Tea: Pu-Erh

Pu-ErhI asked John if he wanted to join me in a tea review and he happily obliged! So as an extra treat to today’s tea review, my partner in life and crime has offered to write his own review on both teas as well so that you can get two different (or not so different) opinions on these teas.

Pu-erh as seen by Mandy

Until today, I had yet to delve into the world of Pu-Erh tea. I’d come across this word while reading tea blogs written by those already more advanced in the world of tea than I. Wanting to some day own the title of ‘Elitist Tea Snob’, I knew I had to at least try this.

In the simplest of terms, Pu-Erh is old tea. 🙂 It can be steeped immediately after production or can be allowed to age for many years. It is like wine in the way that many Pu-Erh teas are classified by their date of production and origin. The tea leaves are plucked the laid to dry in the sun. Once wilted, the leaves are pan-fried to “kill green”, which prevents further oxidation. The tea can be sold like this as raw or green Pu-Erh or can continue through a fairly new process of further fermentation that creates a tea imitating the taste of raw, aged Pu-erh without the aging. (All of this information was pulled from Wikipedia.) If you’d like extra information about this interesting tea, visit Pu-Erh.net. This site has a ton of information!

Because Pu-erh tea cakes can be extremely expensive and I’d never tried it before to know if I’d even like it, I decided to order it from two different websites that were offering cheap versions of it. Teavana sells an Organic Pu-erh and Golden Moon Tea offers a Pu-Erh tea as well.

Before brewing, both teas smelled exactly the same—Earthy. I brewed both teas for three minutes using boiling water that burned my hand. Thwarted again!

Upon pouring the tea, I was delighted to see this tea had a color I had never before seen in tea!—A rosy pink, a little orange.

Tea tastingThe smell of the teas was different from the other. The Golden Moon Tea Pu-erh smelled strong, earthy and in a way, dusty. It conjured images of an sun-dappled attic full of dusty, old belongings. The Teavana Pu-erh smelled earthy as well but not quite so strong.

I tasted the Teavana blend first. I was fairly surprised. The first words I blurted out to John, who was tasting the GMT blend, was that it didn’t taste like tea at all. I take back that statement after further consideration of the flavors in the tea. Underneath the woody, earthen flavors was the familiar taste of my friend, the tea leaf. It has a very “natural” flavor—I can taste that this contains nothing but ingredients taken right from Earth.

My first sip of the GMT blend tasted just like the Teavana blend, only a little stronger. It wasn’t until I began alternating sips of each tea that the differences of the flavors became apparent. The GMT blend was much stronger and almost had an ashen quality to the taste. The Teavana blend is actually much weaker and has more of a tea taste to it than the GMT blend. The aftertaste left in your mouth is very much like black or oolong tea. I’m not sure which I preferred but John definitely seemed to like the GMT blend for its strength.

I’m describing this tea as dirty, dusty, ashy, earthen but nothing about this tea is unpleasant. I can see why tea-enthusiasts would pay a lot of money to be able to taste many of these teas. They give the mind so many flavors to play with and so many places to go!

Both teas brought the feeling of the forest to me. I imagined sitting, surrounded by trees, in front of a fire created by wood. It’s warm, humid, a little musty and the ground is covered in damp, dirty leaves.

I’m not sure if this tea is for everyone but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s hard to drink this tea and not reflect on how it tastes and concentrate on it. I would recommend it to those who enjoy a strong (not bitter) black tea.

Pu-erh as seen by John

As a guest blogger doing a review on tea, I must first admit that tea is not my strong suit, nor will it be found gracing my mug more often than a cup of coffee. Customarily speaking, I can appreciate the general complexities, undertones, and synonymously, the similarities present in both tea and coffee. An understanding must be gleamed regarding the general region the infusion was brewed in, the steps that were taken in order to prepare it, and finally how you prepare it for your own pleasure. I will leave the regional information and any other information deemed relevant for Mandy to include.

Today, we sampled the infusion of Pu-Erh tea from two different providers. One sample being from Teavana, and the other from Golden Moon Teas. At first glance, both are visually similar retaining a dark, amber and rosy color. The smell of both of the teas was also characteristically similar. They both smelled very naturally strong, with what I construed was reminiscent of mushrooms, or a kind of truffle. A powerful, earthy smell, that brought forth images in my head of the ground under a forest, brimming with twigs, branches, and leaves. However that may sound, this was not in any way unpleasant, but rather reflective, bringing these images to the front of my thoughts. I’ve discovered that after living with a tea connoisseur for several years, tea tends to be more of a reflective drink than any other I’ve sampled, and this was no different.

In regards to taste, I was surprised to find how similar both first tasted, but when compared together, how different they also tasted. The tea sample from Golden Moon was exquisitely flavorful, with a very full-bodied strong taste that reminded me of a black tea. The texture and weight of the tea however, reminded me of a well-balanced oolong. This was a very pleasurable tea to sip as you did not have to concentrate to find the flavors or debate what you may have thought. Mandy and I immediately began throwing out adjectives that were found to be generally, if not exactly similar. Upon finishing the cup, the aftertaste was rather ashy, but again, it was not at all unpleasant. I enjoyed this sample very thoroughly, and looked forward to something very similar in the Teavana sample.

As aforementioned, the color of the Teavana blend was identical to the Golden Moon tea, and the smell was similar enough to where it would be difficult to find words to convey the subtle differences. In regard to the taste of the Teavana blend, I was surprised to find that it was not as similar as I would have thought it to be. Although generally the same flavors, I found myself searching more for them in the Teavana blend. They were significantly more subtle in this blend, and the actual tea aspect was more concentrated. The Teavana blend had me calling this a strictly black tea after one sip. There was a significant musk to this tea that evoked a scholarly, more elder essence to the infusion. Upon finishing this cup, it had a strong aftertaste that finished much akin to an abovementioned black tea. I found myself generally satisfied with this blend, but less so than with the Golden Moon variety.

After finishing both teas, it was obvious that my favor had swung to the Golden Moon variety. Although both were generally similar, upon juxtaposition, I was surprised when the differences began to become quite clear. This is an earthy blend, very enjoyable on a warm night or a reflective evening, and was easily one of the more enjoyable blends of tea I’ve tasted.

Pu-Erh Tea

3 Replies to “Tea: Pu-Erh”

  1. Hey: I’ve been gone too long! I love that you brought in a second on the review and John writes so well too!

  2. @Laura – Glad you’re back! And I’ll let John know you gave him a compliment! 🙂 I think he’ll be pretty excited about it, actually! 😀

  3. Am excited. Thanks for the compliment, Laura.

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