Three, yes three, years and this sheng has finally seen the light of day (see https://steepster.com/derk/posts/381729 for comaprison). Stored for the past 1.5-2 years in a 5-gallon crock that I’ve topped with a terracotta saucer and occasionally dampen with distilled water. Humidity is kept pretty consistent at close to 60-65% and the temperature fluctuates between 60F and 75F, both depending upon the season.
Dry leaf. This sure is a beautifully pressed cake. The leaf isn’t much fuzzy. It looks like a dessicated worm orgy. Soft scent of smoked meat and plummy dates.
Warmed leaf is smoked duck breast with caramelized plum sauce.
Wet leaf is pungent and savory. Old man in vest and chapeau. I think about a Scottish man sitting in a wooden chair in a vast expanse of wet fen on a rare sunny day. Some very hidden spice-clove and camphor notes. Tobacco and watered-down apple cider.
The brew is thin, cider-like, smokey but not overwhelming. It’s mostly a dry woodsmoke interspersed with tobacco ash. Bitter; aging taste for sure. Hay-like with a muted herbaceous quality in the background. Some cooling on the inhale. Short aftertaste in the first several steeps drops off as the bitterness finally gives way to a thickness and buttery date sweetness on the swallow. Negligible date returning sweetness. I am calm and grounded… at first (later quite chest-bumping). I like that in general I feel like my blood is heaver, fortified, thicker but that the tea is not thick and heavy in the mouth or stomach.
The color is a richer golden orange-brown now and still displays a little turbidity early, clearing up significantly pot after pot. As it clears, it becomes smokier, more acidic, more bitter, thinner in taste. More like astringent green tobacco-green wood-herbs, apple-citrus acidic. The acidity begs for food. Luckily my housemate brought home 3 pints of ice cream for me and our friend a few hours ago so I indulged in a small bowl and followed that up with toasted bread smeared with chive cashew cheese. Fatty and flavorful things.
One thing to note is no off flavors develop when completely cooled. The tea still tastes young but is developing aging flavors. Storage has cleared up the liquor, softened the smoke, bitterness, acidity and astringency and transformed the aroma of the leaf. The longevity isn’t there yet with this one and I still doubt Gu Ming Xiang’s gushu claim.
Overall, I’m happy with how this is progressing but I’m going to stash it away for several more years before trying again. I’m curious if I ended the session too early (my tongue says no) because of the growing rough character. I’ve had other sheng that start very pleasurable, transitioning to abrasiveness and ending on that note instead of a sweet one. Is this one of those poorly processed pu’er? Either way, it’s a very yang tea whose attributes are probably more appreciated and understood by seasoned palates. This reminds me of my vague recollection of Tea Urchin’s 2013 Lao Man E. I’ve never written a note for that one; I’ll get to it in due time.
Flavors: Apple, Ash, Astringent, Bitter, Butter, Camphor, Caramel, Citrus, Clove, Dates, Flowers, Green Wood, Hay, Herbs, Meat, Plum, Savory, Smoke, Spices, Tannin, Tart, Tobacco, Wood