This ripe puer is named after the village where it’s made. Naka is located in a remote mountainous area within the Mengsong tea-growing complex. Snug and peaceful, the village is perched at around 1800 meters above sea level, enjoying plenty of sunshine and rainfall all the year around. Its inhabitants, the Lahu ethnic minority have tended to the nearby tea gardens for dozens of generations and have developed a set of practices that makes their produce quite attractive to tea aficionados in and out of China.
Why we like it?
Naka is made of leaves band buds harvested from 300-500 year-old tea trees that are sparsed naturally among hundreds of different tropical plants. Most tea material of such quality is usually used for sheng puer, which makes high-quality ripe tea a lot less accessible (both in price and variety). Naka can fill this gap hands down. The cake sports a high bud content. Stone-pressed by experienced craftsmen, it’s just as good for immediate consumption as it is for long-term storage. It gives powerful tea soup with a rich palette of flavors that leans toward dried fruit and prunes. And since it comes from old trees, Naka tea is really smooth on the throat and should provide plenty of positive experiences for seasoned and beginning tea drinkers alike.
Roman’s personal score: 96/100
Miha’s personal score: 94/100
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.
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 Secret Yunnan
Start with this, then experiment:
- one serving: 1 nugget
- water: ~ 90 °C, 100-250 ml (~ 195°F, 3-9oz)
- time: 60-180+ seconds
- number of infusions: 5-7
- discard the first brew
Nuggets break down soon after the initial rinse, but there is no need to wait for them to open completely. Start with 45-60 seconds infusions and adjust steeping time accordingly to maintain the desired level of strength. This tea is great for overclocking: lengthy steeping makes it strong but not bitter. The oaky overtones will start to subside after 3-4 brews, but the classic shu flavor will hold ground for several more infusions.
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