Time for another semi-aged tea. This is only the third aged sheng I’ve tried, so I’m still very new to aged teas. The sample I received consisted of one larger chunk and some loose bits to round out the weight. The large piece was very close to the 12 grams I intended to use for this session, so only a few additional bits were required. I brewed the tea in my 180ml wood fired teapot made from clay from Dehua. The teapot has a very small opening, so I had to break the large chunk into three or four smaller pieces to fit them inside the pot. I rinsed the leaves just short of ten seconds and let them rest for just over five minutes due to time constraints before proceeding to do a total of nine infusions. The steeps were around 10s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 25s, 35s, 60s, 85s and 2 min. 10s respectively.
The first steep brewed a cloudy pale yellow. I should note however that I had this session in an apartment with minimal lighting available, so any visual remarks I make in these notes are not necessarily the most reliable. The tea was still light, but it had flavor already. There was some fruitiness on the front while the finish tasted of creamy vanilla. The overall impression it left was soft. There was a certain semi-aged quality to the tea, although it’s hard to pin down exactly what it was. Those who have drunk more aged sheng than me probably have some idea what I’m talking about. Maybe it’s a whisper of smoke in the finish or a tiniest bit of sourness. I’m not sure if it’s necessarily even a taste, but more of a feeling. The body was light, maybe light+. The tea never really got thicker than that or water thin.
The second steep brewed a pale, slightly more orange yellow. The taste was greener, more mineraly. The semi-aged quality was still there as well. I could still detect hints of the cream from time to time. I can’t be sure if I could feel the tea already starting to affect me a little, but I made sure to not drink it too fast. You need to respect the tea. This infusion seemed to have a cumulative effect where the tea gradually coats your tongue and it starts to taste sweeter as you keep drinking it. I noticed this in some of the later infusions as well. The sweetness seemed to bring out the creaminess, giving an impression of a creamy sweetness.
The third steep was slightly darker and could maybe barely be called an orange. I sort of got the vanilla as a really bright note. There was also another bright “side flavor” running concurrent to the tea that I can’t identify. While the overall impression was very bright, there were also deeper semi-aged flavors running underneath. The tea was slightly drying and it was possible to get some lightning-fast bitterness when you swallowed. The bitterness became very noticeable once the tea cooled down.
I started extending my steeping times perhaps a bit too early and a bit too much as the fourth infusion ended up being very bitter. Once the tea cooled down a little it did reveal some subtleties beneath the bitterness, but I wasn’t necessarily the best person for discerning them. My best attempt would be some sort of vegetal vanilla. At this point I could feel the tea rummaging my belly quite a bit.
The fifth steep had a bright mineral taste to it. It left your tongue a bit sandpapery. There’s more to it, but it’s hard to discern. Perhaps it’s a touch of sourness. The next steep was more clearly astringent while the mineral was less bright now. This was one of the steeps that got sweeter as you kept drinking the tea. The seventh infusion I steeped maybe a tad too strong, but the tea remained similar to the last two steeps: mineraly and astringent.
The tea started tasting a lot simpler in the eighth steep. Clean, mineral, astringent. The last steep I did was even simpler. Non-sweet sweetness, with that semi-aged tinge still there. Strength-wise the tea was still okay, so on that front I’d say it was still good to go for a round or two, but I’d seen what I wanted to see and decided to call it here.
Mad King is representative of its age and still retains quite a bit of its youth while displaying semi-aged characteristics as well. The storage has been clean and dry. Compared to Whatever 98, Mad King is more dynamic in terms of flavor and the flavor profile appealed to me more. There’s still some bitterness and astringency in the tea and while it does not kick quite like a young gushu, the tea did affect me in a similar fashion to a young raw. It left me feeling restless and a bit agitated for the rest of the evening, so if you are looking for a gentle tea, this might not be the tea you are looking for. I guess the tea could be considered drinkable now, but personally I’d give it at least a few more years. The tea is still far from full maturity and drinking it now would be a waste of its potential. Taking age into account, I think Mad King offers fair quality for the price, if you are looking for a semi-aged tea to age yourself.
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Cream, Mineral, Sweet, Vanilla