I was fortunate enough to get a sample of this tea (along with its “white wrapper” counterpart) in a swap with a kind and generous new teafriend. From the minimal amount of research I have done, it seems this is a coveted cake which has received a lot of positive press in the online puerh community, and is thus now sold out of many sources and goes for pretty incredibly high prices otherwise. I brewed this tea up at 1g/15mL, as I normally do with sheng. The dry leaves had a nutty (walnut) note to the aroma, with some light sweetness. After a rinse, the aroma was sweeter, but notes of leather and wood also emerged.
The first steep had a slight leathery note and was a little bit sharp or rough in the front of the sip. The finish was woody sweet, with what I thought was a hint of dark fruitiness – this huigan was long-lasting. I took my time between sips, as the flavor lingered for minutes at a time in my mouth. I started to feel a little bit of rising energy in my chest as I let the huigan play out after this steep. The texture was already pleasantly thick.
Any sharpnesss was gone for me in the next steep. It was sweet and woody, though a touch drying. Huigan was woody sweet and again lingered long after swallowing. I started to really feel the qi at this point – my arms felt simultaneously heavy and light.
The next steep was instantly mouthwatering, very sweet, and I was sure this time that there was a bit of fruitiness to the aftertaste. Not the bright, apricot fruitiness more common in young sheng, but a dark and deep fruity note that danced over my tongue and in my mouth. This steep was incredibly warming and started to make my mouth feel tingly and numb. The qi also moved its way up to my forehead, where I felt it sitting there.
The fourth steep had more of a dry woodiness with a sweet woody, nutty, and fruity character to the still powerful and lingering huigan. It reminded me slightly of the oakiness you get on the finish of oak-aged spirits or wine.
By the fifth steep, I was starting to feel a bit slower and fuzzy, less coordinated. I had to focus to not spill my tea all over the place. The flavors were much the same as the last steep, and they continued this way through around the twelfth steep. The qi continued to build for this whole period. It was a little bit difficult to carry on the conversations I was having with teafriends on Slack, and when I got up to use the restroom at one point, I remember feeling rather light and almost floaty.
Around the thirteenth steep, the flavor started to taper off. I squeezed out another five or six steeps, which still had good woody sweetness to them. As the flavor waned, so did the qi – I felt mostly normal by the end of the session, so it didn’t mess me up past when I was finished or anything like that.
This was an excellent session, probably the most pleasant and strong feeling qi of any sheng I’ve tried to this point, and the flavor was excellent as well. That said, it isn’t good enough to warrant the price of a full cake – I don’t really think there is any tea I would consider paying $1000+ (or $600 or whatever) for. If I was in a much different financial situation, then I would absolutely consider going for a cake(s) of this! I would definitely recommend people who are into sheng attempt to track down at least a sample of this tea.
Going into the session knowing what I did about this tea makes me wonder how much my mental state affected the session. If I went into sessions with other teas knowing that others (whose opinions I value) consider the tea to be a “face-melter” or to be known for strong qi, would I have similar experiences with them? How much of my opinion is colored by preconceptions going into a session? To be honest, at this point in my tea-journey, I’m certain that my experience is colored very much by my preconceptions. It makes me think I shouldn’t read up on teas before I try them, but of course how would I narrow down my options if I didn’t? Sampling every tea sold myself is obviously not feasible. This paragraph is kind of rambling, but I guess it’s just something I wondered about after having such an enjoyable session with this tea. Then again, whether enjoyment comes from your own experiences alone or your preconceptions (or both of course), it’s still enjoyment, right?
Flavors: Fruity, Leather, Nutty, Sweet, Walnut, Wood