19 Tasting Notes

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https://hotleafjuicetea.wordpress.com/2015/02/21/2013-wu-liang-ye-shiang-from-yunnan-sourcing/

What is the most bitter tea that exists?

Reali-tea. Ouch.

Ah, the “tea joke” threads on Steepster and TeaChat never get old.

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I am a big fan of purple tree puerh teas, although most of my readers out there in Tea Blog Land will probably disagree with me. Purple puerhs have a reputation for being super powerful and bitter. I should start by mentioning that this particular tea is not bitter at all. However, this reputation that purple puerh holds brings up an important idea. In my opinion, bitterness should be embraced, not feared. Tea with more bitter characteristics can be enjoyed just as much as dark chocolate, IPA beer, coffee, or Chinese bitter melon. Of course, I’m not referring to the bitterness that comes from oversteeping teas. Rather, it is important to simply enjoy the more bitter nature that some teas, such as some varieties of puerhs or Japanese greens, naturally hold.

A major reason for our natural distaste for bitter foods and drinks comes from cultural influences. In Bitter: A Taste of the World’s Most Dangerous Flavor, Jennifer McLagan investigates why some cultures such as China and other East Asian nations tend to love bitter tastes, while North Americans and Western Europeans tend to steer far away. I definitely recommend reading this book. It will open up your eyes to the importance of bitterness.

I will admit that some purple puerhs taste a bit like dipping your tongue into a vat of arsenic (made that mistake…never again). But this tea is something special. This I the only purple puerh I’ve ever had without barely trace of that punching bitterness.

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The cake I received looks just like the photo from Yunnan Sourcing. Mine is a bit more mangled of course. Puerh is not like fast food, where you get some gross crap that looks nothing like what is advertised. With puerh, you get exactly what you ordered. Thanks Yunnan Sourcing!

This 2013 Wu Liang Ye Shiang from Yunnan Sourcing came into my life somewhat haphazardly. I was gifted an Amazon gift card a few months back, and I wasn’t sure what to spend on it. Luckily I stumbled upon Yunnan Sourcing’s Amazon store. They only offered perhaps six or seven different cakes on their Amazon storefront. After I received my order, I noticed that the Yunnan Sourcing Amazon page disappeared from the world. Hmm, not sure what that’s about.

Out of the cakes that Yunnan Sourcing offered, the 2013 Wu Liang Ye Shiang jumped out to me. Once I read the words “wild tree purple,” the tea was in my cart.

This cake is made entirely of Ye Sheng varietal tea leaves. According to some Internet research, Ye Sheng or 野生, refers to a subspecies of Camellia sinensis assamica. This is a naturally occurring varietal found only in Yunnan Province, China. The Ye Sheng tea plant is naturally bug repellent, which might explain its powerful nature. The tea for this cake was picked from bushes above 2000 feet in elevation, and between 50 and 200 years old. The tea leaves are from a farm in Jingdong County, which is inside of Pu’er Prefecture, also known as Simao Prefecture, which is in Southern Yunnan, China. Wow, that was complicated.

I could not find any explanation for why exactly the tea is purple, but I can make an educated guess thanks to my small knowledge of plant biology and plant physiology. Since these tea leaves are grown at a very high elevation, they are exposed to more UV (ultraviolet) light. UV light is represented by the purple part of the color spectrum. The leaves likely turn purple as a natural defense mechanism in order to reflect some of this UV light and protect the plant from some of these UV rays. Plants often have defense mechanisms like this, turning purple due to a buildup of anthocyanins in the leaves. Or perhaps it is all just a quirky genetic variation. If you know the answer to this, tell us all about it in the comments.

Dry Leaf

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I weighed out 8.4 grams of the puerh to use in my gaiwan. The leaves are very dark purple with some larger green leaves sticking out. The leaves are very large and lightly compressed.

The dry leaf smells very smoky and fruity. The fruity note is incredible strong…you can even smell it through the paper label. To me, it smells very much like stone fruits, perhaps plums or cherries.

Teaware

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I used my favorite gaiwan, which I purchased at Dobra Tea in Portland, Maine. Isn’t he/she beautiful?

Sadly, my gaiwan took a bit of a tumble. When I was washing the gaiwan before this review, I dropped the lid and it bounced off my sink. Somehow, the Tea Gods graced my presence and the lid managed to escape unscathed. Phew, that would have been devastating.

The cup and tea coaster are from the Tea Ave sampler that went out last week. I will review those teas next week, once the pricing comes out!

Brewed Tea

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I gave this puerh two quick rinses. I went with a 5 second steep to start, and then increased by 5 or 10 seconds each steep.

These photos are of the third and fourth steeps. The third steep came out a beautiful golden straw color.

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This tea is very complex. It is very mellow and delicate for a wild tree purple puerh. If I tasted this blindfolded, I would have never guessed this tea is only a year or two old.

Although the tea smelled very smoky, the brewed tea has barely a trace of smoke flavor. The main flavors that I picked up on were very intense stone fruit tastes, just like the smell suggested. The cherry and plum notes are so noticeable here that you definitely can’t miss them. There is also a pleasant sour, tart note on the finish that many other reviewers noted. Some tea writers described this as a lemony taste, which I would agree with.

The most noticeable aspect of this tea is the incredible thick mouthfeel. The tea coats your mouth with a rich buttery taste, similar to the sensation of drinking a quality high mountain Taiwanese oolong. I couldn’t get enough of the creamy mouthfeel. Awesome!

Once steeped, the leaves looked much more green than they did in their dry form. The steeped puerh leaves look pretty much the same as any other puerh tea.

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By the eighth steep, the color has lightened up quite a bit but the taste is still just as strong.

Finished Leaf

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I got about 10 steeps out of these leaves. I am drinking a few more steeps of the tea right now, and it is still going strong! The leaves were quite varied in size. Some of the leaves were huge, and some were tiny and appeared chopped up. I’ve never seen puerh leaves with such mixed colors.

Conclusion

This tea offers a great introduction into the world of purple puerhs. This cake was $41 for 400 grams, which I suppose is sort of the mid level of young sheng pricing. I really enjoy this cake, and would buy it again. This is one of the best sheng puerhs I have had! I love this tea, and I am looking forward to enjoying this cake for the next few months. Luckily I’ve got about 390 grams left!

“Coffee is not my cup of tea” ~Samuel Goldwyn

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 9 g 5 OZ / 147 ML
mrmopar

It’s a nice one for sure!

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84

If you are a puerh drinker living outside of China, then you have definitely stumbled upon Yunnan Sourcing at some point. Browsing Yunnan Sourcing is like window-shopping at the Mall of America. The selection is unrivaled, but it’s also a bit overwhelming. Hundreds and hundreds of cakes from all over China fight for your attention. This black hole of puerh tea grows even deeper if you shop at www.yunnansourcing.com, the international wing of Scott Wilson’s tea empire. As a puerh tea enthusiast living in rural New England, Yunnan Sourcing’s online store is a godsend.

Although Yunnan Sourcing is most well known for its puerh selection, Scott also carries some lovely green teas and oolongs that I enjoy. I’m a big fan of the 2014 Teng Chong Hui Long Zhai Yunnan green tea in particular.

On to the review!

This lovely guy is the 2012 Yunnan Sourcing Impressions cake from www.yunnansourcing.us.

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This tea has received numerous positive reviews online, so I figured this would be a nice one to try. But if I’m being completely honest, I really wanted to buy this cake because I loved the label. Check out that beautiful yin and yang!

I suppose that buying a puerh cake based on its packaging may seem a bit silly. It’s like buying a wine just because you want to keep the bottle. Luckily, this time I was rewarded for my impulsive tea buying. I snagged a nice cake at an incredible price.

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This puerh cake is made of a blend of wild arbor mao cha and spring and autumn plantation mao cha from Lincang, Wu Liang, and Simao, three of the most famous puerh producing areas of Yunnan Province, China. This blend was designed for aging, so I look forward to trying this tea again in a few years. Or maybe I’ll pass it along to my children one day. Of course, this is assuming that my hypothetical children are as interested in tea as I am. There’s a good chance my kids will say something along the lines of “Dad, what the hell is this? Is this a cow patty?” That seems to be how most non-tea drinkers respond to seeing the stacks of puerh cakes I have in my dorm room.

In case you want to recreate my tea tasting experience, here is the musical accompaniment I chose. A lovely live performance from Kishi Bashi! KEXP never lets me down.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NPTWXKB0C4

Dry Leaf

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This puerh cakes is loosely compressed, but still broke off in nice manageable chunks. I weighed out 9.2 g of the tea to use. That’s a bit more tea than I normally use, but this adorable huge piece of tea broke off and I didn’t have the heart to break it up. Isn’t it cute?

It is quite apparent that this cake is made from a blend of leaves. There are some beautiful gold and white leaves sticking out from the mass of green and green-grey leaves. The dry cake is very fragrant, with a lot of the tobacco notes that are common in young sheng puerhs. There is also a very noticeable fruity fragrance. I also picked up on a lot of smoky accents, which other reviewers didn’t seem to mention.

Teaware

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I used my lovely dedicated sheng puerh Yixing for this sample.

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Check out my tea pet/tea toy!

Although I have been the proud owner of this tea pet for almost six months, I still haven’t decided on a good name for him/her/zir. If you have a suggestion, please let me know!

Brewed Tea

I rinsed this monster sized chunk with two ten second steeps. I figured I would rinse the tea pretty vigorously, since it takes a while for these large pieces to open up and release their true character.

After the rinse, I took a big whiff of the leaves. Whoa, incredible! This tea smells so fruity and complex that it’s very hard to describe. The tobacco and fruit scents of the dry leaf were amplified. The aroma is actually quite similar to a fruity flavored shisha tobacco, just like you would use for a hookah. Although I despise hookah, I find the smell mesmerizing.

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The first real steep was a beautiful golden yellow color, even after only ten seconds in the pot. This tea is pretty high up on the astringency spectrum, which you will probably notice right away. But this not the bad kind of astringency, it’s actually very pleasant. The word “astringent” seems to have a negative connotation to it, which shouldn’t be the case! I find that a little bit of astringency adds a lot of character to a tea.

This tea is very well balanced, but the smoky character is definitely noticeable to me. I noticed the smokiness in the aroma and the taste, although other tea bloggers don’t agree with me. Perhaps I am just more sensitive to smokiness.

The smoky taste is buffered by the other flavors, such as a very noticeable fruity accent. I can’t quite decipher what the fruity taste is…perhaps raisin, dried fruit? The tea has a light sugar cane/honey sweetness to it towards the end. Lovely!

The aftertaste is very grassy and minerally, as others reviewers have mentioned. A lot of young sheng puerhs taste minerally to me. I’m not sure if that’s just my palate, or if that is a characteristic taste for many young puerhs. I enjoy the mineral taste either way! Mmm, just like licking a rock. Before you call bullshit on me for saying that I know what a rock tastes like, I actually do! Earth Science/Geology major, woohoo! I’ve licked many a rock in my life.

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The orange color starts to sneak in by the third steep. You can see the orange color in my cha hai.

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This tea finally started to mellow out on the 7th steep. The tea is still quite powerful, but the fruity taste and aroma have faded away and have been replaced by a strong mineral note.

I started to feel profoundly “tea drunk” at this point. I felt pleasantly warm from the inside out. This high was coupled with a pleasant caffeine rush thanks to my heavy hand…9.2 g of tea certainly adds up! Ah, what a wonderful feeling. All is right in the world!

I got 9 or 10 steeps out of this tea. I could have probably gone for a few more steeps, but alas I had other things to do in my day besides taste fancy teas. Hopefully one day tea tasting can be my sole focus, and silly things like college can be out of the picture.

Finished Leaf

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The finished leaves look super high quality. There are some very light green leaves alongside some darker green leaves, with a few dark grey-green ones thrown in. The blended character of this tea gives it a very unique appearance. The leaves are very large and intact, with no rips or tears.

Conclusion

I enjoyed this tea a lot. It’s really great, especially for the price. $20 is about as cheap as you are going to get for a puerh cake, so this one is certainly worth a shot, especially if you are new to puerh or are buying cakes for aging. I’m interested to see what this tea will be like in a few years. Perhaps it will smooth out a bit.

$20 for 357 grams…wow. Considering that I got 9 or 10 steeps out of my 9.2 g of leaf, you can do the math and see that 357 grams is a ton of tea. We’re talking like 10 cents a cup here, guys. Fancy tea doesn’t have to be expensive!

http://www.yunnansourcing.us/store/index.php?id_product=334&controller=product

I’ve got some exciting reviews coming up, so stay tuned! My 2002 White Whale cake from White2Tea should be coming in tomorrow along with some samples. I also just received my sample from Tea Ave out of Vancouver, Canada. I haven’t cracked into those yet, but the samples look wonderful.

Thanks for reading everyone. My last reviews have been read by over 200 visitors. I feel very fortunate to have access to such a wonderful audience!

“A man without tea in him is incapable of understanding truth and beauty.”-Okakura Kakuzo, Book of Tea

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 9 g 6 OZ / 177 ML
mrmopar

The Whale will give you the smoke as well.

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83

Raw puerh, here we go! I drink a lot of sheng (生) puerh. Unfortunately my desire to drink high quality puerh tea is slightly at odds with my infamous cheapness. I like to define myself as “frugal,” but my family members would tell you otherwise. Hence, I am on a never ending search for good tea that won’t cost me a ridiculous amount of money. With that said, I am more likely to drop a large amount of cash on tea than almost anything else in my life. In the words of James Norwood Pratt, perhaps America’s foremost tea expert, “No luxury is cheaper than tea.” In this video, he explains that a pound of tea that costs $600 per pound, or $37.50 per ounce, will yield about 600 cups. “One of the world’s greatest handmade works of art” will cost you about the same per serving as soda. And there are very few teas on the market that cost that much. So in the grand scheme of life, spending $100 or $200 on a puerh cake is not a huge expense I suppose. With that said, I would still cringe for days after spending $200 on puerh!

James Norwood Pratt also states that you should approach learning about tea “…like you would approach learning about making love: privately, discreetly, and with devotion and feeling.” Haha, what a weirdo!

His way of talking is so soothing and wonderful. I could just listen to his gravelly, soulful voice forever. Damn, I wish I had a voice like that.

Wow, what a tangent. On to the tea!

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I bought this cake from PuerhShop. This cake is made from early spring silver buds, which explains it’s very unique appearance. Holy crap, look how silver/white it is!

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The leaves are from Xishuangbanna, in the south of Yunnan Province, China. This cake is 400 g. Super size!

Dry Leaf

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This puerh cake is very loosely compressed, perhaps to speed up the aging process a bit. The colors are beautiful, lots of white and silver mixed in with some darker leaves. The tea smells wonderful and really sweet. I’ve never smelled a puerh that is this light and floral.

Teaware

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I brewed 7.4 g of this puerh in my dedicated sheng puerh yixing pot! This was my first ever yixing pot, given to me by some great friends. This teapot inspires a lot of lovely memories every time I bring it out.

Brewed Tea

I gave this tea one ten second rinse. For the first few steeps, I was very careful to keep the infusion times very short, between five and ten seconds. I read a few reviews of this tea online, and other bloggers noted that this tea is very easy to oversteep and make it bitter. I tried to pay special attention not to do that!

Once the cake opened up a bit, the tasting started. Look at that beautiful color! This tea is a bizarre orange-yellow shade that I find quite pleasing. Peep the new cha hai I got from Scott at Yunnan Sourcing.

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This tea is incredibly aromatic. I couldn’t stop myself from smelling it again and again, much to the amusement of my roommates. The astringent nature of the tea is one of the first things that I noticed after sipping the tea. This tea has plenty of astringency, like most young sheng puerhs, but I didn’t find it unpleasant. But then this tea really hit me over the head with its incredible sweetness. From what I understand, this sweet taste is somewhat characteristic of silver and white. The sweetness just lasts and lasts, and stays in the mouth for quite a while afterwords. This is definitely one of the sweetest tasting sheng puerhs I have tried.

As far as the flavor goes, this tea is very earthy and smokey tasting, along with a lot of the tobacco like flavors that are often noted in young sheng puerhs. This tea is not very complex though, which is perhaps its main flaw. The flavor kind of all comes at once, and then dies out quickly.

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I made several more steeps, adding five or ten seconds each time. The flavor didn’t really change much over these repeated infusions, but the tea held up pretty well.

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Here is the 6th or 7th steep. Still very bright and orange-yellow!

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I got a solid 12 or 13 infusions out of this tea before it finally gave out.

Finished Leaf

The photo is coming tomorrow morning! Sorry, I left my photo drive in the library :(

The leaves are quite small and choppy. There are a few larger leaves in the mix, but they are a bit hard to find. The leaves are a dull green color.

Conclusion

I am very happy that I tried this tea. It is not the best sheng puerh I have ever had, but it is probably the best I have had for the price. This tea is incredibly cheap, at $22.80 for a 400 g cake. This is a solid daily drinker for a puerh drinker on a budget. It is still quite “young” tasting and might improve a bit over time. But all in all, this a tea worth trying. This could explain why this tea is currently listed as the best selling sheng puerh on PuerhShop!

http://www.puerhshop.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=395

Flavors: Floral, Smoke, Tobacco

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 7 g 5 OZ / 147 ML

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79

Well, it looks like it’s finally time for me to break into the puerh reviewing game. While I drink a lot of puerh tea, I must admit that my palate for puerh, and shu (cooked/ripe) puerhs in particular, is not very refined. I certainly enjoy shu puerh teas from time to time, but most shu teas taste the same to me. I really enjoy the savory, earthy character of most cooked or ripe puerhs, but I generally can’t tell one quality shu puerh from another. I’m more of a sheng man at heart.

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This Mandala Phatty Cake is a shu puerh. For you non tea-drinkers (what are you doing here?!?!), this means it was artificially “cooked” to imitate an aged sheng (raw) puerh. This process usually involves piling the tea leaves in a warm, humid environment. The leaves are turned over regularly. In essence, the tea leaves are being composted.

This particular tea comes from Mandala Tea, an excellent tea shop and online tea store based in Rochester, Minnesota. The 2011 Phatty Cake is wildly popular in the internet tea world. Steepster, Reddit r/tea, and TeaChat are all full of glowing reviews for this shu puerh.

The leaves for this cake were picked in Lincang, Yunnan Province in 2006 and then ripened in 2007. In 2011, the ripened leaves were pressed into cute little 100 g cakes.

Dry Leaf

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Normally when I brew puerh, I like to break off a large chunk or two and then have a few smaller leaves in the pot as well. However, since I’m towards the very end of this cake I could only break off this giant piece. The dried leaves are darker brown, as shu puerhs tend to be. This cake has a lot more variety than most shu puerhs I’ve seen…there are some lighter brown leaves and some darker brown leaves. The leaf size ranges from tiny and almost dust like all the way to entire leaves.

This lovely chunk of shu has that deep, earthy smell that is typical of shu puerhs. The cake is very densely compacted, and was a bit hard to break apart with my tea pick.

Teaware

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For this tea, I used my designated shu yixing pot. I bought this lovely little guy in the Yingge Ceramics District of New Taipei City in Taiwan. I bought it from a group of old ladies on the side of the road that had a little teaware shop. I can never resist buying something from cute old Taiwanese ladies.

Brewed Tea

I weighed out 8 g of this tea for my sample. I gave this tea two ten second rinses. Normally I only give puerhs one rinse, but since this chunk of tea was so solid I thought it would need another ten seconds to open up.

The first steep was an incredibly dark shade of reddish-brown, approaching completely black. And this was only a 15 second steep! You can’t even see the bottom of the cup.

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You may notice the white mist on the surface of the tea. Apparently these are tiny microdroplets of water that are actually levitating above the surface of the tea. How fascinating! This phenomenon was discovered by Takahiro Umeki and his team of physicists out of Kyoto University in Japan.

You can read a bit more about it at http://www.marshaln.com/2015/01/that-white-mist/. http://www.marshaln.com is also one of the very best tea blogs on the internet, so you should check it out anyways. https://medium.com/the-physics-arxiv-blog/the-mystery-of-the-white-mist-on-the-surface-of-black-coffee-a1a9624edfde also has a nice article about Umeki’s discoveries.

The first thing I noticed about this tea is that it is super clean tasting, as most other reviewers have noted. There is absolutely none of the “funk” of fishiness that you often find in shu puerhs. The initial taste is very leathery and earthy. This typical puerh flavor is boosted by a delicious savory taste, very mushroom like. As far as tea tastes go, mushroom might not be to your liking…but I certainly enjoyed it in this tea.Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of this tea is its texture. This tea is very thick and heavy, even for a shu. It is oddly filling, like a meal in a cup! The tea has a really pleasant sweet aftertaste.

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This is about the fourth or fifth steep. You can see that the tea has lightened up a little bit to a reddish-brown color. Even after five steeps, the tea is still incredibly heavy and thick. A lot of the mushroomy/savory notes have faded into a sort of medicinal or herbal note. This might not sound good, but I found it quite pleasant. There are so many flavors in this one puerhs. I was impressed by this tea’s complexity.

I lightened up the steep times to 8-10 seconds for the remaining steeps. I easily got over 15 steeps out of this one 8 g chunk of tea, and I certainly could have gotten some more out of the tea. This tea is incredibly strong and potent, as most reviewers have noticed. I love teas that have this aspect, but unless you are really into shu puerhs, I don’t think you would like this tea.

Finished Leaf

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The finished leaf is nothing too exciting to look at, since it’s a compressed puerh. But the leaves looked pretty full and high quality.

Conclusion

This is a good shu puerh, to put it simply. It’s incredibly strong and potent and will give you lots of repeated infusion. It’s a lot better than your standard $15 or $20 cake online. But at $19 for a 100 g cake, I don’t think I’ll be buying this tea again. It’s simply too pricy for what it gives. If you consider that most puerh cakes are 357 g, this tea would be in the $60 range if it were full sized. That’s pretty expensive for a shu puerh, and I wouldn’t pay that regularly for a shu puerh cake unless it really knocked my socks off. Maybe this just means that I’m too cheap :)

I’m happy I tried this tea though, and I’m happy that I supported Mandala Tea by buying it. If you are looking for an online tea vendor, you should give Mandala a look. They have a great selection and incredibly friendly customer service, even if the prices are a bit high for my tastes.

Flavors: Dirt, Earth, Mushrooms, Tobacco

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 8 g 6 OZ / 177 ML
Garret

Thank you for the in-depth review of this tea, my friend, and also for the recommendation of our humble endeavor here at Mandala Tea. It is greatly appreciated. We now have 5 cakes of this tea left. Wow! They went fast!

As far as the pricing – had we pressed this as a 357 gram cake the price wouldn’t have been triple the 100g cake as pressing fees would have been lower. It may have ended up being priced around $40 or less, lower when first pressed. But that is neither here nor there. We do better with the 100g pressings sales wise and so we haven’t done any larger pressings with the exception of a few 250 gram cakes.

Thank you, once again, for taking the time to write up your experience with this tea.

May you be healthy and happy always.
Grateful,
Garret

hrwhite

Hi Garret!

Thanks for the comment. Only 5 left, wow! Good sales, huh?

Sorry for the miscommunication about the price. That is a good point, I will go back and fix that. I would also probably pay $40 for a whole cake! I trust your judgement regardless, and it wasn’t met as a slight towards Mandala, so I hope you didn’t take it that way. You guys rock and have some of the best teas around, especially that lovely milk oolong of yours!

Garret

HI! I did not take it as a slight whatsoever. No worries there. I appreciate your kind words so very much. It means alot. The two of us (Jamie and I) are working so hard to keep Mandala Tea growing and it is words of encouragement like yours that keep us going some days. I am grateful to you.

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85
drank GABA Oolong by Mountain Tea
19 tasting notes

For today’s review, I decided to review a rather interesting tea. This tea is a GABA processed oolong from Taiwan. The GABA processing for teas was discovered in Japan in the late 1980’s. You can find GABA black and green teas, but most are oolong teas. I’m not sure why that is, especially since green tea is so much more popular in Japan. Perhaps somebody out there has the answer to this dilemma, and can tell us in the comments!

If you’ve ever taken an Intro to Psychology or Neuroscience course in college, you are probably familiar with GABA. Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid is one of the main neurotransmitters for the Central Nervous System (CNS). Its most important role is to reduce neuron excitability. Thus, GABA supplements are most commonly associated with their calming effect on the nervous system. These teas are usually advertised for their ability to improve relaxation and sleep quality, lower blood pressure, and lowering cholesterol levels. Some students in Japan will use GABA teas to improve their performance on exams. While searching through vast online articles about obscure teas, I even found some articles suggesting that GABA teas can help fight off schizophrenia. As with most excessive health claims, these are probably only true to a certain extent…or not true at all, in my opinion! But if you enjoy this tea anyways, I suppose that is a pleasant potential side effect.

Although this seems like a bit of a silly marketing scam (because it probably is…) many tea bloggers and tea aficionados in the world really enjoy GABA teas due to their unique taste.

The GABA process for tea is quite simple. You just have to expose the tea leaves to extremely elevated levels of nitrogen during processing. During the oxidation phase of processing, all of the oxygen is replaced with nitrogen. This causes the glutamic acid in the tea leaves to be converted to GABA. In order to be considered a true GABA tea, the leaves must contain at least 150 mg of GABA per 100 g of leaf. Most of the GABA teas I found online claim to have between 200 and 300 mg per 100 g of leaf.

GABA teas are quite popular in Japan, but are just making their way to the States, so I feel pretty lucky to get the chance to try such a unique beverage. Thanks, Japan! You never fail to disappoint me with your quirky inventions.

Anyways, on to the exciting part!

Dry Leaf

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The dry leaf of this tea looks pretty similar to your standard rolled style oolong. The leaves look pretty high quality, are there is no dust or broken leaves. The aroma of this tea is so unique. I have never smelled a tea like this. Like other tea bloggers I’ve read, I really have no words to describe what this smells like. While some people on Steepster and other tea enthusiast sites do not like the smell, I actually really enjoy it. It seems kind of bread-like. It’s very yeasty and roasted smelling, kind of similar to a roasted oolong but with a bit of a….sharpness to it. Very intriguing!

Oh, you want to see a more up-close shot of the action? Sure!

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Brewed Tea

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I brewed five grams of the leaves in my tea tasting set. Brewing this tea was an experience in itself. I gave the leaves a quick five second rinse. When I poured the boiling water over the leaves in the first steep, a ton of bubbles came rushing to the surface. This effect lasted several seconds. Presumably this has something to do with the GABA process. Neat!

My first impression of the taste is…wow, this is really weird! The taste is very roasted, like a typical roasted oolong. But the yeasty bread like smell comes through in the taste as well. It’s very odd, but pretty pleasant in my opinion. This tea is also quite fruity. It has a dried fruit/raisin sort of taste, similar to the Medium Roast TieGuanYin from Mountain Tea that I reviewed last week. There is a very notable sour taste to this tea, which many other reviewers have noted. I don’t find this unpleasant, but I don’t think I would necessarily want to drink this regularly. The first and second steep had a strong woody taste to it, but this faded away in the third and fourth steeps. The later steeps became more floral and light. These later steeps were very pleasant, so I would say that this tea holds up very well to multiple infusions.

Finished Leaf

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The leaves unfurled very nicely. Most of the leaves were attached in groups of threes or fours. This looks very high quality! None of the leaves were torn or bruised. There were a lot more stems than oolongs usually have.

Conclusion

This tea is very interesting and strange, but I really enjoyed it. This is definitely a tea worth trying. At $11 for 2 ounces or $23 for 5 ounces, it’s not too expensive either. I would be interested in trying some more GABA oolongs in the future so that I could compare them. I’ll definitely be enjoying the rest of this bag.

Flavors: Fruity, Raisins, Sour

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 45 sec 5 g 5 OZ / 147 ML

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82

For my debut into the online tea snob world, I chose the Medium Roast TieGuanYin from Mountain Tea. Mountain Tea specializes in Taiwanese oolong teas, but they sell a few green and puerh teas from other countries as well. This particular tea is very popular in the online tea community, and won 1st Place in the Traditional TieGuanYin Category of the 2012 North American Tea Championship.

In case you aren’t as obsessed with tea as I am, I can describe the tea a bit. TieGuanYin, also called 铁观音 or 鐵觀音, is a variety of oolong tea from Anxi in Fujian Province, China. The name translates roughly to “Iron Goddess of Mercy,” but you will sometimes see it sold as “Iron Buddha” as well.

Dry Leaf

IMG_0759

The dry leaf has the appearance of a typical rolled style oolong. The leaves seem to be high quality. The leaves have a very notable roasted aroma, which is quite pleasant. They smell very sweet and caramelized. But overall, the smell is not too intense.

Teaware

IMG_0755

I brewed five grams of the leaves in my new tea tasting set. I bought this set at the Beipu Farmers’ Market in Beipu Township, which is in Hsinchu County in northern Taiwan. I’m pretty happy with it, although I had to carry it in my backpack for a week. I’m pretty surprised that this tasting set managed to make it home undamaged.

Brewed Tea

IMG_0767

This tea is very interesting and complex. The first taste that hits my palate is the notable roasted taste. I suppose since the tea is called “medium roast,” I expected the roasted taste to be a bit more subtle. But it is certainly very enjoyable either way. With that said, this tea does still have a slight bit of the bite that is typical of greener oolongs.

As a result of this roasting process, the tea’s head note has a very caramelized flavor, with a noticeable honey sweetness. The tea is very nutty tasting, as roasted oolongs tend to be. Surprisingly, I also picked up on a toasted bread-like taste in this body notes of this tea, which many other reviewers online have noted. The aftertaste is very fruity, similar to the lingering apricot or peach notes that are common to some oolongs. However, this fruity flavor is a bit more like a dried fruit taste, perhaps a raisin note?

As I progressed through some repeated steepings, I was a bit disappointed that this tea did not keep its flavor so well. The roasted flavor of this tea became rather flat by the third and fourth steep. However, the fruitiness is more pronounced in the later steeps.

Finished Leaf

IMG_0774

The tightly rolled leaves unfurled nicely. A few of the leaves are a bit choppy and bruised looking, which is generally not a great sign in rolled oolongs. However, this tea still appears to be high quality.

Conclusion

All in all, this tea is quite solid. If you tend to enjoy more roasted tasting oolongs, you will probably enjoy this. I wouldn’t say that this is the absolute best TieGuanYin oolong I’ve had, but it is certainly one of the best TieGuanYin oolongs I have had for the price. At only $9 for 2 ounces, or $18 for 5 ounces, this tea is pretty affordable. I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to buy this tea again, but I will certainly enjoy the rest of the bag and I would recommend it to others.

Flavors: Fruity, Nuts, Peach, Plums, Raisins, Roasted

Preparation
Boiling 1 min, 0 sec 5 g 5 OZ / 147 ML

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82

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Flavors: Fruity, Nuts, Peach, Plums, Raisins

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83

For my debut into the online tea world, I chose the Medium Roast TieGuanYin from Mountain Tea. Mountain Tea specializes in Taiwanese oolong teas, but they sell a few green and puerh teas from other countries as well. This particular tea is very popular in the online tea community, and won 1st Place in the Traditional TieGuanYin Category of the 2012 North American Tea Championship.

In case you aren’t as obsessed with tea as I am, I can describe the tea a bit. TieGuanYin, also called 铁观音 or 鐵觀音, is a variety of oolong tea from Anxi in Fujian Province, China. The name translates roughly to “Iron Goddess of Mercy,” but you will sometimes see it sold as “Iron Buddha” as well.

Dry Leaf

IMG_0759

The dry leaf has the appearance of a typical rolled style oolong. The leaves seem to be high quality. The leaves have a very notable roasted aroma, which is quite pleasant. They smell very sweet and caramelized. But overall, the smell is not too intense.

Teaware

IMG_0755

I brewed five grams of the leaves in my new tea tasting set. I bought this set at the Beipu Farmers’ Market in Beipu Township, which is in Hsinchu County in northern Taiwan. I’m pretty happy with it, although I had to carry it in my backpack for a week. I’m pretty surprised that this tasting set managed to make it home undamaged.

Brewed Tea

IMG_0767

This tea is very interesting and complex. The first taste that hits my palate is the notable roasted taste. I suppose since the tea is called “medium roast,” I expected the roasted taste to be a bit more subtle. But it is certainly very enjoyable either way. With that said, this tea does still have a slight bit of the bite that is typical of greener oolongs.

As a result of this roasting process, the tea’s head note has a very caramelized flavor, with a noticeable honey sweetness. The tea is very nutty tasting, as roasted oolongs tend to be. Surprisingly, I also picked up on a toasted bread-like taste in this body notes of this tea, which many other reviewers online have noted. The aftertaste is very fruity, similar to the lingering apricot or peach notes that are common to some oolongs. However, this fruity flavor is a bit more like a dried fruit taste, perhaps a raisin note?

As I progressed through some repeated steepings, I was a bit disappointed that this tea did not keep its flavor so well. The roasted flavor of this tea became rather flat by the third and fourth steep. However, the fruitiness is more pronounced in the later steeps.

Finished Leaf

IMG_0774

The tightly rolled leaves unfurled nicely. A few of the leaves are a bit choppy and bruised looking, which is generally not a great sign in rolled oolongs. However, this tea still appears to be high quality.

Conclusion

All in all, this tea is quite solid. If you tend to enjoy more roasted tasting oolongs, you will probably enjoy this. I wouldn’t say that this is the absolute best TieGuanYin oolong I’ve had, but it is certainly one of the best TieGuanYin oolongs I have had for the price. At only $9 for 2 ounces, or $18 for 5 ounces, this tea is pretty affordable. I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to buy this tea again, but I will certainly enjoy the rest of the bag and I would recommend it to others.

Flavors: Fruity, Nuts, Peach, Plums, Raisins, Roasted

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 1 min, 0 sec 5 g 5 OZ / 147 ML

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