This tea was an impulse buy on my part. I was browsing Crimson Lotus Tea website, and searched for some cheap raw Pu Erh that could be delivered quick. The beeng was incredibly cheap, only 39,99$ USD for a full 357 gram cake. It was kept in their Seattle inventory, which meant that the Chinese new year break wouldn’t affect shipping time. Within a week, I got the cake. I quickly put it in a ziploc bag with a Boveda pack to let it rest. This was my first venture into ‘’less than 10 years old’’ semi-aged raw Pu Erh. I didn’t really know what to expect, since I normally drink very young sheng. It’s also a good way to work on my palate. After a good week and a half of rest, the tea is ready to drink. Let’s get to it.
This time around, I will be using a 150ml glazed gaiwan with 10 g of leaves. As for the infusion, I will be using a 95 C water. I will be going through 5 steeps, starting at 15 seconds, and ending with a 45 seconds brew for the 4th infusion.
The dry leaves
The dry leaves tell us a lot about the age of the tea. Normally, young sheng have a green-ish color, with silvery buds and bits of brown on the outside. The leaves have a definite brown color to them, with a good quantity of silvery buds, which for me, means a good picking method. If you look long enough at the dry leaves, there is a green hue to them. It’s trying to tell us that it’s still young, despite 5 years of storage.
In a heated gaiwan, the leaves give off a storage smell, that reminds me of a humid basement or ‘’grandmas old books’’. There’s also a hint of smokiness. Other than that, the dry leaves smell is not that complex.
The wet leaves
After a quick 5 second rinse, the leaves give off that green color that young sheng normally known for.
The aroma of the tea is very strong. It fills the room. The storage smell really comes out, and more smoky notes appear, reminding me of hot ashes after a campfire. There are also hints of chinese herbs, and a hay like smell. It’s where the ‘’youngness’’ of the tea resides in my opinion.
The tea liquor
On the first steep, the tea soup was dark orange. As the infusion went, the tea got really dark, but still kept that deep orange color. I think this was due to the storage conditions, which altered the young tea a lot.
The brewed tea
I want to touch on the overall texture of the tea before writing my tasting notes. The texture is thick and really dry. It coats the mouth, but leaves a dryness in the mouth. This tea is really strong, and it shows in the texture. It’s quite an aggressive one. Let’s get to tasting !
I will now write my tasting notes, going through each of the 4steepings.
- This steeping was 15 seconds long. Up front, there is bitterness, but not and overwhelming amount. There was also some storage notes, which to me, tastes like a humidly stored tea (I could be wrong). So far, the tea is woody and grassy, which reminds me of straws. If you close your eyes and take a sip of this steeping, you could almost imagine you’re by a extinguished pine wood fire. That’s how I would describe the smokiness in the background.
- The second steep was also 15 seconds long. This infusion delivered pretty much the same tasting notes as the first steep, but turning down the bitterness quite a bit. It went in the background. There was a menthol mouth sensation, a cooling effect after drinking a sip. I never really felt this before with tea. I was really impressed.
- On this steep, the sweetness of the tea appeared in the form of a final. The leaves opened up quite a bit. This is where the storage taste fades away and we can really taste the leaves. The bitterness is still quite present, but I think it’s a trademark for Bulang area sheng Pu Erh. The cooling sensation in the mouth is still there, and the texture slowly fades away. More vegetal notes come into play, like dried grass.
- After a 30 second steep, the tea finally starts to calm down. A mineral sweetness takes the place of the grassy notes (Straws / Dried grass), and there’s now a lingering bitterness, which could be tasted even after finishing the cup. The texture got really thin, but it was still a bit dry.
When drinking this tea, I got a lots of Pu Burps. It got my organs going. Which I think is a good thing in a Pu Erh. The cha qis is moderate : it does not make up for the ‘’in your face’’ taste this tea has to offer.
Overall, this tea is an affordable semi-aged sheng Pu Erh, with great storage note that contributes to its complexity. I could see it as a great daily driver. Although, I would have loved to taste this sheng off the presses. In all steeps, the tea was really strong. I concentrated a lot on the taste in my tasting notes, and not if it’s a weak or strong tea. I find it a bit complex to analyse a stored sheng, since the storage hides sometimes the pure taste of the leaves. But also, this is what’s nice about aged teas : it changes.
I think this tea would mellow out with long term storage. Don’t get me wrong : it’s really good as is, but would be much better with a couple more years of storage.
Jayscore : 8.6 out of 10