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Not pictured: lots of snow
The dry leaves smell intensely pungent and fruity, definitely some attractive leaves in there too. I give them a quick shake in the heated gaiwan, and the smell turns almost boozy, with glimpses of tropical fruit. I sip of the rinse and the profile is already quite clear: pineapples, sugar cane, green nettles. The wet leaf aroma is light green sweetness, like an early Spring day. Now that I think if it, I don’t remember where in Yunnan this tea comes from, which is just as well.
Leaves after the first steeping, just starting to open
The first cup immediately gives it away as another Mengku tea, with its very active kuwei (bitterness that immediately transforms into sweetness) and creamy green flavors. I check quickly to confirm this an indeed, Ba Wai appears to be situated about 2km south of Bing Dao, one of the most famous, and one of most lucrative, puer growing villages in Yunnan. Scott seems to have struck some measure of gold this tea and its cousin, Nuo Wu (review pending); this is quite good, even compared to Spring teas of the same price point (and many at price points above this one if we’re being honest).
There are fruity and rummy notes dotting a base of creamy sweet goodness. That said, the kuwei is really the star of this show, being forward and sharp as a tea from near Bing Dao should be. On steeping five (or maybe four :S), the soup is a bright gold. Though it has softened somewhat from the initial steepings, the flavor remains deep, pungent and sugary. I start to push it a little harder wth the next infusion, and a coarser, more lingering bitterness emerges. Keep in mind that I probably caused this with a long steeping, and also don’t mind it anyway… Goes to show how much life these leaves have though.
Tea table succulent
The last steepings finally show a bit of autumn-wateriness (leaves picked in the fall have a higher water content than those in the spring), but there’s still sweetness and texture, so this might fade as these cakes dry out a little more… This is still a very young tea after all.
Overall a very nice tea, especially at the $64 price point, I think that it outperforms many other in the $50-$100 range. If you like this kind of tea, there’s really nothing wrong with it, and would probably age fine if that’s what you’re into. If nothing else, this could be a really nice summer-time tea.
Flavors: Creamy, Grass, Rum, Stonefruits, Sugarcane