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.
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