In the search of an exceptional (and affordable) Pu Er

October 16, 2019
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This spring, Jasmin’s extensive scouring of the Yunnan brought him all over the province, visiting many different producing areas. On the lookout for new teas, he wanted more diverse options in Pu Er tea for the catalogue as well as some of excellent value for money to help counter the increasing prices of these teas. In the last twelve years or so, the market for Pu Er teas has been growing almost exponentially and the prices with it. So, the only one solution was to search further, deeper, and away from the well-known names of this terroir on the quest for a rare gem.

In the large Pu Er tea style, the sheng types definitely take most of the spotlight. Their slow and natural aging gives them unrivalled depth and aromatic complexity, their reputation is justified. Finding sheng Pu Erat good price is difficult but not impossible. To know more Jasmin’s recent discoveries read this article and learn more about his methodology.

The shou style of Pu Er, however does not enjoy the same reputation as the shengs. Their accelerated aging process involves more modern techniques for fermentation and is often overlooked by purists. The bacterial effervescence that their sustained heat and humidity provoke results in a simpler, more direct beverage.  Nevertheless it does allow for some excellent teas at excellent prices. After a few short months shou Pu Er have reached maturity. So for those who like the rich, earthy aromas of fermentation but don’t want to wait 30 years for slow aging teas to get there (or pay the price that goes with it), the solution is perfect.

As with every other form of tea transformation, unless it is processed with with artisanal expertise this style can create some really bad, swampy, fishy odours in the leaves. Many years of storage will then be necessary to restore balance to the tea, and those pleasant aromas of ripe fruits and beets be expect in this style.

On the lookout for shou Pu Er Jasmin travelled to Yongde, a region known for this type of production. In all of Yunnan, Yongde is the only place where shou Pu Er production exceeds that of sheng Pu Er. The city itself has little to write home about: typical of Chinese country side, industrialized, with high buildings not yet skyscrapers and dense atmosphere polluted by human activity. But what Jasmin found in Yongde was nothing short of stunning. If the city is imprisoned in a valley surrounded by mountains, the tea factories, on the other hand, are all located outside the urban district. Outside the city valley the air is fresh and clean, vegetation is  luxurious and trees grow everywhere. Tasting selection happened outside under a blue sky with a soft, odourless breeze. The leaves used for the tea were from deep in the forests. and brought to the factories by farmers who are paid varied prices their Mao Cha leaves according to quality. Firstly the fermentation is activated and then the rest of the transformation. Jasmin tasted all the latest  batches produced. Their aromas soft and clear, none of the aggressive odours of the better-known shou regions. Barely out of the factory, the tea is smooth, verging on excellent. Yongde artisans really know what they are doing.

For those who would like to taste this experience, this is the tea Jasmin found:

Pu Er Yongde 2018 shou - A Pu Er that glows with incredible smoothness, unusual in young fermented teas and a sign of a masterfully controlled fermentation. Taste wise, light, earthy aromas caress the palate, trailing into a sweet coca and spice finish. This tea could easily become one's favourite daily brew.

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