9 Tasting Notes
I generally don’t like Lancang area sheng pu’er: I find it bland and lacking depth. But in the spirit of “don’t knock it until you try it” I kept an open mind.
The leaves are the usual “pretty face, ugly butt” blending trick. I should mention that this review is of leaves from the back of the cake. Also, the tea was pressed in January 2009, meaning it’s likely summer 2008 tea material, maybe with lighter fermented stuff from fall.
The first three brews tasted very earthy, like the smell of loamy soil, so I would suggest rinsing this tea twice to reduce some of that taste if you don’t like it. Not fishy or pondy, just muddy. For the large size of the leaves, the tea held out for an impressive 13 infusions, even when pushed for more flavor.
The next infusions were sweet, earthy, woody, finishing rocky. They made me salivate quite a bit, and the “mouthfeel” of the tea was comfortable and oily. Not too much aftertaste, and not too much depth, but enjoyable nonetheless. It took extra long infusions very well. All of this adds up to be a good tea for brewing at work, where I have no one to impress and want passably good tea even if I forget it or otherwise abuse it.
This tea had a nice minty aroma and tasted like chocolate/carob and sweet in the first 2 infusions. It was boring by the 3rd infusion, tasting like little. I had to stress the tea with long infusions to get any flavor, and it did have some bitterness and astringency when pushed, but not much mouthfeel or aftertaste. The leaf quality was surprisingly poor upon examination, its broken leaves looking a step above tuocha grade material. Nothing I’d purchase again.
Despite an orange liquor (5 years age doing this, or ?), the flavor and bitterness taste like traditional big factory sheng, in a dependable and comforting way: punchy, floral, bitter, and a tad smoky, I think this tuo’s flavor will go somewhere with more age. I lament at its dry storage and am curious how one of these aged in Guangzhou might taste.
A great buy for someone who’s only had bad, fishy shu pu’er, Dayi’s Yunxiang cake redeems the name of shu. And for any doubters, this tea’s traits define why I love Menghai Factory shu pu above all others and worth its price. When I’m in the market again for cooked tea, this cake is on my list.
Notes: Malt, clean, walnuts, soil, dried bamboo, grains, black pepper, sweet, winter squash, rocky.
Other features: stronger on sides of tongue, one infusion left a tingly feeling on my tongue, no acidity or awkward flavors even when infusions cool down.
This is one of Puerhshop’s selections I have tried as a sample thanks to yet another tea friend who decided he can no longer stomach young sheng pu’er—appropriately, because if young sheng troubles your tummy, this bitter monster of a cake will turn you off to young sheng entirely.
It’s bitter, very bitter, but to express just a tiny apologetic nod to the tea, my sample was loose bits that perhaps don’t represent how the cake normally brews.
One of the women behind the tea table at one of the better known tea houses in Hong Kong once asked a friend to find whatever cheap super bitter young tea he could find to satisfy her fervent belief (inherited from her tea master) that bitter, tenacious young sheng turns into strong, solid aged pu’er. If you are of that school, this thick, tobacco-ash flavored, bittersweet finishing sheng pu belongs in your cabinet.
If you’re of the (primarily Taiwanese?) school of juicy whole leaves and strong flavors with little bitterness, you will lambast this tea as typical low grade plantation tea marketing itself as “old arbor” tea.
Believing that educated ambivalence is the logical conclusion of any philosophical pondering, I don’t subscribe to either camp—or perhaps subscribe to both. Thus, I don’t know what to make of this tea.
I will say that, if Puerhshop sold it for closer to its price on Taobao (26 yuan or $3.80 at time of writing), or even at twice this price, I might indulge in a purchase for the purpose of experimentation. As it is, I’m not sure I will.
This Mengsa cake is a really pleasant “drink it now” cake. The flavors are something like anise, malt, and the metallic taste of high-mineral-content water. The bittersweetness remains in the mouth in both senses of “remains”: it doesn’t progress to the throat, and the flavors linger.
Brews yellow-amber, slightly bitter, mostly floral in flavor. Aftertaste doesn’t linger too long. Smooth texture; doesn’t dry out my mouth like other sheng. Leaf quality is rather poor: mostly broken bits, doesn’t look handpicked. That said, while there’s nothing great about this tea, there’s nothing wrong with it, either.
The 2008 World Tea Expo offered its guests the first public tasting of the first teas being commercially grown in the US for the high-end US tea market—the green, white, oolong, and black teas of Hawai’i.
However, the tea brewers sadly had to prepare tea for 50, brewing them at too low of temperature, all with the same water, Western style. I thought this an unfortunate coming out for America’s first boutique tea. So when I read that Narien Teas of Florida began distributing the first commercial batch of Hawai’ian green tea to hit the market, called Kilinoe (“Misty Rain”) I jumped at the opportunity to purchase some and give our homegrown tea a second chance.
Kilinoe is grown on Mauna Loa on the big island of Hawai’i. It’s marketed as sustainable and eco-grown, and from the somewhat cultish WWOOF ads I’ve seen online, I do believe it.
In its foil pouch, Kilinoe smells like sugar and cream with a slight vegetal hint. Its long and twisted leaves gave me impressions visual and olfactory of Yunnan maocha fresh off the straw drying mats.
In the gaiwan, it smells strongly of citrus peel and sweet grass. It tastes much the way it smells at first, developing a richer maocha flavor with citrus highlights. The creamy texture hints at white rice.
The aftertaste, while present, disappears sooner than I’d like. About a 5-cup green, in later infusions it tastes so much like a lighter flavored green pu’er that I find it hard to justify the price: at $1 per gram, Kilinoe costs more than any other green tea that has passed my lips. Similarly, my criticisms of Hawai’ian teas at the Expo included dismay at how light they were.
Still, Kilinoe is a pretty good hand-picked boutique green with soft energy and light, non-fishy, non-chickeny flavors. Fans of green tea would do well to spend the $9 on a sample, if only to see the budding potential of Hawai’i’s boutique greens.