Today I drank a ripe pu’er tea produced by the Menghai Tea Factory, sourced through Yunnan Sourcing. This tea is called the “2010 Menghai V93 Premium Ripe Tuo Cha”. Tuo cha 沱茶 means nest tea in Mandarin and describes tea that has been pressed into a shape similar to that of a bird’s nest. V93 describes a certain blend of tea material. This name makes me laugh because V93 sounds more like a model number of a sports car.
Yunnan sourcing says the following about this tea: “This is a classic Ripe tea blend, called “V93”, it was most recently released in 2006 and quickly became one the most expensive ripe teas on the market. To this day the 2005 and 2006 V93 Ripe productions have commanded very high prices due to the fact that this is one of the most sought after Ripe teas for everyday drinking. It is smooth and full in the mouth. It is fermented just enough to break down the bitterness of raw pu-erh while lightly fermented enough to preserve the stimulating cha qi and hui gan of a raw pu-erh. After-taste is sweet and thick. Stock up on this Batch 001 release of a modern classic Ripe Pu-erh!”
I wound up getting a sample of this tea within a sample pack. I’m amused by the description because the tea achieved fame and an inflated price despite being produced with the intention of being a daily drinker. I’m excited that this tea has a lighter fermentation because I tend to enjoy more lightly fermented ripe teas above overly fermented ripe teas.
For this session I used a heavier leaf to water ratio than I normally do. In order to finish the sample bag I used about 8.5 grams of tea leaf in my 150 ml teapot. The water was taken on the cusp of a rolling boil and stored in a thermos to keep it near this temperature.
Aroma – The aroma of this tea is on the cleaner and woodier side of the smell spectrum of fermented teas. This smell isn’t too bacterial and reminds me of some clean Liu Bao teas that I’ve tried in the past.
1st Infusion (5 seconds) – After a brief rinse in boiling water I kept the first infusion short due to the high amount of leaf in my teapot. This infusion had a light woody taste with a thin dry texture. This light first infusion somewhat reminds me of Liu Bao tea.
4th Infusion (30 seconds) – Just as one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, I shouldn’t have judged this tea by its first infusion. The leaf has really opened up over the second and third infusions and is producing a very rich and dark cup of tea by the fourth. The nice thing about having a high quantity of leaf is that the flavor and aroma of the tea can change quite rapidly over the infusions. The tea is now very recognizable as ripe puer and no longer reminds me of Liu Bao. The flavor reminds me strongly of the Anadama bread baked by a nearby restaurant in our town. This is because the flavor is dark, nutty, yeasty, and has molasses like notes just like the bread. Unlike Anadama bread the tea has no sweet qualities (which in the bread comes from raisins), but instead retains a dry astringent quality from the light fermentation.
7th Infusion (3 minutes) – By the seventh infusion I started really pushing the leaf as the tea started to fade. The 3 minute infusion time brought out a more typical earthy and sweet quality and the complex flavor and layered texture of the 4th infusion had faded. I wouldn’t take this tea beyond 7 brews.
Overall the V93 Tuo was enjoyable and I was glad to try it. Now it is out of stock on the website and is not something I would put great effort into seeking out more of.