Today I am drinking Zheng Si Long’s 2016 Ge Deng sheng puerh, which came to me as a free sample from Tea Encounter. I really like what Tiago has written for the product description over on the Tea Encounter site. “After drinking this tea for 3 days in a row and trying to find the best way to describe it, I reached a conclusion: I rather like Ge Dengs!” I’ve drank my fair share of teas that I enjoyed through and through but had a hard time articulating why, so I can definitely appreciate giving a very quick note and following it up with something saying “Just try it. It’s good.”
The dry leaves seem loosely compressed and come apart easily in my hand. They have a strong aroma to them that jumps out at you as soon as you open up the sample bag. There is a solid earthiness with a good amount of fruit behind it, and it smells all around quite lively. After giving the leaves a quick rinse I get bright plum and cranberry. It’s strong, intense, and delicious smelling. Oddly, the rinse liquor smells an awful lot like shou! I gave it a sip and the taste does not line up at all with the shou-y aroma, but there’s a definite funk to the smell.
For this session I am using 3.8 grams of tea in my 55ml gaiwan, 90C water, and infusion times starting at five seconds and increasing by five each additional steeping.
Ge Deng starts out light and soft while still being full flavoured. The first infusion doesn’t have any clear notes, just some fruitiness and earthy tones that line up with the earlier aromas. The second infusion sees some clarity in the fruitiness, as notes of plum and pear make themselves know. I am also getting a bit of medicinal and mineral notes, followed by a great cooling sensation and a long, sweet aftertaste. Infusion three has a more full and well rounded taste, with a touch of bitterness and astringency.
I haven’t had too many Zheng Si Long productions yet, but from my experience I go into them thinking there will be a good bite. So far this tea is lacking that edge I was expecting – this tea is the smoothest and most mellow I have had from Zheng Si Long to date.
A woody, bark-like note moves to the forefront and the fruit notes move entirely to the aftertaste. I thought the fruit notes had entirely disappeared until a few minutes after finishing off a cup when I swallowed again and got hit by a second wave of flavour. No new notes come in at infusion five, just an increase in aftertaste and the mouthfeel starts to flesh out. I’m really taking note of the smoothness here, this tea goes down easy. During the sixth steeping the up front taste drops off a bit then comes storming back in for the finish. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a tea where the aftertaste is stronger than the initial one – it’s a very interesting sensation. A playful astringency comes in now that sorta pokes at you for your attention instead of standing up and demanding it.
Sweetness is up for the seventh infusion and is joined by a light mossy-ness. The eighth has a return of the mineral notes, while the ninth is entirely fruit. Through these late steeps I start to notice a light perfume-like aroma, though this doesn’t come through in the taste. Flavour declines rapidly from the tenth through twelfth infusions, but the aftertaste remains strong. The next couple of infusions experience a decline in the aftertaste and I wrap my session at infusion fourteen.
I don’t have a scale on how I rank teas, but if I did this one would fall somewhere between “really, really really like” and “love to death.” It’s such an easy to drink puerh but it has some unique qualities that also make it interesting. I think this tea would give you a rewarding session whether you’re drinking it mindlessly while doing something else or giving it your full attention. In my opinion, it’s hard to find a puerh that is suited to both. The cake works out to about $0.50 Canadian per gram and I think that’s a completely fair price for what you’re getting. I’m a bit of a baby when it comes to buying full sized 357 gram cakes so I won’t be grabbing one of these immediately, but it’s going on my list of teas titled “BUY THIS BEFORE IT GOES UP IN PRICE AND YOU CAN’T AFFORD IT, DUMMY!”