94 Tasting Notes
This is my favorite of all Yunnan Sourcing’s cha gao. It’s been approximately three zillion years since I last had a Sugar Smacks/Honey Smacks type cereal but this tea smells and tastes a lot like I remember that cereal tasting. Maybe a little less sweet, but that same toasted grain sort of flavor. This one tasted more grainy to me and the Jinggu raw cha gao tasted more caramely. I like both but slightly prefer this one. I didn’t like the ripe Jingmai or any of the other ripe cha gao either, which seemed weird to me because I usually enjoy regular ripe pu-erh.
I don’t think I’ve ever brewed these in a teapot. I don’t think I’ve ever tried them cold either, unless the last couple sips in my cup that have gotten cold count. Usually I end up doing a grandpa sort of brew with a couple pieces in a big mug or thermos, adding more water or another tea chunk as needed. This time they went into a travel mug with a few bits of chunky Himalayan pink salt (not really enough to make the tea taste salty, goofy autonomic nervous system requires me to have a high salt diet, too many fluids and not enough salt leads to cool stuff like passing out, dehydration-like headaches and adrenaline surges that feel like panic attacks…there are few things I haven’t tried adding salt to at this point). A little bit of hot water at first, swirled the cha gao around in my cup until they had dissolved a bit, then filled the cup up the rest of the way. No refills this time, just one giant mug to try to warm up and convince myself grocery shopping was necessary.
I probably could have steeped this better. I was going to do a proper gongfu session with it but I was freezing (new furnace being installed, no heat all day) and it’s hard to stay buried in my blanket nest and gongfu at the same time. I ended up doing a bunch of short gongfu type steeps but poured them all together in a big travel mug so I could bundle myself up with tea and a book. The tea was smooth and sweet but I didn’t really get the fruit-filled baked goods flavors mentioned in the description. Pleasant but unremarkable. I have one more ball of the 2021 and a couple of an earlier version that I’ll try to make more of an effort with. Hopefully not combining steeps will make it more interesting.
I decided to see how this does as a sort of western/grandpa/extra lazy steep in the tea press. It wasn’t awful but it lost almost all the wild tropical fruity magic it had during gongfu steeping. I got hints of the powdery vanilla deliciousness now and then and but nothing like I was getting gongfu. It was sort of “just tea” flavor instead an intense fresh fruit juice experience. It was okay for mindlessly drinking all day and didn’t clash with any snacks or meals but disappointing when I know this tea can taste so much better.
I enjoyed this one more than some of my other August samples. It took me a while to try it because when I smell the dry tea the first sniff smells amazing but if I sniff again something smells off to me. Maybe it’s a conflict between the tea base and the flavoring for me? I’m really not crazy about how the wet leaf smells after steeping the tea. There’s some fruitiness coming from the tea leaves that mixes with the perfuminess of the cardamom in a way that doesn’t appeal to me. The brewed tea smells okay to me, though. The green tea has a bit of a bite but not too bad. The vanilla and cardamom give a lovely vanilla cake batter type flavor. It was really good with a shortbread cookie. This is a maybe for reordering. I wouldn’t make an order especially for more but if I was already ordering some other stuff I might pick up at least another sample bag. I really thought August’s black teas would be the ones I liked best but so far the greens and oolongs are working better for me.
Flavors: Cake, Cardamom, Vanilla
I have a love-hate relationship with my Cauldryn. I chose Cauldryn over other brands like Ember because Cauldryn had a larger capacity, longer battery life and larger temperature range…but with that comes clunky appearance and added weight.
The good first…
This thing can boil water so you can use it to brew tea/coffee/instant soup, unlike rival mugs that can only keep your beverage warm after it’s already been made. I often use it as a sort of mini electric kettle to make tea upstairs when I don’t want to go down to the kitchen. If you use the desktop base to power the mug instead of the battery pack it reduces the weight and makes it a bit less awkward to pick up. Cauldryn and Yunnan Sourcing’s raw pu-erh cha gao got me through some very long, cold days of pruning trees in an orchard…the battery will last a good while if it’s just maintaining “drinking temperature” instead of boiling so something like cha gao that works with almost any temperature water worked really well in the cup. There is a car power base with a cigarette lighter plug and some other attachments for blending and coffee brewing available as extras.
The not so good…
The bluetooth “smart” features are kind of a joke. An older version of bluetooth is used and the range is so short that you might as well just use the buttons on the mug to adjust the temperature instead of connecting your phone. Oh, and if you’re using the desktop power base, every time you lift the mug up to take a drink you’ll lose your bluetooth connection and have to reconnect every time you set the mug back on the base. The slider on the lid traps gunk in it. I’ve been hesitant to put very many beverages in the mug and mostly use it for heating water that I pour into other teaware because Cauldryn’s lid is almost impossible to thoroughly clean. I’d be afraid of smells and things starting to grow in hidden places if I ever had tea with milk in it. The lid also drips badly if you try to pour from the cup. I’ve burned myself more than once with drips of just boiled water that went in unexpected directions. The heating element is the bottom of the cup. If you remove the heating element you have a bottomless cup, a metal tube. This makes cleaning interesting since you want to clean the one side of the heating element but not get the other side wet. But it’s also problematic because the heating element and the battery pack both screw onto the mug in the same direction so it’s possible to accidentally unscrew the heating element and dump your beverage all over yourself while trying to remove the battery pack. I did get the battery to last 8-ish hours at drinking temperature of my drink was already hot when I turned on the battery. But the battery dies super quickly if you’re trying to heat a cold drink and may not last long enough to boil cold water. You can charge the battery while using it to power the mug but the battery will drain faster than it charges. The battery and the desktop base both use the same power cord and you only get one of them in the box. You can only buy a spare power cord with an extra desktop base, no cord by itself, which is extra annoying because the cords seem to die in less than a year (I’ve been through two). You’d think that’s be covered under the product’s warranty, right? Good luck. I lost count of the number of times I’ve tried to contact the company and gotten no response. Customer service appears to be non-existent. Thankfully, an old laptop’s power cord fits and seems to work so that’s what I’m using now.
My version of the Cauldryn seems to be discontinued now and it looks like the company has an updated version in the works. Part of me wants to upgrade when it’s available because it’s still the only battery powered mug I know of that can get hot enough to brew tea or coffee and holds more than the other brands. But my model’s quirks and the company’s refusal to honor their warranty (or even acknowledge that you’re contacting them!) are a bit off-putting.
I’ve been drinking this somewhere between western and grandpa style for the last day and a half. Steeping in a DavidsTea tea press and pouring into one of the big Favorite Tumblers (both of them are the autumn leaves prints, if anyone was dying of curiosity). The tumbler holds about 1.5 fills of the tea press. The press doesn’t quite squash the leaves tightly enough to fully stop the steeping so between that and topping off with hot water as needed, it’s sorta grandpa-ish but the press got pushed down at about 3 minutes when I did a full water refill so also western-ish. I chucked in three of the mini tuo and the flavor has lasted a surprisingly long time. The flavor isn’t any more exciting or complex than when I gongfu-ed these but it’s been a great seemingly endless, almost no thought required tea to drink while shopping online, reading, playing dumb phone games, eating and whatever else I’ve been doing yesterday and today. It could probably keep going a while longer steeping this way but I’m about ready for a flavor change.