70s Shou Brick
Thanks to Wooju for connecting me to this blast from the past. Recently I’ve been exploring different styles of warehoused and piled teas, including Hong kong traditional storage, shou, and liu baos. I was interested in this brick because it’s a very good example of an older shou style.
I have no grand unified theory of piled/fermented tea, but my rudimentary understanding so far is that there are two main profiles: the bacterial profile, usually sweeter, earthy, with a fermented fruit aroma, of which shou is a prime example, and then the fungal profile, usually more mineral, geosmin (the taste of beets), also earthy, of which Hong Kong traditional storage is the prime example. Liu bao can have both profiles, depending on how and where it is piled and warehoused.
The pile fermentation aroma, as well as the geosmin component, are definitely acquired tastes, and many people have an instinctive aversion to them. I certainly do to an extent, but I have grown to really enjoy hong kong traditional storage or liu bao, especially those where the geosmin is expressed as a rock taste instead of a beet taste (a prime example is the 2001 MTF 7432).
As is more often the case with older shou, this brick is pressed from material which was not aggressively piled. This fact, together with its age, result in only a faint shou profile. I can still taste a tiny bit of the wodui taste in the first steep, and I can smell the wodui smell, although very faintly, on the liquor of most steeps. This is very faint but it is clear, and surprising for such an old tea. On the other hand, whether it is because the brick underwent traditional storage or just a lengthy taiwan humid storage, it has a prominent mineral-type traditional storage taste and aroma, which has no beety geosmin. If not for a tiny wisp of a wodui aroma off the liquor, the tea reads to me as an old HK traditional storage sheng.
The dry leaf has Hong Kong storage smell but with a sour overtone indicating shu. Wet leaf has a HK storage aroma and a sweetness, again indicating possible shou. The wet leaf is extremely dark, almost black.
- Mineral taste and warming to the core. Clear liquor, Dark red
- Aroma of liquor has unmistakeable shou aroma but very faint. Fairly thick and mineral. Some sweetness.
- Superheating and calming, slowing down. Very dense and enjoyable taste and mouthfeel.
- Focusing and heating, quite overpowering now, calm body but a bit of panic, I went too strong with the steeps.
- Heating continues, lost in my own world.
- Over the hump of heating and into the cooling phase, frisson about the head and neck, feeling more released and free, a better relaxation now.
- Excellent aftertaste, mineral, smooth, no astringency, and importantly, extremely clean aftertaste, totally clean on all steeps.
This old shou reads as a very clean mineral-forward HK trad sheng, with no beetiness and minimal wodui aroma, very low astringency, and quite strong impact in terms of heating, relaxing and frisson. Material is thick, beefy, large, strongly rolled/smashed, and somewhat brittle as HK Trad often is. The cleanliness of the finish is particularly refreshing and comforting with this tea.