Pu’erh tea has a long history, stretching back to the Tang dynasty in China, 1,400 years ago. This style of tea is post-fermented, and can be aged, much like fine wine or spirits. While the actions at work here are different from those that produce alcohol, the impact is very similar. This aging creates a beautiful tea that is bold and complex. Watch for more information about the history of pu’erh in an upcoming post in the Know Your Tea series!
This organic Golden Pu’erh is the only traditional, no-flavoured pu’erh tea carried in store by David’s Tea. Fortunately, it is quite affordable, which makes it a good starting point for those starting into pu’erh. Much like high quality wine, you can spend hundreds, or even thousands of dollars on high quality pu’erh, so it’s nice to know that this product isn’t likely to scare off new tea drinkers.
The loose leaves are chocolate brown in colour, tightly rolled and very uniform. Uniformity of leaves is always a good sign, but especially so with teas like pu’erh, which have more steps in their processing than teas like whites or greens.
The leaves have a very strong aroma; so strong, in fact, that the smell practically fills the room as soon as you open the package. It has the smell of damp (but not dirty) hay, with a slight sweetness, almost like an 80% dark chocolate. While pu’erh teas often have “barnyard” aromas, the sweetness is a pleasant note that mixes well, and is followed by a slight note like peat. All in all, very earthy with a nice hint of sweetness.
After steeping for 5 minutes at 100•C, the tea takes on a very thick, dark reddish brown liquor. The liquor is thick enough to obscure the view of the bottom of a 3 ounce cup.
Unsurprisingly, the aroma of the tea is very strong as well. The key note of hay is still here, though a little “dirtier”, and combined with an aroma of dark molasses, and hints of licorice.
The taste is very earthy and mineral, and has a fantastic thick mouth feel. While not as thick as, say, Port or dessert wine, it is noticeably more thick than green or black teas. Among the primary flavour profile is clay, peat and dark molasses, but without the sweetness. The back end of this tea holds a beautifully smokey aftertaste, and helps this tea pair well with dark (90%+) chocolate.
While I’m a little disappointed that David’s Tea only carries this one example of a traditional pu’erh in store, I’d say it is the perfect one to choose, with an amazing balance of price, quality and approachability. While there are certainly higher quality pu’erh teas out there, I doubt you could find a better one in the same price range at any retail location.
Note: After reflection, I’ve decided to revise my rating to 4/5. The reason for this is that, unfortunately, 5 points seems to have become limiting. While I absolutely love this tea, it is difficult to reconcile a “perfect” score for an entry level example of this style of tea. If you’ve never tried pu’erh, this is a perfect starting point. If you’re an experienced pu’erh drinker, you can still appreciate it as a great example of simple pu’erh.