If you own pu’er tea, being stuck in a pandemic for over a year has its benefits, unless you were so stuck that you drank your entire stash. Your tea is now one year older, wiser, and worth that much more. What’s even better is having the house termite tented during the pandemic, forcing you to get out of the house, where our humble room at the Sofitel was upgraded to the penthouse suite and we ordered club sandwiches from Norm’s via smoke signal.
I decided to remove the green coffees and teas from the property for safe storage, resulting in a much needed inventory check, in which I found only five little bags of mystery tea, and dug up a few treasures that had been silently aging and were now ready to shine, just in time for Linda and I to resume our epic tea tastings in person.
We started with something super fresh, a green tea called taiping houkui which I have never had before. The leaves are gorgeous, they have the imprint of the mesh fabric that they were pressed and rolled against. It tasted like an herbal tea without the herb flavor, just delicious and super thick without a hint of harshness. I thought the viscosity of the water was due to the silver kettle, so we tried a lower grade taiping houkui which tasted surprisingly bland and gritty and flat.
Next we drank a raw pu’er from a single tree that Linda had “discovered” during her own inventory taking process. We had loved this tea after trying it right after it had been picked, in 2018, so we were happy to assess its incredible three year old development.
Finally we got to my army green metal box squirreled away since 2007. It’s a commemorative pu’er made for the 80th anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army.
There’s one brick of ripe and one brick of raw. A friend of ours has an uncle who’s a general in the army and neither of them wanted it. With teas like this it’s impossible without brewing it to know whether the taste will live up to the quality of the packaging, but when you can smell the aroma from a few feet away and the taste is close to honey in consistency, complex and spicy and quite possibly the best ripe pu’er you have ever had, you can thank the PLA for something other than the warm jackets that certain hotels in the mountains of China offer you when they drag you up at sunrise to see the fog.
We ended up just brewing this tea for the rest of the afternoon, losing count after twenty or thirty steepings. That’s how it goes sometimes.