2016 “Secret Garden” – Bitterleaf Teas

Bitterleaf Teas is a relatively new puerh vendor that has been making quite a splash on social media. In fact, until I kept seeing everyone else’s posts about this company, I didn’t even know it existed! With that being said, I did what any other sane puerh addict would do – bought some tea. The tea for today is the 2016 “Secret Garden” which is a sheng puerh (生 – sheng, 普洱 – puerh) pressed into a 200 gram disk shape (餅 – bing; literally “cake”).

So much color
So much color

Bitterleaf states that this tea is from an area just outside of Yiwu and is made from “old tree (100+ year) material.” In a broad definition, that would make this tea gushu (树 – gushu; literally “ancient tree”).

Note on tea tree age: There are a few mixed opinions on what are the different age ranges for tea trees. There are three general ranges:

  • xiaoshu (小树 – xiaoshu; literally “young tree”) – less than 20 years old; cultivated tree
  • qiaomu (乔木 – qiaomu; literally “tall tree” or “arbor”) – more than 20, but less than 80 years old; non-cultivated tree
  • gushu/dashu (古树 – gushu; literally “ancient tree”/大树 – dashu; literally “big tree”) – more than 80 years old

Buyer warning: Buying from unknown vendors or companies that don’t source their own tea may list things as “gushu” when they really aren’t. It might even be marked “gushu” on the wrapper! That doesn’t really apply here, but it’s a helpful tip when shopping around.

Gaiwan'd up and ready to go
Gaiwan’d up and ready to go


The flash rinse is a very light peach color and has an interesting pear note. The leaf smells slightly vegetal, but not as much as other young shengs such as the 2016 “Whispering Sunshine” from Crimson Lotus Tea. The first full steep has a much fuller flavor with crisp apple notes and a slight floral aroma. I can feel the energy in my head, but that might also be because I’m drinking young sheng on an empty stomach…

Just getting started...
Just getting started…

Steeps Two through Four

There’s a beautiful depth to this tea even in the early steeps. Sweetness is subduing a mild bitterness across the tongue. There’s also a very nice throat-feel (喉韵 – houyun; literally “throat charm”) that lingers for quite some time. Building through the steeps to the heart of the session, there is more of the floral bitterness followed by a nice sweetness (回甜 – huigan; literally “sweet return”). There is some slight tea energy (茶气 – cha qi), which is more typical of older tree material.

Great mouthfeel and flavor
Great mouthfeel and flavor

Steeps Five through Eight

Through the rest of the session and as the steeps get longer, the bitter characteristics wane and reveal a floral, sweet, wood profile. There is still some crisp fruit flavors as secondary notes. After the steeps get to a minute long, the sweet floral notes are the dominating characteristics of the tea.

I need a snack now...
I need a snack now…

Finishing the Session

This tea is characteristic, to me, of one that will get better with age. While you could drink it all now, the bitterness will fade with age and the lingering qi will grow. I think that this could be a special tea in 15 years, but who knows if it’ll be gone by then. I guess the best thing to do is to throw it in the back of the pumidor and wait.. and wait… and wait.

Until the next cup.

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