Aged Pu-Erh Tea
Romancing the Chinese Yunnan
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A selection of three high quality pu-erh teas.
Ever wonder which is the most romantic tea in the world?
You may have something else in mind, but my vote will go to the Pu-erh tea. Whether it is the geography, history or simply the tea processing, it is endlessly fascinating.
If there is only one place I can visit in China, it probably would be the Yunnan province.
Yunnan means South Clouds. It is situated at the most Southwestern part of China, bordering Vietnam, Laos and Burma.
Being China's most diverse province, it houses 25 out of 56 ethnic groups in China.
The landscape is equally diverse, ranging from the mild climate of Kunming (the capital city) to alpine mountains of the so-called Shangrila (Zhongdian town) to the traveler oasis of Lijiang (an ancient city), where many Westerners decided to make it their home!
And of course, there is also the tropical rainforest of Xishuangbanna, where the pu-erh tea plants are cultivated.
Ancient Tea Road
The Chinese traded silk and porcelain in exchange for Mediterranean perfume and precious stones.
While the Silk Road exited via Northwestern China, another trading route existed down South - the Ancient Tea Road.
This trading route connected the tea producing region of Xishuangbanna to Tibet and Eastern China.
In its heyday, it even reached as far as other parts of Himalayas (Bhutan, Nepal and Sikkim) and Southeast Asia (Burma, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand).
The Yunnan merchant traded Pu-erh tea for Tibetan horses and medicinal herbs.
For thousands of years, the merchants and horses left their footprints on this trading route. Therefore, in China it is also called the Ancient Road of Tea and Horse.
Here is the secret why it always gets better with time. The Chinese people spends thousands of years perfecting tea. According to them, there are six types of Chinese teas:
For most teas, oxidation occurs during the making process.
A traditional pu-erh tea is made with minimal oxidation. This means a raw pu-erh is like a green tea, white tea or yellow tea, depending on how it is made. Post oxidation occurs afterwards.
A raw pu-erh tea can taste astringent and bitter.
After 3 to 5 years, some rawness still remains, mingled with some other smells.
After 5 to 10 years, you can detect ripeness in the dry leaves, which also acquires a tint of red. The tea liquor tastes sweet and mellow.
After 20 years, you can longer detect ripeness in the dry leaves, which now shines with a luster. A rich, powerful aroma emerges from the liquor, carrying fragrances that you would never imagine exist
Green Pu-Erh Versus Aged/Ripe - Which Is More Authentic?
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Pu-Erh Weight Loss - Slimming Aid or Scam?
How credible are pu-erh weight loss studies? Which tea is best for losing weight?
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Yushangming Shenshan Laoshu (2006) - 400 grams
A superb raw tea cake that has aged naturally over 9 years, this premium tea cake was commissioned by Yushanming Tea Factory (御上茗).
We believe it is a classic in the making with its beautiful floral notes and hints of wood.
Ancient Tree, Tender Leaves
When you receive the tea cake, you will find Chinese words in the original paper wrappings. I will explain some of them in my commentary below.
It is grown in the Six Great Tea Mountain (云南古六山) of Yunnan Province, the original Source of the Pu-erh tea.
The tea buds were handharvested in 2006 spring from a Shenshan Laoshu (深山老树), ancient trees found deep in the Mountain that are at least 300 years old.
It was then sundried (晒青） and then compressed into a tea cake by the local Tea Factory in the Man Zhuan Mountain (蛮砖山茶厂).
Tea from these Tea Mountains are the most highly prized as these tea trees are ancient and produce leaves with deep, complex flavors with camphor and mint notes.
Open your parcel and smell the tea cake. It is mild and fragrant, not strong and overpowering like a rawer tea cake.
Make a concentrated brew. The liquor is golden orange, quite unlike the dark red (or black) of an artificially ripened pu-erh or the light yellow of a rawer tea cake.
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Now take a few sips. Enjoy the rich sensations of many notes and fragrances, many floral with hints of wood, all very rounded and harmonious, with tingling and sweet aftertaste even long after you have finished. There is no astringency or bitterness.
When you finish your cup, look at the wet leaves. Despite being made from a broad-leaf tea, the wet leaves look high grade - they are young and tippy with hardly any stems.
This tea is very limited edition. We are purchasing one box (40 pieces), it is unlikely we will be able to replenish them with more Yushangming once they are sold..
Since the tea cake is high value, it comes with free shipping. It is also eligible for bulk discount.
Junda Mudan Wang (2014) - 350 grams (Wild Crafted)
For centuries, pu-erh tea was synonymous with Yunnan province. Raw green tea was harvested from ancient tea trees, which was left to oxidize naturally for years.
Until recently, it was little known that white tea makers in Funding province was applying the same method to make white tea cake for long term ageing. In fact, aged white tea was prized as an effective remedy for relieving heat and cold, detoxifying the body and clearing the digestive tract.
Many Chinese people find fresh white tea too cooling especially for the stomach. The ageing process is warming and makes it more suitable for use as a general tonic.
This tea cake has been commissioned by HQ under his own brand - Junda (俊大）. It is made from Mudan Wang (牡丹王) - the White Peony King.
White Peony King
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As you may known, the highest grade white tea is the Silver Needle, which is made 100% from downy tea buds. There are no leaves.
The second highest grade is the Baimudan or White Peony, which is made from tea buds and adjacent leaves. We commissioned this tea cake directly from a high mountain tea farm in Fuding county.
It is called King because we used the highest grade White Peony leaves and compressed them into a tea cake suitable for long term maturation. These leaves were harvested from wildly grown white tea plants.
Nine words are written in the cover alluding to the medicinal use of aged white tea:
一年茶， 三年药， 七年宝
One-year is tea, three-year is medicine, seven-year is treasure!
This tea cake is made in 2014, it is only one year old.
Generally speaking, higher quality tea cake tends to be paler, as it has more tea buds, which are white in color rather than grayish-green.
When your parcel arrives, open your parcel and examine the tightly packed tea cake. Notice the presence of the white tea buds.
Peel (not break) off a few pieces and brew at near boiling point in a glass. Let them settle down and watch how the tea liquor gradually turns bright orange.
Take a few sips. The body is strong and pleasant. The taste is sweet and lingers a long time in your palate. It is robust, seldom turns bitter and never astringent. You can infuse it 3-5 times.
As it fully mature over 5-6 years, the dried tea cake and liquor will turn darker and acquires more fragrance. The taste will become richer and more mellow. It may last as many as 20 brews!
Unlike many other pu-erh, this tea cake is suitable for immediate consumption and long term storage. For the price and quality, I will recommend it highly, especially for white tea lovers.
Shunji Pu-erh (2000) - 50 grams
This 10-year ripe pu-erh has an earthly flavors. Its sweet, mellow taste and low prices make it an excellent everyday tea.
The first time I tried this ripe pu-erh tea I was absolutely astounded. A 14-year pu-erh tea for just $8? Wow, incredible value!
Sweet, mellow and smooth, there is no unpleasant tastes and smells commonly associated with pu-erhs. Earthly and gentle, it seems a refreshing change from my staple diet of green tea!
The low price is because it is a ripe pu-erh. The raw tea leaves have been partially oxidized using the wet-piling technique before leaving factory.
This is a quality tea that offers great value for money. If you are new to Pu-erh or is looking for an everyday tea, it is worth trying out.
To give you some background, there are two types of pu-erh tea: loose-leaf and compressed.
When making compressed tea, the tea leaves are steamed and pressed into cakes (most common), bricks or bowl (called tuocha).
This is a brick tea. The tea leaves come packaged into 5-7 grams cubes.
It is an ideal backup tea. It keeps forever. You will never run out of tea!
While a raw pu-erh can take 5 years to smell ripe and 20 years to fully mature, this process can be shortened to 4 weeks using the wet-piling technique.
Tea leaves are piled up to a height of one meter. Water or mists are sprayed on the leaves. The wet conditions cause bacterial and fungal to multiply. They produce heat and enzymes, which in turn oxidizes the leaves.
If you are new to pu-erh, this is a good way to get into pu-erh. The main advantage of a ripe pu-erh is price. A high quality ripe pu-erh can seem a win-win!
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By Christian (Murwillumbah)
The green tea is such a good taste with minimal bitterness which I find hard to come buy, especially for the price you sell it for.
Just had my first sample of the pu-erh tea blocks you sent me and found it very smooth , sweet and earthy, completely different to any other tea i have tried. My friend J*** who is a tea enthusiast put me on to your site as he swears by the quality of your products and i am now another happy customer who will spread the good word. The free international shipping that you offer at times is amazing too.
I have never tasted Pu-erh tea before this so i have nothing to compare it too, although purely as a new experience and based on its subtle after tastes I would rate it a 4 out of 5, also I shared it with many other people (tea lovers and those that never drink tea) who all loved the smooth after taste.
By Megan (Harare)
Tea arrived last Monday :)
So great that you will ship to Zimbabwe (not everyone does).
Am really enjoying having GOOD tea! I had kind of got used to more one-dimensional tea, so it has been delightful sipping my way through more complex, subtle flavours. I'll definitely be back! I have such good memories of quality Long Jing tea living in Hangzhou, but had given up looking for something that good.
I'm not very good at rating things numerically though - compared to all teas available, both teas would get a 5 for sure; if I'm comparing to the best teas I've ever tasted of each variety 3-4 maybe.
By James (Niagara Falls)
The cake is very nice indeed. While I love the ripe pu-erh you offer, the raw cake is better. This raw cake has what the ripe pu-erh has but more. It's has a more rustic, slightly smoked, earthy aroma that is just wonderful. It tastes more dimensional than the ripened tea and is really grounding. I feel more connected to everything after drinking this tea. It's just an amazing experience. Lastly, it seems to have less of the "animal farm" smell/taste than the ripened pu-erh has that many people find off-putting. That never bothered me as I truly love both of your pu-erh offerings.
By James (Niagara Fall)
This is my 2nd review.
I have upgraded this from 4 to 5 stars after drinking it more regularly. If you like teas with a bit more of a flavor punch, than this is for you. I love it in its unadultered state but adding cocoa powder makes for a very tasty "chocolate" beverage. I would never add cocoa powder to any other tea but it works great with Pu-Erhs. I honestly cannot believe there are not more than 3 or 4 posts on this tea. Maybe people are intimidated by this tea because it comes in a compressed form.
By Vince (Singapore)
The taste is typical of the Puer that one will get from Singapore restaurants, neutral with very little or no hint of the musky smell. Very smooth and good for everyday drinking. The colour is a dark red. The cube size makes it a good travelling companion for easy storage. This tea will be a good introduction to beginners to cook Puer.
I will rate the puerh at 3.5 overall with a 4.5 for value for money.