You’re going to get a lot of recommendations. Personally, if you haven’t developed an adventurous palette, I’d recommend trying a pu-erh blend such as a ginger or strawberry – you get the idea of the flavor profile, without it being overwhelming. If it’s to your liking, you then have an idea of which varietal you might like more.
Whatever variety or brand you choose – there’s one essential thing you must do, to give your sample a fair shake : pre-rinse the leaves! You’re going to end up with the remnants of the aging process in your cup if you drink the first infusion, it won’t be as good as subsequent steeps. The flavor comes through best when the leaves have opened a bit. Something I wish I would have figured out sooner in my pu-erh journeys.
I came across these great pu-erh pages today:
Chicagoteagarden has a great chrysanthemum puerh that I would say is a good “starter puerh”
This was originally posted a year ago, so let’s hope that cyanidearsenic has gotten the pu’erh situation sorted out by now. But since the topic has been reactivated and maybe some other people are in the same boat, here’s another good option:
This sampler was my introduction to pu’erh and it did not disappoint. Many of these teas are flavored, so you get to experience not only a new type of tea but also many other chinese herbs that may be new to you as well. And for $15, if you end up hating pu’erh, at least you get this rad little basket for stashing other teas. Cheers!
Allow me to register a dissenting word. If you want to get to know Pu erh, a flavored tea will not really do it, you will get to know flavors, not the tastes and essence of Pu erh. And a full bing may be too much and will only give you one tea which may not be one you like (or be very good). Redblossom has a whole flight of sheng and shou Pu erhs and you can buy just two ounces of whichever ones intrigue or interest you.
Wait, this is strange, the post above me says it was 10 months ago. How did it appear so high up in the list that I thought it was made in the past few days?
Firstly, lets discuss Shou Chaa.
This tea is far more interesting and romantic than that of its counterpart, Sheng Chaa(Green/Raw Pu’er Tea). Shou Chaa is the Pu’er that gets most first interested in Pu’er, or perhaps even tea. The wonderful story of the aging and cellar storage and horseback rides across Tibet; the odd taste and smell and interesting benefits that so many claim.
The sad truth of this tea is that it is much more often of poor quality than of any kind of quality that could benefit anyone. Many of the vendors in the West understand the curiosity of their customers and buy a product that is as entry-level Pu’er. This Shou Chaa is one that we can love, or hate, and very often we drink it in order to acquire the taste for it and to reap in the benefits of this “aged” tea. The dark “soy sauce” look is sign #1 of a poorly processed Shou Chaa. In China they have a saying, “Do not drink Shou Chaa until after the fifth steep”, we couldn’t agree more! There are hundreds of other indicators of poor quality, some I list on my website www.mistypeakteas.com. But understand that poor quality green tea or poor quality white tea is just not to your standards of taste; but poor quality Shou Chaa is dangerous and often contains mold and harmful bacteria.
This is NEVER aged Tea, Shou is a Chinese word meaning COOKED. If you have a green Pu’er Tea(Sheng Chaa) and a Black Pu’er Tea(Shou Chaa) side by side, they could be extremely, vastly, different in taste/looks/smell, but be picked from the tree the same day. Its an artificial process that Menghai, and demand, in the 70’s created to replicate the TRUE Aged Pu’er.
Aged Raw Tea, truly called "Lao Da Sheng Chaa(aged raw Pu’er-Not Shou Chaa), is often hundreds or thousands of dollars per Bing(cake/disc). It is of the finest craftsmenship and, MOST importantly, the finest raw materials. The composting method of the Shou Chaa creates the flavor much more than the quality of the leaves at times. There can be “good” Shou Chaa, but, if you can, invest in good Sheng Chaa and age it, or buy AGED Sheng Chaa(at least 10 years or so).
We could go on and on and about this, but lets answer the question. The best Pu’er, and the best tea, to drink daily is that of Sheng Chaa, preferably from Yiwu. The big leaves of the ancient trees allow for the most humble and exquisite teas on the market. Tea originated in this region and the oldest tea trees in the world still remain here. You are diving into a new world of tea when you sit with Sheng Chaa. Anyone living in the large Province of Yunnan ONLY drinks Sheng Chaa, and few drink Shou Chaa, as they “save that tea for their later years.”
Allow Sheng Chaa to lift you, calm you, humble you, delight you, interest you, and bring meaning to the ordinary. The beauty of this tea is its ability to be greatly enjoyed today, and to be a priceless pleasure in 10+ years. Shou Chaa does NOT get better with age, it may even do the opposite. If you are interested in the aged teas, buy aged teas.
Sheng Chaa Pu’er is said to be the first tea ever enjoyed, let us be interested enough to keep doing so.
There is loads more info on our site, but feel free to message me if you have more questions to.
was it not the kunming factory that started this process that was later copied by the menghai factory? i know that menghai does this process but according to the research i have found kunming invented this process.
Thank you for your response.
MrMopar, I am unsure of where exactly the process originated. Living here in Xishuangbanna, I hear the debates between different towns of who exactly first started the artificial aging process.
I cannot for the life of me see how the many words of Misty Peak Teas is going to help but confuse the person who wants to try a puerh for the first time. If it was me I’d give up in confusion.
My first puerh was a flavored chocolate that I wouldn’t drink today but appreciate for kick-starting me into the world that I now love.
Mrmopar knows more than most here on Steepster about puerh, and can give good advice on where to begin with unflavored.
An inexpensive beginner that is quite smooth might be something like a 2009 or 2010 Menghai V93 Shu. Another everyday type of puerh would be 2009 Menghai Red Aura Shu (100 grams about $8).
There are of course many,many more. Look under the puerh tab at favorites and read what people here recommend. I began that way.
Bonnie, sorry for the confusion. I don’t know how to personal message people, so I had to answer his question(which may have also been futile or confusing to those not in the field of Pu’er).
Your response gives us more reason to be clear.
which choco-flavored puerh was it Bonnie? thanks for your recommendation on the pure puerhs :)
will also communicate w Mrmopar :)
im still sitting on the decision of where to start for pu-erh but all your input is helpful. thank you! it just takes me time to decide :)
i like how we can all express our ideas here freely and nicely too.
well, it is kinda complicated for beginners so there’s no helping it – we will be confused hahaha.
i am also talking with Grace who knows a lot about puerh :)
From my experience shengs are way better when brewed in gaiwan. Have in mind. Shu’s are much easier to brew for me, while shengs prepared in any other container tend to be just wrong
Thats a great way to enjoy it, in a gaiwan. Perhaps the pot had a weird taste?
When I first get a pot, I usually leave the tea(and water) in it over night, or for a few days…to get the pot ready for its purpose.
Nah, I think it’s just that it’s too hard to get water/leaves ratio right without a gaiwan.
I’m so happy this thread got resurrected. I’ve never had pu’erh before and I’ll be ordering my first this week. I’ll probably start by ordering some samples. I’m definitely going for straight pu’erh, I want to know what it tastes like without any added flavors. :)
Bonnie has some good tasting notes. She has a very good palate. Are you looking for sheng or shou pu-erh?
Thank you both! :) Ok, I’m a little confused. I wanted to order some samples from Verdant Tea and while the pictures show pretty straight tea, under notes they have listed different flavors. Are these straight or flavored? Is Verdant Tea good for a starter? I’ve seen some great reviews of their pu’erh teas.
mrmopar – I wouldn’t mind trying both just to compare
Verdant uses no flavorings but does have some blends. If you read ingredients you’ll see tea’s, puer, sometimes roots and spices used but never flavorings. There is another tab besides the blends for puer. You can try samples there or larger amounts. The puer stock is kind of low at the moment (this happens before the Spring change to new blends usually).
Ahhh.. Ok, now I see it. The teas I was looking at had no ingredients listed. Now checking under the blends tab I can see the ingredients. Thanks Bonnie :) I was thinking of trying out their Xingyang 2007 Shu Pu’er, it has good reviews, I read yours too. :)
Yeah Verdant is good stuff! Great quality tea goes in what they sell. Mandala is another good retailer. Garret sources his teas first hand as does David at verdant. I am pretty sure Misty Peak is in the heart of pu-erh country too.