White2Tea October 2015 Box: Lots of Pu’erh!
The White2Tea October 2015 subscription box came in right smack dab on the first of the month. Nice! I ended up splitting half of it with my tea-friend, but I still wanted to get a review in before the end of the month. So here’s a look at 2 of this month’s 3 teas.
2006 Gongting Ripe Pu’erh Mini-Cake
I am still pretty new to ripe/shou pu’erh, but this tea didn’t convert me. The dry cake of this was compact, thin, and very tightly compressed – it was very hard to break apart into a chunk for brewing. The leaf was quite dark, with a matte finish and the occasional vein of gold.
I took a chunk that was about 6.5 grams and rinsed it a few times. Then I did steeps of 10, 20, and 30 seconds, but even after all of that steeping, the chunk still didn’t break apart into smaller leaf. Ultimately, I had to break it apart by hand after the third steep to get any traction. The first steep was extremely light, though the longer steeps were darker. All in all, the brewed tea ranged from mid-orange to deep burgundy/red.
The taste was as uncompromising as the dry leaf. I didn’t get much flavour development beyond notes of fish, earth, and something resinous like cedar or pine. After the fourth steep I gave up, because this thing just wasn’t happening. I’ve heard that good shou can be really rich and chocolaty, but this tea was way too much effort for so little satisfaction.
Plus, I did not like the way my body felt once I drank it. After a few steeps, I started to notice the kind of jittery, tapped-out muscle tension that I feel when I don’t get enough sleep — a cold, stringy hissing across my body that makes me want to curl up into a ball under a pile of blankets. At this time of year, I want tea to warm me up, not make me feel like I’ve pulled an all-nighter!
Overall, I did not consider this tea a good drink. Maybe this shou just needs to mellow out for a few more years? If there’s anyone reading this who wants to take some of this off my hands (I have ~40 grams remaining), let me know — you’re welcome to it.
Lincang Raw Pu’erh Orbs
This one came wrapped up in foil — a tightly rolled ball of dry leaf about the size of a big cherry. I had the option of splitting the ball in half, but dammit, I like to live dangerously. Nine full grams of tightly rolled leaf into the gaiwan!
I used 90C water and lots of short steeps, ranging around 5 seconds or so. The smell of the dried leaf was tart, slightly smoky, somewhat fruity. After a quick rinse, the leaves began to stick out from the ball and make the whole thing look shaggy. After a few steeps, the dried leaf bloomed and unfurled like crazy!
Over this steeping session, the flavour was pretty consistent, though it got stronger over time: smoky, grassy, kinda apricot-y and astringent. The taste was pretty clean — no mushroom, fish, or other funky flavours. The initial steep was a lovely pale peach colour that deepened into a nice sunset peach over time.
I got between 10 and 15 steeps out of this. I probably could have gotten more if I gave it some time, but I like the frenzy of trying to finish off samples quickly.
Plus, look at how huuuge the ball of dried leaf became once it fully unfurled!
The October 2015 box also came with a dried tangerine stuffed with ripe pu’erh, but this got about as big a reception on my tastebuds as this month’s ripe cake did (without the whole weird, crashy, all-nighter feeling). However, it’s all part of my puerh education. I’m still pretty convinced that I’m more of a sheng person rather than a shou person, though.