Leaf Type: Pu-erh
Where to Buy: Verdant Tea
Mt. Banzhang is considered the absolute top of the line in pu’er leaf, but Mt. Yiwu is giving Banzhang a run for its money. The art of pu’er in Yiwu is thriving and threatening to take 1st place. Compare this to the American cheese and wine movement that is finally strong enough to hold its own against France. Because Yiwu is not yet as famous, the tea is much more affordable, even certified single origin bricks like this one. Buy a brick if you can and watch this tea age into some of the best. In ten years it may be much more difficult to even obtain Yiwu leaf for import.
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This is Pu-erh? I found myself questioning it the moment I opened the pouch and noted the aroma, which was not strong nor as earthy as a typical Pu-erh. The earthiness is very slight, smelling a bit more like mushrooms to me than earth. The brewed liquor takes on a slightly stronger earthy tone, but, still, not nearly what I’ve come to prepare myself for when I drink Pu-erh. There are lingering notes of wood, reminding me of a walk through the forest – again, not so much of the smell of the earth in that forest, but the trees and the surrounding air which is enhanced with a hint of smoke from a nearby cabin.
The complexity of the aroma translates into the flavor. I taste a fruit note in this cup – something I can’t ever recall noticing in another cup of Pu-erh. It is not a strong flavor, but more of a whisper of a flavor in the background, a mystery that is hidden behind the solid notes of wood and spice. The spice tones start out “almost” peppery – almost but not quite. As I continue to sip, I find that the peppery tones develop somewhat, but it remains a subtle spiced note.
The tasting notes on the Verdant Tea website suggest a hibiscus tone, but I have to say that I don’t really notice hibiscus. Perhaps a hint of tartness from the berry/fruit notes that I mentioned earlier, but as I don’t like hibiscus, and I am enjoying these fruit notes, I don’t taste hibiscus when I taste the berry-like flavor; but I can see where the comparison to hibiscus is made.
It is incredibly smooth with no astringency or bitterness. The body is lighter, delivering a taste that is not quite as heavy as a typical Pu-erh. It has a light sweetness that is not so much the caramel-like sweetness that I’ve come to appreciate in Pu-erh … it’s different, but no less enjoyable. In fact, that this IS different, it becomes even more enjoyable; intriguing me to continue to sip so that I may pinpoint what it is I taste.
Subsequent infusions seem to deliver more complexity. Just as the previously mentioned tasting notes from Verdant Tea suggests, the berry/hibiscus-y notes develop into more of a tart apple taste. I can really taste the cedar notes now. The spice has developed as well, a light peppery note without those high spice notes. A subtle, low pepper tone.
If you’re new to Pu-erh, I think that this would be an excellent Pu-erh with which to start. If you’re a seasoned Pu-erh veteran, I would still recommend trying this Pu-erh for its unique set of flavors, you may find it to be a deliciously different addition to your tea cupboard.
An exquisite Pu-erh (and I really don’t think I’ve used exquisite to describe a Pu-erh before!)