Tea-side is a new name to me. A friend brought them to my attention and I decided to request some samples for review. Google seems to only sniff out their Russian website and the English one (tea-side.com) is currently down so I can’t dig up too much info for you at the moment, but from what I understand they only sell tea from Thailand, an area I haven’t heard much from in the tea world aside from the famous and popular flavored tea know to most simply as “Thai Tea”.
This tea is made in the style of shu Puer. I’m not sure if it’s technically Puer since it’s not from Yunnan, but it’s a dark tea or post-fermented tea, nonetheless, resembling shu Puer, and the first of that type of tea I have tried from Thailand.
After leaving the dry leaves in a small preheated gongfu teapot for a minute, they smell robust and woody. I’m reminded of mesquite chips used for smoking foods. After a rinse infusion, the wet leaves still smell rather woody, and there’s a damp loamy aroma that reminds me of being near a pond in late summer time, especially one in the midst of tall cattails and grasses that are drying out, as there’s a hay aroma too.
The first infusion is garnet red. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a shu quite this pretty in color and clarity before. In the aroma are notes of yeast and wet forest floor, but more than anything it smells like edamame.
The first sip is a complex one with a sweet rush coming on at the start along with wood flavors. This is quickly replaced by a nutty and date-like middle, then a long astringent finish and even some cooling sensation. It is very astringent for a very long time, much in the same way grapefruit is. I wouldn’t call it bitter or drying. It’s more acidic in its nature and taste.
The second infusion is a bit sweeter than the first, with a less complex onset. It’s mostly woody tasting. Interestingly there is a sweetness that lingers alongside the lingering astringency, which is still definitely present. The mouthfeel is wet and almost oily. The astringency reminds me of dark roast coffee.
Infusion three is more sweet and mellow. The astringency is being overtaken by a lingering sweetness this time but is still there. Maybe this is one of those shus that really benefits from two rinses because I find it becoming easier to drink after each infusion. The overall flavor is still primarily woody. Because of the astringency, I wouldn’t dare call this tea smooth, but the mouthfeel is still nice, full and soft.
By the fourth infusion I’m beginning to forget that this tea had a ton of astringency at first, or that it isn’t from Yunnan. If you gave me this tea without telling me what it is, I wouldn’t know the difference. I’d say its a tea for those who like a little bite in their Puer. Maybe a coffee-drinkers tea even. For me, the best Puers are those that are rounded and smooth. This one has some sharp edges, but is unique compared to many shus I’ve had. It demands attention, unlike most shu I’ve had. I usually find most to be subtle and relaxing, but this continues to have a complex and changing flavor through many infusions, and a lingering astringency that is hard to ignore but not necessarily unpleasant.
I did a final long infusion which was really sweet and complex with an overall wood and date taste. It still has the astringency and cooling qualities. Everything was brought to a stronger, more obvious level on this infusion and I found this one the most enjoyable.
Flavors: Astringent, Hay, Loam, Soybean, Sweet, Wood