|"The liquor darkened to a robust cherry infusion with an earthy-nutty nose, quite similar to genmaicha but without the "suck" factor."|
A little digging through the sea of Google turned up a bit more. Other "Sticky Rice" Pu-erhs were blended with an Chinese herb called "Nuomixiang", which gave it the extra taste and smell. The herb is left to sit with the tea leaves for months until a flavor exchange occurs, much like the jasmine-scenting process. I figured that's what I was dealing with here.
The first thing to make note of was the aroma; boy, this smelled good. I even prepared myself for what I thought would be a fishy smell - like other shou tuochas - but this smelled like it's name. Along with the natural woody/earthy character of the compressed leaves, I smelled rice. White rice - to be precise - by way of fresh hamster cage bedding. (Yes, that smells good. Shut up.) I was impressed.
Brewing instructions were what I would expect for a pu-erh; gaiwan or yixing potted steeps of twenty or fifty seconds, four different infusions. They also mentioned it could infuse up to nine times. I didn't have either instrument, so I went with something a little different; 1 bowl in a 16oz steeper mug infused in boiling water for a fifty seconds, repeated with two twenty-second steeps, and a third thirty. Like their sommelier recommendations but with normal cups. I figured that was good enough. Of course, beforehand, I did a ten-second pre-wash.
Fifty Seconds: The liquor darkened to a robust cherry infusion with an earthy-nutty nose, quite similar to genmaicha but without the "suck" factor. The taste was fresh and surprisingly floral on the forefront, settling into an uncooked pasta flavor in the middle with a smooth finish. I have nothing else to really compare it to.
Twenty Seconds: Umber infusion, nuttier steam aroma, and a more rice-like taste. However, I thought I noticed a citrus hint toward the end.
Twenty Seconds: Red-gold infusion, middling nutty aroma, and a very fruity taste similar to a two-year-old sheng. Quite liked it.
Thirty Seconds: Amber infusion, faint nutty/floral aroma, and a woody flavor similar to dandelion root.
Conclusion? Man, I wish I had a gaiwan. It probably would've made this process a heck of a lot easier. That said, this was the single best shou pu-erh I've ever tried. Robust and ball-busting, oh yes, but it also had a fair amount of nuance to back it up. This would be the tuocha I hand to friends as an intro to pu-erh.
— To purchase Tao Tea Leaf Rice Pu-Er Tuo Cha (Shou), or for more specific information on ingredients or the story behind this particular tea, click here to go directly to the manufacturer's web site.
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