Friday, November 15, 2019
2019 Tea Encounter Laos Gushu: Taste Like Laos… and Gua Feng Zhai…
This puerh is a Gua Feng Zhai Xiao Shu (small bush) + Laos Gushu blend as the sample label clearly states. It goes for $37.71 for 200g cake or $0.19/g although this sample came free for review. This is actually the early mocha before it was pressed into 200g cakes (turns out this was not the final blend before it was pressed into cakes- see comment below) . Looks like this puerh is 5% off from now until the end of the month as the Black Friday Sale just got put up on the site (4%-39% off depending on the cake)! This is a late addition to the inaugural year of the Tea Encounter brand. It fills a gap in the Tea Encounter catalogue by offering something at a very low price point, offering a blend (for which there is only one other), and offering something from Laos. Laos puerh, do we dare call it that, has not been offered through a Western puerh vendor since Chawangshop offered some years ago, I do believe.
Long time readers of this blog know that I am versed in Laos puerh having been there way back in 2009 and was the first to write extensively on the subject in English… naturally I was nostalgically excited to try some again…
Dry leaves smell of dense barnyard with the typical Laos Ban Korman intense almost pungent barnyard typical dry leaves odour. The rinse of the leaves indicate this is mainly Laos Gu Shu in this blend or at least it is over powering at this point.
First infusion tastes very barnyard initially, watery and spacious taste, with an underlying fruity sweetness that has nuances of wood. There is a moderate pungent coolness that pushes out some potato and almost radish like tastes along with creamy sweetness and dried pear. An interesting, unusual, and complex presentation over a watery base.
The second is a barnyard/ beef jerky onset (very classically Ban Korman), there is some faint pear in the distance and potato (classically Gua Feng Zhai). The puerh tastes like a Canadian Thanksgiving here… hahaha… Mouthfeeling is very mild, faint simulation- also typical of Ban Korman area. There is a faint sandiness about it. Then arrives a pungency that pushes pear and creamy sweet out over a moderately deep throat opening. Qi has a relaxing and spacy effect on the mind.
The third infusion comes together more cohesively. With strong barnyard and beef jerky tastes with a pear sweetness presenting underneath. The mouthfeeling is sandy and mild and the throat opens to a medium-deep depth. The aftertaste has mild sweetness of pear and barely creamy sweetness. There are some wood notes and potato as well. The Qi in the head is quite tranquilizing here. It creates a distinct warmth in the body and I break into a sweat.
The fourth infusion more of a distinct pumpkin/ squash taste initially with faint barnyard. The mouthfeel is still mild sandy and throat still deep-moderate opening. Qi is interesting as I feel it in my teeth and jaw. Faint pear finish after a mild pungency.
The fifth infusion has a woody barnyard almost pear note that drags into the aftertaste over a sandy mouthfeeling. The Qi is getting bigger in the head and a bit alerting now. The mild sandy mouthfeel and open throat holds a faint sweetness, wood, barnyard.
The sixth infusion has a woody faint barnyard, almost musty, taste with just faint edges of sweetness underneath that mainly follow from the faint pungent in the throat. The Qi is relaxing here.
The seventh infusion starts with a subtle sweetness almost green pea like over barnyard, musk, slightly woody, there is a faint but deep throaty pungency here. This puerh tastes 60% Laos Ban Korman Gu Shu 40% Gua Feng Zhi Small Bush puerh. If I were to guess.
The eighth is a watery, smooth sandy, almost pumpkin, not really woody but more barnyard faint suggestions. There is a flat pear taste in there as well that comes after a faint deeper throat pungency. The Qi is relaxing at this point.
The ninth infusion has more pumpkin notes and is somewhat sweeter. The flavor is never strong but is much less here especially considering the mild sandy mouthfeeling. Qi is more relaxing now.
The tenth infusion I add 15 seconds to the flash infusion and push a bit fruitier nuance out of these leaves but not much. There is a rainforest taste. The taste is spacious and mild and almost barnyard and musk. The aftertaste is a bit pear.
The eleventh infusion I add 30 seconds it is much the same as the 10th but is lighter in taste. For the 12th I put it into a long infusion of a few minutes and get a thicker mouthfeeling, a chalky sandy with longer pungent taste, there is more fruit flavours as well- pumpkin, pear, potato, slight barnyard. The cooling pungency stands out in this long infusion. Qi is mild in the head at this point in the session.
As I feel a need to push harder, I put this one into the overnight infusion…
It is a bit of a puerh trend these days to do a blend with something from Eastern Yiwu near the border blended with border tea from Laos usually. In this way it stretches the notion of what we can call “puerh tea”. This one also stretches the notion of what we can call “Gushu”. It is also for economic reasons as Eastern Yiwu puerh material is climbing in price and can be cut with something less expensive. I was gifted some of the 2018 Tea Urchin Along the Border maocha and sampled it quite young. It was also a Gua Feng Zhi Small bush blend and it resembled this border blend a bit in its spacious and watery taste profile and a bit in its moderately heady Qi. The 2018 Along the Border had a distinctly nutty flavor and this Tea Encounter one has a more typical Laos Ban Korman profile of barnyard with musk and beef jerky taste.
This is a cheap entry point for those who wish to have a taste of Laos puerh which is not represented much in the Western puerh market. This puerh’s distinct Ban Korman profile really brought me back to some of my experiences with them and reminded me of an amusing story that I should share in a different post…