Palace Puerh Tea from Hunan Xiangfeng Tea Industry Co. Ltd.

On September 4th of 2013, my journey through the world of tea tasting took me to the Yunnan Province of China, which is famous for it’s production of puerh tea, the lesser known type of tea in the Western hemisphere. This particular sample of Palace Puerh Tea was provided by the Hunan Xiangfeng Tea Industry Co. Ltd., based in Changsha City, Hunan Province, China.

This Palace Puerh Tea is a loose leaf form of Shu puerh. Shu puerh may also be referred to as cooked or black puerh. Although this particular sample is in loose leaf form, most puerh teas come in the form of a condensed “cake”, which are shaped to look like a disc, brick, or other more artistic shapes such as mushrooms. These condensed forms of puerh tea can be very difficult to break in to a usable pile of loose tea. I had broken several knifes on puerh tea cakes before deciding to purchase a puerh needle, which is a thick needle with a very sharp tip made specifically for breaking puerh cakes. This sometimes impractical process of breaking condensed cakes, and the recent spreading popularity of puerh tea, led tea producers to begin offering this type of tea in loose leaf form.

Puerh tea has a rich history, as well as countless interesting facts regarding production and it’s unique ability to improve through aging. I personally find puerh tea to be the most interesting type of tea in general, and generally refer to it (and oolong) as my preferred taste in teas. However, this post is about one particular product, being the Palace Puerh Tea. As I continue posting reviews of other puerh teas, I will include more interesting facts on puerh.

Let the journey begin…

Date: 09/04/2013

Product Name: Palace Puerh Tea

Purchased From: Hunan Xiangfeng Tea Industry Co. Ltd.

Origin: Specifics not known. Somewhere in Yunnan Province, China.

Type of Tea: Puerh (or Dark) Tea

Tea Leaf Characteristics Prior to Infusion:

Palace Puerh Dry Leaves

Aroma: Earthy (wet earth and barnyard). Note: Do not judge the tea based on these descriptive words. These descriptions are not necessarily negative in the world of tea.

Dryness: Very dry. Breaks in to fine crumbles.

Color: Light to dark brown, with some golden leaves. Leaves appear aged.

Texture: A general “dusty” feel. Some smooth, dry, twisted and curled leaves. Some rigid leaves that appear slightly rolled.

Size, Shape, Length: Mostly uniform twisted leaves averaging a length of 0.5 inches (13 mm). Some leaves have curled, while others appear rolled.

Unique Characteristics: The dusty feel of the dry leaves, caused by the artificial aging process, is certainly unique to loose shu puerh. The aroma, color, and texture are all unique characteristics of a loose shu puerh.

Sampling Measurements:

Amount of Water: 18 ounces (532 ml)

Amount of Tea: 8 grams

Tea Liquor Evaluation:

First Infusion:

Palace Puerh 1st Infusion

Water Temperature: 212°F (100°C)

Infusion Time: 0 Minutes and 30 seconds.

Aroma: Earthy, musty, wet wood.

Color: Very Dark Copper. Very slight haziness. Transparent.

Taste: Earthy (musty), wet wood, forest floor. Sweet finish, perhaps caramel or molasses. Smooth and rich mouth feel. No bitterness whatsoever. Aftertaste is sweet and a little spicy, reminiscent of black licorice perhaps.

Comments: The more I sipped on this first infusion, the more I felt the subtle and unique notes of sweetness. The smooth mouthfeel and pleasant aftertaste were very nice. I really enjoyed the taste of this first infusion, and am interested to see how the taste progresses through infusions two and three.

Second Infusion:

Palace Puerh 2nd Infusion

Water Temperature: 212°F (100°C)

Infusion Time: 0 Seconds and 45 seconds.

Aroma: Richer and slightly more robust than the 1st infusion. Earthy, musty, wet wood.

Color: Very dark red, almost black. Translucent, but not transparent. Significantly darker than the 1st infusion.

Taste: Fuller body than the 1st infusion. Earthy of forest floor and musty. Smooth, almost velvety with a slightly sweet (molasses) finish. Aftertaste still reminds me of black licorice. The taste is very structured.

Comments: This second infusion was better than the 1st. The extra fifteen seconds of infusion time made the color darker, the body fuller and velvety, and the taste more rich. I would expect this tea to have multiple additional infusions to offer.

Third Infusion:

Palace Puerh 3rd Infusion

Water Temperature: 212°F (100°C)

Infusion Time: 1 Minute and 0 seconds.

Aroma: Earthy (forest floor, musty), slightly spicy.

Color: Very dark red, but not quite as dark as 2nd infusion. Translucent, but not transparent.

Taste: Earthy (musty, forest floor), but not as strong as 2nd infusion. Body is still full and velvety. Sweet (molasses) finish. Aftertaste is lighter, but still reminiscent of black licorice.

Comments: Not quite as rich of a flavor as the 2nd infusion, but that is not necessarily a negative. This third infusion was very nicely balanced, and the flavor was still rich, just not as rich as the 2nd infusion. This tea will definitely produce a fourth, fifth, and perhaps a sixth and seventh infusion that will have an acceptable flavor.

Tea Leaf Characteristics After Infusions:

Palace Puerh Wet Leaves

Color: Uniform dark brown to black.

Aroma: Earthy (forest floor, musty), slightly sweet like dried fruit.

Size, Shape: Fairly uniform length averaging 0.75 inches (19 mm). All broken leaf fragments, some stalks. There is a good chance that this may have been processed by machinery instead of by hand.

Unique Characteristics: Dark black color. Aroma is earthy, yet slighty fruity. Seems machine cut and rolled.

Final Comments: I must say that I am impressed by this loose shu puerh. Generally speaking, I prefer puerh in cake form, as I find the loose forms to be a bit grainy in taste. However, this loose puerh was not grainy at all. This was definitely the best loose puerh that I have tried thus far. The taste actually improved from the 1st to 2nd infusions, and again from the 2nd to 3rd infusions. This form of tea is usually not a favorite of the novice tea drinkers, and honestly I do not expect this tea to be an instant favorite. However, as the drinker continues to sip this tea, they should be able to put aside the earthy tastes and appreciate the sweeter and spicier notes, as well as the very pleasant velvety and smooth feel of the liquor. I am a fan of this Palace Puerh Tea. Great first review of the many samples that I received from Hunan Xiangfeng. Looking forward to reviewing the rest, even if they are just half as good as this tea.