Vendor Description: "This tea has a very powerful fragrance, somewhat reminding of lowly-oxidized oolongs. The bitterness is moderate, astringency is quite high. The tea soup is very active in the mouth and sweetness lingers after the session." (Source)
Steeping Method: 1 flash rinse; 15-second steeps until dead**
Pleasant mixture of dried stone-fruit, fresh orchids, and very mild tobacco.
Light, sweet, and floral. In early steeps, there is almost no detectable bitterness, but the sweetness isn't out of control or off-putting in any way. It's not as funky (in a good way, like how Saisons are funky, except not at all similar to a Saison, which taste something like bananas and bat-shit) as higher-end Jingmai material tends to be. This tea is somewhat of a Jingmai-light. As the leaves open up, a subtle bitterness creeps in, followed by a lingering astringency, but neither is particularly aggressive.
This tea begins very light, and then the astringency creeps up on you like some sort of ski-masked purse-snatcher. Three/four steeps in, and all of a sudden the sides of my tongue are numb and the insides of my cheeks are dry and tingly, like I'd just eaten a Saltine Cracker. Farmer-Leaf self-describes this tea as having a "very active" and "robust" mouthfeel, and they're not lying, in the best way possible. Complex mouthfeel is a front-runner for what makes puerh so unique, and this tea is a great example.
Relaxed, focused, and ready to fucking party.
Farmerleaf says that they wouldn't recommend the Jingmai Tian Xiang to beginners,** and I understand what they mean: the astringency is high and the mouthfeel might be a little aggressive to someone who's only ever had greens/whites/blacks, but still, I have to respectfully disagree. This tea has all the characteristics of a solid puerh, making it a great option for those who genuinely want to experience a non-watered-down version of what puerh has to offer. In addition to seriously strong mouthfeel and a lingering astringency, this tea is also exceptionally sweet, making this a very well-rounded production. The flavor, also, is not nearly as "funky" (some describe the funkiness as similar to wet pocket-change) as some of the more high-end Jingmai material, but it still packs a solid punch, drop-kicking your ass face-first into mother-fucking flavor town.***
The bottom line? This is seriously good tea, at an extremely affordable price-point. Plus, Farmerleaf presses the vast majority of their cakes into both 100g and 357g sizes, so you don't have to commit to a full beeng to still get the pleasure of prying leaves from a cake. Drop by their site; show them some love. Pick up some tea. Enjoy.
*Sheng Gut is not affiliated with Farmerleaf.
**If you're new/newish to puerh, Farmerleaf offers an incredible Starter Pack, complete with 200g of varied samples, a gaiwan, two teacups, and a cha hai--all for only $65.00USD, which is like mind-boggling, man.
***In the wake of countless natural disasters, horrific acts of mass violence, and the death of Hugh Hefner, Guy Fieri's departure from this earth seems to have inadvertently slipped under the media's radar. I'd like to just take a moment now to pay homage to the culinary mastermind that he was, and forever will be. Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives ("Triple-D") is one of my all-time favorite shows, right up there with Chopped, Iron Chef, and Kitchen Nightmares, and Food Network won't be the same without him. Unfortunately, Fieri passed right in the middle of filming a new unscripted reality show for Food Network, Good Cook, Bad Cook (a play on "Good Cop, Bad Cop"), which is described by the network as Guy and Gordon Ramsay (Hotel Hell, Kitchen Nightmares) recruiting a small group of sub-par chefs from failing restaurants and converting them into culinary geniuses. The network says that they're still planning on moving forward with the television show, and have cast Paula Deen to fill in for the remainder of the first season. Many people don't know this, but before his passing, Guy Fieri struggled with a severe gambling addiction, even going so far as to try and hustle Las Vegas casinos. In an interview with Vice, Guy recounts a chilling story about how, after being suspected of cheating the blackjack table, he was taken to the Bellagio's unfinished basement and essentially water-boarded by a handful of masked men, all with thick Romanian accents, who threatened to chop off his quote Chef Hand if he ever showed his face at the Bellagio ever again. The exact cause of Fieri's death is still under investigation after his autopsy report came back with signs of "foul play," though the authorities are refusing to comment on what that means. I've tried multiple times to get into contact with the Santa Rosa Police Department, but all of my requests to speak with Chief of Police Tom Schwedhelm have fallen on deaf ears... Look, I'm not going to get into the whole thing here, you all can research it yourself if you're interested, but there's a small cult of people who actually believe that Fieri is still alive, that he faked his own death and--well, seriously you can look it up for yourself. I've gone on about this long enough, and I really wasn't planning on delving into this whole side of it; truthfully I just wanted to express how much he means to me. I owe so much of my success as a critic, friend, and father to Guy Fieri; I just couldn't let this go by without paying my respects in the only way I know how. Here's a link to his official obituary, written by the New York Times: Click Here. (Food Network will be airing a week-long marathon of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives beginning on Monday, October 9th at 9:00AM CST.)