Last week, we discussed what makes puerh tea unique and mentioned some of the health benefits one might enjoy from adding puerh to one’s daily tea drinking rituals.
Because of its long tradition and the mere fact that this dark tea is aged, we can enjoy spiritual benefits as well. Drinking puerh tea invites us to meditate on the nature of time’s passage, to develop an awareness of the fact that everything changes but to simultaneously discover how we can welcome and appreciate that change. The passage and flow of time is what is ultimately responsible for the transformation of this tea, indeed, for all change.
One kind of puerh especially shares in this tradition that reaches into both present and past. This puerh is known as “gu shu” (“ancient tree”). The term itself is sometimes vague, usually referring to any tea tree that is 100 years old or older, but this also reveals how prized “gu shu” tea leaves can be. Everybody wants to call their tree and their leaves “gu shu,” in large part because we know that the best and most flavorful puerh teas can come from the largest and most ancient tea trees.
In search of true gu shu puerh, Victoria set out on a tea journey in Spring 2016, visiting Yunnan Province in China. This journey would lead her to Mangjing Village in Jingmai Mountain, a region that borders Burma (Myanmar), where it is said that the oldest tea gardens are thousands of years old. The tea trees that Victoria found were growing among very large trees, boasting of a long lifespan, and these trees yielded tea leaves that were themselves rather large and fragrant.
In fact, there is a very large bee tree that is claimed to be more than 2000 years old and that boasts more than 60 bee honeycombs near the tree top. When you are standing under the tree, you can even hear the bees making noises and buzzing at the top. The locals call it the “Goddess Bee Tree.” It is a tradition for the villagers to gather together to worship under this tree each spring before the start of harvesting puerh tea. They believe it will bring them protection and an abundant harvesting year.
This particular tea journey resulted in sourcing none other than Jingmai Gu Shu Puerh, an ancient single tree loose leaf tea that Victoria herself was personally involved in helping produce by picking some of the leaves and assisting the rising star, tea master Ai. The result is an amazing and flavorful puerh that not only has excellent potential for aging but tastes great now as well.
Master Ai is a native BuLang, a minority group in Yunnan province. He grew up in the Mengjing village and has been making tea since the age of 15. Master Ai has an immense love for his home village, and he is very passionate about making the best puerh tea possible. He hopes that he can share his puerh tea with the rest of the world, and we want to help make that possible for him!
This particular puerh tea is extremely forgiving when it is steeped, imparting very little bitterness no matter how long it is steeped. Though in general we recommend steeping it for around 60 seconds at 200°F (90°C), the large leaves of this tea and its lack of astringency also makes this an excellent candidate for grandfather style brewing.
If you choose to enjoy this tea now, what you can expect from it is a consistency, texture, and flavor reminiscent of the purest and most refreshing spring water trickling down a slope in a mountain paradise. The flavor presents itself as orchid-like with hints of stonefruit and mushroom, and it has an aftertaste of sweet morning dew. There is no doubt that this puerh tea’s inherent sweetness will only be accentuated with the passage of time.
As a cost-effective entry-level tea in the world of puerh, I cannot think of a better representative of what sheng cha puerh tea is and I cannot think of a better selection for what puerh tea can be. This tea is delightfully complex and yet extremely forgiving, perfect for casual novices curious about puerh as well as experienced tea drinkers.Friendly Reminder: For those of you in the northern Virginia or Washington DC areas, do not hesitate to sign up for our Tea Tasting Class on “The Fundamentals and Tasting of Puerh Tea” for a wonderful and exciting hands-on experience. Our class will be held on Sunday, November 20th, and is scheduled from 3 to 5 PM. We hope to see you there!