Showing posts with label Pu'erh. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pu'erh. Show all posts

Friday, March 23, 2012

2005 FengQing Golden Buds Pu'erh

There are quite a few pu'erh drinkers who choose not to post about shu pu'erh.
Some people find the taste revolting. Other people may think they all taste the same.

I find that when one is trying to learn about tea, or any subject for that matter, one must always learn all the angles to fully understand it.

With that being said, a shu from Teavivre.

The dry leaf is not too impressive.
It smells like damp soil and leaves, which is not bad, just very plain.
The cake is spotted with gold buds, but they are subdued.

It was a rainy day and shu sounded fantastic.

The liquor has the aroma of garden mulch with a hint of sweetness. There is a bit of a fishy smell to it, literally fishy, not skeptical.
It tastes a tad bit dirty with a hint of date fruit and moist earth.

For the most part, this tea is lackluster as can be. It is plain tasting and does not stand out among shu pu'erh I have sampled in the past.

This is not a good shu,
but it was a good day for shu.

The previous shu I had from Teavivre really impressed me, but this one really has nothing to offer, except of course an educational experience on shu pu'erh!


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mini Pu'erh Toucha - Ripe

 I was contacted by the wonderful folks at Teavivre about sampling some of their tea offerings. The representative was very nice and their teas looked like pretty quality stuff.
But, the key is in the leaf right?
So onto tasting.

 What I really want you to notice about the bag is all the information. It is almost crowded with it. For a tea enthusiast, having this much information about what is in the package is great. I have almost no questions for the company.
All their teas are labelled like this, so I will have great insight into each one!

These little touchas look good! They are tippy, uniform for the most part, and they don't smell awkward like some cheap pu'erh touchas.

The dry leaf actually doesn't have too much of a smell to it, but I can sense a light earthiness with some mushroom scents coming off it as well.
Not surprising.

The brewed tea is dark, as you can obviously see above.
It looks like the coffee I was tasting last weekend.
The liquor is not dense, though. It is light, flavorful, and well balanced.

It has quite a clean taste, and there is more of a leather quality to it than a mushroom/rotting leaf taste.
The artificial aging process has not negatively impacted the flavor and left some strange taste as with other pu'erh touchas I have sampled in the past.

What really surprised me was the lack of endurance. Granted, I drink my shu'pu strong, but even still most shu'pu will last me a good 10 infusions. I gave up on this one at about 6.
The one quality I really enjoyed was a wonderful pine taste on the last 2 infusions. I guess I could have stretched out the brews and got some more of the pine, but hey, I still have 3 more touchas of this tea that will definitely not go to waste!


Saturday, February 11, 2012

BuLangShan Sheng Pu'erh 2008

Thanks to the folks at Chan Teas for this sample!

I broke up the sample, which was in a few small chunks. The leaves look great! Right when I opened the bag I was ready for a long session.
The dry leaf has some bitter herb notes, as well as cooked vegetables. It has that typical sheng earthiness to it.

I started with lots of leaf, and hot hot water.
First, the rinse. 3 seconds.
Second, the smell. The wet leaf had notes of hay, tobacco, and a soybean-esque trait. I have not had pu'erh in a while so I was ready for this tea to really knock me out.

The liquor was fantastic. It was not as assertive as I had suspected (could be its age). The lingering finish really set this tea apart. The astringency was well received and expected. It brought out some of the great flavors of the cooked veggies and tobacco.

This tea definitely deserves focus. I sipped with a good friend of mine who commented on the tea occasionally. He noted a farm taste, which is a fairly decent description of the tea.

I felt the tea pretty hard, as I was on an empty stomach. It really went to my head quick (as I was told!). Drinking pu'erh either makes me very happy, or very quiet and serene. This tea was a good mix of both feelings.

As the brews went on, there was a punchy citrus quality that really turned this tea on its head. I enjoyed the variety and complexity. I would recommend this tea, even for the feeling. It is an experience to say the least! Thank you again to the guys at Chan Teas!


Monday, June 6, 2011

A Learning Experience; American Hao

After work, I usually pick myself back up with a lengthy tea session.

This is always one of the highlights of my day, but today's session threw me a bit of a curve.

I joyfully pried a few chunks of leaf off my American Hao cake, dumped them into my designated shengpu pot and began the therapeutic brewing process.

The rinse water was discarded and the first infusion poured. I was awaiting the wonderful attributes of this tea to envelope my taste buds once again...

But alas, this was not what the tea had in store for me today.
Instead, I was confronted with a sour infusion lacking depth, aroma and complexity.

I quickly discarded the infusion and continued in my normal fashion, thinking that it may have just been the wrong amount of time or the wrong temperature.
The second infusion swirled in my cup, awaiting the first sip.

Again, the same lackluster, uninviting flavor pronounced itself once more.
This, I thought, cannot be right.

I waited and pondered my brewing parameters.
Did I use too much leaf...?
Was the water too hot? Too cool?
Did I not pour the water correctly?
Was my Brita not doing its job properly...?

Nothing made sense. The way I brewed this tea was the way in which I had always brewed it, and it has always turned out beautifully.

I can only suspect that it is the fault of the yixing. I do not know what else it could have possibly been.
I brewed the tea in a porcelain gaiwan and it emitted the wonderful notes that I have always noticed in this tea.

But how could that be? A yixing teapot is supposed to enhance the brew, not present negative qualities...

Perhaps the teapot needs a cleaning, although, I do not have any desire to destroy the lovely patina that is building up. This pot has deep sentimental value and I would not want to destroy what I have worked so hard to make.
I even made a different shengpu the other day and the pot performed just fine.
I am utterly confused, but there has been a lesson taught here today...

Tea is mysterious.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

2006 Haiwan "Purple Leaf"

I cannot recall where I purchased this specific bing, as it was a while ago. Although I did happen upon the same tea being sold at Norbu Tea.

I will not go into the science of the meaning of purple leaves. Look it up on Google if so interested.

This tea is from the Haiwan factory in Xishuangbanna. This tea has many memories for me, as it was my first sheng pu'erh cake that I purchased. Learning how to brew this tea was trial and error for quite a while as I tried to find my bearings.

The dry leaf smells of tobacco, chocolate and some form of foliage. I cannot put my finger on what vegetal smell arises from the leaf.

The aroma of the liquor is exquisite. There are scents of roasted nuts, savory qualities and a sort of "well-seasoned" smell.

In the taste there is watercress up front.
When I let the liquor sit on the palate for a while, a brothy quality shows.
There is a distinct meaty, protein taste. The closest description I can conjure up is a thick slice of smoked bacon.
It is not a bad quality, just intriguing.
I have never tasted bacon in a tea.

When I think of tea, pork usually is not on my list of descriptors.

The endurance of the hog related qualities is unshakable. It lasts for quite some time!
Astringent, smoky notes appear in the latter infusions of this meaty tea.

It is a very warming tea, as I start sweating within the first few cups.

The more I drink the tea, the more I come to appreciate it and enjoy it.

Rummaging through the wet leaves, I spot a few surprises.
The above picture is of two infused tea buds. I have never found buds in a tea before.

Always search your leaves. Sometimes it tells you more about the tea than anything.


Monday, November 29, 2010

2006 CNNP 7581

This brick is the last part of my purchase from Pu'erh Shop.
I seem to be on a trend with 2006 pu'erhs. I have another cake to review after this one and it happens to be 2006 as well.
So far it seems to have been a time for good bricks and cakes to be produced. I haven't tasted an awful one yet.

This is a landmark for me, as it is my first encounter with a CNNP cake. In some cases that can be good or bad, so it seems. There is much information floating around about CNNP cakes that I have been trying to make sense of. I understand the basic concept of the government control, but everything else is a bit ambiguous.

In my basic understanding of the recipe number, in this case being "7581," the first two numbers indicate the year that the recipe was made. In this case, 1975.
The second number denotes the grade of leaf that was used. That being said, the grade only refers to the size of leaf, not the quality. This brick's grade happens to be 8.
The last number is the factory number, under the CNNP regulations. The number 1 on this brick shows that the factory where it was produced was Kunming.

The brick is not as heavily condensed as it looks. It actually pries apart very nicely with just a butter knife. I have not upgraded to a pu'erh pick or knife yet, but that will be fixed sooner or later. Purchases are unpredictable for me, seeing as I am a college student and I always regulate my money pretty carefully.

The dry leaf smells of nuts, leaves, and wood.
Imagine walking through a deciduous forest and taking a deep breath...That is how this tea smells. It is very different from other shu pu'erhs I have cross paths with.
There is no damp, musty dirt aroma from these leaves at all. I presume this was a dry stored tea because of this.

The nose of the liquor was full of surprises and unconventional characteristics.
The same forest smell was there, but now imagine that you are walking through that deciduous forest after a good amount of rainfall.
Damp logs and wet, piled leaves are what come to mind.

The curve ball: sweet cinnamon rolls.
I breathed in the scent again just to assure myself that it was not being imagined.

This trait definitely stands out from other shu pu's.

The taste was, not surprisingly, full of more surprises.
A creamy, velvet liquid flooded my taste buds and proceeded to coat my mouth.
Sweet raisin and sassafras were presented to me.

They were thoroughly enjoyed for the next 7 infusions. Those tastes and textures maintained their consistency throughout the session, only dwindling after the 7th infusion.

A lingering wheat aftertaste left my mind pondering on this tea for quite sometime.

With a full stomach and a very pleasant feeling, I leave you to enjoy a session of your own!


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

2006-8830 Menghai Dayi Nannuo

This is another cake in my order from Puerh Shop.
Some may ask, "Why another Nannuo?"

My response, "I want somewhere to begin."
Gaining knowledge from one of the regions that is well known for its puerh is very valuable to me. I believe that I may gain some experience in acquiring a taste for this region. I will move onto other regions too, but I figure that Nannuo is a good starting point on my journey.

This bing is good looking. There is a healthy mix of full leaves and buds and the colors are eye-catching.
The compression on this one is fairly strong. I figured it would be since it is a big factory label cake.

The scents coming off of the cake is very light. It reminds me of the smell of oatmeal; a weak grain sort of aroma. Next, add some rose petals and cocoa. That is the basic aroma of this bing.

The liquor smells basically like the dry leaves except a bit more strongly expressed.

The taste;
very floral, namely rose. It is a bit astringent at first, but it finishes with a wonderful sweet mango note.
The fruitiness is a compliment to the bitter entrance. This cake is well rounded and well mixed, in my opinion.

The following infusions present different personalities of this cake.

The astringency is taken down a notch and leaves the mouth watering mango.

Strawberries decide to emerge from the cup a few infusions later. The entrance is sweet, and the finish is a bit puckering.

To finish the session, a vegetal mushroom flavor leaves the earthiness of this cake with me for a while.

This cake does not have too many dimensions to it, but it is good quality. I will love to see what this cake will be a few years down the road.
Hopefully by that time I shall be well into my journey.


Friday, November 5, 2010

2008 - 0802 American Hao Nannuo "Ban Po Lao Zhai"

I spent a few days becoming acquainted with the new cakes I purchased, hence the small absence in posts.

Like I said in my previous post; these cakes changed my view on shengpu.

I had read on Bearsbearsbears that this was a very decent cake, and on the Half-Dipper I read that cakes made from Nannuo maocha are lighter, which I decided was a good starting point to my introduction to quality sheng puerh cakes.They both had wonderful suggestions.

This is a cake that was sourced and produced by Puerh Shop.

I wont go into depth about the tea's production information; read it on the label.

The American flag is a great touch. I feel like this was somewhat produced to fit the American specialty market, and they did a wonderful job.

The cake is very pretty! There are many full leaves and buds. The compression on the cake was enough to hold it together, but not enough to make me take a knife to it. I was able to pull out full leaves very easily with just my hands.

Right when the wrapper is opened, an army of aromas invaded my olfactory.
The most striking feature was the prominent sweetness and the floral attributes.
Along with that, there were distinct notes of honey, cherry and a woody earthiness.
For someone not so well versed in the ways of puerh, this is very inviting!
Usually I do not get this excited to drink a tea, but this was so different and I had the urge to dive right into it.

I tend to like to brew shengs with a little less than the recommended amount of leaves because I do not want to pull out too much of the bitterness that sometimes comes with shengpu.

The taste really presented a vast amount of flavors for me to keep track of. It is difficult to narrow it down so will list them all:
mellow sweetness, melons, floral notes and cocoa.
The texture was rich and creamy, but surprisingly light in body. A mild astringency followed that rounded out all the notes and pulled them together in harmony.
In some ways this tea reminds me of brie cheese; mellow, creamy, smooth, easygoing and a bit earthy.

With all puerh, there is a definite earthy quality that can be presented in different tastes. With this cake it was shown through deep wood flavors.
Another thing I notice is that the light bitterness plays an important roll to the flavor profile of this tea. Without the bitterness, the brew would be lacking in depth and complexity.

Some leafy greens emerge in the middle infusions but bring along sweet cherry notes with it. It is incredible how flavors can change throughout a session.

The tea lost complexity around the 7th infusion, but I pushed it to its limit none the less. I wanted to extract as much as I could out of this special tea.

This cake still has a youthful vigor to it, but it has matured to a wonderfully enjoyable stage. I would recommend this cake to anyone trying to get into the flavors of shengpu.

Wonderful session to say the least!


Monday, November 1, 2010

Pu'erh Journey

I never really quite understood the pu'erh hype, especially shengpu.

Now, don't get me wrong; I had enjoyed my fair share of shu and sheng pu'erh tea, but I had never seen the reason people are so fascinated by it.

Sure there is a sense of secrecy, mystery, and variety behind pu'erh, but in my mind it really did not amount to that much. There are hundreds and thousands of aficionados of pu'erh that employ a vast knowledge of everything under the umbrella of pu'erh. Some connoisseurs seem to have the entire list of factories and recipes memorized and could detect any of their flavor profiles in one sip. It fascinated me how little I really knew (and still don't know).
I was content enjoying my traditional oolongs and greens, as well as the occasional white and black teas. I concentrated my knowledge and flavors around those types, and kept a small bit of pu'erh on hand when I felt like indulging in a different dimension.

I decided to splurge and order a few cakes from Puershop...
That was money well spent.

The appreciation that I now have for pu'erh has risen to a whole new level.

I am looking forward to sharing my experiences with the fine Readers of this humble blog.


Friday, September 17, 2010

2003 MengHai Grade 3

Fox really loaded me up with samples. I still have two more for review!
I am not quite sure what Grade 3 denotes with this tea as far as quality, but either way it has no effect on my opinion about it.

The dry leaf smells of mushroom predominantly with a hint of cocoa. There is a slight musty smell that I cannot discern...Not sure if it is from wet storage or just an attribute. It could just be because it happens to be a shou pu.

The aroma of the liquor, not surprisingly, is mushroom.
A hint of rye is present in the mix as well.
Rye is something I have never found in a tea before.

The liquor is surprisingly sweet for a shou; a caramel sweetness.
If anyone has tried mugicha, that is what this tea reminded me of. Mugicha is a Japanese tisane made with barley that slightly resembles the taste of a cassia seed.
It slides down with a smooth, silky texture. Camphor; cooling.

Latter infusions bring about a musty / dampness.
It is also quite sour around the 6th infusion, a quality I see as negative.

This was a decent shou.
Not many people think shou has much to offer, but I find that there is immense variety if one looks close enough.
Comfort on a Friday afternoon.

Fox's review here.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

2009 Mang Fei

This tea was among the samples sent to me by Fox. I thank him for his generosity.

The tea is comprised of 2009 spring maocha and the cakes were pressed and produced by Yunnan Sourcing.

The dry leaf aroma consists of honey, asparagus, and floral notes.
In the appearance of the leaf itself, one can tell this is decent quality. The compression of the cake sample was just enough for it to stay together, but not tight enough for me to take a hammer to it, which I have been tempted to do in the past...

The liquor presents legume, soy, wheat and saline aromas. It was a bit difficult to pull out some of the scents because I was a bit congested, but I managed.

I would have to say that the flavor profile of this tea was quite good. It consisted of a legume type taste up front with a nice astringency, and ended with some rather delicate floral notes. The aftertaste was sensed a long time after the tea was consumed.

A honey-like sweetness was present in the latter infusions, and the last cup reminded me of snow peas.

"Lower water temp for young shengs!!" I read this in my notes and had to laugh a bit. In brewing this tea, there were several tries involved.
In my first attempt, I used water just off the boil. For my personal tastes, cooler water is ideal for brewing very young sheng pu.
I do not like the bitterness presented when the water is overly hot.

The leaves look rather nice when contrasted against a terracotta color.

All in all, a good tea.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

2009 NanJian Qiao Mu Xiao

I received quite a few samples from Fox a while back and only now am getting to them. My apologies.
School is hectic.

This tea is a NanJian produced pu'erh; 2009 Qiao Mu Xiao.
It is comprised of spring plucked leaves, and the cake was purchased by Fox from Yunnan Sourcing.

The dry leaf smells grassy with undertones of tobacco and spice (pepper). There is a healthy mix of buds, stems, and small leaves. This tea is definitely not wild arbor maocha.

The liquor produces an aroma reminiscent of tobacco, honey, pine and some earthy qualities to it.
The taste;
fresh pine, floral aspects, and a wonderful savory quality.
There is a biting astringency that hits once the liquid is consumed. It leaves behind a chalky texture and camphor.

The following infusions showed the real tea. There was an unpleasing bitterness even at 5 second brews. This maocha most likely was plantation, although the producers could have toned the mix down a bit.
After about 7 infusions the tea became fairly good again. I am not sure if it was me that was causing the bitterness, or the tea itself.
I do know that sheng pu is supposed to have some bitterness to it, but not that much.

This tea would do well with age I believe. The coarser, rough tasting leaves would tone down a bit and become more subdued. I still have a lot of the sample left, so I shall keep experimenting with it to see if I can't get some good brews.

Fox's opinion here.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Pu'erh Production / Mystery Loose Sheng Cha

Sheng cha production is actually pretty simple, compared to its counterpart.
As always, sheng cha starts off as maocha (see previous post for details on maocha).
The only thing that is changed about the maocha, after blending, is its shape.

"If the producer wants to keep the maocha loose, it is first aged for about 3 months, and then packaged and sold. Whoever purchases it can decide to either drink it then, or age it themselves.

If the producer decides to make a cake, tou, brick or any other shape, the production is as follows;
-The maocha is placed into perforated containers, which are placed over a steamer. This moistens the leaves to make them pliable.
-The now soft maocha is then shaped by placing it into cotton bags, which are shaped and then put under pressure to mold the leaves.
-The shaped cakes are then set to dry and then wrapped."

Again, this is adopted information from the STI manual. I kept is somewhat short for the benefit of you readers.

Onto tea.

This loose sheng cha was graciously given to me by the founder of Tea Source.
He was one of the teachers of the certification course.

The dry leaves smell of red cabbage and marjoram. They have a sufficient amount of down on them and have a clean scent. The particles are pretty broken up due to the transportation of the leaves from California to New Mexico.

The liquor's aroma is a mix of steamed spinach and mint. It also presents a clean / pure smell.
The taste is quite light, as well as its color. Floral notes sing while mint is kept on edge.
It is quite smooth and sweet for a young sheng.

In the second infusion, a mild bitterness comes out, but it still possesses the same basic profile.

The third infusion brings out the chalky mouth feel that most shengs have. The taste is still the same, but a tad subdued.

The tea has a great endurance.
It went for 10 infusions with the same basic tastes before it decided to quit on me. I enjoyed each infusion very much.
The purity of this tea is incredible.

The leaves do look a bit broken up, but that is due to the transportation, as I stated above.
It tells nothing of the quality, which to my tastes is above par.
I enjoyed this tea very much.
It is the closest to a green tea that any sheng has come in terms of attributes.
Maybe it is time for a contact for more of this..?


Monday, May 31, 2010

Pu'erh Production / Ancient Tea Tree Toucha

Pu'erh is complex. I do not claim to be an expert, but here is a quick run down of ripe (cooked) pu'erh production.
It is adapted from the manual of the Specialty Tea Institute's (STI) pu'erh tea course.

"All types of pu'erh tea start with maocha, meaning 'rough tea'. The preparation of maocha is as follows;
-The tea leaves are plucked and then taken to a central factory.
-Leaves are screened for stems and leaves of bad quality, which are thrown out.
-The leaves are then withered to reduce the moisture content and make them pliable.
-Leaves are then rolled to break the cell walls.
-The leaves are then set out to dry until the moisture remaining is about 10%.
-Leaves are then rolled again, and then a final sorting takes place.

The finished product is then sold, usually by auction, to factories and small production facilities. The maocha can either be used to make sheng cha (uncooked, raw), or shu cha (ripe, cooked).
We will focus on shu cha.
In 1972, the Yunnan Kunming Tea Company implemented a process they dubbed 'Wo Dui.'
The process was developed after an increase in the popularity of aged pu'erh teas. Usually sheng cha would take about 10 years to reach what was known as maturity. The flavors were said to be well rounded and mellowed out.
The Wo Dui process is meant to replicate 10 years of aging in a matter of months.
The process is explained;
Maocha is moistened with water and then piled up in an environment where heat and moisture levels are meticulously monitored and controlled. The pile of leaves begins to heat up through a process much like that of a compost pile. The leaves are turned as needed to ensure that the oxygen, moisture and microbial levels (microbes are essential for breaking down the leaves and help for decomposing them) are consistently maintained to even out the process throughout the pile. The process is a sped up fermentation of the leaves that gives them its dark, rich color. The entire process is a closely guarded secret, so the aforementioned description is very general."

The description of the pu'erh is a mix of my comments as well as some from the STI manual. It would take too long to distinguish between the two, so I put all of it in quotes. I hope you learned something.

Now onto the tea.
This tea is from the Still Mountain tea shop in Nevada City, CA.
It is labeled as an Ancient Tea Tree production.
By my observation I would say that it is definitely a shu cha, but I cannot say for sure how old it is.
The tea itself is very tippy (the gold color sprinkled throughout the tou).
It smells strongly of mushroom with a pumpkin spice / sweetness.

The aroma of the liquor is reminiscent of damp soil and coffee beans.
A caramel sweetness is the first note detected, probably due to the amount of tips.
The mouth feel is lighter than expected.
As the liquor cools, mahogany tones present themselves along side a salty note.

In the following infusions, heavy wood notes are revealed, along with leather and a bit of a charcoal taste (maybe due to an over firing..?). But the charcoal taste was very faint so maybe it is just my taste buds.
In the last infusions, a very nice sweetness emerges and is a good finish for the tea session.

The leaves are quite chopped, as you can see, which made me keep my infusion times very short. This tea would have been easy to over steep.
I enjoyed it though. I find that shu pu'erh is sort of like comfort food. There is not too much variety, but it is a familiar taste that is sometimes a craving.
A thank you to my Aunt for hunting down these teas for me.