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There was just too much talk about Verdant here to not at least give them a try, especially their green tea and pu’er, so when they had an excellent deal recently, I took them up.

This was one of the samples I requested. I have very limited experience with pu’er… just two others; one ‘beginner-friendly’ shu from a tea store that wasn’t too bad, and a sample of Guan Zi Zai 2005 from Life in Teacup.

I don’t have any concerns about sheng; to me, aged tea is no more strange than other aged things, cheese, wine, etc. So approaching this tea was no concern. In fact, I imagine shu is to tea as cabbage is to kim chee, sauerkraut, etc. and I love certain things that have been fermented well, so I can imagine enjoying shu a lot, as well. On the other hand, I have heard a lot of horror stories about it, so I would probably approach it more carefully.

I also enjoy (to a certain extent) earthy and smokey flavors, like mate (which is almost always smoked) or houjicha, so pu’er hasn’t seemed a strange concept to me, rather very intriguing.

I followed Verdant’s instructions, and using my makeshift gaiwan, put the remainder of my sample (3-4g) in, rinsed once, and used 2-3oz water per infusion, going up to about 17.

The leaf looked like it had actually been loose pu’er rather than pressed into a cake (the leaves were not stuck together and looked like dried, unrolled, dong fang mei ren [oriental beauty]), and as their description states, it sounds like the method of stone pressing causes the leaf to be loosely packed into the cake.

Since I have so little experience with sheng, I don’t know how that influences my impression of this tea. The first steepings (esp the first) had an underlying citrus-like sweetness. It wasn’t sweet like the returning sweetness in the back of the throat, but left an almost sweet flavor somewhere in the middle.

The aroma was a smokey-woody-earthiness, similar to mate but much smoother. I could say it was almost like what you would imagine an earthy cave to smell like (“not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole”).
EDIT: I meant to add here – this was the best part about it for me and delicious!
Besides this smokey-woody flavor, which in one steeping reminded me of a nice savory/salty stew, it was a very smooth tea. I didn’t get much else from it, actually.

Late into the steepings, I experienced a very mouth-drying sensation that was almost unpleasant. I was hoping this would signal a shift in what the tea became/tasted like, but unfortunately it seemed to mean that the tea had only a couple pleasant (but not overly interesting) infusions left.

So, take my long review as you like, since while I know I am someone who could probably really enjoy pu’er, I don’t know a lot of what to expect (what makes one good or not). As far as whether I simply liked this tea- yes, I did, but it just wasn’t the same as Japanese greens.

I think I knew this before I started, but I don’t believe pu’er is something I will ever get into, at least not for this season of life. I don’t have hours to do long tea sessions and many infusions. The best I can get most days is one pot/4 infusions, but more often it is 3 infusions (for a Japanese tea, which is an easier brewing method than gaiwan, imo). I will certainly enjoy a few pots of pu’er here and there, but I simply don’t have the time to do it proper justice (via gaiwan).

Unless, someone who has a lot of experience with it can say that the western method works well? If I could do the western method and drink 3-4 infusions, instead of 15-20, that would be doable. Let me know if that really does good sheng/shu justice and what the parameters for each infusion could be (in general).

Preparation
Boiling 0 min, 15 sec
David Duckler

Dear Shinobi_Cha,
I am glad that you got a chance to brew this up Chinese style. In answer to your question, sheng pu’er can be brewed up in a big pot if temperature and time are controlled (which you are probably used to from Japanese green). A lot of young sheng pu’er is unbearably dry and bitter, but for something as smooth and rich as this brick, it is very doable. I will often save the broken leaves for myself from a brick and brew it up in a big pot with excellent results. You might actually get more out of it that way. Brewing a sheng pu’er in a gaiwan strips it down to a lighter tea, but each steeping presents different elements of the flavor. A big pot combines all those elements.

I am surprised that this tea didn’t yield more for you- it is definitely one of my new favorites for its complexity, but honestly, it took me months of sheng pu’er drinking to even get why people would willingly consume the stuff. I was lucky to have a patient teacher in Wang Yanxin who connects me with the farmers. Some of the shu pu’er might yield more complexity right of the bat. Any of the Xingyang pu’ers or the Peacock Village are good candidates. Sheng is so elusive, so hidden in the textures and aftertastes. Shu pu’er carries more in the actual flavor itself. It also tends to do better in a big pot than shengs do.

Big pot brewing for me means 8oz or more, with at least 1-1.5 teaspoons of tea per cup. For sheng I would use around 200 degree water for 2.5 minutes, but you can play around to see what works.

I hope that your journey into pu’er is rewarding! It certainly has been for me.
Best Wishes,
David

Shinobi_cha

Thanks a lot David!

I think one of the issues I had was that this was just a sample, and only half of it (3g, maybe 4). So I think the small amount of leaf partly contributed to the somewhat lighter nature. That being said, I would not describe it as weak at all.

What I didn’t mention in the note was that my actual first brewing of this tea was “western style” in a 180ml kyusu, using 4g leaf and about 5oz water (to share with a friend). I think I brewed it for 3 minutes, but can’t quite remember the exact amount of time. It was a nice cup.

Bitter doesn’t concern me at all; it would just connect the tea to the ‘green’ tea it was when it was new, actually; and that is a good thing to me.

Your comments about how the different brewing methods resulting in the ‘two types’ of yields make a lot of sense – you either get a cup that is more of the elements combined, or one that is more nuanced and unique with each infusion. That is also one reason why I chose to do a gaiwan brewing for my ‘real’ tasting, because the first time was to be able to share it, and also try to wrap my head around what sheng is.

Funnily enough, I can definitely see why people would consume (good) pu’er, there is something very intriguing about it. But while I have enjoyed tea a lot more seriously for about two years, I still don’t see myself as being good at picking up a lot of subtleties. Getting better. So while my note on this tea is that I didn’t get the complexities mentioned, I hopefully clarified that my experience is certainly a strong factor in my impression of this tea.

I don’t see myself wanting to drink it regularly (yet), but I do see myself seeking out sheng (and shu) further. I’m looking forward to this and next month’s tea club, being that they have both the Xinyang and Yabao.

Thanks for the brewing suggestions!

Nathaniel Gruber

Great conversation, and great explanation! I think that what David said about brewing it western style for several minutes is very true. When trying to explain Chinese vs. Western style tea brewing to friends, I usually start by telling them that each tea tells a story. When we brew it in an yixing pot or gaiwan for many short steepings we are seeing the step by step, page by page progression. It will change from beginning to middle to end and we can look back on it and explain so. Whereas with Western style, we are combining all of those steepings in to one “flavor”. We are essentially getting the readers digest summation of all of the steepings put together. Or, to put it another way, the Western Style is like watching the movie rather than reading the novel.

This is not so say that one way is superior to the other, rather, it’s just a matter of preference and often times, practicality. I love to sit down each night and unwind by making tea in my yixing pots for an hour or two before bed. The caffeine doesn’t affect me at that hour (luckily) and I find it a great daily ritual. However, when a small group of friends comes over on a Saturday morning to watch English Premier League Soccer, we will drink tea from my 20 oz. Western Style tea pot and basket because we’re not really paying too much attention to the tea…we’re watching soccer.

Different situations. Different ways. Both are good. I do think to really get to know a tea though, one does need to sit down for many steepings to “read” the story it is telling. Fun stuff!

sherubtse

Why the heck have I never heard of this company? ?

Many thanks indeed for (unknowingly) introducing me to them, Shinobi_Cha! I have taken a look at their website, and their customer servcie, shipping and related policies look very impressive.

How was your experience ordering from them?

Thanks.

Best wishes,
sherubtse

Uniquity

#Sherubtse – I know you didn’t ask me but I have also ordered from Verdant and would highly recommend you give them a shot, at least if you are a fan of quality unflavoured teas. I ordered two teas and received two more as samples, all well packaged and shipped to Canada (for free! :D). The teas are, unsurprisingly, fantastic and David is wonderful to correspond with – I came out of the exchange with wonderful tea and lots of information. They have a code on at the moment where you can upgrade your free sample to a free ounce too, which is nice. I am resisting the urge to order again, even though I don’t need tea at the moment.

sherubtse

Many thanks for the feedback, Uniquity! Very helpful.

I am very fussy about customer service, both online and in-store. Shipping costs play a large role in my online ordering as well.

Nice to see that you are in Canada as well.

Best wishes,
sherubtse

Shinobi_cha

Hi sherubtse,

My experience was great; they were very helpful in ensuring I received the samples I requested (for some reason my request in the order was cut-off) and everything went smoothly and quickly.

I’m looking forward to trying the other teas I’ve ordered, as well as the other 4 (or so) that will come in the tea club for Dec and Jan. I’ll likely review all of them here, too.

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David Duckler

Dear Shinobi_Cha,
I am glad that you got a chance to brew this up Chinese style. In answer to your question, sheng pu’er can be brewed up in a big pot if temperature and time are controlled (which you are probably used to from Japanese green). A lot of young sheng pu’er is unbearably dry and bitter, but for something as smooth and rich as this brick, it is very doable. I will often save the broken leaves for myself from a brick and brew it up in a big pot with excellent results. You might actually get more out of it that way. Brewing a sheng pu’er in a gaiwan strips it down to a lighter tea, but each steeping presents different elements of the flavor. A big pot combines all those elements.

I am surprised that this tea didn’t yield more for you- it is definitely one of my new favorites for its complexity, but honestly, it took me months of sheng pu’er drinking to even get why people would willingly consume the stuff. I was lucky to have a patient teacher in Wang Yanxin who connects me with the farmers. Some of the shu pu’er might yield more complexity right of the bat. Any of the Xingyang pu’ers or the Peacock Village are good candidates. Sheng is so elusive, so hidden in the textures and aftertastes. Shu pu’er carries more in the actual flavor itself. It also tends to do better in a big pot than shengs do.

Big pot brewing for me means 8oz or more, with at least 1-1.5 teaspoons of tea per cup. For sheng I would use around 200 degree water for 2.5 minutes, but you can play around to see what works.

I hope that your journey into pu’er is rewarding! It certainly has been for me.
Best Wishes,
David

Shinobi_cha

Thanks a lot David!

I think one of the issues I had was that this was just a sample, and only half of it (3g, maybe 4). So I think the small amount of leaf partly contributed to the somewhat lighter nature. That being said, I would not describe it as weak at all.

What I didn’t mention in the note was that my actual first brewing of this tea was “western style” in a 180ml kyusu, using 4g leaf and about 5oz water (to share with a friend). I think I brewed it for 3 minutes, but can’t quite remember the exact amount of time. It was a nice cup.

Bitter doesn’t concern me at all; it would just connect the tea to the ‘green’ tea it was when it was new, actually; and that is a good thing to me.

Your comments about how the different brewing methods resulting in the ‘two types’ of yields make a lot of sense – you either get a cup that is more of the elements combined, or one that is more nuanced and unique with each infusion. That is also one reason why I chose to do a gaiwan brewing for my ‘real’ tasting, because the first time was to be able to share it, and also try to wrap my head around what sheng is.

Funnily enough, I can definitely see why people would consume (good) pu’er, there is something very intriguing about it. But while I have enjoyed tea a lot more seriously for about two years, I still don’t see myself as being good at picking up a lot of subtleties. Getting better. So while my note on this tea is that I didn’t get the complexities mentioned, I hopefully clarified that my experience is certainly a strong factor in my impression of this tea.

I don’t see myself wanting to drink it regularly (yet), but I do see myself seeking out sheng (and shu) further. I’m looking forward to this and next month’s tea club, being that they have both the Xinyang and Yabao.

Thanks for the brewing suggestions!

Nathaniel Gruber

Great conversation, and great explanation! I think that what David said about brewing it western style for several minutes is very true. When trying to explain Chinese vs. Western style tea brewing to friends, I usually start by telling them that each tea tells a story. When we brew it in an yixing pot or gaiwan for many short steepings we are seeing the step by step, page by page progression. It will change from beginning to middle to end and we can look back on it and explain so. Whereas with Western style, we are combining all of those steepings in to one “flavor”. We are essentially getting the readers digest summation of all of the steepings put together. Or, to put it another way, the Western Style is like watching the movie rather than reading the novel.

This is not so say that one way is superior to the other, rather, it’s just a matter of preference and often times, practicality. I love to sit down each night and unwind by making tea in my yixing pots for an hour or two before bed. The caffeine doesn’t affect me at that hour (luckily) and I find it a great daily ritual. However, when a small group of friends comes over on a Saturday morning to watch English Premier League Soccer, we will drink tea from my 20 oz. Western Style tea pot and basket because we’re not really paying too much attention to the tea…we’re watching soccer.

Different situations. Different ways. Both are good. I do think to really get to know a tea though, one does need to sit down for many steepings to “read” the story it is telling. Fun stuff!

sherubtse

Why the heck have I never heard of this company? ?

Many thanks indeed for (unknowingly) introducing me to them, Shinobi_Cha! I have taken a look at their website, and their customer servcie, shipping and related policies look very impressive.

How was your experience ordering from them?

Thanks.

Best wishes,
sherubtse

Uniquity

#Sherubtse – I know you didn’t ask me but I have also ordered from Verdant and would highly recommend you give them a shot, at least if you are a fan of quality unflavoured teas. I ordered two teas and received two more as samples, all well packaged and shipped to Canada (for free! :D). The teas are, unsurprisingly, fantastic and David is wonderful to correspond with – I came out of the exchange with wonderful tea and lots of information. They have a code on at the moment where you can upgrade your free sample to a free ounce too, which is nice. I am resisting the urge to order again, even though I don’t need tea at the moment.

sherubtse

Many thanks for the feedback, Uniquity! Very helpful.

I am very fussy about customer service, both online and in-store. Shipping costs play a large role in my online ordering as well.

Nice to see that you are in Canada as well.

Best wishes,
sherubtse

Shinobi_cha

Hi sherubtse,

My experience was great; they were very helpful in ensuring I received the samples I requested (for some reason my request in the order was cut-off) and everything went smoothly and quickly.

I’m looking forward to trying the other teas I’ve ordered, as well as the other 4 (or so) that will come in the tea club for Dec and Jan. I’ll likely review all of them here, too.

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