144 Tasting Notes


Ok so I’m assuming that this is a Wuyi cultivar either grown or processed or both in Taiwan. It is roasted and rolled in typical Taiwan style. It is good. Gingko puts it in grapefruits: http://steepster.com/teas/homemade/11640-tea-grapefruit-made-with-taiwan-wuyi

It’s also benefited from a little ageing which gives added character to the juicy, chocolaty flavors. I’d say it’s like a well roasted Dong Ding but somewhat heavier in the chocolate department a la Da Hong Pao. The hui gan is beautifully light, fresh, and surprisingly green.

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Boom! I ran out of my stash of the now defunct SpecialTeas blend and after looking around for a new supplier I landed on Upton. This one is huge and heavy . . . a tea of planetary proportions. It’s the only tea I take with cream and sugar (a LOT of sugar) and there is nothing you can do to calm this one down. I love it.

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It’s pretty good and the seller’s description is pretty spot on. This one has somewhat of a burly, malty character up front but finishes very nicely. There is a definite element of elegance as the flavors lift into a citrus coolness and lingers for a while leaving one feeling quite comfortable and satisfied. The balance of heaviness (relative to some other more delicate Darjeelings) and complexity of flavor is very nice.

Darjeelings are interesting for me in that the subtle differences between quality teas of different estates are enough to warrant a treasure hunt of sample sifting and research more so than any other type of tea. To me, they are the most like wines or single malts.

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Wet leaf aroma of cumin, cinnamon, clove and cooked bitter greens. The liquor vapor carries the light scent of wet cedar.

The taste is light and sturdy with an underlying sweetness that gives warmth and cushion to the relatively straightforward flavor profile. The flavor of the roast comes out in the back end and develops into a hiu gan that is beautifully alive with a bit of its Taiwan youth shining through. Delicious.

Later steepings become more perfumed and woody on the tongue. The soft warmth is still there and provides a nice backdrop for the slightly grassier finish.

Overall this one is an interesting combination of subtle warmth and brisk simplicity.

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I accidentally way over-steeped it and while it came out very strong it remained perfectly palatable. I have never had a “cooked” puer that tastes like this. The taste rivals some of the better aged sheng I’ve had if not for the typical heavy/silky mouthfeel (not greasy like some nastier shu).

Delicious, deep, woody and stoic. Energizng (esp when over-steeped). High quality shou, for sure.

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This one immediately piqued my interest as a strange and unusual (and authentic) offering. Nathan at Verdant Tea was kind enough to supply me with a handful of bite-sized samples of some of their sheng (which are all very, very good by the way) and this fortunately found its way in there.

It is different that any other traditional tea I’ve had as it carries very airy, herbal qualities. The taste is an exquisite blend of chamomile, lavender, lemongrass, and definitely sage. At no time does this taste bitter or medicinal. Instead there is a caring warmth throughout. Only at the tail end of the flavor profile does the taste of Yunnan sweetness come through reminding me that I am, in fact, drinking tea..

All in all I have to say that I am impressed. It is most certainly in a genre of it’s own with the only similarity in taste to puer being the lingering sweetness at the end. It’s really interesting, if anything, and I can recommend it to anyone who like hot beverages of any sort.


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Thin florals and the typical “juiciness” of good, heavily roasted TGY take the forefront as the agedness unfurls slowly in the midst of the more immediate rock-like qualities. The real action is in that slowly developing complexity. A good balance of aged swarthiness and heavily roasted . . . roastiness.

It’s very durable, too. One testament to the quality of this tea is that only after multiple steeps is it’s complexity reduced to that of the peak flavors of lesser teas.

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Wet aroma opens with a toasted earthy sweetness and, because of the purely dry storage, is not at all musty. The aroma is not bright but subdued and cellared. There is an interesting dichotomy present throughout the cupping of this tea and that is the interplay between a cooling menthol/eucalyptus quality and a more wild and rugged tanned animal skin quality.

The liquor has a silky texture and the cooling aspect floats to the top of the palate as somewhat of a vapour. Anchoring the flavors is that subtle yet heavy primitive leather taste and a tree bark dryness left on the tongue. The hui gan is surprisingly profound and delicious reminiscent of a sweet and earthy Yunnan red.

Stiffer brews do nothing to ruin the profile of this tea and instead push each quality into greater pronunciation. It’s that versatility and durability that impress me most. Also the returning sweetness becomes fuller as one progresses through the cups.

So in the search for the best aged sheng on a budget I’m left with a couple of contenders, this being one. Actually, in all fairness, I’m left with 1a and 1b because the other one is a wet stored puer. The differences are not of quality but of characteristic.

And how cute is that butterfly :-)

Nathaniel Gruber

It’s so difficult to find decent Sheng pu’er in this country, so I appreciate your review of this tea. Though I haven’t tried this particular brick, by the way you’re describing it I know what you’re talking about especially when you said:

“liquor has a silky texture and the cooling aspect floats to the top of the palate as somewhat of a vapour”

We were trying an old Shou pu’er from 1998 today in which my description was almost exactly word for word. I will have to look in to getting a sample of this one.

Let me know if you have some Sheng’s that you know of that are especially nice because I’d love to try some more really high end stuff. Likewise, I have some great stuff as well if you’re interested.


Hey, thanks for commenting . . . get to know Gingko of LifeInTeacup.com. She’s really cool about providing samples of her stuff to enthusiasts and I’ve bought a fair amount from her. As far as good sheng (or anything, for that matter) goes, some of the best I’ve had has come from TheMandarinsTeaRoom.com. His tea is too expensive for everyday drinking on my budget though. I do like the 1990s Small Yellow Label from EssenceOfTea.com for the money. Their 1996 Menghai “Orange in Orange” is very good though more pricey.

The best young sheng I’ve had is a sample Gingko gave me of some 2010 Si Shui (Flowing Water) by Yi Ru Chang. I don’t think she even has it up in her shop but it’s worth inquiring about.

I poked around your store earlier today and it looks like you have selected some interesting offerings. I’m partial to aged sheng myself but that’s probably because I just haven’t had much really good young sheng or shou. The better shou I’ve had does carry that nice menthol quality but here’s just so much mediocre/bad stuff out there that it keeps me from investing too much into exploring.

Nathaniel Gruber

Thanks! I will definitely need to get in contact with her.

I understand wanting to find worthwhile teas on a budget. Our founder, David Duckler, is a Chinese language scholar who began his travels in China as a professor and an author over 3 years ago. Because of this, he did not come in to tea with the mentality of buying or selling it but rather, was able to meet some really incredibly people that shared their best tea with him (stuff that is not going to be shared with 99% of American tea companies). Knowing the language has helped us tremendously as well and he has been able to bring in some absolutely breathtaking stuff.

I agree with you that I always liked older Sheng’s, simply because most of the younger stuff was overwhelmingly smokey and astringent. I will say that our Sheng’s are far and away the best that I’ve tried in this country. I would rather drink our 2006 vintage over anybody else’s 1996 almost always. The leaf quality and care of these bricks goes so far beyond what was available previously.

Thought I’d let you know. I’m going to go ahead and buy some samples of the teas that you had mentioned as well as talk to Gingko as you suggested. I hope that we can continue the conversation throughout the weeks and months ahead as we both continue in the discovery of tea.

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I ruined this tea the first time I tried it with what was apparently too-hot water so for a while I thought it was no good. I decided to give it another go and accidentally let the boiling water cool for what I thought would be too long. I don’t play with exact temps but cooler water is better for this one, for sure.

Very silky, light and sweet. Not quite as nectarine and syrupy as the “Yellow Buds” but more translucent and sweetly floral. Very impressive and I wish I had bought more.

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