71 Tasting Notes

Um… This is weird. This tea bears no resemblance to the jin jun mei sample I had from Yezi about 8 months ago. It came in one of their $6 sampler sets, but I’m not very happy that I just ordered 4 more ounces because of the 20% off sale. Even at 20% off, it’s a lot more expensive than what I would normally spend per ounce of tea. I remember this tea being sweet — tasting like sweet potatoes and marshmallows. I’m not getting any of that now. It’s more bitter, not as complex or interesting… And if anything, I probably steeped it at a higher temperature for a longer amount of time back when I tried it before, so it’s not an issue of steeping at a higher temperature.

Yezi just sells it as “jin jun mei.” They don’t include a year or harvest season on the packet — at least not on the samples, which are all I’ve tried so far. So I have no idea whether this tea was grown in the same place, or whether the harvest time was much different. But this is not nearly as good as the jin jun mei I remember. It’s not bad, but it’s sort of a generic black tea with nothing special about it. Not cool, Yezi. I got this because I thought I could at least count on it being as good as the last product — and similar to it, if not identical.

I’m mad at myself for buying several ounces of this before making sure it was the same jin jun mei I wanted. I’m gonna cross my fingers and hope this was a mistake in the sample bagging.

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This was a part of the birthday order from What-Cha. It was included as a “mystery tea” — that is, Alistair picks the tea, and you get it at something of a discount. When the order arrived, this tea was not available on the What-Cha website. It’s from Menghai, but I’m not sure what their name for it is. I don’t know whether or not What-Cha will put it on the site at some point — or if it’s something he just has a little of and is using for mystery tea boxes.

I did a couple of quick rinses. I used 8 grams per 4 ounces, and that is way too much. Should have gone with 4 grams. This tea is very dusty. It looks like coffee grounds after rinsing, not tea. I’m double-straining it, and it’s impossible to completely keep out the tea. The tea you drink also looks like coffee. I bet this is one that gets recommended for coffee drinker pretty often.

It’s extremely earthy, sort of overwhelmingly so. I’m interested to see what happens when I cut down on the amount I use. It’s smooth. Has a little bit of a hay aftertaste. Hm… This earthiness isn’t gross or anything, but earthy notes still don’t appeal to me very much in tea. I’m withholding judgement here until I try it in a smaller amount, and might notice more things in later steeps. I’ve only had two so far.

Flavors: Earth, Hay, Smooth, Wet Earth

Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 8 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

It’s something I had a small quantity and am unlikely to be adding it to the website. The tea should work well with very quick steeps after a couple of rinses.

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This tea was harvested January 2015. I steeped first according to the instructions on the packet: 2 tsp. per cup at 194 for three minutes. I was looking forward to it because the dry leaves smell like cocoa and cinnamon. Unfortunately, this is the most insipid and least interesting of the lot I’ve tried from What-Cha. I couldn’t really taste the cocoa, and only got very faint cinnamon notes.

I steeped a second time using boiling water for 7 minutes to see if I could get more flavor out of it. It’s a little better this time, but still really bland. Next time I try this, I will use boiling water at the beginning, include more leaf and increase the first steep time.

For the most part, the teas from What-Cha have been great, but I really didn’t care for this one. It’s so bland that I’m pretty sure it would not work in a gaiwan either.

Flavors: Cinnamon, Cocoa

195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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In contrast to the much lighter darjeeling I just tried, this one is perfect for winter. I brewed according to the instructions on the packet: 2 tsp. in 8 oz. of water at 194 degrees for 4 minutes. I even got a good second steep out of it by increasing the temperature to boiling and steeping for 7 minutes.

This is very smooth with notes of cinnamon, honey, baked bread and malt. I thought 2 tsp. per 8 oz. might be too much, but it was just right. Really nice and warming. I added a tiny bit of honey to enhance the tea’s honey notes and milk, but it’s good with neither of these as well.

I think this is the first tea I’ve had from Georgia (the country, not the state). The What-Cha site says that Georgia used to produce most of the tea consumed in the Soviet Union, but that the industry collapsed when the regime did. Apparently the industry is just getting restarted. This one is both economical and quite good. I’d buy it again as an everyday drinker.

Flavors: Baked Bread, Cinnamon, Honey, Malt

195 °F / 90 °C 4 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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This was included in the recent shipment from What-Cha. I’m not really sure what to say about this tea. It was not at all what I expected from a Darjeeling. I don’t even think I’ve ever had even a first flush this delicate. I brewed it Western style according to the instructions on the packet for a first try.

It’s very light, slightly sweet and I think a little floral and nutty. It’s a very high quality tea, but I’m glad for now that I didn’t get more. It just didn’t sit quite right for winter (I hadn’t realized until recently how season-oriented teas seem to me). For the future, I think I’d prefer to brew gongfu if drinking it hot. And it’s so delicate that I felt I missed out on some of the flavor when heated, so I want to try it cold in the Spring.

Flavors: Floral, Fruity, Honey, Nutty

195 °F / 90 °C 3 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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Second tea I’m trying from the What-Cha shipment, from the February 2015 harvest. Brewed Western-style, but kind of curious what would happen if I tried it gongfu style.

It’s excellent — complex, molasses notes, grape, raisins, a little malty. I wish I had a little more than 50 g.

Flavors: Grapes, Malt, Molasses, Raisins

205 °F / 96 °C 2 min, 30 sec 4 tsp 16 OZ / 473 ML

Mmmm, that sounds really good!

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The first tea I tried in a big box I just got from What-Cha as a birthday present.

Not bad. I wanted to try this as sort of an everyday drinker black tea similar to one from India. I didn’t brew it strong enough — I’d say it needs about 2 tsp. per cup.

I’m not sure if I tried tea from Kenya before. I’d say it stands up fine to any solid malty black.

Flavors: Fruity, Malt, Smooth

Boiling 3 min, 0 sec 1 tsp 8 OZ / 236 ML

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I didn’t think I would like this when I smelled the smokiness of the wet leaves. The roast seemed a bit strong for me. And I’m very congested from a sinus infection, so I couldn’t get anything subtle out of it like cinnamon notes. Still, I enjoyed drinking this tea with a little bit of sugar. I don’t think I’d buy it again, but I was glad to try it.

The smokiness is pretty strong — if it were even a little bit stronger, I think I’d find this undrinkable. So I’m probably never going to like dark roast oolongs. It’s a good tea, but I don’t know if I really gave it a fair shot with all the congestion. So I’ll hold off until I drink the last of it to give it a number score. I’d like to be able to detect a little cinnamon, at least.

Flavors: Roasted, Smoke

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 30 sec 4 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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Is Yiwu known for producing sour shengs or something? This is my second of the day. I hated the one from Misty Peaks. I think this one is a bit easier to drink, but still a bit harsh for me.

Steeps 3 and 4: Now I detect subtle notes of sour apples. I definitely prefer this to the Misty Peaks tea, but I’m beginning to think maybe I just don’t like Yiwu sheng. This one is not as harsh as the one from this morning, but I wouldn’t say I’m enjoying it much either. Is it less harsh because it has a little bit of age on it?

Steeps 5 and 6: So it’s mellowing out a bit now. What is the significance of stone-pressed? Is that supposed to make it special? This is similar to the other sheng Verdant in the sampler last year, but I preferred that one.

Flavors: Apple, Green Apple, Sour, Wet Wood

Boiling 5 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

If a tea gets particularly dry, tangy/sour notes can come out. You can try to cut it down by keeping steep times on the short-end.


I’ve been keeping them just a few seconds long, but that’s interesting. I didn’t realize that. I had it stored in a pretty humid basement, so I’m a little surprised it got dry. I have no idea how it’s been stored for the past decade, of course.


Also, if it’s not too, too extreme, I prefer a little sourness to the earthy/mushroom type flavors.


Probably not your storage that caused it. I’d guess the vendors or where it came from in China.


Age will even sheng out and like noted above, too dry will sour sheng. I also don’t think you have had it long enough to have storage issues. Stone pressed usually means the tea has more space in it compared to a mechanical press. It will just let it age a bit quicker.


Oh okay, that’s helpful, thank you.

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The number one tea, beating out tens of thousands of other teas worldwide, ranked by us experts here at Steepster, at least at some point. So, this is my third sheng ever. Is it going to give me a spiritual experience? Change my life? Make me a better person? I mean, it’s number one, after all, meaning it beats out rare teas that cost thousands of dollars. It had better be something special. Plus! It’s in this handy little ball shape, an innovation so groundbreaking that the company views it as intellectual property. Patent-pending, you guys!

Anyway, I’m even putting aside the douchebro marketing tactics for a second. You see, Misty Peaks would like me to give out its adorable little balls to all my friends who are “not a size zero” in order to fat-shame them into buying expensive teas. Because it believes all us women over a size zero are not f***able or something, and we had better do something about it!

Steeps 1 and 2, 5 seconds each: Astringent, vegetal. Blech. Disappointing because the wet leaves smell sweet and molassesy. No spiritual epiphanies yet. I like this better than a mushroom-y tea, but it’s far too vegetal for me to enjoy so far. I will withhold a number rating until I have a few more steeps, just to see if it gets any better. Why? Because I am fair, even to shitty companies that I don’t like.

Steeps 3 and 4 , 7 seconds each: Astringent, no new developments. I’m not even drinking all of it — tasting and then pouring the steeps out.

Steeps 5 and 6: And… Yep, still not tasting anything that redeems this for me. Good thing I can live without it, because I never want to purchase from this company again.

As this was going down, I kept thinking the flavor reminded me of something, but I couldn’t figure out what. Then it came to me while I was pondering the unpleasant sour aftertaste: It tastes like acid reflux. Mmmm!

I guess sheng quite this young is just not for me.

Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Sour, Vegetal


I have this one in the cake and really liked it but I prefer some of the young shengs that are more like green. It depends on what you like and want in a sheng. I can’t blame you for not purchasing again. As much as I liked their tea, the way they have behaved is unexceptable. MPT is crossed off my list too.


I think it was just too sour for me.


I brew my young shengs at lower temps, so I am tempted to brew it at boiling to see if I get the Bile taste, I know that in the past when I boiled sheng I found it bitter and kinda gross.


Hm… Interesting. What temperature do you usually use? I guess I kinda…figured boiling was the safest thing to do with something other than yogurt that has live bacteria in it. It’s really not an issue?


Try lower temps, I like the bitterness that turns into bittersweet and sweet notes later. But a lot of Shengs are better at 205F, and even at 195F for reduced bitterness and astringency.


I normally do sheng at 190-195f.


I also brew all the young shengs at lower temperatures 80-90C. They are all too bitter at higher temperatures.


Okay good to know, so more green tea type brewing parameters? And this is all strictly…well, safe?


In drinking hundreds of teas over the last year it seems that the better the tea the better it will perform with boiling water. If a tea is brewing harsh try lowering steep times or pulling some leaves out. When the tea starts to tire add them back in. That all said, even the best you shengs will never be all smooth and sweetness when young, they need time to shed their bitter and floral characteristics. For me most sheng won’t even begin to hit its stride for 6 – 10 years depends on the individual tea and storage

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I drink black and oolong teas — and am trying to learn a little about puerh these days. I’m in it for the taste, not the appropriated Eastern mysticism. Not so good at keeping my cupboard up to date, let alone making a tea spreadsheet. I don’t really do sipdown reviews because then I’d be judging the tea based on the dust at the bottom of the bag. I think it’s nifty that there are tens of thousands of options involving just this one plant leaf.


Southern transplant in Connecticut

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