Bitterleaf just released a ton of new teas, this one included. I received a free sample of it with a recent order before the tea was officially released and was confused because the bag only read Spring 2017 “Sterling”. I’m glad to finally know what it is.
I used my fairly standard nine grams in a 130ml gaiwan. Boiling water as always. A brief 5s rinse, followed by a five minute rest to let the chunks soften up a little to help me break them apart a bit. I did ten steeps, timing for them being 8s, 6s, 8s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s and 2 min.
Sterling started out quite powerful right out of the gate. While the flavors themselves were light, the strength was good. The taste was clean, vegetal, mineral, earthy. The mouthfeel was nice. The second steep was similar. Strong, earthy, mineral. The mouthfeel continued to be very nice and the tea had a strong, floral aftertaste. I try not to be influenced by product descriptions and other reviews when drinking and reviewing teas, but I think Bitterleaf’s use of the word “dense” in describing the taste and texture of this tea is spot on.
In the next infusion the tea was beginning to get sweeter. The soup was still really dense, but not overly strong. The taste was similar to before: earthy, mineral, vegetal. Those who have had Mengku/Lincang teas before would likely recognize the basic taste. While still dense, the tea lost a bit of body in the fourth steep. The taste was vegetal, maybe a bit creamy, and for the first time there were small hints of some bitterness and astringency.
While the texture continued getting thinner in the next infusion, the mouthfeel remained quite nice. The tea was strong, earthy and bitter, with a vegetal finish. There was also a sort of vanilla flavor when you breathed out through your nose. The flavor in general in this steep was quite rich. Steep six remedied the body issue by being big and full in the mouth. The mouthfeel was quite good and there was even some throat feel. The taste was mainly earthy and vegetal and there was some sweetness and bitterness as well.
The seventh steep had the right balance of sweet, bitter and astringent. The overall tone leaned toward dark. The sweetness had a density to it that made it almost syrupy. Even now the tea continued brewing up strong and dense and the flavors themselves were really full and long-lasting. The next steep was cleaner and clearer. There was almost a sudden void of flavor up front, but the huigan was fast and noticeable. The resulting sweetness was strong and long-lasting. The broth continued to feel big in the mouth.
The second-to-last steep presented yet another experience that differed from before. The tea was soft. The feeling of it extended all the way to the back of the mouth. The flavors were light, gentle. Mainly sweet and mineral. This infusion was more about the feeling than flavor. The feeling that was left in your mouth was great. In the last steep the flavors were starting to taper off. The body was good, but the taste was starting to be reminiscent of mineral water. The mineral taste itself though was very rich and I could taste them all around my mouth. I decided to call the session there just to be on the safe side.
I will say that I am a fan of this tea. You tend to run into a lot of hyperbole when it comes to tea, especially pu’er, but what Bitterleaf says about this being high-quality material without a high-end price tag is not wrong. While this might not be the most aesthetically pleasing tea, the material itself is clearly very high quality. As long as you are fine with young teas and are not averse to possible small levels of bitterness and astringency, this is a great tea to drink right now. For someone relatively new to raw pu’er, this could be a great introduction to higher end material at a very friendly price. At the same time the tea has enough to satisfy more seasoned drinkers as well. Despite the tea having my personal recommendation, I am likely not going to be purchasing it for myself, although I could see myself giving it as a gift to someone at some point. I already have so many teas in my rotation along with countless samples to go through, that I’m not really looking to add another drink-now tea to the mix.
If you haven’t compiled your latest Bitterleaf order yet, I recommend throwing one of these in there! You can thank me later (actually thank the fine folks at Bitterleaf).
Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Creamy, Earth, Floral, Mineral, Sweet, Vanilla, Vegetal