Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Pu'er, Puer, Pu-erh tea
Pu'er tea is unusual to me. Do you recall the first time you ever smelled cheese that hadn't been processed? Chances are good that you said, "That smells strong," or "that smells awful," or even "that smells like my little sibling." Pu'er is a little bit the same way; according to Wikipedia, it's made from tea trees that have gone feral and the chemical composition of its leaves vary slightly from regular tea strains, resulting in the distinct aroma and taste. I've only had the fully fermented and oxidized version of pu'er, and I can't say whether its the leaves' chemical compositions or the fact that it's actually fermented that makes the tea taste different. But different it is.
Pu'er has a very odd taste to me. It has very little tannin character, probably due to oxidation and fermenting removing most of the bitterness. The kind of pu'er that I had was Organic Wild Tree Pu'er from A Southern Season (it was half off), and it yielded some unusual tastes. The first taste that greets you is an earthiness. No, it doesn't taste like dirt, but it does have an initial taste somewhat similar to raw, leafy vegetables. The second taste that you can detect is its sweetness, which comes after the earthiness. The last taste that lingers on your palate is a funky, musty, indescribable taste (it could possibly taste like some sort of fermented food, I can't really tell) that takes a little getting used to, like developing a taste for ripened cheese.

The scent of pu'er actually isn't all that bad. It smells like a big leaf pile in the fall without the oaky scents, and even more earthy. However, after I'd had my bag open for a while, the scent changed to an earthy-funky musk that was rather off-putting.

Steeping was almost stupid simple with this tea, which makes me worry that I got a lower quality sample. I just poured about a tablespoon full of tea in a mug, and made several infusions out of it. I didn't bother using an actual infuser or even timing it, I just continually sipped it until it was cool enough for me to actually drink it and enjoy it.

While pu'er has its fans, I'm not completely sure I'm for it or against it. I could taste something that I liked in its musty-sweet flavor, but then again it's rather expensive for tea, and there was something altogether off putting for me about it.
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