Introduction and Disclaimer
After the first three Teacuppa shupu samples were thoroughly disappointing, I felt that I should post about a good shupu. This is one of the many teas Salsero has generously sent me as part of his "Second Best Teahouse" tasting event.
Disclaimer: I'm horribly inexperienced with puerh, so please bear with me.
Everyone seems to say that shupu (aka cooked or black puerh) dry leaves look boring, and despite my "devil's advocate" tendencies, I have to admit— it just looks like a hunk of brown, organic... stuff. If someone had shown this to me a few years ago, I never would have guessed that it was tea.
The aroma is actually quite pleasant— many of the other shupu samples I have tried (not from Salsero, mind you) have smelled pond-like and downright unhealthy. The aroma of this one was grainy, malty, and sweetly earthy. (It wasn't a bad earthy, but there was definitely a touch of something that wasn't just malt or grain, and earthy is the best I could come up with.)
Approx. 4g broken up cake in a prewarmed zisha gaiwan. Boiling tap water (good tasting tap water). Rinse, 10s, 12s, 15s, 18s, 20s, 25s.
The first infusion was a bit weak (though I should probably wash it twice anyway), but otherwise the parameters produced a sultry, dark brown liquor. I probably could have done more infusions, but I didn't really feel like taking it any further. The clarity of the brew was good, but I did notice some dust settle at the bottom of the cup after a while, so it wasn't perfect.
The taste was smooth and malty, but also grainy and sweet, reminiscent of un-sugared cereal. I thought this was quite tasty, but it remained more or less unchanged throughout the tasting session so it wasn't all that interesting. There was one point where I did taste something a little off, perhaps a bit like rubber (though I would not have arrived at this had I not read some other reviews of this same tea). For the most part though, it was undetectable.
I brewed this again with more leaf (5g), and noticed more of the rubber taste, so it seems that the key to getting this tea right is to use a little less leaf. 4g produced a good, solid round of infusions, so there's no reason to increase the amount of leaf anyway.
In my notes I wrote that this was "not too complex, but enjoyable, calming, and soothing. A 'by the fireplace curled up in a blanket' kind of tea." I think that just about sums it up. This is not something to really ponder over and analyze— it's just something to sit down and relax with. Overall, this tea gets a 6.5/10.
***Note: I am starting to deflate my ratings a bit, as I'm still in the learning phase. What I considered a 9 a few months ago may just be an 8 now, and it is likely that this trend will continue. So, while a 6.5/10 seems quite low, be aware that I'm leaving room for any great teas I may find in the future. As C.S. Lewis once said, "Don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean ‘very’ otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite."***