I’ve been exploring puerh teas for a year or so now, and have come to find that the sheng (green or raw) type, initially feared and hated, is now my preference. Raw stuff is a work in progress, full of intrigue and complexity, although often with some bitterness and astringency. Indeed, a sheng which is too mellow early-on may not have enough ‘oomph’ to morph, with age, into something uniquely splendid.
This Yunnan Pu Erh Gold tea is not a sheng. It is a shu (ripe) puerh. Think “shu is through” (fermenting). And what’s more, it’s a shu which has been engineered for the Western palate and gaze: gussied up in gold and toned down in taste, with most of the funky horse stable quality long gone. A year ago, this would have pleased me. Now, I find it plainly boring (although amazingly smooth) like a nondescript, albeit very woody, black tea. Lately, I’m apt to add milk and sugar to hot shu puerh or to have it iced in the afternoon. Really, it’s good, rich, dark, earthy! And I guess it should be considered an accomplishment, because “richly-flavored yet smooth” seems to be the sought-after accolade for a shu puerh.
“Excellent of it’s kind,” rating objectively here. And off goes the rest of my sample, into the TTB, so others can experience the “Perfect Shu.”
I want to encourage others to try sheng (raw/green) puerhs. Beg, borrow or swap, or buy the readily available sample sizes, and don’t start with a banzhang (too strong). PuerShop and JasEtea ship from within the US. YunnanSourcing and others ship all over from China. Use less leaf and cooler water, so the taste won’t shock, in brewing tiny portions. If you don’t like it (yet), stick it in an unglazed clay jar, paper bag or cardboard box (NOT foil or plastic; this tea wants a bit of air) and shove it to the back of the cupboard to age. Try it again in a year or 6 months. I’ve even bought a few small (100 to 200 gram) cakes of compressed sheng puerh, so that even a cranky old crone like me can anticipate turning 75 … ;)