Saturday, August 12, 2017

Enjoying Puerh That is Not Good- 2005 Guanzizai YiWu #30 and 2007 Guanzizai “Nanlahe” YiWu

I really enjoy this A Tea Addict’s Journal article fromyears ago about what exactly makes a tea bad.  A tea can be poor for many different reasons- too weak, too strong, no stamina, off taste, off storage, bad Qi, no mouthfeel, harsh dryness, ect… these are just some of the reasons a tea is not a good tea.  You are lucky if a tea is just weak because you can simply add more tea to the pot to usually improve it but for the others you are out of luck and stuck with something sub-par maybe, at worst, undrinkable.

Hopefully, your tea at least is drinkable and there is something to enjoy in it!  Cultivating a mindset of seeing and enjoying the positive aspects of any tea can help with enjoyment of all tea even not so good puerh.  However, we have to be critical of the teas we purchase least we continue to enjoy mediocre tea and fail to get the most for the money we spend on the tea we love.  It is impossible for all teas to be good but yet we should still appreciate the good elements in not so good tea and not just toss them immediately.

The following are two of three GuanZiZai Yiwu raw puerh that Awazon currently has available on their website.  The GuanZiZai I chose not to order is an Autumnal puerh and is the only one of the three that has been somewhat favorably reviewed online.  Yunnan Sourcing still orders new cakes to this day from this smaller and affordable YiWun factory apparently ran by the older brother of the owner of Yong Pin Hao puerh factory.  There is a wonderful blog post here about the deep meaning of GuanZiZai that I also recommend.

Okay lets get to it…

I was really excited about this puerh and it was the first cake I tired on my first order from Awazon  that arrived a month or two ago.  The dry cake just looks and smells like my kind of puerh and I have always wanted to try some of the Guanzizai brand.

The barely redish, fat, dry leaf smells of deep, rich and very sweet smelling.  They develop a meat like sweetness as they are put into warm yixing.  I really pack them in good to push this aged tea hard.

The first is a meaty, smokey, salty tasting tea with a slow to develop mouthfeel that slowly and softly creeps to the throat.  It finishes slightly smokey with a base of slight soft sour bitterness.  The mouthfeel is quite full and the mouth develops a slight chock-like feel, the tongue a slight dryness.  It is immediately apparent that this tea has strength as my stomach cringes, slightly uncomfortable under the power of this tea.  My mind is immediately ultra aware and sharp… meditate.

The second pushes out rounder tastes but the smokiness of this tea is definitely its main note.  No high notes can be found in these first infusions this is a deep, rough, strong tea.  Wait there it is minutes after swallowing there is a very slight coolness with suggestions of sweetness, barely.

The third infusion brings us a slower to evolve, trying to be softer, taste but is overwhelmed by this teas harsh smokey character.  The mouthfeel is very full and coats the whole mouth but lacks a thickness to it.  I think I was a little over zealous with the amount of leaf and remove about half from the pot in an attempt to curb the strength of this tea.

The weaker fourth infusion has slight suggestions of sugar cane over harsh stronger smokey bitterness.  This Kunming dry stored 12 year tea is far removed from any resemblance of YiWu with a bitterness of a much younger Bulang tea.  This tea is not ready to drink and hard to enjoy.  On the other hand, there is no off tastes to this tea either it is simply a strong smokey deep tea with very little high notes to balance its strength.  I decide to end the session here and banish this tea for another 10 years.  Removing the leaves from the pot, a strong menthol odour lingers in the air.

I have second thoughts and give this tea another chance a few days later using much less leaf this time but pretty much got the same inevitable outcome- a strong, rough, harshness in taste and feel.

Never has an older brother been so harsh.  At $88.00 for 400g ($0.22/gram), it seems even harsher.  When you have a tea that is too harsh the hope is always that whether its 5 years or 20 years, at some point the tea has to mellow right?  With my dry storage, I’m of the belief it might stay quite undrinkably strong for ever or a very very long time.

Let’s go on to the less imposing of the two…

First, a little recycling of knowledge.  “Nanlehe” or “Nanla” River is located in Mengla Xishuangbanna.  I have never had a puerh from this puerh producing area before.

These dry leaves smell more promising.  They carry a somewhat sweet, subtle perfume sweetness in their long, still hairy, leaves.  At $29.99 for 400g ($0.07/ gram), my expectations are lowered.

When rinsing a sweet “rou gui” (cinnamon) odour is emitted from the pot.

The first infusion is surprisingly light with soft notes of floral sweetness and a very mild returning sweetness.  The mouthfeel is full but thin.  This tea is a gentle one and rewards the mouth with a soft returning sweetness.  The qi of this tea is immediately sedating and relaxing.

In the second infusion some stronger more astringent vegetal notes emerge in the front of the mouth while the subtle creamy sweetness is pushed into the back of the mouth and resides even more in the aftertaste.  The second infusion starts to contain some very familiar hints of its harsher 2005 production in the overall feel in the body.

The third infusion tastes of quite standard vegetal puerh tastes with an overall very thin mouthfeel.  The sweet notes have dropped off almost completely in the initial taste and now just linger in the thin aftertaste.  The mouthfeel has become slightly harsh and dry.

The fourth is even more watery.  This tea lacks strength and depth and is overall a very simple puerh tea and should be enjoyed as such.  The highlight of this tea is its deep-ish relaxing, nice qi.  The stomach doesn’t really love this tea though and is a touch harsh on the digestive system.

The fifth infusion is of barely sweet water with scant hints of fruit underneath.  There are almost unnoticeable hints of faint cinnamon that appear and disappear quickly.  This tea has very little stamina.  It is what its price suggests no more and no less...  and so I enjoy it like this for at least a few more infusions with a relaxed mind.

I wrap both of these teas up and vow to not open them up in many many years.  Each had similar and yet very different flaws.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Introducing Laomane Menghai Banzhang Factory: 2006 Laomane Menghai Banzhang Factory “Banzhang Wang” Banzhang Ancient Arbor and 2006 Laomane Menghai Banzhang Factory “Banzhang Wang” Laomane Ancient Arbour

Is there anyone out there reading this that has ever heard of Laomane Menghai Banzhang Factory? This factory has been around for a little while and is located in the puerh producing village of Laomane (aka Laomaner).  Location, location, location.  This factory has undoubtedly benefited from being located and by primarily pressing cakes from the Banzhang area.  Their selection of puerh includes lots from this trendy area.  It seems to include very factory/ plantation like productions as well as old arbour pressings from this area.  King Tea Mall has a wideselection to look at if anyone is interested.

I acquired these two cakes together in a recent order fromAwazon.  I paid $59.00 for 400g($0.15/gram) for the Banzhang and $21.95 for the 357g ($0.06/gram) Laomane.  A few days after ordering there was a big “Sold Out” marker on these two.

Let’s first try the 2006 LaomanE Menghai Factory “Banzhang Wang” Banzhang Ancient Arbour…

Large dry leaves have an airy soft and creamy floral smell to them with a very slight suggestion of smoke.

First, is a light slightly smokey, slightly creamy taste with nice soft mouthfeel in a sour soup.  The throat is opened but not overly activated by the liquor.  There are faint suggestions of cherry hidden in all of this.  This first infusion is a ghostly one.  The mouthfeel slowly layers itself on with each cup.  Very slight cherry tastes are left in the mouth along with barely floral suggestions.  The cha qi almost immediately sharpens the senses.

The second infusion has more vegetal notes as well as smoke in there.  The mouthfeel really stacks itself to the point where it is nicely thick.  It holds some tastes of barely sweet cherry and even more fleeting floral.  A very mild coolness develops in the throat.  There is a soft astringency and sourness that comes in as well.

The third infusion shows slights of slight, crisp juicy cherry tastes up front the slight smokiness is pushed to the middle and there is a faint fruity floral lingering in the breath.  The smokey taste is the dominant taste in this tea with the fruit and floral at the edges.  This infusion has a stronger perfume and fruity onset.

The cherry fruit and slightly floral taste slowly gains momentum in this tea.  In the fourth infusion it is more obvious still.  The cha qi is quite relaxing and focusing on the mind.  I can feel the energy gingerly sauntering around my body as well.

The fifth and sixth is much the same a nice crisp pop of fruity cherry slight florals then soft smoke then a slight returning fruit flavor.

The seventh infusion the smokiness is gone and the fruit and floral are left behind.  This tea is a nice slow moving tea that feels like it will last many many infusions with quick infusions.  Overall the taste and qi is not standoffish and is very unpretentious.  The leaves have lots of stamina. 

The eighth has some honey and florals in there now with less fruit.  The ninth has lots of honey floral tastes.  To me the long stamina and changing flavor of this tea confirms its arbour/ non plantation status.

Ten, eleven, twelve push out a nice floral taste in a decent soft mouthfeel with still a cooling throat feel.  This tea can be steeped a long time with nice floral taste in a soft and juicy mouthfeel with barely cooling in the throat.

Overall, this tea is believably Banzhang and possibly at least some arbour material.  Overall, I like the tea and it is different than any others I have ever had before.  I guess most people don’t get to test lots of 11 year Banzhang?  LaoBanzhang puerh was a rarity in Korea and most of what I’ve sampled in the past were great examplesof 1-5 years old LaoBanZhang.  I have never purchased any LaoBanzhang bings in the past so overall this is new territory for me.

Ok let’s change gears just a little and try some of the 2006 LaomanE Menghai Banzhang Factory “Banzhang Wang” LaomanE Ancient Arbour…

Dry leaves smell of strong, vibrant, pungent floral and sour fruit.

First infusion presents with a thick floral front with a sweet creamy sweet edge and nice harmonious coolness in the throat.  There are some juicier and watery edges to the taste that appear more as well.  The mouthfeel is slightly sticky and fairly full the sweet creamy florals stay on the breath.  An interaction of fruity notes on the breath minutes later.

In the second the initial floral notes are pronounced and plume and cloud on the breath with an underlying note of creamy fruity sweetness.  There is a barely noticeable bitter vegetal taste underneath.  It finishes with a solid coolness in the throat.

The third is much of the same strong floral display.  The mouthfeel of this tea has a nice chalky consistency.  The qi is somewhat strong in the mind pushing racing thoughts around, simulating, alerting, the body feels it too but is relaxed under the influence of the cha qi.  More of a malty, creamy sweet base starts to present itself now in the layers of chalky mouthfeel.

The fourth and fifth present with many fruit tastes of honeydew melon and honey along with the now secondary floral tastes that expand on the cool aftertaste.  The tea develops some more pronounced slight vegetal notes here that seem to add a further layer nuance to this tea.

The sixth and seventh has slight  flat wood and vegetal base to the mainly dominating floral and sweet honey fruit tastes.  The qi is more relaxing on the mind now- putting it at peace. 

The eighth has floral tastes almost fading away now and some sweetness is left in there too.  Long steeping pushes out mainly drier woody notes with slight bitterness- there doesn’t seem to be much left in the tea after eight infusions.

Overall, these teas could easily be priced 3-4x what I paid for it.  I feel like I got quite a deal from these two and am currently looking at exploring more from Laomane Menghai Banzhang Tea Factory from King Tea Mall in the future.  King Tea Mall lists the 2006 Banzhang at$289.00 per cake which is probably closer to the actual value of a cake of this namesake and age.  If you completely forget the name and just go on the actual taste and feel of this cake is probably closer to double what I paid- still a great deal.
Of the two I really preferred the LaomanE in the initial steepings but the BanZhang had much more stamina and tasted good for many many infusions.  Overall, both of these teas were on the mild end of the spectrum for BanZhang and LaoManE teas.  I think that the Laomane might have a harder time as it ages but the Banzhang has enough to last the long. 
It is my understanding that the LaomanE Menghai Banzhang Tea factory tends to produce puerh that tends to be less strong and more mellow than your typical LaoBanZhang and LaomanE.  It was interesting though to see how potentially BanZhang and LaomanE puerh age because there is not really that much out there for comparison.

It still showed that a tong of these two were available days after I placed my order.  I am left wondering who was that lucky puerh drinker that purchased a tong of these two just days after my purchase?  They really walked away with a deal!  For me I am happy I walked away with a cake of each, I'm not sure if I would have purchased a tong of it anyways.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Bargain Basement Clear-Out Puerh at Awazon

After loading up on mainly semiaged Lincang puerh from Shuangjiang Mengku Factory purchased at Yunnan Sourcing (here, here, and here).  I turned my attention to an often overlooked puerh tea vendor that I have never ordered from before, Awazon (not to be confused with Amazon).  At first I was quite surprised at what I had found there.  I noticed that there were some obvious deals to be had with some of their factory puerh offerings.

I did a bit of internet research and found out that there are very few reviews of Awazon puerh.  Most of what can be found is on TeaChat and Steepster and is not very favorable for the teas but the service and shipping were heavily praised.  This understandably turned many away from this vendor in the past.

However upon looking through Awazon’s selection of puerh I noticed a few cheap factory bings that were given positive reviews by some of the old school puerh bloggers years and years ago.  Also I noticed that they have a large selection of 2004-2008 sheng puerh, just what I’m searching for!

So I place an order of these cakes, a few others that are obvious deals, and a few others that I am just curious about.  It turns out that out of the seven puerh tea cakes I ordered, 4 are the last cakes or sell out within a day or so after ordering (I can’t tell because they don’t show how many are in stock), 2 are not very drinkable right now, and 1 I enjoy and reorder.

Because the first order went surprisingly well I order 5 more different sampler cakes in the reorder. Three out of those 5 are seeming the last ones.

At that point, I feel like something strange is happening here.  It feels a lot like Awazon is simply clearing out their inventory.  7 out of 13 puerh that I ordered are last cakes.  It seems like they are maybe selling off their own last cakes that they were holding on to or maybe it is just a coincidence and their inventory was not that deep to begin with but it is really really odd.  And the price of the puerh seems at the low end of the puerh’s actual value.  Have you ever been to a clearance sale that is just filled with last items that the seller just marks down to get rid of them (or in this case just doesn’t raise the price in years)?  It sort of feels like this is what is happening at Awazon.

It looks like Awazon is long past its prime and has little stock left.  It seems like a business of just selling off remaining stock without engaging too much in restocking new young puerh.  I think the increase of puerh prices throughout the years may have impacted the business model of Awazon which is focused mainly on affordable puerh.  Its just a guess but its plausible given my ordering history with them.

The puerh tea for sale at Awazon is a real mind field to navigate, probably another reason it isn’t frequented by Westerners.  First you have to watch out for all the autumn pressings, there are tons of that stuff on Awazon.  Almost all of their cakes are Autumn and some them say they are spring but are actually Autumn as well!  Also because many of the cakes are simply priced so low and are still available you have to expect that these are not the cream of the crop- those ones are long gone.  Check expectations reasonably.  But even worse is the fact that you just know that there will be some cakes in there that are just undrinkable.  So the whole exercise of buying some of these Awazon cakes is a gamble at best.

But when you have very little puerh in stock and you are just looking for some everyday drinkers the risk seems calculated.  So far I think I have done quite well in this gambling act which has left me with an interesting selection of decent, dry Kunming stored, affordable, everyday drinkers.

Expect a thorough reporting in the coming weeks and months.  Who knows there might even be some goodies left for you when I’m done?


Thursday, August 3, 2017

"Puerh Tea Is The Black Hole of Tea"

I have a phrase when it comes to puerh that my tea drinking friends have all heard before...

"Puerh tea is the black hole of tea"

It is a true mystery.  It sucks you in slowly but surely.  If you really really love tea, it is only a matter of time before it sucks you in too.  Its complexity and mystery and evolving nature makes it hard to understand and comprehend.  But yet we try tirelessly to describe it and to predict what its going to do next.

Puerh tea is truly the black hole of all tea.


Friday, July 28, 2017

Same Tea Different Years 2013 & 2014 Shuangjiang Mengku “Sprit of Tea”

I purchased a sample of these two with my tong of 2008 WildArbour King cakes and a 2008 Nan Jian 912 cake.  An interesting thing to note is that when Yunnan Sourcing has a sale on a certain puerh, not only does the whole item go on sale but also the samples as well.  I usually don’t care to purchase samples unless I am sure that I would probably never buy the actual cake.  Basically, I sample for education purposes only.  If I think I might like the puerh, I usually just take the plunge and purchase the whole cake, brick, or tuo.  I think this is opposite than most of my readers… hahaha.

I decided to pick up a few samples of some common Shuangjiang Mengku cakes that didn’t exist when I was heavy into my puerh drinking.  One of these “newer” regular productions is the “Spirit of Tea” cake.

"Spirit of Tea" is the most premium regular production that was produced by Mengku Rongshi since 2009. It is entirely wild arbor tea! (link)

Let us try the 2013 first…

Dry leaves smell of fresh distant fruit and hay.

First infusion starts with strong sour tones which turn to powdery ice sugar like tastes in the mouth.  The mouthfeel feels full, soft and powdery.  The aftertaste is reasonably round and sweet.

The second infusion starts sour again then transitions to more of a dry woody and vegetal taste.  The aftertaste is slight cooling and ice sugar sweetness.  The wood note is carried throughout the profile of this tea.  The mouthfeel remains fairly full and powdery.  Minutes later there are some floral notes that come out in the aftertaste and linger on the breath.

The third has a more pronounced floral sweetness up front.  The sweetness evolves into that creamy cherry fruit sweetness.  This infusion is full of different layers of sweet tastes floral sweetness, creamy cherry and dragon fruit sweetness and mild barely sugary sweetness on the aftertaste.  The qi of this tea is relaxing with a mild floating feeling in the head.

The fourth infusion has more of these sweet tastes blended into each other.  It is more cohesive than previous infusions.  A creamy cherry sweetness dominates the profile.  The mouthfeel is chalky enough to hold these tastes and let them evolve in the mouth.  On the breath is an interesting play of florals and fruits minutes later.

The fifth infusion shows some watery melon and white grape notes up front before turning into subtle florals and layered sweetness.

The sixth infusion has more creamy full icing surgery sweetness in the profile with an slight drier wood taste sneaking up.

The seventh infusion has less of a lighter profile but is still quite light.  A mild vegetal sourness shows up but as does some interesting tropical fruit and icing surgary tastes.  These tastes show on the breath even minutes later.

The next batch of infusions are pushed stronger to yield floral and creamy surgary taste that mainly appears in the aftertaste.  This tea has decent stamina for yielding light tastes.  The sugery floral taste is evident even minutes later.

This tea has nice stamina and can carry these flavours for many infusions.  If it is pushed too hard at the end overly sour notes come out.

This is a $72.00/ 500g cake ($0.14/gram).

Dry leaves smell of strong licorice root and distant sweet fruit with a slight hay edge.

The first infusion is a nice round buttery, creamy taste with a slight edge of sourness and a slight buttery floral in the aftertaste.  There is a citrus/ lime note that appears last on the breath as well as a mild surgary taste.

The second infusion has some creamy sweetness mixed with slight bitter and more sour notes.  It has a creamy longer aftertaste and slight cooling surgery taste on the breath.

The third infusion is much the same with the creamier sweeter notes more apparent and long.  The mouthfeel is slightly stimulating effect that is mainly found in the mouth.

The fourth infusion is much the same.  This 2014 still is more on the youthful side and carries a sour taste as a result.

The fifth and sixth infusions have even a more turbid bitterness and slight sourness over the slight creamy sugary simple tastes.  A mild floral taste is left on the breath with a very faint cooling.  Most of the profile is bitter/sour with very little play of interesting top notes.  The mouthfeel remains thin in the mouth.  The qi of this tea is mild, a slight lightness in the legs and arms.  It is still young enough that it gives off a slight rawness in the stomach.

The seventh has more of a turbid/ rubber taste to it.  It has a vegetal floral aroma on the breath that lingers.  There are some interesting tastes that attempt to push through minutes later.

The eighth the sour and bitter start to dissipate under still short infusion times and a dry slightly flat base taste delivers faint florals and barely surgery sweetness.

The ninth infusion becomes flat with a slight floral aftertaste.  This tea is infused another handful of times and still manages to hold on to some of that slight floral aftertaste.

The difference between the 2013 and 2014 is notable.

The 2013 Sprit of Tea has not only much fuller mouthfeel but it also has a more vibrant taste to it.  They both have good stamina and at least something worthwhile can be had for many infusions a good indicator of wild arbour.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

2008 Nan Jian 912, Aging Wuliang Puerh and Breaking Into Iron Bings

I threw in a cake of this one to sample in my order of 2008Wild Arbour King cakes from Yunnan Sourcing a few months back.  It was (and still is) selling for $40.00 for a 400g ($0.10/gram)cake but was included in the 12% sale at the time (by pure coincidence a 10% off sale is on now).  This cake is a popular, cheap everyday drinker in the West.  It is certified organic, iron pressed, composed of Wuliang/Lincang materials. This cake has been stored in Guangdong most of its life before heading to Yunnan Sourcing’s drier Kunming storage.

I am a fan of iron bings.  I like how the aged and semi-aged iron bings taste.  They seem to age slower and have a mix of aged taste as well as some retained youthful qualities from the tight compression.  They also give an old school kind of feeling to them and are often slightly stronger tasting cakes that are often a touch bitter.  It would be interesting to see one of the newer trendier producers offer an iron bing cake.  This cake was stored in wetter storage so I’m expecting more of a noticeable dichotomy than usual here.

I have developed a method to remove the leaves of iron bing cakes without hassle.  Basically, I just angle the whole bing at a 45 degree angle on a very hard surface and apply force.  The leaves come off pretty easily.

Personally, I am not always convinced that tea will get better with more age.  I remember Mr. Kim telling me that sometimes aged tea is best after 8-10 years.  Then will decline.  I think this is especially true for puerh that tends to be more fragrant with a mellow flavor.  I feel that Wuliang puerh fits this description. I have very nice full tasting and vibrant Wuliang from 2011 but I have been drinking it lately not aging it further for this reason.  I believe it should only be aged long enough so the rawness and ill effects of fresh sheng are reduced- then it is best consumed.  I guess only time will tell.  Let’s try out this Wuliang/Lincang from probably the most famous of Wuliang factories- Nan Jian Tulin Tea Factory…

Dry leaves smell of old wetter storage- a meatier smell with very little in the way of fragrant high notes.

The first infusion has a watery, bland, not quite sweet and juicy, taste in the mouth.  There is some suggestions of melon fruit before quickly disappearing in the mouth.  There is a faint, almost floral, mild cooling aftertaste.

The second infusion starts with a stronger profile of mild tobacco and leather over a slight bitter astringent vegetal taste.  There is a bean taste in there as well then a slight suggestion of sweet fruit before a soft/ mild cooling appears.  This infusion is over a thin, slightly dry mouthfeel.

The third has slight melon fruity taste over a significant slight tobacco, leather and slight bitter vegetal taste. The cooling aftertaste is just slight.  Minutes later nice rock sugar tastes well as distant floral mildly present themselves.  There is very little throat feel but rather a thin, slightly drying astringent mouthfeel which coats the mouth and makes the teeth feel sticky.

The fourth infusion is much the same as the second.  The long tobacco/ leather and slight bitter vegetal tastes dominate the profile of this tea over only mild suggestions of something more complex and subtle.

The fifth infusion has more of a watery slight juicy fruit feel but it is still dominated but tobacco, leather and slight bitter astringent vegetal taste.  The mild cool aftertaste remains.

The sixth and seventh and eighth infusions are more subtle in taste with a slight crisper cooling sweetness trying to unsuccessfully push through the deeper base tastes.  The taste remains very stable.  This tea can be steeped for many more infusions and yield basically the same simple tastes.  It has durability on its side. The qi of this tea is mild alerting and slightly relaxing- very standard qi.  It is totally uncomplicated and changes very little from infusion to infusion.  Its taste and feel is simple, reliable, and predictable.  It is totally drinkable and there is no off taste or chemical feeling but it just isn’t that interesting.  There is a simple honesty about this cake and for those who like the flavors and this type of storage I can see how it could be an everyday drinker for them.  For $40.00 you are mainly paying for the storage and age of this cake.  I can’t see myself buying another.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Advice On Buying Fresh Sheng Puerh, 2008 Mengku Shuangjiang Wild Arbour King And Catching Up With The Ones That Got Away

Have you ever sampled a puerh, liked it, but by the time you go to buy it’s sold out?  Of course you have, its happened to all of us.  You never forget it do you?  But have any of you had a chance to buy that same cake 9 years later?  This is a story about making wrongs right again…

I have a long history with this cake.  In fact, I wrote a review post on it when it first came out 9 years ago here (link).  I was given a generous sample by a man who taught me almost everything I knew about tea at that time, my teamaster if you wish to call him that.  I call him Mr. Kim.  This was one of the wholesale cakes that Mr.Kim brought into his shop for sale in 2008.

I spent many hours in my week sitting cross-legged drinking tea at Mr. Kim’s table talking, discussing, and learning about tea.  In Korea this means Korean tea, Japanese matcha, and (Chinese) sheng puerh tea almost exclusively.  Mr. Kim taught me a lot.  One of the most important things he taught me about puerh was his advice on purchasing fresh sheng puerh (which I haven’t done for years and years now).  He said that the puerh should have a full feeling in the mouth and especially the throat, it should feel good in the body now and make you feel good, it should be something that you could enjoy now not something that was so strong and bitter that you would have to age to consume, and it should be to your liking regardless of what others think about the tea.  If it is a quality sheng its taste will also develop and change throughout the gongfu session and through many many steepings.

I feel like this is really good advice and has done my puerh collection well over all these years.  This advice might seem obvious to some now but back in the mid-2000s it was contrary to the mainstream belief that a puerh should be bitter and strong to age well.  I know there are lots of people out there sitting on tones of bitter, harsh puerh that is hard on their body, that they never really enjoyed and that isn’t aging so well in dry storage- so I am grateful for this early advice.

When I first tried Mr. Kim’s sample back in 2008 it didn’t quite meet all the purchasing criteria for me.  Check out my first impressions here.  For me it had too much typical puerh taste too early in the session.  Even so, I would often drink this fresh sheng puerh with Mr. Kim at his tea table.  After a while this tea started to grow on me, I liked the way it made me feel mainly.  So when it was time for me to depart from Korea in December of 2008, I made a stop at Mr. Kim’s shop to buy a tong.  Unfortunately, he had sold out.

After my first purchase of six 1 KG bricks of the 2006 Wild Arbour King I was still in no mood to purchase this 2008 version of the same namesake.  After all, I much preferred the 2006 anyways and I didn’t think I really needed any more Licang puerh.

Yunnan Sourcing sure makes it difficult to just make one off purchases.  About a month after my big purchase and after acquiring a large sum of loyalty credit it just happened to be that Scott is offering a 12% off the Big Four Puerh Factories promotion (Mengku Shuang Jiang is one of the four).  Still feeling the sting of a dwindling puerh stash, I throw in a tong of these bulky 500g cakes, ($62.00/500g or  0.12/gram before both discounts now it is currentlypriced at $76.00 per cake or $0.15/gram), a single cake from one of the other four factories and a few new Mengku factory samples of some offerings they never had back in the day just for fun.

The old Yunnan Sourcing website says these cakes were dry Guangdong stored. 

So there we go.

Please gather around the tea table as I had done with Mr. Kim and let’s enjoy this tea…

The dry leaves smell of slight cherry fruit in semi aged mushroomy puerh odours.

The first infusion has a clean, sugary-sweet, slightly metallic taste with a nicely semi-aged base taste and nice slow to evolve, cooling sweet, crisp aftertaste.  This tea is immediately fresh but yet grounded with aged incense-like tastes.  There is a floral taste in the throat appearing minutes later.

The second infusion has more lightly deep medicinal tastes, mushrooms, and vanilla tastes initially then finishes with a slightly floral, slightly metallic aftertaste.  There is a vegetal even, sour if overbrewed, taste in the middle of the profile as well which strings things together.  A cool metallic aftertaste remains.

The third infusion presents with more mushroom and slight medicinal tastes up front then slowly transforms into very faint metallic and floral in the throat along with a faint long cooling sensation.  This tea has more of a slight throat opening feeling than an actual mouthfeel.  The sensation in the mouth is thin but full and slightly sticky.  In the throat feels opening even into the mid-throat.  The qi of this tea is slight and relaxing, it floats the head and relaxes the body.

The fourth infusion has some lighter florals up front mixed in with soft semi-aged medicinal tastes.  These light tastes stretch past soft vegetal notes and into a muted metallic and floral aftertaste.  There is a nice packaging of solid simple and somewhat unique tastes in this tea.

In the fifth and sixth infusions this tea starts to thin out holding a nice bouquet of florals in semi-aged medicinal tastes.  The aftertaste is a metallic, slightly cooling taste.  The mouthfeel becomes a very fine grit here and saliva pools in the mid-throat.  The qi is really noticeable in the chest and heart and gives this area both an opening feeling and a stimulating sensation- the heart gallops gently.

The seventh is much the same as is the eighth but the taste becomes much more generic aged puerh at this point.  It has a nice incense-like taste to it.

It brews out like this even in overnight steepings.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

2007 Boyou Manludashan and Pushing Puerh Through Awkward Adolescence

A few months ago I drank up a few cakes of this tea and it was delicious.  It served up big fragrant floral tastes in a punchy slightly bitter base taste. It had a simple unpretentious mouthfeel but carried the taste well.  It was definitely one of my favorite daily drinkers over the last year.  I had initially split a box of this tea with my Victoria, BC puerh drinking buddy, Antoine.  He read a review on the Half-Dipper and convinced me to go half-half on a box of 3 cakes.  This was back in 2011 (I think) when these cakes were terribly cheap from Yunnan Sourcing.  Since then it was stored in Victoria, BC for 2 years, then 4 years of ultra dry prairie storage.

It was the only cake of mine that I could even find a replacement for when I realized that I will be soon out of puerh.  I was relieved to find out that not only does Yunnan Sourcing still stock this Mengsong iron bing but also that it has gone up very little in price.  So it was easy for me to add a box of 3 400g cakes for $139.00 ($0.12/g) to my cart along with my order of 2006 Mengku Shuangjiang Wild Arbour King bricks.  I was also excited to compare the exclusively Kunming dry storage cakes with my storage.

When the tea arrived I brewed it up gong fu style as I had for month previous but I was surprised at what Kunming did to this one…

The dry leaves smell of fragrant orchid, peach, and honey.  Very light and delicious smelling.

The First infusion has an empty watery taste up front which attempts to carry some of those fragrant notes found in the dry leaf such as peach, honey, and orchid.  In this lighter first infusion the mouthfeel is more watery and weak and the tastes are empty in the mouthfeel.

The second has sort of a fragmented feeling to it.  The tea opens up with slightly bitter barely smoky vanilla notes with slight suggestions of a menthol/ medicinal taste then they slowly transition into faint fragrant floral notes that present over the initial notes.  A gummy, slightly drying, aftertaste is left on the tongue.  This tea has a small throat feel and has a hard time holding on to interesting tastes as a medicinal vanilla clings on.  There are faint suggestions of orchid and honey underneath.

The third infusion some creamy honey tastes transition quickly into medical vanilla notes then some florals strengthen in the aftertaste.  This infusion comes together better and is held together a bit better by the thicker, slightly drying mouthfeel that mainly resides in the front of the mouth.  This tea really lacks a significant throat feel.  The qi of this tea is a big caffeine burst which is quite strong and very alerting.  It almost gives a jittery feeling due to its strength that is mainly felt in the limbs.  This tea makes a groggy, stagnant mind race.

The fourth transitions smoother still with creamy vanilla notes presenting first over bitter notes.  They slide into a more medicinal taste, a barely menthol and mainly medicinal flavor, and then to malty aged, faint florals.  The bitterness is ever present throughout the profile.  The floral suggestions continue to try to push their way out even minutes later on the breath.  The floral suggestions have a heaviness, a slight perfumery, agedness to them.

The fifth presents first with a melon note in a watery bitter base.  The strong vanilla and medicinal base taste is muted in this infusion and there is a certain emptiness that develops before the florals attempt to push through in the aftertaste.  There is a faint metallic taste left in the mouth minutes later.

The sixth infusion displays melon tastes over bitter which turn into creamy nice lighter florals now.  This tea really opens up with the floral notes in these middle infusion.  The throat also starts holding a glob of saliva now which helps retain these high note tastes.  A soft tobacco note is in there as well.

The seventh is more watery with melon and soft tobacco over a very soft bitter base.

More time is added to this eighth steeping and a very watery infusion sees some faint florals and melon in the hallow soup.

The ninth and tenth under long steeps push out a nice short, cool floral taste minutes later.   The aftertastes in these late infusions are enjoyable.

This tea is currently in an awkward stage of ageing.  The thick, large and long lasting floral notes that once dominated the ultra-dry stored tea are now fleeting in this Kunming stored tea.  It is revealing how unstable these tastes can be if not firmly planted over a solid mouth- and throat-feel.  The moderate bitterness of this tea on the other hand has not changed nor has the cha qi.  Just a month ago the slow, dry aged version of this same puerh was one of my favorite everyday drinkers- fragrant, floral, sweet, punchy, bitter, very alerting.  This more humid stored (Kunming storage) version is too awkward to drink and doesn’t even look as promising to age.

Since the above tea session, I have actually gotten much better tastes out of this tea lately.  I have used a technique to push out more full tastes from sheng puerh that have entered that awkward adolescent, semi-aged phase in their aging.  Often puerh at this age drop off their high notes and aromatic essences and their lower, more aged, base isn’t there to support this dropping off of higher elements yet.  What results is a tea like this one that feels lacking.  The best way to steep these teas is stronger- with more leaf and longer steeping time.  This stronger push can often fill the gap by forcing more prominent tastes and attempting to shore up a weak mouthfeel.  This works great for most teas but will backfire if the tea is too bitter.

It worked great for this Mengsong and since doing so I have managed to drink through about 1/3 of the bing in the last few weeks.  I think I will put two cakes into deep storage and leave one out when I am craving that factory tea push.

There is a likely reason this tea’s price has not moved too much (its price has gone up to just $147.00/box of 3 since purchase).  It’s potential to develop into anything great is unlikely.  For a daily factory puerh feeling daily drinker it is fine and is probably priced about right for its quality.  Somedays this tea is really off putting while other days I crave its factory edginess.

This tea is heavily reviewed by tea bloggers.  Check out some other tasting notes here: