New tea - Bulang shou tuo-cha
I am not naturally inclined to shu or ripe pu-erh. But now and then a great one comes along which persuades one to set aside their hangups.
We recently found a ripe mini tuo cha from Bulang, a forested and mountainous region in Yunnan that has a stellar reputation for its pu-erh. Tuo cha literally means bird's nest, describing the shape of the pu-erh that comes with a hollow indent in the middle. This tuo cha is about 5 gm and it is a handy portion because one is enough for a gaiwan or a even a cup if you'd like to brew it western style.
I used a gaiwan to steep this tea. And it yields layers upon layers of flavors that are warm, fuzzy, sweet at the start and become sweeter and sweeter with honey and raw cacao notes during the later steeps. Do not be turned off by the "barnyard" smell that you might sense in the wet leaves. It is all washed off by the actual tea notes.
In fact I enjoyed some smells in the beginning that reminded me of cooked millet grains waiting to be fermented to beer - a Nepali specialty hooch. There is also a starchiness in the later brews which makes the "soup" complex and enjoyable.
I got five very enjoyable steeps out of a tuo cha. You can steep a few more times if you like. Ripe pu-erh, according to my experience, don't have the staying power of the raw or sheng pu-erh. At any rate sometimes it feels its not fair to judge a shu against a sheng. They are just so different, and brilliant in their own ways if you are drinking the right ones.