Here is one of the last two reviews I had left in my April backlog. I received this tea back in 2017 as part of TTC’s Aged Tea Sampler. I put off trying it for so long simply because it was already old, so there was no need to rush with it. Honestly, I’m glad I put it off as long as I did because I hate posting negative reviews, and well, there was no way I could give this tea a good one.
I prepared this tea gongfu style. After the rinse, I steeped 6 grams of the loose tea leaf and ginseng blend in 4 ounces of 205 F water for 8 seconds. This infusion was followed by 18 additional infusions. Steep times for these infusions were as follows: 10 seconds, 12 seconds, 16 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 7 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and 20 minutes.
Prior to the rinse, the dry tea and ginseng blend emitted powerful aromas of earth, raisin, wood, mushroom, old paper, and ginseng. After the rinse, I picked up aromas of ash, charcoal, and caramel. The first infusion did not add any new aromas, but the previously noted aromas grew so powerful that they burned my nose. In the mouth, the tea liquor presented strong notes of earth, wood, old paper, mushroom, charcoal, ash, and ginseng that were balanced by subtler impressions of cream, vanilla, raisin, and caramel. I also detected a little chocolate after each swallow. The subsequent infusions introduced aromas of chocolate and tobacco. Stronger and more immediate chocolate notes appeared in the mouth alongside impressions of blackberry, tobacco, and minerals. There were also some hints of black cherry here and there. As the tea faded, the liquor emphasized notes of minerals, old paper, mushroom, earth, ginseng, and wood that were underscored by hints of blackberry, black cherry, ash, vanilla, and tobacco.
God, this was rough stuff! Some of the aromas and flavors were reminiscent of a very earthy shu pu’erh but much stronger, more forceful, and far more unpleasant than even some of the roughest, cheapest shu. The texture of the tea liquor was ashy and gritty. It was very hard to drink. This was also a persistent, durable tea that did not want to give up the ghost during my review session. I can’t say that I hated everything about it as I did like some of the sweeter and fruitier characteristics this tea displayed, but still, I did not enjoy drinking this tea much at all. I cannot say that I would recommend it to anyone aside from fans of very earthy shu.
Flavors: Ash, Ash, Blackberry, Blackberry, Caramel, Caramel, Char, Char, Cherry, Cherry, Chocolate, Chocolate, Cream, Cream, Earth, Earth, Herbaceous, Herbaceous, Mineral, Mineral, Mushrooms, Mushrooms, Paper, Paper, Raisins, Raisins, Tobacco, Tobacco, Vanilla, Vanilla, Wood, Wood