Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Denong Tea: 2016 Denong Commemorative Raw Pu-erh, A Tea Review

Well, other than a futon, installing shelves into my curio cabinet (one day that will get done) and maybe a nice rug, my tea room is done! I christened it by painting for the first time in months, I still desperately need new painting supplies, but I have enough to fiddle around still. It feels so good to have my own space, specifically have space that has SPACE, my bedroom was so cramped, now I actually have floor space which is awesome. Plus I only messed my back and hips up a little from moving furniture, which is astounding for me, usually I mess myself up bad because I can't every wait for help.

Today I am looking at an early spring 2016 Sheng from Denong Tea, their 2016 Denong Commemorative Raw Pu-erh, made from Xishuangbanna material. I have come to really enjoy their teas I have tried, especially the ones from Xishuangbanna, so I was excited to sink my teeth (tea-th?) into this tea. Of course the description says the tea will only improve with age, so really this is like the preview before the movie, and with Puerh I always find having a preview before the main event is just the best, because this is not a type of tea you just buy on a whim, usually it is an investment in both money and time. So, let us see what this tea has to offer! The aroma of the dry leaf had a surprising amount going on, wet hay, a touch of camphor, savory and buttery undertones, bok choy, and my favorite part, the distinct note of rained on peonies. Not just normal peony flowers, but ones that are rained on, bringing out more of the bruised flower and mineral note. It just might be the most floral Sheng I have run into, and to pick one of my favorite flowers to smell like made for a very enjoyable sniffing session.

Into my baby gaiwan the leaves go for their rinse and first steep, the aroma is still pretty potent! Notes of orchid, peony and distant wildflowers blend with watercress, bok choy and tomatoes. It is both savory and floral, which is fun combination, like having a meal next to a bouquet of flowers, and that is classy. The aroma of the liquid is more on the savory side, with bok choy and tomatoes with a hint of cedar wood and distant orchids...like you are at the same table but someone wandered off with the arrangement and left you with the ghost of a smell.

So this is my kind of Sheng, it is light and sweet and for the first three steeps there is no bitterness at all. I know the hardcore Pu-heads like that bitterness, not me though, it almost always reminds me too much of beer and there are few things in life I loathe more than the taste of beer. Luckily for me I don't have to worry about it, I can just sit back and enjoy the sweet notes of peony nectar, the savory bok choy and watercress, and the touch of cedar wood that pops up towards the end of the third steep. The mouthfeel starts out light, but by the end of the mouth it is smooth and pleasantly cooling, later steeps bring in a subtle thickness that accents rather than distracts from the delicate taste.

The middle three steeps pick up a bit of bitterness, it is more the bitterness of romaine lettuce than hops so I am perfectly ok with that. Can I just take a moment to be amused how some bitter tastes I actively seek out and others make me convulse with disgust? Taste preferences are so weird, I find myself wondering often what causes such contrasting reactions in what is really a small difference. Anyway, tangent for a different time, for now this tea is the focus! The cedar notes from the end of the first part of this session becomes stronger, as does the cooler sensation in my belly. This tea really starts to bloom around steep four, as in it starts to become quite floral, the delicate peony nectar notes intensifies as does the sweetness, and that sweetness just lingers for ever. I had to run an errand between steeps six and seven, and I swear I could still taste that lingering sweetness a good hour later.

The leaves have really fluffed up in these later steeps, barely fitting in my gaiwan, and the golden liquid looks like sunlight, which matches the nectar sweetness really well I think. Mostly here are the end the taste is sweet, peony nectar and a gentle buttery bok choy note with subtle mineral notes. The mouthfeel continues to be smooth and gentle cooling, and the sweet aftertaste continues to linger. This was a really enjoyable tea, not one that was epiphany inducing, but still one that I found very tasty and especially enjoyed the floral notes.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

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