Ai Lao Mountain by Yunnan Sourcing is a sheng mini tuo cha production that is great for on-the-go brewing. The material used in these convenient, individually wrapped mini tuos is first flush spring harvest according to the Yunnan Sourcing website and tends to be of medium compression. The leaf tends to be very green which is typical of a young sheng puerh. Priced well at only $8/100g (each tuo is about 5g), it won’t break the bank.
The leaf is small, tippy, green, and seems to be fairly basic. Usually, mini tuos are composed of lower quality material that is grown and processed is mass quantities. This makes them more affordable since they have to go through the extra step of being pressed and wrapped into their small, round tuo shape. It is more time consuming and less cost efficient to press seventy 5g mini tuos than it is to press the same material into a full 357g cake.
As far as brewing goes, it took me a few tries to learn how to get the most out of this one. At first, I tried going about it as I would any other tea. I tossed the mini tuo in a 100ml gaiwan and used water close to boiling. The result was rough, bitter and nearly undrinkable. I finally got the hang of it by brewing it up in a 120ml gaiwan with much cooler water, similar to the parameters I’d use for a green or white tea. The result of this method was clean, fragrant, fresh and much more enjoyable.
The first infusions are vegetal and floral, and very similar overall to a fresh Mao Feng green tea. The tuo takes only one infusion after the rinse to open up and unleash it’s full punch. Even with the adjusted brewing parameters, the roughness typical of a young sheng puerh was very evident. I advise using flash steeps on the first infusions to cut down on bitterness and make it more palatable.
The middle infusions present a thicker body as the leaves fully expand and open in the gaiwan, allowing more leaf-surface area for the water to work with. New honey sweetness emerges under the still present vegetal and floral notes, making it sweeter and more well-balanced overall. To get the most out of these infusions, I suggest using a higher pour into your cup to aerate the tea liquor and better bring out its delicate flavors.
The final infusions show no real differences from the middle infusions except for less bitterness, a thinner body and weaker strength.
Ai Lao Mountain mini tuo cha by Yunnan Sourcing is clean, crisp and affordable. Due to the tuos being individually wrapped, and the fact that they benefit from cooler water, they would be a great choice for an on-the-go tea. Whether it’s on a picnic or a hike, I would definitely bring this along. You can’t expect a tea with a lot of depth or one made from rare material, but you can expect a reliable, enjoyable, and simple young sheng puerh.