325 Tasting Notes
Today this tea is completely kicking my head in.
After a good 18 steeps on the wang shu over the past day and a half, and today’s on again off again rainy day pattern, I wanted to take things to another level. I have wuji qigongquan tonight and I want to take that to the next level as well.
So one turns to sheng.
Wild Arbor is right. This tea is a haggis fueled Scotsman like my college roommate of 20 years past. Huge, rough, uncouth, but tenacious, warm and giving.
I cannot claim that I am enjoying the flavor profile right now. I feel like I am drinking cups of mothball soup with an insulation garnish.
But the energy is stretching straight to my toes, and fingers, and my yi has grown full and heavy. And right now, that is a delicious feeling.
I have a confession to make.
My heretical tea behaviors may have gone too far this time, and… and I like it.
The other afternoon I was making a “help you get through your afternoon” latte for Liz (with coffee, which, for some reason, she still drinks ;) and I steamed way too much soy milk. I didn’t want a coffee drink myself, but I didn’t want to waste the soy milk. I thought about an earl gray or a chai latte, but Liz has been going through a lot of those leaves lately and I didn’t want to use them up on her.
What to do?
Evil thought: You have yunnan rare grade and it is fruity and sweet and strong.
So I did it. I made a soy latte using this tea. I know! What a horrible thing to do.
It was FAN. TAS. TIC.
And I’m not even that big of a fan of lattes.
Received a sample of this with my recent order. I’m glad I saved it until this week.
The past three weeks have been completely overwhelming. The dog going missing, work getting wrapped around the axle, complications for Liz with school and my first disc golf tournament this past weekend on a course I’m really not strong enough to throw at par.
So this week is a bit of a calm after several storms. And this is the right tea for that calm.
One thing I love about drinking really fine tea, is that it helps you realize all the things you couldn’t put your finger on about other teas you’ve had. We sampled a lot of green teas from TeaVivre recently, and also the ones Liz brought back from Japan, and I was always looking for some magic balance of strong, green flavors, pan roast flavors and soft sweetness that none of them was really up to providing. It can be a very frustrating chase, especially when you aren’t 100% sure what it would taste like if it were what you wanted.
This tea has it all. Barely. I’m into my fourth or fifth steep and the liqueur is still very light and very delicate. But it isn’t weak. There is that soft sweetness, but it is backed up with genuine greenness and the touch of the pan.
As much fun as it is to keep trying lots of teas, I do find myself often thinking “now that I found this, that fills this role, and I don’t need anything else, I’ll just keep this stocked.”
But we all know I won’t do that. :-)
OK, to be fair, the first steep was very floral, but I’m up to 5 or 6 now and the flowers faded very quickly.
I am laughing because the leaves expended so much I can barely get the lid onto the gaiwan.
This really is amazing bunch of tea leaves. It will never be my favorite way of processing them, but that’s a matter of personal aesthetic.
I’m going to have to stop ordering green oolongs entirely. They are almost all invariably very floral, and it is becoming clear that it isn’t because they are explicitly scented, but rather something about the processing itself.
This is clearly a very high quality leaf and it has been handled expertly. I. just. Don’t. Like. Flowers.
3rd & 4th steeps:
I have been very surprised a the color of all of these steeps. None of them have been particularly dark in color. This is a big part of why I insist that sheng and shu really should be discussed as almost completely distinct teas, these days. Yes, initially, shu was an attempt at a short cut. But the results, even very high quality, long shelved results, are nothing like sheng. Good shu is amazing tea. But it doesn’t come close to replicating sheng in anyway way, and at this point we’re better served severing the mental connection and in the same way that you wouldn’t really compare Assam to Yunnan just because they are both “black” tea, we should stop thinking of shu as somehow the bastard step-child baby brother of sheng. Yes, they’re both pu-erh. But they fulfill radically different niche in my wants and desires when choosing a tea.
This particular sheng is fairly wooly while having enough age on it that you don’t feel like you’re being rubbed raw and bleeding by the rough edges. It is a tea that forces you to be present every time you sip it. There is no way to have this tea “in the background”. During a hectic day, this tea snaps you out of your wool gathering and says “STOP” and be awake for a moment.
By contrast, good shu does nearly the opposite. It buries your underground, slowly, quietly, softly, piling on fresh earth and old loam until the present couldn’t be further away. Shu is a cocoon.
(WE JUST FOUND OUR LOST DOG!!!!!)
OK forget tea. Back later.
OK. Finally time to taste the sheng.
I have to say, I’m a bit surprised with this first steep. When the leaf first got wet there was actually a kind of a flowery aroma. Not the kind of deep floral you get from jasmine or osmanthus, but certainly a “I used to be a living plant” kind of smell — something you wouldn’t expect sheng to remember about itself, if you know what I mean. There are some other typical sheng notes, but there are none of the baritone earthy tones one typically thinks of with pu-erh. No loam, no tilled fields, none of that.
But then the cup itself is pretty typical compared to other sheng I’ve had. Strong camphor in this first steep. Sadly, none of that “hot cabin wood in the sun” type notes I’ve had with others and enjoyed so much. Maybe they will come out in later steeps, but I’m going to post these steeps one at a time because my morning is very busy and it may take a while (sadly).
The rating will go up as I get more comfortable with the tea.