Sticky Rice Shu Puer Coins – Nuomixiang
Excellent-quality shu puer scented with nuomixiang (Semnostachya menglaensis) – a herb that very closely resembles the smell of freshly steamed rice. The similarity is so great that many people erroneously assume that real rice is somehow used in the flavoring process. The herb primarily affects the aroma of the tea, so your beverage will still have a potent and savory taste characteristic of cooked puer.
Why we like it?
The addition of nuomixiang primarily serves an aesthetic purpose. As a staple element of Chinese diet, sticky rice has made its way into a wide variety of foods and beverages. It makes perfect sense that it has also left a trace in the tea culture. Fortunately, mother nature provided tea manufacturers with an excellent alternative to actual rice, so we don’t have to use chopsticks when indulging in the exotic familiarity of this tea.
Roman’s personal score: 80/100
Miha’s personal score: 79/100
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
Laocang is a small, family-based, puer-oriented Yunnan tea establishment particularly famous for their tuocha, i.e. small, round-shaped nuggets of pressed sheng and shu puer. Roman has been friends with the owners for nearly five years, and in this time he came to know them as tea makers of impeccable integrity, a high sense of responsibility, and adherence to long-standing traditions. Laocang’s selection of puer is immense, ranging from very cheap to fairly expensive.
We have decided to draw from the middle and upper-level varieties. The cheaper round-shaped nuggets are made of 1st grade puer that contains 30% buds and 70% leaves, while the more expensive coin-shaped nuggets are made of extra grade material (50-60% buds).
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 Sticky Rice Shu Coins
Start with this, then experiment:
- one serving: 1 coin
- water: ~ 90 °C, 100-250 ml (~ 195°F, 3-9oz)
- time: 20-180+ seconds
- number of infusions: 6-8
- discard the first brew
Nuomixiang puer coins break down very quickly, so try to keep infusion time below 30 seconds, at least during earlier brews. Otherwise, the potency of the shu puer at the base of this tea might kick in, forcing the sticky rice notes far into the background.
Have you tried this tea? Do you have any comments? Please use the space below to share your thoughts and ask us questions.