My first review from the Puer TTB! This tea’s name is well deserved. I almost injured myself trying to break off a sample from what was in the box, and ended up having to snap what I did take in half, as going at the little chunk with a pick anymore would have been too dangerous. I ended up getting a 7.5g chunk, perfect for my 120mL gaiwan.
I honestly wasn’t too excited to drink this after seeing how compressed it was…I figured I’d have a frustrating session of trying to fight this tea to come apart, and that was slightly the case. Really though, once this tea got going, it was amazing. Absolutely my favorite example of aged puerh so far, though do note I have only tried a few of them.
The dry leaf had little to no smell, maybe a bit of hay, but once rinsed (I did two rinses to help open it up), it had a nice woody flavor with light camphor accents and a fruity seeming sweetness.
The first five steeps were decently light, both in color and flavor. I wasn’t surprised by this, as I could still see that most of the tea was compressed into a little square, with just bits and pieces coming off, despite my proddings with my gaiwan lid. These steeps had a slightly damp woody flavor, like mossy wood, but nowhere near as wet tasting as any ripe puerh or even some of the wet-stored teas I’ve tasted. There were also very slight apricot notes on the aftertaste. The tea had a decently creamy texture as well. These first steeps were interesting, because at this point I had no idea what this tea was going to become. Would the wet taste increase to the point where it was off-putting? Would that apricot taste get more prominent and feature heavily later in the session?
On steeps 6 and 7, I could tell this tea was starting to find its legs. I could see the chunk opening up more, and I started getting nice notes of mineral and honey sweetness with that same creamy texture.
Then on steep 8, I increased the time a little bit and BOOM! Diamondcutter woke up. Nice orangey liquid, camphor woody sweetness. It was cooling, moreso in the lower throat and chest than in my mouth, and it made my tongue feel all tingly. I suddenly got pretty sweaty, and realized I was in it for the long haul with this tea. Since I started the session at about 10 at night, this became a late night tea session. Good times.
Steeps 9-13 were awesome, though didn’t boast quite as much qi and body feeling as steep 8 did. Extremely drinkable, with no discernible off-flavors, even the slight dampness from earlier is gone now. Camphor/woody and mineral sweetness that transformed around steep 11 into a sugary front of the sip with a deep honey finish. Thick and creamy texture in the mouth.
Steeps 14-18 were slightly diminished. On steep 14, I noticed the first signs of this tea’s demise – when many teas are already long dead! Still very drinkable and smooth, just the flavors are a tad weaker.
Steeps 19-24 were also quite tasty. These were the “courtesy steeps” I often do when teas have basically given all they can. Steep times of multiple minutes, usually with pretty meh results. Not the case for Diamond Cutter. There was still a lot more goodness to get out of it with these longer steeps, maybe even better than the previous few. The thickness of the tea, slightly diminished before, returned in these long steeps, with smooth woody notes and a honey sweetness. I probably could have gotten a few more long steeps, but it was nearing 1am, so I didn’t want to wait around for 15-30m steeps.
I got 24 steeps out of this, and even counting the first 5 or more steeps as basically rinses, that is an impressive number. I have been mostly unimpressed with other aged sheng I’ve tried, though i haven’t delved deep into that world of tea yet. Most other aged teas I’ve tried have made me say something like “this is good/interesting, BUT…” and that “but” may be it tastes like leather for half the session, or it tastes like a damp basement throughout, or any other number of weird things like that. I think the difference is that Diamond Cutter has had very clean, probably dry storage. It is very tightly compacted, but has aged enough that there is absolutely no bitterness left, even from a region known to have a bit of that bitter bite to it.
Having tried this tea, I am very excited to try the rest of Bitterleaf’s sheng offerings, both from the TTB and from my first order with them which is on its way as well. I may have to pick up some more of this Diamond Cutter for my collection. Maybe I’ll split a brick with somebody, as even one session with this tea seems to become an all-day affair, but I’d likely have to take a hack-saw to it to break the brick in half. Then again, it would also be one that would be nice to have a whole lot of. Don’t let Diamond Cutter’s rough exterior steer you away – it’s a wonderful aged puer, extremely drinkable with soft, clean, smooth flavors.
I’m going to use the rest of my sample to experiment with breaking the tea up more in the gaiwan as I steep. This time, I just used my gaiwan lid to help it along a bit. Next time, I’ll employ my puer pick or a fork to see if I can make it open up faster and get to the good stuff sooner. I’m not sure if that will make for a less interesting session or not.