This was a difficult tea for me. Not because I didn’t enjoy it – at least in a case like that, I would have a clear-cut opinion – but just that I had trouble figuring out what made it stand out.
I’m gonna go on a small rant, but just skip this paragraph if you’re only interested in the tea rather than the tea reviewer (which is very understandable). I think that there are a lot of exceptional teas, and there are a lot of seasoned tea-tasting veterans who are great at their job. I also think though, there’s a lot of pressure to review teas with obnoxious flavors and qualities attached to them. Watching some high-production video, you never hear “yep. tastes like grass. mmmhm. Tasty grass though!”. It’s gonna be “MHMhMMhmhM wEELL IF thSi doeSNT remMId me of soMe HONEysucKLE i hAd when i wAS fOUR YeaRS olLD, ANd C A M P H O R . The point here is, lots of great, or at least positively neutral, teas I try don’t have any obvious (to me) flavors that jump out, and that makes reviewing them a real challenge. Sure I enjoy this tea, but why? Balance? Balance doesn’t sound really thrilling. Honeysuckle does though. This is only such a problem because I get 3 tries to “get it right” and document why I like/dislike a tea, and for what reasons, when ordering from the standard 25g tea packet. Some sessions I get lost in, forgetting to document and just enjoying my time, or checking my phone. Maybe this is a user issue that will be refined with time. Anyway, this tea had me hung up on that very issue for a while. It’s a good tea! But nothing really jumped out. Thankfully I brewed harder on my 3rd attempt, and quickly awoke the qi that I had read about pertaining to this tea. Somewhat ironically, this left me off doing things completely unrelated to the tea past steep 2, but I got what I needed from it.
/Disclaimer: This tea’s store page description, and other things I’ve heard about it, allude much to the qi (“lifeforce”, body / spirit of the tea in relation to your body and mind, more than just taste) than the importance of it’s taste. Unfortunately, I only got the qi only on my third and final trial of this tea. This said, I’ll do my best to do both the taste and qi justice./
The first steep acted more as insight to what the tea would eventually become, as opposed to a defining steep. The tea developed flavors like light vegetation, lingering sweetness, and small amounts of bitterness.
Steep 2 brought everything this tea has to the table taste-wise, and body-wise followed quickly after: Both Steal Boats and Meet Halfway is thick-bodied, with an astringent vegetal character that attacks the tongue sides and throat, while a sweet part of the viscous soup – which I can only describe as delightful – attacks the very tip of the tongue, as hints of smoke go down with the swallow. Other steeps deconstructed this one slowly, but I personally think the best of this tea lies after steep 1 and before steep 6, likely between 2 and 4.
Into steep 3, the bitterness began to fluctuate, while the vegetal astringency continued as an established part of the flavor. The sweetness in the linger also began to ramp up past this point. In addition, the head feelings of this tea became extremely present; the mind-feel this tea gives is one that is only realized past the point of no return. After finishing steep 2, I found myself with lots of mental energy, but also with a strange head-based disassociation with my surroundings. I wish I had documented the feeling more, but it can be best summed up simply with the word powerful.
As the steeps progressed, the tea followed a similar path to many other young shengs: the astringency stuck around for a while, the bitter lower half dropped out, and the sweetness prevailed by double-digit steeps. But this was not a mediocre tea. It isn’t exactly a joy to drink for any one reason, save maybe hard-hitting qi, but is a pleasure to drink for a multitude of humble reasons. This tea carries all of the best attributes that a young sheng with aged material mixed in can carry; no aggressive flavors, full body, an above-mediocre progression, and a wild trip in the head. A tea I wouldn’t save as the last at a party, but one I’d be thrilled to present midway / late in.
This wraps around to the conclusion: this cake (200g) is $85. Depending on where you sit with money or personal experience, this could raise some eyebrows. Do you need to spend almost $100 to get a well-balanced cake? No, and it might be overpriced if that’s all it offered. The sort of place that this tea puts the mind in however, hits – if not significantly hits – above its price. I’ve experienced similar mind-moving brews at price points $40 more, which is nearly +50% this cake’s value. Presenting itself as a well-rounded blend, only hitting 100% in head-feel, this cake is a great price. Overall, an incredibly pleasant taste, paired with a surprisingly strong mental side, makes this a great tea to keep around for anytime you can afford it proper attention.
7g / 100ml
100c (boiling) water
Steep time = 5x seconds, where x = steep number