11 steeps, 5-45 seconds.
Started off by giving this tea two 5 second washes because I had a feeling it was going to take a while for the ball to expand. Which it did. The color began as a light amber, but on the third cup, everything changed to a ruddy burnt umber color. Even the texture thickened. For a second, I thought I was pouring out water from a clay river.
At first the taste was the spiceless earthy flavor of many ripe pu’erhs. Which is to say not much excitement at all for my western taste buds. The fourth and fifth cups yielded some odd metallic notes, but after that it sweetened up a bit, reminding me of honeybush tea (especially with the color). Shortly after this, I detected another distressing toxic flavor that gave me an ugly feeling in the back of my throat. This was when I put the tea down for the night and let the leaves rest. But being the glutton for punishment that I sometimes am, and really wanting to give this pu’erh it’s due, I rinsed the leaves off in hot water and charged them back up for 4 more brews over breakfast the next day. By the seventh or eighth cup (total), an enjoyable masa (corn flour) taste developed. Toward the last good steep there was a brief maple flavor that developed, but like most of the other notes, it was nearly undetectable. Then, on the tenth steep, the color went out almost entirely and I was pouring out nearly clear water. I tried one more steep just to be sure, but that was that. The leaves turned off just as shockingly as they had turned on in their burst of crimson.
So based on this one experience, it was a rather unpredictable and unenjoyable tea. Did I do something wrong? I was really pushing myself to find some redeeming qualities, but maybe this tea is just not for me.