Pu-erh is an acquired taste for many western palates. Otherwise Thomas Lipton would have made a fortune off of it centuries ago. Numi teas is trying to introduce pu-erh to the west with blending it with more familiar flavors of Earl Grey and chocolate, but I think their success is marginal. I tried the Numi bottled pu which they were giving away for free during the Oakland Street Food Festival last year and it was brewed so weakly, I'm not sure you could call it pu-erh. Even the last brewing of a low-end shu could not be weaker than what was in the Numi bottle. Numi bill the bottled pu-erh as "functional and delicious". Yes, let us enjoy some functional tea. Shu is not an obvious palate pleaser for the coke drinking west.
I myself did not initially enjoy the taste of pu-erh even though my first exposure to it 15 years ago was with seriously aged shu at a potter's house in the island of Jejedo. He routinely took monks to China to procure yixing pottery and boyicha -Korean term for pu-erh. (Yes you are thinking, I definitely missed a golden opportunity.) In Korea, Buddhist monks are the serious pu-erh drinkers although the health crazy Koreans have taken it up in the last few years. This original session lasted for dozens of brews developing complex mushroomy medicinal flavors which my then unschooled palate did not enjoy. It's only when I started cutting most sugars and fire chilies out of my diet ten years ago that I really began to appreciate and understand the flavors of pu-erh, sheng and shu. Cutting out the spicy gochujang out of my daily diet healed my tongue to perceive nuance. Cutting out the sugars allowed me to taste the subtle sweetness of puerh. A soda drinker will have a hard time detecting the caramel sweetness of a shu.
Back to the photo then. My husband and I also brewed up a small pot of Purple Beauty(Purple Bud Stone Tea) which is a hybridization of Da Hong Pao tea. Our sample was an autumnal pick processed as a sun-dried oolong from YS. You can totally see that the leaves brew purple. As I sadly had a cold and could barely taste anything, my husband vouched for it's unique taste. The usual astringency I associate with purple bud in sheng pu is not present at all, tamed nicely as described. Last week I tried a Da Hong Pao I had forgotten about for five years and it was still a wrong balance of sweet and astringency so it would be great to taste these side by side some time.