Yes, I blind caked this 2020 Essence of Tea Tian Men Shan GaoGan ($240.00 for 200g cake or $1.20/g) the day these were released. Let me tell you why….
First of all, this is the first time I actually caked one of the Essence of Tea brand fresh sheng puerh which is hard for me to even believe considering I’ve sampled it so widely throughout the years but specifically the first year they launched as well as recently with their 2017 and 2018 stuff. I tend to buy mainly their aged and semiaged and the pots. I probably feel the same as David, a bit defeated in the fact that this is only a 200g cake, a large sample really but a more accessible large sample than if this was a 400g cake. On the other hand it makes it available to others who couldn’t afford a larger cake. Either way, I hoped to throw support behind some of the puerh vendors I frequent this year and was excited about this year’s Essence of Tea line up. It was either sample the whole line up or go right in for a full cake sample.
It was very interesting to me that Shah8 had basically thesame take on this 2020 Essence of Tea Tian Men Shen GaoGan as me even before we tried it….
First, we both think it is probably underpriced just due to the fact it’s from Tian Men Shan, an area that has become really famous these days and usually sells for much much more than this 200g for $240.00.
Second, we therefore both conceded that if the price is true than it must not be the top of the Tian Men Shan area. I think David and Cathy have established themselves on their transparency on the location and the fact that their product was tested for Ago-chemicals- I don’t think you can really argue too much about that. Their long established brand identity hinges on these things which they would not put at risk.
I actually put some questions to Cathy and David before Shah8 published his near identical thoughts on why this would be a good cake to buy blind.
I basically asked them why the Tian Men Shan was so reasonable and how it compares to other Tian Men Shan. I think they wouldn’t mind me publishing the answers here… they basically said that they keep the mark up on their most expensive cakes low and that they hadn’t tried too much Tian Men Shan area puerh to compare. They had told me that they tried unsuccessfully to get some of this tea over the last 2 years but were unable to do so just as the description of this cake states on the website.
But now… here we are to sample Tian Men Shan….
The dry leaves smell of deep dense floral mushroom sweet forest. Yummy…
First infusion has a buttery woody onset and a bit musk forest taste. The mouthfeeling is full and almost tight. There is an early tug at the upper and mid throats. A faint pungent comes along with plum. The pungent faint coolness lingers in a musk forest almost wildflower faint breath.
The second infusion has a woody musk foresty onset that has this faint flat pungency and almost wild flower flat taste with a touch of faint green astringency that goes on for a while. The cold cups of liquor are a thick caramel. The mouthfeel is a thicker tighter tongue coating with a upper mid throat mild tugging. There is some early bodyfeelings in the neck and shoulder like a twitching buzzing feeling. The face feels heavy. The mind sedate.
The third infusion has a honey onset with slight bitter and musk forest taste. There is then a quick pop of honey wildflower almost overripe cantaloupe taste. There is a low pungent note at the starts at the onset and mildly touches the throat. The aftertaste develops a sticky feeling in the mouth and teeth. This is kind of interesting like a changing mouthfeeling in the profile from something more tight in the initial profile to something sticky and full even on the mouth roof in the aftertaste. The Qi strongly impacts the head with a wobbly dizzying feeling like being on a boat rocking back and forth at sea.
The fourth has a mild-moderate astringent musk and honey taste onset with a low laying very faint cooling. There is a pop for flat floral caramel honey before being trapped in the throat. There is a deep caramel reverberance in the returning taste that pairs with a musk forest type taste. The aftertaste holds in the mid throat as saliva is trapped in the mid-deep throat while taking away and drying the upper throat. I try to clear this glob of mid-deep throat saliva to moisten the subtle dryness of the upper throat to no avail. My face feels like its twitching, it is twitching from the bodyfeeling. The bodyfeeling in the face, head, neck and shoulders is strong. The Qi in the mind puts me in a deep daze. My heart and chest feel a subtle tightness. Strong Qi.
The fifth infusion has a deep honey, musk, seed, wildflower onset. There is a pop of something more highnoted that is quick and comes with a flash of mild bitterness where there is a low mild slow moving astringency from the onset deep into the aftertaste. This initial taste is not highnoted but more rich and deep tasting with suggestions of bogged down highnotedness but the flavor is quite wide and deep for such a fresh puerh. The throatfeeling is really engaging by restricting the upper throat captures a thick feeling in the mid throat. The Qi makes the face feel like it has something on it- like a pressure in the face and wet towel on the head with a deep wobbling dazed feeling. Aftertaste is trapped in the throat and slowly and intermittently releases a honey taste. Even many minutes later. This is a uniquely engaging puerh.
The sixth infusion has a fruity light hollow onset with heavier honey base with a pop and fade of caramel sweetness with faint musk rainforest in the distance. There is some woodiness and flat floral but the taste is overall deep lower to mid notes. The mouthfeeling is full and slight tight and in the aftertaste it has a drying effect on the gums, teeth, and roof of mouth. The upper throat is stimulated to capture saliva mid throat although that effect is less here in the 6th infusion. The face feels weird and simulated. The mind a bit dazed.
The seventh has a slight bitter onset that quickly leaves buttery honey taste that expands into a honey caramel candy taste. There is a bit more bitter up front which seems to push the sweetness more here as it turns from honey to caramel to almost ripe mango or overly ripe cloying melon to honey in the aftertaste. The throat is nicely simulated and the throatfeeling is entrapping the honey taste. My face is weird and I’m kind of in a stoned but still really alert state with mind slowly but visual sharpness. The Qi does a lot and is pretty strong especially the bodyfeeling. I feel in a weird haze.
The eighth infusion has a pop of highnote floral light sweetness followed by an almost mild mushroom taste then slowly evolves into a rich honey caramel and grains taste. The mouthfeeling is mild tightness and the throatfeeling is mid-throat entrapment. The aftertaste isn’t really long it’s more like a slight woody almost honey suggestion that isn’t that sweet now. The cool pungency seems to have left. The Qi shakes at the head and compresses the face and brow.
The ninth has that quick pop of high note floral that moves quickly into a honey cereal grains taste. The mouthfeel is mild tight but develops a sticky high pallet, gums, and teeth. The coolness is gone now and the sweet aftertaste is also gone with it. The throat no longer restrains the saliva. There is a overarching dry wood base. The taste profile has really narrowed now to something less exciting and dynamic. Qi has put me into this unusual stupor. With sensations on my face a heaviness of my neck and shoulders.
I go to a 20 second infusion in the 10th here and a more licorice slight bitter and more caramel sweetness comes at the onset the low pungent coolness is back and is most obvious mid profile with a lonely cereal grain taste. The throat entrapment taste is also back but the sweetness in the aftertaste is truncated to a cereal grain dry woodiness. The Qi is like a dizzying feeling and slow moving haze. I feel melty but strangely still functional.
The 11th 30 second infusion has a dry woody onset with suppressed weak high note trying to come of something before fading fast. The astringency is more here as is the bitter and it moves some caramel out in the mid profile that disappears quickly leaving dry wood. It has a mushroom kind of woodiness. The throatfeeling is stimulating but no longer entraps the saliva or any sweetness is returning. Just dry woody and mushroom after taste. The mouthfeeling is dry on the pallet, tongue, teeth. Big Qi continues to act on me. Minutes later I taste a sweet floral in the throat. I get a unusually surge of energy and giddy talkativeness from the Qi.
12th I go back to 20 second infusions because I’m basically just drinking for the qi now as the taste is pretty spent. Surprisingly the initial pop of high note wild floral is back and the taste has a light honey note to it subtle fruitiness. There is a undisturbed deep throat vibrancy now with a more sticky mouthfeeling and a touch hiding pungent coolness.
13th I put it into a 30 second steeping and it pushes out a pop of initial floral buttery almost mushroom sweetness. The sweet taste is long with the wave of pungency that can now go uninterrupted deep into the throat. There is a cool menthol breath and floral mushroom forest base taste. The Qi how starts to race the heart and give me an invigorating energy. I can feel it more in the limbs and chest now. Long floral aftertaste with pungent deep throat slight mushroom. Face pressure and tingling.
14th infusion is at 30 seconds again but comes out a floral mushroom woody taste with some underneath honey moss taste. There is a long cool pungent now which pushes light florals and mushroom across the breath and deep into the throat. The Qi makes me want to go out and do something different an inspiring feeling.
15th at 30 second pushes out a bit of a flat bitter woody taste with a underlying honey taste. There is a subtle nudge to floral high note early on but is muted by the bitter tart. The aftertaste is also mushroom woody faint cooling almost light honey taste. Motivating Qi here.
16th infusion 40 sec infusion but when I get back to it its cold cup and tastes like woody mushroom floral with a honey aftertaste and faint cooling. The throat is still open faint but mid-deep and the tongue sticky-dry.
17th infusion is 50 seconds it leaves us with a flat floral mushroom buttery taste with some coolness and floral sweetness trying to push through. The mouthfeeling is thin dry that transforms to stickier roof of mouth and gums. The Qi feels calming and motivating now. Less intense bodyfeeling and more mellow in body/ relaxing muscles feeling.
18th is a few mintues long infusion done by accident… the result is a bitter dry wood initial taste with some mushroom floral finish after subtle cooling. The taste of these last 3 infusions is pretty mellow. Still some faint returning florals.
I decide to throw in the towel with this one and let it mug steep for a long time…
Overall, this is a pretty interesting single origin Gushu puerh. It has a unique taste profile that changes quite a bit throughout the session. The mouthfeeling also evolves as you swallow which is also interesting. The throatfeeling is stimulating as well. The big reason why this puerh is really good is its big Qi sensation particularly the moderate intense body feeling and changing mental state which this puerh induces. The experience is overall a very engaging one. For that reason I really like the complex experience this puerh provides and feel that it would be quite difficult to experience anything similar for a lower price. I understand that $1.20/g is not cheap but I feel that the experience that it offers is worth much more.
I’m just going to try to attempt to explain what it is that the Qi does with this puerh and why it is pretty phenomenal…
First of all, strange and strong body sensation come on very quickly causing twitching, pressure, and release through the face, neck, and shoulders. Then the next infusions have a sensation of being rocked around, like you are shaking, and a pressure kind of starts to mount in your body. The whole experience is kind of disorienting but strangely focusing. Like you are in a daze but your brain has a clarity on a different wave. So as this happens there is increasing sensory overstimulation but concurrent deep relaxation. This pressure in the body and mind slowly and deeply builds then somewhere around the middle of the session (see 13th infusion above) there is like this enormous release and freedom and the pressure, heaviness, and twitching is gone. Like a sudden lifting from sensory disorganization and pressure valve release comes deep relaxing rejuvenation in the body and motivational energy…
All this for $240.00 for 200g…
After my first sampling of this blind cake sample, I go on to the Essence of Tea website and order a few more.
Recommended. Thanks David and Kathy for pressing this one for us.