Finally, a tea older than Old Cwyn appears on her dirty tea table. In this case, Verdant’s 1800 Year arrives with its own nasty reputation, even worse than Old Cwyn’s. I don’t think I need to link the reader to the innumerable posts about this tea with its thorough debunking of the claimed origins to the King Tree, which is roped off and unavailable for harvest but for a single, yearly cake. Most puerh tea buyers declared they’ve been turned off Verdant for all time, but the selling out of the “1800” cake speaks for itself. Say what you will, controversy is one tactic that works. I’m certainly not immune to controversial teas and through the incredible generosity of tea pals on Steepster I acquired a sample with the exhortation to write a little bit about it.
We have a fine puerh community on Steepster, growing every week, and from there we’ve branched out to daily socializing on Instagram and Slack Chat. Despite the constant complaints about the ratings on Steepster, the community has worked hard to remain open and positive and supporting of fellow tea heads. Yes, even tea baggers are welcome and people who drink things no one else will. Within this camaraderie, people buy and sell tea with each other, and sometimes group buys are the only way to gain access to teas which are otherwise unaffordable or unattainable. My friends liquidproust, Dr. Jim, cookies and a dozen other friends had already planned a group buy last fall to include a lot of puerh. In his administration of last fall’s “Sheng Olympics” group buy, Liquidproust purchased the Verdant cakes well before the controversy began. In fact the teas were already on route, prior to all the hoopla. Initially he chastised himself for buying into this tea, and I, for one, chimed in with several others to applaud the move. Actually, I wasn’t even participating in the group buy and so Dr. Jim and cookies volunteered generously to give up shares in the Verdant 1800 just so I could try it. Their sacrifice meant I got a larger than deserved chunk, so this post is for Dr. Jim, cookies and the indefatigable and brilliantly named LiquidProust.
The 9 gram chunk has a tangy apricot nose, and immediately I can see this is a tiny leaf tea. Tiny leaf teas in my experience can be either very tasty, or the nasty sort found in bamboo tubes with charred, smoky processing. The two rinses didn’t yield up any odor of char or smoke, which is impressive at the start. But pouring in the first steep, as the water hit the chunk I could see this tea is one which will require significant coaxing to get a cup strong enough for my taste. I started with 30-40 second steeps on the first three, lowering the water ratio to about 70 ml for the 9 grams. The tea doesn’t like boiling water, the green steep turned yellow with the heat.
Nose on the brew is grape-y, rather than the apricot of the leaves, and I note small buds among the tiny leaves. The tea is sweet, my efforts with the boiling hot kettle could not coax much bitterness. If I didn’t know better, the cup tastes very similar to the 2015 Chawangshop Hekai I’ve been drinking this year, definitely no hefty Menghai leaf here. Assuming the date is correct, the tea was picked end of May, and this was, after all, a wet year. Still, the tiny buds mean this is not first picking, but second picking or beyond. The tea is remarkably minty, cooling on the throat. Verdant has flavor scales and lists this tea as spicy foremost (not really), vegetal (maybe when brewed at a lower temp), vanilla (not for me), and fruity, lastly (much more so for me). I get this tangy, slightly sour fruit along with the mint and both linger well beyond the cup for a good hour or so. Qi barely there, this tea lacks strength for me to feel the caffeine. But the similarity to the Hekai gives me hope of a diuretic effect that I enjoyed so much from the Hekai.
We read about how puerh aids digestion, but nobody really details exactly what this means. Well, I can tell you. The digestive effects truly vary if you are a vegan or a meat eater. For a vegan, raw puerh is probably not necessary for digestion and you’re better off with an oxidized or roasted tea. Your diet is plenty yin and other fermented products like kimchi or kombucha might be a nice addition, but you can get by on matcha and skip puerh altogether for digestive reasons. You are accustomed to broccoli, beans and cabbage, things are moving right along for you. For meat eaters, on the other hand, puerh really does reduce bloating, the feeling of over-fullness from a heavy, greasy meat meal. Your yak supper ain’t going anywhere fast. This is a very good thing in the heart of winter when you need to retain calories and brave extreme cold. Eskimos don’t eat salads for a reason. But what you really need to do is fart. This is one role that puerh tea may have, and the Verdant 1800 did the job and luckily my son stayed upstairs. Just an FYI, broccoli, beans and cabbage only truly bother the meat eater. Witness Ohgren and Sten, two men in need of the Pu.
I didn’t find a diuretic effect in the Verdant 1800, and I find myself applauding the Chawang Hekai even more, and Honza for getting out there in March to harvest well before the rains so that Old Yang Cwyn can pee when she needs to in order for her shoes to fit. The Verdant 1800 is a pleasant, albeit very light brew. I continued onward brewing at just a few degrees under boiling past the third steep. The tea improved my regularity the following day in a most pleasant manner helping my body deal with the natural casing weiner I ate the day before. Hey, it’s cold here. I try and balance out my son’s meat needs with oatmeal suppers for myself once in awhile, but even if I could return to purely vegan I’d still need to cook meat for him every day anyway. He took a look at a bean at six months old and said “nope” with a matter-of-factness that resulted in a note home from daycare and no change in the quarter century since.
|Second steeping. I didn't continue with photos of the brew as they|
mostly looked like this. A bit more orange-y with a longer steep time.
I’m steeping at 60 seconds on steep 5 to get myself a cuppa and am rewarded with a bit of apricot in the brew and a little more bitterness. Really this is quite a pleasant tea, especially if you don’t like bitter tea and want a sweeter sheng. The processing is top notch in my sample. I can’t think this tea cake will age into anything other than a general fading like an ashen blonde anorexic trust fund baby, the strength is just not there. If you bought this cake, plan to drink it up now.
But the lack of strength is a minus when considering the price, in the $60 range for 200g. I can find plenty of stronger teas with this profile in the $30 range, though the minty quality does stand out. Juniper trees anyone? Still, I’m a sucker. I’d buy this even at the $60 price tag, though I doubt anyone else will even were the cake still available, which it isn't. But I’m willing to pay $60 for a drinker even if most of my puerh hoarding readers will not. I can squeak out 10 steeps and feel satisfied for what it is. If you’re looking for teas to put you under the table, look elsewhere. Just about anywhere. With any luck, the Chinese New Year will be over soon and China will hurry up and get back to shipping, which is really what we all are waiting for.
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