255 Tasting Notes

5.8g, 100 mL gaiwan

dry leaves smell like dried cranberries (Ocean Spray!) and a hint of dark chocolate

leaves in prewarmed gaiwan bring out strong toast/roast notes. still raisin and chocolate

wet leaves smell very smoky

5s rinse

5s: slight sweet & smoke that becomes a slight fruity aftertaste. empty cup smells like brown sugar from baked chocolate chip cookies. slight hint of bitterness.

7s: not super interesting

12s: more roasted

30s: soapy mint aftertaste. leaves also smell soapy.

10 min: still not much change so stopped pin cha here. slight osmanthus note on the lid. pretty disappointed by this one, especially since it started off well. soup never thickened for me, but that could be due to the local tap. Taste was pretty flat, which could be partly due to water, but also I’ve brewed plenty of teas fine with this water.

thermos overnight 212f w/ just remaining leaves from packet: dark hazelnut and roast. Quite good, though not sure if I’d repurchase.

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100 mL gaiwan, 5.8g, 212f Brita filtered tap
5s rinse

dry leaves: not much scent

wet leaves: smoky, roast, dried fruits

5s: very light, slightly medicinal woody and leaves a lightly sweet aftertaste

15s: hint of bitterness. more medicinal and woody.

later infusions gain a citrus note.

Not sure why I didn’t make more detailed notes on this one, but seems like it was also during midterms season. Oh well.

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drank 2020 Old Reliable by white2tea
255 tasting notes

Don’t remember the parameters I used, probably 8g to 100 mL, but I didn’t take specific notes because I only went through a few infusions and was not impressed (disclaimer: I don’t drink a ton of shou and personally lean towards lighter profiles). Classic shou profile, the only thing I remember is a distinctly herbal note at some point. Would not repurchase.

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2003 CNNP HK Custom 8582
5.6g, 100 mL gaiwan, Brita filtered tap
212f throughout

2x 5s rinse

dry leaf smells of dirt and musty basement
wet leaves smell woody

3s: surprised by the dark color. brew smell has a hint of grain. light and slight sweet taste.

5s: color looks like a shou puer color-wise. A bit of a medicinal note to the taste. Slightly thickened broth. A slight earthy taste, with a tiny bit of cooling on aftertaste.

7s x2: slight bit of bitterness w/ the medicinal taste that moves to a peppery aftertaste

7s x3: aromatics of wet wood

10s x2: something bamboo-like, or perhaps just a lighter woodiness. still slight sweet delving into a slight pepper on finish.

12 x3: leaves have lost most of woody smell by this point. soup has lightened in color

20s x3: something reminds me of dried jujubes

still went on for a few steeps, though continually lightening after. Brewed this alongside midterms a few months back and going off old notes here. Very impressed by the longevity of this for the price; I do think it’s worth trying at least once.

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2008 Golden Flowers Shu Liu Bao
Three Bears Tea

6.5g, 100mL gaiwan, 212f, filtered Brita
dry leaf has woody profile, but nothing else of note

1×5s rinse

wet leaves have a smoky char sort of hint

3s: nondescript flavor w woody hint
5s: decent woody. A bit flat and papery in a way. Shous are starting to grow on me vs. before, but I can’t pick out specifics and most still taste pretty similar to me, enough so that I wouldn’t be able to differentiate all the shous i’ve ever tried apart in a line-up (except the worst ones)

10s: similar to before, but stronge

15s and 20s: not much change

30s: lightening

1 min: gaining a sweet hint. kind of flat but also my favorite infusion so far. Hm.

2 min: similar to before and touching on the light broad wood taste of the aged 90s LB from ThreeBears. Not nearly as complex, but enjoyably pleasant nonetheless.

3 min: lightening. A hint of plum that I’m not sure is present or just my imagination

thermos: lightly grainy, woody, sort of sweet. Nothing too exciting

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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I haven’t had time to type up all my tasting notes lately so I’ve been writing them and keeping them scattered around my dorm for when I have time to upload (which is why notes are sometimes uploaded in large groups; no I don’t actually drink upwards of ten teas a day) since I’m a slow typer. Surprise, surprise, I lost the detailed notes for some, including this one. Luckily, I found the email draft I wrote up in an email I’ve been meaning to send the vendor though, so I’ll just paste that here. Sorry folks!

“I put all 8 grams into a 100 mL gaiwan (a bit more than usual, but usually I end up not knowing when to use the remaining ~1.5 grams from these loose leaf packets if I adhere to the standard 1:15 ratio) with brewing temps of water right off the boil and short steeping times. I usually do a 5s rinse step, but I happened to be lazy the other day and didn’t—and I’m glad I didn’t. This first steep drew out the sweetest aftertaste of any I noted vs. later steeps, and the dragonfruit-like note you noted is right on target for it. The roast on this oolong is excellent, and definitely on the more medium side compared to others I’ve tried. The wet leaf off the initial steep did hint at a darker roast perhaps than seems to come through in the tea, which I appreciated. Overall, definitely one of the most enjoyable oolongs I’ve tried, with shifting notes of a slight cooling mint and sweetness in the aftertaste, brown sugar/dark chocolate, some woodiness, and some light florals and fruitiness along with heavier aromatics.”

In case it wasn’t obvious from the email, this is definitely an oolong worth trying at least once, pricey as it is. I don’t know if the heavier roast faded based on storage or if the roast was not as heavy as described to begin with, but it’s a far more pleasant and palatable roast than some of the overroasted ones I’ve tried in the past.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 8 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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Edit 7/13: I rechecked the Three Bears site and it looks like they’ve restocked. Not sure I can recommend as wholeheartedly at the current price point (nearly double the previous price if I’m remembering right), but worth trying I suppose. I’ll probably ration the rest of my tiny bag.

Late 1990s “Farmer Style” Heishi Mountain Large Tree Aged Raw Liu Bao

Reviews that are already on Three Bears’ site from the likes of legends such as Phyll Sheng should be enough to convince people (swung me enough to purchase a 50g pack since the larger sizes were out of stock even when I balked initially at why any Liu Bao should cost so much/g), but I’ll add my two cents here anyway. (I’ll also note that I’m a sucker for silly novelties/trivialities like having tea that’s older than I am.)

6.0g, 100 mL gaiwan, a mix of Poland spring and brita filtered water, 212f

dry leaves have a light dry stored smell, but that’s it. Lots of stems in here mixed in with the curled leaves, which was initially a bit offturning.

tea in prewarmed gaiwan didn’t enhance much in terms of aromatics

2x 5s rinse, plenty of saponins in the first so I did a second when I usually do just one. Smell of rinse has a strong medicinal hint, maybe angelica root/female ginseng (当归, something I remember my mom sticking into a bunch of broths at home)?

wet leaves have taken on a more medicinal hint, but I can’t fully place it either

gaiwan lid has a distinct warm sandalwood note (if I am to believe that the Tam Dao bottle I have represents true sandalwood), that I have never smelled in a tea before

7s: woody medicinal, almost something bitter, but not quite. Something lightly sweet that lingers. A slight cooling taste that lingers and fills mouth

10s: hint of something charred, but otherwise similar to before. something about this tea makes me want to sit and enjoy it slowly forever. not sure if it’s because it’s finals season and I’m just tired of everything though

15s: something about the lightly sweet, woody medicinal taste is deeply pleasant in a way I’ve never felt about well, drinking something ostensibly like a TCM concoction rather than for fun. words don’t quite do this justice.

20s: similar to before
30s:pleasant. a slight menthol lurking, leaving a soft peppery feeling in mouth

48s: lightening

1 min: sweeter, but losing deeper depth

2min: similar to before. still pleasant nonetheless.

3 min: light medicinal sweetness

thermos: grainy in that way of thermos’d aged sheng, with a hint of smoke and faded florals. Also woody medicinal notes, with the medicinal notes lingering slightly.

I don’t know if this is for everyone, since I doubt I would’ve enjoyed this particularly when I first started exploring teas and thought everything darker tasted like smoke and medicine (I was also in the terrible first time puer experience party where people end up avoiding puer for a long time afterwards due to trying bad puer initially). But generally, likes are harder to explain than dislikes, and this is likely the case here too. I can’t quite fully express why I feel this tea is so good, it just is. Definitely worth a shot if you like aged teas with a bit of depth in the woody medicinal notes.

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 3 OZ / 100 ML
derk

Sounds good to me! And a vendor I’ve not heard of :)

m2193

@derk https://www.teaforum.org/viewtopic.php?f=32&t=1996 A little blurb about it here and r/tea is how I found out about it! Three Bears specializes in Liu Bao, so definitely something a smaller subsect of even the much more than average interest in tea Westerner knows about/cares for. I emailed Jason the other day and he said he’ll likely be adding some new teas this weekend, but bigger sizes of this LB in particular probably won’t be until late June/July. I’ve tried most of the things I have from them now (have yet to try the Betelnut, medicine, and the two new LB samplers; fwiw, IK others reviewing on the site have had plenty of good to say about other options, but I thought the rest I’ve tried ranged from okay to good but wouldn’t repurchase), but this is the one I’d definitely recommend trying out of their catalog.

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Mei Jia Wu Long Jing
2020 Spring
Tea Urchin

3.4g, 250mL, 185f Brita filtered water
dry leaves smell fairly toasty
aroma in warmed gongdaobei (which I am using to brew because my highball glass shattered and I can’t gongfu a green well to save my life) is a tart fruity and also has a dimension eerily similar to artificial matcha flavored snacks

smell of the first brew has a slight floral hint. This brew is a nice light yellow, which is apparently a quality to look for in LJ.

2min 15s: vegetal with a hint of astringency and bitterness that fades into a sweet aftertaste, which unfortunately doesn’t last all too long, and ends leaving the mouth a little dry. Aftertaste definitely doesn’t compare to Tea Drunk’s 2018 LJ I tried earlier this year, even though this is supposed to be 2 years younger, and therefore fresher. Caveat is that this is very much on the cheaper end for LJ, and Tea Drunk is on the insane end. sure TD is true XiHu whatever, whatever. Nonetheless, I do think there’s better things to get if you’ve got the money for TD (not that my opinion matters on this, if you have the money, you can do whatever you want lol).

Later infusions are a bit sweeter, but lose aftertaste. not much else to add here. I’ll admit that I only purchased this since I was ordering a cake from Tea Urchin and I thought I might as well just spend what I’d have spent on the undiscounted cake trying out some of this. Overall, this wasn’t too exciting for what’s offered, even at the discounted price of $5 for 15g (or in my case, multiply that a few extra times). I’ll drink through rest of my order, but this was a gamble that I wish I’d spent on trying out extra puer samples from TU’s collection instead.

Preparation
185 °F / 85 °C 2 min, 15 sec 3 g 8 OZ / 250 ML

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2008 Xiaguan Tian Shun
2008 下关天顺

(fyi: typo listed by LP Tian Shan, but wrapper pinyin is Tian Shun)
Taiwan stored
-ordered as part of LP Spring Sampler

6.2g, 100mL gaiwan, Brita filtered tap (more on this later…), 212f

dry leaves just have something of a dried fruit smell

1x 5s rinse

wet leaves smell smoky w some dried fruit

3s: faded smoke and more fruity. light mushroom and slight vegetal initially that turns into a strong fruity note. Light aftertaste on tongue and in mouth.

5s: pretty standard cooling sheng taste, light hint of smoke and lightly sweet on aftertaste

10s: sharper bitter and medicinal note that turns into a refreshingly sweet aftertaste. Also a hint of something lightly vegetal in aftertaste

15s: similar to before, but less sharp upfront.

20s: lightening in taste

put into thermos (had to run off to other stuff, not necessarily bc this was a bad tea) and brewed overnight: a nicely shifting mix of strong florals, some smoky, light astringency/bitterness, and something in the background adding a soft, honey like sweetness. Overall very pleasant, and very different from the standard sweet, grainy taste of most thermos’d aged shengs.

LP is out of stock on the cake for this now, but I don’t know if I would’ve bought a full cake if it was still available, and this is even considering the very reasonable price point of this when it was listed. I’ve tried too many samples at this point, and they’re all starting to blend together in my memory (tbf, exploration of aged factory shengs a la 7542s and the like largely seems to target the same profile, taste-wise), so much so that I’m not sure what I’m really looking for anymore.

On water: I have finally noticed that my water here at college is affecting my notes to a large degree, at least with respect to mouthfeel. I’ve ignored it for a while, since there was one time I brewed something that it did turn noticeably thick, so I thought it was just the teas themselves. I realized going back and reviewing my note on that tea specifically that I was using Poland Spring bottled water at that time. All this is to say that I suppose any of my school year notes shouldn’t always be taken face-value for description on mouthfeel and body, because I’ve definitely complained about thinness in many of the teas I’ve tried over the course of the school year, and that’s likely due in large part to the local water, which is not as hard as my water at home to begin with, and which I filter again with the Brita. Unfortunately, most of the teas I’ve reviewed are teas I’ve ordered samplers of, and not all of which I necessarily would willingly repurchase, from a standpoint of price vs. subjective determination of value (especially given how much I’ve overstepped whatever semblance of a budget I had painstakingly crafted…), so I don’t plan on going back and rewriting reviews. Come summer (and more spare time), I hope to mess around with different waters and note any observations and deviations then. Thanks for reading!

Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Dried Fruit, Floral, Medicinal, Smoke, Sweet, Vegetal

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 6 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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Nong Xiang Zhang Ping Shui Xian
Three Bears Tea

212f, 100 mL gaiwan, Brita water, 8.4g/1 square

dry leaf definitely smells more roasted w/ a hint of woody profile

1x 5s rinse. wet leaves smell of roast and spices. slightly tighter compression than the light roast ZPSX from Three Bears tea, but I was still able to use a puer pick to get most of it apart

5s: leaves smell slightly smoky. spinach and vegetal note in taste, alongside a toasty note from the medium roast. slight sweet aftertaste

10s: something reminds me of cinnamon here. roasted taste w lingering sweet floral finish. slight hint of mint + vegetal in aftertaste as well.

19s: stronger on mint aftertaste. leaves classic brown sugar-like scent in cup of roasted oolongs

30s: similar to before

1 min: roasted flavor w minty high florals on aftertaste. lightly sweet

2 min: nothing too exciting apparently, since I forgot to take notes

5 min: strong on roast, almost in a bitter sort of way. payoff is in mint and sweet aftertaste

10 min: lightened sharpness, but sharper sweetness

gaiwan overnight (oops): sharp roast upfront, somewhat bitter and unpleasant. vegetal/mint aftertaste.

thermos overnight: most heavier roasted oolongs I’ve tried don’t do too well in cold brews because they’ve all tended to taste like soap or roast for me. this wasn’t an exception, the overnight thermos just tastes of roast profile, with maybe something slightly sweet lurking in the background.

Flavors: Bitter, Floral, Mint, Spices, Spinach, Sweet, Vegetal, Wood

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec 8 g 3 OZ / 100 ML

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Bio

Just a chronicle of a stranger’s tea journey. Keeping old notes up to see progression, but no longer really believe in all of them. Trying to learn!!

As of 4/21/21, I will no longer assign numerical ratings to a tea unless it is terrible enough to warrant one. There are a fair amount of solid teas out there, and reading mildly subjective reviews from others > very subjective numerical rating that gets skewed by Steepster’s calculating system anyway.

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