Tea Review: 2005 Yunnan Pu-ehr

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Last weekend we picked up a really fabulous cake of 2005 Yunnan Pu-ehr from New Century Tea House. We had obtained some pu-ehr tools a few weeks ago, but had no tea to use them on. We did a tasting of the 2005 in the store and were suitably impressed. One cake is quite a lot of tea, but without the time pressure of the near-future staleness of non-caked teas this one should last quite a while and age nicely. Grace at New Century told us that they had already sold out of the 2006 and that most of her customers that buy this high grade pu-ehr buy two cakes at a time – one to use right away and one to let age. Its cost made two of them completely out of the range of possibilities for us, so we only purchased one.

2005 Yunnan Pu-ehr

This is the informational insert from inside the tea cake wrapper (I transcribed it verbatim – Editing did not seem appropriate):

YUNNAN CHITSU PINGCHA

Yunnan ChitSu pingcha (also called Yuancha) is manufactured from Puerhcha.a tea of world-wide fame.through a process of optimum fermentation and high-temperature steaming and pressing.it affords a bright red-yellowish liquid with pure aroma and fine taste.and is characterised by a sweet after-taste all its own,Drink a cup of this. and you will find it very refreeshing and thirst-quenching.It also aids your digestion and quickens your recovery from fatigue or intoxication.

MENHAI TEA PRODUCTION CO. XISHUANBANNA YUNNAN CHINA

Here are my notes on the initial brewing of it at home. We used a small, previously unused (but seasoned) yixing pot with porcelain-lined yixing tasting and aroma cups. The specially designed pu-ehr knife and the bamboo pu-ehr tray, with its convenient one open corner are essential tools for dealing with large caked pu-ehrs like this one. The tray and knife were purchased from Dragon Tea House on eBay. Their merchandise takes a very long time to arrive, as it ships from China, but the quality, selection and price are all very good.

infusion #1: The aroma of the first infusion was quite pleasant – sweet and earthy, reminiscent of molasses. It produced a lovely dark red liquor. Writing this I can remember the actual mouthfeel and taste of the tea, which speaks well of its distinctive qualities. The dark color seems to provide the tea with the desire to spill out of cups and pitchers onto tables and fabrics, although that may be something other people do not experience with it.

infusion #2: The second infusion was brighter and less sweet smelling. It was also a darker red. It had a nice full flavor with a very rich aftertaste.

infusion #3: The aroma was more subtle, with an earthier and sweeter flavor. The third infusion was the best tasting of the six.

infusion #4: The fourth smelled a lot like soil, pleasantly. It was very red but not as dark. The flavor had backed off a bit and the mouthfeel was not quite as full.

infusion #5: The fifth infusion was more subtle and less earthy. It was very slightly bitter, but still very pleasant to drink. It had a very nice warm aftertaste.

infusion #6: By the sixth infusion it began to lose its complexity, but still tasted quite good. The bitterness had increased enough to indicate that a seventh infusion would not hold up to the standards established by the previous infusions.

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9 Comments

  1. May I ask how much they are charging for this young cake? It looks like a shou (cooked) type from the photo and the description of the brewed tea.

  2. It was around $95.00.

  3. Either the tea store unknowingly paid too high a price for the tea or they make a (very!) handsome profit selling these young cooked pu’er.

  4. The store sets the pricing according to current availability of that particular year’s cakes directly from the factory (which is where they purchase them each year). She explained the whole process to us in detail (although I can’t relay it perfectly, unfortunately). My understanding is that the pu-ehr from this particular factory in Yunnan Province is in high demand every year. There may be some factors I am unaware of that contribute to the cost/value. I’m sure it’s probably available online for less money, but I much prefer to taste a particular tea before buying it. Would 2005 be considered “young?”

  5. Hi,

    Obviouly, being a brick-and-mortar shop in the US, they have to price their teas high enough to cover the overhead and make a profit. From an end consumer’s perspective, though, $95 for a cooked pu’er is many times the retail-end prices through online vendors in China or in the US. A 2005 “rare and one-time limited production” high quality cooked pu’er that has the most tendency to increase in value from year to year (justified or otherwise) can be had for much less than $95. Most of the 2005 regular cooked pu’er nowadays run between $10 – 35 per 357gr disc…and that is the retail-end price with middlemen costs factored in and with high-spending Westerners (myself included) as the target market.

    A pu’er tea factory usually makes a wide gamut of teas, from high to low quality ones. If the cake above is from Menghai Dayi (I’m not sure unless you have a pic of the logo on the wrapper and/or the little embedded ticket in the middle of the disc), they usually command a higher price than most other factories…but they still don’t — or very rarely — go above the $35 mark for a 2-year old *cooked* cake nowadays.

    Yes, 2 years is considered a baby age for pu’er, but it doesn’t matter as much for the cooked type than for the raw type. Cooked tea doesn’t evolve as much (if at all), unlike raw pu’er tea. A few years of proper storage is known to get rid of any nasty / mud-y / pond-y / barnyard-y in some cooked teas that have those undesireable “newly released” aromas. Not all have those aromas to begin with, however.

    I only meant my comments in the best of intention.

  6. I appreciate your input. It has led to further research regarding the specifics of the pu-ehr, and further information is always a good thing. I kept meaning to make note of the actual package so that I could verify my information, but I seem to be at work when I’m looking things up and forget about it when I’m at home where the tea is. Everything I’ve read indicates that the particular pu-ehr that we have is not cooked, including the insert which I quoted in the original review. If that is accurate, it is steamed and pressed. It is a very enjoyable tea in any case, and one we would not have been unlikely to discover otherwise.

  7. The give away clue that it is a cooked (shu) pu’er was your mention of its “dark red liquor…smelled like soil,” etc. Those are not taste descriptors of a raw (sheng) 2-year old pu’er.

  8. Can you tell me where I can order wu wei loose tea. Thanks!

  9. Therese – there are lots of online teashops that sell Chinese teas. Our “Retail resources” list is a good start and I’m sure you can find what you’re looking for.

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