Free sample generously provided to me by Teavivre. Thanks so much!
Preparation notes: 2 of the 4 enclosed tuo cha in 500 ml. water in my Breville at the below parameters.
Dry leaf: My only other run in with pu erh tea was with a Teavana blend roughly a year ago. It was a fruit blend, and in loose leaf form, not a cake, so I guess you could say this is my first authentic pu erh experience.
The tuo cha are small – maybe the size of a quarter, or slightly larger. The immediate scent that came to mind was fishy, which my boyfriend interpreted as food pellets. There were also notes of dirt. Very organic smelling.
Steeped tea: I opted toward the later steeping time with this one, and though it isn’t bitter, I’m thinking I might have gone a little strong and would probably dial it back next time. This brewed up a dark brown to black color which totally shocked me, even though it had been noted by others. I guess I just didn’t think it would be possible to get so dark despite the short steep time.
The predominant smell from the steeped tea is that of the hamster food pellets my boyfriend smelled initially. The fishy smell is displaced more toward the background, with hay and dirt taking the center stage. It smells a touch sour, too.
Surprisingly, given how dark it is, it doesn’t taste astringent or bitter. Just…strong, with a full mouthfeel. It seems like a midway point between black tea and coffee. The taste itself does have some earth on the swallow, otherwise, think a very strong black tea, with the accompanying maltiness and smoothness that it has when steeped properly, and you will have an accurate picture of what this tastes like as well.
I understand why people say that pu erh is an acquired taste. In my case the taste wasn’t the issue – it was the smell I’ll have to get used to. After my experience with Teavana I had written this type of tea off completely, but it turns that I may actually like them after all. I think further exploration is in order!