Guest Review: Crimson Lotus "Planet Jingmai" Ancient Tree Sheng Puerh

The inspiration for my love of tea, and my literal reason for being, my father contributed this review of the "Planet Jingmai" from Crimson Lotus that I got him for his birthday! Great review and photos!

Let me begin by saying that while I have adored fine teas for the last couple of decades or so, I have had very little exposure to Puerh teas.  My past experience has been with the random, occasional toucha of some type that I had very little information on, so I was very excited to take some time and give this tea a try.  The "Planet Jingmai"  Ancient Tree tea was picked in the Spring of 2014 and processed in small spheres (planets) rather than the traditional bowl shape that I'm used to. The tea bushes are 300 years old growing atop the Jingmai mountains of Yunnan Province.  This is a Raw or Sheng Puerh, so it's processed in the ancient traditional way.

Unwrapping the ball of tea, I can see that much of the leaves look greener than I have experienced previously.  I decided to infuse the tea in a gaiwan and decant to a mug for drinking.  After first rinsing the leaves with water heated to just boiling, I filled the gaiwan again and let the leaves soak for a minute.  The first infusion was fairly light in color and flavor, but starting with the second and many subsequent infusions that followed, the leaves opened up along with the deepening color and flavor.  I could see that almost all the leaves were intact and uniform - so good quality. My infusions were kept at no more than a minute.  (I did let the leaves steep for 5 minutes as a test which produced a very bitter cup.)  The aroma and the taste were very different than my prior experience with Puerh - perhaps because I am remembering the Shou or Ripe Puerh.  Gone was the strong earthiness and long lasting harsh aftertaste.  Instead I found it to be much more subtle and pleasant in both aroma and taste, which held up after 15 infusions.  It is a difficult flavor to describe, more savory than sweet. I think of mushrooms (That's "umami"! - G).

What's unique about the Puerh style of post-fermentation processing is that this tea can be consumed now or decades from now, as it can only improve with age.  So the Planet Jingmai Puerh tea gets a thumbs up, and definitly makes me want to continue to explore a wider range of this type of teas.

- Bob Johnson, Guest Reviewer