Bitterleaf Teas’ 2016 Fall Mao Cha Party Mix Tasting Set | Tea Review

by Tea in Spoons

Bitterleaf Tea Mao Cha Spoons

I love learning about teas and how they are affected by the location, season, production, etc. Therefore, when I saw this tasting set from Bitterleaf Tea, I had to try it! The set is comprised of three different mao chas. Mao cha is the raw material used to make pu-erh.

I’ve never tried mao cha before so I was excited. The teas come from three areas in Yunnan where pu-erh is made: Yiwu, Lincang and Jingmai. I’m pretty new to pu-erhs, so I figured that this would be a good learning experience for myself!

Bitterleaf Tea Mao Cha Boxes

The set is meant to be a blind tasting, so each box was numbered from 1 to 3 and came with a scratch card. I thought that it would be fun to set this post up so that the reader could guess along with me! The card came with three hints:

A. A dominate honey-like sweetness and floral fragrance best describes teas from Jing Mai

B. Good Lincang region teas are typically high fragrant and exhibit a lasting huigan/longer sweetness. There is often noticeable astringency in younger teas as well

C. Yiwu teas are often characterized as soft, fragrant and light in young age, but are known to develop considerable well over time. Good teas from this region have a noticeable present feeling in the mouth.

Since I couldn’t find too much information about mao cha online, I wasn’t sure about how to steep them. I e-mailed Bitterleaf Teas, and Jonah, one of the owners, provided a helpful answer:

“We recommend “standard” gongfu brewing style – which would be about 1 gram per 15-20ml of water. Start with a quick rinse, discard, then steep the first infusion for 5 seconds, the second for 10, adding 5 seconds per subsequent infusion.”

With that being said, I’ve formatted this post so that my guesses come first, then I will reveal the answer! I will steep each tea 4 times using 3 grams of tea. Additionally, I will rate the overall experience rather than each tea.

Let’s go!


Tea 1

Bitterleaf Tea Mao Cha Tea 1 Dishes

Review: One thing I noticed right off the bat was how long the leaves were – they were dark and twisted. I didn’t smell much of an aroma. After infusion, the leaves were a dark olive green and had an earthy, mushroom and mossy aroma. It was mildly medicinal.

First Steep – The liquor was a pale light yellow with a mild musky aroma. It tasted mildly sweet and woodsy.

Second Steep – Stronger version of the first steep – slightly woodsy with more astringency.

Third Steep – The leaves fully unfurled by this steep. The liquor was more astringent but the flavour was more mellow and grassy, a bit medicinal.

Fourth Steep – The liquor is more of a tan-yellow now. Stronger mushroom and earthy taste.

  • Type: Pu-erh tea
  • Origin: China
  • Caffeine: Unknown
  • Ingredients: Mao cha
  • Company: Bitterleaf Teas


Tea 2

Bitterleaf Tea Mao Cha Tea 2 Dishes

Review: These leaves were slightly smaller than Tea 1. However, they still a dark rich colour. There was a deep earthy and grassy aroma.

First Steep – The liquor was a tan yellow. I found that it was mostly grassy, with some slight astringency.

Second Steep – The liquor was slightly cloudy and it was more of an amber colour. Grassy with a hint of earthy.

Third Steep – The astringency was more apparent now, slightly floral flavours. The leaves had unfurled completely at this point.

Fourth Steep – This steep left the mouth feeling dry, and had some nice grassy notes.

  • Type: Pu-erh tea
  • Origin: China
  • Caffeine: Unknown
  • Ingredients: Moa cha
  • Company: Bitterleaf Teas


Tea 3

Bitterleaf Tea Mao Cha Tea 3 Dishes

Review: The dry leaves looked more like Tea 1 to me. Again, not much of an aroma. The liquor became a tan-yellow colour after steeping. There was a musky smell from the wet leaves.

First Steep – The liquor left my mouth feeling dry and had a musky mushroom taste

Second Steep – The liquor was a clear yellow and had a grassy taste

Third Steep – The liquor was very astringent this steep and left the mouth feeling dry. The taste was mild and became astringent, and left a slight dryness in the mouth.

Fourth Steep – Similar to the previous steeps.

  • Type: Pu-erh tea
  • Origin: China
  • Caffeine: Unknown
  • Ingredients: Moa cha
  • Company: Bitterleaf Teas


My Guesses

I thought that rather than giving you the answers right away, I would tell you what my guesses were:

Tea 1: Lincang

Tea 2: Jing Mai

Tea 3: Yiwu


Answer Key

Bitterleaf Tea AnswerBitterleaf Tea Answer Tea 1Bitterleaf Tea Answer 2Bitterleaf Tea Answer 3


Final Thoughts

I have to say, I am really glad Bitterleaf Teas did something like this! I admit that while I didn’t do as well as I had hoped, this was an eye-opener for me! I want to do more of these comparison/blind tastings in the future!

I plan on going back and trying the teas again now that I know the answer in order to see if I will able to pick up some of the tasting notes! Overall, I rate the whole experience 4/5!

How did you do? Have you done a blind tasting like this before?

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Tea in Spoons is where I share my love of teas through tea reviews, tea travel, tea tips, information, and more. New tea adventure every Thursday!