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Gong Fu Sipdown (607)!
I’ve tried to be a little strategic with tea I’m packing first – if it’s something I had in a large quantity or don’t drink often then it’s going into a box first, and if I think I can finish it off before I fly out to Montreal then it stays out. It doesn’t need to be packed if I drink it first, after all. So this one stayed out of the box because I knew it would be an easy sipdown.
I received this one as a freebie in an order earlier this year; it’s definitely not something that I would have ever purchased for myself though, what with my not being a big Sheng drinker. It’s taken me a while to work up to trying it because based on the reviews I’ve seen it doesn’t seem so much like my jam…
First infusions were really intense but ultimately pleasant; definitely a big punch of tangy fruit notes – the kind that find their way into every crevice in your mouth, which in turn only makes you salivate even more. A mix of red fruit notes and more of a tangy peach-y sort of thing? Also vegetal, but less so than the intense wave of fruit. I mean, it kind of felt like the tea version of this Fruit Gushers commercial:
However, after those first two infusions this got so, so much more intense and a lot more bitter and vegetal tasting. Still hints of a fruity sweetness, but definitely more of an umami/savory profile with lots of edamame/green bean/lima bean kind of notes. I think I did about four infusions with this as the general profile but it wasn’t up my alley and I wasn’t enjoying the strong, bitter body and finishing notes so I decided to just stop the session.
I mean, I don’t think this is a bad tea but it’s got a lot of intensity to it and just isn’t my preferred flavour profile.
Starts off quite delicate. Deeply kelp-like when pushed. Makes you wonder how this tea would perform as a substitute for green tea in ochazuke. I recommend w2t in general for the crash course it should be for 99% of people on the fine art of branding. I recommend this form factor from any brand for anyone who wants to be a little coddled, or needs convenient socially acceptable chunks that do not look suspiciously like a baggie of illegal drugs with which to get one’s fix on, say, a commercial flight. It gives me pause to think these are individually hand-wrapped and stickered by another human being, probably another East Asian female human being. In that sense they are kind of like handmade tea dumplings, except you can’t eat the wrapper. The fact that the same amount of manual wrapping energy is being put into the coins as into the full size cakes in some ways makes these coins feel the most ludicrously bourgeoisie. I’m also relatively “meh” on this tea, because I have already had some really great(and far more expensive) others this week. Finally, it doesn’t matter because this one looks sold out.
This ripe pu-erh has medium body and is super easy to drink with little to no fermentation notes. Its highlights are the nuanced aroma and thick creamy mouthfeel.
The smell is quite light but has a lot going on. At first, it is sweet and woody with some hints of dried cranberries. I imagine sitting in a clean mountain cottage in the midst of the winter with dry wood burning in the fireplace. Later on throughout the session, other notes like brazil nuts, banana, chicken broth, cinnamon, black pepper and licorice appear in moderation.
Taste-wise, it is mellow and quite well balanced. There are some slightly unusual flavours, like citrus, wheat, roasted sunflower seeds and walnut skins. Overall, it has decent sweetness and medicinal qualities.
The aftertaste is somewhat spicy, slimy and not astringent at all. It is somehow muted but actually quite long. Mouthfeel is creamy and slightly oily, thick and a little dry in the finish.
Flavors: banana, Black Pepper, Broth, Cinnamon, Citrus, Cranberry, Dried Fruit, Licorice, Medicinal, Nuts, Spicy, Sweet, Walnut, Wheat, Wood
I like this one. It’s quite fruity. It brews a nice light golden liquor with a peachy pinkish hue in the initial steeps. Do shorter brews to keep the bitterness at bay. I get pears and quince, dried apricots, plum jam, a hint of wild strawberry. There’s sweetness but it’s not overwhelming. On the finish I get herbal honey and jam, some light floral notes as well and maybe even a touch of baking spices.
Overall, this is quite pleasant and would make for a pretty good and uplifting everyday sheng.
Flavors: Apricot, Bitter, Fruity, Honey, Jam, Pear, Plums, Strawberry
Well, this tea has been pretty much covered so I’ll add a little personification for fun.
Old Bear reminds me of a good friend I have who likens himself to a cross between a black bear and a gorilla with dark hair the color of this leaf and some red in his beard like the color of the brew. He happens to like roughing it a lot and is no stranger to a good smokey campfire and a swig of peaty scotch. Even the toughest jabs seem to glance off of him. He comes across as bold, brash, bitter and gruff with a hard to penetrate exterior but once he opens up, he’s very sweet and even-tempered. I wouldn’t call him dry, even though this tea can be at times. A solid, thick, no-nonsense beast who always delivers.
I’ll have to take this little brick with me next time we meet up in the wilderness and see what he thinks of this tea.
5g, 100mL, 212F, 20s rinse, 8 steeps at 4×20s/30/35/45/45 then lost count after that. Oh yeah, high and sustained amount of caffeine and a nice softening of the gaze. I was gifted an animal hair in my first chip off the brick. It was tan and white, coarse and wiry. Maybe pig? Who knows.
Flavors: Bitter, Campfire, Cedar, Dates, Drying, Peat, Smooth, Sweet, Tar, Wet Wood
I’ve been rather inattentive in my tea sessions of late so I tried to steer away from tasting new stuff knowing I won’t do it justice. With the arrival of a new batch of tasters, however, I fell victim to temptation. Following are the attempts to put in word some chaotic observations.
I have to admit I couldn’t fall in love with this tea. I was probably expecting something fruitier and sweeter. Yes there was fruit – apricots, apples, and some sweetness too, but it felt somewhat short. The astringency was prominent, though that too faded away relatively quickly. There was also some woodiness and, in the initial infusions, some vegetal notes (green bell pepper?). All in all not a bad tea, but not amazing either. Still, I feel like I need to revisit this in the not too distant future.
Flavors: Apple, Apricot, Astringent, Floral, Hay, Mineral, Vegetal, Wood
I got this as a freebie with my very first White2Tea order. Thanks :) Just now getting around to it.
Gone gaiwan, 150mL, 212F, a prodding steep of 30s, followed by 11 steeps at 30s/10/15/15/15/25/30/35/45/1m/1m30. Strong beginnings, it requires some attention because it does oversteep easily. Anything less than boiling seemed to decrease the mouthfeel.
I could tell by the smell of the dry leaf that this was going to a fairly floral experience. The ball opened up quickly following the initial soak and I was greeted with a fragrant airy white floral, white rose and maybe cherry blossom, all drenched in honey. The smell of the liquor remained fairly strong throughout and was also prominent in the bottom of the cup. The golden liquor produced tastes of honey, airy white florals, hay and straw, faint apricot and mango with a vegetal undertone. It started off strong, thick and viscous with sweetness up front and edged into bitter in the back. The bitterness later moved forward and left my tongue numb. The texture thinned respectably into a light-bodied brew. Minimal astringency and sourness, though it didn’t sit too well in my stomach and a full belly soon became a requirement.
After the session when I took off the lid of the glass gaiwan to customarily poke through the leaf, I noticed impressions of saponin bubbles left behind which might not be visible using a brewing vessel made of different material. I’m guessing the saponins are what caused a slightly queasy stomach. I could quickly tell what made the liquor so thick in the beginning – most of the leaves had hairy, rough undersides. The leaves all appeared to be of the same region source material (Lincang, they say). I love little quirks in my tea and in this one, I found a leaf with its tip cut off that was 10cm long and 4.5cm wide. I’m a little bit of a builder so I sometimes like to measure :P
Given all that, I’ve recently concluded that honey-forward teas aren’t my style. But for someone with that kind of sweet tooth and who doesn’t mind, or even wants some bitterness in their brews, I think this would be a good choice and a good intro to puer for the adventurous who already have some experience brewing with loose leaf.
Made a large pot of this one at the start of the week.
I’m making a bit of a routine out of having a large Western pot of tea in the evenings, and I’m quite enjoying the peaceful and coziness of it. This one was especially great because it was accompanied by fresh made blueberry muffins. I recall being surprised by this shou because of how clean tasting and bright it was; almost sort of unlike a pu’erh in general. Quite a nice sweet, berry/red fruit top note and then malt and cocoa. I’d describe it as really smooth as well, in addition to the sweetness. I’d have to check if this is even still on the W2T site, but come autumn shou ‘collection’ release I could DEFINITELY see this one tossed in my doom cart…
This is the first time I took notes during a tea session. Normally I just go with the flow and write the review from memory. Taking notes definitely means having more data to work with in the end but I do wonder if I don’t lose something in the process, if, like in quantum mechanics, through the act of observation I change the outcome. Anyway, without further ado, let’s get down to business.
I set my kettle to 95C (203F) and plop the 8g ball in my 130ml gaiwan. I rinse for 20s in order for the ball to start unfolding.
1. 15s steep leads to a rather light liquor, the color of elderflower syrup. The taste is light s well with hints of flowers and muscatel grapes.
2. 20s steep gives a slightly darker liquor which now resembles white grape juice. some bitterness starts to emerge. Aroma of baked tomatoes which I sometimes get in other sheng pu-erhs as well. Taste is sweet and floral with apricots, green apple and quince.
3. Down to 15s in an attempt to escape the bitterness. No luck, it’s still there ant slightly stronger too. The ball has now fully opened. Perhaps it’s a bit much for my gaiwan. Liquor color is light gold. I get apricots and peaches. Green apple turns to yellow, more ripe one. Mouthfeel as if eating quince, drying and somewhat astringent. I get floral notes after the bitterness dissipates. A hint of linden blossom maybe? some lingering sweetness.
4. An even shorter steep, around 12s. Still bitter, slightly vegetal too. Golden color. Strong fruit notes – muscatel, apricots and quince. Floral retronasal olfaction, I get magnolia on the outbreath as I do often with sheng pu-erh. The empty gong dao bei gives of meadow honey and hay. Sudden sweetness after everything has calmed down.
5. Up to 18s again and another spike of bitterness. Liquor acquires an orange tinge, like light honey. Still sweet and fruity with some stewed apple and quince compote. The floral aroma is building up.
6. I decide to add some cold water to the kettle and bring the temperature down to 85C (185F). Let’s see if that affects the bitterness. And it does. After a 25s steep bitterness is much less present than before. Color is just a wee bit lighter. Taste of apples, prunes and honey. Slightly less floral than steep 5.
7. 30s steep again at 85C. Color stays the same. Bitterness is more manageable. Taste is stewed fruit. Flowers are back and strong. On one of the sips I get an unexpected hit of medicinal bitterness at the back of the throat but it goes away quickly. There’s strong sweetness on the tip of the tongue and a mouthwatering effect.
8. 35s, color holding, no development in taste. Liquor starting to thin out but still pleasant.
9. 42s, taste is lighter – apple, plum and quince compote with floral finish.
10. 1:30 minutes, color darkens slightly, but taste feels slightly water albeit still quite aromatic.
I could probably have squeezed a couple more infusions out of this but my head was already buzzing so I stooped here. The quince dryness goes away and leaves behind long lasting floral sweetness. Overall this tea is quite good though with a bit of astringency to overcome.
Flavors: Apple, Apricot, Bitter, Floral, Fruity, Green Apple, Hay, Honey, Muscatel, Peach, Plums, Stewed Fruits, Sweet, Vegetal
I had initially planned to go gong fu with this Grandpa. I undid the paper wire twisty thing, plopped the ball in a 100ml pot and turned the kettle on. But being curious ol’ me I didn’t just toss the wrapper in the wastepaper basket and, lo and behold, the crinkled little square had instructions printed on it. Eager to correct my mistake I take a water glass out of the cupboard and proceed to my first ever grandpa brewing. But this prologue is getting a bit out of hand so let’s get down to business.
I did a quick rinse and then filled the glass with water just off the boil. After a minute or two of waiting patiently for the brew to cool down a bit I had before me a glassful of unexpectedly dark liquor. One could easily have mistaken it for Coke that’s gone flat.
The nose had something sweet in it. Dark brown sugar, but not as strong as a muscovado, maybe demerara? There was some woodiness too, and old books, slightly dusty.
The taste made me think a while. At first I thought coffee, but that didn’t exactly hit the spot. So then I thought dark chocolate, it was after all slightly bitter, slightly sweet, but it lacked this roasted cocoa taste, so chocolate didn’t cut it either. And then I asked myself why do so many people associate shou pu’er with mushrooms. This is when a memory from a few years ago surfaced in my mind. You see I could never make the connection because I was thinking about the wrong kind of mushrooms. I was trying to find the aroma and taste of the most common button mushrooms and it simply wasn’t there. And then I had a revelation – the chaga and reishi tea I had back when I was in my superfood craze phase. Slightly bitter, slightly woody… Sweeten it with brown sugar to cover up the medicinal bitterness… Absolutely spot on.
It’s been some 15 minutes since I hit the leaf mark in my glass of grandpa style tea and all this time I’ve been having this lingering demerara sugar aftertaste on each out-breath. As much as I enjoy it I’d say it’s high time I went for a refill.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Dark Bittersweet, Earth, Mushrooms, Wood
I just love this, so thick you can almost chew it. Cream? It certainly has a creamy mouthfeel but tastewise I can find no dairy products present. For me the taste is sweet and syrupy with lots of stewed fruits like apples and plums. But what about the traditional wet soil and wood and mushrooms and all that funky stuff you might be asking? Well, either I’ve suddenly become accustomed to the quirks of shou pu’er, or, and this certainly sounds more plausible, this is just some damn fine tea. I know it took me only 4 steeps to add it to my wishlist so make of that what you will.
Flavors: Apple, Plums, Stewed Fruits, Sweet, Thick
Simple and unpretentious, but that’s exactly what I needed this morning. Light sugary sweetness and gentle astringency. A very delicate roasted tomatoes aroma from the leaf, a note I sometimes get in raw pu’er which brings back pleasant memories.
Flavors: Sugar, Sweet
A nice shou puer from White2Tea. I think I picked this sample up the year the tea was released and have just had it languishing in my collection since then. I noticed a lot of earthy notes of mushroom, dirt (in that “good” way), and chocolate. Decently sweet as well. I probably wouldn’t pick this one up over the more affordable ripe options at W2T or elsewhere, but it was certainly good tea.
This stuff is powerful, like somebody tried to take me down by punching me in the solar plexus and instead I stood there and beat my chest to assert my dominance. Got 10 steeps in over 4 hours: 10s rinse/5/7/10/12/15/20/25/30/45/1m. Had to stop but it has more to go. Short steeps in the beginning to balance the extreme bitterness and kind of sour astringency that would otherwise smack me in the face at my usual third steep of 15 seconds.
Dry leaf separates with ease and is a wild and chaotic mix of brown, gold and beige velvety leaves and needles. It shines like the flame on the Statue of Liberty. Smells like it’s developing some patina, too. Has some of that grandma’s floral perfume smell. Taste starts off thick with apricot, tobacco, floral, lemon and whisps of smoke. Moves to bitter up front, golden delicious apple, grass, light honey, mineral and sandalwood with some nice tingling side-tongue action and meat and leather in the back of the mouth. The energy hits fast and hard in my chest and kept me up until 5am. Just as I started to develop a taste for this and get the brewing where I wanted it, I find it’s sold out. Probably for the better, as I found the energy and caffeine to be a little overwhelming. Glad I got to try it.
Recently finished a 50 gram box of this.
I’ll start off by saying White2Tea offered no picking or roast date on the box or website but I could probably email the vendor requesting the info.
Qilan Trees was the first yancha I ever tried and was what made me fall hard for highly mineral rock oolongs. After receiving the package sometime in 2017, I immediately consumed a few brews western style, allowing no resting or airing out of the material. At the time, I wasn’t aware of this style tea performing well gong fu. I remember using about a tbsp of tea to 8 oz of water just off boil. The resulting liquor, believe it or not, was amazing. It was very floral (which I now can place as orchid) and sweet with notes of light honey, graham, butterscotch, milk chocolate and small, sweet Champagne grapes. The minerality was very strong but never biting; more smooth and cool like limestone. The most striking quality of this tea was the salivation it induced. To this day, I’ve never experienced it so strongly in any other tea.
I brewed Qilan Trees a few more times western before exhausting the remaining supply over the course of a year in my 100mL jianshui gaiwan. Usually eyeballed 6-8 grams with water just under boiling. Orchid and milk chocolate were highly pronounced in both aroma and taste, but the liquor itself was never milky but rather both glassy and viscous. The cool limestone minerality and salivation remained. With this method (and maybe it had to do with the clay), I lost a lot of the nuances. I’d say I got 3 amazing steeps with the above qualities before it quickly fell off the cliff and turned into what was just a watered down floral black tea for a few more steeps. Also, over the course of a year, the dry leaves lost a lot of fragrance despite being stored in a tin in the dark. It was a crappy tin to be fair.
Overall, I have an immense soft spot for Qilan Trees. It’s hard to wrap my thoughts around so I’m avoiding rating it. Should I ever purchase more, though, I think I’ll stick with brewing it western style and of course store it it a more airtight container.
5.5g, 100mL at 100C.
Didn’t take particularly careful notes here, but the texture and sweet taste are the highlights of this tea. It’s got enough body to hold up on its own, and has the texture of like slightly unset jello but not in a bad way: just a little bit thick. Astringent at about Steep 3 but that clears rapidly. Really nice apricot huigan in the back of my throat, extremely sweet. Unfortunately, not a lot of qi or bodyfeel which I’m realizing I value a lot in sheng. At the price point this is a great daily drinker for those of you who prefer a sweeter profile tea that isn’t weak.
Flavors: Apricot, Grass, Sweet