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Pu’er is an often misunderstood, and usually mis-represented category of tea that often divides people into opposing camps. So much of pu’er export is controlled by the biggest state-owned brands and their broker-agents that much of the market is convinced that smokey sheng pu’er and sour shu pu’er are correct flavors. This not only scares off potential tea lovers but is a flat-out misrepresentation of the craft.
True sheng pu’er should be rich, aromatic, and deeply complex, drinkable even at a young age, and full of enough texture to grow even more over the years. True shu pu’er should be balanced, sweet and always clean, not heavy and sour. We are lucky enough to work with small workshops like Xingyang and farmers cooperatives like the Dongsa Cooperative in Qianjiazhai. This sampler is an eye-opening look at what pu’er should be all about, highlighting the work of wild-foragers, master blenders and people devoted to the craft.
Zun, or ‘revered’ is the name the Li Family of the Zhenyuan Dongsa Cooperative gives to the tea picked from their tea trees aged between 300 and 800 years old. This name is a reminder to them of the value of these old trees and of the respect that humans should pay to a living thing that has persisted for so long. Their sustainable foraging lets the trees continue to grow for future generations to enjoy. Finishing is done entirely with sun-withering, slower than wok-firing but more true to the natural flavor of the region. The loose Maocha is lightly steamed and then meticulously rolled and shaped one pearl at a time by Master Zhou without the use of molds or machinery to preserve the delicate complexity of the tea
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Qianjiazhai Gong Ting Shu Pu’er is still a very new practice, made only by one of Master Zhou’s students in the cooperative. Using the giant buds of QIanjiazhai’s wild trees between 100 and three hundred years of age, this tea is carefully and slowly pile fermented to bring out a deep rich sweetness unlike any other shu pu’er out there. Master Zhou was so excited by this experiment he is sharing the technique across the cooperative and encourage more members to keep developing the craft.
This Xingyang Workshop tea is made from tiny spring buds from old growth tea trees and fermented for a clean and smooth flavor. Xingyang is proud that ten years of age on this tea will taste more like a twenty year pu’er because of the quality leaf material and slow meticulous fermentation process. The result is deep, herbaceous and cooling with a lingering aftertaste.
This tea is Xingyang’s crowning achievement. It is made with big leaf picked from ancient wild trees. The loose leaf is stored and slowly fermented in low moisture over one year and finished in 2003 for another eleven years of dry fermentation before being packed in 2014. The result is the sweetest, cleanest and deepest shu pu’er we have tried. This tea can be steeped over twenty times and yields a beautiful clear brew with a deep forest flavor and lingering aftertaste.