Last weekend we picked up a really fabulous cake of 2005 Yunnan Pu-ehr from New Century Tea House. We had obtained some pu-ehr tools a few weeks ago, but had no tea to use them on. We did a tasting of the 2005 in the store and were suitably impressed. One cake is quite a lot of tea, but without the time pressure of the near-future staleness of non-caked teas this one should last quite a while and age nicely. Grace at New Century told us that they had already sold out of the 2006 and that most of her customers that buy this high grade pu-ehr buy two cakes at a time – one to use right away and one to let age. Its cost made two of them completely out of the range of possibilities for us, so we only purchased one.
This is the informational insert from inside the tea cake wrapper (I transcribed it verbatim – Editing did not seem appropriate):
YUNNAN CHITSU PINGCHA
Yunnan ChitSu pingcha (also called Yuancha) is manufactured from Puerhcha.a tea of world-wide fame.through a process of optimum fermentation and high-temperature steaming and pressing.it affords a bright red-yellowish liquid with pure aroma and fine taste.and is characterised by a sweet after-taste all its own,Drink a cup of this. and you will find it very refreeshing and thirst-quenching.It also aids your digestion and quickens your recovery from fatigue or intoxication.
MENHAI TEA PRODUCTION CO. XISHUANBANNA YUNNAN CHINA
Here are my notes on the initial brewing of it at home. We used a small, previously unused (but seasoned) yixing pot with porcelain-lined yixing tasting and aroma cups. The specially designed pu-ehr knife and the bamboo pu-ehr tray, with its convenient one open corner are essential tools for dealing with large caked pu-ehrs like this one. The tray and knife were purchased from Dragon Tea House on eBay. Their merchandise takes a very long time to arrive, as it ships from China, but the quality, selection and price are all very good.
infusion #1: The aroma of the first infusion was quite pleasant – sweet and earthy, reminiscent of molasses. It produced a lovely dark red liquor. Writing this I can remember the actual mouthfeel and taste of the tea, which speaks well of its distinctive qualities. The dark color seems to provide the tea with the desire to spill out of cups and pitchers onto tables and fabrics, although that may be something other people do not experience with it.
infusion #2: The second infusion was brighter and less sweet smelling. It was also a darker red. It had a nice full flavor with a very rich aftertaste.
infusion #3: The aroma was more subtle, with an earthier and sweeter flavor. The third infusion was the best tasting of the six.
infusion #4: The fourth smelled a lot like soil, pleasantly. It was very red but not as dark. The flavor had backed off a bit and the mouthfeel was not quite as full.
infusion #5: The fifth infusion was more subtle and less earthy. It was very slightly bitter, but still very pleasant to drink. It had a very nice warm aftertaste.
infusion #6: By the sixth infusion it began to lose its complexity, but still tasted quite good. The bitterness had increased enough to indicate that a seventh infusion would not hold up to the standards established by the previous infusions.