Thursday, June 22, 2017

Which one is Ddok Cha? Which Is Puerh?

I was just long steeping both a 2008 Korean ddok cha and a 2007 Mengsong puerh when it occurred to me how similar they were.  In fact, the leaves look so familiar that I doubt you can tell the difference between them? Any guesses just for fun?

In that moment I had to think long and hard and actually sniffed them to tell them apart.  I definiately think even a seasoned puerh drinker could get tricked.  I thought that even the taste of ddok cha this aged resembles puerh and could even pass as puerh after many infusions.

I feel that the ddok cha is actually much better and complex tasting too.  However, there would be a huge price difference between the two so probably not a fair comparison but an interesting one.  Apples to oranges.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

"Stoner Qi" and 2006 Mengku Shuangjiang Wild Arbour King Brick

This was my first panicked purchase after realizing the puerh stash was dwindling.   When the shock wore off I immediately thought to myself, “Who has the most accessible selection of semi-aged puerh out there?”  Yunnan Sourcing came immediately to mind.  Upon searching their old site to replace some of the cakes I drank through, I came across this tea for which I have a long history.

I distinctly remember my first run-in with this burley brick back in 2007.  It was in a teahouse in Korea and the owner kindly steeped up some tea from a brick that was not for sale.  We at the tea table were mesmerized by the unique heavy but delicate tastes of this puerh at the time and, although I never consumed any in the 10 years that followed, that tea left a positive impression on me. 

Back then nobody, I mean nobody, was talking about BingDao (“Ice Island”) puerh.  At the tea table we had many discussions about what kind of raw material could give out such a unique taste.  But, at that time, we didn’t even know that BingDao even existed- almost nobody did.  The location of the material of these early Mengku Shuangjiang Wild Arbour King (“Qiao Mu Wang”) claims to be from BingDao and contain at least some of this old arbour material.

So when I came across this tea I was both excited, curious, and relieved.  I always thought to myself that this tea would be a great example of a full, fragrant Lincang that would be great for aging.  Now, at 11 years aged and most of its life in Kunming storage, I guessed that this tea would have a nice leg up at the ageing process while probably ready to consume right now.  The nostalgic red and yellow colors of Scott’s old site was comforting and familiar to me- a space I could trust and had a familiarity navigating.  When it showed that there were only 6 of these 1KG bricks left in stock for $140.00 a piece (only 0.14/gram) all six bricks, six whopping KG of puerh immediately jumped into the cart.  China ground shipping took the full amount of time to arrive and 3 months later a heavy box of these giant bricks arrive at my door step. 

Please sit down, take some time out of your busy day, relax and join me for this special tea…

Dry leaves smell of soft deep, if not slightly distant, floral with a very nice tropical fruit odours embedded deeply into the leaves.  These leaves are liberally packed into the pot.

The first infusion opens up with full deep creamy malted sweet medicinal tastes and a nice fresh strong returning coolness that dips into the throat.  There are undernotes of slight hidden fruit and a slight metallic taste at the end.  The mouthfeel has a nice powdery fullness and it descends slightly into the throat nicely.  The tastes are bold and strong so I remove some leaf from the pot.

The second opens up with distinct florals in a deep pungent base of slightly citrus fruity puerh cloaked by a malty middle aged syrupy sweetness.  The aftertaste is a cool metallic floral sweetness.  The mouthfeel is a significant chalky fullness.  The leaves have clogged up my little tea pot so I move them to a larger pot and add the leaves I had taken out.  It is apparent that this tea needs very little leaf.  The qi of this tea really stays in the head giving you a very profoundly relaxed even euphoric high.  A new tea term that I see lots of lately is “stoner tea” to describe cha qi.  This tea has a relatively strong “stoner tea” effect.

The third infusion has a creamy banana sweetness that lingers into a soft sweat floral tastes.  There is a full bouquet of malted slightly sweet but very distinct fruit tastes that are revealed when this tea is steeped more lightly.  It finishes with a very metallic taste.

The fourth offers very clean fruity notes of banana and tropical fruits as well as interesting citrus in a crisp slightly powdery metallic finish.  The qi profoundly relaxes and euphorically pushes the mind as if it has escaped my body, floating above it somehow.  Really great head qi in this puerh.  It doesn’t really linger in the body as much at all- it just says right in the head.

The fifth and sixth continue to push out an interesting array of fruity flavours in a fairly full mouthfeel.  A coolness is retained in the throat.

The seventh and eighth are long steeped and bring out slight camphor wood notes with fruity florals underneath.

The ninth is left for a few hours and is now mainly woody with a bit of faint fruit.

This tea is quite versatile in taste and quite stable in Qi.  When brewed lightly with less leaf and shorted steeping times you get a very fragrant, fruity, floral tea that still has some power to it.  With a heavier hand you will get deeper more syrupy and thicker medicinal notes like I have gotten above.  One thing is stable throughout- its heavier sedating head qi. 

Do I regret the rather spontaneous 6 Kg purchase of this tea?  Not at all, but for someone whose favorite profile is not the Lincang character I think I would have been just as satisfied with 2 or 3 KG.  For those that are interested Scott has restocked this tea and is still selling them for $140.00 for a hefty 1 KG of puerh.  I have to admit that I have a hard time knowing what is truly a “deal” these days because of both the increased price of puerh and the fact that I have not sampled a wide range of Lincang semi-aged puerh.  However, this tea definitely falls in to my category of “Good Tea” and for the storage, age, and price I consider it as such.  I think it will continue to age into something interesting but is great to drink now.  I have not encountered too many puerh that were this inexpensive with such strong relaxing qi. 


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Menghai, Douji, and Mengku -Trifecta of Factory Puerh/ Reliable Old Friends

When things go off the rails in life who do you go to?

Your oldest best friends of course!

So recently when I realized that my puerh stash will soon be gone, I did what I know is a sure bet and called on my reliable old friends to get me out of this situation fast… factory puerh.

These friends are not the overly flashy types, they are a little rough around the edges, and to be honest they can be a little cheap but there is an honesty, a reliability, and a familiarity to them.  It doesn’t matter how long it’s been since you last met, a true friend will be there in a time of need.

If you have been drinking puerh tea since the early/ mid 2000s it is inevitable that you have a spot in your heart for big factory puerh.   If you look at the old school puerh bloggers Hobbes, Marshal’N, Bears they all still hold them in some kind of respect.  You never hear these puerh drinkers entrenching themselves in the debate of factory vs. boutique because they are wise enough to see value in both.

Back in the day there was pretty much just the Zhong Cha wrapped mystery stuff, CNNP, and big factory puerh.  There were smaller factory pressings as well but in Korea these were rarities.  So this is what you drank back then.  All the puerh drinkers in Korea knew that fresh puerh is not good for your health so quite naturally we would drink a lot of stuff from the 1990s 10-20 year aged stuff even 80s stuff at the tea table.

At this time there were three big factories that were generating lots of excitement amongst my puerh drinking buddies and tea shop owners.  A trifecta of factory puerh if you will…

1-      Douji in 2006 really lit up the puerh drinking universe.  Their 2006 offerings were especially epic and turned the puerh drinking universe on their head.   They were based in Yiwu and the cakes they offered from that region were absolutely delicious and they brought with them a new style of processing that made their puerh very delicious to drink now as well or to age for later.  I remember trying this stuff and really feeling like it is something special.  I remember that by the time I decided that I needed a tong of this stuff in 2006, no dealer or friends would sell any to me.  It was so delicious I think I drank through a 2006 cake of Douji Yiwu in one year.  No big deal, everyone was expecting their 2007 offerng to surpass their 2006 stuff so I picked up a tong of the 2007 Yiwu which turned out to be noticeably in superior to the 2006 line up.

Douji was definitely my Yiwu factory go to but even before I completely checked out, Douji was demanding very high prices.  Personally, I think they somewhat deserve these prices (Okay maybe not that high).  This comes from someone who has tested the resiliency of Douji puerh and has found that it ages brilliantly even in the face of unideal and varying aging conditions.

Unfortunately, the West is pretty mute these days about Douji.  Even the once active China Cha Dao has stopped marketing new Douji puerh (although it would be likely they could special order anything).  Last time I extensively sampled Douji was at a time when I was not paying much attention to the puerh world- during a blogger China Cha Dao tasting event hosted by Hobbes of Half-Dipper.  We didn’t sample much from YiWu in that event and my favorite was not even from Yiwu.  Douji is definitely a case of being priced out of the market.  I kind of feel like my old friend ditched me and is now hanging out with a wealthy group of friends, the popular crowd… not cool… but that’s what success does.

So I am currently in the hunt for a solid YiWu that is priced more accessibly.  Any suggestions?

2-      Mengku RongShi Shuang Jiang Tea Company was another factory that was doing really exciting things in the mid- 2000s.  Many of my puerh drinking friends and the tea shops we frequented gravitated to the very fresh, clean, crisp and pure examples of Lincang such as their Big Snow Mountain (Da Xue Shan) and Wild ArborKing (Qiao Mu Wang).  Something I never knew at the time and learned recently from reading Yunnan Souring website, is that it could have something to do with their processing which takes place right on the mountain in portable huts.  Did I also mention they never shy away from big, bold, chunky cakes?  Often enough they were the only Lincang teas in these shops and left us with a pretty impressionable picture of Licang puerh.  As a result Mengku is my Lincang factory of choice.

Unlike Douji, there is still lots of accessible Mengku Shuang Jiang out there.  I think this is because of its general location outside of the more traditional and popular Xishuangbanna.  I too have much less Lincang because of my preference for Xishuangbanna.  You will be sure to see lots of reviews on these teas in the coming months.  I hope our relationship will be as fresh, unique and enjoyable as I remember!  What are some of your favorite Menku Shuang Jiang puerh?

3-      Menghai Dayi Tea Factory is an old classic.  Ten years ago I would drink a lot of aged 80sand 90s Dayi hanging out in tea shops.  It was so popular that when I first started learning about puerh tea I thought that “Mengahai” meant “Menghai Dayi Tea Factory” and was unaware that it could be referring to a tea producing area.  That really sums up Dayi’s dominance and presence during this time.  Dayi = Menghai!  I remember there were some shops that would deal exclusively in Menghai Dayi puerh.  I didn’t spend too much time at these shops that were mainly ran by more traditional, conservative, less open minded to the changes in the puerh tea industry kind of people (maybe I would love these now… hahaha).  They were usually older men dressed in traditional Korean clothes in the old district of town.

For me Dayi is really the classic aged puerh tea taste.  It’s familiar, it’s home.  It’s your reliable and wise friend that is a little harsh but has the experience to back his reputation up.  Despite me being so chummy with Dayi I have never purchased a cake.  Mainly my puerh drinking friends and I thought that the stuff being produced in the mid 2000s was somehow not of the same quality recipes they once were.  Besides, there were more interesting and exciting things happening with other factories like the ones mentioned above.

Cakes that I tried or simply passed by when they were young years ago are now on their way from China.  I guess we will be exploring the ins and outs of the 2006-2008 line.  I wonder if they will even be close to the 10 years aged 1990s stuff I would drink regularly oh so long ago?  What are some of your favorite Menghai Dayi puerh?

Friends change and you change too - so is life.  I wonder if my relationship between these old friends will be much the same or completely different?


Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Ground Shipping China Post Puerh is the New Tea Horse Road

One of the things I really enjoyed reading about upon my return to puerh was all the lively discussion on shipping.  This article on shipping fees is especially interesting.  I had never seen shipping fees under the microscope like they are currently.  A recent post by Cwyn suggested that consumer pressure by puerh drinkers has even amounted to change- lowing the threshold for free shipping.

Unfortunately, living in the Great White North, Canada, many free shipping options are not available.  So, I feel a need to advocate for some free shipping to extend to your friendly neighbours up north!

I really love to select ground shipping using China Post when I order puerh.  First of all, there are some modest cost savings and I’m terribly cheap.  If you compare SAL to ground shipping you really only save a few bucks so if you are doing it purely for value, SAL which usually arrives in a few weeks makes more sense.  What really doesn’t make much sense is trying to rush a product that essentially gets better with age.  I think the fast shipping methods just really play into the modern, have it now, go faster and consume more mentality of the world.  This world view is actually opposite GongFu drinking of puerh tea which is a rather slow process.

What if you really like said sample or cake and wanted to order another but then it sells out in a few weeks leaving you totally missing out?  Yeah that is a possibility but there will be more puerh out there and the likely hood of this happening is slim anyways.  If you ship using ground shipping you really have to come to terms with this unlikely possibility.  In doing so you are challenging the Fear ofMissing Out (FOMO) puerh collecting mentality.  Ground shipping promotes the slow movement and way of life which I value.  I imagine few things slower than receiving a package from China using ground shipping.

There is also something natural about the slow method of receiving puerh.  I think this method mirrors the slow process of receiving tea from Yunnan the way it arrived thousands of years ago using the Tea Horse Road.  There is a slow and sustained building up of anticipation using this method, that I find priceless.  The feeling a child has waiting for Summer holidays to come or in counting down the days to Christmas.  There are not so many things in our life like this so I really enjoy this process.  I really try my hardest to use China Post Ground shipping for my orders.  And so here I am waiting as patiently as I can for my orders placed in March.

Then a moment of reality sets in as the only order that I used SAL arrives at my doorstep before all the others… and for a moment I reconsider… maybe ground shipping is not my favorite after all.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Recent Synergy Among Tea Bloggers

As of late I have noticed a real synergy amoung tea bloggers.  I could feel as if something was happening, a certain energy in the air.  For me this feeling started with a small resurgence of old tea bloggers that have long been absent.  For me, Bev of Listening to Leaves really seemed to be syncing ideas, feelings, and content themes.  Even posting and commenting on each others blogs at the exact same moment in real time.

When the old bloggers were blogging about tea years back there was never the energy feeding off of each other like there seems to be right now over the last month or so.  At the early years of tea blogging it felt like everyone was presenting a very different character in their tea blog- some small bit of specialized tea knowledge or slice of experience that strongly represented the teas they were drinking and learning about.  Back then there was much less selection of puerh and way fewer vendors available but most importantly there was so little knowledge and experience out there. The internet itself was a dessert of tea information back then.  Looking back the knowledge gap was specifically pronounced.  Because tea bloggers had so little knowledge and experience about puerh, how much could they really say with any certainty.

Now, I feel things have really changed in this regard.  There is tons of info out there and lots more experience to draw on.  The bloggers that are blogging now are doing so in a position of easy to access knowledge and even if some don't have too much experience, at least they can excess resources where people have shared their long experience.

The energy among tea bloggers is really coming from a lot of newer bloggers who are really putting out great content.  Blogs like James' TeaDB and Cwyn's Death By Tea are particularity well written and extraordinarily intelligent.  When I first encountered these two blogs a few months back I considered TeaDB to be the 'new' Half-Dipper and Cwyn's Death By Tea to be the 'new' (but much more hilarious and slightly deranged) A Tea Addicts Journal.  James has a very structured, analytical, and organized way of writing about tea that Hobbes also has.  Cwyn is more of a big idea person, less bogged down in reviewing which is similar to Marshal'N.  There are also two great tea review blogs Oolong Owl and Late Steeps which I am enjoying as well- they are also both quite different.  I wonder if I'm missing some others because blogs don't use the "Blog Roll" with links to other blogs as much anymore?

It is only natural that many of the old blogs have gone into hibernation where others have started up new or have restarted started again- these are the cycles and rhythms of life.  There is also many "new school" or "evolved" multiple social media blogs out there which use a multiple social media platforms such as You Tube, Twitter, Snapchatt, Instagram, ect. - a very cleaver way to get the word out.  Some blogs have even changed to focus much more on puerh tea (like MattCha's).  I started reading the puerh posts of Tea for Me Please, a blog that is increasingly focusing more on puerh.

What is most interesting is how these bloggers are really pushing the narrative of puerh tea blogging.  I feel like a minor thyme, idea, or subtopic that is touched on in one post will be expanded on in an upcoming post of another blog who is best position to write on that new topic.  Or how things mentioned in one post will get support or expanded upon in another bloggers post.  Or maybe how another blogger will present a similar topic but with their own perspective or experience.  This was not being done to the same extent back in the day like it is now.  So I really think this is a magical time for blogging about puerh.

Thanks for all the tea bloggers out there for spending the time to advance this beautiful art of tea.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Xiao Binging of the Puerh Industry

One of the things that has really changed since 2011 is the overabundance of xiao bings (“small cakes”).  I am really unsure which vendors or factories started pressing all their cakes into xiao bings but it seems like all of them pretty much followed suite shortly thereafter.  When did this happen?  Why?

I was first exposed to xiao bings last year when I picked up 2 different xiao bings from O5Tea (this and this).  I have drank a lot of puerh in my life but never did I ever drink from a xiao bing- that is how rare they were about 10 years ago.  In fact, they were almost completely non-existent, novelty items.  The fact they are everywhere right now is actually quite shocking.

Why did this happen?  I guess that as the price of raw maocha increased exponentially over the last little while it got to the point that the price point for a regular 357g was hundreds and hundreds of dollars for the same quality of leaf.  To prevent sticker shock the vendors pressed a xiao bing instead of a full.  That seems like a logical explanation.  Essentially, the vendors are either 1- doing this for the benefit of the customer to make it easier/ or possible to purchase within their budget or 2- they are doing it to hide the actual cost per gram.  Due to the current popularity of the xiao bing, the customer must be happy with the move towards the xiao bing?

The xiao bing also offers something between a sample size and a full 357g bing which makes it possible (but not really that feasible) to age long term.  There is really no point to age samples because they are so small, really.  So the xiao bing offers an aging option.  This can also be played both ways to benefit the customer and the vendor.  Vendors sometimes complain about the nuisance of preparing samples and sometimes offer a much higher price per gram for the time of preparing them.  So selling a xiao bing can really benefit both.

Also something else needs to be said about the xiao bing.  There seems to be 2 sizes of xiao bing out there.  If you asked me how many grams are in a xiao bing I would say 200g of course.  Today there seems to be many 100g xiao bings (xiao xiao bings) out there as well- this is also new.  I don’t think I even remember ever seeing a 100g xiao bing online until recently.  Maybe things will continue to shrink?

Personally, I am not a fan of the xiao bing.  The popularity somehow bugs me but I don’t really know why.  Maybe it’s just me struggling to come to terms with the fact that you can’t get as much as you used to get for the same amount of money… or maybe its symbolism for the puerh world being increasingly micro-managed… I don’t really know… or maybe it’s because it does kind of hide the price per gram a little… I don’t know (must meditate on this more).

To me the xiao bing is really just a sample.  I even prefer to get a full size cake as a sample.  In that way you can choose to age it, drink it now, or banish it forever.  If you get a full cake as a sample and its good but the cake has sold out then at least you still have lots to enjoy.  If it’s not your favorite cake then maybe at least you might drink it years later if your puerh stash is ever dwindling (never again I keep telling myself).   It’s very easy for me to go for a full cake as a sample now because I am trying to restock.  It might be a completely different story when I’m up to my neck in puerh a few years from now.

I even despise the xiao bing so much I considered an all-out boycott of any and all vendors which press them.  Then I realized that I would probably be left with no vendors to order from!  So maybe I’ll just boycott the actual buying of xiao bings.  Using the power of the wallet can impact change.

In fact, most of the cakes in my stash and that are currently on their way are 400g or larger.  I like the big, chunky, beefy, robust, old school feeling of these cakes and the industry that they represent.  The larger, the better!  1Kg, even 2Kg, cakes and bricks- "bring'em on" I say.  In fact, I challenge vendors to release one of these big guys in response to the xiao binging of the puerh industry.  People will buy- I’ll be the first one.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

White2Tea & The Post Truth Era of Puerh

Before I dropped off the radar you could count the number of Western puerh vendors on two hands.  On my return to puerh buying, there are so many more out there.  To me this is a good thing but a little overwhelming at first.  To be perfectly honest, I have mainly purchased all of my puerh either in person in Korea or on Taobao.  Essence of Tea and Yunnan Sourcing might be the only exceptions.

Even old, reliable sites like the classic red and gold Yunnan Sourcing website have recently made major changes (saw that one turn over recently).   Other sites like Puerhshop have really slowed down as well.  Change happens and more selection and competition is always welcome.

I’ve been trying to check out all the new vendors out there.  This article by James of TeaDB has really helped me out.  The new puerh vendors out there that I am finding the most interesting are two American puerh vendors Crimson Lotus Tea and White2Tea.  They are really taking the puerh market in different directions, no doubt, in response to past issues with buying puerh in the West.

I think Crimson Lotus is brilliant for marketing to and branding their puerh to the science fiction niche.  I have also noticed that many many people who drink puerh also enjoy science fiction- most of my puerh drinking buddies in Victoria and Korea fall into this category, I think.  Overall, it’s an interesting concept but, as always, it comes down to how good their tea is… puerh can’t lie no matter what planet it’s from!

It sounds like White2Tea is really shaking up the puerh tea world… Tea with no region, no explanation, no story, no background, no pictures of farmers, no context what so ever.  All these values line up squarely with my own tea philosophy- “A blog that is the tea’s”.  However philosophy and reality often don’t align and as I begin my search for puerh once again I find myself looking for regions, mountains, factories, producers, and vendors that I know and that have a certain characteristic, quality, profile, tack record and “house taste”.

With the White2Tea’s decision to go in this direction basically you have to either trust the brand, trust the curator TwoDog (Paul), trust others who have tried the tea and recommend it, or sample all the tea yourself and decide for yourself.  I find lots of problems with this system.

I find it eerily familiar that TwoDog has basically based his marketing of Puerh on a similar strategy as Donald Trump… has anyone else noticed this?

Firstly, he has picked up on the discontent/ dissatisfaction of many Western puerh drinkers.  Secondly, he has discredited the old system of selling puerh as basically dishonest.  Thirdly, he insists that everything that is claimed about the origin of puerh or even a singular quality of certain areas is a lie.  Forth, he is thriving off of the idea that “controversy is good for business”.  Fifth, and most importantly, he offers a solution to the problem- just simply trust his puerh.  I guess we really are living in the Post-Truth Era of puerh!

I think the only fair way to assess puerh in this Post-Truth Era would be to sample puerh from all vendors, factories, and areas blindly.  Then decide on purchase based on how much the tea was valued in the blind testing verses the actual price.  The problem is that that no one would have the time and energy and money for that type of extensive sampling.  So quite naturally we try to narrow it down to certain brands, areas, factories, and vendors from either past experiences, others recommendations, or from simply brand identification.

With all this being said, I am most compelled to try White2Tea’s young puerh over any other vendor … so I guess all this smart marketing works… I kind of feel like I want to support his vision for tea on its own merits.. I guess even if you identify the marketing strategy at hand that doesn’t always make you immune to its effects…

If we know only one thing to be true it is this- that old MattCha was probably GongFuing to Drake long before Paul (TwoDog) even knew who he was.


Friday, May 12, 2017

2008 Fangmingyuan Nannou

This is the last bing remaining of what used to be three cakes from my personal stash.  My tea drinking friend in Victoria convinced me to go in on a Taobao order on this one back in 2011 after reading a review on The Half-Dipper.  We also picked up a cake of the 2008Fangmingyuan Jingmai which I drank completely up last year.  I am slowing savoring about 1/3 of a cake of the 2008 Fangmingyuan Bama which is a very good chunky robust cake which we also picked up in the same order.  The Jingmai was my least favorite of the bunch but to be fair I don’t prefer the Jingmai profile too much.  Last time I heard from my old Victorian puerh drinking bud he was bugging me to post about this wonderful 2008 Fangmingyuan Nannou that we acquired with the others.

Taking a break from the business of life, I sneak up into the loft at work where I sit in meditation, drinking this tea… please join…

I peel back the dry leaves which give off odours of very sweet cloying sweetness of raisons and dried fruit.

First, steeping emits deliciously creamy florals in a deep fruity syrupy date-like odour.  Taste of soft fruits on a full tongue and opening throatfeel has a nice cool finish buried underneath.  Has a deeper taste of wood underneath but very light and creamy overall.  Very nice cooling aftertaste that coats and opens the throat.  The throat feel coupled with the profound cooling returning sweetness immediately tells me this tea is very good.

Strong creamy sweet cherry odour is emitted from the wet leaves.  The second is much richer and creamier.  This tea excels at leaving these flavours painted on the tongue and throat.  Breaths bring a cool menthol taste mixed with these flavours.  There is a soft creamy wood underneath.  The second infusion is quite dynamic and significantly relaxes the mind.  This tea is very sedating and is great for meditation.

The third is more rich, more woody, but overall quite fruity and creamy.  More mature tastes reveal themselves as the leaves open up.  Overall this is good Naunou representation in mouth and feel.  The qi is very relaxing stronger as the session progresses. The thickness of this tea is quite apparent.

The 4th is creamy & woody the throat and mouth feel are great and hold to these flavors with suggestions of fruit and cool menthol still ringing in the throat.  This tea really coats the teeth, mouth, pallet, and deep throat- its quite full.  The deeper notes up front add depth.

The 5th & 6th the higher notes drop off a bit but the thick feeling of the tea remains strong.  The cooling returning sweetness remains.  The mind starts to feel mild tunnel vision and the heart races with qi softly jaunting around the body.

The 7th & 8th show more cherry woody sweetness with thick mouth feeling.  A mild hyperactivity pings through my body and mind now.  The taste, fragrance, and feel of this tea lasts for many more steepings.  When it gets too weak I put it in an overnight steeping to draw out what’s left.  The long steeping rewards me with very fruity tastes with very little bitterness.

Unfortunately this cakes is no longer for sale.  It is my favorite cake from Nannou and I would reorder if I could.  I also couldn’t find any information on the current price of this cake.  It was stored in China (Beijing, I think) for the first 3 years, then two years in Victoria, then 4 years in a Ziplock in the dry prairies.  There is no signs of improper storage or off tastes.

Thanks for joining me in meditation…


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Price of Puerh: Everything I Know About Puerh Has Changed!

This quote in a post from James at TeaDB almost completely sums up my life and return to puerh buying:

It seems like a LOT has changed in the puerh drinking world over the last 6 years (it hasn’t been 15 years at least).  Can’t believe how much has changed… The next series of posts will look at all of this crazy change from the point of view of someone who was drining puerh that long ago and from the point of view of someone who is actively trying to re-stock.

Price of Puerh

Apparently, new sheng puerh continued to rise in price sinice 2011.  Blog posts by good old Hobbes of the Half-Dipper and Marshal’N of A Tea Addicts Journal both published in 2014 point out that it is much cheaper to buy puerh with a bit of age on them then buy new stuff (oh I’ve been reading LOTS of tea blogs lately).  These posts are a few years old but from what I have seen so far, it still makes since to buy older stuff but the price gap is definitely closing.  This was almost immediately echoed by readers of this blog after last post.  If it keeps going at this pace maybe the price gap will completely close within the next couple of years?

The plus side to buying semi-aged stuff is that you can drink them right away and can understand better how they might age (because they are semi-aged now!).  This should benefit me because this is exactly the type of puerh that I’m looking for now.  I might have to rethink the buying of new sheng and spend more of my money on some older stuff.

Overall, I think there are many factors effecting the price increase of new puerh.  Back in the mid-2000s everyone was most concerned about the rise of the Chinese middle class and people hording puerh to create demand and control the price of certain factories and productions.  I think the mechanism by which drove up the price of young puerh is much more complicated than this but in the end comes down to availability, supply and demand, and how much people are willing to pay (I am aware of how obvious this sounds).

Price really is everything when buying puerh.  No matter who you are, unless you have unlimited money to spend, you will pay attention to prices.  However, I think there is more truth to this now than it was 10 years ago.  Back in the day people definitely paid attention but with prices still relatively accessible for new puerh people didn’t fuss too much.  Back then there were really 3 types of price categories of new puerh: 1- cheap factory stuff and CNNP 2- mid-range productions like Douji 3- boutique Taiwanese productions like those on sale at HouDe.  I placed myself very deliberately at the bottom two points (better factory stuff and midrange productions) and I’m happy with that decision now.

James talks about the missed opportunity in 2008 (the date of most of my cakes) in this nostalgic post.  Considering all the uncertainties about aging puerh in very unnatural conditions in North America, I feel I did really good with the puerh I purchased and the money I spent considering so many uncertainties.  So I am at peace with this.

How will the price of puerh will impact re-stocking?  The spending plan going forward (revised) is first to stock up with the cheaper but good semi-aged stuff.  This will focus on quantity but with quality in mind.  Then I hope to acquire some mid-range and even boutique semi-aged puerh as well to add some variety and depth to my drinking.  I’m still undecided on how much new puerh I will acquire but I feel like I have to slowly start doing this sooner or later.

I love tea samples but am not a big fan of buying samples which can eat up a lot of money.  I would rather use my experience with drinking and aging puerh and take a very small monetary risk at buying full cakes that will pretty much serve as large samples.  If they check out then ordering more is an option or even a tong.

I am also debating about including a discussion on price a bit more with upcoming puerh posts.  Years ago price was not as important of a consideration as it is to me now as I re-stock.  Nowadays, I appreciate when people discuss the price and relative value of the tea they are writing about as it does better inform my buying.

Out of everything that has changed, the price is one of the most dramatic of all changes… but even 10 years ago we knew it would continue to increase in price.


Monday, May 8, 2017

The Minimalist Puerh Drinker's Dilemma

If there is one descriptor that people often pin on me, it is the term "minimalist".  I whole heartedly agree with them.  Even looking at this blog, it is very minimal in design and feel.  I keep a tight ship and I think I benefit greatly from the airy Zen of minimalism in my daily life.

The moto of the minimalist is "less is more".

However, is it truly possible to be an aged puerh drinker and be a minimalist?

Maybe not.

Do you know what the opposite of a minimalist is?  A maximalist. Their moto is "more is more".

According to Wikipedia, "it can refer to anything seen as excessive, overtly complex and "showy", providing redundant overkill in features and attachments, grossness in quantity and quality, or the tendency to add and accumulate to excess".

Does it sounds a lot like the stereotypical puerh collector?

I think a distinction has to be made between the terms "aged puerh collector" and "aged puerh drinker".

The former is a collector who sees his puerh world as a hobby and investment where the maximalist approach is probably ideal.  They may drink their aged puerh but chances are their collection will continue to grow.  Perhaps the puerh collector enjoys the acquisition of puerh more than the actual experience of drinking it.  At the extreme the puerh collector only collects it or uses it as an investment without even drinking their best stuff at all (see these post by Marshal'N and James).

The puerh maximalist and the puerh collector both see their puerh stash continue to grow and rarely drink up their good puerh.

On the other hand the aged puerh drinker is someone who enjoys the experience of drinking puerh but may dislike every other aspect that comes before and after that experience such as acquisition or storage. 

You could be both a collector and a drinker of aged puerh, of course.  But could you be just PUERLY an aged puerh drinker? 

What about an aged puerh drinking minimalist?


Friday, May 5, 2017

Invitation to You: Let's Restock a Puerh Stash Together!

So if you have been following the story so far...

I recently was surprised to know that my puerh stash was almost gone.
I have reflected on the reasons this has happened so it will never happen again.

So now I have to actually replenish my puerh stash and bring it up to the glory it once was... that's it.  Sounds like fun eh?

Almost immediately and most urgently I need to acquire some approximately 10 years aged sheng puerh so that I can drink it now.

Then I should also be thinking about acquiring some much cheaper new cakes of sheng puerh to age.

So that's the plan.

I have pretty much been in a puerh time capsule since 2013.  I have basically had no knowledge about what is going on with puerh tea since 2013 and have not really even paid to close attention between 2011-2013 when I spent most of my attention on Korean teas.  It will be so much fun to explore it again.  I wonder what I missed during my absence from the world of puerh?

So please reader, join me in this rediscovery of puerh and everything that goes with it.

Invitation to You: Let's Restock a Puerh Stash Together!



Monday, May 1, 2017

How Did It All Go So So Wrong? & Learning From Past Mistakes

It is said that mistakes are always good because we can learn from them- it creates a learning opportunity that will maybe benefit us in the long term... So, please join me in this life lesson... maybe it can also benefit you in the long term...

So after I realized that my puerh stash will pretty much be gone in a year or so.  I began to reflect on why I could let this happen in the first place.  Well of course, it is a matter of simple addition and subtraction.  Simply put just purchase more tongs, tous, brinks, and cakes than one will consume.  But in reality, if you are a drinker of aged puerh, it is a lot more complicated than that. You have to either buy puerh with more age on it but usually at a higher price or buy now and store and age the tea yourself.  So this really complicates the simple math equation because you might be buying tea now that you will only consume 10 years down the road.

For me there were some very real issues that had to be solved before I just purchased a tong every year.  The issues were as follows:

1- Dragging my puerh stash around the world.

I had to stop shipping my puerh stash around the globe with me. I have lived in 11 different places,  in 2 different counties, and 2 different Canadian Provinces in 10 years.  Do you know how expensive it is to ship, unpack, repack, reship, store, repeat?  I understood that after all that shipping my puerh was all of a sudden a lot more pricier per cake.  On top of that there are inherent risks to the puerh from shipping and storing it.  Also it is really quite annoying and a hassle to do this.

This was a big reason why I tried not to stock up on too much puerh because if you include the time & money spent on this it makes the puerh rather expensive.

My solution was to settle down and purchase a home first then restock my puerh later.

For a variety of different reasons this took a lot longer than I initially thought.  It wasn't until Dec 2015 that I accepted the inevitability that Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada is my home and bought.

2- Money and the increasing price of puerh.

Especially between 2009-2015 my funds were not as robust as they once were and are now.  Also the prices really started to go through the roof at this time as well.  So the combination really turned me off from buying.

My solution was to wait for a time when I would have more expendable cash to spend on puerh.

I think this just finally happened over the last year really!

3- Everyone pressing their own cakes.

I was also turned off and confused buy all the vendors pressing their own cakes in 2008/2009.  It required someone spending a lot more time and money ordering samples trying the tea to see what you were actually buying instead of just throwing your money at a factory you could trust.  Also there was all of a sudden a surge of information coming out of Yunnan as far as puerh from all these little small villages and less popular mountains that puerh drinkers have never heard of before.

My solution was to wait until some of these other issues were solved and when I was more serious about buying before getting really indepth with these new pressing, villages, mountains, vendors.

Overall the process was very time consuming but now I am glad I have this experience under my belt.  To me it was kind of like drinking puerh in mid 2000s when you had to try the tea to see what was behind those CNNP wrappers that pretty much covered every cake.  I am so grateful to all those who sent samples and especially all the group blogger puerh tastings mainly set up by Hobbes of the Half-Dipper.  I participated in all of them dispite of everything and it really added to my tea knowledge.  Thank you those involved with that.

4- Not being able to buy in real life and being turned off from digging around online.

I guess some of you really love sleuthing around online for the right puerh? Or maybe you just have never had the opportunity to sit in a variety of different tea shops within a close proximity of your home to contrast the online experience?  I am fortunate to have first learned about drinking puerh by going to many puerh tea shops and drinking lots of puerh tea next to other people who really love puerh.  This experience seems so far removed from learning and buying online.

My solution is a general life theme and probably what got me into this trouble in the first place- PROCRASTINATE until you finally really feel like doing that stuff online or maybe you will move back or visit Asia in the near future.

I think sometime last year a vague thought passed my mind that I kinda need to restock some of this puerh.  I didn't look online thoujgh, instead I visited my buddy Pedro's epic O5Tea in Vancouver, BC in Spring of 2016.  In conversation I told him that I was looking to restock my puerh.  He is selling some very fancy designer puerh called DC there at O5Tea- I bought 2 xiao bings.   They were very different than puerh I was used to drinking, not too harsh at all for young Shang puerh.  I consumed them quickly within a month or so.  Xiao bings are pretty much just samples in my mind- not worth storing.

Since 2014 I have not had a puerh drinking buddy that I can sit down in person with and talk and drink puerh.  I hope the online community and this blog will fill this gap a bit- please sit down with me, join in the conversation, and lets have some puerh together over the coming months and years.

5- Finding increasingly less time for tea.

The intensity of my life slowly increased dramatically until the last year.  In fact there was one year when I moved homes 3 times, took over another Dr.'s practice on top of my own family practice, moved clinics 3 times, had a child, bought a house and there was 1 death in the family all in one year!  2015 was a very interesting year.  Life can be rather intense sometimes.  This ultimately lead to the long absence in blogging.  But honestly it happened slowly over many years of having more and more constraints on my time and shifting priorities.

My solution was to come back to everything when things settled down but really I just stopped thinking about this stuff.  Thinking about puerh dropped off much quicker than Korean tea.  It wasn't really a conscious choice it was more like survival.

I would guess that since 2011 I have not really paid any attention to what was going on in the puerh world other than reading Hobbes' Half-Dipper off and on since 2013.  I had a wonderful puerh drinking buddy in Victoria named Antoine who convinced me begrudgingly to go in on some tongs with him.  He was a follower of Hobbes' beloved Half-Dipper and got some nods from his tasting notes.  God bless him because if it weren't for him I would be out of tea in 2015.

It is important to note that although I had little time, my tea drinking was still sacred time- true peace amongst the chaos and quick changing life.  In the end, you always come back to what you love... so I am here now.

6- My tea tastes were changing

As I waited for most of my puerh to age to a certain level of maturity, I was stuck with drinking mainly fresh samples and a thin variety of good older, everyday drinkers. I was also drinking lots of Korea teas.  But I think the game changer was the introduction of Darjeeling teas.  My wife and I visited there in March of 2009 and the teas that year made an impression on us.  Darjeeling had a few excellent years with extraordinary tea (2015 and 2013 seem to stick out).  That coupled with the familiarity with the different gardens, producers, and the feel of each of these places made sampling and ordering very easy.  The price of Darjeeling was also very affordable (but has risen dramatically too over the last 6 years- this years first flush was pricey due to drought).  So I ended up ordering a few kilograms of Darjeeling every year for a very reasonable price and regular drinking of this tea slowly put a squeeze on my puerh drinking because really you can only consume a certain amount of tea in a year.  I really wondered if I still would drink that much puerh every year.

My solution or thought was that there is no need to buy more puerh when you are not drinking too much of it anyways.

I was, in fact, drinking more puerh than I gave myself credit for.  Over the last year or so I have realized that aged puerh really is the healthiest for me to drink.  After this realization I drink almost exclusively puerh especially as my old stash of puerh seems to be quite ready to drink.

*7- Can puerh tea even survive or taste good stored in ultra cool and dry conditions?*

This one is the kicker.  It is a really really important issue that I could only tell with time.  The Canadian prairies are extraordinarily cold and dry.  They are so cold that all houses are now pretty much heated with forced air furnaces that run constantly and burn off all the humidity in the house.  To give you an idea of how dry it gets here- A wood end table I purchased in Victoria warped from the humidity change.  Everything that I knew about puerh storage told me that puerh will not aged well here.  Maybe it would be like fresh green puerh frozen in time? OR maybe it would mutate into something quite undrinkable?  Maybe I would just have to buy expensive aged puerh and just drink it right away?

There was no one I could find in the province of Saskatchewan (or Alberta) that had any experience with such issues so the only way to test this out was to actually age the tea here myself and see how it does.  It would just be a colossal waste of money, time, effort, and space if tea couldn't age here.

My solution was a 10 year long aging experiment in these harsh conditions (probably similar to the extreme environments NASA tests in... Hahaha).

Don't listen to the fear mongers.  Don't obsess about the storage.  Don't risk molding up all of your tea.

It turns out just fine (I will definitely post lots about the details of this one in the future).

So there you go, those are the reasons why I was left with my stash dwindling.  I think putting it in writing and reflecting on it will ensure that it never happens again.  Maybe it will help some of you guys not get to this point as well?


Friday, April 28, 2017

It Happened to me: A Puerh Drinker’s Worst Nightmare!!!

Warning the following content is graphic to drinkers of raw aged sheng puerh…

It happened to me and (this is your warning), it can happen to you…

I just happen to drink through a few cakes of approximately 10 years aged puerh, no big deal.  I’ll just go downstairs into my infinitely large stash of puerh a grab a few more cakes.  The stash is so big that it will probably last forever so really I don’t tend to check on it very closely.  I really don’t drink THAT much puerh anyways.  Half asleep, I creek down the 100 year old steps into the basement and into a rather unattended corner of my very unorganized basement.  I make my way into the corner littered haphazardly with cardboard boxes and Rubbermaid storage containers some unopened since moving from Korea or Victoria or place to place so many times.  I dig into a box that is littered with old dried bamambo tong wrappers and other tong boxes.  I pull back the bamboo and pull out a cake- wait a minute… is this the last cake in the tong? …. I can’t drink up this last cake.   It’s taste, smell, and feel bring back to a time and place I love.  Only one left!  Well I have many more tongs of different sheng puerh so I guess I’ll just grab another… only 3 cakes left in that tong… only 2 left in that tong… and a few other loose cakes… THAT’S IT!  All of a sudden, in that moment, I realized one of the worst nightmares of puerh drinkers has in fact come true.

It turns out that my stash wasn’t that big after all.  At its peak in 2012 it was at around 45 cakes, I think.  Now, I am left with around 15.  It turns out that it won’t actually last forever and it turns out that I do, infact, drink lots of aged puerh.  Over the last few years I have been drinking more and more puerh and less of other teas.  This is mainly due to the fact that many of the cakes I purchased approximately 10 years ago are now ready to drink and I feel that they are the healthiest option as well has the most enjoyable of teas.  I have quite a taste for adolescent sheng puerh- when it becomes quite easy on the digestive system but retains the vigor of its youth.  I love this stage, the qi, the taste, the aroma.  If I continue drinking as much as I do the whole stash will be completely gone in a year or two including some cakes from the 70s and 90s!

That’s right hoarding puerh drinkers, at some point you too may drink through your stash.

So this is where I am right now…



Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Hanging In My Office At Work

It seems appropriate considering odds are that the tea in my cup comes from one of these "12 Famous Tea Mountains of Xishuangbanna"!

Although the puerh tea featured in the past on this blog doesn't really represent the actual puerh I'm drinking, almost all of the tea featured in this blog has come from this area (a true representation of the cakes I have).

No wonder the label Xishuangbanna covers almost all the puerh tea featured here on MattCha's Blog.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

The "NEW" MattCha's Blog Is A Puerh Blog!!! Ok?

Well my favourite tea is raw puerh cha of course!

It has always been (since well before the start of this blog at least).  All my tea friends and all the tea people I have ever been close to enjoy raw puerh much more than any other kind of tea.  I wonder what your favourite tea is?

When looking back at the posts on this blog the puerh posts are really overshadowed by the heavy Korean tea content.  In reality, I have drank much more puerh tea than Korean but you would probably never know it from reading this blog.  When going back through the blog I realized that I published more on samples and group tastings than my own purchases!  I guess I drink a lot of tea and you can't publish on everything else you would be posting daily and that's no fun at all!

The future of this blog will be puerh focused.  I hope to post more on what I buy, issues of puerh drinkers, and other original insights on puerh tea.  Don't worry, I will still post about Korean tea as well.  Since being out of the epicentre of Korean tea for so long, it seems natural to focus more on what I'm doing now and not as much what is going on thousands of miles away in Korea.

One of the first things I did to mark the shift to a puerh blog was go back to all the old puerh posts and tidy up the labels to reflect the vendor, factory, area, and town/mountain of the puerh.  Then I realized that the new mobile/ tablet version of Blogger doesn't even use these anymore.  You have to go to "view web version" to see them.  Does anyone even use labels anymore?

Anyhow.. So the upcoming posts are going to feature mainly puerh ... yay!


Thursday, April 13, 2017

MattCha's Blog's Many Accomplishments... Horay!

The Old MattCha's Blog was started at a time with very little English knowledge about:

1- Korean tea history and written classics

2- the various types of Korean teas and their production

3- where to purchase Korean teas

4- Korean teawear

English information on Korean tea history and classics was changed dramatically in 2007 with Brother Anthony's book Korean Way of Tea, it was further advanced in 2011 with the publication of Korean Tea Classics, and new and important insights were added in 2012 with the publication in Transactions by Brother Anthony and Steven Owyoung.  The readers of MattCha's Blog held a book club on Korean Tea Classics to celebrate this introduction of knowledge!

Korean green teas and other types of Korean teas are featured throughout this blog and the production is outlined here.

An extensive list of Korean tea vendors is published on MattCha's Blog (I better update this).

Korean teawear is also featured throughout and can be viewed with this label here.

Overall, MattCha's Blog gives a complete picture of Korean tea culture.

However, as is popular in Korea, the blog also features many posts on other teas.  This is especially true of raw puerh from Yunnan, and Japanese matcha.

Many people are very surprised when they ask me what my favorite tea is... (any guesses?)...


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Goals of Old Blog Accomplished!

I remember reading some of the exciting tea blogs coming out in 2006 and 2007 and wondering why nothing was ever mentioned about Korean tea?  I wondered why there were no posts about Korea's delicious teas and there were no beautiful Korean tea wears to be found.  I remember thinking that everything in English (and in Korean too) about the topic of Korean tea did not seem genuine or simply was not true to what was acutually going on outside of the capital city Seoul.  I felt that there was nothing that could accurately represent Korean tea culture.  So as a response to this I created MattCha's Blog.

Deep into the study of Seon (Zen) Buddhism, I remember choosing the colour of the blog to be the same grey colour as the Seon Buddhist clothes.  I wanted the blog to be about the tea, not about me, so the text would be the same green colour as tea leaves.  I remember that I deliberately chose to have the blog to be very simple and technologically modest in look and feel, mirroring the teachings.  The blogs name is an old play on words which reflects the above philosophy with my name (Matt) and a common type of tea (matcha).

The old MattCha's Blog, I feel accomplieshes all of these goals and addresses all of these concerns.  

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

MattCha: Can A Modest Ol' Tea Blog Make A Comeback?

I think so... I mean. I am still am passionate about tea!

Or is blogging a dying art?  Maybe not the best way to communicate to the tea world, maybe not as relevant as the powerful tea blog once was?

I think all of us tea bloggers out there discovered something about blogging, it is actually very time consuming!  I think that's why it is such a nice platform to communicate about tea- it's (relatively speaking) slower than other online methods.  It's a process. It takes time.

So is a good gong fu session...

I think us old school tea bloggers that once had lots of time in our 20s/early 30s to passionately pour our time into teaism, have lost that time to significant others, kids of our own, and demanding careers. There is only a certain amount of time in a day and surely those mentioned above are worthy of it!

It doesn't mean that we are still not passionate about drinking tea, I think we still are.... but we may have less time to really bask in a good tea session.  No matter what's in a day, my tea session is a moment of peace, a pause, some space in my day.  No matter how short it is, or cramped in between patients, or with my daughter tugging at my pant legs, it still brings me back into the moment.

I think others, too will come back to tea blogging as well.  It's like a middle age tea blogging crisis!

I read BearsBears blog a few months back and it kind of sums it up this feeling.