16 Tasting Notes
Pretense: My friend send me unlabeled teas to get my honest opinion on stuff. So I did not know I had a Song Pin Hao tea and therefore kept it very badly. That being said it wasnt bad.
I opened the package and knew that I was looking at an aged sheng of decent quality. The leaves and buds could be clearly distinguished and they had a bit of a shine to them. There was some glob parts, but as a whole pretty good.
The tea showed notes of plumb which is inline with another aged Yiwu I had in China. This one though also showed notes of cigar smoke which took away a bit from the cleanliness of the flavor. The throat feel was pretty good, but most noteable of all was the come back flavor. Sweet and floral, the hui gan was one of the more unique I have had.
Some bitterness was present but nothing too heavy.
A very good tea, probably could have benefited from better storage.
This was the third tea in a gift set sent to me by a tea friend from Yunnan Sourcing. The first two teas were pretty bad, so I hoped this tea would be the one to save the day.
Upon the first aroma I was pleased to smell no flaws. The tea smelled light, with a little roast; nothing too impressive but nothing as horrible as the last two.
The taste more or less matched. A light roast with notes of orange, reminiscent of Qi Lan. This was the typical middle of the road roasted tea, no flaws but no great attributes. As I was tasting it though there was something off that I couldnt figure out then I realized it, this tea had no body. A main component for wuyi wulongs is their body, and yet this tea had none. I was basically drinking roasted water. I steeped it a second time with a slightly longer time to see if something would change.
The second steep provided some texture, another thing lacking in the first, but once again very little body. Another review called this tea perfumey and I think they are spot on. I think all this tea has is aroma., there is something else to it. There is a bit of funkiness to it as well.
For this tea I’m going to stop on the second steep cause I know nothing else is really coming.
Besides for a small funkiness this tea had no flaws. That being said it had no positive attributes either. It’s like a normal guy who stands there doing nothing, whose breath kinda stinks.
Flavors: Oak wood, Orange
My first YS tea.
Somewhere between the hype, my cynicism and my tea snobbery, I have always been suspicious of Yunnan Sourcing. I have met many who rave about Scott and his site, but I could never bring myself to buy any of his teas. A recent tea friend found out I had never tried YS and quickly sent me over three teas. This is a live review of the first one I tired, Old Arbor Yi Wu 2016.
As part of my tea snobbiness I am very particular about the use of old arbor/old tree. To me you can not begin to suggest pu er tree is old till the tree is around 200 years. While I cant accurately pin point the exact age of a given tree, one look at the leaves of this tea suggest the tree was quite young. The main indicator of age that I look for when judging pu er tea is the meatiness of the stem. As a tree gets older the branches that the leaves sit on get more thicker. Older trees have fuller thicker branches, while younger trees have stems like twigs. Right off the bat I noticed small twigs in this tea suggesting a younger tea. The leaves other were bitsy and broken up a bit, leaf size was not that consistent in size and on the smaller side for a pu er.
I am taking this tasting a little more seriously so I am using the three cup method. The shape of you cup can greatly affect the flavor of the tea. A while cup will spread the flavor out in your mouth allowing you to taste complexity, while a taller cup will focus the tea more and will enhance the aroma. I am using both style of cups as well as an in the middle traditional three sip cup this way I can see the tea from multiple angels. I am brewing in a 100ml porcelain gaiwan.
The smell of the first steep wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It smelled pretty clean, no funkiness, but there was no strong characteristics to the tea either. A taste from the three sip cup matched the aroma, not distinctly bad, but I couldn’t pick up any strong flavor notes. To clarify when I say no strong notes, what i really mean is no confident notes. Of course a tea can and should have subtle flavors, but even though they are subtle they should be confident. A tea can have a subtle blueberry note, but it should be clear it is blueberry. Often times, as is the case with this tea, a tea doesn’t really have any characteristics; its just kinda there. When I tasted the tea in the wide rim cup I was able to pick up on notes of prunes and sour plumbs. The after taste of this tea is somewhat drying and unpleasant.
The second brew provided a little more character in the aroma. To me it smelled like orange peel aged shou pu. (Which can also be described as orange peels and earthy, not a good sign for a young pu er). The taste of the second brew was well…bad. The pu er began bitter, but not is a characteristically bitter, was as you would see in a Bu Lang Shan, instead it was the type of all over your mouth lingering bitter that is a flaw. In total honesty, when I took another sip of this tea in an inhaled to airrate it, the taste got so bad I stopped and spat it out. It tasted like manure.
The third steep lost its aroma a bit, which I didn’t really mind. The smell still held that orangeness, the the earthiness and turned into aroma that while I couldn’t quiet place remind me a an amaro liqueur. More bitterness on the palate. This time there was a small fruitiness on the finish and the bitterness seemed to be more centered in the front of my mouth. There was also a dampness to the tea which reminded me of being on a porch during a rainy day. The tea leaves my mouth dry.
I tried to have another steep but after taking a sip I just stopped. This to me is the final test. Even when I can’t objectively tell which tea is good or not I can always tell by if I finish it. If I finished the tea that means I enjoyed it and it was good. This tea I can not finish.
This tea is the same has what I simply call the bad pu er flavor. Orange, earthy, bitter and unpleasant. It displays no unique characteristics of its terroir and might as well be from anywhere in Yunnan. Needless to say I am unhappy with this tea and would not suggest it.
The final flavor notes for this tea are: Manure, Earth, Orange, Amaro, Bitter.
Flavors: Bitter, Earth, Orange
To date this is the second company who I honestly think sells old tree.
When I heard of Farmleaf’s old trees and single trees, I was skeptical. I picked him brain a bit on facebook and while I could tell he knew some stuff, I was not confident that he had the goods. I ordered a few samples, and the tea spoke for its self.
I have never and Jingmai tea (except once), so I didnt know what to expect. As I flipped through the different bags deciding which bag to start with I noticed a common cranberry note. Off the dry aroma non of them reached for me. None of them smelled bad, no red flags, but none caught my attention. As we know pu er teas dont age linerally, they go up and down, so I chalked this up to them being a lower point. I came across the Jingmai and it smelled lighter and sweeter than the others, a little more flowery, this one was clealy at a better point.
For me the sign of an older tree is the body. Not so much how heavy is it, but how does it feel. Younger trees are a little more liquidy, older trees tend to have a little more viscosity and feel closer to olive oil. Upon first drinking this tea I notice the liquid was thicker which suggested an older tree. The tannins were also more refined which also lended toward old tree.
Flavor wise this tea is subtle. I brew in a gaiwan slightly smaller (100ml) which amps it up a bit but this tea will deffiently put your pallate to the test. Notes of flowers, vanilla, apricot, light honey, minerallity, riesling (yes the wine), with a bit of toastiness were all present.
The throat feel of this tea was the final sign of a good tea. Rich, a little thick and flowing. The tea lost a few points on the aftertaste, it left me a little dry and the toastiness lingers, but there was no other clear flaws.
All in all this is a good tea. It gives out many even steeps, it has a body indicative of an older tree, with a good throat feel. This first looses a few points on flavor. The flavor isn’t bad but it could be more confident. The aftertaste I think is the only noticeable flaw, its a small detail but good tea should leave you with a good taste in your mouth after, even basic teas do that. The flaws are very small, and by no means take away from the tea as a whole. This is deffiently a good tea and recomended to anyone trying to get a taste for the effects of age on a the tea.
Flavors: Apricot, Berry, Honey, Mineral, Vanilla, White Wine
Drinking this tea follows directly behind drinking Cha Ceremony’s ShuiXian.
I hesitated posting this review because 1. I’m tea drunk and cant really get my mind to analyze flavors like I want it too, 2. a dog chewed through the paper bag this tea comes in thus compromising the tea.
And yet on my first steep this tea left me too much in thought not to at least start a review.
The first thing that hit me about this tea was the smell. Now usually Shuixian is a bold foward tea, in the world of Yan Chas a good Shuixian’s body can only be rivaled by Tie Luo Han. So when I smelled this tea and noticed its soft complexity I was driven by a wonderuous curisosity to brew it up.
The aroma is defiantly floral. Oolongs as a category are floral, but this floralness is bold yet subtle. Confident yet quiet. Like a beautiful woman on the street who only needs to give you a small smile to solicit your full undivided attention. While that struck me, the lack of roastiness also caught my attention. I assume Shuixians to be very roasty, yet this one the roast also seems softer.
The first steep left me in silent ponder of what I had just tasted. The roast was much lighter than Im use to for Shuixian. But it is very inbalance with the rest of the tea, so it is not a flaw. The floralness is exactly as I smelled, beautifully quiet: like a masterful painting on the wall of a museum. If I wasnt inravelled enough in this tea, the finish was more complex than I think I have ever seen in a yan cha.
The lid of the second steep showed signs of a developing roastiness and body. (Did I accidently drink the rinse?). The flavor had deffiently developed. Here was the Shuixian flavor I knew. Bolder, a sturdier roast, with a mettalic-floralness that comes toward the back. Notes of fine ecspresso also showed themselves, but not too strongly, just enough to be reconize and enjoyed.
The tea is roasting in the front, but leaves a clean finish in the back. It leaves your mouth very refreshed with a bit of a come back sweetness.
Through the many steeps this tea, kept its character. It lasted a long time and showed very small flaws. (A touch of sourness here or there). The texture was good and I didnt detect any bitter or stinky green.
I always can tell if I like a tea by how much I drink it. Some teas even though objectively I know they are good, after a few pours I get stop drinking. This tea I kept brewing and kept focusing on. I paid more attention to this tea than any tea in the last few months.
Objectively: I like it
Subjectively: I like it
Positive points: Many
Flavors: Espresso, Floral, Metallic, Peach, Rosehips, Spices
This tea peaked my interest with the use of the term Zheng Yan. Zheng Yan, true cliff, is an area with in Wuyi Shan about 18 square miles, that is the most revered location for yan cha. So far only Tea Drunk has used this specific location when talking about their teas, so when I saw Cha Ceremony using it I had to try.
On the rinse I knew it was a Shui Xian and I knew it would be good. Shui Xian is probably the Yan Cha I am most familiar with and can distinguish the best so that is why I choose to start with it.
The roast was good. Often times with Yanchas you get an over roast. An overly roasted tea means that there was a flaw that the producer/farmer tried to cover up with the roast. In Cha Ceremony’s the roast was in balance with the rest of the tea. The body was good too. A full round body. I detected a mineralness on the teeth which is a sign it is from the general region of Zhengyan.
There was only one major flaw I picked out, and that was a sourness. While it was pretty apperent from the first steep, the body and roast of this tea made it not too offensive and did not ruin the tea.
I didnt quiet get burnt caramel, instead I got cigar smoke, sour plum, metallic.
Wu Dong is the top location of Feng Huang Shan, and it is probably one of the only types of Feng Huang Wulongs I truely Truely enjoy. My major dislike of Feng Huang comes from the personal opinion that they are all perfume aroma and nothing else. The low to mid quality ones tend to be a a little monotones too, one or two major characterstics and that’s it. When you get it from Wu Dong though, it is a different story.
A real Wu Dong wu long has a more controled aroma and boasts more complexity then your average wu dong, especially in the case of Bai Ye. Bai Ye is one of the most straight forward wulongs. It has a very strong peach aroma and is known for being one of the least complex. (For this reason it is usually the least desired and the cheepest).
Bai Ye from Wu Dong still has a very confident and clear peach aroma, but also buttery notes of flowers as well. While still not incredibly complex, the Bai Ye Wu Dong has a nice is just complex enough to be an enjoyable tea and simple enough to be drank causually without having to pay too much attention to enjoy it all. I highly recommending taste Tea Drunks Wu Dong and non Wu Dong Bai Ye side by side to really understand the importance of terroir and what it mean to be a Wu Dong wulong.
Flavors: Butter, Flowers, Peach
I have a lot of respect for Tea Trekkers. They are honest, knowledgable, and dont rely on gimmicks to sell their tea.
This tea while good is more of an expiremental tea than a solid choice. As we all know the Fenghuang, Phoenix Mountains, produces wu longs. This is unique because it is a red tea from this area. So what does this mean for the tea?
The first is that it does have characteristics that coincide with pheonix wu longs. The aroma is fruity with a little metallicness. On the first steep it can be easily mistaken for an wu long. The red tea body and sweetness really comes out in the later brews as the aroma fades.
The aroma is guava with a little metallic, makes me suspect they used either Shui Xian or Bai Ye cultivar. Once that fades you get the classic red tea sweetness. The red tea flavor is flawed though. The tea isnt smooth, as red teas are suppose to be. The tea is a little matly with a sour raspberry taste. The smell of the gaiwan at the end was pretty funky like manure. It also leaves an unpleasent taste in the mouth.
This being said, these flavors are pretty small. Non of these flaws over power the general fullness and sweetness of the tea. I would suggest buying a sample of this tea. It is interesting to see what happens when wu long makers make red teas.
I personally wouldnt buy anymore but I can see how other may really like it and buy a lot. (remember I dont really like Fenghuangs)
Flavors: Guava, Malt, Metallic, Raspberry, Sour