Most Sheng Puerh is known for being in cake (bingcha) form. While it can also be sold in bricks (fangcha), mushrooms (tuocha) and in loose form (maocha), it is commonly recommended to stay far away from mini puerh (mini tuocha). I’ve had my fair share of mini tuocha, and bad experiences from them actually made me swear off puerh for years. Luckily I have fallen back in love with good puerh, and it has been quite a journey. One of my favorite puerh vendors, Crimson Lotus Tea, released a form of puerh I hadn’t seen before, a compressed sphere of sheng puerh. At first I had been skeptical, another mini tuocha made up of dust and fannings for quick brewing. After doing some browsing on Crimson Lotus’ site I wound up looking at the Planet Jingmai, and learned that these are actually whole leaves rolled into an orb!
The Planet Jingmai arrived: it was a beastly 8 gram sphere of sheng puerh. The compression was very tight, and it had to be opened up before brewing. Crimson Lotus was kind enough to make a video on how to open up Planet Jingmai.
In order to open them up, I put the sphere into a 100ml gaiwan and poured boiling water from about 2 feet up and let it sit for about 5 minutes. I then used the rinse to warm my pitcher and cup, and filled the gaiwan again with boiling water. This time, I used the lid of the gaiwan to try to open the sphere up a bit. The tea was finally starting to open up. Tiime to drink!
The second rinse is drinkable; however, it is strong! To brew the tea, I followed my typical sheng puerh parameters of water just off boil, with flash steeps for the first 5 to 7 steepings and adjustments to taste. Planet Jingmai started off with a very pleasant honey sweetness. There was no astringency or smoke, this was a very smooth sheng. As the leaves opened up in middle steeps, the sweetness turned into more of a grassy flavor with a touch of wood. At this point, my mind was feeling extremely relaxed. A nice sense of calm came over me and I started to feel very warm. There is a term for this feeling called “tea drunk” or “cha qi”. I had only sensed this with a few teas, but on Planet Jingmai, the cha qi was strong! After about 15 steeps, I was very relaxed, and needed a break from the tea. The leaves were overflowing in my gaiwan, but there was plenty of flavor left in the leaves. I decided to continue the session the next day, something I had never done before.
Day two on Planet Jingmai and the leaves had completely unfurled and were overflowing in my gaiwan, so I transferred them to a 180ml yixing pot. I rinsed the leaves with boiling water for about 15 seconds and then continued my session. The tea was still full of flavor, and it seemed that the honey sweetness came back once the grassy notes subsided. The tea finally gave up around 20 steeps or so, and I took the leaves out to examine and found whole leaves! I couldn’t believe these were all wrapped up in a tiny orb.
A session of Planet Jingmai is definitely an adventure that requires some concentration. The process of opening the sphere and the cha qi of the tea was a very meditative experience. This 8 gram orb of tea lasted me two afternoons and brought me an amazing sense of calm. The taste was great, it is a very nice sheng puerh for anyone who may be new to puerh, but also a very complex tea that should please puerh aficionados. This tea is a far cry from the mini tuochas that are filled with cheap material; it is filled with high quality sheng leaves. Planet Jingmai can be purchased at Crimson Lotus Tea here.