1980s “Dank Brick” – Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company

If there’s one thing that my tea friends know about me, it’s that I love dank tea. And seeing a self-proclaimed dank tea?? You know I had to buy some!

This 1980s “Dank Brick” from Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company is a sheng puerh (生 – sheng, 普洱 – puerh) pressed into a 250g brick shape (砖茶 – zhuancha; literally “tea brick”).

The brick awaits…

I don’t know much about this tea other than it’s estimated to be from the 1980s, it was stored in Taiwan, and, from the look of it, there’s a subtle frosty coating on the brick.


I gave this tea a longer rinse to open up the leaves and wash off the 80s funk that might be in there. The taste is quite good. Even the first steep is relatively smooth and free of overwhelming storage tastes. Typically in a wet stored tea or a dank tea, you get a lot of heavy storage flavors.

Nice and thick

The main notes of this tea are sweet wood, and ripe cherry. There’s not a whole lot of dankness to this tea – or at least as much as I would want. The tea is clear and smooth throughout. There’s good viscosity and an oiliness to the tea.

Finishing the Session

This tea has a lot to offer in uniqueness and longevity, but not necessarily complexity. I found this tea to be very good, but definitely was of a similar note throughout the entire session. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, especially with older teas. This one was stored well and, I think, provides a good value at $89/250g. Though, if you wanted a really wet tea, I’d tell you that this might not hit the notes you’re looking for.

Brick pic

Until the next cup.

2007 “Hidden Gem” Mahei Huangpian – Bitterleaf Teas

Ahhh… huangpian. Either this is going to be an NSFW post or we’re talking about some delicious puerh. Maybe both?

Huangpian (黄片 – huangpian; literally “yellow leaf”) is the term for the larger and/or yellow leaves that are removed from maocha (毛茶 – maocha; literally “rough tea”) after processing, but before pressing.

Bitterleaf’s 2007 “Hidden Gem” Mahei Huangpian is a chance to try some semi-aged huangpian. This is a sheng puerh (生 – sheng, 普洱 – puerh) pressed into a 357 gram disk shape (餅 – bing; literally “cake”).

Snagged from www.bitterleafteas.com

Mahei (麻黑 – mahei; literally “black hemp”) is a part of the Yiwu region, so I’d expect a few similarities to other local Yiwu flavors like Mansa, etc. The dry leaves are pretty crispy, large, and brown.

Dry leaves…


I’m using boiling water for this session; rinsed the leaves one time quickly just to get rid of any residuals. The first steep was for 10 seconds. I tend to push huangpian just because the large leaves can handle it, unlike smaller grade leaves or younger shengs. It came out pretty watery, unfortunately. I guess the leaves didn’t really open yet, which is interesting, since most of the leaves were already flat and large.

Let’s get it started in here…

Based on that, I made steep two for 15 seconds… And now it’s sour. Definitely a by-product of the wet storage. Wet storage has a distinctive musty smell and a sourness when overstepped at the start of a session. There’s a great residual sweetness, but it’s still very watery.

Steep three.. Another 10 seconds. Much, much better this time. The liquor has a good viscosity, lots of honey notes. The storage still lingers through a hint of sourness and astringency on the sides of the back of the tongue.


The fourth and fifth steeps escalate the sweetness, bringing in the soft taste of red apple peels. Nothing overwhelming in the mouth, but a full flavor. As expected for huangpian, there’s not much in the way of astringency or bitterness, but the sweetness is the star.


The Later Steeps

The steeps don’t change much from here. The flavor keeps with the muted taste from before; nothing complex, nothing unexpected. The tea is great to drink without much thought. The steeps wane, for me, around steep nine. After that, my taste buds are bored, per the usual. Honey and apple peels win the day.

Finishing the Session

Here’s the final verdict for me. I’m glad I have a cake of this tea. I love huangpian for its simplicity. This one has deep feelings of batabatacha due to the wet storage of the tea. At $0.35/g, it’s not a bad deal if this is your kind of tea. It’s probably not one that I’d go out of my way to but more of – a cake will be enough to taste as the years roll by.

Lots of leaf!

All in all, this tea firmly stands as a decent example of semi-aged huangpian. There are no bad storage flavors and the tea brews up well after the initial hurdle. Take your time with this tea. You might just find a gem hidden inside your cup.

Until the next cup.

Blind Tasting – Balancing Expectation with Reality

Let’s play a game. What are your first thoughts when I mention the following terms?

  • Lincang
  • Wet storage
  • Xiaguan
  • Mini tuocha
  • Lao Banzhang

What did you think? Did you have some initial expectation of what the imaginary tea might taste like? You might have said “bitter” for Lincang or “forest floor” for wet storage. Regardless of your specific thoughts, most people have some sort of expectation when the label of a tea makes a certain claim.

What’s the Problem?

Humans, to a fault, develop expectations for all of our senses. We are conditioned to expect things, and this is even true with word association. If a label says “Yiwu,” you might have a certain expectation. That is independent of the fact that Yiwu is a huge area comprised of different elevations, soil conditions, water sources, weather, etc. that all affect the potential of the leaves. Then, on top of that, there is the processing, compression, and age of the tea.

The point here is this:

  1. When I hear “Yiwu,” I think of the flavor notes of wood, floral, and mineral; and
  2. Yiwu is much more than just a flavor profile and can be many other tastes.

This is the problem inherent in our tea drinking experience. The more we taste, the more expectations we create.

So, what do we do?

It’s good to judge a tea based on its label; however, the flip side is that it’s also unfair to judge a tea based on its label. There’s the difference between accurately portraying the tea (i.e., something is marked gushu when it’s really not), and accurately portraying the taste of the tea.

I love white wrapper cakes. I love unmarked samples. These items force you to think about the tea. Maybe you make some parallels to other teas that you have tried or a region with a similar profile, but the point is that you still don’t know one way or another.

Make your tasting fair. Give your tea a chance. If you want to enjoy the experience, stop worrying about what kind of tea it is. Sure, we all want to know what that 2000 Xigui sheng tastes like, but we also don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves into having a specific expectation for the tea.

Mix up your samples. Taste things blindly. Put samples into umarked bags. Put the sample into your gaiwan without looking at the label. Taste it first, then look at the label to be pleasantly surprised by the answer.

There’s nothing wrong with labels – just don’t let those labels influence your experience. Oh, and don’t let other people’s opinions shape your brewing experience either, but I’ll save that topic for another day.


Until the next cup.

Appreciating Tea

How do we appreciate tea? Is there something inherently different between having a mug of tea, preparing gongfu style, and having a formal tea ceremony?

Think about the time involved for each. The rush. You might make a mug of tea at work or on the go – something to get caffeine or because you just love the taste. You don’t have much time to appreciate it beyond the initial taste.

Gongfu style – some of us are lucky enough to brew this way at all! – can take more time to get the full experience. We can drink for multiple reasons: taste, caffeine, or experience.

Tea ceremonies are formal. Patience is a necessity. Obviously, you have much more time to appreciate each drop in every cup.

Appreciating anything comes in two experiences: Appreciating in solitude and appreciating in groups.

Appreciation in Solitude

Solitude is a reflective time. Tea, for me, is a way to practice awareness. Smell the lid of the gaiwan, the leaves, the cup, the liquor. Feel the leaves, look at the colors.

Appreciation of tea is immersion. Immersion is losing yourself in the moment – awareness is feeling everything at a heightened level. Strive for both. Strive for heightened immersion. Cut off your senses one at a time. Smell the tea with your eyes closed. Have minimal noise or distractions. Put your phone away. Enjoy each sensation from the tea – how each sip feels on the tongue and the throat. Understand how your body feels in response.

There are no right or wrong feelings, scents, tastes. There is only the importance of being aware in the moment and fully immersed in the experience.

Appreciation in Groups

Drinking socially is just as important. Share your tea experiences either as you have them or after the fact. Let people know how you feel in an open way, remembering there are no correct answers. If your experience triggers a memory, share it. If you think it tastes like popcorn, tell people. Don’t judge the tea as a whole, but understand your feelings about it, whether you thought the experience was worth the price.

We, as humans, are social creatures and we crave interaction. Abraham Maslow, in 1943, developed his Hierarchy of Needs. After the base physiological needs of food, water, and air, we need security. After that, we need a sense of belonging. This sense of belonging is your contribution to and gift from the community. We need this belonging before we can have self esteem or be self actualized.

Sharing your thoughts, pictures, and tasting notes are all ways to gain belonging in the community. Sharing your experiences socially also helps you to be more cognizant and aware of your thoughts when having tea to begin with.

Tea tastes better when you take the time to appreciate the nuance. We learn more, we grow, we educate others. When we grow in our appreciation, we give it to others.

The tea ceremony is the formal way to experience tea and appreciate everything about it, but we can have that same appreciation every day through every cup. Turn your passion into community.

Until the next cup.

2016 “Space Girls” – Crimson Lotus Tea

A wild review appears!

Well, I’ve taken quite a bit of time to figure out exactly what I would like to do with this blog. The original intent was to focus on education and occasionally write reviews, but that seemed to go out the window and I had a terrible time motivating myself to review the ever-growing pile of puerh samples. While reviews may make an appearance, they will most likely be in a varied format and I’ll focus more on a singular, weekly post with more research and education.

That being said… The review that follows was written in August 2016. Since then, the tea has been released to favorable reviews. To the tea!

Today’s tea is the 2016 “Space Girls” from Crimson Lotus Tea. Space Girls is a sheng puerh (生 – sheng; literally “raw”, 普洱 – puerh) pressed into 100 gram square bricks (方茶 – fangcha; literally “square tea”).

Snagged from www.crimsonlotustea.com

Luckily for me, I had this tea before it was pressed into its tight squares. I tend to dislike both fangcha (square) and zhuancha (brick) because they’re hard to break apart, age inconsistently, and are difficult to re-wrap. The maocha (毛茶 – maocha; literally “rough tea”) that I received was quite beautiful – big, full leaves with some buds throughout.

Beautiful maocha


Since I was using maocha, I did a flash rinse and a short first steep. If your chunk of tea from the fangcha is tightly compressed, you might want to let the first steep sit slightly longer to open the leaves. Another option is to rinse your gaiwan with hot water, then put the leaves into the gaiwan, replacing the lid. The residual steam will help to open the leaves, as well.

The rinse was rather viscous with a bright sheng flavor, slight notes of asparagus, and a slight astringency (涩味 – sewei; literally “astringent taste”). The first full steep is very smooth with a growing astringency. The taste has a vegetal/green bean nature, but it’s not overly vegetal.


Steeps Two through Four- Steep two and three have a growing tobacco taste – not in an off-putting way, but more in an “I don’t know what else to call it” way. Moving into steep four, the tobacco taste dies down and the tea delivers a smooth, crisp taste with vegetal undertones. The hint of astringency brings the sheng puerh experience full circle, balancing the sweetness, astringency, and green, vegetal taste. The tea has also developed a nice yellow-gold color.

Space bound…

Finishing the Session

Steep five brings through more of the floral/orchid nature of this young tea which grow through the rest of the session. I only got to steep eight with this tea, since it’s relatively young. Overall, the tea produces a mild qi, a good level of viscosity, and light vegetal/floral flavors. The tea might not boldly go where no tea has gone before, but it’s definitely a good entry point into puerh, the final frontier.

Until the next cup.

2016 “Orange Drop” – White2Tea

It’s starting to be the time of year when I want nothing but shou. Well… to be fair, that’s most of the year for me, but everyone else is going to jump on the shou-wagon soon enough.

I got my white2tea monthly club box in the mail just the other day. There happens to be some shou in the box, so I’m a little excited. Turns out that the box contains a polarizing style of tea – shou stuffed into mandarin oranges. Maybe it’s not as polarizing as cilantro, but I know a lot of puerh drinkers that can’t stand the oranges.

Why oranges?

Great question. Dried tangerine peel is a Chinese medicine called chenpi (陈皮), which has been used for hundreds of years. Chenpi has been shown to reduce digestive and gastrointestinal issues (not a book recommendation, but you could read up on it here, if you wanted). Of course, hollowed out oranges are the perfect place to stuff puerh, and since puerh has magical healing properties anyway (joke), why not add the medicinal power of chenpi?

I happen to love the taste of orange with shou. It’s a natural compliment, though some folks find it to be too much. You can choose to leave the peel in your brewing vessel or just take out the tea, which will have been infused with the orange scent. Obviously, leaving the peel in adds more orange flavor (and potentially more bitterness from the oils in the peel as well as the pith).

Onto the tea…

The tea that came with this month’s club is the 2016 “Orange Drop.” It’s not on white2tea’s site yet, but I imagine that it will be soon(?). Either way, I’ll update this post with a link to the product page when it comes out. These little drops are about 10g each, which is a perfect single serving size. The mandarin is stuffed with what looks to be gongting (宫廷) or at least imperial grade shou puerh (熟 – shou, 普洱 – puerh). This will steep rather quickly.

2 balls
2 balls

Another note is that these are mandarins from Xinhui (新会). Xinhui basically set the standard for chenpi production as well as the stuffing of puerh into the mandarin husks. These are called ganpu (柑普), which is not to be confused with other fruit and tea combinations of similar nature (such as pomelos or other citrus fruits).


Before you steep, you might want to break up the peel so that the tea doesn’t remain stuck inside while steeping. Once you’ve poured the water on the peel, it’s much harder to rip apart, so do this step while the chenpi is still dry. Steep this tea like you would any other gongting or small leaf ripe puerh. I like my gongting strong, so I do a slightly longer steeping. There’s a great shou flavor met with the backing of the citrus. The citrus flavors coat the throat and leave a tingling sensation.

Nice 2 meet you
Nice 2 meet you

The tea doesn’t change a whole lot over the course of the steepings – most gongting is pretty straightforward with flavor. The orange flavor, however, rises and falls with the first few steepings. You get a lot more of the residual oils and bitterness present in the first few steeps, then the flavor blends much more nicely with the shou flavors.

Deliciously orange
Deliciously orange

I definitely recommend having a few shou-stuffed mandarins laying around for rainy days or if you’re not feeling well. I find this tea very, very soothing on the throat and it sits nicely in the stomach. I don’t know how much these little oranges are going to cost, but I can’t imagine they will be that much. As individual servings, you can store them very easily and don’t have to worry about storing extra tea after breaking into one.

The aftermath
The aftermath

Until the next cup.


2016 XinZhai – Essence of Tea

​While still on a whirlwind tour of the scenic northwest, I’m taking some time each day to have some tea. Some days it’s an old favorite, but today, I’m having the 2016 XinZhai from Essence of Tea

Oh, and excuse the pictures. Starbucks has terrible lighting, though I’m grateful that they supply me with endless hot water.

EoT’s XinZhai is a sheng puerh (生 – sheng, 普洱 – puerh) pressed into a 200 gram disk shape (餅 – bing; literally “cake”). I got a sample of this cake when it was released, but am just now getting to try it.

Let’s get this party started 


I’m not really sure what to expect from this tea, so I gave it a short rinse. The taste is clean and vegetal. A first steep of five seconds yields a light and fragrant tea. It has a slight cooling sensation and a long taste of green fruits.

steep 1 

Steep two has a “full” taste that lingers in the throat and is accompanied by a mid-head feeling. Moving to the third steep, I tried to push it more to find any bit of punchiness, but the tea is quite green and lacks the bitterness and astringency.

Steeps Four and Five

Steep four, I went for 25 seconds. This tea isn’t very viscous, but has a full, lingering feeling. There’s a great intensity in the top of the throat, but is still very green tasting.

steep 4

I went for 45 seconds on steep five. There’s a little more bite on the tongue, but still plainly vegetal. This tea isn’t a rollercoaster of flavor, but more of a pleasant ride through the countryside. 

Finishing the Session

Steeps six through eight were increasingly longer. Steep eight went for five full minutes, but still didn’t yield any stronger sheng flavors. 

The wet leaves are very green and most likely need some time to mature into a decent sheng puerh. If you’re a fan of green tea, this could be a good entry point into puerh, but I’m not sure how well this will actually age. There’s the feeling of punchiness, but it’s just… so far away from the tongue, like it’s there but you just can’t quite taste it.

very green

Until the next cup.

2016 “Year of the Monkey” Spring Yiwu – Bitterleaf Teas

I’m about to make a lot of assumptions and draw a lot of conclusions. Buckle up.

Today is a special day. I’m writing this post from the airport on my phone. I’m headed to the scenic northwest United States 1.) To travel, and 2.) To visit some tea friends. This will mean fewer posts over the next two weeks.

Today’s tea review is of the 2016 “Year of the Monkey” Spring Yiwu from Bitterleaf Teas, or, as I like to call it, the “smoking monkey.”

I’ve mentioned yiwu teas many times. One of my favorite teas is a 2003 yiwu. Yiwu is one of the six famous tea mountains, though today it’s probably the most famous. 

The 2016 “Year of the Monkey” comes in a 357 gram bing.

The dry leaf is floral and immediately catches my attention. All of my favorite yiwu notes are present in the scent. I only mention this because out of all the 2016 yiwu teas that I’ve tried, this seems to be the most on point. All of the other yiwu teas have been “blends” of some sort… but what are they blended with?

Let’s get it started


From the rinse, you can tell this is going to be a spectacular tea. When you drink enough puerh, you can get a true sense of a tea without drinking a ton of it. Sure, you don’t get all the nuance and there might be unexpected flavors, but sometimes, you just know.

The first steep, I let go for a longer than average time, about 15 seconds. No bitterness. No astringency. Just perfect and classic yiwu flavors. 

Deliciously Yiwu 

Okay, now you can ask. “What are classic yiwu flavors?”

I’m glad you asked. To me, classic yiwu has notes of wood, floral, sweetness, and minerals. The mineral taste usually comes from the nearby rivers, etc. but I’m sure there are plenty of other contributing factors.

Steeps Two through Five

This tea is as exquisite as it is simple. The notes are soft. You have to listen to the tea. You can’t oversteep it (I’m sure you could, technically, but you’d have to try hard). 

The build of flavors, the lack of bitterness, and only a hint of astringency through the heart of the session. I can’t even give you details about each steep in a way that will make sense. This tea is an experience that must be felt.

By the fourth steep, I’m sweating like crazy. The energy hides in the tea and jumps out at you when you least expect it. There are no signs of slowing down; the flavor keeps escalating in only the best way possible.

Amazing tea so far

Finishing the Session

My least informative review, by far, but perhaps one of the best teas of the year (2016 harvest, not 2016 releases). The tea starts it’s decrease around 8 steeps and lasts for a little while longer. The longevity isn’t a problem, since it’s a young tea. 

Til we meet again

There are few teas that I’m blown away by, but this is one of them. I’m so glad to have a whole cake… maybe more is needed. For now, I’m just glad I threw another helping in my bag to have on my trip.

Until the next cup.

Sharing Tea

Tea is more than just ancient tradition. Tea is more than the leaves on the tree, the processing, or the liquid in the cup. Tea doesn’t care if you buy from a farmer, a vendor, a big chain store, or Lipton tea bags.

Okay, maybe tea cares about the last one.

Tea is an experience. Experiences are meant to be shared, just as I’m sharing this writing with you. I haven’t been in the tea world as long as a lot of people, but I’ve shared tea with so many people around the world in all sorts of situations. Mailing tea around the world… traveling to meet tea friends… video chatting with vendors in China… it’s all a part of the tea experience.

But why?

No matter your belief, tea, in ancient cultures, has always had a “spiritual” connection. Drinking tea alone has calming abilities. It gives you the chance to center yourself, to focus on something other than life, to feel the energy of the tea. But what is so special about sharing tea? Sharing tea connects people and provides a sense of community. Not only do we feel the connection to the tea, we feel connection to the other people in the room, regardless of conversation. Tea is a bonding experience, meant both to be shared and enjoyed alone.

I’ve shared tea with quite a few vendors including Crimson Lotus Tea, White2Tea, Bitterleaf Teas, and Meimei Fine Teas. Tea with vendors is fun for someone like me. I’m trying to learn tea-related Chinese terms, processing techniques, arbor vs. taidi, different mountains, leaf size, etc. But you don’t need to be an aficionado to have tea with a vendor. Just sit back and listen. Enjoy the time. Enjoy the tea. Learn more about the drink you love. Listen to the stories of the people who have been there. Live vicariously through them. Dream.

Did you just..?

Yup. Sure did. I’m passionate about tea. I dream about the future endeavors that I can have – open a curated tea store, sell teaware, hold classes locally and online. I’ve had a lot of hobbies that involve learning about subject matter, attending conferences and shows, buying… a lot. Tea is a community experience. You can’t just have it alone and feel satisfied.

So, what does this mean?

Sharing tea is less about what you’re drinking and more about how you’re drinking. Tea transcends differences, unites, comforts, and delivers an experience unlike any other. Turn off the television. Turn off the cell phone. Turn off the computer (unless you’re skyping someone for tea!). Drink in the experience and, better yet, experience it with someone else. Find someone who doesn’t know about tea and explore it together. Start with a simple green and work your way to complex puerhs. You don’t have to bond over expensive tea, you just have to enjoy the time.

Oh, and if you want to have tea with me, just let me know.

Until the next cup.

2016 “Teadontlie” – White2Tea

The supply of 2016 teas is almost endless. I have so many to try and so many more to review, not to mention other purchases and trades. Being a puerh junkie can get pretty overwhelming!

Today, I’m trying another new tea from White2Tea – 2016 “Teadontlie.” Teadontlie is a sheng puerh (生 – sheng, 普洱 – puerh) pressed into a 200 gram disk shape (餅 – bing; literally “cake”). The only notes on White2Tea’s site regarding this tea are:

A blend of raw Puer material that has a sweet, thick body. A heavy interior fruity floral fragrance and a strong astringency that will calm down with age.

Sounds pretty good to me.


The cake has pretty loose compression and relatively large leaves.

All ready to go
All ready to go


Just a quick rinse for this young tea. The rinse is lightly floral with a wood base. Automatically, I think this tea has a yiwu (易武) base, but is most likely blended with leaf from other mountains/regions. The first five-second steep brings out more of the woodiness and some creeping astringency. This astringency increases greatly at steep two (five seconds) and there is also an increase in the floral notes. Hiding in the background is a fruit taste which lingers on the top of the mouth.

Steep 1
Steep 1

Steeps Three through Five

Steep three, seven seconds long, delivers a high viscosity. The astringency also levels out at this point, but doesn’t decrease. The fourth steep, and the heart of the session, has the astringency starting to fade. There’s a decrease in bitterness, but the tea is still heavy on floral notes. The tea remains thick and sweet, also providing a sharp punch of tea energy (茶气 – cha qi).

The heart of the session
The heart of the session

Steep five, increasing to 15 seconds, is still quite thick and sweet. The floral nature is fading, but is being replaced by softer fruit notes, which I’m identifying as pear-like.

Steeps Six through Eight

Steep six, also at 15 seconds, is much sweeter and amplifies the wood base, which was relatively hidden under the other flavors since the start of the session. The fruit taste moves into an apricot-like state. A 20-second seventh steep is much thinner with the peak of the tea obviously behind it. There’s still a great sweetness and wood/apricot blend. Steep eight, for 30 seconds, is much thinner, but still provides a good taste and sweetness.

Eighth steep, dying fast
Eighth steep, dying fast

Finishing the Session

I’m sure I could push this tea to about 11 steeps or so, but since the tea is dying rapidly, I’m losing interest. Overall, I’m still confident in my yiwu base assessment, though I’m not always right about these sorts of things. The leaves are nice and large; however, there are a lot of stems. The leaf size definitely lends to the sweetness of the tea – typically, the larger the leaf, the more sweetness, but that’s not always the case.

Pretty large leaf size, lots of stems
Pretty large leaf size, lots of stems

This tea is pretty magnificent right now. The length of the session will grow with age and some of those harsher, more astringent notes will die down over time, as well. I would highly recommend this tea for a sample (a cake is a sample) for further hoarding. This is a great tea to drink now or let age for a few years.

Until the next cup.