“Naka for the people,” as Bitterleaf calls it. I drank – and reviewed – Bitterleaf’s original Naka back in 2018. (Has it truly been three years?) I was lukewarm on it at the time and honestly probably ill-equipped to properly appreciate it – despite what the me back then may have thought. I’d only been drinking pu’er for maybe a year and a half at that point, which when looking back now equates to getting your toes wet.
Since then I’ve revisited the 2018 Naka twice. Once maybe a year after my first session and a second time some months back when the tea was close to three years old. My second session was more favorable than the first and the third one I actually enjoyed quite a bit. By that last session the tea had developed a lovely orange blossom note to it, which was my first time encountering it in a tea. Orange blossom happens to be perhaps my favorite note in perfumery, so that experience stood out to me for a special reason.
Authentic Naka is a scarce and often a high price ticket tea, but OG Naka finally offers a “budget” option for pu’er lovers everywhere. But at only 40% of the price of this year’s Eminence old tree Naka, does OG Naka offer the true Naka experience at a much more affordable price, or is it simply a too watered down version to live up to its name?
Well, let’s find out.
In terms of flavor, the tea is simple but enjoyable. I didn’t get much bitterness at all and astringency only really entered the picture in the longer later steeps. While it didn’t come across as a sweet tea to me overall, OG Naka actually has a fair amount of sweetness running through it, more than your average sheng I’d say. The tea makes your own saliva taste sweet in your mouth. There’s also already some fragrance present in the soup. I found it hard to identify at this point, but I felt like I could detect some hints of the aforementioned orange blossom already present in the tea. Perhaps I was just wanting to find it.
But the big thing that must be talked about is the yan yun, or “rock rhyme” if you will. It is something that many have found ever-elusive, but it is present here in spades, much more so than I have experienced even in high-end Wuyi yanchas brewed Chaozhou style. Everyone struggles to describe it and has their own definition for it, but what I experienced with this tea is a strong mineral dryness, like you’d just licked a rock. This is different from astringency and a more typical drying sensation you may have experienced with other teas. It doesn’t leave you thirsty in the same way and I think this tea actually may have a slightly salivating effect, actually making your mouth more moist than normal. The overall experience is surprisingly refreshing and hydrating, great for the summer.
The body is good and maintains itself well throughout the session. The texture starts out kinda rough, not necessarily in a bad way though, but smoothes out eventually. Definitely doesn’t compare with the smoothes of ancient arbor teas. The tea is very flavorful and I was able to go all the way to 3 and 5 minute steeps in my last infusions with them still being very enjoyable, so the longevity is there.
Overall a great, great tea. It was both memorable and enjoyable. I’ve yet to try this year’s Eminence, but at least compared to my memory of the 2018 Naka, OG Naka came across as the more flavorful and robust tea, whereas the 2018 was a much more subtle and textural affair. Between those two, I would see this one as being the more easily approachable one and one many might actually prefer despite it being considerably cheaper.
This is a tea I highly recommend if you’ve never experienced Naka, because it’s very unique. Not a cheap tea at $3 per dragon ball, but it’s an experience well worth it if you really love pu’er. Is it cake worthy? That depends. If you’re already a fan of Naka, but don’t have any in your collection because of the typically high price, I doubt you’ll be disappointed in this if you’ve been eyeballing it already. I think the quality is good. You are maybe paying a bit of Naka extra, 30¢/g would be a bit more reasonable I think, but I think the uniqueness of Naka is worth it in this case. For most people I would recommend getting a sample first, though. Bitterleaf has said they only got a small amount of this however, so you better act fast if you’re interested.
Flavors: Astringent, Drying, Floral, Mineral, Orange Blossom, Sweet