Tea Urchin’s Autumn 2011 Gua Feng Zhai

I’ve decided that one of my goals for this tea blog will be to review White2Tea, Crimson Lotus Tea, and Yunnan Sourcing teas very very little. That doesn’t mean that I’ll never review these vendor’s teas, but I’ll make it a practice to do it sparingly. I’m sure many of you will agree with me when I say that in the puerh realm, these three vendors receive the most attention on social media when compared to other vendors. I love all three of those vendors, and I drink a good amount of their tea. I simply feel as though reviewing their teas would be beating a dead horse at this point. I do feel as though there are other puerh vendors on the market that provide teas of equal quality that receive much less attention than these three. Hear me when I say that these three vendors have earned their reputations for a reason, and I think they’re phenomenal. Sometimes the spotlight just needs to be pointed elsewhere so that newcomers to the community are aware of the diversity of their buying options. The Puerh Tea Club on Facebook (if you’re not already a member, you should join) is much better about discussing a diversity of vendors than Reddit, though many of the teas mentioned in that club are not readily available to us lowly Westerners. I’m curious to hear from all of you and would appreciate commentary on this question: Do you feel as though White2Tea, Crimson Lotus Tea, and Yunnan Sourcing are mentioned the most on tea forums, and if so is that how it should be?

Another goal I have for this blog is to unashamedly post reviews of teas that I didn’t enjoy, and be very straightforward about my feelings towards the teas I review.

I’m excited to write my first tea review on Tea Urchin’s Gua Feng Zhai 2011 Autumn, because it’s a favorite of mine and changed my perspective on Autumn harvested teas. Not to mention the beautiful artwork on the wrapper that’s inspired me to get eyebrow extensions. I’m a big fan of Tea Urchin, as you can from this picture that was taken at a time when I still lived with my parent’s and had no financial responsibilities. I splurged a bit. - Imgur

Sampling Tea Urchin’s teas has been a pleasure for me, and this tea in particular stood out among the crowd. I brewed 8.0 grams of this tea in a 100ml gaiwan. One aspect of Tea Urchin tea that I love is their loose compression. Loosely compressed teas will age more quickly than tightly compressed teas, and it’s much easier and more enjoyable to pick the cakes apart. Because of that, I didn’t end up having any compression in the leaves I brewed with, meaning that the leaves resembled mao cha rather than a compressed tea.

The aroma of the dry leaves was pungent and cool. It had hints of menthol and camphor. I then rinsed the leaves for far too long (~40 seconds?) because I was trying to get a good picture. Remember, kids: your cup of tea is more important than the prospect of sharing a photo of it later. The wet aroma of the leaves was ambrosia-like in quality. The cooling factors present in the dry aroma of the leaves vanished and were replaced with sweet, fruity qualities. The tea smelled characteristically Yi Wu, yet shared qualities with Jing Mai teas that I’ve had in the past. The aroma carried a young raw puerh metallic-like smell as well.

I flash brewed the first infusion. The liquor produced was a pale orange color. Immediately this tea was sweet. It was thin bodied and had a very pleasant huigan. The qi was present after drinking the first cup. I could feel my heart rate increase, a slight buzz in my head, and a pulsing sensation. The 2nd infusion got sweeter and began to produce honey-like undertones. The tea began to dry my mouth out, but unlike most teas I drink the drying sensation was present in the back of the cheeks and the sides of the tongue rather than on top of the tongue. The qi at this point made the pulsing sensation stronger. On the 3rd infusion I agitated the leaves slightly with the lid of my gaiwan before decanting the brew. In this infusion I began to detect a slight astringency and stronger vegetal qualities than I did previously. The taste at this point was a very special experience, as the soup was intense in flavor.

I typically thought of Autumn harvested teas as less flavorful because of the higher concentration of stems usually found in the teas, but this tea taught me otherwise.

On the 4th infusion I began to let the tea brew for longer, shooting for 10-15 seconds. After consuming this brew the qi was very intense, and my taste buds began to only detect a drying sensation. At this point I decided to take a break and allow the leaves to cool down for a bit, a practice that I’ve found to be very helpful when either the tea is pushed too hard, or your taste buds aren’t working as well as they were at the beginning of your tea session. Following my break this tea got very sweet, something that I would describe as akin to confectioners’ sugar. The tea gave out around the 13th infusion, and carried its intense sweetness all the way to the end. I lowered my water temperature from boiling to 195 degrees between the 5th and 6th infusions, which I think helped keep the tea sweet rather than astringent and drying.

In the description of this tea, Tea Urchin explains that Gua Feng Zhai supposedly carries the most intense qi of any tea on Yi Wu mountain. I’ll write a post about my feelings regarding the the cha qi and “tea drunkenness” hubbub here in the coming weeks, but for now I will simply note that this tea produced an uncommonly intense body response in myself that I believe is indicative of the qualitea of this tea.

One of the other things that I love about Tea Urchin is that they show how many units are available of any given tea in any given amount. I highly recommend that puerh enthusiasts look into purchasing one of the 9 30 gram samples of this tea that are available on Tea Urchin’s website. Thank you for reading!

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