I love drinking and reviewing pu’erh. Something about the earthiness in the flavor strikes me as absolutely delicious, clean even in a murky way.
Having been provided with several pu’erh samples by Teavivre, I chose to begin with this one. As I prepared my teaware for a gaiwan session, I read a bit of the background of this tea. Teavivre’s website lists this pu’erh as having been harvested in the year 2007. Since it was probably not aged all of the time since then, these tuocha (the name for the small, bird’s nest-shaped compression of tea) were probably aged for five or six years. Many times, but not always, a lengthier aging will mellow out a ripe pu’erh (as opposed to raw pu’erh, which is another story entirely). One fact on their website about which I wondered was the statement “Low caffeine (less than 10% of the caffeine in a cup of coffee).”
Please indulge some flimsy science, here. If an 8 ounce cup of coffee has somewhere between 100 and 200mg of caffeine in it (very, very rough estimate, based on numbers taken from around the internet – not decaf coffee), then it would follow that this pu’erh has less than 10 to 20mg of caffeine. While the caffeine content in tea varies, based on the variety of tea and which part of the tea plant is being used (bud versus two leaves and a bud, for example), there is no realistic way in which an 8 ounce cup of pu’erh will have that little amount of caffeine, short of being commercially decaffeinated.
Discussion of tea caffeine levels aside, this tea was ready to go! Gaiwan…hot water…mini tuocha…rinse the leaves and begin the first steep! Thirty seconds later, the steep was done, the tea had been decanted, and I was on my way to tea-drinking enjoyment. I may have over-brewed this first steep, as it resulted in a very dark cup. My taste buds did not care one bit.
The deep, dark cup is full of flavor. As is standard for shou (ripe) pu’erh, it tastes as though you are drinking the smell of a forest, wet soil and all, in the best way possible. For as little aging as this pu’erh has undergone, I am surprised at how smooth it is. Other shou pu’erh of this age tend to have rougher edges. That said, what this tea lacks, being young, is complexity. The impression this first steeping gives is that of a straightforward, tasty, ripe pu’erh. Period. There is some interesting sweetness to the edges, but those flavor tones are a part of the whole and not nuances to be followed down rabbit holes of tasting.
Despite what I just said, I am enjoyed my cup immensely, and the soon the second steeping followed…and then the third… Thus far, the tea had maintained a consistent flavor, and I would have been disappointed, had this pu’erh not been able to withstand three solid steepings. By the fourth steeping, the flavor had begun to wane, but I pushed the leaves through two more, just to extract as much pu’erh goodness as possible.
Teavivre’s Ripened Aged Pu-erh Mini Tuocha make for great daily-drinking-pu’erh, as they are quite affordable and a good value for the flavor. On my personal enjoyment scale, I would rate these tuocha at 80/100.