Today I am going to do something I don’t usually do – write a review for a tea you can’t buy! In case missed it, White2Tea dropped their first batch of 2021 puerhs last week, and in the list of new teas I was surprised to see a 200 gram cake of The Thing Is. This sheng puerh is one that has been included as a small 50 gram cake for White2Tea’s tea club members, but up to now it has not been available for purchase. From the new 2021 productions, this is the only cake I have a past version of, so I wanted to check in and see how it’s doing.
Breaking the Cake
Like most little cakes, The Thing Is is heavily compressed, but I’d suspect the larger 200g cake would not be the same. The dry leaves have a dark sheng fruit scent, which turns into a bright peachy one after a rinse.
For this session I am using 3.8 grams of tea in my 55ml gaiwan, 100C water, and infusion times starting at five seconds and increasing by five each additional steeping.
Right off the hop, The Thing Is has a brothy, thick texture, the feeling is similar to chicken stew with dumplings. The aftertaste is herbaceous and minty, leaving your teeth feeling squeeky clean. This initial steeping has a great feeling of depth but no individual notes take centre stage and make themselves known. Infusion two has a very fast and powerful bitterness, that fades just as quickly and is replaced by a delicious sweetness and an astringency in the cheeks. The herby, sweet aftertaste extends and goes on for an insanely long time. The third steeping is one of mint, peach and apricot, with mint being the most forward note. Again, there is a big feeling of complexity here but the taste is so well melded together that it’s hard to pick out anything specific, it’s a big, wonderful wash. The aftertaste is matched with a menthol-y cooling sensation that’s fresh and alive feeling.
Infusions four through six gain notes of dark honey and the herbs become bitter – parsley, dandelion and still mint. The texture remains thick and stewy. The bitterness adds a punchiness that is gets up in your face, but the honey note takes over quickly so the tea remains friendly. While I don’t have much to say about this mid section, don’t take that to mean there isn’t much going on – there is. But in keeping with earlier infusions, the complexity is subtle and difficult to put into words.
Bitterness fades and is completely gone by infusion eight where an extremely distinct berry note comes into play. A strong blueberry taste is the most up front and one of strawberries moving in and out. The flavour is full, smooth, and it’s very easy drinking. The tea still feels powerful but lacking in the ‘oomph’ of earlier. The berry note transforms to fruits at the ninth infusion – dark, stewed fruits that make me think of mulled wine. This continues through the next couple steepings and I start to get hit with full body sweats. A slow wind down begins at the eleventh infusion and continues until the fourteenth.
The Thing Is is a fantastic drink. I don’t have the budget to run out and grab a new cake right now, but despite already having a few of these little ones from past years tea club, the new 200g cake is at the top of my to-buy list. It’s simultaneously soothing and exciting, fantastically deep without banging you over the head, and easy going with an edge. If past years productions are any indication of how this years will be, this is a solid buy.
For a second opinion on this cake or to read reviews on other years, I recommend heading over to the wonderful Oolong Owl blog. Char has done monthly reviews on most of the past White2Tea Tea Club offerings, so you can find her notes there. For your convenience, here are links to the 2018, 2019, and 2020 versions.