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Recent Tasting Notes
This was my first puerh from Jalam Teas, courtesy of Togo. I performed some cursory browsing of the website. What I gleaned is that this company does a monthly subscription box with one-100g puerh cake. Sale of that specific tea is reserved first for subscription members and later opened to the public. The club costs $19/mo + shipping and handling of CAD $3, USD $5, International $6. Seems like a viable option for sippers wanting to explore the puerh-producing villages at a reasonable and focused pace; however most of the tea offered is young sheng and as evidenced by this tea, it is not something I could immediately drink 100g of in a month. The 100g cake size might not appeal to people looking to store sheng puerh for the long-term.
That said, I found this to be a nice sheng to drink on a warm afternoon. I can see where this tea would be heading in a year but I’m not experienced enough to determine a more distant future. It has the hallmarks of a young sheng that will supposedly store well: the bitterness and astringency come to the forefront after the first 4 to 5 steeps.
Otherwise, it starts off with a very fruity profile with Menghai characteristics, the county in which Hekai is located. Sour moving to sweet plum is the dominant note in aroma and taste for several steeps and it lingers long in the nose. There is also a strong umami and whisper of smoke that present early. It reminds me of a Greek dish called kreas me fasolakia, or beef with green beans, a dish seared then stewed with tomato sauce. That fades out before the astringency and bitterness come in strong. But before their arrival, other tastes move through including yellow pear/skin, minerals and butter. The aftertaste is fruity, quick to arrive and everlong, starting with plums and moving to white grapes, semi-sweet white wine, and buttery apricot. The mouthfeel in the first few steeps is satisfying — it’s almost syrupy and coating yet very buoyant in the mouth… again like wine. Returning sweetness is decent and of course gets stronger as the bitterness comes out.
The understated powerful energy of this tea slowly crept in and damn if I didn’t feel heavy. An intense craving for pizza overtook me, as a strong young sheng commands: “Get some food in that belly!” So I went to Round Table, had a huge salad, a thin crust veggie pizza and a beer then came home to watch Jeopardy. Good way to wind down the work week. Overall, this He Kai Old Tree Sheng is a nice tea with potential and I would like to store a cake for a year before trying again.
Edited to add a song: Foo Fighters — Everlong
Flavors: Apricot, Astringent, Bitter, Butter, Clay, Fruity, Green Beans, Hay, Mineral, Mushrooms, Paper, Pear, Plum, Sweet, Tart, Umami, White Grapes, White Wine
I finally have a glazed gaiwan of comparable size to my young sheng clay pot, so that I can do a side by side comparison. I used this particular tea for that purpose, as I haven’t tried it in a while.
The tea itself hasn’t changed much. It is still very floral with a strong honey sweetness, a chalky mouthfeel and a green bell pepper flavour to it. The main characteristics are its incredible longetivity and huigan (given the price). In some sense, this is the perfect tea to explain what huigan is to people who are not into pu’er.
As far as the pot comparison is concerned, I found very little difference. The glazed gaiwan yielded a bit more astringency and bite initiallly, and a slightly more vegetal profile overall. On the other hand, the tea from the clay pot was less floral and a bit more brassy. All in all, the difference was negligible I would say.
Flavors: Astringent, Floral, Green Bell Peppers, Honey, Sweet
This is a nice sheng, not a spectacular one, but it has no clear drawbacks either. The body is very good and it has a fairly floral character. The aroma is sweet with a lot of floral notes as well as salt crackers, rosemary and chicken meat present. Flavours are strong and mostly herbaceous, notably I can taste some fenugreek. The bitterness and astringency are present, but both in moderation. Aftertaste is long and peppery, with notes like bay leaf. The huigan is notably strong too. As far as longetivity goes, I finished the session after 14 infusions, but could’ve pushed it for a bit longer if I wanted. Overall, a good value for the price.
Flavors: Floral, Herbaceous, Herbs, Meat, Roasted Chicken, Spices, Sweet
Drinking this tea today, I noticed some mild sour fermentation note and the flavours to be a bit muted overall. There is a touch more sweetness in the aftertaste, of the tree sap kind. Other than that, the experience matches my earlier encounters of it – with strong mineral, herbal bitterness in the center of the stage.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Floral, Herbaceous, Mineral, Sap, Sour
I drank this tippy Naka yesterday and here’s some new observations about it.
The wet leaves now have a slightly peaty aroma. Interestingly, the most complex and distinctive fragrance emerges from the empty cup/cha hai. It is perfumy with notes of honey and black locust flowers.
Taste is quite bitter, tangy and mineral, the bitterness being present even at lower brewing temperatures. It also has a returning floral/herbaceous quality, which at times reminds me of this cough syrup I used to take as a kid – Stoptussin. Other flavour notes include some spices, grapefruit skin and wood. The astringency is decent and turns into a drying, cooling aftertaste with a lasting bitterness.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Citrus Zest, Drying, Floral, Flowers, Grapefruit, Herbaceous, Honey, Mineral, Peat, Perfume, Spicy, Tangy, Wood
This was one of the best teas I got to try at the Toronto Tea Festival this year, and since the price seemed right, I picked up a cake of this tippy sheng.
Tasting it today for the first time didn’t leave such a strong impression though. The tea doesn’t seem to stand out in any particular way. Nevertheless, it is quite tasty and balanced, which would make it suited for casual brews. The main flavours I noticed are the standard ones – heavy honey sweetness, hay, some herbal bitterness, florals like at a summer meadow and such. The body is medium and there is a decent astringency. Aftertaste is not too strong, but does last for quite a while. The tea also succeeded in waking me up properly after a heavy lunch.
So yeah, not bad, but not too memorable either.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Floral, Hay, Honey, Pleasantly Sour, Sweet
It’s been a year since I started this little storage experiment with my two identical cakes of He Kai sheng from Jalam Teas. One of them is stored in the “natural” Canadian storage in my living space (I will call this one the “dry” one), the other one together with all the other cakes in a controlled environment (which I will refer to as the “humid” one). Let’s see what the difference is, if any, after one year.
From the very start, there is a startling difference in terms of the aroma. The “dry” version has a strong creamy, sweet, grassy, and milky scent, while the leaves of the “humid” version smell flowery with notes of honey and breckland thyme. The two are really quite different, but neither seems ‘better’ per se.
The humid one has a very slightly darker liquor and is less green in the leaves. The next significant difference comes about in the taste. The profiles are not that different, but the dry tea has a short finish, and is more subdued and metallic in general. The humid version has a much more pronounced taste with a stronger huigan. It is grassy with a biting finish and a sweet, cooling aftertaste. The late infusions seems to be more similar overall.
As for the mouthfeel, I’d say the humid tea thicker body, is more astringent and has a more distinctively creamy and lubricating texture.
It’s hard to extract any significant conclusion from this session, but at the very least it doesn’t make me disassemble my pu’er storage solutions :D
Flavors: Biting, Bitter, Creamy, Floral, Grass, Honey, Metallic, Sweet, Thyme
First time trying this tea out. Since I have two cakes, I decided to conduct a small test of my personal pu’er storage and left one of them out. I will be regularly coming back to these two to look for any differences. The first side by side tasting is just 3 weeks after I got the cakes, so I don’t expect there to be any differences due to aging, but I still want to see if just the fact that they had to acclimatize to different environments will have an effect.
The “humid” version: more pungent and interesting wet leaf smell, more savoury, herbal, grassy and umami flavours. Stronger and more interesting aftertaste (but tbh it’s very hard to differentiate the aftertaste in a side by side tasting).
The “dry” version: more astringency and stronger flavour (both could be due to different level of broken leaves). More milky, nutty and metallic.
No noticeable difference in the dry leaf smell and mouthfeel.
All the differences are minute though, as one would expect.
Wow. Ok. Got some things to say about this one!
First off, I think this is the tea I have in my cupboard that I bought ages ago at the tea festival? I hope.
It steeps up pretty dark, like a chocolate brown. Not quite coffee. Later infusions are lighter, of course.
There are plenty of woody notes but then somewhere around the fifth infusion, some intense aromas of garden soil emerged, while the taste was more of garden rocks. I had a very difficult time deciding whether I liked it! My brain told me I should hate it… but then I couldn’t figure out if that was psychological or not, and some strange throwback to my childhood made me think well maybe I should enjoy it after all… because I wasn’t permitted to lick rocks as a kid and it would be some kind of secret revenge LMAO. Not that I can recall ever wanting to lick rocks, but I’m certain it would have been prohibited!! Sighs. Yeah. I belong in the loonybin, I know.
Welp. It did go back to more of a woodsy note after two infusions. And then towards the end I noticed a sweet honeysuckle type note, and that airiness I love when I make it to late infusions of pretty much any oolong or black/puerh tea.
None of the notes (asides from the soil aroma) were particularly in your face, so I would say that its pretty smooth and mild. Not much of a caffeine buzz.
Also, I would say that there is almost no astringency, except it does have that drying sensation at some points, the kind I often see associated with clay notes. Here, that dryness was present during most steeps, petrichor and woodsy, although it did fade mostly in the last two infusions. Personally, I wouldn’t call that sensation astringent, as it didn’t have that typical sourness to it, and the drying sensation sat more at the back of the mouth, versus the front. Maybe my opinion on astringency will change, if I see it often after this? Oh. And that sensation did get a bit overwhelming at one point, and I had to take a break with another tea before coming back to this one.
Overall, I love the complexity but as you can see, its thrown me off a bit!! I guess it’s fitting that I hear rain tapping outside my window. There was snow earlier.
Feel free to judge. I’m a crazy bird what can I say :P
The flavours don’t change much from one infusion to the next and it is relatively pleasant. I’ve been quite distracted today. It could be my mental state, but I was a tad dismayed to find such little variation. Will definitely give it another go.
Also should be noted that the cake was quite dry despite being in my cupboard. So that could be why as well. What a long week.
The first time I made this, I honestly hated it. I liked it at the tea festival a year ago when I got it and I steeped it up here at home either Shortly after that in the spring or near the end of the year last year. I really can’t remember. I didn’t like it at all at that point. It was not my thing at all.
Today I’m trying it again, and for some reason I thought I’d try a lower water temp as maybe that’s why I hated it? Maybe I had used too hot of water? And I thought maybe it was a green tea in my head for some unknown reason?
Anyways, I did 75C water. And I like it much better, but I still don’t love it. I don’t hate it, but it’s definitely not one for me. To me it just tastes earthy and like hay almost. I was hoping for some more interesting tasting notes than that. Someone else that reviewed this tea said they taste plum or fruit notes? I wish I got that. I don’t find those flavours in there….
Maybe pu’erh teas are just not for me…. I obviously don’t have a refined enough palette for them. I’m really not sure what I’m going to do with this tea now…
My card was separated from this cake, so I’m not certain this is the correct tea.
There are strong fruity notes and a hint of smoke, so it makes sense…
Really loving the dryness here. It was why I bought the cake, after all!
Sadly, I may have burnt the leaves, as I absentmindedly dunked the leaves when the water was rather hot, shortly after I poured the boiled water. It doesn’t seem to have done much damage so I’ll have to see what happens next time I brew it up.
I’m on the third infusion now and it has only gotten sweeter, and a bit lighter.
Funny, I bought this because I’ve been craving the flavour profile, and yet I’m tempted to age it and see how that goes. Except.. it means that I’d have to avoid hoarding. Knowing me, my tastes will change long before I finish of the cake (I hope), so that I can store it for experimentation down the road.
I’m quite happy with this investment :)
Filtered Toronto tap, run through gravity filter, water stored in Lin’s ceramic kettle, then brought to temperature in Bona Vita variable temperature kettle. This is a great young sheng, and insanely unforgiving to steep. Going to age well, I think.
Mellow, malty, brassy, green (melon rind, underripe green fruit), medium astringency, hui gan. Slight tea drunkenness.
Got this one out of the Puerh TTB. The dry leaf had a slightly fruity aroma. After a rinse, it was more vegetal.
The first three steeps were mostly vegetal in character, with a bit of sweetness, some bitterness, and a bit of a funky taste in the finish. These steeps reminded me a lot of zucchini.
By the fourth steep, I wasn’t getting any more of whatever the funky note I was tasting was. At that point, the tea just became a nice and pleasantly thick vegetal tea with some sweetness and, at times, a pleasant bitterness. The aftertaste was neither particularly strong nor lingering. The texture was good and thick, could possibly be described as oily. This went on through steep #11.
The tea started dying around steep 12, with the flavor getting weaker and a little bit odd. I took it two more steeps before cutting it off – it may have had a bit more to give, but I didn’t want it anymore.
This tea was alright – it didn’t convince me to sign up for the Jalam Teaclub or anything, but didn’t convince me never to do so either.
Flavors: Sweet, Thick, Vegetal
Puerh Tea TTB. This is a fairly nice and slightly bitter sheng. It did not have an abiding bitterness that some sheng has. It developed a sweet note but I am not sure if I would call it apricots. It was pretty good. The leaves looked like good quality leaves from what little I can tell from appearance.
I steeped this eight times in a 120ml gaiwan with 7g leaf and boiling water. I gave it a 10 second rinse. I steeped it for 5 sec, 5 sec, 7 sec, 10 sec, 15 sec, 20 sec, 25 sec, and 30 sec.
Flavors: Bitter, Sweet
I liked the strong bold flavour of this one. After the 15s rinse, so far I’ve had several drinkable steeps at 20s and 30s. I can taste vegetal, astringency and wet hay. Unfortunately I don’t taste the apple peel or corn tastes, or milkiness that others noted.
Flavors: Hay, Vegetal
This was great. After the rinse I did a short steep of 20sec in the gaiwan. It was lighter than other Shou Puerh I’ve had, bright, not so heavy and earthy. So I steeped it 45 sec for the second drnkable steep. Lovely, more complex than other Puerh I’ve had and still smooth. I’d like to say that there is also a slight fruit taste, perhaps plum or prune but I don’t know that that’s really what it is that I’m tasting. Definitely wish I had more of this.
After a short rinse (15sec), I’ve so far had 2 drinkable steeps of 20 sec. I was pleasantly surprised that it was smooth and not astringent. There’s a smokiness and slight sweetness with a hint of peach at the end. I’ve been having a lot of oolongs, so it was nice to get back to a sheng Puerh. Really enjoyed this.
Flavors: Peach, Smoke
I’m in my second drinkable steep. Made it in gaiwan with a 15s wash, followed by 20s steeps so far. The scent was a little earthy but also a scent of sweetness. The taste is similar to the scent. Smooth but also bright. Even though it’s supposed to be a lower caffeine content I definitely feel a stimulating effect. I don’t taste all the complexity the previous reviewer mentioned. At least not yet.
Flavors: Sweet, Wet Earth, Wood