Aged Puerh by the Ounce

Chilly winter weather finds us drinking more puerh at the teahouse, and among our favorites are three intensely flavorful loose-leaf selections Roy has been aging in the unique, mild climate of our Oakland warehouse. Now each has a distinctive taste and aroma, but they all make delicious, warming brews that hit the spot during the cold, gloomy winter season.

The advantage of loose-leaf puerh is that you can buy it by the ounce. There's no need to purchase an entire cake, so you can sample several varieties to find a favorite - or diversify your puerh experience. Quoted prices are for one ounce; there's a discount on larger quantities.

Recently, we did a side-by-side comparison with our three finest aged loose-leaf puerh: Topaz Puerh (top left), Special Reserve Puerh (top right), and Imperial Puerh (bottom). Here are our notes and observations:

Topaz Puerh: the bargain of the group at $13.16 for one ounce, Topaz Puerh is made from attractive golden brown leaf tips. It has a bold, very forward flavor that means it's okay to be stingy with the leaves. Moistened, the leaves have a strikingly fruity, almost raisiny, aroma. They infuse to a sweet-smelling, dark reddish-amber liquor. The flavor is an intriguing combination of sweet and tart, with a hint of earthiness.

Special Reserve Puerh: This tea makes a sharp visual contrast with Topaz Puerh's elegant gold tips. Special Reserve is made from the type of large, stemmy leaves often found in older puerh cakes. The dry leaves have a pleasantly sweet, earthy smell; when they're moistened, the earthiness moves forward, with undertones of concentrated fruit and sugarcane. The amber infusion is strikingly clear with rich viscosity and a clean, sweet, earthiness that's a hallmark of fine, patiently aged puerh. Special Reserve Puerh yields a warming, smooth, and satisfying brew with a lingering sweet aftertaste. Priced at $19.60 for one ounce.

Imperial Puerh: We reserve the Imperial designation for our finest teas. Imperial Puerh is crafted exclusively from beautifully uniform golden leaf tips. A splash of hot water reveals an unexpected rich, chocolately aroma with mild, earthy undertones. The deep amber infusion is exceptionally clear and luminous, with a sweet and slightly tart, fruity aroma. On the palate, Imperial Puerh fills the mouth with a luscious texture and uncommon notes of chocolate and dried fruit. To round out the experience there's a long finish with hints of fruit. Puerh lovers will find no better way to take a chill off. Priced at $26.60 for one ounce.