Origin: Wenshan, Taiwan
Vendor: Red Blossom Tea (Product page)
Price: $46.25 (4 oz.) / $12.50 (1 oz.)
This is one of the more interesting and puzzling teas I've come across lately, and it doesn't help that it is also in a category of tea I have just begun to explore. Anyway, on to my notes.
As soon as I opened the bag, I knew it was going to be an interesting experience drinking this tea. Smells of various spices, molasses, and notably peppermint blasted their way into my nose. After the initial reaction of "what the hell?" I remembered fellow bloggers commenting on the "spice" aroma of Red Blossom's aged sheng puerh. Are these things related? A common storage issue, perhaps? Anyway, such inquiries are purely speculative and presumably not why you are reading this, so let's continue.
Most of the spice seems to disappear once water hits the leaf, but the mint carried on well into the session. Actually, it was a pretty short session-- this tea didn't seem to have much endurance, at least not in my first attempt to brew it. With 6.5g of leaf in a 100mL gaiwan, it only went for 5 good infusions before getting weak.
What struck me about this tea was how much it tasted like puerh. I don't have the experience to say whether it tasted more like aged puerh or shupu, but it was in that range. It was not at all what I expected. It had a smooth texture, earthy, malty flavor and aftertaste, and mint like I mentioned earlier (The mint wasn't at all like the camphor I've tasted in some puerh, in case you are wondering, it almost tasted like it was flavored). This tea really didn't even begin to taste like a typical aged oolong until the end of the session, though the wet leaf and gaiwan lid smelled like oolong the whole time– weird. There was a good throatiness to the tea, and left a tingling minty taste/flavor on the back of my throat. There may have been some qi, but I wasn't sweating so it wasn't too strong.
The wet leaf was fairly surprising– there are large, full leaves here. While welcome, I haven't seen this in aged oolong before. Red Blossom notes on the product page that it hasn't been roasted for 25 years, perhaps this has something to do with it. (As a side note, Andy and I were wondering whether this meant never roasted, or just never re-roasted.)
Once I got past the weirdness, I decided that I do like this tea. I'm not sure I would buy a lot of it, but it is certainly good for switching things up a bit every now and then.