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Recent Tasting Notes
Gongfu!Lincang is one of the regions in Yunnan that I’ve sampled from before, but am generally a little less familiar with. I believe this is the first sheng I’ve tried from the region that has reaaalllyyyy stuck out for me – from the first couple steeps it had a beautifully coating sweetness with a gentle astringency to the liquor. Certainly a little bit of a greener edge, but as described by BLT also fairly fruity. It just seemed immediately agreeable, and only got better over the coarse of the session!
Tea Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CdY084gOANO/
Couldn’t decide if I wanted a black tea or some shou this afternoon, so I’ve split the difference with this session! Like the 2020 version of this tea, this blended cake of hong cha and ripe puer is pretty unique! With the previous year’s pressing I’ve generally found the tasting notes and qi of the pu’erh to be most prominent, but with this tea session I’m sort of finding the reverse to be true. Though there’s a clean earthy undertone throughout and some early infusions have a heavy molasses taste as well, this blend eventually brightens up into a more sweet and fruity profile tinged with jammy notes of pomegranate and red berries, with some syrupy raisin and date flavours in the finish!
Tea Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CdjHSJfuJsY/
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ag9z1T-THCI&ab_channel=MarioCuomo
I love the combination of deeply earthy shou with dark, sweet forest berries so this combo is checking all the boxes for me today! On tip of being quite earthy with a molasses or brown sugar like undertone, there is a faint fruit note to this pu’erh already, so I love the extra little bit of complimenting flavour. Thick, syrupy liquor from the tea with tender sweet blackberries that practically melt in your mouth!? Yes please!
Tea Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/Ccsv6t6uew8/
Yesterday I sipped on a dragonball of this sheng paired with some guava for an early afternoon/late lunch tea session today! This Jingmai pu’erh is a favourite of mine in virtually all its various years’ productions for its soft, sweet and floral profile and it’s working surprisingly well with the fresh – and not too bright or acidic – tropical flavours of the guava. In fact, it’s actually bringing a lot of emphasis to the already naturally floral undertones of the fruit!
Tea Photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/CcGZUo5OmzS/
After the rinse the wet leaves aroma is pure and layered with florals, dried fruits, berries, vegetables. No smoke. The berry aspect is very strong and acidic, almost like cough syrup.
Through the infusions the fruity aroma from the leaves makes space to malt, toasted nuts and cacao. The liquor feels brothy, smooth, with the right balance of bitter and sweet. I’m actually tasting most of the aromas. The aftertaste lingers for minutes with good complexity and spice tingling in the throat.
Overall a really delicious, enjoyable tea.
Enjoyed a session with this eerily accurately named black tea this afternoon! It’s got such a beautiful deep red liquor but, aside from a gentle astringency throughout the session along with hints of plum skins and malt in early steeps, there’s not a whole lot to say about this tea because I just find the name to be quite accurate! Definitely more of a cacao/bitter cocoa note as opposed to luxe notes of dark chocolate, and a floral leaning white peach note instead of something syrupy and juicy – but those notes are there and beautiful!
Tea Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/Cafp4GhOCWM/
Sipped on this yesterday afternoon. The session started so fragile and delicate and early steeps had the sweetness that lingers on the tongue after a particularly good bite of soft, floral and juicy pear. The floral quality does grow over the session but slowly – the kind of incline where you hardly notice in the moment but that when, when you look backwards, makes you realize you’ve essentially climbed to the top a hill. This is definitely a much softer tea than I expected, but quite enjoyable.
Tea Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CaK4JJFuway/
Song Pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvIRo8yWfM&abchannel=SanFermin-Topic
finished up my sample of this today.
4.5g, 100mL duanni, Brita filtered tap, boiling, 2 rinses as before.
think it’s been dehydrated since the last time, as the ziploc bag plastic zipper broke, but anyways not too bad. Realizing now that dehydration of ripe samples was why they all initially tasted more or less the same to me when i started drinking puer (even given that ripes generally have less complexity than raws). Sure, dehydrated ripe does better than dry sheng, but the notion that RH isn’t an important consideration for ripes is really a disservice to beginners who don’t know better.
Stronger bitterness the first steep. Generally good texture, and more of the slight sweet milkiness I noted last time in second steep. There was a bit of a caramel-like note as well in that steep. Other than that, not very exciting, similar to last time.
Verdict: Nice daily drinker level ripe.
Thanks to Tykal for the sample!
6.3g, 100ml duanni, boiling, filtered Brita tap. 2 quick rinses with a few minutes in between. Mixed steep times. Some nice milky aftertaste that disappeared after the 2nd steep, which I had with second rate vodka sauce pizza during lunch, which may or may not be pertinent, perhaps a confounding variable. Dunno. Nice caffeine kick for today, basic woody shou aspects, slight medicinal notes and bitterness at some points. Nothing else really stuck out to me about it. Not a tea to call home about (and to be fair, rarely will a tea to call home about be shou puer), but a decent daily drinker for the price, were it still available.
edit: Hm. The overnight thermos of was more on the boring flat end of the spectrum.
Saw how cold it was going to be on the day I was in office last week and immediately reached for one of Bitterleaf’s ‘In The Mood For Tea’ stuffed mandarin oranges to sip on throughout the day! This one is the Jinggu white tea and, though it’s definitely much less sweet than the black tea version I had not very long ago, it is still aromatic and delicious in its own distinct way. I definitely get more of that deep and soothing medicinal and coating flavour of orange that I find in most chenpi teas, but it almost feels closer to snow chrysanthemum in that it also has the pungent florals and herbaceous notes of dill to complete and round out the profile. It’s delicious and warming on this cold day and there’s really not much else I could ask for in this moment!
(I did steep the whole stuffed mandarin; just cracked it in half first)
Tea Photo: https://www.instagram.com/p/CZPWQzWO4uC/
Started my Sunday with a coin of this ripe from BLT’s five year anniversary sale. Though my experience with yiwu shou is much more limited than with sheng, I have tended to enjoy all that I have tried and if this tea session is only doubling down on that sentiment; the liquor of this shou is thick and creamy, and the taste has a deep earthy and savory quality that is offset by a syrup note of oranges. It’s sort of boozy tasting and with the complex undertones of vanilla and wood the combination of everything is really making me think of Grand Marnier liqueur!! Paired with some raspberry dark chocolate, and this is just a nice hit of deep, dark flavours with the perfect pop of fruits! Mmmm…
Tea Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CZXFuZ7u3Yz/
I nursed a cup of this at the office today for much of my workday. It started off so delicate and sweet with this flowy floral notes and the most pleasant thick liquor. However, as it sat over the day I was a little surprised by how bitter it ended up getting. One of the reasons I reach so much towards Jingmai, and Bitterleaf Tea’s Jingmai in particular, is because of the soft floral character of it. It was fine because I’d just delute the cup until it was more where I wanted it to be.
Just caught me off guard, is all.
In the tea’s defense, it may have partially been me. I have been working at home so much lately that being in the office can start to feel quite over stimulating and I definitely think I was experiencing some sensory overload at different parts of the day today.
This is one of my oldest teas, as it came from the final “Here’s Hoping Teabox” which was the first teabox I joined as a newbie on Steepster back in… 2016 or 2017, I think? I finished everything I had from that box except a few pu’erh samples, as I always think to myself, “Age can’t hurt this!” and try to drink other things that are getting less and less fresh each day. But I failed my “one gong fu session a month” goal last year, and want to try that goal again this year! So I pulled this out to gong fu this morning.
My package simply says “Yiwu Sheng Pu-erh 2016” on it, and since this is the closest match I can find, I’m putting it here (if it is something else, apologies!)
80ml (mini pot) | 4.43g | 205F | Rinse/10s/13s/16s/19s/22s/25s/28s/31s
The wet leaf has a really pungent aroma… smells like umami cooked meats, bitter fruit rind, hay, and minerals. The rinse had a strong aroma of sour fruits and hay. The first steep, after a bit of cooling, has a gentler aroma, and tastes surprisingly fruity and smooth… I’m getting a cooked stonefruit vibe, particularly plum, with a bit of a dry hay/herbaceous backdrop and a bit of minerality in the finish. The next infusion smells and tastes delightfully plummy, a little sour at first with a honeyed note coming forward afterward. I’m getting a sort of black licorice aftertaste on my tongue (which is fine by me, I’m one of those rare black licorice fans). That aftertaste becomes more of a mild muscatal note in subsequent steeps, with the sip continuing to be very plum forward, with a bit more florality/wildflower honey and graham cracker popping up in the taste. Around the sixth infusion the stonefruit notes disappeared and it became more of a mix of bitter melon, hay, herbaceous, citrus peel, and mineral notes. Steeped for eight infusions.
Flavors: Bitter Melon, Citrus Zest, Floral, Graham Cracker, Herbaceous, Honey, Hot Hay, Licorice, Mineral, Muscatel, Plum, Stewed Fruits, Stonefruit
My brain seems to constantly want to autocorrect the name of this tea to ‘Plum Blossom’ instead and I think maybe that’s because this session starts off with a pleasant mild sweetness and soft fruity and floral quality. It builds up into something that’s a bit more balanced between the supple sweetness and a pleasant bitterness. I mostly really enjoy the mouthfeel of this tea; it rides a fine line between soft and delicate which also having a rich thickness and viscosity.
Tea Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CYrrzDdOgfa/
This is unrelated to the tea, but the dice in this photo set are probably my favourite set that I own. They have little teacups inside them!
Yesterday I broke into a fresh cake of the new pressing of BLT’s Skinny Dip. The 2019 pressing of this tea is one of my favourite white teas that BLT has ever carried so I was so excited to steep this one up!! It’s refreshingly crisp and vegetal with the sort of creamy cucumber pulp note that I just adore in white tea!! Light, refreshing, and approachable & honestly just insanely good value for how inexpensive the cake was!
Tea Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CYUfP3zOEjv/
So this was my first tea session (though not first tea) of the year – not for any particular reason aside from the fact I got this order in right before my holiday break and I’ve been waiting for a good day to steep one of them up since. As it’s a colder grey and overcast afternoon, the sweet and comforting profile of an orange stuffed tea felt correct for the day. It really is QUITE sweet though!
Opening up the package the aromatic sweet orange notes immediately punctuate the moment, as if to say “You’re in for one hell of a treat!” – and from the first steep my whole room smelled beautifully of the juicy, sweet ripe orange – like digging your nails into the skin of a good clementine or tangerine and breathing in the mist of essential oils spraying back at you as the rind peels back. The session just kept going with the spectrum of steeps ranging from syrupy sweet candied orange to a more full bodied and robust (but still smooth and rounded) coating profile of plump, ripe clementine slices with rich black tea that added additional notes of sweet red fruits, leather, and honey.
Have I conveyed enough of how sweet and distinctly this tea tasted of orange!? It was perfection!! I’m honestly so glad I decided to go all in and get multiples of each of the three tea bases because this is probably one of the most pleasant orange stuffed teas that I’ve ever had!
Tea Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CYM_gd4ugUG/
Enjoying a moment of calm with this session and a new teacup!! One of my favourite notes in a good yellow tea is that lovely toasted peanut or hazelnut note you often get and in particular I’m finding the top notes of the steeps in the early session to have a very lovely rich and buttery toasted hazelnut character. The body of both the sip and the session, as I push past earlier infusions, is surprisingly sweet and fruity to me; like red currant jelly but with a more vegetal and grassy finish that tips this tea’s hand and reveals its closer kinship to green tea. It’s very lovely with a gentle and kind presence!!
Tea Photos: https://www.instagram.com/p/CX_x_60uwhk/
Gongfu Sipdown (1540)!
Finished my last dragonball this morning with some sweet red grapes snacked on in between the steeps!! I’m keeping the steep times really short because I’m looking to pull some more of the sweet crisp vegetal and mineral notes of this tea, but not the progressive bitterness and astringency and it’s working alright! There’s something about the vegetal notes here – especially early in this tea session – that remind me of the taste of freshly picked cucumbers or sugar snaps straight from the garden in summer. It’s the clean sweetness mixed with the slight minerality of the soil that hadn’t been totally washed off yet. Later steeps progress to more of a green bell pepper type of vegetal flavour, but leaning hard into the minerality and picking up bitterness. It’s good, though not my normal preference and not something I’d repurchase simply because of that fact & I’m happy to have the grapes to nibble on as those elements amp up as this session pushes forward…
Inspired by Theoolongdrunk to dip into this sheng yesterday afternoon with a whole heap of juicy fresh blueberries! Truthfully, while I love blueberry flavoured things, I’m not the biggest fan of actual blueberries because I find the taste and texture often too unpredictable. However this was a pretty sweet pint, and I thought complimented the more green bell pepper & overall vegetal leaning taste of this sheng. While it does have a strong lingering sweetness (a bit like anise) in the finish, I generally don’t favor more vegetal teas so the additional blueberries were an improvement on the tea session for me!
Taking advantage of the beautiful crisp autumn weather this afternoon to crack into this cake and steep some tea at the park!! This is the first time I’ve personally come across a compressed yellow tea before, and it’s quite interesting! While the first infusions did have a slight fruity sweetness, like most yellow tea from Meng Ding that I’ve come across this session settled into a rather toasty and nutty profile with flavours of golden roasted peanuts and hints of hazelnut complimenting a bit of a sweetgrass and dandelion undertone. This tea session was pretty calm and easygoing, which makes me excited to continue to play with this unique pressing
Having defended my PhD thesis yesterday, I decided to treat myself with a special tea. This is a cake I bought blind this year and the first sniff I had of the tea back when it arrived blew me away. I never thought raw pu-erh could have such a pungent, feminine, room-filling aroma of honey and flowers emerge from a single cake. In any case, I haven’t tried it until today, as there wasn’t really the right occasion for it.
Since I’ve moved continents recently and haven’t had the time to figure out how to set up my storage after the move yet, my cakes are currently stored in bags without active humidification. That may be one of the reasons, why the aroma wasn’t quite as remarkable when I opened the pouch today. Also, after the rinse, the smell is quite weak and merely reminds me of some sweet grassy scent.
The first infusion is a pretty wild ride. It has medium body and a soft, bubbly, and mouth-watering texture. There is a mineral bitterness, strong umami, vegetal, sweet, sour as well as yeasty notes. I detected also flavours of mung beans, grass, and mint.
Second steep has a very unique mouthfeel that I am struggling to find the right description of, it felt kind of … wet? That’s a weird descriptor. Whenever I tried to focus on the textural sensation, it felt as if the liquor almost wasn’t there. I can’t recall ever having an experience quite like this one. The taste is once again sweet and sour with notes of olive oil and spring onion.
Third infusion is the thickest yet. I probably overbrewed it a bit, but I do like the added pungency and bitterness. Subsequent infusions continue in the vein of bitter florals coupled with the mineral profile Naka tea is known for, but they didn’t stick out to me as quite as interesting.
There is a sour umami aftertaste reminiscent of miso at times, wheat-like grainy note, lemon flavour (especially around steeps 8-10) and a lasting black pepper spiciness.
The cha qi had pretty subtle onset, but once it hit I found the feeling to be very relaxing. It’s a perfect tea to slow down.
Given the price it sells for, I am not quite sure if I would wholeheartedly recommend it. I will see how my future sessions are, but the OG Naka from BLT is a better deal I’d say.
Song pairing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iT5innrMz0k
Flavors: Beany, Bitter, Citrus, Floral, Grass, Lemon, Mineral, Mint, Olive Oil, Sour, Sweet, Umami, Vegetal, Wheat, Yeast
I’m a big fan of the 2019 vintage of this tea and the 2021 harvest does not disappoint. Having already reviewed the (now sold out) 2019 version, most of the things I wrote there should also apply to this tea, so I will keep this short and sweet and not repeat myself here.
Like its predecessor, the 2021 Full Frontal is a strong tea with plenty of bite and great longevity. The soup is thick with a pleasing texture. While obviously still floral, I actually found the ’21 less of a flower bomb than the ’19 and instead it displayed some interesting hints of a cocktail of various fruity notes alongside the florals.
While it starts off sweet and gentle, the bitterness ramps up as the infusions progress and grow longer. While I virtually always brew my raws with freshly boiled water, this is one of the teas where I like to do two infusions before reboiling. I find Full Frontal to respond well to ~95°C water and alternating between 99°C and 95°C gives a fun insight into the more biting and slightly gentler facets of the tea. If you’re afraid of this tea being too intense, you can experiment with using less leaf and slightly cooler water. I would expect it to still perform well.
I’d regard Full Frontal ’21 to be just as good as the ’19. If you missed out on the original or have already drunk it all, this tea comes highly recommended. I remember considering this tea to be a good value, but upon checking the price on the website, I needed to do a double take when I was the price per gram. 22¢/g is ridiculously good value for this tea! I’d expect it to sell for at least 30¢/g and even 40¢ wouldn’t be unreasonable at all. I’m tempted to pick up a cake myself, because I don’t have that much Jingmai and this tea ticks all the boxes for me.
Flavors: Bitter, Floral, Fruity, Sweet, Thick