Next up in the Verdant puerh sampler. Two quick five second rinses (still missing the puerh pick), and the big loosely packed leaves came apart easily. The dry leaves smell like pine trees. Tea soup is somewhere between amber and brown. This is only my second time trying a sheng.
1st 2 steeps: 5 seconds each with boiling water, combined in one bigger mug. I taste pine and smoke. The smoke is okay — it’s not too overwhelming, or ash-tray like. The pine lingers. It does taste clean. I like it far better than that mushroom-y 2014 Master Han sheng sample they sent me last year. I’ll see how this changes with more steeps.
Steeps 3 and 4 combined again, about 7 seconds each: The pine is now a lot stronger, and the smoke has subsided a bit. I also taste a little citrus — maybe a little lemon. Sharp, but not in a bad way. I do not miss the absence of dirt and earthiness. Am I more of a sheng person? I don’t know. I wouldn’t have thought so since I don’t care for green tea most of the time.
The lemon sticks around strongly in the roof of my mouth, like it would if I’d just sucked on a slice of lemon. Gets much woodier as it cools.
Others mentioned smoked meat notes. I haven’t noticed this yet, and I object strongly to tea that tastes like meat, so… We’ll see.
Steeps 5 and 6, 10 seconds and then 12 seconds, combined: As the leaves unfurl, they smell more smokey, but less smoke flavor seems to come through in the steeps. It’s really not at all sweet, but I’ve enjoyed it anyway because of the citrus-y notes. I’ve no idea how other tasters picked up apple notes, but maybe it has to do with the sourness that comes across to me more as citrus. So far, I have liked this tea. Would I recommend it? I mean, yes, I suppose so if you’re just looking for something to drink that’s nice and you have an unlimited budget? Me? I’ll look for something with some similar notes from somewhere else — and something with a touch more sweetness.
Steeps 7 and 8 combined, 15 and 17 seconds: Let this sit for a while. Ate lunch, absorbed the iron from my food and then came back to it. The cooled wet leaves actually do smell like apples, but the main smell seems to be smoke as soon as they’re heated back up. I can detect a little bit of apple flavor this time around. The lingering apple notes have now replaced citrus; that’s pretty cool.
Steeps 9 and 10, 25 and 30 seconds: Well, this one is definitely winding down. I may try one more steep with a bit more time and see if it yields anything. Not a great deal to report here, except my only Western-sized 8 oz. gaiwan just broke, so more teaware to replace! It chipped, really, because the sides were too hot and I dropped it on the table, so it might be okay for a little bit longer. Anyway… This one definitely changes through steepings more than any I’ve tried yet — it’s probably one of the most complex teas I’ve ever had.
On the whole, my Verdant puerh experience has gone from bad to a fair bit better. I didn’t like the one I expected to enjoy most, and this one is better than any of the others. I kind of wish they didn’t dominate my first ever samples of this type of tea, but actually this was a pretty decent sampler on the whole. Each tea has been very, very different, and I think I’m getting a better idea of what puerh can offer.
About 10 g. left. Enough for either 2 sessions or doubling up the leaf for one session — might do the latter because I’m curious what this is like with more oomph.
Flavors: Apple, Bitter, Citrus, Green Apple, Lemon, Oak, Pine, Pleasantly Sour, Smoke, Sour, Wet Wood, Wood