Leaf Type: Pu-erh
Where to Buy: Chicago Tea Garden
Origin: China, Yunnan Province
Harvest: Spring 2005, cave-aged until 2010
Taste: Very strong and earthy, capturing the essence of shu pu-erh.
Behind the Leaf: Though I have never had the pleasure of actually smelling a camel’s breath, these mini-tuocha smell … like what I assume a camel’s breath would smell like. Don’t let the name (or that description) put you off though. These pu-erh tuocha steep up a sturdy, dark, and intense liquor, producing a somewhat briny drink. The longer you steep it, the darker it will get– this is a tuocha you can leave in your pot and add water to throughout the day. These pu-erh tuochas are cooked or “ripened” pu-erh (shu).
I’ve had this Pu-Erh cake for a while now. It was sent to me by a tea friend on Steepster, but to be perfectly honest, I was afraid to try it. It’s the name. I mean… drinking “camel’s breath tea” didn’t exactly appeal to me.
But really, if this is how camel’s breath tastes… it’s not all that bad. Quite tasty, actually, even if it is kind of unsettling for me to admit that I like the flavor of something called “Camel’s Breath.”
The aroma… well, it’s special. I can see why it’s called Camel’s Breath. It is strong, earthy and brine-y. A rather intense fragrance, to say the least. However, when steeped for short steeps in my gaiwan, the flavor isn’t nearly as intense.
It is an earthy flavor. It is brine-y. Even slightly fish-like. But, beyond those flavors, there is a sweetness that is just as strong, if not stronger, than the earthy, brine-y taste. And with subsequent infusions, I find that the sweetness develops. The second group of infusions (brewed in my gaiwan, I do a quick rinse, then after the rinse is discarded, I combine the next two infusions in one teacup, and then the next two are combined in the next group of infusions, and so on…) produced a slightly stronger flavor that was even more sweet than the first.
Using this short-steep method, I find that the flavor is relatively mellow in comparison to the aroma. It is a remarkably smooth brew without any hint of bitterness and no astringency. A very pleasant cup despite it’s rather intimidating name.
Moral of this review: Don’t judge a tea by its name, and don’t allow that name to influence your tasting decisions.