Whispering Pines’ 2016 Silver Fox is the companies first (and only) sheng puerh and it was pressed in a small quantity for their fifth anniversary. They are mostly known for their shou puerh and black tea, but as sheng is what I drink the most of I figured I would pick up a cake and see what I think. I asked Brenden at Whispering Pines if he plans to press more sheng in the future and the answer was yes, but likely not too often.
Breaking the cake
Generally I’m not a big fan of 100 gram cakes as I find them difficult to work with. They are usually fairly tightly compressed and are just all around a bit of a hassle to me. This cake is no exception. I managed to get off a small 1.75 gram piece and the rest was just loose. The dry cake has almost no scent to it at all, just a faint earthiness is all I am really getting. After a quick rinse the wet leaves actually smell really nice. Very bright and crisp with notes of apricot, hay and a strong floral base.
I am using 4 grams of tea in my 55ml gaiwan, 90°C water with infusions starting at 5 seconds and increasing by 5 each time.
The first infusion doesn’t have much flavour yet, but I’m immediately taken with the texture. It’s very thick and syrupy, and leaves an oil-like coating all over your mouth. The aftertaste is a mix of hay and honey, and it lingers for a very long time. The flavour does build through the second and third infusions, but this seems to be a lighter and more mild tea all around. Despite being a bit subdued, there is actually a pretty wide spectrum of flavours here. Damp wood, moss, green beans, hay, grape and a bright citrus flavour are the main notes. All of these flavours are well balanced with no one in particular hogging the limelight.
The mouthfeel has started to thin out here, but the flavour is becoming deeper and stronger. The citrus, grape and hay notes are mostly gone and the bean, moss and damp wood flavours are much more up front. That apricot smell on the damp leaves is coming through in the taste now and as infusion time increases I’m starting to pick up a little smokiness.
The flavour peaked at the sixth infusion and starts to decline, during the seventh and eight, slowly at first then pretty rapidly for the ninth and tenth. The general profile stayed the same from the sixth through to the end, just gradually fading though the last infusions, so I don’t have much new to comment on here.
Silver Fox was a nice surprise for me. Whispering Pines is not widely known as a sheng supplier. For a cake on the cheaper end of the scale, it turned out to be a very easy drinking. I’m going to go ahead and label this as all around pleasing tea with a great mouthfeel and a good amount of complexity. My only complaint is that it is a pretty short lived session. While it starts out complex the interesting parts fade out quickly and the rest isn’t too far behind. But I think expectations should be checked – at $17 for a 100g cake I think this is a really good performer and I look forward to trying it again down the line.