Thursday, March 18, 2021

2003 Wistaria Qing Teng vs 2004 NanQiao Bulang King

 This cake goes for approx. $240.00 for 357g cake or $0.67/g.  It has been heavily reviewed and is usually favorable...

The dry leaves has a sweet dry bubble gum candy with a slight dry woody odour and faint pond/fishiness.

The first infusion has a mild watery pond/marshland/fishiness with ghostly faint quick to disappear white sugar and a building and expanding saltiness.  The mouthfeel is flat chalky in the mouth.  Weird faint salty surgary tastes play out in the aftertaste.

The second infusion has a clear sugar sweet onset with fishy pondy taste and subtle faint incense with dry wood.  The taste is really clear but light.  The candy like aftertaste takes a while to expand in the throat it turns into something kind of fruity/vegetal.  It comes and goes over a backdrop of pond tastes, not really bitter dry wood and saltiness.  The tastes are really clear and pure and almost singular in their presentation.  The Qi is really gentle in the body and has a faint body relaxing bodyfeeling.  The Qi is gently reassuring in the mind slowly bringing me out of my morning fatigue.

The third infusion has a sweet woody incense pond onset with an expanding white granulated sugary taste that is really long and turns into an almost fruity/floral taste and then in the aftertaste into more of a candy sweetness.  The sweetness isn’t dense or complex but evolves in the seconds and minutes after swallowing.  The initial mild bitterness and almost flat slight gripping tongue feeling opens the throat deeply to create space.  The result is an almost gripping mildly bitter mouthfeeling but long clear simple but evolving sweetness.  The Qi is really a slow slumbering and gentle feeling like a slow clear sunrise.  The bodyfeeling is very mild.

The fourth infusion has a woody incense onset with faint sugar which expands in the flat mild gripping tongue coating.  There is some movement to fruity and candy but it is faint.  The throatfeeling is deep but faint and empty feeling.  Faint, light qi sensation.

The 5th has an incense woody faint bitter which pushes out a more clear sugar sweet taste which expands in the throat to something fruity and then evolves into the aftertaste with a candy like finish.  The taste is really fine, clear, uncomplicated.  It is all about following the thin but obvious sweetness, move in the mouth, change, and evolve in the aftertaste.  Even minutes later there is candy.  There is a salty base taste to this puerh.  Calming and soothing soft Qi in the mind with a subtle relaxing bodyfeeling.

The 6th infusion has a woody salty incense taste with a fine thin surgery sweetness that turns to a building and more distinct longer candy floral taste in the breath.  The mouthfeeling is thin and slightly gripping chalk.  Peaceful Qi.

The 7th has a more distinct longer chalky talc bubble gum finish that presents long from start to finish.  Its really very satisfying.  There are very faint suggestions of fine dry woods and incense but these are so faint as the long show of sweetness dominates here over a chalky slightly gripping tongue coating and a deeper simulating throat feeling.

The 8th has a woody almost faint coco bitterness with almost a plum taste underneath which turns to floral candy in the aftertaste.  This infusion is a bit bitterer and much less sweet with an aftertaste which is less long.

9th is pond/fish woody with not much sweetness nor bitterness.  10th is a bit bitter woody.  11th is bitter salty pond/marshland wood… it’s a bitter profile here now.

I mug steep out the rest…

Not sure how this compares to older puerh productions as it just doesn’t seem to have too much of that feel to me… it has the strong robust Qi sensation for sure but in the dry storage and clear compartmentalized tastes it really had to compare to older styles of puerh… but it’s pretty damn good Mengsong!

Compare to 2004 NanQiao Bulang King it really tastes similar especially in the later infusions.  Very similar location (Bulang & Mengsong), storage (Dry Taiwanese and similar tasting storage taste), and age 2004/03.  Bulang King is more powerful for sure. The Qingteng is much sweeter and clear flavours.  The stronger sweet taste adds a certain complexity that the 2004 Bulang King will never actualize because of its near lack of sweet taste although in some ways the Bulang King is denser, nuanced and layered in taste.  Overall, the Qingteng is the more complex choice but the King is still the King of Qi!

James’ (TeaDB) Tasting Notes (here and here)

Paul’s (white2tea) Tasting Notes

Marco’s (Late Steeps) Tasting Notes

Jakob’s (T) Tasting Notes



Monday, March 15, 2021

Mouth Numbingly Delicious: 2006 Wistaria Tai He Maocha

This interesting puerh piqued my interest as not much is written about this Wistaria production.  It turns out that there is both a 2005 & 2006 cake and maocha options for the Taihe pressings.  This 2006 Wistaria Tai He Maocha goes for approx  $26.60 for 50g or $0.53/g.

Dry leaves smell of very dry woody odours with a fine piercing candy floral high noted lingering odour.

The first infusion has a very pungent and spicy quick moving tingling tongue taste and feel.  The tonguefeeling is numbing and the taste pungent and deep woody and medicinal.  The taste is very pungent and alive, with some juicy fruitiness, lots of cooling and warming complex pungency as well as a mild bitterness that offers an extraordinarily complex presentation.  The Qi is immediately calm in the body and hypnotic in the mind.  There is a long complex spicy and cooling with some woody and sweetness to finish.

The second infusion has a strong pungent onset with a deep reverberation numbness in the mouth.  There is dry woody, composting leaf, caramel, floral, camphor…. This puerh reminds me of some of the old school very camphor tasting cakes.  That is the direction of aging on this one and I think it will be very nice.  The complex taste hits all at once and has a hypnotic feeling to it.  The mouthfeeeing is so numbing and the taste so vibrantly complex pungent. 

The third infusion is left to cool and is a deeply pungent sweet caramel woody taste.  The tastes flood in all at once and a long pungency is overwhelmingly dominant as is a numbing mouth sensation.

The fourth infusion has a buttery pungent fruity note with more of a mild flavor overall.  There is still woody, pungency, numbing, camphor, sweet fruity, caramel, leaf.  Still complex but not as strong.  Nice focusing and hypnotic Qi.

The fifth infusion spicy, pungent, fruity, has a brilliant wine grape taste that is common in aged maocha.  Long complex lingering sweet pungent aftertaste.  This infusions has a lot of fruity tastes.  Nice hypno-Qi.

The sixth infusion has a nice coco raison woody, fruity almost wine like grape taste.  Long wine like sweetness.  These later infusions are not as tongue numbing, and not as pungent or woody but getting more complexly sweet.  Nice Qi.  Feels good a bit light in the shoulder blades.

The seventh infusion has a woody wine like grape with a deep throaty pungency and sweet brown sugar aftertaste.  The aftertaste is really long and brown sugar sweet.  The Qi makes me feel very happy and with light arms.  Very nice.

The eighth infusion has a woody incense still floral even peachy taste to it.  There is a bit of wine notes and a deeper cooling pungency.  This infusion is also sweeter.  As the day goes, the happy energy continues.  My body feels slightly light… I feel good.

The ninth infusion starts woody incense but with an emerging sweet bread taste.  There is a strong piercing pungency to it.  It has a long lingering taste in a soft but mild numbing mouthfeeling. 

10th has a mellow woody onset with a pungency that is slower to develop but lingers deep in the throat and on the aftertaste with many fruity pear and peach and almost wine like sweet tastes.

11th has a more woody camphor pungent taste.  The taste is still quite sweet in the aftertaste- fruity, sweet bread, brown sugar.

12th has a bit more dry woodiness, less pungent and sweet but still much the same with a deep relaxing qi.  Very good durability for maocha of this age.

I run out of time in a day.

The next day I do a long steep and it pushes out a mainly caramel and bitter almost salty woody taste.  The caramel taste is long and fulfilling it reaches in the deeper throat and lingers in the aftertaste.  The bitterness also goes long throughout the profile.  There is even a metallic taste left in the mouth minutes later.

Nice blended very dynamic and energizing experience. I liked it a lot.  The strongest point is the vibrantly simulating numbing mouthfeeling which deeps the experience with a livening complex taste, Qi, and bodyfeeling.  The end result is a party in the body and all the senses are invited.

Steepster Tasting Notes


Thursday, March 11, 2021

2007 Wistaria Lan Yin (Blue Mark): Brilliant Power

This is one of the more famous Wistaria productions.  A cake goes for approx $183.00 for 357g cake (or $0.51/g).  This is a famous cake that is named and modelled after a really famous cake, the 1950s Blue Mark … This review follows my review of the 2007 Wistaria Hong Yin (Red Mark).

Dry leaves smell of sweet vegetal almost pondy/fishiness.

The first infusion has a watery bitter flat taste with some vegetal and subtle creaminess underneath.  It has a flat metallic finish almost sweet melon in the aftertaste.  The mouthcoating is silky and very soft but full in the mouth.

The second infusion has a woody soft bitter and sweet creamy vegetal taste up front.  The woody bitterness has a mild gripping while the sweet creamy vegetal almost melon taste is soft and soothing.  There is an apparent balance of strength and softness apparent in this subtly.  The mouthfeeling and throatfeeling are really nice thick simulating silky soft and deeper in the throat with a long faint cooling and melon sweet returning.  Shoulder releasing Qi. Strong clear body effect. The bitterness is such that it is long and you can taste it in the mouth minutes later.  Relaxing almost sedating mind.

The third has a bitter woody almost coco and sort of tart cherry onset that carries a silky full mouthfeeling and a deep cooling throat sensation.  There is a soft gripping feeling in the mouth. A creamy woody mainly bitter almost melon.  There is a real strong spacy-ness to the Qi as well as a shoulder and neck releasing disjoining feeling bodyfeel.  This bodyfeeling is strong, a tension buster in the muscles. Strong Qi.  This is a strong puerh through and through.  The bitterness and slight sweet balance, storage, and age remind me a lot of the 2001 Huang Yin from Teas We Like I grandpa steeped yesterday.  This puerh is much much more complex than this and has a much different Qi profile and mouthfeeling.  There is something similar though in its taste a bit.

The fourth has a tart berry/cherry onset with a bitter woody depth.  There is a silky, full, gripping mouthfeeling with a deep cooling throatfeeling.  There is a creamy almost melon and bitter aftertaste.  The softness of the creamy melon taste is opposed to the bitter.  The Qi is really big and pushes one into a stoned state with strong upperbody release and floating shoulders to the ears feeling.  Spacy but intense Qi.  The bitterness really simulates the throat to salivate.  So powerful.

The fifth infusion is cooled down now and tastes of maple woody, moderate long bitterness, with a barely bready sweetness and deep cool throat.  Silky silty smooth mouthfeeling.  Deeply spacy Qi.

The sixth infusion has a watery vegetal almost creamy sweetness with a more mild bitterness now.  The bitterness is still long.  The creamy sweetness is a bit more here, it is fluffy and chalky in the mouth now that the bitterness has receded.  Spacy Qi.

7th has a tangy fruity onset with an expanding bitterness and wood.  There is still deep pungent tastes and a returning fruity subtle bitter taste.  Deeply relaxing now. Not as full thin silty mouthfeeling.

8th infusion has a tangy fruity woody sweetness with a moderate creamy retuning sweetness that comes with deep pungent throat.

9th has a woody almost incense bitter not that sweet presentation.  Bland vegetal woody aftertaste.  This puerh has flattened out here.

10th a fruity faint papery faint taste begins with a faint background bitterness that finishes sandy thin fine flat in the mouth.  The deep throat sensation of cool is less now and the aftertaste is very faint ghostly fruits.

11th is a longer 30 second steep and pushes out a bitter woody tart almost-not –really fruity sweetness.  There is a chalky aged vegetal finish.  Qi is mainly relaxing here.

12th is a minute long steeping and pushes out tart cherry bitterness with layers of dry woody and faint cool deep throat sensations.  The bitterness dominates here and is very long in the mouth.  This is overall a strong bitter Qi heavy puerh.

I mug steep it out…

Overall, this is a really powerful puerh with very good powerful and unique bodyfeeling of upper body tension release in the muscles.  While the Qi sensation in the mind is equally powerful and pushes you into an immediate stoned state.  The taste is super interesting too with a dance of subtle gentle sweet notes that slowly get overtaken by the strong bitter profile but by the time they do you are completely entranced by the stoner Qi that you strangely embrace the power.  I like this a lot.  It is definitely more brilliant than the early reviews suggests as many of these compare it to Dayi.  This is only Dayi in its bitterness that’s it.  It’s much more than Dayi.  Definitely the strongest Qi of all the Wistaria puerh I sampled in the group.  The downfall is both its weaker throatfeeling and not so great stamina.

How does this compare to older puerh styles…. This one has a Qi that I think would be typical or valued in older style puerh and it also has the bitter backbone as well.  In this way, this puerh could be considered comparable to older style puerh, I think.

Marco’s (Late Steeps) Tasting Notes

Hobbes’ (The Half-Dipper) Tasting Notes

James’ (TeaDB) Tasting Notes From Drinking Report

Shah8’s Tasting Notes


Tuesday, March 9, 2021

2007 Wistaria Hong Yin (Red Mark): Sweet Complexities

This is one of the more famous Wistaria productions.  A cake goes for approx

$243.00 for 357g cake(or $0.68/g).  This is a famous cake that is named and modeled after a really famous cake, the 1950s Red Mark

The dry leaves smell of very sweet cake and creamy caramel with a distant pondy like odour underneath.  Vibrant, mouthwateringly tasty, and sweet smelling.

First infusion has a smooth creamy approach with a slight sugary sweet base with slight woody taste and an almost dry woody incense finish with a pond and dry wood bark aftertaste.  The thin sugary sweetness is long in the profile but drops quickly in the aftertaste.  The mouthfeeling in a thin soft silky mouthcoating with a slight open throat.

The second infusion has a sugary sweet onset with dry wood base this time with more substantial smokiness that follows.  There is a smooth rich sweet smoky finish with a bit of pondy taste.  The mouthfeeling is thicker and more gripping and full now.  The Qi is strong in the mind and opening in the chest here.

The third infusion has a thick rich sweet sugary and thick woody presentation with a full woody thickness in the mouth.  There is a returning sugar taste with distinct moderate smoke.  Thick mouthfeeling with open top throat.  Strong powerful energy push and full woody feeling in mouth with strong heady Qi and open chest body feeling.  It has a strange Yi Wu/ Man Zhuan vibe to it.

The fourth infusion has a perfume with sweet sugar plum and fruity onset.  There are nuances of cake, plum, figs, and apricot, a nice fruity and complex sweet feeling with some chalky mouthfeeling.  There is a nice faint smoke underneath with a sweet taste left in the mouth.  Overall, quite sweet with a bit of woody, perfume and smoke to add contrast and complexity.  Nice mind focusing Qi.

The fifth infusion has a quick faint smoke with a strong sweet fruitiness.  There is a chalky mouth coating and faint smoky finish.  There are some woody nuances but overall nicely sweet and full feeling.  A bit of Heart racing and numb face sensations.  Stronger focusing Qi now and developing bodyfeelings.

The sixth infusion pretty fruity sweet onset with a nice juicy peachy and plum tastes almost creamy sweet with faint wood with some wood underneath.  The smoke can’t be detected in this infusion.  A nice thin chalky mouthfeeling with open top throat a tiny bit of returning sweetness. Nice heady and relaxing Qi.  The Qi of the body and mind are very nice.

The seventh infusion has a fruity plum and apricot that turns into a creamy peachy sweetness on the breath. The cooled cup is very creamy and fruity with a faint smoke with a woody background.  The sweet and fruity tastes are really supported by a thicker feeling in the mouth.  Nice relaxing Qi.

The 8th infusion has a creamy peach sweetness with dry woody over a chalky mouthfeeling.  The Qi is almost spacy and hypnotic now.

The 9th infusion is a watery woody slight smoky onset with some sugary faint aftertaste under a smoky woody taste.  The mouthfeeling has thinned out considerably and so has the taste.

The 10th has a pear fruity flat woody taste now.  The mouthfeel is flat and dry and aftertaste is faint.  Some pond, presumably storage aftertastes. Not that sweet anymore.

I go to a mug steeping now…

The mug steeps are very pungent resin with a woody light bitter incense no sweetness left. Kind of a spacy relaxing Qi.

Overall, this puerh has a very layered, full, and complex sweet presentation with woody, incense, resin, and smoke to provide contrast, balance and depth.  The sweet thick tastes in these first infusions are very nice.  The Qi comes fast and strong but after the first handful of infusions is really relaxing and stoning.  The Qi is also quite memorable.  The aftertaste and throat feeling is the weakest point of this puerh as well as its stamina.  I liked this puerh a lot but the lack of stamina makes me weigh a purchase…

How would I compare this to older style puerh cakes … well this is the only puerh I sampled out of the Wistaria bunch that hardly resembles old style puerh at all.  It’s too clean and elegant for this comparison.  It’s only closeness is in Qi.  To me this has a feeling of Taiwanese boutique puerh or maybe even closer to the newer style factories that were coming out of China in the mid aughts like Douji and Chenshenghao.  I guess it makes a lot of sense that Chang Tai helped produce this puerh because it kind of has that vibe to it… but it’s just really good, much better than any Changtai I have tried.

Jakob’s (T) Tasting Notes

James (TeaDB) Drinking Report notes and newer tasting notes

Shah8’s Tasting Notes


Friday, March 5, 2021

Wistaria Puerh (a bad) Introduction

 For many this famous historic Taiwanese tea shop and puerh vendor needs no introduction.  I certainly am not the best person to offer an introduction anyways.  I have never been to Taiwan and have never even tried puerh from this famous vendor.  Although, I remember reading about it from the very earliest of tea blog posts as they started to come out.

Enter Vu (Tea Apprentice)...

I remember being amused by his binge buying style of simply caking all of the “most popular” or at least most recommended semiaged puerh cakes from Western vendors or Taiwanese vendors with a English sites over a short period of time.  A few of his cakes were some of the higher recommended Wistaria cakes.  No doubt he must have gotten some of these recommendations from James’s recent posts on Wistaria puerh.  If you look back further James of TeaDB even has a really concise drinking report on all of the puerh Wistaria sells.  James has been to this tea house in person so reading and watching his introduction and posts will give you a much better intro than I can offer.

Anyways, Vu offered to send me a bunch of Wistaria samples because he was curious how they compared to other older school examples of puerh which I have some familiarity with.  It’s kind of interesting because Wistaria kind of deliberately formulated some of their puerh cakes to emulate famous antique or other old puerh styles.  You can find this in the descriptions of their puerh cakes on their English page and James discusses a bit of this on his recent inbetweenisodes.  A lot of the real famous antique puerh that these Wistaria cakes are trying to emulate I have never tried before, such as the Red Mark, etc.  I learned much of what I know and drank through many old puerh cakes of Menghai Tea Factory, CNNP, and probably many more fakes that were mainly 90s, sometimes 80s, and rarely 70s.  These  were the puerh cakes that made it to Korea 15 years ago and this is what I know best of the old puerh style.  The cream of the crop (such as the famous Red Mark) was sampled rarely as Korea was not an ideal place to find that stuff which probably mainly never left Taiwan at that time.  So I hope to do my best to compare to these styles.

I first admitted to not trying Wistaria puerh in this comment here when Marco of Late Steeps compared the dry Taiwanese storage of the 2004 Nanqiao Chawang to the 2003 Wistaria Qingteng.  I admitted never quite tasting the pondy dry Taiwanese storage before.  I also hope to draw other comparisons to some other similarly aged and stored productions as I sample through the Wistaria samples.  This might make more sense as the classic famous old puerh cakes that Wistaria was trying to emulate were all wet stored in Hongkong (which was the only type of storage at the time) so really they are going to taste really different than these dry stored Wistaria puerh.

Interestingly, Shah8 informed me that Wistaria might have two types of storage.  The commonly talked about dry Taiwanese storage as well as a mustier more humid storage.  I wonder which storage samples I was sent?

This should be interesting and fun... please join me for the ride...


Saturday, February 27, 2021

2005 Shuangjiang Mengku Mu Shu Cha (15 years later)

I remember actually trying this one fresh off the press in 2006 or 2007.  At that time it was very bitter astringent yet quite fruity, perfume, floral and vegetal- very Qi laden.  It was a pretty good Mu Shu Cha puerh and likely the first Mu Shu Cha I have ever tried and I considered purchasing some back then but never did.  It was obvious to me even back then that this is good tea but I couldn’t bring myself to buy it because of the unusual profile that I had never really encountered before.  I have said before here on ths blog that Mu Shu Cha is really a sort of different thing than puerh that shouldbe evaluated on its own merits, sort of like yesheng.  I don’t really believe these tastes too much like puerh and actually more resemble Yesheng.  I ended up trying some other Mu Shu Cha productions (including other Shuangjiang Mengku) throughout the years but this one, I think, is a very good benchmark Mu Shu Cha. 

I have kind of been following this tea for quite some time, watching it slowly increase in price over the years.  I debated purchase again a few years ago I remember seeing this one at King Tea Mall for a few hundred dollars.  I’m not sure of the storage but I think it might have been Guangdong stored?  It was on my long list of tea to purchase again but I now couldn’t justify the price especially when there were other Shuangjiang Mengku that I liked better that were cheaper.  I had also just purchased loads of Shuangjiang Mengku and figured I had enough.  I was surprised to see this 100% Houde Huston stored version available for $425.00 for 500g cake ($0.85/g) pop up this year.  In 2017 it was selling at Houde for $70.00 for 500g cake but this was before the 2018 price correction .

Guang wrote a blog post on this one hyping it as a first generation cake which is a collector’s item and also it being Bing Dao.  Often early Shuangjiang Mengku cakes are hyped as “Bingdao” or “containing Bingdao” however this is only speculative at best.  This marketing is often applied to all early Shuangjiang Mengku from this era inappropriately.  I agree that you are paying for the first generation collector premium on this one but having tried other Shuangjiang Mu Shu Cha this one is also considered the one of the best of them although I only tired the 2005 and 2006 I believe.

This sample was really the motivation to pay the heavy shipping and try some of these Houde samples after all these years.  I’m really excited to try this one that I sort of still remember from 15 years ago…

Dry leaves smell of light sweet candy.

First infusion has a watery onset with a creamy sweet expanding finish.  There is a candy like full expanding taste over a creamy cottony mouthfeeling on the tongue.  Subtle bitter vegetal that can barely be accessed here and has a bit of coco taste.

The second infusion has a strong mouth astringency first which is balanced nicely with creamy sweet candy like strawberry tastes and woody under nuances.  The throat kind of feels vacuous but deep and a nice strawberry aftertaste with faint pungency and a woody coco mild bitter finish.  The Qi has a strong mind-slowing and ultra focusing feeling.  I start to hear things far away my senses and honed.

The third infusion has an astringent and sweet candy like onset.  The astringency amplifies the sweet candy strawberry tastes and the taste expands over the tight pucker tongue.  The finish is first bitter wood coco then an almost cool pungency and strawberry candy sweetness.  The Qi is warming in the body and focusing.  The throat feels vacuous but deep.  The tongue transforms into a cottony feeling where tastes still seem to linger.

The fourth infusion has a stronger bitter pucker with some sour taste building and less sweetness here.  There is a creamy sweet strawberry taste under the more intense full bitter astringency.  This infusion has a dominating coco woody bitter astringency.  The Qi is a powerful warming, smooth in the body, and very focusing on the mind Qi.  Very very nice Mu Shu Cha typical Qi.

The fifth infusion has a creamy sweet with bitter coco onset over a slightly puckering mouthfeeling.  There is an almost unrecognizable faint coolness in the throat with candy strawberry finish.  The cooled down cup is bitter sweet coco.  Nice strong warming harmonious in the body and focusing strength in the mind Qi.  The Qi is typically good Mu Shu Cha.

The sixth infusion has a bitter sweet coco astringency to it.  There is a rolling creamy coco sweetness with a sweet fruitiness that attempts to push through the bitter profile.  The mouthfeeling is still a puckering but turns more into a flat coat on the tongue rather than the cottony fullness on the early infusions.  Big Qi.

The seventh has cooled down in the cup and gives off a bitter sweet caramel coco taste with still some flat pucker on the tongue and a faint open deep throat.  There is a pungent almost minty taste that is common with Mu Shu Cha in there as well.

The eighth has more of that minty vegetal taste its almost a flat bland taste that is common with Mu Shu Cha.  This profile is mixed into the milder bitter-astringent coco and less sweet creamy.  The mouthfeeling becomes stickier now.  Big Qi Mu Shu Cha continues.

9th is more watery with coco bitter sweet and bland vegetal with a puckering but never dry tongue coating.  There is a minty vegetal almost floral taste.  There is also fruity taste.  The mouthfeeling is more puckering almost dry.  It even is felt in the upper throat.  The sensation leaves less aftertaste but what is there is an interesting cinnamon taste.

The 10th is more watery now and less bitter but more vegetal bland now.  The Mu Shu Cha bland vegetal taste allows for some simple faint strawberry to bleed through.  The mouthfeeling is less strong and the bitterness is almost gone with more of a astringent pucker on the lips.  The Qi is losing strength too.

The 11th infusion is watery bland vegetal.  With not much sweetness left, a faint bitter-astringency.  Not much flavours.

I long steep ( 10 min) out the 12th infusion… it kicks up the power once more… bitter coco with astringent vegetal woody almost fruity sweet syrup.  Strong warming and Qi.  Gripping tongue and faint cooling open throat.

I go at it again at a 40 minute steeping… it is a stronger almost syrupy vegetal sweet slight bitter astringency.  It feels like a slight pucker in the mouth.  The Qi has dropped off and is mainly relaxing now.

I put the leaves into a mug and grandpa it out…

Fruity, slight tart, faint coco dirt, almost floral, not super strong but satisfying.

Overall, this is a nice early, example of Mu Shu Cha that has optimal storage for such a thing.  I’m not sure if I would spend that kind of money on this kind of thing now- remember that 4 years ago this exact cake was selling for 70$!  Really you are paying the premium for both good storage and due to it being a collector puerh.  Not for the relative experience.  To me this tastes less like Bing Dao and has much more in common with other Mu Shu Cha.  With that being said, if I blind purchased this one I would likely be satisfied enough with it.  For me it was most interesting to see how this one bitter astringent and vegetal sweet young puerh has transformed into something that still really retains its original essence but is now ready to drink and enjoy despite its stronger qualities.  I really enjoyed this.

Steepster Tasting Notes

Shah8’s Tasting Notes (also see here)



2018 Lincang/Mengku Price Correction

In 2017 I was really surprised how inexpensive semi-aged Lincang and Mengku was.  It was really terribly cheap for the actual quality of puerh.  You could easily find prices which were frozen close to the prices when they were first released.  Most factory cakes from Xishuangbanna had continued to rise year after year but poor Mengku had prices that were frozen in time.  People who were knowledgeable enough figured this out and stocked up on cakes at this time.

I think part of the reason they were selling for so little was because of the general obsession with Xishuangbanna.  I think the other reason was doubts as to whether they will age well.  As it became apparent that they are in fact aging well coupled with new maocha prices from Lincang and Mengku that continued to rise year after year, it was inevitable that prices would correct at least for cakes which were known to be good and were popular.

For me personally, I really hit it hard that year purchasing many many kilograms especially from Shuangjiang Mengku of which I had significant experience with from the mid 00s.

Then quite quickly prices seem to correct in 2018.  Prices tripled, quadrupled, even went up more than that within months.  Even cakes that simply had “Lincang Character” had gone up steeply.  Some sleepy vendors who we’re accustomed to Mengku and Lincang prices being frozen were caught off guard and great deals could be found.  There was one really obscure online vendor that was selling Mengku cakes at about 1/5th the market value who simply refused to ship my order out when I attempted to clean out his stock!  I’m not making this stuff up.  I tired all I could for them to ship it but they simply refunded my money.

2017-2018 was an interesting year for semi aged Mengku and Lincang.  Some places, I’m sure, you can still find some deals... but not like pre 2018 prices.


Thursday, February 18, 2021

You Will Never See This On a Puerh Wrapper


Although more and more foods are being lot tested for aflatoxins these days, I can’t imagine puerh will ever have a label like this on it.


Friday, February 12, 2021

2003 Xiaguan “Special Grade Ching Bing”: Classic Xiaguan, Nice Storage

Dry leaves are a strong piercing grassy, straw odour.

First infusion has a straw grassy metallic onset with a smoky almost gamey BBQ meat finish. There is a slight soapiness to the taste. It is not really sweet but more of a stronger savory presentation over a flat slight fine sandy mouthfeeling. The second infusion has a hay and straw/dried grassy onset with a metallic BBQ gamey meat slight nuance in there. There is a very faint coolness in the throat and mouth with a nice thin but full chalky sandy feeling.

The third infusion has a full almost sweet cherry taste that is under grassy and straw and metallic tastes. With a more woody BBQ smoke faint finish. The smoke is moderate-mild but intertwines nicely with the more classic Xiaguan like profile. The taste present full with a faint touch of bitterness. The full initial taste holds into the aftertaste. There is a nice smooth alerting Qi in here with some Heart racing.

The fourth infusion has a deep coppery almost metallic caramel taste initially with woody hay underneath in the mid layer and smoke BBQ faintly in the back. There is metallic and cool pungency and almost bitterness upfront. The flavours are pretty dense and full and present over a fine but full chalky fine sand. The Qi is noteable smooth but strong and alerting some Heart beats.

The fifth infusion has a coppery woody hay deeper caramel and metallic complex taste up front. The mouthfeeling is thin full fine sandy chalky and Qi is big. There is a vague caramel with smoke finish. Nice strong euphoria is building in the head. The initial taste really holds its complex density nicely with a faint open cool throat. This is a tasty classic tasting Xiaguan with some nice dry storage on it.

The sixth becomes a silky smooth scotch whiskey kind of taste with a nice aged woody kind of oak barrel smokiness to it. The mouthfeeling is a nice soft full thin chalk and mouthfeeling has some opening to it with some cooling but faint. The initial tastes have a long presence in the profile.

The 7th is smooth tobacco taste with background smoke. There is some hay and woods but mainly this the initial taste throughout. The complexity has dropped from here but the stable Xiaguan tastes push through nicely. The 8th seems like a thicker stronger malty oaky smokey. The initial tastes stay in the mouth for a long time and fade slowly. 9th is much the same deep, thick, malty woody smokey oak with long full taste slight smoke thin soft full mouthcoating. 10th is much the same condensed smokey, woody not really sweet but almost caramel and sort of cooling full taste. Chalky thin mouthfeel is satisfying as is the stead tastes that come out here.

11th has a brassy coppery wood smoke caramel taste. The taste and feel of this is classic Xiaguan but nice storage and strength without bitterness or harshness. 12th, 13th, ect it really just goes on and on with this really solid, condensed, typical and good xiaguan taste….

Overall, this is a bit better than average Xiaguan with a nice dry storage but still is very much a typical classic Xiaguan in taste and feel. The stamina is good with nice condensed tastes. But not sure if something like this is worth the $350.00 price tag? For me I can’t do it. But I really do love its classic taste and feel.

Vs 2001 Xiaguan 8653 Huang Yin 450g Special Order- This 2001 is equally brilliantly dry stored but this special order is unlike most Xiaguan in that it is more bitter, stronger Qi, stronger sweetness, and is even still quite aggressive. I like this one better of the two but it is not really representative of classic xiaguan. This 2003 Xiaguan is really more typical Xiaguan but is a bit better than average. Both nice xiaguan.


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Lawrence Zhang: The Grandfather of Puerh in the West

Let’s just say it like it is… Lawrence Zhang (aka MarshalN of A Tea Addict’s Journal) is the Grandfather of Puerh in the English speaking world.  There is no one person who is or probably ever will be as important and relevant to those who drink puerh in the West than Marshal’N.  Period. 

Part of why he is so influential has to do with him simply arriving at the right place(s) at the right time(s).  He started his blog, A Tea Addict’s Journal, in 2006 which would have been both at a time when very few blogs (tea or any other topic) existed and/or when they just started to become popular and when very few people in the West were drinking puerh and/or just when they started to share their passion for this tea online in forums.  He was ahead of his time and a pioneer to blog about puerh and he did so in English.

The other reason why he is so influential is because he is Chinese, living in Beijing, and Hongkong but also fluent in English and familiar with the culture having lived in Vancouver and in the USA as a student.  He chose to write his blog in English and tether himself to the English online puerh community but yet he had the ability to inform us what was going on in China.  The combination proved a powerful, informative, and influential vehicle in the very early days of puerh.

However, the real reason why Lawrence Zhang is so influential in English puerh circles is because he is very intelligent, kind, practical, and easily portrays an argument or topic in simple terms.  He usually makes his point in very few words and he has made many such statements on his blog.  Did I mention he now teaches tea history at Hongkong University? Most importantly, Marshal’N, more than any other English speaking puerh tea blogger, embodies the “Old School” of puerh.

I too prescribe mainly to the “old school” of puerh tea. In fact, if you go back to the posts when I came back to blogging in 2017, the main philosophical idea of those posts back then and even today is to present an alternative or at least competing view to the “new school”.  This direction was in response to a virtual void of information and options representing the “old school” when I came back into blogging which really shocked me.  At that time, Hobbes and Marshal’N were almost not posting anymore and James of TeaDB and Marco of Late Steeps were starting to lean a bit more towards the old school at the time (they are puerh bloggers that although not growing up in the old school have learned it well by now and I consider them old school Marco is probably more old school than me these days and Wilson of Travelling Teapot is also much more old school).  However, Lawrence Zhang, more than any other English authority, epitomizes what the old school of puerh is in the Western puerh drinking scene.

That is why it was so striking to watch Glen of Crimson Lotus Tea, who admittedly started drinking puerh 8 years ago and by nature of his puerh tea company is quite “new school”, interview Laurence Zhang.  Glen did it here a few days ago on his YouTube interview series Between Two Teapots.  If you haven’t watched it, I implore you to do so.  Its pure brilliance and Marshal’N at his finest.    I was also really impressed by Glen’s interviewing skill which would have been quite difficult considering he is basically interviewing the one person in the English speaking world that has the best combination of experience and knowledge of puerh.  But what I thought was very classy is how Glen navigated an interview with someone who holds such different philosophy of puerh than himself.  Glen did such a good job that in the end I was left wanting to sample his brand.  The interview taken as a whole comes off as a bullet point presentation of most of the relevant themes and posts of his blog.  It is a purist and condensed lesson in the “Old School” of puerh tea by the tea professor himself.

Let me now summarize, link, and discuss some of the points Marshal’N makes during his interview which include references to his old blog posts and other lesson in the “Old School”.  Many of his discussion points mirror what I have been posting on my blog over the last 4 years and I will sometimes provide links from my own posts… my own thoughts will be italicized…

4:00 “I don’t measure my pots”- lots of old schoolers, me included, don’t know the volume of the pots they use.  Often they also never measure the amount of grams used either- I never do.  I believe this is more to do with honing ones gongfu skill without the reliance on measurement.  None of my teamasters ever measured out their tea either.

6:54 “With kids running around you don’t want to have teawear lying around and it gets challenging” (see my post here) lots of old schoolers now have a bunch of kids hampering their style… hahahah... we are not only old school but we are just simply old...

9:29 “What is you rough brewing ratio?- I can’t tell you because I’m one of these guys who don’t measure anything and I just look around and it seems about right.”

 11:35 “The one thing I’m sort of proud of is popularizing the term Grandpa Style”- (see his post here)

13:00 “It’s not like there is any science behind it (Grandpa Style), it’s not measured or anything

17:55-30:35 You obviously have a lot of local Hongkong experience (see this tag on his blog on Traditional Hongkong storage)

33:35 “What young sheng puerh characteristics and qualities characteristics are best for aging?”  “Most of the good stuff gets made into single origin puerh which is mostly a function of cost.  It’s very hard to find anyone who wants to put some Laobanzhang material in a some regular old blend… because you can’t sell it for that much because no one will pay for that much  (see my post on Extinct Blends)… after 10 plus years of experience with some of these teas, I’m not convinced that single estate puerh will age that well… or not that interesting…. Old cakes are all blends.”  Old schoolers generally prefer factory teas and blends over single estate.  80% of what I buy and consume are blends.

35:40 “the location (of classifying puerh areas) has gotten so small” (link his blog)

42:30 “You generally want to buy Spring tea if you can … because they tend to age better.”  Old Schoolers believe that Spring tea is generally always superior to Autumn.  In the factory era they did not create Autumn tea cakes as it wasn’t worth the cost of production to quality.  As a result, many old schoolers won’t seek out Autumnal productions.  (see my post here)

43:25 “If you don’t want bitter tea, drink some Oolong.” Generally oldschoolers believe that bitter teas will age better this is also because a lot time ago all puerh was bitter young.  Generally, oldschoolers enjoy the bitter taste in puerh and see it as a positive of long term aging.

45:55 “I guess if you are buying it to drink now… but I can’t speak to that really.”  Old school puerh drinkers rarely drink young puerh.  I rarely drink young puerh beyond sampling myself.  I’m buying young puerh, I’m buying it to age.  This is mainly due to the fact that puerh from the 90s and earlier were too harsh young and neverwere intended to drink young.  It also has to do with TCM theory that bitter fresh tea is damaging for ones health for many individual constitutional types. 

47:40 “What do you think about the different varietals or sub-varietals, wild varietals, or wild puerh.  Do they have any potential for aging? No… no don’t buy them.  Only buy them now if you drink them now, you don’t care, and you don’t get headaches, otherwise don’t touch them… Just don’t buy them to expect that they will age like puerh because they are not puerh..  I’m not happy when people call them puerh because they are not.  They are something else.  They are tisane, they are whatever...  It doesn’t age like that (puerh)  Old schoolers don’t believe that “wild varietals” are puerh.  I have wrote many articles about this very topic (here).

50:29 “Everything is aging” (see my post here)… I’ve had old black teas before. (link his post here).

51:25 “Areas that used to produce black tea are now producing puerh… If you buy a cake of Shuangjiang Mengku… and you leave their cakes to age for 20 years or so. Guess what? The tea tastes like black tea, or at least there is that black tea note.  And I think part of it is a varietal issue because for decades … they cultivated the tea to make black tea out of it.”  I never heard this theory before despite being a big fan of Shuangjiang Mengku… but it makes perfect sense too me.

56:00 “This whole idea of drinking gongfu cha is… in places that is not Chaozhou… is all very foreign to them (Chinese people)… I think foreigners see this … this is the Chinese tea ceremony is basically a lie... Foreigners think its exotic but it’s anything but exotic.” (see his post)

1:08:52 “Having some bugs that will chew through the paper means that you are doing pretty good storage wise.”  Old schoolers aren’t phased by bug bitten or damaged wrappers because back in the day most wrappers were like that.  They also generally enjoy more humid storage because the first cakes that were dry stored, the famous 88 Qingbing, were generally released for the fist time ever in the early-mid 2000s.  

1:11:10 “What is your favorite village/ region for puerh tea? ..Over the years, I think, (Yiwu) has gotten less interesting for me and I like things from Menghai area better these days.  Especially with age, I think they actually age better.”  Old schoolers generally think that Menghai area teas will actually age better.  This is at least partly because most of the aged teas they consumed early on were likely from the Menghai area from the 70s, 80s, 90s.

1:15:15 “There is no guarantee you are getting what you know… anything goes… nothing is stopping me from unwrapping your cakes and selling it as my own pressing.” (See his post hereI just commented on this last week when describing the 4 types of faked aged puerh (see here).

1:25:15 “Opinions on hunagpian?  Why waste your time?  What if you want to save your budget or is it not even worth it from that perspective? If you want to save your budget spent it on some regular cheap Dayi or something.  Why buy huangpain?  It’s basically someone’s trash and it’s not going to age that well, it’s going to be kind of bland… I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to buy it.”  Olderschoolers feel that hunagpian is not worth the money.  (See my post here)  Old schoolers also love cheap Dayi… we can’t resist cheap Dayi (see I his post here and mine here).

1:27:20 “So when you talk about village specific taste like that, at least as an end consumer I think we spend too much time worrying about these kind of names and labels and it doesn’t really mean that much at the end of the day.”   Oldschoolers generally put less emphasis on specific areas because they didn’t categorize by such specific villages long time ago.  They are generally more concerned about the end product of how it tastes and feels rather than where exactly it comes from.

1:33:25 “You spoke to the fact that there is mostly men in teashops… Why is puerh so male dominated?  (See my recent post here).

1:40:25 Taobao shutting down some second hand sellers.  (see his post)

1:42:30 Story about a very old New York stored puerh (see his blog)

1:45:10 Taobao Lottery is real (see his post)

1:46:00 “What is the strangest tea that you enjoy drinking?  There are some pretty funky aged Oolongs that are borderline straight moldy, they are really sharp, you can sort of taste the mold but they can be good... when you want that moldy tea experience even though it can be questionable.”  Oldschoolers generally don’t mind drinking tea with mold and are really not phased by moldy puerh.  This is also because puerh a long time ago was usually stored in more dank storage and they have developed a taste and tolerance for such things.

1:48:45 “You can now find 2006/2007 for less than a new cake would cost that are actually sometimes better than the new cake with 15years of age on it.”  Oldschoolers generally are fine with cheaper teas with age vs. spending the money on a new cake to age.  It is a commonly held belief among oldschoolers that you don’t really need to spend lots of money on puerh tea to get a solid drinking experience (see Dayi comment above).  This is partially a reaction to the increased price of fresh puerh over the years but also due to the fact they got used to spending so little on puerh a long time ago when things were less expensive and partly because there is simply a decent supply of solid cheaper puerh out there with a bit of aging on them which are simply better value than young puerh.

1:53:00 “Mine are all the same (Yixing).  I wouldn’t use sliver (teapot) for puerh.”  Oldschoolers when not drinking grandpa style mainly/ exclusively use yixing.  Why?  It does better with the older styles of puerh, more bitter puerh, and rougher old style processed puerh such as aged factory puerh which oldschoolers often enjoy.

2:04: “What an example of a tea you bought 15 years ago? … Back then it was the Wild West right? So.. lots of teas are mistakes either because they are weird in some ways: bad material, bad processing, too many to name really.  (see his post)

The last question from Microshrip is probably very fitting and brings the interview full circle when he asks…

2:09:32 “How has your approach to tea evolved since diving deep into it and what is it like now? I drink tea a lot more casually now than I used to… you start to learn what you like and start ignoring all the hype… and you settle into what you like and what you don’t like and you pay less tuition.

Sounds like a lot of grandpa style these days for the Grandfather of Puerh.