Alright, this respiratory infection has got to go. At first I thought it was just a run-of-the mill sinus infection, the kind I get around this time every year, but no, it had to be something more. Now it’s day six and I’m done with feeling miserable. I decided to break out some sheng and hopefully move on with my life. Before I formally go about introducing the denizens of Steepster World to my impressions of this tea, however, I am going to devote a little time to an issue that seems to weigh on a number of folks in such a way that it brings out the worst.
This seems to be the time of year when people get riled up over statements concerning the age of a bunch of trees in a distant land. I understand and share this concern, at least to a certain extent. Do I think this mao cha actually comes from 800 year old trees? No, I don’t. Seeing as how I am most certainly not an expert, have never seen the trees, and possess no actual scientific data backing up the age statement, I have no reason to believe the veracity of such a claim. I could be wrong, but I still remain skeptical. How much do I care about the claim itself? I’m not really sure yet. Clearly my doubts did not prevent me from buying this tea. To be honest, I don’t feel suckered and don’t regret purchasing it in the least. I saw it as a product on the market that I could purchase and review, and anyone remotely familiar with my proclivities should know how near and dear to my heart reviewing stuff lies. It’s kind of what I do. Also, we are all aware that our beloved tea world is filled with falsehoods, especially the nether regions occupied by pu’erh and similar teas. Teas are often deliberately or unintentionally mislabeled, misnamed, misdated, and otherwise misrepresented. The degree to which piracy and other such tomfoolery runs rampant is truly impossible to accurately determine. We should all know this by now. Believe me when I say that if some of you get upset (and not entirely unreasonably I may add) by what you see as potentially dishonest, or perhaps we should still give the benefit of the doubt and say naive, marketing on the part of one vendor who currently seems to be quite popular, you have probably either excused it or just not noticed it elsewhere. I could be wrong, but I would just about guarantee it because it doesn’t only happen with tea. If I can now offer a point to all of this medicine-headed rambling, I would offer this one: ranting about it on a discussion board is probably neither going to change the business nor the buying habits and preferences of one’s online peers. At the end of the day, does it really matter how old the trees are? Can a tea not still be enjoyable even if it is misrepresented in some way? Do we really need to continue piling on certain vendors who have a habit of making such claims? In situations like this one, I kind of can’t help thinking that all we can do is express our doubts, either try the tea or avoid it, and move on with our lives. Oh, and for the record, I do not think that deciding to buy a product whose marketing is more than a bit fishy can always be boiled down to some sort of moral deficiency on the part of individual buyers or to lack of knowledge and experience. So many of these exchanges prove unproductive when the primary position of one side can be reduced to wondering “Why don’t all of these other people feel like me with regard to this issue? What’s wrong with them?”. Maybe it really is not a matter of people who choose to purchase such products being stupid, ignorant, or morally lacking compared to you. Maybe they are just curious and/or see themselves as giving something controversial a fair shake, and then share their thoughts with the rest of the world to provide something of a balanced perspective. That, in and of itself, can be valuable too.
Enough of that. I prepared this tea gongfu style. After the rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 205 F water for 5 seconds. I followed this up with infusions of 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves gave off muted, musty aromas of tulsi, straw, and citrus. After the rinse, I noted that the citrus aroma grew more powerful. I could not quite place it though. I also started to pick up on flowers and honey. The first infusion produced a nearly identical bouquet. In the mouth, I was able to detect mild notes of brine, straw, tulsi, lemon, and honey with a slight minty note on the finish. Subsequent infusions introduced impressions of bitter orange peel, jasmine, and osmanthus while the menthol note on the finish turned into a distinct impression of wintergreen. They weren’t kidding about that. I kept waiting for the apricot to show up in a big way, but I only started to catch a subtle hint of it around the seventh or eighth infusion. I also started getting a sharp, chalky mineral presence on the finish. Later infusions were thin, but still had a little life to them. The dominant notes were of minerals, lemon, bitter orange peel, and tulsi balanced by cooling notes of wintergreen and apricot. Bizarrely enough, I thought I just barely detected a fleeting note of lemongrass at this point, but it may have been me.
Though I wish the floral aromas and flavors stuck around longer, this ended up being the type of sheng that appealed to me. On the rare occasions I decide to drink sheng, I often go looking for teas with some combination of spicy, herbal, and citrusy notes. This tea had all of those things. The fleeting floral impressions and the pronounced honey tones just added more appeal for me. I’m sure the fact that it soothed my aching throat while greatly reminding me of a milder version of the honey menthol cough drops I have been wolfing down for the past three days only strengthened its appeal. All in all, this one got over with me, dubious claims and all.
Flavors: Apricot, Honey, Jasmine, Lemon, Menthol, Mineral, Orange, Osmanthus, Straw, Tulsi