Every rare once and awhile, every once in a blue moon...Google has an applicable ad. This time it was for Bana Tea Company. As I am perpetually on the quest for delicious tea that doesn't get a lot of exposure, I dropped by the website. I almost staggered a bit when I found out that they imported some very nice pu erh cakes. I emailed them as to what sampler to get because while I love pu erh, I don't really know much about the cake types. Yet. Yet, dear readers. I can't tell factory types apart in terms of tea styles and blending. I can tell their names apart. Sometimes. Anyway, the kind people at Bana Tea helped me out by sending me a mini sampler of teas, two sheng (uncooked) pu erh and one cooked. This is the first of three from the Bana Tea Company, their Orchid Charm Sheng. A 2009 vintage, spring harvest, uncooked pu erh from Lincang, Yunnan Province, it has reminiscent notes of orchid to it. I, honestly, couldn't get the orchid out of it despite my best coaxing. Here is a picture of it steeping:
Here are the notes!
Steep 1: 208F rinse. Pour in, pour out. Wash and open the leaves a bit.
Steep 3: (45 sec, 208F) - Brew color is now a yellow. Brininess on the aroma is gone. It's all wood and greens. Bitterness on the palate is still present, even a bit stronger but not unwelcome. Mostly just woodsy now. The spice has receded and that green flavor has receded. Astringency comes out too.
Steep 4: (1 min, 208F) - Brew color is a burnt yellow color. Nose is rather bland. Very limited vegetable smell, nothing else. Taste is wood, the green flavor is almost gone. Bitterness is still around but the astringency has vanished. One more steep and I'm gonna call this baby done.
Steep 5: (2 hours, 15 sec, 208F) - Yeah, that's right, 2 hours. I decided to do an experiment and let it infuse for a loooooong time. Alright, I won't lie. I did the fifth infusion and forgot about it. Whoops. The pu erh had pretty much petered out by the fourth steep so I wasn't to distraught. Why not drink it? Surprisingly enough, it is pretty interesting. While a two hour steep would make most teas bitter, this one...well...wasn't. It was very woody, almost like gnawing on a branch but it wasn't bitter at all. The nose, however, is non-existent. Whoopsie.
This tea was an interesting discovery for me. It took me a bit but this tea really showed me the difference between sheng and cooked/aged pu erh. It was a remarkable discovery and it really helped me define the merits of both a good uncooked and a good cooked pu erh. This was a decent tea. It is quite affordable, clocking in at about $7-$12, depending on how much you want. Here's a LINK.
Would I buy it? Yeah, probably. It doesn't look like it comes in cake form at all which is a shame because I'd like to see how this does aging for awhile. I like the woodiness to it at this point but I think it lacks a peppery, raw spiciness that a lot of pu erhs have. But that's just me.