Saturday, March 25, 2006

Geraldo: Notes toward a Definition of Excellence in Pu'er

[from an email to corax. posted by permission.]

Here (with all my biases, prejudices, and opinions) are thirteen preliminary expectations with which I approach a pu'er that pretends to greatness. This list will, among other things, shed some light on the reflections I offered in my preceding post of seven pu'er reviews.

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1. The tea in the cup should be bright and clear.

2. The initial flavor-burst in the first six or seven infusions should present a multiplicity of flavors with none covering the others. No monolithic flavor. These may include plum, citrus, earth, loam, leather, mushroom, forest leaves, spruce, caramelized sugar, cherry, marzipan, beet, flowers, and toasted grains, among others.

3. Each infusion as it cools should present different flavors, ranging from the first hot sip to the last cool sip: i.e., intra-steep evolution.

4. The flavors should be mysterious, beautiful, and alluring.

5. The aroma should match the flavor.

6. The steeps should present a clear evolution (i.e., inter-steep evolution) that surprises and delights.

7. The aroma should be sweet and mouth-watering.

8. The entire mouth should enjoy the experience of the pu'er.

9. In later infusions, the finish and aftertaste should predominate and declare themselves in almost inexpressible nuances and tones, what I refer to as sweet birch, aspen, cedar, and camphor.

10. There should be at least some sweetness in the flavor, at least in the final infusions.

11. The tea should continue through at least ten infusions, and the last infusion should be great.

12. The tea should not wrestle with the brewing process. It should not be too tricky or strange or difficult to brew.

13. The session (especially with a new sample) should be significant and exciting. It should catapult the taster's spirits.

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