[from an email to corax. posted by permission.]
Date brewed: 4/10/06
Purveyor’s Description: “Produced by Xia Guan Tea Factory as a special order.”
Type: Aged Cooked (Shu)
Type: Tuo Cha Pu’er, 200g
Brand/Manufacturer: Xia Guan Tea Factory
Appearance: Dry Leaf: Medium compressed, small reddish-brown, gray, and black leaves. Wet leaves: Red-black after the tenth infusion. Leaf Weight & Vessel: 8g in 7oz (210ml) kyuusu-style Yixing pot
Brewing Temperature: Old man boil
Rinse & Rest: very short rinse, 30s rest
Infusion Times: 15s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 25s, 35s, 50s, 1m30s
Liquor Appearance: First infusion: light red and amber, good clarity. In the second infusion, the color of porter, deep red-black and beautiful. Surprisingly, the third infusion is even darker, taking on the visual aspect of strong coffee, but still very clear and fairly transparent. The appearance of the fourth infusion is the same as the second. In the fifth infusion, the tea presents the color of amber ale. In the eighth infusion (lengthy) the color is still surprisingly dark.
Aroma: In the second infusion, vanilla, light leather, and wet loam. After pouring the fourth infusion into the sharing pitcher, I can detect a very noticeable mint aroma coming from the pot. Delightful. Further, the liquor now exudes, among the other aromas, the scent of clean, wet sand. The eighth infusion still presents a pleasant wood and vanilla aroma.
Flavor: First infusion: Dry and lively in the first hot sips, sweetening as it cools. Second infusion: very good balance of the foregoing aromas presented in the flavors, much more intense (of course). I am more familiar with Meng Hai’s and SFTM’s shu than I am with Xia Guan’s; this cooked tuo’s clean crispiness is very pleasant. I’m guessing it is lightly processed. In the third infusion, the sweetness has backed away, and the tea presents a much drier flavor. It is not fruity or flowery, but it is brisk and woody, almost oaken. The first hot sip of the fourth infusion is somewhat tarter, as though there were a few drops of raspberry juice added to the liquor. In the fifth infusion, it takes on some of the character of sheng—the liquor develops more tartness when hot, but there is residual sweetness as the liquor cools. In the eighth infusion, the aftertaste is very pleasant, woody, and minty.
Infusions: Most cooked pu’ers are spent by the fifth infusion. Rarely in shu do I encounter longevity and real evolution through the infusions. That this cooked tuo provides both is a testament to its quality. I’m guessing these attributes result both from the lighter processing and the seventeen years of aging.
Overall: As I understand it, cooked pu’er does not age in the same sense that uncooked pu’er ages; it does not transform itself into a new creature. Instead, it mellows. I drink far more uncooked pu’er than cooked. My first forays into pu’er were disastrous experiences with inexpensive (and very low-quality) cooked tuo chas sold by a large chain. Only recently have I undertaken to shake off the negative biases those early experiences forged. JingTeaShop’s 1989 Xia Guan Cooked Tuo Cha is an excellent motivation to pursue good shu. This is a wonderful beverage for kicking back late at night. I doubt I’ll manage to keep it for very long. This tea calls to me from its basket on the kitchen counter. It is a definite candidate for repurchasing.