Denong Tea’s 2018 Black Essence Ripe Pu-erh | Tea Review

by Tea in Spoons

Tea Sample Provided


I’ve always wanted to try a pressed cake that could be easily broken apart and brewed!

I came across Denong Tea earlier this year at the Toronto Tea Festival. While I was at the booth, I was given two samples and this is one of them. I wanted to try this because I’ve never tried this type of pressed cake before! The cake is constructed so that it is made up of little bricks that can be broken off and brewed. A brick is measured at 3.3grams. 

When I checked the Denong website, it only had instructions for the Denong Glass Tumbler or a teapot. I was surprised there wasn’t one for gaiwan. Thankfully, I had a similar glass tumbler but it was slightly larger, so I used 6 oz of water to 1 brick (3.3 grams). I decided to do this because the teapot recommends over 4 grams of tea and I wanted to be able to drink it twice as I only had two bricks.


Description: “Black Essence is a specially harvested batch of ripe pu-erh, which has a taste reminiscent of blackberries and fresh air.”

Instructions: Ripe Pu-erh Steeping  – 2g. of tea 6 oz glass tumbler | 212°F/100°C  | rinse: boiling

Review: The leaves were twisted and dark chocolate brown and almost black. The front and sides of the brick were smooth, but the underside had the Denong Tea logo. The leaves were had a faint musky earthy smell and were harvest in the spring of 2018.

When I brewed the tea the first time, I started with a quick rinse and then started at 10 seconds with each subsequent brew I added 5 seconds. However, I noticed later that Denong had a brewing guide page which recommended:

After a quick rinse of your tea, start with the first infusion of 10 seconds. On the second brew, reduce the time to 5 seconds, then increase the steeping time by 5 seconds for each subsequent brew.” So, the second time around, I followed their recommendations.

10 seconds: slightly cloudly liquor had a deep reddish-orange hue and a faint earthy taste

5 seconds: liquor was more reddish with a developing earthy sweetness

10 seconds: flavours intensified and there was a stronger musky earthy taste

15 seconds: colour become deep reddish-brown and the leaves fully unfurled, taste-wise it was becoming a familiar pu-erh taste: fermented, musky, and earthy

20 seconds: flavour mellowed out and there was a hint of astringency

25 seconds: liquor was  completely clear and was more brown than red, the earthy notes were very faint


The liquor went from a reddish-brown to burgundy and ending off as a dark brown with a red undertone. The leaves themselves held its shape, and it took a few infusions for the leaves to fully separate from its compressed form. When I was looking at the leaves, there was a range of sizes. From my understanding, this speaks to different maturity levels of the leaves. This may be relating to the “thick, old leaves of ancient tea trees” the tea is made of. I stopped at 6 infusions as the flavour started to wane.

Overall, this had a very classic taste that was easy to drink. I really liked that the small bricks were easy to snap and break apart. The website puts it as “very convenient to break apart and brew” which I think holds true. However, I found it hard to determine how to brew the tea because the pre-measured square was 3.3 grams but the recommendations were for 2 or 4 grams (3/5 rating).

  • Type: Pu-erh tea
  • Origin: China (Menghai, Yunnan)
  • Caffeine: Unknown
  • Ingredients: Tea
  • Company: Denong Tea

The question of the post: Have you tried other teas that can be broken apart and brewed?

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TeaIsAWishBlog October 26, 2019 - 7:16 pm

I wish I could drink pu-erh and I’ve tried so hard but I just can’t get myself to enjoy it

teainspoons October 27, 2019 - 12:37 am

I grew up drinking it so, it is a comforting taste for me. What does it taste like to you?

TeaIsAWishBlog October 27, 2019 - 4:44 am

I tried a few times to get into it in the past but had no look. It’s far too earthy for me

teainspoons November 23, 2019 - 11:56 pm

That is fair! I think it is a developed taste but it is something I’ve had it my whole life.


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Tea in Spoons is where I share my love of teas through tea reviews, tea travel, tea tips, information, and more. New tea adventure every Thursday!