1006 Tasting Notes

93
drank Thé de l'Abbaye by Dammann Freres
1006 tasting notes

I did a thing. I bought a kilogram of French tea. It’s actually pretty affordable when bought in bulk loose leaf. Those sachets are for royalty!

The aroma of this is absolutely intoxicating!! The exclamation marks coming from a normally reserved derk should give you a clue. It’s such a sweet and tangy, ringing golden yellow plum aroma! With a swirl of soft milky-creamy caramel! A golden bell glinting in the sun, a golden yellow tapestry made of the finest silk. It reminds me of my friend who came by the other night, how strange.

Guessing the base green tea is the same dry grassy Chinese sencha I’ve tasted before in other DF flavored greens. [ EDIT: Now I’m unsure; it might be something else, maybe Mao Feng? ] That type of tea never wows but it’s a great delivery vehicle for this luxuriously fruity and floral, golden cherry plum note to evaporate ever so slowly in the aftertaste. There’s also this natural apricot in the aftertaste that I do think is from the green tea itself. The body is fairly thick and brisk, very mineral-salty and does have some bitterness to it which lingers for a while on the tongue. I like this part, since it gives the experience some more depth. Caramel flavor enhances the impression of deep sweetness and gently contrasts the sun-blushed redder tones of that beautiful mirabelle plum flavor.

It tastes like a gift from the sun.

Steep twice!

Flavors: Apricot, Astringent, Bitter, Caramel, Cherry, Cherry Blossom, Dry Grass, Drying, Floral, Fruity, Milk, Mineral, Plum, Salty, Thick

Cameron B.

That always happens to me when I order from Dammann… Stupid 100g bags. So inexpensive though!

derk

The more to share, though :)

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Three, yes three, years and this sheng has finally seen the light of day (see https://steepster.com/derk/posts/381729 for comaprison). Stored for the past 1.5-2 years in a 5-gallon crock that I’ve topped with a terracotta saucer and occasionally dampen with distilled water. Humidity is kept pretty consistent at close to 60-65% and the temperature fluctuates between 60F and 75F, both depending upon the season.

Dry leaf. This sure is a beautifully pressed cake. The leaf isn’t much fuzzy. It looks like a dessicated worm orgy. Soft scent of smoked meat and plummy dates.

Warmed leaf is smoked duck breast with caramelized plum sauce.

Wet leaf is pungent and savory. Old man in vest and chapeau. I think about a Scottish man sitting in a wooden chair in a vast expanse of wet fen on a rare sunny day. Some very hidden spice-clove and camphor notes. Tobacco and watered-down apple cider.

The brew is thin, cider-like, smokey but not overwhelming. It’s mostly a dry woodsmoke interspersed with tobacco ash. Bitter; aging taste for sure. Hay-like with a muted herbaceous quality in the background. Some cooling on the inhale. Short aftertaste in the first several steeps drops off as the bitterness finally gives way to a thickness and buttery date sweetness on the swallow. Negligible date returning sweetness. I am calm and grounded… at first (later quite chest-bumping). I like that in general I feel like my blood is heaver, fortified, thicker but that the tea is not thick and heavy in the mouth or stomach.

The color is a richer golden orange-brown now and still displays a little turbidity early, clearing up significantly pot after pot. As it clears, it becomes smokier, more acidic, more bitter, thinner in taste. More like astringent green tobacco-green wood-herbs, apple-citrus acidic. The acidity begs for food. Luckily my housemate brought home 3 pints of ice cream for me and our friend a few hours ago so I indulged in a small bowl and followed that up with toasted bread smeared with chive cashew cheese. Fatty and flavorful things.

One thing to note is no off flavors develop when completely cooled. The tea still tastes young but is developing aging flavors. Storage has cleared up the liquor, softened the smoke, bitterness, acidity and astringency and transformed the aroma of the leaf. The longevity isn’t there yet with this one and I still doubt Gu Ming Xiang’s gushu claim.

Overall, I’m happy with how this is progressing but I’m going to stash it away for several more years before trying again. I’m curious if I ended the session too early (my tongue says no) because of the growing rough character. I’ve had other sheng that start very pleasurable, transitioning to abrasiveness and ending on that note instead of a sweet one. Is this one of those poorly processed pu’er? Either way, it’s a very yang tea whose attributes are probably more appreciated and understood by seasoned palates. This reminds me of my vague recollection of Tea Urchin’s 2013 Lao Man E. I’ve never written a note for that one; I’ll get to it in due time.

Flavors: Apple, Ash, Astringent, Bitter, Butter, Camphor, Caramel, Citrus, Clove, Dates, Flowers, Green Wood, Hay, Herbs, Meat, Plum, Savory, Smoke, Spices, Tannin, Tart, Tobacco, Wood

Natethesnake

I vaguely remember sampling this tea and remember thinking what I’ve thought about every other Kunming stored Menghai area tea I’ve had…primarily that I wish it had been stored in Malaysia.

derk

The only Malaysian-stored Menghai region tea I’ve had is that EoT Baotang swoon Got any recs for others?

Natethesnake

Sadly the best examples I’ve had are sold out, the 2005 Nanqiao Bulang Double lions from teas we like and the 2012 Bulang from EOT. The Baotang is excellent but a different animal. TWL has an 06 double lion that is reportedly close to the 05 but no cigar.

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drank Blueberry Peach Crisp by Cuppa Geek
1006 tasting notes

Mechanic friend Jacques wanted something peachy and poured over ice, so I brewed a liter just for him. I couldn’t help but notice the aroma as it brewed — it really is full on blueberry peach crisp, very sweet smelling cinnamon, cooked-down-fruity vibe. I took a small taste and the black tea taste is best described as Lipton-like, tea-ish, a bit lemony. The tannins cut through, balancing the cup. There’s a peach tone, a blueberry tone. The pastry aspect remains mostly in the aromatics.

Jacques says it really hits the spot and has great, refreshing flavor. It all sits in the middle of the tongue and releases the flavor from there. He gives it a chef’s kiss :) And this is coming from a man with very refined taste. So this is a hit with both Kiki and Jacques. Only a serving or two left; I’ll give it a proper try soon.

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drank Honeycrisp Apple by DAVIDsTEA
1006 tasting notes

From my bedroom, I hear the mug against the glass table: Yeah?

“Yeah. What is that. Does it have sugar in it?”

It has blackberry leaf in it. “It doesn’t have sugar in it?” Nope.

“It’s pretty good. Is it some kind of green tea?” Yeeup. It’s got green tea in it. You got it!

burrp burrrrp burp “Rosehips? Red clover? No? Rosehips? No? Rose petals? Lavender?”

Nope.

“It tastes like raisins or something. It smells like mulberries or something.”

I had stolen a few sips before setting it next to her and wandering off. Oh yeah that makes sense to me. But nope. But you like it.

“I like it. I can’t get over that sweetness. It’s like it has sweetener in it.” The blackberry leaves are a natural sweetener.

“Very nice. I give it a, 9, 9.5. Oh no, I might even give it a 10. Lemongrass?” You’re probably getting some of that tart type flavor you think is rosehips and lemongrass from hibiscus and apples.

“Is that tea something new? Did you get it in the mail— Is it from the bag?” Yup, from Cameron B. “Yeah, that’s really good. It tastes a little more like a red delicious than a honeycrisp because it’s sweet.”

In contrast, I think it tastes mostly of sweetness. Dried golden mulberries. Not like apple at all. And it smells like crayon wax in a very no bueno way.

Cameron B.

Ha ha, the red clover again! She cracks me up. I’ll have to see if I smell Crayon wax too next time…

derk

I’m curious!

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One small western cup left so it’s time to write a note! July 2020 harvest.

Off the bat, the dry leaf scent recalls a memory. Pulling English ivy down from eucalyptus trees growing on steep slopes in one of the coolest and dampest forested areas in San Francisco. A gem of a place, unvisited beyond a handful of local residents and the homeless who carved caves out of the Himalayan blackberry that had overgrown the lower slope of the area.

Do yourself a favor and brew this gongfu. Western steeps for me were too fickle. Some days they’d be a little too ‘tea’-like. Another time was one of the richest, sweetest cups I’d ever had. Every other time I was like, “This is some good tea, but it’s missing something?”

Gongfu is more consistent and offers a more explosive ginger/chili/menthol heating-cooling and intense honey-brown sugar returning sweetness. I find the aroma is more complex than the taste, especially so when it comes to the retronasal activity of the aftertaste, but not to any detriment. It all works together very well. There’s a ton of bug-bitten (is the elevation too high for this to happen?) juicy richness to this tea being a summer harvest, along with some classic baking spice-cinnamon. Plenty of rosewood and a hint of smooth malt in the bottom notes and rose florality higher up. Enough tannins to keep the flavor from being a sugar bomb. The aftertaste really blooms with those spiced honey notes and fruity muscatel-grape must tones. The session ends on a bright note with plenty of lemon pulp and malt-wood to the taste. I feel like I’m drinking an actual tea bush from the misty slopes of Shanlinxi (there goes my imagination again). This tea has terroir. Sorry for using a tea snoot word, but it’s true.

Dang. Taiwan puts out some amazing black teas.

Flavors: Bark, Blackberry, Brown Sugar, Cherry, Cinnamon, Cocoa, Eucalyptus, Floral, Forest Floor, Geranium, Ginger, Honey, Lemon, Lemongrass, Malt, Menthol, Mineral, Muscatel, Nutmeg, Orange, Osmanthus, Pine, Rainforest, Raspberry, Rose, Smooth, Spicy, Spring Water, Sweet, Tangy, Tannin, Tea, Vanilla, Wood

Leafhopper

You’ve made me want to try my 25 g package of this tea!

gmathis

This does sound nice.

derk

Hope you enjoy, Leafhopper :)

Daylon R Thomas

Now you’ve encouraged me to write about this one too. I’ve been avoiding it because of the fickleness and I’m not sure how to write about it without it being boring. I personally liked the Li Shan Black more since this feels more like an early fall kindof tea than an everyday one. The tannins are a little too strong or drying for me western if I over leaf it, but works out okay if I am careful with the leaf when I tumbler it for 4 g. Gong fu was a lot more complex-I would get a mix of blackberry, honey, spices, wood and a weird “orange and purple” vibe with it-like there’s a mix of orange and purple fruits in the taste that I couldn’t peg down exactly. Either way, your note nails it and was fun to read!

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83
drank 2017 Magic Mountain DNA by white2tea
1006 tasting notes

It’s been about 2.5 years since i’ve had this sheng. Even with a wicked wind that drove my allergies crazy today, i think I can tell this one is finally turning a corner but it still doesn’t impress too strongly; it’s rather restrained.

It’s mellow, lacking in body but it makes up for that somehow, some way. Don’t want to be too vague but that’s about all I can muster to describe the unknown factor. Aroma isn’t strong but it’s different — I get mostly some florals, spicy black pepper, some sweetness and later grapefruit rind mixed with licorice root and overripe honeydew. Leafy medicinal bitter taste reminding a bit of yerba maté; licorice root sweetness is rather thin. A little drying after the swallow but nothing that seems out of place for a sheng of this age. The bitterness spreads a little after the swallow and lingers about as long as the concurrent whisper of smoke. Licorice root-honey persists, giving way to a light cooling in the mouth then the throat and armpits. Grain and grapefruit zest come out more as steeps progress, lingering lightly in the aftertaste with a combination of orange blossom morphing into peach and Yiwu-like lavender and violet. Final steeps gain body, becoming viscous and sweeter while retaining the bitterness. Body warming, especially in the face.

At first, I settled in to its mellow and grounding earthen energy then realized I had to get up and make a big batch of pupusas. The tea fueled me for a few hours (along with a shot of tequila in my agua de tamarindo :3). When I came back to the pot later, I shared with a friend who stopped by. He’d never heard of pu’er before tonight. I though maybe it would be too bitter for him considering I had oversteeped because we were caught up in conversation. He’s a fan of northern California hoppy IPA beer and kept asking for more!

Still don’t think it’s worth the price, especially for lacking body (until the end) and deep strength. Perhaps those will come with age and better storage.

Taking a wild guess on the origins of the leaf – autumn Laoman’e (though doesn’t have the fuzzy leaf underside I’ve seen before) with a smidge of Manzhuan or some other Yiwu? Nannuo? Whatever it is, it’s a good representative of Menghai taste.

Edit: Looks like there’s three types of leaf: a nutty brown one that has fuzzy unders with some having the main vein coated, another that’s nutty brown and rubbery smooth on the bottom and a third that’s larger and dark olive-khaki.

Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Bitter, Black Pepper, Caramel, Cherry, Citrus Zest, Coconut, Dried Fruit, Drying, Earth, Floral, Grain, Grapefruit, Hay, Herbs, Honey, Honeydew, Hops, Lavender, Leather, Licorice, Medicinal, Menthol, Peach, Plum, Salty, Smoke, Sweet, Violet, Wet Rocks, White Chocolate

Natethesnake

That tea knocked my socks off fresh out of the mail and has only disappointed since. I believe it was released in the spring of 17 so assuming it’s spring material. I think it was advertised as Menghai style so guessing a Nannuo Bulang blend? I tossed the rest of my cake (that I regret buying) into heated storage and plan to keep it there a loooong time

derk

I can see why you stashed it away. My first impression, at least a year after your glowing review, was a resounding meh. Since your storage contrasts mine in that yours is heated, I’d love to see an updated note from you!

Natethesnake

Will do when I get around to it.

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drank Almond Sugar Cookie by Simpson & Vail
1007 tasting notes

You know what this reminds me of? Butiki’s Lemon French Macaron without the lemon. And with black tea. Wild.

The flavoring for this is spot on for an almond sugar cookie, a crispy one with lightly toasted almonds. The flavoring is beautiful and it lasts through the second cup. The base tea is weak and woody with no depth. This makes me sad because the flavoring is very well done. I brewed 1.5 tsp in what I think is an 8oz mug. Maybe this needs 6oz to really shine.

Recommended because… because the name is a dead ringer for me.

Flavors: Almond, Brown Sugar, Cookie, Nutty, Toasted, Vanilla, Wood

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Kiki:

“It’s really good, I think I really like it, let’s get back to the show! Fruity, floral, very satisfying, thirst-quenching, berrylike, thank you very much whoever sent it. hahahaha! OK? hahahaha! It’s an 8!”

we’re watching the newest episode of Big Sky

derk:

This is like Simpson & Vail’s Carrot Cake Cupcake blend but with jammy blueberry. It has the same powdered sugar-cream cheese frosting vibe to me, like churros with vanilla frosting. Very sweet, mellow cinnamon. I think I taste a kind of crumble note, that oaty-pastry flavor. It’s pretty good and as Kiki says, thirst-quenching. I think the berry-currant tartness and green rooibos base play that role.

Flavors: Black Currant, Blueberry, Cinnamon, Frosting, Jam, Oats, Pastries, Powdered Sugar, Sweet, Tart, Vanilla

tea-sipper

The verbatim Kiki quotes never get old. :D

Cameron B.

What, no burps this time? XD

Mastress Alita

My tea-drinking has become noticably more burpy since I started carbonating my cold brews, hahaha!

Dustin

Oooooooo, are you using a sodastream to carbonate, Mastress Alita? I’ve noticed such a change in flavors when carbonation is added to tea!

Mastress Alita

A Drinkmate, but basically same thing, different brand!

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drank Almond Sugar Cookie by Simpson & Vail
1007 tasting notes

Kiki in da house:

“Is it chocolate? It tastes ok! A little dusty? Carob or something. It has some kind of artificial flavoring. You know what, it does kinda taste like an almond sugar cookie now that you say it. Buttery- a little buttery. Maybe cuz I just took a little bite of cream cheese. It’s better with cream cheese. It wasn’t really that thrilling. It has a very subtle taste. It’s not something I’d buy but hey, I did drink all of it!”

I dunno about you Kiki. I think the dry and wet leaf smelled like chocolate and that’s the only aspect that seemed artificial to me. I stole a few sips before I passed it off to you and it smelled and tasted a lot like an almond butter cookie with darker notes, not subtle for me but also not in-your-face. There’s still one serving left, so I’ll have to brew a greedy cup for myself :P

Cameron B.

Hmm I don’t remember chocolate!

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drank Cloud and Mist by Mandala Tea
1006 tasting notes

Even though fresh harvests of other green teas are becoming available, I went ahead and bought a 2020 harvest to satisfy the immediate desire for green tea.

The 25g didn’t last more than a few weeks after I opened it. I never took notes so this is a recollection and not the best one at that.

Found myself gravitating to brewing in a glass gaiwan and it lasted for many steeps. Thick, clean and sweet with quartzlike minerality and the following mild qualities: soybean and soy-milkiness, green chestnut astringency, raw asparagus bitterness and a lemony citrus tone to balance. Very gentle honeysuckle floral quality. Sometimes I’d get fleeting peach. There is a moderate herbal note like anise-tarragon. I like those green, pungent notes that come out when brewing with a higher leaf to water ratio.

Grandpa is thick, mild and juicy. Western brings more astringency and florality.

A good tea if the time it took me to drink through 25g is a testament to my enjoyment. Recommended as a good, clean and solid green tea that takes well to different methods, though I never did try upping the temperature. I can’t believe it’s been 5 years since this tea was last reviewed.

Flavors: Anise, Asparagus, Chestnut, Cookie, Herbs, Honeysuckle, Lemon, Milk, Mineral, Peach, Soybean, Sweet, Sweet, Warm Grass, Thick

Cameron B.

I feel like Mandala has fallen out of favor? I remember them being much more popular a few years ago!

derk

Idk if they’ve fallen out of favor in the world outside internet tea talk. Mandala has provided nothing but good tea, great shou, a phenomenal first sheng experience and a personal, kind demeanor. They were one of the first online vendors I bought from and while I’ve ventured to many others in the past 4 years, I felt a sense of coming home with my most recent order.

Mastress Alita

I could not live without their Smart Soak! Only thing that takes flavor funk off my infusers, thermoses, etc.

tea-sipper

It looks like Mandala has a website again? I thought they didn’t for a while, like ordering through e-mail or something?

Garret

HI there! Mandala Tea has been rockin’ the whole time. We did do a switch from one platform to another back in 2016 and were down for a couple of weeks. Lots of new pressings of pu’er over the last two years and more on the way.

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Abandoned the rating system again. Too much work.

Great tea is unforgettable. Good tea is sometimes forgettable. Mediocre tea is forgettable unless I’ve drank enough of it to form an impression. Bad tea is unforgettable, unfortunately.

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California, USA

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