Hello pu-heads! hehe..
I was very excited to receive my package from the Pu Shop this weekend, and got right down to tasting. Many thanks to Jim for putting together such nice sample packs.
I received the Year of Green, Taste of Mellowness, Pride of Menghai, and Yiwu samplers, but I've so far confined myself to the Year of Green pack -- and one of the Mellow ones last night, just because I was in a shu mood.
Here are my results so far:
2006 Arbor Yinhao Tuocha
I found it pretty easy to flake leaves off of the tuo, but the leaves are so small and choppy that a lot of dust was created. Oh well, more shake for the somewhat illegal-looking ziploc in my desk drawer, for future teabag making. I rinsed the leaves (around 5g?) once for ~20s in a 150ml yixing teapot that I use only for younger sheng pu -- and I just got it a few weeks ago, so it's not very seasoned yet.
The wet leaves smelled pretty nice, with a little tartness. Here are the brew notes:
1: ~20s: brew looks a little cloudy, but a nice color otherwise. taste is definitely watery, for how dark it is. kind of a woody flavor.
2: ~15s: cloudy and relatively dark (for a sheng) again. taste is less watery than the first, and not bad -- a decent sheng-y flavor. left kind of a gritty feeling in my mouth though.
3: same as the last. a slight tartness, a slight wateriness.
Overall, I give this one 3 stars (out of 5 -- is that how we're doing it?). I would give it 2, but it's so inexpensive that it's practically free to drink.
Ok.... The other two I tried, I didn't take so many notes, so I'll have to go from memory...
2004 CNNP Old Tree Green Pu-erh Tea Cake
The dry leaves were nice and big, and kind of fun to loosen from the chunk in the big ol' ziploc. The stems were big and plentiful. I rinsed ~5g 1x for ~20s in a 175ml glass teapot. The wet leaves smelled very woody.. like a chopped tree stump in the rain. Not a bad smell, but not what I was expecting in a pu-erh!
1st steep: ~25s: fairly light in color. I was disappointed to find that the brew tasted just how it smelled. Like I said, not "bad", but not what I like in a pu. More like a hojicha, or a kukicha even.
2: ~20s: getting a little darker, and the woodiness is a little less pronounced, with a little bit more of a "tea" flavor.. but not much.
This tea went on for many steeps before kicking it.. at least 10 with good color.. but the flavor didn't change much throughout. I give this one 2 stars. Maybe I'm just used to a more tart, lively, flavorful, bright sheng. I'll certainly drink the rest of my 2oz sample bag, but I wouldn't buy a cake of it for $20. Maybe that's just me though.
My feeling is that the more flavor in a young sheng, the more complexly it will mellow -- and that this one didn't have much flavor to begin with.
2007 Old Banzhang Arbor Pu-erh Tea Cake
I don't have very good notes from tasting this one, but here are my impressions:
(~5g, 175ml glass teapot) The first steep was also distinctly "woody". Wow, that's a lot of woody teas in this sample pack. Of the couple dozen other shengs I've tried, I don't remember so much woodiness. Anyway, the second steep was quite nice, and a slight butteriness came out. I gobbled that up and poured a couple more until the butteriness was gone and I was left with a decent tea for a few more brews. I think I had to stop drinking because it was getting late and I needed some food and water.
I give this one 3 stars, for the yumminess:price ratio ($11.20 cake). Still, I probably won't buy one, because I've had better for the same price -- and far better for just a bit more in price. Anyway, the description on the site wasn't too enthusiastic either: "A tea is a tea, how bad it can get. You may even like it."
Gosh, I'm sounding crotchety. Perhaps I've been spoiled by other green pu-erhs? Anyway, on a positive note, I also tried the Songpin Imperial (from the Mellowness set -- reviews to come later) this weekend, and I really liked it -- so all is not lost. And I have hope for the Menghai and Yiwu sets. After all, Jim himself recommended not starting out with the Year Of Green. I suppose it can only get better from here! Let us proceed with the tea drinking, fellow pu-meisters!