This pu-erh was over 20 years’ old when I tasted it. It had been stored in Hong Kong for most of its storage life, and then it spent the last few years in Taiwan. Hong Kong provides a humid environment which is believed to accelerate the fermentation process. There was a debate in the tea community on Instagram recently about the use of the word ‘fermentation’ for teas. It could only apply to pu-erh (or other dark teas) but not strictly. Zhang wrote in the “Puer Tea” book that, “natural fermentation” is believed to involve mostly oxidation and possibly some microbial enzymatic reaction.
In my view, humid storage environment (similar to wet piling process for shu pu-erhs) may trigger enzymatic reaction more than a dry climate. But I am no authority. When I tried this tea, I was surprised by the colour of its liquid. It was the darkest soup I have ever seen for a sheng pu-erh. Its taste was very close to shu pu-erh mellow with strong earthiness with woody fragrance. It was not bitter, but the soup was thick with a quick hui gan.
Also, I think the fact that this was a maocha (loose pu-erh tea) might have influenced the fermentation process. For most compressed pu-erhs, the outer parts of the compressed form (cake, bowl etc.) are exposed to air circulation more. But for loose ones, it is easier for air to travel amongst leaves. To substantiate my claim, I compare this maocha from 1999, with this sheng pu-erh from 1990ies. As a result, I can say that maocha has a darker liquid (usually the older the sheng pu-erh, the darker the liquid) and stronger earthy flavours.
That’s all for today folks. Enjoy your cuppa!
Origin: Yiwu, Yunnan
Harvest time: 1999
Leave colour: Shades of dark brown
Liquor colour: Burgundy
Tea aroma: Earthy and woody
Tea taste: Full bodied, with strong earthiness and quick hui gan
Steeping/brewing: Steep 7 gr of leaves in 100 ml hot water (as close as you can get to 100°C) for about 10 seconds. You can brew the leaves many times (until the taste is lost). To each infusion add additional time. Experiment for a result that suits your taste.
Shelf life: Up to 30 years and possibly more