In an effort to start off on the right foot, I am publishing my first posts on 8/8, a lucky day in Chinese culture, as 8’s are an auspicious number. And in an effort to further my fortune, i will be leading with a well aged sheng puer. Last weekend, this tea was shared between some friends and I at Tao Cha Ju. About 10g of the 1970’s raw puer was parceled out into a gaiwan, to be split many ways, as you can tell by the long row of cups below.
However, before we dove into the tea, someone suggested we grab lunch. A fine suggestion, except that I had little interest in cigarettes and baijiu on a Sunday afternoon. Baijiu, for the
fortunate uninitiated, is a traditional Chinese liquor made from Sorghum or other grains, around 50% alcohol. I believe it varies from about 30% all the way up to the 60% range. It is useful for cleaning carburetors. In any case, I am not a smoker, and had little interest in getting drunk at noon on a Sunday. However, being the low man on the totem pole of the social situation, I had little say in the matter. Off we went to lunch.
After lunch we came back, and 10g of the aged sheng puer was weighed and placed in the gaiwan. I am not sure of the exact origins of this tea, but supposedly most of its tenure was spent in Taiwan. As you would expect with such an old mao cha, it has lost quite a bit of its strength. That loss of strength is duly compensated with a smoothness that comes with long aging. The initial smells off of the leaves were soft and spoke to the humid storage of the tea – not quite like a musty Hong Kong storage, but in the ballpark.
I was able to dodge the baijiu bullet at lunch, as was Xiao Yun Qing (the owner of Tao Cha Ju). After we came back from lunch, several of our compatriots were slowly fading from the booze. This was much to mine and Yun Qing’s advantage, as after about the fourth or fifth steep, what was originally six cups became two, and he and I drank the remaining 15 steeps.
The tea has a creamy smoothness, and a wet storage flavor that carried throughout. A light sweetness was more present the further we steeped. A brief cooling in the mouth and throat. More important than flavors, this tea left me feeling airy. That is part of the mystique of older teas like this, they leave behind harshness and aspects of their young character, and embrace an easy going nature. We should all be so lucky.