Leaf Type: Green
Where to Buy: Min River Tea (However it’s no longer available)
Hailing from the foothills of Huang Shan’s eternally misty peaks, Tai Ping Monkey King is one of China’s most distinct green teas. The mellow and refreshing Monkey King is processed from a special cultivar prized for its large leaves. Its leaves are individually flattened resulting in the typical often finger-long blades featuring a beautifully deep green colour.
Learn more about this tea on Steepster.
Looks like I’m a little late to the game; Min River Tea has closed up their virtual doors and this tea is no longer available for sale – however I’m still going to review it because I think that even though you can’t buy it anymore you can certainly learn from it!
Personally; I’m way out of my comfort zone here. Not only am I not really big green tea person in general (though that is slowly changing) apart from roaster greens and matcha, but I’ve never had a Tai Ping Houkui before – though the concept has interested me for a long time. Personally, I think the dry tea leaves are one of the most visually interesting and stunning of ANY tea type.
For my first tasting of this I went with a cold brew, purely because my mason jar I use was the only brewing vessel I could think of that was actually deep enough for the very long leaves – each one is nearly an inch longer than my finger, though I do have tiny baby hands so maybe that’s not saying much. I didn’t really know how much leaf I should be using for a cold brew; in the end I wound up using six or seven of the long, steamed leaves.
I’m thinking that was pretty too lightly leafed; the taste was subtle and watery. Although, there were some differences though! The liquor was a very pretty, pale green and the taste was clean and grassy with some light seaweed seaweed notes and some sharpness. There was also a touch of sweetness that reminded me of honey. Honey and green tea is a great pairing; so it definitely worked.
I can’t say that I necessarily loved it, but I also didn’t hate it and to be perfectly fair I was also a little bit strained tasting it too. I definitely plan to repeat this cold brewing process again with more leaf to see how that changes the flavour and my impression.
I’ve also heard about the tea leaves ‘dancing’ when brewed hot so that’s something I’m eager to try as well! For now, I probably wont seek out this tea type but should it happen to find its way to me through a swap or something like that I’m definitely going to be very receptive to the chance to try different company’s take on this one.
As someone who’s done so little exploration into the world of green tea there’s always something really fascinating to learn and taste! I hope to grow to love the taste of this tea type enough to want to put more effort into tapping into that pool of knowledge.
Leaf Type: Pu-erh
Where to Buy: Butiki Teas
Our Organic Ancient Phoenix Puerh originates from a sustainable farm on Wuliang Mountain in China and is handpicked by the Yi tribe of Yunnan. This Shou (ripe) puerh was harvested in 2011 from organic ancient trees. The tea is pressed into cakes using only skilled hands and a unique fragrant wood. Organic Ancient Phoenix Puerh is smooth and rich with raw cocoa, oak, and sweet tobacco notes. This high quality tea can handle a substantial amount of infusions.
Read more about this tea on Steepster.
A few weeks ago, Butiki Teas announced on Steepster that it was closing permanently very soon. I was very sad about this announcement because Butiki Teas is one of my favorite purveyors. So, I started sorting through my stash to see if I had any teas on hand from Butiki that I had not yet reviewed so that I could offer a goodbye to one of my favorite tea companies here on SororiTea Sisters – and this is the tea that I found. So, yeah, this tea is no longer available from Butiki Teas, but this review is less about the tea for me and more about offering a heartfelt farewell to a wonderful tea company.
And this Ancient Phoenix Pu-erh is absolutely lovely. It doesn’t surprise me, because I can’t say that I’ve had anything from Butiki that I wasn’t impressed with! (Which is why I’m sad to see them go!)
These tiny Pu-erh cakes are about the size (in diameter) of a quarter although they’re a bit thicker than a coin. It makes portioning rather simple, I just dropped one of the “coins” into my gaiwan and covered it with hot water (190°F) for 15 seconds to awaken the leaves. Then I strained and discarded the liquid. I poured the water over the coin – which is already starting to break apart – and infused it for a minute. Then I poured the tea into my teacup and enjoyed. Pu-erh offers multiple infusions and this was just the first of many cups that I’d enjoy this evening.
My first cup is sweet. It’s almost a sugary sweetness. There are notes of earth to the cup as well, but the sweetness is stronger than the earthy qualities. (I like that in a pu-erh!) It’s a very soft tasting tea, this first cup. Much softer than I’m used to from a pu-erh. There are light spice notes.
The second cup was also steeped for 1 minute. Usually, I add 15 seconds onto the steep time but that wasn’t needed here. This has a much deeper flavor. Some of the earthy notes have emerged now. I’m still getting those spice notes I mentioned with the first cup, as well as the sweetness. I taste notes of leather and cacao and wood. This is a very complex cup. Very smooth. No astringency. No bitterness.
The third cup – well, the third cup and I didn’t really agree. I steeped it for a full minute again and I found it to be a little reminiscent of a thick cup of coffee. Not a good coffee either. Kind of like a tar-like coffee you might find in one of those 24-hour truck stop diners that don’t get a lot of traffic so the coffee’s been sitting there for the last six or seven hours. I found it interesting that at least one of the tasters of this tea on Steepster experienced a less than favorable third infusion as well. Weird.
So, I tossed that cup and went for infusion #4. This time, rather than setting a timer, I just watched the color and when the color was dark I poured it. I would estimate that the fourth infusion was about 20 seconds. Much better than infusion #3, this is earthy, kind of mushroom-y, with notes of leather and cacao. I am picking up an undertone of molasses-like sweetness. A very smooth, mellow and deeply flavored cup.
I kept on steeping. I found that by the fifth cup, this had become a very pleasant tea. This is a tea that you can’t really set a timer – you just need to watch it. When the color becomes dark, it’s time to pour and enjoy. Sweet with notes of spice. Cacao! The earthy notes are starting to become less prominent and allowing the sweeter characteristics to come forward.
As I sip this tea, I raise my cup to the greatness that is Butiki Teas. I recommend to all of you – if you haven’t yet tried any of this company’s teas, shop now before you lose that opportunity. I will miss you, Butiki Teas!
Leaf Type: Pu-erh
Where to Buy: Teasenz
Made from 2012 “gift-tea grade” leaves selected by the Teasenz team and pressed into a tea bar. Easy to break and steep right away, or store and let it ripen for years. A perfect gift to surprise your favorite tea drinker.
Learn more about this tea here.
I was quite pleased by the aroma of the dry bar, because usually when I take a sniff of the dry leaf of a pu-erh, it smells very earthy, to the point where it smells … well, it smells like earth. Like potting soil with um … well, with maybe a little bit of fertilizer mixed in. Yeah, I’m not all that into that smell. But, while there are some earthy notes to this dry leaf (which has been pressed into a bar shape with little squares, similar to what you might find if you were to unwrap a bar of chocolate), this doesn’t overpower my nostrils with the smell of a greenhouse during planting season.
And the brewed tea doesn’t have a heavy earthy aroma either. Nor does it have a heavy “briny” or fishy smell. BONUS points for that. The aroma here is very soft, almost indistinguishable, which some might find a bit weird, but it’s much more agreeable to this tea drinker than the aforementioned potting soil.
The flavor is so nice! It has a deep, rich, mellow flavor that is a pleasure to drink. There are notes of cacao which is especially nice given the comparison I made to the chocolate bar a bit ago. Absolutely no bitterness. No astringency. Just a smooth, well-rounded, mellow flavor. While there are faint notes of earth here, this isn’t what I’d categorize as an earthy tea.
The flavor is very interesting because it’s quite unlike any pu-erh that I’ve tried to this point. The notes of cacao are there, it’s a very mild dark chocolate note. It’s almost like raw cacao, except that I taste a very subtle roast. Like perhaps they started to roast the cacao but then changed their minds shortly after the roasting process had begun.
The cacao notes are softer than the overtone of molasses that I taste. This tastes to me very much like molasses, with hints of mushroom. Imagine a mushroom that has been slow-roasted to dry it out a little bit (so that it has a slight dry, leathery sort of taste to it) and then topped with raw cacao, and then topped with a heavy drizzle of molasses.
Yeah, it sort of tastes like that, only better, because that description sounds kind of weird and this just tastes unique and lovely. I mean, if a chef put a plate in front of me with a slow-roasted, leathery mushroom that had been dusted with raw cacao and drizzled with molasses, I would think that the chef had lost his mind. It is sweet, rich, a little leathery with a very slight earthy tone. Overall … a really splendid tea experience!
This tea keeps going and going too. I managed eight infusions, and I think I could have gotten even more, but I was ready to move on. The flavors got deeper and deeper with each infusion, until about six. The flavors pretty much began to stabilize at that point, and then wane. My eighth infusion is where I started to notice a loss in flavor, but it was still quite flavorful.
Leaf Type: Pu-erh
Where to Buy: Teavivre
With a century-old history, abundant rainfall and sunlight, Yunnan owns a reputation as “South of the Colorful Clouds”. She feeds her people and the land they live on with her own stream. This time TeaVivre brings you Pu-erh lovers the ZhenMu LingYa, within which the passion of Yunnan Pu-erh people you can feel. This Ripened Puerh Cake Tea ZhenMu LingYa uses fresh leaves of Mengku arbor tree as material. The tea workers have years of experience in making Pu-erh tea. With their hands and professional experience, they made the fresh tea leaves into this beautiful ripened Pu-erh cake. Using the Mengku arbor tree of high quality as material, this ZhenMu LingYa has the pure and mellow flavor of ripened tea. You could see the golden pekoe covering on the dry leaves. As the cake was suppressed just fine in tension, you could enjoy breaking the cake.
Learn more about this tea here.
Like I do with most Pu-erh … I put off trying this Mengku Arbor Tree Ripened Puerh Cake Tea ZhenMu LingYa 2007 from Teavivre for a little while, but, I’m glad to be sipping on it today.
I brewed a chunk of this cake in my gaiwan, and I managed quite a few infusions from one small chunk. The first infusion was earthy (most Pu-erh teas are!) but I liked that the earthy notes were subdued. The flavor is deep, rich and mellow. Really smooth without any astringency. The sweetness is reminiscent of molasses!
My second infusion was a little more earthy than the first, but it was still very sweet and smooth. By the third infusion, I found that the earthiness had really subsided to the point where I really found myself enjoying this Pu-erh. Sure, I liked the first and second infusions just fine, but, my palate was much fonder of the third infusion!
The fourth infusion produced a slightly smoother taste – the taste was still very smooth in the first three infusions, but here I notice that the flavors tend to meld and become more unified. It becomes a very smooth drinking kind of tea, with lovely sweet notes, hints of earth, and a sweet, caramel-y, molasses-y kind of taste all coming together in a seamless flavor. It was really nice and mellow – the kind of cup that you like to enjoy after a meal.
I could have very easily taken this tea through even more infusions … although it was getting late. My personal tea time had come to an end before this tea was ready to quit! A really enjoyable Pu-erh … not my favorite, perhaps, but, certainly one I’d be happy to enjoy again!
Leaf Type: White (Aged)
Where to Buy: Wan Ling Tea House
Bai Mu Dan or Pai Mu Tan is a classic white tea from FuDing in FuJian province. This 2004 Bai Mu Dan aged white tea has been pressed into 357g tea cakes in 2010. The aim to preserve the leaf during storage and prevent damage during transportation.
This white tea, is absolutely stunning. Combining delicate, smooth body with a full, complex body. The taste is complemented a clear, bright liquor and enchanting aromas.
Learn more about this tea here.
Wow! Just … wow!
This is a truly stellar tea, quite unlike any Bai Mu Dan I’ve ever tasted!
It brews up to a beautiful, clear, pale yellow color, almost the color of melted, clarified butter. The flavor is sweet and delicate, with notes that are similar to a fresh Bai Mu Dan, but, I’m noticing some flavors that I don’t usually expect with a Bai Mu Dan as well. A strong fruit note is present. Much more intense than I would have thought was possible to achieve from a white tea.
I don’t know that I agree that this is a full-flavored tea, though, but it IS flavorful. It has a soft texture, very little astringency, no bitterness, and a slightly floral, sweet aftertaste. The aging process has not only managed to strengthen the flavors of this Bai Mu Dan, but, it also seems it has enhanced its complexity. As I continue to sip, I notice some earthiness starting to emerge, and I like the way this earthiness melds with the natural sweetness of the white tea.
Subsequent infusions yield sweeter flavors – fruitier flavors! I note more of an apricot-like tone now, like dried apricots, with their flavors and sweetness intensified by the drying process.
This is a tea that is highly recommended to those that love white tea, they will adore this one! I would also recommend it to someone who thinks they don’t care for white tea as they find it to be too light in flavor for their liking – this one will change their mind about that! This is truly a remarkable tea!