According to Roy Fong in his book, The Great Teas of China, “Younger, less fermented puerh can easily become bitter, so try about 2 tsp in medium-hot water with a 1-3 minute steep time.” I’ve noticed that Roy likes his tea “thick” (heavily infused), so even the 1-3 minute steep time might still be too long for some teas for another palate.
So I started completely over with a new serving of leaves, and this time brewed only one teaspoon in 185-190ºF water for only 5-10 seconds (similar to brewing specs at Pure Puer Tea). Nice!
I had a very similar experience with David Hoffman’s Bamboo Fragrance Puerh, which when steeped for 90 seconds was undrinkable. Taking it down several notches made the magic happen. Brewed in 195ºF water for about 15 seconds created a really fine and unique brew, offering a kind of smokey, exotic taste that made me feel as if I were sitting by an open fire with the tribe that had picked and processed the tea.
So, the next time you find an “undrinkable” tea, try steeping it very differently. Hotter or cooler water, more or less leaf, different tea ware, or a change in steeping duration (or a combination of some of these variables) can make all the difference.
Then again, some teas ARE undrinkable. In such a case, toss it in the garden, and find a new tea.