Wang Yanxin is one of the most well-trained and sensitive palates for pu’er in China. She started her business at age 20, and has been extremely successful due to her ability to find the best. She doesn’t care about brand, or even what year the tea is from. She cares only about flavor. Some people may have older more valuable collections, but nobody has a better tasting and more nuanced collection than Wang Yanxin. She knows how to prepare high-culture gongfu tea with scent cups and all, but simply prefers not to. She just wants to make great tea, and doesn’t care if you see her poking a tuocha with a needle in the gaiwan if it gets the best flavor.
Works Best With: Pu’er, especially shu pu’er
Take a 4-5g chunk of pu’er and place it in a gaiwan. Don’t worry about warming anything up. Pour boiling water over the tea. Take a pu’er pick and hack the chunk apart until it is pretty loose. Pour off the very strong wash through a strainer, and pour into each cup. Everyone can dump their own wash out of their cup while waiting. Pour more boiling water in the gaiwan. If it is sheng pu’er, pour it off right away, or when you remember, into a pitcher, through a strainer if you have one. If it is shu pu’er, pick at it a bit more with the pu’er needle, and then pour off. Keep steeping until you get tired of pu’er, and then do one very long 5-10 minute steep to pour on your favorite tea animals or yixing pots.
Wang Yanxin is one of my favorite tea personalities and one of my most influential teachers. She doesn’t serve tea in the sense of preparing it, she serves it in the sense of working for it. Her way of making pu’er is a fun one to try. It gets you to the best steepings faster by breaking apart the chunk of tea at the beginning, which is useful if you have a lot of tea to try like I often do. Pu’er may be expensive and “high-culture,” but Wang Yanxin reminds me of the humility of the farmers behind each brick.