“Trip to Changtai, vol. 1”

I asked the mechanic friend to pick a card, any card. He drew the youngest Changtai tea in my stash.

Dry leaf has lots of bitter woodsmoke overlaying sour plum and smoked flowers with a slight custard undertone. Warm leaf: woodsmoke, vegetal-buttery-caramel, sour plum. Rinsed leaf: smokey-sour, aged wood, floral and pungent

First steep starts off interesting with a very fluffy, rich, sticky sweetness (caramel-honey-overripe melon-marshmallow) that clings to every crevice in my mouth. Then whoosh, second steep brings massive greenwoody body. Green bitterness comes out as I swallow and it lingers. The sweetness is like sticky spiderwebs. The liquor is slightly coating and moderately drying. Smokeysweet aroma. Floral, light caramel, hint of blueberry perfume in mouth exhales through nose. Somewhat metallic in the aftertaste.

Third steep, mechanic friend says “witch hazel.” Fourth, the wet leaf smells very pungent and fruity. The bitterness dies down a bit. Fifth, sweetness is only available on the sip and somewhat in the retronasal aftertaste. Taste is general green astringency and bitterness. Some slight mouth cooling but overall body warming. Returning sweetness finally makes a meek presence. Sixth becomes very metallic in character. My gut’s a’gurgling so I’ll call it quits.

For a wild tea, this tastes very different from the others I’ve tried and I wonder if it’s due to processing methods. The sweetness gives me an Yiwu vibe, not Menghai, though a walnut-sour plum impression does draw me back toward Menghai. I’m only postulating since I don’t have a ton of experience but this seems like the kind of young sheng that would benefit from aggressive, humid storage. It is one of the greenest sheng I’ve ever had.

Addendum: I think the sweetness might actually be embodied as jujube but I haven’t eaten them enough to be sure.

Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Bitter Melon, Blueberry, Butter, Caramel, Custard, Drying, Floral, Flowers, Green, Green Wood, Herbs, Honey, Marshmallow, Melon, Metallic, Plum, Smoke, Sour, Sweet, Tannin, Vegetal, Walnut, Wood

205 °F / 96 °C 7 g 4 OZ / 110 ML

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If you’re an aspiring or current tea grower, let’s talk! I am slowly beginning a tea farm here in Northern California. Currently growing are young plants pulled from the ground and gifted to me after a visit to Fairhope Tea Plantation in Alabama. The parent plants are sinensis variety from a defunct Lipton research project. I’ve also started seeds from Camellia Forest Nursery in North Carolina. The types include Camellia taliensis, an assamica variety, and 3 sinensis varieties including “Small leaf” “Large leaf” and “Black Sea.” I also picked up 2 older plants from a a local nursery. They were grown from seed supposedly acquired from a tea farm in Washington. To learn how to process tea into different styles, I plan on traveling to China and Taiwan if/when COVID becomes a relative non-issue. I’m taking Mandarin classes to aid in this journey.

Tea became a hobby and my daily drink of choice some time late in the last decade. My introduction to loose leaf came, following a lone tin of some Tie Guan Yin oolong many years prior, in the form of dumpster-dived Wuyi oolong packets that somebody left upon moving out of an apartment building. From there, my palate expanded to teas from across China and the world. I used to focus more on taste and still harbor the habit, but after trying sheng pu’er, I tend to focus more on how a tea feels in my body. Does it complement my constitution? Does it change my mood or does it enhance my current mindstate? While I may not mention those effects in tea notes, it is what I value most.

Flavored teas are not a favorite but I do drink them intermittently. Drink a variety of teabags at work. Herbal teas/tisanes provide balance. Unfiltered tap water heathen (it’s good here).

In terms of who I am, you could consider me a jill of all trades. Specialty is not my strength, as can be seen in the spread of my tea notes.

One thing I will always love is riding a bicycle.


Sonoma County, California, USA

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