I came across this tea when I paid a “see what’s new” visit to Canton Tea Co.‘s website.
At that time I paid £10.00 for the 100g mini beeng – as of the date of this post it’s on sale at £7.50.
The cake is a 2012 pressing of material from Mangshi Township, which lies in Dehong prefecture of Yunnan province. The varietal is Camellia sinensis (L.) Kuntze var. assamica (J. Masters) Kitam, which to quote Canton Tea is…
“…a puerh tree with deep purple leaves that grows wild and high in the forests of Yunnan.”
Yunnan Sourcing refers to this tree as…
“…a primeval varietal that pre-dates Camellia Sinensis var. Assamica and is a naturally occurring non hybridized varietal…naturally bug repellent, grows wild in the forests of Yunnan at an altitude of 1600-2200 meters.”
The Canton Tea blog has an interesting article about this varietal – click here to read it.
I’d been reading a lot about “purple” teas at that time, and so took it as a sign that I should drop a 100 gram cake in my trolley. So I did. Any excuse, non?
This was an interesting looking beeng to be sure. I found myself staring at it, trying to figure out how much of the colouring was down to the natural dark nature of the leaves, and how much of it was due to the four and a bit years of ageing the cake had undergone.
This was a moderately compressed beeng, and it was easy to slip the pu-erh pick in and begin to open up the cake, and soon I had managed to free off a good 5/6 grams of leaves, perfect for my 150 ml gaiwan.
Water was, as you might expect, straight off a full rolling boil. After a quick rinse, it was time to get steeping. The rinse left very little dust and detritus in the bottom of the gaiwan and the tea strainer – this was a relatively clean cake for a tea with four years ageing already under its belt.
The rinsed leaves had an interesting aroma. The usual sheng profile was there, but with something earthy layered on top, making it almost shou-like. Often I get the feeling of pine forest from shengs, a sensation of cool space, but this was all deciduous, hot and close, jungle like.
I started off with a 5 second infusion, with subsequent steepings 5 seconds longer with each new round.
The early steepings were dominated by a mild smokiness, and a pleasantly earthy licorice like sweet/sour/spicy taste. Then, around about the fourth steeping, the sweetness jumped up a notch. This was a “green” sweetness, like late summer cucumbers. This taste sensation was a true hui gan, a returning sweetness, that seemed to coat the whole of the inside of the mouth, still vivid long after the tea had been swallowed.
I felt as though I was back in my dad’s greenhouse, nursery for superb home-grown cucumbers and tomatoes, all dry heat and acid sweetness.
Once the leaves had really opened up after a couple of steepings, the broth showed a nice, full, creamy character, with a colour not that far removed from olive oil.
The Qi was a slow builder, and allowed you to take a gentle stroll over the hills and, if not far away, then certainly to the Parish border and back, rather than taking a magic carpet ride over them, if you follow. Physical effects included sweatiness on the back of the neck and chest. I also found that in common with many shengs this was yet another “time dilation” tea, capable of throwing a spanner into the works of my internal clock, making a three hour session seem like a mere 60 minute one.
The leaves were still going strong after 13 steepings, but unfortunately I had to go shopping, so I called time on the session at that point. I’m going to have to set aside a whole afternoon and see just how much I can coax out of this tea – my gut feeling is that it should be good for up to 20 infusions.
To sum up then – an unusual little beeng that just might be too much of a curveball for tea drinkers new to sheng pu-erh, but one that will slot in nicely for regular pu-heads wanting to add something different and a splash of colour to their stash.