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Recent Tasting Notes
It’s a very lazy kind of day, so I figured what better than just milking a tea for all it’s worth and doing a big pot of something Grandpa style. What could be more perfect for this than White2Tea’s 2017 Grandpa (named for this style of drinking it!), which I recieved as a free sample in one of my orders this year!
I’ve been sipping on this one for close to three hours now; in total I’ve probably refilled my pot with hot water three times now, though definitely broken up into many, many different top ups and not just three ‘blanket’ sort of refills.
Overall, this was been incredibly smooth, pleasant and flavourful! It’s got a lot of really sweet elements to it overall too! Obviously, it’s got quite an earthy element but also I’m getting different natural notes too; wet wood, and truffles mostly. The undertones are really fruity but in a deep, rich sort of way evocative of strewed fruits, dates/figs, and really deep stonefruit notes like plum and black cherry. I’d say the date notes in particular have been particularly strong as I sip on this.
Part of the sweetness also comes from a more confectionery/bakery rooted place: a mix of dark chocolate/baker’s chocolate, barley and oats. I’m surprised a little bit by the presence of an oat-like flavour but I’m not turned off by it either. I did notice it much later into this ‘session’, if you can call it that. At this point in the session a lot of the initial wave of robust earthy elements had more mellowed out and the soup produced from the tea was getting thinner/weaker.
Overall, I don’t know that this is a particularly unique or standout tea, but it’s incredibly smooth and I appreciate the sweetness in it a lot too. It works really well for the Grandpa style of brewing, and I think it would be a good intro into Shou as well because it’s so smooth/sweet with those fruity elements.
10/10 – would definitely recommend.
I’ve recently been rediscovering an appreciation for shou, which I’ve put on the back-burner since I started getting really into sheng shortly into my tea journey. It seems to be coinciding with my coming around to more dankly stored aged sheng. This is a sample I bought around Black Friday or so I believe. I smelled a bit of fermentation on the dry leaf, but I didn’t get much of any in the flavor, though that is likely aided by the fact that I generally double-rinse shou.
I have heard some tea-friends mentioning that this tea tastes like almost nothing, or that they found it difficult to illicit strong flavor from it using more conventional parameters. I would certainly agree with that. I used about 8g:100mL in my sessions, which is pretty standard for what I do with shou. The flavor was lighter than I would expect with those parameters, but I think that’s kind of just how this tea is. For me, this one is much more about texture than flavor. It had a thickness which did remind me a bit of cream. The flavor was pleasant and unintrusive – a light chocolatey sweetness with a bit of a deeper earthy flavor just slightly present. It was good, but didn’t ever really take precedence over the thick and creamy texture.
Another teafriend told me that this one does well with super-high brewing parameters, that it comes out like brownies. I can definitely see that considering the chocolatey notes I got here and the creamy texture.
Flavors: Chocolate, Creamy, Earth, Sweet, Thick
Here’s Hoping Teabox – Round Seven- Tea #20
Oh how I’d love to do some walking in the woods. The name of this sheng is lovely and the flavor is lovely too. Full of sweetness! But that is because I keep it tame with the 30 second steeps. Maybe wispy hints of the lightest fruit flavor, like apricot or something similar. A good one!
This tea came unlabeled in my order, making for an interesting adventure and practice in identifying an unknown.
Compressed into a nearly perfect sphere I was almost certain it was a blooming tea at first. Can you make a blooming pu’erh? Doesn’t smell green, not very dark and doesn’t smell much like a black either, is it a flowering oolong? A search for “bloom” and “flower” on the white2tea site reveals no results. Upon closer inspection I decide it’s not a blooming tea at all but rather a tightly and neatly compressed cake, almost definitely a pu’erh then. I’m not very pu’erh experienced… is this a raw sample? Or just young? I guess I don’t actually know the difference but I’m pretty certain it’s not very aged in any case. I decide it’s probably a raw.
Breaking it up confirms that it’s a compressed tea rather than a flowering ball. It has a very light scent, maybe a little bit bready, a little vegetal. Brewed in a gaiwan at 200F for 10 seconds reveals a much lighter liqueur than anticipated! Definitely not an aged tea! Brews up gently floral and sweet with an underlying vegetal flavor that quickly strengthens with more steepings. By the third steep it’s already too bitter for me.
Sorting through the raw pu’erh section on the white2tea site I finally find my tea! Turns out it’s not necessary to break it up, I’m sure that contributed to the bitterness. It is certainly not to my taste, being fairly bitter, but I had a surprisingly fun time unraveling the mystery as well as trying out a new kind of tea.
Flavors: Biting, Floral, Vegetal
A gentle giant. That’s how I’d describe this tea.
It’s because when you see it for the first time it looks so big and imposing: for 250 grams this tuo is huge; I wasn’t even sure if I got the right tea when I opened the box it came in. And then, the overwhelming minty and woody smell. You’d think man, this bad boy will give a rough time even to the experienced drinker.
But then you drink it. And realize how mellow and kind it is. It’s a tea you’d constantly want to push in order to get an even brew and rise the brew time exponentially. If you challenge this tea, it’s a fight you’ll always win. Definitely a tea for people who want to try puerh but feel overwhelmed by it. Not to be underestimated though as the mid steeps have some potency. These infusions are characterized by thick, whiskey, dark wood and even coffee-like notes. It’s just that it gives up a little too fast, leaving you with a sweet leathery taste.
After having several sessions with it it’d say this tea could use just a few more years of aging in order to become great rather than good. On the surface the tuo is very easy to break loose but the more you get to the center the harder it gets and the tea seems “younger” overall. The teenager on the wrapper is very fitting for the tea: intimidating, temperamental but not that scary once you get to know it. A hothead, just like I’d imagine Kunio-kun would be in real life.
For all intends and purposes, this tea should be called Very Often.
Recommended soundtrack: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-WC4bzUhDwQ&list=PL068985D7A912F97A
Received this tea in whichever w2t club package gave us three little oolong packets a little while ago. This one’s name definitely suited it. The dry leaf has a sweet, milky aroma which was somehow cool and airy to me. The wet leaf smelled like sweet/salty kettle corn with a bit of a milky underpinning.
The flavor starts off slightly vegetal and green, but still floral – I’m thinking floral stems – with a slight fruity finish, like peach rind. As the session progresses, the vegetal start builds sweetness until it evens out into just a sweet and creamy flavor with a strong, but not punchy, lingering floral finish. The tea had a strong and noticeable throat-tightening feeling. Interestingly, the floral finish got more intense and faster rising as I got closer to the end of the session. The last few steeps had a soft vegetal note, like cucumber, still in front of that floral finish.
I also tried the tea with slightly hotter water (205F vs 195F), and found it to be a good deal more vegetal, almost sharply so, especially in the early session. The finish was floral and creamy from the get-go. As the session progressed, the heavy vegetal note smoothed out, and the floral finish got deeper even than it had in the previous session – almost sticky as well. The session with hotter water just kept going and going as well.
I’m not sure which water temp I preferred it at. I really would’ve preferred to get a bigger bag of it so I could to some more experimentation. The little club packet was barely enough for two small sessions. Might consider picking up 50g of it in my next w2t order.
Flavors: Creamy, Cucumber, Floral, Milk, Vegetal
Pretty Girls is a pretty solid puer that starts off with a dirty mushroom taste. With each infusion, it gets more sweet, mineral, and chocolate in flavor. I got 13 infusions, though I felt I should have leafed a bit more.
If you have a silver tea cup, Pretty Girls comes out really nice as it cuts through the early mushroom infusions.
Full review on Oolong Owl http://oolongowl.com/2015-pretty-girls-shou-puer-white2tea/
Note- this review is for the 2017 which I find better than last years. This tea claims to be very similar to LBZ without having any actual LBZ material. Now I’ve only had 5 true LBZ teas to date so I’m no authority but they all have had a specific taste I haven’t been able to put my finger on until now. Forgive me for another beer comparison but to me the flavor of LBZ ive had had all had a bitter backdrop identical to beers brewed with a hop variety called Northern Brewer. Brewers describe this hop as tasting woody and minty but it has a distinct unique flavor. Think Anchor Steam. Tuhao AF also reminds me of a hop variety but not Northern Brewer. It reminds me of a U.K. Challenger, the main hop in Fullers ESB. It’s more of a lemony peachy affair. So does this tea taste like any LBZ I’ve had? Not quite but damn good. Is the qi similar? All the LBZ teas I’ve had I’d liken to a stoned roadrunner feeling. This tea is no exception. I recommend an experiment get a pot of this and a pot of real LBZ (Hai Lang Hao from ys has the most of this character) and get a bottle of Anchor Steam and a bottle of Fullers ESB and you’ll see what I mean. Tuhao is a fine tea by W2T but Ive tried almost all their top shelf offerings for 2017 and my fave is she’s not me which is not listed here yet.
Natural Redhead is an interesting black steeped gongfu style. Blindfolded, I could be fooled it was a ruby black as it had strong fruity notes. Later infusions get malty, woodsy, and orangey. Gongfu steeped pushed to the limit I got awesome clean, floral, and orange aftertaste.
I found grandpa style/ western to be okay, but boring in comparison.
Full review on Oolong Owl http://oolongowl.com/2017-natural-redhead-black-tea-cake-white2tea/
I drank this tea while having a wonderful and long overdue online hangout with some teafriends. For the most part, it is as advertised on W2T’s website.
The first steep threw me off for just a bit, as it was sort of light and floral, with a bit of hay in the flavor as well. I have to chalk that up to the tea not being fully opened up. On the next steep, I may have oversteeped it just a touch because of the lightness on the first steep. That burly character started to show up a little bit. This tea was thick and a bit sticky feeling in the mouth. The flavor remained slightly floral, but not a light and happy floral. There was indeed a slight bit of smokiness to the tea, but far from enough to make it unpleasant.
I liked this tea quite a bit. It was not particularly complex, but it was tasty. Thick and intense, especially if brewed with a heavy hand. In its youth, it could definitely be made unpleasantly astringent by oversteeping. In my session, there was a bit of astringency which sort of reared its head and generally built up a little bit as the session progressed, but I didn’t find it offensive at any point.
When I make my next W2T order to pick up some 2017 samples, I could certainly see myself tossing a cake of this tea in my cart. It would make a nice daily drinker. If it was in the exact same price bracket as Little Walk and Milk, Cream & Alcohol, that would be a foregone conclusion. At the slightly higher price it commands, this will remain a gametime decision.
Flavors: Floral, Hay, Smoke, Sweet, Thick
This is the first white2tea production I’ve ever tried. Before we proceed, it should be noted that I may be an extremely biased reviewer and you may want to disregard everything I have to say about this tea or any other white2tea production. To explain my weird relationship with this company, I may not know very much about them apart from that Paul who runs it started out as a blogger and that their teas are extremely well regarded by many people in the Western online tea community based on information I’ve passively accumulated browsing the web, but browsing their site, looking at the names and artwork for their cakes and the vague product descriptions paired with often frankly quite ridiculous prices, I can’t help but get a sense of a pretentious hipster label. Yes, there are a lot of buzzwords being thrown around by vendors when it comes to pu’er and ultimately none of those things matter because what it all boils down to is whether you like the tea or not. But informed tea drinkers do want to know certain things about the material they are buying, especially if they are paying a lot of money for it. People want to be able to try to gauge how the tea might age and they’d also like to be able to compare the cost of the tea to the base cost of similar material. And if they like the tea they’d like to possibly seek out similar material from the same region and so forth to see if it shares any similar characteristics. I can agree with white2tea’s philosophy of letting the tea speak for itself on paper, but they lost any right to make such statements after releasing a product like The Treachery of Story Telling that costs an absolutely absurd amount of money, features no product description whatsoever and they sell no samples for.
Another reason why I’ve been avoiding their products up till now is because I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to tea and while I appreciate people like Glen from Crimson Lotus Tea who create blends and consider tea their art, I don’t mind experiencing the flaws and imperfections of single origin material, and what white2tea offers is exactly that, blends. To use an analogy, while I love music but don’t listen to that much classical apart from modern classical and minimalism in particular, when I do listen to classical, what I very much want to hear is music recorded live in the studio or live in concert, none of that modern over-producer, over-edited crap that is all too prevalent nowadays. You’d be shocked if you saw what the Pro Tools sessions for a modern digital classical recording look like and how many edits there can be in just a single track. To continue the music analogy, those audiophiles who understand the breathtaking beauty that well recorded analog recordings can offer know that “hiss is your friend”. A little tape hiss never killed anyone, and as long as we are talking about hiss that’s within reasonable bounds, making hiss part of the discussion about sound quality is just nonsense. In tea, I think one could liken noise to bitterness and astringency perhaps to digital clipping. As long as bitterness is within tolerable levers (too much of anything in life is a bad thing), it is not an issue and can enhance the experience and even be very pleasurable and desired. Astringency, like digital clipping, is generally not desired or found pleasant. Some amount of astringency can be okay and digital clipping can be used creatively to create a certain sound, but when digital clipping is introduced as a product of trying to simply make the record sound louder, most people find it unpleasant and undesirable. Of course from a young sheng a certain amount of bitterness or astringency is expected and generally desired to give assurance of its ageing potential. Anyway, to get off this tangent, while I acknowledge that blended teas may be better than the sum of their parts, I, while a perfectionist of sorts when it comes to certain things, don’t mind imperfections, in fact I welcome them. Imperfection is in itself perfection. There’s nothing more boring than perfection. It is the pursuit of perfection that drives and motivates us, but I don’t think we’d actually ever want to attain it.
By now you have hopefully gathered that my extreme distaste for white2tea without ever having tasted any of their teas is part rational, part irrational, or perhaps just purely irrational. In any event, up till now I’ve avoided handing over any of my money to white2tea even though I’ve been curious to try out their products, but in the end I ended up ordering a couple of samples from different price points. Originally I’d planned to taste these teas blind and have a person pick teas for me at random from various pu’er samples from different vendors to remove any biases I may have, but right now I’m doing a small experiment to see how much (or little) letting a pu’er sample chill out and hydrate in your pumidor impacts the tea. I may still do the blind test for the other samples, unless I deem it too much hassle, we’ll see. Regardless, this tea was drunk the same day I received the sample, so that along with my potential bias may affect my findings. I will be having another session once the sample has spent some time in my pumidor and if the results differ notably from these initial ones I will do a follow-up review.
To finally get to my actual tasting notes, I brewed around 8.4g of this tea in a 140ml gaiwan. The sample I received was prepared exemplarily, consisting of really nice looking large intact leaves and a few larger chunks. No dust, no debris. I don’t know how they detached so many so nice looking leaves from the cake. I got hardly any smell trying to sniff the sample bag, but once in the preheated gaiwan my nose was greeted by the scent of… cotton candy? Maybe. I’ve seen the words cotton candy floating around in the list of flavor notes for some young pu’er teas recently and that was actually on my mind right when I sniffed the leaves so I may have been influenced by that. I haven’t actually had cotton candy in a decade or more so I can’t really say I can recall off the top of my head how it smells like. After a 10s rinse the smell of the wet leaves was green, darkish and buttery. Pretty typical for some young raws. Since this was such an expensive tea, I did drink the rinse. It was extremely light, but had a nice body, which is not that unusual for a lot of teas if you rinse them with a relatively small amount of water like I did. The taste that I could discern was sweet, buttery, with a finish that was… maybe fruity would be a more conventional way of putting it, but I’d describe it as kind of perfumey. I don’t want to use the word artificial, but it had this “unnatural” quality to it, like it consisted of an impossible combination of flavor notes. The finish turned mineral after some time passed. After it died down, there wasn’t really any kind of lasting aftertaste. I can’t really say if the rinse had any effect on me, but if it did, I’d probably describe it as calming/grounding.
I carried on with the brewing after giving the leaves a 10 minute rest. I did a total of nine more steeps, for 7s, 7s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s and 2 min. The first proper infusion had a nice milky/juicy body. It was still very, very light in flavor. Despite my extreme preconceived biases, I actually secretly had really, really high expectations for this tea and I expected it to blow me away. This was evident when I thought I could feel cha qi from just the first sip, before I’d even swallowed the tea. I assume all of that was just pure placebo. After this I never felt any cha qi over the course of the entire sessions (spoiler). The flavor wasn’t exactly like water, but water is the closest thing I can think of to describe it. I couldn’t really discern if it was mineraly, perfumey, astringent or what. The finish was sort of unpleasant, but in like the mildest way possible. Again I happened to pay attention to how the finish dies rather quickly and leaves your palate relatively clean without any sort of real aftertaste. At this point I drew the conclusion this is probably a tea you don’t drink for taste. I was basing this on expectancy of plenty of body and cha qi. Things didn’t quite turn out that way (spoilers).
After doing the second steep, I noticed a leaf with clear black spots/burn marks on it in the gaiwan. This wasn’t anything like the scorching you can see in tea leaves that have been hit with boiling water over and over again over the course of a session in the form of mild discoloration, etc. I can only assume the black marks are from the wok. I’ve heard you can get burnt leaves if the frying isn’t done correctly, but I’ve never actually seen it myself before. If the spots are indeed from the pan frying, I find that a very big no-no for material that otherwise looks quite nice and is being asked such a steep price for.
The second infusion itself lacked any real flavor initially. The first thing it reminded me of was fat-free milk, but the milkiness went away with time. There was an underlying young greenness and astringency, but both were very faint. There was also a mineral character. The body was lighter now, which even though the tea was still probably thicker than some other teas was kinda disappointing after the last “two” steeps. Even though the flavors weren’t strong, I wasn’t enjoying the tea very much. The very last gulp had a very rocky taste to it, literally like licking a rock. That was a first one for me. Although the tea left some stuff residing in the mouth, there was once again no real lasting aftertaste to the tea.
After the third steeping the leaves were finally starting to open up. I noted that the material does look rather good, healthy is the word I would use. Sadly the body of the soup was even lighter now, not too far from water. D: The flavor wasn’t too far off from water either. It wasn’t really super mineraly anymore. There was a very, very lightly green aspect to it, but overall the tea stayed impressively neutral in flavor, like it was trying its damnedest to be Switzerland and not taste like anything, not even water. I could see someone calling the flavor a super, super, super light white chocolate if you ignore the slight green tinge. The taste was soft and the astringency was kept surprisingly well under control for now. Since it had become a habit by this point, I noted that there was once again no aftertaste, the taste just dies down like soft drinks for example are designed to do to keep you drinking them. This tea was no battery acid like some young shengs can be for your stomach, but I noted it starting to affect me somewhat, although I hadn’t actually eaten anything so it could have also been my growing hunger.
As I continued steeping, I noted that the leaves look kinda weird color-wise. I’m not sure if it has to do with the tea being blended. The appearance reminds me of the dry leaf for Oriental Beauty. The fourth steep hit me with a ton of astringency. It was almost more like a flavor than the typical physical sensation you get. The mouth-pucker was actually kept relatively minimal. The tea had perhaps a mineral finish. Albeit I didn’t particularly enjoy it, the tea wasn’t as unpleasant as you might think. Over time the tea became dominantly more mineraly – unfortunately the bad kind – replacing the astringent taste. Once again no aftertaste.
The leaves started looking just about fully open after the fifth steep. I will say again that if nothing else the leaves do look rather pretty, even if different than what I’m used to. The tea was still extremely light. Thankfully it did not have the same astringency from before. It had perhaps a very, very light front vegetal sweetness to it. It tasted greener, more vegetal than before, even though the flavors were still faint. The greenness started to resemble for the first time the typical bad young sheng greenness I don’t enjoy, although it was still lighter than in other teas. At the end of my cup, I could feel some slight pucker on my tongue.
I was scared to lengthen the steeping time for the sixth infusion, but what really surprised me was to find that the flavors had tapered off severely despite me doing that. The tea was mineraly again. You really had to look for the vegetal character to maybe catch a glimpse of it if you were lucky. The tea was starting to taste a bit nasty to me, although it was soft nasty. There was more pucker now after finishing my cup like I’d expected, but the sensation wasn’t as uncomfortable as with other teas.
I didn’t really want to keep drinking the tea, but I went on anyway. Somewhat ironically, I think the flavors were genuinely really strong and bold for the first time in the seventh steep. I’m not sure if the taste was a weird mixture between mineral and vegetal or what. I don’t know why, but I found the taste less enjoyable than the “too young, too green” taste I’ve encountered in so many other young raws. The following eighth steep was equally bold in flavor, flavor that was that epitome young sheng green astringent bad green tea taste. It did have a softer edge to it than other teas though.
In an effort to try to do as many steeps as I could, I did do one final ninth infusion and I was punished gravely for it. The tea was really damn nasty from the moment it hit my tongue and I for the life of me could not finish my cup. It’s not typical for me to toss a cup even if it’s not very enjoyable, but this one I simply could not bring myself to down. Even the half a cup that I did soldier down caused unpleasant prickling on my tongue. The tea was way beyond just simple bad green tea.
And there you have it. A bit of a longer review. If you made it through the whole thing, rant and all, then well done. You’re a real sport. Needless to say I did not enjoy this tea. I’m not sure if saying this is the worst raw pu’er I’ve ever had is going too far, but it’s not far off. One could say that it started off kind of decent, but I think it would be a bit too generous to say that it was genuinely interesting even at that point. As I was drinking this tea I started to ponder what my criteria are for rating a tea “Not Recommended” as that has not come up before, and whether it would be too extreme of me to rate this tea as such. After giving it some thought after the session though, taking into consideration that this is one of the most negative experiences I’ve had with pu’er and pairing that with the extremely high price point of this tea, I think there is actually nothing extreme about my conclusion. I half expect some pu’er connoisseurs to say I don’t know how to appreciate this tea, which could of course very well be true, but I fail to see how that would be the case when I found this tea mainly quite unpleasant to drink after the first few steeps. I got no qi, the body and texture were ultimately disappointing after the initial steeps, and the longevity was really disappointing as well, especially relative to the strength of flavor and the price of the material (bringing up the price again).
Now, it could very well be that this tea will improve dramatically in my pumidor as it hydrates a little. As stated earlier, I am going to session this tea again in a few weeks’ time and if the results differ dramatically I will report on that. It is possible that I will try to do the blind tasting arrangement for the other white2tea samples I have, but as fun as that would be, if I deem it too much hassle I may just end up reviewing the teas regularly. I’d like to be able to trust my own ability to ultimately review teas fairly.
Flavors: Astringent, Green, Mineral, Perfume, Vegetal
Well, I am sure plenty of people would really enjoy this tea, but it’s not really my type. I’ll admit, it’s very nice to have a mushroom taste in a puer, and to have an amazingly smooth tea. But what I really love most of all is some amount of flavor, which a majority of ripe provide. Might be because I’m a bit sick, but this tea really didn’t provide on that account. It is almost as if I am drinking a thick water, diluted with tea. I drank it for 5 steepings, but after the 5th I really wasn’t enjoying myself so I called it quits.
Although I am sure most of you out there would really enjoy this, and this is totally your thing, but for me, I really enjoy a good flavor more than I do a good texture.
Haha, sorry for the bad review, I will be posting another tommorow.
I think I will take a bit of a break from the puer, as this time of year I really want a good oolong. Expect lots of puer reviews when it gets cold though!
F*ck what you smelled would be a more accurate description to me. After smelling the dry leaves (obviously of top shelf quality) I was expecting a fruit bomb but instead got flavors of quinine and slate…I was reminded of some Lao Man E sheng I’ve tasted…not really my bag but I expect this to change dramatically in coming months. I expect this to age into a monster but being this young I can’t give an accurate rating. It is attitudinal and has potent energy…gonna set the rest of this sample back and try it again on a cold February morning. I’m going by memory but this reminds me of the Hao Lang Hao Lao Man E I sampled from Yunnan Sourcing only less expensive.
Bought a cake of this last winter and after trying many other high end sheng began to agree with the ho hum reviews on this site. I then let it age a few months and broke it out with some cranberry scones recently. Lo and behold this tea came to life. Big cranberry, nice menthol and evergreen. The qi is pleasant but subtle. There are much better recent shengs in the same price range but I think this one is evolving into something special so you may want to revisit it especially when consuming cranberries. The flavors that were a semi interesting backdrop to this tea have now come to the forefront and are quite distinctive.
Interesting concept. The black tea produces a chocolate note that reminds me of a Fujian golden monkey but without the body. The finish has the fruity floral counterpart of the white tea. Steeping time and temps radically alter the ride. I’m reminded of drinking a dunkleweissen, a dark wheat beer that starts off big and chocolate caramel like and you expect a beer with heavy body . Then that fades instantly and you’re left with thin bubbly beer that tastes like clove and banana. To my palate, this tea was better and aromatic when fresh. I know it’s an experiment so let’s see how it ages. I do get a little brandy as well