Wednesday, September 19, 2018

2017 Zheng Si Long Gedeng & Thoughts On the Gedeng Producing Area

Well, I lost this 2017 Zheng Si Long Gedeng sample about a month ago.  Tiago, the owner of Tea Encounter, kindly included this in a recent order.  It goes for $164.32 for 400g cake or $0.41/g, but is currently sold out.  Tiago assured me that his stock gets regularly replenished so watched for its return if this review peaks your interest…

Dry leaves smell of mellow cherry fruits and of distant mountain dew, a rocky and almost forest like odour.

The first infusion has a mineral, rock-like taste, almost like literally eating a rock initially with a slippery almost sticky mouthfeeling.  There is a mild cooling and slight sugar and distant fruit.  The fruit element slowly expands in the mouth and shows subtleties of a more tropical fruit taste.  The mouthfeeling is reasonably long and still carries the mineral rock taste that is a touch forest like.

The second infusion has a very nice and full mouthfeel that is like a dense coating of slightly astringent paint over the tongue and mouth. The throat takes note and opens to such suggestions.  The mineral rock taste is there but along with distinct florals in the background as well as subtle fruits.  The feeling in the mouth and throat is really nice off the go here.  Subtle fruits and floral stretch long into the breath.

The third infusion has much of the second its mouthfeel is nice and strong, thick feeling liquor in the mouth the mineral, rock, mountain top, taste is distinct and dominating throughout.  The high notes linger in the back ground distant wildflowers and almost tropical fruit suggestions.

The fourth infusion has a nice full mineral, rock taste with edges of forest and opens up to a more distinct menthol taste with a hallow sugar finish with slight wildflower and honey.  The returning sweetness is a nice exaggeration of this with touches of tropical fruit.

The fifth and sixth were much the same the astringent up front mineral and forest base taste is interesting and a signature of Gedeng.  The sweetness is all on the back end in the form of almost buttery wildflowers and edges of clear tropical fruit tastes.

The seventh infusion has fruit tastes mix with forest.  The mineral, rock taste is less now and the fruity taste with a bit of slight astringency is found throughout.  The returning sweetness swells with a touch of cooling in the throat where tropical fruits appear. This infusion is much more sweet and fruity now.

The eighth and ninth is more mellow fruit with slight cooling and edges of astringency.  The fruity taste becomes more dominant now.  This tea is becoming very fruity and approachable with a distinct cooling aftertaste and long fruitiness.  The fruitiness is not that vibrant over powering thing, instead its a mellow almost foresty thing.  The qi of this tea is not ground breaking but soft and gentle you can feel a fluffiness in the head but nothing too much.  A touch relaxing, a touch alerting- nothing to strong, a mellow qi.

The tenth has a creaminess and sweetness to the fruity flavours which now dominate.  The eleventh still has a thicker viscus feeling, slightly astringent.

11, 12, 13, 14 it starts to weaken so I push harder but mainly enjoyable fruity tastes are pushed out.  Still a mild menthol, a mineral rock forest is mainly found in the aftertaste now still worthwhile and tasty.

There is lots to enjoy about this puerh mainly in its taste progression throughout the session.  There is interesting depth in this Gedeng due to its astringent mineral forest taste that at times is almost or barely bitter which helps to balance the interesting mild fruits and florals that wriggle themselves out especially later in the session where they dominate.  It offers a mild qi sensation, mellow.  Another thing that might interest people is its very characteristic Gedeng profile.  This might be worth a sample for those out there that want to get familiar with this famous (but not that common) classic six mountain puerh producing area.  The thing is, I have never really been a big fan of this area.  Either way, this is a great example even if just for education purposes.


Friday, September 14, 2018

2015 Zheng Si Long Wa Long & Productive Qi

When you say “Wa Long” my mind thinks immediately of intensely sweet Yiwu material with basically no bitterness and miles of deliciousness…. Mmmmmm… I wonder if this Wa Long can satisfy my presumption about this growing area?  This Wa Long goes for $156.24 for 400g cake or $0.39/g.

The dry leaves smell of creamy intensely sweet woody Yiwu-ness.  The odour has a fruity cherry character to it as well as a candy like sweet smell…

First delivers an intensely creamy icing sugary sweet fluffy cotton candy intense sweet deliciousness.  There is a long cool faint menthol that hangs out mildly in the background as not to disturb the intensity of the sweetness.  This is intensely and beautifully sweet stuff.

The second infusion at least half of the sweetness has vaporized in its volatility but still there is enough of that to go around.  The very distant wood note, like a rainforest, lingers throughout.  The mouthfeel is light and stimulates the edges of the tongue, it has a tingling feeling to it not at all vacuous.

The third develops some dragon fruit and pear taste as a layer to its intense sweetness.  Very Faint woodiness is almost overlooked completely over draping, very distinct Yiwu sweetness. The Qi is big in the head very weighty and muddling, happy and energizing.  In the body it can be felt in the heart.

The fourth infusion has a fruitier than sweet onset- pear, plum, distant tropical.  There is a slight almost sour/bitter wood taste underneath.  The mouthfeel is thin but slight sticky on the tongue.  It’s more on the tongue than the throat.  The aftertaste is a continuation of sweet fruits.

The fifth almost has a pungent menthol initial taste which swells in the mouth and tongue.  There is a subtle woody, rainforest taste throughout.  It has a sweet bready yeasty finish indicating a few years of more humid storage.

The sixth infusion has a woody, plum, and slightly sour taste to it.  The tongue develops a chalky bitterness to it, which is mild.  The aftertaste is bready, fruity, woody and has a yam note in there as well.  Nice mild menthol finish, more fruitiness trails off.

The seventh has a woody plum and tropical edge taste presenting initially.  The intensity of the first few infusions can’t be found any more but a faint trace in the aftertaste.  What remains are classic Yiwu woody, plumb, foresty tastes.  Slight bitter and sour but very faint.  A sweet bread finish in the mouth.

The eighth has more of a malty woody plumy fruitiness.  The tastes of this tea have some depth to them in the stimulating but mild tongue coating.  The throat only opens mildly to welcome these flavours in.  The Qi is heady, alerting, cloudy.  In the body it races the heart slightly and you can still feel it in the stomach.  It makes for a very productive day…. This is that Qi that makes you want to get stuff done.  It gives you a sort of clarity and focus but also a nice surge of energy especially mental energy.

Ninth is nicely woody, plumb, almost soapy sweetness with a ghostly edge of that intense sweetness almost gone now as it lingers with fruits in the aftertaste.

Tenth has a nice deep mellow fruity woody Yiwu thing going on.  The fruit flavor is complex enough in the mouth.  Slight menthol lingers.  A good Yiwu profile, yummy!

Eleventh and twelfth is steeped with a good 15 seconds longer than flash and much more tropical fruits are pushed out the wood is mellow in the background now. Tropical fruity with a menthol background.

13th & 14th are pushed longer and a woody dryness with fruity edges so very Yiwu.

This tea has such a wonderfully productive Qi to it.  Its effects leaves the mind in a profoundly focused state.  I imagine I could have done a few more steeps out of this one easy but instead I was way way too busy getting stuff done!



Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Making Sense of Your Tea Drinking

I recently read a comment on TeaDB that made me reflect on how to think about my puerh drinking.  In the comment section of this article on justifying the purchase of shu puerh James places his tea drinking into logical categories with rationale as to what teas make most sense for each category.  He states:

For me tea drinking falls into three basic categories. (1) Casual brews I drink/make for my wife. (2) Teas I drink gong-fu throughout the day. (3) Teas I drink with other people.

Ripe pu’erh tends to do very well in category 1 and depending on the audience category 3. It doesn’t make sense for me to be brewing something fancy for category 1 and for whatever reason I just about never want to drink ripe as my gong-fu session for the day. That just leaves category 3, and I’m not sure I’m at the point where I can justify fancier boutique ripe sheerly to serve guests. I’ll admit to having considered but I’m not quite there for myself. I also certainly wouldn’t fault the person who chooses to buy it.

For me, even a few years ago, my tea drinking was very very different but for the last year or two it has been pretty consistent mainly due to stable life circumstances.  My tea drinking falls into (1) morning gongfu I drink/ make for wife and family. (2) Stored productions that I bring out of storage to drink with my family on a rare occasion. (3) Teas I drink with other people. (4) Everyday drinkers I one cup steep at work. (5) better teas I gong fu at work.

Over the last while category 1 tends to be aged sheng of increasingly decent quality but also can include shu puerh, Korean Balhyocha, or Oolong.  My children regularly drink tea with us so I make sure it is of a certain base level of quality.  My wife will not tolerate anything overly harsh or unusual and if its sheng, it better be aged.  She has an increasingly discerning pallet when I’m gong fu brewing.

Category 2 tends to be sheng puerh that I have lesser quantities of and I am trying to hold on to-expensive or cheap, old or young.  Usually, it has some quality of rareness to it preventing me from putting a cake into my regular rotation thereby preventing me from drinking through it on a day-to-day basis.  It also has some level of quality to it, otherwise I would just drink through the cake in Category 4.

Category 3 tends to be similar to category 2 but is sometimes Darjeeling which my wife enjoys as well but that I rarely consume these days.

Category 4 tends to be a lot of factory sheng that I have acquired over the last year.  If I’m simply looking for caffeine after lunch and my day is too busy to deeply appreciate such things it could be some lesser quality sheng that I have a sample cake of or some cheaper Menghai Factory stuff.  If I’m feeling like something of better quality, I go up the quality ladder without hesitation.  I will even consume fresh sheng samples as well at work.

Category 5 tends to be nicer aged sheng or samples where I can spend some time with and enjoy and often blog or write about.

Anyways, I think that helping to categorize your tea drinking is another way other than measuring your consumption that can help guide your future purchases.  This is especially true if you consider yourself more of a puerh drinker rather than collector.

In my case, I have amassed enough tea to satisfy categories 2-4 over the past year and from years before.  So, right now my buying is focused more on high quality drinkers that satisfy Category 1 and maybe for some more special stuff that satisfies Category 2 & 5.  Currently, my generous onslaught of samples are satisfying these categories nicely without me dipping into my stored cakes.  I am also wondering if I should take the plunge into buying more shu puerh?  I really prefer sheng but my wife also enjoys shu and doesn’t really pay to much attention to weather its sheng or shu anyways, as long as its good.  I also feel that my purchasing is slowing down because I have enough to last me many many years.

I hope that this reflection has helped you evaluate your own drinking needs.  I wonder what your drinking categories are and how that influences your purchasing, if at all?

Hummmm…. Something to meditate on…


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

2015 Zheng Si Long Yi Shan Mo

And back to my onslaught of Zheng Si Long samples.  I hope you have been enjoying my current deep plunge into Tea Encounter's puerh catalogue...

This is a new tea area for me although it’s entirely possible I would have tried something like this before… It seems like the Yi Shan Mo area is pretty far off the beaten path.  This is one of two 2015 Zhang Si Long at Tea Encounter this one sells for $156.24 for 400g cake or $0.39 /g.

The dry leaf delivers deep rich pungent dried apricot odours in a heavy whiff of sweetness.

The first infusion has a watery floral, icing sugar- like opening, faint wood, then cooling retuning finish, ending on a melon taste on the tongue.

The second infusion starts on a caramel note transitioning to a slightly pungent dry woody taste.  The cool menthol is noticeable.  The mouthfeel is elegant and flows to the edges of the mouth and tongue.  The mouthfeel is nice and the quaint throat sensation is deep where menthol flows.  Slight melon aftertaste.

The third infusion starts off as a dry woody, fruit melon taste then dry wood fades and the melon swells then menthol arrives.  The mouthfeeling and throatfeeling is very gentle but nice.  There is a long melon and floral sweetness that lingers minutes later.

The fourth starts with significantly pungent, dry woody notes which give way to melon then menthol.  There is a sweet-sour, almost mango-like, taste in there prominent as well.  Long melon and floral note lingers along with wood.

The fifth infusion is much the same as the fourth but much more pronounced.  The mouthfeel becomes thicker and stickier in the mouth.  With no bitterness around, there is almost a cloying melon sweetness while the woody taste is really becoming more pronounced.

The sixth is continuing to build slowly into a slightly syrupy woody melon fruit taste with a long camphor wood cooling finish.  The mouth and throat feel slowly build in the mouth and become a sticky, almost dry.  The finish is long melon and wood.  The aftertaste is quite nice.

The seventh infusion is more menthol and pungent now.  That has to be the dominant falvour.  The pungent taste is throughout, it’s long.  Initial it shares space with woody and slight sweetness.  In the aftertaste with melon, sweetness, slight honey, and floral.

The eighth infusion has an interesting soapy floral taste as the dominant taste now.  Tastes like Thrills gum.  A sticky almost grapy taste in the mouth is there as well.

The ninth shares this interesting taste.  There is woods and florals and sweet melon fruits in there as well.  It has suggestions of a faint cotton candy sweetness under the fruit sweetness.  A nice sticky mouth coating.  The Qi of this tea is very mellow.  It strolls throughout the body without much fuss.

The tenth has a woody melon initial taste with distinct menthol underpinning.  A long floral melon stays along in the aftertaste.  The eleventh has more powerful creamy cotton candy sweetness in there compared to previous infusions.  This taste seems to be the dominant one now.

The twelfth has a more pronounced fruity sweetness thing going on with the cotton candy floss underneath.  Layers of light nuanced sweetness. Faint wood. No bitterness.

The 13th and 14th have ten seconds over flash infusions and offer a dense thicker broth of fruits and thicker florals, a long creamy sweetness, light menthol.  The mouthfeel is nice but not standoffish.  This tea has great stamina of flavor and gives off a lot of depth when pushed a bit more.

I push it a bit harder to 30-90 seconds and it gives off thick fruity creamy menthol wood tastes.  Nice.  I feel a bit bad at stopping this session at 18 infusions because I think it has a lot more to offer- great stamina.  It’s getting late in the afternoon and I have no other choice, least I’ll be up too late.  I put it through a few more days of overnight steeping and the result is very thick fruity tastes.

This puerh has the Yiwu fruity and woody with more of a boarder tea melon almost green tea like taste at times.  The flavours are very nice, this is a flavor tea to me with a certain thickness to it.  This Yi Shan Mo is a slow moving puerh with lots of stamina.  The Qi sensation is very mild in both the body and mind.


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Puerh Semantics: When to call it “Aged Puerh”?

Last week I came across two interesting publications that made me want to publish something about the semantics of sheng puerh aging.

The first one was from a puerh blog I have really been enjoying lately, Dead Leaves Club.  In this article they really attempt to break down the language used to describe the different stages of puerh aging and maturation.

This article made me think of how this language has changed over the last few decades.  In the early/ mid 2000s I think puerh drinkers thought of this differently than they do now, at least my puerh drinking friends and teamasters in Korea at that time.

Back then I think there were really only two terms of maturity discussed.  The first stage was “fresh / young puerh” and the second was “aged puerh”.

“Fresh young puerh” was puerh that still had qualities of youth in taste and aroma.  More importantly, they were teas that possessed bitterness and astringency and that felt disharmonious in the body and still contained a harshness or coldness inherent in them.  They would adjitate the digestion, cause unease, loose stools, bloating, and/or soreness.  Overall, puerh at this maturity would, at the very least, contain Cold energy.

“Aged puerh” was puerh that qualities of warmth and harmony.  They were teas that feel comforting and harmonious in the body.  They were inherently warming in the body and made the digestive system feel comfortable and in balance.  They possessed an aged taste profile rounded of harshness.  Overall, puerh at this maturity would contain Warm energy.

The level of humidity puerh ages under will influence how fast it moves from fresh puerh to aged puerh.  The more the humidity of storage, the quicker a puerh will become aged.  Traditional Hong Kong storage would be classified as aged much quicker than dry Kunming storage.

However, the second factor that determined whether a puerh was considered “aged puerh” was how it felt subjectively to the individual consuming the puerh.  Puerh that was on the edge of being aged puerh consumed by two different individuals could be considered either “fresh young puerh” for one individual if it felt harsh to them and “aged puerh” to another if it felt harmonious.

Interesting to note is that there was no talk of “semi-aged puerh” or “awkward stage puerh” or “adolescent puerh” back in the day.  I think this language was actually first created by vendors in Asia that were sitting on tones of puerh patiently waiting for it to mature so they could sell it because traditionally puerh would never be consumed fresh like it is nowadays.  Fresh young puerh has too much Cold Qi and will damage the Spleen Qi.  Remember, that puerh tea was just as much a traditional medicine than it was consumed for enjoyment at that time.

Nowadays, the language used to describe a puerh maturity has more to do with the process of fermentation that puerh undergoes than how it feels in the body.  This shift is likely due to a much better understanding these days of how that happens.  It also has much to do with the shift away from drinking and more toward aging, storing, and collecting puerh.  However, by doing this, we remove the individual and essence of puerh from the equation.

The other publication that made me think about this is the recent release of Basics Puerh Tea Sample Set by white2tea.  In it there is a “2014 Aged Raw Puerh Tea” …. Hummm… I don’t know about that?  I guess technically it “has aged” but to call a puerh “aged” after 4 years in an educational set… I really think it will just cause more confusion to new drinkers more than anything…

Or maybe it was Hong Kong Traditionally stored and really feels aged in the body…

That’s a stretch.


Sunday, September 2, 2018

2008 Fangmingyuan Nannou, Revisiting an Old Friend

Creamy, slight floral, slight aged tangerine peel, sticky in mouth, slight mahogany wood, slight watery, distant florals, menthol, sticky and slightly drying, relaxing head qi, becomes woody/menthol, very relaxing, almost sleepy even, inconspicuously alerting.  Not very thick but fruity, woody and menthol with nice qi.

I end up ordering one of these 357g cakes at $99.67 or$ 0.28/g as a comparison to the dry stored one I have.


Friday, August 31, 2018

2010 Fangmingyuan 0842 “5 Year Anniversary” and Thoughts on Old School Blends

This tea was likely made to commemorate the 5 year anniversary of Fangmingyuan with their own take on the classic 7542.  From the name I wonder if there is aged mao cha in the blend?   This 500g Qing bing goes for $55.22 or $0.11 /g- crazy cheap!

Dry leaves smell of a vibrant pungency and menthol like sugary sweetness.

The first infusion has a muddled initial taste then gives off some hay and mild woods before building into a nice clean menthol sweetness.  It peaks then slowly and strongly transitions to a long creamy sweet aftertaste.

The second infusion again starts kind of muddled and slightly turbid as it slowly transitions to menthol then to a long creamy sweet Nannou like deliciousness.  This tea a very light watery viscosity and is mainly felt on the tongue as a sticky resistance there.

The third infusion starts with a more slightly bitter woody peony odours taste then transitions to a sweet returning menthol with hay.  The long cottony creamy sweetness lingers in the aftertaste.

The fourth infusion starts with a mucky initial taste with a woodiness in there it transitions to a hay menthol taste then to a long creamy sweetness with a decent astringency in the finish now.  The tea viscosity is on the lighter side with some tongue stimulation and a middle deep opening throatiness.

The fifth infusion has an almost fruity suggestion in the initial taste along with mild bitter then taste moves predictably to menthol and woods.  The aftertaste is now slightly smoky before it gives way to creamy sweetness later on.  The qi is a bit of floating distension behind the temples.  A touch euphoric and relaxing stuff too.

The sixth infusion starts off with the aftertaste now and feels much denser in the mouth.  Things coalesce here and taste of a mix of wood, hay, creamy sweetness, barely floral and fruit, and faint smoke.  The Qi is building in the head and the euphoric feeling is backed up in line.

The seventh, eighth, and ninth have a smoky slightly bitter backbone woody nuance and creamy sweet finish.  Mild menthol lingers in the throat.  The mouthfeel becomes slightly gripping on the tongue and the throatfeeling is now more superficial.

The tenth has a distinct fruity melon note initially then goes to hay and wood before a menthol like returning sweetness and mild creamy sweetness.

In the eleventh infusion I notice more grain qualities and woodiness with still a lot of the above attributes.  Little bit of fruit in there as well.

This charming puerh reminds me a bit of the simpler, blended, early-mid 2000 puerh that have enough interesting aspects to them but in an uncomplicated taste and mouthfeel and in an older processing style.  I have a few cakes of puerh like this and really enjoy them for what they are.  Overall, they are blended enough that the tea offers some different qualities in there but the processing of the maocha isn’t always as clean.  When drinking these types of cakes you can kind of tell that the leaves have a certain level of quality to them.  This “5 Year Anniversary” offers a stronger almost Nannou back bone and nicer qi than most in this category.  Very drinkable for that price point.  I can't imagine anything from a Western vendor that is this cheap and still enjoyable, and trust me, I spent a year looking. 

 I like the Qing bing 500g size too!