Bitterleaf Teas’ 2018 WMD is an unblended raw puerh made of all gushu material from Mansa. The cake comes out to just under $1 USD per gram, so this is a good deal more pricey than the normal puerhs I drink, and I’m really looking forward to see how it performs.
Before going on, I should say that this came to me as a free sample from Bitterleaf, but was a “good customer service” free sample and not sent with the intention of being reviewed. I was looking at ordering a cake and had it narrowed down to one of three cakes so I messaged Jonah at Bitterleaf to see if one was a stand-out winner between what I was looking at. I ended up buying 2017’s Secret Garden (reviewed here) and was very pleasantly surprised to open up my package and see that in addition to the Secret Garden cake they had also included free samples of the other two I had asked about. So, thank you to Jonah and Coomi for being awesome!
The wet leaves of WMD have a beautiful aroma, but it’s not too far off from what I would expect from a nice sheng. Dry hay, plum and crisp apple are the main notes here. It’s hard to fully judge by the sample, but I think this cake would be loosely compressed, and it’s mostly apart after the rinse.
I am using 3.8 grams of tea in my 55ml gaiwan and am brewing with 90C water. After a quick rinse I am starting with my normal 5 second steeping, and increasing by 5 each additional infusion.
WMD sips in full flavoured and thick from the very first infusion. The taste is pure, sweet, juicy dark fruits. Raisin is the first taste that stands out to me, but it is distinctively large plump raisins, not those shrivelled up ones that come in a cardboard box. Over ripe plum and big dried prunes come in next after that and there is the occasional pear note. The general flavours are fairly common to most of the shengs I like to drink so I want to stress that they really shine here. The taste is mostly sweet but there is a little bit of tartness to balance it out. Overall, I would say this is a very full and fresh tasting sheng. The texture is just something else. Thick and oily, it covers your whole mouth and throat. It leaves your mouth watering for minutes after your last sip and theres a building astringency that slowly sucks the moisture out of your cheeks.
The taste to me is moving here a bit from the deeper tastes of ripe purple fruits to a brighter area. Crab apple, green grapes, and an increase in the pear taste from earlier infusions. The tea is still smooth but it’s gaining a bitter kick to it and is becoming more tart and sour. To me, these are all positive notes and I’m loving it, but it should be noted if you don’t like bitterness in your tea then you probably won’t like the middle section from WMD. The mouthfeel hasn’t thickened up but it certainly hasn’t thinned out either. It’s still thick and oily and still coats your mouth for what feels like forever.
I grouped the middle section as infusions 4-7 because the 8th infusion was where the tea took a turn and lost all of the harsher notes. From the beginning of this section to the end it’s just silky smooth. The flavour has returned to more of the darker fruit notes from the beginning of the session with some added in damp wood taste and maybe a very little bit of peatiness in the very back. The tea very suddenly and drastically thinned out at the 9th infusion and flavour started to go shortly after, but that was much more gradual. To prolong ending my session I did two very long infusions for the 15th and 16th, but I think it’s fair to say the tea was mostly done at the 14th.
Alright, so here is the kicker. 2018 WMD with the current exchange rate goes for $127.56 Canadian for a 100 gram cake. That’s nothing to sneeze at. But… my session used 3.8 grams of tea, so the session ran me $4.86. I went through just under a litre of water and the session took me about an hour and a half. For the enjoyment I got out of it for the last hour and a half, do I think it was worth $4.86? Yes. Absolutely. No questions asked. I could go to Starbucks and pay twice that for a smaller drink that I would enjoy infinitely less. Going to the movie theatre costs three times that price. If I was given the option of going to the movies or having three sessions with this tea again – I am going for WMD with no reservations. Are these comparisons sort of meaningless and just me trying to justify a potential future purchase to myself and make it seem not so bad? Sadly, yes. At the price I think this is the kind of cake that I would have a really hard time buying for myself, but I’ll be putting it on every birthday, anniversary or Christmas wish list until it appears at my door.
So if you can’t tell, I really love this tea. My only hangup in recommending it to everybody would be the middle steeps where it gets a little bit hairy in the bitter and sour departments. For me the session was 100% enjoyable all the way through but I could see some people being off-put by the harsher infusions.