Yunnan Sourcing's Description
The classic 7581 Ripe Puerh recipe from Kunming Tea Factory (aka CNNP). This is a 2007 production comprised entirely of fermented Menghai area large-leaf varietal puerh. The brewed tea is sweet and smooth. The color of the tea liquor is a deep red wine hue. A very enjoyable tea with just the right amount of aging.
It's taken me a while to really get into ripe puerh. The first couple I tried were just bleh, and they kind of put me off of the whole brand for a while. Luckily, got my hands on a couple much tastier varieties, and shou has quickly become one of my favorite kinds of tea. The Kunming and Menghai Tea Factories produce some of the best shou cha I've had so far.
At first I was confused what the numbers in the name meant, as all of CNNP's teas have a seemingly random 4-digit number. So I did a bit of digging and found the reasoning behind the numbers. The first two numbers represent the year that this specific recipe was created (1975). The third number is the grade or size of the leaves, smaller number means smaller leaves and buds. This brick is an 8, so it is made with larger leaves. The fourth and final number denoted the factory it was made in, 1 is for the Kunming Tea Factory, 2 is for Menghai TF. So the 7581 in the name tells us that this tea is produced with a larger-leaf variety from the Kunming Tea Factory, with a recipe started in 1975. Yup, I did all that to simply restate YS's description. But hey, I learned something, so it was worth it.
Dry leaves - The leaves have a nice smooth earthy camphorous scent. No trace of fishiness at all means this tea has lost most or all of it's post-fermentation funk that plagues very young shou. They are fairly tightly compressed, but do break apart easily with a bit of work.
Brewing parameters - 212F, 2 x 10s rinse, <10s steeps at first, adjust accordingly thereafter. Puerh is such a forgiving tea when it comes to brewing that you can steep it almost any way and it'll still taste good. I prefer to keep my steeps nice and short so I can get as many cups out of the leaves as I can.
Tasting notes - Smooth, camphorous, oak, pine, eucalyptus, woodsy
Steeps 1-4: This tea begins with a nice smooth, thick mouthfeel. It is earthy and somewhat camphorous, with definite tones of wood. Dry pine is the most prominent to me, but oak is present too. There is no detectable astringency or fermented taste, which is a huge plus in my book. These steeps were all under 10 seconds.
Steeps 5-8: Here's where it really begins to get tasty. The camphorous element has faded somewhat, and an earthy sweetness is starting to take over. The woodsy components are becoming somewhat muddled, but I can taste a hint of eucalyptus starting to show it's face. The mouthfeel is much less thick that the earlier steeps as well. These steeps were up to 20 seconds, erring on the shorter side.
Steeps 9-12: It almost primarily a sweet, earthy, woodsy brew now. Extremely smooth, very clear, and a very quick aftertaste. Just a hint of eucalyptus, then it's gone again. It doesn't have any of the mouth-coating thickness it had earlier. These steeps ranged from 30 seconds to 3 minutes.
Steeps 13-15: These leaves don't have much more to give, but I'll be damned if I throw them out before I've wrung every last bit of goodness from them. It's mostly a dark, clear sweet liquid at this point. Very little woodsiness is still present. These steeps were much longer, with #15 going for about half an hour.
This is a very good ripe puerh, and a great starting point for anyone looking to get into shou. The CNNP factories consistently make great puerh, and if you can get your hands on some bricks with a few years behind them, or age them yourself if you're more patient than me, you'll have a very solid tea. It is very affordable option as well, running $24-$26 for a full 250g cake.
You can buy this tea from Yunnan Sourcing's US site here, or from their international site here.