2016 Zun Sheng Pu'er

Tea type
Pu-erh Tea
Ingredients
Pu Erh Tea
Flavors
Apricot, Dry Grass, Floral, Honey, Jasmine, Lemon, Menthol, Mineral, Orange, Osmanthus, Straw, Tulsi, Astringent, Bitter, Fruity, Sweet, Vegetal
Sold in
Loose Leaf
Caffeine
Medium
Certification
Not available
Edit tea info Last updated by Ken
Average preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 30 sec 5 g 40 oz / 1173 ml

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3 Tasting Notes View all

  • “The recommended 6 oz of water is too much for my small gaiwan, so I estimate that I used closer to 5 oz. The dry leaves are loose, whole, and individual; they smell like apricots to me and a touch...” Read full tasting note
  • “Alright, this respiratory infection has got to go. At first I thought it was just a run-of-the mill sinus infection, the kind I get around this time every year, but no, it had to be something more....” Read full tasting note
    91
  • “First tasting of the day, and its a old tree sheng. This is leaves from one older tree mixed with leaves from a younger tree to present a more balanced taste profile. Brewed in a gaiwan with 205...” Read full tasting note
    72

From Verdant Tea

Master Zhou’s Zun series pressings is a careful blend of maocha from trees aged between three hundred and eight hundred years old, picked for a balanced and rich full body and aroma. These truly old trees grow in one of the oldest and most remote tea forests in the world, on Mt. Ailao. Every leaf is hand picked, sun-dried and pressed into a custom 100g stone mold carved for our collaboration with the cooperative.

About Verdant Tea View company

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3 Tasting Notes

19 tasting notes

The recommended 6 oz of water is too much for my small gaiwan, so I estimate that I used closer to 5 oz. The dry leaves are loose, whole, and individual; they smell like apricots to me and a touch of dry grass. After the first steep of ~10 sec, the leaves seem more thin and delicate than I was expecting. The brew is a light yellow-green and still smells of fruit and grass to me. My first sip hits off on the fruit side, as I was expecting, and rounds out with a more mellow savory sort of tone. I think I get a tiny hint of jasmine at the front and middle of each sip, but it’s difficult to pin down. There’s not bitterness or sourness, either.

Second steep ~30 sec. Disappointing this time; perhaps I didn’t steep it long enough. The fruit and floral notes disappeared to be replaced by dry grass, although the brew remains sweet.

Third steep ~60 sec. Either these leaves run out really quickly or I’m doing something wrong somehow, despite following the suggestions on steeping for this tea. Now the brew really tastes like water, without a hint of flavor from the tea leaves, except perhaps a bit of sourness.

Flavors: Apricot, Dry Grass, Floral

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 15 sec 4 g 5 OZ / 147 ML

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91
906 tasting notes

Alright, this respiratory infection has got to go. At first I thought it was just a run-of-the mill sinus infection, the kind I get around this time every year, but no, it had to be something more. Now it’s day six and I’m done with feeling miserable. I decided to break out some sheng and hopefully move on with my life. Before I formally go about introducing the denizens of Steepster World to my impressions of this tea, however, I am going to devote a little time to an issue that seems to weigh on a number of folks in such a way that it brings out the worst.

This seems to be the time of year when people get riled up over statements concerning the age of a bunch of trees in a distant land. I understand and share this concern, at least to a certain extent. Do I think this mao cha actually comes from 800 year old trees? No, I don’t. Seeing as how I am most certainly not an expert, have never seen the trees, and possess no actual scientific data backing up the age statement, I have no reason to believe the veracity of such a claim. I could be wrong, but I still remain skeptical. How much do I care about the claim itself? I’m not really sure yet. Clearly my doubts did not prevent me from buying this tea. To be honest, I don’t feel suckered and don’t regret purchasing it in the least. I saw it as a product on the market that I could purchase and review, and anyone remotely familiar with my proclivities should know how near and dear to my heart reviewing stuff lies. It’s kind of what I do. Also, we are all aware that our beloved tea world is filled with falsehoods, especially the nether regions occupied by pu’erh and similar teas. Teas are often deliberately or unintentionally mislabeled, misnamed, misdated, and otherwise misrepresented. The degree to which piracy and other such tomfoolery runs rampant is truly impossible to accurately determine. We should all know this by now. Believe me when I say that if some of you get upset (and not entirely unreasonably I may add) by what you see as potentially dishonest, or perhaps we should still give the benefit of the doubt and say naive, marketing on the part of one vendor who currently seems to be quite popular, you have probably either excused it or just not noticed it elsewhere. I could be wrong, but I would just about guarantee it because it doesn’t only happen with tea. If I can now offer a point to all of this medicine-headed rambling, I would offer this one: ranting about it on a discussion board is probably neither going to change the business nor the buying habits and preferences of one’s online peers. At the end of the day, does it really matter how old the trees are? Can a tea not still be enjoyable even if it is misrepresented in some way? Do we really need to continue piling on certain vendors who have a habit of making such claims? In situations like this one, I kind of can’t help thinking that all we can do is express our doubts, either try the tea or avoid it, and move on with our lives. Oh, and for the record, I do not think that deciding to buy a product whose marketing is more than a bit fishy can always be boiled down to some sort of moral deficiency on the part of individual buyers or to lack of knowledge and experience. So many of these exchanges prove unproductive when the primary position of one side can be reduced to wondering “Why don’t all of these other people feel like me with regard to this issue? What’s wrong with them?”. Maybe it really is not a matter of people who choose to purchase such products being stupid, ignorant, or morally lacking compared to you. Maybe they are just curious and/or see themselves as giving something controversial a fair shake, and then share their thoughts with the rest of the world to provide something of a balanced perspective. That, in and of itself, can be valuable too.

Enough of that. I prepared this tea gongfu style. After the rinse, I steeped 6 grams of loose tea leaves in 4 ounces of 205 F water for 5 seconds. I followed this up with infusions of 10 seconds, 15 seconds, 20 seconds, 25 seconds, 30 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, 1 minute, 1 minute 15 seconds, 1 minute 30 seconds, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, and 5 minutes.

Prior to the rinse, the dry tea leaves gave off muted, musty aromas of tulsi, straw, and citrus. After the rinse, I noted that the citrus aroma grew more powerful. I could not quite place it though. I also started to pick up on flowers and honey. The first infusion produced a nearly identical bouquet. In the mouth, I was able to detect mild notes of brine, straw, tulsi, lemon, and honey with a slight minty note on the finish. Subsequent infusions introduced impressions of bitter orange peel, jasmine, and osmanthus while the menthol note on the finish turned into a distinct impression of wintergreen. They weren’t kidding about that. I kept waiting for the apricot to show up in a big way, but I only started to catch a subtle hint of it around the seventh or eighth infusion. I also started getting a sharp, chalky mineral presence on the finish. Later infusions were thin, but still had a little life to them. The dominant notes were of minerals, lemon, bitter orange peel, and tulsi balanced by cooling notes of wintergreen and apricot. Bizarrely enough, I thought I just barely detected a fleeting note of lemongrass at this point, but it may have been me.

Though I wish the floral aromas and flavors stuck around longer, this ended up being the type of sheng that appealed to me. On the rare occasions I decide to drink sheng, I often go looking for teas with some combination of spicy, herbal, and citrusy notes. This tea had all of those things. The fleeting floral impressions and the pronounced honey tones just added more appeal for me. I’m sure the fact that it soothed my aching throat while greatly reminding me of a milder version of the honey menthol cough drops I have been wolfing down for the past three days only strengthened its appeal. All in all, this one got over with me, dubious claims and all.

Flavors: Apricot, Honey, Jasmine, Lemon, Menthol, Mineral, Orange, Osmanthus, Straw, Tulsi

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 6 g 4 OZ / 118 ML
Daylon R Thomas

That sounds like the Sheng is on the whiter side of things though I’m probably totally wrong. Then again, I only drink the Pu-Erh’s that Andrew sends me or when I’m in medicinal need for it.

Daylon R Thomas

After reading the other note, like a sour oolongy tasting Sheng. Or just Sheng.

eastkyteaguy

Daylon, I do the same thing with Pu-erh. It’s either that or green tea that I reach for when I’m sick. I don’t know how I would classify this one to be honest. I know I liked it. On one level, it reminded me of a funky Yunnan green, which I suppose it really should, but there was a kind of softness or gentleness about it (the floral notes maybe?) that gave it a little something else.

eastkyteaguy

Yeah, I hadn’t thought of it, but oolongy would totally work as a descriptor.

Ken

Yeah it does have a citrusy green or oolongy flavor to it. Though for the life of me I couldn’t figure out which citrus fruit it was…

Terri HarpLady

First off, you just became one of my new favorite people on Steepster :)
I agree with everything you said.
Regarding Sheng and sinuses, I have long felt that drinking raw puerh helps ease my allergies (which started back up last week when a a few trees starting spewing pollen into the air.).
I also recommend Nettles tea, not as interesting as Sheng, but extremely helpful with allergies and other sinus conditions.

eastkyteaguy

Terri, thanks for the kind words. When I first posted this review, I was a little concerned that it was going to tick a few people off, but I persisted because I felt like a few points could be made that would perhaps work best in the context of a review. One thing I had noticed was a few of the people getting so flustered over the age statements had never actually tried, or at least did not admit to trying, any of the teas. What really struck me though, were a few comments that found deficiencies in those who had tried the teas and advocated for a recognition of their quality removed from the questionable nature of the vendor’s marketing. I thought such comments were unfair, and being one of those people who actually enjoyed a few of these teas, decided to share my thoughts on this issue while actively discussing one of these controversial teas. I think Verdant catches a lot of flak for the stuff they do because they do it so blatantly and stand by it. If they were ripping off customers left and right by providing consistently inferior products and terrible public service, that would be one thing, but the fact of the matter is they don’t seem to be doing that. If some of the blog posts I have read from them are any indication, even they may be a little skeptical of the age claims, but do not challenge them out of respect for their suppliers. While I don’t think presenting unfounded claims is necessarily appropriate, I can also understand the desire of the vendor to protect the supplier. Another thing to consider too is that it is almost impossible to separate the tea world from false marketing. It’s accepted business practice. That awesome Da Yu Ling we’ve all seen online was probably produced in Vietnam and purchased by a merchant in Taiwan who passed it on to a vendor in the U.S. or Canada. Oh, and that awesome lookimg Jingmai sheng cake-it too was very likely cut with materials from other regions, if it even is what it is supposed to be at all. Heck, designations like Lao Ban Zhang and Lao Man’E are practically just used either as branding or as a descriptor for any tea that kind of resembles teas from those areas on some level. Some people don’t like Verdant and I get that. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you don’t like their tea, that’s cool. Don’t buy from them. If their marketing or some other aspect of their business practices strikes you as questionable, by all means bring it to the community’s attention. However, don’t find fault with people because they don’t see things the exact same way. Also, going off over and over again over questionable age statements for something like pu-erh, where literally everything is suspect, kind of seems unnecessary to me after a point. The way I see it is that the only way you can know that you even have what you’re supposed to have is to physically be there overseeing the entire process from start to finish, and that still may not guarantee much. In the end, we’re still just going to be left with a tea that we can choose to drink or not.

eastkyteaguy

Oh, and this infection I think is a viral thing. It’s awful. To this point, we have had a very mild winter and the weather has been warm and wet for the better part of the last 2 weeks. I work in education outreach and attended a KIWANIS Club meeting in a neighboring county last Thursday to get in some community engagement work. Half the people there were sick. My sinuses were already draining from the weather change, so I was already a little under the weather. I was sick by the following afternoon. The first 3 days were so bad that I couldn’t sleep due to coughing, and at two different points, I was running a fever so high that I was experiencing hallucinations. I went back to work yesterday, but now the congestion limits my ability to smell or taste anything. It’s breaking up though.

Terri HarpLady

Again, I agree with all you have said.
The most important criterion for tea drinking for me is my own personal pleasure in the experience. If a tea tastes good, I’ll enjoy it & purchase more :)
I know there are people who’s egos get tied up in it all. I just like drinking tea.
I pissed quite a few people off a year or so ago, when this whole debate regarding Verdant went down, by stating my opinion that Vendors shouldn’t be bashing one another. It’s not a good practice. If I went around St. Louis telling people that all the other Harpists in town suck, or something to that effect, it wouldn’t be a good business practice.
What one vendor has to say about the quality of another vendor’s goods is irrelevant to me, as they are probably likely to shape the truth as anyone else, but it also tends to turn me off. Verdant may or may not be full of it regarding the age of their teas, but they seem like nice people, and their teas are very tasty and nuanced, & they’ve built an interesting family of tea growers who seem committed to the leaf, and that’s pretty much all I care about. :)

Terri HarpLady

I hope your sense of taste and smell return soon!

eastkyteaguy

Terri, the taste and smell are touch and go right now. I can taste sweet again as of today. That’s an improvement over yesterday. I tried to drink some oolong and could smell it, but couldn’t taste a thing. I remember that thread, by the way. It was right around the time I signed up. I think the controversy had already struck for the most part, but I know the discussion was still ongoing. I totally agreed about vendors not bashing one another and was surprised that such a thought was so controversial. I don’t know what the intent was, but I felt like the way the vendors involved approached things left a lot to be desired. To me, it would have been one thing for the vendors to approach the issue in such a way that demonstrated respect for one another. It would have been one thing to approach both Verdant and the community at large with questions. Saying “hey, this seems questionable to me. None of this jives with what I know and what I have been told. Do you care to explain?” would have been much more professional. On some levels, I think that may have been the intent, but to me, it kind of came off like they were calling Verdant out or just outright attacking them. The bad thing is I like all of the vendors involved. The furor, however, turned me off to pu-erh for some time. I’m just now starting to get back into it. I wish I would have known you were located in St. Louis. A couple of friends of mine in Kansas City got married a couple years ago and wanted a harpist. They thought they had someone, but the organizer of the event managed to somehow mess that up, and scheduled a group to cover. It ended up being a skinhead punk band.

Terri HarpLady

From harp to punk… I could see that… :)

eastkyteaguy

Terri, it gets better. After said skinhead punk band started playing, the ceremony was crashed by bikers.

mrmopar

eastkyteaguy you hit the nail on the head on quite a few points. I wish that whole thread had never started. I think the tea that you drink no matter what speaks for itself.

Terri HarpLady

I played a biker wedding a few years ago, all Classic Rock. It was awesome!

LuckyMe

@eastkyteaguy, I completely agree with your points about Verdant getting unfairly maligned over this tree age stuff. I can only speak to their non-puerh offerings, but their teas are consistently good and that’s what matters at the end of the day. Hope you get feeling better!

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72
109 tasting notes

First tasting of the day, and its a old tree sheng. This is leaves from one older tree mixed with leaves from a younger tree to present a more balanced taste profile.

Brewed in a gaiwan with 205 water, starting with a quick wash to open then leaves, then brewed for 20 seconds for the first infusion and 30 seconds for the second. My taste buds and nose are still failing me with my inexperience.

I get a slightly sour fruity scent and taste, not unpleasant, like a good sweetish sour fruit, but its not lemon or orange. Also a pretty good vegetal taste and aroma as well. There is a slight bit of astringency and bitterness but not overpowering.

Now this one does have a complex taste profile and I get the feeling Im missing some of it. I have an entire 100 grams loose, so I figure I will have more tastings with this soon before I put the rest away for aging for a few years.

Their website says fruit, savory, and floral are the primary flavors with a bit of vegetal. Now I get the fruit and the vegetal but Im not picking up the savory and the floral. I do find this interesting that different people pick up different flavors like that, but then again some of it is brewing, I dont have a yixing yet and that could influence the flavor. Ill report on it again once I do.

Flavors: Astringent, Bitter, Fruity, Sweet, Vegetal

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 0 min, 30 sec 6 g 110 OZ / 3253 ML

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