Pu-erh is aged, large leaf Chinese tea mostly from the Yunnan province that is low in tannins and has a rich, unique earthy flavor. They actually can improve with age, much like wine, cigars and cheese. All teas offer a variety of health benefits, but pu-erh has an extra one. According to scientific studies, drinking it can help reduce cholesterol. By helping digestion--particularly of fatty foods--pu-erh is the perfect tea to consume after a heavy meal. It comes in two varieties; naturally aged (sheng) and fermented (shu). Shu pu-erh was developed so that we could enjoy the taste and benefits of sheng, without having to wait for years and even decades for it to mature. Young shengs can be exceedingly bitter and astringent, but mellow with age.
Pu-erh typically brews up a dark reddish color and has a bold, earthy taste. Unlike most other teas, pu-erh is usually purchased in a compressed state rather than loose leaves. The leaves are pressed together during processing into a variety of shapes. To brew some up, you shave off some tea from the cake or brick and into your teapot.
I have now had the chance to sample a number of sheng and shu pu-erhs and I've come to the conclusion that given the choice, I'd rather have a naturally aged sheng in most cases. However, I sometimes get a craving that only the smooth, rich shu can soothe. Many shus don't live up to that promise, but the 2007 Menghai Golden Needle & White Lotus is not one of them. It has a satisfying flavor and calming energy that is hard to find at this price point. It brews up dark with a pleasant, mild earthiness, slight mineral note and a hint of a caramel sweet aftertaste. I usually get at least five good infusions from it as well (often up to ten), with the flavor profile shifting a bit each time.
Overall, a very satisfying shu pu-erh. It can be brewed up using western methods, but for the best flavor I recommend brewing it gongfu style. I purchased mine from jas-etea and recommend trying a sample before buying a full beeng.
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