Today I am dipping into my 2020 dragon ball samples from Bitterleaf Teas and giving out their Bonbon raw puerh a try. This sheng is interesting to me as they say it’s their closest 2020 production to 2019’s Pretty, Pretty, Pretty Good, which is a puerh that I absolutely love (I’ll be getting back on my updates for that tea soon, promise!)
True to its name, Bonbon has a distinct candy-esq sweetness on the dry leaves. Something a bit out of the ordinary, maybe banana? Banana marshmallow? Candy remains after a rinse, along with notes of strawberry and saskatoon. Both the wet and dry leaf smell is remarkable and unlike anything else I’ve smelt on a sheng before.
For this session I am using one 8 gram dragon ball in my 120ml(ish) gaiwan, 90C water, and after a longer rinse to get things going infusions starting at five seconds and increasing by five each additional steeping.
My quick notes for the first infusion started with “What the hell is this?!” The taste is wonderful and bizarre, with a definite clear and defined note of banana, with sweetness and something almost yeasty – very banana bread-like. It reminds me of Crimson Lotus’ Rum Barrel shou, but this is something I don’t think I’ve ever experienced before in a sheng. It’s full body warming, comforting, smooth and easy. Makes me want to lay down and take a nap. A creamy texture and milky taste moves in for the second steeping and I get some notes of berry, making me think of a bowl of mixed berries with cream poured on top of it. Banana fades away at the third steeping and is replaced by a light floral note. Astringency begins to build but sweetness remains.
The fourth infusion is plain and simple, but comforting with great texture. Bittnerness creeps in at the fourth and fifth infusions, and the creamy texture gets stronger still. The main tasting notes move between bright berry, with strawberry still being the most distinct taste, and a more mellow floral taste. I didn’t take much notes here as there isn’t too much going on in terms of flavour changes, but it’s a very pleasing drink.
Bitterness busts through the sugary, candy sweetness at the seventh and eighth infusion providing some needed balance. As the liquor cools this intensifies and it almost verges on a sour, lemony vibe. At the ninth infusion my dragon ball has finally come completely apart. The aftertaste, which has previously been fairly quick, starts to shine here and becomes long lasting sweetness with berry notes. All top end starts to fade out and the tea goes pure cream with occasional darker floral bits popping out. This continued until the thirteenth infusion at which point I unfortunately had to get on my day and cut things short, but I think I could have got another two or three steepings out.
Bitterleaf Teas 2020 Bonbon hits a weird mark for me. It starts out unique but quickly turns to a taste that reminds me way more of a milk oolong than a sheng puerh. This isn’t a bad thing necessarily, and Bonbon is definitely very different from everything else in my pumidor, which is something I look for as my collection grows, but at the same time I feel like if I was craving a creamy and floral tea I would probably just reach for a milk oolong rather than sipping this one down. One thing I am curious about is how different a cake would be from the dragon ball that I tried. My ball was very tightly compressed and held together until almost the end of the session, which I’m sure has some effect, though I don’t know what that would be. No samples of this cake are available so I can’t easily just order a sample to try out, but the cakes are smaller 100 gram ones being sold for $29, so its not a large investment gamble on. I think the price per gram point is perfect for this tea and I have no trouble recommending it to anybody after this taste profile, but for me it’s not an clear purchase.