2019 Toronto Tea Festival puerh competition
The Toronto Tea Festival is an increasingly popular yearly 3-day event held at the beautiful Toronto Reference Library. This year they decided to make their competition tastings blind, which is a very nice idea. I volunteered to be a Puerh reviewer, and have been tasting these six teas over the past week. I am not very confident about the guesses made, but I think it would be instructive if I gave my honest guess as to what these teas are.
My ratings are as follows:
P1: Loose ripe puerh with lemon verbena and osmanthus
The first tea appears to be a blend of loose ripe puerh with lemon verbena leaves and osmanthus flowers:
Has a very citrus-herbal clean feeling, the verbena is dominant, and covers most of the funk of the ripe puerh. In the aftertaste, the verbena dies down, leaving a good sweet aftertaste from the puerh and an aroma from the osmanthus. Quite bold, straightforward, and a good digestive aid. I don’t typically look for ripe or for herbal blends, but this is not bad at all, with complementary flavours and a bold overall effect.
P2 Ripe puerh cake
Clear liquor. High minerality. Very clean. Not sweet. Active aftertaste. Bold minerality with background sweetness. Large, thick leaves, crumpled together. Kind of like cha tou. Very consistently clear liquor. Good aftertaste tartness in the mid steeps. Medicine shop tastes. It really reminds me of a clean HK traditionally stored Puerh, and doesn’t have the funk that I often find on Shou. It may be aged, but I suspect it is just well-made young shou.
P3 Wild varietal sheng cake
Appears to be a young raw puerh, maybe less than 5 years old. Dry leaf appears to be blended material, some small leaves, some greener leaves, a real mix
This has a vegetal wet smell, lots of twigs, and odd-looking material, could be alternate varietals, maybe taliensis or some other non-assamica. Flavour is very different from usual young sheng. Quite young, green tea taste. Potent. Some acidity comes in mid steeps, nice flavour lingering tartness. Outlier profile for sure. Becomes tart and bitter, very green, but with a lingering sweet aftertaste. Some pungent empty cup aroma, quite good. Overall I would hesitate to recommend this, it is too strange as a sheng puerh, but ignoring the outlier profile, it is quite green and somewhat harsh. If you are interested in alternate varietals with plenty of potency, this may be an option.
P4 Bulang sheng maocha
Very nice-looking young sheng puerh maocha. Brown-silvery, intact leaves. Rich smell. No geosmin, woody.
Very mild roast aroma on the liquor. It strikes me as very nice autumn puerh material. If it is spring, it has been processed in a more oxidised way and appears to be like autumn. Some sweet spices and fruits in the taste and aroma. Warming. Inspiration. Very good mouthcoat. Could be from around 2014-2015? Difficult to say. Some mild astringency shows up at steep 4. Mid-steeps are more milky, slightly more green, the youth shows in the mid-steeps. Medium-high thickness. Quite a lot of rock taste, minerality. Very nice aspect. Major calming effect, very spaced out, deep breaths. The energy on this tea is very enjoyable indeed. Also reminds me of other Autumn puerhs I’ve had. In later steeps becomes more bitter but waves of inspiration still come. Seems to me like a Bulang tea, not Yiwu. Classic young puerh strength comes through in the late steeps. Very good processing for drinking in the near to medium term, at least. Highly recommended.
P5 Liubao or small-leaf loose ripe puerh
Complex woodiness, some very slight smokiness, this really strikes me as Liubao, but this is supposed to be a Puerh sample set… I will stick with my guess as Liubao. Lots of rear throat juicy sweetness in the aftertaste. Nutty and very alerting, clear and very dark liquor. Recommended.
P6 Loose aged sheng puerh
Steeps begin quite thick but bland. Cloudy liquor, dark orange. Some acidity and bitterness come in early steps. Quite alerting and focusing. Quite relaxing at the same time, gives a sense of laser focus with determination. Chalky mouthfeel, humid but clean. Overall, this has bland flavour, chalky mouthfeel, but quite excellent qi. May be aged maocha from 2000-2006. Doesn’t seem like Yiwu material.