Ok, less of a review, more of a plug.
Something I’ve found difficult as a pu’er neophyte is finding great shou. Finding good shou is easy – there are plenty of shoops around that are clean, tasty, and which I’d be happy to drink for days, but for me it’s been a struggle to find interesting shou.
Maybe that says more about me than the state of the Western market, but either way I’d almost relegated shou to the position of lazy booty-call, the tea I drink for comfort when I don’t feel like trying too hard
The CLT pack was my last ditch attempt to get excited about shou, and damn if it didn’t do just that. Seven teas is too many to properly review in one post and it’s been a while since I’ve tasted some of them, but here’s what you should know:
2017 Nannuo Mini-shrooms
Vanilla-bomb. Shou’s answer to Yirgacheffe coffee. You know when someone says “can you taste the x” and you kinda almost can, if you squint? This is nothing like that. It tastes like it’s been doped with vanilla extract. Tasty tea, and a great crowd-pleaser.
2014 Huang Pian MEGA Brick
Cheap, drinkable, with a flavour profile not unlike some factory shous I’ve tasted – more savoury, a little wood, a little fishiness. Neither particularly good nor bad.
2017 Storm Breaker
For a while, this was my all-time favourite shou. Brewed with a heavy hand it’s thick and sweet, with a savoury spiced finish like baked-goods that sticks around for ages, and an undertone of earth that becomes more prominent as you continue to brew. My tastes have changed somewhat and I now prefer shous with a decent amount of woodiness to them that SB currently lacks, but I still count myself lucky to have it on-hand.
2013 Lucky Cloud
Probably the least notable of the lot. It’s a competent shou with no sharp edges or significant flaws, but you could say that about plenty of cheaper productions. Maybe I’m being hard on it because I inevitably have to compare it to the rest of the pack, but I can’t find a reason to recommend it, at least in context.
2000 Old Warrior
True to its name, all petrichor and wood, leather and mushrooms, and delicious aged flavour. Sucked when I first got it, but was incredible after being broken up and rested for a couple of weeks. If you don’t like it, rest it and give it another chance. If I had to recommend one tea from the pack this would be it – it’s priced such that I can justify buying it, while also being “singular” enough in quality and character that it holds my attention and gives an uncommon experience.
2014 Iron Forge
Poor-man’s Stormbreaker. Appropriately sweet, with rich woodiness and a “warm” flavour profile that puts it near the top of my list for shou, especially given the very reasonable price.
2010 Black Gold
I find it hard to get a bead on this one. There’s no one element that identifies it as remarkable, it’s sweet and creamy, and fades into a savoury flavour that blooms as I breathe out through my nose, but that’s hardly unique for a quality shou. Despite that, I can’t help but think of it as a very good tea – If I was paying for a xiaobing I’d choose Stormbreaker over it in a heartbeat, but that’s down to personal taste more than the teas’ quality. It’s also a moot point, because at 40c/g it’s firmly off my radar.
If ~7g counts as a pot’s worth of shou, you’re getting 3 pots of each tea. All told that’s 21 sessions for $40, delivered.
The average price of $0.33/g is an objectively-high price for shou, but when delivery and the sample premium is taken into account I’m struggling to think of a better way for someone to test out a range of interesting shous without spending days scouring Steepster or dropping a fat chunk of cash.
If the cost of learning tea is “tuition”, then this pack is community college – a modest sum gets you a broad taste of what’s out there, and lets you determine what you really want before you start throwing down life-changing sums. Sure, shou isn’t generally expensive to begin with, but I’ve certainly paid more for a lot less.