2007_Dehong_wild_FI

2007 Dahei Shan Wild Purple

I came across this 250g  Dahei Shan [big black mountain] wild purple puer cake at a vendor recently and thought I would write about it, not because the tea was interesting, but because it served as an interesting price vs. tea quality comparison.

Dehong Wild Puer Tea
Dahei Shan Wild Puer Tea

This puer tastes remarkably similar to Yunnan Sourcing Dehong purple. Smokey and savory, but unfortunately, with very little of the character that was so expressive in the YS Dehong. (It’s not a direct 1:1  comparison, there was some difference in the huigan [sweet aftertaste] and astringency as well) The cake has been stored in Beijing, leaving it noticeably dry on the surface, as pictured above. The leaves border on an inky purple,  lovely how they produce the unexpected golden liquor pictured below.

Puer Tea Soup
The bright gold soup, showing what 5 years of Beijing aging can (or can’t) do

As is typical of Beijing aging (see: bone-dry), maturity is earned slowly. The soup is gold, reflecting what I guess is very little change from its young state. For a 5 year old tea, this tea has remarkably little maturity. It is a bratty five year old with no manners. Somewhere in the world I suspect this tea has a cousin who grew up in Guangzhou and is well behaved at the dinner table. I’d like to meet him. Whether the lack of character in this tea was due to its storage, or the material itself, is difficult to say. In either case, what struck me was the price tag.

Cup of puer tea
A look at the soup in a glass cup

As I noted above, this pretty little cake is 250 grams, but it carried a price tag of 400 RMB (~ USD 63 ) , which is a bit high for my taste. The tea was quite pleasant, but when you consider the YS Dehong is 400g and less than 1/2 of the price (not to mention better tea, in this writer’s humble opinion), it is not worth it. I am not sure where this price tag comes from, but it seems to be related to the labels wild and purple. I have seen some other cakes floating around that are 100g of wild purple this and that for absurdly high prices. The only time something wild and purple should realistically hit this price range is if the cake shows interesting age or if you are at a Phish concert.

In some alternate universe where I had no other purple teas to compare this to, and the price was more towards USD 45, I might consider buying a cake out of curiosity to how it would develop.

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Tea Blog

2012 Wild Tree Purple Tea of Dehong Puer – YS

The Puer section of Tea chat forum (mostly debunix and myself) had a little discussion involving both the Yi Wu Purple Tea 2012 from Yunnan Sourcing, and the focus of this post, the Wild Tree Purple Tea of Dehong 2012. While both puer teas share a deep purple exterior, that is where their commonalities end.

 

Dry Purple Puerh Tea from Dehong
Dry Purple Puer Tea from Dehong

The dried leaves are Deep Purple. ( Not Purple Rain purple. )

Brewing Puer Tea
Cleanin’ n’ Pourin’

After the clean, the gaiwan smells like smoked meats. Savory and thick. It’s an oddly pleasant smell that stirs hunger and desire for scrambled eggs. The soup itself smells of pine. Side note, I filled my yixing pot with the soup after I was finished drinking, and left it open to the air. When I returned at the end of the day, the whole room smelled of pine and puer.

cuppa tea
The golden liquor, thrown off by the celadon cup

The first cup is smokey, but in a very pleasant way. It is neither harsh, nor aggressive, like a young Xiaguan. The smokeyness seems to be more of an inherited flavor, than an addition – meaning, the smoke does not appear to come from a charcoal fire near the leaves during processing. It’s not so much the feeling of smoke (which can tense the throat) as it is the flavor of smokeyness.

After about the 4th steep, I decided the soup was a little thin and began eying the remaining 4 grams of puer left in my sample. I thought to myself, “What the hell am I going to do with 4 grams of puer?” It’s the dilemma we have all faced. You have managed to eat 6 of 8 pieces of pizza, and are fairly full, but decide to choose gluttony and regret over prudence and clean living. Those last two pieces are not quite lunch for tomorrow, and the impending stomachache does not get factored in to the decision.

Gaiwan full of tea
Gaiwan with an unreasonable amount of tea

I crammed topped off my gaiwan with the remaining 4 grams. I stand by my decision.The next few steeps took a bit of tweaking before it reached a comfortable place. Somewhere in those steeps was a smoked sausage brew that was quite nice, albeit a bit heavy. I eventually settled on some quick 7-8 seconds steeps, and the remainder of the session was quite enjoyable.This cake has plenty of punch – even without an overstuffed gaiwan. It has a youthful edge, but some age will likely turn this into a very drinkable cake. It is already drinkable, and for puer drinkers who crave savory smoke, it is solid.
400 gram cakes retail at Yunnan Sourcing for $25, which is a fine price for a sizable amount of good tea.

Puerh tea
A thick over brew – this porridge is jussssst right.

 

 

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Douji biz card

2012 Naka Shan Raw Puer Douji

I have been waiting patiently for the Douji 2012 stock to arrive, so I could begin to swim through their new teas. Below is this years production of Naka Shan raw puer.

Dry Naka Shan puer tea
Dry Naka Shan
Dry Naka leaves from Douji
Closeup of dry Naka leaves from Douji

 

The dry leaves smell like white sugar. Very young, with scents of vegetal grass still present – probably due to being pressed only a month ago, and picked but a few months ago. That young smell can be put-offish, but in this case it is quite endearing.

Brewed Naka Puer Tea from Douji
The soup

The first steep was very smooth for such a young tea. No harshness. A little bit of ku wei [good bitterness]. Some vegetal flavors lurking around, with a deep yellow soup.

It became creamy (or what I call creamy… a lot of Naka teas have this sort of fatty, dairy like mouth sensation) in the later steepings, and the kuwei picked up and dropped off around steep number five. There was also a rising se wei [astringency] that I imagine will disappear with age. The astringent feeling was lingering around until about steep number five.

I also noted it was a bit one dimensional, which for me, is not an issue. I am generally a Naka fan, so one dimension of Naka is joy enough.  It went for a total of eight steeps, and by nine was fairly lifeless. If a young tea grows tired after under ten steeps, it does raise some concern about how it will age.

 

Douji puer brew
Douji puer brew

In my notes, I reflected:

It is a lovely tea. I only have two complaints:

  1. price
  2. price
Spent Douji puer leaves from Naka Shan
A look at the spent leaves + soup

 

Conclusions on Douji Tea’s Current Pricing

Douji has left me a little bewildered about puer prices. This cake retails at around 550 RMB (not far off of USD 100). When you creep into 80 dollar territory, you can’t be half-assing it. I remember having a 2006 Nan Nuo from Douji awhile back, and thinking, “Damn, this is great tea.” That tea was using its whole ass. This Douji tea is somewhere near 5/8 ass usage.

In the past, Douji produced some good quality teas, (2006-recently) and their pricing was fairly expensive, but tolerable. With their 2012 teas, it seems several of their teas have leapfrogged in front of the market. Perhaps they are correct in their assumption that Naka teas will continue along the path of Lao Ban Zhang [currently a monopolized pricey region for puer]  and continue to drastically increase in price.  Or maybe their teas have gained enough of a reputation that they are priced for gifting. Or, perhaps this cake snuck into the wrong weight class.

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Tea Beer in China

Tea Blog Night at the Great Leap Brewery

Tea blog posts usually become more and more coherent as they progress. The caffeine starts fueling increasingly enthusiastic prose, and the tension builds to some revelatory climax. This tea blog post will be nothing of the sort. In this post, I will be recounting a night of tea beer drinking, where the prose gets progressively more drunken and the climax is a heartfelt and  slurred “This guy right here…this is the guy…th’s guy…I love you, man.”

For those of you who caught my last post, I was looking forward to venturing into the old neighborhoods of Beijing to have a night at Great Leap Brewery. The craft brewers from America are tucked away in an old courtyard style Chinese home that has a ton of character and is far off of the beaten path, if a little hard to find. It had been several months since my last visit. This visit was prompted by a 1,000 liter brewing of their latest concoction, Yunnan Amber.

Yunnan Amber Tea Beer from Great Leap Brewery
Yunnan Amber Tea Beer from Great Leap Brewery

Yunnan Amber is brewed using black tea from Yunnan called Dian Hong [滇红]. It’s a deep blood-orange color. I decided to start off with a pint of the amber, while I still had my wits about me. The first sip revealed a strong sweetness. Floral on the entry (a product of the tea) and very bright with notes of sweet potatoes. The beer’s bitterness comes out after the entry and the finish is full of flowers. It’s a complex beer and I wanted another pint, but there was a problem. That problem being that the menu boasts several other tea flavored options, including a Silver Needle White (made with silver needle white tea [银针]) and an Iron Buddha Blond (made with Tie Guan Yin [铁观音]). As a sacrificial duty to the tea blog, I abstained from a second amber and ordered a silver needle, but the pour was slow, and my friend came over with a round of Honey Ma Gold. Long story short, I fail at turning away free beer and the honey ma makes its way into the tea blog post.

Honey Ma Beer
The mildly numbing Honey Ma Gold

The round of honey ma, which doesn’t contain tea, but for the sake of science will be analyzed anyway, is made with Sichuan peppercorns. (photo below along with the puer tea that is lifting me out of a hangover) Sichuan Peppercorns [花椒] are the Ma [numb] in the Honey Ma name. For those readers who have never had Sichuan peppercorns, they numb the mouth, and are a staple of Sichuan cuisine. Great Leap Brewery made its name by making interesting brews combining Eastern and Western ingredients to make fusion brews like this. My first visit to Great Leap was due to this beer. The peppercorns leave a slight numbing in the mouth and throat that is unique in the beer world. It’s a spectacular beer, one of my favorites on their menu.

tea blog sichuan peppercorns
Sichuan Peppercorns on the left, 2002 6FTM puer on the right. Goodbye, hangover.
Tea Beers
A couple of pints on the bar at Great Leap Brewery

The silver needle white was finally poured. A few beers deep at this point, so my smart phone notes are containing increasing amounts of mistyped notes. (my favorite being “2 sweat on entry”…I think I meant sweet) The silver needle white is the sweetest of the beers I will mention, much more so than the Yunnan Amber. Some jasmine flavors fight through the beers other elements, but the sweetness overrides most of the warring flavors. When discussing these beers with the brewers at Great Leap, they mentioned that it is a challenge to have the tea shine through when creating a beer. This tea is the best example of that struggle. The character of the tea is having a difficult time expressing itself in this beer.

Silver needle white tea beer
Two pints of silver needle white (left and center) and a mystery pint on the right
Iron Buddha Tea Beer
The Iron Buddha Blond – made with Tie Guan Yin

The last tea beer of the evening, the Iron Buddha Blond, gets bonus points due to my being well lubricated by the time I drank it. I noted in my phone

Not sweet, lingering bitterness in the throat, honey on the tongue, pretty drunk, nice.

Wise words from a wise man. I don’t think the Iron Buddha got a fair shake in the review category, but I also noted it was my second favorite beer. Would I make an inaccurate statement like that when inebriated? Perish the thought. I did note there was some of the oolong showing up in the brew, but the Amber had the most pronounced tea character.

 

Tea Blog Tea Beer Ranks

Ranks for the beers:

  1. Yunnan Amber
  2. Iron Buddha Blond
  3. Honey Ma Gold (Doesn’t contain tea…but, it’s damn good, so why not?)
  4. Silver Needle White

I also tried to grab the attention of the two brewers present by offering puer from my personal stash to let them mess around with. There is a 2005 fake Zhongcha Yellow Label Shu that I have in mind. It’s dark and syrupy, lots of red date flavor. I can envision it in a porter, even though I couldn’t brew my way out of a paper bag. I hope they take me up on the offer, it would give me a reason to return for more beer and create another tea blog post fueled by alcohol.

Visit Great Leap on the web at (Directions/address are on there site): http://www.greatleapbrewing.com/

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Tea Beer on the Tea Blog

Craft Brewed Tea Beer in China, made with Yunnan Dian Hong

As a patron of both Boxing Cat Brewery  in Shanghai, and Great Leap Brewing of Beijing, I was very excited to see this Wall Street Journal blog post about the two craft brewers collaborating together on this new beer, Yunnan Amber, which uses Yunnan Dian Hong tea  in the brewing process. Tea beer has been something that I have often wanted people to experiment with and it seems these two chaps have decided to put it on the menu.

Tea Beer on the Tea Blog
Yunnan Amber from Great Leap Brewery in Beijing

I am glad to see them pushing craft brewing with some interesting materials. Great Leap Brewing Honey Ma Gold gained some recognition for incorporating Sichuan peppercorns into the brewing process. (Hence the ma[numb], as sichuan peppercorns leave ones mouth with a numb sensation) My last visit, I enjoyed several solid beers, including an oatmeal porter and a stout. A pleasant break from the tea table in the evening. Beer is much better at putting me to bed than tea.

This visit, my goal is to grab the owners ear and convince him to do a second tea beer, a puerh brew. Possible names:

Shu Stout?

Puer Porter?

Bu Lang Lager?

Nak-ale?

Only 1,000 liters were brewed, and I imagine supplies won’t last long. I will haul over there and have a pint, and report the results. The menu online also boasts a Silver Needle Ale, which also deserves a drink. That sounds like an admirable challenge, having silver needle tea flavor show up through beer. Even the lightest lager seems like it would totally eclipse the gentle nature of silver needle tea. I am very much looking forward to a tea beer adventure.

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Yiwu purple puer tea leaves

2012 Yiwu Purple Tea YS

If I ever press an Yiwu purple puer tea, I will have an extraordinarily difficult time naming it. I won’t bore you with the hundreds of suitable names I have come up with in my free time, but atop my list are “Purple drank“, “Grimace’s delight”, and “Screwed up and chopped“. (or maybe just Lean?… have  I lost everyone yet? I am trying to win the award for most 1990’s Houston hip hop references for a tea blog entry this year)

Scott, from Yunnan Sourcing, has gone with a much more direct approach, and named this “Yi Wu Purple Tea”. I actually appreciate his directness, especially considering he could have named it something like Purple Dragon Twilight Emperor’s Blend.

Tea blog for Yiwu Purple
Yunnan Sourcing’s Yiwu Purple

A Quick Bit of Background

Before I jump into this tea blog review. A small discourse evolved around this tea on the popular forum teachat. You can view the thread here. Quick Summary, another puer drinker (Debunix, whose blog can be found here) and I had some differing opinions on this tea. Nothing wrong with differing opinions, and I quite liked the comparison Debunix made between the 2012 Dehong Purple and the Yiwu Purple, which I drank around the same time as the Yiwu purple, but have yet to finish the tea blog post for. I only regret that I had already finished off my sample by the time the discussion occurred, so I never had the chance to drink them side by side like Debunix did, which would have made for a more interesting tea blog comparison.

Back to Tea Blog Tomfoolery

Yiwu puer tea
Dat purple stuff

The leaves are attractive and my poor photograph does not capture the depth of the plum purple hue.  The sample I had was loosely packed with plenty of large leaves. The smell was light and sweet, and matched the color – if smells can match colors.

Yiwu Puer tea in the cup
Purple Drank

If you read the thread above, you know where this is going. One way ticket to Sourtown. Here are some notes I jotted down in my log whilst drinking:

Steep 1: Astringent on the tip of the tongue, some non-distinct Yiwu sugar

Steep 2: Sourness, slight kuwei [bitterness], astringent, a little white sugar on the back end, the cup smells like butter

Steep 3: The gaiwan smells like 7-grain bread, golden colored soup, more sour

(blah blah blah)

Steep 5: Not much going on,  sour on the front end, some soft yiwu huigan [sweetness in the mouth after drinking]

(further blah blah blah)

Steep 7: Acerbic the whole way through

 

When I wrote acerbic, I was thinking of a specific flavor. A lemon wedge that has been left in an exposed glass of water overnight. The reason I know this flavor so well, is due to a personal habit of leaving lemon wedge stuffed water glasses out overnight and drinking them the day after. It is an acquired taste… acquired by being too lazy to throw out old water.

I also made an interesting note, that I was having more fun smelling the cups than drinking the tea, mainly due to the sourness. But, also due to the lovely evolving fragrances the tea was leaving behind in the gongbei [communal cup] after each steep.

Yiwu purple puer tea leaves
The purple tea leaves, which are not screwed up n’ chopped

Aesthetically, the leaves look healthy, robust. Lots of plump stems and big tea leaves.

puer tea on a tea tray
The aftermath of the battle of little big lemon

Since there was such a difference in what Debunix and myself experienced, I thought I would make a shortlist of possible reasons for the discrepancy:

  • got a bad chunk of cake
  • stray lemon rind got pressed got discarded into the maocha
  • I steeped twice as much tea as Debunix (as you can see from the pictures, I loaded the gaiwan with gluttony*)
  • mistakenly used vinegar to brew tea in lieu of water
  • just wasn’t my bag (see: some people like apples, some like oranges)
  • top level tea blog conspiracy
*I normally steep on the gluttonous (see: American) side of things, and have rarely experienced sour flavor like this, but I am still not ruling it out as a possible reason. If nothing else, it is a variable in our experiment

Whatever the reason, I can not say this was the most enjoyable tea session I have ever had – but it was also not that bad. I want to get another sample, just so i can give the Yiwu purple another go around on the tea blog. That being said, if I was to order a young tea from Yunnan Sourcing tomorrow, I would decidedly prefer the Wu Liang Shan 2012 over the Yiwu Purple.

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Puer Tea in the gaiwan

2012 Wu Liang Mountain Wild Arbor Raw Puer Tea – YS

I got trapped smelling the dry leaves of this puer tea for a full minute. The smell was quite deep and fragrant, a mix of tobacco and apricots. The fresh tobacco smell is common in raw puer tea, but to have a smell of apricots was a treat. The leaves appeared quite small, which I later read on the Yunnan Sourcing website (where the tea can be purchased) was:

Due to the high altitude most of the tea trees in this area are a naturally occurring hybrid of large and small leaf (sinensis and var. assamica)

 

Wu Liang Shan Dry Tea
Wu Liang Shan Dry Tea

After I pulled my nose out of the bag, I did a quick rinse of the tea. The gaiwan smelled slightly sweet and  floral. The first steeping was  calm and smooth, while still showing signs of youth. The smell coming off of the leaves was creamy.

 

Puer tea in the Gaiwan
Puer tea in the Gaiwan, with a little steam

The second steeping brought out a lot of vibrancy that was not present in the first cup. The flowers became more pronounced, and a pleasant kuwei (desirable bitterness) began to emerge. The further steeps had a lovely crescendo of kuwei, that built up steep after steep, peaking around steep number nine. My throat was thoroughly coated in bitter goodness by this point. Unfortunately, the session was a victim of my busy schedule. But, had I been able to continue, the Wu Liang puer tea would have obliged far into the teens.

 

Wu Liang Shan cha in the gaiwan
The first few steepings of Wu Liang Shan

 

The leaves, although small, look quite healthy. There were some slightly burned leaves (pictured below) in the sample that I had, but the flavor of ‘burn’ (see: tastes like burning) or smoke did not show up in the soup.

Spent leaves in the gaiwan
Spent puer tea leaves
Slightly charred leaf from the sample
There was some small amount of char on the outside of a few leaves

 

For such a young raw puer tea, it is both pleasant and strong. Usually, if a young puer tea is too pleasant, I worry whether it lacks potential to age well. The Wu Liang Shan tea left me with no such worry. It has plenty of strength and staying power and is a bargain, at $23 for a 400g cake.

 

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1970s_TW_sheng_puer_FI

1970’s Sheng Puer Mao Cha (Taiwan Storage)

In an effort to start off on the right foot, I am publishing my first posts on 8/8, a lucky day in Chinese culture, as 8’s are an auspicious number. And in an effort to further my fortune, i will be leading with a well aged sheng puer. Last weekend, this tea was shared between some friends and I at Tao Cha Ju. About 10g of the 1970’s raw puer was parceled out into a gaiwan, to be split many ways, as you can tell by the long row of cups below.

 

However, before we dove into the tea, someone suggested we grab lunch. A fine suggestion, except that I had little interest in cigarettes and baijiu on a Sunday afternoon. Baijiu, for the fortunate uninitiated, is a traditional Chinese liquor made from Sorghum or other grains, around 50% alcohol. I believe it varies from about 30% all the way up to the 60% range. It is useful for cleaning carburetors. In any case, I am not a smoker, and had little interest in getting drunk at noon on a Sunday. However, being the low man on the totem pole of the social situation, I had little say in the matter. Off we went to lunch.

1970's Sheng Puer Loose Tea
1970’s Sheng Puer Loose Tea

 

After lunch we came back, and 10g of the aged sheng puer was weighed and placed in the gaiwan. I am not sure of the exact origins of this tea, but supposedly most of its tenure was spent in Taiwan. As you would expect with such an old mao cha, it has lost quite a bit of its strength. That loss of strength is duly compensated with a smoothness that comes with long aging. The initial smells off of the leaves were soft and spoke to the humid storage of the tea – not quite like a musty Hong Kong storage, but in the ballpark.

1970's Sheng Puer in the Gaiwan
1970’s Sheng Puer in the Gaiwan

 

The first steep of the sheng puer
The first sheng puer steeping, and a line of cups

I was able to dodge the baijiu bullet at lunch, as was Xiao Yun Qing (the owner of Tao Cha Ju). After we came back from lunch, several of our compatriots were slowly fading from the booze. This was much to mine and Yun Qing’s advantage, as after about the fourth or fifth steep, what was originally six cups became two, and he and I drank the remaining 15 steeps.

Sheng puer being poured
Blurry image of the pour

The tea has a creamy smoothness, and a wet storage flavor that carried throughout. A light sweetness was more present the further we steeped. A brief cooling in the mouth and throat.  More important than flavors, this tea left me feeling airy. That is part of the mystique of older teas like this, they leave behind harshness and aspects of their young character, and embrace an easy going nature. We should all be so lucky.

 

 

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Tea_Blog_Featured_Image

Leaping Into the Tea Blog Fray

After years of absorbing information from the online tea community, it seemed only fair and fitting that I start a tea blog and contribute to the ever expanding collection of information and reviews. Being lucky enough to have been based in China for what is inching closer and closer to a decade, I have been exposed to a lot of tea drinking opportunities. I began my love affair with puer tea in 2006, and regret that I waited so long to start keeping more complete records of what has graced my cup.

Two Dog Tea Blog Cup # 1
The first official cup of the tea blog

 

What to Expect from Two Dog Tea Blog:

 

  • Reflections on what teas I am currently drinking (I am mostly a puer drinker, with the vast majority being raw)
  • Frequent references to low brow American pop culture
  • Poorly framed basketball/tea analogies, which will likely alienate all but .01% of my readers
  • General musings and smarmy commentary
  • Sketches and/or poorly photoshopped images to illustrate various points
  • Occasional off-topic babbling

 

Do not expect to see the following content on the Tea Blog:

 

  • Tea blends that sound like Strawberry Swirl Mocha Latte English Breakfast Mango Fruit Medley
  • Teas with titles akin to Dragon and Phoenix Battle in the Moonlight on a Jade Throne Imperial Blend
  • The Church of Scientology
  • Teas marketed with the term monkey picked

 

That ought to do for a rough outline. And obviously, for the sake of superstition, I am starting my blog on 8/8, because as we all know, 8’s are lucky.

 

Welcome! Hope you enjoy the blog.

 

-TwoDog2

 

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