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Let’s jump to the end – buy this cake if you are fan of rich, bold puerh and great deals.
I bought this cake at the end of a short pu’erh tasting journey through various regions. I noticed that young Bu Lang had quite a personality, and frankly, was not something I enjoyed drinking young. However, my gut told me that it was the sort of thing that would age and mellow out – leaving great flavors and a big personality. To test my hypothesis, I bought this cake.
I think my gut was right. This tea has a lot of depth and personality. There is a rich savoriness that is balanced throughout, from smell to aftertaste, by an equally rich and complex sweetness. In addition, just enough sharp flavors like astringency and bitter herb help lift the whole experience – like a well-hopped beer.
I still can’t figure out Hai Lang Hao though. The dude has cakes going for almost $1K, and then he has stuff like this. In any event, I get to have a budget cake made by someone who knows what they’re doing, so I’ll take it.
This is a great addition for anyone looking to have some semi-aged stuff on hand.
Dry leaf – aged spicy tobacco, hay, notes of spicy sweetness (like spiced jelly candy – clove, sassafras). In preheated vessel – dark tobacco notes get bolder and more notes of spiced jellies.
Smell – mushroom broth (vegetal, savory, earthy sweetness), hints of spiced jellies, hay and barn notes, sweetness like spice cake, hints of pine resin.
Taste – mushroom broth is primary flavor. Hay/barn and medium/sweet tobacco are secondary flavors. Light molasses and spice cake sweetness arrives in late development and finish. Chocolately body in finish and aftertaste, with returning spiced jelly sweetness balanced by savory notes from development. Some astringency in finish, with light bitter green herb.
After spending the better part of an hour glancing back and forth at my session notes, I came to the conclusion that I had no clue how to start a review of this tea. Where would I even start with it? Okay, before I go any further, let me explain my current circumstances in more detail. Hopefully, that will shed some light on my mindset going into the review sessions I conducted with this tea.
I did not previously make this information public, but I quit my despised job back around the start of the second week of September. At the time, I was actually working three jobs. My primary position was as a case manager for individuals with developmental disabilities that I held with a local community health agency. I also worked overnight on-call shifts as a mobile mental health crisis responder and evaluator for the same agency in addition to working part-time as a property manager for my parents’ property management company. For just shy of the past two years, my elderly grandmother has also been living with me. With my parents, who were also my bosses at one job, living right next door, an extremely willful elderly woman sharing a residence with me, and no adequate amount of time for socialization, my interactions with others were mostly limited to text messages, Facebook, and well, Steepster. This situation sucked. By the start of August, it had become apparent to me that I was not fitting in with the administration’s vision for the positions I occupied with my primary employer. I had been working at the agency just shy of two full years and had been highly praised in each position I held (I was transferred twice during my time there), but never received a raise and never really gelled with most of my coworkers. What’s worse is that I live in an area where higher paying jobs are notoriously hard to come by, and by most measures (government salary estimates based on my age, education level, training, and job experience), I was making at least $10,000-$16,000 less per year than I was worth. With no opportunities for advancement on the horizon, I abandoned my primary employer in order to work for my parents full-time. Unfortunately, that has meant more time at home, and with my grandmother’s seasonal depression suddenly kicking in hard (my grandfather died during the autumn of 2006), I have had a very unpleasant week. Tack on the facts that my bosses are right next door and I see them both on and off-the-clock multiple times every single day, and I have been dealing with a nasty inner ear infection, the medication for which apparently causes serious insomnia, and I have not been having a pleasant run of things here lately. This tea was the one that kept me company through most of this crap; I finished the last of it yesterday night when I couldn’t get any sleep to save my life. Yes, I have been up since yesterday morning. All of this being said, is it any wonder I had more than a bit of difficulty getting my head straight with regard to rating this tea?
Anyway, enough of that for now. My review sessions were conducted on two separate evenings. The first, which is the one primarily detailed in this review, saw me steep 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 200 F water for 3 seconds following a flash rinse. This infusion was then chased by 15 subsequent infusions. Steep times for these infusions were 5 seconds, 7 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes. The second gongfu session differed in only a couple of small ways. The water temperature was lowered to 195 F and I started with a 5 second steep and then carried on from there. Otherwise, the two sessions were conducted in an identical manner.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves emitted powerful, thrilling aromas of nectarine, peach, blood orange, and honey. After the rinse, I detected more subdued aromas of malt and wood balanced by a hint of chocolate. The first infusion produced a very similar bouquet, albeit one with a stronger chocolate presence and an emerging hint of cream. In the mouth, I found timid notes of cream, malt, chocolate, and wood underscored by fainter presences of fruit and honey. Subsequent infusions brought out the honey, blood orange, peach, and nectarine, though I caught them most strongly toward the finish. I also found touches of apricot, sugarcane, vanilla, earth, minerals, red apple, roasted almond, and caramel, occasionally supported by traces of gentle nutmeg and camphor. The later infusions emphasized minerals, malt, wood, and caramel with touches of stone fruits, cream, and honey.
The session in which I used 195 F water only really differed from the session detailed above in the sense that I caught some stronger sugarcane aromas and flavors once the tea was firing on all cylinders. This session also brought more complex and pronounced herb and spice impressions. The nutmeg was still kind of there, as was the camphor, though I also was sure that I caught notes of anise, black licorice, and clove. I read the product description provided by Yunnan Sourcing US and a mention of eucalyptus was made, and while I could see that also being a possibility, I just did not get that impression myself.
Now that I have written a novel, allow me to simply state that I found this tea to be very pleasant. Ultimately, I did not feel that it was the best or most consistent Yunnan purple varietal black tea I have had to this point, but it was still very much a worthwhile tea. I could see fans of such teas or those looking for something new and unique being into this one.
Flavors: Almond, Anise, Apricot, Blood orange, Camphor, Caramel, Chocolate, Clove, Cream, Earth, Fruity, Honey, Licorice, Malt, Mineral, Nutmeg, Peach, Red Apple, Sugarcane, Vanilla, Wood
Reviewing the Spring 2017 Ju Duo Zai. This tea is surprising in that in contradicts itself from beginning to end. When I opened the bag of this Ju Duo Zai, and saw that rather than being a very dark, almost black-green like in the photo on the YS website, it was brown, I was happy and looking forward to the lightly roasted flavor. The leaves were very fine and rolled lengthwise. When I smelled the dry leaves, I was surprised. It didn’t smell like roast at all. The initial dry leaf aroma was more seaweed than roast. So, now I was expecting it to lean more like a green dan cong in flavor profile once brewed.
I did a rinse with near boiling water, and then steeped for 15 seconds for the first infusion. When I removed the lid of the gaiwan, the leaves had lost practically all of their brown color, and were olive green with some nice oxidation. I’m thinking to myself, ha!, I’ve got you now. You were green all along, and that explained the seaweed aroma. The wet leaves smelled like a young sheng pu-er.
One sip, and I had to chuckle. It didn’t taste green-leaning like I was expecting. Here we have a brown dry leaf that smells green, and once steeped, a green colored leaf that smells like a sheng pu-er, but tastes like a lightly roasted tea with even some fermented black tea notes in the first infusion.
I found this tea a very fun experience because of the constant surprises throughout the session. This would be a fun tea to have at a tea tasting with friends, and not tell the guests what it is, and have them try to guess at the various stages of preparation.
Addendum: I never experienced any bitterness in the Spring 2017 edition. It was smooth, sweet, and left a wet mouth feel.
I tried this tea, and I’m not getting anything like cinnamon aroma. I did it gong fu style in a porcelain gaiwan. I’l try it again with a longer initial steep. Anyone have any ideas? I also have some ginger aroma dan cong. I’ll try that next to see if I can detect the ginger note.
The dry leaf smell of this tea is not particularly strong. It is a roasted tea, but that doesn’t come through heavily in the dry leaf aroma. Instead, the dry leaf smells more like a black tea. The wet tea leaves change dramatically in aroma. There is some definite roasted, charcoal notes present, and I smell a leafy green smell similar to stewed turnip greens. I get a touch of seaweed, as well.
I did a rinse and then a 30 second infusion at around 190F, and the flavor of the tea is initially similar to a da hong pao but with less roasted intensity and not as heavily oxidized. While the tea is held in the mouth, the roasted notes are dominate. But after swallowing, the tea has a long-lasting aftertaste, and the aftertaste is more tie guan yin with green and fruity notes. At all times, there is a sweetness in the mouth. After a minute or so, there is some mouth-drying. The liquor is the color of urine-stained underbelly of a vixen fox. HA! Sometimes the descriptions I see are so over the top with flavors I know I’ll never be able to detect, I just had to throw that one in there as a joke. That’s actually a description of the fur to use for tying a Hendrickson dry fly, and it’s not yellow as you might expect, but pink. This tea isn’t pink. It is similar to the color of maple syrup, but with a bit more yellow.
The second infusion was done at cooler water temp for 40 seconds. There is little difference other than the char notes come out a little more.
Third infusion, I went back to 190F water and did 20 seconds. Char notes subsiding on this infusion, but aftertaste is barely there. Where in the first infusion there was a definite transformation, this infusion remains consistent during drinking and in after-taste.
Fourth infusion is rather weak, and I’m getting some of the seaweed notes. I’m going to call the session here.
Flavors: Char, Fruity, Mineral, Roasted, Seaweed, Sweet
Another good oolong from Yunnan Sourcing. I’m enjoying this one, as well. This oolong is roasted, but not as heavily as big red robe. This one does have a pronounced roast flavor on the initial infusion, but it fades quickly. It’s a nice tea to do gong fu style as you get to experience a nice transformation. What starts out as roasted, nutty, charcoal turns into a much lighter fruitier tea by the third infusion. I’m going to try pushing this one hard the next time I try it and go for a 3 minute infusion to see how it behaves.
Flavors: Char, Honey, Mineral, Stonefruits, Sweet Potatoes
I almost forgot about this tea. I started working my way through a pouch of this a couple weeks ago and had yet to get around to doing a serious gongfu session with it until yesterday evening. With my allergies suddenly going crazy, I had been holding off on reviewing any new teas due to exhaustion and a less than sensitive palate (smells can still somehow work their way into my poor nose), but I could not hold off any longer. I decided to work around my limitations as best as I could. It took a lot more time than usual and I had to really push myself to identify flavor components, but I was able to get a complete session in before my evening exercise session. Even under the circumstances, I found this to be an extremely pleasant tea.
Obviously, I gongfued this one. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in a 4 ounce gaiwan filled with 200 F water for 5 seconds. At this point, I have to admit that I had no clue how to brew this tea. With most Yunnan black teas, I use a water temperature of either 195 F or 205 F, so I just split the difference with this one. The initial 5 second infusion was followed by 15 subsequent infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 9 seconds, 12 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, I picked up nice aromas of nectarine, peach, honey, and wood from the dry tea leaves. After the rinse, I picked up emerging scents of roasted nuts, leather, toast, and malt. The first infusion brought out scents of fresh baked bread and chocolate. In the mouth, the tea was dominated by well-integrated notes of chocolate, malt, baked bread, toast, leather, roasted nuts, honey, wood, nectarine, and peach before a smooth fade that really emphasized the stone fruit and honey flavors. Subsequent infusions brought out aromas and flavors of caramel, cream, butter, minerals, apricot, wild strawberry, blood orange, smoke, and rose. The later infusions were dominated by mineral, wood, and roasted nut notes, though I could still detect underlying flavors of caramel, cream, butter, and chocolate. One interesting and incredibly appealing aspect of this tea was that the stone fruit and honey notes kept popping up on the tail end of the finish long after the tea had peaked, so no matter how little the tea had left, it still kept reeling me back in again and again.
This tea was not all that deep, but it had a lot going on up front and it was extremely enjoyable. Even with my relatively impaired palate, I was still able to find a lot to like. I would definitely recommend this one to fans of traditional Yunnan black teas who are looking for something a little different.
ADDENDUM: I did another session with this tea on 08/03/2017. I increased the water temperature to 205 F this time and picked up interesting herbal aromas and flavors that I did not find before. For me, it was like a mixture of eucalyptus and menthol.
Flavors: Apricot, Baked Bread, Blood orange, Blood orange, Butter, Caramel, Chocolate, Cream, Eucalyptus, Honey, Leather, Malt, Menthol, Peach, Roasted nuts, Rose, Smoke, Smoke, Stonefruits, Strawberry, Toast, Wood
Good tea! Really smooth cake. For a raw puerh it has almost absolutely no bitterness! crazy. Time has smoothed its edges really nicely. What it does have is a lot of smoke, and a twinge on the tongue of a little astringency or something I cant name. Brews up a cool orange color. Definitely has the classic flavor of a raw pu, but very light and not bitter. Would buy more
Flavors: Bark, Camphor, Scotch, Smoke, Spinach, Stems, Vegetable Broth
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Flavors: Dark Bittersweet, Floral, Fruit Tree Flowers, Fruity, Grapefruit, Mineral, Nectar, Orchids
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Flavors: Fruity, Mineral, Roasted
Exploring several Wu Yi oolongs this year. They have been a consistent favorite, so time to get to know them a little more. Might as well start with the Four Famous Bushes! I’ve sampled a few Da Hong Pao, and one Tie Luo Han. So, up next is Bai Ji Guan.
Overall, it was OK. When it was good, it was really good. Unfortunately, I only ever really got three good infusions. The subsequent infusions lost most of their interesting notes.
The flavor profile is sweet, floral, herbal, and savory. Very complex and nice while it lasted. The sweetness was fairly pronounced but was tempered by a wonderful savory note that brought the whole flavor into a delicious harmony.
There was also a really nice salty sweetness in the aftertaste, which I really like. Kind of liked salted cantaloupe.
All in all, it had a complex and fascinating flavor, but was fairly short-lived. I’m very glad to have tried it, as it was quite unique. Worth the experience.
Dry leaf: floral, pollen, dried parsley and dill, sweet and bitter fruit like kumquat. In preheated vessel – roasted corn and tomato vine.
Smell: light honey, honeysuckle, sweet floral, fresh parsley
Taste: yeast roll, honey butter, fresh parsley and cilantro, grape skin, orange flower, mineral. Light saltiness and fruit in aftertaste – salted cantaloupe, apricot, floral.
I put off trying this one for a long time. I had to immediately transfer it to a holding vessel upon receiving it due to its sealed pouch getting punctured in transit. Luckily, the damage was at the top of the pouch, it was fairly minimal, and I noticed it almost immediately. I was fortunate enough to lose none of the tea, and after finally opening this up and working my way through it, realized that it came through all of this unscathed. Prior to trying this particular tea, I was not familiar with Jin Mudan at all. This one, however, made me want to try a few more.
Jin Mudan is not a classic Wuyi cultivar. As a matter of fact, it is fairly young, having only been in existence for about 40-50 years. According to the information provided by Yunnan Sourcing, it was originally produced as a hybrid of Tieguanyin and Huang Jin Gui, though it differs somewhat from other cultivars descended directly from these two. It is noted primarily for its broad, thick leaves and unique floral and fruity qualities.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 195 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was followed by 14 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, I caught aromas of char, dark wood, dark chocolate, elderberry, blackberry, and flowers from the dry tea leaves. After the rinse, I began to detect scents of violet, dried blueberry, raisin, roasted almond, cream, elderflower, and prune. The first infusion produced a similar bouquet, though I did note the emergence of vanilla bean, coffee, cannabis, and damp grass. With such complexity on the nose, I knew I was going to like this tea even at this point. In the mouth, I detected mild, soothing notes of cream, dried blueberry, raisin, elderberry, roasted almond, elderflower, violet, char, dark wood, dark chocolate, blackberry, and prune balanced by touches of damp grass, vanilla bean, coffee, and cannabis. Subsequent infusions brought out ginger, fig, black raspberry, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, hibiscus, minerals, tea flower, rock sugar, and touch of actual peony to compliment the increasingly prevalent notes of cannabis, coffee, cream, vanilla bean, damp grass, dark wood, dark chocolate, and dark fruits. I also began to catch something of a cooling, herbal quality reminiscent of menthol. The final infusions were surprisingly smooth for a Wuyi oolong. I detected mostly savory notes of cream, butter, and vanilla bean balanced by subtle mineral, menthol, raisin, prune, dark wood, rock sugar, damp grass, dark chocolate, and vague, indistinct floral notes.
This was a surprisingly great Wuyi oolong. I found tons of complexity and depth, which oolongs of this sort do not always deliver consistently. All of the aroma and flavor components also worked well together, which again, does not always happen. I also have to note that this tea packed a tremendous punch. The energy it provided was invigorating, cleansing, and thoroughly restorative. I finished this session over an hour prior to starting this review and I can still feel the tea’s cooling, menthol presence in my mouth and throat. This one is definitely a keeper, and I will probably be getting more in the very near future. Its roast should also allow it to age like a champ. Definitely make a point of trying this if Wuyi oolongs are your thing.
Flavors: Almond, Blackberry, Blueberry, Butter, Cannabis, Char, Cinnamon, Coffee, Cream, Dark Chocolate, Dark Wood, Fig, Floral, Fruity, Ginger, Grass, Hibiscus, Menthol, Mineral, Nutmeg, Raisins, Raspberry, Sugar, Sugar, Vanilla, Violet
Wow, this tea is awesome. What you’d expect from a charcoal roasted Big Red Robe, only better. definitely higher quality leaf and attention to picking. the smell of leaf after rinsing is amazing… smoky, sweet, rich and smooth. This tea i only grabbed 25 grams of because it is a bit on the more expensive side and i wish i had more. Lasts through more infusions than your typical oolong and doesnt sacrifice much in flavor, other than losing some of its smokiness. the liquor is really clear as well.
The dry leaves smell very sweet with an undercurrent of sugarcane, malt, and grape juice concentrate. I know purple tea… am I making up the grape smell? I drank through 60 grams to try and prove myself wrong before writing this.
I brewed up 6g in a 120ml gaiwan using 190F water and roughly 30 second steep times ( I dont time my black tea just have a feel for starting at about 15 seconds and by steep 10 I’m at 45 seconds to a minute)
The liquor smells like one of those malt sodas with grape flavoring, quite unique. It has a deep satisfying sweetness of frozen grape concentrate mixed with malt powder. I DO NOT usually like fruity black tea, but the grape isn’t sour or overpowering, it flows smoothly with the malty sweetness. I would compare it to a good Indian breakfast assam very malt forward, exactly what I want in the morning with grape must to keep it interesting. I find that I don’t get as much traditional Jingmai character from this tea. The mouthfeel is smooth with a hint of oil and a lasting sweetness.
I always get about 10 infusions out of this tea with the last infusion at a rolling boil, and the second to last infusion at 200F. The flavor stays with the tea remarkably well, not changing too much or getting markedly weaker.
This is a very unique and delicious tea. It’s not a tea I would want every day, but I want to always have a tin in stock. It satisfies the cravings for a grape tea that I didn’t know I had before trying this. The tea makes me want to experiment with brewing a malt heavy beer with the addition of dark grapes.
Flavors: Grapes, Malt, Sugarcane
Before I begin this review, allow me to state that I do not normally go out of my way to buy old tea. If I buy an older tea, I will always buy from the most recent harvest. Well, I guess I should say that’s what I almost always do. This was an impulse buy a month or two ago. I was placing an order with Yunnan Sourcing US and wanted to tack on another tea just for the sake of justifying the shipping cost a little more in my head. I couldn’t find anything else new and interesting, but then I saw this tea. It sounded interesting and I had been trying to spur myself to become more familiar with Dan Cong oolongs, so I bought it. I figured the worst case scenario would be that I wouldn’t like it or that it might be a little weak. Fortunately, neither ended up being the case and that should not have surprised me. Yunnan Sourcing always seems to do a great job maintaining and storing their teas and I found that to once again be the case here.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After a quick rinse, I steeped 7 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 185 F water for 8 seconds. This infusion was followed by 12 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, and 3 minutes. I’m still trying to get used to that whole pack the gaiwan to the brim thing that many Dan Cong enthusiasts do. I’m also still trying to figure out a gongfu method that works for me when it comes to brewing these teas as I’m not so certain that what I do for other teas brings out the best these oolongs have to offer. I’ll keep playing around with it in my spare time.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves gave off subtle aromas of butter, cream, citrus, and honeysuckle. After the rinse, the bouquet intensified slightly. I could pick up stronger hints of butter, cream, and honeysuckle coupled with distinct impressions of pomelo and lemon. I also began to catch hints of lilac, gardenia, and vanilla. The first infusion produced a bouquet that brought everything together. At this point, I got extremely robust floral tones. I was reminded of a mixture of honeysuckle, gardenia, lilac, and magnolia. There were big aromas of vanilla, butter, and cream too. I also thought I began to catch hints of nuts, lime, and grass. In the mouth, however, the tea liquor was surprisingly flat, offering muted notes of grass, lemon rind, pomelo, cream, butter, and vanilla underscored by traces of bitter, oily nuts and fresh flowers. Fortunately, subsequent infusions upped the ante considerably. The cream, butter, vanilla, grass, pomelo, and lemon rind notes were still there, but they were considerably stronger. I was now better able to pick up that bitter nuttiness (it kind of reminded me of fresh black walnut at points, but that comparison is far from exact) and the notes of lilac, gardenia, honeysuckle, and magnolia really began to pop. On several of these middle infusions, I could detect notes of lemongrass, daylily shoots, yellow plum, bitter orange, lime, and orchid. I also began to detect a growing minerality. The later infusions were very subtle, almost to the point of being flat. Minerals, grass, and nuts were the dominant impressions available to me, though I could still detect ghostly citrus, butter, and cream tones on the swallow.
This was an enjoyable tea overall. It peaked quickly and faded just as quickly, but I think part of that may have come down to my brewing method and part of that may have come down to the tea’s age. Whatever the case, this still had more than enough life left in it to be thoroughly enjoyable on several levels. I guarantee that I’m going to keep playing around with the remainder of this tea over the next several days.
Flavors: Butter, Citrus, Cream, Floral, Gardenias, Grass, Honeysuckle, Lemon, Lemongrass, Lime, Mineral, Orange, Orchid, Plums, Vanilla, Vegetal, Walnut
I don’t know if this sample is the Light Roast or what, but it is pretty good. I think my friend Chris might have gave me this or Andrew-I cannot remember. It’s a good black tea anyway on the plummy/cherry side of things. There some dryness and eucalyptus, but emphasis is on the fruit side with some malt and cocoa as lighter after tones. It kinda reminds me of some red wines. I would not buy this in bulk like I used to, but it is perfect for this cloudy day and it was good enough for my mood. I need a straight up quality black every now and then.
This one goes in the amazing column for me, wonderful complexity and really kept going.
Nose; peach, ginger, slight mandarin, osmanthus, round, paw paw, plantain, parsnip, baked squash, slight herbal note.
Palate; peach, mandarin, osmanthus, roasted summer squash, parsnip, mint, sweet.
This was interesting, very different from most Dancongs I have had, almost a cross between a white tea and an Oolong.
Nose; Roasted barley, kumquat, plantain, savory yam, water cress.
Palate; very delicate, savory, molassiss, clover hay, sweetness on roof of mouth, narcissus, slightly bitter, yam, celery, kumquat.