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Drinkability of Puer at Different Stages

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 Drinkability of Puer at Different Stages

Most tea aficionados would have no problem describing Puer, one of the favorite teas around.  It is widely known as a thirst quencher, having health benefits, suitable for extended storage, and has potential in value appreciation. However, the answer as to the drinkability of Puer from a taste and timing perspective may not readily come to mind.

Whether a certain Puer tea is palatable depends on the person’s physiological setup. Considerations such as one’s body constitution (as in ‘cold’ or ‘hot’ body type) or personal preference (as in heavy or light taste) shape each individual’s idea of Puer’s drinkability. It is important to keep on trying to find out what one really likes. Understanding the mouthfeel or the flavour (be it refreshing, sweet, astringent, green or mellow) that appeals to a person will help make the right choices when it comes to buying and enjoying Puer.

The fact that people often ask about the perfect dates when a Puer should be taken points to the presence of the so-called ‘drinking window’, and the difficulty in grasping hold of this. What exactly is the ‘drinking window’? It refer to a range of dates identified based on a habit in Puer drinking – e.g. the starting date when it begins to taste good, and when it tastes its absolute best.

Basically (sub-standard and musty Puer excluded), young tea is drinkable over one to two years. Sun-dried whole maocha may be taken; as a matter of fact, it is normally brewed and taken as sample to gauge the flavour. Maocha directly compressed into Puer toucha, tea bricks and tea cakes may also be taken for the enjoyment of a fresh, crisp and astringent brew. Puer toucha, tea bricks and tea cakes made with maocha that has gone through pile-fermentation may also be taken once they are rolled out, offering a pleasantly smooth cup. Tea drinkers who prefer young tea just need to stick with a quality tea house and buy a few stacks of tea enough to last a year. This tea is good to drink without further ageing. There is no need to keep a stock of it for any extended period of time.  Just acquire the teas of the year as they are available in the market.

Naturally-stored green Puer may be taken once in a while over the first few years; this helps us understand the transformation of its flavour over time. After a few years in the storage, this type of Puer is ideal for those who prefers the vibrancy of young tea but not its bitter astringency.  A weak infusion of eight-year-old Puer yields a green, astringent flavour with a sweet aftertaste.  The ideal drinking window of such Puer is from the 18th to 20th year onward – the infusion has pronounced aroma, a rich and complex mouthfeel, and actively promotes saliva production. There is still a certain degree of bitter astringency since the tea is stored in a naturally dry environment. Ageing takes longer for it to reach maturity. The flavour will fully mellow out in an additional 15 to 20 years.

Warehouse storage offers good choices if one prefers vintage Puer that is full-bodied, mellow and smooth. Puer that has gone through warehouse storage comes in two varieties: the light-storage and the heavy-storage. Light-storage Puer of good quality is suitable for drinking from the 10th to 12th year onward. The flavour would have transformed to yield the right mellowness, richness and smoothness, and the lasting strength. It will take another ten years for it to develop a more complex and vintage flavour.  Heavy-storage Puer of good quality is suitable for drinking from the 7th to 8th year onward. The ideal drinking window begins from the 10th year. The infusion is pleasantly sweet in flavour and silky smooth in mouthfeel. However, it lacks the long finish characteristic of naturally-stored or light-storage Puer; the good news is, it is relatively cheaper.

| Author: Hooi Yoke Lien |