Zijuan Gongting (Purple Leaf Palace Puer)

Loose Leaf Shu Puer 2018

An unusually clean and sweet shu puer without any heavy earthiness. Possesses a notable complex mineral aftertaste. Made with young purple tea buds and leaves from the unusual Zijuan dark purple variety tea plant that is rich in anthocyanins and other nutrients.

 

Clear selection

Tea Origin
Jinggu County, Yunnan Province, China

Tea Bush
Zijuan (Purple Leaf Yunnan Tea Tree)

Tea Master
Gong Ping

Harvest Time
Mid-March

Picking Standard
One bud, one leaf

Zijuan Gongting (Purple Leaf Palace Puer) is made from the imperial grade young buds and leaves of old Zijuan tea trees whose spring growth displays a striking purple-red color. These purple leaves are rich in anthocyanin flavonoids and amino acids. The very careful processing of its high quality leaves results in an unusually clean-tasting shu puer. It possesses a complex mineral aftertaste and a lingering light sweetness, with none of the earthy heaviness usually found in shu puers.

Like other shu puers, Zijuan Gongting is very smooth and sweet with no bitterness even when left steeping for a long time. Though the purple coloration does not survive the shu puer ripening process, using the high quality purple leaves results in a nutritious tea with a very complex flavor.

Tea production

Up close view of the dark purple leaves growing on top of a Zi Juan tea plant.
The dark purple-red leaves and stems of the original Zi Juan variety tea plant.

A tea plant that exhibits purple-colored new growth will always produce purple leaves every year. However, only the youngest leaves will display the distinctive purple coloration. The unusual color is darkest when young, fading to a more usual green as they mature. As Zijuan Gongting is harvested in the early spring when the new growth is just a bud with one slightly open leaf, the color is still quite intense.

When shu puer is produced, the fresh tea leaves are plucked, fried, and kneaded into a twisted shape, then allowed to dry naturally under the sunshine. This results in a preliminary, unfinished dry tea known as maocha, which can be stored as long as necessary and improves in quality as it ages, further developing the aroma of the tea as it undergoes natural slow oxidation. When dried, the maocha from purple tea plants appears very dark in color with a slight purple tint, while regular puer maocha from looks dark green.

After harvesting and drying, Zijuan Gongting goes through the large-batch microbial ripening process that creates shu puer and gives the tea its signature very smooth and sweet flavor. Once enough leaf material has been collected, large piles of maocha are gently sprayed with clean spring water and covered with cotton fabric. As the tea ripens, the increased moisture and heat naturally produced by the leaves furthers their oxidation.

The ripening process does carry the risk of ruining a large batch of tea, so producers who invest in high quality purple leaves make sure to control the conditions in the piles of developing leaves very carefully. The ripening process will last for 7-10 weeks depending on the weather. The first week of processing Zijuan Gongting the temperature is kept between 55-60°C. The second week, it is kept below 62°C. Every 3-4 days, workers need to break up the piles of leaves to prevent clumping, discourage the growth of mold, and evenly distribute heat among the leaves. This very careful management of the conditions within the piles is the reason for Zijuan Gongting’s unusually clean flavor.

History of purple tea in Jinggu

Zijuan Gongting is made with leaves from two sources: the Ninger area near Old Puer City; and Jinggu County, a region famous for producing puer tea. Jinggu is is home to more purple leaf tea bushes than any other region in Yunnan. Purple leaf bushes are difficult to find and require many different conditions of soil and environment to grow. However, Jinggu now has more purple leaf tea plants than other regions. In the 1960’s, the Chinese government purposefully propagated seeds from tea trees that produced purple leaves. Since tea plants grown from seed are all genetically different, some of those seeds gave rise to new purple-flushing tea plants, while others were the usual green color. The leaves for Zijuan Gongting come from both these now 50-60 year old propagated trees and from the original older purple trees still living in Jinggu.

A row of purple Zi Juan tea bushes in front of a row of regular green tea plants, showing the drastic difference in color.
Even the more mature leaves of the second-generation Zi Juan cultivar, which are not as purple as the young buds, are much darker in color than tea plants that are the more usual green.

The specific tea plant used to make Zijuan Gongting is the original variety named Zijuan. One of the rarest varieties of tea plant, Zijuan is well known for its intense reddish-purple color that saturates the first several young leaves of new growth and even the stem they grow on. While there are many varieties of purple tea plant, Zijuan is one of the darkest. Some of our other teas like Hei Tiao Zi (Black Stripe) are made from a lighter variety which has purple leaves yet green stems. Since the 1980s, tea scientists from the Tea Research Institute at the Yunnan Academy of Agricultural Sciences have developed a super-dark purple tea cultivar from the original Zijuan trees. The leaves of this second-generation Zijuan cultivar are noticeably darker in color even when fully mature. Second-generation Zijuan plants are typically reserved for making green tea. You can learn more about purple tea varieties on our tea blog.

No chemical fertilizer, pesticide, or herbicide was used in the production of this tea. Click here to read more about our promise to fair trade and the environment.

Zijuan Gongting (Purple Leaf Palace Puer) 2018 brewing guidelines

Teaware: 12 oz. glass, porcelain or yi xing clay pot
Amount: 1 Tbs of tea leaves
Water: 212°F (boiling) filtered water
Infusion: First infusion at least 2 minutes. The leaves are good for 5 infusions.