Rich, smooth satisfying young sheng.
Got a 25g sample of this and five other sheng bingchas. The samples are nice, solid compacted wedges pulled from bings that were bisected lengthwise. If you are having trouble picturing what I mean by this, check out this video from “Mr. Cloud” Chan Kam Pong, the author of the book First Step to Chinese Puerh Tea, where he shows how to break down a cake for consumption once it is ready:
The compaction on this is actually fairly tight for a stone-pressed cake, but you can chock a lot of that up to it being really young. After a rinse the compressed chunk I brewed showed a bit of separation uniformly around the mass and it broke up really well after just the first infusion (boy was I caught off guard when I opened my pot). I flaked the rest of the sample into loose tea so I could later taste this in a comparative lineup and so I could send some off in a box of samplers I’m putting together. Leaves are really consistent for a wedge off a bing and when the owner of Zomia was showing me various cakes I was thoroughly impressed by the consistency of the leaf material overall. No blending of young on the outside old on the inside for these cakes, they are uniform young leaves all throughout. Think about the leaf composition for a good Bai Hao Oolong or Bai Mu Dan White Tea for the leaves of most of the sheng bingchas offered by Zomia Tea.
I brewed an 8g compressed chunk in my 220mL Duan Ni Shi Piao pot for young shengcha. Only did four infusions… May revisit later. Seriously warming tea and it’s a very warm day.
Dry fragrance actually had quite a bit going on and really harkened to my days as a docent when I would lead ecology tours of the local wetlands. Smells very much of the cattails and tule when in bloom (predominant note is pollen), the breeze coming off a freshwater pond lined with willows, and just a hint of young redwood. There’s also a toasty grain note here – I’m going with millet, though sesame wouldn’t be too far off either.
Single rinse resulted in a brew for discard with only the faintest tinge of yellow-green and light sweet aroma somewhat similar to hay but really too light to point to anything for serious.
Wet Leaf aroma was rocky and toasty, as in multigrain bread being heated in a toaster oven. Vegetal blanket aroma is very hard to pin down (basic young shengcha base muted-veggie aroma) but an accent of wet moss on wet granite during a hot day pops out. As steam dissipates a tad I definitely get a bit of arugula and the smell of stir-fried noodles and bamboo shoots.
Liquor aroma for these first four brews were pretty close to one-another. Sweet, like the smell of simple syrup. Canned bamboo shoots and stir-fried water chestnuts. Fried egg. Wet lawn. Pear (particularly skin of Bartlett/William’s or D’Anjou Pears, but the flesh as well).
Each infusion had slightly different parameter sets, but not huge deviations. This pot takes 20sec to pour, so tack that on for total brew time.
1) 45sec, 85C
The first infusion had a nice, full body and a light astringency providing a pleasant itty bitty pucker that went well with the light rocky smell coming from the pot. Golden yellow, clear infusion with suspended downy hairs floating about. Predominant taste is cabbage – raw, cooked, red, white, green, whatever. Tasty cabbage, though. Toasted rice is up front but this gives way to rice pudding in the aftertaste. Mmmmm, rice pudding… Very mouthwatering (and not just from me now wanting desserts to make up my breakfast, lunch and now dinner for the day). Kinda gravelly impression – largely in the nose but also lingering a bit on the tongue as though I just hiked through a particularly rocky area.
2) 45sec, 87C
Second infusion is like the first but just a little more potent. Ever so slightly darker gold infusion (almost amber) and just as many little downy hairs – about on par with a tippy Darjeeling or Bai Hao Oolong in terms of suspended hairs making it through the fine mesh strainer and into the cup. Here’s where I figured out what kind of pear I was smelling earlier, as Bartlett Pear comes even before the cabbage in the flavor (this wasn’t present in first infusion). Also, some radish has come into the picture. Again I feel like I need to say “in a good way” since I tack a negative connotation to radish, cabbage, and Brussels Sprouts for some reason even though I like ‘em all, especially raw or pickled (um, there’s no pickled taste in this tea…). Sweet Brown Rice sweetness hangs around in this infusion, sort of making a mid-ground between the toasted rice and rice pudding expressed in the first. Slightly less mouthwatering than the first, but still up there but the pucker is ever so slightly increased. Fried egg pops up here and there as I drink this one – not quite oily, but evocative of having a whole egg cooked on a well seasoned cast iron griddle. This infusion is very warming. It would be incredibly comforting if I had this last night with the fog we got but right now it’s 30C inside my little poorly insulated cottage.
3) 45sec, 84C
Third brew has a slightly lighter yellow color and slightly lighter body. Distinct menthol quality comes up here, reminiscent of watercress. Other than that this is very similar to infusion #2 – very rich and satisfying. This is certainly brothy. Instead of egg I’m thinking closer to chicken stock for soup. Raw chunk sugar cane character in the aftertaste makes this seem slightly more refined in sweetness yet with a more protracted lingering toasty quality.
4) 60sec, 83C
Like the third, but markedly sweeter. Especially sweet and crisp in the aftertaste. Lil’ gherkin cucumber characteristic is present here as sort of an evolution of the cabbage taste. Makes for a bit more refreshing infusion, but this is still incredibly savory and warming. Gonna have to call it with this brew as I’m starting to perspire.
This is not nearly as bitter/bittersweet, minerally, or smoky as I’m kind of used to from young Bulangshan Puerh, but still very hearty and I think will do well to age based on richness in spite of slightly lower intensity of sharp characteristics. Supposedly 2011 was a better year across the board for Puerh, so we’ll see how this does against the 2011 Bulang Mountain Spring Bing I also grabbed a sample of. Overall this trended closer to the vegetal end of shengcha expression with all florals hiding in the background and mostly coming forward as pollen character. There were some wildflower and dry grassland hints to the base, but those are easily overshadowed by other characteristics.
Again, a very rich young sheng and very tasty even though it’s so young. Definitely in the running for my next full bingcha purchase, but that depends on how well I like these other samples I got. Unfortunately I don’t have the kind of expendable income I once had and have to be a little more choosy about plunking down for a bing, brick, or a full tong. Had I tasted this a few years ago I’d likely impulsively buy a tong so my indiscriminate drinking of young puerh wouldn’t dent the supply before it got some age on it.
Yummyyumyum I hope the rest are just as tasty or better.