9 Tasting Notes
Last night, my grandfather (who is a fifth-generation tea master) and I sat down to enjoy a tea while playing Go. This week was my turn to bring the tea, so I selected the 2007 ChangTai International Puerh Appreciation Memorial Tea, which is a large 400g cake. This tea was purchased in 2010 from Hou De Asian Art and has been stored since then on a natural rock ledge in my puer aging cave with humidity is constant 70% year-round and temperatures from 72F-78F depending on the season.
This is a strong, smokey tea with the strength to age well. Of course, the tea was prepared gong fu style which is the only way my grandfather will drink tea (or anything else for that matter). The tea lasted 22 steeps before showing any sign of fading. The tea is now a decade old and has notes of dark chocolate, mineral, roast grain and a touch of buffalo grass.
Whenever I supply the tea, we end off the session with my esteemed grandfather estimating what the tea costs. “Young Master”, said my revered grandfather, “I believe that this tea would be fairly priced at around $57 a cake”. “But most respected Grandfather”, I replied, slightly shocked that he had the wrong price, “it is currently listed at $67.50!”. My honorable grandfather turned and asked with an elusive smile “Is there a tong discount?” And when I checked later that night, sure enough Hou De offers 15% off 7 or more cakes. Since this cake is certainly good enough to order by the tong, once again my admirable grandfather had demonstrated the awesome tea wisdom that only a lifetime of being a tea master can bring.
Flavors: Buffalo Grass, Dark Chocolate, Hot hay, Limestone, Roasted Barley
This is a special tea. The local Yo minority picks medium-sized leaves from Camellia sinensis var. assamica (the variety used to make puer) and then layers them with a type of mushroom that grows in the local pine forests (Psylocybin incredendus). The tea/mushroom mix is allowed to dry in the sun for 25-30 days, during which time a not insignificant amount of the mushroom’s psychoactive ingredient (prolaxicorvatin) has infused into the tea leaves. The mushrooms are then removed, dried into buttons and sold for Buddhist religious purposes. The tea leaves are lightly steamed to make them pliable, formed into the mushroom shape, and dried in a moderate oven.
The taste is smooth with the main taste note being ripened stone fruit with just a hint of mushroom at the end of the sip. Of course, the cha qi is as phenomenal as you’d expect from a tea with this much prolaxicorvatin! One day, when U.S Border Patrol bans the import of this tea, we’ll look back and say “what took them so long”.
The only flaw with this tea is the density. It’s very hard to chip apart the center, so I’m docking a few points for the form.
Flavors: Apricot, Cherry Wood, Mushrooms
Another hidden gem from Yunnan Sourcing. The tea is picked at altitudes of around 2300 feet in a nationally-protected forest, bordering the groves of the much sought-after Bohetang (but they make no claims that it is actually Bohetang). A premium organic quality tea since no pesticides are allowed in nationally-protected forests.
The leaves are individually fermented so you don’t get the fragmentation that you see in “wet pile” fermented shu, Then, using the services of a skilled origami master, each intact leaf is cleverly folded into a mini-tuo shape. This results in tuos that weigh between 5.2 and 6.4 grams since the size of each leaf varies.
But what about the taste? If brewed Western style as you might see in a dim sum restaurant, you get a light bitterness, slight bamboo note, distinct minerality and very pleasant lipfeel. If brewed gong fu style in a yixing pot, the tea starts off with notes of petrichor, evolves into a damp hardwood forest floor with hints of black chanterelle mushrooms, before tapering off to a delicate camphor and orchid.
Flavors: Forest Floor, Mushrooms, petrichor
I decided on something good today, which was the 2014 Yunnan Sourcing Ai Lao Mountain which comes in convenient mini tuo format. Very much a gushu tea with not that much sweetness in it. Darker heavier flavor of Bulang chocolate, grains, chalky note. There are subnotes of berries and florals here and there. Clean and sharp huigans. The viscosity tends towards a thicker soup, on par with the 2004 YQH Dingji.
There is a moderately high level of astringency that should help this tea improve over the decades if stored well. The aftertastes largely tend towards woodsy Menghai florals. Qi is moderately strong and very relaxing as expected in a high quality gushu tea like this one. The leaves lasted about twenty two brews before I put them aside, and there seems to be enough flavour left in them for several more long steeps tomorrow.
This is a remarkable tea, reasonably priced but performing at the premium level, easily as good as Verdant’s authentic Ban Zhang but without that tea’s sticker-glue aftertaste. This tea has some minor flaws compared to superpremium brand Menghai teas, of course, but you can’t beat the price. I’ve ordered a few tongs for the tea cellar.
Flavors: Cherry Wood, Chocolate, Floral, Grain
This tea had everything I was looking for!
First, some background. While I love my wife, her mother is a real witch and we do not get along. But the wife insists that her mother visit us for a couple of weeks every winter.
This year, after three days, the old bat was really getting on my nerves. So at breakfast yesterday, I prepared this tea using 10 grams in 120ml gaiwan and a 5 minute steep. After the first cup, the old bat packed her bags and left.
I love the smell of Often in the morning. The smell, you know that smokey smell, the whole kitchen. Smelled like… victory.
This one was bad, so bad I couldn’t write up this note until I had several sessions with my therapist. I should have used a new Yixing gaiwan to suck some of the flavor out of this tea. The tea was bittersweet at the start with a fair amount of fermentation flavor, mainly caramel and fishiness. That flavor was rather unpleasant and it continued to in the same manner for ten steeps. It did become a nice sweet ripe puerh with chocolate notes on the eleventh steep, but that was after I tossed the Awazon leaves and put in 6g of 2016 Dayi 7542.
Flavours: Caramel, well aged herring.
Sample generously provided by one of my tea pals, thanks S! I rinsed it twice since I found what looked like a hair from a black curly-haired forest monkey.
Ignoring dubious claims of age which caused a storm on this site last year, this tea was really very odd. Tart and bitter at the start of the sip, morphing into something almost meat-like (chicken soup) with a mushroomy sweetness and a bit of black olive. I don’t think I can recommend it but I’m glad I tried it.
This tea responds well to a firm hand. I steeped 12g in 160ml for 40 seconds and it delivered a heavenly elixir that was bursting with kuwei, huigans, a long-lasting cane sugar sweetness, and the most potent cha qi that I have ever experienced. Do not operate heavy machinery after drinking this tea!
My grandfather had a herd of black and white pigs. Their pen was located beside a large patch of bamboo. When it rained, the scent of the livestock and the scent of the bamboo combined to form something that this tea reminded me of.