Welcome to my fifth monthly check in on Bitterleaf Teas’ Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good! This cake was pressed on May 2, so it has now passed the six month mark of life. Through my last five months of tasting this tea I feel like it hasn’t gone through any drastic changes. In my head it has been decently reliable and remains true to how it was during my first tasting, but it very well could be that I let enough time pass between tastings that I forget or trick myself. Once I’m done my session I’ll go back to my first review and see how it compares.
Breaking the Cake
Neither the dry or wet leaves have an aroma at all. Weather has been pretty crazy here for the last while but is consistently pretty cool now, so maybe this is having an effect on my tea. If I really search I can get a bit of apricot and a little bit of floral qualities from the rinsed leaves, but it’s a stretch.
For this session I am using 3.85 grams of tea in my 55ml gaiwan, 90C water, and infusions starting at five seconds and increasing by five each steeping, after one quick rinse.
Infusion one is creamy, bright and citrus-y, with a thick oily mouthfeel. The aftertaste comes on quickly and is already quite long lasting. The second has a bitter bite, a crisp apple-like note and a bit of grassy-ness. Astringency builds in your mouth long after your last sip, growing to a pretty high level. Infusion three is thick and juicy with no more brighter citrus or apple notes, just a nice raisin taste.
Infusion four is bright, bitter and astringent. It’s not rip your face off bitter, but gives you a solid slap. There is no smokiness in this puerh, but right now it grabs you in the back of the throat like a smokey sheng does. It’s hard to focus and pick out notes through the bitterness, but I am getting a bit of cherry and sour crab apple. Infusion five takes a medicinal and herby turn, with a bit of menthol-ish feeling as you breathe out. For the sixth infusion, all harsh aspects have vanished and with them out of the way you can focus on the depth this tea offers. There are many layers to explore here and they all move around as you hold the liquor in your mouth. Strong cherry, more of a medicinal note, huge white sugar sweetness, light oak, and a bit of moss.
Both the body and flavour are absolutely massive for the seventh and eighth infusions. No new notes pop up, there is just simply more of everything. The ninth infusion takes a huge nose dive, tasting like a sweet water with a vague fruity taste. The tenth steeping is the same and for normal drinking I would have ended it here. It’s been a pretty hectic week and I want to extend my session, so I really gave it the berries for a couple more steepings – full boil and a five minute infusion followed by a ten minute one. I was able to get a little bit more life out this way, but it’s a stretch.
Looking back at my first tasting of this tea now, it seems my initial thoughts were right – the meat of this tea hasn’t changed all that much over the last five months. From session to session some notes are stronger or weaker, but overall this is probably one of the most stable puerhs I’ve purchased this year. On the one hand this is a bit disappointing to me, as it doesn’t make for the most interesting of reads over and over, but on the other hand it sort of accomplishes what I want it to. Puerh (to me, at least) can be unpredictable. Some cakes I picked up are completely unrecognizable when I taste them and look back on my old notes. Others remain virtually unchanged. I honestly have no idea why this is, but hope it’s something I can learn with experience.