This morning’s exciting review covers a brand new (to me) pu’erh for which there is always much rejoicing at Built from Ink and Tea. We love our pu’erh, and getting to try new pu’erh is a treat. The company from which it came, Tao Tea Leaf, primarily focuses on Chinese teas, and this vanilla mint-flavored shou pu’erh is no exception. Having taken what appears to be a young, ripe pu’erh and added vanilla bean and mint leaves, the result is an smooth and refreshing beverage.
I begin by adding leaves and just-boiled water to my gaiwan for a quick rinse. While the directions for this tea make suggestions for a western brewing style, I have chosen to prepare it in a gong fu style with a gaiwan in an attempt to bring out even more flavor over time. As I pour the water over the leaves again for their first, thirty-second steep, the aroma wafts from the gaiwan to my nose. It is intoxicating, smelling strongly of mint. Sweet, smooth notes from the vanilla temper the sharpness of the mint. As the first cup of pu’erh is prepared, my only concern lies with just how much the mint will dominate the flavor of this tea. Too much mint would defeat the purpose of having vanilla and pu’erh in the mix!
The first sip puts aside all of my concerns. The mint flavor hits immediately and with strength, but is smoothed by the vanilla. The vanilla enough sweetness the tea goes down easily but not so much that it tastes sugared by any means. Quickly, cup one is gone, and I steep the second cup. In the second cup, the mint and vanilla are more balanced. While not overwhelming, the mint had been fairly strong in the first cup. Now, the two are evenly spread throughout the flavor. And how is the pu’erh? Its earthiness makes for a good base to these two natural flavors, vanilla and mint. I would have been okay with the pu’erh flavor being stronger than it is, because the flavor is not very prominent. Mostly, the pu’erh can be tasted in the aftertaste and if one seeks-out the earthiness below the cool mint.
By the third and fourth cups, the mint and vanilla flavors have diminished. They are still present, but now the pu’erh has come forward and reveled in its earthiness. This cup tastes delicious. This is the cup for which I was waiting. All three flavors are now balanced, and, while I would not call the pu’erh “rich,” it is earthy enough to provide an excellent addition to the flavor profile. I highly recommend this tea. On my personal enjoyment scale, I would rate it a 95/100.