71 Tasting Notes
Next up in the Verdant puerh sampler. Two quick five second rinses (still missing the puerh pick), and the big loosely packed leaves came apart easily. The dry leaves smell like pine trees. Tea soup is somewhere between amber and brown. This is only my second time trying a sheng.
1st 2 steeps: 5 seconds each with boiling water, combined in one bigger mug. I taste pine and smoke. The smoke is okay — it’s not too overwhelming, or ash-tray like. The pine lingers. It does taste clean. I like it far better than that mushroom-y 2014 Master Han sheng sample they sent me last year. I’ll see how this changes with more steeps.
Steeps 3 and 4 combined again, about 7 seconds each: The pine is now a lot stronger, and the smoke has subsided a bit. I also taste a little citrus — maybe a little lemon. Sharp, but not in a bad way. I do not miss the absence of dirt and earthiness. Am I more of a sheng person? I don’t know. I wouldn’t have thought so since I don’t care for green tea most of the time.
The lemon sticks around strongly in the roof of my mouth, like it would if I’d just sucked on a slice of lemon. Gets much woodier as it cools.
Others mentioned smoked meat notes. I haven’t noticed this yet, and I object strongly to tea that tastes like meat, so… We’ll see.
Steeps 5 and 6, 10 seconds and then 12 seconds, combined: As the leaves unfurl, they smell more smokey, but less smoke flavor seems to come through in the steeps. It’s really not at all sweet, but I’ve enjoyed it anyway because of the citrus-y notes. I’ve no idea how other tasters picked up apple notes, but maybe it has to do with the sourness that comes across to me more as citrus. So far, I have liked this tea. Would I recommend it? I mean, yes, I suppose so if you’re just looking for something to drink that’s nice and you have an unlimited budget? Me? I’ll look for something with some similar notes from somewhere else — and something with a touch more sweetness.
Steeps 7 and 8 combined, 15 and 17 seconds: Let this sit for a while. Ate lunch, absorbed the iron from my food and then came back to it. The cooled wet leaves actually do smell like apples, but the main smell seems to be smoke as soon as they’re heated back up. I can detect a little bit of apple flavor this time around. The lingering apple notes have now replaced citrus; that’s pretty cool.
Steeps 9 and 10, 25 and 30 seconds: Well, this one is definitely winding down. I may try one more steep with a bit more time and see if it yields anything. Not a great deal to report here, except my only Western-sized 8 oz. gaiwan just broke, so more teaware to replace! It chipped, really, because the sides were too hot and I dropped it on the table, so it might be okay for a little bit longer. Anyway… This one definitely changes through steepings more than any I’ve tried yet — it’s probably one of the most complex teas I’ve ever had.
On the whole, my Verdant puerh experience has gone from bad to a fair bit better. I didn’t like the one I expected to enjoy most, and this one is better than any of the others. I kind of wish they didn’t dominate my first ever samples of this type of tea, but actually this was a pretty decent sampler on the whole. Each tea has been very, very different, and I think I’m getting a better idea of what puerh can offer.
About 10 g. left. Enough for either 2 sessions or doubling up the leaf for one session — might do the latter because I’m curious what this is like with more oomph.
Flavors: Apple, Bitter, Citrus, Green Apple, Lemon, Oak, Pine, Pleasantly Sour, Smoke, Sour, Wet Wood, Wood
From a Yezi sample. Yezi’s color coding system suggests this is a higher oxidation oolong, but the leaves are quite green in appearance. This is a good tea. After the first 15 second steep, I got notes of peach, apricot and butter. On the second 40 second steep, I picked up on the slight vegetal and grassy flavors that others mentioned, though it really is very subtle. That’s good because I dislike highly vegetal tea. It smells slightly floral, and it’s not roasted. In terms of taste, it is more similar in flavor to a darker Oriental Beauty style oolong than a green tea, which is good. I guess that probably suggests they’re telling the truth about the oxidation level. I like it a lot, but I find Yezi generally to be a bit overpriced for everyday drinkers.
Lasted for 3 gongfu steeps, but I pushed it to 4 with disappointing results.
Flavors: Apricot, Butter, Floral, Grass, Peach, Sweet, Vegetal
Got this one back out because I wanted something warming, but didn’t want to be up for 15 more steeps with a shu. This is such good tea. It tastes like peaches and apricots. Brewed it in the gaiwan. It is slightly bitter, and I add a little sugar to it to bring out the fruit flavors. The apricot especially lingers. Due to high oxidation, the color is amber and this is a lot like drinking a lighter black tea. I picked up some of the last ounces of this during Tea Setter’s last few days.
Steeped at 205 degrees beginning with 15 seconds, then 40, 60, 80… I’m on steep 4, and it should go for one more good steep, I think.
It’s warming enough for winter, but light enough that it works all year. This is a favorite that I wish I could always keep stocked, so I’ll have to sample several potential alternatives when these last few ounces are gone.
Flavors: Apricot, Apricot, Bitter, Bitter, Peach, Peach, Sweet, Sweet
Drank Western style today. The dry leaves looked fully oxidized to me, actually, so I brewed this like I’d brew any Nilgiri black tea. Once they got wet and unfurled, though, I could see a little bit of green so it really is an oolong. But due to relatively high oxidation, the brew didn’t ruin it or anything. I used sugar crystals and milk like I would with any black breakfast tea from South Asia (as this was standing in for my usual morning chai), and it held up fine.
It does taste similar to a breakfast tea: A little malty, but less bitter than most black teas are. I didn’t really detect any subtle notes, but that could be because of the milk and sugar. All in all, it was pretty good. I don’ t really feel the need to acquire more, though. Not that it would be a possibility anyway, as Tealicious has closed.
Flavors: Fruity, Malt, Sweet
All right, I’m powering through this Verdant puerh sampler even if I’m not that excited about it.
Unlike the Verdant shu I reviewed earlier today (which I did not like but much of Steepster loved), this one has more mixed reviews. I got this in the form of the flat 5 g disc, not the tuo. It’s tightly compressed, so I put it through about 5 5-7 second rinses to break up the leaves. (The pick remains at large.)
I noticed the fishy smell immediately after wetting the leaves, but once I finished rinsing and actually drank one of the steeps: I do think I sort of might possibly pick up hints of corn (But also I just ate a Greek salad with lots of red onion and drank an IPA, so I’m not sure I can be completely trusted.). I don’t taste fish or seaweed or sea water, so that’s a plus.
I think I like this a little better the the other Verdant shu I tried this morning. I don’t love it. I would not go out of my way to buy more of it, but by the time I started drinking it, I think I had steeped out the most offensive of the flavors. The brew I’m drinking is light amber. It’s a little corny, a little sweet, a little earthy. Yeah, it’s a bit bland, but it’s not terrible. I’ll add more if I notice anything once I get the beer and onion off my palate. So far, I don’t hate it. It doesn’t turn me against shu or anything. It’s just boring.
Started out using boiling water with this tea, but with super short steeps (5 seconds, 7 seconds, etc.).
And finally, I’m not getting hay from a shu. Yay for the absence of hay.
Added later: Everyone mentions this being a sticky rice shu, but nope… I may have a different year from what everyone else reviewed, but I definitely pick up more corn than rice.
This one left a lot of dryness in the mouth.
Around steep 5: This will go a lot longer, but I want to go to bed soon and I’m over it. In later steeps, the fishy smell goes away and is replaced by a toasted rice smell. It’s okay, but I’d prefer more toasted rice and less corn husk. And if complexity is determined by aftertaste, well, yes, this one lingers a lot more than the one I drank this morning. Also seems low in caffeine — didn’t really give me a caffeine buzz.
Note to self: In the future, no more than one shu in one day.
MIDNIGHT: All right, I went the distance, I drank at least 10 steeps. I lost count, but somewhere between 10 and 12. It would go longer, but it’s bedtime. All in all, I think I’d like to explore more of this toasted rice sort of shu. I like it. It’s pleasant. The flavor got more interesting — and less bland — after the first 5 steeps. I’ll be looking for something similar to this, but with a bit more flavor and a lower price point. Also, steeping method worked well on this one. I’ll have to reduce steep times when I start shus in the future.
Also, I am wide awake so maybe I did get a slight caffeine buzz.
If you have any rice-y shu recs, please let me know.
Flavors: Corn Husk, Earth, Sweet, Toasted Rice, Wet Earth
A while back, I ordered a puerh sample pack from Verdant. I used about 4-5 g. leaf for about 6 oz. water. (My kitchen scale is still missing.). Still can’t find my puerh pick, so I broke the leaves up with a longer rinse. It’s sort of mediocre, somewhere in between the Guevara shu and the much better Ethical Agriculture one I tried yesterday. Nothing offensive about it — it’s just bland and boring, with no noticeable lingering notes so far. I’ll say more if anything comes up in later steeps. Smells sweet like dried tobacco leaf, but I don’t really notice much sweetness in the flavor.
Added: Woodier than I’d like. Not a fan of heavily oaked wine, and this bothers me in the same way.
Now on the 6th or 7th steep, and it really doesn’t change much as I go. The Ethical Ag tea lost some of its earthy mineral flavor as I took it through additional steeps, but this one doesn’t. I do not like it.
So far, my palate is pretty simple. I like unflavored teas that are naturally sweet. A little bitterness doesn’t bother me, as long as there’s some sweetness. This doesn’t fit the bill.
Flavors: Earth, Hay, Mineral, Tobacco, Wet Earth, Wood
Several months later, after trying more puerhs, I’m giving this one another shot. It’s definitely better than any of the others I’ve tried so far. The dry tea leaves smell like dried tobacco leaf. It’s slightly sweet going down and does, like others pointed out, have lingering notes of apricot. It is earthy and mineral-y, but fortunately doesn’t taste like dirt or hay. As it cools, the taste becomes sweeter.
I can’t find my puerh pick (I’m letting a lot of things I can’t find go these days because I injured my ankle, got nerve damage, haven’t been able to walk… Lack of healing and quick atrophy of leg muscle is what led to my degenerative neuro-muscular disease diagnosis). This tea was sent to me in chunks, so I used an approximately 4-5 g. chunk — eyeballed it — in about 6 oz water. And I used a longer-than-usual rinse to break the leaves apart — about 40 seconds.
I like this. I can’t say it’s my favorite type of tea right now, or that I’ll ever become a shu super-fan, but it’s a major step up from the Guevara shu I tried yesterday. I thought drinking them in succession would give me more appreciation for the differences — and it really does. It has a lighter tea soup and goes down much, much easier.
I’d recommend it, but Tea Setter is no more, so I’m not sure where it can be found these days. I plan on using this as a “pretty good shu” barometer for judging what I try in the future, as I have enough for a few more sessions left.
Final note of the day: I can’t fathom getting 20 steeps out of a tea. I thought this one held up well for 7 or 8.
Flavors: Apricot, Earth, Sweet, Tobacco, Wet Earth
I bought about an ounce of this on sale several months ago and just opened the bag. At the moment, I wish I had more — and can’t help but notice that it no longer appears on The Finest Brew’s website.
This isn’t really my favorite type of oolong, but as oolongs go, it’s damn near perfect. The dry leaves smell like honey and mint, and this comes through in the steepings as well. There’s not even a hint of the bitterness that sometimes comes through in greener teas, and it isn’t making me nauseous. The tea soup is bright yellow and light. It’s slightly vegetal, but not in the overbearing way of something like, say, sencha or matcha. A bit floral and perfumey too, but not in a bad way. A great Spring tea, so I’m holding out hope that it comes back to company’s rotation.
I used a fair amount of leaf, but I’m not sure where my kitchen scale is. It’s about 2 tsp. (but doesn’t seem like much more than about 7/8 g.) for 200 ml. of water. After a 15 second rinse in the gaiwan, it got through 4 excellent steepings plus a couple of pretty good ones. This is fairly standard with most of the oolongs I like. Used 195 degree Fahreneheit water — any hotter may have brought out some bitterness.
The roast is very light .
Just like everything else I’ve tried from The Finest Brew, this one doesn’t disappoint. It really wasn’t what I expected from a tie guan yin, but nevertheless excellent.
Flavors: Floral, Honey, Mint, Perfume, Roasted, Sweet, Vegetal
This is an inexpensive shou that Life in Teacup is selling at $1/15 g. sample in order to introduce pu’erh to the public. Toward that end, the name is appropriate and kind of cool and made me interested in trying it.
The tea itself is…not that exciting. It’s similar to other inexpensive shous I’ve tried that are advertised as “easy to drink” teas for new pu’erh drinkers. It smells and tastes overwhelmingly like hay, making me feel like I’m on a hayride or in a horse barn. This doesn’t appeal to me. I think whenever I get through the pu’erh samples I currently have on hand, I’ll go for slightly better quality than I have so far. Increasing each steep by 15 seconds, you get tons of hay tea infusions, which is… Bleh. The complexity I’m told pu’erh brings to the tea world is conspicuously absent. I guess it’s true that it’s easy to drink in the sense that it’s mild and doesn’t have any particularly offensive flavors. Just not exciting.
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the sample from Life in Teacup. They’re a cool company to order samples from. I think I just bought this one sample for $1.00 and and paid shipping, and they shipped me 3 oolong tea samples (which were really what I wanted in the order). I would not recommend or buy this. I’m thinking my strategy of starting out on communist tea is a bit misguided — next time I shop for pu’erh, I’ll go for middle-range prices and higher quality.
I don’t know that I’d say I recommend it per se. It’s certainly worth the dollar charge that got me all the other free samples. I wouldn’t advocate buying more than the sample size though.
I just created this listing. The tea is already listed under Jas eTea, but they note that they buy it wholesale from JK Tea Shop, so I’m listing it here.
It’s brighter in appearance and flavor than I expected for a darker oolong. The tea soup is dark yellow. It tastes floral and seems like it would be most appropriate for drinking in the Spring. I pick up hints of pine as well.
I put “high caffeine” in the listing without any scientific evidence. So please please take the caffeine level with a grain of salt. I am experiencing more caffeine effects than I normally do with oolong teas, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.
I steeped 7 g. in 200 ml. water at 205 degrees Fahrenheit. 5 second rinse, 15 seconds, 30 seconds, 45 seconds, etc. The tea is at its best for 5 steeps after the rinse, but really not bad for a couple more rounds.
At 205 degrees, there’s a hint of bitterness that isn’t very pleasant. I have another 7 g. left, and I think I’ll steep at 195 with that.
All in all, I enjoyed this tea. I’d buy it again if on sale, but don’t really feel the need to own more of it.
Edit: I should mention that I’m not sure I understand the relationship between JK Tea Shop and JAs eTea. Does anyone reading this know? JAs seems to sell most of their teas, and often at what appears to be a markup. But they’re also straightforward about these being JK’s teas and not theirs, and their websites are very similar. So I keep wondering if they have the same owners or something or if it’s just a wholesale relationship. I’m leaving this here as a reminder to myself to always check JK’s prices before placing an order with the other company.
Flavors: Bitter, Floral, Fruity, Oak, Pine