Tea Review: White2Tea Reviews Part Three, the Pu-erhs

NB: These teas were sent to me for review, but all opinions are my own. For more about my review policies, click here.

Months ago, when I received an incredibly generous package from Paul at White2Tea, I knew it would take me a while to get through all of it, even just for review. Add into that a honeymoon and two business trips, and, well, here we are. I’ve finally gotten through the last three samples. This is kind of the main event for White2Tea: Pu-erh. Pu-erh, which is a kind of fermented tea, falls into two main categories: sheng (or raw), and shou (or ripe). White2Tea went ahead and sent me 25g samples of two of their raw and one ripe pu-erh. I brewed all of these teas according to White2Tea’s guidelines, and experimented further where noted.

2016 Daily Drinker:

You may remember this photo from Instagram a last week, when I commented that this tea does not work grandpa- or farmer-style. But it is a delightful raw pu-erh. My previous experience with pu-erhs were entirely of the funky, ripe variety, and it was novel to try this style. This tea starts out with a very light color, body, and scent, which intensifies to its peak around the 5th steeping. I noticed a characteristic anise scent and flavor and a sweet taste that, despite my general dislike for anise and licorice, was not unpleasant. I also tried it steeped in 15-second intervals in my fish gongfu set and enjoyed it very much. It tends to get too bitter steeped grandpa-style. At $19 for a 200g cake, I will almost certainly buy this again (although I may try the 2017 instead).

2016 We Go High:

This is a blended raw pu-erh that confused me slightly. The web listing shows a quite light brew color, but this brewed up amber from the first steeping for me. The leaves themselves have a delightful visual variety, and has the earthy aromas I associate with a ripe pu-erh mixed with the fruitiness of a raw one. The flavor is enjoyable, with an almost mineral edge to it and a creamy mouthfeel. This tea also has the strongest “tea drunkenness” effect I’ve ever noticed from a tea. I was buzzing around all day at work on this and found myself both productive and happy, although it became a bit much after a few cups. This is a wonderful tea, but all that said, I almost certainly will not purchase it again myself, as it is $139 for a 200g cake, or $18.50 for a 25g sample, and I’m not sure I got that much out of it.

2017 Old Reliable:

This is exactly what I think of when I think of pu-erh tea. It’s deep, dark, almost coffee-like in its thickness and intensity, but with absolutely no tannic edge to dry my mouth out and sour my stomach like strong black/red tea. This has notes of earth, mushrooms, and leather. In fact, I have a coworker who refers to pu-erh as “shoe tea” based on a previous experience. I found that funny, since this actually is shou pu-erh. Anyway, I got a solid ten steepings out of this before it started to diminish, but noticed a sweetness coming through at the ninth steeping, so this tea is definitely in it for the duration. At $14.50 for a 200g cake, how could I not repurchase this?

Rainy Days and Earthy Tea

It’s raining today. Right now, it’s really coming down. I can hear the rain pelting my office window, coming down constantly, with little bursts of potency occasionally. The whole landscape is grey and chilly and dreary. It’s a wonderful day to be inside. If I were at home, I would be curled up with a blanket or shawl, probably one of my cashmere shawls, on my favorite chair, with a cup of tea, maybe a book or television show, and a lovely snack that I made because it’s a dreary day and dreary days require snacks.

Sadly, I am at work. While I still have a shawl and a chair, neither are as cozy as being in your own spot at home. And there is no lovely complicated snack. But I do have a cup of tea.

This week is also tech week, which means late nights after long work days, and little sleep in between falling into bed and rising the next morning as the alarm blares so much earlier than one expects it. Little sleep and long days ahead call for fortification and the light oolongs and green teas that enticed me when the weather was warm just are not satisfying me now. So I was pleased to see a sample of Pu-erh black in my Simple Loose Leaf box this month. Today simply called for it.

Pu-erh is certainly an acquired taste, and it has been a while since I enjoyed it, but I love the earthy richness. This Pu-erh has a subtle dirt smell to the dry leaves, but blooms into a complex medly of scents and flavors in the brewed cup. The aroma has a note of fish almost, like really good gardening soil, and opens into a soft, round richness on the tongue, with absolutely no tannin, but a nice mineral quality that makes it feel comforting and uplifting. While Pu-erh is supposed to be high in caffeine, I get no immediate jittery buzz like I do from coffee or some strong black teas. Instead, I get a rising warmth and energy as it works its way into my system.

All in all, a lovely way to greet what promises to be a long day.