Rare teas are touted a lot these days, and we’ve done so on this blog. (See Old and Rare Pu-erh: Guang Yun Gong) Now it’s time to point out some rare pu-erhs that you may or may not still be able to find around somewhere.
The 500-gram 2007 Dayi Hou Pu Bing Ripe Pu-erh Cake was produced in only one batch in 2007 by the Menghai Tea Factory. It is classified as a semi-fermented tea and is mainly composed of 1-5 grades of Yunnan big leaf Maocha. Now after several years of aging, it has become more mellow and smooth and is highly sought after in the China market. You can purchase it to drink right now or store longer. The flavor has been described as having hints of cherry, oak, and even lemon, with a flavor akin to well-aged Scotch.
2 1990s Royal Cooked Pu-Erh
This is an extremely rare and beautifully aged loose leaf cooked pu-erh from the 1990s. It is composed of high grade, fine, almost dusty brown-grey strands of tippy leaf. The infusion is at first rose-red but quickly turns to dark red-black and then ebony that is glowing and translucent. An earthy yet mellow aroma is tempered by liquorice and clove notes. The flavor has a somewhat chocolaty aftertaste with no bitterness and hints of incense woods. Infuse about 1-2 tablespoons of leaf for 15-30 seconds in near-boiling water. Numerous infusions possible.
3 1952 Guang Yun Gong Bing Pu-Erh
A rare Pu-erh Cake Tea that has been carefully stored since 1952, the first year that Guang Yun Gong Bing Pu-erh was made. Composed of high quality tea leaves, giving the cake a strong yet pleasant camphor tree aroma and the liquid a wonderful mellow sweet taste with a crystal bright dark reddish color that you only get from extremely high quality Pu-erhs. Use about 6 to 8 grams of tea leaves in a gaiwan. Wash tea for 30 seconds, and then fill the gaiwan with water, infusing for 30 seconds. As many as 20 infusions are possible.
4 Vintage Pu-erh “Limited Edition” (aged 15 years)
This is a limited edition spring tea from the Yunnan Province, China. The plants from which the leaves are harvested have been farmed for centuries in the traditional manner. Yunnan Pu-erh tea leaves are large and fragrant, with a rich mineral content that is enhanced by fermentation. These cakes have been aged for 15 years after green drying and inoculated fermentation, and then stored in the optimum conditions to mature perfectly. This tea is in great demand by tea enthusiasts and collectors alike for its fragrance and flavor that have a depth and complexity that simply cannot be imitated by younger teas. The tea infuses a liquid that is ruby red with a smooth and slightly sweet taste with a rich and intense aroma.
5 Wild Purple Bud Pu-erh
Probably one of the most rare and expensive pu-erhs, so much so in fact that you won’t be able to get a tea vendor in China to let you sample it without a commitment to buy the who cake. (A 200-gram cake can sell for around $1,600.) A search around the Yunnan Province, China, though, can unearth some more affordable options. A place in the southern part of the province has tea trees regarded as very spiritual. These trees are at an elevation of over 6,000 feet and grow in virgin forests. The buds are purple, green, and yellow, turning brighter as the tea steeped and the buds expanded. The liquid that results is a pale, light purple color with a floral honey like aroma and taste. The younger versions can be infused as many as 20 times, but aged versions can go even longer.
When you are hunting for rare pu-erhs, know your tea vendor. How the tea was stored is a big factor in whether it will be worth the price you pay. But also important is the skill of the tea harvesters and processors and the quality of the original tea leaves used. Be a knowledgeable hunter and you will find some true tea treasures.