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Recent Tasting Notes
My first time trying any type of Kuding. It was light and herbal, vegetal with a slippery feel. Not as pungent as I expected, but that may be the amount of leaf I used. Brewed western style with half of the sample packet, below boiling for… 4? minutes. I wandered off and forgot about it. It went well with my artichoke rice bowl for breakfast. Not sure how I feel about it in general.
Flavors: Brisk, Green, Herbs, Vegetal
I had a longish tea session with a friend yesterday. They were drinking Lao ManE, so I wanted to drink something special, too. I meant to drink this one sooner, but I like to hold onto the last bit of tea for as long as possible. Someone sent me a sample of the Aiyana after boasting on the quality of Mei Leaf teas. They told me that this tea would make me a follower and permanent customer of Mei Leaf. Sure, they have a lot of hype, but I had my doubts about a few things (I don’t feel like getting into here).
The dry leaf didn’t have much of an aroma. I like to compare my notes to theirs on their site because their notes are waaaaaaaay out there.
They noted, “Bayberry syrup, fennel seeds and toffee licorice.”
I noted, “Youngish sheng/hay.”
Even their tasting notes were well beyond what I tasted. I tasted floral (nothing specific) and a touch of strawberry.
Their notes: “Strawberry jam, Victoria sponge, vanilla cream, flint and mountain flowers.”
Yeah, if I read their notes and purchased the cake at their incredibly high price, I may have been heavily disappointed. Was it good? Yeah, I thought so. Was it as good and complex as Mei Leaf said it was? No, not really.
PS. The leaf died after 9 infusions. Is this typical for gushu?
Flavors: Floral, Strawberry
This is one crazy tea. A lighter fermentation Bulang ripe fermented using black tea kombucha instead of spring water. I couldn’t resist trying it out and even felt lucky enough to go straight for a blind cake. When it finally arrived, I could just bring it to my nose, smell it through the wrapper and tell it’s not your typical ripe. It has none of that typical shu barnyard/compost smell that essentially all ripes have when dry. Instead I get this scent of gingerbread dough, perhaps some plums as well. Needless to say I was hyped to give this one a try.
After a mere couple days of rest, I could wait no longer. In went 8+ grams in my 100ml Jianshui clay teapot and after a brief rinse the stage was set. The smell of the wet leaves is very similar to the dry leaf. Slightly more sour, obviously richer and deeper, with an added note I can’t quite put my finger on but which makes me think of something similar to soy sauce.
Then I get to that always-so-magical first sip, and, yes, this tea tastes very much like it smells. Gingerbread dough, mix of spices, woody notes, sourdough, slight medicinal character and a surprisingly strong immediate cooling sensation in the mouth. I’m not sure if I’d call the coolness minty, menthol or something along those lines, but it wasn’t the typical camphor I most often get in ripes. This stuff is quite strong for a shu and potent to boot. After just a few small cups I was already feeling the tea in my body and soon after my head began to feel tingly and I started to feel intoxicated.
Midway through the session some bitterness started to creep in briefly, showcasing how some of the Bulang character has been preserved thanks to the lighter fermentation. Overall the tea wasn’t too dynamic though. The mouthfeel is good though, livelier than most ripes, and the tea even has a nice lubricating feeling in the throat, speaking to the quality of the material. I did push the tea all the way to the long multi-minute brews and while the small 100ml vessel size meant heat wasn’t maintained that well, the results were still decent enough. While light, the tea revealed a slightly citrusy character, accompanied by slight fizziness.
I’ve found Mei Leaf teas to be really hit or miss for me, but when they hit, they really hit it out of the park and I’m happy to say that is the case here. Not only is Playground Rendez-Vous really unique, but it is an actually good tea to boot. I would still classify it as a ripe, but it is unlike any other ripe I’ve ever tasted. I’m always somewhat skeptical of claims of the material being gushu when it comes to ripes, and even in cases where I can believe them, the supposed higher quality doesn’t always translate to the cup in an easily perceptible way, not in the same way as with raw pu’er. Here though, while I’d already disregarded all gushu claims, I can actually buy this coming from older trees. While this is no sheng pu’er, some of the qualities I look for in a high-quality raw have managed to make their way into the final shu in a way that seldom seems to happen even in the most high-end ripes I’ve tried.
If you’re a fan of ripes, you’ll most likely enjoy this tea. It is at the very least worth a sample. At £69/200g (~$0.46/g) it is far from a cheap tea, but at least for me the price is (nearly) justified. Most teas past $0.40/g simply can’t deliver the same quality-to-price ratio as teas below that, and when it comes to ripes that often ends up being even more challenging to achieve. Here you are paying some for the uniqueness, but also for the quality, and the end result ends up living up to the expectations better than most shus with a hefty price tag.
The tea has absolutely zero of the typical ripe funk and I found it extremely clean tasting at the time of writing, a mere year after being fermented. If you absolutely hate ripes, this is unlikely to change your mind, but if you’re kind of on the fence and feel like you just haven’t found any ripes you like (that was me for many years), this one might be worth a shot. I drank this together with my mom who can’t stand ripes and her descriptors for it were: bitter, medicinal and cat piss. She really hated this one. Fortunately she loves sheng.
I will need to spend more sessions with Playground Rendez-Vous, but so far I really enjoy it and it’s certainly among my favorite ripes. I am seriously considering buying a second cake.
Flavors: Citrus, Cookie, Medicinal, Mint, Spices, Wood
Very mild. It can be brewed strong, Gong Fu style, in order to enjoy more of the Aged Tangerine Peel flavors mixed in with the Wuyi Oolong and PuErh Tea Leaves. Very smooth, never seems to get bitter or astringent, and is good for a good number of Gong Fu infusions.
Flavors: Berries, Orange Zest, Vanilla, Wet Wood
I thought this tea was pretty good…even with my limited experience tasting yellow teas. The sweet/sour starfruit note was really prominent and the pumpkin seed warmth was something that I also really enjoyed. Honestly, quite delicious and worth the higher price than usual yellow teas. I could get about 4-5 good brews out of it. My dad and aunt didn’t care too much for this tea, hilariously stating that it tasted like eggs and chicken broth to them. I strongly disagree. I followed suppliers advice of 120 seconds for first steep at 165F temp. I think this works best for this tea.
Site doesn’t allow me to put exact time and temperature so disregard what it auto-populates below….but, I followed Mei Leaf guidelines for 20 seconds for first brew and 210F. Honestly, this tea just reminds me overwhelmingly of BBQ-esque/smoky flavor. Not a huge fan. I guess it did compliment the smoked BBQ ribs I was eating at the time LOL. But, unfortunately I did not pick up much of the tasting notes promised by Mei Leaf (Pandan, roasted nuts, creme brulee, malted milkshake).
I haven’t tried so many semi-aged sheng but this is so far my favourite.
No camphor, no medicinal flavour. Very complex bouquet like a jurassic forest.
Plums, wood, leather. Very fruity. Tobacco.
Turns into something purple. There’s a reason why this tea’s wrapper is purple. Medium thickness, cooling sensation. No smokiness.
Starts tightly packed, and then opens up to a more sour high pitched variety of flavours.
Chestnut honey, green pepper, cherry. Very elegant little bitterness and astringency. Aftertaste coats mouth and throat very evenly. Cooling sensation. I feel lightheaded, in a gentle way. Great dynamicity.
This tea is sold out. I never thought of spending 120£ for a tea, but if this was still available I would have considered that.
Flavors: Cherry, Chestnut, Forest Floor, Fruity, Honey, Leather, Tobacco, Violet, Wet Wood
I’m very new to black tea. All I’ve had before came in a tea bag and honestly it was always terrible. So, I did very short steeps of this wanting to not recreate the acrid taste of liptons and other black tea nonsense. I was rewarded. This tea was warming and the caffeine was terrific. While fully oxidized teas will never be my preference, I can see myself drinking it when I need a morning kick or a midday boost.
Dry leaves smell fresh. Light yellow in cup. Slightly floral notes and sweetness combined with astringent and dryness. Light body and soft texture. Due to the Huangpian picking this is a very simple and plain, low priced PuErh. For me it is not a daily drinker because there’s not much going on.
Flavors: Citrus, Fruity, Sweet
Dry leaves: fruity. Dark golden colour in cup. Soft mouth feel, slight bitterness and astringent but main taste is a fruity, sweet and somehow grassy/hay. Not a really complex cup throughout the session.
In a second session in a glazed ceramik teapot with other parameters left the same I can smell the fruity pudding notes in the pot and cup. Overall a little bit more fruits and sweetness.
Flavors: Astringent, Fruity, Vegetal
I am not very experienced with black teas, and thus cannot compare this one with other similar black teas.
It felt very pleasant to my tongue; well balanced, reminding me of fruity and spicy notes with a honey fragrance and a pleasant herbal taste. The mouthfeel is medium, the aftertaste is fruity and slightly dry. I enjoyed drinking it.
I can recommend this as pleasant tea, mild but full of flavor.
Since I did not find any issue with the tea, I give 100 points. Just bear in mind that I am no black tea connaisseur, and thus might not know what could be better, yet.
Flavors: Fruity, Herbs, Honey, Spicy
I love this tea. I’m not sure I receive any of the GABA effects created by the nitrogen-rich processing, but it certainly creates a distinctive tasting tea. Warm as flavours get, there’s a liquoriceness to the nose – sweeter than fennel / aniseed, it’s a very sweet tea. I bought a big bag for fear of it running out in the shop one day. I also tried the Ruby GABA – interesting, but this is the sweet spot.
Flavors: Licorice, Marshmallow, Sweet, Toasty, Tropical