I’ve finally picked up a gaiwan, gongbei and small tea cups, so I can prepare this tea properly. We tried it once, ages ago when we first picked it up, and brewed it western style and it just wasn’t that good, so probably about a year later, I’m revisiting it.
I don’t know anything about this pu erh. It’s pressed into mini toucha, and there’s no details provided about it. Next time I go in I’ll have to ask the shop if they can say anything more about it.
3o second rinse with boiling water, and then a five second first steep.
The liquor is a deep, clear, reddish brown. It smells robust and earthy, with a bit of malt and a bit of mustiness. The leaves themselves have these notes, as well as a fragrance I can’t quite pin down, but that reminds me of cool, humid early mornings in Mexico – coffee, petrichor and jungle?
First impression on the tongue is earth, must and smoky. There’s some sweet, dried fruit notes that are a delightful surprise. This has a wonderful, full mouth flavour, and is very rich tasting. The finish lingers on the back of the tongue and is a bit sweet. There’s a touch of licorice on the finish and a pleasant hint of bitterness.
Second steep, 10 seconds. Haha, oh dear, nothing about this steep was done with skill. I shifted the lid of the gaiwan mid pour and dumped tea and leaves all over the outside of the gongbei. Still, most of the tea was salvaged.
The licorice notes come out even earlier in the sip now. There’s more sweetness, and a touch of astringency and acidity that wasn’t in the first steep. This one has less of a full mouth flavour and is more focused on the front and sides of the tongue. There’s a brief floral note mid sip, which then shifts to lots of licorice and some juicy fruit on the finish, perhaps apple and grape?
Third steep, 15 seconds.
This steep smells musty and medicinal. There’s a lot of licorice lingering on my palette from the previous cups that almost overpowers the notes of this one. Lots of earth, drier, and with a woodiness that comes up mid sip and lingers into the finish. Again there’s licorice on the finish, which fills my mouth more and more as I continue to sip, and is starting to take on some more medicinal notes. I’m experiencing a slight numbing feeling at the back of my tongue and roof of my mouth, similar to szechuan pepper.
Fourth steep, 20 seconds.
Liquor this time around is redder and paler. The leaves have a more vegetal fragrance now, combined with something that I can only describe as library. The sip is musty, earthy and a bit on the weak side. The numbing and licorice continue to build, though they’re not distinctly present on the sip anywhere. They’re just filling my mouth. I’m starting to get a slight jittery feeling from the caffeine, so the next steep will be my last for a while.
Steep five. 25 seconds. Pale amber liquor. We’re back to a bit of malt and must, and a whole lot of licorice. Again, a little weak as I can taste my water a bit; probably should have done this one for 30. There’s a sweetness in the back of the throat again that’s building. The numbing effect is pretty pervasive. In amongst the licorice finish there’s a hint of something that reminds me of the finish on coffee, before the sour aftertaste kicks in.
I don’t have a lot of experience with pu erhs, but I really, really enjoyed this. I’m so glad I gave it a second chance with a more appropriate brewing method, and I’m looking forward to trying out more pu erhs.
Flavors: Apple, Astringent, Bitter, Coffee, Dried Fruit, Earth, Floral, Grapes, Licorice, Malt, Medicinal, Musty, Petrichor, Plants, Sweet, Tart, Wood