Time for another Yiwu. Much like the Man Lin I reviewed a week ago, I actually have a cake of this, but it’s aging at the bottom of my pumidor and so I went ahead and ordered a ten gram sample just for this session. The sample I received was pretty much just straight mao cha. The tin foil it came in was covered entirely in tiny hairs off of the leaves.
I brewed the entire sample in a 140ml gaiwan. After a brief sub-five second rinse, I tasted the wash while I let the moisture soak in for five minutes or so. The rinse was shockingly strong and astringent for just the briefest of washes. The tea was also very oily. The rinsed leaves had the smell of a seafood buffet. For the rest of the session this transformed into the scent of soured milk.
I followed the rinse with a total of ten steeps, the timing for these being 5s, 5s, 5s, 7s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s and 75s. The tea opened strong. The body was full and creamy and the taste also a bit creamy, but there was also an interesting sort of roasted note or something of that description. The steep that followed greeted you with a strong initial burst of astringency which however faded in a matter of seconds. The broth continued brewing up strong and oily.
I stuck to a flash brew for the third steep, which turned out to be the right call, because the strength was barely a notch lighter. It displayed the same fleeting astringency from before and coated your mouth and throat with its oiliness. In its wake, the tea left a sensation of softness in your mouth, accompanied by gentle sweetness. I could feel the tea in my throat and at its entrance there was a slight tingling sensation that made you want to keep drinking more.
The tea pushed on strong and oily in the fourth steep. There was now a perhaps more mineral taste that turned to sweetness. In addition there was a wonderful bitterness that titillated your palate in just the right way. The tea could be felt in your throat and chest, reaching all the way down to the end of the esophagus.
Steep five presented a really wonderful mixture of bitterness and astringency which rewarded you with some sweetness. The next infusion continued being really full and oily in the mouth. The tea was thick. Really, really thick. The taste was bright and astringent. In the aftertaste there was very clear vanilla note. I could feel the tea around my jaw and the saliva in my cheeks tasted really sweet.
The seventh steeping was soft and oily and wonderfully sweet. I’m not talking of this steep specifically, but this is the kind of tea you could just keep drinking forever. I could still feel the tea in my jaw. At this point a small heatwave washed over me, which is just par for the course. The steep that followed is where the tea finally started thinning out and simplifying for the first time. The strength was still good and the taste a mixture of sweetness and astringency which both went away within a few seconds.
Infusion nine is where the flavors began to fade while the astringency started creeping up. There were still some hints of oiliness left and the body was decent. Steep ten is the last one I did. The body was thinner and the taste a mixture of sweetness, astringency and bitterness. The tea wasn’t bad, but I wanted to end a good session on a high note so I decided to call it there just to be safe. It’s possible the tea had more left to give, but I didn’t wanna risk it.
In my notes for the 2016 Man Lin, I explained my rocky history with Yiwu teas. After the Man Lin turned out so great, I was sure my luck’d run out and didn’t dare to hold too high expectation for this one. I’m glad I was wrong, because this was flat out one of the best teas I’ve had, perhaps the best. While the first couple initial brews were interesting, at that point it was hard to gauge where the tea was going, but once it got going, it just kept getting better and better and I was sold. Whereas the Man Lin is an excellent tea in its own right and very yummy and approachable, the Guo You Lin is more demanding and challenging. I doubt people new to pu’er would be able to appreciate it to its fullest. While the Man Lin is very tasty, Guo You Lin is more of a complete experience that involves your body and other senses.
All that being said, I drank this tea together with my mother who, although not a tea connoisseur, has been drinking tea with me about once a week for over a year now, and she like me loved the tea and said she could drink this every day. She in particular loved the throat feel and the bitterness and astringency in this tea. You most certainly don’t have to be some sort of master to appreciate this tea, but you should definitely work your way up to teas of this caliber.
The astringency in this tea is interesting. I am familiar with bitterness that quickly transforms into something else, but astringency that does that is a new one for me. The astringency and bitterness in this tea are very enjoyable and never abrasive or persistent. They are also integral to the overall experience. Appreciation of these two things would be recommended before trying to tackle this tea. If you can enjoy teas like Mang Fei, you are golden.
Is this tea worth the price? At $0.52/g this tea is not only worth it but a bargain. In my experience, spring teas of roughly this vintage that offer this level of quality can easily cost close to twice as much. I’m not saying you can’t find really good spring teas around this price point, but if you are trying to match this tea, you are more likely to end up paying more.
So any cons? None that I can think of… I’m not sure if I got any qi, but with a tea this strong and this much body sensation, I’m not really looking for an additional layer of input. This tea is perfectly ready to be drunk and enjoyed now, but the aging potential is also intriguing. I can’t recommend this tea any more highly and the artwork is fantastic.