25 Tasting Notes
So… I am reliably (I hope) informed that this is held as a ‘standard example’ for daily drinker shou (or shu?) devotees. I also hear that you’re meant to break these cakes up and let them sit for a few weeks to bring out the character. Which… I haven’t done.
So, I have some in a jar (I bought a stack of 5), but here are my first impressions:
It was also recommended to brew this ‘strong’ so I did a 1:10 ratio (9g in a 90ml pot).
First infusions start out thick, smooth and creamy. The flavour isn’t what I’d describe as strong (coming from sheng) . Very little bitterness. Very ‘approachable’.
High viscosity in the mouth. It’s still a bit flat on flavour. Later infusions (from steep 4 onward) are still buttery on the tongue and have mild bitter cocoa in addition to the milky mouthfeel. Wet leaves smell mildly of malt or dried apricot.
The smell on the bottom of the cup has brown sugar, but it isn’t really present in the taste.
This is quite savoury. I don’t detect any sweetness or woody / earthy flavours. Just a pleasant ‘wholemeal’ bread and subtle minerality. It’s a rich mellow ‘tea’ taste reminiscent of a savoury malted bun.
Weirdly after a few steeps one flavour that comes to mind is the pulpy inside of a banana peel. That very slight bitterness.
I’ll let the other tuo chill and breathe in the jar and we’ll try again in a few weeks. Not bad so far.
I can see why people could use this as a coffee replacement in the mornings. It is somewhat reminiscent of an Americano (espresso and hot water) if a little smoother.
People who like a nice milky English Breakfast tea might also enjoy it, to be honest, it tastes like it might be nice with milk/sugar (blasphemy I know).
As someone who’s used to drinking sheng, this is completely different stuff. Less complex and in a way less interesting, but nice in its own way.
3-star tea for now.
I’d recommend it and it’s cheap enough (right now) to say it’s worth a try. I can understand why people enjoy it. I’ll update if there are any big changes with the jarred broken tuo.
Flavors: Bread, Brown Toast, Butter, Cocoa, Creamy
A premium tuo made by Nan Jiang under the Tulin brand in an oddball 336g size. They also make several 250g cakes that this reminds me of (namely the 25th anniversary ‘Feng Huang Tuo Cha’ from 2010). Material is allegedly 1-3 year old spring materials from Wu Liang mountain (elevation of 1000 to 2000m) at date of pressing. Tea trees here are around 100-300 years old. I’ve rarely had sheng from Nan Jian before as they’re more famed for their ripe/shou stuff.
I brewed this in a 120ml Yixing pot with boiling filtered water.
Not too much of a challenge to break apart, medium compression I’d say. It helps that it’s a larger size tuo.
The dry leaves are quite fragrant and when wet they are quite verdant. The leaves are fairly large and have a consistent grade throughout the tuo.
This is a rich and deep tasting tuo that brews to an amber consistent with what I’d expect from its age. The mouthfeel is pleasant and refreshing and there’s a pleasant honey/floral after-taste. Very slight hints of fuit (peaches I think) and spice, which I would expect it to drift toward as it gets older.
It still has a touch of raw astringency in the first few brews (even though it’s 9 years old). It tastes like it has decent ageing potential. The compression isn’t as tight as something like a Xiaguan tuo.
A nice sweet huigan and the tea gets sweeter tasting about 4 brews in. If brewed gong-fu style, this will keep giving out flavour for about 12 infusions or so and has some nice variation.
Very pleasing – a ‘4-star’ tea in my book.
Flavors: Bitter Melon, Dry Grass, Honeysuckle, Vegetal
I’m on a bit of a ‘tuo’ bender…
This is a very fine example. It’s like honey and baked sweet pastry on the after-breath. Not a typical smokey and leathery Xiaguan tuo. Most similar to the ‘golden ribbon’ but this is sweeter.
10 to 12 decent infusions.
5-star tea. It’s so good in fact, that I immediately bought more.
This was my first decent sheng pu-erh in tuo form.
Compression is extremely tight (like ‘iron cake; tight almost) and it took me a while to figure out how to break this apart without destroying too much leaf (which was futile, as there’s a lot of broken leaf in this already). The leaves really expand a lot after the first three steeps.
After various tastings and working my way through the tuo I realised the more compressed leaf (bottom of the tuo) tastes much more astringent than the slightly looser leaves at the top of the cake.
I put 5g into a 100ml gaiwan and rinsed for 20 seconds with boiling water. The scent from the leaves is vegetal and rich with bitter melon moving toward geraniums, orchids and artichokes – no sweetness detectable at first; but the geranium/orchid floral quality comes out.
Other predominant flavours in this tuo are leather and freshly planed hardwood. I mention honey, but note this tuo isn’t particularly sweet in taste at all.
I had to do flash steeps – starting at less than 5 seconds for the first three steeps. This will make many infusions. You don’t want to over-steep this.
Initial steeps are overtly astringent and strongly vegetal in flavour with no sweet aftertaste, but eventually a mild floral honey-sweet taste does present itself (about 4 or 5 steeps in) – for me in the back of the throat.
As mentioned, I find that the flavour and astringency can vary depending on how broken up the cake is. Whether it is a looser or more compressed portion (more compressed being mostly just bitter). It certainly keeps you guessing as one brew can vary quite a lot from another.
I’ve been taken off guard by some looser leaf portions and had a floral-honey scent develop with a lovely clean sweetness. I would guess this is would be how this tea would age; so the potential is good.
A nice daily drinker, but potentially a real ‘slap in the face’ tea; not for those who only like deep sweet red tea – but a fine example of middle-young puerh. I look forward to tasting it in a few years.
Flavors: Artichoke, Celery, Geranium, Leather, Orchid, Vegetal, Wood
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