2011 Spring Norbu White Buds - 250 g Sheng Pu-Erh Tea Cake

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Pu'erh White Blend
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Edit tea info Last updated by CHAroma
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200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 3 oz / 100 ml

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  • “Since I’ve spent the better part of the weekend knee-deep in flu plague, I’ve been on a white tea kick. However, this Monday morning, I wanted to go for something a little more pu-erh-y. I split...” Read full tasting note
  • “Pretty new to pu-erh, including sheng. I’ve never had a tea from Lincang that I knew was from Lincang, have never had a white bud pu-erh, and have not yet had another 2011 pu. Basically, those are...” Read full tasting note
  • “This is a lovely Sheng – sweet, smoky, with a malty taste. The brew is very light coloured, and tastes great brewed gongfu style in my new Yixing teapot (dedicated to Shengs). It’s still a little...” Read full tasting note
  • “To be honest, I was kind of upset that I pulled this tea out to drink (I have a box of 100+ samples to try so I grab whatever I get first). Thankfully, this is actually pretty good. Not only is the...” Read full tasting note

From Norbu Tea

Norbu Tea Company, LLC Private Label
Vintage: Spring 2011
Compression Date: 4/23/11
Growing Region: Yong De County, Lincang Pref., Yunnan
Size: 250 grams

This beautiful White Bud Pu-Erh Bing Cha is composed entirely of hand harvested, pure white buds from cultivated Yunnan large leaf varietal tea grown in Yong De county of Lincang Prefecture near China’s border with Myanmar. It was harvested in the Spring of 2011 and processed at a small facility in this rather remote area of Yunnan. It was compressed for us at a small tea factory in Kunming in late April, 2011 using traditional stone presses. It is a long awaited update to our our first private production compressed tea from back in 2008, and we’re happy it’s finally here.

Flavor Profile:
It is important to keep in mind that this tea is that it is not a conventional, mildly sweet white tea. White teas are simply picked and dried, while this was processed just like other Pu-Erh teas. It was picked, withered, pan fired, and sun dried, creating a flavor profile that is different, more assertive than conventional white tea, and is suitable for storage up to about 10 years or so.

These white buds provide a nicely assertive flavor profile with very little of the bitterness common to other young Sheng Pu-Erh. It is young tea, and, at this point (September, 2011), the flavor is distinct with hints of evergreen, camphor and a mild, almost floral sweetness in the finish that should transform into a malty-sweetness if it ages the way I think it will. There is a slight smokiness present that comes from using a wood-fired wok to pan fire the buds during processing which should meld more into the background over the next few months to a year.

Steeping Guideline:
In my opinion, this tea is best steeped Gong Fu style, and I have settled on about 7-8 grams in a 150ml gaiwan or Yixing teapot using boiling water.

It is fairly well suited to western style steeping, and I like to use about 2 teaspoons per 8 oz cup, boiling water, and a 2-2.5 minute first steep. Of course, tastes will vary, so please experiment with times, temperatures, and amount of leaf used until you find your preference.

About Norbu Tea View company

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9 Tasting Notes

348 tasting notes

Since I’ve spent the better part of the weekend knee-deep in flu plague, I’ve been on a white tea kick. However, this Monday morning, I wanted to go for something a little more pu-erh-y. I split the difference and went for this “white bud pu-erh”. I use quotations on that because I’m still unsure what the difference between a white bud pu-erh and an aged white tea are? Neither really go through a wet-piling, and sometimes aged white teas (and young white teas) are compressed into cakes. So, how does one classify that?

That aside, the taste confused the issue further. It resembled – beat for beat – a young, Yunnan-grown Silver Needle. Citrus and herbal notes and all. Toward the finish, it had some of the winy properties of a sheng pu-erh, only rougher – given its young age.

I guess I’ll leave my philosophical question aside and just answer with, “NOM!”.

Boiling 0 min, 30 sec
Geoffrey Norman

Doing alright with a wee bit of tea in front o’ me.

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160 tasting notes

Pretty new to pu-erh, including sheng. I’ve never had a tea from Lincang that I knew was from Lincang, have never had a white bud pu-erh, and have not yet had another 2011 pu. Basically, those are the salt-grains one should take along with my review.

Cake itself was fairly loose; I managed to pry out about 10g with my hands alone. The cake appears to be the same pretty leaf inside as on the face. Dry leaf smells slightly sweet, like a white.
Using 5.2g of leaf in a 100ml porcelain gaiwan, with 195F-ish tap water [that I don’t know the composition of]. Gave the tea a 30-sec rinse with hot water.

Wet leaf smells spicy-vegetal-minty in a way I can’t really put my finger on, much less describe. It’s a very strong smell, amazingly different from the taste (the taste carries only the vaguest hint of the spice), and I’m quite bothered that I can’t place it or even decompose it into recognizable elements. Maybe this is what people describe as “medicinal”, though that’s not an association I would make with this tea.

First infusion was ~10sec; very pale yellow liquor. Tastes very slightly dusty, slightly sweet in a white tea sort of way. Found in the centre of my cup, prettily enough, what appeared to be a feather. Very perplexed that I can’t identify the leaf scent.
Second infusion ~20sec; slightly darker yellow liquor; may have overdone it, but if I did, the tea is not punishing me for it. Kind of a sweet minty floral taste — not strongly floral, just a bit. Round flavour; I wouldn’t say buttery, but similar. Still a light dusty note on top. Liquid smells kind of summery. Astringency is hardly present. Pleasant light aftertaste, sweetly floral with hints of wood.

Infusions continue to be ~20sec apiece. Slightly more sheng-style astringency comes out, though not a lot. The previously-observed not-buttery mouthfeel progresses into something I would tentatively describe as “chewy”. Liquor continues to smell and taste sweet; almost like a candy-tea, though not what I would call overwhelmingly sweet, and it does have a sharper dusty-spicy scent on top. This is the strength of sweetness I always hoped to get out of white teas and never managed, so it’s interesting to get it out of a raw pu-erh processed white tea, though I suppose maybe that’s what Norbu means when they say it’s bolder than a normal white tea.

This might be lovely as a dessert tea in any season, being lightly and cleanly sweet with hints of spice and having a clean aftertaste of reasonable lifetime. A very interesting flavour; I’m wondering what will happen if I provide a good aging environment.

195 °F / 90 °C 0 min, 15 sec

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423 tasting notes

This is a lovely Sheng – sweet, smoky, with a malty taste. The brew is very light coloured, and tastes great brewed gongfu style in my new Yixing teapot (dedicated to Shengs). It’s still a little rough at the edges at this point and I have a feeling that with time it will mellow and grow even sweeter, but it’s still lovely to drink now.
I got this a free sample in my latest order from Norbu and I most certainly will buy a cake during my next shopping spree there.
P.S. Norbu have changed the packaging of their tea, and their new bags are really lovely.

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1113 tasting notes

To be honest, I was kind of upset that I pulled this tea out to drink (I have a box of 100+ samples to try so I grab whatever I get first).
Thankfully, this is actually pretty good. Not only is the tea a smooth ride down from my mouth through my throat and to whatever it ends up, it actually taste quite nice. Nice and mellow with a splendid aroma that is faint but pleasant.
I cut this one short at 10 steeps

Dr Jim

OOps. This is one I was going to send you as a sample. If you like the style, there are similar ones I could send?

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90 tasting notes

Really? I filled up my gaiwan for this…I can smell what I call “mall puerh” a mile away, that incense-y store flavor you can find in a million cakes on EBay and Taobao. This is just sad, leathery old poor quality “tea” to which a few young “white buds” have been added in as a sprinkling. Some of the tea is just black leaf along with brown, leathery leaves. You can talk to me all day long about brewing it “cooler,” but nothing will improve this leaf. I can’t believe a company online which is trying to be nice actually would put their name on this cake, but whatever. I’m a person who wants to like a tea, but I’d rather drink dandelion greens from my yard than this.

From the Sheng Traveling Tea Box.

205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 10 g 4 OZ / 120 ML

hmm. wow. I haven’t had a bad tea from Norbu myself but have never tried this one.


This is a good example of that “tastes vary” comment I made the other day. As you know, could be many different variables involved here but many people have enjoyed this particular tea (although I know nothing about the condition of your particular sample). Also, agree with TeaBrat and say that Norbu is a fine tea seller.


Not a tastes vary situation. This is about quality of base material and this one is intentionally deceptive in its creation. There are fresh young buds on top of old, poor quality tea. If the whole sample is evenly bad I could question the sample. Norbu seems to mainly source from India, the deception here is in China. This tea is either not what Norbu sampled for purchase, a bait and switch, or just unscrupulous wholesale source.

Dr Jim

Wow. I’ve got to jump in on the side of “tastes vary,” since I’m the one who put it in the box. This is one of my favorite teas, though it doesn’t really taste like a pu-erh: more like a white tea with character.


Cwyn – I must respectfully disagree for my experiences with this tea (I own a cake and I have enjoyed it at least six times) are totally different from that which you describe. After reading your comment, I pulled out my cake to look at it again. My cake is full of buds throughout. While I do not have your particular sample, I can say that I have shared this tea with a few people and reading over the other Steepster notes posted, your experience is definitely an outlier. Since you pulled it from a teabox, is it possible that somewhere along the way moving from person to person it might have been switched or mislabeled? As I am sure you already know, this is a rather light delicate tea and I have found that it performs better at a temperature below 205 degrees.

Dr Jim

The temperature is a good point. I found it OK at 200 degrees, but fell in love at 185. I also looked at my beeng, and it is salt-and-pepper. I then looked at a Mandala silver bud and saw the same thing. They both seem to be about 50% bud. I think it’s just the style.

Dr Jim

BTW: I checked my notes on the S&S TTB and I don’t think this was a tea that I added (though I own a beeng and considered adding some). Stacy from Butiki provided some tea to help start the box, including a sample of “Norbu cake”. It is possible that this tea isn’t white buds at all, but a different Norbu cake?


Really I have no idea, DigniTea, this was a sample with loose tea and a small chunk, and not a cake with the wrapper. I did not get 50% bud at all though. Maybe 3 white buds and a gaiwan full of leathery brown leaves.

The idea of the TTB was to choose some teas from the box and write reviews. This was my observation of the leaf and I don’t think the temp will change the leathery brown leaves. I can respect people may not agree on teas, but I’m not going to change my opinion.


Dr. Jim, increasing the temp and pushing the tea is a way to test if the tea breaks down under the pressure. Good base material will not. This is a normal way of testing puerh tea, the sample is mostly puerh tea.

Dr Jim

Sorry to re-open this, but I found a few grams of the Norbu that was added to the tea box (I removed a few samples before sending the box out). This is definitely NOT the 2011 Spring Norbu White Buds, as it has virtually no buds, while my beeng is full of them (though the bud to leaf ratio appears to be about 1:1). I can’t address Cwyn’s comment on the quality; she’s much more experienced in drinking pu-erh than I am, but at least we can say that Norbu is not mis-representing the tea.

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314 tasting notes

The first time I drank this tea, it seemed closed-in and lacking in flavor until about the fifth steep. It was okay, but I wasn’t impressed. Looking back, I discovered that I had steeped it at 200 degrees. This time, I used 175 and it seemed like an entirely different tea. I’m really enjoying it.

First steep (15 s; all steeps 3 gms in 3 oz): Tastes like a green tea with unusually good body; grassy/straw flavors. During subsequent steeps (20, 30 s): the grass flavor disappeared and was replaced by wood, with hints of straw and smoke. The flavor deepened and became full and complex.

By the 4th steep (60 s) it was weakening and losing much of its complexity. Back to a light straw flavor. 5th steep (2 min): Rich and smooth. Light but still complex. If 5 steeps seems too little for a pu-erh bear in mind that this 2.8 gram sample has now produced 15 oz of tea, and there is still some gas in the tank.

This tea was an interesting insight (accidental) into how much the water temperature can affect a tea. Also a strong confirmation on the advice I was given to steep young sheng as though it were a green tea.

175 °F / 79 °C 0 min, 15 sec 3 g 3 OZ / 82 ML

Sounds yummy!

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1113 tasting notes

I drank this tea yesterday while I was at work. I really enjoyed it! It reminded me of a Kenyan Silver Needles I got from Butiki Teas, with some interesting sheng notes mixed in. Very unique! I finished it up, and before I was going to write my tasting note for it I decided to go stretch the canvas print I had just made…AND I TOTALLY STAPLED MY THUMB! :-O

It was pretty painful. If you want to see, check it out here (not for the squeamish!) http://twitpic.com/ebiscg

Anyway, I never got back to my desk to write this note. My manager took me to the MEC and a doctor pulled out the staple and gave me a tetanus shot and some pain killers. Last night was rough, it was pretty painful and I had trouble sleeping. It seems slightly better today and I am back at work! I could use a nap though…and/or some tea!


Ugh. That looks awful. I’m glad it was taken care of by a doctor right away.


I was totally wrapping that stupid motorcycle print, Cheri! And anyone else who was on chat yesterday and remembers me talking about it…


OMG, I’m so sorry. Bad stapler. i hope you are feeling better. can you ask someone else to do it next time?


Aww I am sorry to hear that (Omg that picture!!!). Hope you feel better today!

Cameron B.

LOL the motorcycle! Clearly it is cursed.

I would have stayed home a day. :D


Ouch! I do love living in an age when almost everyone has a camera on them at all times now – and keep their calm enough to take pictures of stuff like this. Hope it heals soon.


yuck! hope you feel better soon!


I know that hurt! OUCH!


Thanks guys… I’m definitely keeping away from that staple gun for a while!

Terri HarpLady

Just looking at that pic made me grit my teeth!

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493 tasting notes

it is my second day of steeping this fabulous tea.
Gongfu method
5g 100 ml gaiwan 200F
rinse/pause/ 5/5/7/10/15/15/20sec etc
Quite unusual for me. Dry leaves are so pretty silvery green and uniform in size.
Sweet, somewhat floral with pine notes. Later steeps introduce anise maybe, but its faint and I’m not sure its anise, but its there. pretty thick, yellow. there is some bitterness but its slight and welcoming to make things interesting.
i’m so glad be able to try such unusual and great tasting tea.
Many thanks to the an amazingly generous Steepsterite.

Flavors: Pine

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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301 tasting notes

A very interesting puerh. The 2011 Norbu Spring White Buds Raw Bing Cha is made of material from Yong De of Lincang Prefecture near China’s border with Myanmar which was harvested in the Spring of 2007. Light compression which flakes off very easily. A little sweetness and a very nice cooling effect. Intense yet delicate evergreen scent. It does taste earthy but still light and smooth, a little naturally sweet, somewhat fruity yet slightly astringent, and there is a bit of malt with a nice lingering aftertaste. Later infusions definitely become more woody overall producing a hint of smoke with a few notes of cedar. A lighter puerh which is definitely worth exploring if only for the purpose of appreciating the many different forms that Pu-Erh can take.

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 15 sec 5 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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