This tea brick was produced in Cangyuan, Yunnan for The Tao of Tea in 2011. I’m not sure who pressed this particular brick (perhaps Cangyuan Wa Mountain Tea Factory?), so I cannot really comment much on this tea’s origin. I can say, however, that judging from the extremely tight compression of the brick that this is definitely a machine pressed tea. Most bricks usually are anyway. A further inspection of the brick reveals the presence of numerous tippy leaves, indicating that this is most likely a high quality product.

Prior to really getting into the nuts and bolts of how this tea smelled and tasted over the course of the session, allow me to state that this brick was a total pain to break apart. Due to the aforementioned compression and the small size, I quickly found that neither of my regular knives would do the trick. I had to use the smallest and sharpest of my tea needles, and even then, it still did not break quite as cleanly as I would have preferred. For the record, I probably should have steamed it.

I prepared this tea gongfu style. I almost always prepare pu-erh tea gongfu style. After a 10 second rinse, I allowed the tea to rest for a few minutes. While breaking the brick apart, I managed to stick one of my thumbs with the tea needle and again needed to clean the wound and rebandage anyway. Once I was ready to go, I started by steeping approximately 8 grams of tea in 4 oz/120 ml of 208 F water for 5 seconds. I followed this infusion with 11 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 5 seconds, 7 seconds, 10 seconds, 12 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, and 1 minute.

Prior to the rinse, I noted slight aromas of woodsmoke, sea salt, and pickled seaweed coming from the dry leaf material. The rinse allowed slightly stronger aromas to emerge. The rinsed leaves and the first infusion both produced a pronounced smoky, vegetal aroma with slight fruity undertones. The first infusion produced mild notes of pickled seaweed, pickled vegetables, smoke, and sea salt. The next 4 infusions were milder and fruitier on the nose and in the mouth. I detected integrated flavors of pickled seaweed, pickled vegetables (radish, cabbage, lettuce) pine, smoke, sea salt, tart cherry, crabapple, and unripened pear. The final series of infusions grew gradually smokier and more vegetal, with slight grassy undertones and an ever increasing hint of minerals.

I didn’t find this to be a bad sheng by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn’t really my thing either. It’s a very briny, vegetal, smoky tea, and I generally prefer a somewhat different flavor profile in shengs. The next time I drink this tea, I may lower the brewing temperature a tad. The Tao of Tea recommends a water temperature of 200 F, but I may do 205 F instead. I’m curious to see how it would react.

Flavors: Cherry, Fruity, Grass, Lettuce, Mineral, Pear, Pine, Seaweed, Smoke, Vegetal

Boiling 8 g 4 OZ / 118 ML

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My grading criteria for tea is as follows:

90-100: Exceptional. I love this stuff. If I can get it, I will drink it pretty much every day.

80-89: Very good. I really like this stuff and wouldn’t mind keeping it around for regular consumption.

70-79: Good. I like this stuff, but may or may not reach for it regularly.

60-69: Solid. I rather like this stuff and think it’s a little bit better-than-average. I’ll drink it with no complaints, but am more likely to reach for something I find more enjoyable than revisit it with regularity.

50-59: Average. I find this stuff to be more or less okay, but it is highly doubtful that I will revisit it in the near future if at all.

40-49: A little below average. I don’t really care for this tea and likely won’t have it again.

39 and lower: Varying degrees of yucky.

Don’t be surprised if my average scores are a bit on the high side because I tend to know what I like and what I dislike and will steer clear of teas I am likely to find unappealing.



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