tperez said

Pu'erh: Am I doing it wrong?

My shipment from Zenjalla came in today, and I was very excited to try the loose leaf pu’erh, as I’d never had pu’erh before. I made it as follows:

1. I got a kettle of near-boiling water going, poured it into my strainer/pot over 1tsp of the tea, let it steep for about 15 seconds, and poured it out to wash the tea. (you are supposed to do that with pu, right?)
2. Let the tea rest for about 30 seconds and then poured more hot water into the pot, about 2 cups, let it steep for two minutes.
3. Poured some and tasted it; very pale brown color, tasted predominately of old mulch.
4. Thinking maybe it wasn’t steeped long enough, I let it brew for about three more minutes. Then it was a darker, weak coffee color, but it still didn’t taste like much of anything besides mulch/roots/mold.

Is there something I did wrong? Is it supposed to be a fairly weak tea and not taste much like tea? I know I didn’t make it in the traditional way…

Sincerely, confused pu’erh newb :(

34 Replies
Alphakitty said

Maybe you just don’t like pu-erh? It is often earthy and mm I guess mulch-y? Though I’d try it with less water/a short steep: 1tsp for 2 cups seems kind of low. Some people also recommend 2 rinses, so you might want to try that.

Login or sign up to post a message.

K S said

I would suggest less water and hotter temp. I use a rounded spoon for one mug and boiling water. 3 minutes ought to give a really dark cup. Leather, mushroom, wood, earthy, are all words used to describe basic puerh flavor. Try again. My first loose pu smelled like fish wrapped in wet musty newspaper and tasted almost as bad. Hard to believe I ever tried it again.

Login or sign up to post a message.

Seconding everything in the above two comments. 1 tsp leaf to 2 cups water is very low; for a 3 minute steep I’d use 1 tablespoon of leaf to 1 cup of water. Keep in mind that you can steep several times then – the flavor or pu-erh lasts longer than unfermented teas, and changes over the course of several steeps (hence the traditional method of many small short steeps).

Hotter water and an extra rinse might give you a cleaner flavor too, but basically… no, shu pu’erh does not taste like other teas. It seems to be largely an acquired taste :) “mulch/roots” is not an uncommon flavor profile, though there should be an earthy sweetness too. I remember thinking that my first pu’erh tasted like a barnyard. It’s growing on me, though I find that a good blend makes it easier for me to appreciate. Rishi tea has two pu’erh chais – Vanilla Mint and Chocolate – that I’ve found very approachable, as is Verdant Tea’s Xingyang Silk Road Spice.

Good luck!

Login or sign up to post a message.

Azzrian said

Good pu-erh also is key. There are some really stinky ones out there. Try Verdant, Mandala just to name two companies that come to mind but there are a lot of good ones out there. I have never ordered from Zenjala and nothing against them but I try to look for companies that specialize in pu-erh or have really top quality of teas.
Again nothing against Zenjala – I have no knowledge of them – just stating as a general rule.
All the advice above is excellent.
Maybe if you told us exactly the pu-erh you are trying to brew we could give more insight. Sorry if you already mentioned it and I missed it – four hours sleep – Im going on nothing but tea today.

Login or sign up to post a message.

Kally Tea said

Couldn’t help but reminisce about our first tasting of Pu-Er. Your post made us smile, as those words and reaction were very similar. We thought too, “what is all the hoopla about this tea?!”
There are different Pu-Ers and would venture to say, various qualities as well.
We like our Pu-Er to be rinsed as stated above, then a real minimal steep, depending on the tea, some may only be for as little as 15 – 30 seconds (with some agitation). That does produce an extremely different flavor. Teabird was correct for our preferred method, “many short steeps” as you can get many steeps, and as many as 10 or so.
There is of course the over-all point, that it is an acquired taste. But as we have found, the amount you use to steep (for us, sometimes very little), compared to the amount you purchase allows for you to really have fun and experiment until you find what works for your individual palate… just don’t give up too soon. Experiment, and you will discover this wonderful, healthy, tea.
Gotta quote Teabird again;

Good Luck!

Login or sign up to post a message.

tperez said

Thanks for the responses :) I used a little more pu’erh, boiling water and 1 cup steepings around 30 seconds, and got a MUCH more palatable result.

This time I got quite a bit the more “earthy” sweet flavor as opposed to penicillin. My first try I was kind of grossed out, but now I feel this is something I could grow to love.

I think the problem was probably more my expectations and inexperience than the tea itself, but then again, I don’t really have anything to compare it to lol

Azzrian: It was the loose leaf pu’erh, they only offer that, a tuo-cha, and some flavoreds, so I assume its not their specialty, I didn’t really consider that when ordering. The white monkey I got was wonderful, and the Kuan Yin was pretty good as well. Next time I look for pu-erh I’ll definitely look into Verdant and Mandala :)

Awesome! I’m glad you found something that worked :) It’s always sad to get a new tea and not really like it

Login or sign up to post a message.

mrmopar said

try a 15 second wash and a 30 second infusion with a leaf ratio of about half the amount of tea as the water for a 1.5 ratio. this is how i do mine and usually get good results. the off taste is usually from a young erh. an older aged cake 5 years or more really makes a difference in flavor. a shu or ripe pu-erh i personally age for two years or more before drinking, most of the new stuff still has that twang to it. a sheng or uncooked would usually benefit from at least 5 years aging. another thing is to allow the tea to breathe or air out a few days before drinking. i usually put mine out for a week before breaking it (cardboard box, out of any sealed packaging that will not let air move). if you don’t mind me asking what year was your tea produced in and who was the tea factory that made it?

Login or sign up to post a message.

mrmopar said

and mandala is an excellent choice i have a few of garret’s teas in my cupboard.

Login or sign up to post a message.

mrmopar said

just followed you. if you are in the us i can send you some older pu if you want. you will have to follow me to do that. if you do look at my cupboard something in it may interest you. sorry just saw you are from florida duuh ok my blonde moment is over now.

Login or sign up to post a message.

Bonnie said

I think it’s a good idea to look under Pu-erh on the Tea’s tab for favorite tea’s and read some reviews. That was helpful to me when I was first looking at what to try. I also love Verdant and want to try some of Mandala’s Pu-erh. (mrmopar knows about Pu-erh too, he’s a collector).

I would not try Verdant’s puerhs, they are way way too expensive & nothing special & are often mislabeled. Mandala teas has some very reasonably priced puerh teas & what you see is what you get. My rec is this one for a cooked puerh

Bonnie said

Odd that the owners are good friends and drink each each other’s puerh. I have never heard a comment like yours before. It’s completely off the wall wrong. Verdant brings the best at a price that IS affordable. Both Mandala and Verdant are great Puerh resources. Ask Garret about Verdant Puerh!

Really?!! I actually read a blog post about it & a lot of people in the puerh community talk about it often. I am sorry if I offended you,if you really like Verdant. Here is the discussion

I did not know they are friends. I do now know either of them. All I know is that Mandala’s price of the tea that i linked to is very good. Just my humble opinion though! I personally do not think Verdant’s prices are affordable. I am surprised you have never heard about this debate with Verdant’s puerh though, i thought many people knew about it – maybe it is just the puerh drinkers i talk too who were angry. Steepster seems to like Verdant so maybe it was just not discussed at all

Hster said

Hi Bonnie,

I am the author of the linked post.

On your statement:
>Verdant brings the best at a price that IS affordable.

06 Bulangs for any factory let alone a low-end one like the mass market Yong Ming Factory simply do not command high prices. $156 would be a 900% markup. I recommend you see what standard prices are at yunnan sourcing, puershop, chawangshop, mandalateas.

humblemumble84 – Thanks for bringing this discussion to Steepster. Garrett’s prices are very reasonable for factory shu and his site practices standard pu-erh vendor transparency with full wrappers- striking when compared against the opacity of Verdant teas.


Bonnie said

“Steepster reviews for Verdant teas are great.”
Ah… Oh… all made around the same period by people who almost exclusively review Verdant teas."
Quote from the blog…………….

So, the opinion of the reviews and reviewers here on Steepster (where you have no followers or reviews) is that the Verdant reviews are either dishonest (staged) or the reviewers know nothing about puerh.
Only your blog TEA BLOG with ‘12’ members is the authority on Puerh, Steepster and Verdant Tea.

I have looked at Yunnan Sourcing for cost…
1. $8.00 50 grams of nuggets with shipping $27.01
(Seems like the cheap isn’t so cheap when the shipping is added in…and then most of what you buy is in LARGER QUANTITIES than most of us non-collectors want to purchase!) For me any many others, this isn’t practical.

You’ve missed the point of how the non-obsessed Pu-erh drinkers buy and drink tea. We want to do business with a good tea company that provides great service, superior tea education. The packaging needs to be in normal ready to drink quantities. Most people who go to the Verdant site don’t buy a brick of puerh.
If I was a serious puerh collector, David Duckler would have me talk to his friend Garrett at Mandala who has a larger quantity of Puerh than the current 7 offered by Verdant.

You’ve also missed the point of tea community. Hospitality. How can you come into our ‘Steepster’ house and insult us without being a participant. How can you insult the integrity of people you don’t know?

I invite you to become a part of Steepster and get to know us. Write reviews and let us know what you think about the puerh’s you love.

I’m the grandmother here. I have experience in food and wine which I’ve brought to the world of tea. I live alone on disability in Colorado (came from Northern California 2 years ago) and love (and defend) the Steepster community!
I hope you join in. This is an amazing group of people!
I don’t like every tea I drink or every tea that is reviewed, but David Duckler taught me to look for the good in every tea and that’s what I try to do.

Hster said


Your quote from my blog is made by a commentor which should be fairly mentioned. Google Analytics and blogger stats tell me I have had 20,000 hits since I restarted blogging in May with readers from 64 countries and 650 cities. This would indicate I have more than 12 readers- those stats represents a wider readership from the pu-erh community than is currently on Steepster.

On Verdant Tea’s “superior tea education”, please note pu-erh compressed into a disk shape is most commonly referred to as a beeng. Rectangular shapes are called bricks(Zhuancha) and bricks tend to be lower quality than beengs.

We pu-erh drinkers have a highly hospitable generous community of our own where we actively exchange ideas and teas. We strive to take an objective approach to tea. I highly recommend MarshalN’s excellent tea blog:


Hster said

Verdant Tea drinkers may also be interested in this post on teachat where a link to a 06 Tiandiren Bulang is provided for $11 by U.S. vendor

This Bulang is clearly not prohibitively expensive to import as stated by th Verdant Tea Pu’er Reserve Project. Tiandiren is a massive factory catering to the low end market of Chinese consumers.

If I posted that I saw a $7 Clos Du Bois Chardonnay in Asia selling at a wineshop for $156 and wine drinkers are better buying wine at other shops where the up charge is in the 200-300% range, I’d doubt I’d get this kind of controversy. There is no need to have the actual price of a 2006 sheng be shrouded in such mystery.


Hey Bonnie,

I just want to say that I don’t think Steepster is a bad community at all, I like many people here. You are right, not everyone wants to buy bricks!! But I wanted to respond to your comment that you want to do business with a good tea company that provides great service, superior tea education. I AGREE! But, in my humble opinion, Mandala tea and Verdant tea are very different from each other.

Mandala tea sells puerh teas at a fair market price, but Verdant does not. If you check many online vendors for Mandala teas prices, they are about the same as the market price. If you check for something like Tiandiren that Hster mentioned, the Verdant price is WAY HIGHER than the market price, and it is written as a ‘seven cake production’ that was ‘scouted by Mr.D’. Tiandiren is not expensive or special tea, you can search it anywhere, and it is a factory, and in no way a ‘limited production’. It is produced in very very large batches!! and sold for only a few dollars!!

In my opinion, that is NOT great service! I understand that it is a business, but taking very average tea and marking up the price and calling it ‘7 cake edition’ or ‘workshop productions’ is not a service i want!! It is dishonest! I value honesty and do not want to be lied to.

Bonnie said

I think that Steepster has never been a place that promotes this type of discussion and I am not going to participate. This is all hearsay and not fact. You are part of Steepster but Hster is not. I have reported that person to Jason as malicious. No reviews, not followers or following or tea’s? Why is this person here and slamming one company? It stinks. If I were you, I’d enjoy Steepster and let us decide for ourselves what tea’s we buy. It’s not your business.

Hster said


humblemumble84 and I are reporting our findings from factual internet price comparisons. I’ve literally spent thousands of hours looking at pu-erh prices on numerous vendor sites, ebay, and taobao and both my blog post and the teachat Tiandiren post are based on actual current market price comparisons.

You will find virtually all tea forums cover pu-erh prices vs. value of tea as a normal topic of discussion.

You only need to produce concrete evidence that the two 2006 YongMing Bulang and the Tiandiren Bulang that is being represented as premium sheng worth over $150+ is not the budget sheng that is being sold for $11-20 on the internet.


Bonnie, I just thought I’d drop you several lines for I think you’re not doing the best think writing the things you do.
a) I have another eponymous steepster profile with some followers and posts (which I do not update as I found that the rating system of steepster makes little to no sense and all the people who are interested in my thoughts are reading my blog), so you might listen to me.

b) The point of authority is that it is natural – not gained through writing many posts or having many followers. Also, if you read Hster’s post about restarting her blog, you’ll quickly see she’s well respected by the most important puerh blog people, thus, her transitive impact will be quite high. The blog following feature is not that often used and the number of people reading a blog will be many times higher than that.

c) You are not really consistent. You write all that stuff about being hospital, steepster being a friendly community, etc., while you sound extremely hateful and reluctant to listen at the same time. Why? You say that Hster is schooling you – what she does is called >>argumentation<<. What >>you<< do is schooling (mocking her about the number of followers, stinking, not needing her, wanting to cause trouble, being a snob,…).

d) As I see it, you just do not reply to simple reasoning. Why? Instead of discussing the matter at some higher-than-mud level, you mud it in insults and fake welcoming (fake, unless you suffer from heavy bipolar disorder which made you switch your mood in the middle of your post). Hster, as I see it, did nothing to insult you or Steepster, thus there is little reason for your behavior I believe.

e) “Verdant brings the best at a price that IS affordable” – oh indeed? How do you know that? Right, you have 436 taste notes, maybe 50-100 of them are about tea and about 10-20 about puerh? I did not really read through all the scented hay things so these numbers are a guess based on several pages I did read. You had little or none tea from companies respected by the blogger world – and there are many such companies. The bottom line is – you can not say something is the best if you know so little.

f) “How can you come into our ‘Steepster’ house and insult us without being a participant.” – pray, show us the insult. I do not see any. On the other hand, I see at least five insults from you.

g) “I have reported that person to Jason as malicious.” – just super, that’s really a constructive discussion from you. Someone has brain, let’s get rid of him, eh?

h) “is is not the forum for this kind of activity. We write about tasting tea and that is all.” – oh, right, so you are the ultimate steepster judge for what is appropriate? And why is that? Because you wrote 300 posts about pseudo-tea (I guess I broke your “what a snob” therometer now :( )

Please, try to cool down and read the discussion again. I guess you will see that your verbal attacks were not needed and that if you chose a simple discussion over insults, this whole unpleasantry did not have to happen.
Malicious Jakub

Folks, just take it to a new discussion thread. This one was for providing tips to a new pu’erh drinker on how to prepare and enjoy it. At this point, it’s been thoroughly hijacked by this tangent on whether or not Verdant is a “good” pu’erh seller, and now personal attacks. Please just stop.

If you want to talk about what makes a good or bad pu’erh seller – and which companies you’d put on each list – go make a thread for it! I would be interested in that discussion. Especially if it’s more articulate than “I like this company” and “Well you’re wrong, that’s a bad company to like” (which is what I saw happening here).

To anyone else who’s been waiting for this to die down, I apologize if I’ve prolonged the agony.

darby select said

WOW, I’m with Bonnie here. I am VERY offended at your take on Verdant and its reviewers. All my reviews have been authentic. I have never had a bad tea from them. If you knew David (and his team) at all you would know he does this because he loves tea and wants to share it with everyone. I have NEVER EVER felt that he is about the money at all! I have also talked with Garrett and he is very nice an informative. They are friends and that should tell you something.

Login or sign up to post a message.

Login or sign up to leave a comment.