Last year Bitter Leaf Teas released an extraordinary beeng titled ‘Secret Garden’, which was a sheng puer that was grown in fields alongside banana trees. The tea’s origin was a secret (thus ‘secret garden’), and the tea was flavorful and delectable. In fact, Secret Garden 2016 sold out rather quickly, and gained massive popularity — which helped put Bitter Leaf Teas on the map. Now we’re into 2017, weather caused a lot of tea regions to get damaged in storms, which resulted in a lot of famous tea regions to raise their price in sheng. In doing so, Bitter Leaf Tea’s had to find another source for their new production of 2017 Secret Garden. With that in mind, does this year’s new Secret Garden shine a light on last years? Lets find out!
[Click to Enlarge Dry Leaf Photo]
Steeps 1 - 4
Upon opening the sample bag of 2017 Secret Garden, the beautiful aroma of sweet green apples and freshly picked strawberries hit the nose like a ball of cotton. Proceeding on to this session, which used 4g of tea for a 60ml vessel and water at a temp of 185ºf, the first steep was well under way. With the first infusion, the brilliant body of medicinal herbs brushed against the base of the tongue and left behind the undertones of green apples and strawberries. After a second steep, this tea opened up to a broth-like texture (which usually doesn't happen this early in a session), as a new layer of depth opened up in the cup. This new broth-like layer brought on a faint sweetness that complimented the fruity undertones.
Steeps 5 - 8
Secret Garden’s body kept progressing to a thicker and more viscous broth, more so than before. The medicinal body became lubricating to the touch, and progressively grew more savory. As the steeps went on, the undertones of fruit started to slowly fade away, as the notes of fresh hay made its way forward onto the tongues palate. Along with the oil-like texture, this tea’s body was also as smooth as velvet, which left a lasting impression in the mouth.
Steeps 9 - 12
Secret Garden’s medicinal body was still forward on the tongue, but the undertones of fruity sweetness faded altogether. The previous impressions of fresh hay slowly turned into freshly-cut green grass, as an undertone of bitter made itself known. The liquor had calmed down a lot in these later steeps and didn’t carry as heavy of a punch. By that, I mean that this tea was full-on relaxed and put the tastebuds on sweet dream to tea heaven. As the session went onto the fourteenth steeping, my body was feeling meditative all around which put my mind into a deep trance that brought on images of clouds floating into the heavens…
Secret Garden 2017 has a tall order to fill, and with its illustrious predecessor, it’s not an easy task to take on. To start, one thing that 2017 Secret Garden did a great job with is how well defined it already is. Usually with sheng this young, you’d expect that a leaf needs more time to settle due to its humidity. However, this sheng already had a heavy broth that made itself established in just the second steeping — something that is a rarity as much as it is prosperous. Another angle to this tea that caught my attention was its ever-changing tasting notes, which were complex and kept changing through out the entire session. However, one draw back with this tea is, compared to last year’s Secret Garden, there is a rise in price point. Despite this years weather conditions, and the price changes in the market, this was well worth it for the experience.
Overall, I think that this years Secret Garden did a great job emulating last years, and if I'm being frank, it was more favorable to my tastebuds. One could say that this tea holds a light to its predecessor, or could say that it stands great on its own without any comparison. However, for this tea blogger, this is one tea that my tastebuds are begging for more. Hopefully, when trying this tea, you’ll come to the same conclusion…