While I’ve highly enjoyed ripe pu’ers made from Jingmai material, the young raws I’ve tried from there have always left me with mixed feelings. I was very curious to see what I would think of this tea. I’ve had a free sample that I received with an order sitting in my pumidor for several months. The tea is still very young, but I’ve been drinking through several samples over the past few days and decided to give it a shot. I used nine grams in a 130ml gaiwan and drank the tea both from a regular teacup as well as an unglazed Jianshui clay cup dedicated to young sheng.
I rinsed the leaves briefly for five seconds and let them soak up the moisture for five minutes while I drank the wash. There was already body to the tea but not much taste. It did leave a faint, perhaps floral aftertaste lingering in the mouth. I proceeded to do a total of eleven infusions, the timing for these being 5s, 5s, 7s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s, 2 min. and 3 min.
The tea started off with a big, oily body, although the mouthfeel itself was nothing all that special. There was a distantly honied taste, but all in all the flavors weren’t very defined yet. The aftertaste was actually stronger than the tea itself and very stable. I could taste the tea with my entire mouth. Over the next three steeps the tea grew greener and more astringent while retaining varying degrees of a honied character as well. What all of these infusions had in common was a long and stable aftertaste that was almost always better than the taste of the tea in your mouth. The aftertaste of the fourth steep was more of a honied mineral taste and it made your saliva taste AMAZING (like honey).
I found the fifth steep perhaps a bit weaker in terms of flavor, but also more settled and balanced. It was astringent, perhaps even a bit smoky, and I could feel a slight burning sensation in my mouth. The honey was now more in the background. Again, I found the aftertaste of this round more enjoyable than the front flavors. I would most likely recommend a small brewing vessel for this tea as it is something you don’t really need to drink more than a few sips of each steep.
Steep six was more friendly at least toward my tastebuds. The taste was softer with less astringency. The tea was still fairly green tasting and leafy, but more drinkable than before. I wasn’t really tasting the honey anymore, but there were now whispers of a green/leafy sweetness. The aftertaste was again the highlight here and this time concentrated around the sides of your tongue. It also improved over time and ended up becoming very nice. The seventh infusion continued on this path of change and presented a liquor that was now much more mineral sweet tasting and highly aromatic in the mouth. While the tea wasn’t necessarily excessively astringent, I could feel a slight burning sensation both in my mouth and throat. In terms of texture this steeping was incredibly easy to drink and the tea left a satisfying sensation in your mouth and throat after you’d drunk the tea. Your throat was also left feeling very lubricated.
The astringency and burning sensation started ramping up in the eighth infusion while at the same time you got less taste. This is the point from which on the clay cup started to become very helpful. It helped bring down the astringency to a more manageable level while revealing more of the underlying flavors. The tea was beginning to exhibit more of those honey notes again while also having that nice sweet mineral taste. It was highly aromatic especially in the nose and also left me salivating while making my mouth taste sweet.
The burning astringency continued in the next steep where the clay cup continued to be my friend, revealing complex notes of honey with countless layer to them. When drunk from clay the tea was also incredibly thick, feeling like yoghurt in your mouth. This was the thickest the tea got and I was really surprised by both the thickness and how well the clay cup was performing. Steep ten was no longer as astringent, but even here the clay cup made the tea much better. It improved the texture considerably and made the flavors rounder and more balanced. Overall the flavors were beginning to simplify, however, but the honey notes were still fairly “thick,” even if there was less depth now.
Steep eleven was the last one I did. Once again the clay cup presented fuller flavors here. The taste itself was beginning to get fairly simple by this point though. While the strength and body still remained quite good for steep eleven, I wasn’t expecting to see anything more interesting so I decided to call it here. The tea could have possibly gone on for at least a steep or two.
This session ended up being much more interesting than I originally expected based on the first few infusions. However, just like other young Jingmais I’ve had, I didn’t find that the flavors appealed to me and I found the tea to have too many unpleasant qualities in its current young state for me to enjoy. I think the area in which the tea easily shines the most is the stable and incredibly consistent aftertaste which I found often the reason why you’d drink this tea. I’ve never had an aged Jingmai, but based on the fact that I enjoy Jingmai shu pu’er and just the gut feeling I get drinking this tea, I’d suspect that these teas need to be aged a fair bit before I can enjoy them. This particular tea, while not necessarily high-end, displayed quite a few promising quality markers. I don’t really have enough experience to say how it compares against other Jingmai teas, but just generally speaking it performs just about how I would expect from a tea at this price point, making it fair value.
While I can’t personally recommend this tea as the flavor profile does not appeal to me, this tea was more interesting to session than other Jingmais I’ve had and if you’re looking for a Jingmai tea in particular definitely give this one a shot.