This year, not any cake, but the hundred year old Golden Melon Tribute Cake given to the last of the Qing Emperor and certainly the most famous puer cake in China returned to Yunnan on a museum tour. The priceless tea was sampled for the very first time. When we met with Luo Shou Jun, China’s most respected tea master, she shared the story with us in her typical joyous manner. The following is a translation of an article written by Zhu Ping about her story. The translation has been edited by Andrea Serrano.
The verdict of the tasting…GREAT!!
“Luo Shao Jun shared this interesting story about her experience with the 100 year old Golden Melon Tribute Puer Tea, which belongs to the Beijing Palace Museum, as it traveled back to Yunnan to visit its family. On March 28th, after Mrs. Luo took part in the Party’s Peoples Congress, she was invited by the China Tea Association and Beijing Palace Museum to the Departure Ceremony of a 100 year old Golden Melon Tribute Puer Cake as it traveled back to Yunnan. Before the ceremony, Mrs. Luo, invited as the authority on behalf of the government to appraise the quality of this Golden Melon Tribute Puer, was allowed to invite 4 additional experts to come to Beijing to taste and appraise this puer tea cake.
First a little history on this remarkable tea. It was made from tender young buds and leaves, and is nicknamed Head Tribute Tea since it is the size of a human head. It is considered a Girls Tea as the buds and leaves were picked by young girls. It is said that Girls Tea should be made from the leaves plucked by single young girls. After the leaves are picked they should be kept close to the girl’s breast before putting them in baskets. The Girls Tea leaves would be divided into two shares, one for the picker as wages, the other for the tea plantation owner. The girls would sell their tea leaves or make them into Puer as the dowry for their future marriage.
This Golden Melon Tribute Puer was compressed tightly when first processed, which enabled it to maintain its original shape after a hundred years. Since they were all first-grade buds, after long-term storage, they all turned to golden color.
When the Beijing Palace Museum gave some broken pieces (about 3g) of Golden Melon to Mrs. Luo for tasting, she suggested that she should taste at least 4g to get the real flavor, since she was afraid that after such a long time, the Puer might lose its tea aroma. At first, the museum workers were hesitant to dig even 1 more gram from the priceless cake. However, realizing that Mrs. Luo was a top expert on appraising tea in China they acquiesced.
As the experts excitedly and doubtfully tasted the first steep of the Tribute Puer, they couldn’t believe that what they just tasted was a hundred-year old tea! All the previous predications that the tea might lose its aroma were completely wrong. How red was the tea water! How sweet was the fragrance! How smooth was the taste! Experts reached an agreement that this Golden Melon Tribute Tea was really amazing, and they were all honored to have a chance to taste it.
After the Departure Ceremony in Beijing, the hundred year old Golden Melon Puer, guarded by 40 armed policemen, set off on its way home, from Shanghai to Guangzhou and the last destination, of course, its home—-Yunnan. Countless Puer super fans thronged to see the elegant demeanor of the Golden Melon Tribute Tea, as they welcomed it with zest and enthusiasm. They all recognized that this Tribute Puer has brought them glory and fortune. Golden Melon visiting its home was big news in China’s tea circles since Puer is now considered its favorite son.”