42 Tasting Notes
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
The “vintage” of tea I am drinking is the Spring 2015 version VS the 2016. I want to echo oceanica. I love this tea. It is delicious. This oolong is so heavy with fruit notes, the first infusion tastes like a flavored tea. This is a real winner in my book.
I did this gong-fu style in a very small 50ml gaiwan, covering the bottom heavily with tea leaves (did not weigh). Short steeps. Dry leaves smell great. It reminds me of a fruit cake, sticky, sweet, dried fruits, brown sugar. Wet leaves smell similar, but have a bright fruity note like white grape juice, lychee.
Tasting is very fruity during the initial steeps. Lychee and white/green grapes is a good description here. Oceanica mentioned mandarin. I don’t think I would have said that on my own, but I agree. I think there is a hint of mandarin in the flavor. Mmm. mmmm. Good stuff.
I thoroughly enjoyed this tea. I could drink this every day. Highly recommended.
Flavors: Brown Sugar, Fruity, Lychee, Orange, White Grapes
Full disclosure: My sense of smell is not functioning at 100%, today.
I read a description on another tea vendor’s website, and he described the tea’s profile as smelling like cannabis. Bingo! That’s one of the unusual smells I think some raw pu’ers possess that I could never put my finger on. Not that I’m any expert in cannabis, but I have smelled it a few times in my life, and it’s a very unusual and distinct smell, and that is exactly what the wet leaves of this tea smell like. I also get some more dry grassy-hay notes, as well, and a bit of pepperiness. Wet leaf quality appears high. Whole leaves dominate.
One might note that my flavor/aroma notes are contradictions, but yet that is not a mistake. Steeped for under 15 seconds, the tea produces a pale oak liquor that is smooth and wet and sweet with no bitterness. Steeped for 1 min+, it’s bitter and astringent. I prefer this one steeped for shorter durations.
I’ll have to keep this one short. It’s probably me and my under-performing sense of smell more than the tea, today, but I am just not getting much past the 4th infusion.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Black Pepper, Cannabis, Smooth, Straw, Sweet
A few weeks ago, I was shaking the water out of my beautiful little 70 ml (an awesome size!) xishi Jianshui clay pot from Crimson Lotus when I lost my grip on the down stroke, and I basically did what amounted to throwing my pot into our porcelain farmer sink in the kitchen with quite a bit of force. As you can imagine, it shattered into many pieces. These are wonderfully crafted pots, and I highly recommend them. I don’t recommend slamming them onto hard surfaces. :-( I immediately ordered another pot, and included with the replacement pot was a sample of 2013 Lucky Cloud shou pu’erh. Hopefully this “lucky cloud” will shade me for awhile, so I don’t ruin any more teaware. The sample provided was high quality, outer edge cake, nearly completely intact with very little loose tea leaves.
Smooth and creamy is how Crimson Lotus describes this shou pu’erh, and that is an accurate description. This would make an excellent daily drinker, and I think it would appeal to many new shou pu’erh tea drinkers, and maybe some experienced ones, as well, depending on what taste profile is desired.
Dry leaf aroma was earthy, leaf pile, and subtle. It required getting the nose right on the leaves to pick up any aroma. Wet leaf smell is classic shou pu’erh — earthy, mulchy, life pile, forest floor.
I brewed this in a very small ~50 ml porcelain gaiwan. One rinse with boiling water, another quick rinse with just off the boil water, and a first steep of 10 seconds. Liquor was dark brown on the first steep. First infusion was mellow and so smooth. No bitterness. No astringency. No fishiness. No throat feeling. Very little aftertaste. Mouth remained wet. Faintly sweet.
Second infusion was for 30 seconds. Liquor now very dark brown with some slight redness. Taste remained much the same.
Third infusion was also for 30 seconds. Liquor remained the same dark, reddish brown. Taste changed to sweeter and some maltiness.
Four infusion of 40 seconds has more sweetness. I’m getting a small amount of mild mouth drying after about a minute. Astringency and perhaps some bitterness (if that’s your thing) may be able to be pulled from this shou pu’erh with long infusions. I’m on the fence on trying it, because it is so good in this mellow form. Oh what the heck, let’s go for it.
Fifth infusion. 3 mins. I’m surprised. I thought it would be more bitter and astringent, but this is the 5th infusion. It’s there. There is some astringency at first on the back of my tongue and then the front of the tongue as some time passes after each sip, but it isn’t a strong, chalky drying action. It is slight. Bitterness is so slight at this longer infusion, it’s hardly worth mentioning. The maltiness is still there.
Sixth infusion. 45 seconds. Color of liquor now a medium brown and I can see the bottom of my teacup. Sweet, mineral, no bitterness, no astringency, mild earthy note, no maltiness now in the later infusions if the steeping time is kept short.
So, I said that I think this would appeal to new shou pu’erh drinkers, and some experienced drinkers. This shou pu’erh is a very good drinking tea. It has no negative qualities. For some experienced drinkers, I think there is often the desire to find something unusual and new, layers of complexity, even if some of those layers aren’t what one would normally think of as delicious traits. This tea delivers a smooth and delicious shou pu’erh experience that remains predictably consistent across many infusions. It is tolerant of wide steeping parameters. I experienced no chi, no increase or decrease of body temperate, and had no visions, but I consider myself lucky to have started my day with the delicious Lucky Cloud.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Earth, Forest Floor, Mineral, Sweet
These mini tuochas from 2007 are about 5 grams each, and work out nicely for brewing up a cup of tea for one or two people. These are ripe pu’er, and so the dry tuocha have that sticky sweet dried fruit smell like prunes or raisins or figs that I find pleasant. Wet leaves smell very much like wet leaf pile, mulch, earthy. Taste, however, is very smooth and mellow, a little wet earth taste, sweet, a bit of dried fruit, and zero fishiness. Very low on the woody tannin notes. I get no bitterness and only a little astringency, but only after quite some time has passed after sipping the tea. I get some throat dryness after about 5 minutes has passed.
I prepared this in purple clay with 2 quick rinses of boiling water, and by then with a little shake, the tuoacha had fully fallen apart in the bottom of the pot. Subsequent infusions were kept fast at 8-10 seconds and then increasing in duration from there. Liquor was always dark and rich even with the short infusions, as expected with a ripe. This is a good drinking, mellow shou pu’er. I feel very relaxed after the 6th infusion, and where I will stop.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Dried Fruit, Fig, Raisins, Wet Earth
I think this is an excellent tea for brewing up a half gallon and keeping in the fridge to serve cold. It’s really a nice tasting mellow oolong with that classic Wuyi Mountain mineral note aftertaste that originally got me into higher end teas. I brew this with slightly cooled off-the-boil water western style. I steep 5 tea bags for 5 mins in about 1/2 quart of water and then pour the hot tea liquor into a stream of cold tap water (we have excellent cold well water) to fill a 2 qt serving pitcher. I usually have mine sweetened with a bit of lemon at the time of each serving. The tea pairs well with just about anything, and is probably as good as you’re going to get with a bagged tea for an every day general purpose beverage. I paid $7 for 100 tea bags. Hard to beat it. I’ve seen some highly negative reviews for this tea, so maybe I got lucky and got a good batch, but my box of tea tastes nothing like the negative reviews. In fact, it is so good, I would love to have some friends over to blind taste test it, and I would bet money that they would rate it higher than some loose leaf.
Dry leaf smell is that of dried fruits, chewing tobacco, molasses. Very pleasant.
Hot steaming wet leaf smell has a strange aroma note of cabbage or maybe even kimchi. Cool wet leaf smells more typical sheng, but there is still a bit of that fermented cabbage, but it definitely fades into the background. I don’t get much if any floral notes. There is an underlying very faint scent of cloves that is nice.
I’m doing short steeps of 8-15 secs for the first few infusions. It’s sweet when it first hits the mouth, but for no more than a second before bitterness comes on strong, and a bit sour, too. Mouth drying — lips stick to the front teeth drying. Chalky astringency. Woody, tannin notes are strong. Long lasting thick mouthfeel and aftertaste.
Flavors: Cloves, Dried Fruit, Molasses, Tannin, Tobacco