I’ve tasted this one twice now. This was the first loose leaf pu’er that I’ve prepared, and I definitely underestimated the amount of leaf that I should use the first time. More is definitely better with this shou. For me, about a third of my gaiwan works pretty well considering the leaves don’t expand much after water hits them.
The dry leaf aroma is spicy, dry, and woody. The leaves are short, stocky, and thin with faded black, and light brown colorations. They remind me of black tea leaves. After a wash of around ten seconds the leaves reveal a thick and earthy aroma like rich and fertile soil. There are also some notes of cocoa, grapes, and the second time I tried it, some faint funky smell like spoiled grapes. Kind of off-putting, but not awful.
The broth ends up being quite nice. The first steep is very thick and dark, but not so much so that I can’t see to the bottom of the cup. Later on, as steeps progress, it becomes darker and murky. Tea oils are also apparent on the surface.
Flavor-wise, it’s a bit of a weaker brew as I alluded to at the beginning. I first began with Teavivre’s recommended steep times, but found them to produce a more one-dimensional and shallow flavor. I do 10" for the first and 20" for the second steep, but usually jump to something above a minute for the third and something like five minutes for the fourth. I can maybe get one or two extra steeps after that, but they typically aren’t note-worthy.
This shou has a very woody flavor, which is always the top note for each steep. Later on, a really sweet and peaty flavor mingles with the woodsy notes while dry, spicy features rise throughout the session. At some points, I can taste some fruity dimensions, like a wine-y aspect that provides both sweetness and a tad bit of tartness. Later on during the session, usually during the fourth steep, it tastes really leathery, with an almost oily mouthfeel to match. Otherwise, I suppose I could describe this tea as “smooth” texturally, but the mouthfeel isn’t very interesting overall, although it becomes faintly sparkly during the very last steep. I can, however, get a decent aftertaste following most steeps, which happens to be very sweet.
Other than a faint metallic undertone in the first steep, a bit of an odd aroma to the wet leaves, and a little oiliness this shou is pretty clean. It provides most of the things I would look for in a shou, but doesn’t really bring anything new to the table.