In a way, puer, people and animals are alike: every one is different, sometimes unpredictable, slowly fermenting away inside… A major attraction of puer is that its ‘alive.’ So why not anthropomorphise it? Hello, Old Bear!

This bear is up-tight and refuses at first to yield when asked to leap onto the scales. 6.5g in ~90ml yixing made for a potent trip down the forest trail. I ran through it quickly, as if being chased… Yes, there’s a bit of an animal in there. We know this tea is potent and smokey. But I’m a fan of lapsang, rauchbier and Islay whisky.

As much as smoke (more peat and oak than pine or beech – so I disagree with lapsang analogies), I perceive a decent rounding from age and storage, which makes the power of the tea and its latent, but potentially aggressive bush-like flavours quite manageable. Short, cautious steeps yield an enjoyable brew with a pleasantly smooth mouth-feel. The finish is a contest between drying smokiness that reminds me of Laphroaig (a bit like piss and tweed…) and a slight trickling sweetness consistent with the tea’s age and W2T-type storage. As with some comparable whiskies, this tea has the body to back up the smoke (unlike Laphroaig, imho), and I like it.

Pros: potent, enduring and interesting; almost balanced – provided you like a smokey kick. Uplifting.

Cons: heavy on the stomach, despite its 10yrs of age. Occasional flashes of huigan contend with a slight, unpleasant constriction of the throat that reminds me this is likely particularly cheap plantation material. Then again, I’m sure its tough to tame a bear. And really, would we want to?

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I’m primarily on a mission to understand pu’erh at the moment, being fairly systematic in approaching different teas in terms of their supposed characteristics (region, storage, age…).



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