I’m digging through old samples trying to sip down some of my collection but it’s very slow going. When I first got serious about puerh a couple of years ago I figured that if the tea was meant to be drunk aged, I should try to buy stuff that was old. Since I was just getting into it, however, I tried to do it on a budget. The result is a bunch of teas like this one, made with chopped leaves and very, very smoky.
It really makes sense that the higher quality teas from over a decade ago wouldn’t be kicking around in the back of someone’s warehouse for more than a decade, but I keep hoping. Of course quality teas do exist, but I have to be willing to pay up for them, which I’m starting to do.
At any rate, this tea is a better than average example of the genre. It is no longer available but I bought a sample from Chawang Shop at a reasonable cost about a year ago. I was hit by a strong smoke aroma pretty much then the water first hit the leaves. I was surprised to find that it dissipated almost immediately and left a tea that was a light straw flavor with hints of tropical fruits. This was the first (and best) steep. After that, the smoke pretty much dominated for the next 4 steeps. If I didn’t like smoky teas, I probably would have dumped it and moved on. However, the finish was better balanced, and hinted that there was a good tea lurking under all that smoke.
I kept drinking and the smoke slowly faded, but the underlying tea faded at pretty much the same rate, and the finish began to get a bit of that ash flavor that smoky teas sometimes produce. Around the 5th steep, the tea developed a sweetness that was stronger than the smoke and the taste became more like leather, with smoke underneath. The finish also improved: no more ash, though somewhat bitter.
The later steeps were quite pleasant, but I had to pass through smoke and ash to get there. I probably rated this too high, but that first and later steeps were really pleasant, and I do like a smoky tea. One funny note: I didn’t really notice much cha qi, but the first time I had this tea I rated it high for cha qi. May depend on my mood?