This magical tea is called “Gong Ting (宮廷)” shou puerh, which literally translates as “Emperor’s Court.” They say it is named this as it was one of the tribute teas (gong cha, 貢茶) sent to the court from Yunnan in dynastic times.
We aren’t sure exactly how old this tea is, but we know it is from the late 1990s. It is, therefore, an aged shou puerh, from the time when piling was done more skillfully. This means the twenty-something years have done more than mellow this tea out; they have changed it. The storage of this tea is mild, Taiwanese storage. It is not so wet as to greatly speed up the process, or leave strong storage flavors, but wet enough to make the tea taste more aged than it is.
The Emperor’s Court or Gong Ting puerh is sweet and creamy. It is amongst our favorite shou teas, as it is so very sweet and thick. Thickness is, in fact, one of the categories used in the review of shou puerh teas we do for a local Chinese magazine. Good shou should have the consistency of milk. We also use the term “mellow” to describe good shou, which means that you cannot taste the piling flavor (dui wei, 堆味) in the tea. The age of this shou has more than mellowed it out. It is very full-bodied and robust, with many complex flavors. It has a wonderful grounding Qi. This tea is also very warming, which is great if you are in a cold part of the world.