I’ve been drinking both green and ripe pu-erhs for a few years but I can’t claim that I have the experience or refined tastes of the people at Verdant whose sample packs of Pu-erhs and Oolongs came in the mail yesterday. I steeped this teas using the Western method prescribed by Verdant (five 2.5 minute infusions) and while the tea is quite good for a youngish sheng, I wasn’t having the epic experience I was expecting from the tea—based on the comments of other tasters (some of whom are affiliated with Verdant). Maybe I’ve been drinking some pretty good shengs, or maybe it’s a case of having high expectations, but I didn’t have the aha moment I’ve had when drinking the best examples of other types of tea. This just didn’t outpace the other shengs I’ve had by such a degree that I would pay the steep price; while I would like to support the farmers who make this, I feel I can get a satisfying pu-erh experience for $30 a cake rather than $40 an ounce. I have enough tea for a couple more tastings, so I hope to be able to revisit this review soon.
2003 Farmer's Cooperative (Mt. Banzhang) Wild Arbor Sheng
Dry Leaf: Very dark, large curled leaf, unbroken with longer stems. Loose hand-pressed ball of tea.
Aroma: Smoke of a campfire deep in a wet forest of redwood and eucalyptus after fresh rain.
Tea Color: Small floating down gives this Chardonnay color a darker opacity that turns orange in sunlight.
Taste through early steepings: Immediately creamy with a tingling sweetness like the finest spring Gyokuro. Assertive notes of toasted walnut and hazelnut linger in the throat. As this continues steeping, cinnamon, ginger and cardamom spice with mucovado brown sugar play across the palate.
Taste in middle to late steepings: The intriguing muscovado sweetness carries through even as the intense tingling texture subsides. The spice of early steepings slowly moves towards baked apple. Very late in steeping, the texture of licorice root comes through across the tongue accompanied by notes of malt and barley.
Steeped Leaf: Enormous dark green leaves that are thick and strong with abundant buds and long stems.