Yay, finally a sheng review from me. As a small disclaimer before we get started, even though I’m not totally new to raw pu’er, I’m still very much a novice when it comes to this wonderful tea and I still have a lot to learn and experience. My experience is mostly with young raw, under which this tea currently falls.
This was the first time I actually kept notes as I was drinking this tea, so unlike my last two reviews this time everything isn’t completely from memory. I wasn’t drinking alone, though (tea is best when shared, I hope you agree), so I was only making small, hasty notes.
The cake is loosely pressed and you could probably break off pieces with your bare fingers, but I’d still recommend a pick so that you can break it in layers and avoid breaking too many leaves. The dry leaves seem to give off a pretty typical young raw pu’er scent. As I typically do with raw pu’er, I was using a beautiful fully handmade Yixing teapot that I have dedicated to sheng. The only downside it has is its rather large size of 250ml, which is quite large if you have less than three or four people. Thankfully it has a relatively quick pour time, especially for its size, at around ten seconds. The holes can sometimes get blocked, though, which can double the pour time to twenty seconds.
As I’m still relatively new to pu’er, in the past I’ve used a rather conservative ratio of leaf to water, using typically around 9g in my pot, this to avoid excessively strong brews in the first few steeps due to the pour time of the teapot. However, this time I decided to try using more leaf than in the past, ending up at 13g, which is still a bit shy of the 1g/15ml that a lot of people use. At least with this tea this did not end up being excessive and in the future I may experiment with using perhaps a little more leaf still.
I gave the leaves one 20s rinse. The resulting liquor was quite cloudy and this was true of the first one or two infusions as well. There was barely any scent to the wash and this was true of the tea soup in general through all the infusions I did. All I could pick out was perhaps a hint of salty water scent. The wet leaves themselves had a quite nice green smell to them, like that of cooked vegetables or something of that sort. As the infusions progressed, the color of the liquid settled chiefly on a gold-ish yellow that in the middle steeps often had a green tinge to it, with the later steeps looking like sunshine in a glass.
The first infusion ended up going a bit long at around 23s due to the holes in the pot being partially blocked. The resulting tea had plenty of flavor, but thankfully wasn’t too strong. It was THICK. One of the thickest mouth feels I’ve experienced to date, if not the thickest. The taste was reminiscent of the scent of the wet leaves. It tasted green. Not grassy, but like leaves. It was like the color of the wet leaves as a taste. The taste also had something to it that evoked cooked vegetables. There wasn’t really any sweetness of any kind. I detected perhaps the tiniest hint of qi, but I can’t be sure.
Due to the holes not being blocked, the second infusion resulted in being about five seconds shorter and not nearly as strong in flavor. The body was also notably thinner. The taste is hard to describe. It was kind of salty in a way but also not. There was only a hint of the vegetables from the first infusion left.
The third steep I did about as long as the first and now the thickness was back albeit not as strong. The saltiness from the second infusion was now going down in level whilst I felt like I detected hints of a (vegetal?) sweetness emerging. There was perhaps some slight astringency and I thought I noted some interesting kind of bitterness, but I’m not sure if it was actually there as the sensations was very fleeting. The tea left a sort of tobacco aroma lingering in my mouth, which was later accompanied by some sort of sweet fruit. Later still as those aromas had faded, there was a lingering sweetness in my mouth that lasted incredibly long and felt like it just kept intensifying over time. I thought I felt a bit of qi building in my chest after this steeping.
The fourth steep I kept as long as the last one and what awaited me was a tea that had totally transformed. It was INCREDIBLY sweet, on the level of honey. It coated the roof of your mouth just like honey and the sweetness only intensified over time. It was difficult to take more than one sip because the sweetness was so intense. Once again I could feel some more qi building still.
The next infusion was maybe around 30s. It tasted very clean, still sweet, but not as sweet as before. There might’ve been the tiniest bit of bitterness. Nothing particularly noteworthy. Since the fifth steep had perhaps been a bit lacking, I decided to push the sixth one a bit harder and did maybe an around 40s steeping. I was greeted by STRONG qi. It was gripping my throat, I could feel it in my chest, I was sweating, I could feel it in my head. STRONG stuff. With a stronger brew there was again more sweetness. Not sure how I should describe this sweetness, but it was interesting. Besides the sweetness, the sixth steeping seemed to leave a citrus taste of some sort lingering in the mouth or perhaps it was even reminiscent of iron. It made me think of the taste and feeling you have in your mouth after coming home from the dentist with your gums sore.
The seventh steeping I did for 50s. It tasted clean and sweet, with nothing noteworthy to mention. The eighth one I did for 75s. It ended up being a stronger brew with a super clean taste and still a nice amount of sweetness to it. I thought I could detect some of the vegetal sweetness from the very first steeps returning in the sweetness. At this point I could feel the qi starting to affect my stomach a little bit (not in a bad way), which is atypically late for sheng for me.
The ninth steeping I brewed for 90s. I could definitely taste the cooked vegetable sweetness from the early steepings coming back. This and the prior infusion both had perhaps the tiniest hint of astringency to them. I’m feeling the qi again. I can feel it at the back of my tongue, in my throat, chest, stomach, there’s some tingling on my tongue, I’m starting to feel a little warm, I could feel myself becoming a little tea drunk. While the actual taste of the tea was nice but nothing too special, the aftertaste it left in your mouth was the real highlight here. As with all the earlier infusions, the aftertaste lasted for a really long time and it consisted of multiple layers of sweet and spicy notes. Over time the taste only seemed to get stronger and keep developing. This was really interesting and really surprised me after I’d already assumed the tea had become one-dimensional. Along with steeps four and six, this was one of my favorite infusions.
As I was steeping the tenth infusion, I suddenly noticed I was actually really tea drunk. It felt like I could hardly stand straight, my thoughts weren’t fully coherent, my motoric control wasn’t at its best, I felt a bit giggly and I was having difficulty counting seconds for the infusion. The drunkenness did pass in a reasonable amount of time, though. The tenth infusion itself I did for two minutes. It had a decent amount of color, but when I tasted it the taste just wasn’t there, it was gone. Barely hints of anything. Not really a watery taste, just totally flat. I decided to stop there.
After the session I felt very listless for the rest of the evening and for a while extremely sleepy. I didn’t sleep enough so I felt tired the next day as well, but at the same time I felt quite good and relaxed and my mind was very clear. Not sure if this was an effect of the tea or not. I really enjoyed the slowly building qi in this tea.
Overall, I really liked this tea. The material is obviously very high quality and the tea session was very rewarding and satisfying. While this tea is not particularly challenging, I feel it is also one which those new to tea/pu’er may not be able to fully appreciate. The only real negatives I can think of are the somewhat simplistic flavor profile in the later steeps (which is not that uncommon, I suppose) and the way all the flavor seemed to suddenly drop off resulting in only mediocre longevity, but I will have to experiment with different ways of brewing this tea. This probably isn’t for those who don’t like sweet tea or wish for some bitterness to bring some edge to the flavor, but otherwise this is a young sheng that can most certainly be drunk now.
As someone with no experience in these matters, I have no idea how this one will age, but I hope it will improve with age as I’m likely to have at least some left a few years from now. I will be reviewing a lot more raw pu’ers in the future, so look forward to that!