This is the first tea I got to sampling out of the recent Chawangshop group buy put together by Andresito. I was a little worried about it after reading Dr. Jim‘s tasting note, as I am not a big fan of really smoky teas. I sort of figured I’d try this one first and “get it out of the way” before moving on to some of Chawang’s other shengs. The dry leaves did indeed sport a bit of a smoky scent, along with straw and maybe some tobacco. After a rinse, the smoke aroma was more noticeable, I’d say at a moderate level, but I could also smell some sweeter notes underneath.
The first couple steeps were visually unattractive, being a bit cloudy. There definitely was a smokiness to the flavor, especially in the first 3-4 steeps, but it was not overpowering or gross. Instead of tasting mostly like smoke, the smokiness lent a savory layer to the tea’s flavor. The finish was slightly woody with a fast and sweet huigan (I think that’s exactly what it says in the tea’s description on the site, but it’s true). Steeped as carefully as one might normally brew a young sheng, bitterness was never an issue, though around the third steep, right as the smoke was starting to fade from the flavor, a bit of astringency started to build up in the front of the sip. It reached a peak around the fifth steep, and dropped off from there. I took this tea probably around twelve or thirteen steeps, and even near the end, it could punish with some bitterness if I accidentally let it infuse too long. That suggests it probably had a bit more to give than when I stopped it. The sweet finish and huigan lasted throughout as well.
I was pleasantly surprised by this tea. I didn’t find it too smoky, though the early steeps are not the most pleasant to my palate. This cake comes in at a very good price, and if others’ experience with the same tea in past years holds true, the smoke should be gone within just a couple years. I certainly believe that, based on the character of it in my sessions with this tea. I imagine it would age decently well, with the smoke contributing to a greater complexity of flavor, at least in the short(er) term.
Flavors: Smoke, Sweet, Wood