Sigh. This one isn’t working for me.
I started my session with a close inspection of the dried leaves. The sample was made of one large intact chunk from the tuo, so I was happy to see fully intact leaves and minimal chunks n’ dust at the bottom of the pouch. I was about to take my pu’er pick out and divide the sample in two, but as I took the chunk out of the bag, I realized it was quite flexible. Either the tuo was very loosely compacted or the sample really loosened up on its way over the ocean.
Yet, as I was pulling intact leaves apart, I noticed a very thin, black object. Thinking perhaps it was a stem/vein I gently tugged at it and the leaves around it so as not to break anything. But then I observed it continuing up and over the other leaves and it’s sheen made it apparent it was not leaf/plant derivative. Oh boy… I pulled it out from between the leaves and was left with a two inch long black stringy object tapered in its diameter. Hmmmm, hair or string? While both are generally considered to be “okay” if found in pu’er from what I’ve read, the fact it was in a sample and also present when processing (since it was within the leaves) seems to indicate some poor quality.
Well, in either case, I was going to taste this sample (minus the questionable object) and hopefully I would enjoy it so much that the prize I discovered would be rendered moot. Yeah, that wasn’t the case.
I used half the sample with boiling water in my gaiwan. Wash was around ten seconds, the first steep was fifteen. This is probably the greatest example of incorrect first impressions. The first steep was awesome. There wasn’t much to it, but there was this interesting nuance that I’ve never tasted before in tea, especially not in shu pu’er. It lingered gently on the tongue and roof of the mouth after a sip and passed in and out of taste during a sip. It was some delicate amalgamation of sweet, nutty, woody. There were also notes of coffee and I think cocoa. While it wasn’t incredible and was weak-bodied, it seemed to suggest these flavors would be enhanced or transformed. I excitedly performed my next steep at twenty seconds…
And got nothing. Ughhh it was so disappointing. One dimensional, weak flavor, barely any aftertaste, oily mouthfeel, and a dry feeling in the throat. Worst part was that the interesting flavor completely disappeared. Okay, maybe I didn’t steep for long enough. Upped the time to half a minute for the next steep. Meh. New note of apple and a more metallic aftertaste. Tastes kind of burnt. Still quite weak. There was also a bit of a sparkling mouthfeel, which I liked, but didn’t make the steep much better.
Okay, let’s bring it to one minute. Nada. 5 minutes? Nope, just tastes burnt. I probably would have received better results if I would have used the entire sample, but still…
So what did the leaves have to say? Could they explain this disappointing session? Quite so. The “leaves” were made up of about 20% blackened stem, 75% black halves of leaves that disintegrate with slight rubbing, and 5% greenish brown leaves that practically rip from their own weight. Actually, when I attempted (and easily succeeded) to rip one of these lighter leaves, the topmost membrane of the leaf face separated from the body of the leaf. Ew.
There’s a good chance that I won’t be drinking the rest of the sample. Maybe I just got some really bad fluke, which I’m hoping for the sake of the other Esgreen tasters on here. I’m anxious to see what you all have to say.