People really seem to love this one, so after reading the reviews I eagerly bought a sample, but unfortunately, for the price, I’m not that impressed with it.
It’s certainly an interesting tea. You can surprisingly clearly taste the pu-erh origins, in addition to the more traditional flavors of a chinese black.
The young sheng-like bitterness (and the tiniest bit of sour) provides an interesting complementary bottom layer to malt and sweet sugarcane flavors. Smoke is immediately noticeable but not overwhelming. In the later steeps of a gongfu session suddenly a hint of blueberries appeared, which was a nice surprise. Astringency stays very low throughout, making it a very comfortable drink. The leaves last a long time: I did 10 steeps in a gaiwan and left it overnight in a lidded mug (which turned out excellent), and I think I could’ve gotten even more out of them.
I didn’t find the taste to be particularly complex though. Everything’s relatively upfront. It does very succesfully combine flavors from both raw pu-erh and black tea, but mostly the standard ones from either category. Nothing that would make either stand out. I’m missing some higher notes.
Another tea this one reminded me of is WuyiOrigin’s 2007 aged lapsang souchong. The very mellowed pine smoke there functions in a similar way as the pu-erh material does here, providing a deep bitter, sour, earthy bottom layer and a hint of smoke. Fans of this tea might want to give that one a try as well.
Arbor Red’s a good tea, no doubt. It’s original, very relaxing, and it has the balance of a premium tea, but you’re also paying a bit extra for the novelty.
I just wish it was a little bit more somehow. I was ready to get blown away, but my socks have remained firmly on my feet.
Flavors: Malt, Smoke, Sugarcane