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Recent Tasting Notes
Finally, a nice mature sheng. This is a first for me – I’ve been trying lately to get some older shengs, however, none brought the taste and texture that I’ve been expecting. Not this one. This is how I imagine a proper mature sheng should be like.
The soup is orange, deep yellow. But the excitement is coming from the scent of the tea leaves first. The smell is smoky, fermented at first. And then the notes of berries, cranberries start to emit from the leaves. This is something really complex, really interesting.
The taste is also retain this complexity: the notes of smokiness and tobacco is not overwhelming but still remains, and then the light astringency of berries also lingers in the soup. Finally a great, complex, mature sheng that I was looking for!
Flavors: Berries, Cranberry, Smoke, Tobacco
Rich, smooth, clean flavor + superb value = win-win!
These 2019 “Jin Bang Gan” cakes are 357 grams each, but one can purchase a cake from King Tea Mall for only $16.99 (at the time of posting). What a steal!
In its early steeps, this tea is sweet, velvety, thick, and satisfying in the stomach, without an apparent central flavor. The infusions then evolve with a floral character that reminds me of clean laundry (detergent, dryer sheets, etc.). Finally, the last steeps gradually become woodier and more herbal, reminiscent of petrichor.
I typically use 5 to 8 grams of tea leaves in a 100 mL gaiwan. Brewing with 5 grams yields a light, refreshing brew with less “core” to the flavor; using 8 grams brings out more spiciness with medicinal notes. I start with flash steeps the first three or four rounds and then increase by approximately 5 seconds for each subsequent brew. I enjoy this tea several times a week and love it more each time.
Flavors: Cucumber, Forest Floor, Lavender, Petrichor, Wet Wood
An unbelievable deal for the price! Not the most complex puerh, but still incredibly rich, satisfying, and perfect for a cold rainy day.
Basically impossible to draw any bitterness out of it, even if you steep it for like 20 minutes.
I either brew it gong fu style if I have the time and energy, or I steep it in a infuser or teapot with room to expand. With gong fu I get maybe 15 or 20 steeps out of it (eventually I just have to give up), and with western style I get about 3 strong steeps and one mellow one.
Flavors: Forest Floor, Petrichor, Wet Earth, Wood
This is a very basic pu-erh: wood, decay, a bit sour, a bit sweet. No complexity and the flavors do not blend well. I can’t find anything outright bad, but also nothing good or just memorable. Also, I failed to see any signs that it will get better with time. Well, at least it lacks any fishiness.
There are many inexpensive shous that are more interesting and enjoyable. I still have an almost entire cake of it left and it will probably be a slog to finish.
Flavors: Decayed Wood, Sour, Sweet, Wood
Revisiting this – 9 months of being broken up in a jar:
I reviewed this as my first ‘sheng’ (see previous notes).
This is a fairly cheap tuo, but it’s a solid example of a ‘good’ factory standard tea. “Jia Ji” meaning that it’s made of ‘grade one’ leaf (size). It is one of many tuo-cha from Xiaguan. If you can get the FT (lit. For Taiwan), do so as slightly higher grade material is elegedly used.
My initial tasting notes taught me what a ‘bitter slap you in the face’ tea could be when drunk freshly chipped off the block.
At 8 years old (with extremely tight compression typical to Xiaguan) it’s a bit young in the tooth to have evolved into anything different. But that’s the theory we’re messing with.
Tuo specifically (especially high compression ones) are designed for Asian high-humidity environments. I’ve found very little difference between the unbroken 2006 and 2016 versions of this tea. Breaking this up and putting them all in jars was in order to get that ‘ageing’ process started.
I’d actually forgotten about the jars (moved house, changed job, covid, general 2020 nonsense).
So here I am revisiting it at the tail end of 2020 after having drunk a lot more tea. I opened up the tuo; leaving it in a loose topped glass jar inside my 65%-70% humidity closet to ‘awaken’ and forgot about it for 9 months.
I’m not sure how interesting this is to people, but I’ll note down verbatim notes as I go (and edit them later).
Pot: 120ml Yixing (so 1:15 ratio)
Temp: Right off the boil for each steep
- First wash and second wash (10 sec) discarded, just to open up the tuo
- I’m leaving the lid on between each steep and just filling a tall tasting glass.
1st Steep: 5s
Colour is a very light straw yellow
The first glass is fairly weak but astoundingly different to the last tasting notes. Zero scent of smoke or leather. No woodiness at all. Just a sweet, spring grass with honeysuckle. Clearly, the tea is still opening up as the leaves retain a powerful pong of leather and artichoke but the taste and the brew itself is just clean and sweet.
2nd Steep: 5s
Colour: Remains a pale straw yellow
Leaves are opening up a little, the flavour is building. A bit of woodiness is coming through, but it’s like nibbling on the end of an old sugar cane. Very pleasant straw/grass sweetness. Had to laugh at how little this tastes like the first tasting.
At the end of the cup, I’m getting slightly bitter mouth feel; scent in the dry cup is of dark buckwheat honey. The leaves still smell like pongy sheng (that leather/alfalfa/orchid kind of green funk).
3rd Steep: 7s
Colour: This looks like a glass of morning pee.
I’m detecting bitterness now from the start, but very light. More of the vegetal nature is coming through. There’s a slight citrus sourness and I’m feeling a dryness at the back of the tongue and throat (just a little). Smooth mouthfeel in the broth. Pleasant sweet ‘green’ taste, drifting toward the old artichoke flavour.
The dry cup still smells strongly like dark buckwheat honey. The taste lasts for a while in the mouth – dryness inducing saliva and turning sweet in the throat. Good stuff.
The leaves in the pot now smell like damp old boots (stuffed with artichoke).
4th Steep: 7s
Colour: Maybe slightly more amber.
Pretty much the same as the last infusion, maybe sweeter, but it’s left the honey territory, we’re in sweet peas or grass now (a bit of a genmaicha taste). The glass still stinks of buckwheat honey. That Pu ehr buzz has begun, will take a little break.
5th Steep: 10s
Colour: Rock steady amber pee now, those leaves have opened up.
This could go on for a while… The flavour is holding it’s form. The leaf scent in the pot has lost some of its vegetal veracity. More grasslike and less like funky leather.
6th Steep: 10s
More bitterness, but not unpleasant well balanced as the floral/honey is still there, but it’s headed off center stage.
7th – 10th: 15s / 25s
Yeah, we’re done I think (at 10). I can feel the sour edge really kicking in by the tenth infusion. I’d say you could probably go to round 12. All that happens is the bitter woody edge comes forward in the mouth and the sweetness rides off into the sunset.
A pleasurable session though and an interesting transformation from young into semi-aged sheng. I can see the sourness dying away as it ages more.
It tastes very different to the initial fresh tuo. No longer a sharp slap to the chops. The energy is very warming while I’m sitting in a cool Montreal winter basement on a damp day. It’s a nice reminder of spring and sunshine.
The only negative point is that it was a bit on the ‘simple’ side. I’d expect some older cakes to get more of that honey complexity. I do look forward to my pile of Jia Ji Tuo ageing.
A very good 4-star tea that would be good any time and I can see why Xiaguan put it out every single year.
I would recommend it, and if you do like it, it’s not challenging to stock up. If it were a bit more ‘special’ or varied throughout steeps, i would have given a 5.
Noe that without much age this is 3-star tea (a score of around 65% on steepster). So I’d buy this and set it aside, or buy it from good storage with 10 years of age on it if you can.
When young It just tastes like a powerful, bitter and vegetal sheng full of woodshop and leather. Which can be nice in it’s own way.
Flavors: Green Wood, Orchids, Sugarcane, Winter Honey
This was my first decent sheng pu-erh in tuo form.
Compression is extremely tight (like ‘iron cake; tight almost) and it took me a while to figure out how to break this apart without destroying too much leaf (which was futile, as there’s a lot of broken leaf in this already). The leaves really expand a lot after the first three steeps.
After various tastings and working my way through the tuo I realised the more compressed leaf (bottom of the tuo) tastes much more astringent than the slightly looser leaves at the top of the cake.
I put 5g into a 100ml gaiwan and rinsed for 20 seconds with boiling water. The scent from the leaves is vegetal and rich with bitter melon moving toward geraniums, orchids and artichokes – no sweetness detectable at first; but the geranium/orchid floral quality comes out.
Other predominant flavours in this tuo are leather and freshly planed hardwood. I mention honey, but note this tuo isn’t particularly sweet in taste at all.
I had to do flash steeps – starting at less than 5 seconds for the first three steeps. This will make many infusions. You don’t want to over-steep this.
Initial steeps are overtly astringent and strongly vegetal in flavour with no sweet aftertaste, but eventually a mild floral honey-sweet taste does present itself (about 4 or 5 steeps in) – for me in the back of the throat.
As mentioned, I find that the flavour and astringency can vary depending on how broken up the cake is. Whether it is a looser or more compressed portion (more compressed being mostly just bitter). It certainly keeps you guessing as one brew can vary quite a lot from another.
I’ve been taken off guard by some looser leaf portions and had a floral-honey scent develop with a lovely clean sweetness. I would guess this is would be how this tea would age; so the potential is good.
A nice daily drinker, but potentially a real ‘slap in the face’ tea; not for those who only like deep sweet red tea – but a fine example of middle-young puerh. I look forward to tasting it in a few years.
Flavors: Artichoke, Celery, Geranium, Leather, Orchid, Vegetal, Wood
So… I bought this cake a few years ago despite not-great reviews. I did try a sample. It was NOT a blind buy. It was a time when I learned about Guangdong dry storage and what an amazing transformation it gives factory teas.
4.5g/60ml yixing 212F/100C
It is not heavily compressed. I was afraid I’d need to chisel it but leaves were falling off easily with my regular pu knife.
It does smell smoky but it doesn’t translate into brew. It is not heavy tobacco (I’m not a fan of strong tobacco or smoke)
Instead it’s somewhere in the background. Just a hint, reminder “I was smoky before ;D”
Spice tingling, minty cool, rather soft and powdery with cherry plummy hints. Empty cup smelled of herbs and incense.
My only wish I picked more of it cuz the price was right. It is not a complex tea but very comforting and satisfying.
I thought this was merely ok. (Sample from YS, 11yrs Kunming storage).
It tasted of faded smoke and a tiny bit of camphor. The wet leaves smell much more interesting than it tastes – more rounded. Compared to other aged sheng I’ve had, it doesn’t have so much going for it. Takes slightly longer steeps than others to get the flavour.
Flavors: Camphor, Smoke
This is one solid cake at this point. Real depth from the harder pressing and the disappearing smoke.The brew is dark yellow and the smell is really aligned with the taste which makes it really enjoyable. Either this tea has one heck of a lasting taste to it or whatever I ate is reemerging from earlier.
Quite glad that I have a full cake after having this session. It might be the ugliest and one of the tightest things that I own, but it surely has character.
An inexpensive ripe puer classic from Xiaguan. I bought this tea long time ago but completely forgot that I had it. After rediscovering it, I have had couple of sessions with it and found it pretty nice ripe puer. First steepings were still pretty light, but after the start the tea expressed very nice smooth ripe puer aromas, which is exactly what you could expect from good ripe puer. Under the earthy and woody taste the tea had nice underlying sweetness with maybe hints of vanilla and cherry. The soup was nice and smooth and sometimes the mouthfeel was even somewhat buttery.
In the end this tuo was very enjoyable for its price. Really good contender for a daily drinker tea and I think I’ll buy more of this in the future, but maybe production from different year for comparative reasons.
Flavors: Earth, Wood
Can’t get enough of this stuff. Itl change your mornings. Xiao? Mm change your evenings. A powerful workhorse of raw puerh goodness. Its got the qi ya need. And that smoky green Xiaguan punch in the toung. Their super affordable at the moment too. DTH is selling sleeves for 25 bucks including shipping
Xiaguan teas can be very heavy, so I decided to go for a series of short steeps with this tea. One issue: it was hard to break up. I wound up with three pieces totalling about 2.4 grams for my 2-ounce gaiwan.
It took several steeps for the chunks to dissolve. These initial steeps were light, with obvious smoky character, which I like. There are wood and straw behind the smoke. Despite the short steeps, I’m getting a nice relaxed feeling from the cha qi, helping me to ease out of my work attitude, and into my relax mode.
Not really a special tea, but a good value for 8 years old, and just what I wanted on a lovely spring day.
I love samples from tea friends!
This is very smooth for a sheng that’s from 2011. I guess the material could be older. I didn’t check. In any event, it’s got low bitterness. It leaves a nice aftertaste and is making me salivate like crazy!
I am really enjoying this one. Since it’s not super old, maybe I could get a cake at a reasonable price. I’ll check around. :)
Been hanging onto this for a year or 2 now, time to give it a little taste.
15s: Colour is peachy; reddish/gold.
Green taste, like grass, and straw. Javan was spot on with the observation of artichoke.
30s: Deeper golden colour. has a slight smokey aroma; like tobacco.
Taste is more astringent; not overwhelmingly so. Leaves a great mouthfeel.
-Mouth cleansed with ice water.
20s: Same deep golden red colour and smokey aroma. taste causes an increase in saliva. Getting the melon flavour Javan spoke of is like pulling teeth, but it’s there. Cantaloupe specifically. Empty cup smells sweet.
30s: Pale golden colour, the red seems to be leaving, as does the smokey aroma; both haven lessened noticeably. Much of the same flavour with an increase in bitterness.
35s: Slightly darker brew, with the same colour scheme; reddish gold. The smokey aroma is back. but the pleasant mouthfeel is gone. I’m left with a dry mouth and a thirst for more of this delicious tea. Just wish it wasn’t making my mouth dry..
- Many leaves in my gaiwan are still pressed together, I’ll agitate them and poke at them a bit with the lid to see if I can expose more leaf/flavour.
-Fresh pot of reboiled water cooled to 195F. Same leaves.
40s: Woah Surprise of the session – Colour has gone almost darker than the initial steep and has toned down the smokey aroma, Which can be good or bad depending on how you like your sheng. The taste is bitter-ish still, but vegetal to boot. I like it. Drank this one down like a blonde on spring break getting free shots.
50s: Getting quite bitter in these longer steeps though the colour is very appealing. Tossed this one out .
35s: Much better. Think this is the sweet spot steep time for me. No discernable change from my previous 35s steep. I’m feeling this tea’s calming effect quite well.
4 more steeps at 35s yielded much of the same, albeit slightly weaker.
40s: trying to get a little more life out of this tea with a slightly longer steep. I’ll do a few more of these 40s steeps and then I think I’m done.
Good tea. Could mature a bit more, I’ll try again early next year. I bought a few of these touchas so I’m glad to be only tasting off of 1 and waiting until it’s just right to tear into the others.
Overall this is a surprisingly enjoyable tea. The 100g tuo is a classic Xiaguan ripe puerh. I’ve had it aging a bit for the past year. Tight compression but careful picking made it fairly easy to break apart. Very dark leaf without any golden teabuds. Dark tea soup with a pleasant aroma – did not detect the typical Xiaguan smoke (a plus for me since I am not fond of the smoke in my puerh). The sip is smooth and woody – a bit leather like. The flavor profile presents a bit of spice in the background. This recipe was originally made for export to France and has maintained its consistency. This is a budget friendly tea (purchased in mid-2013 for $6.50) and offers a favorable quality/price ratio. Definitely a respectable daily drinking shu.
Quite a nice young sheng pu-erh it has a pleasant alfalfa like green taste with a hint of depth and a touch of astringency and a hint of orchid and melon smell/taste on the finish. Very pleasant to my taste for a young sheng. I look forward to watching its development.