The one thing I know about Puerh tea is I don’t know much about Puerh tea. So, I made it one of my resolutions to learn about it, taste it, explore it, and see if I could acquire a taste for it. My first experience with puerh was a flavored one, and it didn’t go very well (I’m looking at you, S’mores Chai). In my defense, I didn’t intend to drink a flavored puerh; I’m not entirely sure I realized S’mores Chai had a puerh base when I purchased it. But, I digress.
My second experience with puerh, the one I’m sharing with you now, was entirely different. First, it was unflavored. Second, it was a sheng puerh instead of, and I’m assuming based on color and what I’ve read about the taste, a shou puerh.
Also, in hindsight, I probably should have read a little more before diving into my first cup of sheng puerh, but sometimes it’s fun to go in blind, unaffected by expectations based on other peoples’ experiences. I guess it’s sort of like when I visit a new city for the firs time. I like to wander around without direction just to get a sense od the place, and sometimes I even accidentally stumble upon something I didn’t know to look for. Like the doggy playdate in a park nestled between skyscrapers in Chicago. Or the pinball machines tucked at the back of Coast City Comics in Portland, Maine. Oh, but I digress again.
Ancient Tree Green Puerh from Masters Teas
Origin: Yunnan, China
Harvest: April 2019
*elevation currently means nothing to me because I’m not knowledgeble about how that affects tea. Also, it’s in metric, which I haven’t used outside of 11th grade chemistry, and we definitely were not measuring anything in meters.
The Masters Teas website goes on to explain that the tea was hand-plucked from 150-year old trees (which don’t really sound that ancient), and this puerh goes through a 10 minute firing followed by roasting for 5-6 hours.
My tasting notes regarding temperatures and infusion times are inconsistently recorded. I’m going to say it is because I was meandering my way through this tea, much like the way I meander through cities without maps, but really I’m just bad at logging that information. I need to get better at that as I practice with my gaiwan.
The dry leaf is tightly twisted two leaves and a bud. They are brown, spinach and pea green, and occasionally there is a leaf covered in soft, silver fuzz. Their fragrance reminds me of the greenhouse I worked at for a season back in college. It is the scent that would stick to my fingers after deadheading flowers– vegetal and sour but somewhere buried is a hint of sweetness.
I put the dry leaf into a warm gaiwan and shake it. A new fragrance surfaces, and it smells sweet, powdery, and floral. Is it orange blossoms? Is it budding magnolias? It’s something that reminds me of Florida in February.
After steeping, the wet leaf smells sour and like steamed vegetables. Wilted spinach and lemon came to mind, and I find myself reluctant to drink.
Infusions 1 and 2
The liquor is pale, golden yellow, and the aromas are earthy and vegetal although my novice tongue can’t point to anything more specific than that. There is an astringency that makes me salivate and a bitterness and sourness on the back of my tongue that makes me think about eating the skin from a purple plum.
The liquor sits in the fill cup for a while as I try to process my first two infusions. I can’t tell if I steeped this incorrectly or if this is the nature of a sheng puerh, but while I sit there, notes of sweetness and “green”, like I’m chewing on leaves, linger on my tongue. When I finally tip the liquor out of the fill cup, the light bounces off it, and it looks like I’m pouring liquid sunshine into my cup.
There is an energy in this infusion that I have never experienced before. My toes and cheeks are humming, and it feels like there is cotton in my ears and in the space between my eyes. I am so distracted by this that I forget to write down tasting notes.
Infusions 4 and 5
I took a break to take Oliver to the library and then to settle him down for a nap. But, when I return to the tea, I shut myself up in a bedroom for proper alone time. Infusions 4 and 5 are still pretty astringent but the earth and sour, vegetal aromas give way to something faintly like a sweet apricot.
Infusions 6 to 8
These final infusions were lovely, with infusion 6 being my favorite. The astringency has drifted away, and now all I taste are dried apricots. The finish is sweet, like I’m sucking on sugar cubes stolen from the tea tray during a Girl Scout meeting decades ago. The sensation stays with me quite some time after I have finished the tea.
As I have no other sheng puerhs to compare this to, I can’t comment on quality and value. But, I suspect if you are new to this type of tea, like I am, Ancient Tree Green Puerh from Masters Teas is a good place to start. Adagio Teas and Masters Teas make better quality teas more accessible and inviting to those just starting on their tea journey. Even though I technically started my tea journey a decade ago, I let myself grow complacent and stagnant. I have learned more about tea in the past few months than I did during the past decade thanks to the wonderful tea community over on Instagram. And, it’s worth noting that the Ancient Tree Green Puerh from Masters Teas has made sheng puerh slightly less intimidating, which is good because I have a 2017 IPA from white2tea with my name on it.
Thank you to Masters Teas for sending me a sample of this tea for free in exchange for a review.