Qianjiazhai Old Growth 2012 Sheng
Master Han picks wild tea trees in the Qianjiazhai region of the Mount Ailao National Forest Preserve, Yunnan. He takes the utmost care to “let the leaves speak,” pressing each batch of leaves differently to bring out their best, either as a looseleaf sheng, a black tea or a pressed cake or ball of tea.
He works his own land, but is part of the Dongsa farmers cooperative. The cooperative does not pool tea for bulk selling, but rather invests in equipment together so that each farmer can produce their own distinct products with a greater degree of ownership. This pu’er cake was made using Master Han’s leaf, but the cooperative kicked in for one pu’er cake wrapper and a pu’er press that everyone can share.
This loosely compressed cake of sheng has yielded deep complexity that brings out the richness that Master Han’s land has to offer. The initial aroma is of strong elderberry tea with woody undertones and a distinctly potent and energizing edge.
The early steepings are sweet like holy basil, and spicy like green plantain. The taste is so smooth it could easily be a dancong infusion instead of a young sheng pu’er. After the first light steepings a rich and addictive savory flavor begins to develop with the edge of a fine aged parmesan tempered with balsamic vinegar. This edge opens and rounds out into a buttery potato flavor with herbaceous banana leaf notes.