Okay - 1st tasting complete. '10 Manmai from EOT.
3 steepings at rolling boil, 3s, 20s, 1m in 3oz porcelain gaiwan, ~1/3 full when leaves dry.
presentation of dry leaves:
just after rinse
leaves after 3rd infusion
detail of leaves after 3rd infusion
(that unfurled, intact leaf roughly at low-right image center is approx 1" (2.5cm) long, measuring left to right).
1st infusion - tolerable, no "chan ko" (choke throat), which is a good sign, tho I'm taught young pu's can have ck and still turn out good after proper aging. Very 'woody/stemmy' with mild hints of smokiness and tar.
(I've decided today that the intense 'smoky', stemmy, acrid aroma/flavor is akin to tar - not straight up tar, just akin; and I get it in all young shengs I've experienced so far).
Mildly bitter, tingling on back sides of tongue and back of throat.
2nd infusion - bitterness increased exponentially as did 'tar' flavors.
3rd infusion - continued increase of bitter and tar to the point of unpleasantness.
Based on leaf appearance (and recent teaching) I'm going to hazard a guess that these leaves are too small for proper aging. However, the leaf quality seems to be decent to good, ie - no debris (stems, twigs, wood, etc), and not too many broken leaves (hard to account for what happens when breaking a bing - but high quality puerh should have no debris, large leaves, and the leaves should be whole) - or so I'm taught. Sheng "Puerh" tea isn't ready for approximately 15years (if you want the benefits accorded to traditional puerh tea). Based on my recent lessons, involving the analysis of leaves, these leaves probably just won't hold up after 15 years.
Further - I do not have enough experience to gauge if the tea was processed properly, but I would hazard a wild guess that it was. 'Yunnan' has been 'teaching' consumers to drink 'puerh' tea young so that money can be made, farming of this tea can be sustained, etc - all totally understandable. But, 'false' puerh is being made - ie, green puerh, overcooked shou puerh, and worse. I personally feel that some of the green puerhs are nice - but purists turn up their noses. I personally mostly enjoy good, quality aged puerh - and it is darn hard to find.
As for the young stuff and gauging whether it will age into something wonderful or even passable? Who the f knows? I certainly don't. (and I am also taught that many, if not all, of the masters responsible for creating the great puerhs that are considered really good now are lost - either dead, killed, or relocated. Yunnan is in a process of attempting to recapture this lost art - and I am told it remains to be seen if it will be so.
All that said - Does that mean this tea won't make a nice brew somewhere down the line? I certainly don't have the experience to say.
But I wouldn't enjoy drinking it now. Yet it is kind of fun to taste it, look at it, analyze it, think about it, talk about it, debate it, and my hope is that all of this experience will edify us all.
- another note about leaf quality - seems to be lots of young, small buds - again, wrong for true age-able puerh. For the puerh we know and love, I am taught that most of the leaves should be large, not the tips.
- another thought about the 'tips'/'buds' - also the smallness of the leaves - could indicate this is harvested from bushes, not old trees. I recently had it explained that the bushes don't produce adequate leaf size for really good age-worthy pu - you've got to have the really old trees for those leaves - and again - should be mostly the large leaves, not the tips. For further quality - there should also have been no grafting. Grafting is common with tea, but the really top quality pu's from old trees are original root stock.