Thursday, October 1, 2015

What-Cha's Laos 2014 Chawangpu Ban Payasi Raw Dark Tea

What-Cha's Description
A "puerh-like" raw dark tea from Ban Payasi Village in the Laos region of Phongsaly which borders Yiwu in Yunnan. The tea possesses a floral quality with lemon notes and has a bitter-sweet quality.

My thoughts
While this is a sheng puerh, it can't officially be called a puerh due to regional issues. According to What-Cha, Phongsaly province in Laos was once part of China, but was given to Laos with a treaty in 1895. Since any post-fermented tea must originate in Yunnan in order to be called a puerh, and this one doesn't, it cannot be called a puerh. Hence, it is a "raw dark tea".

I honestly wasn't real sure what to expect from this tea. I've had all kinds of young shengs, but with this one being from outside of China, I didn't know if it would be just another sheng, or something entirely different. But hey, the surprise of new teas is half the fun.

Dry leaves - The leaves smell much like I expect from a raw dark tea, with a vegetal pungency being the primary aroma, but there is a definite lemony component here that sets this apart from a typical sheng. The leaves are not pressed tightly and break apart quite easily.

Brewing parameters - 212F, 10s rinse, <10s steeps at first, adjust accordingly as needed.

Tasting notes - Smooth, sweet, kuwei bitterness, lemon peel, lemon blossom

Steeps 1-4: The very first thing I noticed about this tea is how incredibly smooth it is. With young shengs, I've come to expect a fairly aggressive astringency, but there is no trace of dryness at all here. The lemony aspect of the aroma has carried over nicely to the broth, with a sweet lemon peel flavor taking the lead, followed by a mild kuwei bitterness and a wonderful lingering lemon blossom floral finish. This is a much less belligerent tea than I expected. These steeps were all very quick, mostly under 5 seconds.

Steeps 5-8: If it was possible for this tea to get smoother, then it definitely has. With each sip, the smoothness really throws me off. I mean, it smells like a young sheng, but there is really no detectable astringency. The soup has gotten even sweeter than it was earlier, and the lemony flavors are quite noticeable. It still has a mild bitterness about it, but it's mostly a sweet lemony tea. I'm not always a fan of citrusy teas, but this one works very well. These steeps were between 10-30 seconds.

Steeps 9-10: The bitterness is entirely gone now, and it almost tastes like a sweetened lemonade. The floral aspect has faded somewhat as well, leaving me with a smooth, sweet lemon-flavored brew. I could have pulled several more steeps from these leaves, but I had to go to sleep. These steeps were 30-90 seconds)

If you want a raw "puerh" that is good to drink now, this is a winner for you. This probably wouldn't be the best candidate for aging though. In my experience, if a young sheng slaps you in the face and punches you in the nads now, it'll be a much calmer, more delicious tea a few years down the road. Since this tea is a gentle lover right now, I'm guessing it probably will lose most of the good stuff in a few years. This is only speculation of course. I would love for someone 10 years down the road to prove me wrong.

You can buy this tea from What-Cha here:

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