2015 Vanilla Obscura Bing (香草之烏小堆子熟茶餅, Xiāng Cǎo Zhī Wū Xiǎo Duī Zi Shú Chá Bǐng, "Darkness of Vanilla Small Pile Ripe Tea Bing") - Looking for new Pu'er is a process in which we tend to focus on old trees or particular vintages based on whether that year had a drought or another distinctive occurrence. The benefit thus of going to the mountain, even to places where we have established relationships is that we have the opportunity to try things based on smell and recommendation which means the chance to find something that we did not know we were looking for. Vanilla Obscura happens to be one of these unexpectedly delicious and unique teas. We stumbled across this tea while working through tasting more than a dozen Shu Pu'ers that were scattered throughout our farmer, Li Shulin’s, warehouse. This 2014 small batch fermented or Xiǎo Duī Zi tea is neither old, nor is it from ancient trees, nor from a drought year...It is however sourced entirely from a single patch: the Douyi village patch at the summit of Nannuo mountain, peaking at around 1950 meters or around 6,400 feet. The Duoyi patch is regarded as having the sweetest tea on Nannuo Mountain. Additionally this tea was also fermented in a single pile resulting in a very rich, dark and earthy Pu'er with a distinctive, swaying buoyancy reminiscent of vanilla extract on the finish. The terroir or dì wèi 地味 ("Flavor of the Earth") of Duoyi village and the idiosyncrasies of its processing give this tea a uniquely distinctive flavor profile and fragrance.
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This was my first shu pu'er (so you have a frame of reference for this rating). After an initial period getting used to the different flavor profile of shu pu'er, this has become my favored go-to tea to wind down after a hard day. There is something comforting and inviting about that dark, petrichor taste with a hint of sweetness left on the tongue. I bought a number of other teas with this, but surprisingly Vanilla Obscura is the tea I kept reaching for.