I regularly sample and look at pu'erh, both young and old, raw and ripe, but rarely do I have the pleasure of tasting a pu'erh that comes to me looking like this!
Hand delivered to me from Dobra Tea in Ashland, Oregon, this Shen Qi Old Tree shou pu'erh now pushes sixteen years old, having been harvested in the year 2000. Dobra Tea themselves describes these leaves as "very dark' and "compost-like," a wording with which I have to agree. Serving some into my gaiwan for the initial rinse, I am simultaneously fascinated by the size of the leaves and concerned about whether I have used enough. But, the rinse reveals all - the quick, ten-second, cleansing infusion reveals such a quick, dark brew that I knew these were going to want short infusions indeed. (This may vary based on how much leaf you use.)
Dry, the leaves do not release much aroma. While I hesitate to make any judgments based on this, I do wonder if the storage has managed to remove some of the richness from the smell of the leaf. The rinse of the leaves causes them to share much more of their rich aroma. Comparatively, though, I would still say that the smell is not as strong as one tends to find from some younger shou pu'erh. The earthy tones have truly mellowed. Most noticeable are bright notes, like greenery on the forest floor.
Twenty second infusions with just boiled water provide the first five steepings of Shen Qi. Cups release aromas of soft and just-slightly sweet dampness, almost-barely touched by the smallest of sour tinges. The flavors of dark earth and mushrooms, rich and a bit nutty, layer in the cups. Mellow is a great descriptor, here, because I can taste the complexity in the tea. What I mean is that the cup tastes very soft, not intense and in my face. Once might reason that this is due to me having brewed a weak cup of pu'erh or the tea not having a lot of strength to it. But, having tasted a few other shou pu'erh of this age, I think it is that case that things have toned-down with time. Deep, dark, forest flavors are not going to roar through the cup. Rather, they are going to sinuously fill every aspect of each sip.
If you happen to find yourself in the Ashland, Oregon area, I recommend stopping at Dobra Tea to try their Shen Qi Old Tree pu'erh. To my knowledge, it is not one that they sell online. On my personal enjoyment scale, I would rate this tea a 4. Special thanks to my dear friend, who brought me this tea.
Photo credit to Built from Ink and Tea.
You can learn more about Dobra Tea in Ashland, Oregon from their website, here.
This review was unsolicited and uncompensated.
You can read more about my Personal Enjoyment Scale, here.
Text is copyright 2016, Built from Ink and Tea.