107 Tasting Notes
This was laying untouched in my sample bag since last year’s harvest and I think my stomach has sufficiently healed to where I can have an occasional young sheng. Upon reading the description I figured that this is one that’d pass the grandma test, lighter, effeminate and flowery. Not my usual brew. Sold mouth and throat feel. Sweet melon and blossom notes dominate the early steeps. I’m reminded of a white Zinfandel infused with elder flowers. With my window open I can smell my lilac tree in bloom which enhances the experience. The qi is warming and relaxing but does not override the fact that I have an 8 hour day ahead (home health) and I couldn’t get anyone scheduled bc no one would answer the phone….When I was a Darjeeling drinker I sneered at those stereotypically mild and flowery teas like a Margaret’s Hope first flush while touting the glories of a robust fruity and spicy Jungpana or Singbulli second flush. I guess I’m guilty of the same with Yiwu tea. I will always prefer the more potent Eastern teas…however this tea does have a nice floral delicacy I can appreciate on a cool blossomy May morning. If mild Darjeeling is your thing this tea is a perfect transition to young sheng. I got a dozen good steeps. I recommend sampling all the ZSL teas as they are all solid quality Yiwu area teas that are reasonably priced and ship quickly to western locations
I really like this one, especially after resting a few months in my storage after being shipped in harsh winter conditions. Smooth, deep, rich and sweet with hints of wild cherry, vanilla, old oak barrel, pipe tobacco and leather. Not much camphor or forest notes one finds in the burlier eastern Yiwu teas but a smoother affair. I realize that very few have tasted a 20-40 year old bottle conditioned English old ale/barleywine but there are several similarities. For a somewhat similar and possible to find beer experience I’d compare it to Fullers vintage ale only much less aggressive. Everything about this tea is mellow and smooth. The storage is very clean yet fully fermented. The qi is deep, relaxing and meditative. Not stupefying or jangling, just nice. Pure yin energy. A silk hammer of a tea. All the TS aged sheng are worth sampling (although many samples I’ve tried were dried out, astringent and in need of some rejuvenation opposed to the cakes) but this is my favorite of the bunch. Early on I preferred their 2000 Mansa but as I continue to live with these teas the subtle beauty of this one won me over. It’s very difficult to find a clean 22 year old Taiwan stored Yiwu for $.65g these days. This tea is a must try.
Not saying I’d pay $300 a cake for this. Not saying I wouldn’t either. I will say that if all the cakes of young Jinggu that I bought thinking I’d drink up quickly perform like this tea in 18 years I will be a happy camper indeed! First 2 steeps show light smokiness, sandalwood and spice. Next few steeps and the wild character peeks through with hints of grapefruit and tangerine peel. By steep 6 my face is numb and this stuff is much darker. Could be that I oversteeped it while grinning and staring at the floor. Anyhow no biggie. No astringency at all and now an oaky, fruity, funky taste that reminds me of a well aged Armagnac (minus the acetone) emerges. From here out it’s wood, spice, leather and citrus peel. My only gripes are I’d prefer a heavier body, although the huigan is long lasting. One can’t expect syrupy body from a wild tea… and the price…which means I’m trying to talk myself out of paying $300 for a cake of wild tea that I know I want. For a comparison, this stuff knocks the socks off the Qianjiazhai teas from EOT and those are excellent wild teas. I still have one session left with which to decide…one thing for sure, 4 years ago when I was new to pu I bought lesser teas for more money.
For teas in the $100ish a cake range, this gets my vote. I’ve only had Yiwu teas from BGT in the past so this Menghai area tea is new to me. This is smoother than most Bulang blends I’ve had and there’s just a touch of orange peel in the finish so I’m guessing it’s got some Nannuo in it as well. It still has plenty of bite and sharp woody, tobacco notes. Calm focusing energy and pretty good stamina. I actually think I’d prefer this stored in Hong Kong as I think it would make it much sweeter. As it is, it’s rather dry and burly. Im learning that I prefer Taiwan storage with Yiwu as it preserves some top notes and wild foresty character while I prefer the sweetness a HK aged Menghai tea provides. Of course Taiwan Sourcing is a great place to get Taiwan stored Yiwu as well. Not sure, I may cake this. I don’t drink much Menghai area and I have a fair amount already but this stuffs a deal.
Woody, thick and on the dry side for the area. Very clean storage and steeps forever. Not much florals or fruit. This ones about the wood, tobacco and maybe sandalwood incense. A contemplative brew for a dismal day. Deep relaxing qi and overall smooth vibe. $220 for a 21 year old cake of tea of this quality is pretty reasonable. This is not a tea to knock your socks off but rather to soothe and warm. Nice yin vibe.
I had to add this tea because it has to be the most unique tea I’ve ever tasted. The material is ancient tree Assamica growing wild in the rainforests of Manipur, India. The tea is processed like a sheng and sold as such but it got oxidized while being transported for processing. If anyone got to try the Hua Tzu Pop Peak from Pu-erh.sk the processing flavors are similar but the material is quite different. This tea is sort of like a hybrid between an orthodox black and sheng but it’s own thing. It is definitely the most Indian tasting tea I’ve ever had. By this I don’t mean Indian tea but like Indian food and incense in a good way. About 10-20 years ago a Sunday morning trip to State College, Pa meant a visit to House of Kashmir, a hippie incense shop and t shirt owned by a guy from Kashmir followed by a Sunday brunch at the India restaurant across the alley. Take all the exotic scents from the incense shop, the flavor of the dosas and especially the rice pudding with grapes almonds and seasoned with cardamom and rose water chased with a mango lassi and you have the essence of this tea…sort of. You know how a good yancha draws an amazing parallel to many Chinese dishes or how a baozhong draws a parallel to a Bangkok curry? This tea combines the elements of fine Indian cuisine and toiletries in an amazingly pleasant way. I’ve been drinking single estate teas since 1991 and have never tasted anything remotely like it. The qi is also a blast from my past. In the early 90s, fresh out of high school and with little direction in life I smoked a lot of weed and worked in a boot factory. A typical workday started by smoking a little cheap ditch weed on the way to work, getting yelled at for getting there at 7:03, running to the cafeteria and chugging a quart of Folgers coffee. Yes friends after 10 steeps I can almost smell the ink and acetone and hear the drone of the burnishing wheel. Oddly fond memories for a middle aged therapist. The qi is a little too speedy and fogging for my tastes that prefer a sedating blissed out Yiwu buzz but it’s not jittery like a Jingmai. The closest I can compare it to is like an early 2000s fake Red Mark tea like the one sold by W2T…but like other aspects of this tea I really can’t compare it to anything else. For $.35g I recommend trying it and can guarantee you’ve never had anything remotely like it. Oh yeah and be sure to try the Nilgiri winter oolong. It’s like a tea version of a jasmine infused while Zinfandel in a tea…
I have a fairly long history with this tea. Since 2017 I’ve bought several samples with the nagging question of whether I should buy a cake. There is no doubt that this is the best LME material I’ve sampled. It’s the thickest, oiliest , has the most stamina and aggressive yet comfortable qi. It’s also outrageously priced and although there are those to whom this region is the be all end all. I’ve read articles in which devotees of this area claim there are universes within the bitterness, thickness and returning sweetness and those who complain of lack of complexity and top notes are noobs who just don’t get it. For me I love this tra but have to be in a particular rare mood to crave it. During these times I get almost as much enjoyment from the less expensive smaller cake teas like 2019 Bitter End Extra from Bitterleaf or the 2010 Jie liang from YS. Granted this tea is significantly better but significantly more expensive. If I liked tea from this area as much as I like GFZ or Yibang I’d have a cake.
So the tea itself? It’s retained the same basic character as when young and doesn’t shapeshift much through the steeps. Intense but smooth bitterness that quickly turns sweet in the throat. Notes of quinine, grapefruit peel and slate, sometimes fennel. Steeps forever. Intense yang qi that I find similar to other Menghai area teas but not jangly like a factory tea. If yea from this area is your thing or if intense thick bitterness is up your alley this tea is a must try. As for me I’ve been debating caking this for 4 years but have yet to jump on it. I’d probably split a cake but am content to have a few smaller cakes of somewhat less expensive tea that satisfies my cravings for this stuff but no matter what LME I drink I end up comparing to this tea and ultimately it falls short. Anyone wanna split a cake?
This morning I realized that this tea (at least the cake I own) is representative of my Puerh journey and perhaps my tea journey in general. Brief history. I got big into tea in high school in the early 90s after my parents brought back some loose tea and a Brown Betty teapot from a vacation in England that I still regret declining. Soon after my mom found an ad in a gourmet magazine for a company selling single estate teas. Hence begun my tea journey in 1991. I was particularly fond of black teas and the only puerh I’d tasted was in 2003 was a mini tuo of shou that the vendor instructed to brew western style. Of course it tasted like rotten mushrooms and I gave it to someone who’d drink anything and I never thought of puerh again until 2017 when my mom pulled out a Saveur magazine and told me about an article about people getting high on puerh teas and how horrible it sounded, to which I replied gimme that, snagged the magazine which contained the interview with Paul from W2T and quickly made an order. So this is 1 of the first cakes I’ve bought almost 4 years ago and it’s seen the evolution of my tea drinking tastes, storage methods and the ever evolving question of whether one can effectively age tea in the west. The answer is YES!!! When I bought this tea it was full of youthful citric, stone fruit, herbal, floral and minty notes with an uncommon thickness. I made the same mistake as many noobs and allowed it to dry out and lose character. It was then that I learned about crock storage and brought some life back to it…for a while. By 2019 this tea was in in awkward phase and while it still had good qi the flavor was meh. At this point I’d begun dealing with multiple vendors and my tasted leaned more toward the more robust teas of eastern Yiwu, Yibang and Gedeng so this tea got little attention. About this time I learned about experiments in heated storage and decided to use this tea (and my other 3-7 year old awkward teas) in the experiment. Briefly, for the uninitiated this involves heating a picnic cooler with a seeding mat to 85-90 deg f and placing cakes humidified to 60-70% into sealed Mylar bags and storing them in the cooler. Now I’ve had this method bring back top notes to say 3 year old teas and speed up the transformation of say 6-7 year old teas in which bottom notes were beginning to emerge but this is the only tea I’ve bought super fresh and was able to observe its transformation. I tasted this tea the first time this morning in the year that it’s been in heated storage and expected it to still be in its awkward stage as it’s still a little less than 5 years old. To my surprise I didn’t recognize it. I’ve been sampling a lot of drier Taiwan stored 7-14 year old boutique Yiwu teas from the likes of Yang Qing Hao, Chenyuan Hao, Biyun Hao etc and in its present state this tea fits right in with the more robust selections of the above. Woody notes have emerged and foresty camphorous notes dominate followed by sweet floral notes in the finish. Still super thick and stimulating mouthfeel. Still no plum notes but I expect these to arrive in perhaps another year. The qi, well I’m couchlocked and rambling about the evolution of a tea cake I’ve had 4 years and still managed to have 100g left when my reviews are typically short and sweet. It’d be interesting to taste this side by side with tea that’s been in Paul’s storage all this time. The point of this review, this tea is really good. You can effectively age tea in cool dry climates and heated storage can be very effective (at least in the relatively short term). No one has hotbox stored tea for a decade so who knows if adverse effects will arise.
Most of my experiences with Nannuo teas have been fairly ho hum. Either humid stored and lacking in huigan or discernible attitude or fresh and fruity but not interesting enough to get me to pounce on a cake. Some have had nice energy but not enough to lure me in. This stuff otoh, yum! 11 years of Kunming storage must be what makes this stuff shine. Early steeps give notes of berries, mint and old wood. Middle steeps are more floral and herbal. Later steeps give off notes of candied orange peel and basil. This tea kept getting sweeter throughout the session. Weirdly I first felt the qi in my arms before it radiated through my upper body. It was a very vibrant and somatic energy that inspired me to go out hiking on this 35 degree day. 2 faults I have with this tea: 1, the soup could be thicker and more concentrated for my tastes. Instead it is rather thin and has a drying throat feel. 2. It’s sold out. I went back to price and full cake and it’s gone. There is a 2012 cake from the village next door that I may sample.