98 Tasting Notes


Lost my notes, but an enjoyable tea.

180 °F / 82 °C 1 min, 30 sec 6 tsp 8 OZ / 250 ML

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The aroma of the dry leaves is very light with vegetal sweet notes. After the rinse the leaves have a smoky, vegetal, a bit sweet and a touch of camphor.

1/5s: Thick, oily mouthfeel. Nice astringency with the tiniest touch of bitterness that punctuates the finish. Taste is honey and a little vegetal, but mostly honey. Some nice huiguan. Ohhhh man, after the earlier cha gao session, the cha qi just punched me in the face, LOL!

2/7s: Have to go easy on this one as pushing the steep too fast will bring out more of the bitter note. Not overbearing here, but it is peaking out here. Amazing huigan despite the increased bitterness. Lots of body; thick. I know this is the second session of the day, but this has to have some pretty strong qi!

3/7s: Very interesting bitter note. It’s not subtle, but the sweetness around it makes it… pleasant. Ha! There’s bitterness at the sides of the tongue but sweetness everywhere else. The bitter note fades quick and you’re left with that honey like sweetness. I have to try this one again when I haven’t had a prior session. Also… I REALLY should have gone with my 90mL teapot. This cha qi is threatening to kick my ass! Very dry/astringent ending on this one akin to a full bodied, dry red wine.

<Had to take a break here. Buzzing like a mofo. My friend called me at 1:15am and the first thing they said was, “Why do you sound so awake?!” LOL! We’ll see if this was a matter of just how strong this tea is or if it was more a matter of compounding tea sessions.>

4/10s: Bitter is a bit subdued as the leaves get a little wake up. Honey note and sweetness continues.

5/7s: Dropped back down to 7s and good thing. Bitterness picked up a touch, but the sweetness and huigan are YUUUGE . Very thick mouth feel. First time having a tea that made me understand people’s description of a tea having an “oily” mouth feel. That said, the finish is still sharp, crisp and sweet. Something else going on too, but can’t quite place it. Maybe a camphor note coming through.

6/8s: Loving this huigan and the way bitter and sweet mingle on the tongue and give way to pure honey (perhaps a tiny vegetal note this time) in the aftertaste. Great mouthfeel. Oooooh, starting to feel that heady cha qi again. The caffeine content on this one has to be pretty high. The crazy thing yesterday was that I was SUPER awake and alert, but not at all jittery. Love that about these types of teas. :)

7/8s: Nice! The bitter note decided to take a break or perhaps blended into the astringency a bit more. Sweet, honey, with tiny vegetal and minty note. Note how short I’m having to keep the steeps to keep the bitterness down. I’m guessing this tea will go to 20 steeps easily. Bit of creaminess to that thick mouthfeel too. Love this steeping!

<The last 4 steeps have been downed a 20 minute time span and my head is floating a bit with this energizing sort of qi. ^_^>

<As another side note, my tea kettle, (Zoji) which I love dearly, is out of water so I have to refill and wait for water to heat to the proper temp. I’m always momentarily upset when it runs out as if it emptied itself of water out of spite. Then I remember that I’m the one that emptied it turning all that water into delicious tea, LOL!>

8/8s: Same as previous.

9&10/10s: Combined in the pitcher. Being lazy because it’s late. Man that’s good tea! Same quality

11-19/15-20s: Dang it, life got busy, but I kept drinking tea.
Unfortunately that means my notes aren’t what they usually are as sometimes I had to drink on the go or away from my computer. I’m continuing filling my tea pitcher (cha hai?) which is about 3 steeps/teapots with my zhuni pot.

If you cannot stand ANY bitterness this tea might not be for you, but if you don’t mind a little bit, this tea is awesome in its complexity. Just be careful not to push the early steeps too hard. In other words steep by taste not by time ie add 5 seconds with each additional steep. Listen to the leaves and you’ll be rewarded with amazing tea.

This is another tea that I would love to have a full cake of, but I realized that the slightly insane amount of money I’d spent over the last few months or so was only with a single tea supplier. Given that I’ve been buying tea from at least 4 or 5 other suppliers… I really, really don’t want to know how much I’ve spent on tea this year, LOL!

Flavors: Bitter, Dark Bittersweet, Honey, Sweet

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 13 g 7 OZ / 220 ML

Go ahead it won’t go bad. It will just get better with age. Nan Nuo is one of the regions that had a hurrah and then slipped back a bit. I think it is coming back around again.

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Gold Grade
The dry Cha gao (茶膏/tea paste) has almost not aroma. Perhaps it depends on humidity or dryness of the paste. After a flash rinse I get an aroma I can best describe as smoked dates, but it still has that coffee like quality. Just picking up a sweet note with this one.

Steep/Time: Notes
1/5s: Straight away the first thing I notice with this one is the clarity of the brew. The other two grades had a bit of cloudiness to them. In terms of taste it’s the same sweet yiwu sheng with notes of coffee and cacao.

2/30s: Got distracted. Another thing that I’m noticing between grades is how quickly and easily the cha gao dissolves. Mmmm and that huigan that only showed up in the last steep with the previous two grades is already apparent in this steep. Despite the darker brew (due to longer steep) the smoky/coffee note is subdued giving a much more chocolate/cacao note.

3/45s: Nice crisp finish. Great huigan. Sweet cacao and a bit of coffee throughout. Very smooth mouthfeel. I know it may be more pronounced because I haven’t eaten yet, but the cha qi packs a nice punch.

4/60s: Same a previous

5/90s: About the same as previous though there’s more cacao and the huigan has kicked up a notch.

6/360s: Wanted to finish this off, so I gave it time to fully dissolve. Gold is noticeably is super clear. Pure cacao! Super sweet huigan! I’m curious why it comes out so sweet at the end. Really good!

Something that I didin’t note in the previous reviews is that after the flash rinse, the cha gao sticks pretty firmly to the wall of the brewing vessel. So, after you rinse, immediately tap the bottom of the vessel so the paste settles near the bottom because you only have 5-10s. After that you can add water and pour tea without worry of the bits of gao swirling about or falling into your tea cup or pitcher. Also of note between grades is that there is a tiny bit of plant matter (leaves, tea dust) in the gao that decrease as you go up in grade.

Flavors: Cacao, Coffee, Sweet

205 °F / 96 °C 1 min, 30 sec 1 g 4 OZ / 125 ML

Loved reading your reviews, so specific! I bought these, and I was curious how they differ. I can’t decide whether to start at bronze or gold. I’ll probably do it how you did, so I can see the differences in “grades”.


@Haveteawilltravel Thank you! _ This was definitely a curiosity purchase for me. They’re all good, but the difference in grade is obviously most noticeable between bronze and gold.


I like some cha gao. It’s good for traveling, but the majority of cha gao in the market is crap. So, I hope these are good :)


This was my first foray into cha gao. I can definitely see it been a boon for travel as I’m often carrying at least 10 different teas on any of my business trips, LOL!. I’ll have to look for others to try although given your experience I’ll try to get recommendations before buying. :)

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Silver Grade
The dry Cha gao (茶膏/tea paste) has a faint dark chocolate aroma. After a flash rinse I get a similar smoky, almost coffee like aroma as the Bronze grade.

Pic: https://www.instagram.com/p/BOBFRm5A5dM/

Steep/Time: Notes
1/5s: Very rich, pronounced coffee taste to me. A bit more of the crip finish I’d expect with a sheng puer. Nice mellow sweetness throughout.

2/18s: A tad bit lighter. More Yiwu flavor with a hint of chocolate or cacao in the background.

3/35s: More astringency in the aftertaste. Not bad, just a more crisp finish. Note of coffee are the most noticeable in this steep.

4/45s: What I’m noticing with this silver grade is that is much more consistent in that blend of Yiwu sheng and coffee/cacao taste. SUPER cha qi brewing this way! going to try a heavy steep next.

5/240s: This was a bit absurd in terms of steep length, but I wanted to see if I could bring out any bitterness. There really isn’t much to speak of. The coffee note so often mentioned above is now more clearly a bit of smokiness. Higher astringency, but again this is only noted as a much more dry, crisp mouth feel once the tea is swallowed. Much more cacao/dark chocolate in the aftertaste as well. The light, honey-like sweetness persists throughout the tasting experience.

6/??s: Steeped until the last of the paste dissolved. Not sure what is is but the last steep of the Cha gao always has massive huigan that wasn’t as apparent in the previous steepings. More chocolate in the aftertaste too.

This was fun, but didn’t have the novelty of the previous session. The higher grade dissolves bit more easily and is much more consistent in taste. Got a super caffine buzz after steep 5, LOL, but that’s expected! I’ll probably recommend this to my peeps in San Francisco given how easy it is get a good cup of tea out of this Cha gao. _

Flavors: Cacao, Coffee, Smoke, Sweet

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 30 sec 1 g 4 OZ / 125 ML

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Bronze Grade
The dry Cha gao (茶膏/tea paste) really doesn’t have a noticeable smell. After a flash rinse I get something smoky, almost coffee like.

Pic: https://www.instagram.com/p/BN8M7k1DsiJ/

Steep/Time: Notes
1/5s: Sweet with a hint of coffee like smokiness. Bit of a chocolate note too.

2/15s: Sweet with a coffee like smokiness. Not much in the way of body or mouth feel. The qi in this tea comes on FAST! There is a chance that this is a result of my morning tea session.

3/30s: Stronger. Taste is some of a mix between coffee and Nu Huan green tea if you’ve ever had that. For anyone that likes coffee this would be a winner. Steeping it this strong backs the sweetness off just a tad, but in any case it’s quite good.

<Taking a break as it’s nearly 6pm and this qi may well have me up late tonight.>

4/45s: Bit of a wake up to the gao as it’s had time to dry out. Bit more traditionally yiwu puer with a touch of smokiness.

5/60s: Same as previous. Really good tea. _ I think I’ve found that sweet spot and it seems that color of the brew is a much better indicator than time. Brewed a nice soft amber you get lovely Yiwu puer. Brewed to the deep amber of a roasted oolong you get something akin to a light sweet coffee with a touch of chocolate.

6/90s: Oh man, if you can hit that sweet spot between the two extremes above you get an awesome mix of puer and cacao. :) Cha qi is already hitting in pretty hard.

7/75s: I seem to have that color nailed to get that mix of Yiwu with a bit of cacao (probably the smokiness). Looks like I have enough for only one more steep. No worries about nodding off in today’s meditation, LOL!

8/180s: Had to use my pick to get more of the past to dissolve. Looks like I’ll get one more pot. More Yiwu this time as the brew was lighter. Let’s see what we get in the last teapot.

8/210s: Talk about good to the last drop! Massive huigan in this last steep. Not sure why. Pretty awesome though. Holy cow! Suuuuuper sweet!

It seems that many time’s I’m buying teas purely out of curiosity and sometimes I get some pretty underwhelming teas, but sometimes… it’s just pure awesome! I think the smokiness is much more noticeable in the early steeps and tapers off so there is a little complexity, but man this is good!

Positives of this Chag Gao:
Taste, Consistency, Qi, No cleanup (LOL!)

The only negative I can give this tea so far is that it lacks the complexity of brewing with real leaves. That said, if you like the taste you will get consistenly good brews over time. This is particularly true when brewing by color rather than by time. Looking forward to comparing this with the Silver and Gold grade Cha gao. This was fun. _

Flavors: Cacao, Chocolate, Coffee, Smoke, Sweet

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 30 sec 1 g 4 OZ / 125 ML

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The amroma of the dry leaves is heavenly! Smells almost of marzipan it’s so sweet. Maybe that’s just the holidays. Think candied plums, peaches, apples and dates. Awesome!
Wet leaves smell a bit more vegetal but the fruity sweet notes are still very upfront.

Steep/Time: Notes
1/5s: What an odd first steep! Highly vegetal with a bitter finish yet the taste of fruit is very apparent while the tea is in the mouth. Interesting mouth feel too. More body than I’d expect on the first cup. Still, the bitterness is very upfront. Perhaps too much leaf in my little pot or too many broken leaves? What’s weird is how sweet the tea is in the mouth to end so bitter. It’s just about the exact opposite of what I’d expect with a sheng. I had enough tea for just under a half cup so I topped it off with hot water and got something more along the lines of what I was expecting by way of vegetal broth with fruit soaked in. Clean crisp finish. Lets see how later steeps go.

2/3s: Vegetal, sweet, oddly fruity, with a bitter finish. Pretty much a flash steep.

3/5s: That bitter note is agressive and persistent. Taste otherwise the same.

4/3s: Bitter, sour, vegetal, fruity. Sooo damn weird. The interesting thing is if you cut with water you get something that’s actually quite good. Makes me feel like I used too much leaf. Cut with water it becomes quite palatable with the sour taste receding the bitter note softening into something almost pleasant.

5-8: Same as steep 3. Just taking the bitter head on.

9/5s: Just doesn’t quit with the bitter/sour notes. A tad more manageable at this point. Cha qi is a nice punch in the face though.

10/5s: Same as previous

11/8s: Vegetal note peaking back in over the bitter/sour note. Sour is more noticable than the bitter

12/10s: Guess the leaves were just waking up on that previous steep. Bitter note back up front, but better blended with the sour and vegetal notes.

13/10s: Hmm… bit of sweetness showing up in the mix of bitter, sour and vegetal.

14/12s: Sour note is tapering off, bitter still very present. Vegetal note will blended, but I’m also picking up a bit of fruit in the background.

15/12s: So obviously this tea has lasting power. Also great qi as 5 steeps in I’m feeling it again. Bitter and sweet mixed throughout, even at the back of the throat and in the aftertaste. Vegetal and fruit notes still present. What an interesting tea.

16/14s: Wow, sticking it out pays off, LOL! Sweetness has finally overtaken the bitterness in the mouth. The sweetness lingers on the tip of the tongue, but mid way back to the back of the throat the bitterness is prominent. Still about to pick out the sour note in the background

17/14s: Ok, this would be the first up of this tea that I can say tastes good. Only a tiny taste of bitterness and no sourness detectible. Sweetness is now upfront and the taste leans more fruity than vegetal. Qi felt in the head, sort of relaxed but energized and very alert.

18/16s: Fruity note is upfront now. Still bitter at the back of the throat, but less so. Vegetal note has mellowed to something almost hay like. No sour notes apparent now. Probably need to push the next steep to get more flavor.

19/22s: More mellow but similar to the previous. Really quick drop off there. I’ll push the steep time a bit more.

20/30s: A bit more vegetal and the bitterness is up just a touch. I think the leaves are done here. One more for fun.

21/35s: Oh there’s a mouth full of bitter and fruit! LOL! At this point I can’t decide if it’s a good or bad thing, but the qi is definitely up.

22/45s: Man, gotta love having the mind of an experimenter. Decided to take this a step further. Moved the tea leaves from my 90mL teapot to my 300mL teapot with the thought that it would better allow the leaves to expand and might give up a bit more flavor and perhaps a different flavor profile. The taste is now brighter though there is a small amount of lingering bitterness in the aftertaste. The most noticable difference is the mouthfeel. Previously it was very dry, almost puckering to the mouth. Now it has a very creamy sort of feel. More sweetness at the tip of the tongue too. Still has a very dry finish. And man does that bump the cha qi WAY up! Of course that may be because I’m downing 300mL pretty quickly, LOL! Much more palatable here though some of that likely has to do with being so

23/90s: Fruit and vegatal notes are gone. Tastes more of hay. Sweetness has mellowed, but for the first time is more prominent than the bitter note. Not much left in the leaves at this point.

I REALLY wanted to like this tea, but the bitter/sour notes in early steepings was just too overwhelming and completely contrary to the sweet, fruity aroma of the leaves.

The early steeps of this tea seem to be on a mission to disprove the notion that you wouldn’t know bitter if it slapped you in the face because it walks up and introduces itself by slapping you in the face. Hard.

If I had more of this tea I’d spend a bit of time playing around with water temp and the amount of leaf to use , but as it stands I’ll be setting this one aside for a couple of years to see how it evolves. It’s quite possible that the very things that make it unpalatable now will make it amazing in a few years.

Flavors: Bitter, Cream, Sour, Sweet, Vegetal

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 3 OZ / 90 ML

You ran the course on this one. I think with some age this will mellow out. I don’t think I have hardly touched the 15’s I have from themyet. Might be time to check them out a bit.


Nice thorough notes you got there. It sounds like quite a ride!


@mrmopar Yeah, I try to always respect the leaves. :) I’ve had teas that started out rough and ended amazing so I always want to do my do diligence. That said, I think in a year or so it’d be really interesting to sample this one again. This is the first sheng that I’ve had that fit some of the harsher descriptions of what a young sheng can be.


@tanluwils Thanks! It most certainly was! I like taking notes per steep because I can get a better sense of a tea’s complexity if there’s any to be had as different tastes and notes show up throughout a session. Just dawned on me that it could be hell for anyone reading through all that much, but there’s nothing wrong with skimming, LOL!


Brilliant review and pretty accuratly mirros my first session with this tea. On my 2nd run i then tried to steep at 80 – 85°C which helped a lot. The bitterness still takes center stage but isn’t as in your face anymore and gives some room for more of the fruity and sweet notes which makes it much more palatable. Also i found that even though it got this overwhelming bitterness when drinking, the lingering aftertaste is actually quite pleasant and leaves you craving for more.


@nebu78 I will try a lower temperature next time and perhaps 1g less on the leaves. All part of the process. _ I have an unbelievable amount of tea to go through so I figure I’d let it rest a bit.

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Dry leaves smell of sweetness, candy and apples with a bit of smoke.
Wet leaves smell of apricots, apples and a touch of tobacco. Delicious smell!

Steep/Time: Notes
1/10s: Light with notes of honey and grass. Nice crisp finish.

2/15s: More body. Grassy note tastes more like hay, but the honey flavor still bright and upfront. Tiny bit of astringency, but it’s almost minty. Very interesting. In a good way :)

3/20s: Definitely feeling some cha qi at this point. Honey has faded a little and the grass/hay note has mellowed a great deal.

4/25s: Now there’s a bitter note that immediately turns a bit sweet after swallowing and then a few seconds later it blossoms into amazing huigan! Still a taste of grass, hay & honey. Cha qi is building nicely. Pretty thick brew this time.

5/30s: This tea has some punch! Perhaps I’m pushing the steeps too fast, but the taste has devolved into hay and bitters, but still has that nice huigan on the backend so I’m still drinking. :) Seriously though, the cha qi is strong with this one.

6/35s: Getting more honey back in the cup, but a pleasant bitterness remains. Same as previous in terms of taste.

7/40s: Ok, lots of honey in that one. Sorry I’m brewing with such a small pot. Also picking up a bit of fruit with this one. Bit of bitter and hay in the background. Very good!

8/45s: Same taste profile as previous. This is a remarkable sheng. I’m trying to lay off more tea purchases for at least a few months given how much tea I currently have, but I wouldn’t mind having a cake.

9/50s: Bitterness is gone. Astringency is just the nice dry finish. Honey and grass.

10-15/?: I started a steep and forgot about it so long that it had time to get cold. _ No problem! Did it somavar style! Just poured to my pitcher and added hot water until I hit a sweet spot with the bitter notes and astringency. Awesome!

So over the last 4 months I’ve spent more than $2000 on tea and I’m not a seller, LOL. I love this tea, but seeing that number will be the one thing keeping me from buying a cake of this tea. Of course when I am ready to buy more tea it’ll be my luck that BLT are all out of this lovely cake.

Flavors: Apricot, Grass, Hay, Honey, Sweet

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 3 OZ / 90 ML

Perhaps we can put a brick away and forget about it in case this one fits your 2017 budget ;)

Glad you liked it though!


I’m afraid of looking at my annual tea expenditure, but I am convincing myself that I have just enough left to treat myself during the holidays. :)


@Bitterleaf Thanks! _


@tanluwils I still have a YS shopping cart that I missed the black friday sale on. I can’t seem to talk myself into going ahead and pulling the trigger, but I’ve yet to empty that cart, LOL!

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Massive tea junkie with a love for yixing tea pots, teapets and vintage puerh teas. Software engineer by trade, all code fueled by tea and EDM (usually deep house or liquid dnb). _

Mostly for my own reference (My teapot details):
Pot: Blue Peony
Mat: Porcelain
Tea: White/Green
Vol: 250cc

Pot: Zhulang (By Liang Shoukun)
Mat: Yixing – Di Cao Quig
Tea: Black
Vol: 270cc

Pot: GuanYin Relief
Mat: Yixing – Golden Duan ni
Tea: Shou Pu’erh
Vol: 290cc

Pot: Purchased in Korea
Mat: Zisha ShuiNi (Zhuni)
Tea: Sheng Pu’erh
Vol: 200cc

Pot: Decal Xishi (By Sun Haiyan 孙海燕)
Mat: Yixing – Hei Liao
Tea: Oolong
Vol: 250cc

Pot: Cranes Ascend to Heaven
Mat: Pure Silver 999
Tea: ?
Vol: 220cc

Pot: Hario Chacha Kyusu Maru
Mat: Glass
Tea: Flavored/Tisanes/Other
Vol: 300cc

Pot: Kingso
Mat: High borosilicate glass
Tea: (needs repair)
Vol: 250cc


Maryland, USA



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