Organic Special Grade Pu-Erh Tea

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Pu-erh Tea
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Edit tea info Last updated by Jason
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205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 30 sec

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20 Tasting Notes View all

From Arbor Teas

Our organic and Fair Trade Certified Special Grade Pu-Erh Tea offers an excellent representation of superior-quality loose grade pu-erh teas manufactured using the Shu Cha or "cooked” method of production. It hails from the Jing Mai Mangjing region of China’s southwestern Yunnan province, made from the 1300-year-old tea trees found there – some of the world’s oldest living tea trees. The medium-sized, tightly-rolled leaves render a rich, dark brown infusion, with mellow earthiness and good body.

Sustainability is a cornerstone of Arbor Teas’ business philosophy. In addition to offering an exclusively organic selection of teas, they recently became the first tea company to offer their whole catalog in 100% backyard compostable packaging. They’ve also carbon-offset the entire supply chain of their products, from origin to the customer, making Arbor Teas the greenest option for Earth-conscious tea drinkers, and one of few tea companies recognized by Green America.

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About Arbor Teas View company

We’re tea enthusiasts with a lot of passion. Passion for top quality tea, the environment, fair trade, and our community. We started Arbor Teas in Ann Arbor, Michigan, intent on creating a tea company as passionate as we are. Our passion is reflected in every aspect of Arbor Teas. You’ll certainly notice it in the exceptional collection of teas we offer - one of the largest catalogs of USDA certified organic teas around, nearly three-quarters of which are Fair Trade Certified®.

20 Tasting Notes

911 tasting notes

I am feeling bold and daring today so I decided to give this one a shot. There was a time that I thought I would never try pu-erh – the idea of it was just too scary. But then Steepster(ites) came along and made me brave enough to try it. I’ve tried a handful of different pu-erhs and don’t hate them, but I haven’t found one that I can really get behind (at least, not a cooked one – I’m kind of loving raw ones so far). I keep trying though! I might be out of luck simply because they all have a taste that I end up mentally calling ‘earth syrup’ and it’s just a little too rich/sweet/thick for me to not feel overwhelmed. But again, I keep trying, so I’m apprehensively excited to be trying this one.

The dry leaf is more ‘hay syrup’ smelling than ‘earth syrup’, but after a quick rinse and then some steeping and the earth comes out. No fishy though, which is another pu-erh smell/taste that can be a bit much for me so the lack of fish equals good. There actually might be a little hint of something spicy in the smell, too, but I’m not exactly sure on that.

Okay, I have to say this first steep is promising. Yes, there is some sweet dirt taste going on but it isn’t thick or heavy enough to reach syrup status. Instead, there is a little almost-Yunnan-like tea taste at the beginning of the sip and a little peppery-type like warmth/spiciness left on my tongue after each sip. The damp dirt sweetness hits in the middle of these two flavors and follows through to the end. And while the tip of my tongue is tingling with spice after the sip, the sweetness expands in the middle of my tongue. The post-sip sweetness is almost into syrup territory thickness but not quite.

Amazingly, I finished off my cup and wasn’t too pu-erh-ed out to avoid more steeping! Second Steep (4:00) is sweet and smooth and edges a bit more towards earth syrup but still doesn’t feel too heavy. I’m thinking the peppery warmth has increased a bit but that could be residual lunch after-spice (but I don’t think so since sipping seems to increase it).

And I’m still up for another steep, so Steep Three (5:00)! It actually tastes a lot like the last steep. Smooth, earthy sweet but not heavy enough to be syrupy. Not as much depth of flavor as steep one and I’m not getting so much of the hint of spicy, but it’s still good.

Fourth Steep (6:00)! Mild, sweet but a little lighter/thinner than the last two steeps and more closely matching the first steep (but without the pepper tingle).

Honestly, I wouldn’t be adverse to taking this tea a bit farther (which is kind of amazing since it is a pu-erh and usually I’m done pretty early in the resteeping process) but I just finished a HUGE blog post about my Hawaii trip ( so I feel the need to celebrate and relax with something green so I’m going to call this tea done. I’m also going to leave this unrated for a little contemplation time. The fact that this never hit earth syrup is huge for me so I actually can say that this is a cooked pu-erh I really like. Shocking, I know. But now the question is: how much do I like this? Will I start craving it’s slightly lighter pu-erh profile? Is this enjoyable enough to break through my anti-cooked-pu-erh mindset to where I would actually buy it? That’s what I need to figure out so no rating for now, but it’s definitely a 75 or over.

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec
Jim Marks

I have to confess I’m baffled by this whole pu-erh -> sweetness thing. But if that’s what you’re getting, that’s what you’re getting.

Not coincidence that pu-erh would share notes with Yunan since that’s where pu-erh is made.

Given how short your steeps are, you could definitely take this tea a lot farther, I think, and keep getting good cups. Everyone says I’m insane, I know, but I steep pu-erhs for tens of minutes at a time with great results. With these short steep times, I’m sure you can get at least a half dozen cups from one set of leaves.


That’s totally not your face in my head! That looked lovely though, especially the aquarium. I love places like that. And zoos. :D

It’s weird that we’re taste twins in almost every other sort of tea except pu-erh. I can’t get over that, really. My brain won’t accept it. (And I suddenly remember I forgot to order a green pu-erh sample when I was shopping at NBT the other day. I knew there was something I’d forgotten. Four green japanese though.)


Jim – I’m sure I could too as I have before. I just chose not to on this one because I was ready for something else. As for the sweetness, for me pu-erh like a cane or other very dark syrup, just dirt flavored.

Angrboda – Dare I ask what I look like in your head? :) And I’m really trying to learn to love pu-erh so maybe one day when my taste buds grow up, we’ll have matching tastes in that, too! :D

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237 tasting notes

Finishing up the sample pack of this very fine pu-erh, so I’m using a little more leaf than normal in order to avoid a too-weak cup next time around. At this strength I’m getting more of a roasty flavor, as well as something akin to a dried dark cherry flavor, both of which are a good after-lunch complement. And though it may just be psychosomatic, it does feel like it is having a positive effect on my digestion!

205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec

OK since I’ve seen you mention pu-erh’s often, I will appeal to your expertise, if you don’t mind. I have an aged pu-erh sample; looks like a little hunk off a compressed cake. No prep instructions. Rinse it first? Water temp and steep time recommendations? Thanks.


I’m no expert, but I have found that rinsing a compressed pu-erh brings out the flavor nicely. I put just enough boiling water to cover on top, slosh it around for about 20 seconds tops, then pour out the water before resteeping with freshly boiled water. Pu-erhs can be so varied, it’s hard to give steeping parameters that will work every time. With regards to water temperature, I think most people are happy with boiling. Steeping time is trickier; may be best to start with a short steep in case you’ve got a strong one (like CTG’s camel’s breath), about 30 secs to one minute. Other types of pu-erh, especially loose leaf like this one from Arbor, can go several minutes without problem. Pu-erhs also take multiple steeps really well. Good luck!


Thanks. Will error on the side of caution to keep it light. I don’t mind essence of potting soil, but I don’t want to drink mud either :)

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6770 tasting notes

Smells like mud and worms. Doesn’t that really make you want to read the rest of my review for this!? LOL – Trust me…it gets better…

The taste is earthy but almost sweet and semi-syrupy – I’m quite surprised, actually. The syrup is more like a watered down syrup and not super thick. I only went 1.5 minutes…maybe a little less. For my pu-erh tolerance I don’t think I would go anymore with the infusion. As it cools I am liking this one less because it seems to be gaining strength. It seems to be tasting more like worms or fishy or something…As long as I chug this one hot – it should be ok…I’m not really digging it as it cools tho.

1 min, 30 sec

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59 tasting notes

Auggy’s post inspired me to try this one again. Usually pu-erh helps settle my stomache, and I’ve been feeling a bit queasy today, so when I read her review the idea to drink some pu-erh popped into my head. Pu-erh teas are one of those strange things in life where I’m not sure why I like it or love it, I just know that I do. Maybe like rainy days.

Anyways, the tea definitely did the job, feeling much better now.

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4846 tasting notes

This is one that I hesitated trying until now… because, well, it’s Pu-Erh, and that’s my typical response to Pu-Erh. Hesitation. Apprehension. FEAR! Mostly because I am still “acquiring” my taste for it.

This one is actually quite good (for a Pu-Erh). The earthy aroma and flavor are not as strong as in many of the Pu-Erh teas that I’ve tried, and it has a very pleasant body and sweetness to it.

I’m off to write a review for this one.

200 °F / 93 °C 0 min, 45 sec

I have a sample of this and been hesitating to try this one!

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180 tasting notes

My second Pu-Erh, and I’m starting to pick up on those… not so nice descriptions of the smell. Specifically, fish food.

Luckily, that description doesn’t translate to the taste (not that I’ve tasted fish food, mind you) but I’m still not overly excited by this one. After reading some of the reviews suggesting a longer steep time, I tried it again, but not much had changed. There’s nothing bad about it, exactly… just nothing I find particularly interesting.

Boiling 6 min, 0 sec

For the strong pu-erhs, I’ve found that doing a 10 second “flush” with boiling water, and then using 180-195 degree water to steep seems to yield a milder, non-fishy cup for me. I experiment a lot with my pu-erhs!


I’ll have to try that. Thanks.

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714 tasting notes

Steep Information:
Amount: 2 tsp
Water: 500ml at 212°F
Tool: Breville One-Touch Tea Maker BTM800XL
Steep Time: 1 minute
Served: Hot
Tasting Notes:
Dry Leaf Smell: earthy
Steeped Tea Smell: fall leaves, dirt
Flavor: earthy yet smooth
Body: Medium
Aftertaste: sweet
Liquor: translucent dark red-brown
500ml at 212°F for 1 minute 30 seconds
Exactly the same as the first steep

500ml at 212°F for 2 minutes
Exactly the same as the first steep

This tea could have kept going, but the work day was over

Rating: 3/4 leaves


Boiling 1 min, 30 sec

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559 tasting notes

Alright, Organic Special Grade, take two.

This time I’ve steeped it for seven minutes. Last time it was just a tad too mellow for my tastes, so this time I decided to experiment. (Especially since a friend told me I could just let it go for as long as I wanted.) It brewed up incredibly dark as usual, and everything the leaves touch turns dark amber.

I also added sugar and honey, a tablespoon of each. And this is so good. The extra two minutes have made a great difference. It is still not bitter in any way, but the flavor has strengthened. It’s so incredibly smooth and sort of buttery. It does dry the mouth out a little, though. And it does definitely taste roasted and earthy. I might have to add this to my shopping list…

Upped the rating. And I will see what happens at nine minutes eventually. :D

Boiling 7 min, 0 sec

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7 tasting notes

I just tried this tea and I loved it! I’m a big fan of black teas and have tried many different sorts, but this one takes the cake. Its very soft and mellow which makes it a perfect tea for an early morning, a cozy night, or a chill afternoon. I will definitely be ordering more of this tea ASAP!

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6 tasting notes

I am new to puerh and this is just the 3rd one I have ever tried. So far, this is best puerh I have ever tasted. The first 2 that I have tried are too fishy. I tried to simulate some “rinsing” as in the gaiwan, and it took me about 4 or 5 “rinses” to remove that fishiness. But with this one from Arbor Teas, I really didn’t have to. And yes, it gets better after every infusion! What a revelation! No astringency. I have experimented to cold brew the spent leaves in the refrigerator for my own iced tea (that makes about the 5th infusion). What a wonderful tea! In the iced tea, by the way, I have recently infused it along with some hisbiscus petals. The possibilities are endless!

0 min, 45 sec

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