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SOTD- sheng of the day

I have similar thoughts on the 2011 Bingdao from TU: hard on the stomach, not very dynamic, and overloading on floral. It does seem to have some legit quality BD material though as some sessions can be really good. Anyways my SOTD is the 2017 CYH Ancient Arbor Yiwu Brick that LP sells, acquired from tw auctions. This thing is ridiculously compressed...takes like 4 or 5 long brews before it starts to open up. It’s not overly complex once it gets going but does have have some nice lingering sweet notes. It’s decently thick and has some nice cooling. I’m feeling some energizing caffeine and a bit of qi this time that I had not noticed before. The main problem I have with this tea is it seems to be uncomfortably green and harsh on the gut. Something as compressed as this will also take decades to accumulate any sort of age in most western storage environments. Looking forward to have more time for tea now that finals are over.
 
Okay, going to be going through a lot of teas this long weekend, so gotta do some early reporting.

1) Thermos of YQH '04 Dinji Yesheng. Broad darker tasting soup with lots of subtleties. Good thickness and oily smoothness. Good qi.

2) Thermos of Dayi '05 Peacock of Menghai. This isn't that different from the '08 Peacock of Menghai. Has a strong yiwu-style huigan with lots of almond sweetness. Very smoky and BBQ. There's a hint of nicer smoke underneath. This doesn't have a particularly thick taste, and may benefit from overleafing. This also has strong resemblance to 8582, in particular, that green bitter-citric-tart plantation aspect. The peacock of Mengsong didn't have this plantation aspect, so far as I recall for thermos, and the original Houde description sez that it's the only that featured all Mengsong, sun-dried maocha. As an all around tea, I guess the Mengsong is better (need to do gongfu of Menghai and maybe retry Mengsong). The Menghai has more impressive sweet flavors, the Mengsong has a better quality qi, more going on in the throat, and better aroma. Menghai may be a bit better in viscosity.

I'm going to be doing tries of a whole bunch of expensive shu. A friend and I have been been discussion our satisfaction with XZH ripe teas, and we decided that we needed to try teas from other makers to see how well XZH truly stacks up in the scheme of things. A reminder. In the general scheme of things, espensive shu is a scam. You shouldn't spend hundreds of dollars for a shu unless you're an obligate shu-vore. The same money towards a sheng, well stored---well, time flies by, and these things get more drinkable as time goes on...

The first one was done today, because my friend didn't think much of it. It's Crimson Lotus' Black Gold. I agree with him, in that for $89/200g, this is just way too expensive for what it is. What it does offer is an exceptional mouthfeel with a mucilaginous texture and some thickness. It also offers a somewhat high durability of deeper shu tastes. Shu usually fades pretty quickly, while this one stayed robust for a few more brews. On the downside, flavor is boring, low complexity, little aftertaste, not too much in the way of aroma. Qi is respectable. I would not pick this tea over any of the more standard Dayi shu I have--Black Gold isn't a very well rounded tea. It is fermented lightly, and there is definitely space to age further, but I think the maocha should have been fermented in 2010-1 and pressed '12-'13.
 
Did the '17 Hai Lang Hao Yishanmo. This was pretty much what I originally expected from the tea. It's very tippy, with some roughly fourth grade leaves in there along with stems. That tends to make for a very dark, robust, and punchy shu. Pro tip--it's a lot harder to hide the original quality of the leaves with bigger leaf shu. That doesn't really mean this tea was bad--just amazingly overpriced. White2tea's Sunday Special is slightly similar, and instead of being 39 cents a gram, it's 15.

There isn't that much of an interesting aroma. The tea has a lot of dark shu taste, with a layer of cottonseed-wood. The viscosity is good, with a sort of soft and velvet mouthfeel. No material bitterness or astringency for me. There are no general aftertastes, what aftertastes there are are a bit of subtle dancing on the tongue as you swallow. The qi is mild to moderate. Robust tea soup lasts slightly longer than usual, but this isn't really an extra-durable shu, overall.

Spent leaves suggest full fermentation. Maybe light, but full.

While this is more well rounded, if one was going to waste money, Black Gold is better. It has one exceptional trait, and I think it is lightly fermented enough to have real aging space.
 
The first tea today was a sample of '17 bohetang that a HK brand made, which Liquid Proust got, and made its way to me. There's not that much to say about it--it's basically a Yiwu with a fairly strongish mushroom base, like that 2014 XZH 10 Year sample I tried, as well as the lack of bitterness. It's also similar to the XZH '14 Hongyin in with a distinctive savory dry floral element to the aroma and taste. The taste is only complex in the wash brew and may the second brew. The viscosity is moderate, with a decent soft texture. No astringency early, some develops in the mouth and throat intermittently later on. What aftertastes there are only really happens very early. The qi is mild. Durability is okay, but this is a very boring tea after first few brews with only a nice floralness to redeem it. Finished leaves look like they've been tinkered with. Hmph, it's completely opposite of that fall Bohetang that bitterleafteas sold. Both aren't worth anyone's time.

The second tea today was the HLH '17 Jun Ai shu, made with banzhang area material. This was, ultimately speaking, a high end gongting shu. There's nothing in it transcending shu-ness. It's also spectacularly overpriced. This isn't to say that this isn't a good tea, though. The aroma is decent, but indistinct and I can't really remember any distinguishing feature. The primary taste is that shu taste, but deep and on the choco end. It has a layer of aromatic soil, and a strong lao man'e like bitterness. Early brews has a strong almond/vanilla/etc character in the aroma and taste, which made for a very pleasantly sweet introduction. This fades maybe five or six brews in. The viscosity is good, but the texture is notably inferior to the HLH '17 Yishanmo shu or the Black Gold. There wasn't that much in the way of aftertaste. Mild to moderate in qi? I started this right after I got bored of the yiwu, so not sure. Durablity is very good, deep tastes lasting about 6-7 brews. Spent leave show smaller leaves than the Yishanmo, smaller stems, too. It's also clearly fully fermented. While there isn't so much space for aging as a whole, the break can use some clearing out of woi dui, and some of the bitter will probably age into winey or fruity taste. Not all of it, as this is likely to be bitter for at least ten years if not decade more than that.

I've gotten to thinking that I wasn't fully fair with Black Gold, but it really doesn't sell itself on anything but texture.
 
Six teas the last couple of days. Lots of qi, a bit of tummy pain.

The first tea yesterday was the Wistaria '03 Qingteng. Quite good stuff, and the price very fair for what you get. It's a bit more like an ethereal Nannuo than a Mengsong, tho'.

The basic aroma and taste are somewhat Nannuo carrotty, but something thinner, and with a touch of that pungent wet-hay/urine character I'm familiar with from the '01 7542. In the early brews, there is a degree of candy-fruitish aspect similar to Sweet-Tarts in the mix. By brew four, the tea is very simple in taste and consistent to the end, with a carrot aspect eroding as the brews went on, becoming more delicate. The viscosity is good. Early brews had an interesting silt sort of astringency/texture, and it becomes a bit astringent around the fourth brew, and then steadily becomes smoother. Late brews are very smooth. There isn't much demonstrative aftertaste. Just some subtle developing flavors in the process of drinking, a touch of mouth aroma, a little throat huigan, and steadily drops to very low levels after the earliest brews The qi is excellent, a touch more than moderate, but of very good quality, and had me quite contemplative. The durability is also excellent, and I kept drinking essentially for the mouthfeel and qi. This was a better tea session than when I first tried it some two or three years ago. I think because the qi wasn't quite so nice that time--it's a pretty boring tea without qi/mouthfeel.

The second tea was the Hai Lang Hao 2016 Lao Man'e brick shu. This was a nice tea. Unlike the 2017 shu, this tea has some un/underferment leaf here and there, which made a difference. Bottom line though is that I think shu as shu should not be something one should pay a lot of money for. There is no transcendence in this Lao Man'e, and it costs forty cents a gram, which is quite expensive for shu.

The aroma felt light to me, a bit floral, a bit wood, a bit almond, and some cola. The taste has some of that shu depth, barnyard, mocha. There is a wood layer, and a touch of sweetness. What was interesting was that the barnyard aspect had a lot of umami to it. The viscosity isn't as good as the 2017 HLH shu, but the texture is almost as nice as the '17 HLH Yishanmo shu. Very soft and giving. This didn't have much in the way of bitterness, there was some peppery sensation on tonguetip, but I wasn't impressed by any aftertastes--what I recall is that it's sort of typical of decent shu, a bit in the finish, a bit of mouthcoat, but nothing that calls attention. The qi was mild to moderate, and wasn't really very interesting. This tea starts dying before the other HLH shu I've been trying does. Beyond that, not sure how long it takes to actually die, since I wasn't pushing it all the way.

because I decided to brew a quick 4g of the '06 Taipei Memorial bought at Houde as a check. '06 Taipei is much much thinner in taste and viscosity than any HLH. However, it has a stronger, more distinctive aroma that's sort of like how aged sheng and shu does with a little warehousing. TCM, wood, like that. The aftertaste is a much stronger yiwu style huigan that has its own accompanying mouthfeel. I could feel the aftertaste moving through my mouth. That makes for a much more engaging tea session than with any of the HLH, for me. May Jun Ai and its bitterness, excepting. The qi is also clearly stronger. I enjoyed this tea a bit more than the HLH Lao Man'e.

Today...

This time I started off with a pair of shu and then the sheng.

The first tea was the 2014 XZH Yellow Mark. This was a bit more similar to the '17 HLH Yishanmo and '17 W2T Sunday Special, and leaning more towards Sunday Special. Extreme qi for a shu. Really nice late brews for a shu.

The aroma is more present than with the HLHs, very refined, subtle, and complex. Base is cottonseed-wood, with lot of indistinct stuff around it. The taste is relatively empty, like with the '06 Taipei, with a core cottonseed-wood character, some almond sweetness, and a few other vague notes that are well integrated. The viscosity was medium, and less thick than any HLH to date. There was some early astringency, and it quickly smooths out. The aftertastes are mostly a bit of yiwu-style huigan, and a fairly aggressive, longlasting mouthcoat. As mentioned before, this has a very strong and aggressive qi, and certainly needs more time for that to mellow. This tea is also very durable, and in late long brews, it tends to make full tasting honeybush-fruity honcha flavor soups. It reminded me of boiled-white-tea jujube soups, but so much nicer. This is a tea I'm far more interested in buying than I am about HLH.

As a check, I took out my '08 XZH Xishangjiaxi. This is pretty much my best shu, according to my metrics. Again, not as full flavored as the HLH, but it has more flavor than either Taipei or Yellow mark, way more aroma, great complexity and dynamicism, and plenty of qi. Durability was very good, too. I remember my last session wasn't that great, but this one certainly was.

My last tea was some 2006 YQH Chawangshu. It went about as expected.

Okay, for shu, I pretty much have the specific requirement that they at least try to stimulate aged sheng. That generally means very light or half fermentation. People also just throw in a bit of sheng to help that complexity. Anyways, such light fermentation generally means that there is little shu fermentation taste, even as the fermentation process destroys a lot of the original flavor. That tends to mean that such shu will be very thin in taste, and this is something that I accept as a price for enjoying the sense of aged sheng.

There is another thing going on here. Hai Lang Hao, at least, and plenty of other vendors, generally use very high leaf grade in the shu cakes that they advertise as being gushu. Lots of tips and small leave generally means that you'll have a robust soup taste, and quite a bit of thick viscosity. In comparison, the '06 Taipei, the '08, '14 XZH shu use much larger leaf. Bigger leaves generally means less flavor. It also means that it's easier than it otherwise would be to tell the original quality of the leaves, because there is less shu murk.

What that means, and what I want to convey, is that even if you *like* what tippy shu does for you, all that luxurious mouthfeel, and the deep, comforting taste, you should always discount what the quality is, aside from the fact that it uses a lot of tips, which is one sort of high quality. You cannot tell whether a lbz shu is made from *good* gushu lbz, or even lbz at all in a tippy, fully fermented shu--so one should not accept that there should be an equal price between lbz sheng and lbz shu, for example, and one should not pay for a "gushu" label for shu, without some pretty convincing evidence. And in the cup, it's just not quite so easy to hide low quality if you use big leaves and half/very light fermentation. That doesn't mean that the HLH teas aren't high quality, but it does mean, at least to me, that I ought to be able to find cheaper versions of what these HLH bricks offer. In gem parlance, HLH are equivalent to well cut diamonds with all of DeBeer's marketing might behind it. While the XZH or Taipei are more alexandrite, or chrysoberyl cats eye, paraiba tourmaline, or some other genuinely rare gemstone, gemstones that might not be that immediately eyecatching.
 
Okay, another long missive...

Thermosed:
Gaoshanzhai huangpian (part of w2t's Fade) Thin like all dem huangpians, does have a notably fruity aroma.
YQH Shenpin. I don't remember it well, other than that it was as that tea usually is, rather understated with only the qi really showing out.
Smashed a 2007 YQH Jincha with a hammer, bagged it and the thermos was pretty good, thinner than the likes of YQH Chawangshu or Shenpin, but had some nice flavors.
'07 YQH Lingya was less deep and dark and more bitter than I expected from the thermos.

I was making time in the morning, excessively to finish up on all this shu.

I did the Vesper Chan "LBZ" ripe first. It wasn't very good.

Not too much in the way of aroma. The taste was mainly shu depth with some choco and cola tones. There wasn't much thickness or notable mouthfeel. There is a lot of cooling. However, it also generates bad feeling in the throat typical of what I think of as unsanitary. It has a bit of yiwu style huigans, transitioning to almond sweetness, mostly as you're about to finish that cup.

I thought this tea was a bit like the fake Dayi Ziyun shu that I have.

Next up was the XZH '17 Jujube brick, in the fashion of the original '70's Cultural Revolution brick. This was much more understated than I expected, because from what I understand, the Cultural Revolution brick had lots of camphor aroma and taste. This is your standard really big leaf shu, like those Tongqinghao brick shu (from places like puerhshop) that people used to drink back in the aughts.

Like I said before, this is a very understated shu in terms of taste and aroma. Light aroma. Taste is basically pleasant dirt with a bit of jujube taste, especially when brewed longer. The thickness is moderate, and the texture is pleasantly like milk. This had really great qi, though. The whole package strikes me as something a rich person would have on hand for a very mild and soothing shu.

It's about $75 for 300g, so it's rather expensive for what it is, but that's definitely something a person with money would have plenty on hand for ready consumption. It's not horribly expensive, but it's not something someone who doesn't have a bunch of more remarkable shu should get, at least not without understanding.

Last shu during the week was the Hai Lang Hao 2015 Bian Xiang shu. This was a robust tasting shu, but I had a problem with the strong tartness, which bit at my tongueroots.

This shu had more of an aroma game than the other HLH shu I have just tried. Sort of typical of Bulang shu, but I can't remember well enough describe better. The taste is a typical Bulang shu depth, with barnyard and choco aspects. I recalled a similar flavor in early brews of the 2010 Langhe Yupin from TeaUrchin. The thickness is okay, moderately-good. There isn't really a good texture, though. It can also have a gummy astringent finish. I didn't note anything special in terms of aftertaste, tho' it did have some, typical of decent shu. The qi is about the same as the other HLH, but this one doesn't really promote comfort and isn't of great quality. The bulang depth is very durable, and goes a long way. The back end of the session after work was somewhat better, with the citric quality being much less and the qi being a bit more...mellow.

This isn't something I would be interested, largely due to the tartness--and it's still not a particularly cheap shu. I do think all of these HLH shus will get better in a few more years.

The weekend starts off with some 2005 Dayi Peacock of Menghai. This tea has been routinely auctioning for about $1k in Taiwan (which more or less reflects the mainland prices when it comes to Dayi). It's a total scam. To be understood, this tea spent most of its years in a dry part of Washington State and is very dry stored, but there is nothing about it that really deserves the pricetag. It's essentially an 8542 with some premium leaves salted in.

This tea starts off with a strong BBQ, smoke aroma in the dry leaf and in the early brews. There is some wood in that aroma as well. The taste is relatively strong with BBQ, smoke wood, some menghai mushroom sweetness. There is also a strong acidity fairly reminiscent of how Houde's '03 Hong Kong Henry's take of Conscientious Prescription 7542 used to be like. In the thermos there was much more of a sense of young 8582-ishness, where in this gonfu session this character is more subdued and integrated. As the session goes on, it becomes a touch more Menghai honey mushroom, but doesn't really change nature, which does mean that the taste is still complex fairly deep into the session. Repetitious, but durable. The viscosity is moderate with a sticky velvetness for texture. Doesn't really seem to have much in the way of notable aftertaste. There might be a yiwu huigan boosting the sweetness in the mouth, but it's much less obvious than it was in the thermos. Little almond, just tasted indecipherably sweeter. The qi is mild to moderate, of no distinct quality. Very durable tea.

I decided to contrast this with the 2005 Dayi Peacock of Mengsong, because I remember how the original Houde description talked about how it had the purest, best material out of the set.

This tea did seem to feel quite faded in taste and aroma. There was lots of sugary marshmallow in aroma and taste. Cola note was rather high and slightly vegetal in a slightly beany way. This tea didn't decline from there that quickly, though, where the taste just sort of mosied to tasty and sweet menghai honey taste for a bunch of brews. The viscosity was on the moderate side and slightly less than the Peacock of Menghai. Was very smooth. Some early brews had an excellent yun with a rising floralness from the top of the throat. Really good quality qi, and more of it than with the Menghai. Durability was decent, think that the Menghai is better here, though.

I think these two teas does show the contrast of good factory teaness and good gushu teaness, in what their good and bad qualities are. I'd have to wait at least five more years and probably more like ten+ before the Peacock of Menghai is genuinely pleasurable to drink, though. I also really love the aftertaste game, mellowness, and qi of the Mengsong, so even understanding that I own the Mengsong and would have empathy for it, I believe I would prefer the Mengsong to the Menghai by a clear margin.

Today, I had the 2006 YQH Shenpin Chawang. One thing that I'm really wrestling with is the idea that older (2007 and older) YQH teas for the most part are really quite muddy in flavor, often. A few aren't that muddy, think of the the '05 Yuangshi Senlin Huangshan, for example, but this Shenpin Chawang makes me think that it's mostly about some good dark honey-type Wangong (like Last Thoughts, CYH guoyoulins, etc) area with misc Yiwu doing lots of filling out. This muddiness tends to make me think of Shenpin Chawang as being a rather understated tea.

The aroma is floral, hot sand, good. The taste was a bit of dark honey, a bit of aged yiwu plummy, a bit of vegetalness and honey, and all together, it was hard to make sense of the taste. Generally fairly rich and full, though. The viscosity is moderate, with a generic good smoothness for texture. It's a little soft. I don't really remember aftertastes that much, tho it does have some mouthcoat, nothing too crazy or notable. What is notable is the quality of the qi. It is long lasting and tends to leave you more...brighter, optimistic, let's say. It's not euphoric the way Xishangmeishao used to do, but nice. The durability was good. The back end of the session was rather nice, I think because the other yiwu material tired out, and let the Wangong's floralness in particular come out more.

I did a quickie test of 2008 loose XZH Mengsong Gongting shu. I wanted to be fair to HLH and try to do an apples-apples wrt of leave size comparison.

The HLH teas has this tea beat pretty soundly on viscosity, and less so on texture. The XZH is very soft and smooth, with one brew having a disturbing throat astringency. This tea has much more aroma than the HLH sans Bian Xiang. While the taste is less full and less complex than any of the HLH, I think I can say that I enjoy this more. For one, it does have that antique furniture character that's typically described as orchid, and is premium flavor like incense, sandalwood, etc. As with my preferences, it leans as hard as it can into tasting like aged sheng rather than shu qua shu. The aftertastes are subtle and mostly to do with mouthcoat. This tea has much more qi than the HLH, and this qi can be very nice. Durability is good, a bit less durable than the HLH. I think this XZH has had a very substantial advantage in being ten years old compare to the one, two, three years old HLH teas. It's really very soft and easy on the system, and very easy to enjoy in general. Otherwise, I think the main thing this session does is illustrate that the HLH teas are much less full of qi than they really should be for the price, and that they could do better in terms of aroma as a general practice.

whew! Lots of writing.
 
Let's start with the shu first, then the sheng...

The first item is the Dengshihai shu--to compare with the HLHs drunk. I reaffirmed that I like this tea very much. The big thing here is that it has a lot of qi, and that qi is of very good quality, and can really put me at ease. The top taste is decent in terms of thickness and depth, at least early on. The aroma is plentiful and it rises and has complexity--this is another feature that marks it as superior to the HLH. In both the aroma and taste, there is a mild flaw in that it has an extra-foetid barnyard note, sort of like limburger cheese compared to hard cheddar aromas. The viscosity is moderate, and obviously inferior the the HLH, but as with the XZH gongting last weekend, the texture is pretty good and soft, and is only somewhat or slightly inferior. The aftertastes are very good for a shu, with lot of mouthfilling sort of aromatic woods aroma (vaguely like a good well aged 8592). The durability is good, and it's also rather dynamic for a shu. After the initial, more shu-like taste in the early session, the latter part of the session is higher, with a marked sugary note. Very durable. Overall, for me, this is preferable to the HLH, and since it costs about $55/357g, it's dramatically so. I have a tong and I can drink it whenever I want. Waste some, too. And that's valuable, too.

The other shu was the XZH '09 Blessings. I liked this tea a bit more than I expected. Again, it has a good aroma. Unlike Xishangmeishao and some other XZH shu or the Taipei shu, it has a solid thick taste, but it's really high. The taste is vaguely like a ten-plus years humid stored Nannuo--rather carrotty. The viscosity and texture is the same as the dengshihai, relative to HLH, but closer to HLH. The aftertastes are rather subtle. The qi is moderate. The durability is very good, especially in the sense that like the dengshihai, it changes gears somewhat, particularly in mouthfeel, where it has this sort of grainy-silty sort of feel, which was really nice to drink. The finished leaves do look fully fermented (if lightly so), which surprised me a little, given how high the taste is and the low amount of the traditional shu depths.

I've come to the conclusion that if anyone were to seriously buy a whole brick of HLH shu, that the key advantages is the mouthfeel, and I guess the strength and solidity/durability of the taste. One should skip the lower end teas, forget the LBZ, as that there is no way the price can be justified at all, and go with the Jun Ai. This is too expensive to just quaff, and there is some space for aging, and plenty of space for mellowing, so that in the long run, one should have a very pleasant chunk left at some point.

The sheng was pretty straightforward.

'07 YQH Jincha yesterday. Basically like a 'banna material 8653. Very factory tea in it's positive qualities and made me think I might want to have more of this tea for long term aging. I've been wanting high quality factory teas, but I didn't think they really made them today, and most teas from before that I have access to will have dubious storage. This was pretty clean, potent. Strong aroma early. Taste is primarily of a dark choco-leather sort of depth. Early brews had some nice aromatic wood qualities. It had good thickness, and some astringency. The qi is decent, and it was durable. It really is a rather effective tea for the price.

Today I had the 2015 BHYJ Wangong. This is very much a pleasant tea, but it's not really worth the $400 or so price tag. It has the floralness like many of a certain sort of Wangong does, like what you get with W2T's Last Thoughts, but the taste is rather mild to the point of being almost hollow. The viscosity is quite good, and it's smooth as well. There is good qi in it too, and I did feel fairly relaxed with this tea. No aftertastes, really... Durability is good as well. It's just not a very exciting sort of tea, certainly not for NT$12K or so. Long brews brought forth a certain plantation tartness. The finished leaves look pretty tinkered with.
 
Damn I was halfway through my post and my iPad shut off and I lost it...Ok starting again. It’s been a crazy couple weeks so I haven’t been able to post as much as I’d like. Lately I’ve been trying to drink through some of the overwhelming amount of samples I’ve accumulated. Mostly drinking W2T samples from last year, some old YS stuff, and a bunch of premium boutique teas from LP. After all this sampling I wanted to go back and check in on some of my actual cakes. My SOTD was the 16 W2T Last Thoughts. Ever since I finally pulled the trigger on this very expensive cake a year ago I’ve felt slightly underwhelmed. Most of my sessions lacked the magic of the samples I previously had. The taste was much simpler and lacked much of the sweetness and complexity I had remembered. The Qi was always strong but without many of the high notes I felt that it wasn’t worth the price paid. However, my session today managed to reaffirm my love of this tea. I honestly think that this premium Yiwu, like many others, has just entered a prolonged sleep period which has subdued much of the flavor and high notes. The early steeps had a pronounced sweetness and some sort of savory grainy herbalness underneath. I got some really impressive aftertastes this time around during the middle steeps brought about by some slight astringency. Every sip caused the liquid to stick around in the mouth and throat for a significant amount of time. By steep 5 I was starting to seriously feel the qi and had to turn up the AC because I was breaking into sweats. I ended up saving the rest for tomorrow and went to a friends or else I would have been up all night. I’m excited that I finally got a good session out of this one and feel confident that this will turn into an excellent aged tea once it fully wakes up.
 
Hi,

I missed my cup of early Sunday morning Jasmine Dragon Pearl. Right now I'm enjoying a nice Darjeeling, and later I think an Assam Orange Pekoe will be nice while sitting outside enjoying the day.
 
I only had Sunday off last weekend, and I had some of that '09 XZH Chen Diangu. Good. A little hard to drink. Also tends to demand skill in brewing. Great qi, and the long brews are rather nice.

This weekend was similarly low-key. Yesterday I had the 2013 BHYJ Chawang. Early brews didn't have the gunpowder from before, but did have a nice minerally character in the aroma. Generally a pleasant tea. However, got boring fairly quickly. Not very much complexity in cup. Decent qi. I do wonder what's in it, as I can't make anything distinguishing that I can categorize, correctly or not.

Afterwards I had the W2T Sunday Special shu, finishing off the sample...I find it very similar to the HLH Yishanmo shu, but smaller--has cocoa fermentation depth, and cottonseed wood up higher. Some slight suggestion of dried fruit sweetness here and there. The qi was notable. Not too much in aftertaste other than a bit of early mouthcoat. The HLH is bigger and wider, with stronger tastes, thicker soups. The aromas are about the same quality, as is the texture--the HLH is a bit more chewy, the W2T is more soft. W2T is a bit better in qi and durability. In general, Sunday Special isn't anything that transcends being a shu, much. It's not very dynamic or complex at all, so it's meant for very easy drinking with good qi.

Today was the koreahao '10 Kuzhushan. I wasn't really in the mood for this tea, as I had wanted some Yiwu, and the really good stuff at that. I also used most of the loose leaf, some of which presumably was broken. This made for a rather difficult soup with a strong acidic bite that prevented me from enjoy what was good about it as much as I could have. Generally the expected session, though. Woodsy-grains-floral aroma, floral, dark grains in taste. Decent thickness, a touch of astringency Early brews had a couple of nice throat huigans. Some qi.

I went for some 2007 CYH Plum Beauty shu, almost finished with the cake. Same as usual, don't like it that much, has a sort of sour plum bite that I've never liked, and isn't really remarkable otherwise, except that thermosing shows a fairly strong true taste. People who don't like sweet shu might like this one, though--has very little sweet flavors.
 
Nothing too crazy this weekend, mostly drinking down samples...

Yesterday was the BHYJ Nuowu. Wash brew was high in flavor and floral, like that 2011 TU Bingdao, then it moves down to more chicory with a little wood and choco notes. Decent thickness, some qi, but with no real character to it.

That was a somewhat boring session, so I cracked open 4g of 72 Hours. It was excellent. Taste and aroma were generally very light and delicate, but engaging and consistently making it worthwhile to savor. The mouthfeel was great, very thick and explicitly oily. Excellent aftertaste game with various types of aftertastes and strong feeling down throat. Strong qi, not distinctive, but it lasts well past the sip and cup. Because of the length of aftertaste and qi, I often took a long time to drink a cup. The tea has some tartness traditionally found in northern tea, and that along with the aggressive aftertastes does make the tea a little tiring. Doesn't seem like it will ever be a meaty (with honey or dark flavors or whatever) and mellow tea as it ages.

Today was the BHYJ Lengshuihe. This was much better than the first full session I tried this tea, and it is closer to the quality of the other BHYJ samples I got. However, there is the pervasive sense that I'm drinking huangpian--not that this tea is huangpian, but it's...very neutered and passive, with a bulk taste, but no true livelyness past the first couple of brews or so. As a result, I didn't feel satisfied again.

I felt curious and decided to finally finish off the 2008 Dayi 8582 801, four grams out of last six or so grams. Will thermos the last of it. I was pleasantly surprised. While the soup is almost as yellow as it is when it was three or four years old when I got it, the soup wasn't that aggro like it usually was--mostly that characteristic 8582 acidity on the tongue, which was pleasant for me, actually. The soup is very high, mostly Menghai honey, mushrooms, wispy floral wood (from the original grassiness), and some fruit. No fermentation notes. The sort of tea where one who loves fresh factory sheng can enjoy with little penalty. The viscosity was quite nice, with good mouthfeel. There is some astringency, but it's not of the drying sort, more textural. There is a bit of aftertaste and even some qi. Durability seems to be on the weaker side, obviously dropping off before ten brews, but didn't have time to really push the tea.
 
Grand old Sanhetang 4th!

First tea of the day was the 2010 XZH Classic Manlin. This was great and approached the quality of the '07 XZH Manlin and the '05 BYH Manzhuang. Consistent relatively full floral, hot sand mineral, some honey and slight barnyard touch. Taste is sort of high notes with a sort of Menghai/Mengla honey base to it, not very full, but full of some nuances. Late brews after a break has some nice violet fleshy-floralness. Not superthick but it had a specific texture, vaguely like milk that was quite nice and made even low taste brews worthwhile to drink. Has some pleasant drying astringency, but it wasn't crisp, more loose and added to a nice textural feel in the mouth during the finish and after. Good aftertastes through first five-seven brews, mostly being a nice yun at the top of the throat. Capable in general of light and nice mouthcoats. Qi is of moderate strength. Reasonably durable, I probably did about fifteen brews.

Late, I got caught with a strong urge to try out the Xishangmeishao, see how it's doing. Well, it's not young anymore--almost all of that nice orchid floralness is gone, there is more chicory in the taste, and there is a general sense of more aged gracefulness in what it does. Aroma and tastes are very nuanced, and often defying definition. Especially later, tastes becomes more obviously artisinal clay, chicory, with a tendency for a bit of sugary/caramel finish/yiwu huigan. Very gentle and pleasant acidity/tartness in the first few brews. First brew was very nice, though, honey and fruit, like drinking candy. Moderate thickness, and overtly smooth, if not quite oily in texture. Subtle aftertastes that does things differently from brew to brew, rather deliberate and softly. The big show was definitely the qi. Strong and high quality. The really good Northern teas really don't seem to lose "potent" feel of qi as the teas age as much as Banna tea does, and they still develop a complex feeling as they age, like Banna tea. Durability was good and long brews are sweet.
 
Did more brews of the Xishangmeishao through the rest of the week. It was very impressive. Consistently a almost oil smooth soup with some thickness, a slight sweet taste and finish of some burnt sugar or another, and an incredible qi. The best description I could come up with was if I described it as me sitting on a giant Buddha's open palm, cross-legged, and the Buddha lifts me up, air spilling around me and beneath. This was always a tea with a strongly euphoric qi, but as with most tea, age tend to give the qi aspects complexity and more body interaction. It also usually weakens the qi a bit, but the great lincang teas often don't seem to weaken much at all.

On friday, I tested out the 2006 Hai Lang Hao Jin Hai Lang shu. It has some of the robust depth of tippy shu. It also has some of that cottonseed wood that I, for now, associate with yiwu-shu for good or ill. Not much aroma. Good viscosity, and it has some reasonable amount of qi. However, the tea is rather sour/tart for some length of the session, and by the time that the sourness declines, the shu was almost done. So I wound up not thinking much of this shu, and I'll probably finish off this sample at some random point later on.

On Saturday, I had two Sanhetang teas of the day, sheng and shu.

The sheng was the 2006 Third Anniversary Wedding Commemorative Classic Yiwu cake: 『囍字號女兒茶』三合堂國際普洱事業出品 . Broadly, I'd say that the tea is very condensed and mellow, and is somewhat boring on a bad day or if you are an inattentive drinker.

The aroma was heavier and your typical Yiwu plummy, and as the session goes on, it goes higher and more herbal-sage like. It can have some very nice aromatic soil and fleshy floral notes. It eventually gets pretty light and nondescript before stabilizing like that the rest of the way. The taste starts off primarily being a rather thick, humid, Yiwu-plumminess. It's not dark and deep, so it can be mistaken as being thinner tasting than it is. There is a bit of yiwu honey in there, but it's kind of dark and almost barnyardy. There is also some soil. As the session goes on the taste rises and thins. Sage and honey generally becomes a bigger factor, as well as soil and maybe a touch of leather note. The viscosity is decent to good, and it is chewy, with a nice particulate astringency early on. Astringency becomes more crisp and the tea becomes more of a velvet texture. The aftertastes are decently complex and changing from cup to cup. A good mouthcoat was consistent, though. There was some nice mouth aromas early on, and a good yun late. A touch of yiwu-huigan, with a fruity rather than white dessert sweetness. There were episodes of cooling feel, and this did go down the throat some way. The qi was decent, about moderate, moderate to strong, with a sobering weighty feel. This tea was reasonably durable, but I got a bit bored and grew slapdash before this was done. I think this is a good tea for advanced drinkers, but this session illustrated just how weak Sanhetang's Yiwu efforts were compared to peers and near peers like BYH, Auspicious, and YQH from 2006 to 2009. For example the 2005 YQH Yuanshi Senlin Huangshan is relatively easily better than this XZH at more or less the same sort of tea session. It wasn't until at least the 2009 Silver Taichi that there were monster XZH Yiwu products.

The second tea of the day was the XZH Dragon Kilogram brick, made with gushu Nannuo shu: 商品详情 . I thought this was a fairly standard shu, with only subtle aspects to superiority. It's somewhat like a much softer HLH Jun Ai, with some Dayi premium shu aspects to it, like Golden Needle White lotus stuff.

It doesn't have all that much of an interesting aroma, just a nice shu aroma. The taste is like tippy shu dark robustness, but a little higher on the register. It has a light layer of almond sweetness. It's relatively dynamic for a shu in the sense that there are some subtle but clear differences in the taste from cup to cup. It's also unusually durable for a shu. Well, I sort of think so, in the sense that this is a fairly standard, fully fermented shu without any sheng bits in it, but it still manages to be durable and sort of slightly interesting. The viscosity is about as thick as all of its peer-cost shu. This does have notably more qi than most shu, particularly keeping the expensive HLHs in mind. Standard bits of shu aftertastes. I personally am not that interested in this tea because it's not very interesting to me and therefore is expensive for what it would mean to me. However, the owner of the brick from whence the sample came enjoys this shu quite a bit. I can see it. There isn't actually much of a weak point in this shu. It has aroma, taste, viscosity, qi, aftertaste and all of that. Just too standard a package for me.

Today I had the 2006 Taipei Memoiral 100g cake version. I was expecting more from this tea than what I got. What I got was Changtai'd. It's been filed down in the traditional Changtai way to be more easy going. It's not a bad or unenjoyable tea at all, but I had been interested in the sample because I wanted a nice robust cake for maybe tonging in the long term. The jincha version seem great for this purpose, if a little thin in taste and overbalanced towards higher sweeter nutmeat flavors. So now I know I'd better not tong the 400g top cake version without sampling.

Anyways, here goes. The aroma starts off higher with Menghai honey and plumminess, but quickly descends into barnyard, dark honey, and tcm notes. The taste is full and deep with barnyard and tcm notes dominating, more or less consistently through the session, but simplifying into broad notes as the session gets late. Can have slight tartness. Consistently good thickness with some astringency that can get a touch prominent. Doesn't have very obvious aftertastes--a slight bit of conversion to sweet nutmeat, but much less than the Jincha. Does manage some decent mouthcoats occassionally. Doesn't really have much qi, unlike the Jincha version. Sort of durable in the gradually fading way, but I'd say it will be easy to get bored with the tea before it's truly done. Anyways, again, this isn't actually a bad tea--rather strong, full, and deep taste, good aroma, and good viscosity. It's just missing everything else.

The last tea of the weekend was the 2007 fall XZH GFZ. I almost bought this tea a long time ago, and wound up buying the spring Yiwu Chahuang. This got good reviews early on, at Tuochatea.blogspot.com. However, the issues he noted then was probably its doom today. The maocha pressed in the cake was a mess, with areas of very fragmented leaf, etc. Today, this made for a rather turbid and sour tea that essentially makes it undrinkable. It's a pity because it does have some good flavors, like butter-pecan, a sort of interesting plastic-wood note, a distinct fruitiness, things like that. It had an acceptable viscosity, a bit of aftertaste, and a lot of qi, particularly early on. The sourness eventually does end after about five or six brews, but the tea is already huffing and puffing by then. Oh well.
 
Ooh that’s a major bummer about the 07 XZH GFZ Shah considering I just bought one last week:001_rolle I’m hoping that I somehow end up with more full leaf in my bing (never imagined saying that phrase in my lifetime). Anyways, sipping on some 07 BYH Manlin generously gifted in a sample swap with a tea friend. I thought I’d give it a whirl after work and before bed. I only used about 4.5g which is lighter than normal. What I’ve experienced is a tasty mid-aged puerh thats fairly typical Yiwu-ish. Nice darker fruit profile. The best part about this tea for me so far is the mouth and throat feel. Super slick feeling in the mouth with nice lingering cooling and an extremely lasting weightyness in the throat and chest. Not noticing much qi but that could be atributed to the less grams used and the far from ideal quick sesh before bed. Also, I just got in a full cake of the 07 XZH Huangshanlin and some others should be arriving soon. Hopefully I’ll have many days ahead of me drinking great teas.
 
Okay, a bunch of teas to go over...

First, on Monday, I tried a 4g session of the 2012 version of: 商品详情 This was a sort of barksy, woodsy shu that is very much reminiscent of various '90s shu with some warehousing, particularly stuff similar to the 9016 tuo that pu-erh.sk sold, among others. It has some qi, good thickness, a good finishing sweetness/yiwuhuigan. Overall, this tea isn't as good as the 2012 XZH Dragon brick shu, but I find it more interesting and compatible, where the Dragon is very conventional.

The next tea was the Houde Large Leaf Shu from from the 80's: 80's Large-leaves (Da Yeh) Cooked Loose Puerh, 2oz - $45.00 : Hou De Asian Art & Fine Teas, - Formosa High Mountain Oolong, Yunnan Pu-erhs, Yixing / Taiwan Teaware. This isn't a particularly remarkable tea, and the age is only hinted at, through the nature of the qi, a bit, and how the flavors separate in the mouth. After a rest, it does open up a nice aged sharp woodiness in the taste. I find it otherwise very typical for a large leaf shu, and a poor value at almost two dollars a gram.

The next shu was the 2010 XZH Palace Shu: 三合堂囍字號女兒茶~頂級普洱茶 I found that there wasn't really a point to the branding of the shu. Very typical GNWL setup, and while it has a extra degree of nuance, and is somewhat more durable, there isn't much extra that one gets from the label. It's a fine enough tea, but expensive for what it is, and with lots of good competitors.

Going through all of this leaves me the impression that it is fairly difficult to do striking shu with clear advantages that can justify the costs. Of all of the newer stuff, it's really been only the '14 XZH Yellow Mark that could justify its high price tag, more or less, and there are cheaper versions like Sunday Special from W2T... Grabbing one of the early XZH '08, '09 shu from TW auctions and hoping for the best in terms of storage seems like a better bet than buying newer shu.

Now, onto today's sheng. I did a couple of very high end teas today...

The first is the the 2017 Tall Tree TianMenShan: 商品详情 This is $800/400g cake. It had better be good! I wound up think that it is pretty good, but not quite $800 good, relative to today's prices. This tea is inferior to any of the great Mengla XZH teas from 2011-2014 I've had, with MAYBE the exception of the '13 Chawangbing that Houde sold. Another thing to note was that this was very much like a Yibang tea rather than a Yiwu or Mansa--obvious since Tianmenshan is very far north up against Laos, Yibang, and Jiangcheng.

Alright, to the tea. There are a couple of phases with this tea. The first phase (three-four brews) is very yibang, like Theosophie's Yidu, then it collapses to a second phase that's more like BHT(some)/Gedeng with more of a brown sugar/mineral emphasis. The aroma during the first phase is rich, complex, and changes from cup to cup through to the collapse. Afterwards, the aroma becomes much less of a factor. While the going was good, there was a strong dry floral base. I found custard, pleasant rubber, aromatic mushroom (like shiitake), vague fruits, and some yiwu honey notes in the aroma. The taste, unusually, consistently feature olive oil in the first phase. Other notes present were yiwu-honey-floral, custard, a touch of fruit. In the second phase, it was sort of a light mushroomy, mineral, brown sugar taste. Very late brews were fairly sweet tasting. The taste also featured some light wild tea bitterness and sourness in the first phase, and I compared with the 2014 Anniversary Cake mentally--overall, this tea is far more graceful, and less wild. The viscosity is good and improves to very good by the end of the session. It is generally smooth, with a little drying astringency early and a sort of granularity late. Consistently numbs the tongue, and does go down the throat a bit. Aftertastes are pretty good, early. Tonguetip tends to get a strong lingering fruitiness and sweet sense for salivation. The back of the mouth and top of the throat tends to have yuns and very shallow huigans. Aftertastes post collapse is mostly more subtle, with the odd effect in the throat. The qi is pretty strong. It's fairly gentle earlier in the session and builds. It's not super strong, but it's certainly not meek. The durability seems good, I got something like 15 brews or so.

The second tea of the day is the CYH '05 LBZ. I was told that this was the best CYH LBZ, so I had high expections. I found it to be pretty good, but my estimation is that the '07 CYH LBZ has a higher overall peak. This one is pretty easy to write up. The aroma and taste are generally a rich, deep, dark, and sweet barnyard taste, with nuance like bittter choco and plum. The viscosity is pretty good and rather chewy or pudding-like in texture. Astringency is rather episodic. The aftertaste game is weak, here. You have a decent bit of mobile mouthcoating aftertaste in the first few brews, an occasional huigan in the throat, and a bit of yiwuhuigan. A couple of brews had some decent cooling. Qi is also weak for a LBZ, more along the moderate level, and completely outshone by the much younger tea in that respect. Durability was mediocre--it was fairly done by twelve brews. You have about five brews before it really starts lightening up. There isn't a lot of dynamicism in the session either. The main feature of the tea does seem to be that richness of taste. I definitely prefer my own Black Wrapper, because it's stronger in terms of nuance and elegance, as well as in qi terms.
 
I had a pretty good tea day with a shu, then a sheng.

The first tea of the day was Denong's Millenium Distant Tea Mountain Ripe: Millennium Distant Mountains Ripe Pu-erh Tea

The long and short of this is that this appears to be a 7452, maybe 7262 from Dayi, and the listing says that it's from 2000. I thought it was pretty good, actually, and given that it's probably Dayi (this isn't something that the other major factories would make, for the most part, and smaller factories would have been more problematic than this very clean session), the price isn't completely outrageous.

Anyways, it's pretty simple, as shu are wont to be, and this isn't a complex one. The aroma is fairly generic shu aroma with a bit of tcm in it. The taste is mostly cola, with a touch of tcm and woody framing. The taste is fairly strong and has some depth. The viscosity is nicely thick and smooth. Not much in the way of aftertaste except for a bit of shu finishing sweetness. It has mild to moderate qi, very much nothing special. The durability is good for shu. Very little dynamicism--same taste more or less throughout.

The second tea of the day was the 2006 XZH Yiwu Chahuang. In my book, and this may or may not be true, I've categorized this as a Luoshuidong. It's very much a classical Yiwu tea, and this session has some obvious similarities to the Songpin '99 Changtai Yiwu. I think it's rather interesting that while BYH focused mostly on Gaoshanzhai and YQH focused on Mansa teas, XZH did classical Yiwu at the start, and didn't even do a Yiwu the first year. Compared to the 3rd Anniversary Yiwu I tried last week, this is a higher, more honey and florals focused tea. I think overall, the Anniversary tea is a bit better and has more promise for aging, but these are relatively different classical Yiwu teas. Compared to everything else, I wouldn't pick this Chahuang over any of the other XZH teas that I really like, nor would I pick this over YQH, and even odds I pick BYH yiwus over this. However, this tea does have serious strengths.

Aroma tends to be Yiwu honey and floral early. A bit later more cola (or you could say licorice) hints darkens the aroma. Some barnyard hints appear, but overall, the aroma tends towards a fleshy floralness as I progressed through the session, while significant aroma lasted. A light dry floral element existed late. Rather dynamic in terms of evolution in aroma. Also tends to leave a lot of aroma in the finished cup. In terms of taste, it's relatively high and honey, with some leather and light herbs. Some plummy here and there, as well as cola. The basic nature of the top taste doesn't change much. The tea does tend to have lots of different nuances in the depth, though. It can also be overtly sensate sweet at times. The mouthfeel is one of the strong pluses of this tea. Thick with a specific buttery feel that is very pleasant. This tea is pretty weak when it comes to aftertastes, and it does all of its significant aftertaste early in the game. It had a nice mouth aroma, and a single huigan at the top of the throat. Almost all of its real complexity is in finding various tastes in the depth, and not after the sip. It also generated feeling down the throat early as well. The qi was moderate to strong, but not really interesting other than lasting well beyond finishing the cup. So it was relaxing. Durability was very good, somewheres \above fifteen brews. I think I could have and should have been a bit more aggressive in lengthening the brewing times to improve complexity in cup.

I think that trying the two '06 XZH Yiwu have made me think that people overrated classical Yiwu for a while, up to about 2009 or 2010. I think these teas are very good examples of classical Yiwus, if not quite as nice as that 2003 Songpinhao reproduction that's so Mahei. However, I also think that that the Mansa tea along the diagonal from roughly Bohetang to ChaPing is very clearly better stuff than classical Yiwu. So this makes me think about the evolution of how the market decides which teas and which areas are more premium.
 
Only new stuff to talk about is shu, so let's start with them...

The first of the two was the 2015 XiShe shu seen here:商品详情 . It sells for about $120 as you see at the link. I thought it was a fairly pleasant tea with a relatively high, sweet, bottom with with what Tony Chen has described as "white chocolate". A delicate experience with that, and some darker woodsy, tcm character. Does reasonably well with qi. I wouldn't say that it's a value, but it's reasonably not a rip-off. In general, despite the condition that the teas can sometimes be in when you buy them off Taiwan auctions, the best XZH shu quality/dollar ratio is indisputably with getting the '08 and '09 XZH shus off TW auctions. Mostly because the actual raw material is at a high level in these teas. Only a few of the later shu seems to have as kick-*** material. It's probably just the 2011 porno cake, the 2012 Dragon Brick, the 2014 Yellow Mark and 2016 Green Mark Iron Cake. Of course, all XZH shu has at least decent qi, but the ones mentioned have more character. The 2012 mentioned on the 07152018 post is pretty decent, too, but not quite striking.

The other shu is the Denong Millennial Feng seen here: Millennium Feng Fragrance Ripe Pu-erh Tea . I thought it was pretty good. It's a fully fermented, pretty heavily so, Fengqing shu. It has the notable character in that it has a very strong aromatic soil and camphor aroma and taste. There is a distinct sweet sugary sense underneath that, with dried fruits. It also has that foetid note. It has a good thickness with a slick, somewhat resistant mouthfeel, a bit like how egg albumin would feel. It has a bit of qi. Even for a shu, this did feel notably lacking in dynamcism, all that happened was less aromatics and higher tasting soup. Not too much in the way of aftertaste.

The first tea Saturday was the 2011 EoT Mannuo. It was really good. The aroma tended to be mineral and floral, some honey, etc. The taste is essentially between Naka and LBZ. I'd say leaning more towards LBZ (but not as mouthfilling or as rich), as it has that barnyard depth, but not very much of Naka's tobacco notes or its alkalinity. A bit better than adequate viscosity, and it's rather smooth in texture. The aftertaste was mostly a conversion to fruit, gripping tongue-coat. It has some floralness at the top of the throat. It also consistently did a little of that really nice mouth aroma that I recall from a recent thermos. Strong qi early on, seems to fade a bit and stabilize at a lower level late. Relatively dynamic, and became pleasantly fruity late. This is almost old enough to compare my memories of the 2005 Naka that White2tea sold and which I probably drank around 2013 or 2014. Looks like the Mannuo will be the better tea

I was thinking about the Millennial Feng and of it's similarities to the Dengshihai shu and this 2005 brick shu that's a partner to the W2T White Whale material. I was thinking in terms of that aromatic soil, that foetid thing, etc. So I took out the Dengshihai to check. DSH shu has much less aromatic soil and camphor, and less foetid note (I misremembered it as having more), but it is a touch sour in the early going. DSH taste also has far more depth, with a chicory anchor that the Millennial Feng doesn't have. The less aromatic soil-camphor actually worked well to promote a sense of elegance and subtlety, working with the deeper notes in the aroma and especially taste. Viscosity is less, though. However, DSH has much more qi, and a real aftertaste game. The session also had a bit of dynamicism that didn't exist for the Denong tea.

The sheng of the day for Sunday was the Koreahao Walong, almost done with that sample. I had a thermos earlier in the week and was impressed with some of the notes. It struck me that that the early tartness or whatever bite that is easily covers up what is a rather subtle tea. So I resolved to be on the cautious side and flash brew more of the early brews. That did work to control the tart a bit and I had a reasonable session. When I came back to it after some time, the tea got really thick and with fully agreeably flavors. So I wonder if like with that '08 XZH Puzhen, I really should just do a few brews, and come back after a few hours to get the real meat of the session done better.

The last tea of the session was the 2005 Lao Cong Shui Xian from Houde. This is one of my longest held teas as I think I bought this in late 2009 or early 2010. A discussion on Teadb about aged tea prompted me to find out how a thirteen year old tea is doing. Seems to be doing pretty well. I had said something about this tea having almond notes, but that wasn't very present this time. It was still a fairly spectacular session that reminded me of why yancha has outrageous prices. MO is actually pretty similar to the XZH '07 Huanshanlin. Anways. The aroma is lower and mostly mineral and is typical of a very cleanly stored aged tea. This doesn't really have much of a top taste. It's just licking rocks, with a bitter, dark, weight on top. However, said lump of coal transforms into sweet generally fruity flavors on the tongue when I held it. When I swallow, this tends to promote a strong floral (I suspect the note is what people describe as opium, a very rich almost incense sweet floralness) huigan, in the throat, with very strong feeling going down. The qi is pretty strong, and early brews still have a caffeine wallop. Much more durable than a yancha usually is. Late brews has some aged plummy/fruity top notes, with a decline in minerality. Had about ten brews and will "waste" the rest in a thermos Monday.
 
Not too much going on this weekend...

Friday I did the An Xiang shu. Saturday I did the Dengshihai shu. I wanted to see again just where the Dengshihai is compared to the Dayi. Concluded that while the Dengshihai is indeed good, and definitely has lots of sheng in it so some aging is possible, An Xiang is really difficult to beat. It really just has two weaknesses--a bit a bad astringency, and the whole factory shu aspect, ie, it's a bit weaker and narrower than the rest of the shu in its quality bracket, which are all boutique gushu shu production. Several key pluses-- 1) The most key, it has an active and complex aftertaste. 2) It's a rather layered shu in taste and aroma 3) It can deliver a dynamic session for a shu 4) It has lots of high quality qi. All of it is put together for a rather seemless and balance experience. As such, really, among the shu I've had, only the XZH '08 Xishangjiaxi and the '14 XZH Yellow Mark is as good or better, and I very much want to try some of the other big Dayi shu efforts, especially the '06 banzhang shu.

Saturday I also did the '08 XZH Puzhen. I changed my brewing style and did flash brews until it weakens too much, and that made a lot of difference. Much like the '07 Puzhen and '09 Diangu, you can overbrew this without really realizing it. It's still a much less complex experience (but far more durable) than the '07, but it's a fairly rich and mellow tea. And again, exceptional mouthfeel and good quality qi are the highlights.

Today, I did the '06 YQH Qixiang, and I had a very nice time of it. It's a little flat, but very mellow and sweet with lots of subtle nuances and decent to good mouthfeel. It also had a nice, peaceful qi to it, as well. Long brews revealed some huigan in the throat as well as a bit more astringency.
 
Hey shah I'm curious how you think that tianmenshan Yiwu you had compares with other top notch Yiwu-area productions out there? I really enjoy my 2016 xzh Yiwu state forest cake and have been wondering whether the hype about the expensive tianmenshan teas is justified or worth it? I've been really wanting to pick up another newer xzh Yiwu for awhile now but, so far, haven't been able to pull the trigger. My sotd after a long day in class is the 2010 Korea walong. This is my first (and only) go around as I only have a small sample. I think it's pretty good so far. It has nice viscosity with a bit of interesting feelings in the mouth. It's definitely not going to beat many top teas in terms complex flavors. It's quite enjoyable though and makes for a relaxing session before bed.
 
I've had to come into this review writing with some thought and some research beforehand.

First of all, I tend to say what I believe, and leave it up to the reader to contradict me with a rebuttal. Just because you might get the sense that I am, or that I believe I am an authority, doesn't necessarily mean that I am. I certainly think of myself as someone who has some degree of knowledge, but in dealing with recent teas, I can be as unmoored as anyone else in a real sense.

Why? The core of how I think about teas is about how I think a tea that's said to be something, ought to be, in terms of traits and character. I make comparisons with other teas that I've had before, and a judgement that I make about what a region is supposed to be like. While it is true that you can get (or make) tea from an area and have it defy stereotypes, I utilize this process to help me filter what is a universe of tea, so much of it not worth my time.

This doesn't help me very much when it comes to certain teas. Bingdao, Xigui, Bohetang, etc. These teas were mostly hyped *after* they were already expensive to purchase--therefore there isn't really a community-wide understanding of what a Bingdao should be like, in the way there is for Lao Banzhang. This has meant, as I've discussed before, that there are several "Bingdao Modes" out there. More than this, there is a constant narrative of "No true Bingdao gushu", because genuine Bingdao gushu is astronomically expensive, and few people that we'd know, generally vendors, ever get reliable access to such teas.

Now, what's the point of this long prologue? I did a session of the new White2Tea 2018 tea, The Box, which I quickly put in the "Bingdao" box. There were some similarities to the Yunnan Sourcing 2016 Bingdao LaoZhai, TotM W2T B_D, etc. It could be from Xigui--but my general box for Xigui traits essentially has it being similar to things like XZH Puzhen, '07 fall Jinggu Nuercha, etc, because I think Xigui and Yangta Jinggu has some obvious similarities due to being on opposite banks of the Mekong. The big difference between Bingdao and Xigui is that Xigui tends to have a strong stone fruit note, where the better quality Bingdao do not tend to have fruitiness in that way. A lot of Bingdaos can have this weird orange milkshake or vaguely citrusy (not talking about zest) note. Some aged Bingdaos can have a stone fruit sweetness, but that's rare, in my experience. Bingdao also tends to have a dryer floral orchid not while Xigui is a bit more fleshy floral.

Okay the tea. First things first. This tea is seriously bitter and astringent, and it is not going to be friendly to anyone who doesn't expect this. The good news is that the tea eventually loses most or all of the bitterness by brew five or six. The astringency pretty much stays through the session, but it mostly adds character to the soup texture rather than make it difficult to drink by drying out your mouth or choking the throat.

The dry leaf is fairly fragrant. Soup aroma early on is vegetal, with sage, pepper, and aromatic soil aspects. There is an underlying honeyed soy-milk depth. The latter brews give a light sweet note, a bit floral, a bit sweet soy-milk. The taste is vegetal, a bit choco-vegetal early on. Some aromatic soil, some honey. Late brews tend to be soy-milk and fleshy floral, along with a vaguely fruity sweetness, which is very pleasant (and sensate sweet). When I am talking "soy-milk" I'm really saying that it's like that sweetness in sencha or matcha. Very much a sencha-y puerh early on. A really fancy sencha. The tea has an oily body that has a lot of astringency within, which makes for a relatively unique mouthfeel. Viscosity is above good enough for the price. Thick, not super-thick, and less than something like 72 Hours. Strong cooling on lips and the back of the mouth early. The cooling doesn't really persist that long into the session. The aftertastes were very long and complex while the bitterness persisted, and more subtle and short when the bitter leaves. The basic nature in early brews is a mouth aroma/yun combo with that sort of almost tobacco dry floral note, similar to top taste of teas like the 2011 Bingdao Tea Refining Company Bingdao from TeaUrchin. There were a number of subtle variations and a few penetrating throat huigans, rather slow and intricate. Feeling does go down throat in some of the cups. The latter brews had only quick and light aftertaste similar to the early brews and the aftertaste were really more about the sensate sweetness in the finish. The qi is strong, maybe a bit more, and focused in the body, more towars the back. Late brews seems to have weakened qi. Durability seemed pretty indefinite. Lots and lots of sweet refreshing brews at the end. I probably did a bit more than fifteen brews.

I felt like more good tea and wanted to compare, so I did 4g of the XZH Diangu Chen that I've got tinned. Very successful session. Soft, salty mango with subtle wood, caramel, and floral notes. Strong qi. Much less dramatic aftertaste and complexity.

While I didn't have any trouble with this today, I was thinking about how The Box was hard to drink in the mouth while the Diangu was hard on your stomach. I thought about whether if I preferred one over the other, I mostly just thought they were a little too different. Diangu has way better top taste, Box has more complexity and dynamcism. I do think the price for The Box is more or less fair for the quality. It's no bargain, but it's not a ripoff. I mean, I like The Box much more than I ever did either the 2012 or 2014 CYH Bingdao, mostly because The Box is so much more generous with the things I care about, aftertastes and qi. The CYH are much much easier to drink, though.

Alright, Lucky Puppy tomorrow!
 
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