So people keep calling me crazy for drinking puer from this year. The heart wants what it wants, I tell them. In some seriousness though, and with concerns about dry storage aside, there’s something to be said for a very young, very raw tea on a hot summer’s day. While some teas aren’t quite “there” to be sure, I feel that if a tea is good now, there’s no reason to feel guilty for drinking it. Of course, Scott Wilson of Yunnan Sourcing fame is renowned for his wild and ancient arbor pressings, and with good reason. I actually had a cake of the 2013 San Ke Shu back in 2014 and attacked it with the same unrelenting ferocity that I am with this year’s pressing. I’m still developing my own philosophy of what to drink and when, but it certainly seems that listening to one’s own desires is a good as any place to start.
What follows are my notes from a session with this very excellent tea:
“Rinse smell is soft and inviting, with promises of complex floral and honey notes in the aroma. Tasting this rinse, there is already a density and sweet, creamy character to this tea, though it’s still more water at this point… There is a sticky, candy-like aroma from the leaves. The first proper infusion is clear like golden morning light, but still tinged by snow-pea green. As I sip, the first thing to strike me is the rich texture which drags itself down the tongue leaving fresh vegetable and wild honey sweetness in its wake.
The next notable element is the tea’s qi, or energy. Though not yet overpowering, I do feel a sudden rush to the head, which eventually settles behind the brow. This is a thick and sweet young sheng, active and full of life.
The subsequent infusion glows a darker and deeper gold without the hints of green from before. Its taste is more pungent, with notes of flower pollen and beach grass. There is also a bitterness present in this infusion, hiding just beneath the surface, which leaves behind a back and forth interplay between it and the sweetness in the aftertaste.
The third cup is clearer and crisper, with a more forward but fast passing bitterness. The creamy and desserty qualities I associated with the 2013 San Ke Shu become more apparent, in a way that is almost reminiscent of a Taiwan Oolong such as Jin Xuan, being both milky and vegetallay sweet at the same time.
The fourth infusion is crisper still, admirably structured and with a texture approaching what I would call ‘minerally’. Subsequent infusions remain full, alive, bitter, sweet, with a pungent floral complexity. In my very humble opinion, this is a nearly perfect young raw puer. As things stand, I can’t really see any reason to sit on this cake or put any portion aside for aging- this is already a very real tea, with a character that is direct and pure. Each steeping is enjoyable, and brings me back to why I love tea.”
I am still expecting to do a write up on tea storage this fall, when a couple of cakes will hit their two year mark in Colorado. Though I know that aging and storage can be divisive topics in the tea community, I hope we can appreciate the diversity of experiences present at the tea table. Teas, like those who drink them, are dynamic and change over time. Again, I think that there is a danger in focusing on what flavor or storage qualities are right or wrong, what matters is the experience in our cup, right now.