Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Tea culture; a blog anniversary retrospective

Originally contributed to the TChing site for publication.

My blog will be four years old in the next week, which is a good excuse for looking back.  I don't really want to talk about me so much, or this blog, more about tea culture, and perhaps a little about how perspective towards the subject changes.

one version of tea culture and community (credit Global Tea Hut organization blog)

How much did tea culture seem to change over those four years?  Given that the subject of tea is thousands of years old not that much, relatively speaking.  Matcha is bigger now, and trends come and go, like people putting different types of cheese on tea, or mixed in with it.  Hybrids styles develop, people trying out new things in existing areas but traditional teas wouldn't change much decade to decade.  I'm in the middle of reviewing an Assam oolong now, and covered a Japanese smoked black tea this year (it was ok, a good bit like a Lapsang Souchong, but different).

Beyond tea itself I am interested in shifts in online tea culture, for example in older style forums moving towards Facebook group activity.  I suppose there wasn't much for Facebook tea groups four years ago compared to now, so things do transition, but the function isn't so different.

It's not as much about evolution but interesting how tea culture means different things to different people, how it fragments.  One meaning is embracing old traditions, ceremonial practices, collecting traditional gear, etc.  One running theme is that given that the experience of tea is either generally positive or somewhat value-neutral the shared interest should help people come together, to share experiences without conflict.  Then divisions and conflict come up, related to commercial interests as much as anything else, but also just to people taking the ideas and practices in different ways.

I had written out a bit about those splits, and transition in how people perceive tea differently over time, about a typical personal experience / learning curve, and how those go in general.  But I'd really like to keep the focus here on how I think tea culture is changing, more than about how it fragments into sections, or about personal experience transitions.

a tea group at my alma-mater, the Penn State Tea Institute (photo credit)

In talking to people in tea groups one main theme is that tea awareness is just now ramping up where the person commenting lives.  I guess in the US in the Northwest or parts of California it may seem like a lot of that really started a decade ago, but in a different sense it's probably true in those places as well, just in a different sense.  Bangkok has went from only having local Chinatown shops and two others in malls, beyond booths and smaller stores, or Tae Tea outlets, to there now being a modest number of other cafes and loose tea outlets.  But beyond matcha and bubble tea, really not the same thing, it's only now getting started.

A friend bought Nepal tea through a source that was hard to access roughly four years ago, and had luck selling or trading some of that, because it was far less accessible then.  I've talked to a good number of people starting tea businesses related to Nepalese tea in the past year or so, enough that it's hard to keep track of how many.  Two used Kickstarter approaches, and one of those talked of opening a physical shop, a couple visited Nepal from the US, and two based their businesses out of Nepal.

Nepal white tea, in a unique style (reference link)

There are less and less unexplored corners of the industry.  I first visited Laos almost 10 years ago now--the time just flies--and later returned and bought tea from a local farmer.  It occurred to me that someone could do a great business by helping those farmers process teas better, and now Kinnari Teas is more or less selling doing exactly that, working with Laos producers to raise standards.

A recent post on more direct tea sourcing options covers a trend that all but didn't exist four years ago.  Others might rattle off counter-examples, of a plantation with a website, or related to one-step-removed sourcing going on a decade or more ago (in some cases a small vendor going on a sourcing trip, buying from a farm there), but now actual producers are setting up sales websites.  It's rare, and in some cases what's being sold is still really being re-sold, but it's starting.

 a small family tea producer's sales page (reference)

New types of tea interest groups are evolving, a subject I've not had space to develop here.  At the level of the individual tea drinker culture change really does reflect one person after another moving through an experience curve.  Every week lots of discussion forums see posts about people just now moving from tea bags into loose tea, asking how they might get started on brewing and sourcing, about types, and all the rest.  It's a slower process but every year people who were only first introduced to loose tea the year before push further towards the middle of the learning curve, switching types and preferences.

The online associations tend to be a bit loose, but those are an expression of tea culture.  It has been nice for me to be a part of that, conversing here and there, researching different themes, and rambling on in posts in TChing and Tea in the Ancient World.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Halmari Hand-rolled Assam Oolong

a bit tippy as oolongs tend to go

Halmari, one main producer of Assam teas, sent an oolong version along with two orthodox versions of Assam black tea, one of which I've already reviewed.  And an Earl Grey; that should be interesting.  Indian oolong isn't a brand new concept but I've not tried many examples, and no specific versions come to mind (not a great sign).  As I only vaguely recall the versions I tried seemed a lot like a black tea, just backed off in oxidation level a little, not all that different than how that works out for Darjeeling first flush teas.  That wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing given how nice those can be.

Their description of this tea doesn't add that much to that but I'll cite it, since Assam oolong does seem atypical:

Halmari’s handcrafted tea follows the five basic steps of tea-making, however, it is carefully hand-rolled and oxidized repeatedly over the course of days. This unique method enables us to create beautiful complex layers of aromas and flavours from this tea. 

one minimum-requirement version of a processing chart (credit World of Tea)

Per World of Tea's processing chart the only minimum-requirement difference in types between oolong and black tea is that oolong is fixed at one step (heated to stop oxidation at one level).  Of course a lot of oolong is actually roasted too, and processing steps can vary, but I'm not going to develop all of that in this post.


The dry tea smells a little like a Darjeeling,  with orange citrus or maybe even bergamot scent. But it's slightly earthier, an interesting combination.

I brewed the tea Gongfu style (odd mentioning what that is, but just in case:  using a high proportion of tea to water, and multiple infusions versus only two or three).  These instructions recommend Western style brewing, and I did also try that method later, which I'll describe at the end.  The first infusion was more a rinse, but not discarded, a normal approach for me. 

The taste is sweet with a good bit of fruit and complexity, but prepared light enough that I'll start the detailed review on the second infusion.  It's already clear that this really will be a type of tea that's new to me, not just black tea eased off a little on oxidation level, a bit different in character.

The tea is interesting.  The tie to Assam black tea related to the aspects is clear enough but that only seems to represent half of what is going on, and it's not based on a dominant malt aspect as Assam black tea tends to be.  It also shares a lot in common with Darjeeling, more so than any Assam I've ever tried.  I'd say second flush style since the astringency level isn't as light as in first flush, and since citrus / bergamot is so pronounced in this.  It's not exactly that, with a lot of the flavor in this tea expressed in a different citrus range.  It's still related to a type of orange, I'm just not going to venture which orange (blood orange, juice orange?; definitely not navel orange).

There is malt too, it just shares the space, only one part of what is going on.  From there the citrus range is next, then a black - tea related effect of oxidation, a specific kind of earthiness.  It's something I've been referring to as a resinous feel, which seems to relate to taste range that's a little towards pine.  There's a good but of mineral complexity under all that.

It's definitely novel, and doesn't remind me much of any other oolongs.  I'm guessing that this wasn't roasted at all, although not all oolongs are, and I'm not sure it would improve it anyway.  The oxidation level must be backed off that of their black teas but it's hard to notice that as a single cause input.  Oriental Beauty style oolongs are typically prepared at a relatively high oxidation level, up near the border of what would be considered black tea, and I guess this does share some commonality with that type, it's just not exactly the same.  It contains more bud material than oolongs typically tend to, or at least it seems to, so it ends up looking a little like some Oriental Beauty teas.  The fruitiness isn't far off some OB versions range (pronounced citrus is typical for those), and like those this tea has great sweetness, it just has a black tea-type earthiness underlying that which isn't common to those, maybe except in more oxidized versions nearer to the boundary for black tea.

My description so far hasn't done it justice but there is a sweetness and lightness to the tea, offset by the complexity and bolder flavor range.  It's true that I'm expressing a contradiction, but there is a complexity to the experience beyond individual aspect input that is hard to pin down.  It's definitely not as light as lighter / "greener" oolongs always are, or even as roasted oolongs go, but it's not as heavy, earthy, or astringent as black teas.

For the last infusion I went over 30 seconds and it was just a little intense;  I'll back off that.  Prepared on the light side this tea really shines, bright with lots of fruit, lots going on.  The feel isn't even thin, and brewed strong--what would be normal strength for other teas, at least related to brewing time--that feel might be too much, along with the flavor not being as positive.  Using the same parameters as this for the Dian Hong (Yunnan / Chinese black teas I tasted yesterday, at least related to when I made these notes) those black teas wouldn't taste like much, especially the two leaf-type versions (versus the one bud / gold tips version).

Part of the taste range is back at cedar / redwood, matching the orthodox black version I tried earlier, but it's layered along with the rest in this.  There isn't that much common ground with light rolled oolongs to talk about,  or with Wuyi Yancha or Dan Cong styles.  It's closest to Oriental Beauty, as I'd mentioned, but it seems just as close to Darjeeling second flush tea as well, sort of in between the two.

The malt aspect is different than in Assam black teas.  It's still in a malt range but beyond being only one flavor contribution among others instead of dominant the effect is lighter, and the aspect itself different.  I tend to describe malt as spanning a range of earthier and heavier flavor,  like aged rusty iron pipe, to being much softer, lighter, and sweeter, more like ovaltine, closer to cocoa, or more like the original sense of a fermented grain.  This might be closer to the middle now, still a bit towards the heavier side, but less so than as expressed in Assam black teas.

The fruit effect transitions some along later infusions, but still in a similar range.  It's becoming lighter in character and perhaps more complex rather than less.  It's at a place where interpretation of individual elements could vary quite a bit, but then to some extent that would have been true of the fruit and earthier aspects in earlier infusions too.  It's slightly wood-like, but it's also picking up a touch of root spice complexity.

On the next infusion I went a good bit longer, over a minute.  The tea is brewing out, fading after a good number of infusions, but the aspects range is staying consistent, and it's still possible to brew with that more intense,  heavy-earth, thick feel.  It comes across as slightly dry made that way.  I'll stretch the tea to brew another infusion or two, or it would work to try and get the last out of it by trying cold-brewing (putting it in the refrigerator with slightly warm--but not hot--water, overnight or for at least 8 hours).

A second try, Western brewed

Whenever I'm brewing teas Gongfu style (using that tea proportion and timing) for types that would either typically be prepared Western style, or I think might do better that way, I try to check results making them using both processes.  And I did that for this tea.

The results did seem similar.  Again this tea reminded me a lot of a second flush Darjeeling, not that far off a black tea style related to oxidation level, but a good bit fruitier than most tea types tend to be.  The muscatel was swapped out for other orange citrus range to some extent, and the oxidation level and subsequent malt / earthiness / astringency was subdued, but it was definitely still along the same line.  It did well related to using that approach; it was easy to make, and provided plenty of flavor, even though I really did use a light infusion proportion compared to how I generally make teas. 

This tea is soft enough that it would work well across a range of infusion strengths.  There is no notable astringency to brew around, and just enough earthiness and structure to give it a bit of feel, perhaps a bit softer than it might seem it would be given the flavor range balance.  Related to overall balance and the "clean" nature of this tea, there is a subtle way that teas come across that shows them to fit somewhere on a range.  Let's express that as ranging from flawed, to decent tea, to instead really good, and at the highest end of that spectrum something exceptional.  This tea is pretty far towards the more positive end of that scale.  Some teas can come across as very subtle and sophisticated, and also intense at the same time, as better Dan Cong can, and this tea is a bit more along the lines of a conventional tea tied to that scope of effect, similar to how better than average Oriental Beauty oolongs tend to come across.  The flavors aspects set is nice and unique though; all in all a very nice tea.

Typically it's not a blogger's place to mention cost and value related to tea but per my take it would still make sense to buy this tea at twice the listed price, with some teas of comparable quality and overlapping aspects range selling for more than that.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Tasting 2014 7542 (Dayi sheng) and a Langhe factory pu'er

In a recent post about Liu Bao and a tea exchange with a friend in Malaysia I'd mentioned that he passed on most of a sheng cake with that hei cha (from the Langhe factory producer).  It's too kind, really, especially given how much Liu Bao he sent.

That Langhe sheng pu'er will work perfectly with my previously described project of trying more sheng and seeing how those change with age.  In a sense it doesn't matter what it's like, since regardless of character and how much I like it the one purpose of noticing aging changes in one more type of sheng pu'er will still be fulfilled.  I did try it yesterday, and it's not bad, but today I'm comparison tasting it along with another standard version I just picked up.

Langhe left, Dayi 7542 right; definitely variation in tea material compression

I visited Chinatown yesterday (as of initial draft; just last week during editing), mostly to pick up a replacement white tea cake (shou mei).  It was the one from the Sen Xing Fa store mentioned in this comparison review, described as the oldest version from 2008.  I've been giving away enough tea for people to try that I've almost went through that cake, more by distributing it than actually drinking it.  I liked a different version slightly better in that compressed white comparison tea tasting post, and the two teas are relatively comparable in cost (this was a bit less, the same cost for 357 grams instead of 200, both around $20). 

Both white tea cakes I've already tried were available locally, but it was hard to pass up an outing to Chinatown and go in the other direction to that Teeta Talk shop instead.  I swung by the Jip Eu shop to drop off some tea samples--including sharing a little of that Liu Bao--but I'll save how that went for another post.

Yaowarat facing East, see description below

It's hard to make out but I work in a building in the picture above, just several miles away from Chinatown (this is on Yaowarat, the main street, not the main section with all the signs, on the other side).  I work in Sathorn, not in the Mahanakhon building, which is easy to spot, the building with the odd profile, but in the Empire Tower building beside it.  It looks a lot smaller, mostly due to the angle even though it isn't as tall, buried at the bottom of the visible divide to the right of that temple chedi in this picture.  It's not that far from where I work but walking there would take a few hours.

The tea I bought--the Dayi / Tae Tea 7542--is from the Sen Xing Fa shop.  They sell a lot of commercial Thai teas (the typical oolongs), and teas sold out of open bins on the sidewalk (crazy!), and teas in large jars inside, per typical Chinatown shop non-optimum storage.  But there is more interesting tea around in there, you just have to ask and look for it.  The staff member there last time spoke English, a younger guy, part of the family that owned it, and this time the other family member didn't, at all, so I had that to work around.  I speak some Thai but it takes a lot of fluency to run through tea descriptions, and I can't.

Sen Xing Fa staff, with tea cakes and teaware

typical Chinatown side-street, beside that shop

I visited another official Dayi outlet here in the last month (not Teeta Talk, the one in IT Square) and crazy as it sounds I didn't buy any tea there.  One concern:  I checked on the price of a "2016 Menghai Golden Fruit shou pu'er" I bought a few months ago and they were charging double what I paid for it through Yunnan Sourcing.  That wasn't really the main issue, though, that I expected I could probably find those same teas elsewhere for less.  I was in a hurry--kind of always in a hurry; my life works out like that--and my wife was with me, and that certainly doesn't help.  I explained the sheng stockpiling project to my wife, that you don't you just drink it as you buy it, that the tea more or less needs to age, and I think she kind of got it.

Another main issue was that the sales woman spoke almost no English.  To her credit she was pointing out origin locations of the cakes, but couldn't really say any more than that about them.  Later it occurred to me that I really should have just bought a standard-type cake to keep for reference, like this one I just bought, but being in a hurry I didn't process it all fast enough.  My daughter was napping in the car at the time, with my son and mother-in-law waiting there, and all that really does set the clock ticking.  I'll mention links for those Tae Tea shops but they would be more helpful to people who read Thai (website and FB page version).

Tae Tea shop in IT Square building, near the Don Muang airport

I'm wondering if there is any chance this tea isn't "real" (the 7542).  I've read a half-dozen articles on the subject, so I could easily enough go back through those and looks for indications, but I'll probably just assume that it is (unless it's really bad tea, then I'll check further on all that).  I'd guess that more costly versions of tea would be more likely to be faked but then if a demand is there along with a cost difference from lower grades of tea of course fake versions would turn up. 

In visiting China five years ago our local Huawei employee guide said that people produce and sell fake eggs there (inside the shell; they make that part too).  The idea was that if anything can be made for less than a real version it will be.  We questioned him how that would be possible, and his answers were plausible, with the right amount of real explanation and the level of information you'd expect, but I still wonder if he wasn't just putting us on.


Langhe pu'er; a bit tightly compressed

looser, with a different look and a much different smell

I have pu'er pick somewhere, but used this since I've misplaced it

Both teas are labeled as from 2014; that's fortunate, for comparison.  The Langhe pu'er is really compressed, hard to break up, and the Dayi tea is not.  Both have picked up some color from three years of aging, and both have relatively interesting smells.  I suppose I could start a review based on variations in that, but in this case I didn't, and tasted the rinse and drank a light first infusion before making any notes.

I've tried the Langhe pu'er yesterday so that's not exactly an unknown.  It was ok.  It's a bit mineral intensive, really towards the metallic side, but it has some warmth and complexity balancing those things, and metal and mineral aren't necessarily bad anyway.  I bet three years ago this tea would've been challenging to drink a round of.

And that's how the first infusion for it goes; decent, some complexity, mostly mineral and a trace of metal.  Some background:  years ago a tea friend recommended I try drinking a lot of one cake of a sheng to adjust to the general type (Bank, the guy who ran that tasting), and a second contact (a Japanese guy living in India who bought tea here sometimes; kind of strange all that) recommended one not unlike this one, a cake that I did buy and have since finished.  I bought that tea before I started this blog (in a Bangkok shop that since closed, JRT), and thought of mentioning it in a review here, but it just wasn't interesting enough to tell much of a story about.  It did change some over a few years of regularly drinking it but it just softened and deepened in range a bit, nothing too dramatic.  This tea I'm drinking now might be slightly better, or it could just be that I'm more used to that general profile, so it comes across more positively.

The 7542 is completely different.  It's a little more bitter, with a bit more of that "taking an aspirin" aspect that initially had put me off sheng, but still approachable, even in early rounds.  Per my understanding that will keep on fading as the tea ages, and some degree of that taste range and related astringency is actually a good thing, a good starting point for transitioning into completely different types of aroma aspects later.  Of course I'm passing that on as hearsay; part of trying out aging teas is about experiencing that sort of transition myself, it's just going to take another half dozen years for that to play out for this version.  The tea also has nice complexity, nice other range.  There is a warmth to it as well, a wood-tannin sort of range versus that pairing with mineral tones in the other.

Fourth and fifth infusions, I think

When we were tasting those Yiwu sheng (the "vertical" age-sequence tasting) Bank mentioned that Malaysian stored teas have a characteristic flavor, and that may be some of why these teas seems so different, and a lot of what I'm picking up as interesting about the Langhe tea.  The base of the flavor is just mineral, as I keep saying, but it extends into a nice warm range, giving it a fullness.  It's not warm like cinnamon, I suppose it's sort of out towards wood or tobacco, but not those either, really.  It's not completely unrelated to root beer, just not that, with a little of the bite of a softer wood, and a little towards molasses for sweetness.  I'll keep working on describing that.  It's interesting that the Langhe is a little darker than the other tea; I suppose it is conceivable that the it aged more, even though Bangkok should have a similar environment; it tends to stay plenty humid.

The 7542 is also becoming more pleasant, still a little edgy related to that tannin, feel, and related flavor, but there's a nice depth to the rest of the experience.  I wouldn't want to only drink this particular tea but there's range there to appreciate, and it does seem like it softening and picking up warmth and complexity over time could turn it into a really nice tea.  It's quite decent now, just a little bitter.  People tend to say "bitter" when they really mean astringent but this tea has some of that feel aspect but it really is more bitter; it has that flavor.  I would imagine for an experienced sheng drinker this isn't particularly far down the scale of being bitter as younger teas go.  I'll have to keep trying the other versions of sheng I've got around to get it all mapped out in taste memory.

Per usual I'm focusing on taste / flavor aspects here, not so much feel or aftertaste.  I'll try to consider those further in the next round and see how that varies.  I went a little longer on the last infusion time to see how that affected results so it would've been perfect for that, but I'll try a normal, somewhat light infusion again this time.

Brewed lightly the Langhe pu'er is easy to drink; it does offset any aspects that might seem challenging.  It also comes across as a little thin; the flavor is lighter, and the feel isn't as substantial.  That warmth and depth is still nice but it works much better in a stronger version.  There isn't a lot going on with mouthfeel to talk about; you can feel the tannins along the middle of your tongue and rear edges of your mouth, but it's all a little soft.  It doesn't just disappear after drinking it but the aftertaste isn't significant either.  Someone really into appreciating those types of aspects might be disappointed by this tea, or maybe it would just go better infusing for longer to draw that range out more.

A lighter infusion works well for the 7542 for the flavor to balance, with that predominant wood and leather tone almost extending into an apple cider range.  The feel hits my mouth a bit differently but the main difference relates to aftertaste.  The effect of the tea is still there two minutes later; it's strong initially and then keeps slowly fading.

Later infusions and conclusions

Over the next couple of infusions the teas just seem to be transitioning to softer with a bit deeper flavor range from there.  Based on trying that Langhe yesterday it's going to keep brewing for awhile, and I'd expect the same of the Dayi tea.  It is funny how much darker the Langhe tea leaves are, and how much darker the brewed tea is.  Maybe it really did age faster there, and maybe I really am picking up characteristic flavor from Malaysia storage.  It has been all kinds of humid here in Bangkok for the past six months, for the Thai rainy season, and it's never cool and dry, so it would seem odd that conditions would age a tea faster anywhere else.  If that shop was air conditioned that would change things but I don't remember that it was.

I accidentally gave both a long soak due to not paying attention, and I guess that can help related to summing up where they are after lots of rounds.  The Langhe has faded more, with the feel softer and even the flavor thinning.  That might have to do with the tea being a bit more ground up, causing the flavor to come out faster, or maybe it's just not made from as good tea material.  The flavor has moved to more of an autumn leaf range, with plenty of what I'm interpreting as the storage related taste still present.  The 7542 is still on the strong side, brewed longer at this stage, with the flavor, feel, and aftertaste intensifying from being prepared that way.  The bitterness isn't what it was but it hasn't completely faded.  It works relatively well with the rest of the aspects profile; it fits.

I'd planned to go through a research section, as I used to for posts more in the past, but this is already kind of long.  I'll cite what William of Farmerleaf said about teas from that factory and turn up a summary of 7542.  His comment first:

It's from langhe tea factory, a big one in Menghai that makes relatively cheap teas.  If it was stored in Malaysia, it could be very good.

Of course he would probably mean relatively speaking, and it did seem that the storage contribution was a likely most interesting characteristic.  He made an interesting observation about the 7542, which almost contradicted other things he was saying about people's preferences varying related to aspects and aging, but it all makes plenty of sense taken in the right way:

2014 is still very young for this kind of tea, they are usually made to be drunk in five or ten years.

In looking for a summary of 7542, and comparing prices for different versions, I found this description of the number (from the Teasenz vendor):

The first two digits ’75’ stands for the year the recipe was created. The 3rd digit refers to the size of the leaves used. In this case it’s the number ‘4’ meaning that this Dayi cake consists of smaller leaves (and more buds). At last, the last digit ‘2’ refers to the factory, which is the famous Menghai tea factory. Today, 7542 recipe is so popular that it’s often seen as a benchmark to compare other recipes.

It's a violation of a blogging convention but since I have these references looked up I'll review how pricing variations go in them, against what I just bought.

Teasenz is selling this year's version for $19.95, which seems on the low side, but then vendors do tend to charge significantly more for holding onto a cake for a few years, and batches within a numbered type vary.  The closest Yunnan Sourcing version to the one I tasted is from 2015, listed at $47.  King Tea Mall (a name that comes up, but not a shop I've bought through, or that I can personally endorse) lists a 2014 version for $49.  I paid 1200 baht for the one I bought, which works out to $36.  It seems likely that they don't try to match the pace of marking up cakes for initial years of aging against market rates in that Sen Xing Fa shop, which could work out to a good reason to buy them there.

That one potential complication I won't get far with here, that might relate to the labels of the 2017 versions not matching from the two vendors selling one:  there are different batches per numbered tea from each year.  A Tea DB blog article talks about that, with the main theme there about how pricing for pu'er varies by age.  The range of differences within a year is highlighted by a table showing version differences in price:

The main point for this review was just comparing two versions of sheng pu'er, to set out a starting point for referring back to how they change later with more aging, so I won't dig deeper into those types of tangents.

in memory of King Rama 9, beloved King and a father to the nation of Thailand

Friday, October 27, 2017

Tea exchange, and exploring Liu Bao through a Malaysian friend

I tend to talk to random people online, often about tea, or sometimes other subjects.  One online contact--or friend; let's just go with that--is Malaysian, a very well-spoken individual who also loves tea.  He's the one that offered those well-developed thoughts on "gan," related to exploring hui gan in a post.

We will exchange teas.  The format he insisted on is that he gives me some tea as a gift, and I can return the favor with a second gift if I choose to.  Or that's per my own understanding, at least; I'm still sorting out the part about evening up the balance and sending some tea to him.  It's nice when online social interactions help restore your faith in humanity, not that I'm in a crisis related to that.  I'm an optimist, so I can't ever completely lose that faith, especially since I also retain it for the benefit of my children, but sometimes things can seem negative, related to all the bad news and killing.

Death has been a main theme this year; almost always a bad subject to be on.  As I write this initial draft it's the funeral day of the former Thai King, as beloved a human being as ever lived.  He died a year ago, so this ends a long mourning period, but if someone means a great deal to you the loss is never completely resolved, you just get on with accepting it.  Of course there was a public shooting in the US recently, but I won't get into all that.  We lost a cat this year too, to me a death in the family, not just any cat but the most personable cat I've ever met, who was very close to my daughter.  But the comments sections of most internet posts is really more what I was talking about related to negativity.

This really has to circle back to tea.  He sent a lot of Liu Bao (more than a pound of it, it seems), and also a sheng pu'er cake.  It's too much, but it will be nice to be able to drink a lot of that tea, and to be able to share some.  Two other tea exchanges are currently in the works, and with a lot of that tea parting with even 50 gram "samples" wouldn't change the overall amount.

He mentioned a source shop for the Liu Bao, and even though it probably wouldn't be helpful to anyone outside of Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) I'll mention one contact anyway, a Facebook page for the Kong Wooi Fong shop


The tea smells nice, a bit earthy of course, but in a pleasant, complex, mineral intensive sense.  It doesn't have as much molasses sweetness as some shou tends to have but the scent is rich and clean.

After a rinse I went with a relatively longer infusion time than I expected to provide optimum results, to jump right into experiencing a strong version of the tea, versus a more typical easing in by way of an initial light infusion.  I guess that related as much as anything to curiosity.  Later I'll experiment with different water temperatures and brewing techniques.  My friend mentioned that he often uses "grandpa-style" brewing, as we now call one version in Western tea circles, leaving a relatively small amount of tea in water for an extended time to "brew out."

The tea is nice, interesting, and definitely complex.  It has a lot of the earthy mineral range I'd expected but there is a bit more of a certain kind of structure to this version that I didn't expect.  It's not as soft and limited across feel range as those other versions I've been trying.  One might initially think that's because this is younger, and those have had time to mellow, but two of the last versions I was drinking were from 2014 and 2015, not aged for a long time.  It will be hard to describe what that part of the feel is like, and the related taste.  It's sticking with mineral range not far off slate, as those did, so in essence tasting like a blackboard smells (chalkboard, if one would rather).  Of course that's only going to work as a partial description, and it's hard to assign a mouth-feel to a blackboard.

I expect that the tea would be better brewed a good bit lighter, and that it will transition to soften a little across another infusion or two, but it's still very nice as it is.  Someone would have to like an earthy range of tea to appreciate it, of course.  Beyond slate peat also comes to mind as a taste description.  I'll expand on that more as I keep trying it, but I'll also check in with his own description of the general range:

In many aspects, almost indistinguishable with Pou Lei, but distinct and different at so many levels...  The tea tasted like decaying dry wood or tree branches as its elementary characteristic, with layers. At certain times, it is like the smell of tree bark. On numerous occasions, it tasted like the oh-so familiar of biting the '叉燒' or 'Char Siu', thus the similarity with Pou Lei. However, this tea, it is the additional smell almost associated with the smoke emanating from the burning of the dry leaves and old tree.

Luk Bou also evoked the feeling of one surrounded by furniture made of '酸枝木' or 'Shuin Ji Muk'. Sometimes, it is like walking into a room with old books lining the shelves, not exactly moldy but dry with warmth and inviting, not the secondhand bookstores with a mixture of acerbic feel and unforgiving.

There is this intrinsic 'old-time' quality, an almost antiquated attribute about Luk Bou, not found in Pou Lei. These are the layers of characters, making Luk Bou lavish in its character, but a constant not 'in-your-face' taste that neither scream for one's attention nor being intrusive, when drinking this tea, of which I believe the uniqueness of Luk Bou. Also, the fact that I am partial to Luk Bou.

That probably works as a full review, really, but I'll keep going anyway.  He's using the Cantonese term for Liu Bao instead, Luk Bok, if I've got that right.  I didn't mention that he's at the opposite extreme related to English language use than I'm accustomed to living in a foreign country, a couple of levels above simply being fluent, but then quoting him in that hui gan related post had already conveyed that.

brewing in a gaiwan; not as black as I expected

The next infusion, a shorter one, is softer.  The first one wasn't musty or "off" in aspect range but this one is a bit cleaner (possibly due to just being brewed lighter).  It's funny how old books and furniture really can describe a clean, positive taste, and I'm even relating to the barbecued pork description (the char sui).

Maybe more than the burning of dry leaves I'm reminded of the smell of a pile of autumn leaves, a very familiar smell from my childhood, being from a very wooded area in Pennsylvania, a name which itself means "Penn's woods."  We would pile up those leaves and jump in them, or stuff clothing with them to make a type of scarecrow, for no real purpose other than to play.  Those were simpler times.  There is really a range of scents that autumn leaves can express, related to different trees dropping them, to moisture level, and the scent varying for being in the deep woods or in an open yard, but I don't intend to try and narrow that down related to this tea.

autumn leaves in Pennsylvania (photo credit)

The flavor transitions a little the next round but it's not that different.  That feel aspect I mentioned falls into a really nice balance, fitting in well with the rest of the effect.  It was a little strong initially to integrate well, probably as much from going a bit far with infusion strength as from transition.  The aftertaste is a different aspect but the two seem to pair together, to overlap, so that you are tasting the tea and feeling it after swallowing it, in equal measure.  It's not the same as the experience that other local friend described as being "hui gan" in that Yiwu sheng tasting, when plain water tasted after drinking that one tea seemed very sweet, but I tried the same practice of drinking water after, to see how the effect changed that experience.  The water didn't have the same intense taste as it had then but the effect definitely continued and became a part of tasting that water too.

Those same aspects shift a bit in relative balance across other infusions but the tea doesn't really change.  Some teas do transition a lot across infusions and some don't.  For some that do it's about the best aspects fading out in the early rounds, but in some cases teas just express an interesting range of character that keeps changing.  This just softens, and slightly sharper mineral tones give way to warmer earthy range.  I suppose in a sense it comes across more like coffee, after the first 7 or 8 infusions (prepared Gongfu style).  It seems like one wouldn't miss that much for preparing it Western or "grandpa" style, and sometimes that can work out in positive ways that you don't expect, it can somehow be even better, for stacking up more of the aspects range in one go.  I'll check on that.

brewed leaves; not entirely blackened by fermentation and age transition

It goes without saying that this tea experience wouldn't be for everyone.  I like it, and I think a lot of people could relate to it, especially in a version like this one.  It is probably the best version I've tried yet, or at least on par with the other favorite of the set of three I've tried.  It's possible I like it better because I'm more used to the type, since I've been drinking it, and because the tea means more to me as a gift, so I'm biased in judgement.

I'll have to check the age on this tea, to see if that's a factor.  It didn't seem as black in color as the others, or as fermented, related to that and overall effect.  It could be younger, or both factors could work together, I guess, and it could have been fermented less.  I don't get the impression this is even supposed to be "great Liu Bao," if that's even how that tends to work, just a nice version that's typical of the type.  I've already tried the sheng too, and like that as well, even though it also seems to be a pleasant version of a modest "everyday drinker" type of tea.  But all of that is another story.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Comparison tasting three Dian Hong (Yunnan black) from Farmerleaf

I've been planning to finally change gears related to exploring pu'er, to stop dabbling in teas from lots of different countries and get a better start on that one rather complicated tea type.  But this is about my favorite category version of black tea instead, which I'll get back to after saying more about that context.

Farmerleaf Jing Mai black left, golden tips top, sun-dried black right

An aside about a completely different subject, pu'er

My favorite tea blogger just wrote a blog post in Steep Stories related to the theme of exploring pu'er taking a long time. 

By the time you add in all the factors related to variations in pu'er--origin, tree age, other material quality issues, processing--itself a range of concerns, storage, etc.--you can't just try a dozen samples and get a feel for the type.  And all that's for sheng alone (a type for which I probably have posted about a dozen reviews); never mind the category division into two types.  I think that trying these three black teas I'm comparing would work for a starter introduction to Dian Hong (Chinese black tea from Yunnan), but there's still plenty of range to get to beyond them.

To expand a little about pu'er complexity, there was recently a Tea DB article and discussion video about vendors selling young versus aged sheng, and Scott of Yunnan Sourcing responded about that subject, and about number of other issues.  One main sub-theme that's been of interest to me is how some pu'er is sold as from a narrow origin location, and for different reasons some with no reference to origin at all.  That subject relates to a recent Yiwu Ding Jia Zhai pu'er vertical tasting event, about comparing different years from a smaller area within Yiwu. 

But then in describing black teas in a Reddit post comment I mentioned Dian Hong as a favorite, and the Farmerleaf vendor related to them selling a few.  They sell directly out of Yunnan; one related part of the cost being on the lower side.  In effect I talked myself into ordering the tea too, and before I could change my mind I clicked through buying 100 grams of three different teas.

Of course they sell pu'er too, a number of samples of which I have reviewed, and it seems fine to me, to the limited extent that I have a developed opinion on those.  For around the same cost I could've bought a cake of it, for about the same amount of tea.  But I had these other complicated plans for trying different samples and starting in on certain types of cakes after that, which will probably all change by the time I get to it.  That "vertical" tasting was a bit of a prompt, but I already had this in mind when I went through that other recent hei cha phase (which has one chapter left to cover, for now).

There's one connection I meant to get to, related to bringing all this up.  I'd rather drink this black tea than any lower end or medium quality pu'er I've ever tried.  Surely I've not yet been exposed to much in the way the highest quality levels of pu'er, and may never be at this rate.  Acclimating to the type and learning the range were factors in that other initiative, along with exploring aging changes.  I own two sheng cakes around a decade old, and have finished two that were much younger, but for sheng pu'er that's barely even starting on dabbling.  As memory serves I've bought and reviewed three shou this year, although all modest cost and quality-level versions; I think I'm ok on those for now.  I'll get back to it all soon enough, after re-trying these nice black teas.  It's some consolation that Farmerleaf also sent a pu'er sample.

This Dian Hong tasting background

These teas are all from 2016.  One is a sun-dried version, Jing Mai Sun-dried black Autumn 2016, which was supposed to improve with some age (per William's input), so it might be better than when I tasted the same tea last year.  I've also reviewed the other two, or nearly identical teas, an Autumn 2016 Jing Mai black, and Spring 2016 Matai Golden Tips / Pure Buds. 

I've been considering trading some teas with a few different people recently, with one set of batches sitting on my desk just now (from an online friend in Malaysia; cool enough).  These teas will work well for that, teas that I love that I can part with a little of.  I think I might have meant to buy a Matai leaf based tea instead of buds, since those really do match my preference better, but for comparison of the range and for trading the buds-style tea will work better.

Side by side comparison tasting is new since trying them first, kind of the theme I've been on this year, but the teas should still be about the same as in those first reviews.  These tend to brew a good bit of tea, and won't infuse a few times and be finished, so I remembered to use the small gaiwans to avoid getting blasted on caffeine. 


an early infusion, brewed lightly (L to R, black, sun-dried, golden tips)

I went a little longer on the first infusion than doing a quick wash, so I could start the tasting then, but infusing for around 20 seconds the teas won't really be opened up yet.  The Jing Mai black seems to just be getting started.  It's malty, but in a completely different sense than the Assams I was just reviewing, more like ovaltine, that warm, sweet, light, but rich slightly fermented grain effect.  And it probably tastes as much or more like cocoa, which isn't that far from that other flavor.  I'll keep this first infusion notes short but there should be lots more to say about this tea.

The sun-dried tea overlaps in character with the first, the Jing Mai black.  But it is more complex; there are other layers of light earthiness going on, not the same types of leather and wood I've been describing in Assam and Wuyi Yancha teas, but not that far off those.  There is some cocoa to this too, and that light version of malt, but also other range, which will probably include fruit, and some other earthier range.  I expected to like the first tea the best, even though it might be simpler, and I still think that might be right.

The golden tips version is quite different (or it's called pure buds in a different description; I'll just go with golden tips).  Even with a short rinse, and not really fully beginning to infuse, the tea still has a strong effect, not completely unrelated to the other two but not really in a similar range.  It has an unusual level of dryness to it.  That ties to a flavor that leads back towards coffee, but probably a very light roasted version of coffee.  It will also have plenty of other range to explore, which I'll hold off on filling out until the next round.

Second infusion

On the next infusion the Jing Mai black tea is still a little light.  The combination of using water a bit off boiling point and relatively short infusion times (still just under 30 seconds) may not be ideal for this tea.  The flavor is nice but it would work better stronger, so I'll need to adjust that.  The taste range is still nice, light malt and cocoa, with hints of fruit beyond that, and background earthiness layered in lightly.  Personal preference is a funny thing, how different people would like teas best in different aspect ranges, and to me this set works really well.  Related to the intensity I would never really know if it had faded some since being made a year earlier.  It's really about how much you like a certain tea anyway, more than sorting out background for why or why not.

The sun-dried black is different, definitely more complex than the first in the sense of adding other aspect range.  As I recall it was a bit simpler last year; maybe it is already picking up some depth with age as William said that it would.  This could brew a bit longer too, or upping the temperature to full boiling would also work.  That particular temperature choice, not using full boiling point water, is usually used to offset astringency, which was never going to be an issue for these softer black teas, but also to shift the range of flavors that come out.  Water at full boiling point will extract richer, heavier flavors, upping the dark caramel / aged leather input in teas like these, and slightly cooler water will help the cocoa, yam, and lighter grain notes play a bigger role.  Or at least that's my take, but what do I know.  I'll test that next infusion.  The natural transition cycle the teas were going to go through using any parameters will throw off noticing that as a single factor; these teas were still sort of "opening up," just in a different sense than for other types.

The matai golden tips version is quite different.  That dryness to the tea almost comes across as a touch of sourness, an interesting effect that seems to bridge across flavor into feel range.  It's sweet too, with lots going on for flavor range, almost too much to separate out.  More pronounced mineral underlies all of the experience, in a soft, rich range.  A wood-tone along the lines of redwood forms part of the profile, along with fruit, roasted yam I guess, with some roasted sweet corn adding complexity to that.

The golden tips is the kind of tea that someone else might write a completely different aspects list for, and it's not as if either set would be wrong; both would just be different interpretations of a complex experience.  Rich floral tone would work as a description, and the sweetness could be described as a dark honey.  Some of that resinous nature that was present in Cindy's Jin Jun Mei is common in this tea, and the taste isn't completely different, although I wouldn't say it reminds me of that tea across most of the aspect range, it just overlaps some.

Shifting that trace of sourness would make the tea more approachable but it still works.  To pin down what I really mean about that aspect, the woodiness that I'm describing as redwood forms a continuous range with wood-tone that might be closer to balsa wood, something lighter, a little sweeter, but with a bit of sourness to it as well.  It's not unrelated to that sweet, rich, complex smell in brand new cardboard boxes, just not exactly that.  I'm not saying the tea tastes like cardboard, and it doesn't, I'm trying to describe how part of the aspect range can be earthy, sweet, and slightly sour in a way that all connects.  A fermented grain would potentially go in a similar direction, so I suppose a craft-beer enthusiast would be describing this related to that instead.  I'm just not sure if a connection to malt or hops is closest.

Third infusion

The Jing Mai black is better prepared stronger, going with more like 40 seconds and slightly hotter water.  The leaf preparation in these teas is completely different than for the other Assam and Ceylon I've been reviewing, made from larger leaves a good bit more twisted, so where using these same parameters would've made for an undrinkable strong brew for that last orthodox Assam it's just in the right range for this one.

a bit more color brewed stronger

This tea is simpler than the other two, but across a range of aspects I personally love, so I guess it works even better for me.  There is a light and sweet maltiness, cocoa, sweetness that someone could easily interpret as different types of fruit, slightly raisin-like, but probably more towards dried tamarind.  The feel isn't overly rich, or the aftertaste unusually long, but it's not thin and it doesn't just disappear when you drink it.  Altogether the effect is that of a very nice, basic tea, nothing too complex or novel, just nice.

The sun-dried version does show more complexity.  It wouldn't really be wrong to interpret all those same attributes in the last description as present in this tea too, but it has more of an aged leather higher end going on, not so far off the scent one might pick up in a mahogany cabinet.  It's not astringent but the feel is thicker, seemingly tied to that taste range.  The way that works out seems related to that mineral layer present in Ceylon; not the bite in CTC teas, of course, that complex underlying structure instead.  I've been talking down Lipton teas quite a bit lately, and they really are something to be avoided, but some of that aspect is present in them, as I recall, a complexity that extends from underlying mineral to dark-wood tannin, related to both taste and feel aspects.  But those are still inferior grade tea dust; the point is that they definitely don't get everything wrong in blending them.

That range of related flavors into feel (leather, dark tropical wood, mineral) extends a long step further in the golden tips version.  To me "resinous" captures that, but then I already know what I mean by it.  The "sour" effect even eases up in this last one, folding in more as a complexity and richness.  Mineral really plays a larger role.  I showed a picture of an old oil well holding barrel and steel pipe once in a post, trying to capture how mineral can come across as very sweet and rich, and this also invokes that.  In completely different senses all three of these teas are better than the other two. 

a common sight in rural PA oil country, artifacts of history with a cool smell

Fourth infusion

Some black teas, or even some lower quality roasted oolongs, would be starting to fade based on this infusion count and brewing time, but I'm expecting that these will just be hitting their stride, showing off their best character.  I'll stick with using identical parameters for all three but really the Jing Mai black could work well with a slightly longer infusion time and the golden tips with a slightly shorter  one.

The Jing Mai black is moving towards a bit more toffee sweetness.  That tends to come out naturally when pushing a black tea further to get more infusions later in a cycle, using hotter water when brewing off boiling point initially, and using longer infusions, but I'm still not using an extended brewing time, only a bit over 30 seconds.  Which I'm not timing; I don't care for that practice, since writing notes adds enough complexity to the tasting process as it is.  It's following the sun-dried black in deepening in aspect range, shifting from cocoa and light malt towards dried tamarind and a light sweet version of leather.  Not everyone would love this aspect set as I do but for my preference it's great; simple, basic, and well balanced.

The sun-dried version lightens a little.  Some of that interesting complexity fades, and the aspects range narrows, so these first two teas are closer in effect than they've been across the whole tasting.  The Jing Mai black has a bit more pull toward cocoa, and is a little softer, but still full, and this sun-dried black has a bit more tannin to it still, definitely not coming across as astringency, in the sense of roughness, but the feel is different.  Along with that feel, and slightly more mineral, and diminished cocoa, the slight sharpness of dried tamarind is stronger, not just slightly tangy as those are but also rich, towards a roasted pumpkin effect.  It's thinning but still quite complex.

Jing Mai black left, sun-dried top, golden tips right

The golden tips version strikes a great balance at this infusion.  It's slightly thinner too, but the balance of the same aspects is shifting, and they work well across these proportions.  Odd how it worked out but a lot of what I said about the sun-dried version also works for this tea.  The extra tropical dark wood tanin and dried tamarind tangy range extends towards an iron-pipe-rust mineral tone, with sweetness and complexity balancing that. 

One main aspect had initially been a slight sourness but that has dropped out now, and the feel has also softened.  The dark toffee effect in the Jing Mai black (more a tamarind / roasted pumpkin in the sun-dried) maps onto range in this closer to the second tea, but slightly different in this.  It's hard to separate out but one part reminds me of fire roasted sweet corn, it just doesn't taste anything like corn, only the way some of those fresh corn flavors evolve when you cook them in that way.

This runs long to be adding tangents but as a teenager growing up in a rural area we would occasionally hang out in some pretty remote places, and would sometimes would pick up a snack of corn on the way, from some growing in a field.  We would use a campfire to cook that, more or less just throwing it in beside the coals.  It's a primitive form of cooking, to be sure, but the results could be great, really fresh with a bit of complex char and sweetness, sort of a cooked sugar taste.

Fifth infusion

Since this is turning into a chapter-length tasting description I'll give these a longer steep and use this for closing thoughts.  The teas aren't completely finished but this infusion should be about how much they've faded.  I'll give them about a minute to steep, extending it a little to keep the infusion strength up.  It would work to give them a two minute soak at this point, and then I'd end up talking more about a heavier range flavors and feel aspects more in the description.  Even though the same relative level of these aspects would be present they'd probably come across as more dominant in a double-strength infusion, or closer to where the teas had been a couple of infusions ago, just transitioned some in aspects range.

The Jing Mai black is just fading; not much more to tell.  The flavors aren't really transitioning in any way, there is just less going on.  This tea has been really consistent in character across all the infusions so that list-description more or less told its story.

The sun-dried tea is also getting lighter, but a slight shift in how it comes across works well, not really negative.  That dark wood / leather / tamarind range of aspects shifts a little towards an aromatic bark spice effect, but not really cinnamon, something else.  Brewed again steeped twice as long this tea would have a slightly different but still interesting character.  The feel has thinned, and it wouldn't come back to where it was, but the tea isn't finished.

The golden tips is still pretty intense, for a black tea on the fifth infusion that I'm not pushing for intensity.  Softening in character with the aspects fading works well for this tea, in one sense, although those do diminish it in another.  It's losing some complexity but settling into a different nice range.


I love teas like these!  They're not challenging at all, on the simple and basic side, although not really quite as straightforward as some types, with a good bit going on.  I think that it's really my own preference for this range of aspects that makes these teas seem so nice.  I'm not really trying to put them on a scale for being type-typical Dian Hong, or better versions from that broad category.  The descriptions are just meant to convey what I experienced, and hopefully why I like them also comes across.

seems a little high

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Jip Eu Ma Tao Yien (Horsehead rock) Rou Gui

Rou Gui brewing (actually a different tea version)

Two recent posts covered visiting Jip Eu (a local Chinatown shop here), getting some OB from Ethan, a travelling tea friend, and reviewing a "duck shit" Dan Cong.  The shop owner also gave me this tea sample.  I incorrectly said he doesn't sell it, but it turns out he does, he just doesn't have much of this version. 

this shop is beside the subway (right side), but the Express boat is much nicer, just not close (see transit site)

I'm using a clay pot I bought in Taiwan that I finally started using for Wuyi Yancha a couple months ago.  I did also try it again later prepared with a gaiwan, and I'll mention how that went (pretty much the same).


The tea is nice, and that particular typical version of cinnamon does come across.  As I remember that shop owner has mentioned that the cinnamon tastes like a type that comes from Vietnam.  The roast level is significant, a bit medium, without much "char" to overshadow the rest of the tea, less of that roast effect than in the last Rou Gui I reviewed from them.  A lot of mineral comes across as the base. 

this tea version, brewed lightly

The next infusion isn't so different.  That "dark" cinnamon flavor might have dropped ever so slightly, now more integrated with the other range instead of coming across a most of it, but it's still the main theme.  Mineral is still strong but I'll skip talking about rocks in this post, even though it must taste like some sort of rock.  Beyond that it's what you'd expect, a bit rich, not so much thick in terms of mouth feel, but not thin either, but full in flavor with a substantial aftertaste. 

It all works well enough.  The balance is good, the way the effects come together.  It's not exactly complex in terms of showing a large number of flavors but there is plenty going on.  No part of the experience is negative; the sweetness is at a good level, and it's clean in taste.  It's not all that different than Cindy's cinnamon-aspect Rou Gui I reviewed not long ago, but then she makes some pretty nice teas (her family, but she does some hands-on work too).

The next infusion is consistent; maybe the cinnamon dropped off a little more, now just one part of that range.  I'm not really taking much of a stab at describing the rest; it tastes like mineral, like Wuyi Yancha tend to, with earthiness that is hard to describe, in between wood and leather, but in a decent way in this expression.  Sometimes the effect along that line can extend towards a spice root, or cognac, but this is mostly cinnamon.  I suppose it's a bit straightforward as some Wuyi Yancha goes, emphasizing flavor over aroma, if that use of those concepts rings a bell.  More about that comes up in this post comparison tasting two Rou Gui along with a Tie Luo Han.

Trying the tea prepared in a gaiwan

I tried the tea again not so many days later, prepared in a gaiwan instead.  It would work better to compare brewing device related differences side-by-side, but the point was also to just get a second take on it, to try it again at a different time, since it's hard to judge how much I vary. 

The taste profile was the same:  that cinnamon effect, a richness from being an upper medium roast, but not really extended into a charred effect, with a good bit of mineral base.  I was wondering if the pot didn't contribute some to that but the mineral effect seemed just as strong prepared in a gaiwan.

I noticed the aftertaste quite a bit in this session, maybe slightly more, which had to just be me interpreting the same thing differently, or possibly from slight variation in brewing.  It was quite strong for about half a minute after swallowing the tea and diminished after that.  That's not nearly as pronounced as the effect can be for either sheng pu'er or lighter Taiwanese high mountain oolong but significant as this tea type goes. 

It brewed over a half dozen infusions very consistently.  That could be seen as a bit of a trade-off related to tea types where transition is an interesting experience, but it didn't fall off or degrade in any way.  Around the 6th to 7th infusion the mineral picked up a little, with cinnamon dropping off, but it wasn't close to finished yet at that point.  I'd mentioned in that recent Oriental Beauty review about how that's one factor related to tea quality, that some teas that are ok but not quite on this level might be quite good for a few infusions and with the main positive aspects fading over the next few, but this tea lasted for quite a number of rounds instead.

brewed tea from the second session

I could go back and compare it to the one I tried from Jip Eu last year, related to that write-up, but if my expectations shifted a little from drinking more cinnamon type Rou Gui in the past year that might be more of a change than the tea differing.

The nice thing about buying tea from a physical shop versus online is that you can go visit and taste them to see which type you really like before you buy it.  At least at better shops you can, and at Jip Eu they're quite open to drinking and talking about tea with you.