Dripd O’Bitters, 2019, from White2Tea.
Dripd O’Bitters is a ripe PuErh tea which has been blended with chenpi.
There are two big classifications of PuErh tea.
The main type, and traditional type, is called Raw or Sheng PuErh.
It is basically green tea, made from a specific type of tea plant from a specific region, which is partially dried and then aged for years or decades.
The second type is called Ripe/Cooked or Shou/Shu Puerh.
Ripe Puerh was invented in the 1970s The idea behind Ripe Puerh was to accelerate the aging process of the tea so it could be sold sooner. While what they ended up producing isn’t exactly flash aged PuErh, it is a tea that is worthy of contemplating for its own merits.
Ripe and Raw Puerh start the same. Leaves and buds of the tea plant are picked, withered briefly, then mostly dried to form what is essentially a rough looseleaf green tea, or maocha.
For Ripe Puerh, the maocha is put into a big pile, kept damp, and repeatedly turned using implements like rakes for a month or two, allowing it to ferment and further oxidize before being completely dried and/or formed into cakes.
If Raw Puerh is sort of like funky green tea, Ripe Puerh is more like funky black tea. Especially if it is a freshly made tea, Ripe Puerh can have very strong funky taste, (wet pile taste,) reminiscent of certain Belgian farmhouse ales. There is some Brett happening in there, for sure. While the funk of Raw Puerh increases with age, the funk of Ripe Puerh tends to calm down with age. Older Ripe Puerh can exhibit stonefruit or chocolate flavors, alongside the usual notes for PuErh tea, camphor, mint, etc.
For Dripd O’Bitters, White2Tea took an already somewhat aged Ripe PuErh and blended it with a type of citrus peel called “chenpi”. Chenpi is the dried peel from a small orange. Chenpi sometimes used in Chinese medicine for a variety of ailments, “to regulate ch’i (or qi), fortify the spleen, eliminate dampness, improve abdominal distension, enhance digestion, and reduce phlegm.” As near as I can tell, chenpi seem very similar in flavor and character to the Italian Bitter orange called, Chinotto (Citrus myrtifolia).
In traditional Chinese medicine, foods are often divided by their warming or cooling natures. Teas are also divided up this way. Unaged Green and white teas, including puerh, are considered cooling, while aged Puerh, Aged White, Black, and Ripe Puerh are considered warming.
Chenpi also have a strong warming element, making drinking a ripe Puerh and Chenpi blended tea, a good choice for weather where you need to warm yourself up.
However, according to wikipedia, “Traditional Chinese medicine urges caution in using Chenpi when red symptoms occur such as red tongue or redness in the face. In addition, pregnant women or those who have menstrual problems should use it carefully.”
In any case, Dripd O’Bitters’ flavor does remind me a bit of Chinotto soda or certain Italian Amari, especially Torani Amer or Amer Picon.
The funk of the Raw Puerh is noticeable in the first few steeps, and not overpowering, while the flavor of the orange develops later, as an aftertaste, or in the later steeps, noticeable as a pleasant bitter flavor on the sides of your tongue. Dripd O’Bitters as a young tea doesn’t have a great deal of re-steepability, but it is a tasty, and warming, diversion for a chilly day.
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