Tuesday, October 9, 2018

2018 Spring Essence of Tea “Piercing the Illusion”

Some people pierce their ears, others their nose, belly button, and even other unmentionables but, for the puerh drinker, there is no better piercing than their illusion.  And so it brings us here to this very first experimental blend by Essence of Tea…

I must admit, I was quite excited about this free sample (usually goes for $128.00 for a 400g cake or $0.32) that made its way to me in a recent Yixing teapot order.  First, on a very superficial level, the art on the wrapper by Maggie Taylor is probably one of my favorite all time.  Appreciation of the wrapper art is part of the ecstatic of puerh tea.  Brilliant brilliant year of the dog art in a style that I have not yet seen on a puerh wrapper.  There is a very clever play on words because the dog is sporting very eccentric Elizabethan fashion around its neck called a “Tudor ruff”… get it… hahhaha
Secondly, I am excited that this is Essence of Tea’s first experimental blend.  Essence of Tea has brought us a lot over the years but an eccentric blend is new territory for this very traditional producer. 
Thirdly, I love the concept of blending wild tea with puerh tea.  One of my favorite puerh I purchased this year was a Lao Man E with 10% wild tea blended in- it really gives the tea a different engaging angle.  Also, I am a fan of wild tea and have blended it in my pot at home to some decent results. This 2018 “Piercing the Illusion” is an unspecified “blend of wild tree leaves along with a leaves from cultivated ancient trees”.

Dry leaves smell of intense vibrant deep forests and layered berry jam-like intense wild sweet odours.

First infusion starts with watery empty sweet notes of distant strawberry and has a straw/ hay type of base taste underneath.  There is a subtle cooling aftertaste and a woody finish as well.  The mouthfeel is nice and slightly chalky, slightly opening in the throat.  It leaves a painting of stickiness on the lips, tongue, and opens the mid throat up.

The second infusion starts watery and slightly fruity with a substantially more woody base taste.  There is hay in there as well.  The aftertaste is cooling and slightly fruity but has a vacuous rubbery taste.  I am starting to feel lightheaded as the Qi builds in this tea.

The third infusion starts with a light buttery, barely fruity taste with subtle strawberries lingering in the watery broth with a base of straw and hay.  There is a soft faint cooling aftertaste.  The qi starts to build up in the head like a balloon with slight pressure.

The fourth infusion has a watery buttery faintly fruity initial taste. It has a wild flower almost rubbery, kind of faint vacuous, not really fruity taste.  There are hints of hay, honey, and even mushrooms but all tastes seem a bit distant.  The Qi is not distant but upfront and imparts a slowness to the vision.  The body feels relaxed, the mind slows.

The fifth infusion is a bit creamier with subtle edges of strawberry and juicier fresh fruits initially.  The mouthfeeling is skirting dryness but not quite.  It has a sandiness to it.  The aftertaste has a mildly cooling and slight cherry fruit mild edge to it, slight rubbery.  The minutes later returning aftertaste is of cherries, slight rubber.  The tongue feels sandy.

The sixth is a smoother, velvety building grape, elderberry, cherry taste.  It reminds me of a grape flavored medicine I took for sore throat as a child but it’s tasty.  The woody/ hay profile has pretty much disappeared now.

The seventh is much the same but with more of a peaking sweetness followed by very mild menthol.  Each infusion is immediately felt in the head.  The minutes later aftertaste is of berry syrup.  The mouthfeel is slightly vacuous and sandy, the lips barely sticky.

The eighth infusion starts with a more woody but shares room with a sweet burst of taste.  There is a rubbery fruity retuning sweetness.  The minutes long sweetness is almost candy like now like berry syrup but not overly powerful.  A rubbery feeling is left in the mouth.

The ninth infusion has a cinnamon pungent sweet onset that has berry tastes layer underneath.  The initial taste also has a melon taste in there as well.  The wood base taste comes slowly and fills part of the aftertaste.  The mouthfeel skirts dryness in the mouth.  The mid throat opens mildly to the aftertaste of fruits berries and wood.

The tenth and eleventh infusions starts lighter slight butter and fruit in the distance.  There are slight woody tastes things are a bit muted here.  Sluggish feeling in the thoughts and minds, I begin to feel sleepy.

The twelfth and thirteenth I add 30 or so seconds.  It kicks out more leathery woodys and faint syrupy sweet notes.  There are round fruit tastes in there and a significant cooling aftertaste.  There is a long lingering sticky rubbery almost fruit taste.  The qi feels real sleepy in the body- I feel like a nap but resist such suggestions.  The body qi is still a touch raw on the stomach as new puerh often is.

The fourteen I put to a long infusion a woody fruity rubbery taste emerges with a cool and woody rubbery fruit ending.  The rawness on the stomach is such that I don’t wish to push it any further.

I put this tea into a round of longer and overnight infusions and collect them all into one thermos.  The next day I drink some and am left with a very intense wild leaf fruity profile with edges of a sheng puerh woody taste and mild menthol cooling aftertaste.  I feel immediately tired and my mind slows.

OK, a confession of sorts… I really was expecting some crazy qi sensations something intense and otherworldly… I basically was expecting to turn into a dog dressed in Elizabethan era clothes and have musical clouds full of random sirloin tip steaks, empty cans, lotus flowers, and other random things play out of my head on the moon while I hallucinate about floating dog bones.  Nothing close to this ever happened with this tea experience… Maybe my hopes were just too high?… or maybe, just maybe, this tea really did pierce my illusion or at least expectation of what this tea is all about?

Overall, this tea has layers of sleepy qi in the mind and a medium to strong-ish head sensation.   I am not a big fan of sleepy qi in my puerh but for some people it is their favorite Qi effect- “the downer effect”.  This tea has a strong predisposition for this type of feeling and maybe it was specifically blended for this effect.

Some aspects of this tea’s taste and feeling reminds me of 2017 Spring Essence of Tea Nancai.   It would not surprise me if the puerh that was used in the blend was from Nancai.  Overall, this tea shares some characteristics of puerh and some of wild tea.  I would guess maybe it is close to 65% wild 35% puerh but it is hard for me to tell.


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