Certain teas are of such distinction that they deserve the spotlight, so we will be shining that spotlight on teas here on this blog to give them their due attention. Let’s begin with 2009 Shang Pin Bu Lang Pure Old Tree Ripe Pu Er Tea from the Summit Tea Company in Guangzhou, the capital and largest city of the Guangdong province in China.
|A wrapped tea cake that is as gorgeous outside as the tea is inside.|
Yes, this tea is a bit pricey, but if you stop there, you will miss a truly exceptional tea experience. Pu-erh tea from Bu Lang mountain is cultivated by a Chinese minority (called “Pu people” for their skill as tea growers) and is famous for its super sweetness after a short bitterness, thick tea taste, and high mountain flavor.
The tea is produced in small quantities, consists of two-leaves-and-a-bud combos that are tight, fat, and plump, and processed using traditional stones, ensuring perfect compression for ideal post-fermentation. This ripe tea uses a new piling fermentation technique where the leaves are fermented under a special-made bamboo basket instead of in a slot or trough. The tea therefore does not have the typical fermentation smell, one of the factors that makes this one of the rarest tea in the world. Instead, the dry cake has a deep aroma with light ginseng fragrance. The liquid is a dark, clear brown color and has a super soft, smooth, mellow tea taste with long-lasting sweetness.
|A close-up of the tea cake showing the consistency.|
Recommended Steeping Technique
A gaiwan is best, but a glass cup is an alternative that works well, too, although it gives you fewer infusions per steeping session. You should get about 8 to 12 infusions with a gaiwan, and only about 4 to 6 infusions with the glass cup. (For such a rare tea, it’s worthwhile to exercise your gaiwan skills here.)
In the gaiwan, use about 5 to 7 grams of tea leaves. For the first few infusions, use water heated to 190° F (90° C), being careful not to pour the water directly on the leaves so they are not burnt, and steep a mere 10 seconds. Lengthen subsequent infusions to between 15 and 20 seconds.
When using a glass steeping cup, use only 2 to 3 grams of dry tea leaves per infusion and water heated to 190° F (90° C). Steep for about 1 minute for the first few infusions and 3 to 4 minutes for later ones.
About the Summit Tea Company
The Summit Tea Company was established by pu-erh tea experts who were also very enthusiastic to bring the best teas to market. This one originates from old-arbor, big-tree tea plants (as opposed to the short bush-shaped plants many mass market teas are made from) growing on a single mountain. And yes, there is variation in flavor between teas grown on one mountain versus another. Each has its own geography and mini-climate. In this area, the Summit Tea Company is different from other companies who claim to offer teas from specific mountains but actually blend leaves from plants grown on different mountains. It keeps their cost down, but you end up paying for something that is not as expected.
Once a year during Spring tea harvest time, the tea team at Summit Tea stays up in the mountains for about two months. They travel extensively, tasting teas from individual villages and farmers and selecting the best. This means that from year to year the flavor will vary, but you can be sure that every year you will get the best teas they can find.
One of the best things about a tea like this is its storability. As long as you keep it properly stored, this tea will get even better with time.