2017 cake version left, experimental batch right
This review is a little atypical, because I already reviewed an experimental Moychay shu (the #2 version), and it's good, but depending on interpretation described aspects could be regarded as flawed. And I expect #3 to be similar. All the same I've tried that #2 trial version a couple more times and it's interesting, and I wanted to revisit adding observations about that style, aspect range, and apparent aging potential. Thanks again to Moychay for sharing a lot of tea to try and report on.
Later edit: I accidentally called this shu "pu'er," but of course as a Russian origin version it's "pu'er-style tea" instead.
There's something odd but catchy about it (that other experimental version), an unusual slightly sour, woody range, a little like a dark rye, but not exactly that. I think that one aspect will transition a lot and drop out over time, that the version will improve a lot. In retrospect, after reviewing this #3 trial version, that's a lot of what I end up saying. It's interesting seeing how the other type I'm comparing it to has changed, almost entirely related to improvements. That Moychay cake version was one of my favorite shus from them, and what I regarded as potential for positive change has translated to exactly that.
That #2 batch version review and the "Soviet guy" version review (really called "peace. hard work. tea.") serve as background, but the post content here works without reading any of that. I might add that this is really Russian tea material, grown and processed there, not just from a Russian vendor. I speculate a little about that in that earlier post but there's not so much to say; I would need to try it made as a separate tea type to get a feel for what other tea plant character it resembles.
A quote from that earlier (2018) comparison version review clarifies that transition projection, from when that 2017 tea was a year old:
...this tea [infusion round] is transitioning quite a bit; it's not what it had been. It's moving towards a dark wood / spice range not so far off the first version's. It just has an extra layer of depth to the range, and more intensity. Mineral is much heavier, like that strange smell of a volcanic soil beach, or even that you might smell in the lava flow area, a very dark rock. It works to interpret that as "peat" instead, but that shift from petroleum to peat seems to indicate it might clean up even more over the next couple of infusions, who knows into what range. I like it but for someone new to shou this would be too much. At the same time I suspect in another two or three years that story would change a lot, that this might just be a young version that has room to shift character and clean up a lot...
similar description in a sense, just in completely different terms
Moychay Soviet guy (left in all photos): really nice, rich a sweet, quite clean. There is a trace of off spice aspect, something unfamiliar, and fullness is limited, but in general it's great. There's a cherry sweetness to it, chocolate covered cherry even, and the heavier earth range is spice versus peat. This is probably much improved from when I first tried it, much cleaner, and I had already liked it then. That root spice is great with the rest.
Russian test batch #3: the funkiness present in #2 is even heavier in this. The catch is that I expect a lot of that to fade or transition over another year, and it's hard to project what it will be like then. Oddly I find the significant sourness and woody tone, close to cork, somewhat appealing. I'm not sure why; I guess that I like cork? It's a little like a dark black bread too, but maybe the #2 version is closer to that.
Again I think that's exactly the fermentation process related aspect range that will fade, the cork-like sourness. Or maybe it never will completely leave; maybe only time will tell. Beyond that some cocao rounds it out. It might be that part I like, the way cocoa and cork / dark bread go together.
experimental version (right) lighter, surely not as fermented
Soviet: color is much darker in this tea, likely tied to heavier fermentation level. One might expect lower funkiness from less fermented shu but I'm not sure it would be so linear, that a mix of factors would combine. It's hard to experience shu as an outcome of specific causes. You just work with what is in the cup, and expectations about future changes are only guesses, at my experience level anyway.
More of the same. If I remember right both that chocolate and fruit have evolved from years back, and weren't there before [with the earlier review citation supporting that, added later]. Maybe a drier cocoa was, but this tastes like cacoa nibs, or like dark chocolate. It all seems like pleasant and fortunate evolution.
#3: funkier! It's probably a shame to drink much like this since that will probably wear off and change in a positive way. I'd expect that to take time though, about a year and a half for most of that change, with where it is headed evident after another half a year. All just guesses, of course. It's hard to place how positive or negative that funkiness is, and I think that's tied to preference, and openness to range of experience. I live in Asia; I'm relatively open, because that's how food experience here goes. 15 years ago this may well have seemed nasty to me; I could only appreciate a much narrower range of flavors and texture experience.
An aside: my son just cooked bacon, eggs, and toast for everyone for breakfast, and did a great job. It's awesome how both kids are turning out, and amazing that the chaos they live through hasn't affected them more negatively.
Soviet: evolving, but it's going to be hard to say how. A warmer tone picked up. It's still from the dark chocolate / cocoa range but maybe towards mineral. Cherry dropped back a bit.
#3: not transitioning as much. This doesn't stand up to the other for positive character but again it's not a fair comparison. The Soviet guy version is better than it had been too; it didn't compare well to this in the 2018 form. I really don't mind that odd cork effect, with some cocoa; the novelty is positive, even though the range could be improved.
I might stop here, even though two more rounds would tell a fuller story. I want to add some rambling to these notes and have other things to do just now.
experimental tea right; lighter, made up of small nuggets
The rambling could've made more of the fermentation level difference; that was obvious, and it made for a change in outcome. The main story was character difference related to a lack of rest time in the second tea, and probably in that being made from a plant type not typical for shu, probably not even Assamica. It will take another year for this tea to be fairly judged.
Oddly the strange cork-like slight sourness and woodiness isn't unpleasant, to me. It's a shame drinking much of this or the #2 batch like this though, since I expect both to change a lot over a year or two. The "peace. hard work. tea." version definitely improved a lot, but I had also liked it with more rough edges and peat range. I'm glad I didn't share or drink most of it, although between those two uses it is half gone now.