NanoTeaMo, Day 14: “Pa Sa Puerh and More Tea Pet Hijinx”
As of tonight, I am two-thirds the way through my NaNoTeaMo goal of doing one tea blog a day for a month. Much to the joy of a few of you, and annoyance to the rest. This has mainly been about establishing some sense of writing discipline, which I’m going to need going forward on some future projects.
Given that this is officially the two-week mark of that self-imposed challenge, it seemed fitting that I celebrate with a special tea. And also – given that it’s still Fall – what better way to do that than with a sheng puerh from my favorite mountain – Nan Nuo Shan. One that I almost forgot about, no less.
This mini-beeng (cake) hails from the small town of Pa Sa, deep within the forests of the Nan Nuo region. It is situated between the cities of Jinghong and Menghai, and tea is harvested by the local indigenous population – the Hani people. The leaves were first plucked and processed in Spring of 2014. It was sourced by author Jeff Fuchs for JalamTeas as their July offering (per their monthly subscription package) that same year.
I have no idea how long I’ve had it, but it was for at least a half a year. Plus, the cake has been doing some aging/percolating on its own for another year on top of that. This was still a young sheng, by definition, but chances were it was starting to take on some maturity. It was going to be fascinating to see what kind.
When I unraveled the cake, I was surprised to see how dark the pressed tea leaves looked. A lot of young sheng puerhs still had a tinge of green to the leaves – pressed or not. This, on the other hand, had only brown-to-beige leaves; a sure sign of aging. The aroma was also equally showing some maturation. There were notes of smoke, moss, grape, and . . . something else. Not sure what to call it. But I’m sure it had something to do wi – dammit, Mortimer! Get out of the puerh!
Stupid tea slugs and their puerh fetishes. Moving on . . .
Cutting away a piece from the beeng wasn’t too hard. The pressing was still pliable enough to make one simple stab, and then pry the rest away. I guessed about a tablespoon of “leaf-chunk”. It looked like I had torn away at the Death Star itself.
The Pa Sa’s bio recommended short infusions, but at variably longer steep times, and raising them by ten seconds in succession. I took that as, “You shouldn’t pay too close attention to your steep times.” So, I didn’t.
In the interim, as I waited for each infusion to finish, I started playing with Mortimer. (Y’know, the new tea pet I mentioned in the last post.) For some reason, I got the idea that it would be nifty to . . . dunk him in one of the tea-filled cups. Someone had told me he would eventually change color.
Long story short, I dropped him. And he lost an eye.
My tea pet is now a one-eyed tea slug. Good ol’ One-Eyed Mortimer. I fail at tea pet ownership.
The three infusions turned out far better than my tea slug’s depth perception, though. They each brewed to a beautiful amber. The steam aroma they gave off was majestically perplexing. That whole “something else” I detected in the dry cake aroma.
Once I sipped, it hit me. Mint! Freaking mint. That’s what I was smelling. But it was different somehow, like . . . mint that’d been smoked over tea tree wood. It was a mint-smoke aroma. Not at all what I was expecting from a puerh – young or old. Longer infusions even held onto that weird not, along with a bit more stonefruity goodness on the backend.
I’d say this was a great puerh to ha– Dammit, Mortimer! Again?!