Xingyang factory has an atypical way they recommend people try brewing their teas — high leaf, a little cooler, and super long. This is actually the first way I experienced puerh years ago and I loved it instantly. However, with this young tea it was a bit of a roller coaster ride. There was some great steeps and some undrinkable steeps, some overcaffeination and some amazing cha qi.
1st, 1min: This shu takes a while to open up, so this is actually still a pretty light brew. Lovely and sweet with notes of crisp apple and honey, balanced nicely with a sour orange.
2nd, 1min: The brew is frighteningly dark. Even if I hold it up to the light I can’t see through it. It’s also a tad cloudy. The texture is thick, but not as much as I expected. This brew is overwhelmingly sour. The enjoyable sour orange flavor of the earlier steep has turned into pure tartness. It hangs on the back of the tongue like the time I made the terrible decision of trying pure sour orange extract. The tartness mellows a bit as it cools, leaving room for some vanilla and cardamom to sneak through. The nice high of the cha qi is still here in the dark brew, but at first it gets a bit overridden by a headache inducing caffeine hit.
3rd, 50sec: Hopefully this round gets me back on track. There’s a musty vanilla smell to the liquor, which is still cloudy but a tad lighter than last round. There’s a very earthy vanilla flavor with a bit of apple. Thankfully the sour flavor is gone in this infusion. It’s bitter, but I don’t mind bitter. The astringency is catching up with me and I’ve got some serious cottonmouth. The cha qi of this round is euphoric though. My head is heavy, my body tingling, and I feel blissful. The high of this tea lasts way longer with this dark brew. Up from 30 seconds a cup to maybe 10 – 15 minutes.
4th, 1min: This round is perfection. It’s incredibly sweet with familiar notes from earlier steepings of vanilla, apple, and honey. Thankfully it’s counterbalanced with a light earthy flavor that keeps it from getting saccharine sweet. The cha qi is still very strong but more mellow and relaxing than euphoric. My one knock on this round is the body is pretty thin.
5th, 1min 30sec: This round is fairly shallow, but I’m absolutely loving the lightly sweet musty flavor of it. The mellow, calming cha qi is continuing. Sitting down and relaxing into it is otherworldly
6th, 2min 30sec: The aroma is suddenly very floral. The flavor is so refreshing. Lots of minerality, some apple, must, and vanilla. Amazingly there’s still strong cha qi (probably some of it is leftover from previous rounds, since the qi lasts forever).
7th, 5min: Very similar to round 5. Shallow, sweet and musty.
Well, that was a very strange session. Round two was the absolute worst tea I’ve ever tasted, round four was some of my favorite sweet shu I’ve ever tasted, and the qi was out of this world. All that said, I’m not sure I’d take this approach again with a tea this young, because if there’s something bad in there (like some sourness) it really brings out that bad flavor in early rounds.
Flavors: Apple, Earth, Honey, Mineral, Musty, Orange, Sour, Sweet, Vanilla