On day 48 of this challenge, I wrote about a 15-year-old shu (ripe pu-erh). Apart from this information, I knew nothing else. This time, I do not even know the year it was harvested, and I only assume it comes from pu-erh.
It is difficult to assess pu-erh without any data attached to it. For instance, if I judged it on its fine (smallish) leave size, I would have thought that it could be Gong Ting(imperial grade). The pu-erh tea is graded from the smallest to the largest which is on a scale starting from Gong Ting and ending in Grade 9 being the largest. However, many pu-erh cakes and other compressed forms are indeed blended (for instance see Menghai Dayi 7542 from 2009). Similarly, small broken grade leaves (which are not part of the above-mentioned scale) are sometimes sold as Gong Ting (or a cheaper form of it). So, by just looking at the loose leaves, it is almost impossible to give a verdict on the tea.
Naturally, I went on steeping it. It had an intense earthy aroma and a thick taste with some bitterness. It was, therefore, unlike the Gong Ting I had previously experienced. It was also stronger than 15-year-old shu pu-erh which made me think that this tea cannot be very old.
I am not suggesting that the better the grade the better the tea as we know many factors affecting the quality of a tea (and there are even more of those for pu-erh teas). However, I would appreciate if I knew the origin of this tea which would also help me improve my understanding and judgement.
Type: Dark tea
Harvest time: Unknown
Leave colour: Dark brown/red
Liquor colour: Dark red
Tea aroma: Earthy
Tea taste: Thick with some bitterness
Steeping/brewing: You can use around 100°C water temperature 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: 30 years or more, if stored correctly (to improve shelf life store the sealed tea leaves in a dry, dark place with low temperatures)