Below is the review I wrote for a tea labeled “2008 Often” from the PU TTB. Now, based on the reviews from other people, it’s quite possible I got tea that was mislabeled (maybe it was Old Bear?) or stored by someone in a pile of smokey sheng samples. Or maybe it’s just how my palate has processed this tea. So, for what it’s worth:
I have vivid memories of my grandfather, who passed away many years ago. He was a gruff old man, and big as a house. My mother and aunt used to joke that they got his pants from Omar the Tentmaker. My grandfather loved an enormous glass of red wine, the kind that comes in the gallon jugs with woven straw bottoms, and he loved his El Producto cigars, which he purchased by the crateful.
When I first brewed this tea, I had an immediate sense memory that took me back to that cramped NJ apartment where my grandfather sat in his recliner, glass of wine in one hand, television remote in the other, cigar clenched in his teeth, most of the time lit, mercifully (but rarely), unlit. The sense memory is not actually smoke. This is indeed a smokey sheng, but the smell is the smell of a my grandfather’s cigar stubs, soaking wet with his spittle, piled in one or more of many gorgeous marble ashtrays he brought back from his trips to Italy. Wet tobacco with a slight whisper of red wine. Wet tobacco tea, utterly smothering anything else there might be, even 10 tossed steeps later. This sheng rivals Old Bear for smokiness.
I cannot say I don’t recommend this tea, because some folks like a smokey sheng. But for anyone who dislikes smokey things like lapsang souchong, lit//unlit cigars, or smokey sheng in general, this tea may not be for you.