2018 Dayi “Wangshi” Year of the Dog Sheng

Today I’ll be tasting a sample of a Dayi special production, the 2018 Year of the Dog sheng.  The tea is supposedly made from Jingmai area material.  When I saw the wrapper though I knew that I at least had to have a sample.

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Photo credit: King Tea Mall, I don’t own a cake (yet)

What can I say? While the tea itself is obviously more important, I’m still a sucker for a good wrapper design.  I negotiated a sample from a generous tea friend who I believe purchased the cake via King Tea Mall. (kingteamall.com) a seller who built their reputation on Aliexpress but then moved to their own site in the wake of Ali banning the sale of tea.

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I weigh out 6g for my 90mL pot

The sample is fairly large/whole leaf for a factory cake, and loose-ishly compressed as well. The leaves are dark and have a light honeyed aroma.

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The tea brews a medium gold color with a sweet yet pungent aroma.  The taste is honeyed but also pungent with notes of green wood and fresh peach with a slight floral aroma.  Bitterness is moderate-high. Like most factory cakes I think this one is geared more towards aging than for drinking now, but for those who enjoy a burlier sheng (like myself) this one is perfectly drinkable now, and better suited to that than the average factory cake.

While still strong, later steepings are mellower and the body becomes thicker and gives a bit of a oily/lubricating mouthfeel.  In further steeping the thickness starts to fade, and is replaced by a thin minerality as the tea begins to give up.  Surprisingly, I get some “qi” feels on my face from this tea and feel very energized.  I did have a cup of coffee earlier this morning, but I think these effects are primarily from the tea.

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All in all a good tea! It’s a little expensive for a factory cake, but the tea is good (and the wrapper is wonderful.)

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Four Taiwan Blacks from Mountain Stream Teas

Mountain Stream Teas is a new guy on the block, specializing in high quality Taiwanese teas.  Their selection of reasonably priced Taiwan black teas piqued my interest, so when I saw that they had a sale I jumped on a small amount of each.  I ordered 25g of the four blacks: Old Tree Assamica, Ruby 18 Black, Honey Fragrance Black, and Old Master Black.

While I drink a lot of black tea in general, I’ve only experienced a handful of Taiwanese blacks before.  My experience with them has been very positive, but they tend to be pricey, so I often avoid buying them.  Mountain Stream’s are quite reasonable, so we’ll see how they fare.

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For this tasting I weighed out four grams of each tea into 60mL gaiwans.  The first tea is the Old Tree Assamica black. This tea purportedly comes from a 50+ year old garden of Assamica varietal bushes.

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The leaves are big and loosely twisty, they almost have the volume of a white tea.  They smell of raisins and dried figs.

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The tea brews a gold-orange, pretty light for a black tea.  It tastes lightly sweet with notes of dried apricots, malt, and perhaps a hint of chocolate.  The taste is comparable to certain Yunnan blacks that I’ve had, maybe even some Assams, but more delicate.  The mouthfeel is thick and oily, a good quality that I don’t often find in blacks. Later steeps reveal a lightly floral aroma and a citrus note comes to the forefront. Very good tea that I wouldn’t hesitate to reorder.

The next tea is the Ruby 18 black. Ruby 18 is hybrid variety of Assamica and a native Taiwanese tea varietal.  Developed in the 90’s, it is known for a unique menthol/licorice flavor.

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The leaves a much smaller than the those of the Old Tree Assamica, tightly wrapped deep brown curls.  The aroma is very light, but I smell a subtle sweetness.

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The tea brews a bright orange, a shade darker than the last tea.  The taste is both sweet and savory.  It has that classic black tea maltiness, but also strong notes of anise and fresh mint leaf.  The mouthfeel is brothy but clean.  It’s a very unique and complex tea, but I’m personally just not that into the flavors that it presents.

The next tea is the Honey Aroma black.  The tea Jin Xuan varietal leaves used in making this tea were allowed to be bitten by green leafhoppers before picking, which creates a response in the plant greatly increasing the sweetness.

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The leaves are small, dark curls with golden tips similar to a black bi luo chun.  The have a lightly sweet bready/yeasty aroma.

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The tea brews a medium orange, darker than previous teas.  Tasting the tea, it has a strong sticky sweetness like honey and tropical fruits.  It’s slightly medicinal and malty, and reminds me a bit of fall leaves.  It definitely has similarities to Oriental Beauty/Bai Hao oolong, which is also bug bitten.  This is a very tasty tea that I think would be a great choice to impress non-teadrinkers.

The last tea for today is the Old Master black, a Jin Xuan varietal black said to be made by a long time tea master. Currently sold out on the site, but they say the 2018 harvest should be ready in June.

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The leaves are very large and loose like the Assamica Old Tree, and they have a sultry, earthy aroma of musk and pumpernickel bread.  Mmmmmmm.

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The tea brews very light for a black, yellow-gold.  Like the Ruby 18 it is savory sweet, but also earthy.  This is a very smooth and complex brew with notes of dark grains, citrus, basil, wet earth, and fresh mint.  While not as “honeyed” as the Honey Aroma, it is still quite sweet. It has a big, marshmallow-like mouthfeel, and the taste lingers on in the mouth long after drinking.  On the website they describe the tea as “unpolished”, and I think that is a good descriptor.  You could also say it tastes very “natural” or “rustic.”

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Gongfu fishy likes his leaves.

While all four were very good teas, I think I chose the best for last.  The Old Master black was hands down my favorite of the session.  I would definitely recommend Mountain Stream Teas if you are looking for Taiwanese blacks.

I’m Back! 2017 Yunnan Sourcing “Yiwu Rooster” Ripe

I apologize for how long it’s been since my last post, about two months now.  I’ve had a busy schedule at work and school, limiting my chances to blog, and on top of that I’ve been in a bit of an emotional rut, and just haven’t been inspired to blog when I have had the chance. But here I am, at it again!

Anyways, todays tea is Yunnan Sourcing’s new 2017 “Yiwu Rooster” ripe.  This is a premium ripe, made from a mix of plantation and wild arbor Yiwu material from spring 2017.  It’s a little pricey for a young ripe, $56 USD for a 250g cake, so I opted for a sample rather than buying it blind.  I’ve really been enjoying good shou lately, so I was very excited to try this tea.

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I measured out 10g for my 140mL pot, which is my standard  for shou. The dry leaf smells lightly earthy and woody, and just slightly sweet like dried dates. I don’t get much fermentation smell from the dry leaves.

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I give it one rinse, and then prep the second steep for drinking.  It brews a deep dark brown with hints of red at the edges of the cup. IMG_1388

The tea is very smooth and full bodied with a mouthfeel that’s almost silky. It tastes of dark wood like mahogany or cedar with a bit of earthyness and just a bit of dried fruit sweetness. Like the smell of the dry leaf I would say the sweetness is a lot like dates or maybe ginseng.  It has a nice lingering/lubricating mouthfeel, something a associate with good sheng.

Scott posted a video on this tea today, and warned that it might have a slight fishy taste being such a young ripe, but I’m finding it quite clean!

Later steeps reveal a very slight green bitterness and a light caramel sweetness.  While I wouldn’t call this a lightly fermented shou, it’s definitely not as dark as some.  The mouthfeel becomes even more lubricating, almost oily (in a good way).  This tea has great infusibility, it brewed out my 1.2L kettle.

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The spent leaf is mostly broken, but a few larger leaves are visible.  The leaves are pretty dark, but some are a lighter brown, evidence of lower fermentation.

Overall this was a very good ripe! While slightly pricey for a young ripe, I think the price is justified do to the high quality material and processing.  Personally I prefer the taste of the lighter fermented Rooster King ripe, but this is a smoother, fuller bodied tea and by no means inferior.

First White2Tea Club: 2009 Jingmai Sheng and 2nd Flush Auburn Black

I’ve known about and contemplated joining White2Tea’s club for a while now.  For thirty dollars a month they send you something interesting, educational, or just plain tasty.  If your interested in what the past months have been like, Oolong Owl has reviews for many of them. I heard that this months was a brick of aged Jingmai sheng, so I finally gave in and joined.

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The packaged came a few days ago, and contained not only a 2009 Jingmai brick, but also a sample of second flush Auburn black, a relative of the popular Auburn black that White2Tea offered a year or so ago.

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The brick has a nice tobacco smell and some staining of the wrapper, hinting that it is pretty mature for it’s age.  Opening it up it looks and smells quite nice; medium brown leaves and gold-orange buds. I load up 6g in my 90mL Jianshui pot and give it a rinse.

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It brews a clear, light orange liquer. The tea tastes of dry herbs and honey with a bit of mineral, citrus, and tobacco in the background.  The herbaceous quality is nice and reminds me a bit of Tiger Balm.  I quite like the storage: it’s mature for it’s age without being overly dank or earthy.  It’s a pretty decent tea, but doesn’t have anything that makes me go “wow.” Unoffensive, but doesn’t have any particularly special qualities.

On to the Auburn Black…

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I pour out almost seven grams for my 120mL gaiwan. A little heavy handed, but I decided to go with it. The dry leaf is dark and wiry with few buds. Slight savory aroma, but not a lot.  I don’t rinse because I find that blacks generally don’t need it.

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Brews a medium orange. It lets off a delicious aroma of fresh flowers. It tastes of malt and fruit with a floral aroma that reminds me a bit of a jade TGY or Taiwan high mountain oolong.  It has a silky mouthfeel that reminds me of peach or mango nectar, and the fruity flavor adds to that.

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Very tasty tea, I’d love to get my hands on some more of this one. Overall I greatly enjoyed this White2Tea club, and it was quite a good value. I look forward what future months will hold!

Taiwan Oolongs From Leafy Green Tea

Recently I was contacted by Leafy Green Teas, a budding new company with a small, curated collection of Chinese, Taiwanese, and Japanese teas.  They kindly offered samples for review and they arrived in a nicely packaged box with a thank you note and brewing guidelines, which I assume they send with all orders.

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While I suppose that a new tea drinker might be glad to have one, personally I find brewing charts/infographics like these to be a bit silly.  The correct temperature for brewing is pretty subjective (I find most of the temps in Leafy Green’s to be pretty low) and the brewing time doesn’t mean much without a leaf to water ratio. Anyways, the packaging was quite nice, and they used this straw-like stuff instead of of bubblewrap, which I haven’t seen before from a tea company and I think it’s a nice touch.

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Ali Shan Jin Xuan

I decided to go for the Ali Shan Jin Xuan first. Taiwan jade/high mountain style oolongs were my first tea love, though these days I prefer roasted oolongs, so I thought I’d save the Dong Ding for later. I used the whole sample, a little over 8g, into my 120mL gaiwan. Maybe a bit much, but what can I say, go big or go home. 🙂

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The dry leaf smells sweet, fresh, and slightly vegetal. I heat my kettle to 195F, the suggested temperature on their website, as opposed to the 176F listed on the brewing sheet. I give it a quick rinse and allow the leaves a few minutes to open up. The tea brews a nice light yellow green color and smells like spring.

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This is a very refreshing tea that tastes of cream, kale, and wildflowers with a light sweetness. Light minerality. The sweetness and floral note linger in the mouth and cheeks for quite a while. The sweetness is very “green”, like biting into a juicy plant.

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Very tasty tea! It’s been a while since I’ve had a good, fresh Taiwan jade oolong, and this is certainly one. Not super complex, but very refreshing and enjoyable, even for someone (me) who prefers there oolongs more roasted.

Dong Ding Light Roast

The dry leaf appears (big surprise) lightly roasted and smells of brown sugar and baked bread.  Again I use the whole sample, this time nearly 10g in my 120mL gaiwan.

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It brews a light-medium yellow, but with no hint of green in the liquer like in the Jin Xuan. The flavor is creamy with notes of brown sugar, dry wood, candied citrus, and incense alongside greener vegetable flavors.

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This is some really good stuff! It doesn’t strike me as being typical of Dong Ding, more like a cross between Dong Ding and a high mountain jade oolong. The roast is subtle and adds complexity without taking away from the green, “natural” character of the tea. The Jin Xuan was pretty good, but this one is great gets a hearty recommendation from me.

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Overall I enjoyed both teas from Leafy Green and thank them for the samples! I look forward to seeing their company grow.

Essence of Tea’s 2017 Jingdong Ancient Wild Sheng

I apologize for the lack of content this past week, I’m working on a in-depth, top secret post that will involve several sessions of tea. In the mean time, here’s one that I’ve been saving up.

While I’ve been into puerh and known of Essence of Tea for multiple years now, I’ve never gotten around to trying them. This is largely because they tend to be pricey and I tend to be stingy.  However, I recently received a samples of this tea in a swap from a long time tea friend who wishes to remain anonymous, and I was very excited to try it.

This tea is a wild purple yesheng varietal sheng coming from the Jingdong region. Jingdong? I know that name sounds familiar, but begrudgingly I had to google it. Turns out it’s part of the Simao/Puerh prefecture containing the mountains of Ailao and Wuliang. Duh. This tea is one of the cheaper of their 2017 offerings, with a 400g cake coming in at 55 euros; a price that I’d certainly consider paying if the tea is right.

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The leaf is typical of purple sheng; dark leaves with a rainbow assortment of red, green, and yellow in between. The aroma is pungent and somewhat fruity. I weigh out 6g for my 90mL pot. I realize that this might be a bit heavy handed for yesheng, but I go for it anyway.

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It brews a soft, light yellow color with a twinge of green. The tea is at once fruity, bitter, and sweet much like green grape skins. Bitterness is moderate, astringency low. This isn’t as much of a bruiser as some wild purple teas that I’ve had before, but it definitely has the characteristic flavor. In addition to the fruit taste there is a nice minerality and just a touch of smoke. The mouthfeel is clean but with a bit of oilyness, and the flavors linger in the mouth long after I sip.

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This tea goes for many brews, and as it goes it becomes milder, cleaner, and more mineral/honeyed.  The spent leaves are burly and olive green with somewhat red-ish stems. The tea gives me an aroused, energized sort of feeling with slight tingles along my head.  This is a good brew, and reasonably priced, but I don’t see buying any in my future as it is quite similar to other purple teas that I own and don’t drink very often.

White 2 Tea’s 200X Wuliang

As soon as I saw that White 2 Tea had listed an aged Wuliang (not too long ago, maybe a few weeks?) I knew that I wanted to try it. Unfortunately I ordered from W2T not too long ago and didn’t really need to make another one. However, I found a a Redditor who had ordered a cake, and after asking them what they thought of it they kindly offered me a sample!

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The leaf is a medium brown colored and the buds have matured to a nice aged gold. The tea has a bit of the “funky” smell of a not-so-dry stored sheng. I load about 6g into my 90mL jianshui pot and give it a boiling rinse.

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It brews a nice clear medium orange color. Up front is has a woody note, somewhere between dry camphor and fresh pine. It also has a honeyed, fruity/yeasty funk (in a good way) that reminds me of a bit of a Belgian ale. Bitterness and astringency are pretty low, but astringency increases if you let the brewed tea sit. The mouthfeel starts off buttery but ends with a clean minerality.

As I keep brewing the fruityness fades some and is gradually (though never completely) replaced by a a vegetal pumpkin-like taste and a sweetness more like fresh sugarcane. After brewing out most of a liter of water, I begin to feel a bit sedated and I take time to notice the late afternoon sunlight sifting through the tree branches.

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The spent leaves are mostly brown with a few small patches of green. I enjoyed this tea a lot! It reminds me a bit of W2T’s Repave, but fruitier and more approachable. It’s easily on of the better aged shengs that I’ve had for it’s price range.  There is definitely a cake (at least one) of this in my future.