After a batch of samples from pu-erh.sk, let us slowly move over to finepuer (and sampletea), an establishment which looks very nice. Their sample prices (i.e., the ratio of sample price to the price of whole cake/tuocha) are excellent, compared to pretty much anyone else. For 10g, you won't pay much more than simply cost_of_the_cake*10/weight_of_the_cake.
Is the quality of their tea good, however? Now, I can not say for sure yet, but based on several tastings and smelling of most of the samples, it seems that finepuer&sampletea will become a member of My favourite vendors club.
I received three of such flat boxes of samples, each containing 12 pieces:
Expecting ordinary sample bags, I was astonished by the supercute little boxes waiting inside:
Is the packaging practical too? I believe so. The paper boxes are sealed in plastic, then there is the box itself and the tea is in another thick plastic bag inside the box.
When you look at the sampletea website, you will see how tippy this tea is. Indeed, my sample is similarly heavy on tips:
The dry leaves smell of meadow flowers and fruit, very pleasant.
Steeped leaves smell better - complex, the sweetness, well mixed with garden fruit. There is a particularly strong "aftersmell" of meadow honey. Now I feel that if the tea tastes similarly and feels good enough, it might be a real hit.
The liquor of the first steeping smells of ripe garden fruit, a bit of longan and a bit of camphor. The taste is pretty much great even in the first steeping. Honey and ripe garden ripe are in basically perfect harmony. Towards the end of the taste, sweet dry wood appears. However, even the dry wood is silky and pleasant.
Even though the liquor feels (and is) thick and sweet, the actual taste is very intense and pronounced.
The second steeping gives stronger taste, which is similar in character to the first steeping. When one oversteeps the tea, certain hongcha tones appear. I do not mind them, but I prefer to keep the liquor a bit lighter:
Luckily, the cooling and tingling feeling does come in the second steeping and stays with me for many more steepings to come.
The aftertaste is long and quite complex and transforming - it's like dancing fireflies - so much fun to look (taste) at. It is complemented by nice hui gan.
With time, the fruitiness and honey taste gets weaker and the wood becomes stronger. That is why I thought, when around 4-6th steepings, that the tea is not really a top piece. Then I realize that it is simply the effect of perfect-ish first two steepings and that the tea is still lovely. Not as complex as great Yiwu or Bulang, but it is different and also very pleasant. When I realized its undoubted qualities again (and reading a haiku about whales singing in the morning), I thought:
Whales sing in Japan,
tea tray glitters here,
I am happy too.
What was very important to me was the good mouthfeel which lasted until the last steeping I have had. Not that many teas can do that. Also, when I smelled the wet leaves that I left in a container overnight, there was no smell at all - the tea has apparently captivated me enough so I squeezed every bit of taste out of it.
cools like a whale
that goes down.
The wet leaves are quite unbroken and in good shape, considering this is a 2003 tea:
I really liked this tea and I guess I will buy a bowl if it is available. For me, the tea does not have any real flaw, while its taste is a refreshing mix of already known tastes which works very well. I was afraid of its tippy nature slightly, but I do not think that the tips would behave impropertly. The extra fruitiness that they give to the tea does not overwhelm the rest, nor makes the tea weak overall. If I count correctly, this tea costs about $110 per 400g which is a sound price in my opinion.
I wonder whether all these recent "boring" pine&citrus Badas will age into such a tea as this one. If so, another thing is whether they would age so well here in CR too. I guess that I will never know - after all, there is little reason why they should.