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Recent Tasting Notes
I’m a big fan of the 2020 vintage of Drink Me, I personally even prefer it to the more expensive Resistance from the same village, but unfortunately by the time I had my first session with it in fall 2020, the tea had already sold out. When I saw it was being featured again in the 2021 lineup, I didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger and order a cake blind. Even if it ended up not quite living up to the 2020 harvest, the original was such an exceptional value, I saw no way I could go wrong with my purchase.
After two weeks in transit and letting the teas acclimatize in my pumidor for a week, here we are having my first taste of this tea. It’s quite early to be tasting a tea this young, but I wanted to get a review out early, so that others have a chance to jump on this tea if they so choose, while they still can.
I will start off by briefly describing my memory of the 2020 tea from when I last had it a few weeks ago and then proceed to discussing how the 2021 harvest compares to it. The 2020 Drink Me I recall being very thick with the consistency of that of plant based oil. Very floral with a gentle bitterness to it, although bitterness might not even be the best word to describe it. I even got some interesting milkiness in the early steeps. An excellent tea for the price.
Now jumping to the 2021 harvest, this year’s tea might actually have a stronger flavor to it than the previous year, although I don’t quite recall exactly how strong the 2020 spring was and don’t have any of it left to check. That being said, while I can’t quite put my finger on how I’d describe the fragrance of this tea, it struck me in its current state as much less floral than the 2020 harvest at one year of age. The tea is also noticeably more bitter than I recall its 2020 brethren being, but still gentle compared to many other Bulang teas. The bitterness does persist, though, which might be a deal-breaker for some. Longevity is good and I was able to still get a perfectly serviceable brew at 3 minutes and even the final 5 minute infusion was decent and not just plain sweet water. The thick and oily consistency has been carried over from last year. The effect of the tea is energizing, not too aggressive.
While the OG Drink Me was similar to the neighboring Hekai, it still had its own unique character. This year’s harvest I found much more similar to Hekai and a bit less distinct (in its current form). If you really love Hekai, that might be a good thing. If you are like me and are a bit lukewarm on Hekai, maybe you might enjoy the 2020 Drink Me a bit more. Most of those who enjoyed last year’s offering will probably like this year’s as well, but there might be some to whom the 2021 vintage doesn’t quite deliver what they loved about the 2020. With age the two teas will hopefully start to converge a bit more, while retaining some of their individual charm.
Overall still an excellent tea even before looking at the price tag and after doing so just a phenomenal value. If you are a fan of the original, Hekai teas, or just Bulang in general, I think this is a quite safe blind purchase if you haven’t ordered Bitterleaf’s 2021 dragon ball sampler yet. At 13.5¢/g the value is nuts. I think this tea is perfectly ready to drink right now, but will only get better in the next couple years as I witnessed with the original. Only the bitterness could be a turnoff for some, but those individuals probably shouldn’t be eyeballing a Bulang tea in the first place. I recall the original being friendlier in that regard, but unfortunately that ship has sailed. In any case, if you are at all interested, I would act fast just in case history repeats itself and this tea remains as popular as it turned out last year.
Flavors: Bitter, Floral, Sweet
Late morning tea session from this past Saturday. I missed snagging this dancong the first year BLT carried it so I jumped on the 2020 production, and it’s not disappointed me!! This is one of those teas you buy because of the name but that you are, of course, skeptical of – I mean, how much can it really taste like ice cream!? Turns out the answer is a lot!! The soft and buttery texture of the steeps give way to a creamy and slightly saline infusion with the sweetness and nuttiness to pretty convincingly match up with BLT’s “salted caramel ice cream” descriptor; albeit with a clean floral finish!
Since I was reading John Green’s recently released book/collection of essays, The Anthropocene Reviewed, I think it’s only fair to rate this in the spirit of the book. So, I give Double Scoop 4/5 stars.
“An Ode to Tea” Alphabet Challenge – X
Catching up again! This is the closest thing to an “X” tea that I have, so here we are. Dancong hasn’t historically been a favorite of mine, but this one came in a Bitterleaf sampler that I ordered a few years back, and I’m willing to give it a chance!
Used 5 grams for about 120ml of 190°F water, and steeped 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 30s or so.
I was surprised to find this not very floral at all. It actually reminded me of a Bai Hao, with sweet honey and syrupy dried fruit notes over a base of crisp autumn leaves. There was a bit of fig, apricot, and golden raisin all rolled into one. I also tasted brown sugar a couple of steeps in, and then it got more leafy and woody for the last few steeps. At one point there was a lovely spun sugar note at the end of the sip.
It was tasty! It lost a bit of complexity as the session went on, but this is also from 2017 so I’m sure it’s lost a lot of its subtleties at this point. I was just happy it wasn’t floral overload! :3
Flavors: Apricot, Autumn Leaf Pile, Brown Sugar, Cotton Candy, Dried Fruit, Fig, Honey, Raisins, Roasted, Smooth, Stonefruit, Sweet, Wood
P is for… Priceless 2020 Spring Bulang Raw Puer Charitea Cake!
Finally tried this cake about a week ago! All sales of this cake went towards supporting an orphanage in Kunming! That alone would be enough to make buying this cake worthwhile – but, more than that, it’s just reaaalllyyy good! Most steeps are accented with a reliable and consistent sugarcane note, but amidst that coating sweet flavour is a great balance of syrupy red fruit notes and bitterness w/ a lovely returning sweetness after each sip. I tried a few infusions with some really aggressive steep times, and while this did really push the bitterness to the forefront of the brew it also had great payoff from an even greater huigan!
I placed a Bitterleaf order in the middle of the pandemic, and it sadly just never arrived (stupid pandemic shipping issues). I was nervous about the package going missing again, so waited until just a couple of months ago to place an order again. The order arrived safely a couple of days ago, and I’m so in love with all of the teaware I got.
This is the lone tea I got in the order, and it’s a plum beauty for sure! It’s light and sweet, and was such a fun gonfu session. I couldn’t get enough of the stick sweet stone fruit flavor and aroma.
D is for… Drink Me 2020 Nanmo Raw Puer!
Tried this with a very interesting cheese pairing – a sweet and tangy lemon curd Wendsleydale!! Wasn’t totally sure how this would work out, but I find the tangy lemon/cheese notes are complimenting a similar sweet yuzu-like citrus note already present in this full bodied sheng! After the first few steeps, which were much sweeter, softer, & floral this sheng is picking up more of a cracked black pepper note with both some astringency and bitterness. The crumbly but creamy cheese helps mitigate some of the astringency, while the sweetness offsets the bitterness – creating an overall tangy sweet citrus bomb flavour between the two with hints of spice. It’s honestly a much more pleasant #teasession than expected since this combo was admittedly a bit of a gamble!
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGzeOZuqB9k&ab_channel=MICKEYDARLING
In recent years, several Oolong productions from central Yunnan have emerged on the international market, often from Taiwanese cultivars, most commonly Qing Xin as is the case with this one.
It is a well-balanced tea, the mild roast brings out nice fruity sweetness and acidity to complement the perfumy, floral and relatively vegetal character. The aromas are fairly weak generally, and remind me of sweet perfume and grass flowers.
The taste also has a decent bitterness to it, as well as some nutty undertones. However, main flavours are in the neighborhood of plums, peach pits, acorn, dry grass, and nectar.
Where the tea really shines is the smooth metallic and powdery mouthfeel, and especially its pungent and lasting mineral aftertaste. The returning flavours include ones like fenugreek leaves, lychee, leafy vegetables (chard), and butter among others.
Flavors: Bitter, Butter, Dry Grass, Floral, Flowers, Fruity, Grass, Lychee, Metallic, Mineral, Nutty, Peach, Perfume, Plants, Pleasantly Sour, Plum, Smooth, Stonefruit, Sweet, Vegetables, Vegetal
Made this one in a new piece of teaware (photos to come at a later date, I’m sure) that was admittedly probably much too small for the size of the dragonball. Like, to give some perspective, the unfurled and opened up tea leaf and ribbons of chenpi probably accounted for about half of the space in the cup – the rest being water/tea. So, this was strong and so, so THICK. A bit like drinking syrup in terms of mouthfeel but deeply tasting of rain soaked earth and brothy medicinal herbs with the sweetness of a coating and oily orange flavour in the undertones of this deeply dank and camphorous profile. Really intense but super tasty. Unsurprisingly given the strength I was brewing it, this lasted the entire work day before even starting to get close to steeping out.
I’m quite certain that this isn’t the first chenpi production I’ve had from Bitterleaf Tea, but I can’t for the life of me remember the name of any previous ones they’ve released. I did enjoy this dragonball brewed up grandpa though – I drank it over the course of the morning yesterday in between hard good testing for me and it was thick and warming with really deep and robust petrichor notes to the shou and a medicinal and coating orange undertone. While it was challenging to see the tea leaf while drinking because the soup was so dark and opaque, I noticed after I was dumping out/cleaning the mug that the chenpi was these very long “threads” that seemed to have been woven in with pu’erh, which I thought was pretty cool!
I’ve got many of these dragonballs, so looking forward to lots of cozy infusions as well as trying this out Gongfu!
Greatest Hits is a blend of Yi Wu ripe puer and it is really quite good. The cakes are sold out now, but one can still get some of the little coins.
The tea is medium bodied and super smooth, rich and dark. The profile is well balanced and nutty. It indeed has a strong milky sweetness like the description mentions. Besides that, the aroma reminds me of orange liqueur and butter toast. There is also a good huigan to be found and a sort of milky mouthfeel.
Flavors: Alcohol, Butter, Milk, Orange, Smooth, Sweet, Toast
WandaVision Binge Watch – Ep 4
On a pairing front I have to say that the name of this tea really says it all. It was one of those obvious “slaps you in the face” kind of teas that you go “OH! Obviously this is what should go with this episode” and so it’s what I did. The cold open of the episode immediately validated that feeling for me.
On a taste level, it was probably good that I switched to something more delicate and calming after several pretty richly flavourful teas. I loved the silky smooth notes of clotted cream, cucumber pulp, and timothy hay. There was also this quality that I liked that (and this is gonna sound weird) I can only best describe as the smell of what you make your own paper. I don’t know if anyone else has ever done that before, but you basically make your own weird goopy paper pulp and spread it very thin then use pressure to make it stay together as a sheet. There’s a distinct aroma to that process, and this taste like it – but in a good and nostalgic way.
This is also the episode where alllllllll the caffeine I had been consuming really started to catch up with me and by the end of the episode I felt like I was buzzing/vibrating from a combo of adrenaline/excitement from the plot developments mixed with so much caffeine…
Shou and black tea doesn’t sound like the weirdest combination, but I still wouldn’t expect it to turn out as well as this tea performs. It is fairly well integrated and balanced overall with more savoury character than a straight black tea would have.
Dry leaf aroma is an funny mix of fish, wooden cabinet, black cherry, and crickets. Throughout the session, the smell has some of more familiar notes from dian hong – malt and chocolate – as well as some notes of fireplace, hazelnuts, maple syrup, and grilled peach.
First infusion is fairly sweet and medium bodied with a creamy texture to it that is a staple of the session. The dominant flavours are in the neighborhood of chocolate and autumn leaf pile. Second steep is more woody with notes of corn syrup and peanuts. The next then brings the savoury and umami aspects, as well as a prominent nutty cocoa bean flavour and hints of cannabis.
The aftertaste is a little biting and this is where the shou character tends to take over the show somewhat. After a short while, the expected earthiness emerges, as well as some vanilla and hints of sour fermentation notes.
I really like the cha qi too, which is very relaxing and (body and soul) melting. I personally wouldn’t bet on this performing great if aged, but what do I know. In any case, it is a lovely tea to drink now.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Biting, Cannabis, Cherry, Chocolate, Cocoa, Cream, Earth, Fireplace, Fishy, Hazelnut, Malt, Maple Syrup, Nutty, Peach, Peanut, Sour, Sugar, Sweet, Umami, Vanilla, Wood
Geek Steep S1E19 – Frankenstein (Novel)
One of the things I’ve most enjoyed about our “longer” fandoms this season is when I’ve had the chance to explore multiple pairings – either taking completely different approaches to my pairings or looking at the things that may not have worked the first time and finding ways to correct that.
When we decided on Frankenstein I had two very different ideas of how I might want to pair it and I got to explore both of those “paths”. The idea behind this one was that I wanted a kind of dark and deeply earthy shou pu’erh that kind of said “Hey, I’ve been buried six feed underground” to capture that state of decay and darkness that is at the core of this novel as a piece of Gothic Literature – and which is reflected in the ambiance of the novel/narrative. It just… felt right, y’know?
Then around November Bitterleaf teas released this tea and it seemed too perfect to not capitalize on it. It was a shou/black tea hybrid – this “unnatural” combination forced together to try and create something new, the name was fucking perfectly spot on, and I got to go down the Shou road that had been in my mind. I ordered a cake, paused reading the novel (because I was about 1/2 way through at that point) and waited until it arrived so that I could finish it with this tea that destiny seemed to be telling me pair with it.
I’m glad I did – it was brilliant with this novel! At least in the tea sessions I’ve had thus far, the shou really does dominate over the black tea, and the flavour is this glorious mix of malt, just a bit of stonefruit, and thick petrichor and decaying wood. It’s so dark and it has that eerie “hunting for body pieces” vibe that I wanted, in a very good way. It’s just such a brilliant pairing for the novel – and I know that’s NOT a modest thing to say because I thought of the pairing, but I’m gonna give myself that pat on the back because I just love it.
Also, definitely don’t regret caking it either – this is the kind of profile I’d enjoy super easily outside of the setting of this podcast as well.
My Geek Photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/CKH2MbRAni6/
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I haven’t had many Ban Pen teas, so I was happy to get an opportunity to taste a fresh one with BLT adding 8 Ball to their 2020 line-up. It’s quite a masculine tea and not really my absolute favourite type of a profile. It is, however, distinct from most teas in my collection. Maybe the closest one would be Jiu Tai Po – a Jinggu tea with a similar bitter, grainy, and nutty character.
Objectively, this is undoubtedly a high quality tea. It is processed slightly on the greener side, as is quite common for Bu Lang sheng as far as I can tell. The huigan is very pronounced and the full-bodied liquor has a very soft and plump texture to it, coupled with a numbing and slightly abrasive sensation at the back of the mouth. The cha qi is creeping slowly, but ramps up to facilitate an all-encompassing peaceful state at its peak.
The dry leaf aroma is sweet and floral with a hint of gasoline and dry earth. After the rinse, the smell is more nutty and grainy. The dominant notes I pick up are musk and fenugreek leaves, but there are many others too.
First steep is already quite pungent with a lot of breadth. It is mineral, nutty, and bitter with an underlying sweetness to it. Floral and vegetal aspects arrive soon, as well as a nice sour tinge. In the first part of the session, there are flavours such as sunflowers, chard, alcohol, various seeds, and hops – the latter especially in the aftertaste.
Going towards steeps 6-8, I get more bassy impression with more of a typical punchy and granular Bu Lang profile carrying a hint of tobacco. Some floral and dry grass flavours with nutty undertones return subsequently, such as acorn or eucalyptus. Some fruitiness reminiscent of quince comes to the fore around the 12th infusion too. The crisp aftertaste has consistently floral character to it, mixed in with some bourbon too, interestingly.
I end the session after about 18 steeps which is just short of 300ml/g, a pretty good longevity for a young tea. I can definitely recommend the tea to anyone interested in getting a solid tea that showcases a village that’s maybe not as commonly found on the western market as a couple of neighboring ones. I can’t speak to how representative it is, but I think one gets their money’s worth, just about.
Flavors: Alcohol, Bitter, Dry Grass, Earth, Eucalyptus, Floral, Flowers, Grain, Hops, Mineral, Nutty, Plants, Sweet, Tobacco, Vegetal, Whiskey
I got a sample in the form of dragon balls. They have the right amount of compression and open up easily after about 10-15 sec rinse.
The tea has a strong Lincang character (crisp, high florals, citrus notes) but also some faint Jinggu-like grainy notes. It’s definitely a more wild and forest-like tasting tea than your average tea from the well-kept gardens of Mengku. The liquor is medium bodied, but it has a lovely mouth-watering and very soft texture.
Dry leaves smell of dried mushrooms, after the rinse I find the aromas similar to those of Yunnanese green teas. They are vegetal, grassy and citrusy and overall quite beautiful.
With dragon balls, the rinse is rarely great, but here I like its crisp and sweet vegetal character with notes of bok choy and pollen. First proper infusion is floral and tart with a touch of bitterness. There are flavours of hot hay, barley, and lemon zest.
Subsequent steeps bring out more of quinine-like bitterness that I really enjoy. Other notes include those of red apple, courgette, and mushrooms. The aftertaste is surprisingly astringent at times and displays a lot of floral sweetness.
Song pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNfLqCZkFWc
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Bok Choy, Citrusy, Floral, Grain, Hot Hay, Lemon Zest, Mushrooms, Sweet, Tart, Vegetal, Zucchini
Thank you Whiteantlers!
This is a backlog from yesterday. I’ve avoided opening this one because I put Bitterleaf Teas on a pedestal of pricy. But then I looked at the 2016 date, and the time was now.
This tea is interesting and doesn’t have the same astringency as most Dan Congs, or the Ripe Heady florals of most of the Yashi’s I’ve drank. Russ’s notes cherry were interesting because it does have a weird tang and fruitiness that resembles cherries, but lighter pink ones instead of the red ones that usually come to mind. The note itself had the soft tartness of some cascara, or coffee cherries, and that’s what I’m going to pick for my palette vocab today.
The tea’s overall character though is very milky, floral, and laced with minerals. The tea’s color itself is a very creamy yellow in shorter steeps and orange color in longer steeps, and the flavor with the mouthfeel create an almost dairy like sensation. The minerals that follow up are like mineral water, and while slightly sweet, they just add a lot of texture in every brew of the tea gong fu. Otherwise, the flavor is pretty light and I needed to add more leaves in the next session to get more flavor, and grant a medium for the bizarre cascara notes. Aroma packed a much more extreme profile that was almost like japanese milk candy. I’d almost use lychee to describe the smell, but I am so frickin’ tired of that note moniker, and the fruitiness is not tropical and not prominent.
I really liked this tea because it was easy to drink and combined my favorite elements unique to oologs. You don’t get heavy minerals combied with a creamier flavor often, Dancongs also usually go to astringent extremes between the floral, fruity, and toasty, but this one is very balanced. If I didn’t feel weird about the shipping, I’d probably would have gotten some this myself, but thankfully, Whiteantlers gave me the opportunity to drink this up.
I’d also add Hugo Tea’s Yashi Dancong they have is pretty similar to this one and a little bit heavier in its body, and has cheaper shipping costs in U.S. It does have a little bit more sourdough flavor to it, but it’s comparable. This one still highly appeals to me-I’m bumping up the rating to reflect that as I sip it down today.
Flavors: Cherry, Cream, Floral, Milk, Mineral, Sugar
No notes yet. Add one?
Finally getting around to trying this tea and having owned it for, oh I don’t know, four years!? Maybe even five, potentially…
I brewed it up Grandpa style and I just don’t think that was the best way to steep it up – especially the first time when I didn’t have a great understanding/grasp on what the usual flavour profile is. I found it rather green/vegetal and biting, with a lot of dryness and tobacco notes. Not the kind of flavour profile that I personally gravitate towards in sheng, and it was just so concentrated that it made for a rough cup. I still drank a few “top ups” of my grandpa brew to not have wasted the leaf and see if it would improve, but…
Not my thing.
This is a one of the most woody ripe pu’er teas I’ve encountered. Especially in the aroma there is a strong note of wood chippings, complemented by grape juice and red currant.
The taste is a little fishy / marine at first but also very clean. It gets more mineral and bitter as the session progresses, displaying flavours of mead, cranberry, wood, shellfish, and betel nut. The liquor is medium bodied with a soy milk like texture and a decent astringency that is also present after swallowing as a constrictive and a little abrasive feeling in the throat and back of the mouth especially. The aftertaste is cooling, sweet and mildly sour. It lasts for a while, but lacks pungency.
Flavors: Astringent, Berry, Bitter, Cranberry, Drying, Fishy, Grapes, Marine, Mineral, Sawdust, Wood
1st steep 3 minutes: Enjoying this as my first cup of the morning while I answer work emails and start on my soil lectures!
This one is lightly malty and really delicious. It’s reminding me a lot of another tea I can’t put my finger on.
2nd steep 4 minutes, 30 seconds: I steeped this up then got distracted cleaning the bunnies, taking a shower, then doing yoga, but this is still tasty! There’s still a lot of the same flavour from the first steep and it’s great lukewarm haha.
As it cools, there’s definitely some first flush Darjeeling notes here – some hay and the lightest malt.
3rd steep 6 minutes: Still delicious with those hints of Darjeeling. Really enjoyable cuppa, all thanks to Cameron!
I am a little bit conflicted about this Dan Cong. It has a complex and nuanced character, long-lasting aftertaste, a super interesting texture and a strong cha qi. This is no doubt a high quality tea on multiple levels. Yet, on the whole, I am not super thrilled about drinking it and I am not even sure why. Maybe I will warm up to it later, my second session today was already much more agreeable than the initial one.
In terms of aromas, there are notes of stonefruits (peach), yeast, milk, tropical fruits and orchid before the rinse. Afterwards, the smell is pungent and flowery with hints of rose and straw. Finally, there is a nice spicy scent of vanilla, cinnamon and scones in the empty cup.
Taste-wise, the session starts off sweet, floral and very mineral. There are flavours of apple, wet rocks, rapeseed and fruit tree flowers. Later on, I also found notes of cloves, hazelnut and fermented fruits. The aftertaste is spicy and warming with additional flavours of apricot and kumquat.
Some of the most interesting things about the tea is clearly the mouthfeel. It is very soft and creamy with a sort of misty quality to it. Body is medium to full and has a drying finish. Another notable fact is the sedating and heady cha qi. In my experience, it’s a tea to zone out rather than to keep you focused.
edit: Yet another mark of quality is just how long the tea lasts without getting flat or overly astringent. Today, I got 17 infusions pretty easily, more than 300ml/g.
Flavors: Apricot, Cinnamon, Citrus Fruits, Cloves, Creamy, Drying, Floral, Flowers, Fruit Tree Flowers, Fruity, Hazelnut, Milk, Mineral, Orchid, Peach, Rose, Stonefruit, Straw, Sweet, Tropical, Vanilla, Wet Rocks, Yeast
The fact this tea is as old as my youngest sibling, who is a full blown teenager now, is really messing with my mind tonight…
I avoided golden flower tea for a long time because I was worried I might be allergic to the spores, but I’m glad I eventually tested it out and didn’t have a reaction because fuck me it’s good. This is thick and sweet, with bright fruity top notes of juicy Pink Lady apple & red currant jam bleeding into the main sip (especially in early steeps) with more of a smoked oak/applewood, forest undergrowth, and tobacco profile rising from the undertones into the body and finish. A slight bit saline in late steeps. Beautiful and nuanced, this is the perfect warming & cozy start to the day!