Tea is a journey, and sometimes it’s fun to go off-piste, to venture off the beaten track, explore a little.
Yunnan Sourcing is a great place to explore. I’ve lost hours there rummaging around, opening virtual cupboards and boxes and taking a peep inside. Sure, I’ve occasionally left a tad lighter in the wallet department, but always better informed and with a smile on my face.
I came across this tea brick during one such browse. A 250 gram six and a bit year old pressing from Nan Nuo mountain area for $15 seemed well worth a wee gamble. The text “It will come wrapped in white paper, but there is no inner ticket or any other identifying marks” in the description added an air of mystery and intrigue that only fuelled my curiosity. Sold!
NB – Despite this being an “undocumented” tea, I went ahead with the purchase because Yunnan Sourcing have a rock-solid reputation for reliability in the community, and I trust them implicitly.
This was about as compact a pressing as I’d ever encountered. I almost bent my pu-erh pick trying to find a way in to open up the brick, but with a bit of perseverance I managed to find a spot and free off about 6 grams or so, which was dropped into a 150 ml clay teapot.
To assist in opening up the leaves I gave the tea clumps 2 quick rinses with boiling water, and then let them sit in the pot for a few minutes with the lid on. Usually that is enough to separate the leaves from the clumps or open up a Dragon Ball, but this brick was going to play dirty it seemed. I figured the best plan of attack was going to be to steep as per usual, and gently work on the clumps with my pu-erh pick and bamboo spatula between steepings.
The first steeping was a 10 second one, a bit longer than I normally use, in order to help in freeing up the leaves from the clumps. Subsequent infusions were 5 seconds longer each time up until the 12th (65 seconds). I then went with 1½, 2, 2½, and 3 minute infusions, for a grand total of 16 steepings in all.
Early steepings showed a relatively light body as the tea was not yet fully opened up, although the tea broth was already showing a good colour. During this stage of the session, there was a nice feel of summer meadow, and the hint of a nearby flower garden.
Suddenly on the 3rd steeping things dropped into place. The leaves had fully come away from the clumps, and we were really motoring.
The body beefed up to a middleweight, and the taste had a standard sheng profile but with the mushroom component turned up, if that makes sense.
The wet leaves smelled of our summer house by the sea – old wood and forest.
A refreshing, astringent kick appeared on the 3rd steeping that never rose in intensity or dominated, but later on faded around the 9th or 10th steeping, letting a sweet vegetal note come to the fore.
The qi took a while to manifest itself, rolling in about half way through the session, a delayed action rib-cage up sweaty inferno. Our cat had chosen this precise moment to misbehave, and as anyone who has experienced it will tell you, a Burmese cat determined to commit mischief is a whirlwind of madness and destruction, but this tea’s qi resulted in such a severe calming effect that I for once simply had to chuckle at his antics, which I think kind of spoiled the fun for him.
To sum up then, this turned out to be a sound buy. A good, solid, exceptionally drinkable brick, at a very affordable price.