This product description certainly piqued my curiosi-tea…
“2004 JIANSHEN TUO…This 100 gram tuo [nest shaped] tea from Lancang Tea Factory was first produced in the mid 1980’s under the trademark jianshen [健身] which translates literally as “fitness”. The brand was created as a way to promote Lancang county teas and it was promoted as a healthy tea, hence the name. Ideal for the budget minded drinker, as this tea has a decade of age and is economically priced. Still very strong in flavor and character, with burly wood and tobacco notes scotch drinkers will enjoy.”
Sounded interesting, and at just US$11.00 for a 100g tuo it seemed worth a punt.
The aroma of the dried leaves was pure stable – all leather and hay and wood.
I teased about 6 grams of leaf off the tuo, and dropped it into a 150 ml gaiwan. Once I had water up to 100°C, I did a quick rinse to get as much of the dust as possible off what it has to be said was a rather scruffy looking tea.
Even the rinse had a good, deep, colour – there could be no mistaking that you were dealing with a 12 year old tea.
I started off with a 5 second infusion, and added 5 seconds to each subsequent steeping.
Infusion number 1 was dark and strong-looking, and the leaves certainly lived up to their “smoky” billing.
As I took my first sip it suddenly dawned on me that breakfast was a long time ago, and I was about to start a session with a 12 year old sheng on what was for all intents and purposes an empty stomach. Uh oh.
The cha qi hit more or less instantly, and like a runaway locomotive. Dreamland, here we come…
The second steeping showed a nice, creamy smoothness, but backed up by a low-level but still noticeable astringent kick.
A couple of infusions later and for some reason or other the Beatles “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” pops into my head and refuses to leave.
Another 7 steepings pass by, duration unknown. I’m too busy staring out of the window looking at the seagulls to care about the passage of time.
The next steeping induces the munchies, and after reacquainting myself with the clock I discover it’s half-past lunchtime. Strangely enough I’m not “lunch hungry“, and make do with snacking on fruit and nuts.
2 more steepings follow in what may or may not be quick succession. That Beatles tune has now been dislodged and replaced by a vintage Blondie cut – “Kung Fu Girls” from their eponymous debut album. I gave up wondering where this session was taking me and why what I believe is some time ago. I’m quite content to be a passenger at this point.
A couple of infusions later, however, and both the leaves and I seem to have run out of steam. Quite worn out, I collapsed on the sofa for a snooze.
Later on, I sit at the table gazing at the used leaves, trying to summarise the tea.
Firstly, this could never, ever be considered a pretty boy, vainglorious Pu-erh. This is not a tea to impress anyone with. Leave the best teaware in the cupboard.
Instead, use whatever feels comfortable for a quiet solo session in the middle of your day, or an über-informal laughy, chatty session with good friends.
I wouldn’t go looking for many subtle changes between steepings here – there aren’t any, but that’s part of this tea’s overall charm. Just brew up several gaiwans’ worth at a time and dump them in the gong dao bei for rat-a-tat quaffing. It’s the builder’s tea of sheng. It’s a full on “hey-ho let’s go” Ramones at CBGBs in ’76 tea. Punk Pu-erh.
File under “will keep re-ordering as long as they have some in stock.” Great stuff.