|"In cases like these, I'm okay with being proven wrong."|
The dry presentation for this was quite surprising. Even in loose leaf form, a shou pu-erh will still have the appearance of blackened, stringed-out rabbit pellets. This was light in color - different shades of beautiful brown - and possessed an actual earthy aroma. Not a low-quality "earth-fish" smell. All in all - by look alone - it reminded me of a normal, clean black tea.
Brewing instructions on the Mark T. Wendell site called for a two-to-five-minute steep in water brought to a rolling boil. With a normal black tea I'd probably err on the side of light and go with two-to-three minutes; a normal cooked pu-erh, four minutes or so. I decided to use my usual black tea approach with this due to its color to see if that would yield a positive result.
The infusion darkened to a cherry-copper liquor with an aroma I could only liken to new planting soil. I know, that doesn't sound very appetizing, but I rather liked the smell. The flavor had some of the trappings of cooked pu-erh - an initial feeling of "dirt" on the foretaste - but transitioned into something with a more woodsy texture; tree flowers, maybe. And I was pleasantly surprised by a slight sweet touch toward the end.
A second infusion at an undetermined steep time actually resulted in a sweeter cup. It was less earthy, more woodsy, but had a smoother delivery all around. I think this finally convinced me that loose shou pu-erh could be quite good. In cases like these, I'm okay with being proven wrong.
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