Zi Ya Purple Bud Pu-erh Cake (生紫芽饼) is a sheng pu-erh cake from Yang Ta Village located in the mountainous region of Jinggu Dai and Yi Autonomous County, Pu’er City, Yunnan Province. These little 100g cakes are made from a Zi Ya purple leaf varietal, which is a naturally occurring purple leaf version of Camellia sinensis var. assamica found in high altitude regions of Yunnan Province. These cakes were made in Autumn of 2015 after which they were stored in Kunming for 2 years. We purchased these thorough Yunnan Sourcing in 2017 and further stored them for 2 years prior to making them available. The extra two years of storage really improved these and we think they are at their optimum best at the moment, producing a flavoursome, sweetly fruity liquor with absolutely minimal astringency.
Often purple leaf varietal sheng pu-erh teas are associated with elevated bitterness, something that is down to the nature of the leaf and high anthocyanin content. This is especially true of sheng pu-erh teas made from the ‘Ye Sheng‘ (野生) purple leaf plants that are recognised as Camellia sinensis var. dehungensis. ‘Zi Ya’ Purple Bud (紫芽), also known as ‘Zi Cha’ Purple Tea (紫茶) versions are made from naturally mutated purple leaf plants of Camellia sinensis var. assamica and generally display lower astringency levels, while having a sweeter and fruitier profile. These naturally occurring purple leaf versions of Camellia sinensis var. assamica account for only about 1-2% of cultivated assamica tea plants in Yunnan Province. These tea plants have purple coloured tea buds and young tea leaves, which are the result of unfavourable growing conditions and act as a natural way of protecting the tender leaves from harsh ultraviolet rays. This purple leaf varietal is highly prized in Yunnan and is used mostly for pu-erh production with some very limited black tea production (like our Dian Hong Jing Mai Purple Needle).
When we first tried this tea, we were already impressed by the fruity and sweet profile and reduced astringency however we decided to store them for a bit longer to help to further develop the flavours. The appearance of these cakes now is very dark purple, almost black, with the wet leaves having darker green and purple colours. These cakes now display a full bodied and flavoursome character that is boldly sweet and fruity with zero astringency. The main soft, sweet flavours are those of fruits: blackcurrants, apples and red stone fruits. The fruitiness and sweetness is ramped up to the level that makes us think of fruit pastels. The aftertaste is long-lasting and strong, with initial sweetness giving way to a refreshing fruity tanginess. This is a fantastic purple leaf sheng pu-erh that is at its best and can be enjoyed straight away.
We suggest brewing parameters of 90-98°C for 3-4 minutes according to your taste, brewing multiple times. Prise off a required amount of leaves with a sharp knife or pu-erh knife and brew multiple times. Categorically, for best results brew Gong Fu style, using 5g per 100ml in a good traditional clay pot. When brewed Gong Fu style we suggest briefly washing the leaves and then following with multiple short infusions.