Saturday, August 22, 2020

We’re Not Worthy! We’re Not Worthy! Marco’s Blind Sample Reveal and Discussion

First there is a few points that have to be made about Marco

Most people in the Western puerh world probably know Marco for his storage/ hot box/humidity/ temperature experiments.  Much praise has been thrown on him over the last few years on his storage experiments and rightly so.  However, his reviewing prowess has not gotten as much attention.  When I first returned to the online tea world I was most taken aback by professionalism of Marco’s reviews- something that has not yet been presented to the Western puerh world before.  His assessments of my blind samples is so mindblowing good… I think we should all be also giving him highest regards for all his puerh reviews as well these days.

This blind sampling exchange has made me really respect his puerh reviewing process as well as Marco’s beautiful mind.  He is just as meticulous and brilliant in his reviewing as he is in his storage experiments.  First he did a dry run of all the blind samples I sent, then he did another for review.  He uses the exact same formula for review with every puerh he samples- it is a 4 steep process outlined here. 

It kind of makes me feel a bit careless in the fact I base my review on the first sampling almost in every review.  With that being said, I think 95% of the time I completely stand by my first impression and it is very rarely swayed. For blind sampling I always half-joke that I’m about 50% which is not bad at all, still a pass but I hope to improve, not languish here.  My last batch of blind samples from Wilson of Adventure in Every Cup went much better than 50% I’d say so I’m feeling confident… hahah

Okay… back to Marco…. So far he has reviewed 5 of the 7 blind samples and his laser pointed accuracy literally gave me goosebumps when reading it.  His ability to analyze puerh blindly is extraordinarily precise!  Maybe I’d give him 99%... I really don’t think Marshal’N, James, Hobbes, Cwyn, Shah8, Toki, anyone I know in any capacity online or in person couldn’t ever do this.. It’s really mindblowing to me.  I think he must have somewhat of a photographic memory paired with careful and meticulous review process- it’s the only way he could pull this off.  Stunned!

I think after reading how bad my first few blind reviews were he reached out to me and we agreed to do multiple choice after publishing our reviews in full.  He surely does not require it.  Hahaha… Before having the blind samples revealed to me I thought to rank the samples in order of enjoyment they have brought me and to give them a short description.  First, I can say that I enjoyed them all on some level.  Some definitely, caught me off guard where others were a bit underwhelming.

1-      “Gamma”- this is a brilliant puerh, has power to spare, comes on fast and furious with a thick oily viscus rich chocolate and vibrant berry and cherry over coco and woods  There is a really elegant vibrant perfume floral and even some faint smoke. Very layered with insanely powerful Qi that reminds me of Bulang or even Laobanzhang overpowering in the body and mind. The bodyfeeling is big here! It also has an elegance and berry taste and candy breath that suggests it could be a bitter/strong Yiwu.  Has a boutique and potentially blended profile, likely mid-aged Taiwanese stored.  This is very good and likely very expensive puerh.  Love it!

2-      “Eta”- liked my experience with this likely Hongkong stored well aged (90s or earlier) very iron compressed brick (or cake), don’t usually drink much shu but the thick oily nutty Hongkong stored profile and aged tastes were brilliant on a cool rain summer day! This must be a Kunming 7581 brick.

3-       “Zeta”- great stamina from this very very delicious smoky root beer tasting puerh… the taste of this one is just insanely good! It also has a warm spiciness to it and very comfortable bodyfeeling which indicates some age.  It has a decedent, refined, and smoothness to it that is encroached by inoffensive smoke.  A balanced and complex arrangement with Qi that leaves me feeling good late into the day hours after the session.   I analyzed this puerh as if it is a Bulang but it seems unlikely.  I’ve only had a similar root beer tasting thing in a Bing Dao and Yiwu before in the past? Leaves look like a blend.  Maybe 10-14 years old dry Malaysian storage? 

4-      “Beta”- I love the old school subtle smoke mixed with a strong and interesting presentation of the five traditional Chinese flavours of salty, sour, bitter, bland, and pungent in this brick.  This seems like a nice balanced and engaging Jinggu blend to me, could be other Northern area but has a Jinggu feel to it could be other multi region blend.  Dry stored with still a bit of sour it is likely 5-8 years ish old just ready to consume.Either way the blend itself is brilliant old school balanced plantation goodness. Like!

5-      “Delta”-  This tea is all about the long elegant aftertastes here which is quite beautiful.  The honey and candy take turns at revealing themselves in the aftertaste for a long time which is the highlight of this puerh and makes it of nice quality.  The mid profile becomes more astringent but also mushroom and woody and licorice typical of the Mengku/Lincang producing areas with a familiar Mengku stoned qi sensation. In the end of session you still get the candy finish on some level and the Qi takes a turn to become more stimulating.  A nice gushu feeling through and through. A pretty dry stored high quality Menkgu/lincang single estate like gushu approx. 3-7 years.  In the end I felt quite energized from this session!

6-      “Epsilon”-  this is a really condensed, full feeling Menghai Factory production that is still on the edge of being drinkable semiaged.   Not used to drinking Dayi at this point of aging because it’s pretty hard on the system still.  This one is a pretty nice Dayi production overall full of delicious factory goodness.  A dry stored 8ish year old Menghai Factory aka Dayi production?  If it isn’t Dayi then something very much of this style.

7-      “Alpha” , this puerh is really difficult for me to place. The first few infusions and the dry leaf almost remind me of Laos puerh or something East Yiwu close to the boarder with a meaty and gamey taste.  Then the next group of infusions develop a pondy woody taste to it with some fruity and creamy sweetness.  The mouthfeel builds and becomes thicker almost pucker.  The Qi is warm and indicates something more aged as does the incense base taste that develops.  These infusions remind me of a dry seal stored older more old school puerh.  In the later infusions a strong apricot sweetness is highlighted.  This puerh changes a lot throughout the session which makes it kind of interesting.  It is definitely dry stored, likely Taiwanese dry storage, and possibly even sealed storage.  It also has a factory feel to it like a Xiaguan, maybe especially in the later infusions.  It’s more of a generic factory taste in the last half.  Complex enough change throughout the infusions but something I wouldn’t normally go for.

Overall, I feel really honored to have Marco review some of the puerh that I drink most regularly.  The 7 puerh I sent him represents about ½ of the puerh I have regularly available and most easily accessible for me to drink on a daily basis. Getting someone of Marco’s caliber to go through in fine detail what you are drinking daily is not only an honour of sorts but also gives me a new appreciation and a fresh perspective on some of the puerh I have been drinking for over 12 years!

… besides it was just super fun!

When will Teas We Like offer a blind sample package of their puerh?????  Who's with me here?

Edit:  This post was written up almost a week or so ago .  Marco has since posted on the last 2 blind samples and this is the list of actual teas that. He consumed... he really nailed it.  I left a post on his last blind review on Late Steeps of this list and we will now wait for him to match up the blind tasting...

1-      1997 Henglichang Bulang (famously offered by The Essence of Tea/favorite of Hobbes)

2-      2006 Yang Qing Hao Shenpin Chawang (in Yang storage since January 2020)

3-      2006 Teas We Like Rustic Zhongcha (hahahaha)

4-      2008 Menghai Tea Factory (Dayi) Autumnal Aroma (Malaysian stored from Adventure in Every Cup)

5-      2008 Yunnan Yunxian Huimin Wild (100% personal Canadian dry storage!)

6-      2012 Legend of Puerh “Shen Gu You Lan” Bangdongshan  (Tea Urchin)

7-      2020 Essence of Tea Tian Men Shan GaoGan

I will now take a peek at the comment he left last post (which I didn't read yet) and try to decipher which blind samples he set me... so fun!



Matt said...


Marco sent me this random list and these are my guesses matching the blind samples he sent. Some of these I totally nailed where others are probably totally wrong. Was tricky matching some as I had a few conflicting areas mentioned in some of the reviews that could go either way. The below list is only my guesses and not yet confirmed true/false by Marco.

2013 Biyunhao Mahei - Delta
2015 Biyunhao Lishan Gongcha - Zeta
2019 North Vietnam puerh- Alpha
90s kunming shou brick - Eta
2010 Youle gushu - Epsilon
2006 Bulang Beauty - Gamma
2004 12cent sheng brick- Bata


marco said...

Hi Matt, fully in agreement about how fun this was... we’ll definitely do it again sometime!

Some of the teas I sent you are very surprising indeed and I would say some of them are very difficult to guess. Let me make a few comments and reveal the order below:

Alpha) this tea is one we looked for for quite a while - a Dai traditionally made 2010 Youle which was stored quite dry in Taiwan. I completely agree that it’s hard to place, the style of processing is not something I’ve seen before from modern six famous mountains productions. I voted for inclusion into TWL offerings.

Beta) your guess, and more importantly, your review, are 100% spot on here, it’s the 12cent sheng brick. “Old-school balanced plantation goodness” is exactly right.

Gamma) Here is a real surprise: this is a tea that I have been strongly hyping to my friends, it’s the 2013 Biyun Hao Mahei. About three years ago, it was rough and unbalanced, but now it has really turned a corner into an absolute gushu powerhouse. The Wangong material included in the blend is really a star attraction here, and may account for the sheer power, but as you noticed, the “elegance, berry taste and candy breath suggests it could be a bitter strong Yiwu” — that is why this tea is so unique in my opinion. For the moment we are holding this tea at 0.61/g and I think it’s one of the very best values on the puerh market today.

Delta). As you said, elegant aftertastes, stoning qi with energizing later on, and strong gushu profile... this is the 2015 Biyunhao Lishan Gongcha blend, another banger of a gushu blend, this one slightly younger and with significant astringency still left in it— I am curious to see what it will be like in a couple of years...

Epsilon) This one is very funny because you nailed the description in every respect except that instead of Dayi, this one is Nanqiao. It’s a special production of Nanqiao, a bit younger than the double lion but I think even stronger than it. It is not a well-known cake and doesn’t yet have a proper name, but I call it the Bulang Beauty. This one almost certainly has some LBZ material in it, but I haven’t been able to find a good source for it yet (I only got one cake, and at too high a price...)

Zeta) This is a really surprising and unusual tea. If you can believe it (I have difficulty believing it myself), this is a 2019 north vietnam Ha Giang puerh production that I got at a very reasonable price from “Tea Addicts”, a charming German tea shop in Hamburg. The thing I love about this cake is the really old school processing. I think the material may not be the best - no qi fireworks or subtle aromas, but the processing is really awesome. They must have put some aged maocha into the blend but the proprietors of the shop tell me no! Maybe it’s worth getting a cake, but if you look past the excellent processing you might find it a bit disappointing. I bought a cake and don’t regret it.

Eta) This one is bang on - this is a Kunming shou brick from the 90s, and while it is very good aged dark shou in the older style, we haven’t been able to precisely authenticate it as a 7581- it’s difficult with some of the 90s stuff from Kunming, and it doesn’t quite taste like other 90s 7581. But it’s good shou and I voted yes for inclusion in TWL offerings.

OK Whew that’s a lot of thought we put into these 14 teas... till next time!

Matt said...

I agree that it was a bit trickier because you had a lot of blends in there. On the other hand most of the puerh that I consume is blended material so I appreciate it.

Alpha) This puerh is a very very unique one in the same way that 2001 Naked Yiwu is unique. I think those who like the 2001 Naked Yiwu will also like this 2010 Youle Gushu and it would be interesting to taste these two side by side which I might do with the remainder of my sample. In my review I said that it is likely sealed or very dry Taiwanese Storage and is quite unique and complex tasting. I also did state that it tasted like Youle in the notes especially in mid-session. I also stated that the start of the session tastes like boarder tea which had me guessing Vietnamese.

Beta) I think Paul of white2tea basically based his 2020 white2tea Mirage on a very similar type of old school plantation blend as these have a very very familiar structure and feel. I might try them together. Of course, the price of creating a blend like this in 2020 means that it cost multiple times more than $0.12/g!

Gamma) The thing that surprised me the most about this is how darker red the liquor is. It was the darkest of all the samples (excluding shu) and very different than the 2015 BYH Lishan Gongcha. It makes me wonder if this once harsh blend deliberately underwent greater heat or humidity than other Biyunhao? At only 7 years old this puerh is still changing as well. I commented in my review about the price of a puerh like this which would be at least above $237.00- at $220.00 this one is of value. I like it a lot… it’s a bit cruel that it can’t ship to me… this whole thing is more of an exercise in letting go...

Delta) Interesting that I guessed Lincang when it was Yiwu. I think a good Lincang often mimics an Yiwu but usually for much cheaper!

Epsilon) Would have guessed NanQiao if it was stated outright as this one has factory cake written all over it. This one had power but was also a bit harsh on my system. I didn’t pick up on the Ban Zhang energy.

Zeta) Who will be the first Western vendor to bring in some of this delicious root beer old school feeling type of puerh? I checked the site but they must have sold out. This Vietnamese puerh really threw me off because it doesn’t taste that young and I had no idea about the profile having never sampled it. I like it.

Eta) This tastes better than any Kunming 7581 I’ve tried before. Recommend to any shu lovers out there and also to sheng lovers who normally dismiss shu!

The most interesting thing I found with the blind assessment on a personal level is how hard it can be to accurately assess the age of a puerh.