Ruby Pu Erh – Nepali Tea Traders (dark tea)
Dry: wheat pollen, spice, toasty, with a hint of grape vine; a rich, deep aroma that seems elusive if details are sought after.
Wet: Damp earth in a corn field after a storm, wet stones, spicy, and wet vines with a hint floral spring.
Leaf: Beautiful, long-twisted leaves with variable colors ranging from dominant umber, to sienna and cadmium yellow with some olive hues developing with extraction. Some variable leaf size and cut, but large overall with a naturalistic pluck.
Cup: A rich, burnt orange, sienna tinged liquor with clean, coppery legs against the edges of the cup. Light to moderate bodied with spicy, tomato-vine flavor, bright and clean cup, with juicy mouth-feel and a growing velvety texture that gives way to toasty/baked notes that almost develop a flavor of walnuts. A lingering flavor stays on the palate, whispering a gentle earthy resemblance to shou pu-erh, but so delicate you have to listen deeply for it.
Directions: Used 3.1g of leaves in 4oz porcelain traditional cupping set, steeped in 190degree water for 2-3 minutes with following extractions being 3 min and finally 6 minutes. Only managed 3 extractions before color indicated spent.
Notes: When dealing with mountains there are often practical and poetic considerations. If there is a gift that tea translates from its place of origin, then it is often speaking a mountain language, one that translates its slopes and ridges, is stony bulwarks and frozen peaks, and its cold, swift streams. As a hiker, there is also the vibrating memory of body and mind that is penetrated by any trip linked peak to peak along a mountain’s thorny back. Whether slipping along the tree-line or summiting its peak, mountains have a lush language that is often only spoken in memory, as the body is often too busy to do much other that move and record, and so many of the sensations linger long after the journey; many lingering solely in the remembrance.
It is best thought that this tea is sharing this, so much of its flavor akin to vegetation, earth, and spice. Its resemblance to pu erh seems mostly in name, until after the cup is done and its voice echoes, much like a mountain view calls, and hints at motes of shou pu erh’s earthy legacy. Most who drink this cup and seek an experience with the mind of Yunnan pu erh, you will already be lost. Pu erh’s homeland being solely Yunnan and born in that land. “Dark teas” born elsewhere are a creature onto themselves, cast from different molds and fresh ideas.
Much of this cup reminds me of first flush Assam teas; something that I tried for the first time only a year ago. The juicy, vegetal cups, sweet and bright, brick-orange, and painting a textured tongue.
It is in the teas memory that its resemblance to pu erh is remembered, much like the alluded mountain walk where the view is stunning, vibrant and crisp, so too this tea presses its first impressions in uncommon views. It takes sitting down, the cup long empty, with the memory of its blush hanging much like a hikers remembrance of the stone under the feet and the cool mountain air at the nape of the neck, to find the earthy shou heart of this cup.
More than a cup of tradition, cast in a familiar and comforting mold, this cup is the brilliance of a view yet to be embraced and a walk towards cherishing what is at hand.
Additional note: When I was speaking with Pat from Nepali Tea Traders and pointed out the concern over naming this a Pu Erh he was quick to understand the reservation and made steps to rename this as a ‘dark tea’. Pu erhs are indigenous to Yunnan and all other teas produced in a similar manner are more appropriately called ‘dark teas’ (as was explained by a producer of ‘Dark Tea’ in Fijian to me).