I rarely stray from my Menghai/Dayi, Xiaguan, and Haiwan factory shu. More truthfully, I feel even those latter two can taste significantly less smooth and interesting than my classic standby Dayi-brand shu.
But after drinking only Menghai/Dayi shu for the past year--and only Menghai lao cha tou for the past 4 months--gourmet wanderlust overcame me when it came time to order more cooked pu'er, and I included two non-Dayi offerings in my lineup.
This post deals with one such purchase, the 2009 Nan Jian Factory, Tulin brand "certified organic" cooked brick. Known mostly as an "also-ran" factory, Nan Jian was at one point a conglomeration of three brands via the partnership of three individuals: Zhai Zi Po, Nan Jian Feng Huang, and Tulin. Something brought Zhai Zi Po out of this partnership, and currently Nan Jian only produces tea under the Feng Huang (phoenix) and Tulin (local forest...?) brands.
The brick is moderately compressed and, as shown above, covered with pretty face leaves that look like grade 1-2 material. One look at the side of the brick, however, shows that underneath the veneer lay less illustrious leafage, and a view underneath the face layer confirms the suspicion.
It also appears to be a darker fermentation, but this too is a trick of blending, though maybe not a purposeful deception, considering that lighter fermented shu pu'er is "of the now" in China...but more on this in the tasting notes.
First sip screams, "Coffee! Or an approximant!" The tea has a roasted quality, almost like instant coffee without the bitterness, insomuch as instant coffee has none of the acidity of fresh brewed coffee. Oddly described (I apologize), but the flavor strikes me as pleasant. Maybe they oven-dried this brick?
The texture is creamy, oily, soft. Stems and big leaves show their presence in the aftertaste, and while tasting I guessed they comprise 30-50% of blend. It dawned on me that this tea is not earthy, and instead the flavors variate "woody": stem in the flavor, sawdust in the aroma. Mulchy is as close to earthy as it gets. A fermented aroma appears in later infusions, not the fishiness of bad shu, but something piquant (read: pickle-y, umami...?).
You can see above that the tea is a blend of heavier fermented stems and leaves, with less fermented small to large leaves in the mix, too.
When it weakened after some 9 good infusions, only the stem flavor and sawdust aroma remained. So, I moved the leaves from the gaiwan to my pitcher, added some tea flowers, and prayed this concoction would counteract any caffeine in the tea.
Verdict: there's a good amount of complexity in this tea, but it tastes very little like the Menghai Factory teas I enjoy, which is appropriate considering the tea is from a region typically unused by Menghai Factory, Lincang. I don't remember much about shu pu'ers I've drunk from Lincang, so this this brick has provided an altogether different experience, thankfully a pleasant one!