I bought some of this tea on a whim since I read it was a cross between a shou puerh and a houjicha. I love a good houjicha and have been meaning to dip in to the “aged wine” class of tea for a while now. My first impression of the leaf was intrigue, as the leaves were completely unfurled and had a nice sheen about them; they smelled lightly roasted and sour. The instructions said to use 4-5 heaping tsp. per cup and steep for 4-5 minutes so I did just that with a mug, tea basket, and silicone cover. What I found most interesting about this tea, is that with each steep, I felt I could pick up/taste different notes in the brew. I got 3-4 steeps out of this but I enjoyed the first 2 steeps the most. The steeps represented in minutes/steep was 5-6-10-12.
The first steep was very reminiscent of a regular sweet, caramel-like houjicha with a light roast. The roast smelled and tasted more smoky, other than what I usually deem a “toasty” flavor I get from a houjicha.
The second steep is where the notes start transforming from sweet to sour: in which it still tastes like a houjicha, but leaves a subtle sour, earthy/mushroom-y aftertaste.
The third steep required to be twice as long as usual to get the brew to the same tone as the last two. The result was a brew where the suble sour, mushroom-y aftertaste became the predominant notes with the houjicha flavor becoming much more subtle. The sourness lingers after drinking which turns in to an aftertaste taste of smoky mushrooms.
The third steep is where I stop for this tea in particular, but for the sake of logging, I tried the fourth steep a second time around. The brew is lighter than the past three, but it is still amber with a tinge of brown, albeit a weaker aroma. The body of the tea is also less smooth. As for the tasting notes, it tastes like watered down houjicha (go figure) mixed with rice & meaty mushrooms. The sourness is still present but much weaker as well.
Overall, this tea has grown on me and I do enjoy that it is like a more complex houjicha. It also holds up like an houjicha, but this one can get an extra steep in with hotter temperature and a longer steeping time, whereas an actual houjicha is much less forgiving in that aspect. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who dislikes fermented foods and drinks, as per the astringent notes that come out in the later brews, but I would recommend it to others looking for a thought-provoking tea experience.
Flavors: Caramel, Mushrooms, Smoke, Sour, Sweet