I’ve had a sample of this in my pumidor for a few months now. I thought right around now might be a good time to start sampling teas from autumn 2016, so this’ll be the first one I’ll be reviewing. I used ten grams in a 140ml gaiwan and did a total of ten steeps, timing for these being 5s, 5s, 5s, 7s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s and 75s. I rinsed the leaves briefly for just over five seconds and let the moisture soak in for five to ten minutes before I began brewing. As is customary for me now, I drank the rinse, and I was quite surprised to actually taste the mint this area is supposedly famous for. It wasn’t subtle either. I honestly did not expect to taste the mint, because that’s what usually happens to me in these situations. Of course my perception could have been influenced by subconsciously expecting mint, but whatever the case, I was still very pleased with just the rinse alone.
The first proper infusion was still reasonably light both in terms of flavor and texture, but it was very enjoyable nonetheless. The mint note was still there, but somewhat muted now. The second steep offered more body and was quite a bit stronger and bolder in general. It had a darker green taste and a definitive cooling effect that was present in all of the early steeps.
The next brew was nice and refreshing, like a really nice green tea with some mineral sweetness. At this point I was REALLY feeling the qi, though. It’s not restless or rushy, though, you just feel it affecting your body even if it’s not clear in what way exactly. At this point I was thinking this is a really nice tea. Then I got to the fourth infusion and experienced a nice mouthfeel, but more importantly the most AMAZING throat feel. Even my mother whom I was drinking with commented on it specifically and she’s definitely a tea novice who has never even heard of such a thing as “throat feel”. You could feel the tea along the full length of your throat and the sensation persisted long after you’d swallowed. At this point it was clear that this is a phenomenal tea. I honestly paid close to zero attention to the actual taste in this steep. One could describe it similar to a great green tea with maybe a hint of astringency now.
The fifth steeping was otherwise pretty much your standard fare – green, mineral, astringent – but had an AMAZING, strong returning sweetness. Probably the most notable I’ve experienced. In the sixth steep I was starting to get the mint again. Otherwise the tea was still reminiscent of a really nice green tea. The aftertaste in this infusion was particularly strong and long-lasting. Some very mild underlying bitterness revealed itself if you let the tea cool down. I could really feel the qi building up at this point.
The seventh steep had an incredibly strong mineral sweetness. It wasn’t the sweetest pu’er I’ve drunk, but still shockingly sweet. The next brew offered some nice body and while the flavors were slowly beginning to simplify, the sweetness was still really nice. At this point the qi had built up so much that although I wanted to keep drinking, my drinking nearly ground down to a halt. What I was experiencing wasn’t a bad sensation at all, but I simply felt like I had to slow down or I would drink myself under the table.
The flavors continued to simplify more noticeably in the ninth steep and the tea wasn’t as nice tasting as before. The tea was beginning to become more astringent as well. I did one last steep just to see how the tea would fare and now the soup had become notably more bitter and astringent, although it still wasn’t awful though.
Overall this was a fantastic tea. I’d rank it up there with Bitterleaf’s 2016 Xigui which I was very impressed with, although I think that tea still probably holds a small edge over this one. Regardless, both represent the highest echelon of sheng pu’er that I’ve had the privilege of experiencing so far on my tea journey. Apart from the noticeably larger average leaf size compared to most spring teas, I couldn’t tell this was an autumn tea. While still not cheap, at half the price of the Xigui which is a spring tea, Mint Condition represents a really good value if you are looking for a tea of this caliber, but at a more affordable price. Probably the best of all, this tea is perfectly drinkable right now, while most likely holding great aging potential as well. I ended up ordering a cake based on this session, putting my money where my mouth is. Next I’ll most likely be reviewing Bitterleaf’s 2016 autumn Gua Feng Zhai to make a purchase decision on it as well. You can look forward to that next.
Flavors: Green, Mineral, Mint, Sweet