The scent of the dry leaves in a warm gaiwan is just lovely, a mix of old books or old board game boxes mixed with petrichor and some tiny hints of apricot.
After a rinse, an intense plum fragrance exudes from the leaves, with a light vanilla note and still some of the aged books or old house kind of smell.
I tasted the rinse infusion. It smelled a bit of sweet dough and it had a slight dusty taste and a light overall flavor with a gentle sweetness. The flavor reminds me of the white stick you get in a Fun Dip candy. YUM! This is a rinse I enjoy drinking and will not be tossing out!
After the first infusion, the wet leaves have a more bright and sweet aroma like wet grass and soil during rain. The tea liquid smells like sweet dough with a hint of cinnamon, like cinnamon roll dough. The taste is complex, light, and sweet, with powdered sugar and subtle fruit qualities.
The second infusion has a deeper dried fruit flavor, is a bit less sweet, but is really mellow and rich. There’s a nice enjoyable quality to it. I taste faint notes of dandelion and burdock. If I swish the tea around in my mouth there’s even a bit of a wet fur taste that comes through.
The third infusion has just the most rich and delicious scent. I’m reminded again of sweet pastry dough with a hint of cinnamon, or perhaps horchata. As flavor goes, it is still rather light and mellow. I am having an interesting experiment tonight, as I just brewed a gaiwan of the loose Moonlight White from Jingmai (also from Bana Tea) a while ago. I purchased that tea on my own and this brick tea is a sample from a friend. I’m trying to decide which one I’d like to purchase on an upcoming order soon.
Having the two back-to-back is odd. They have similarities, but are very distinct. The loose tea is from 2012 and much younger. It has sweet and bright qualities, and a little more honey like sweetness. It almost tastes more like a white tea than a Puer. On the other hand, the brick tea is from 2007 and has a more complex nature with the aged earthy-musty notes blending with the sweet notes. The result is more a dulling down of the sweet tones than an enhancement of them, or perhaps this harvest itself is not as sweet as the one from Jingmai, as the cake tea is from a different source. The cake certainly has a mellower and perhaps weaker flavor, but the additional element of the aged taste creates more complexity and richness. Moonlight white is a tea you must brew more deeply than most other raw puer. It simply doesn’t give a bold flavor with very quick infusions unless you pack your gaiwan really full with it. I’m brewing 5g per 100ml right now and am having to add 10-15 seconds to each infusion. It has no bitterness or bite that you may expect from a raw Puer, even when young.
With both versions of this tea, if the flavor intensity and quality were mapped, they’d form a basin. The first few infusions are rich and flavorful, then the next several seem weaker, but the later infusions, pushing toward 6-8, become more rich and flavorful.
I’m on the fifth infusion of this tea, and I can tell that it would benefit from being brewed in a thicker gaiwan with higher heat retention, as the one I am using has very thin walls. I just didn’t want to bust out a larger one when drinking this tea alone. The flavor is subtle still, a bit unremarkable. I will raise the temperature for the next few.
These later infusions are mostly tasting of a light mustiness and a subtle fruit-like flavor.
I really love the aroma and flavor early on, but feel like it is tough to push much flavor out of it after the first few infusions, even if infusing it for a couple minutes or more. It’s definitely subtle. I’m curious how it will age, however.
I’ve had a chance to revisit this tea in my thick-walled larger gaiwan and I can say a few things now with certainty. Firstly, I prefer the loose version from Jingmai that Bana sells over this one quite a bit. At first, I think I was appreciating this tea a lot more because it was given to me by a friend and it’s of a varietal that I really like, but if I am to be totally as objective and unbiased as I can be, I feel this cake has a subdued flavor compared to the loose Moonlight White from Jingmai. I felt the cake was more complex at first, but I don’t feel that way now. It just had some more flavors I wasn’t used to, but those flavors have overridden and hidden some of the more subtle complexities that made me really fall in love with the loose version. This cake version, after a few sessions, hasn’t had the lasting appeal of that version. It’s a unique tea, but compared to other compressed raw Puer, I don’t feel it really competes for a place in my collection.