Chikhai - Aged Guo Gan Shu Puer
Ask most tea drinkers to describe shu puer and you will find broad agreement on its general qualities. Descriptors like smooth, earthy or full bodied would be mentioned, but we believe that this is only part of the equation. With any shu puer we purchase, we are not only looking at the tea's flavor and body, but also how it transcends the physical.
This is analogous to Chikhai, the bardo that begins the journey through the three intermediate states of the afterlife. It is the untethering of the mind from the body into what is often referred to as the luminous mind, a state of pure consciousness unimpeded by any hinderances.
It is with this inspiration in mind that we set out to Yunnan, in search of a shu puer that could fit the bill. While spending a few days based in Menghai, we met with an owner of a tea pressing factory, who had extensive connections to shu puer manufacturers around the city. After drinking tea with him over the course of a couple of hours, the conversation opened up to allow us to discuss the purpose of our visit. A few phone calls were made and within minutes, samples of five grades of shu puer were delivered to the factory.
As we began to drink through them, we found ourselves gravitating towards two grades of shu from Guo Gan in Myanmar, which is across the border from Lincang in Yunnan. This is an area that has been growing tea long before the time of modern borders, so it shares the same plant DNA and terroir found in the more famous tea mountains across the border in China. Today it is mainly known for producing a specific flavor profile that is often used to add rich, earthy flavor and body to a shu puer blend. Hearing this was music to our ears and only helped reaffirm our two choices.
After sitting multiple times with each tea, we selected a gong ting or palace grade lot from 2019. Not only is it clean and balanced, but each cup greets you with notes of celery root powder, potting soil and brown sugar before pulling you inward and allowing the mind to settle to see what is beyond.
Teamaker - Multiple. Pressed in Menghai.
Location - Guo Gan, Myanmar
Harvest Time - Spring 2019