Tasting Notes: Pu Er sheng 2004 Changtai

March 23, 2020
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With spring on the horizon but still not here, what better time to try some of our aged teas? Our Pu er, with their wild and earthy aromas, are a particularly good pairing with snowmelt season.  A rich hot pot never fails to warm the heart while waiting for the first buds to open. So as the cold wind blows outside, put the kettle on and pull out your favourite yixing pot: it’s tasting time!

For this blog, Laurence, tea guide at our Quebec City store, shares his notes on the Pu Er sheng 2004 Changtai. While he eagerly awaits the coming of the new spring teas (like everyone else) he was still happy to talk about one of his favourite aged tea.

Founded in the 1990s after the ban on private businesses by the Chinese government was lifted, Changtai Tea Group rose quickly among the ranks of leaders in the Pu Er tea industry. In less than ten short years, it propelled a micro-enterprise from Yiwu village to a solid reputation and established itself as one of the most important tea factories of the region today. The big tea cellars of the world boast many of their products, especially their 1999 to 2004 vintages which are widely considered to be their best.

Our 2004 Changtai sheng Pu Er is an excellent example of high standards in aging techniques. Its excellent material quality and prolonged storage period in Hong Kong (where the ambient conditions are ideal for aging) have made it a remarkable tea. Fifteen years in hot and humid climate has greatly favoured its bacterial development, an essential condition for fermenting the leaves.

Infusion settings: Steeping in a 110 ml yixing teapot with 5 grams of tea, 95 °C water and a quick rinse on the leaves.

What I like most about our 2004 Changtai sheng Pu Er are is its rich beet and garden soil fragrances. Beyond the tea’s undeniable quality, beyond its notorious name or its flashy pedigree, the tea is most easily enjoyable for all the good summer memories it brings back to mind. I like to see customers smile when they smell the dry leaves.

First steeping (30 sec)

The beetroot scent present before steeping is now added with woody fragrances (tobacco and cocoa) in the wet leaves. The mouth is soft and displays low tannin content. It has a strangely wulong-like intensity in its aromas, although unlike wulong teas or other highly aromatics teas, these are not light and aerial, but rather deep and soothing.

Second steeping (20 sec)

The tightly pressed leaves pried from the cake are starting to unfurl in the teapot. The bacterial effervescence that came with Hong Kong storage now strongly marks the infusion with its rich earthy aromas. Freshly unearthed carrots, potatoes, beets, more beets… delicious soothing taste.

Third steeping (20 sec)

Having only been recently brought to Canada, the 2004 Changtai’s taste profile is dominated by fermentation. Its leaves still carry the humidity and micro-organisms from the aging environment. But left in drier conditions and it will eventually develop fruitier and woodier notes that are currently layered beneath the root vegetable fore-mouth. Right now is, in my opinion, a good time to enjoy it.

The third steeping reveals fruit-like scents in the cup: dates, plums, figs… very tasty!

Fourth, fifth and sixth steeping (30 sec)

The taste of each brew slowly shifts towards wet wood and fresh tobacco notes. Its finish now leaves a long trailing sensation of autumn breeze in the mouth, a taste like fallen leaves. I drink it as I would a walk in the forest during snowmelt: slowly and lengthily. A real treat to enjoy while waiting for spring.

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