Spring 2017 Ancient garden leaves from Lao Wu Shan village, Zhenyuan
Fermented in March 2018 by Mr Shi in Pu'er City, 6kg batch
Intense Shu Pu-erh experience with a highly energetic mouthfeel
Lao Wu Shan is a tea mountain located in the South West of Zhenyuan county. It has a decent amount of ancient tea gardens.
Lao Wu Shan tea has a robust mouthfeel and the typicality of the terroir was well preserved through the fermentation process. You can feel the tea is lively as soon as it opens up. You are welcome with hints of dry mango in the cup, an earthy base and a penetrating smell, slightly alcoholic. You will also get a light bitterness.
You can see from the leaves the fermentation is on the strong side, but it doesn't remove to the complexity of the brew. The micro-pile of only 6kg was fermented for 26 days, a shorter time than the conventional method that often takes six weeks.
Mr Shi is a retired professor who spends his free time studying pu-erh tea fermentation. Most of the ripe Pu-erh tea you will find on the market is fermented in big piles that range from 500kg to 10 tons. After spraying water on the leaves, the pile heats up due to microbial activity. Since the pile is big and lays in an basic hangar without temperature control, the heat is not evenly spread in the pile. The surface is colder than the core. This temperature gradient leads to differences in microbial activity, you can see several layers on which different microorganisms thrive. In order to allow an even fermentation, the pile has to be shuffled several times throughout the five to six weeks long fermentation.
Mr Shi uses a different approach. He puts 10kg of leaves in a large basket. This won't be enough to generate significant heat, instead, temperature is controlled in the room. This allows for a more accurate fermentation temperature and a homogeneous batch. No need to shuffle the tea during the fermentation. This technique also allows a finer control of the humidity and water content inside the leaves.
As a result, the leaves are better preserved and look closer to the original tea than by using the conventional fermentation technique. Fermenting small quantities also allows for higher quality material to be used, and therefore finer and more diverse tasting profiles.
The micro-batch technique allows for more unique ripe pu-erh teas to be made, which remain true to their terroir of origin.