Golden Lotus Shu Puer – Jinzhen Bailian
Golden Lotus jinzhen bailian is a 357gr cake of shu puer made entirely of supreme-quality buds from the tea trees growing around the Bulang Mountain – one of Yunnan’s most praised puer-producing locations. This tea will be of special value to those tea lovers who prefer their beverage strong in both flavor and effect. It has a savory multifaceted taste that tends envelop the whole mouth, much like what coffee does, but on a very different side of the gustatory spectrum. It has a pronounced huigan effect, i.e. one can feel a bit of sweetness lingering in the mouth for a few minutes after the last sip of the tea. Freshly brewed leaves have a pleasant smell of black earth, while the beverage itself tends to give off a subtle walnutty aroma.
Why we like it?
This tea has interesting etymology. Jinzhen means ‘golden needle’ in Chinese, which is the term that some puer growers use to describe ripe puer that they believe to be superior in quality to gongting. The term is far from universal, since gongting (royal palace in Chinese) is the standard that has been actually described and imposed by the government. Naturally, smaller tea growers follow their own guidelines, and if they believe that they have produced something that is actually better than what’s supposed to be the best, they will be more than happy to brag about it. The second part of the name – bailian – literally means ‘white lotus’. If you brew this tea traditionally (using gaiwan, pitcher, and small cups) you will be able to observe ephemeral white collagen suspension for a short period of time. The effect becomes more pronounced if you use a small white ceramic or glass cup and the room temperature is not very high. It is the way in which this white fog is floating in the tea infusion that must have encouraged the white lotus analogy. Only supreme-quality ripe puers are believed to possess this property. It’s a nice trick to impress people with and, more importantly, it’s good tea to enjoy all by yourself or in company of friends and family.
Roman’s personal score: 90/100
Miha’s personal score: 82/100
The scores above represent how the Daoli co-founders Miha and Roman feel about each particular tea. The ratings are given on 0 to 100 scale and are absolutely subjective. We simply translate into numbers our first impression about this tea.
A few words about the manufacturer
Guyi is a relatively young tea manufacturer. They first started to make their own puer tea in 1999. Five years later Jiang Yingbao, the founder, incorporated the firm and registered several trademarks, such as Yubang, and Mijing Yunnan. Now the Guyi tea factory employs around 150 people, has fermentation and storage facilities in Menghai and Kunming, selling around 800 tons of tea annually both domestically and abroad. Some of the tea is grown on their own land in Jingmai and some tea they buy from trusted farmers in that area. Guyi is renowned for their integrity and innovative spirit.
Basic facts about puer
There are two kinds of puer tea: shu (ripe, cooked, heavily fermented) and sheng (raw). Shu puers undergo an extensive (several months to a year) fermentation process, whereas sheng puers are not fermented at all. Shu puers produce dark brown infusions quite similar to black tea. The color of sheng puer tea may range from lime to intense yellow – the spectrum typical of green teas, but that’s where the similarity ends. A typical sheng puer has a pronounced bittersweet flavor and a lingering mellow aftertaste called huigan (回甘) or liugan (留甘) in Chinese.
Some people are discouraged from exploring puer teas because of erroneous perceptions that all puers taste like earth or have other unpleasant qualities. This only applies to low-quality puers that were either made of bad leaves, processed in a wrong way, or stored under inappropriate conditions. Brewed properly, good quality puers may seem unusually strong to an inexperienced palate, but they should not feel disagreeable in any way.
Shu puer tea is often divided into supreme (gongting), extra, 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th grades. Sheng puers are sometimes classified into extra, 2nd, 4th, 6th, and 8th grades, but this system is far from universal. The grade of puer tea is primarily determined by the buds vs. leaves ratio, as well as the size and shape thereof. Supreme-quality shu puer (aka gongting), for instance, is supposed to be buds only with each bud averaging up to one inch in length. Extra class shu is 50-60% buds and 40-50% leaves. First grade shu puer is approximately 30% buds and 70% leaves. Third grade has leaves that are larger in size and the bud content is accidental. Fifth and seventh grades are almost entirely made up of leaves, the main difference being in size, thickness, and texture of tea material used. Shengs follow a similar pattern, but, again, standards vary significantly among manufacturers.
General steeping suggestions
Tea can be steeped in a tea pot, gaiwan, or a strainer placed right in your cup. Feel free to experiment with time, temperature, and quantity. If tea feels a bit strong or bitter, just use less leaves or steep it for a shorter period of time. The purpose of the first brew is to rinse the leaves, so it shouldn’t last more than five seconds and should be discarded. Pour the hot water again. This time, steep it for longer periods. Avoid leaving the leaves soaking in water between brews, because it makes tea taste bitter and steals a lot of its flavor. If used properly, about six grams of tea leaves can yield several middle-size cups of excellent tea. Chinese people enjoy the original taste of tea, so they never use milk, sugar, or lemon.
Steeping suggestions for Golden Lotus jinzhen bailian
Start with this, then experiment:
- one serving: 6-10 grams
- water: ~ 90 °C, 100-250 ml (~ 195°F, 3-9oz)
- time: 60-180+ seconds
- number of infusions: 5-6
- discard the first brew
Note: hold the cake in one hand and snap off a piece of required size with the other. You could also use an awl or something similar to detach layers of tea horizontally, thus preserving the round shape of the cake for a certain period of time.
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