In this post we’ll review a really old ripe pu erh from 1999 (from puerhtea.eu). Cakes of such age are hard to come by, so we’re really excited. The cake comes with the CNNP red label wrapper. CNNP is basically the name of the tea factory with a history that goes back all the way to 1944.
As you can see the cake is a ripe kind of pu erh tea that has undergone post fermentation (also known as ‘wo dui’ or ‘wet piling). The wet piling method speeds up the fermentation of the tea leaves, and is in fact also invented by the CNNP Kunming tea factory in 1973.
The leaves used for this cake are fairly small, consisting of golden buds and small leaves.
The cake has a medium level of compression, meaning that it’s quite easy to loosen up a piece for brewing. However, you’ll still need a tea knife as the cake is still too tight to loosen up by hand. And by the way, you’ll only see very loosely compressed cakes when larger leaves are used. With these smaller leaves, loose compression would result in the cake falling apart easily over time.
Followed by a quick rinse, first two steeps are light as you can see in the pic above. This is expected given the small leaves, and partly because the leaves haven’t loosened up yet. The tea colour is bright orangey and beautifully transparent indicating good quality.
The flavour isn’t anything like a really dark pu erh. The small leaves and buds produce a light flavour with the sweetness of jujube dates. The intensity comes close to that of a delicate black tea such as Yunnan Gold or Jin Jun Mei.
Normally, we wouldn’t drink much ripe pu erh during the Summer season, but this cake is definitely an exception due to it’s sweet, refreshing, and delicate flavours.
Steep 3-5 are more intense than the first 2 brews, with a very light earthy flavour coming to the foreground as well as notes of cinnamon and oranges. It still doesn’t reach the intensity of a very dark ripe pu erh though. Instead, it maintains its characteristics of a light and smooth ripe pu erh with a medium body.
The tea lasts up to 12 brew and slowly becomes lighter. See below a picture of the wet leaves
This cake isn’t recommended by those who like a simple dark brew of pu erh. However, for those who look for more delicate flavours and complexity, this cake is more than highly recommended.