The name implies that the shape of branches of this type of tea trees is similar to cane. These trees are shaped using a special technique that trims off all the excessive sub-branches and bigger leaves, leaving only two fresh tea buds per branch. Over many centuries of painstaking care by the local tribes, the branches have grown long and slender, similar to the shape of cane, hence the name. The technique for growing, trimming and picking the tea, concentrates all the tea nutrients within the two tea buds in every branch, creating fragrance unseen in most pu-erh. Local tribes only pick one tea bud from each branch at a time, leaving the other one to grow for next round’s harvest.
How fascinating to learn that this horticultural engineering is all in pursuit of fragrance (and, subsequently, flavor)! Due to the small amount of tea picked from each tree, each harvest of Mangnuo Tengtiao is small but of high quality.
Following a rinse of the leaves in my gaiwan, my first steep of thirty seconds begins, releasing sweet green aromas into the air. This tea does not smell like a sheng with sharp edges. Rather, I am reminded of a pleasant, young green tea. The aromas are soft and light. After thirty seconds and straining, the pitcher holds the pale golden tea. I serve some into a cup and breathe it again. Getting really close to the tea, the aroma does remind me of sheng, but of the most aromatic and intoxicating (in a good way) sheng notes. The flavor...the first sip surprises me. WymmTea's website had mentioned that the liquor would be heady, due to the growing method, with concentrations of nutrients in the buds that are left to grow on the tree. The surprise comes in how thick the mouthfeel is, as well as how smooth. Pleasant notes of grass with almost-but-not-quite-floral sweetness flow throughout the cup.
As I steep the second cup for thirty seconds, I am thinking that I could have probably done only a twenty second steep, and the tea would have been just as enjoyable! The second cup tastes...exactly like the first, delicious and smooth. I can hardly believe that this is a sheng, except for the aftertaste. It truly does remind me of a green tea and a pleasant one at that. Over the next several steepings, the tea maintains its flavor well. Each steeping lasts thirty seconds, and it is not until the sixth steeping that I notice a decrease in flavor.
Even, if you do not like sheng, I still highly recommend trying this tea for a session. It is well worth the tasting and a truly pleasant cup. The uniqueness of the growing method only adds to the experience. On my personal enjoyment scale, I would rate the 2014 Manguo Tengtiao sheng a 91/100.
Photo credit to Built from Ink and Tea.
WymmTea's 2014 Mangnuo Tengtiao "Cane Tea" Sheng Pu'erh is available from their website, here.
This review was unsolicited, and the tea was provided by WymmTea for my tasting.
Text is copyright 2015, Built from Ink and Tea.