Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Elitism, Illuminati, and the Secret Inner Circle of Puerh

***I think this is probably the most difficult post I have ever published.  I think I have written 3 different versions of this and even sat on this one for months.  The post below isn’t meant to hurt or single anyone out but rather advance public puerh discourse***

Soon after returning to the tea world a year or so ago I typed out a long and fairly detailed criticism that centered on the secret back channels of the tea (mainly puerh) world that I just could not bring myself to publish.  The article was just too critical of myself, other bloggers, vendors, group buy organizers and back channel buyers.  I spared no one in this post but also looked at the positives and the reasons why there is a secret society or inner circle of puerh buyers, the history of such things, and the purpose that these back channels serve to those who use them.

The post would have really upset some of my closest tea friends and Western vendors who I respect and sincerely care about.  As well, it probably would have ostracized me from the community which I helped build and who I now benefit from being a part of.  So there is no way that my initial article is getting publish but it was a very very cathartic activity for myself similar to journaling… a healing experience...hahaha  But as a result, my silence on this issue continues to perpetuate the continual ignoring of this elephant in the room.

I absolutely love James of TeaDB for engaging the readers in his brilliant articles, posts and videos- he is pure genius.  Often, great conversation emerges from his articles.  In this article in particular, James kind of mis-phrased a discussion about his tea sources and it lead to a rather interesting discussion of the back channels of puerh tea.  The commentary by Alex certainly outlinesmany of the thoughts I had in my unpublished article (but probably written much better than I could).  In an article on TeaDB this week the comments also add discussion to these ideas.  So, I now feel that it is at least time to make these general points contained in my unpublished article that he didn’t touch on.

Firstly it can be stated that, nowadays a chunk of puerh world has become elitist.  Certainly, it’s not ALL elitist but a notable proportion is.  Much has changed in the puerh world over the last 10-15 years.  Back then puerh tea was tea of the commoner, it was cheaper than most any other tea, even cheaper than cheap teabag tea.  You literally couldn’t find anything cheaper per gram than a cake of puerh.  Anyone could afford and strive to drink the best and there was a sense of close knit community in this.

At one point, years and years ago all Western puerh buyers were either buying from the handful of western puerh vendors at the time (Yunnan Sourcing, Awazon, Tuo Cha Tea, Puerhshop, and Houde) or were buying in person in Asia.  The puerh drinking community was much different in these early days as we strove to understand something with very little available information at the time.  We did this by openly sharing knowledge.  At this time everyone was on the same playing field as far as buying puerh went, the buying options were listed for all to see on the websites.

The start of some kind of exclusive things happening were with Houde’s limited releases which would often sell out before anyone had a chance to try them.  However, everyone had a fair crack at these.  What started to push things underground in the Western puerh world was the use of Taobao.

The introduction of Taobao to puerh buying was a game changer because it allowed the buyer to bypass the Western puerh vendor and buy more directly.  However, it also pushed puerh buying in the West underground where good sources of puerh were rarely shared publicly in fear of being over exploited by buyers and vendors alike.  To me this is the start of when things got a little exclusive in the puerh buying Western world, a trend that continues to today.

The lack of shared public info on puerh hurts the whole community.  Over the last few years, although much more people are drinking puerh tea.  Much less is shared publically.  Back in the early years you used to be excited and want to share publicly the source of a great puerh find-  now this excitement is pushed underground.  I think as the years go by there is less and less public information on the internet about great tea finds.  The information that is most publically shared is usually by “stamp collectors” those people who tend to by many single cake or those people who tend to only by single cake and not multiples or tongs.

Stamp collectors have no reason to hide sources because once they have one cake they will not likely order great qualities of it but rather go on to the next cake. Cwyn, Char, and Hobbes are not stamp collectors per say but tend to buy lots of cakes rather than focus on a few.  Some of the more common posters on Steepster are also stamp collectors.  It’s quite easy for these people to share their sources because they likely won’t go back to the same well twice.

On the other hand bulk collectors and speculators and buyers who like to “hit it hard with a hammer” are the lest likely to share sources and their favorite puerh publicly.  This is especially true for those who drink semi-aged puerh which is not well represented by Western vendors (this no doubt, further entrenches the issue of access).  Even for bloggers like Hobbes & Marshal’N it gets to a point where there is not much sense in posting reviews of teas because the sources are not publicly available.  They are not buying through the Western puerh vendors anyways so the blog content of such things is a bit of a charade.

It’s not just info about what cakes to buy that is lost.  More importantly it is useful storage issues, regional issues, info on specific factories and specific vendor opinions, and lots lots more which are lost in these back channels.  Marshall’N actually wrote a post about how we are not as better off because of this loss of public knowledge but yet it continues to be entrenched.

The Public Puerh Community Is Disappearing

Things have actually gotten a lot worst lately.  A few weeks ago Chris, a commentor on TeaDB, linked a great article about the current state of public tea communities.  It touched on something that some have mentioned over the last few months which is the dying off of one of the greatest public access to tea related information and record of puerh tasting notes, Steepster.  That post really resonated with me: is there soon to be no public record and discussion of puerh?  How will this impact especially those new to puerh?  Of course those in the know won’t be as effected as much and those who are just getting into puerh who will be disadvantaged the most.

Failures of an Instagram Tea Community

Where the public puerh community is most thriving is on Instagram.  Instagram is a photo sharing social media platform at its core is therefore very good at sharing tea pictures or as a place to write quick comments and opinions.  However, it is not good at diving into the deeper subjects and complexity that is puerh tea.  Snapchat and Twitter are other good examples of this.  It can transmit powerful content quickly and can encourage community and convey emotion but is much better at the superficial than getting down to the deep.

Access vs Going Underground

There are some out there that simply frame this issue as simply a problem with access.  Of course, limited access is probably the main causative factor but I disagree that it is the main issue at play.  I think the whole issue is bigger than just access.  The issue here is, do we really want puerh knowledge to go mainly underground and for it to benefit the few connected people or do we want it to be public to benefit the many?  This is how it should be framed.  I understand that drinking tea is a personal leisure activity or hobby and isn’t charity work or outreach but without a strong public presence puerh access gets worse thereby perpetuating the problem.

Old guard is weakening

I once heard Shah8 say that he will point you in the right direction but I won’t give you the exact address and hail a cab for you (something to this point).  Certainly he has opened the door a crack after revealing the links to and a little on how to use the Taiwanese Facebook auction groups.  Marco, Su, and others behind Teas We Like are brining things out in the open as well.  Taking their dearest tea sources and making their favorite personal tea finds public for all to enjoy.  After you personally have acquired a lifetime supply of a tea you enjoy what is the point of hiding such things anymore?  Besides these people have put in their time and want to further the puerh community they helped create and are an active part of.  After a while, it becomes clear that it is time to give back.

Emmitt Guzman has been doing this for years with group buys of Yang Qing Hao and the Dead Leaves Tea Club last year started Taobao group buys have opened a space where we can explore one of a kind finds together in a more public way.

Personally, I welcome this change in selfless direction and attitude.

Personal Resistance

Overall, though I personally have resisted joining the Illuminati of puerh drinkers although it’s an ongoing internal struggle.  This is partly, because I can be a bit of a recluse (look back to my early posts).  However, I am very very humbled and sincerely thank those who have reached out to me either by email conversation or to invite me to join private slack rooms and chats (I still hope to join if that’s where things go).  I don’t have a personal facebook account so all those options are out too.  On the other hand, I don’t blame those or hold it against those who use these private channels especially those fellow puerh bloggers who dump lots of their own time and energy into actually putting things on the public record.

Some probably could rightly state that I’m already a part of the boys club already, and I couldn’t completely refute that.  I’ve been around too long.  I am not perfectly transparent myself at times.  If someone asks me to not put something on my blog, I always respect that. Most definitely, having some free samples come across my desk helps too.  However, it should give readers hope and encouragement that I have posted or left a comment confirming every single purchase since coming back to puerh buying in 2017 here on the blog with the exception of one cake (of very low stock which I plan on buying out) and some pending purchase reviews which I hope to post over the next month and I’ve only purchased from Western vendors.  Also with the exception of one, I have not been tipped off as to what to purchase (I am very thankful for the tip… keep them coming… hahaha).

The take away here is you don’t need top secret sources or consulting the puerh illuminati to acquire amazing puerh that is underpriced or on for a good deal and reflects value.  However, what you do actually need is to gain lots and lots of experience to be able to do this…. And one of the best ways gain this experience is to actually read as much as you can and go back and read the past contributions of bloggers and other public sources… unfortunately, this option seems to be disappearing fast...

What I find particularly interesting is those in the know now had often benefited from the public record of past contributors to public chats, blogs, and Steepster to get to where they are now.  These same people now choose to push things underground…

Do we really want puerh drinking to go in the direction of an underground, well connected boys club who benefits a few or do we want it to be a more open, transparent, inclusive and public sharing of knowledge that benefits the many?  Maybe its not either or but striking some balance?

When I drink puerh even today, I drink it in the spirit of days when puerh was the drink of the commoner.  The days when I first fell in love with the mystery of it.  Something to be shared like among the many hours around the tea table in the teahouses of Asia.  My enjoyment of it, although mainly in solitary, is in the spirit of others and so follows this blog (which knowledge is yours just as much as it is mine).  If I’m not drinking puerh for the many, than I must be drinking it for selfish reasons?  The essence of tea or sprit of tea has never been this way…

I think we can do better…


***Next time I come to consult the puerh Illuminati, please, please don’t revoke my membership***

Double Peace

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

2019 Hua Zhu Liang Zi Maocha

Don’t know much about the source of this one.  What I’ve read is that Hua Zhu Liang Zi is one of the highest puerh producing areas in Xishuangbanna.  Puerh.sk offered a popular cake from this area in 2015.  Otherwise not that much info on English google about this puerh producing area…

Dry leaves smell of deep chocolate and plum odours and have a pudding like, fruitcake like odour mixed with a deep black berry and deep rainforest notes.  The dry leaf odour is super super unique and interesting, smells like wild/Yesheng or Mu Shu Cha type of non-conventional non-puerh like odour.  Very Sweet buttery oily taste. Has a long slow to emerge taste of creamy sweetness and long drawn out fruit.  Wet leaves could be smelling candy.  Mild nutty toasted grains are hiding underneath. A weird rubbery fruity taste emerges.  Mandarin orange peel slight bitterness.  Astringent mouthfeel building.  Qi a bit heady and relaxing.  Rubbery fruity sweetness.  A wet mouthfeel with tongue stimulation and faint cooling in throat.  Slightly spacy and definitely relaxing.  Vegetal with faint floral tones.  Relaxing vibe…


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

2016 Zheng Si Long Autumn Mang Zhi Dragon Balls Vs 2016 white2tea We Go High

It feels odd that I’ve never tired puerh in a dragon ball form ever.  Back in the day, it just wasn’t a thing, it didn’t exist back then.  I wonder who was the first to form puerh into a convenient ball size?  It has the same idea as the coin or minis idea … a modern incarnation of a coin.

This one is from the Mang Zhi region, an autumnal production (see Zheng Si Long Spring 2016, 2017, and 2018).  I recently mentioned that I am enjoying these productions of the famous Mang Zhi region.  The dry ball of puerh smell like slight woods with a candy fruit cherry sweetness.  I received it as a free gift when I placed my first order from Tea Encounter a few of these 2015 Zheng SiLong Wa Long.

I did a 30 second rinse and then put the lid on the pot for five minutes to break up these tight balls…

First infusion is still light and airy from the tight compression.  Watery and woody water with light floral and sweet sugar nuances.

The second is still just starting to unravel with icing sugar taste, slight dry woods, almost wildflower florals.  The mouthfeel is mossy and throat sensation starting to get stimulating.

The third infusion starts off with dry wood and icing sugar sweetness.  The sweetness is trapped in the deeper throat feeling and has a mild strawberry nuance to it.  The mouthfeel and throatfeeling are very soft but show signs of being quite full and deep.  The Qi starts to pool in the head.

The fourth infusion starts off dry wood and with a nice fluffy cotton candy nuance.  There is a fruity middle and nice throat stimulating and throatfeeling.  The throatfeeling is deep and opening.  It makes you want to clear your throat.  The tastes are light and airy, sweet and woody.  The Qi is reasonably strong and heady.

The fifth infusion starts off with an unpretentious sweet woodiness that turns into a sour taste then into a mellow vegetal sweetness.

The sixth infusion has a sour woody and barely sweet nuance that transforms to floral wildflower and dry woodiness.  It is not very sweet but has a sour sweet edge to it.  The wet leaves are predictably aromatic and have a menthol like odour.  Qi has a mild but noticeably stuffy sensation in the head.

The seventh infusion starts with a plum fruitiness to it.  There is a menthol woody undercurrent throughout which turns into a noticeable wildflower nuance.  The throat feel is reasonably deep and mouthfeel sticky and mossy.

The eighth starts juicy almost sour like a mango like taste mixed with grapefruit.  The mouthfeel is mossy and the throat feel is pretty deep.  After the juicy sour fruit fades there is a woody dry nuance left in the mouth.  The qi has a mild headiness to it.

The ninth infusion has a sour fruity onset with an astringent woody finish.  The mouthfeel is mossy on the tongue and the top of the throat opens a bit.  You can almost detect some wildflower nuances.  There is a bubble gum nuance left on the breath minutes later.

The tenth infusion starts fruity and woody and sour.  The mouthfeel is becoming sticky and there is a lingering cotton candy nuance in the breath.

The eleventh infusion is full and nuanced fruity layers of sweetness arrive with mango, and grapefruit being most obvious.  The liquor starts to thicken up here and deliver a nice thick woody fruit with decent depth now.  The aftertaste is lingering faint candy.  The Qi is mild in the head.

The twelfth infusion delivers a dense liquor of nice thick fruity woody tastes.  The flavours are sweet, barely bitter, and significantly sour.  The woody taste is the deepest and the most ethereal is the lingering candy sweetness.  My mind saunters in a nice place from the Qi.

13th is a dense licorice, fruity and woody presentation in a thicker liquor.  They fade into a long candy like sweetness.  Nice meandering mild spacy qi.

14th infusion has that nice dense onset with simple but thick flavours that fade easily into a candy-like faint finish.  The 15th has that candy sweet taste in the initial now alongside fruits and slight wood.  The bitterness and sourness continue to recede with each infusion.

15th has a nice dense fruity onset with dry wood underneath.  A wave of sweet fruity tastes comes and goes and leaves a slight woody taste with the breath of candy.

16th is less sweet, more woody very interesting lingering sweetness.  17th is more sweet, dense liquor, fruit.  The mouthfeel is mossy and sticky in these later infusions.  Candy long fait aftertaste.

18th here we go into a woody apricot like sheng type of sweetness.  Nice long candy finish.  A creamy sweet finish.

It was coincidence that I had just drank another 2016 Autumnal production that was similar in some ways to this one, the 2016 white2tea We Go High.  I found these 2016 Zheng Si Long Mang Zhi Dragon balls similar in tight compression, in its thick fruity and woody tastes and textures.  2016 white2tea We Go High has a bit broader profile and complexity.  Although the Qi is actually quite similar, We Go High is a bit stronger.  2016 Zheng Si Long Autumn Mang Zhi has a more intense long candy aftertaste and deeper throat feeling.  Each had good stamina and are both nice examples of autumn puerh.  In my first sampling of 2016 white2tea We Go High I suspected that some Gua Fang Zhi or other Yiwu like material comprises a small amount of the blend.  Maybe its closer to Mang Zhi than Gua Feng Zhi?

This was a fun session.  I wonder if Tea Encounter will offer these?


Monday, July 15, 2019

2016 Zheng SI Long Manzhuan & Pastry Sweetnesses

I just came off a pretty impressive sampling of the 2016 Zheng Si Long Man Lin and wanted to sample the 2016 Zheng Si Long Manzhuan($150.85 for 400g cake or $0.38/g) close together for comparison.  They are of the same producer, same year, same price and same general region.  They were also both complimentary samples that came with my recent orders (here and here). 

The dry leaves smell of a deep pungent sweet rainforest smell.  The sweetness lingers and the pungent forest odour is penetrating.

First infusion has deep rainforest notes and fruity sweet notes right off the start.  There is a base of rainforest wood.  A very faint pungent then a bread like almost coconut type of sweetness.  The breath carries a sweet cherry note as well as a coconut note into the distance.  The first infusion is very smooth and soft .  The mouthfeeling is sticky on the tongue and lips.

The second infusion has a sweet rainforesty and very pastry and sweet bread taste to it.  There is a very mild pungent that comes and goes quickly to reveal long bread tastes and nuances of coconut and even cherry.  This is a very sweet tasting sheng right off the bat.  It has an almost cloying sweetness.  The Qi is mild and airy in the mind and body.

The third infusion starts with a very sweet bread/ pastry and rainforest taste.  The sweetness in here is very high cake pastry type of sweetness.  There is a quick and mild pungency then long almost bready and cherry fruity taste.  This tastes almost like icing sugar.  The liquor is lubricating in the mouth with only a faint astringency or bitterness the sweet taste has the full run of the taste profile here.  I can feel it pooling in the stomach with a mild youthful puerh energy.  There is a stickiness to the mouth and throat feel.  The throatfeeling is more mid and airy feeling.  The energy is felt in the stomach and makes the mind feel light.

The fourth starts with a rainforest and very sweet bready taste.  Then a very mild pungency then bready, cake, and coconut and cheryy finish.  Icing surgar permeates the profile.  The astringency is mild but building and I can feel it in my stomach, a natural young puerh feeling, but not too comfortable this morning.

The fifth infusion has a rainforesty, almost floral, but very bread- or cake- like sweet taste to it.  There is a fruity peach taste in there as the astringency is more apparent.  Overall the astringency is mild but seems to be pushing out more fruity tastes initially and throughtout the profile.  The aftertaste is long sweet bread, almost cherry plum, coconut.  The astringency beats at my empty stomach pretty good.

The sixth infusion starts more astringent with less bready pastry sweetness and more astringency and peachy fruity taste.  The mouthfeel is developing a slightly puckering edges to it.  It is pushing out a more dry wood taste across the profile.  It also seems to extend the aftertaste into a long very sweet cake and coconut cherry fruit.

The seventh infusion is smooth rainforest, a touch astringent cakey and bready more smoothed out here.  There is less intense peach sweetness and astringency.  More of a silky smooth mouthfeeling.

The eighth infusion starts of slightly astringent peachy, with a bready sweet undertone, the pungency seems to be gone but there still lingers a long sweet bread aftertaste.  The mouthfeel is more silky now. The Qi of this puerh is a mild airy relaxing sensation.

The ninth infusion starts watery, slight viscus peach with a mild rainforest taste in background.  The peach taste is throughout now.  The mouthfeel and throatfeeling continue in this silky direction.  You can feel the youthful kick and astringency in the guts for sure.

The tenth infusion is a smooth, almost woody, peachy taste throughout that glides over the tongue in a mild astringency.  The Qi in the mind is mild.

The eleventh infusion is silky a touch astringent peachy before a very mild cools peeks and pushes a bready and peachy sweetness along.  This puerh has pretty simple tastes but lots of sweetness in there.

The twelfth is silky, slightly woody, slight fruity sweetness but not too much.  The thirteenth infusion is a bit more fruity and astringent with a more astringent mouthfeel.  These small leaves lose its stamina quickly and turn into a mild woody, peachy with just a touch of sweetness.  There is a slight touch of tannic roughness in the throat.

I call this one early and put it into an overnight infusion.

Overall, this tea has some really intense pastry, bread-like sweetness in the first handful of infusions with a nice rainforesty base.  To me this is some of that classic Manzhuan taste.  The tastes in this puerh are not overly complex with only a handful of nuances playing out and there is space between the flavours.  The Qi is unassuming and the mouth and throatfeeling are mild.  This puerh also lacks substantial stamina.  The lack of bitterness and slow to build astringency create open space for the intense sweetness to dwell undisturbed.  This has to be one of the sweetest tasting sheng puerh I’ve tried in a while.  Those who like it very sweet are going to enjoy this.  It’s a good example of that pastry or cake tasting sweet cloying character of the Manzhuan region.

For me I find the 2016 Man Lin way more interesting than this 2016 Manzhuan- the stamina is better, its less harsh and the Qi sensation is interesting, and it has a nice build throughout the session.

But for those who like it short and (pastry) sweet, this Manzhuan is for you…


Friday, July 12, 2019

2016 Zheng Si Long Man Lin & Slow & Spacy

This sample of 2016 Zheng Si Long Man Lin ($150.85 for 400gcake or $0.38/g) came free with the purchase of a few cakes of the 2015 ZhengSi Long Wa Long.  I don’t think I’ve ever tried any puerh from the Man Lin area before.  I’ve tried Man Zhuang area before but nothing this specific.  I wonder what this sub-region has in store…

The dry leaves have a dense perfume odour to them.  Floral, sweet candy and woody forest odours emit from the very tight pressing of leaf.  I throw whole chunks into the warm pot and the odour that they emit is beautiful floral, wild rainforest sweetness with a distinct odour of melon.

The first infusion delivers watery sweet fruit tastes of melon grasses and rainforest and mineral stone with an icing sugar sweetness.

The second infusion has a light watery icing sugar sweetness.  There are mild nuances of moss and rainforest, stone minerals, melon.  The tastes are refreshing and subdued as the chunks have not loosened in the pot yet.

The third infusion starts off pure icing sugar note very clean and crisp and cool in the mouth.  The mouthfeel and throatfeeling is faint and there is a wispy icing sugar that lingers on the breath.

The fourth infusion opens up more and has a creamy icing sugar initial taste that pop in a very clear watery broth.  There are distant nuances of cherry and wood but really this is a nice pure creamy, icing sugar sweet note.  The mouthfeel and throatfeel are mild and let these soft pure clear sweet tastes skirt overtop.  There is something very thirst quenching about this puerh on this overly humid day.

The fifth infusion has quick onset of fruity almost nutty flavors which glide into the aftertaste and end in an icing sugar taste.  The sweetness is that crisp, clear, clean type with almost no mid- or deep- base to it.  With just a mild astringency to the mouthfeel it leaves these cake-like sweet flavours unadulterated and long in the profile.  The Qi sensation is a bit mild but you can feel the cool youth of the leaves in my empty digestive system.  Subtly relaxing, matching the vibe of the taste.  I can feel a gentle pumping of my Heart.

The sixth infusion starts with a quick and distinct icing sugar sweetness there is a pop of fruit cherry but mainly just this ethereal long unadulterated thin icing sugar sweetness.  Simple but very yummy.  There is a subtle faint pungent coolness that is quite airy halfway through the profile.

The seventh infusion starts with icing sugar sweetness then a pop of cherry fruit which fades as a very faint almost unnoticeable pungent coolness skirts around the breath.  A long wispy icing sugar sweetness stretches into the distance.  The mouth and throat feel is quite faint with a mild astringency.

I step away from the tea table for an hour before returning.  The eighth infusion is more mellow icing sugar with barely creamy and barely fruit taste throughout.  The ninth infusion is much the same.

The tenth infusion shows mild fruity signs initially with icing sugar. There is that easy to overlook faint pungent then icing sugar sweetness.

The eleventh infusion I start steeping 10 seconds past flash and get a mild fruity sweet and underlying icing sugar sweet onset.  This is a very light tea with a bright ethereal nuance to it.  The qi is mild relaxing feeling to it with a mild chest Qi sensation.  This is an easy drinking puerh for sure with a touch of oomph.

The twelfth I add 20 seconds to the flash.  It gives me a touch more astringency up front with a dry woodiness and mineral that comes with it.  The mild quick fruit cherry and longer underlying icing sugar taste is still there.  The aftertaste fades into the breath without much fuss.  I space out under the mild Qi and even forget where I am… although mild there is something sneaky and spacy about this puerh’s energy.

The 13th I continue the trend of adding more time and do about 25sec steep.  The initial taste is a touch syrupy and malty wood with creamy sweetness and icing sugar sweetness underneath as well as a vegetal taste.  The wet leaves smell of roasted nuts.  I can feel the Qi racing the Heart and I feel a nice slightly spacy relaxation.

The 14th I continue to push.  I get a touch of astringency and even slight bitter if I push hard enough there are some mild fruits, mineral, dry woods, and lingering faint icing sugar.

The 15th is becoming a dense apricot sweetness with a woody note underneath.  A more standard sheng puerh taste with some astringency and bitter and a creamy buttery finish with icing sugar breath.  Nice expansive head feeling.

The 16th is put to a good 40 seconds beyond flash and pushes out thick apricot and woody tastes which disappear in the aftertaste.  The tastes here are decidedly sheng but thick and simple enough to enjoy with a faint touch of bitter and astringency in these longer infusions.  As the very compressed leaves release over the course of the session the flavor becomes more dense and fruity.

I push on for a few more infusions because the relaxation effect is still happening.  The flavors of dense apricot sweetness and wood doesn’t let up.  There is a thickness in the broth initially in the fruity taste that is pleasing enough and edges of bitter and astringency but not that much.  This initial taste kind of just glides away.  I am past 20 infusions now and still get some dense flavor out of this one.

Overall, this is a real simple and light sweet puerh that offers an unadulterated sweet sugary tastes.  It has almost no bitter or mid or low notes and just a touch of astringency.  It’s just this puerh light energy.  It has a nice relaxing spacy Qi with a touch of Chest and Heart body feeling that it creates.  The Qi was spacy enough for me to completely for get to get a photo of the spent leaves which I never do. 

Due to the fact that there is little to no bitterness or astringency and the fact that this has very tight compression, you can really push this puerh hard and push out some thicker flavor even late into the session.  The stamina and slow progression of this puerh is nice and keeps your attention to the end.  The way this one slowly unravels is something satisfying for this price.  There are going to be some people who really like this light puerh energy for drinking immediately… I like its stamina and slow release and options for diverse brewing.  Its Qi keeps the mind from getting to serious... this one is kinda interesting...


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Best of 2018: the 2018 Zheng Si Long Gedeng vs Fresh Maocha

The 2017 Zheng Si Long Gedeng was a pretty memorable Gedeng area puerh experience.  It tasted very characteristically Gedeng without costing a crazy amount.  Its taste and energy still in my head for that price.  This 2018 Zheng Si Long Gedeng goes for$282.85 for 400g cake or $0.71/g.  Tiago of Tea Encounter provided me both the fresh mocha and cake sample before I purchased the full cake...

Here is what the tasting notes of the very fresh maocha of the same material looked like:

Intense fruity, cherry, foresty deep, sweetness, cherrywoods in the dry leaves.  Mild icing sugar onset, slight cherry fruit and mild cooling floral, cherry candy sweet finish. Dominating deeper forest woody base under less obvious high notes throughout. Deeper mid- throat feeling. Gripping mouthfeeling felt in back mouth fuller mouth covering. Medium astringent/ bitter.  Opening in throat.  Mild Qi in back of neck/shoulders. Nearly warming.  Woody tastes dominate high notes faint on the breath/ returning sweetness. Turns into mainly woody tastes.

Dry leaves smell of the dry leaves have a very sweet fruit balanced with a very intense pungent evergreen and deep forest odour.  The odour is quite penetrating and fresh but also grounding.

First infusion tastes of initial taste of minty vegetal green and slight vegetal depth.  There is a mineral taste and almost a seaweed taste but mainly this strong minty base profile which is nicely invigorating.  There is a touch of sweetness in the first infusion initially then it returns slightly creamy but the pungent mint taste is throughout.

The second infusion has a mineral green vegetal onset.  There is mint across the profile, some mineral, stone taste, there is a subtle sweetness that emerges in the aftertaste.  The mouthfeeling is slightly slippery.  The pungent mint is throughout and lingers in the throat.  It has an invigorating taste.  The minty pungent taste in the aftertaste is long and cool.

The third infusion starts off minty and dry woody forest almost rock mineral.  The taste feels deep and layered with sweet and pungent mint and barely bitter wood forest and a savory rock mineral seawater type of nuance.  Shah8 describes this characer of Gedeng as halibut, and I think it’s a pretty good descriptor.  The mouthfeel is somewhere between slippery and sticky.  The throat is stimulated and feel sticky.  The Qi I feel it in the head and mind.  In the body a bit in the upper back and spine.  It’s starting to build in the body and open the spine.

The fourth infusion starts with a vibrant minty taste layered with mineral and wood and vegetal forest.  The presentation is really cohesive, not single notes floating on top of each other but rather like a thick dense package.  There is a creamy sweetness that is long on the breath.  The mouthfeel is a nice stimulating almost tingling feel with slippery and sticky and almost dry.  The mouthfeeling and taste work well together and result in a decent depth of flavours.

The fifth infusion start dense in the mouth with distinct minty character throughout along with dry wood, forest, mineral, seawater, and finishes in a long mild creamy sweetness.  The mouthfeeling is gripping and full.  There is sweetness in the minty taste then creamy sweetness in the aftertaste but mild bitter and savory notes in the body.  Qi starts to give me a racing alertness.

The sixth infusion starts woody, savory, mineral, almost talc rose.  The mouthfeel is really thickening up nicely- it offers the mouth nice stimulation here.  The flavours are real stuck together and feel real full with the stimulating mouthfeeling.  The throat feels sticky almost dry.  The intensity of the Qi sensation is almost overpowering.  The chest thumps, mind explodes, and body is in a state of profound lightness, escape, calm. 

The seventh infusion starts more minty with wood being secondary and savory undernith that.  The aftertaste is less creamy sweet and more dry woody bitter and mineral with barly sweetness.  The mouthfeel is slightly gripping here.  The Qi is as big as it gets.

The eighth infusion has a minty rock like initial taste more pungent her and dry woody gripping almost.  Very stimulating mouthfeeling.  Soft pungent mint in breath.  Overall, gripping woody, minty, mineral rock.  The

The ninth infusion has an almost juicy onset, distinct pungent, long creamy sweet aftertaste under wood.  The mouthfeel is very nice almost on the edge of too gripping but I really stuffed the pot with leaves.  The Qi is strong and invigorating, I can feel it in the spine.  The Qi has a certain stimulating intensity on the mind.  Space between should blades opens up wide.

I have to walk away from the tea table for a hour or so the Qi is such that it almost overtakes me and I step back.  I come back to a 10th which is almost sour sweet, juicy and mildly minty, it has a juicy, fruity theme that comes out as mineral but also sweet and juicy, almost creamy with obvious vegetal nuance.

The 11th is much the same with only mild mint and more distinct dry wood with mineral rock but a distinctly sweet nuance throughout.  The aftertaste is a long creamy sweetness.  The sweetness really arrived after the hour rest of the leaves.

The 12th infusion starts almost bitter vegetal with mineral.  Less sweetness which shares room with very mild bitter vegetal wood and is creamy sweet.  There is a mild pungency throughout.  Nice full mouthfeel that holds in the creamy sweet finish.  Qi and Qi and Qi.

The 13th is a touch sour, vegetal, a longer mineral taste here, slight seawater, halibut, long creamy sweetness.  Full slightly tight mouthfeeling.  The mouthfeeling of this tea and the dense flavor presentation are great.  Big, big Qi.

14th infusion is more woody bitter vegetal and less sweet and nuanced minerality, sea tastes.  The minty quality just lingers in the back of the profile this late in the session.   Qi is strong, alerting, chest racing.  There is a warming qi and feeling in spine.

The 15th is nice juicy wood fruit with stronger mineral.  16th is much the same a bit more bitter woody mineral.  The subtle tastes of halibut and mint are much less here.

The 17th and 18th present with a slightly mineral taste and mild forest.  A nice creamy sweetness appears in the aftertaste.  Qi here is more spacey and alerting with a nice warmth and spinal release thing happening to me.

The 19th continues to thin out- the flavor just is not as dense and is a light mineral, almost floral thing with a nice mild sweetness prevails.

The 20th I push a bit with longer steeps and is nicely sweet and mineral and a bit woody bitter.  Its time to put this one into an overnight steeping. 

This tea has nice stamina, dense taste, nice stronger Qi and body sensation, stimulating mouthfeeling and throatfeeling.  This is another great Gedeng from Zheng Si Long.  Out of all the teas I sampled from 2017-2018 this puerh definitely has the strongest and most interesting body feeling sensation of opening between the shoulder blades and in the spine.  Warming body sensation as well. The whole package that this puerh offers with Qi and body feeling is really profound. Both times I’ve tired this Gedeng I have had to step away or be overwhelmed by the power.  I can highly recommend this for those who buy for the body sensation.  Overall, the Qi in here is really big and imparts a complex effect on the mind, chest, muscles, and spine.  Beautiful really.

Comparing this cake to the fresh maocha from a year ago…  well first it should be stated that I overlooked this one big time.  I think this might be to the voluminous maocha rendering me unable to pack the pot as good and less about this puerh’s progression.  What I found amazing was the body feeling and stronger Qi which I downplayed a bit in the more diluted fresh maocha.  I couldn’t even remember that the maocha had this feature until I looked back at the notes.  Boom!  There is was in the notes all along- but the strength wasn’t as obvious to me in these early underleafed notes!  The year aged cake had much more mintiness and pugentness to it but the overall taste of evergreen forest and mineral sweetness along with deeper mid throatfeeling and mouthfeeling remained more stable in both.

***It turns out that I purchased the last cake a month or so ago!  I really wanted to get this review out because there were some samples left but now it is completely sold out!  I was only privy to the same information on this tea as everyone else but after I purchased the last cake Tiago of Tea Encounter told me that this was the most popular Zheng Si Long and sold out in just months! This is not some limited run this is the full production selling out in a matter of months. I am fortunate to have purchased a big 400g cake of this and feel that its value is much much higher than this already high price.  A cake like this could easily sell for twice the price.  I have sampled a lot of tea since coming back a few years ago but none had a stronger Qi sensation as this puerh.


Tuesday, July 2, 2019

2018 Zheng Si Long Xiang Chun Lin vs Fresh Maocha

This was my pick of the early 2018 Zheng Si Long Maocha samples I tired.  I really like the Qi in this puerh and this made my selection of top 3 Zheng Si Long. It was my first introduction to the Xiang Chun Lin producing area.  Here was the tasting notes of the fresh maocha just months after picking:

New producing area for me.  Creamy sweet, slight vegetal-like intense berry fruity sweetness in the dry leaves.  Starts savory, seaweedy, rainforesty, long subtle berry fruit/creamy sweet finish.  Sticky full mouthfeel.  Berry taste pops nicely in very full sticky mouth.  Long sweet cooling berry aftertaste.  Feel qi on forehead and brow.  Slowness in the mind.  Heart noticeably beating now. Vigorous and relaxing very early in session.  Nice dizzying Qi.  Green tea-like, vegetal suggestions.  Reminds me of boarder tea.  Creamy sweet taste dominates with long cooling sweet menthol.  Slowly becomes softly astringent in mouth and mid-throat.  Fairly big Qi sensation in head- very relaxed but acuity strongly sharpened.

This is not typical of the puerh cakes I usually buy but I thought I would go based on the Qi and not as weighted on the taste.  After spending a bit more time with the sample from the cake I decided to pick one up at $199.00 for 400g cake or $0.50/g

Dry leaves smell of clear wildflower woods, almost mushroom sweetness, grasslands and grains and a deep pungent forest odour, slight berry odour.

The first infusion starts off a creamy clear sweetness.  It has a very subtle sour and soft mild creamy sweet pungent.  There is a faint touch of astringency and sticky mouth coating.  This first infusion is very light, ethereal, clear, bright, fresh, green.  Creamy sweetness penetrate throughout.

The second infusion has a more clear strong wildflower quick flavorful onset with nuances of dry wood, grasses, almost nutty, the fruitiness that is apparent in the aftertaste is strong, clear, and clean.  It’s a fruity sweetness the seamlessly transitions to a creamy sweetness.  There are interesting wildflower and fruity nuances in the distance.  Also a cinnamon sweetness, some warmth, barely noticed in the distance.  The Qi in the head is pronounced with this puerh.  I feel instantly focused, tunnel focused and relaxed.  My face flushes.  Qi is strongly spacy as well as clarifying at once.

The third infusion has a thicker more viscus onset of dense vegetal sticky rice in banana leaf and wildflower then melts into a clear fruity and wildflower finish.  The qi is super relaxing here.  Big relaxing qi and focusing qi right in the first infusions.  The taste is fresh and green tea, border tea tasting puerh.

The fourth starts with a thick dense wild flower sweetness there is a touch of astringency barely in there to give it some substance then a long creamy sweet finish.  The mouthfeel is thick and slippery and throat opens nicely.  This one is light and creamy in taste and thick in the mouth.  The big qi alerts the mind, pounds the heart, and pours on the relaxation.  There is almost a sour edge to this puerh.  The wet leaves in the pot emit a pungent, mint aroma.  The feeling in the body is interesting, like my arms aren’t attached to my body.

The fifth infusion has a decently thick wildflower onset, the coating in the mouth is slippery with nuances of wood far in the distance.  The mouthfeel is mildly astringent almost sour and pushes a nice sweet creamy taste across the profile.  Wildflower and slight tart fruit are in the long aftertaste.

The sixth infusion presents with a wildflower thickness once again.  There is very mild pungent mint then long wildflower almost creamy and not that sweet in the aftertaste.  I like the Qi in here.  Overall this tea is quite light in taste and moderately thick in texture.

The seventh infusion has a less flavourful initial taste but is mellow vegetal and wildflowers.  The sweetness is more wildflower and restrained now.  The mouthfeel isn’t as full but still coats the tongue and opens the throat a bit.

The eighth infusion tastes a bit thicker than last, the liquor is of decent thickness and coats the tongue nicely.  There is a little bit of squeakiness to it, a touch of astringency.  Qi is big relaxing type, mind is alert, can feel the heart pounding in the chest.  This duality of being super relaxing but yet physically stimulating is the kind of energy that I look for in puerh.

The ninth is starting to fade.  It becomes more astringent but really is very green tea/ border tea tasting.  Big Qi.  Tongue coating is less sticky and more astringent now.  The flavours have really dropped off and it tastes like steeped out green tea.

The tenth infusion I put in a minutes long infusion to try and push out some substantial wildflower sweetness… and it does along with thicker honey tastes and strong florals the bitterness is pretty non-existent with just barely some astringency in there.  This is true throughout the session as it is now.

So I push hard again… thick slight wildflower fruity edges, almost no bitter, thick on tongue and full mouthfeeling.

The overnight infusion is really interesting.  It tastes of super sweet honeydew melon, juicy and refreshing.  It almost taste like true candy in its sweetness. Yummy.

I like the Qi in this one… very light delicious and invigorating tastes.

To compare it to the fresh maocha…

It is actually quite similar but slightly deeper in taste.  There is a touch more complexity in the cake version but not overly so.  It is still a very green tea and boarder tea tasting thing although the cake has a deeper and longer floral taste in it. There is a bit more complex lighter tastes in there but overall is not overly deep and retains the light, green, ethereal essence found in the maocha.  The Qi is strong and pretty much unchanged from the maocha, as usual.  The mouthfeel and throat feel are similar as well, a bit thicker maybe but not that much.

There is actually anther similar feeling and tasting puerh to this one that I would like to compare, 2018 Tea Urchin Along the Boarder.  Just like this 2018 Zheng Si Long Xiang Chun Lin, it was picked from a relatively close area, I think.  It shares a lot of its energy and taste profile.  I actually was sent some very early picked mao cha in a Spring 2018 order and enjoyed it.  They ended up pressing it and putting it up on their site a year later.  Out of the two I thought the Xiang Chun Lin was the clear winner but for half the price, I might pick up a cake of it to compare more deeply.

These two still are a bit too light, green, ethereal, border tea character for my tastes but I simply like the way they make me feel…