Leaf Type: Pu-erh
Where to Buy: Verdant Tea
Region – Hekai Mountain, Xishuangbanna, Yunnan, China
Processing – This is wild picked from one of the most bio diverse ancient tea forests in China. Hekai leaf is known for an orchid-like fragrance absorbed from native flowers. The tea is allowed to sun dry and age loose as maocha for several months to a year before being steamed and stone pressed into bricks. The leaf material for the Artisan Revival brick is from the oldest tea trees, some of which have to be climbed during the picking.
Read more about this tea.
My experience with Pu-erh has been pretty well-documented through the blogs for which I write, because really, before embarking upon writing reviews on tea, I had less than a handful of experiences with Pu-erh, and those tea moments were best forgotten. They were negative experiences, to say the least. Since those times, I have learned better ways to steep Pu-erh and have come to appreciate it.
This Artisan Revival Stone-Pressed Sheng (2006) from Verdant Tea is one of the best Pu-erh teas that I’ve tried yet. The aroma of the dry leaf is quite different from other Pu-erh teas that I’ve approached, rather than that strong, earthy presence, I find this one to to be a little more like warm spice and tobacco. It reminds me of the smell of my father’s pipe tobacco (my stepmother was very keen on trying to get him to smoke a pipe, she seemed more interested in it than he did, though).
For the first couple of infusions, I am tasting a floral note. This is a Pu-erh? There is very little earthy taste to this cup, and what little earthiness that I do taste is on the sweet side, like hints of wood and earth. It is incredibly smooth. So smooth, in fact, that it almost feels like melted butter as it glides over the palate. There is a sweetness that comes from the floral notes, as well as a somewhat honey-esque tone in the background. These honey notes, together with the floral tones give this a very honeysuckle-like finish. Overall, these first few infusions are light, sweet, and flowery, reminding me a bit of those early moments in spring when the air is clean and the plants begin to show hints of life.
With the subsequent infusions, the flavors became more assertive and yet the tea kept its smooth demeanor. It hasn’t become earthy, though, as much as it has become more vegetative. I can taste grassy tones. The aforementioned buttery texture is still there, and I can taste a buttery flavor as well. There are still flowery tones to this tea, but they are a little less distinct with the emergence of the grassy flavor. Still incredibly sweet and delicious.
In the last two infusions (infusions five and six … I suspect that these leaves could very well have submitted even more, but, I was content with the six infusions), I began to note a savory flavor emerge. It was still quite sweet, but there was a savory tone in the background that provided a nice contrast to the sweetness. There are still floral notes. The grassy flavor has mellowed slightly, making for an even smoother taste. There is less buttery flavor to these infusions, but the sweetness remains. If anything, I think the sweetness becomes more intense.
Now, as I sit and contemplate this exquisite tea, I can’t help but think back to those first few Pu-erh experiences with a bit of sadness. If only they had tasted like this Pu-erh…