This sheng sample came to me from BK a few years ago, maybe 2007 or 2008. The tea was sourced from a "Master" Wang Ming Yi who supposedly comes from the Himalayan part of Yunnan, which doesn't exist because the Himalayas stop well before they hit Yunnan. Maybe he's from the Gao Li Gong Mountains?
Zenandtea.com sells his teas and book, and what teas do list prices seem expensive for "three no" cakes (no wrapper, no ticket, no neifei). Apparently, Jessica Simpson tried his "total vitality" program, and so did the owner of Teance; both gave good reviews. The program involves hydration (good) and that old quack diet, the alkaline diet (pseudo-scientific nonsense).
However I may feel about his background, the tea will speak for itself. You can see in the photos above that the leaves are not stripe-rolled, an instant sign one or more of the following is true:
- The tea is not from Xishuangbanna, Simao, or Lincang, where production is stripe rolled.
- The tea is older leaf, which doesn't hold its shape in stripe rolling.
- The tea is not Camellia sinensis.
Huangpian sheng pu'er--raw pu'er made of older leaf--share some flavor traits with this tea: very mild flavor with an olive oil taste and soft, oily mouthfeel. There is little aftertaste, and the tea never tastes bitter, its tannins saved in the buds to deter insects from eating the tender new leaves.
But this tea was really, really mild, and here's why:
After 6 infusions, 5 of which were 60-90 seconds or more, the tea was not unfurling and separating into individual leaves. The flatness of the leaves and the high compression--evidenced by the iron press hobnails in the dry leaf picture above--created a brick of tea akin to plywood. The matrix of innumerable planes compressed together has resulted in a situation where the hot water cannot penetrate through, and only the leaves on the outside infuse well.
Try as I might to get a good steep, steeping this tea for 4+ minutes yielded an under-infused brew that tasted like weak black tea. Frustrated, I pried a layer off the tea and left the tea steep for 30 minutes, hoping to help along the unfurling. It didn't work.
The results are below. Two kettles of water and many long brews later, the leaves remain glued together.
My experience suggests to me that this tea used low grade (i.e. broken), old leaf from non-sinensis camellias and compressed them too much.
He appears to offer many other teas through the Zen and Tea website, and I hope the others are better. My recommendation, as with all teas one hasn't tried, is to purchase samples first.