I remember the first time I drank pu-erh tea in a Yunnan restaurant in Beijing. The food was amazing (it is still my favourite Chinese sub-cuisine) and the tea I thought was kind of strange, but I did not dislike it, unlike many first-timers. I found the earthy and strong tastes of pu-erh bold which made me curious.
I also remember the first pu-erh tea I bought. Beijing has a tea street (Maliandao Tea Market) which is full of tea shops and rooms. There is even a four-story shopping mall dedicated to tea and tea-wares which has thousands of stalls selling all kinds of Chinese teas. Almost no one speaks English, so it is quite an adventure to go there and buy tea with no Mandarin as I did.
I will not go into explaining the funny anecdotes I encountered there. I tried a few teas and decided on this one. Firstly, this was because I found it strong and by that time I believed that the stronger the tea's taste, the better. I have changed my mind since then and started to appreciate delicate teas. Secondly, the tea was more affordable than the others I tried. Obviously, when I am not sure you are getting good stuff, I avoid paying high prices which is typical, risk-evasive consumer behaviour. My views on tea prices also changed since then. Now I see pu-erh tea as an investable good obviously for my own consumption over the years.
Despite the change in my views, I still think that this was not a bad purchase. I still drink it and enjoy its malt and earthy taste. Its aroma is almost a multiplication of its tasting profile which makes it a little overwhelming. But you get what you pay for, right?
This is the story of the first pu-erh tea I purchased. Do you remember the first time you drank and bought pu-erh tea? How did it go?
Origin: Xishuangbanna, Yunnan
Harvest time: 2017
Leave colour: Dark maroon with shades of red
Liquor colour: Clear, dark red
Tea aroma: Strong earthy and malt
Tea taste: Full bodied earthy taste with a slightly bitter aftertaste
Steeping/brewing: You can use around 100°C water and brew 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: 10 years and more (to improve shelf-life store the sealed tea leaves in a dry, ventilated place with low temperatures and away from odour)