I’ve had a cake of this ever since Yunnan Sourcing listed it back in 2017. I’ve had one casual session with it a couple months back, but didn’t review it at the time. The bing is very pretty and the dry leaf aroma wonderful. I brewed 12.3g in a 160ml Jianshui clay teapot and drank the tea from a cup made from the same material. I rinsed the leaves briefly for under ten seconds and let the moisture soak in for five minutes before I began brewing. The aroma of the freshly rinsed leaves was very clean and comforting. I did a total of nine steeps, the timing for these being 10s, 10s, 12s, 15s, 30s, 50s, 90s, 2.5 min. and 6 min.
I’ve been experimenting with brewing ripe pu’er with slightly heavier leaf ratios and that in conjunction with the fairly small average leaf grade of this tea means it brewed quite strong (for a shu pu’er). There was a lot going on in the first infusion, with flavor notes bouncing around my mouth. I could taste rich notes of wood and something that reminded me of wine, with a pleasant bitterness in the finish with hints of chocolate. The aftertaste was long, rich and rewarding. While the tea itself wasn’t super thick, I liked the feel of it in my mouth. This was a wonderful start to the session.
The next brew offered deeper, darker notes. Very rich. I don’t know if I got any notes I would refer to as earthy, but eventually I began tasting dark, bitter chocolate, one that had melted and was flowing all over my tongue. The bitterness was wonderful. The tea was now really big and active in the mouth. It caused the lower half of my mouth, jaw in particular, to tingle. Damn this is good tea.
The third infusion presented more bitter and roasted notes. There was also a faint sweetness which in conjunction with the roasted notes made me think of nougat. The bitterness leaned more towards coffee now, and the lingering bitterness that was left in your mouth was REALLY wonderful. I could drink this tea just for that bitter aftertaste. The mouthfeel wasn’t as great as before, but still enjoyable and active in the mouth, mainly around the tongue.
Steep number four was one of those roll your eyes back into your head moments. Man, that mouthfeel. I just wanted to let the tea rest on my tongue. It was thick, lubricating and felt great going down the throat. Taking a sip made you want to smile. The flavors were taking a backseat for this round, but I didn’t care. I could taste familiar bitter woody coffee notes, but they weren’t as strong or good as before. Afterwards you could feel the tea in your chest.
I accidentally brewed the tea a bit too long for steep number five and the tea ended up almost too thick for me. Even though I pushed it quite a bit, the resulting flavor was surprisingly weak. This was actually not due to a weak extraction but the flavors themselves being light. I could taste some generic woody notes, which became much clearer in the aftertaste. This infusion was really warming in the chest. I actually liked the tea better once it had cooled down completely. This brought forth a really nice mineral taste and I didn’t really get any of the woody notes.
The tea got back into gear in the sixth steeping. The flavors took the backseat again while the liquor felt wonderful and active in the mouth. Woody notes were still present, but the tea was now also a bit creamy and there was some slight sweetness and mineral taste. While I could tell the tea was entering its late steeps, there was still a fair bit going on and the thickness was still good and the aftertaste actually more potent than the tea itself. The aftertaste was rich, creamy and aromatic.
The color began dropping in the next steep. The taste was now that of sweet rice, like the rice drinks you can buy at the store. It even had the slight graininess those drinks have. The tea was also really thick. I mean, really, really thick. It was very pleasant and enjoyable to drink. The color continued to fade quite dramatically in the eighth steep. The tea was also considerably thinner. The immediate flavors were basic sweetness and some weak woody notes, while you could taste the sweet rice and minerals in the finish. The lingering sweetness intensified over time as you drank the tea, however, ultimately becoming incredibly sweet. There was also a slight numbing sensation on my tongue.
I attempted one last long extraction, but the resulting tea was really light. There was a creamy mineraly taste of berries, but also a slight unenjoyable tinge to the tea. The aftertaste was nice though and super sweet. I decided the tea was done.
I’m glad I didn’t review this tea back when I first tried it. I recall it coming across as a solid ripe, but nothing as wonderful as the session I had this time. The problem with (and wonderful thing about) tea is that no two sessions are ever alike. I may not have had the clay teacup yet when I first had this tea, I don’t recall, but it may have made a huge difference. In any case, this tea was fantastic. I wish all my ripe sessions were like this. This may have very well been the best shu pu’er I’ve had to date. I would most definitely recommend leafing this tea a bit harder than usual to ensure a rich brew, long aftertaste and that you bring out the wonderful bitterness it holds. The longevity of a tea like this is never going to be very impressive, and you’ll just have to accept that.
Looking both at the dry leaf and the brewed leaves, I can buy this being from higher grade material than your average ripe. While I’m hardly knowledgeable about these kind of teas, the leaves, although small, look intact and like fine pickings. To me this tea comes across as perfectly ready to drink now. Unless you are a thousand times more sensitive to fermentation taste than me, you should be fine. While not necessarily cheap, for what you get I think the price is actually quite reasonable. Like I said, wish all ripes were this good.
Flavors: Bitter, Coffee, Creamy, Dark Chocolate, Mineral, Rice, Roasted, Sweet, Wood