Thanks, everybody! All of this discussion is really helping.
I'm working from a sample, and I selected two really solid chunks. Like TeadOff described, the leaves look pretty chopped. After a rinse (30 seconds), I ran my first 4 steeps at 10 seconds each. So I probably overloaded my mouth with some astringent factor by the 2nd steep.
TwoDog, I guess the question is whether the strong astringency was the causing factor, or whether it was only part of a number of factors (I think I've had pretty astringent teas before that did not cause my taste buds to go into hiding). I think I'll do what shah suggested, and put the rest of the sample into a jar and let it breathe for a couple of weeks and then try again... and maybe steep a little quicker in the beginning.
Having said all that, I did feel something from this tea -- something that I don't feel with every tea. Maybe I noticed it more because I had no taste to focus on.
shah82 wrote:Apologies for getting all ranty. I just see the quantity of anything like affordable good puerh continually go down. I read recent posts by ulumochi about the practical consequences of this process and how it drives out honest shopkeeps delivering decent pu, cheap(er). I'm concerned about a future, along with global warming and the general economic crisis of low demand, where puerh that's good at being puerh is rare and expensive. If this is generally a hoarding problem, then the problem will fix itself, but it might take some years. However, it might also be a general exhaustion of the old tea trees, and they might be dying from the local climate change from rubber cultivation and other deforestation, or giving worse and worse new tea from being overpicked--then we'd really be screwed.
I worry about this problem, too... for markets that suddenly become popular and suffer from a flood of lower quality goods, you typically can still find a bastion of traditional or high-quality goods -- or sometimes the market collapses and has a rebirth focused on quality. But... for tea, the older trees play an important role, and one that can't readily recover...