When you sell tea for a living, you try to avoid playing favorites. After all, customers have their own tastes and preferences. But I’m only human, so over the years a few teas have stood out in my personal line-up and recently a new one (or two) has joined that very select group. It was actually pretty tough choosing just three, but I managed.
1 – Hai Lang Hao 2005 Ba Ma Gong Chun Raw Pu-erh (out of stock)
Being a real devotee of pu-erh, this one should be expected, but it’s a bit tricky to get in stock. So when I happen to get a little it’s impossible to resist trying some. And I stretch it out with as many infusions as I can manage. “Ba Ma Gong Chun” is made entirely from 100+ years old Nannuo mountain area tea tree leaves – Springtime leaves only. This one has aged almost 9 years, acquiring a thick liquid with a sweet after-taste but still with some bitterness.
Tasting notes from a recent gongfu session:
- leaves not yet softened much so the flavor was light, smooth, pleasant
- leaves softened a little so a little stronger flavor
- leaves now yielding a stronger flavor with a bit of edge
- a little stronger flavor, smooth, pleasant
- a touch of sweetness initially, followed by smokiness and some edginess
- milder, smoky, less edgy
- milder, less edgy
- slightly sweet, less edgy
- lighter flavor, sweet aftertaste
Okay, so a second pu-erh may be a bit much, but as I said above this was a tough list to compile. There were a lot of close calls. This tea stands out, though, even among pu-erhs. It’s from the Yongde area and is classified as “ripe” pu-erh (aka “shu” pu-erh) and uses a special process to achieve a level of medium fermentation that is carefully controlled. It can be infused 10 or more times and produces a liquid that is thick, soft, and mellow tasting. The aftertaste lingers and is deliciously full. You can continue storing it and improve on the flavor and smell.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: “A flavored tea? Really?” Really! Every type of tea has its place in your tea stock. Flavored teas can be your substitute for those pastries, candies, and other high-calorie goodies. Some can be great with those holiday foods, too, lending their flavorings to the flavors of those special dishes. This one is a full-bodied black tea that infuses fast and strong and brings to the cup the raisiny/malty character so typical of Ceylon black teas plus the sweetness of caramel and the roasty goodness of the almonds. Some even like it with milk, but for me straight is best.
So, what are your favorite teas? Let us know!