2019 Both Steal Boats and Meet Halfway – White2Tea

This was a difficult tea for me. Not because I didn’t enjoy it – at least in a case like that, I would have a clear-cut opinion – but just that I had trouble figuring out what made it stand out.

I’m gonna go on a small rant, but just skip this paragraph if you’re only interested in the tea rather than the tea reviewer (which is very understandable). I think that there are a lot of exceptional teas, and there are a lot of seasoned tea-tasting veterans who are great at their job. I also think though, there’s a lot of pressure to review teas with obnoxious flavors and qualities attached to them. Watching some high-production video, you never hear “yep. tastes like grass. mmmhm. Tasty grass though!”. It’s gonna be “MHMhMMhmhM wEELL IF thSi doeSNT remMId me of soMe HONEysucKLE i hAd when i wAS fOUR YeaRS olLD, ANd  C  A  M  P  H  O  R  . The point here is, lots of great, or at least positively neutral, teas I try don’t have any obvious (to me) flavors that jump out, and that makes reviewing them a real challenge. Sure I enjoy this tea, but why? Balance? Balance doesn’t sound really thrilling. Honeysuckle does though. This is only such a problem because I get 3 tries to “get it right” and document why I like/dislike a tea, and for what reasons, when ordering from the standard 25g tea packet. Some sessions I get lost in, forgetting to document and just enjoying my time, or checking my phone. Maybe this is a user issue that will be refined with time. Anyway, this tea had me hung up on that very issue for a while. It’s a good tea! But nothing really jumped out. Thankfully I brewed harder on my 3rd attempt, and quickly awoke the qi that I had read about pertaining to this tea. Somewhat ironically, this left me off doing things completely unrelated to the tea past steep 2, but I got what I needed from it.

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Review:

Video review here!

/Disclaimer: This tea’s store page description, and other things I’ve heard about it, allude much to the qi (“lifeforce”, body / spirit of the tea in relation to your body and mind, more than just taste) than the importance of it’s taste. Unfortunately, I only got the qi only on my third and final trial of this tea. This said, I’ll do my best to do both the taste and qi justice./

The first steep acted more as insight to what the tea would eventually become, as opposed to a defining steep. The tea developed flavors like light vegetation, lingering sweetness, and small amounts of bitterness.

Steep 2 brought everything this tea has to the table taste-wise, and body-wise followed quickly after: Both Steal Boats and Meet Halfway is thick-bodied, with an astringent vegetal character that attacks the tongue sides and throat, while a sweet part of the viscous soup – which I can only describe as delightful – attacks the very tip of the tongue, as hints of smoke go down with the swallow. Other steeps deconstructed this one slowly, but I personally think the best of this tea lies after steep 1 and before steep 6, likely between 2 and 4.

Into steep 3, the bitterness began to fluctuate, while the vegetal astringency continued as an established part of the flavor. The sweetness in the linger also began to ramp up past this point. In addition, the head feelings of this tea became extremely present; the mind-feel this tea gives is one that is only realized past the point of no return. After finishing steep 2, I found myself with lots of mental energy, but also with a strange head-based disassociation with my surroundings. I wish I had documented the feeling more, but it can be best summed up simply with the word powerful.

As the steeps progressed, the tea followed a similar path to many other young shengs: the astringency stuck around for a while, the bitter lower half dropped out, and the sweetness prevailed by double-digit steeps. But this was not a mediocre tea. It isn’t exactly a joy to drink for any one reason, save maybe hard-hitting qi, but is a pleasure to drink for a multitude of humble reasons. This tea carries all of the best attributes that a young sheng with aged material mixed in can carry; no aggressive flavors, full body, an above-mediocre progression, and a wild trip in the head. A tea I wouldn’t save as the last at a party, but one I’d be thrilled to present midway / late in.

This wraps around to the conclusion: this cake (200g) is $85. Depending on where you sit with money or personal experience, this could raise some eyebrows. Do you need to spend almost $100 to get a well-balanced cake? No, and it might be overpriced if that’s all it offered. The sort of place that this tea puts the mind in however, hits – if not significantly hits – above its price. I’ve experienced similar mind-moving brews at price points $40 more, which is nearly +50% this cake’s value. Presenting itself as a well-rounded blend, only hitting 100% in head-feel, this cake is a great price. Overall, an incredibly pleasant taste, paired with a surprisingly strong mental side, makes this a great tea to keep around for anytime you can afford it proper attention.

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Specs:

7g / 100ml

100c (boiling) water

Steep time = 5x seconds, where x = steep number

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2019 Green Hype – White2Tea

This tea has been a real rollercoaster. I got the whole cake as part of the White2Tea club, and it really has changed every time I’ve tried it. The first time was pretty different than the later two, and the last one specifically put me in such a weird headspace that I couldn’t sleep for hours after having tried it. With smokiness, distinct tastes of aged material, and possible a qi that really punches above it’s price point, this is a hard one to pin. If anything, I take comfort in the fact that everyone else reviewing this tea so soon after its pressing is in the same position as I am, as time is beyond us all.

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Beginning with steep one, the color of this tea resembled a deeper gold than most young shengs its age. The flavor immediately hit hard, with an aggressive smokiness that brought hefty astringency with it, along with a bit of a vegetal taste. Encapsulated in this was a sweetness that crept up from under my tongue, and lingered. A honey-like underlying taste was present, but was buried in the deep body.

As the steeps developed up to the third and fourth, any vegetal tastes turned into earthy ones. A distinct hint of aged material began to come through as well, but with none of the tame qualities that aged sheng has. The light sweetness continued to shine through, but had a hard time getting through the bitterness and astringency that continued to develop and amplify. The bitterness shouldn’t be feared though, as it had no negative mouthfeel, just a bitter taste. This is something very familiar to good raw puers. After steep four, starting with the middle of my tongue, the bitterness began to plateau.

From steeps five to seven, the tea gave it’s final fights. The sweetness in the tea, when it wasn’t lingering, was still something that needed to be worked towards, as it was shrouded in such a hearty-bodied woody / smokey flavor. By steep seven though, the boldness of the brew began to curb, signaling the end of this tea’s power through steeps.

Between steeps 8 and 12, the liquor thinned and sweetened. While this isn’t unusual for many shengs, it didn’t present this entirely independently; the astringency of previous steeps was so strong, that this stripped-away sweetness towards the end of this brew was still contested by bold smokiness from the earlier steeps. Finishing off the tea, I was left with a resonating sweetness, but a dry mouth.

In conclusion, this tea is a great example of money going towards complexity rather than feel-good taste. It’s intricate, changing, and rewarding for continuing through the steeps, even if just to see how the flavors interact with each other. This tea is too young to say if I’d enjoy drinking it’s bold progression daily, but at $38, it’s an excellent price for a daily drinker, and I enjoyed last years Green Hype very much as well.IMG_3797.JPG

Specs:

6.9g / 100ml

100c (boiling) water

Steep time = 5x seconds, where x = steep number

Core 2018 – Bitterleaf Teas

After a long absence from my Instagram, and an even longer absence from this blog, I’m returning on all platforms with this review. That means that this review will not only have a Steepster entry, but also an Instagram post and a Youtube video. The links for those accounts are found on the main page of this blog, go check them out!

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Pictured: Me next to steep 11

I’ve had this sample of Bitterleaf’s Core 2018 kicking around for far too long, to the point where I forgot what its described flavors were, which made it perfect for a taste review now. After rinsing the leaves, their wet aroma gave off no alarming or obnoxious smells; some of the immediate sourness and strength, which is present in some young shengs, was not present here. The smell wasn’t necessarily dull, but it gave me nothing to fear continuing.

The color of the liquor began as a very light yellow, and didn’t stray far from this throughout the session. The tea was clearer than some of the tea I’m more acquainted with, but still wasn’t entirely transparent. Sipping the first steep, there was an immediate sweetness that resonated on the tip of my tongue, and lingered on my lips. As I swallowed the tea, it tingled the middle and back of my tongue. The body of this tea was rather thin, but not distastefully so. The dominant flavor at this point was still the light sweetness, which edged on floral, but was not so bright. The second steep highlighted the lower half of this tea’s flavor, which is a vegetal, somewhat grassy, and slightly bitter, taste. This type of flavor is very common among young shengs, especially ones less than three years in age; however, this component of the tea did not hit as hard as it does in some others like it. The sweetness was not overpowered by this vegetal taste, but it did become clear that there were two fighting flavors in the tea. This part of the tea ramped up against the sweeter counterpart up until steep 6. During this, a underlying and faint creaminess established itself in the brew; recurring, but not very prevalent. Steep 6 was a turning point in flavor, as the vegetal / bitter flavors plateaued, and faded every steep past 6. The sweetness had calmed by this point, but came out on top as it became the dominant flavor in steep 6 +.  This was a nice surprise, and gives the drinker a reason to keep steeping beyond the first few. This said, it is worth nothing that the harder you brew this tea, the more vegetal it will taste; similarly, the quicker you drink it, the less you’ll taste of it’s sweet flavor.

In conclusion, this young sheng doesn’t bring much to the table in terms of complexity or body feel, but it is an excellent value for a daily drinker – $36 for a whole 200g cake, which, at one year’s age, is an incredibly tame young sheng. The sweetness may dull with age, but if the body of the tea is to beef up over the next few years, I could see it evolving into a very interesting brew.

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Specs:

6.8g / 100ml

100c (boiling) water

Steep time = 5x seconds, where x = steep number

200X A & 1995 OG Liquid Proust Teas Double Review

Quick Intro:

Alright, I’ve been sitting on this one for a while. Might be a bit hard to write some stuff here. At the end of the day though, I realize, you just have to get some things off of your chest. Especially if that something is some moderate tea.

What do I mean by this? In my days of tea drinking, I find that I typically run into very diverse, very unique, and very easy-to-describe flavors. The words come to me (accurate in description or not), and I’m able to, at least in my own way, pinpoint the flavor of whatever tea I may have just drank.

Well, that didn’t happen with these teas. To put it plainly, they weren’t an explosion of flavor, they didn’t slap me in the face with neither high notes of sweetness nor low notes of astringency. These teas, when I tried them, were just kind of there.

But through this experience, I came to terms with appreciating these sorts of teas. Not crazy in character, but mellow. And now I appreciate that. What’s been so hard for me to write this is saying anything less than great things about a LPT tea, but considering these two are holding up 5 more tea reviews, it really has to be done. Sorry Andrew of LPT, still love you man, and rest assured the 100g of Charcoal Roasted Oolong that I nagged you to find is being put to good use.

So! With my pathetic inability to write honest reviews out of the way, let’s dive right in.

200X A

Merchant: Liquid Proust Teas
Sampled: 11/21/2017
Price: $7.25 / 25g (29c / g)

So my first mistake with this review is that, at the time of writing, I’m entirely out of this tea and have to go strictly off memory for this review, which means as a whole, these will both be pretty short. Whoops.

This sheng was a very basic one. It had a bit of a sweet-savory flavor, but was not powerful in any regard. The tea as a whole was very mellow and approachable. I documented that it would make a great entry-level tea for someone who’d never tried sheng before. It’s astringency has definitely mellowed out over the years, which has given it a nice, tame flavor. To be frank though, it was nothing to write home about; I described it as a “what you see is what you get” tea – there were no hidden flavors to be discovered 4 steeps in, no layered flavors, no interesting details upon further examination. It’s just a decent, calm tea. Good as a daily drinker for its simplicity I’d assume, but I personally wouldn’t pursue purchasing any more of this tea; I prefer diversity and a bit more excitement in my tea. As previously mentioned though, this would definitely be a great tea to have a friend try if they’ve never tried raw pu’erh before.

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200X in the gaiwan

 

1995 OG

Merchant: Liquid Proust Teas
Sampled: 11/22/2017
Price: $9 / 25g (36c / g)

I enjoyed this tea about as much as I enjoyed the other. This oolong did present a bit more depth and interest to be had in its flavor, but not by much. The tea managed to be incredibly chocolaty while not being too sweet. Having a few notes of earthiness and some toast-iness to it, it made another very pleasant tea. Smooth in texture, and once again approachable, it would make a good tea for a party. In very late steeps, I also got a sort of fruity taste? Not citrus-y by any means, but nothing that I could directly relate to a specific fruit either. The leaves on both teas were of extremely high quality though, if nothing else – whole leaves were everywhere. Though I only gave these 3 stars each (out of 5), I don’t think they’re bad teas. They’re calm, low-energy teas that have their place; I just personally don’t seek for teas in this ‘place’ very often. For the casual drinker who wants a simple, solid brew, however, these are both great options.

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1995 OG in the Piao I
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Brew Color

 

Alright, so that’s that. Two teas I wasn’t crazy about, but needed to get a review out for. Excuse the lack of quality for this first post, there’s some real great teas coming up, and more in-depth reviews, that I can promise. Till then, keep your tea high and budget low, and #gongfuorbust as always.

-Kaszimir