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2005 Changtai Yun Pu Zhi Dian “Top of the Clouds” Sheng Pu-erh from Crimson Lotus Tea

2005-Changtai-Yun-Pu-Zhi-DianTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Pu-erh

Where to Buy:  Crimson Lotus Tea

Tea Description:

This is a very special puerh prepared by the Yunnan Changtai Tea Industry Group. The blenders who work for Changtai are true masters of their craft. The leaves in this puerh are a blend of 15 mountains, Spring picked in 2005. The name for this cake “Yun Pu Zhi Dian” means “Top of the Clouds”. Since Yunnan means “Southern Clouds” this name has a double meaning. It refers to the heavenly experience and also that this puerh contains the best from Yunnan.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

I’ve often thought of pu-erh as a cooler weather type of tea because it’s a tea that I prefer to be served hot.  As the tea cools, I find that the flavors begin to mute and become lost.

And yes, I do drink hot tea even in the summer months, in fact, I drink more hot tea than I do iced tea in the summer months, but, I don’t drink as much hot tea in the summer as I do in the cooler months.

2005-Changtai-Yun-Pu-Zhi-Dian2So when I drink a pu-erh, I’m often reminded of the cooler days of autumn and winter, but as I sip this 2005 Changtai Yun Pu Zhi Dian “Top of the Clouds” Sheng Pu-erh from Crimson Lotus Tea, the tea seems to be evoking thoughts of late spring and early summer.

Perhaps it’s the lovely notes of fruit that develop throughout the infusions, starting off with a soft hint of apricot and in later infusions, I notice that the sweet apricot notes are accentuated with a contrasting sour note of tart apple.

Perhaps it’s the lovely background note of flower that seems to bring to mind thoughts of floral aromas filling the air in the spring.  Or maybe it’s the delicate woodsy notes and hints of vegetative earthy tones that remind me of the trees as signs of their springtime foliage begin to grow.

This tea is beautifully smooth and sweet with notes of fruit and honey.  In the earliest infusions, the fruit notes are strongest, but as I continue to steep, the honey develops and the fruit begins to wane somewhat.

Meanwhile, the woodsy notes are developing.  These aren’t musty wood notes, but clean, vibrant woodsy tones.   The tea has a sweetness to it that is balanced with the aforementioned notes of sour apple.

I’ve only just been introduced to this company – Crimson Lotus – but I am quite impressed with this tea.  They specialize in Pu-erh teas.  Those new to Pu-erh will find this a fantastic resource of teas that are good ‘starting out’ Pu-erh (and since they specialize in Pu-erh, they’ll be a great resource of knowledge for you too!)  And for those of you who are more experienced with Pu-erh, I think you’ll find that Crimson Lotus has an amazing selection of intriguing teas.

As for me, I highly recommend this Top of the Clouds Sheng!  It’s delightful!

Chocolate Mini Shu Pu-er (2000) from White Two Tea

Chocolate_MiniTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Pu-erh

Where to Buy: White Two Tea

Tea Description:

The 2000 Chocolate Mini Shu Puer bricks are so named for their small shape, rather than their flavor, which is more of a fruity sweetness. Each tin contains 100 grams of tea, which brews up dark and smooth. We recommend breaking the bricks apart and giving them a rinse, as some still have very tight compression and take awhile to open up.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

These little Mini tea cakes do look a little bit like a square of chocolate!  They don’t really smell like it though.  Dry, the aroma is earthy.  The brewed liquid has a softer scent, still earthy but the aroma is not quite as strong.

To brew this, I grabbed my gaiwan!  I broke the brick off into layers with a knife – this is a very tightly compressed brick!  Using 195°F water, I did a 15 second rinse and discarded the liquid, and then I filled the gaiwan with more hot water and let it steep for 30 seconds.  Ordinarily, I would steep it for 45 seconds but after 30 seconds, the liquid was quite dark so I decided to go ahead and strain off the tea at 30 seconds.

Chocolate_Mini1And I’m glad I did!  This first infusion was perfect!

The flavor is sweet!  Just as the description above suggests, the flavor has a fruity sweetness.  I taste notes of sweet plum and even a hint of peach.  The sweetness is profound, with notes of molasses along with the sweet fruit tones.

The flavor isn’t really chocolate-y.  There are notes of earth – but they are far more subtle than the aroma of the dry leaf and even than the brewed tea might lead you to think.  It’s a gentle earthiness that evokes thoughts of mushroom.  It’s a very smooth tasting tea with no astringency or bitterness.  It has a pleasant mouthfeel.

It’s a really enjoyable pu-erh.

And of course, with a pu-erh, I’m treated to many wonderful infusions!  The second infusion I steeped for just 30 seconds as well, and it was a very deep, full taste.  Very mellow!  In later infusions, the earthy flavors developed and I started to pick up on some woodsy flavors that evoked thoughts of the damp wooded areas up here in the Pacific Northwest.

The plum and peach notes seemed to subside a little bit, or maybe I should say that the fruit flavors developed into more of a date and fig flavor with notes of dark raisin.  I liked the way these sweeter fruit flavors tasted with the notes of molasses.  It was quite an enjoyable experience.

A really nice tea with which to spend an afternoon!

Mengku Arbor Tree Ripened Puerh Cake Tea ZhenMu LingYa 2007 from Teavivre

MengkuArbor

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Pu-erh

Where to Buy:  Teavivre

Tea Description:

With a century-old history, abundant rainfall and sunlight, Yunnan owns a reputation as “South of the Colorful Clouds”. She feeds her people and the land they live on with her own stream. This time TeaVivre brings you Pu-erh lovers the ZhenMu LingYa, within which the passion of Yunnan Pu-erh people you can feel. This Ripened Puerh Cake Tea ZhenMu LingYa uses fresh leaves of Mengku arbor tree as material. The tea workers have years of experience in making Pu-erh tea. With their hands and professional experience, they made the fresh tea leaves into this beautiful ripened Pu-erh cake. Using the Mengku arbor tree of high quality as material, this ZhenMu LingYa has the pure and mellow flavor of ripened tea. You could see the golden pekoe covering on the dry leaves. As the cake was suppressed just fine in tension, you could enjoy breaking the cake.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Like I do with most Pu-erh … I put off trying this Mengku Arbor Tree Ripened Puerh Cake Tea ZhenMu LingYa 2007 from Teavivre for a little while, but, I’m glad to be sipping on it today.

I brewed a chunk of this cake in my gaiwan, and I managed quite a few infusions from one small chunk.  The first infusion was earthy (most Pu-erh teas are!) but I liked that the earthy notes were subdued.  The flavor is deep, rich and mellow.  Really smooth without any astringency.  The sweetness is reminiscent of molasses!

My second infusion was a little more earthy than the first, but it was still very sweet and smooth.  By the third infusion, I found that the earthiness had really subsided to the point where I really found myself enjoying this Pu-erh.  Sure, I liked the first and second infusions just fine, but, my palate was much fonder of the third infusion!

The fourth infusion produced a slightly smoother taste – the taste was still very smooth in the first three infusions, but here I notice that the flavors tend to meld and become more unified.  It becomes a very smooth drinking kind of tea, with lovely sweet notes, hints of earth, and a sweet, caramel-y, molasses-y kind of taste all coming together in a seamless flavor.  It was really nice and mellow – the kind of cup that you like to enjoy after a meal.

I could have very easily taken this tea through even more infusions … although it was getting late.  My personal tea time had come to an end before this tea was ready to quit!  A really enjoyable Pu-erh … not my favorite, perhaps, but, certainly one I’d be happy to enjoy again!

Bai Mu Dan Vintaged White Tea (Harvest 2004) from Wan Ling Tea House

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  White (Aged)

Where to Buy:  Wan Ling Tea House

Tea Description:

Bai Mu Dan or Pai Mu Tan is a classic white tea from FuDing in FuJian province. This 2004 Bai Mu Dan aged white tea has been pressed into 357g tea cakes in 2010. The aim to preserve the leaf during storage and prevent damage during transportation.

This white tea, is absolutely stunning. Combining delicate, smooth body with a full, complex body. The taste is complemented a clear, bright liquor and enchanting aromas.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

Wow!  Just … wow!

This is a truly stellar tea, quite unlike any Bai Mu Dan I’ve ever tasted!

It brews up to a beautiful, clear, pale yellow color, almost the color of melted, clarified butter.  The flavor is sweet and delicate, with notes that are similar to a fresh Bai Mu Dan, but, I’m noticing some flavors that I don’t usually expect with a Bai Mu Dan as well.  A strong fruit note is present.  Much more intense than I would have thought was possible to achieve from a white tea.

I don’t know that I agree that this is a full-flavored tea, though, but it IS flavorful.  It has a soft texture, very little astringency, no bitterness, and a slightly floral, sweet aftertaste.  The aging process has not only managed to strengthen the flavors of this Bai Mu Dan, but, it also seems it has enhanced its complexity. As I continue to sip, I notice some earthiness starting to emerge, and I like the way this earthiness melds with the natural sweetness of the white tea.

Subsequent infusions yield sweeter flavors – fruitier flavors!  I note more of an apricot-like tone now, like dried apricots, with their flavors and sweetness intensified by the drying process.

This is a tea that is highly recommended to those that love white tea, they will adore this one!  I would also recommend it to someone who thinks they don’t care for white tea as they find it to be too light in flavor for their liking – this one will change their mind about that!  This is truly a remarkable tea!

Prosperity Cube Pu-erh Tea (Year 2003) from Red Leaf Tea

Tea Information:

Leaf Type:  Pu-erh

Where to Buy:  Red Leaf Tea

Product Description:

From the ancient halls of Chinese herbal science comes a special tea that is designed to call out to the spiritual world; Prosperity Pu-Erh Tea! When civilization was born, Chinese healers developed the arts of Feng Shui, writing, and herbology, and the Prosperity Cube. The Cube is a compressed block of herbs that have been specially prepared with sticky syrup and a small square mold. A Chinese character is applied to the cube during the molding process, as a spiritual call for a certain quality. When shared with family, the Prosperity Cube can be amazingly effective in lifting the financial burdens of the participants. Packed with just as many health benefits as other tea varities, Pu-Erh tea such as the Prosperity Cube make excellent sipping teas for those looking for a traditional Chinese taste.

Taster’s Review:

I’ve come to realize that not all Pu-erh teas are the same.  Just like with any tea type there are good Pu-erh teas and there are not-so-good Pu-erh.  This Prosperity Cube from Red Leaf Tea happens to be one of the good ones!

This Pu-erh is incredibly flavorful – and very pleasantly sweet!  The aroma of the dry leaf is a little earthy, but in comparison to some other Pu-erh teas I’ve encountered, I would say that the earthiness here is rather mild.

The steeped tea smells a bit more like damp wood than of earth, and there is a sweet kind of aroma to it too that reminds me a bit of caramelized sugar.  That caramel essence translates into the flavor very well, in fact, this is one of the sweetest Pu-erh teas that I’ve yet to try.  It isn’t the “deep undertone of caramel-y sweetness” that I often describe when reviewing Pu-erh, this is a sweet, caramel syrup overtone that is front and center.

It is incredibly smooth and there is no bitterness whatsoever.  I am also having a hard time discerning any hint of astringency to this cup.  It is just smooth and sweet from start to finish, with an oaken undertone and a hint of earth that hits just after the start.

If you’re like me and have had one or more unpleasant Pu-erh experiences in the past, don’t let that stop you from trying more.  If you do, you are only depriving yourself of what is indeed a fascinating journey of discovery.  On my journey, I am discovering so many wonderful Pu-erh teas there are out there to enjoy!

And if you’ve decided that maybe you should give Pu-erh one more try, I recommend starting with this Prosperity Cube from Red Leaf Tea.  One taste of it and you’ll have a hard time remembering what “bad” Pu-erh is like … this one is THAT good!