The concept of puerh pressed into a shoot of bamboo sounds gimmicky but, like white2tea’s take on minis, it actually has quite a long history. Historically, it has been produced for a very long time by the people of Yunnan. It is sometimes offered to guests in areas where puerh is produced. I was even gifted some produced in 2001 by tea guests in the mid 2000s. I busted up one of those bamboo stalks a few years ago to try it out… pretty satisfying and easy drinking sheng puerh.
The production of bamboo puerh is kind of interesting and different than other puerh and is nicely outlined on this blog post here.
It seems like our western puerh vendors have picked up on the novelty of bamboo puerh or maybe it is just starting to get trendy in China? Either way, everyone seems to be producing and offering it these days. Yunnan Sourcing has been offering bamboo puerh on their site forever. Currently they have three kinds available. I recently saw that the Essence of Tea is producing their own that is not yet released. And there is of course this 2018 white2tea Bamboo Shu, a New Year release at white2tea which goes for $32.00 for 200g ($0.16/g) of puerh in bamboo.
Here is an interesting older Teachat link on Bamboo shu with Bears, Gingko, and Marshal’N chiming in with their thoughts. Some of the first bamboo puerh that was offered for sale in the West was a bit low quality- the producers using the novelty of bamboo to hide the actual poor quality of the maocha. This is probably the reason why it hasn’t gained greater popularity in the West.
Let’s try this free sample out that I received in a recent white2tea re-order…
The dry leaves smell of muted fresh bamboo more than a typical shu puerh odour. It’s interesting and almost unnatural to smell shu puerh that smells refreshing. After the rise the wet leaves have a stronger smell like toasted grains and fresh bamboo. The taste is fresh and roasted tasting as well as deep and milky almost coco shu tasting. There is a nice coolness on the breath. The flavor of roasted grains (or bamboo, of course), slight freshness and rich milky mild coco pairs so nicely together and gives this shu puerh lots of depth. The roast almost gives it a dark roast coffee vibe. The qi is strong and alerting, I feel it on the skull. The mouthfeel is decently rich and velvety in the mouth and throat. It feels really nice, mellow, in the body. This shu puerh is tasty and I love the flavor combination- very satisfying on this -30 C morning. This is some great shu to drink now while the roasted effects are still active and fresh within the puerh leaves.
There has been some debate out there whether bamboo puerh ages well. Some say that the positives of the bamboo roasting are lost in aging and that it can’t age optimally enclosed in bamboo. I have personally tired some pretty good sheng that was aged from the 90s in bamboo and it tasted good but the roasty bamboo taste was pretty much gone, not fresh and vibrant like this shu.
Another thing I really like about bamboo puerh is its very compact compression. For this 2018 white2tea Bamboo Shu, I really like the way the tight compression slowly unravels the fermented shu puerh tastes. Notice how shu often gives it all up early in the session? The tight compression allows for a longer balanced gongfu session- I like that about bamboo shu.
Out of all the bamboo puerh I have consumed, none have been this fresh and bamboo tasting. I think this speaks how quick it has been put to market after the roasting step of production. Shu is made to drink now, that’s what I would suggest for this one. This shu is the same price as the 2018 white2tea Smoove Cocoa minis, but the quality and profile of this bamboo shu is probably at least 3 times better than the 2018 Smoove Cocoa which I wasn’t a big fan of. This one will sell out fast.