This is one of those teas that you keep hidden in the back of yours stores for special occasions; it is a tea I cannot typically afford to splurge on for even weekend drinking. So when I found a somewhat lower grade being offered at a reasonable price, I grabbed a sampler. As such, this is the first ‘proper’ cup (aka not made of fannings and in a little bag) of Pu-erh I have had the pleasure of drinking. It is worth every penny, believe me.
While I knew Pu-erh produces a vividly dark liquor, the colour of it surprised me once steeped. Rather than the dark browns that I’ve come to expect from rich black teas, this came to a nearly black-red hue with the faintest hints of purple.
Gideon took one taste and declared it to taste very similar to earthworms…which I will not actually dispute.
For those who are unfamiliar with this particular tea, Pu-erh goes through an unusual fermentation process, giving the tea a very unique character as the tea leaves actually begin to decompose. The tea can be oxidized (“cooked”) or non-oxidized (“raw”) and the two produce drastically different cups. Most are compressed into bricks, bing cha, tuo cha, or other shapes such as the ‘golden melon’. These bricks are stored in varying ways to let the teas age and are generally marked with their age and province.
What I have here is a much cheaper, lesser grade, (and possibly blasphemous to some) loose leaf Pu-erh.
It has an exceedingly earthy taste with the ever so faint, sweet note of very old tobacco. The cup tastes how a deep forest smells at the very end of summer and it was utterly delightful. The finish is velvety, leaving you feeling as though you’ve curled up in a little nest of last year’s leaves.
Naturally, the tastes of Pu-erh will vary greatly depending on which type, how it was stored, and the drinker’s own palate. This is a tea that there seems to be no middle ground with – You either fall in love instantly or you find yourself rinsing your mouth out after the first three sips.
If you intend to try it, I would suggest doing a bit of research to find which appeals more to your tasting preferences. Start with a sample until you find one to your taste and do not let one bad cup spoil this tea for you; this is a tea that requires trial and error. Some of the younger raw Pu-erhs are known for tannic/astringent flavors, but finding the perfect one is worth it in the end.