137 Tasting Notes

(If you don’t want to read my thoughts, skip down to the last three paragraphs for flavor notes.)

I’m under the impression that most of us in the West have yet to experience really good white tea. For whatever reason, white teas just aren’t popular outside the Chinese cultural realm. And Westerners who practice gongfu-stlyle tea drinking gravitate towards oolong, black, pu’er, and green teas.

White tea is comparatively more subtle, which requires more attention from the tea drinker to appreciate its nuances. You’d be hard pressed enough patience in a post-modern Western society to generate a market for something as soft-spoken as authentic Fujian white tea.

I think of white tea as naked tea. It cannot impress with flavor and aroma alone like, say, an Assam black tea or Taiwanese high mountain oolong. Therefore, leaf quality and skilled processing will have to speak for themselves – which my fellow sheng pu’er drinkers understand can be expressed via: mouthfeel, aftertaste, sensations (cooling/tingling/silky), viscosity, qi, and throat / body feel.

Cindy emphasized the strength of this tea, and I can see why. I haven’t had a white tea like this before. This tea has all of the above, including strong aroma (ripened peach and pear and fresh chamomile flowers) and subtle, sophisticated flavors (Korean pear, chamomile, sweet grass, raw sugar cane juice, and a hint of nutmeg).

What’s really incredible about this tea is it’s very strong mouthfeel, which combined with qi will take the drinker for a nice euphoric ride. The leaves are quite green and non-uniform compared with regular silver needle – which to me makes them more attractive.

I drank this at work with a tumbler and at home using a gaiwan. Maybe my office’s water filter was recently switched, but I enjoyed my office session a lot more. I had to actually step away from drinking it because the combo of qi and mouthfeel was so intense. It made the world stop for a moment.

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This is the kind of green tea I’ve been looking forward to all winter. I sort of internally celebrate each year’s harvest – it’s really my chance to experience different tea regions. Based on the description, this one is from Zheng He county in Fujian, where Cindy sources her Advanced Bai Mu Dan white tea. I think it shares many similarities with that tea.

The dry leaf aroma is intoxicating – ripe fruit and orchids. It has good structure to it – beyond just flavors, as it’s more subtle than other green teas, with a sweetness that is closer to mineral than vegetal. It somewhat resembles the Laoshan imperial green tea (of which I am a fan) in appearance and Huangshan maofeng in its flavor characteristics, but I this one wins in terms of qi, mouthfeel, and depth. It also feels more refined and can for at least 7 steeps.

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For me, black teas need to be outstanding for me to bother with them. I just find other teas more agreeable taste-wise. This was one of those exceptional black teas that has me coming back for more. It’s got that typical malty black tea thing, but there’s so much more going on here. Very nice mouthfeel and feeling in the throat and body. It’s gentle, yet assertive in its uniqueness. Great depth and viscosity as well. The leaves look “wild” – spindly tendrils with a maocha-like appearance.

It’s highly fragrant, both dry and wet leaf – musky floral and sweet forest mist – and not smoky at all (huge plus in my book). This is reflected in the flavor, which has an intriguing character – mellow mineral sweetness with notes of dried cherries, wild flowers, molasses, and moss. This is one of those feel-good teas. Cindy has been sourcing these leaves and processing them herself for a long time. I think it’s this combination that makes this tea extra special. Black tea-lovers should definitely check out Wuyiorigin and try this one.

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Among all of the YS 2017 presses, this was my favorite for several reasons.

1. It has an intriguing complexity that reminds me of some Yiwu teas, yet it’s distinctively Jinggu. That complexity is well described in the tea’s description, but I would add that there’s good depth and a mellow qi. There’s a brothy richness that reminds me of truffles and I’m not quite sure how I feel about it, but that doesn’t matter since the tea is less than 1 year old at the time of this writing and flavors change most rapidly during the first few years. I expect this will develop very nicely.

2. The price is right. I think this was $74, which will go up in a week or so as YS gets ready to welcome 2018 teas. It’s not cheap tea, but it’s very reasonable considering the current market.

3. I don’t have other teas like this in my collection.

I finished this sample quickly and ordered a cake.

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I’ve been returning to senchas after having consistently drank raw pu’er and to a lesser extent, Chinese greens, Taiwanese and Wuyi oolongs, and heichas. That’s not to say I’m done with these teas. I’ve just been craving that distict combination of steamed bitter greens, brininess, moss, and floral and piney notes that are unique to Japanese sencha. I’m definitely a green tea kind of guy and I consider senchas to be at the greenest end of the spectrum in both taste and color.

I began my tea nerd journey with sencha, so maybe this is my baseline for all teas? I find them to be the most comforting of all teas. Maybe it’s that final roasting stage that makes this so, or maybe it’s the lack of fuss with regards to tea ware? No need for a chahai and no fussy filter, tea table, tea pets, or anything like that. Just a kyusu and mid-sized cup. Done.

There’s nothing remarkable about this tea. It’s even less fussy in nature since it’s aracha and tea stems and tea dust have not been sorted, making it a cheaper but IMO just as tasty. It’s seems to be mid to heavily steamed, as some of the leaves are in tact, but most are in pieces. The initial steeps are sweet and savory grass with faint hints of young pine shoots and wild flowers. I like it.

Mid steeps reveal more sweet grassy notes and roasted zucchini and broccoli. The tea soup begins an attractive light lime green with tea bits settling in the bottom, but mid steeps yield a more swampy dark green. So this isn’t the most visually appealing tea, but it’s still quite tasty and comforting. I’ve been wanting this for a while. I found myself in a slightly more meditative and focused state for the rest of the day.

The fifth and sixth steeps were lighter of course, but still revealed similar roasted veggie and sweet grass notes to those mid-steeps and was never unpleasant in its astringency. Perfect way to celebrate Daylight Savings Time and the coming of spring.

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I wanted to see how similar this was to the He Tao Di, since they shared a very similar description. The teas are indeed quite similar in flavor profile (see YS description…it’s spot on), but less so in structure and body feel. There is a lovely brinyness and orchid essence in both flavor and fragrance. This one, however, has more depth and saccharin-like sweetness without going overboard. It’s medium bodied while the HTD is more viscous and floral. My wife first thought she was drinking a Dan Cong oolong!

Less qi than the HTD, but still not bad at all. My whole body is relaxed after 2 cups. There’s more sweetness, a very nice, prolonged mouthfeel. and a pleasant feeling in the throat. The leaves are highly in tact and have a pungent floral/chocolaty scent. Nice structure in this tea. I can feel it in the back of the throat, yet it’s still gentle. I would describe the mouthfeel like a blooming sensation while also penetrating. It’s a very fine tea, but a little over my budget.

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drank 2017 Bellwether by White2Tea
137 tasting notes

This was a surprise. I inadvertently did a blind tasting with this and I really like it. What I appreciate most about this tea is the combination of good depth, power, and interesting flavors that are not one particular note. The liquor is a clear, pale yellow and the leaves have a smoky and wet, old-growth forest scent. Immediately, it displays great depth and three-dimensionality. It’s quite smooth with medium viscosity. The mouthfeel sits very nicely and is accompanied by powerful qi after the 3rd steep. I agree with Paul’s description of “subtle strength”. It sneaks up on the drinker and then takes the driver’s seat.

Fantastic subtlety, yet with a boldness conveyed through the huigan, mouthfeel, and qi. This tea doesn’t exude very much of that Yiwu-sweetness that I am used to. The sweetness lies in its high floral notes which are coupled with strong bitterness and notes of tart/dry grape skin. I’m sure there’s a lot more going on in there I am not covering, but there you have it. There is that mossy, old-growth forest note (not simply earthy) that I found in the Colbert Holand and 2 Late. This is noticeable right away, here. The hay and tobacco are gentle, but are probably the key indicators of the tea’s eastern Xishuangbanna provenance. It’s an excellent blend that I wish I could afford.

JC

I should have sampled this one. lol

tanluwils

it’s really really yummy stuff. There is more depth and dimension than the FDT and Poundcake.

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I’ve had many sessions with this tea and it continues to impress. Dried leaves smell like roasted leaves without any remarkable scent, but once hot water hits them I am immediately hit with rich, almond (yes, really!) essence, sweet buttercream, orchids, and hazelnut. The rinse is thin-bodied, but already exudes a nice mouthfeel. This is a testament to the skill and expertise that went into the roasting, which has enhanced the inherent qualities in the leaf.

The next 4 steeps intensify in aroma, qi, texture, mouthfeel, and flavor. The almond here reminds me of fresh traditional Cantonese almond cookies. It’s very full in the mouth and feels nice in the throat. This one goes strong until the 7th or so steep where it gradually fades. It performs best in a chaozhou red clay teapot.

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I didn’t know what to expect from this tea. Honestly, I don’t think Paul’s descriptions on the W2T website are very helpful, so I emailed him describing the teas I enjoyed most from his selection and he recommended the FDT. So I added it to my cart, taking advantage of the free shipping weekend.

This one fits the profile I was looking for. I somehow manage to be that guy who receives the center of the bing, which took some time to pry apart. I’m not a fan of tightly compressed cakes, but I do see some benefits to this if those living in tropical Asia that want to maintain the youth of their sheng. This one felt as if it was still freshly pressed. It had a juiciness and stickiness to it. The initial infusions are light, sweet, floral, and a bit fruity (kiwi/white grapes?)…suspiciously Hekai. The tight compression warranted for longer steeping times.

After the 3rd infusion, I tried to pry apart the chucks while minimizing the ripping of leaves. The tea suddenly becomes thick, a bit cloudy, enzyme-y (almost carbonated!), multi-layered, and nicely textured. Notes of lilies, green apple, cedar wood, white pine, and grape skins join in a chorus of flavors and textures.

The brew is almost singing in my mouth and I feel wonderful. This one lingers nicely after the tea goes down and has a good body feel. The tea keeps this up for the next 6 to 7 steeps until I loose count. Later steeps have a bitter zing that rings for a bit—reminding me of Bulang bitterness. There is good depth in this one all the way to the end.

JC

This one surprised me, I just got the sample as I said ‘meh F*ck it, why not?’ it is pretty thick and satisfying. I share your opinion on Paul’s descriptions and the bing hole, I think I still have a sample from him from over a year and a half ago, its not worth getting that as a sample, sometimes I feel like they should have the hole as a cheaper sample. some are unbreakable.

tanluwils

Right? It was really difficult to pry apart, but I somehow managed to do so without making a bloody mess. I want to say this is one of my favorite teas I’ve sampled this year, but I know all these samples will taste much better after they’ve settled and acclimated.

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Refreshing, light, and persistent – this is a simple, yet unique tea. Layers of leaves come apart easily with a pu’er pick. There is a pungent, sweet, sharp verdant, and almost metallic, scent to the dry leaf. The steeped leaves are large, thick, and a dark olive tone. The liquor is like clear, clean, golden citrin. It’s a visually appealing tea.

The first two steeps yield sweet, gentle notes of florals, cotton candy, and muscato. 3rd steep onwards reveal a bitterness (dandelion greens and Kuding cha) that is sharp, clarifying, penetrating, and lingers along side a pleasurable huigan that lasts for a loooong time after drinking. Good qi on this one, too! It’s one of those teas that corrects my posture. I got at least 10 tasty steeps and still not done.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of this tea is the strong mouthfeel that is accentuated by the lingering bitterness. Kudos to Scott for finding another unique tea off the beaten path!

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Bio

My ever expanding list of obsessions, passions, and hobbies:

Tea, cooking, hiking, plants, East Asian ceramics, fine art, Chinese and Central Asian history, environmental sustainability, traveling, foreign languages, meditation, health, animals, spirituality and philosophy.

I drink:
young sheng pu’er
green tea
roasted oolongs
aged sheng pu’er
heicha
shu pu’er
herbal teas (not sweetened)

==

Personal brewing methods:

Use good mineral water – Filter DC’s poor-quality water, then boil it using maifan stones to reintroduce minerals。 Leaf to water ratios (depends on the tea)
- pu’er: 5-7 g for 100 ml
(I usually a gaiwan for very young sheng.)
- green tea: 2-4 g for 100 ml
- oolong: 5-7 g for 100 ml
- white tea: 2-4 g for 100 ml
- heicha: 5-6 g for 100 ml
(I occasionally boil fu cha a over stovetop for a very rich and comforting brew.)

Location

Washington, DC

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