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