As I mentioned in an earlier post, I received 2 free samples of tea in my first order with What-cha.
One of them was, of course, the subject of that very post, a wonderful little “Unroasted Oolong” Dragon Ball.
This was, as you can probably guess, the other, and a very interesting tea it is. For some time I’d been keen to try teas from the countries bordering Yunnan (Burma/Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam) to see how the differences in terroir, processing, storage, etc. stand up against the much better known Yunnanese equivalents.
This is a tea from the self-administering region of Kokang, which lies in Burma, on the border with Yunnan.
Because of the tea’s origins in Burma, it cannot be sold under the Pu-erh name, but given that trees seldom respect geographical boundaries, as well as the fact that it has been processed the same as a raw/sheng pu-erh tea would be, then the name aside that’s pretty much what it is.
What-cha make the very valid point that this dodges the price overhead added as soon as that name is invoked, meaning that the tea is, “…available at a great price“.
This was a 10 gram sample, good for 2 sessions in a gaiwan. The sample itself comes from a standard sized 357 gram beeng, pressed of spring 2014 material by the Sen Zhi Kui tea factory.
The 10 gram sample was quite lightly compressed, and easily split into two identical 5 gram sheets.
I dropped the tea into a 150 ml gaiwan, and gave it a quick rinse with boiling water.
I started off with a 5 second infusion, with each subsequent steeping being 5 seconds longer than the last. This method worked for the first 9 infusions, but as the tea seemed to be tailing off somewhat I upped the steeping times to 1, 1½, 2, 3, 5, 8, and 15 minutes, for a grand total of 16 rounds in all, not too bad for a 5 gram sample.
The wet leaf had a fairly standard sheng aroma profile, that heady blend of leather, wood and fresh fungi, but augmented with “sweet floral” and “candy store” layered on top.
This tea also gave a tantalising taste of sweet-smelling smoke – as though someone was burning incense nearby.
The body was good, creamy and well rounded. Somewhere around the 2 minute infusion a vegetal sweetness appeared, which reminded me of sugar snap peas.
The tea’s qi was a bit weird. It induced sweating, but only from the navel up. The sensation started there, and grew progressively stronger en route to the head – the sweat was quite literally pouring off my face.
Towards the end of the session I was hit with a touch of “back of the throat” astringency.
As always the golden question with a sample is will it make you want to buy more of the tea, given that there are, as you might expect, conditions attached when dealing with samples. You can never quite be sure how long the sample has been separated from the main bulk of the tea, how it has been treated in transit, etc, and how this might have adversely affected the tea sample you are trying to judge.
Here, however, the answer is a definite “yes“. I’ll certainly be purchasing a full beeng of this tea sooner rather than later.