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Recent Tasting Notes
This cake has spent a few months in my pumidor. Today I finally decided to break into it. This is over a year old now, and while still containing plenty of various shades of green, I was surprised to see some much darker shades than I was expecting. The leaves are respectably large and the average leaf size is surprisingly homogenous. Leaf integrity has been maintained well in pressing the cake, and unlike in many cakes where the surface layer looks really nice but beneath that you find a lot of broken leaf and dust, the leaf quality seems consistent throughout the cake.
For this session I filled my trusty 250ml Yixing clay teapot with 13.3g of leaf and after a brief 10s rinse followed by a 15-minute rest I got to brewing. I did a total of nine steeps, for 15s, 15s, 17s, 20s, 25s, 35s, 1 min., 2 min. and 3 min. respectively. The drinking was done from a silver teacup. The scent of the dry leaf in a preheated teapot was a very typical young pu’er scent of hay. The scent of the rinsed leaves was also very typical: green, slightly creamy, and vegetal.
At first I wasn’t sure if the first steep was really watery or just really light. When the tea hits your tongue it tastes a lot like water. The other flavors are quite light and subtle and come with an interesting delay with each sip, not just in the beginning. The taste is green, vegetal, maybe very subtly sweet, and clean. There’s a very gentle vegetal aftertaste that appears with some delay and lasts quite long. I’m not sure, but I may have already felt some qi from the very first steep. There was some warmth in my belly and slight ache in different parts of my body.
The second steep was very similar to the first. It tasted a lot like mineral water when it hit your tongue. The mineraly green tea taste comes with a delay. The taste isn’t similar to a lot of other young raws I’ve drunk that border on unpleasant and conjure an image of you steeping some random tree leaves, but instead the flavor is comparable to some actual pretty high-end green teas that have a very dominant mineral character to them and aren’t necessarily that focused solely on yummy flavors and a wow factor. I haven’t drunk that many quality green teas, but I’m thinking of teas like Long Jing, Huang Shan Mao Feng and Anji Bai Cha (at least the ones I’ve had). The second infusion maintains the long aftertaste of the first.
The third steep tasted possibly even more watery to me than before, but I simply can’t say if what I was tasting was actually the taste of the water pushing through or the taste of the tea itself. The overall taste was very mineraly, with less green notes than before. I’m not sure if there was possibly some very, very slight astringency to the finish; it felt different from your typical astringency. The green, vegetal, maybe even slightly sweet aftertaste from before remained the same, however. The aftertaste may have even been getting better. Despite my initial uncertainty about this tea and how relatively simple it is taste-wise, it was around this third steep that I began finding it surprisingly interesting and enjoyable. The way it sounds on paper betrays the true qualities of this tea.
In the fourth steeping I immediately noticed the lighter body. The body in this tea had actually never grabbed my attention up to that point, but when it was suddenly gone I immediately took notice. I’d say the body in previous infusions had always been reasonably light, but it had been there. This tea is interesting, because if you don’t consciously pay attention to the texture in your mouth, you simply don’t notice it. The taste continued to be very mineraly and retained the same aftertaste. Like a great green tea, this sheng in its current state is a surprisingly nice tea to just sip away. I could however definitely feel it rummaging my gut a little at this point. This is undoubtedly from gushu material and commands a certain amount of respect.
In the fifth steeping the flavors were slightly more immediate than before and perhaps slightly more forward as well. The tea may have also been getting a shade sweeter, with the sweetness being mineral in character. The prior body was back now and not watery thin anymore. The same familiar aftertaste was also retained. The tea continued to be surprisingly nice, although I’m not sure why. I suspect it may have some mood lifting qualities, but they are so subtle that I could not reliably identify them, possibly partially because the tea also feels like it’s wrecking your body from the inside like a kid throwing a tantrum. I would describe this sort of as a green tea+, even though it’s not necessarily strictly better than some of the finest green teas.
The sixth steeping saw no change. The tea continued to be very enjoyable, contemplative even. The seventh infusion however tasted even more dominantly like mineral water than all the prior ones, with other aspects of the tea greatly diminished. The body remained consistent to before, if not a tad thicker. It may have actually even been considerably thicker than before, but you really have to pay attention to the texture in this tea to notice it. After sipping enough of the tea, a bit more green sweetness did appear, but the previously very consistent aftertaste had now weakened notably.
I pushed the eight steep a bit harder, which resulted in even stronger mineral water taste, but this time with a bit of a harsh/unpleasant edge to it. There was however some mineral sweetness in the finish and overall the steep was still surprisingly tasty (mineral) water. The greenness was there if you really looked for it, and there was some faint astringency in the finish as well. The ninth infusion was the last one I did, and this time the flavors were more balanced as I wasn’t pushing the tea in the same manner as before. The flavor was still dominated by the mineral character, but the mineral taste had changed from before. The body was somewhat lighter now and you could detect some minor astringency in the finish, but the mineral taste still retained notable strength to it and on that front the tea showed no signs of losing steam yet. I, however, decided to call it here, because I’d had plenty of tea by that point.
After some uncertainty during the first two steeps, I found myself having a surprisingly positive experience with this tea. The tea has a very pure, light and simple taste right now, which really surprised me. I usually don’t enjoy a mineral character in tea, apart from some really high-end teas that can sometimes have an actually enjoyable mineral taste to them, but this is really rare. In this tea it wasn’t necessarily enjoyable, but I didn’t mind it either. I also typically demand dynamic progression from the flavor over the session, but with this tea the very consistent flavor did not bother or bore me. There wasn’t really any totally obvious qi, but the tea’s young potency can certainly be felt in the stomach and as aching in your muscles during and long after the sessions. Those to whom some potent young sheng can feel like battery acid in their stomach and simply can’t handle it may not want to drink this tea young.
Your session may vary wildly from mine, but at its current stage this is a tea that I would recommend to people who enjoy green tea with a prominent mineral character. If for you the taste is the most important thing about tea, this may not be for you, however. The more I drink tea the more emphasis I’ve started to put on aftertaste, texture and how the tea makes you feel. Taste is of course great, but some of the best teas I’ve had did not blow you away with their front flavors. This tea has such an interesting flavor profile and interesting delay to the follow-up flavors that I find it hard to gauge the longevity of this tea, especially since I did not fully steep it out. If you draw the line where the greener notes drop off, then the longevity is perhaps a bit disappointing. If you draw the line somewhere else, however, then I have no idea how long this one can go without actually trying it out.
I debated over whether to rate this tea as Recommended or not. I try to be somewhat strict about that so it does not lose its meaning, and one of the main criteria I’ve crystallized it down to is whether I would buy more of the tea were I to run out. As much as I enjoy this tea in its current state, I’m not sure if I’d buy more of it after drinking all 400 grams. However, when I take into account the ageing potential of this tea, I have high hopes this one will become really yummy in ten years or so. Who knows how it will actually age, but I have a good feeling about this one, granted I’m a total newb when it comes to ageing. Therefore I am awarding San Ke Shu a personal recommendation, making it only the third tea so far. If the tea interests you at all, I recommend checking it out relatively soon, because not many cakes were pressed, only thirty or so I believe. The prices are not going to come down and once these are gone they are gone.
I’d like to have one more session with this tea, but I will try to refrain as this tea does feel quite special and I’d like to reserve as much of it as possible for the future. I’ve been somewhat concerned about my pu’er storage after a string of some negative experiences and disappointments, but luckily this session helped dispel many of those concerns. I will have to continue sessioning my teas to verify that the concerns I raised in my previous Crimson Lotus Tea single tree Lao Ban Zhang gushu review were unfounded, but for the time being I’m content concluding that young sheng simply can be very fickle.
I’m debating over whether I should move to using a slightly higher leaf-to-water ratio with my Yixing since the pour time is quite good relative to the size, but that remains to be seen.
Flavors: Green, Mineral, Vegetal
This sheng will hopefully improve with aging. The flavor was primarily bitterness, with some underlying vegetal and slightly sweet notes. I did not strongly dislike it, but I will wait a few years if I can before trying this again. I’m hoping this will mature into something great! The wrapping design is stunning needless to say!
Flavors: Bitter, Sweet, Vegetal
Breaking in my new unglazed pot from TaiwanTeaCrafts while trying this sample. Very excited to have gotten my hands on this pot!
Had a rinse then rested for ~5 minutes. 1st steep is sweet and bright. Citrus, iodine, licking a rock. 2nd and 3rd steeps have rising astringency but I can still taste through it. 4th is getting pretty robust and full. Astringency is there but it’s also sweet. 5th+ was all pretty similar, it did not develop a ton. Astringency kept going down slowly. Flavor was pretty consistent.
Compared to the 2014, this was a bit easier to brew and drink. Tamer I guess would be the word? I liked it more. Awesome for the price, will be ordering a cake.
I’ve been drinking this exclusively for the past 3 days as I await my YS order that I placed in a panic earlier this week after realizing that I was completely out of sheng. I can’t tell if this is really a fantastic tea or I just haven’t had enough shou to know any better. Either way it doesn’t really matter, I guess, because I’m enjoying this tea a lot. It’s cheap enough that I can brew 10g at a time in my 180ml clay and not feel guilty about it. It’s not particularly complex and doesn’t really evolve much across steepings but that’s not what I really need out of this tea. What I need is some consistent, forgiving, soupy, rich shou and this is it. I suspect it’s good grandpa style as well.
Got a bit nervous right away because the fishy smell was strong enough to be sitting on the dry leaf. The fishiness did not show up in the flavor at all though. Nice easy cake to break up, beautiful little nugs just sort of fall off once they get loosened. My only gripe is that the wrapper is glued shut so you need to rip the paper to get at the tea. I really wanted to keep it intact and be able to fold it back shut. Not a big deal.
Has some beautiful flavors: mushroom, rice, root veggies. Perfect level of sweetness for me. Very very light astringency. Lots of steeps (I’m on 9 now, I think, and it’s got a lot more to give).
At 6.6 cents/g this is a great value. Glad I added this brick to my order.
Update: got 12 or 13 steeps I think, wasn’t really counting. Last one was about 2 minutes and it was still nice and smooth and sweet.
Just finished this little cake; I think it was the first I ordered from Yunnan Sourcing. At the time I didn’t have much to compare it to. But since then I have drunk a lot of shou pu. This tea is outstanding, rich, viscous, deep delicious with a little tingle on the tongue. Sorry to see it go.
This was a very bitter sheng. I gave this ten steeps. I would say there was strong bitterness in the first eight steeps. It did get better. There was an underlying note behind the bitterness that began to emerge. a sweet note not sure what to call it. No apricots or stonefruits in this one.
I steeped this ten times in a 150mml gaiwan with 8.2g leaf and 190 degree water. I gave it a 10 second rinse. I steeped it for 5 sec, 5 sec, 7 sec, 10 sec, 15 sec, 20 sec, 25 sec, 30 sec, 45 sec, and 1 min. I will put this tea away for a couple of years and see if it improves.
I think I pulled this sample out of the Puerh TTB. I wasn’t a huge fan of it. The leaves had a relatively light hay aroma to them. Once I brewed it up, the main flavor I got was hay with a touch of bitterness. The bitterness grew as the session continued, though I never found it particularly unpleasant. The unpleasant part of this tea for me was the finish which developed by about steep number three and lasted the whole rest of the time I spent with it. It was something funky – maybe mushroom or wet bark. I don’t mind some of these foresty flavors generally, but they were off in this tea. Maybe it’s at an awkward age or something, but this one just wasn’t for me.
Flavors: Bitter, Hay
This sample arrived as a cluster of intact, long spindly leaves from the gently compressed edge of a cake that appears to have been processed with finesse. When dry, the leaves have a faint floral and sweet grass aroma. When dry, there is a nutty aroma of steamed Chinese mustard greens and fall wild flowers. I’ve noticed how flavor and overall visual impact are enhanced whenever leaves are pressed in a way that preserves their structural integrity.
The first few steeps have what I would describe as layered vegetal bitterness (steamed dandelion greens and wild herbs) with accents of floral notes. There is a three-dimensional aspect to this tea’s mouthfeel. Subtle cooling vibrations are initially felt at the back of the tongue then move simultaneously to middle and the roof of the mouth. Decent qi on this one that’s as grounding as it is heady, but never overwhelming.
Sampling Scott’s 2016 line has allowed me to learn that some teas under 1 year old are best left to rest for a year after being pressed. Right now, the 2015 Huang Shan Gu Shu is showing much improvement in terms of flavors, texture, and fragrance than it had this past spring.
I think this tea, along with the 2016 Da Qing Gu Shu and CLT’s 2016 Hidden Song (coming soon), needs more time to rest so that individual flavors and textures can be further developed and enjoyed. It seems only right that to treat good teas with a bit of respect and patience. I will update this log next year.
Rinse smell is soft and inviting, with promises of complex floral and honey notes in the aroma. Tasting this rinse, there is already a density and sweet, creamy character to this tea, though it’s still more water at this point… There is a sticky, candy-like aroma from the leaves. The first proper infusion is clear like golden morning light, but still tinged by snow-pea green. As I sip, the first thing to strike me is the rich texture which drags itself down the tongue leaving fresh vegetable and wild honey sweetness in its wake.
The next notable element is the tea’s qi, or energy. Though not yet overpowering, I do feel a sudden rush to the head, which eventually settles behind the brow. This is a thick and sweet young sheng, active and full of life.
The subsequent infusion glows a darker and deeper gold without the hints of green from before. Its taste is more pungent, with notes of flower pollen and beach grass. There is also a bitterness present in this infusion, hiding just beneath the surface, which leaves behind a back and forth interplay between it and the sweetness in the aftertaste.
The third cup is clearer and crisper, with a more forward but fast passing bitterness. The creamy and desserty qualities I associated with the 2013 San Ke Shu become more apparent, in a way that is almost reminiscent of a Taiwan Oolong such as Jin Xuan, being both milky and vegetallay sweet at the same time.
The fourth infusion is crisper still, admirably structured and with a texture approaching what I would call ‘minerally’. Subsequent infusions remain full, alive, bitter, sweet, with a pungent floral complexity. In my very humble opinion, this is a nearly perfect young raw puer. As things stand, I can’t really see any reason to sit on this cake or put any portion aside for aging- this is already a very real tea, with a character that is direct and pure. Each steeping is enjoyable, and brings me back to why I love tea.”
Flavors: Candy, Cream, Floral, Honey
Has enough bite to keep me interested and the aftertaste sticks around for a while. All things I like about sheng. The tea is reasonably soft, but still far from the softest Yunnan Sourcing sheng I have had. It is an above average sheng at a ridiculously good price!
Flavors: Bitter, Pear, Vegetal
Dry leaf: EARTHY, FRUITY, CEREAL (sweet hay, rich compost, almond, grits, cooked corn, hints at molasses, coffee grounds, stewed berries, vanilla bean, dark dried fruit – prune, date)
Smell: EARTHY, BRINY (hay, compost, oatmeal, grits, bread pudding, pleasant “ocean” notes – brine, seashore)
Taste: EARTHY, CEREAL, NUTTY (hay, rich earth, leather, grits/cream of wheat, raw nuts – almond and Brazil nuts – dark mushroom, buttery, creamy vanilla, hints of vanilla bean, stewed fruit, red fruit, ripe banana, cinnamon, nutmeg). One very pleasant characteristic of this tea is noticeable bourbon note that weaves in and out on the palate during several infusions.
The only bad thing about this cake is that once you start to get to know it, you begin to regret only having 100g of it. For my palate, it is easily one of my favorite ripes.
Initial nose off the hot wet leaves is burly, with aromatic wood and a more subtle smoked character that fades directly into a very subtle and not-ouf-of-place cologne-like perfume. As the leaves cool, this settles into a musky sweetness with hints of the initial aroma. There aren’t any sour notes to this tea, which I often find and dislike in a lot of early-middle-aged teas around 2009/2010. I also feel like the way this tea is going to age is apparent, as if its on the cusp of going somewhere really nice. The current enjoyability of this tea, and the pleasantness of the early aged character made me excited enough to purchase a cake of this for some aging. Should be a nice show over the next few years.
PS Thanks to mrmopar for this sample. Learned a lot through a trade we made.
Just had a sample, to some up my feelings about this tea quickly I’ll say this. I’m definitely buying at least 2 cakes.
For 19 usd there aren’t many readily available better deals than this. It has a medium thickness to the body, a long lasting sweet finish which develops dynamically, a solid bitterness and cooling sensation, and a nice flavor profile.
Flavors: Apple, Floral, Green Wood, Honey, Pear, Sugarcane, Vanilla, Vegetal
Brewed gongfu style in a 100ml gaiwan. Very thick, got many steeps out of it (8-12). Great huigan and mouthfeel. Strong cha qi/energy. Started sweating and feeling quite pleasant after the third steep. Very little bit of the fermentation taste, gone after the first couple of steeps.
Throughout there was a strong earthy, woody, almost floral flavor. Not malty, maybe a touch of black-tea-style sweetness. Nutty flavors increased with each steep.
Absolutely great tea for the price.
Flavors: Earth, Floral, Nutty, Sweet, Wood
Just finished my mini cake, and I wish I had more! For the price this is a lovely cake to go to when you want something comfortable and flavorful. It can endure brew after brew and yields a full and thick woody brew with hints of cocoa, TCM, incense, and leather. I’ll be buying a few more to stock away. I don’t think this is a tea with long term aging potential, but it will be even more pleasant for a few more years.
So I brewed up about 7 grams in a 100ml gaiwan at about 210f. Two customary rinses to get the funky junk of the pile off. This tea has lost that fermented smell and wasn’t funky at all. I see some reviews saying it is fishy but I imagine these are older tastings and this tea has had time to mellow out. I did quick steeps at first at about 5-8 seconds. I find this ripe to be a light smooth mouthfeel but not lacking at all. I brewed a bit heavy to see what it had. I noticed a really nice caramel flavor or honey sweetness on the back end. It has the traditional coffee-esque bite that a good ripe has. Definitely a good morning tea. A medium energy to this one. Not too strong, not too weak. It didn’t give a ton of infusions like some other ripes but gave enough to enjoy. Not a bad tea. More age will make it even better.
I actually did this two days ago so I am doing it again tonight.
I am pretty sure I grabbed this from Jasetea after roaming their website. A Yunnan Sourcing tea from 2009 and sold out on the YS sites.
I got all the shake and little pieces from inside the wrapper to brew with. I think it was about 12 grams and in the gaiwan to steep.
I rinsed it and let it sit about an hour before brewing to open the leaf up a bit.
This one is just about to get into the darker gold/copper color.
The brew was done in 3/3/3 sec brews. It sips light and goes quickly into a full thick almost oily coating with a nice good bitter punch to it. It gives some sweet but it is a while after sipping and the bitter subsides before this comes to front.
This one is turning into a good strong tea in its middle age. I will be interested into seeing how this ages in the future.
Flavors: Bitter, Hay, Sweet, Thick
very solidly compressed. 2 20-sec rinses, then (15s): Clean aroma; no earthiness. Woody with a hint of fruit; bitter at the finish. 2nd (15s): more fruit, hint of caramel in nose. Taste is mostly just woody, with a bit of earth, but less bitter than before. 3-6th steeps similar. OK but not much character.
Interesting note: when I bought this tea a few months ago it was priced at $4.00. Now it is $4.80.
150ml easy-pour gaiwan, boiling, using my standard times for pu-erh: rinse/30/60/90/120/360, Stevia added.
Yesterday I finally tackled the task of compartmentalizing all of my pu-erh; I decided to keep my sheng (raw) in a cardboard box that four Teavana teacups came in (the size of a small shoe box) and my shou (cooked) in a tall terra cotta wine brique with a cork top I found at a goodwill recently. Unfortunately, I found that this mini-cake almost fits in the brique. Then I thought, “Well, almost is not going to stop me from putting this cake in here!” Anyway, I had yet to try this tea, so I decided this was as good time as any to take some tea from the cake by trimming some off one ‘edge’ so it could fit, and then brew up the ‘trimmings’; in the process of trimming a little at a time while seeing if it would fit it turns out I had to take enough tea for about three steeping sessions; so I decided to brew up about 5-6 grams right away and then put the rest in a plastic bag (I plan to brew the trimmings sometime over the summer.)
I am sitting here writing this after the tea is all gone, as I wasn’t planning on writing this review. So, my observations here are general. Later this summer I plan to pay more attention to the flavor and aroma for a more thorough review.
This tea is different than any of the other cooked pu-erhs I’ve had: it was lighter in flavor, smoother, and even seemed to have a kind of fresh quality to it without any of the musty-ness that most of the other cooked pu-erh seems to have had. It wasn’t harsh, edgy or too fishy either, as I was expecting from reading about how young cooked pu-erh can taste. It had a beautiful reddish-brown color that was much lighter than the color of the cooked pu-erh I had just yesterday. This is my first mini-cake and I have to say, overall, I am impressed with the entire experience; it’s very different than brewing up a sample or a mini tou. I may try brewing this up in my Yixing next time.
Although I still don’t find cooked pu-erh to be something I would drink for pleasure, this is probably the best tasting one yet. As varied as I understand the selection of pu-erh teas to be, and as deeply rooted in Chinese culture as it is, I decided to invest my time and energy into exploring this class of tea hoping to unearth a least a few of it’s hidden treasures. For me this is a kind of long- term experiment, undertaken in large part because of how pu-erh seems to not only captivate tea enthusiasts worldwide but to hold their attention for a lifetime.