So, this is it. The first tea review and in fact, the first review ever on this site. I considered waiting to write my first review until I had something really impressive to share but since I don’t have anything special on hand and because no one is reading this anyway, I may as well start with what I have.
I purchased the 2011 Long Life Shou Puer from TeaSource in June of this year. It came packaged as a 100g embossed brick of which I had used about two thirds before starting this review. There is only a small fraction remaining after making many cups of tea over the last few days, even less of it than what you see in the photo above. I’m considering putting it away and forgetting about it for awhile to see how it evolves.
My two preferred methods of brewing puer tea are loose (no filter or basket) in a glass teapot or in a gaiwan and I will be comparing both methods here. Many people will tell you to rinse your tea leaves for a few seconds before steeping them for the first time. If you don’t rinse the leaves, the first infusion is often weak or dirty tasting. I’ve never liked the idea of rinsing because I feel as though I’m missing out on something. I would rather experience everything the tea has to offer.
Starting with the gaiwan, I’m using 6g of tea, almost boiling water and steeping for about 30 seconds at a time. The first infusion is pale brown in color and very weak flavored but not offensive in any way. The second is darker, slightly cloudy and starts to show a decent amount of flavor. The third, fourth and fifth infusions are the best in my opinion and all very similar. The sixth infusion starts getting lighter again and by the time you get to the tenth, you have something very similar to the first. On the nose are notes of smoke, dust, soil and a mild fishy component. Similar notes on the palate as well as a very slight sweetness. The finish is very light, short and almost nonexistent. Overall this tea is smooth, fresh and clean.
With the glass teapot I’m using 6g of tea just like with the gaiwan but will be using two cups of water and experimenting with the steeping time. I started with a series of 2 minute infusions. The first three are all good and quite similar. With the first, there was an obvious nutty component, hazelnut actually, that I hadn’t noticed in this tea before. With subsequent infusions the smoke and fishy notes were prominent and the dust and soil were there as well. Still not much of a finish to speak of.
Again with the glass teapot and another 6g of leaves, I tried two longer infusions, 6 minutes for the first followed by 15 for the second. The first had all of the previously mentioned notes but was, as expected, richer and fuller bodied. The second was a lighter in flavor and body but was still good and perfectly drinkable.
My third test in the teapot, again with new leaves, was one long infusion of 30 minutes. A potential problem with steeping tea for a long amount time is that is cools substantially. My solution was to start with less water, add a small amount every 10 minutes, and finally top it off at 2 cups just before the time was up. This infusion was very similar to the 6 minute infusion with the hazelnut being prominent. There doesn’t seem to be any reason to steep this tea longer than 10-15 minutes as you will likely achieve the same result.
I enjoyed this tea. It shows mostly typical puer flavors, though it’s the lightest puer I’ve had and the hazelnut was a bit of a surprise. I paid $8.99 for the 100g brick, which means that each 6g portion I used only cost $0.54. If you would like to try this tea, TeaSource currently has the 2013 vintage available.