I have been meaning to post about this tea but it took a while to make my mind up as it has surprised me on multiple grounds.
1- Loose-leaf pu-erh: I have had several shu pu-erhs in loose forms. But most of my sheng pu-erh experience is based on cakes or other compressed forms. The smell of the dry leaves was slightly disappointing. The smell of ‘old’ was there, with some earthiness and smokiness but nothing refreshing or surprising. But you can tell me that who drinks pu-erh for its aroma?
2- Purple bud (Zi Ya): This tea is made from the young buds of tea trees in the early days of spring only when those buds look purple. As they mature, they turn into green. Purple leaf tea provides more complex flavours and is considered nutritious. They are even mentioned in the oldest book about tea by Lu Yu, who wrote that purple leaves are of better quality. What I understand is that not every tea bush or tree produces purple leaves. So, this property is likely to be linked to the type of tea plant, which is Qiao Mu.
3- Qiao Mu: This tea also bears the name of the type of the tree where its leaves come from. Qiao Mu refers to old arbour trees (around 100 years old) which are not bushes. So, it is likely that we are talking about ‘wild’ tea tress here rather than tea cultivars/plantations. Teas from Qiao Mu are said to give good tea energy and they fetch higher prices in the pu-erh market.
4- Ageing: I drank this tea when it was aged for 10 years which the seller considers a ‘semi-aged tea’. Indeed, this tea was stored for 7 years in natural Taiwanese storage. Obviously, the taste of this tea may improve further with ageing.
5- Elevation: This tea comes from Wu Lian (literally endless mountain) Mountain range whose peaks exceed 3000 m. The tea gardens are usually above 2000 m which is quite an exception height. While Wu Lian is not one of the famous tea mountains in Yunnan, it is known for its good sheng pu-erh.
I think I just wrote too much just to say that sheng pu-erh is not everyone’s cuppa. My experience with sheng has not been too bad. I do not mind its astringency and I love its complex floral flavours. With this tea, I did not have any floral notes. However, I tasted some notes that puzzled me. They were a bit like hay, wood and earth which I would normally associate with shu pu-erh. I drank it on three different days to make a better call, but I do not think I can. What I loved most was how silky soft its buds and leaves were. Perhaps not the taste, but the leaves proved the quality this time.
Origin: Wu Liang Shan, Yunnan
Harvest time: March 2010
Leave colour: Shades of dark brown and green
Liquor colour: Clear cupper
Tea aroma: Feeble earthy and smoky aroma
Tea taste: Long-lasting slight astringency with notes of wood, hay and earth
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: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)