41 Tasting Notes
This is the first tea that has convinced me there might be a part of me that can enjoy sheng.
The first thing I notice is still the astringency and bitterness I associate with sheng, but it’s much less harsh than I expected. In the first steep I can tell there’s something else there, but it’s a bit hard to decipher.
On the second steep though I start awakening to the other scents and flavors. It leads with freshly baled hay and minerality. As the session continues the tea mellows into a sweetness that is reminiscent of red currants.
The qi doesn’t knock my socks off, but it’s present, powerful, and longer lasting that what I’m used to from shou. It presents to me as calm and mind melting energy that would be equally good for meditation or housework, but makes focused tasks hard.
As I expect from young sheng it’s a bit too harsh on my stomach to be something I could drink daily, but I’m glad to have it in my cabinet as a breath of fresh air and a respite from the world.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Floral, Fruity, Hay, Mineral
This tea has some very familiar shou notes, but the progression of this tea over a session is quite different from what I’m used to.
I’ve been paying less attention to my exact brewing lately, so I couldn’t say what it was, but my general pattern for shou is 20 second rinse, 10 second brew once it starts to open up, slowly progressing from there.
The wet leaf aroma of this tea didn’t wow me — fairly common wet leaf pile smell. The liquor has a fruity aroma with light hints of spice and earth. It’s brews up a very clean amber red color and never gets dark like a highly fermented shou, although is does darken halfway through the session. The body matches the look, being light and crisp — contrary to other reviewers I did not find it at all thick or creamy (despite the tea’s name).
However, the taste very much lives up to the name. Right off the bat I’m hit with notes of raspberry and sweet cream. As the session progresses the raspberry gives way to other fruits, first peach and then fresh apple cider, always with that sweet and creamy backing. Having too much of this tea too quickly is almost overwhelmingly sweet, like gorging on peach pie covered in whipped cream.
However, halfway through the session the tea does the opposite of maybe every shou I’ve had and gets less fruity and sweet. At this point I get a respite from the unending sweetness and can enjoy some balance. There’s a fresh, loamy earth flavor that replaces the sweet cream and calms the sweetness of the apple cider flavor. It’s joined by some added depth from minerality and a tingling on the tongue.
Overall a very solid tea for those that like a sweet shou. I didn’t get any qi from it, but the flavor was quite enjoyable (especially once the sweetness toned down slightly). I do wish it had a bit more body since that would have complimented the creamy flavor quite nicely.
Flavors: Apple, Cream, Fruity, Loam, Mineral, Peach, Raspberry, Sweet, Wet Earth
These flap jacks are so cute!
I plopped one 7.2 gram flap jack into my gaiwan and went for it. One 20 second wash, a 20 minute rest, 15 second steep (still very light), then 10 seconds as it opened up. I didn’t pay too much attention to where the brewing went from there, but I would guess I got 12 steeps ending at a 3 minute steep.
The aroma of the wet leaves is very interesting. I got notes of cedar wood, smoke, molasses, and dates. It almost reminded me of a rich barbecue sauce. Unexpected but not unpleasant! The liquor smells a bit more traditional, quite fruity with a leading edge of dates.
The first brew was basically a rinse — very light still. The second steep is when the tea really opens up to me and brews quite dark. The liquor has a bit of cloudiness, but no off-putting funk to the flavor. As if it were the topping to a flapjack the mouthfeel is quite thick and syrupy, with a slick finish on the tongue. The flavor is well balanced. It leads with an earthy flavor and vague sweetness. As the cup cools it turns more fruity and you start to taste the date you could smell in the aroma.
The qi is more potent than I expected. It stays in my head, making my face slightly numb and my head heavy. There’s not much of a mood altering effect, but the physical energy is enjoyable. The feeling lasted into the fifth steep before it completely faded.
As the session goes on the aroma changes from barbecue vibes to vanilla and baking spices. This might be the first shou I’ve had that I would describe as aroma oriented. I say that because the scents this tea gives off are quite strong, interesting, and enjoyable but the flavor is less so. The flavor is rather mild and doesn’t have many flavors I could discern — just a general earthy and fruity flavor throughout the session. Definitely not a bad tea, but it doesn’t have quite the flavor kick I like in a ripe tea. On the plus side though, the mild flavor makes it very hard to push this tea too far.
Flavors: Cedar, Dates, Earth, Fruity, Molasses, Smoke, Sweet
Got my first ever White2tea order and for some reason decided to start off by tasting the tea most likely to be a huge hit or miss. This is a tea I almost ordered a full cake of because I love orange flavor, but I am so glad I didn’t!
The smell of the dry leaves is fantastic. Musty shou smell with a gentle orange hit. However, the taste is not so good… Unlike in the aroma the orange is quite overwhelming in the flavor. I might not mind that if it was a good orange flavor, but to me it was really unpleasant. It’s a bit medicinal tasting and so distracting it’s hard to taste much of the tea underneath. From what I could taste it was a fairly run of the mill young shou, but it was really hard to pay attention to.
I brewed this gongfu style and had to leaf very heavily since there’s quite a bit of orange peel so you’ll get a rather weak brew with the 6g I’m normally put in my 120ml gaiwan. Unfortunately I didn’t get much evolution of the tea over time, if anything I’d say the orange flavor was a bit lighter on the first two steeps, but by the third it had completely taken over.
I’m not going to rate this tea since it’s clearly so far outside my tastes, but I’d warn for anyone who hasn’t had a chenpi tea: approach with caution, this may not be the orange flavor you’re expecting. I’m going to save the rest for summer and see how it turns out as a lightly sweetened ice tea.
This is a tea I keep putting off writing a note for. I’ve got a whole cake to enjoy, but I’ve never been able to get a session where this tea gives me much complexity to write about. However, because of that this tea is absolutely perfect in the right moment.
The dry leaves for this tea are incredibly sweet and fruity smelling, once wet they give off fairly typical shu aromas: earth, petrichor, apple. This tea demands a bit heavier leaf than some — 5g in a 4oz gaiwan yields a weak and unsatisfying brew, but bumping up to 6 or 7 does the trick. Right from the outset this tea brews up thick and syrupy. For the first two infusions it leads with some earthy bitterness, but that washes off and for the rest of the session it’s purely smooth and sweet, with notes of blueberry and vanilla. Late in the session some light notes of clove and dough sneak in beside the sweetness. There is a gentle qi present. It slowly washes over you with calm and happy energy.
I’ve never found enough depth from this tea to enjoy a thoughtful gongfu session, but last night when I was a bit grumpy and I had some heartburn this was exactly what I wanted and needed. The calm, contented energy soothed my mood and the smooth liquor quieted my stomach. It’s a great tea to have in the back of the cabinet for those times when you’re not in the mood to give your all to the experience of tea and you just need an easy tea that will give back to you.
Flavors: Apple, Baked Bread, Blueberry, Clove, Earth, petrichor, Smooth, Sweet, Vanilla
This is one of those teas I’ve had sitting in the back of my cabinet forever — not because I dislike it, but because I didn’t want to use it up. Thankfully this tea holds up to additional age well, because it tastes just how I remember!
I brewed this with boiling water, starting with a ten second brew and adding 3 seconds each brew for the first 9 rounds. I was easily able to get 12 brews out of this session.
It’s hard for me to describe what I like about this tea because one of my favorite parts somewhat defies description — it simply tastes aged.
It reminds me of going into my uncle’s garden shed. It smells of must, peat, wood, tobacco and smoke. The liquor brews up a beautiful champagne gold. The texture is rich and creamy. The flavor leads with peat and smoke but it’s incredibly smooth, with no harsh bite from the smoke. It’s backed up by this incredible toffee sweetness and a savoriness of an artisan loaf of bread.
This is a deeply roasted tea — so there’s no point in the session where the roast washes off and leaves you with a totally different tea. It’s not a tea I find incredibly complex, and yet I love it. Rarely have I tasted a tea with a peat note, and never one this strong and satisfying.
Flavors: Baked Bread, Musty, Peat, Smoke, Tobacco, Toffee, Wood
This tea came to me after being contacted on Instagram by this grower. She offered to send me some samples, but I decided to take a chance and toss in a couple orders too. This is one I have a full order of.
Dry leaf smells like plum and smoke. It’s not how I’d normally brew a phoenix mountain oolong, but I decided to take the seller’s advice on this first brew, doing the rinse and first steep at boiling, the second at 95C and the rest at 90C. I started at 5 seconds and graduated 3-5 seconds per steep.
After a rinse the leaves smell like cannabis and seaweed. The leaves are so large and whole that I don’t need to use a filter or cha hai. The liqour smells like cream and honey. I decided to drink the rinse and I was glad I did. It was sweet and creamy with notes of toffee and honey.
The first real steep brings out the true aroma of this tea and it is incredible. Notes of honey, fresh melon, and an arresting floral smell that I assume is the orchid part of the “honey orchid” namesake. The flavor is still mostly dominated by honey, but there’s notes of fruit creeping in. The liquor is quite astringent, I suspect due to the high temperature of the early steeps.
As the session continues fruit starts to take the forefront of the taste, with hits of tangerine, grapefruit, and honeydew melon. It’s always backed by a honey sweetness. The astringency fades as I turn the temperature down to 90C and the liqour has a succulence like biting into a peach. Some sips are less fruity and have a minerality and sweet cream character.
This is only the second Mi Lan Xiang I’ve had, but it’s definitely the best of the two. The aroma was absolutely stunning, and the flavor that goes with it is nothing to scoff at. It’s a bit light to be something I’d use as a daily drinker, but it’s great to have in the cabinet when I’m looking for something more refreshing or aromatic.
Flavors: Cream, Floral, Grapefruit, Honey, Melon, Mineral, Orange, Orchid, Sweet, Toffee
This tea came as a Christmas gift from my wife, and what a great way to warm up on a snowy Christmas morning! This tuo was very tightly compressed and hard to break apart, so I ended up with a lot of dust — next time I’ll have to have at it with a sharp cooking knife to keep it more intact. Because of that I got a fairly short session of 10 steeps from 5g, starting with 10 seconds and ending up at 2min 30sec.
However, what a session it was! The first steep was light, but already you could feel the creaminess of the soup, and the flavor was so well balanced. First impressions are sweet with notes of vanilla and apple, but as the flavor lingers in your tongue there’s a contrasting note of earthy bitterness which causes tingling in the mouth.
Once the tea starts to open up on the second brew it really starts to come into it’s own. The liquor is dark but has no cloudiness (despite all the dust I created during breakage). The texture is now thick and dances on the tongue with tingling sensations. Highlights this early on are a musty vanilla, pleasant bitterness on the back of the tongue, and a juiciness that is vaguely reminiscent of various fruits. The qi is as interesting and contrasting as the flavors — a bit energizing at first, but falling down into mellow calm and a foggy head.
Continuing into the session the earth and must notes wash away and reveal the spicy characters of clove, allspice, and a dab of anise. This pairs perfectly with the apple cider scent. This spice turns into a more medicinal note of eucalyptus and camphor in later infusions, which mix with the alternating impressions of vanilla and apple that continue until the end.
This is pretty much the ideal I’m looking for in a shu at the moment — a harmony of sweet, spicy, and earthy notes in a tea that still presents itself with energy. Looks like it might be time to graduate on from the Verdant teas that introduced me to shu puerh and explore more of the enormous and well curated selection from Scott.
Flavors: Anise, Apple, Bitter, Camphor, Clove, Earth, Eucalyptus, Fruity, Sweet, Vanilla
Rarely has my experience of a tea differed so sharply from the vendor’s description as with this tea. I purchased this tea expecting something fruity, sweet, and spicy. I got that experience briefly in the first sip, but it quickly faded into something wholly different.
I brewed this tea according to the vendors instructions, leafing a little heavy and starting with a 6 second steep, adding 4 seconds each round.
The smell of the leaves after a wash was very vegetal, with notes of spinach and green beans, backed with light floral and caramel notes. The liquor is a fairly pale yellow throughout the session. The feel is thick and buttery, it coats your tongue and lingers on it. The first infusion started things off with sweet notes of fruit, jasmine flowers, and toffee. However, as the cup continues it turns to a green bean, vegetal character.
And as the session continues that’s pretty much where it stayed — very strongly vegetal. Grassy, spinach, and green bean notes, with hints of butter and mineral sweetness.
I don’t feel qualified to rate this tea — I tend to stay away from strongly vegetal brews because I know they just aren’t my thing and I struggle to find nuance in them. If you like them you might enjoy this tea, but I’d be wary of Verdant’s tasting notes, because my personal experience was nothing like the caramel, spicy, fruity brew they describe.
Flavors: Butter, Floral, Fruity, Grass, Green Beans, Spinach, Vegetal
It’s been quite a few years since I’ve had an older Xingyang shu, so I’m pretty excited to give this a try! The leaves are absolutely massive and quite beautiful. I’m not getting much aroma from the dry leaves. Maybe some light mustiness. After a quick rinse the wet leaves smell of leather, tobacco, and wet leaves.
1st, 10sec: Leaves are still waking up, so this is pretty light. The liquor has a very nice aroma of spice, vanilla, fruit, and must. Wow! This is reminding me why Xingyang made me fall in love with shu puerh. Despite the light looking brew it’s already got a creamy body and an incredibly luxurious, rich, and sweet bourbon vanilla flavor.
2nd, 20sec: Still very rich vanilla flavor, but some of the fruit flavors are starting to arrive. There’s an apple aroma to the brew and an apple and peach mix to the tasting notes.
3rd, 30sec: Even as this tea starts to open up and darken it brews incredibly clean, with a crystal clear light orange liquor. There’s a really bright and crisp apple flavor at the front of this sip. There’s still plenty of vanilla character and a hint of some sweet spice, like cardamom. There’s a nice calming qi that’s starting to awaken at this point.
4th, 40sec: We’re starting to add some more flavors to the mix and it’s a bit less sweet. There’s some bread flavor rising on the first sips, which fades to a gentle camphor cooling and some medicinal eucalyptus notes. I’m taking this session a little slow because there’s a surprisingly strong qi that I want to both savor and not be overwhelmed by.
5th, 50sec: This is another fruit forward brew. Lots of apple flavor. I don’t taste any spice during the sip, but there’s a strong mix of spices that hangs on the tongue long after you’re finished sipping.
6th, 1min: Wood and vanilla.
7th, 1min 30: A really powerful aroma of juniper berry came out of nowhere. Flavors of vanilla, apple, and some mineral.
8th, 2min: The juniper berry flavor from last steeping is fully setting in now. This is an incredibly sweet round, with mixed berry flavors. I’m almost reminded of that fake “blue raspberry” flavoring, but that makes it sound bad and it’s quite enjoyable.
9th, 2min 30: Some soft, musty vanilla is bringing me back down to earth after that last super sweet brew.
10th, 3min: The aroma has taken on a medicinal smell. The musty vanilla has notes of cinnamon peaking out from under it.
11th, 5min: Weak and musty.
12th, boiled: I didn’t want this session to end, so I had to give this a try! It turned out nice and dark and tasted fantastic. This is a very doughy brew with notes of spice. Exactly the flavors that I fell in love with when I had a my first Xingyang years ago.
After some meh young shu from Xingyang, this older tea is such a good reminder of why they made me fall in love with shu. Super sweet, rich, and satisfying. I think I’d probably prefer a higher leafed, dark brew with some more savory and bitter notes to contrast the sweet, but this was still a wonderful session. And the great taste was accompanied by the most perfect qi — gentle, calming, blissful. I can’t believe their aren’t more notes about this tea on here — it is seriously delicious!
Flavors: Apple, Autumn Leaf Pile, Baked Bread, Berries, Camphor, Cardamon, Cinnamon, Creamy, Eucalyptus, Fruity, Leather, Musty, Peach, Spicy, Tobacco, Vanilla, Wood