I bought this 100 gram square brick (Fang Cha – 方茶) of sheng during one of my browsing sessions over at House of Tea.
It’s a 2010 pressing from the Haiwan tea factory, for which I paid 124 Swedish Crowns (£11.31, US$13.82, €12.93).
|Weight of dry leaf:||6 grams|
|Steeping vessel:||150 ml clay teapot|
|Steeping method:||2 second rinse, then initial 5 second infusion, with subsequent steepings @ +5 seconds until 60 seconds, for a total of 12 steepings.|
As per usual with smaller bricks of this type and size, the tea was quite tightly pressed and compact, so a great deal of care was needed when attempting to open up the brick with my Pu-erh pick and free off the required amount of leaf.
Post rinse the wet leaf had quite a strong aroma of smoke and tobacco. After the first couple of infusions I gently worked at the tea with a bamboo spatula, to help break down the clumps.
Right off the bat during the early steeps the tea soup looked relatively dark, with a smoky flavour and in your face front of tongue and roof of mouth bitterness that almost threatened to overpower a nice sheng flavour that was slightly skewed toward the woodiness. That bitter tide began to retreat by the 4th steeping however, letting a vegetal sweetness come through.
There was a decent enough body here too, one that hovered somewhere around middleweight levels.
Something you often see with these smaller fang chas is that they are pressed out of broken/chopped leaf, which on a practical basis means several things.
Firstly, they tend to have quite a bit of dust and particulate in them, although it should be noted, however, that this particular fang was quite a “clean” brick – I only had to rinse out the strainer once early on during the session – which makes me think this is a “more killer less filler” kind of a fang using better quality leaf.
Secondly, this also results in a greater surface area of tea exposed to the water, which means that the leaf tends to give what it’s got over fewer infusions, and that certainly seemed to be the case here. Twelve steepings isn’t bad per se, but you could reasonably expect several more from a sheng pressed with full, unbroken leaf.
The Qi hit hard straight from the first infusion, which I was kind of expecting having seen the colour. This was an early morning session, not that far removed from breakfast, so my still quite full stomach was acting as a kind of a buffer between the good stuff in the tea and my blood-brain barrier. Nevertheless, I was soon feeling the effects of this potent brew. Fine control of my digits soon became problematic, and I dropped the teapot lid at one stage. It collided with the small ceramic cup that holds my tea strainer when it’s not in use, but luckily it only resulted in one minor chip under the lip of the lid.
One thing this tea would be exceptionally good for would be surprising a sceptic who doubts the existence of a genuine tea high. A session with this baby on an empty stomach would soon convince them otherwise!
As I mentioned above, this tea gave a lot quickly. By the 10th infusion it had started to show signs of fading, and just 2 steeps later we were done.
If you were new to sheng Pu-erh then this fang with its smoky, somewhat bitter taste and sledgehammer Qi punch might just put you off the class of tea for good, but if you know what to expect and are comfortable with that, then this fang could just carve out a niche for itself in your stash.