Puerh tea can be a tricky thing to get into. With the confusing terminology, vast array of regions and varieties, and of course the huge amount of bad puerh out there, it’s a wonder people start drinking puerh at all. For many puerh drinkers, their first introduction to puerh was in the form of the ripe, or shou puerh. Shou (ripe) puerh is less expensive (on average) than sheng (raw) puerh, and tends to be more readily available in the mainstream Western market. The issue with this is that shou puerh processing is easy to get wrong, and as a result, there is a huge amount of bad shou out there. Poorly produced shou puerh can exhibit off-putting fishy flavors and aromas.
To help people avoid these flavors in puerh tea and get their tea drinking off on the right track, I have recommended them try the Menghai v93 recipe. It is affordable, and well processed but doesn’t represent the teas with higher levels of fermentation very well, and does not represent the majority of shou puerh in general.
When I tried White2Tea’s 2015 Old Reliable shou puerh production, I knew it would have to become my new recommendation to people looking to get into the puerh first-timers. It has no off-putting flavors or aromas, it’s taste profile is representative of shou puerh in general, and it can be purchased at an amazingly affordable price. A 250 gram cake of the Old Reliable will only set buyers back $14.50 at the time of this review.
The dry leaf is standard in size and has a clean, brisk aroma, suggesting good processing and storage.
When brewed, the Old Reliable has a dark, clear liquor. There are no sour flavors, and a medium body that thins out in the later infusions. Overall, the tea has no bitterness and is smooth and well rounded with notes of earth, forest floor, and mushroom.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the cake wrapper. Like many, I was taught not to judge a book by it’s cover and I’ve applied this same philosophy to tea. Teas should always be judged on their own merits and not the paper they are wrapped in. However, there are certain outstanding instances when a tea’s wrapper is so unique, and so well-designed that it requires acknowledgement. Designed to look like it came right out of an old western movie, I’ve seriously considered getting the wrapper framed after I finish the tea.
White2Tea’s Old Reliable is aptly named. When purchasing this tea, you can be sure that you are getting a puerh tea with classic flavors and is representative of the shou puerh tea genre. For those looking to try puerh tea for the first time, I could not recommend this tea enough. If you are an experienced puerh drinker, this would serve you well as a nice daily tea, that is without a doubt reliable.