We’ve been offering Mr. Li’s handmade loose ripe puerh tea for a long time. And that’s really for a very simple reason. We want the best.
The processing of ripe puerh starts with tea trees planted from seeds in the Yunnan Province. It all begins with the pluck. One bud to two leaves is the usual plucking standard. Next, the teamakers quickly pan-fire the pluckings, and then roll them. This rolling breaks down the cell walls within the leaves. Finally, the sun slowly pulls the water out of the leaves until they’re dry. At this point, the tea is called raw puerh. And only after that can the processing of ripe puerh tea begin.
First, we steam the sun-dried raw puerh tea. Next, we cover the steamed leaves with a wet blanket for about 30-60 days. Mr. Li carefully monitors the pile’s humidity and temperature during this period to prevent mold. From time to time, certain pockets within the pile get particularly warm or cool. The leaves should be tossed whenever this happens to get an even degree of fermentation and a balanced, complete flavor.
At the beginning of ripe puerh tea’s production, the goal was to sell huge volume to Hong Kong tea lovers. Each batch of ripe puerh was therefore huge. Volume was everything. Therefore, to this day, the piling and fermentation of most ripe puerh teas happens in huge, clumsy batches. If the leaves in these batches aren’t from older trees, an experienced tea lover can tell the difference. If the tree is older, the roots go deeper and pull more minerals into the leaves. Without that strong mineral structure, the fermentation process really breaks down the leaf a little too much. We’ve tasted countless shitty puerhs over the years. “Gym socks” and “wet dog” are some examples of flavor descriptors that we’ve unfortunately had to use in the past before we could find this one.
This batch comes from tea trees that were planted from seeds and are over 60 years of age. It was fermented in a small batch, and is remarkably consistent from cup to cup, year after year. We hope to offer this beautiful ripe puerh for a long time. It’s such a great example of the mellow, easy flavor that characterizes the best ripe puerh teas.