After coming home from work on a Sunday night our entire house was fairly quiet. Although tea can obviously serve the purpose of waking one up for the events of the day, I’ve recently taken to occasionally enjoying tea in the late hours after I return home for the evening. On these occasions tea does not seem to wake me up, but can soothe restless thoughts and bring me into a state of tranquility that matches the quietude of nighttime.
It is with this in mind that I broke into a sample of raw Pu’er tea from The Essence of Tea – The 2009 Da Xue Shan Wild. Da Xue Shan (大雪山) means big snow mountain, and it is one of the famous tea producing regions in Yunnan Province. This tea is said to be produced from old wild trees of an unspecified age. It was pressed by a Malaysian tea merchant in 2009, and then stored in Malaysia until a small sample arrived at my door in sunny Wells, Maine.
The dry leaves have an interesting aroma with notes of stone fruits or warmer baking spices. Upon drinking the first few infusions, this tea feels like the kind of tea that is beyond just a flavor experience. I say this because for me the most interesting parts of the tea are not its flavors, but rather its texture, aftertaste, and the overall feeling that it gives the body. The first infusion had a slightly grassy or hay like flavor with notes of smoke in the aftertaste. By the second and third infusions however, any hints of smoke in the flavor had faded away. At this point the tea was smooth and juicy with a strong aftertaste. It is easy to tell that the tea had a good and clean storage.
The vendor says that this tea is of the “sweet wild” type. I believe this is a colloquial way of classifying the tea’s character, rather than an agreed upon scientific label of one specific varietal of tea plant. Drinking the tea I can understand why it would be called “sweet wild”. It has a fruity and somewhat tangy quality that I’ve come to associate with wild teas. I call this quality tangy because the tea is not simply sweet, but has a good balance of bitterness and sweetness that makes things more interesting.
Another thing worth mentioning is that teas from Da Xue Shan are known for having a strong aftertaste with a particularly cooling quality. This is true of this particular sample of tea. After drinking the tea the mellow bitterness instantly changes into a cooling mint sensation that lingers in the mouth and throat. For me this tea was the first sheng Pu’er I’ve had in a while where terms such as returning bitterness (回干) and returning sweetness (回甜 / 回甘) really make sense to me, and are easy to recognize while tasting. It is also the first time I’ve had a tea from Da Xue Shan and felt like I easily understood through tasting why the region is known for having teas with a strong/cooling aftertaste.
I found the 2009 Da Xue Shan Wild to be an enjoyable tea. For me the texture, aftertaste, and general energy / feelings of the tea were greatest points of appeal. The tea was able to offer these qualities over roughly 7 – 8 infusions, although the tea did fade slightly quicker than some other Pu’ers that I’ve had. The tea is currently listed at approximately $60 / 200 gram cake ($107 / 357g cake if you convert the price). This price is fair for being aged with good conditions for 8 years in Malaysia, however I think it’s high for my personal price range. I’m not sure whether I would purchase a larger quantity.
When bought in bulk the same vendor also offers a 10 year old tea with good storage for approximately $78 / 357g cake. I would personally choose this tea over the Da Xue Shan because it has a slightly stronger flavor, and comes in at a somewhat more affordable price for aged tea. However the Da Xue Shan does seemed to have a more refined and interesting quality in terms of its texture, aftertaste, and energy. For these reasons I think it’s worth a try, especially if you prefer a more nuanced and textured Pu’er over a Pu’er with bold flavors.
Whenever I think about the price of aged tea I think about how the real trick is to find new Pu’er and age it yourself, so that you can hopefully enjoy well aged tea in the future at a cheaper price point. This is something I want to try out, and plan on doing in the future.