I’m always amazed by the great variety of Pu’er tea. The season, year, location of picking, processing methods, and storage of a tea can all impact the flavors, aromas, and overall energy that are given off by a particular Pu’er tea. For those interested in drinking Pu’er, this represents a steep learning curve. I remember being amazed when I heard Scott Wilson (the owner of Yunnan Sourcing) say in one of his YouTube videos that he offers 400 – 500 + varieties of Pu’er tea, and that this represents a small portion of what is on the Pu’er market. If one wants to try to understand these differences and learn about Pu’er in a broader sense, they will have to sample various individual teas from these different categories. In this way one can slowly start to understand the differences between Spring Pu’er, Autumn Pu’er, Pu’er from different villages in Yunnan, etc. Although there will always be some individual teas that won’t agree with what is generally said about a category, this can still be an interesting way to approach learning about Pu’er tea.
With this in mind, I broke into a sample of Yunnan Sourcing’s 2014 Sheng Pu’er from Gua Feng Zhai. Gua Feng Zhai (刮风寨 in Mandarin) means windy village when translated into English. It is a village in Yiwu that borders Laos, and it is well known for producing Pu’er tea. This tea was produced in Spring of 2014, and was produced using wild arbor material (trees that are roughly 50 – 80 years old).
The dry leaves of the Gua Feng Zhai smelled grassy, with a slightly fruity sweetness. The first infusion of the tea had flavors very similar to this smell: light and hay like, with a slightly sweet aftertaste. As the leaves opened up over further infusions the flavors grew much more pungent, and the texture became much more viscous. The sweetness seemed to change from a lightly fruity sweetness to a darker honeyed sweetness – I think this change may have been related to the thickening of the texture. There was a slight astringency in the aftertaste that built up throughout the session. That being said this quality was never overpowering, and the tea felt clean and comfortable.
This tea’s flavor reminded me of some other Pu’er teas from Gua Feng Zhai / Yiwu that I’ve tried. They all seem to share a mellow hay like flavor that has a honeyed sweetness. This particular Gua Feng Zhai tea left me feeling relaxed, rather than energizing me excessively. The small amount of Gua Feng Zhai / Yiwu teas that I’ve had also seem to share this calming quality.
Overall I was glad to drink this tea. I generally like teas that taste clean, have a good natural balance between bitterness/astringency and sweetness, and leave the body feeling refreshed and relaxed. If anyone were interested in trying Gua Feng Zhai tea, or enjoys raw Pu’er that is complex yet mellower, I think this would be a good choice.
There’s one more slightly random final thought I’d like to share from this week. Recently I went through all of my tea and tea wares, cleaned things up, and organized them all in a different way. I’ll add a photo of the cabinet I now store my tea and tea wares in below this paragraph. I wanted to mention this because after this cleaning and re-organization, I feel more at ease when I go to drink tea because I am not bogged down by clutter. My interest in drinking tea also feels slightly rekindled with a new cleaner storage system. It is normal for things to accumulate, get messy, or even stagnate with the repetition of life’s daily motions. For this reason I think cleaning and taking stock of things every once in a while can help us feel refreshed and find new motivation in different parts of our life, including tea.