348 Tasting Notes

88

This week I discovered rolled rye instead of rolled oats. Rolled rye doesn’t come out like kindergarten paste. This is win.

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68

The more I drink this, the less and less impressed with it I am. I need to go back to Upton for my default pu-erh.

Cofftea

Is this sheng or shu?

Jim Marks

Near as I know, it is shou.

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90

We may have a late night, so I’m getting a bit of caffeine before we head out.

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87

Drinking up the last of this, today.

Cloudy, drizzly, but still nearly 80 degrees and muggy. Amazing.

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90

I don’t often purchase Chinese green teas, and dragon wells even less often. So, this is an off the beaten track thing, for me.

These dry leaves have a very sweet set of notes under the more typical hay and meadow notes.

By Contrast, the wet leaves are extremely vegetal, bordering on pungent.

The liqueur is actually pale yellow, not green, but that is not too surprising, I’ve only ever found shaded greens to actually turn green in the cup. The flavor here genuinely splits the difference between the dry and wet leaves. Oddly, the flavor reminds me a great deal of the great shaded greens out there — deeply vegetal, but still bright and green, like fresh snow peas or fresh string beans.

I think it says a lot about “good leaves” that a tea produced under such radically different conditions can still produce, in the end, a similarly excellent cup. This is a lot more reasonably priced than most gyukuro, or sincha however.

Preparation
175 °F / 79 °C 3 min, 45 sec

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97

Another sheng style pu-erh for me from CS. Whoo-hoo! I think I am officially hooked, as if I wasn’t already.

If you have never spent time in a rustic cabin, a very old, rustic cabin, I cannot explain this to you in any meaningful way. There is a way that lumber smells when it spends a lot of time in the sun, and fabric smells when it spends a lot of time exposed to damp nights, and even the way soil and dust smell when they both come from and interact with these warm boards and stones and mildewing fabrics.

That is exactly how these tea smell dry, and wet, and how the liqueur presents in the cup. The dry leaves bring out more of the warm lumber and dust, the wet and the liqueur bring out more of the mildew and wet stone.

This is like drinking camp. And I love it.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 30 sec

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This is my first sheng pu-erh. Sheng being the “raw” pu-erh, rather than “fermented” style.

The dry leaf has almost no odor, but there is a faint dark chocolate present.

The wet leaf is extremely pungent and reminds me of a combination of black Cavendish and Syrian Latakia pipe tobaccos.

I rinsed the leaves because they were packed into a bamboo shaft and with such a short steep, I wanted them to open up quickly. I’m trying to do this “right” as a first tasting so that my notes have any value to anyone else.

After a three minute steep, the liquor is a tarnished bronze color. The aroma off the cup is all pu-erh, all earth and loam and damp mornings on the moor.

The flavor of the liqueur is also straight up the middle pu-erh flavors. But I am realizing I haven’t had a decent cup of pu-erh in a long, long time, now. Even my bench mark “aged celestial tribute” pu-erh from Upton is not as flavorful as this cup, and the Omni International (actually Rishi) just doesn’t even come close. But, I’m going to have to bump my Upton ranking down several points now.

There is a note here I cannot put my finger on. I will think of it in about 8 hours, I suspect.

There is also a numbing effect on the tongue, a bit like clove or menthol. The vendor references eucalyptus, so maybe I’ll defer to them and say that’s what it is.

At $18 for 25g this is not weak in the knees expensive, but sadly, I don’t think it can be my every day cup, either. If you enjoy pu-erhs, this is a great one to pick up.

Preparation
205 °F / 96 °C 3 min, 0 sec
teaddict

How much tea per oz water did you use?

This sounds like a terrific tea. But wow, expensive. I’ve been enjoying a bamboo puerh from Norbu that is a very lovely sheng friendly to puerh beginners, and is not so expensive, although without a comparative tasting, can’t say whether it is the equal of this one.

Jim Marks

I’ve paid a dollar per gram and more for shaded greens, so 72 cents per doesn’t rattle me too hard. I don’t buy teas at this price range all the time, but it is nice to have something like this once in a while as a treat. The nice thing is, it isn’t like pu-er is going to go stale on you, right? The most I ever spent on a tea was in a restaurant near Chicago where I got 5 grams of a 1978 pu-er which ran me something like $25. For my 35th birthday, not something I’m likely to repeat.

The company recommends 250ml of water -> 1 teaspoon of leaf. I, frankly, eye balled it. 250ml is in the ball part of 8 and a half ounces of water. In other words, a LOT of leaf for a small amount of water.

teaddict

That is the joy of puerh. The only problem I’ve really had with it is that, when bought by the beeng or brick, if I end up not loving a particular tea, it takes up space, in hopes that it may age to something more interesting!

I too have paid more than this for various teas, but not for puerh (yet!). But though I know the difference between sheng and shu, and have figured out how to enjoy a few pus that require a lot of attention tot he brewing, I’m still really a pu newbie.

Jim Marks

The two I got from C.S. made me realize that the one I have from Rishi is actually kind of terrible and that I need to go back to the ones from Upton as my default, reasonably priced, pu-er.

teaddict

If you’re really looking to get into sheng puerh, and you should, I can recommend Norbu and Yunnan sourcing as having a range of very good but inexpensive puerh. While I haven’t ordered anything ever from Upton myself, so can’t directly comment on the quality of their offerings, the emphasis on small conveniently packaged stuff is not a good indicator.

Cofftea

teaddict- I know the suggestion wasn’t meant for me, but I’ll use it as well. Thank you! I have limited experience w/ UTI but I don’t think packaging (unless ill packaged) predicts quality.

teaddict

My reference to convenient packaging is in reference to the small tuo cha, the one-cup sized pieces of puerh, which have a reputation for more convenience than quality on the whole, both because cheaper material tends to be used to make them, but also more fundamentally because aging is different in a smaller bulk item than a typical beeng or brick.

And if a larger beeng or brick has been neatly cut up into uniform sized pieces, the cutting is breaking up the leaves, and broken leaves don’t help the quality of your brew. When you’re getting a sample of a beeng from a puerh specialty retailer, they should be breaking them up more in the plane the leaves naturally will separate in, as you should be doing when breaking up beengs at home.

I saw listings for both things on the upton site.

Jim Marks

The pu-erh I love from Upton is loose, not packed into tuo cha.

teaddict

That’s a different story, for sure!

Cofftea

Holy steeping parameters, that’s quite a bit different than my method lol:)

Jim Marks

I actually have been known to steep that one (from Upton) for upwards of 30 minutes.

Cofftea

Wow… I actually fell off the couch when I read that one!=P

Jim Marks

This occurred the first time by accident because I was at work, and forgot about it. Upon discovering that not only was it not ruined, but that it tasted good, I ran with it afterward. Usually what I end up doing is steeping it that long and then cutting it by half with hot water for each cup.

teaddict

I have taken some of my mellower shu puerhs and abused them by tossing them in a thermos, adding hot water, and running off to work/meeting/conference and drinking all day. It takes a mellow tea to stand up to that. Still, 30 minutes steeping is pretty radical to me too.

I’d get very thirsty waiting 30 minutes for my tea on most occasions, however!

Stephanie

I do that often with the tuo cha pu-erh I have. I just throw a nest in my travel mug and steep it in there all day. Sometimes I even use two nests because I like my tea strong. Pu-erhs really can be steeped indefinitely!

Cofftea

Stephanie, ALL DAY?!?! Gosh… I was so turned off by a 5 min steep (of shu, not sheng) I can’t even fathom that…

Jim Marks

As a side note, the tuo cha I mentioned in the steeping notes, above, for this 2002 Naka Lahu is not one of those little 1, 2 or 5 gram things. You can’t really get the scale looking at the photo they included on the website, but that’s a big tube of bamboo that has been packed solid with tea leaves. This is not a “convenience” tuo cha.

Also, maybe my thinking it twisted, but based on my experiences so far, I’d be more likely to long steep a shou than a sheng. Although, the more I drink these teas, the shorter the steeps seem to get. When I worked in an office, starting a pot of tea was a huge hassle and so I tried to do it as infrequently as possible. Which meant making big pots. Since I now work from home, making small pots and doing a lot of re-steeping is a lot more tenable.

But in the end, a shou that has been steeping 5 minutes or more basically comes out like coffee, except without all that acidic bite to it. Dark, rich, complex, mellow. But I’m learning to enjoy the shorter steeps to find other notes.

teaddict

The bamboo puerh would not be called a tuo cha, generally those ahe the little mushroom-cap shaped 1 cup serving worth compressed and aged in that form. The bamboo stuff is aged in a larger shape, with the bamboo serving to moderate oxidation and flavor it as it ages, very different than the nuggets of typical tuo cha.

Jim Marks

I’ve occasionally heard the larger pucks (bing) referred to as tuo cha, as well, but I suppose the bamboo style is neither a bird’s nest nor a brick.

teaddict

Exactly. The bamboo walls moderate the aging differently than if it were just shaped into a cylinder and left open.

Jim Marks

Yes, of course. I only even brought it up because I wasn’t sure if you first brought up avoiding tuo cha because I’d mentioned (incorrectly) that this 2002 Naka Lahu came in one.

Upton does sell 1g, 2g and 5g tuo cha as far as I remember, but the Celestial Tribute that I like so much comes loose.

This Naka comes broken out of the shaft, but still mostly clumped into big pieces, which is why I needed to rinse it before steeping it.

Cofftea

“which is why I needed to rinse it before steeping it”… aren’t all pu erhs rinsed?

Jim Marks

I have gone on the record in several threads here asserting that I believe the whole rinsing thing, for leaves which are already loose, is a tradition, not a function. I have had several extensive conversations with people who insist on rinsing and the only functions I have heard referenced are

1) opening up the leaves ~ which if you just steep longer happens either way
2) “dust” ~ which is just confusing
3) not rinsing makes me puke ~ I really didn’t even know what to make of that

Upshot, I never rinse pu-erhs to no ill effect that I am aware of. That’s why I specifically mentioned rinsing this one, since on-going readers will know I don’t usually do that, but I didn’t want to over-steep a sheng, since I wasn’t sure if they held up to long steeping times the way shou seem to.

Cofftea

I personally can’t stomach long steeping times for shu (even w/ short steeping times I’m not a fan of shu) so I’m not sure I’d want to try w/ a sheng. Personally lots leaf, a rinse, and short steeping times are the only parameters that work for me w/ pu erh and now that I know that I’m not sure I want to deviate and risk ruining good tea. Things like that scare me lol.

k_t_bug

I’m reading “All the Tea in China” and one thing that stands out is that traditionally all tea was rinsed. “The first cup is for your enemies” was how the saying goes……all tea is handled repeatedly and probably needs a little rinse.

teaddict

There is an interesting theme Ive come across in several lists and forums: “what have you found in your puerh?” And hair, insect parts, & more are described. But rinsing doesn’t remove them. And though the compression of puerh may make such things a little harder to see, but other teas are equally natural products.

I do mostly rinse my pu.

Jim Marks

I’m pouring boiling water on it and leaving it to sit in that heat for moments at a time. Pathogens are dead. Bio-mass may be “icky” but once it has been boiled, it isn’t going to do you any harm. At least, no harm that “rinsing” is going to solve.

As far as I’m concerned, 9 times out of 10, rinsing tea just wastes some of the best solubles down the drain.

The Chinese have a LOT of traditions that have nothing to do with anything practical and everything to do with appearing to be practical. So far, no one’s been able to offer me any evidence that rinsing tea is all that practical.

teaddict

Also, with young shengs, sometimes they need that rinse to let some of the bitterest compounds out before starting to drink the infusions. I had to do this recently with the Lao Ban Zhang loose puerh I discussed here a few days ago.

Jim Marks

Odd. Usually bitter compounds come out of teas last, not first. This is why over-steeping ruins most teas.

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90

During my early morning quiet time, today, I got a huge hankering for this tea — specifically. There’s something about the balance of an almost Darjeeling quality, almost oolong quality, and the lack of assam keeping it from having too much bite, which makes this tea a marvelously gentle black tea without being thin or wimpy.

Preparation
Boiling 2 min, 30 sec

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76

It always happens this way, here. We get a day where the humidity is like sludge and then the next day we get a huge storm. Storms are predicted for tomorrow, so hopefully today’s sludge moves on. Meanwhile, light, bright teas keep me sane, and chugging my genmaicha is cheaper than burning through all 100g of Pai Mu Tan in 24 hours.

SoccerMom

Haven’t you heard the saying “If you don’t like the weather in Texas wait five minutes or drive 5 miles” I’ve heard it all my life and it rings so true!

Jim Marks

There’s two things wrong with that expression.

1) That is a common expression in every single part of the country I have ever lived.

2) In Texas it is hot and humid from mid-April through mid-October :=)

Auggy

One of my all time favorite adds was from a Texas Monthly magazine – it had a picture of some flowers (the type you’d see at the Riverwalk in San Antonio) and said, “Why yes, we do have winter. Last year it was on a Thursday.”

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