Those who are familiar with some of my other reviews may be aware that I tend to seek out teas that are either exceptional or incredibly unique. At least on paper this one is certainly the latter. Though my experience with purple varietal teas is still quite limited, the ones that I’ve tried I’ve all enjoyed. The concept of blending ye sheng and shu pu’er was adventurous enough to entice me to buy a cake of this blind. While I’ve had it for a number of months, this was my first session with it.
I broke off twelve grams for my new silver-lined gaiwan, which Yunnan Sourcing began selling recently. Filled up to where the water just touches the lid, mine is about 165ml. For those who may have been eyeballing it, wondering if it’s worth the money, I would personally recommend it. While not the absolute highest level of quality with the same aura as a totally one-of-a-kind fully handmade piece of teaware, the craftsmanship is several steps above the cheapest standard level gaiwans and I find it great to use. This level of craftsmanship combined with the silver lining actually makes it a great deal in my opinion, like most products Yunnan Sourcing sells. Either of these things alone, this level of craftsmanship without the silver lining or the silver set in a cheap basic level gaiwan, would make you feel you were overpaying, but together they offer great value for the price. I’m not going to comment on the effects of the silver on the brewing as I’ve not done any sort of proper side-by-side comparisons, but I will say that for me the gaiwan has brewed great tea, and I don’t feel like I can say that about every vessel.
Anyway, back to the tea. I rinsed the leaves for good ten seconds, giving them a full ten minutes to get primed. The scent of the rinsed leaves was absolutely wonderful. To my nose it was that of sweet licorice. Really wonderful. I proceeded to do a total of ten infusions, the timing for these being 7s, 7s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s, 2 min. and 3 min. “Purple Mark” started out strong. I could taste bitter coffee mixed with brighter notes from the ye sheng. The soup was quite lubricating and hydrating and it coated your mouth with its flavor, not showing any signs of going anywhere anytime soon. I liked the tea already.
The second infusion was incredibly refreshing, exhibiting the taste of red berries with a ripe base. The body was good, but nothing crazy. More importantly, the texture was really smooth. This is a really flavorful and flavor-forward tea. The following third brew was nice and bitter. Very robust. It was accompanied in the finish by a sheen from the purple tea. The tea stimulated the tongue in a nice way, constantly triggering the sweetness receptors and making you salivate. This is a really engaging tea. I could feel the tea at the back of my tongue, near the entrance to my throat, as well as a cooling sensation in my throat itself.
Steep number four was bitter, REALLY cooling, and quite refreshing. I’d say the taste accompanying the cooling sensation was camphor, although it was a bit hard to pick out amid the other flavors. I’d definitely say camphor, though, with a bit of a medicinal edge. The tea continued to shine, displaying some woody and chocolaty notes in the fifth steep, now with a slightly grainy texture. A berry sweetness from the purple tea was present as well. I’m not sure if I’d go as far as to call it qi, but this is a really grounding tea. The aftertaste of this infusion was so sweet.
The texture of the next brew was smooth yet grainy. The taste was a mixture of cooling camphor and bitter coffee. A wonderful combo. I could also taste hints of caramel, which in all likelihood were notes from the ye sheng morphed by the ripe pu’er. The tea was still as strong as ever, which is to say strong. The seventh steep brewed probably the thickest yet, still very bold. The taste was… maybe a good kind of sour, if I had to describe it. The aroma left in the empty cup was that of intense caramel. Just wow.
Steep number eight brewed up a mixture of bitter and sweet. It was coating and lubricating, still possessing incredible strength. I could taste caramel, berries, as well as a ripu pu’er base of course. The body was quite big. Steep nine is where the flavors finally started to taper off. Now I was getting mostly just generic ye sheng and ripe pu’er flavors. The final infusion I did was the same deal. While there was still plenty of strength left and the tea could have conceivably been stretched on for several more infusions, it was staring to become quite singular and repetitive, so I decided to call it there.
This was a bomb of a tea, betraying its price point and any expectations I may have had for it. Fans of bitter tea and ye sheng rejoice! I believe I was expecting one of the teas, possibly the heavy base notes in the ripe pu’er, to drown out the other, but that ended up not being the case. While it’s quite obvious that this is a blend of two and exactly two teas, most of the time they are surprisingly harmonious together, making something you would not expect to work work. I don’t know if it’s the inclusion of raw pu’er, but this is also a very flavorful tea compared to most ripe pu’ers. The longevity is also quite good.
I went in expecting this to be mainly a ripe pu’er with some added layers from the raw material. In practice it’s not as clear-cut as that. I’d say this tea exhibits enough of both characteristics to not fall just in one category. This makes it interesting, because I’d both recommend this tea to people who love ripe pu’er, but struggle with getting into sheng, as well as those who love raw but just can’t understand the appeal of shu. The only downside is that one might have to be a bit adventurous to give this one a shot. But it’s cheap, so why not? I know I called this tea bitter, but I feel people have very varying sensitivities to bitterness. Some might find this way more bitter than I did, while others might not find it bitter at all.
While my expectations were not high going in, I came out a big fan of this tea. It will be interesting to see it age. Despite how weird it may sound, I definitely recommend trying out a sample of this tea, because it might really surprise you. I found it perfectly drinkable now, but in a few years it will have mellowed out a lot.
Flavors: Berries, Bitter, Camphor, Caramel, Chocolate, Coffee, Medicinal, Sour, Sweet, Wood