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Recent Tasting Notes
This is the tea that confused the heck out of me. The 2018 harvest. It is showy: long twisted black leaves that smell of malt, dark chocolate, smoke and dark berries. Very few golden tips.
I just threw about 3 grams in a teapot and did it Western style, steeping for 30 seconds. Since I have been having a lot of tippy Yunnans lately I somehow expected some variation of a typical Dianhonh and it was nothing like that. First it hits you with a maltiness that is quite Keemun-like, which is quickly and completely replaced by a lingering beguiling sweet floral / berry aftertaste that reminded me of Wild Lapsang Souchong. Quite complex, actually. I was confused but liked it.
Then I made the second cup. It smelled very strongly of ash (?) and chocolate and had a completely different, unified taste of complex and pleasant honeyed sweetness. Totally different from the first cup. Oh, and it also had a noticeable minty undertone- so convincing that I had to physically change my cup to make sure that I had not accidentally poured it in a cup from which one of my kids had just drunk mint tea or something. Now I felt that this tea was just messing with me!
Finally, with some apprehension I added the water for my third cup . This time I let it sit for 3 minutes to get all it out. Now the tea smelled of cocoalte and baked bread and, despite the dark color, still tasted rather subdued. You could still discern some notes of malt and mint but now chocolate, cherry and wood predominated – with a lingering aftertaste of mint.
What kind of wizardry is that?! I am certainly going to gong fu this ever-changing tea to death tomorrow. I don’t know how to rate it: the taste and aroma are not strong (which I usually strongly prefer) but it are pleasant, always unexpected and sometimes baffling. The whole experience was almost like some tea-induced tripping.
Flavors: Ash, Black Currant, Blackberry, Cherry, Dark Chocolate, Flowers, Honey, Malt, Mint, Wood
First of the batch of new harvest teas I got from Yunnan Sourcing. The dry leaves look good as they should for Golden Monkey: long twisted leafs with at least a third of golden tips. The smell is not that good though: I expected it to be very sweet and intoxicating but it instead got a smell of old dry leaves, spices and some sourness.
I brewed it western style and got rather mixed results. I put about three grams per a large coffee mug (drinking at work) and first let it sit for 50 seconds. It turned out to be pleasantly malty and sweet but it felt that the taste was a bit lacking and not intense enough. So I brought the infuser back in the mug for another 20-25 seconds and it was too much: the sweetness turned into slight sourness.
All in all, it is a pleasant tea but not very intense and captivating. and finicky about the steeping times. I will try it gong fu but I am not holding my breath. It is not a bad tea but there are certainly better Golden Monkeys on the market: the one from Teavivre, for example.
This, unfortunately, became my all-too-common experience with Yunnan Sourcing: their standard and, often, premium teas are all solid and pleasant but rarely wow you. To get to really impressive teas one needs to move up all the way to the Imperial grade and it will cost you. Don’t get me wrong, the selection of teas at Yunnan Sourcing is almost overwhelming but I was able to find outstanding teas in the non-premium category of other online Chinese tea vendors way more more frequently.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Malt, Maple, Spices, Sweet Potatoes
Excellent well aged tea. I suppose the wetter storage shows how it accelerated aging nicely. This is at a point where all of the flavor has mellowed together to create a very good tea. Hard to describe the flavor since nothing stands out strongly but the taste is fantastic. It lasts through many steeps and stays good through all of them. This will be tempting to make an every day drinker.
Quite spicy but unfortunately also very astringent. Mainly bitter, floral and vegetable notes. Note: The sample seems to be from the middle of the Bing, therefore not necessarily representative.
Images and more at https://puerh.blog/teanotes/2013-san-ke-shu-ys
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Floral, Vegetal
I haven’t been around lately because I’m spending all my time dealing with business-related issues. Apparently, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is good marketing advice that I should have heeded long ago. I probably won’t be buying much tea until I can get things back on track. At least this will give me a chance to tackle my stash!
I bought this tea three years ago, felt indifferent about it, and forgot it. One thing in its favour is that it’s very pretty. I steeped about 5 g of loose, fuzzy golden curls in a 120 ml porcelain teapot at 190F for 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 90, 120, and 240 seconds.
I don’t know if it’s because of age, but this tea starts out very gentle, with notes of cocoa, honey, hay, malt, rye bread, barley sugar, and tannins on the first steep. By steep three, the flavour is intensifying and the malt and hay are taking centre stage, which is not really the direction I want it to go. By steep six, the chocolate has almost disappeared and it’s a typical Dian Hong, heavy on the malt and tannins and a bit drying. Cruelly, the leaves still smell like rye bread and chocolate, though these flavours no longer make it into the cup.
This tea started out as a sweet cocoa treat, but quickly morphed into your typical Dian Hong. While this isn’t bad per se, it wasn’t what I was expecting, and I understand why it’s now so old.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Brown Sugar, Cocoa, Hay, Honey, Malt, Tannin
When you see a Lincang tea that’s forty cents per gram and then realize it’s an autumn harvest, that’s sure to pique your interest. At barely past six months, this tea is still very young, but Yunnan Sourcing is having a sale on raw pu’er right now, which is code for people to start breaking out their samples. In the past I haven’t bothered weighing Yunnan Sourcing’s ten gram sample packs as I’ve always just tossed it all in, but for this session I only had access to a 130ml gaiwan, so unsure if ten grams was too much, I decided to at least weigh the sample. I’m glad I did, because my scale showed 11.8g. Mind that I’ve never calibrated the scale, but I doubt it’s off by more than a few tenths of a gram at most. I do like strong tea, but for young raw pu’er I think twelve grams would have been overdoing it even for me. Instead I weighed nine grams and set the rest of the sample aside.
I received a small piece of the cake, with the rest of the sample consisting of large, intact leaves. Just looking at the sample the leaf integrity looked good. I did my customary 5s rinse followed by a five minute rest while I sipped the wash to get a feel for the tea. The rinse was light, fruity and sweet with no signs of unpleasantness whatsoever. I could already feel some heat and a light throbbing in my head. I proceeded to do twelve infusions, the timing for these being 5s, 5s, 7s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s, 2 min., 3 min. and 5 min.
Di Jie started off soft and smooth. The mouthfeel was about as friendly as a tea can get. It made you slow down and savor it. The flavors were still light, fruity and sweet. They were however very present and long-lasting. The second infusion continued brewing up soft, light and pleasant. There was perhaps the tiniest whisper of an underlying harsher character.
In the third steep the tea got brighter and somewhat sharper in flavor. It caused the sides of your tongue to tingle. There was a non-harsh harshness to it that was fused with sweetness. Even though the tea was stronger and bolder than in the previous two steeps which was evident from the color as well, this was more of an active than a flavorful brew. I found the broth somewhat warming and both my breathing and heartbeat became faster.
The body started to get lighter in the fourth steep, but at the same time the tea became really easy to drink texture-wise. While light in nature, the flavors were very present and forward. The tea was bright, almost bordering on metallic. It was sweet, somewhat mineral, but also a bit drying, leaving your tongue sandpapery. This was the tea at its youngest. After finishing my cup, I could feel some tightness/throbbing/pounding in my chest.
The texture continued getting even lighter in the next steep. The slight fruitiness was back and the tea became increasingly sweet over time. At this point there was no harshness to be found in the tea. After pouring the sixth steep, I found the leaves smelling very fruity. While the tea had gained some body, it seemed to have lost some flavor at the same time. There were no well defined flavors in this steep, but it was an interesting blanket of notes nonetheless. There was something comforting about the soup while it was also a bit drying as well.
The tea got super mineral in the seventh steep – bad kind of mineral. This was also the first time I detected a small amount of bitterness. The bitterness increased in the next infusion while the tea gained some sweetness as well. The tea was aromatic in the mouth and there was a lot more body now. Steep nine was extra bitter, but the bitterness quickly turned into sweetness. In the past these three steeps would have been around the point where I would have normally ended the session, but over the course of the past few months I’ve learned a lot more about both the bitterness and sweetness in pu’er and thus I carried on.
Steep ten was massive in terms of body thanks to the extended brewing time. The sweetness had now overtaken the bitterness. The next infusion was even sweeter, with only small amounts of bitterness and astringency. The final steep was still quite sweet, but I was starting to taste some nastiness in it as well and decided this was a good place to call it.
For such a young tea, the Di Jie performed well. You may want to give it another six or twelve months to properly judge it, but already it delivers very well in relation to the price, with the potential to far exceed it. The quality is very high and not something you’d easily get in a spring tea without paying big money. However this is not necessarily a tea you’d want to session more than once or twice before tucking it away to age. To me it comes across as something you’d likely be looking to age rather than drink young.
Compared to the very similarly priced YS 2017 Mu Shu Cha I reviewed previously, I think the Di Jie offers higher quality at only slightly higher price, but for the purposes of drinking it young, I would pick the Mu Shu Cha over the Di Jie. For aging purposes it’s anyone’s guess how these two will develop and ultimately down to personal preference which one one would prefer.
While I thought it was very high quality, the Di Jie didn’t necessarily make me fall in love with it. Were it pressed into smaller cakes, I’d likely pick up a bing, but I think 400g is far too much tea for me. I’d rather save the space in my pumidor for a cake that feels even more special and resonates with me more. Nevertheless this tea definitely comes recommended.
Flavors: Bitter, Fruity, Mineral, Sweet
It was the Autumn 2017 harvest. The tea is intensely green and vegetal and works very well in a gaiwan. A VERY good and complex first steeping followed by several decent ones. The western-style brewing produces a solid drink as well, although less complex. Asparagus, broccoli, butter, pepper, grass, mushrooms. Tulips and chrysanthemums on the nose.
This tea is showing a certain familial likeness with other green Anxi oolongs from Yunnan Sourcing like Hairy Crab and Ben Shan. If you liked this TGY (and I did) you will certainly like them as well. Overall, it is a very solid Tie Guan Yin but does not knock you off your feet. A good – and affordable- daily drinker.
Flavors: Asparagus, Black Pepper, Broccoli, Butter, Mushrooms, Vegetal
I ordered a 10g sample of this. What I received were all individual leaves, no intact pieces of the cake. The foil the sample came in smelled amazing. I used all ten grams in a 140ml gaiwan. A brief 5s rinse, followed by a five minute rest while I sipped the wash. It was sharp, pungent – very strong. Oily, with maybe sort of a rare clay type of taste. I proceeded to do twelve steepings, the timing for these being 6s, 6s, 8s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s, 2 min., 3 min. and 5 min.
The first brew was full, creamy, oily and active in the mouth. I could feel it all the way at the back of my mouth and in my throat. It was strong, perhaps slightly astringent in taste. There was something familiar about it, perhaps some sort of citric taste, but I’m not quite sure. Since I was leafing slightly harder than I normally would and because it was all in loose form, I was dreading the tea would get incredibly strong in the second brew, but to my pleasant surprise it was not overpowering at all. Instead it was very smooth and steady. There was a pleasant astringency and the tea was somewhat cooling in the body.
The third steep was full and oily. There was more bitterness and some astringency. To me it felt like I could taste hints of something very similar to toffee. The next infusion was mainly bitter and astringent, maybe a bit fruity. The tea continued being very full and active in the mouth.
Steep five gave even more bitterness. In the finish I could also taste some green, leafy toffee notes. The tea became increasingly sweet over time, but nothing overly sweet. If you can believe it, the sixth steep was even more bitter. However, the bitterness was only there for the first sip and then it was gone. In its stead I got sweetness that continued building and building over time. To me the sweetness was that of toffee/browned sugar. The tea was very satisfying, with a sort of elastic texture to it.
Steep seven brewed strong, sweet and syrupy. After this the tea began simplifying. It continued brewing up strong and sweet, with astringency in steeps eight and nine, but after this it dropped off and was replaced by a slight burning sensation at the back of my mouth, which is something in get with some shengs (especially Jingmai teas) but not all. The strength and color started dropping off a little in the last steep, but this could have been remedied with a longer brewing time. The leaves would have probably had at least one or two extended steepings in them, but I opted to call it there.
This tea was excellent. Albeit not cheap, I think it performs beyond its price point. Compared to the Tea Urching 2017 Lao Ban Zhang I just reviewed, I much prefer this tea. That is not to say it is necessarily better, ten years down the line the two would probably develop in very different directions, but for drinking them young, I would pick the Mu Shu Cha any day of the week. I also prefer this tea to some of Yunnan Sourcing’s other offerings I’ve tried from around this area like the 2016 Bing Dao Lao Zhai or the 2017 Nuo Wu, which I drank recently but didn’t find worth reviewing. Again, this is purely from a standpoint of drinking them young.
Given how potent this tea is and how my sample was really chopped up with virtually no intact leaves, I expected it to brew much stronger and even more bitter, but instead it performed very evenly and never became harsh under conditions where lower teas would have punished you severely. You have to be a fan of bitter and astringent teas, but if you are, this is a tea that’s perfectly enjoyable right now. Given the quality, it would no doubt age very gracefully as well, but if you can’t find something to enjoy in the tea in its current young state, I very much doubt it would suddenly transform into something you would unless we are literally talking about decades. If you know you can’t stomach Lincang teas, then stay away.
Compared to the two Yunnan Sourcing Yiwu teas – Man Lin and Guo You Lin – which I reviewed recently and enjoyed immensely, I’d peg this tea not on par with the Guo You Lin and maybe a nudge below the Man Lin, although it resembles the Guo You Lin much more. I can’t comment on leaf integrity and such, but what I noted was that the leaves were untypically free of burnt and more oxidized leaves (I literally spotted zero). For me this is a rare sight, even in ridiculously expensive teas. I would consider it a sign of quality.
I got no noticeable cha qi during the session, but for the rest of the day I felt very awake, aware and energized, and I would attribute these things to the tea. My body also felt very cleansed. If you have time for a sheng in the morning, this tea might be great for helping you get through your day. It is also slightly cooling, so it might be great for the summer.
One last thing of note about the tea is that I found it more aromatic than a lot of other young raws. The leaves, gaiwan lid, liquor, empty cups and cha hai all carry different scents that change over the session. Even if not necessarily the most essential thing, it’s a nice plus.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Clay, Fruity, Sweet, Toffee
This is a really nice aged ripe tuo. It isn’t the highest quality leaf, but there’s some good taste in there anyways. Nice cocoa flavor with a hint of smoke. Not fermentation funk at all. Nice price, a nice alternative to the Dayi V93 with a little different flavor.
Very tasty high quality ripe! Snooth and full bodied with flavors of dark wood and earth with a slight dried fruit sweetness. Very infusible and fairly clean tasting.
Flavors: Caramel, Cedar, Clay, Dates, Earth, Wood
This tea (the Spring 2018 version) steadily grew on me over the course of finishing a 50 g. It has a luxurious smell and appearance while dry: tight golden and black curls redolent with malt, sweet potato and carrots – and a heavy dusting of magical golden dust everywhere, which I LOVE.
The taste is strong, fairly complex and instantly recognizable: dark chocolate, malt, sweet potato, floral, flowers and some sweetness. It does well with gong fu and Western brewing, but goes downhill rapidly with subsequent steepings.
Not for the folks who prefer understated teas and love to tease out multiple flavors out of them playing with the steeping conditions. This tea is ideal for drinkers who are into puers, roasted oolongs, Keemuns and other bold teas.
Flavors: Caramel, Carrot, Dark Chocolate, Flowers, Grass, Malt, Sweet Potatoes
Brewed this western style this time, and I think it shines better here. Started out on the short side of brew times for western, at a minute, and increased by a minute each brew. Lots of nice malty flavors, got some nice sweetness in the later steeps. This is excellent, and I don’t think there are enough subtle flavors to bother with gongfu brewing, especially since I can get many steeps from this western style.
This is a solid black tea. Gongfu style for this review. Plenty of malty flavors, along with a yeasty note and a little floral as well. Pretty nice. I may prefer Western style for this one, but gongfu is interesting and tasty. Will have to compare number of steeps between the two.
I brewed this in an easy gaiwan, as so to taste the tea as is.
The smell of the dry leaves are of dark red fruits. Once rinsed they become much more present, as aromas of peaches and plums are very much present, along with some citrus (orange peels too).
First steep wasn’t too spectacular. Just like any other Da Hong Pao, but with a lot of flavorful smells going on. The second steep is very nice. You can tell the teasoup is getting a lot more full and the soup is no longer ‘watery’.
The fourth steep gives a wonderfully golden orange color. The wet leaves are very pungent by now and very full. With the longer steep of about 30 seconds, the flavor does not go too citrus-y as some Da Hong Pao can get. With the 9 Year Da Hong Pao, the high notes can reach to an almost sour level. With this one, it’s very balanced yet you can taste the sweet fruity notes very well with a more balanced woody base.
The soup gets thicker and thicker and has an amazing feel in the mouth and in the back of your throat. I can’t imagine how the soup will be in my dedicated pot. It has a light floral taste, but very very subtle. The top notes are definitely there, but just enough for you to want more.
The lid now gets a more floral and grassy smell. The tea is still going very strong on its sixth steep with no sign of stopping. As I go on with the steeps, the smell sometimes goes into my nose because it’s so pungent. I can only taste and smell plums and peaches and blood oranges. Although the thickness of the soup is thinning out.
A very enjoyable tea that I would definitely recommend. It’s in my humble opinion better than the 9 year aged one, but I still have a whole lot of samples to go through so who knows! On its own, it’s an amazing sweet little tea.
Flavors: Blood orange, Citrus, Citrus Zest, Floral, Fruity, Goji, Grass, Peach, Plums, Sweet
A very floral tea with an obvious roasted taste. Though very aromatic, the bright notes were more subdued when brewed. The lid smelled very much like vegetable, something along the lines of zucchini or cooked cucumber. The tea leaves themselves were less of that and had more fruity aromas.
When brewed lightly, the roasted taste was apparent with a nice balance of fruitiness to it. Its balance is unlike other oolongs I’ve tried. It’s just ‘right’. It’s slightly tardy in the mouth after a while.
I accidentally left it sit for a bit too long (close to a minute) and overbrewed it. The taste of that steep was awfully familiar to black tea that I had to go back and make sure I had brewed oolong and not black tea. It had the sweet yet slight bitterness that black teas have. In a blind test, people would surely share this view.
A very enjoyable tea. I’m glad I got myself a small sample of it. I might even prefer this one over Da Hong Pao on some days.
Flavors: Apricot, Floral, Honey, Lychee, Tannin, Zucchini
The dry leaves smells like green tea, with a few high notes in there. After a rinse, the leaves smelled like the tea was right in between green oolong and dark oolong. The taste was exactly as how you’d imagine it: a green oolong base with very bright citrus-y notes. The first few steeps had a sour aftertaste. It threw me off, as I did not read up on it when I tried. It took me a minute to get used to it, but nonetheless quite tasty.
Around steep number 5 the tea started to lose its flavors and returned a more faint tasting tea. I tried to push it a bit with more boiling water and longer steeps, but couldn’t get much out of it anymore.
Overall, a very enjoyable tea but one that doesn’t last very long. I’d say it’s good for some grandpa style drinking.
Flavors: Citrusy, Grass, Green, Mushrooms, Raisins
When I had brewed this 16 year old tea what I noticed was that it had a sort of ‘sour’ fruity flavour that I hadn’t experienced with shou pu-erh before. There was also a hint of pine. After several steepings it turned into a sweet licorice kind of smell. The taste was fairly sweet, smooth and creamy. The qi was powerful enough to give me an alert and awake feeling, but it wasn’t over-powering. It was very enjoyable to drink. Aftertaste was the sort of dark chocolaty woody taste that people who are familiar with shou pu-erh will probably recognise.. I could get quite a number of steepings out of this tea, it was only after 12 (large) cups that the strength of the tea started to diminish so much that it wasn’t enjoyable to me anymore (I must say that I like my tea quite strong, so people who enjoy their teas lighter may even get more steepings out of it).
This tea has definately made me interested in trying more tea of this hei cha ‘style’. If you like shou pu-erh you will probably like this tea as well.. Even though this is my first Liu Bao, and therefore I don’t know how this tea holds up to other teas of the same style, I am fairly confident to say that this is a good tea in general for the price and as such I can recommend it to all people who are interested in post-fermented tea, especially those who are interested in older teas of this type.
Flavors: Berries, Dark Chocolate, Pine, Pleasantly Sour, Spices, Wet Wood
Very nice young sheng, and I don’t always like young sheng. There are pleasant vegetable notes in there and some sweetness. There’s some bitterness and astringency that wants to break through but I mostly kept it low with short steeps and 190F water instead of boiling. Very nice, and I bet it would age well.
This is definitely the best shou I have tried so far! I literally like every aspect of it. It brews an incredibly rich and dark burgundy coloured liquor. The smell of the wet leaf is pleasant and cooling like an autumn breeze with some plum sweetness present as well.
As for the taste, it is very balanced – somewhat savoury initially with light coffee bitterness, which transforms into cherry and sugarcane sweetness soon enough. Especially the latter steeps are more on the sweet side. In the aftertaste, there is a dark chocolate note and I get some strange “dancing” sourness on my tongue for minutes after drinking it.
For a ripe pu-erh, I would say this is a full bodied tea with a soft and velvety mouthfeel that is a little cooling. I also noticed that it makes me more focused, without any caffeine rush. I feel like this would be a good tea for my office.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Cherry, Coffee, Dark Bittersweet, Dark Chocolate, Pleasantly Sour, Plums, Red Wine, Sugarcane, Sweet