Friday, April 20, 2018
I think this must have happened to a number of my readers by now but it’s the first time it’s happened to me with online puerh shopping...
Spot a real deal… probably at least ½ the going market price on this cake. I figure it’s, at least, tastes twice as good as the asking price.
Line up your next puerh purchase (however you do that). For me it included a few other purchases on for the ride.
Then just as you plan on sealing the deal and putting everything so nicely in the cart you go to the site and … Boom! It happens…
At first I was kind of angered. Felt like swearing out loud… like when I stub my toe.
Then I kind of pouted for a bit. “Fine then, I will just scrap my order then”.
Then I come to the realization that, sure, I will never get a chance to get this tea that crazy cheap again but other puerh retailers have it (differently stored). I will have to pay fair price for such things but hey maybe the storage will be twice as good as the sold out? I start to justify even though I know I would have probably preferred the sold out storage much more.
Then I start thinking… I am supposed to be going after some higher quality stuff not this cheap factory puerh. This was what I told all of you. Perhaps this is all for good after all…
But man that was a great deal… and I can’t resist such things…
Over the last year I feel I have been very fortunate at snapping up great deals on some factory cakes that, with the rising price of puerh, will not ever be had at this quality at such low prices ever again. I have had my old puerh eyes on a lot of different sites to nab up these forgotten bargains but this was the last one I spotted and it is now gone. So now, my bargainbasement, clear out puerh strategy is no more.
It ended with this last one that got away… for better or for worse…
Then with my confidence up I decide to spend the purchase on one really nice cake, which I have been eyeing for a while. I was hoping to purchase one in a few months’ time, for a special occasion. Now, with the bargain basement order failing to go through I have freed up enough to finally justify this big purchase.
So, happy in my decision to go all in with one cake, I go to the site to drop one of these gorgeous cakes into the cart. Once again I was meet with a big “Sold Out”.
Hahahaha…. Just my luck.
Thursday, April 19, 2018
Another thing that I really noticed when getting back into buying puerh was that a lot more people seem to be buying China National Native Products (CNNP) puerh. This surprised me at first. To me CNNP was associated with a risk of being lower quality puerh. Basically, you never knew, for certain what the cake would be like and had no brand recognition behind it. At the random tea tables in China, and to a lesser extent Korea, there was a decent chance that these teas would be almost undrinkable. To order a cake of this stuff blindly was almost unimaginable 10 years ago.
Nowadays, the mentality toward the CNNP labeled teas has changed thanks to western pureh vendors. Puerh vendors have picked up on some Western puerh drinker’s preference for value over brand and have started stocking these. As buyers we no longer have to be concerned about them being undrinkable because the vendors basically do the leg work here to ensure something of a particular quality that won’t compromise their own brand. I feel sorry for them, but grateful!
As a result, we are now ensured a certain level of quality with these CNNP cakes. Without brand recognition behind these cakes- great value can be had. This pretty much removes the puerh collector from driving up the market value of these teas. These are the true puerh drinker’s puerh!
Recently, my feeling of the CNNP cakes changed because of good reviews and a general positive outlook overall and a run of good ones that I sampled from Stephane of Teamasters . After reading some of these reviews I really wanted to try some out in my next order. It took me longer than I thought to order again (probably a good problem to have), but I am happy to say that some of these CNNPs are on their way. I am really hoping that these cakes help me overcome my fear of CNNP.
The first to arrive was….
Dry leaves smell of a faint smoke almost creamy sweetness and slight aged, almost roasted meat odour.
“Big Yellow” gets the big yixing and big Korean ceramic cups treatment today. “Go bold or go home” I chuckle to myself.
The first infusion delivers a slightly smoke, slight sour initial taste. There is a mild sweetness that lingers on the breath. The base taste is slightly smokey, meaty, and savory here. There is a soft subtle sweetness that tries to push through in the mild returning sweetness. There is a soapy, almost cinnamon and rose pedal quality in there as well. There is lots going on with this tea. The mouthfeel has a bit of chalkiness to it in this first infusion. I got some mild allergic symptoms off this one right after the first infusion. Next time I will probably give it 2 or 3 rinses instead of just one.
The second infusion starts with a meaty, savory BBQ like taste then adds a slightly almost chalky rose edge. The aftertaste is mildly cooling and evolves in the mouth. The throat has a deeper chalkier mid throat feel which works well for this tea. The aftertaste minutes later is a nice mild smokey menthol barely rose sweetness. The aftertaste is long and interesting trying to push more subtle sweet flavours through. The qi of this tea is strong enough to have a profound effect on the mind.
The third infusion starts with a smokey, BBQ like taste. Then there is a splash of almost sweetness then back to smokey BBQ, then slowly and long evolving into a cooling returning aftertaste. Minutes later there is a barely creamy rose aftertaste. The taste profile of this tea is long and unfolds slowly. The mouth and throat feel develop a nice astringency to it. The aftertaste has a creamy almost sweet finish reminiscent of Nannou. The way I am reacting to this tea, it contains more than a bit of evil qi in there.
The fourth infusion begins with this roasted meat and smokey BBQ taste. The mouthfeel becomes more astringent but not overly so. The aftertaste is more measured in this fourth infusion with less subtlety or sweetness pushing through.
The fifth still carries this burley, masculine feel of smokey, strong almost harshness followed by hints of Nannou creamy sweetness in the aftertaste that slides into a rose-like taste. There is much to see in this tea if you can see through its smokey strength.
The sixth infusion starts to coalesce nicely. Its initial taste is almost a creamy sweet woody taste. Its less smokey here and more rich and creamy. It has a nice floral rose like finish that is more noticeable now. The mouthfeeling is chalky and deeper and aftertaste is slight cooling evolving. The qi is really nice and strong you can feel it in the chest as the heart beats stronger and in the head that feel cloudy, energy sure is felt, a boost for sure.
The seventh infusion is similar to the sixth but more smokey and woody. Nice big qi in here for sure.
I think about throwing in the towel with this tea but it just tastes too damn good, despite some of the allergic like reactions I’m having to it. It seems like it’s even getting better in these last infusions so I steep it a few more times. The body of these infusions are decently rich and thick in the mouth with a more cohesive flavor profile of smokey wood and almost creaminess. This tea feels like it could go a lot further with even more infusions.
This tea reminds me of 85% Xiguan, 10% Nannou single estate, 5% Yang Qing Hao. It is robust and strong, almost harsh but has some elegance, some softeness as well. To me the Nannou profile is the most obvious but the strength indicates other Menghai material mixed in there.
This tea tastes great and has some very nice qi but my body is reacting negatively to something in that cake. Who knows what it is. I really want to like this cake, but my body and the itch is telling me it’s probably not worth it. Due to past recommendations of this tea by others there must be many people out there who have sampled it. Is there anyone else out there that has experienced allergic type symptoms? Maybe I'm just allergic to good puerh? Hahaha...
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
I am a believer that, as a general rule, people often prefer their own puerh storage over the storage of others. You can position yourself on either side of the argument as to what the most optimal puerh storage is but in the end it comes down to past experiences and personal tastes. There is an adage in puerh circles that “if the puerh is to your taste, then it is good puerh”. This is just as true for the effect storage has on puerh as it is for the qualities we select in fresh puerh.
Recently, a wise puerh drinker suggested that you should probably get at least a few cakes of a puerh that you like because once you age it in your own unique storage, you will never be able to get that exact puerh experience from even the same batch of puerh ever again. You may be able to get similar, if you are lucky, but never exactly the same. Wise advice, I can personally relate to.
I can speak to my own personal experience here when restocking my puerh. A lot of puerh I drank away is gone forever even if I had owned a tong of it, or a few cakes of it- it is gone now. I noticed this effect when restocking the 2007 Boyu Manludashan and 2008 Mengku Wild Arbour King. Of course there was nothing bad about the storage, some could even argue that it represents “better” storage, I suppose. The problem was that it was not my storage- that’s it.
I feel that because puerh tea is so closely linked in our minds to our past experiences and memories of it, we automatically select this puerh storage over others. Really, I think we are partly selecting our past memories and associations not necessarily the storage itself. Of course, there are going to be examples of going for other storage conditions especially storage that are harder to replicate at home like Maylasian or Taiwanese for myself.
For the people who have amassed tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of pureh, who will admit to their storage actually not being good? This is essentially devaluing their investment if they wish to sell or liquidate their puerh.
In the future, I think famous puerh personalities’ storage will create value. “Cwyn’s famous crock storage”, “James’ famous Pumidor Storage”, “Shah8’s famous natural storage”. Every time I read Marshal’N post about what do with bad puerh I can picture hundreds of people with their hand up saying, “Me please.” To drink someone’s puerh is to know something deep about them, I think. It’s to consume a part of them. Even if to drink puerh that a famous puerh person once thought was worthy of buying but now thinks it is rubbish says something about that person.
“MattCha’s famous wrapped storage”…. HahahaI like that.
Tuesday, April 3, 2018
Did you know that there is a real debate within western puerh circles about what is considered the most optimal home storage for puerh? (here and here). This debate is especially relevant because unless you live somewhere that is warm and/ or humid chances are you will not be optimally aging your puerh naturally in the open air, such as on a shelf in your home or in a cupboard. I suppose there are endless ways you can store puerh but, in America at least, the pumidor (puerh humidor) seems to be the most popular these days. Have you ever wondered why?
I think the first I heard of the pumidor was around 2009. I believe it was a reaction by some of the early puerh drinkers to previous advice from those storing puerh in very different climates in Southern China which even recommended putting the puerh in a cardboard box in a place with good airflow. They gradually found out that this advice was not optimal for the mainly stronger factory puerh that they had accumulated in the drier and cooler climate in the West.
In this 2012 post titled “Ideas of Tea Storage” by Marshal’N, most of the discussion is around the pumidor. In the comment section, Bev, is discussing considerations in building an optimal pumidor which she later posts in detail about on her blog in the following years. What I find most interesting is the almost complete lack of discussion of sealing/Ziploc bagging/ shrink wrapping storage from this time and earlier on English blogs/ forums. I think this lack of discussion, challenge, and vocal opposition to the pumidor during this time lead a lot of people automatically going this route especially those who started drinking puerh at this time (around 5 or so years ago).
What I find most interesting is that puerh storage using shrink wrapping was a common thing in many parts of Asia at this time and years before. There is an argument that says that people who live in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Malaysia don’t have a similar climate to Western climates so their option on shrink wrap does not carry the same weight or does not apply to storage of puerh in the West. But what about other climates in China that are closer to ours in the West such as those in Northern China and Korea? What do they consider optimal storage for puerh in their much cooler and drier climates?
It was my personal observation that the more North you travel in China the more you see sealed puerh storage. Surely, I must have come across numerous pumidors in those drier more northern climates? Nope- not even a single pumidor. Shocking, I know. I guess those people in China know very little about optimal puerh storage… maybe they should take a note from those in America who know a lot more about storing puerh optimally? Who knows, time will tell. Maybe someone in America will design the perfect pumidor and market it to the people in China and make a killing? Possibly. I haven’t been to those parts of China in a while, maybe it just took them a few years to realize that their sealed storage is failing their puerh and they have all converted to pumidor? I don’t know this.
What I do know is that Bev who is located in the Pacific Northwest and has one of my all-time favorite tea blogs, Listening to Leaves blog, did make a beautiful, and well thought out pumidor and famously documented it on her blog. She also began to wrap all of her puerh cakes in Saran wrap (aka Cling Wrap, plastic wrap) and place them in her pumidor. She tasted them and made notes on them and documented this. She came to the conclusion that it was the wrapping, not the pumidor, which was most optimally aging her puerh. In the end, despite her great effort, she abandon the pumidor for the wrapped approach. It saddens me that she recently blocked her blog from public view. She is someone whose pallet has developed a very high level of sophistication when it comes to puerh and she has amassed a very large collection of very fine aged cakes, I think.
Personally, I remember watching Mr. Kim, a tea teacher/ teamaster in Korea wrapping up tongs of sheng puerh so many years ago. I remember when I first saw him do this, it was perplexing to me at the time. Why would you want to cover a beautiful traditional looking bamboo tong full of puerh cakes in natural paper in oh so unnatural plastic wrap? This was especially unusual for a man who seemed to do everything the natural and traditional way. I remember the conversation that followed…
I asked him if he was wrapping the puerh to protect it. He said it was to both protect and age it. He explained that Korea’s climate was to cold, dry and very different then South China and that he had to wrap it to preserve the biological environment of the puerh. Sounded reasonable enough to me. So I too wrapped my puerh tight without questioning things too much and that is how most of it stayed for years.
Then at some point when living in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada I unwrapped some of the puerh to see how it was doing. I wondered if it would age better in a type of pumidor storage. At the very least it would be much more accessible than the eyesore which is plastic wrapped puerh… And I could appreciate it more sensually by smelling it and savoring its beautiful fragrant aroma and viewing the beautiful packaged tongs and natural papers. This brought me much happiness.
The pumidor set up I had was pretty basic. I used a sealed chamber in the massive, built-in, hundred year old, natural cedar wood desk in the study and I added my puerh along with a few glass mason jars of water which I rotated. I noticed that this puerh set up was still aging my puerh adequately but the cakes that remained wrapped in plastic wrap seemed to contain more aroma, essence, vibrancy, and depth of taste. The pumidor cakes seemed more mellowed, more spaced out, softened. So, I, just like Bev, concluded that wrapping my puerh would be more optimal storage. Additionally, I was hearing stories of puerh molding out in other peoples’ pumidors. I have never heard of puerh molding out in plastic wrap, have you?
But if you wrap your puerh you are going to completely kill off and suffocate your puerh! You can only seal your puerh for a few months or years tops then you are pretty much just killing it off. The suffocation argument does not hold weight, people who claim this obviously have no long term experience with this sort of storage. Besides why would they have a long history of wrapping/ sealing puerh in some countries if it was detrimental? This argument could also be reversed… Pumidor storage will completely wreck your puerh! If it molds that’s a completely different story. If it doesn’t mold out, its probably going to do alright in pumidor storage. Puerh is resilient, it has more lives than cats. I’m pretty sure that pumidor stored puerh is going to turn out just fine.
With this being said, I suppose, you could even make a case for the pumidor. Its everyday accessibility is much better. There is something so cruel about having something so beautiful and something you enjoy so much that is wrapped up in many meters of plastic wrap! So ugly looking too… This is also rather inconvenient to wrap and then unwrap… so annoying. However, it is also very exciting, a delayed gratification to unwrap a puerh that has been stored that way for months or years- like the excitement of opening a gift or opening a letter from a good friend. The pumidor’s accessibility comes with the convenience and ease of looking, smelling, and checking and enjoying the sensual aspects of its aging- the esthetics of this is quite appealing.
The pumidor fridge is another thing… so American… almost like a beer fridge. It kind of has this appeal I think… “Honey I’m just going down stairs to grab a bing from the fridge”. It has this convenience factor built in. But what if your collection outgrows your fridge? Two puerh fridges and then moving these fridges from place to place, house to house… now it seems more inconvenient than convenient to me. To me I would also be concerned of the exposure to foreign bacteria’s, molds, fungus in an old fridge even if thoroughly disinfected. As mentioned in comments and previous posts, maintenance of the original mirco environment is a very important part in aging puerh and I feel wrapping it does the best job of this.
Another negative to wrapping storage is that it can’t add humidity that isn’t already in the cake before wrapping it. But this can be remedied somewhat by other means like bringing the humidity up before wrapping. Once wrapped it stays that way. Pushing the wetness of storage is something that makes the pumidor appealing but I think because it can’t preserve the micro environment as good, it’s not worth the tradeoff. Plus the risk of mold- not worth it.
Then there is the “time is money” argument. Is a puerh that is tended to meticulously worth more than one that is wrapped and basically forgotten but tastes better? I don’t think so but maybe there are some out there that do. Certainly, there is something to be said about someone who puts their own love, their own Qi, into their tea. Can you feel the love? Certainly loved puerh must taste better than neglected puerh?
In the end though, if you are aging puerh in an environment that is too cool or dry for the improved drinking experience then sealing your puerh with plastic wrap is the way to go. If you value the peripheral esthetics surrounding the aging of puerh, the excitement of checking your puerh everyday, the convenience of accessing your puerh quickly and easily, and if you like thinking way too much about temperature, humidity, and mold then maybe pumidor storage is best for you.
Friday, March 23, 2018
Are iron pressed bings and bricks better?
I know it almost seems illogical the way perfectly beautiful, intact, and absolutely delicious leaves are pressed oh so unnaturally, almost cruelly, by a machine press. The pressure alone makes freeing any leaves from the bing such an annoying and impossible task. What you do manage to stubbornly pry from the grips of an iron bing is sure to look anything but beautiful. This exercise will almost certainly result in broken leaves, lots of tea dust, and end in an overly bitter brew- there is nothing good about an iron bing…
How could a vendor do that? Are they insane? Why would they waste such beautiful leaves? Who actually buys these things?
I think iron pressed puerh cakes really get a bad wrap in the West and I don’t think it’s really fair. This is partly because people don’t get the iron bing. Many people drinking puerh nowadays don’t have a long experience in storing and aging puerh. Experience with these things leads to an understanding that puerh that is pressed tight or stored in close proximity and even in a closed environment with other puerh will result in more of that original puerh essence, taste, qi and especially odour being preserved. This is compared to puerh that is pressed less compactly such as loose mao cha or looser stone pressed puerh or puerh that is stored in open air or separated from other puerh. These types expose more surface area of dry leaf to the environment.
Looser puerh ages more quickly and its qi and essence is more influenced by the humidity or storage. However, a tradeoff to quick aging is the fact that more of the puerh’s original essence is lost. The slower aging of an iron bing results in more preserved original essence and qi while still undergoing the slower and more minimal influence of environment. Roughly this same idea can also be applied to wetter vs drier stored puerh. In fact, such close quarters and the extreme process of hydraulic machine pressing actually makes the puerh almost oxidize rather than ferment so the chemical process of the iron bing is in some ways different that a standard machine or stone pressed cake. Iron bings and bricks are really quite special for this reason as they represent an extreme in puerh aging where the material itself, and not as much of the environment, dictate the end result.
I seem to think that traditionally tight machine pressed bricks and iron bings were used deliberately for three reasons. First, was to preserve the raw material in unfavorable aging conditions. Second, was to try to preserve subtleties of maocha that was maybe lacking them in the first place. Thirdly, was to slow the aging down to the slowest rate possible
The first point is a good enough reason for the humble tea drinker in the West to seek out an iron bing or tight machine pressing. The tight compression was virtually designed to age in almost any environment. So, in the West, where conditions are a lot less favorable, it makes a lot of sense.
The second reason is due to the fact that tight machine pressed bricks are sometimes used to press autumn material. Autumn mao cha tends to have less high notes, fragrance, and intense qi than spring so pressing that material tight was a way to preserve what was there.
The third point is playing on the theory of aging puerh where the slower the aging occurs, the more favorable the outcome. The adages “good things come to those that wait.” and “slow and steady wins the race” come to mind. Alternatively this is also the same reason why some people are turned off the tight compression because they feel they won’t live long enough to enjoy it.
I think not very many westerners have much experience with iron bings. This is espically true for those newer puerh drinkers that have mainly been exposed to fresh young puerh pressed by the western vendors. Have you ever tried an iron bing? Out of those who have sampled an iron bing even fewer have tried an aged one, never mind a quality aged one. Things seem to be changing these days with some of the larger western puerh vendors offering machine pressings of their own brand.
Scott at Yunnan Sourcing has machine pressed some his higher quality, more fragrant, 250g spring cakes this year. Some of these such as the 2017 Jing Mai and 2017 Yi Bang I had sampled in the blind tasting event and were quite light and fragrant and great candidates for more compressed storage.
Paul at white2tea is also starting to lean more towards tighter compression. 2016 Post Truth and 2016 We Go High (and maybe others?) have experimented with very tight compression on teas that have a lighter more fragrant feel. It is also suspected that We Go High contains at least some autumnal material so to me the very tight compression here makes a lot of sense.
In the future, I think we are going to see a lot more of the tight compression puerh cakes. I, at least, welcome this direction.
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
This year I essentially entered into an exercise of lowering my puerh tastes. I needed to restock puerh which, I found out, has gotten quite expensive during the many years I was away from the puerh scene. At first, I tried to just restock some of the cakes that I have consumed but they were either worth billions and zillions of dollars or were no longer on the market or turned out to be waning with age. I managed to nab some nice puerh that I missed out on way back in 2006 but even that has managed to increase 30% in only 6 months!
Basically, I part consciously and part unwillingly, employed the following two techniques with the end goal of lowering my tastes. First, I went in search of my old friends, semiaged factory puerh. Secondly, I did that from those old sketchy western puerh vendors (here and here) that were remnants of a time when vendors would actually stock questionable puerh.
At first, I thought I did pretty good at lowering my standards but then a few things happened that kind of blew that up…
First, I noticed that some of that dingy, lowly, but so awesomely delicious, factory teas are giving me some sketchy pesticide symptoms that, although often super super subtle, I am finding them harder to ignore these days. As a result, I only slum it once in a while with the most questionable cakes.
Secondly, my wife likes puerh, we drink together every morning, and she simply won’t drink puerh under a certain standard. I may be able to lower my own standard, but my wife’s is totally out of my control!
Thirdly, I am getting more concerned about what factory quality puerh can do to one’s health. This is especially true when my family is consuming it (my whole family prefers puerh). My health is one thing, my family’s is another.
Fourthly, I am finding myself continuing to drink from my dwindling stash of puerh I had amassed from 10 years ago as a result.
In the end I am content with having even more daily drinkers around- they are what they are. This much, I knew when I started my search. Especially at work where 1- I often have little time to mindfully drink puerh the way I used to 2- I crave the vigor of factory qi especially as it seems to harmoniously pair with my bustling work environment and 3- I am not sharing with loved ones when in ones place of work. This is where a lot of these factory purchases have ended up and I am enjoying them, a lot in this environment.
I hope to prepare a drinking report of these everyday drinkers which I have accumulated over the past year soon.
From sampling some of 2017, I would guess, from what I tired, that you are paying around 3-4 times more for the same level of quality you would get in 2007 and remember those prices were just before the puerh bubble burst. If there are any long term puerh drinkers out there, would you say that estimate is about right?
With a bunch of factory puerh everyday drinkers accumulated, I hope to change gears a bit and focus more on some higher quality puerh.
I hope that you will join me in this direction on the blog in the coming year?
Monday, March 12, 2018
“The Sky is Falling, The Sky is Falling”
I’m very nervous… actually quite scared. I try not to think about it (take deep breaths I keep telling myself and this too will pass).
But I just can’t. How could I? How could you? If you keep getting bombarded with emails over the last few days. It seems like as soon as it’s out of my head then BOOM I see another email in my inbox!
Oh my God! …. It’s happening again…
The prices are rising! The prices are rising!
Depending which oracle or deity you consult- the end time is nearing. We have days, just hours, to act! Doom’s Day will be either March 13th or 15th depending on which way you read your doomsday calendars.
That’s right… Burger King and White Castle are raising their prices! My friend Ted (who is actually an opening DJ for Ed Sheeran) told me to keep calm. He said this happens every year… There are some Nostradamus people out there who will predict the end of days. He says its best to focus on life 10 years ago, when things were good, cheap, life was more simple. But I keep asking myself “How am I going to afford my regular fast food fix?” He reassures me with graphs that the prices are not actually rising… But blog posts and emails from my favorite fast food restaurants tell me differently! Spin me something relaxing DJ to calm my nerves please.
They say it can be predicted by the currency exchange and the markets, its in there the Chinese Yuan and the USD... its all in the cards man... perfectly explained... are you saying you know something about the markets????
They say it can be predicted by the currency exchange and the markets, its in there the Chinese Yuan and the USD... its all in the cards man... perfectly explained... are you saying you know something about the markets????
Get this….White Castle is even raising their prices of their small fries and I don’t even like small fries! But this has me really really concerned because just like the Beastie Boys say “White Castle fries only come in one size!” Not only that, but their yearly promotion is ending… How will I get my $5.00 All Barbecue Chicken Meal… not until next year or maybe they won’t even be running that promotion next year… who knows how long I have to wait for a deal like that?
Who out there will reassure me? I’m begging you people. I can even meet you at Macha Tea Company near by for some tea… its actually not on Norris Court at all but in a new lot by the Freeway and is Open all night long for those who are will to step out of their comfort zone. I know It’s not the same now that John went away but I’m beginning to like it more…. Nah there’s no time for that…
I was getting real weak so I went to White Castle for the $5.00 meal but they sold out! Ahhhh….
Ok, scrap that idea… run to your closest Burger King or White Castle- drive through is fastest. Now is your only time to act. So don’t hesitate and act now... Take out your wallet or puerhse and follow the links.
Don’t miss out! Don’t miss out! Don’t miss out!
Friday, March 9, 2018
Out of any tea from the 90s, I have consumed the 7542 more than all others combined (here and here and here). This classic recipe from Menghai Factory is by far the most popular and famous of all 90s puerh. In Korea in the mid 2000s every tea shop that sold puerh pretty much had some. Inevitably I drank a lot of it at the tea tables all those years back.
In fact it was so abundant that, it is a guarantee that many must have been fakes. Either way, they all tasted fairly aged and delicious- some more than others. The quality of these cakes depended mainly on the storage and whether they were true Menghai factory vs. fake. Sometimes a fake could even taste better than a cake that seemed real. So even early on in my puerh tea education I learned that the taste of a long session of tea rarely lies.
These 7542 sample recipes came included in a recent order from Stephane of Teamasters. If you are looking to avoid the fakes altogether the first thing would be to find a very reputable vendor, Teamasters is one such vendor.
Well, as I said there is only one way to know if these guys are the super delicious 7542s or just the normally delicious 7542s. Let crush these samples with some gong fu and deep meditation…
Earlier this week received a few feet of snow, it is a blizzard out there today, the whole family is out of the house so I ‘m breaking out this sample and having a great tea session… Sigh… I forgot I broke my old small, cheap shui ping pot… and my other small volume David Louveau pot is at work… well this will be a first aged puerh in this Korean ceramic pot … with no other great option in mind…. Let’s do it! It is actually perfect volume for all the sample!
The dry leaves smell of dry wood with a very faint odour of distant fruit that is overwhelmed by a dusty odour. As the leaves hit the warm tea pot woody notes and cherry almost orangy notes emerge. The leaves seem medium-higher humidity stored with decent humidity exposure likely Taiwanese stored.
First infusion has a smooth velvety creamy woody slight orangy taste. The taste is deep, rich, and coats the tongue, mouth, and throat with a slightly simulating, but thick coating. It opens the mid throat nicely. There is a nice cooling menthol aftertaste present along with deeper dried cherries, orange peel, and wood. This tea imparts an immediate warming penetrating qi and makes the mind release into immediate reassuring calm.
The second infusion starts to show that this is Menghai Factory because even with significant age it still has an edge. It opens with chalky almost talc cherry fruits and old dry wood, like that of an old library. It has both a viscus feeling in the mouth as well as a slight astringency. The astringency is enough to push a gob of saliva up into the throat to entrap all the aged flavours of aged camphor and oak, slight cream, distant cherry and talc. They sound simple in writing but deep in the mouth.
The third infusion returns to a denser, richer presentation with the more astringent aspects dropping slightly. The rich profile gives us deep layer, nuanced aged wood taste, very slightly creamy edge, with cherry talc distant tastes and a slight orange peel taste distant in the throat that follows aged wood and slight menthol. The mouth and throat feel are spot on for Menghai Factory of this age.
The fourth infusion has a lighter fruity burst initially that was shrouded deep in richer wood tastes in the previous infusions. The wood tastes are drier and more astringent in this infusion. This astringency seems to capture more fruity tastes in the mouth. The fruit tastes are distant, almost like dried cherries, orange peel, and pomegranate. The shift in profile could have been due to me fetching new water as well.
The fifth infusion is much the same as the fourth- dry wood, talic, distant dried cherry, old aged wood in the library taste. Slight cooling even a mushroom like taste in the finish which I’ve never encountered before in 7442. Has anyone out there ever tasted mushroom in 7542? Mouthfeel and throatfeel remain full, slightly astringent. The qi is big, nice, warming in the whole body, mind is very relaxed but sharp and present. The strength is apparent as it still seems to nudge the digestion. I rest the leaves for 30 minutes…
The sixth infusion has a robust layered wood taste that is very full in the mouth the high notes have again yielded to the aged wood. The mouthfeel is not as astringent here more of a rich astringency. A chalky feeling in the mouth with slight cooling in throat.
The seventh lightens up more than the sixth and is much the same. I added 5 more seconds to the flash infusion here.
The eighth infusion 10 seconds is added to the flash infusion and it yields pretty much the same flavours as previous. Of note is still the strong menthol aftertaste, full mouth- and throatfeeling. There seems to be more fruit notes in the mid profile in this infusion. I step away for an hour or so then I’m back to enjoy…
The ninth infusion tastes of wood and almost date fruit taste. The sweeter fresher cherry taste is gone in this infusion. Everything is deeper and more coalescent. Wood, slight dates, leather. The cooling sensation is less.
The tenth infusion is of woody, leather, aged taste. slight cooling aftertaste in a full, slightly astringent/drying mouthfeel. The taste beyond this point is just basically the above aged taste. When makes it still enjoyable is the engaged mouthfeeling, almost sweetness as a counterpoint to the deeper, earthier woody aged tastes and traces of a cooling aftertaste in a simulating throat. As a result it can play out for many many infusions much like this.
After a few more infusions I put this tea into long overnight steepings and I am greeted to dried fruity, leathery wood infusions the throat feel holds somewhat giving these longer infusions some depth. I enjoy this tea for the next few mornings like this.
Overall, this 7542 has lost almost all traces of youth. I would image that this tea had heavier humid storage for the first 10 years then it was direr stored. It has suggestion that this came from a herbal medicine distributor in the 1990s with a slight aged herb feel- it is possible. Nice tea for those who prefer their 7542 with deeper humid storage and more of an aged taste and feel. This 7542 very much resembles the stuff I drank years ago in Korean Puerh Tea Houses.
The shear amount of snow has really slowed down a place that is used to having lots of snow. The result is another perfect morning for a great tea session and just days from the 1997, I sample this 1999.
The dry leaves smell of creamy fairly intense sweetness with undertones of wood. The creamy rich sweetness surprises me a bit. The leaves are not as compressed as the 1997 and much much lighter and more vibrant. This 1999 is much more dry stored Kunming or shrink wrapped or true dry storage.
The first infusion has a very creamy sweet initial taste with notes of fruity wood that descends into very mild and creamy wood almost talc like taste. The mouthfeeling is light and thin creamy and talc. The aftertaste is light on the breath with a very light cooling sweetness.
The second infusion’s initial taste dries the lips with creamy sweet slightly astringent fruity wood flavor. The base taste is clean wood with a noticeable undercurrent of creamy sweetness throughout. The vibrancy and creamy sweetness of this 7542 is quite nice. The cooling aftertaste is nice and strong the mildly astringent mouth and throat feel hold it there and keep it on the breath.
The third infusion starts with a creamy sweet more cohesive taste with the fruitier sweetness overtaking the creamy sweetness. This infusion tastes more broth-like, more contained, more juice-like, with the fruit taste almost equal with wood tastes here. The creaminess is still there too. The dry wood tastes seems more intense as the astringency continues to grow here. It’s not drying in the mouth or throat, its medium astringency. A very noticeable classic Menghai note of pine wood or resin start to develop.
The fourth infusion has the woody pine like notes dominating now with the creamier sweet notes entrenched almost equally now. The pine comes initially then greats the creamy sweet taste quickly. The sweetness is long on the breath along with a bit of cooling. This is a classic 7542 profile. There is less talc and more cherry-plum sweetness in this infusion now.
The fifth infusion has a cohesiveness pulling all the tastes into one and they start to be more mild. The aftertaste remains big with sweet creamy notes and an almost menthol like pine taste. Overall the mouth and throat feeling are easy to ignore- they are still very full but not standoffish. The mouth- and throatfeel have a full slightly powdery consistency with a medium astringency. This infusion also tastes puerh like almost camphory in taste. The qi of this tea is not as strong as other 7542 but it has a very cooling qi in the body not warming. This speaks to its still relative youth and dry storage. In the body you can feel it lingering in the stomach slightly. Overall it’s relaxing and gives on a mild, focused mental sharpness.
The sixth is much the same as the fifth as all these tastes pull together in the initial taste and following taste. These infusions have a plum and camphor taste. There is also pine especially on the breath. The aftertaste remains active and evolving, the mouth- and throatfeeling unwavering. There is a talc taste on the breath minutes later, lots of sweetness returning with coolness.
The seventh infusion you can taste a subtle smokiness, could taste it very faintly in the sixth but more here. This infusion has much less sweetness and more of a smoky woody taste throughout. The aftertaste is mainly woody slight returning coolness. Not as much sweet here. Not as complex over the whole taste profile.
Eighth infusion I start adding 5 seconds to each subsequent infusions and starts with a clear woody taste, slight, faint almost flowery/powdery fruit taste. Cool aftertaste with chalky finish sweet and creamy slight woody. Long aftertaste.
The ninth infusion I drop back to flash infusion and am gifted with a very nice result that almost talc rose like sweet chalky taste that is classic dry stored 7542 initially. It slightly numbs the lips the evolution in the profile is complex, interesting. Pine wood appears in the aftertaste next to creamy sweet undertones.
The tenth I flash infuse again and the taste is much like the ninth.
The eleventh another very enjoyable infusion that is just as complex and very similar to the above.
I have to leave for work but I understand that these leaves are at their prime right now in the infusion. I throw them into a container and put them into my one cup Korean tea maker at work but, I’m not sure if it’s the different, softer water there, the exposure to cold, or the steeping vessel but I can’t keep the momentum going with this tea. Infusions at work I start adding more time to the infusions but get tastes of sweet creamy plum cherry but more muted than before. Now mainly the tastes are of wood with a still full mouthfeeling and nice astringency of the throat which nicely hold the returning sweet menthol coolness.
The Qi really starts to build until it is almost of a talkative, jittery type. Someone at work asks, “Did you have coffer today?” Its that type of intense factory style qi that lingers within these steepings. But it really builds up very slowly to this point.
I steep this tea from morning to night and I am amazed at the stamina of it. The throat feeling is unwavering and the menthol like returning sweetness will not resign. This is a great example of dry stored 7542 and shares a certain resemblance to the Manghai Factory Qingbings I’ve sampled in the past.
These two Menghai Factory 7542 are quite interesting to compare. Only 2 years separate these two identical recipes from identical factories, as far as puerh from 20 years ago this is almost nothing. Meaning there is no one I ever met, no teamaster, that could guess which puerh is older by tasting a 19 year old and a 21 year old so this age difference, doesn’t mean much. Although the price difference between these two is more due to the age difference.
The huge difference between these near identical teas is basically storage.
Neither is really better, it’s just a matter of preference.
I doubt that there are many readers out there who are going to shell out the money for these full cakes but I highly recommend ordering the samples. Especially if you are new to puerh and want to see how different storage conditions effect a puerh 20 years down the road. Or those drinkers out there who have never experienced Menghai (Dayi) Factory back when it was still great puerh.
I quite like the 1999 myself although just a bit out of my price range.
I quite like the 1999 myself although just a bit out of my price range.
Thanks Stephane for these memorable sessions.
Monday, March 5, 2018
Upon my return to puerh, I first thought it was a little unusual that there were more than a few people calling my recent posts “pragmatic”. Well, these days I try live my life minimally and pragmatically. I feel it’s a good way to think and live and enjoy the wonders of life. So, quite naturally, my puerh drinking and buying should reflect this I suppose.
It occurred to me recently that my pragmatic position on buying puerh tea may have been influenced by a larger pragmatist movement taking place in Canada right now and spreading quickly globally. In Canada there seem to be political, academic, and general philosophical branches in the current pragmatic movement gaining steam here. The first two branches seem to come from Canada’s recent history of pragmatic conservatism and a fringe academic, Jorden Perterson, who apparently is currently the bestselling author globally. I can’t say that I prescribe to any of these types of pragmatism.
I think the growing popularity of the pragmatic movement is a response to the recent “Post Truth” and “Sunny Ways” governments in the US and Canada as well as the general philosophy of those voters who elected them. To me, in a general sense, it speaks to looking at things matter of fact instead of getting caught up on emotion, marketing, philosophy, political correctness and branding.
How does this apply to puerh?
I think a pragmatic philosophy is especially needed when buying puerh outside of Asia. We are more at the whims of marketing and branding because the way most of us buy puerh here is online. I can tell you from experience that it is far easier to walk away from buying puerh in a teahouse in person than it is to resist the marketing of online vendors.
I actually think there is a pragmatic movement occurring in the puerh drinking world right now in the West. Just the last few weeks, for instance, there were two puerh bloggers suggesting to drinkers to use a more pragmatic perspective on buying puerh. Marshal’N of A Tea Addicts Journal lauds us to Buy Less, Buy Better and James of TeaDB suggests that we should focus on buying less and enjoying what you already have by Setting Down into Tea. Both of these posts challenge the current consuming culture of Western puerh purchasing habits. I think both offer great pragmatic wisdom to puerh buyers out there.
I think there is something to be said about pragmatic wisdom. It speaks to both a pragmatic approach and long enough experience to back that up. Essentially, the above bloggers are speaking with pragmatic wisdom and asking us to perhaps tap into our own.
This pragmatic movement in puerh circles indirectly challenges the Post-Truth construct of puerh consumption and marketing. I guess to some extent it is a challenge to all puerh vendors to step it up. In Cwyn’s Death By Tea’s yearly predictions she predicted that 2018 will be the year of the Testy Tea Customer as puerh market experiences decreased purchasing power.
Instead, I think 2018 might be the year of the Pragmatic Tea Customer.
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
When we drink aged puerh we are imbibing not only the teabut all the memories associated with it. Puerh tea is an aged tea. Our experience with it has a definite start point, when we first acquired and tried the tea, and a definite end point, when we have completely finished the cake, brink, tuo, or tong. In between our sense of taste and smell, our tactile senses of our mouth, and the feeling of qi in our body and mind are tethered to every experience with that particular puerh.
They say our sense of taste and smell is closely intertwined with our long term memory. These connections are wired together along with what we were doing at moment in space and time.
Every time we drink pureh we are building a story, adding to these experiences, storing them. Along with the experiences of puerh, we are attaching our life’s experiences.
When we dig out an old puerh cake, the puerh allows us to sensually access the memories, sensations, and life experiences (not just tea experiences) stored along with it.
In this way, when we are drinking aged puerh we are, in fact, drinking our memories of times long ago. At the same time we are depositing new life memories in that moment in time as well.
Saturday, February 24, 2018
One of the reasons puerh is such an incredible tea, is because it is actually alive. It has a beginning and an end. In between puerh matures, grows, changes, and evolves as it ages. It is a product of its origins, its nature, but influenced by its lifespan and how it is nurtured into maturity. Although identical to its many twins from the same batch, no two aged puerh will actually be the same.
In many ways puerh is like us and we are like puerh.
Puerh tea is so incredible, so are we that drink it. This is especially so for those in awe of its wonder.