[from an email to corax. posted by permission.]
Date Brewed: 3/27/06
Type: Aged Uncooked Liang (Flower Roll)
Grade & Region: Unspecified, but not Yunnan
Leaf Appearance: Dry Leaf: Olive green with some brown tint, extremely compressed, papery, no stems. Definite saw-marks in the chunks.
Leaf Weight & Vessel: 4.3g in beloved 4oz black and green jade gaiwan
Brewing Temperature: Low boil
Rinse & Rest: 20s rinse and 2m rest
Infusion Times: 15s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 25s, 30s, 35s, 40s, 45s, 50s, 55s, 1m, 1m5s
Liquor Appearance: In the first infusion, honey-colored. Clear—not cloudy, but with tiny bits oddly suspended, despite fine strainer. Sawdust? By the sixth infusion, almost no color shift, but the suspension has disappeared. In the eighth infusion, the color has lightened to yellow-orange.
Aroma: In the first infusion, no actual aroma. Second infusion: still a shocking absence of aroma. Sixth infusion: very slight flowery aroma. Very little character of aged pu’er. Oddly, more aroma in the seventh and following infusions than in the first six infusions. In the eleventh infusion, the tea has a good aroma of mild loam and wood.
Flavor: In the first infusion’s initial hot sips, strong fruit flavor and flowery notes. Sweet aftertaste followed by tart aftertaste. Third-wave aftertaste: Pepper! Quite strong flavors, not unpleasant, and not like aged pu’er. In the second infusion, there is a much stronger citrus note, like unto the grapefruit-with-sugar character of aged Iron Cake. The taste is something like a tequila Salty Dog. The liquor is extremely thick in the mouth. In the fifth infusion, there is a slight flavor of grain in the citrus. In the seventh infusion there is a marked improvement in the flavor. The tart citrus subsides sufficiently to hint at a bit of wood in the flavor. In the 10th infusion, the flavor becomes very good indeed. There is sweetness and cedar in the flavor.
Infusions: This compressed tea will provide infusions forever.
Overall: I’ve performed some casual research, and as I understand it, Liang and Tael (compressed tea column) are synonymous. The one-year-old 100-tael that I’ve tried from my own collection is too bitter to drink except on a double-eyed dare. The 80yo tael I tried in Guangzhou did have an exceptional and wonderful aged character. This tea, being forty-five or fifty years old, tastes like a sweet and tart young pu’er. Indeed, it does taste about half-way between the very young tael in my collection and the very old tael I tasted. This confirms in my mind, at least, that an investment in tael is an investment in an heirloom. Those seeking the qualities of an aged pu’er will be sorely disappointed by this 50s Liang, but those looking for an education in the range of compressed tea will be fascinated. I would recommend that people in their twenties buy 50yo Liang for their children to drink thirty years hence, and that they buy very young compressed tea columns for their great-grandchildren. This tea is hard to judge. On a scale of one to five, I’d rate this 2.5 or 3. In forty years, it may rate a 5. In time, it may develop an aged bouquet and an alluring aftertaste. Perhaps I do not know how to brew this compressed tea.
I will re-try this compressed tea tomorrow with two 30-second washes, a 1-minute rest, and then a series of flash infusions.