Hello from the Midwest! And, finally diving into Pu-erh!

Hello, All!

Some of may know me, and yet most of you probably don’t, but for various reasons I haven’t been active out here for over a year; yet, now that I have a little more energy around writing (I haven’t written much at all for about as long), I hope to be more active. I am writing this because I have missed all of you (I often think of you all when preparing and drinking Tea) and I hope to be able to reconnect with some of you, and I look forward to opportunities to connect with new Tea lovers.

I still love green tea as much as ever (and hope to share some new finds with you all sometime soon), but after discovering the joy and wonders of drinking loose tea over three years ago, I finally decided to take the plunge into exploring the subtle mysteries of the class of tea I understand one can spend a lifetime in dedication to: Pu-erh!
I recently bought a very simple (and cute) little 11oz Yixing, and have “boiled” it (so as to clean it) and today plan to finally “season” it. I have thirteen different Pu-erhs sitting in front of me right now (mostly samples I have collected and held onto throughout the last few years), and am in the process of deciding which one to begin seasoning my pot with.

In part, I am writing this (and decided to post) with the goal of flushing out what tea to first season my pot with, as I understand that will impact the flavor of the teas I brew in my Yixing going forward (I plan to use it to only brew Pu-erh in it). I recently bought a Pu-erh tea assortment sampler for Teavivre and look forward to trying those; most of the rest of my samples are little 5 gram touchas, many of which I don’t think I could buy again. I do have one 25 gram sample from Yunnan Sourcing (2012 “Chen Xiang” aged Raw pu-erh of Wu Liang Mountain), but as its raw, my understanding is I should let it age for awhile yet before brewing? The only pu-erh that I have more than a sample of is a bunch of mini touchas I got from SpecialTeas over three years ago (I think I have about 8 oz of it). I tried it once before (years ago), and it seems like a basic toucha, and now that I have had it for three years, and has aged some, I that believe will mellow the flavor; as I hope to brew it often, I am thinking I may start with that one.

Still, first I am going to brew the SpecialTeas mini toucha in a simple ceramic teapot, just to see what I think of the flavor before using it to season my Yixing.

Any suggestions about what pu-erh is the best one—from my current stash—to season my pot with?

34 Replies

I don’t have any suggestions as I’m a complete newbie here.. Just became interested in loose leaf very late last year and joined Steepsters in November.

I would like to extend a “Welcome Back”! I wish you well with your first Pu-erh experiences with your Yixing. I look forward to hearing how your experiences go with it.

I too am in the Midwest :) Hope you are staying warm!

Thank you for your well wishes. I will let you all know how it goes.

Yes, I am staying warm, although, I honestly enjoy the cold weather, in part because drinking tea is more meaningful to me when it’s cold out!

It’s good to hear from other “newbies” like you, even if you have no suggestions about pu-erh. There are so few people in my daily life that truly appreciate the wonders of loose-leaf tea.

I don’t mind the cold myself too much either, but it’s been unseasonably so this year…Brr!

I’m not sure what I’m going to do come summer since this is my first season drinking much tea. I used to have the occasional cup during fall & winter months, but now several a day. Summer at my house has always been iced tea w/fresh spearmint, but we may explore more things this year.

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looseTman said

Hi Joe,

Since you have a Pu-erh tea assortment sampler from Teavivre, you may wish to contact Angel Chen for her expert recommendations.

mrmopar is a big pu-erh fan. You may wish to review his pu-erh tea ratings – http://steepster.com/mrmopar/teas?sort=rating

Also, check out this very informative thread – http://steepster.com/discuss/5496-pu-erh-of-the-day-sheng-or-shou?page=1

Other very helpful pu-erh suppliers:
- Garret – http://steepster.com/Mandala at Mandala Tea – http://steepster.com/Mandala%20Tea
- Nicholas at Misty Peak Teas – http://steepster.com/mistypeakteas
- Scott at Yunnan Sourcing – http://steepster.com/scottwilson
- David at Verdant – http://steepster.com/verdanttea

Other links:
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sis4GYHqo_Y
- http://verdanttea.com/how-to-season-yixing/

Hi looseTman,

Good suggestion to contact Angel. I have communicated with her before, and she always has been very helpful.

I also appreciate the other recommendations. A plan to look into them (I already viewed a great video of David at Verdant Tea demonstrating how to season a Yixing).

mrmopar said

Thanks looseTman! SimpliciTea I just followed you and you should do the same for me if you wish. I like puerh almost too much if there is such a thing. There is a discussion puerh of the day that you may want to subscribe to also. Let me know if you need help on where to purchase, who from or in the case of Menghai Dayi products which are “faked” a lot I can probably help you out. Sammerz314 and Tperez and DigniTea are good ones for puerh also.

mrmopar Thank you for the offer of your help on Pu-erh, and for the suggestions. I plan to take this “relationship” slow, as I don’t have lots of time to devote to it. It took me three years to get as far as buying a Yixing! I plan to work with the tea and the teapot I have for now, and when I feel satisfied with that, and ready for more, I hope to slowly try other Pu-erhs (and perhaps, purchase a smaller and better, Yixing). I’ll likely try a few other Pu-erhs from Yunnan Sourcing (I plan to buy some green tea from them this spring, and I’ll probably try a few Pu-erh samples as well). And if I like the ones from Teavivre, I may also buy more from them.

For now, I am simply excited to be stepping (however lightly) into the world of Pu-erh!

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looseTman said

Agreed, Angel is wonderful. You’re welcome. Yes, David Duckler’s yixing video is very helpful. From your initial post I wasn’t sure if you’d seen it. Do you have a picture of your yixing?

looseTman I love birds, and appreciate your picture of the nuthatch (admittedly, I had to check your profile to verify what it was).

Here is a like to the Yixing: http://www.tryeh.com/images/0525.jpg

Simple, yet elegant.

looseTman said

“Simple, yet elegant.” Agreed, a classic style yixing.

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boychik said

SimpliciTEA , i think 11oz yixing is a huge pot for gong fu. Puerh usually steeped in a small pots,few sec, multiple infusions

boychik: I’m with you on the size. It was my impression that my teapot was on the large size. I had a hard time finding any in the city I live in, so I checked online, but ultimately decided, for many reasons (buy local, avoid shipping cost/problems, etc.), not to go that route. Luckily I found a local shop that sold them. This one was the best fit for me, so I bought it. I look at this as a kind of ‘starter’ Yixing (I only pay about $25 USD for it), that way, I can get my feet wet by using it, and if I make any mistakes, oh well; I’d rather use a cheaper rather than expensive Yixing to learn on—I don’t want to pay too much for one, only to make a mistake in seasoning it, or whatever.

Plus, being of a generally ‘Western’ mindset, I haven’t quite got past (or, more honestly ‘chosen’ to get past) that whole notion of using tiny amounts of water to steep my tea in. 11 OZ is a lot smaller than the other teapots I have, so I look at this as is a step in the right direction, meaning: smaller teapots are better.

I see you have a logged a number of Pu-erh teas. I look forward to reading your tasting notes.

boychik said

Im new to Puerh, started like 4 months ago. Im addicted. I still dont have yixing. i have numerous gaiwans and small glass pots like 200ml which are extremely good in brewing. they are very inexpensive. some i bought on ebay, glass pots added another 2 recently from Davids Tea,like $8 on sale. i like to brew some side by side, so very often like 3 pu a day. easy to clean, you dont have to dedicate to some certain. if you brew that much it gets cold by the time you finish the pot and you have to use much more leaves. for instance, i use 5-7g for 180-200 ml. my steeps usually like 10-15 sec for shu, and 5sec for sheng. im not an expert, just learning:)

boychik: I’m with you on this: “if you brew that much it gets cold by the time you finish the pot and you have to use much more leaves.” I currently have lots of cold tea sitting in various cups on the table because I brewed so much! Oh well, learning the hard way (though experience) is the best way for me to learn.

Eventually I plan to try the shorter steep times, as you mention above, as I understand that is the best way do do it.

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I just completed a series of steeping sessions using four different pu-erh toucha samples over the last two days using my ceramic teapot. As it turns out, it looks like the first three were cooked and the last one, raw. I did two steeping sessions each: 1st: 2.5 mins. boiling; 2nd 5 mins. boiling. I logged them in my tasting notes (I combined the first two in one review : p ).

I can see why it is best to use only one type of pu-erh in a Yixing, either raw or cooked, as they have very different flavor profiles, and I personally wouldn’t want the flavors co-mingling in my Yixing (such that the Yixing clay teapot absorbs the flavors of each tea brewed in them).

Based on this experience, I may go with a raw pu-erh for my Yixing and simply do the cooked pu-erhs in my ceramic (that is, unless I decide to buy a Yixing for the cooked pu-erhs, which is not likely to happen anytime soon).

When deciding which particular pu-erh to season your Yixing with, as I have done here, although it can be very time consuming, I recommend doing steeping sessions with each one in a ceramic pot first (I can’t remember where I heard the suggestion to try steeping a pu-erh in a ceramic first, I think it may have been in the Verdant Tea’s video on how to season a Yixing, or it may have been from Tea Trekker’s website).

Since I like this tea (and I am assuming this is a reasonably good example of what ‘raw’ pu-erh teas are like), and Teavivre’s 2006 Fengqing Raw Pu-erh Tea Tuocha is easily obtainable and affordable ($12.90 for a 100 gram toucha), so far this raw pu-erh is the best candidate for seasoning my new Yixing with.

That’s enough for now.

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mrmopar said

I think you are well on the way in your tea journey. I like Gaiwans for the first taste of a new to me puerh, especially sheng so I can get the flavor profile. When you move up to the point of getting a beeng (Cake) of puerh I will be glad to assist. The beengs have the first choice of leaf by the producers and generally have a lot more nuances to them. I will message you later on some things.

Thanks mrmopar.

I am always open to suggestions. : – )

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Lynxiebrat said

Midwesterner here too! (Michigan) I have tried a few Puerh’s mostly the type that has funky flavors added to them (Like 52 Teas Dreamsicle Puerh) So far, it’s kind of intimidated me because there is so much stuff to learn, but in the next year or so I plan on trying out more Puerh, flavored and not. There is a couple of beautiful and reasonably priced gaiwans at a local Asian grocery store, as a birthday present to myself next month I’ll be getting one, along with a Mr.Bento by Zojirushi (Thermo lunchbox basically.)

mrmopar said

Lynxiebrat puerh is something I like also. Going to follow you and you can follow me if you wish. Puerh is a “journey” I hope to learn some day.


Thank you for posting here.

I find pu-erh a little intimidating as well, that’s why I am taking it S L O W L Y. I only have the time and energy to brew it up it on the weekends. Still, I was telling my wife today that my body feels somewhat cleaner after drinking it, as if it ‘scrubs out my system’ (I read it can be good for digestion).

I am finding I like shou pu-erh a little more than sheng and so plan soon to season my Yixing teapot with some good tasting shou I currently have.

I am glad to hear you have some Asian stores nearby to buy a gaiwan from. I have looked locally but have not found any in my town, so I plan to buy one in my next upcoming order from Yunnan Sourcing (Early this spring).

mrmopar: what is Lynxiebrat puerh? A 52 Teas tea?

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mrmopar said

Oh no meant to say Lynxiebrat, puerh is something I like also. Forgot the comma but that would be a good name for a puerh! :)

Lynxiebrat said

Yes it would! One of these days I am going to see if I can get a tea created with that name, though what it would have in it, I havn’t a clue! Though would more likely be a white tea because those I’ve had the most like/love for.

mrmopar said

Hah, I would love to see what you put in it it.

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I am finding I don’t have the time and energy to post out here often (a couple of times a month, at most), but since I have both the time and energy right now, I decided to post much of what has transpired since I was out here last. : )

The purpose of the following is largely to make notes to myself about the process of ‘diving into puerh’, but for anyone who cares to read, well then …

Awhile back I finally decided to use ripe pu-erh to brew in my Yixing. I have been primarily using the SpecialTeas mini touchas I had on hand, partially because I like them, but mostly because I have more of them than any other other ripe puerh (until a shipment from Yunnan Sourcing came in recently). I have also been steeping all of the ripe puerh tea samples I bought recently from Teavivre, and at least one sample I received from a seller on Taobao.

I am finding (as I do with green tea) I appreciate the puerh that is composed of larger leaf rather than little bits of tea—as my SpecialTeas tuochas are composed of; the larger leaf is less messy, and it all stays in my pot (as I believe most Yixings have, it has a built in strainer at the spout, but when the leaf is in bits I have to use a separate strainer to catch them when pouring the tea into my cup).

I have been washing the tea once (interestingly enough, I read in multiple places it is recommended some teas are to be washed twice), and then steeping it for about 3 to 4 sessions—30, 60, 90, 120 seconds (that few of sessions not because the tea runs out of flavor, but because that’s about all the time and energy I have for it in a day). As least roughly, I guess this method is considered as gongfu?

I recently got a shipment from Yunnan Sourcing; one of the things I have been wanting for YEARS now is a simple, easily usable, reasonable sized, inexpensive gaiwan. Here is the link to it: http://yunnansourcing.com/en/gaiwans/1812-bone-china-white-ru-yi-easy-gaiwan-for-gong-fu-tea-brewing-150ml.html So far, I am very happy with it. And just today, I noted that I believe I can tell the difference in flavor between using the gaiwan and the Yixing: I may actually do a side-by-side comparison soon, but it seems that the SpecialTeas toucha has a fuller taste when brewed in my Yixing than when brewed in the gaiwan. If true, that certain shows me that benefit of investing the time and energy in a Yixing!

I got my first tea cake in this order as well, and oh, I am sooooo excited about it! I can’t wait to try it! I got other things I am excited about in this order that I may choose to share in another thread.

Overall, I am excited about all the possibilities that will spring up while walking along the Tea path with puerh!

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boychik said

Thank you for sharing your progress with us. I love this gaiwan, I have the same. What cake did you pick? How long it took for you to get your order? I placed my first order recently so was wondering.

Glad to read you have the same gaiwan!

This is the ripe cake I received in my recent order:

I also got some ripe mini tuochas in that order:

And, here are three more puerh teas I just ordered (two ripe, one raw):

I choose to get by on an extremely limited budget (called “Voluntary Simplicity”), and so I have to watch what I pay for tea VERY CAREFULLY. So, price-wise, I usually start from the bottom and then work my way up. I am willing to pay for good tea (in small amounts), but initially I like to give the least expensive teas a try. All that to say, I am trying Yunnan Sourcing’s cheapest puerh first.

In terms of how long it took for my order, I chose China Post SAL and it took about three weeks (website says 3 – 5 weeks) from the day I ordered to when it arrived. I am happy with that time frame, as the shipping is much cheaper than the shipping where I get it in a week or less.

This last order was my third shipment from them (with a forth in process), and in general I am happy with how things have gone with shipping (items are always well wrapped; in the last order I bought three tea-ware items, all of which were intact when they arrived). Even with the cost of shipping included (not comparing with buying from Taobao through a Taobao agent), for an English friendly/language website I have found that they have some of the best prices for tea on the web (the price per value is yet to be determined, though).

What puerh related items/tea did you order from them?

mrmopar said

I would sit on that dian hong for a year to let the flavor develop. It will really open up in a year or two. You could sample it now and make a note and re sample in a year. Just write a note and put it in the wrapper and you will never lose it.

Thanks, mrmopar, I was thinking it would be best to sit on that one after trying it. I am also guessing the same may be true of the raw Sen Zhi Kui. That’s one of the things I am most exited about in my choice to ‘dive into pu-erh’: to experience the subtle changes in the teas over time. Still, it’s strange to me, the concept that the older the better, as the impact of the aging of the tea is somewhat the opposite of green tea, where the fresher the better. I like not having to worry about the whole hurry-up-and-drink-the-tea-before-it-goes-bad thing.

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