My latest puers bare it all. I bought them 2 days ago with my Christmas cash gifts. But this time, instead of choosing very expensive or very teas, I chose more affordable and ready to drink puers of very reputed makers and good quality. They all come from the China National Native Produce & Animal By-products Import & Export Company Yunnan Tea Branch (CNNP Yunnan Tea Branch), the State company and one is even made by the famous Menghai factory.
1. 1990 raw Fang Zhuan (square brick) from the Menghai region (not the factory). This brick contains leaves of all grades.
Here is the view in the bamboo leaves wrapping 3 bricks together:
It reminded me very much the smell of tree leaves in the fall, when they are still moist and dry on the ground in misty, foggy woods. It has some fresh taste as well and a strong qi. The mix of grades creates a tea that feels very broad and difficult to grasp. That's why I say there is fog in the forest.
2. This small Gong Ding Cha Zhuan is a lightly cooked pu er of 1988. It's made with tea buds of first grade leaves. That's why it's called Gong Ding, imperial gift. The aromas and the brew are of very high clarity and finesse. After 18 years, the fermentation smells have greatly diminished. The brick is very hard, but once you're able to break the first piece the rest comes off more easily.
3. This is a cooked tuo cha of 1990. I bought it before Christmas, but didn't have an opportunity to introduce it yet. It is quite special because it's not only made of first grade leaves, but these leaves were harvested from wild trees. This one smells like a very old raw pu er. After 16 years, the bad smells from man-made fermentation have disappeared and it tastes very round and calm. For me, it's the best cooked puer I was given to taste, even better than the Menghai factory cooked puer from the same time.
4. This Yunnan Pu Er Cha Zhuan was made in the year 2000. It contains cooked pu er leaves of grade 5. After 5 years of rest, it starts to be drinkable, says my pu er importer. We tasted it together on the very same day and I found it still has a very strong camphor taste (but without the freshness). The taste of fermentation is still very much there, which I don't find very pleasant. But the astringency is completely gone. It is very round and becomes mellow. I guess it will improve as it ages further, but can also already be drunk now in a large teapot. The low price makes it also quite attractive to start with cooked puer.
It wasn't the first time that my merchant told me that cooked puer also need to 'age', so I asked Teaparker about it. He told me that cooked puer's purpose is to make puer that be drunk quickly (as opposed to raw puer that ages slowly). The 'problem' is that nowadays the factories use more water than before for this process. This increases humidity and mold in young cooked puer. That's why it's best to wait 4/5 years. Another trick from my vendor is to wash the leaves with tea a first time and even a second time. This pu er can last many infusions anyway!
5. This is the famous '7542' raw qizi bing cha from the Menghai factory. This one from the year 1999. The dry smell amazingly already displays nice aging, but it could probably age longer. I haven't tried it yet. It's also the most expensive tea on this post.
Here's a view of the top:
And one of its bottom: