365 Tasting Notes


Bizarre little cake. The smells and the tastes are so different they get separate reviews.

Warming leaves smell of baby powder… some kind of department store perfume that reminds me of my aunt Nadine… definitely floral, but I don’t have the flower essence vocabulary to find it. Strong notes of raisin, dried fruits, sugar. I also periodically get some chlorine that resolves to alcohol vapor… kinda funny. The alcohol is rummish, like a rum and coke with the layered sugar and fruit notes. In later steeps, bread dough!

Taste is bitter as all hell. Not astringent, just bitter. Not tannic, just bitter. Green wood. And then, holy god, I forgot about a steep for a minute and it’s almost undrinkable. Doesn’t even taste like tea, more like kava… is this the “LME bitter” I’ve read about? I assume yes, and so keeping drinking to see if I can eventually get to the sweetness. The bitterness finally caves after about 16 steeps, but there’s not a lot left after that.

I wonder how much of the nose is coming from the rye barrel? What would compel a person to drink this if not for the smells?

Joke’s on me, I have 195 grams with which to answer this question. Bottoms up, buttercup!

Flavors: Baby Powder, Bitter, Bread Dough, Cola, Dried Fruit, Floral, Perfume, Raisins, Rum, Sugar


Good luck. One cup of this tea pre-barrel-storage was enough for me to stash the cake in the depths of the cupboard.


Aunt Nadine and my grandma would’ve gotten along well!


Ugh… as a black tea, there’s probably not much hope of this bitterness resolving into something more palatable with age, I guess? /cry


This sounds truly horrifying.

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Light and a little non-descript, like someone took the yummy steeps and dried it back out. I hate to compare it to the big L, but I wouldn’t guess Yunnan. The leaves are quite large.

Flavors: Tannin, Tea

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2020 Dayi Laochatou: It do be shou. Nothing interesting, nothing offensive. Clean soil. This is the first time I’ve had the thought that I am getting leftovers, and all the little magical microbes took the good stuff.

2010 Dayi Laochatou (Taiwan stored): Slightly brighter and more tannic, like a shou/pekoe mashup. Deep amber to weak coffee color. I enjoy this more than the 2020. Maybe wouldn’t pick it out unless I was looking for something post-physical labor, though… an uncomplicated refresher.

2006 Dayi Laochatou (first year): Okay, now this one has a liiiittle sweetness underpinning the soil and tiny tannins. Interesting. Would it taste sweet if I wasn’t comparing side-by-side? Not sure; I don’t think so. Later steeps I’m getting some of that edgy paper flavor that bothers me. Maybe a touch of mineral/metal and bitter cocoa.

Interesting vertical to explore.

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Ho-kay. Talk about hyped… another sample I was feeling a little intimidated by, which drinking it fixed. “I’ll show you, leaves!”

I got some smoke. I got some creaminess in the opening steeps. “Sweet” — relative-to, right? It’s smooth and nice. I did not experience any noticeable cha qi.

And here’s where I just have to be brave around all y’all more seasoned drinkers and say that I’m not really here for easy. (I feel the same way about wine or scotch, and don’t understand “goes down smooth” as a selling point — please give me peat bog.) If we can turn up some basement-camphor or old furniture or porcini or rootbeer or weird smoked fruit, I’m in. If it makes me see pink elephants, also great: please send.

My benchmark at this point is the Purple Barrel Maocha… any sheng-variant much less interesting than that, and I’d rather be drinking oolong. Price versus experience, this isn’t for me. Er… actually just experience-experience. Alas. :(

Flavors: Creamy, Smoke, Smooth

3 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

(Flashback to Winnie the Pooh and The Heffalumps and Woozles)

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Yeasty bread dough. Not super complex, but new to me and enjoyable. Glad I bit.

Flavors: Bread Dough, Yeasty

3 g 2 OZ / 60 ML

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The oolong base here is distinctly Jin Xuan, though a little under-equipped for the job of supporting pomelo flower fragrance. Quite “green” tasting; I don’t think the base necessarily needed to be more floral, but it could have done with less bitter-green and more creaminess. Disjointed. Might cold brew and try it iced.

Flavors: Bitter, Cream, Floral, Grassy


I found this one bitter as well. Their orange blossom milk oolong is much better if you’re looking for something floral and citrusy.


I got some of that, too — good to hear!

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I’ve been pretty nervous about trying this, as it feels larger than life and quite intimidating based on everything I’ve read about it. And just Lao Man E in general — this is my first.

Beautiful leaves, all colors of grey like a dried mushroom party.

Light iodine on the nose, bandaids at the bottom of cup. Already I’m wondering how different my impressions will be from some of the notes I’ve seen earlier. This stuff already has extra years on it! Tastes lightly sweet of grape, undefined floral. Leaves smell herbaceous, with tobacco.

Light mushroom and iodine nose. I like that. Juicy in the mouth; still nebulous floral, like wildflower petals. Herbs still on the leaves… fresh fennel?

I do experience some hui gan, not long-lived. Tastes and nose not changing much, though.
I actually do really like the medicinal/iodine on the nose as I lift the cup, and then the floral, juicy, subtly sweet taste. It’s a really interesting juxtaposition.

Oh, a pass of banana after a lip smack, lol. Remains juicy; there is astringency, but it feels like it dances around in the pockets and just pinpricks the juiciness. No defined swathes of dryness.

6 or 7…?
Some diffuse melon, smoothing out more now. Deeper yellow-orange liquor, where it started more goldenrod.

10th or so infusion?
These later sheng infusions are sometimes so approachable and delightful. That’s happening here. The astringency has subsided, the leaves finally yielding to roundness, smoothness.

My thermos ran out, and I have a cat on my lap, sooo… I’m pausing for now. I can’t say I am experiencing huge cha qi (no dancing, daggit), but I feel at peace with the session (and some relief, finally sitting down with this icon and making it tangible).

Thank you, derk!

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Bowled this morning. Delicious, but my least favorite preparation method for these little snails. Trades the soft and luxurious cocoa intensity for a more delicate spread.

Leaves were beautiful.


I need to try making bowl tea! Naturally I feel a need to find a special bowl, not just the two matcha bowls I already have! Ha ha! What sort do you use? Is it best to use a glass bowl to enjoy the color?


I think you’ve seen mine already — it’s ash-glazed clay. I love it. Though I think you could get away with a matcha bowl for starters! The general impression I got is that deeper, steeper sided bowls are “winter” bowls (because they’ll retain heat longer), while shallower, thinner, more open bowls are “summer” bowls. Mine leans toward the latter:



Oh, I like the idea of winter and summer bowls! Perhaps even useful for controlling temp with leaf that might be a bit tetchy bowl style. I have a student who took several pottery classes at school. Perhaps I can commission a bowl.


Ooh, that’d be special!

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First impression only. I like the barrel-stored better, just in terms of palate interest.

I am starting to get the feeling I should heed the warnings to store barrel-aged teas separate from others, as they clearly have a lot to, uh… share.

Light camphor in both. Poorly-integrated barrel and alcohol notes in the barrel-aged. Wouldn’t mind some more age, generally, on both. Neither I’d chase further than this sampler… an interesting poke around, though.

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Shook a teaspoon of this into my iced water for a hike in Malibu Creek State Park. The usually-dry riverbed is deep, the rapids painted neon with massive seaweed blooms. Creekbed to sky, everything is so green. I didn’t plan the color coordination, but bright matcha was right at home.

Sat down at our turnaround point just as I was getting the sugar lows; some gooseberries, an apple, and this refreshing little splash were a perfect pick-me-up. I look forward to having this warm with almond milk, as I think the berries will jam up and really shine.

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