Bitterleaf Teas’ 2019 Big Old Ass Tree is a new sheng puerh made from teas in Hekai ranging from 100-800 years of age. I haven’t tried any puerhs from this region before and don’t really know what to expect, so instead of a big preamble let’s just get to it!
For a very quick side note, today is the last day of Bitterleaf’s anniversary sale – if you haven’t checked it out yet I strongly recommend you hop over to their site as soon as you’re done reading this!
The dry leaves have a pretty standard sheng smell with nothing unique or notable poking through. My sample looks to be from the beeng hole but still seems a bit looser compressed than normal and comes apart very easily in my hands. After a rinse, the wet leaves emit a distinct grape aroma. This is more of a bright white grape scent to me, as opposed to a muscatel, Darjeeling-esq one.
For this session I am using 3.85 grams of tea in my 55ml gaiwan, 90C water, and infusion times starting at 5 seconds and increasing by 5 each additional steeping.
Like the smell, Big Old Ass Tea has a clear and definite grape flavour. Under this is a slight bitter bite and white sugary sweetness that expands in the throat. The second infusion gains power and a mouth watering savoriness. The liquor leaves a thick coating on your teeth, cheeks, tongue and throat, with an almost NyQuil-like thickness. Infusion three sees another big jump in mouthfeel – this tea is T-H-I-C-K! The grape note moves to the background and I start to get a vegetal, grassy taste. I haven’t mentioned too many distinct notes here. This tea has the feeling of complexity, but it’s all melded together like a borscht that’s been sitting for a week. There is depth here, but it all feels like one cohesive unit.
Astringency starts to creep in as the grassy taste increases. Right as you swallow the liquor you get a strong mouth-puckering bitter hit that very quickly turns to sweetness. Not much changes during the mid section – vegetal notes fade out a bit and savoriness is up, but no new notes appear.
Bitterness has disappeared completely by the eighth infusion but Big Old Ass Tree remains sharp and crisp. At the tenth infusion the tea dives off a cliff and is very suddenly done. I scraped out one more infusion by steeping the leaves for about ten minutes, but this session came to an abrupt end.
Big Old Ass Tree has a big comforting feel to it that I really couldn’t get enough of. I didn’t get much of a caffeine buzz off of it which is perfect because this very much feels like a post work tea to me. Something to drink while wrapped in a blanket, watching crap TV and in that just right not-quite-awake-not-quite-sleeping blissful state. My only complaint would be how quickly the session came to an end, but depending on how you drink this may or may not be an issue. I’m curious how this tea will turn out with some more time, but for my taste this tea is at a great place to drink right now.