If you read enough tea blogs and keep up to date with developments on the tea scene via Steepster and the /r/tea subreddit then you could hardly fail to notice that UK based tea vendor What-cha has a growing reputation for excellent teas and superb customer service.
I’ve already posted about 2 of their wonderful range of teas – a Sen Zhi Kui Kokang Raw Dark Tea and the Jingmai Unroasted Oolong.
As regular readers will already know, I’m always on the lookout for new shou Pu-erhs to try, and so when I saw this little beauty there was not a second’s hesitation in throwing it into my shopping cart. What-cha commissioned none other than Scott “Yunnan Sourcing” Wilson to produce this cake, and with Scott on-board you know you’re in safe hands.
This 2016 pressing is a 100g mini-beeng, which currently retails for a very reasonable £8.00 (US$9.83, €9.26).
The raw material for the cake was harvested in 2015, and comes from Yong De county, Lincang prefecture, Yunnan province. This is a blend of grade 1, 3, and 5 leaf – Pu-erh leaf grades refer to the size of the leaf, as Scott explains in this article on the Yunnan Sourcing blog.
I have to say that this was the prettiest shou beeng I have laid eyes on! Many of them tend to be rather uninspiring to look at no matter how tasty they brew up, but this cake was the exact opposite, and as a result I couldn’t wait to get stuck in with my pick and get steeping.
This was a fairly lightly compressed cake, and it was easy to open it up with my pu-erh pick and free off the 6 grams I wanted. Those leaves were dropped in a 150 ml gaiwan, and after the customary quick rinse with boiling water it was time to get brewing.
Post rinse the aroma coming off the wet leaves was like the condensed essence of an August afternoon at our summer house, hot granite cliffs and pine needles.
The first steeping was a 5 second one. When even such an initial, short infusion comes out super creamy and smooth with a rich taste of vanilla and sweet cherry then you now you’ve hit the shou jackpot!
The next set of infusions were each 5 seconds longer than the last, up until the 8th at 40 seconds. By the 3rd steeping the body had thickened up to the extent that the last few drops hung on to the lip of the gong dao bei like treacle running out of a jar.
By the 8th infusion the vanilla tone had faded a tad, and the sweet cherry taste had been switched out for an equally pleasant sour cherry that seemed more in balance with the vanilla.
The tea seemed to be running out of steam a bit, so I upped the steeping time of the next couple of rounds to 1 and 1½ minutes respectively. Although I felt that the tea still might have had more to give I was a bit short of time, so called a halt to the session at that point.
All in all this is a terrific little cake, and one that will always have a place open for it in my stash. Highly recommended.