Verdant Tea

"New" Old Shu Pu'er

"New" Old Shu Pu'er

"New" Old Shu Pu'er

tiandiren & longyuanhao tasting journal

February 17, 2016


Wang Yanxin was our first mentor in tea. She has been in the pu’er industry long enough to see the blossoming of smaller private workshops splinter off from the state run farms in the later 90’s and early 2000’s. She has seen the growth of the industry, the speculative investment in pu’er, and the market collapse in 2008 that cut back the burgeoning numbers of workshops out there to the ones with the reputation, quality and price point to survive.

Wang Yanxin, our mentor, partner and good friend
Her favorite workshops are not the big brand names like Mengku and Xiaguan. To Wang Yanxin, those are mostly packaging gimmicks for mediocre teas. For her, the challenge has always been finding the most interesting, engaging taste experience without considering the wrapper. She has found herself drawn over the years to a handful of mid-size workshops, and a couple of very small farmers cooperatives. Two of her favorite workshops are Longyuanhao and Tiandiren. Longyuanhao shu and sheng pu’er tends to be full of woody camphor notes and tons of “forest” flavor, while Tiandiren is known for shu pu’er that is smooth as can be and rich like spiced elderberry.

For Chinese New Year, Wang Yanxin resolved to go through her entire collection and pick out teas to release from years of aging. She picked a sixteen year old Longyuanhao shu, pressed the spring after the company was founded, and beautiful decade old Tiandiren shu pu’er.

While most of our collection is sourced directly from the producers, Wang Yanxin has a special place for her own fierce curation and singular taste. She has a direct hand in making her Yu Lu Yan Cha each season, and commissioning her collection’s Jasmine, Yabao and Golden Fleece. These two teas are ones she felt strongly enough about to ask us to add them to her collection on the site as a special New Year’s Celebration, even though she is not the direct producer.

She is offering both teas at the same price she acquired them for, adding markup for neither the age nor the storage. This makes both a fantastic deal. Her early support in the founding years of both Longyuanhao and Tiandiren make her invested in both workshops’ success like she is in her very own Yu Lu Yan Cha.

We got advance samples of both teas to photograph and taste before sharing, and our tasting was incredible fun. Too often, shu pu’ers can weigh too heavily on the palate, and linger with an unwelcome bitter or sour note. These two teas were deliciously and superbly clean, crisp and light.



Tiandiren 2005 Big Leaf Shu

We started with the Tiandiren 2005 Shu Pu’er. In past years, we have always advocated using 5-7g of leaf in a small vessel and very short steep times for pu’er, but we have discovered the fun in less leaf and longer steep times with shu pu’er at the recommendation of Xingyang Workshop. For this tasting, we started with 4g of leaf in a 5 oz gaiwan and steeped for 20 seconds at about 205 degrees C.

The aroma was full of sweet elderberry, cedar wood, brown sugar and a hint of coriander and mint. The flavor was clean sweet and mellow with cinnamon, cedar, and lingering vanilla.

The tea really started to open up in the second steeping with mandarin orange citrus notes, tons of elderberry and big vanilla aftertaste. By the third steeping we were getting a much crisper texture with mineral notes and leafy greens that give this tea its “big leaf” taste. The crispness of the texture reminded us of the forest flavor of even older shu pu’ers.

By the fifth and sixth steeping we were getting tons of spice – cinnamon, clove and nutmeg to accent the vanilla and elderberry. It reminded us of mulled wine, which was perfect for the snowy day outside. All together, this tea was clean, consistent throughout infusions, impossible to oversteep and cozy for the winter.




Longyuanhao 2000 Big Leaf Shu Brick

Next we turned our attention to the venerable sixteen year old brick from Longyuanhao. Longyuanhao has always been a favorite workshop of ours, putting out many incredible sheng pressings from Yiwu. This rustic brick was pressed in the second year as a business when they were still a small team, and wrapped in bamboo leaf. The giant leaf used to press the cake makes it extremely easy to break apart.

We followed the same longer steeping method, using 4g of leaf, and 20 second infusions in a 5 ounce gaiwan. The aroma was thrilling – full of deep mossy old forest, pine needles and juniper berries. The flavor reminded us of our Xingyang 2002 in its sweet deep texture, vegetal undertones and woody flavor.

The second steeping was clean as can be, and felt like drinking beautiful incense with cinnamon spice and a cooling camphor quality. Later steepings brought out more spice and florals like Thai ginger, vanilla, and ginseng. There was a lingering braised fennel aftertaste.

This tea was exciting to taste and smell. The age has brought out everything we love from Longyuanhao’s blending and given this an aged flavor to rival our well-loved Xingyang.



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