At least, that's how I phrased it when a friend came over and I was on my fifth or sixth steeping of this pleasurable tea. According to White2Tea "The Old Bear brick is a smokey, heavy tea that is ideal for tea drinkers who enjoy flavors that are present in Scotch whisky, cigars, and pipe tobacco."
How can you not be sold on that description alone?
This tea a sheng puerh, however the aging process has transformed it into a hulking behemoth of a tea, wrapped in a dainty 100g fangcha brick. Don't let the peaceful looking cartoon bear fool you, this tea wants to smother you in blankets of smoke and wash your mouth out with peaty whiskey.
Believe it or not, dear reader, that was exactly what I was seeking out when I came across Old Bear.
I won't bother to harp about White2Tea or my thoughts on their tea (just look at my post history...Jesus). Let's just get into what this tea is, and what it uniquely brings to the table.
I've seen some comparisons of this tea to 1990s big factory-era teas from Xiaguan. I personally, do not have experience with factory teas, but I do understand the general intent: highly compressed, well-aging teas that take on a dark and complex character. This is the type of flavor that shu puerh attempts to emulate.
The fangcha is quite compressed, but breaks apart in layers.
Upon brewing (via yixing teapot in 200F water - flash steeping), this tea produced smokey and woody smelling tea. Tasting it, the smokey flavor was near-overwhelming for the first few steepings and I would certainly tend more toward pipe tobacco than cigar. The only characteristic it borrows from whiskey would be peaty-ness.
The flavors that emerge upon repeated steeping is what I've really been looking for through shu puerh - a dark, roasted tea that isn't tarry like Lapsang Souchong. This tea is perfect for a cold evening and really tolerates long steeping times without bitterness. I guarantee that you will run out well before this tea's flavor does.