I purchased a cake of this during the Cyber Monday Verdant Tea sale. I have been craving pu’er for a while now, and needed something that I could pick apart at leisure while there still being enough to age. It also serves as a distraction from my small, but steadily growing sheng collection, so that I can actually those items age. At any rate, I’ve tasted it a few times since I received it and am quite happy with it, especially considering its young age.
The dry cake’s aroma is lovely. Very spicy, woodsy, with hints of old books and laminate. The leaves are very well-compacted. The last few times I used about 5 grams (+/- 1 gram) in my trusty 100 mL gaiwan, using boiling water. The wet leaves smell delicious. They’re very potent, smelling of sweet earth, musk, and parchment. There are some spicy raisin-y scents hiding somewhere, but they aren’t the most apparent.
The liquor’s aroma is like sweet, spiced plums. Or maybe prunes? It’s a very rich, deep scent. The liquor’s appearance is dark brown, tinged with red. It really reminds me of coffee. Later on, it becomes much darker, almost black, tinged with a russet coloration.
Usual gong fu session: 5" wash, 5", 6", 8", 12", 20", 1’20", >5’
On to the flavor! The first steep is filled with raisin-y goodness, tons of spices, a bit of peat, woodsy, and very salty. Thankfully, the rich sweetness of the raisin and peaty/earthy flavors counteracts the saltiness, but it seems like there is a tad more than there needs to be. However, I think it helps to create the most interesting mouthfeel I’ve sensed in a while that I only find in this steep. It’s this crazy slippery feeling that makes it feel like the tea doesn’t even come into contact with my tongue, like there is some weird force field surrounding it. It’s really quite weird. But as if that wasn’t enough, it’s also incredibly creamy and creates a nice cooling effect in the throat. Just when I thought I had felt everything, the last sip, which had cooled off considerably, produced a fizzy sensation. Ahh pu’er, so unpredictable.
The next steep introduced caramel and earth flavors, really filling the body and rounding out the flavor profile. The crazy sensations above sort of dissipated a bit, all decreasing in intensity and duration. At this point an aftertaste begins to develop that turns incredibly spicy. Later on, it just catches in the throat, thick, hot, and lingering. Kind of like the aromatic spiciness of wasabi that catches in your nasal cavity. The fourth steep really presents the spicy profile. Seems like a mixture of cedar, turmeric, and cinnamon. I’m definitely considering making a chai with this shu. I had great success with a pumpkin spice-chocolate chai I crafted using Verdant’s Zhu Rong black (the girlfriend says its her favorite chai she’s had). I’ll probably make another post here if it turns out well.
Anyway, back to this shu. The last steeps result in a pretty weak brew flavor-wise, but there is this really nice cooling sensation they create that lingers for quite some time. After I was finished after my first tasting, I checked out the wet leaves. I’m not too excited about their condition. They’re really falling apart, peeling away from the central vein like wet paper. Considering it hasn’t been much time since the leaves were pressed, I’m a bit nervous of how they’ll fare after a few years. Hopefully, based on the current flavor, it won’t be much of an issue and will age nicely. I’ll attempt to restrain myself from finishing the cake and compare notes in six months or so.