate frankly, it is very smoky and the raw leaves are quite bitter. It brews to the typical sheng dark yellow and I haven’t exhausted the leaves yet. This tea is hard to classify and it doesn’t play well with it’s neighbors in the tea cupboard. Another distinctive pu-erh from DLH. I’ll be intrigued to try it again in ten years and see what more aging does to tame it some (and I’ll keep drinking it, if only occasionally, in the meantime).

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C

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100

This is the best pu-erh sheng I have ever had hands down. I happened to also have a current year’s (2013) silver bud white tea to compare it to. Visually it is very similar with the same downy silver/gray and green buds. It seems to have all the best elements of the white tea (buttery mouth feel, fresh vegetal taste) and a few more layers of complexity from the aging (notes of apricot, tobacco, and honey).

It’s a very patient tea and yields multiple and complex steeps without flattening out. I have also found it extremely forgiving and it brews a nice cup no matter how I do it or how long I steep it.

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