Su, being so awesome, mailed me two samples of tea to try from her stash in Malaysia: a 2003 Changtai factory sheng and a 2006 sheng brick by Pingxiwangfu. Today, we drink the 2003 Changtai.
The brown-gray-green leaves with leaves distinctly separate from one another show the tea aged in a drier environment. The dry leaves carry a strong, sweet fragrance.
Once rinsed, the steaming leaves smell like suede, then like raisins. The first infusion is biscuity and sweet: carob, Darjeeling, fresh cut wood. It lingers on the soft palate and the back of mouth with an evaporative effect. Tasty, but the liquor is a bit thin.
The bitter flavors in the next infusions reminds my guest of the smell of dried pine needles. The Darjeeling muscatel flavor continues, very pleasant, and with cacao chalkiness underneath. In terms of flavor and aroma, Changtai has done well by these initial infusions.
But then, something changes. The sweetness disappears, replaced by the kind of bile-tinged flavors so strongly associated with leaves from Lincang. For a few infusions, its musky and alkaline flavors show some Lincang leaves are in the mix, and they thankfully bring a stronger mouthfeel and aftertaste to the tea, softening eventually into savory, bready flavors and more chalky sweetness.
I enjoyed the tea for its flavor and aroma, although the Lincang elements surprised me. I wish it had a thicker body and more aftertaste early in the infusions, but these features improve in later infusions. The still-present bitterness implies that the tea has room to grow as it ages, I think.
The blend is a mix of many larger leaves and some broken smaller leaves, most leaves having thick veins and a healthy tensile strength. No bud sets in the blend raise a suspicion that none of the leaves were harvested by hand, or they were handled very roughly in transport and manufacture.
My gratitude, as always, to Su for providing me these little treats!