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I’m sitting here clearing my throat with a gentle buzzing aftertaste of earthy and acrid Chinese herbs, not exactly ginseng but with that resonant taste of sapponins, asking myself what makes for an outstanding ripe puerh. Beyond the obvious factor of taste, clarity is what separates really good puerhs from outstanding ones. Clarity is the product of skill in green-kill and fermentation. Even though some clarity will arise from storage, no amount of storage is likely to make up for less accomplished execution earlier in the process.
Have I been authorized to make such a proclamation? No. But tastes vary and what one prefers in a good puerh is to some extent impossibly subjective. However, variables like clarity, evenness of release, and durability advance the discussion beyond just taste. Yes taste will always be king but the king must have capable counsel to rule the kingdom.
Such a liege in addition to clarity I propose is huigan, which some believe is not “aftertaste” but which is. Moreover, huigan is an overall intensity and effect in the mouth and throat after the tea is consumed. Most of this effect is muted in ripes, but the outstanding ones still possess impressions of its raw origins or its essence.
Right now, I don’t believe any shu lands more squarely on all of the above attributes more than the ’06 T8371 by Zhongcha.