Yep, I’m back. I just couldn’t stay away any longer. I figure I’ll ride this Steepster thing out to the end and find a new platform for my goofiness afterwards. More than anything, I realized that I once again had a ton of unposted reviews just sitting around and nowhere to put them, so I figured I would become active on Steepster again just to get them posted and to avoid losing them. After making that decision, I realized that if I were going to come back to Steepster, I may as well just stay. I’m primarily a tea reviewer, and Steepster, even in its current woeful state, still works for me since there is not really another tea community or site out there that meets my needs.
Okay, let’s move on to talking about this tea. It was a weird one. Apparently, aged tea in Taiwan was not all that big of a deal until recently. If what I have read is true, the market collapsed back in the ‘80s, resulting in a great deal of unsold tea just sitting in storage. The black tea market was hit particularly hard, and the increased emphasis on oolong production as the market recovered left a considerable amount of aged black tea behind. I’ve noticed that almost every seller specializing in Taiwanese tea seems to offer at least one or two aged blacks from this period every now and then. In many instances, I find aged teas incredibly difficult to deal with quite simply because I do not often think they smell or taste all that good. My previous reviews of aged teas reflect this feeling. Check them out. It is obvious that I find aged teas to be very hit or miss. I don’t know whether or not I have done it here, but I do recall once offering the opinion that aged tea is almost like a hipster thing in the tea world. It’s expensive, usually only available in small quantities, and difficult to appreciate, meaning that a lot of people who claim to be into it probably only reach for it to show off their spending power and lord their supposed sophistication, knowledge, and discerning taste over others. With all of that being said, one would be forgiven for expecting me to rip this tea apart, but, ya know, I actually kind of liked it.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After the rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose leaf material in 4 ounces of 203 F water for 5 seconds. This infusion was followed by 19 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 7 seconds, 9 seconds, 12 seconds, 16 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 7 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and 20 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry leaf material emitted strong aromas of old paper, must, mushroom, moss, and forest floor. After the rinse, I picked up aromas of green bell pepper, autumn leaves, malt, and raisin. The first infusion introduced a subtle prune aroma. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented notes of old paper, must, mushroom, autumn leaves, moss, forest floor, and green bell pepper that were chased by hints of raisin, cream, malt, and prune. I even picked up some subtle impressions of menthol after each swallow. The subsequent infusions introduced aromas of pine, smoke, tobacco, and damp hay. Notes of damp hay, smoke, pine, caramel, burnt toast, minerals, and tobacco appeared in the mouth alongside hints of cinnamon and baked bread. As the tea faded, the liquor continued to offer up notes of minerals, pine, old paper, moss, damp hay, forest floor, autumn leaves, mushroom, and malt that were backed by hints of raisin, prune, baked bread, smoke, cream, and menthol.
This was a very earthy yet rich tea that was simultaneously reminiscent of both shou pu’erh and an aged sheng pu’erh but with a little remaining Sun Moon Lake black tea character to set it apart. Storage aromas and flavors were definitely prevalent here, but honestly, I did not find them to be too off-putting. They were a little much at first, but I found that they soon softened to reveal a number of unique and appealing quirks. I could see pu’erh fans being into this tea, but I could also see it appealing to more adventurous black tea fans. Though this tea is no longer available, there are several other vendors who stock Taiwanese black teas from the ‘80s, so teas like this one are still out there. Don’t be afraid to give one or two of them a shot if you are up for a challenge.
Flavors: Autumn Leaf Pile, Baked Bread, Burnt, Caramel, Cinnamon, Cream, Dried Fruit, Forest Floor, Green Bell Peppers, Hay, Malt, Menthol, Mineral, Moss, Mushrooms, Musty, Paper, Pine, Raisins, Smoke, Toast, Tobacco