Terre des thés vertical tasting: 2014-2017 Nanmei
Thank you to Olivier Schneider for making this vertical tasting possible. This tea, available here, is a collaboration between him an the local producer, Oyang, from the Nanmei valley in Lincang. I tasted 2014 and 2015 side by side on one day, followed by 2016 and 2017 on the next day. Overall, there is a remarkable consistency between the years. The teas are strikingly similar.
First, let me give a general impression of the teas as a whole. The tea has an austere profile. Very mild taste at first, but high thickness and a complex and interesting (unique actually) bitterness. Not flavour forward certainly at the start. It is obviously not a Yiwu style profile, and it is also not a bold Bulang style profile. Much more like what I have tasted from Jingmai.
After a couple of steeps, there is a strong sinking feeling coupled with an intense heating in the face and neck. Face numbing and weighty feeling in the body, and a growing serious mental clarity. The mental clarity and time-slowing experience is unmistakeable.
The complex bitterness gives a kind of medicinal aspect which is accentuated by the thick oily texture, and this grows over a great many steeps. The tea has excellent stamina and gives up its content quite slowly. It strikes me as a particularly good example of gushu style sheng puerh.
About the processing, there is no undue greenness, no japanese steamed tea notes, and no sweet oolong notes. Much like teas from Biyun Hao or Wuweisanfang, one gets a sense that the material shines through with a high degree of purity.
The 2014 has a fuller taste overall, and it also has a touch of a spicy storage note in the early steeps. I have tasted this storage note before, it is difficult to describe, it is a mild baking spice type profile.
Numbing sensation. Remarkable face heating. Mild flavour. Quite thick. The 2015 has a stronger empty cup aroma. The 15 has a more active mouthfeel and a slight woodiness, very beautiful.
I have a preference for the 2015, which has a more active mouthfeel and lacks the storage note. Both are excellent however. Neither is astringent and the bitterness is very interesting.
Both of these, particularly the 2016 has a roasty bitter aroma on the wet leaf. Not like japanese green, or oolong, and not a grassy or hay note, but rather like roasted or singed brussels sprouts.
Taste is again very mild, but the mental focus is extremely deep with these. The 2016 is noticeably thicker, and sweeter, and with a stronger tongue activation. Major energy, quite amazing.
Test steep gives a huge amount of bitterness and, interestingly, astringency. The 2016 is significantly more bitter and astringent than the 2017.
For aging it may be best to choose the 2016.