NaNoTeaMo, Day 3: “An Autumn Puerh Pairing”
We are now Falls deep into Autumn, and every tea drinker is cuddling up to their favorite color-changing brew. Everyone has their favorite autumnal cuppa. For many, it’s masala chai. For others, it’s something equally burly or floral. It varies from person to person, but everyone has a favorite. Except me. Well . . . until recently.
Until . . . well . . . tonight, I hadn’t decided what my preferred Fall brew was. I think that’s changed. I’ve been on a big sheng puerh kick lately. And even when I’m not required to brew up a sheng, I find myself gravitating to it. For a month there, I thought Earl Grey would be the mainstay, but sheng took a surprise lead last month. It’s all Misty Peak Nick’s fault.
Two weeks into October, I received a sample of Misty Peak Teas’s Autumn 2015 loose sheng puerh. Seconds after receiving the package, I immediately went to brewing. Poor impulse control won out.
Misty Peak Nick asked what I thought of the new stuff.
I replied, “A lot like last year’s, but somehow sweeter (?).” I didn’t know how else to put it.
He was glad I noticed.
Then I got to thinking, Wait, I still HAVE some of last autumn’s sheng puerh kickin’ around somewhere. Don’t I?
Indeed, I did. Two sets. One was a bag of the loose leaf stuff, but it was being . . . um . . . experimented on. The other was this li’l beauty of a beeng (cake).
I had yet to break into it. Now was as good a time as any. I was curious about two things: (1) How different the Autumn 2014 was to the Autumn 2015, and (2) what sort of differences emerged after a year of maturing. I’d never had the opportunity to do such a side-by-side until now. Two teas, same farmer, same season, different years; I was all tingly at the prospect of it.
(In a chaste way.)
The Autumn 2014 cake was gorgeous. I’ve had my fair share of puerh cakes – mini and maxi – but this was the most uniformly pressed. From what Nick told me, they did all the compacting manually with stone presses. No complex mechanization. The work spoke for itself. That said, the cake was also a little difficult to cut into, even with a puerh knife.
The pressed leaves were long, dark, and smelled of roasted plums dipped in chocolate. Misty Peak puerhs of varying years always had that stonefruity aroma to them, but this was far deeper than I remembered.
In slight contrast, the Autumn 2015 also had a fruity aroma, but one resembling straight grapes in sunshine. The leaves were also a dark shade of green, as opposed to bordering on the Autumn 2014’s brown. Everything about it screamed, “I’m a young’un!”
For both, instead of going with a traditional gongfu prep, I decided to do something a bit different. I found that for puerh comparisons, brewing both at a minute with boiled water brought out enough of the nuances without defusing their strengths. So, that was how I approached both, for uniformity and ease.
The Autumn 2014 cake sliver brewed to a medium-bold bronze with the same plummy aroma as the dry leaves. However, there was also a bit of dryness to the scent, and a genuine sense of “earth” to the fragrance. Age was definitely starting to show in the best of ways.
As for taste, a lot of the sweetness I remembered from a year ago was still present, but somehow deeper, more elaborate. It was hard to pinpoint exactly what I was experiencing. The plum notes showed up first, followed by a nutty texture, and then there was a tickle of cocoa on the backend, immediately followed by a small shred of astringency. All the while, the earthiness was downplayed by notes of . . . wine? Port wine, yes!
On the other end of the spectrum was the Autumn 2015, which brewed to a light amber color, caressing the edge of bronze. The aroma was spry, fruity, and youthful. On taste, the same exuberance was felt. It was like a green tea that gained some measure of life experience, but wasn’t quite ready to retire. The flavor was rough, yet somehow smooth – even smoother than its older kin. That being said, though, missing was that added layer of depth that came with a year of tenure.
It was easy to see that the two were siblings, but the Autumn 2014 was very clearly a full-grown puerh in the making. While the Autumn 2015 – still extremely delicious – had a lot to learn. Sweet, though, the child was. That said, I can’t wait to see what that li’l critter will blossom into. However, knowing my impulse control, I doubt my sample will last that long.
Apparently, this blog is being posted a mere half-day before Misty Peak Teas is due to make a big announcement. I haven’t a clue what that might be, nor will I presume to guess. (I suck at guessing, and my conjectures might involve robots.) Once the news hits, though, I will update this article accordingly.
In the meantime, I have at least two more steeps to go on these two.
When I posted this, I made mention that Misty Peak Teas had an announcement to make. Well, it’s been made. At it is . . . *drum roll*