A brilliant wild growing dark tea with a smooth and lingering wood taste.
This was the very first dark tea I ever tried, and I remember thinking "why does this smell like wood and dirt? Is that normal?" So I suppose this tea is partially to blame for my current obsession with shou cha. These leaves originate from the Ha Giang province in northern Vietnam, which borders the southern edge of Wenshan prefecture, Yunnan.
Dry leaves - The aroma coming off of these leaves is quite pungent. It's primarily woody, hickory and oak to my nose, and slightly medicinal. There is just a hint of smoke there as well, almost like a wood fire grill. They are pretty small and broken into fragments, not CTC grade or anything, but smaller than most tea leaves.
Brewing parameters - 212F, <10s steeps at first, adjust accordingly thereafter. I treated this like a normal puer, and it does just fine that way. Longer steep times work just as well, but you get fewer infusions.
Tasting notes - Dry hardwoods, cedar, vanilla, cinnamon
This is certainly a woody-tasting tea. I can't really pin down a specific hardwood, it's more of a blend of many different types, though I think hickory and walnut are the most prominent. I can detect a hint of spicy cedar as well, but it's primarily a hardwood-esque taste. The short steeps times seem to work very well too and the soup is plenty strong for my tastes. The woodiness is definitely not akin to fresh woods, but it's a bit more pungent than just dried wood. Something like a mildly-roasted not-completely-burnt-yet hardwood charcoal. I have no idea if that makes sense or not, so just go with it.
After a couple steeps, it really starts getting good. The woodiness mellows out significantly and notes of vanilla and cinnamon begin to take hold. A very slight sweetness starts to poke around as well, but it's still a very savory flavor.
Steep #5 and onward were my favorites of the bunch. The vanilla notes really take hold here and balance out the savory taste of the wood. It's certainly not like a thick, sweet shou, but it does have a very mellow tinge of sugar that really enhances the overall flavor.
This one is highly recommended as a dark tea from a more unusual source. It's not your typical fermented tea by any means, and is certainly worth your time if you like to explore the different locations that produce tea.
You can buy this from What-Cha here: http://what-cha.com/dark-tea/vietnam-2007-wild-dark-forest-ripe-dark-tea/