First, thanks to Liquid Proust for making old pu’erh available at an affordable price. It’s a great opportunity for everyone to expand their experiences and palate.
There is a lot of discussion out there regarding storage. Most people talk about humid vs. dry storage, in addition to how exactly they attempt to create their little pu’erh microclimates. That’s all good, but no one really ever talks about how long they plan on storing this stuff. There is a general perception that older is better. I would simply say that older is just different. And so, depending on your palate, older might just be worse.
That said, I think this is a good tea to sample to see if, for you, older is better. Do you like those earthy, vegetal pond flora notes? Do you like a cereal savory-sweetness? Do like the fragrant and pungent aroma of camphor? If so, then I guess you better start clearing some space for your stash, because you, my friend, like old pu’erh.
Personally, I find older pu’erh interesting, but not superior. For me, the optimum age for pu’erh is 7-12 years, under dry-ish storage conditions. But that’s because I like tobacco notes and dried fruit and spice cake sweetness, with some floral notes that give it some zest and pop. Stuff like the 1990s Guangyun is fun – and I have to say that the camphor experience is unique for sure (sort of like a peaty Islay Scotch malt – not delicious, per se, but fascinating and complex).
If you think you do like old pu’erh and are lamenting your expensive tastes and lack of storage, I really think you have some cheaper options. First of all, earthy, woody ripe pu’erh is a damn good approximation. You’re not going to get the fragrant camphor notes (although I have had one or two ripes that have it – more expensive than run-of-the-mill ripes, but much cheaper than aged sheng). Also, I think Fu Zhuan hei cha also gives an interesting “Chinese medicine” sort of experience that you get with old sheng. I don’t know – maybe mix the two together and see what happens?!
Anyway, this tea is mighty tasty, and certainly worth the low price LP offers it for. I just think that people need to be real about putting old sheng pu’erh on a pedestal. People are dropping loads of cash for teas that (I’m sorry) taste like a $50 wet-stored ripe.
Don’t take my word for it. Get some of this tea and see what you think.
Dry leaf – pond flora, compost, forest floor, wet wood. In preheated vessel – cereal notes arrive
Smell – pond flora, cream of wheat, camphor, wet hardwood
Taste – pond flora, cream of wheat, wet hardwood. Hints of chocolate in finish. Aftertaste has fragrant camphor notes arrive, lemongrass, poppy seed, lemon pith, with secondary notes of prune and rum-raisin sweetness that linger in the background.