I received a free 20g sample of this with a teaware order a couple months back. It has sat in my pumidor since then and now was finally time to give it a go. My sample was practically just a single large chunk from the cake with a handful of loose leaves at the bottom of the wrapper. Doing my best to try to maintain leaf integrity, I separated 9.5 grams from the sample for my trusty 140ml gaiwan. It was difficult to make out much aroma from the dry leaf, but in the preheated gaiwan I did pick up a scent that came across as somewhat darker to me than in some other young raws. After a brief 10s rinse the scent was very reminiscent of the white2tea 2017 “f*ck what u heard” that I reviewed last time. Once the leaves cooled down, the aroma did change. It was perhaps more sweeter, I don’t know if I’d use the word floral.
I’ve been in the habit of drinking some of the rinses lately, and despite filling the gaiwan almost full I did drink this one as well. It was very light as is to be expected. Green, buttery, with something else in there later on that I can’t put my finger on. Perhaps it’s some sort of floral sweetness of some kind, but I can’t really say. There was some body/mouthfeel to the tea already and it made my heart start beating noticeably harder in my chest as well as made me feel significantly hot. It also made blood start pumping into a certain key region in my lower body, which was interesting and an entirely new experience related to tea.
At this point I gave the tea my customary ten minute rest before I proceeded to the first proper infusion. In this time the large chunks soaked enough water and loosened enough for me to make the leaves come apart by just poking at the clumps a little with my finger. I proceeded to do a total of ten infusion, for 7s, 7s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 30s, 45s, 75s, 2 min. and 3 min. The first steep had a light flavor of cream/vanilla infused with green. The body wasn’t that heavy, but the mouthfeel was nice and noticeable. After my initial observations about the taste, I actually forgot about the taste entirely as the mouthfeel was such that it just really grabbed all your attention. Even though, apart from the even stronger pro-erectile effects than before, the direct effects of cha qi were subtle, you got the sense that there’s energy in this tea. This was the last I noticed during my session though.
The second infusion still had some body to it, but the nice mouthfeel from before was gone. The taste was your typical green young sheng flavor, but slightly more mature/developed/elegant with perhaps some underlying sweetness of some sort to balance it a little. You could still notice hints of the creamy vanilla from the prior infusion. There wasn’t really any noticeable astringency to the tea yet, but it did leave the surfaces of your mouth a tad sandpapery. The third steep had a very “clear” taste to it. There wasn’t that much of the green or astringent character, but they were out there somewhere. The tea is hard to describe beyond that. It didn’t simply taste like water, nor did it have a particularly mineral character to it either. The body was light and the tea did leave the roof of your mouth a bit more sandpapery than before, but not your tongue.
The body became even lighter in the fourth steeping, barely surpassing water, although it was still not poor. There was more astringency now, and at times you could get an almost metallic finish. There wasn’t much greenness to the taste and instead the tea had more of an astringent taste to it. The fifth steep produced a darker green flavor than I’m used to experiencing in young raws, with this time not very much astringency at all. There was an interesting balance to the rather simple green flavor, with the balance coming from something darker lying underneath that might’ve also been almost savory in nature. The steep was surprisingly filling, leaving me feeling sated after finishing my cup even though the flavor itself was nothing to write home about. The tea left a green aroma lingering in your mouth and nose even though there wasn’t really a lingering aftertaste to accompany it. There was also slightly more body, even if it remained light.
While I don’t think that the sixth steep was a weak infusion, there weren’t really any flavors there to grab onto. There was some typical green astringency that you expect, of course, as well as a sort of weird vibe I got in the finish that reminded me of manure, but all in all there wasn’t really much flavor there. The seventh steep did rectify this somewhat by presenting a green taste that differed from the green taste I get in a lot of young shengs. It reminded me of a sort of semi-passable lower grade green tea. While there wasn’t much astringency, it did leave your mouth a bit sandpapery.
Somewhat surprisingly, while the eighth steep was relatively light in terms of viscosity, it did have an okay mouthfeel. The taste was now that of your typical young sheng, green and slightly astringent. After lengthening the steeping time for the ninth infusion, I found that the tea was starting to taste unenjoyable to me. I expected the tenth infusion to only get worse, but it was actually better than its predecessor. It wasn’t something I enjoyed, but it wasn’t too unpleasant to drink. While I suspect this tea could have probably gone on, I decided to stop here because I did not want it to get nasty.
After really liking Crimson Lotus’s Lucky Cloud which is allegedly also Jingmai material, I was interested to try out my first raw pu’er from the region. All in all, to a still relative pu’er newb this came across to me as a midrange sheng, which is also how it’s priced. If there’s one word I would use to describe it, I think it would be “balanced.” I don’t drink very many blended raws, so I don’t know how much this being a blend has to do with it, but this tea, while still very young and in my opinion not something I would drink now, rounds off some of the rougher edges you tend to see in my experience in material that comes from a single family, etc. I don’t think those things mean very much now, but ten years down the line it would be interesting to see how they affect the overall profile and balance.
While this tea did seem to have some cha qi – even if very front-loaded – decent texture that will hopefully improve with age, and seemingly okay longevity, nothing about it struck me as particularly special. As this is a tea that I would not drink now, if I were to invest money and time into a cake, I would want something I have a good feeling about. While this will likely be a very good tea in ten years’ time or more, if I’m going to make that sort of commitment, I don’t just want a tea that I think will be good, I want a tea I think will potentially be amazing, even if it doesn’t turn out that way. I want either something really high quality or something really special and unique. I feel this tea is neither of those. If you are looking specifically for Jingmai material to age on a budget, then try a sample of this to see if it’s what you’re looking for. Otherwise, if you’re going to be sitting on a cake for 10+ years, I’d save up and invest in higher grade material like the Midas Touch. If this tea were drinkable now, it’d be a different story, but in my eyes it’s neither interesting, rewarding or enjoyable enough in its current state. Your mileage may vary of course. If you’re looking for the best bang for your buck, then I think there are better value propositions out there. If you’re looking specifically for Jingmai and you really love Jingmai, then there are less. It is not my intention to try to sell this tea short as it has quite a few promising attributes and probably has potential to be a very tasty tea, it’s just not there yet.
I received a free sample of Bitterleaf Teas’ 2017 In Bloom with a recent order and will likely be ordering a sample of the 2017 Midas Touch to try out as well, so expect to see reviews of more Jingmai teas in the not too distant future. Those are of course different vintage than Jingmai LOVE, but I’m interested to see how they compare nonetheless.