Updated: Mar 6
Pu-erh tea is a type of ‘dark tea’ and its reputation exceeds that of ‘dark tea’. For this reason, most of the time, pu-erh is referred as one of the main six tea categories. All dark teas are post-fermented teas with tea liquid colour ranging from yellow to dark red. Pu-erh has two main types: shou and shang also known as cooked/processed or raw pu-erh respectively. What is most striking about pu-erh tea is that its taste improves over time. So unlike majority of the teas, pu-erh can be aged (if stored appropriately) and both its characteristics and value increase over time.
As the name suggests, Gong Ting (palace) tea was a tribute Pu-erh tea to the imperial court and today it is considered the best quality amongst Pu-erhs. Out of 50 kg quality sun-baked green crude teas, only 500 gr tea shoots is selected manually for palace pu-erh. It is taste is smoother than other Pu-erhs and young cakes also contain a unique sweet fragrance which disappear over time. Mellowness and sweetness are considered to be one of the best qualities of Pu-erhs and in China they are sometimes preferred over fragrance.
The most famous palace pu-erh of modern period was produced by Menghai Tea Factory in 2004. This factory no longer produces palace pu-erh due to its high costs and extensive labour for manual selection of tea shoots. It is still possible to find palace pu-erh in the market, however, they are rarer and more expensive, and their authenticity may require some expertise to verify.
Source: Pu-erh Tea, Wang Jidong, China Intercontinental Press
Type: Dark tea
Harvest time: 2017
Leave colour: Dark brown/red
Liquor colour: Bright dark red
Tea aroma: Mild with sweet aftertaste
Steeping/brewing: Unlike other pu-erhs, you should not use boiling water which may scorch the tender leaves. Try to wait a couple of minutes after boiling water and even so try not to pour the water directly on the leaves. Steep for up to one minute in gongfu style or up to three minutes in Western-style. 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: 30 years or more, if stored correctly (to improve shelf life store the sealed tea leaves in a dry place with low temperatures)