Recently, I’ve begun to fall in love with young sheng puerh. Brewed with less leaf and cooler water than would be used in aged sheng or shou puerh, it offers crisp, fresh flavours with an aggressive astringency that I’ve come to appreciate. Although it doesn’t often offer the same complexity that is sometimes available in aged or semi-aged sheng puerh, I enjoy its characteristic roughness and cooling properties. A bonus of drinking younger puerh apart from the aspects I’ve already mentioned is that it’s often much cheaper than its aged or semi-aged counterparts. Of course, a cheap tea will always be a cheap tea and an expensive tea will always be an expensive tea, but if you compare the prices of similar tea productions of differing ages, you will be sure to notice the older teas carrying a larger price tag.
Yunnan Sourcing’s 2011 “Cha Qi” sheng puerh tea cake production is, to me, a great example of a young sheng puerh daily drinker perfect for hot days (of which we have no shortage down here in Florida). Full of texture, aggressiveness, and a nice thick body, I find myself reaching for this tea more and more frequently.
The dry leaf is medium-dark which is normal for a tea at around the 5-year-old mark like this one. The aroma of the dry cake is crisp and full of green character, (also typical for its age) and not unlike the aroma of the Yunnan Sourcing Ai Lao Mountain that I also reviewed.
The first infusions are a dark yellow with a mellow and subtle aroma. I’ve found that this tea is less centred around flavours as it is mouthfeel and astringency, although both are pleasant. Most of the up-front green character taste is already aged out of it, leaving behind mineral, stone and unripe fruit notes. In these first infusions, the mouthfeel is slick but backed with a good amount of bitterness and astringency.
The middle infusions show a darker yellow/orange liqueur and a thick body. There is a good, robust astringency in the throat and the back of the mouth that arises in these middle infusions and lingers long after you leave the tea table. The bitterness is powerful but not at all unpleasant. If bitterness isn’t something you enjoy, I highly recommend using cooler water temperature and a smaller leaf:water ratio. This will help to leave the bitterness behind and also bring out the delicate flavours of the tea. Unripe pear is the most prominent flavour during the middle infusions.
The late infusions are the least astringent and display some sweetness. The flavour in these infusions eludes me. It may be that my palate is affected strangely by the tea, or I might have an overactive imagination, but I can’t help but be reminded of miso soup as I sip on these final steeps. Strange I know, but since I love miso soup, you won’t hear me complaining about it.
Overall, the Yunnan Sourcing Cha Qi is a younger sheng puerh with a good kick, light unripe fruit flavours that’s priced in line with many other sheng puerh daily drinkers. If you prefer something on the less bitter side with a bit more age, you’re going to want to steer clear of this one at least for the time being. With time, I suspect it will only gain in complexity and sweetness and lose a lot of its bitterness.
Interested in trying this tea? You can buy it here.
Photos courtesy of Yunnan Sourcing.