Pu-erh is an extremely complex tea that, if stored and aged properly, develops complex, refined flavours. While pu-erh is not for everyone because of its strong earthy notes, it can be a bizarrely addictive tea that is a great substitute for coffee or strong black teas. Once you find a pu-erh that you like, investing in a cake, nest or brick could provide you with years of brilliant tea.
So, how does Tip Top Tea’s Menghai tuo-cha stack up? Has it aged well? Is it a tea to invest in? Read on to see what I think.
– The dry leaf is pressed into a tuo-cha/nest shape
– It has a light earthy, woody aroma
– The tea cups out a ruby to copper-coloured liquor – it is much lighter in colour than many ripe pu-erh teas that I’ve tried
– Unlike some ripe pu-erh teas that have an extremely (sometimes overpowering) earthy/wet wood aroma and flavour, the ageing has mellowed and refined the flavours in this tea. It has the classic earthy flavours associated with ripe pu-erh teas, but it also has subtle sweet undertones
– You can make this tea with the traditional Western method by using a teapot and infusing the tea for three to four minutes (two to three infusions). Alternatively, and this is what I’d suggest, you make this tea gong fu style. Wash the tea first, then make the first infusion with a 30-second steeping. Increase infusion time 15 to 30 seconds for each infusion thereafter. You will get four to six infusions out of this tea using gong fu style
– Time has been very good to this tea. The flavours are very refined, and the tea has almost no bitterness (too much bitterness is often a sign of poor quality). This tea is packed full of flavours. I am happy that it is not completely dominated by a mono-flavour earthy taste, but it has some sweet undertones that give it complexity
– Considering this tuo-cha is seven years old and it has developed complex and refined flavours through ageing, its £10 price tag make it a brilliant investment for both weathered pu-erh drinkers and beginners. In fact, it is a steal: I’ve seen and tried plenty of younger nests and cakes with the same weight that carry similar or higher price tags. You could age it longer, but it is ready to drink now, and the lighter earthy flavours give it a broader appeal to those unsure about pu-erh
Retail price: 100 gram tuo-cha (nest) for £10.00