Today I wound up drinking a sheng pu’er tea (生普洱茶）from 2015. For anybody who is not familiar with sheng tea, it is a kind of tea produced in China’s southern Yunnan province. The production of this kind of tea involves a light pan firing and sun drying, which allow for microbes to survive on the tea. This microbial activity allows the tea to ferment and age slowly over time, depending on the temperature, humidity, & other factors of the environment it is stored in.
The character sheng (生) in Chinese can mean life, growth, green, raw, or unprocessed. All of these possible translations make sense when drinking sheng pu’er. When brewed the younger sheng teas tend to taste greener, although most have more depth and aftertaste than an average green tea. These teas can also have a strong mouth feel that is sometimes bitter or astringent, and sometimes very smooth. Some say the strength of sheng tea alludes to the environment in Yunnan where it is grown. This kind of tea can also be very energizing. Some would say that sheng cha has a lot of tea energy, or cha qi (茶气), if you believe in that concept of energy.
While brewing this tea, I filled the teapot approximately 1/3 of the way with dry tea leaves. For this reason I brewed many pots of tea, with each brewing lasting only a few seconds. The result was a tea that was very smooth and deep, with a flavor somewhere in between grassy & vegetal. Being two years old, this tea also had a somewhat musky aged flavor. If over brewed slightly, the golden yellow color would change into a darker orange. After 6 or so pots of tea, the flavor began to lose its initial strength and mouth feel, changing into a lighter and sweeter brew.
Being only two years old, this tea was on the greener side of sheng pu’er tea. However, this tea also had the depth and energizing qualities of good pu’er that made it very enjoyable to drink. Stories can be dangerous while buying tea, but if you choose to believe the vendor, this tea comes from 15 of the oldest trees in a tea garden located in the Bangwei area of Yunnan. Some would say that older pu’er teas have a powerful quality that is also smooth and deep, which lasts over many infusions. This tea had these qualities, and also lasted over the course of two kettles of water. I would recommend this tea if you enjoy the kinds of qualities that sheng pu’er is associated with. However, if somewhat bitter and astringent notes are off-putting to you, I would recommend a spring green tea instead!