This is my first time trying one of Yiwu Mountain Tea’s offerings. My sample was acquired through The Tea Guru based in the UK. Perhaps it’s because I knew these have been stored in Guangzhou, but when I received my sample I felt like I was picking up just a touch of dankness in the aroma, so I let the sample sit in my pumidor for close to two months before this session. When I finally took it out and gave it another smell the aroma had totally cleared up. Very clean, no dankness whatsoever.
Thankfully I remembered at the last minute that Philip Lee’s personal recommendation is to leaf this tea heavy — 1g/10ml. I’m often a bit sceptical of brewing parameter recommendations unless I’m very familiar with the producer/vendor and while I personally tend to leaf shu fairly heavy already (~13g/160ml) my experiences with the few times I’ve tried 1g/10ml is that most teas tend to get a bit too much for me. That being said, this being Yiwu and supposedly higher quality material I figured if there’s a tea that can pull it off this would certainly be a candidate for it. Thus I ended up using 12g in my 120ml silver teapot. Regular porcelain cup for this session.
I used a large intact piece of the cake along with some loose bits to round out the weight. I did have to break up the big chunk into smaller ones to fit it in my pot however. The material itself looks very fine and the compression is just about perfect — tight enough to keep everything together but loose enough to break without too much effort. I gave the leaves a slightly longer rinse at fifteen seconds and about five minutes to rest and soak up the moisture before I got to brewing. I did a total of thirteen infusions, the timing for these 14s, 14s, 14s, 12s, 17s, 20s, 25s, 35s, 50s, 80s, 2 min., 3 min. and 5 min. respectively.
From the moment the hot water first hits the leaves, they fill the room with the aroma of cherries and wood. The leaves smell perfectly clean and brew up a beautiful reddish-brown auburn color. Taking my first sip, the nice texture is what immediately captures my attention. Soft and velvety, gliding almost effortlessly down my throat. Body is medium for now. The flavors are very forward but gentle, as you’d expect from an Yiwu. Very clean from the first infusion. There’s a touch of sweetness. Some caramel, berries and nuts. Quite nutty actually. Very elegant, clearly an Yiwu. This is darn good so far. My mouth is left mildly sweet. I can already say based on my first cup that this is one of the best ripes I’ve had, but let’s not be hasty.
The second infusion brews up the same nice auburn color but now deeper and darker. The tea is definitely stronger but still very palatable. There’s a lot more sweetness. The berries have become more prominent. Not sure if they lean more toward red berries or cherry. The body is thickening. Cha qi is quite strong and there’s a strong physical sensation at the back of my mouth. The mouthfeel is incredibly velvety. The aftertaste is sweet, carrying both notes of light, elegant wood and cherry. Incredible tea.
The third steep is a shade darker. I nearly can’t see the bottom of my cup anymore. The strength keeps increasing, but remains palatable. The mouthfeel has improved. That takeaway alone makes me write in my notes that this is a bomb of a tea. The aftertaste is long. One sip is enough, making it there’s no rush to have another since you are still experiencing the tea. Cha qi remains potent but not overpowering. The flavors are cherry, wood and sweet. Maybe a touch of red wine. The mouthfeel is to die for. There’s a very active sensation at the back of my mouth. Virtually no bitterness to this steep or any other steep.
Managing to shave off a couple seconds for the next steep, the tea remains strong, but I’m losing a bit of body and texture as a result. The flavors remain the same: sweet, cherry and wood. This seems like a good point to start experimenting with extending the brewing time a little. As a result steep five is indeed bold, but gentle. The texture has improved, but does not match its prior peak. The body is very substantial, though. Thick, thick broth. Likely the thickest ripe I’ve had. Thick and heavy. The taste is woody and slightly chocolaty. Sweet, so, so sweet. The aroma is also very thick and I can literally taste the tea in my nose when I breathe out through it. This is easily the most aromatic shu I’ve ever come across.
Steep six still brews up strong, still brews up dark. Fast huigan. Crazy thick. I’d say the mouthfeel has improved slightly. The taste is even cleaner now than before. The taste hasn’t evolved terribly much, most steeps have retained the cherry wood vibe, but it remains very enjoyable nonetheless. Just as I say that we see a small watershed moment starting with the seventh infusion. We start losing the base notes now, which in turn reveals a lot more of the top notes — which this tea has — especially those berries and other familiar notes from the very beginning like the caramel and the nuts. This was one of the standout cups of this session. So aromatic, so bright, so delightful. After a brief seeming absence, the familiar wood and cherry notes we’ve come accustomed to reveal their presence in the aftertaste.
The nuttiness is emphasized in the following cup. It is so very nutty now. A really strong cherry aroma permeates in my mouth if I aerate the tea. Such a strong aroma. Crazy. Steep nine still retains the big body and heavy feeling in the mouth. In contrast to before, the taste is now more subtle, mostly present after you swallow. Very elegant and refined. Like drinking liquified diamonds. The texture is sublime right now. Like massaging your tongue. This tea is so good and sensual it’s honestly a bit arousing.
Infusion ten is again back to more immediately flavorful. The tea is predominantly sweet now. For such a late steep it remains substantial, i.e., interesting and rewarding. For the first time I’m picking up some minerality. The familiar wood and cherry notes are still there in the background. I’m possibly picking up a hint of vanilla now as well. The texture changes again in the following infusion. It now feels like a bumpy, textured surface. The aroma has also changed and I’m tasting deeper, darker wood now. Very refined. Like the cherry before, the woody aroma permeates in the mouth. I also notice a catching sensation at the entrance to my throat. Such an incredible tea.
Here I took a long break from the tea as I had to go run some errands. One or two hours later I returned back to the session, but either the tea didn’t like the break, was starting to wind down, or I just wasn’t feeling the session anymore, but the last two infusions I did ended up being kind of lackluster. The color of the liquor did start to fade noticeably, so I don’t think it was just me, but it could be a combination of factors. The second brew after the break did seem to revitalize the tea a bit more, but by this point I’d had enough to draw my conclusions and as stated I simply wasn’t feeling the session anymore. Allegedly this tea steeps into infinity, but I can leave testing that to another session. I seldom take long breaks in the middle of a session. Should I perhaps rinse the leaves briefly to kind of re-prime them before I resume? I vaguely recall some people recommending something like that.
And there you have it. I went into writing these notes thinking I could keep them brief as describing this tea would not be too difficult to boil down to some main points, but it is such a special tea I quickly realized it deserves a more thorough rundown even if I might end up repeating myself in the process. I was very enthusiastic about this tea and my notes reflect that. Going in, I had not read or even seen any reviews for Yiwu Mountain Tea productions, so I honestly did not know what to expect. Their sheng productions are mainly very high-end, I’m talking multiple dollars per gram, but price alone is not a guarantee of anything and on top of that this is their first ever ripe productions so I honestly didn’t know what to expect. Man, was I in for a treat.
This is honestly the best ripe pu’er I’ve had up to this point, surpassing even the Hai Lang Hao 2017 Yi Shan Mo at least in its current state. I expect the Yi Shan Mo to continue to improve with age and years down the line who knows which one will come out on top. The Yiwu Gushu does not only offer superb texture and mouthfeel but is also the most fragrant shu pu’er I’ve ever come across. It displays all the characteristics you’d expect from an Yiwu tea and the material is clearly high quality and processed to perfection. That being said, I can see the charm and quality of this tea being lost on an inexperienced drinker as its qualities are not necessarily apparent. If you are someone who has tried other ultra-premium ripes before and not noticed a significant difference between them and more affordable productions, this tea is not going to convert you. It is the opposite of bold.
Halfway through the session I rushed to place an order for a bing. Thankfully after two months The Tea Guru still had the tea in stock. I have no idea how much he and Philip in China have of this tea in stock, but if you are curious I would order a sample sooner rather than later. I think the recommended ratio is spot on and I would not skimp out on the leaf and use a smaller vessel instead, because you’ll be getting lots of infusions.
Unlike most ripes, which tend to have a more grounding cha qi, I found the Yiwu Gushu more towards slightly energizing but nothing too hyper. It also wasn’t too taxing on the body like some old tree and lighter fermented material can be. Interestingly I also didn’t experience the typical laxative properties of shu pu’er, but that could have always been just a fluke. Too hard to say anything definitive based on just one session.
I honestly couldn’t recommend this tea any higher. At ~35¢/g the price is not just fair but possibly a bargain. There are obviously other premium ripes around this price point so sample all the ones that interest you before making purchase decisions. The aforementioned Yi Shan Mo is sadly sold out (Yunnan Sourcing has only samples left). Another tea I would recommend is Crimson Lotus’s Storm Breaker. That tea is another king in terms of texture, but I recall liking it far less in terms of taste. Yunnan Sourcing’s Yi Wu Rooster is a more budget Yiwu alternative, but at two thirds of the price of the Yiwu Gushu I’m honestly not sure if the small saving is worth it for the huge gap in quality.
But that’s all from me. I do have a sample for one of YMT’s more entry-level sheng offerings, so expect a review on that soon.
Flavors: Berries, Caramel, Cherry, Chocolate, Mineral, Nutty, Red Wine, Sweet, Vanilla, Wood