Saturday, June 5, 2010

Tasting Notes: Green Hill Tea: OC Royal Pu-erh


I love tea, even though it's been a while since I felt up to writing about it. But the full moon is out, and the forces of darkness are resurrecting The 39 Steeps blog, dragging it from its shallow grave to shamble among the living again. Brainssssssss.

Or something like that. Really, I'd like to just talk a bit about Green Hill Tea's OC Royal Pu-erh.

The zombie imagery suggested itself to me by way of drinking this powerful, deeply black pu-erh, which I can feel pulsing through my nervous system. And with my wicked mood this morning, it seems even more appropriate. Brainssssssss.

The Royal Pu-erh looks like a typical yellow-tippy Yunnan tea, coming in loose-leaf rather than in compacted form. It's a shu pu-erh, from all appearances, meaning it was processed to hasten its appearance of aging.

Now, when this process was invented, it was viewed by aficionados as a way of cheating the system-- of taking a tea and making it look older than it really is. People can't always wait around for a green pu-erh to age 30 years to drink it, and the market had exceeded demand. So clever manufacturers took the green pu and ran it through some sort of wet-heat process, whereby the tea was artifically made to darken and take on the appearance of a time-fermented tea. Quelle horreur! The real problem was that often this type of shu was passed off as an aged tea, when it was not. And these shu pu-erhs may not age as well as a properly prepared and cared-for green pu, thus making them a bit less valuable.

That being said, there's much to enjoy about a shu pu-erh, drunk on its own terms, without any pretension that it is something it is not. A shu-pu (a phrase you can pop out in your next business meeting, to wow the customers and make them think very highly of your intellect) can be very enjoyable and fun as a self-drinker, without any need for further aging.

Now to Green Hill Tea's OC Royal Pu-erh. This does not appear on their Web site, and hopefully they will begin to market it along with their other excellent offerings. (As a reminder, I love, love, love their lapsang souchong, which they also market under various names as bohea lapsang and so on. Easily the best lapsang I've ever encountered.)


I prepared the pu in my Yixing pu-erh pot, and gave it a 10-second rinse, then poured it over my Yixing and warmed up my cups and fairness pitcher. This way, everything was happily warmed up for the next step.

And I did it again. Typically, with shu pu-erh, I don't enjoy the first couple steepings because they taste more like what I suppose is the storage facility than the tea itself.

The first steeping was lackluster, though bracing in its effect on my nervous system. Dark mahogany in color, the liquor has a nicely earthy, mushroomy aroma, with a lightly tangy spice in the high notes.

Well, this steeping had to be made after an hour wait, so the tea was, again, rather lackluster. My life keeps interrupting my ability to sit down over a long tea session, and these gaps in the tea production obviously affect the next steeping.

The leaves in the pot smell precisely like the liquor, which is kind of surprising, because that is not typically the case. The pure black leaves have no begun unfurling yet (at least, not so I would notice), and the tea session is still in its infancy. The liquor is a nearly opaque black, with a reddish tint, still, when viewed in the clear pot. Now the tea takes on an astringency, a dryness, with a woody dampness that softens the impact of the astringency. So far, I'm not bowled over by the pu-erh, but I'm interested to see what the next steepings will do. I've read that pu-erh drinking doesn't even really get started until the fifth steeping.

The tea is staying fairly consistent: fairly light, woody, but the astringency has diminished noticeably.

I thought to lengthen the amount of steeping time, to make the tea have a bit more personality. The pu has taken on a lighter transparency, with the reddish tint more pronounced. Aroma is pronounced and there's a pleasing mouthfeel: full and satisfying. It's a nice, though rather light, pu. I was sparing in the water to give it a greater strength, but it still sits a bit too lightly on the palate. For future, I'll lengthen the steeping times a bit.

AND THAT'S ALL I CAN WRITE! Cramming writing into my schedule is so difficult at this time in my life, and this little blog post has been interrupted so many times, that I am frustrated about the experience. Bleh. Well, at least the tea is good! I feel a bit less zombielike, though my mood is still black as I would think the undead would experience, as they cannot enjoy tea.


Kate said...


Zombie tea blog. I think there's a double meaning in that.

Unknown said...

Even though you're quoting Shakespeare at me, I still can't figure out the double meaning. Nevertheless, I'm up this morning, and I've decided to resurrect yesterday's pot of pu-erh , and hopefully it won't turn on me.

Unknown said...

And, lovely sister, I think you read this blog solely to annoy me. Ha! I have uncovered your scheme. Now you shall pay. Brainssssssss.

Kate said...

blah blah TEA blah