Douji Yiwu Raw Puer Tea

2012 Douji Yiwu

Redemption for Douji, Courtesy of the Yiwu Region

Douji’s prices have been steadily gaining in recent years, at an even faster pace than spring material from Yiwu. Devotees of Douji may remember the prices listed by Hobbes in this vintage (…2009) post; back when a nickel would buy you a steak and kidney pie, a cup of coffee, a slice of cheesecake and a newsreel, with enough change left over to ride the trolley from Battery Park to the polo grounds. (Citation)

Unfortunately for those of us in 2012, those days are long gone. Their 2012 Naka fetches a price that makes me squirm, and their Yiwu ranks even higher on the price scale (~690 RMB). That is a tough price to justify, but I have to admit, this is a fine Yiwu.

Yiwu Puer Tea from Douji
Dried leaves, broken off a 100g sample mini-cake

Lots of big leaves, buds, and thick stems. Loosely pressed, and quite easy on the eyes. One of the sexier spring cakes I have seen in 2012.

Steeped Yiwu
Wet leaves resting in the bowl

The first steep was very astringent. On the second steep, I took the eloquent note:

worried it’s going to suck

Luckily that forecast was 100% wrong, and by the third steep it became very entertaining. There was a very strong cooling in the mouth and throat, and some nice qi [voodoo] for an Yiwu.

Yiwu tea and leaf
Big beautiful leaf, beautiful golden liquor.

The huigan [sweet aftertaste] and feeling in the mouth with persistent. My throat felt like it was coated in warm butter. As you can see from the photo above, the color is not unlike that of melted butter, so perhaps there is some relation.

Yiwu Teas
The Yiwu tea itself

There is a reason that Yiwu is a famous region for tea, and this Douji Yiwu is a stellar example of that reason. The price is steep, at roughly USD 110. Is it worth that much? It depends if you are an investment banker or a public school teacher. The tea is excellent, made with high quality healthy leaves, a blend of broad leafs and buds, with thick stems, as in the picture below. If you are short on time (or geographically distant) and can not search through high-end spring teas to buy, this would not be a bad place to settle. If I had to choose USD 90 for Liming from 2005 or tacking on 20 dollars to your bill for this Yiwu, there is no contest. You upgrade to the Yiwu.

For the more budget conscious consumer, you might want to set your sites on other brands and snoop around lesser known regions.

Yiwu tea leaves
Spent leaves and the golden Yiwu soup

Read More

Liming puer

2005 Liming Qiaomu Chawang

Qiaomu and Other Oft Used B.S.

Oh, Liming Factory! Never bashful about overstating the quality of your tea. You are the American student of tea factories, 1st in confidence, 37th in ability. Alright, I am unfairly singling out Liming factory, as the entire puer tea industry is filled with this kind of over ambitious labeling. This particular puer tea, labeled Qiaomu Chawang [Arbor Tea King] is certainly high on ambition. Maybe a less regal title, something more in the middle management range.  Maybe Qiaomu Junior Supervisor. And arbor…we would need to change that too. But, I guess Plantation Junior Supervisor just isn’t sexy enough to sell cakes.

Qiaomu
Dry leaves in a very yellow photograph
aged raw puerh
Closer detail

The leaves are a beautiful dark brown color, and they smell how they look; brown, rich and aged. I noted their smell was “enchanting”, so maybe we should promote this tea to the position of Qiaomu Baron.

Qiaomu puer
Soup

The first steeps left a lot of aged tobacco flavor in the gaiwan, with a creamy scent on the lid. The first several infusions presented a nice kuwei [pleasant bitterness] and a fast huigan [sweet aftertaste]. The soup was a little bit thin overall, but there were several flavors warring for dominance. Also, for a tea that was a bit thin,  it had some staying power. The tobacco flavor that was so prevalent in the first four steepings trailed off and the later session was dominated by some throat coating bitterness, which was quite pleasant, even if the flavor became a bit generic.  Overall, the body feeling and general feeling of the tea was fairly average, for a tea with a higher than average price tag of around USD 90 on Taobao.

The tea has some potential to age further, as it still retains a fair amount of strength, but I would rather drink several other teas with lower price tags, were I buying factory productions from this time period.

raw puerh tea
Spent leaf

The leaves were fairly heavily fragmented. The leaf pictured above is one of the bigger leaves I could find when rummaging around the gaiwan. If I were to lay a bet, the label of qiaomu on this tea is pretty misleading, seems like mostly plantation material. The title of tea king is not worth discussing – there can only be one king, and that is clearly Tiandiren. (ha)

For the price/quality of this tea, I am just not sure who is buying this stuff? To prove I am not just relentlessly crapping all over Liming factory, there is a ripe Liming cake that I really enjoy. I will break it out and take some photos one of these days, as a penance for my treason against the king.

puerh tea leaves
Wet leaves in the gaiwan (before the lid cracked)

Read More

Puer Tea Blog

2010 Fujin Cangpin Qingbing

The last Fujin puer, for now…

After reviewing my last post, it was apparent that I am lacking enthusiasm for reviewing these Fujin teas. So, for the sake of sparing my own sanity, this is the last Fujin puer review i will be posting for awhile.

The 2010 Fujin Cangpin Qingbing claims to contain spring Banzhang material. It retails between USD 50-100, depending on your dealer, about half the price of the 2010 Diancang. I do not care to speculate on what the material is exactly, but at least they did not add a lao [old] in front of the Banzhang. This cake did at least bear some vague resemblance to Banzhang tea, so, who am i to judge?

Fujin Puer Tea
Dry Fujin puer

Again, tightly pressed, factory, yada yada yada.

Tea Gaiwan
Gaiwan full of tea

Early in the session this tea had some enjoyable vibrancy dancing around on the tongue and lips. The first few steeps had some wonderful floral smoothness that coated my throat and mouth. Unfortunately, midway through the session, these lovely traits vanished.

Puer sessions are a bit like a 400m race. The unsuccessful runner blows their energy in the first 50 meters and can not make it to the finish line. This particular Fujin puer is a great sprinter.

Tea cup
Soup in the cup

The tea yielded a lovely golden liquor. I was steeping into the several minute range fairly early in the session in order to coax out some more of the character that was lurking in the leaves. I have had this similar experience with other Fujin puer.

The qi [energy] that was around in the early brews disappeared later on, along with the huigan [sweet aftertaste] and throat feel. It became harsh in the throat, despite having a coated mouth feel throughout the session.

Spent Puer Tea
A look at the spent Fujin Qingbing leaves

In an perfect world, the sprint speed of the early session would have carried on until the end, but sprinters and marathoners are different beasts.

Note: To those readers who saw my mourning of Cel A’ Don (2008-2012), you will notice the photos above show him as a younger, more viral lid. The next few posts are teas from a few weeks ago, before he met his untimely demise. I mean no disrespect to his family and appreciate his service. Let these next few posts honor his memory

Read More

gaiwan

Cel A. Don (2008-2012)

broken gaiwan
R.I.P. Mr.Don

Cel A. Don or “Gai”, as he was known amongst close friends, was born in 2008 in Southwestern Zhejiang province. Shortly after birth, he joined the green berets and was shipped off to active duty. He served three years as a lid and won several national awards; most notably for covering civilian leaves who were under hostile fire. Mr. Don passed away in a tragic cleaning accident early Sunday morning, when he collided with the floor. After being rushed to a local hospital, he was pronounced chipped at 9:34 A.M. He had one day left until retirement.

There will be a small service held in the comments section, where friends and relatives can pay their respects.

Mr.Don is survived by his wife, Wan.

Tea blog gaiwan
“Gai” (top) making out with his wife Wan (bottom) prior to the accident – August 2012

Read More

Fujin Puer

2010 Fujin Diancang Raw Puer

Fujin Raw Puer Extravaganza

More Fujin raw puer, in a continuation of samples from the 2006 Fujin Bulang. This tea is younger than the Bulang, but commands a higher price. As I noted in my earlier article, Fujin is quite well known for having ambitious pricing. This particular cake, the dian cang [典藏] is translated to mean; a repository of items of cultural significance. Well, alright then…

Raw puer Fujin
Dry 2012 Fujin Puer tea

The dry leaves were again tightly compressed, and looked typical of a sizeable factory production. There was a smell of raw tobacco, and a bit of stank. The chunk that I brewed off of this cake was also quite tippy.

Puer tea
A look at the youngish liquor

 

The first few steeps were dormant and the tea took awhile to open up. The young raw puer taste of tobacco and bitterness arrived soon after, along with a bit of harshness in the throat, presumably due to its age. In my notebook I drew a big arrow from steeps 5-9 and wrote:

No change, monotonous

I did note that when I pushed hard and oversteeped late in the session, there was some maltyness that came out, but that was not enough to bring to the tea into my good graces.  The spent leaves looked fairly healthy, and the cake did have enough strength to have potential for aging.

puer tea leaf
A leaf with a bug bite

I probably won’t revisit this tea in the near future. In the meantime, hopefully the guardians of cultural relics will tend to its aging and be kind enough to break me off a chunk in a decade. As noted above, Fujin prices are steep – this cake retails on taobao for 1200 RMB- 2000 RMB (~USD 190- USD315), depending on the vendor. It is not on my shopping list.

Raw puer
A look at the whole and healthy spent leaves

Read More

Puer tea

2007 Bai Cha Tang 3rd Generation Iron Cake

Bai Cha Tang Puer

Bai Cha Tang (百茶堂) is a brand that I had yet to delve into, until a suggestion from Shah (of teachat fame). From what I have read, this cake is a middle of the road entry point to their productions – not old or precious, but still quite good. This cakes proper name is sandai [third generation] tiebing [iron cake] , which boasts gushu [old arbor] material. As you can see from the leaves below, they are typical of an tiebing (see: pressed into oblivion).

Baichatang Puer
Dry leaves from the tight iron cake

Sweet aged smell coming off of the leaves. The friend who sent me this puer was in Guangzhou, but I think this cake spent some of its life in Kunming. The Guangzhou storage shows, as its age is more apparent than say, this 7542 i recently reviewed, with twice its age.

Bai cha tang Puer
The medium aged soup

As one would expect with a tiebing, it takes a little while to gear up. The aged flavor is accompanied by balanced kuwei [pleasant bitterness] and a thick coating in the throat and mouth. The tea also had a noticeable qi [mystical voodoo magic or body calm].

Baicha tang Puer
A view of the gaiwan and a later steeping

As you can see, the gaiwan was stuffed. The tea carried on for an impressive 20 steeps, which was partly due to the 10g-12g in the gaiwan and partly due to the puer itself. Midway through this marathon session there was a vibrancy on my lips and huigan [sweet aftertaste], both of which were pleasant. This tea just marked its fifth birthday and seems to have plenty of potential for further aging.

wet puer tea leaves
The spent leaves

The tea is not exactly pretty, but when the tea is good, I tend not to care about such superficial things. I will keep an eye out  for some Baichatang cakes to add to my own coffers, they are fairly reasonably priced and well made.

A random note: this blog post of a 2008 Bai Cha Tang 3rd Gen Tiebing turned up in my searching and it interested me because the author’s leaves were so much larger than mine and mostly unbroken! It could be that the samples I had were broken off haphazardly or that my cake was just more heavily chopped. Who knows. Seems that author of the seemingly defunct blog  enjoyed the cake too.

Read More

tea blog

2006 Fujin Bulang Qingbing (Raw Puer)

Puer & Branding

I have owned several Apple computers in my day. Several of my PC fanboy friends would deride my decision to purchase with valid points ranging from software incompatibility to lack of gaming options, but their loudest complaint was always the same; price. When a brand offers a quality product and sells it for a premium, my American heritage has taught me to applaud the unabashed capitalist profit margins. I never minded paying extra for my computers, or my puer, if it offers something special. The design was sleek, I liked the OS, and I could always play games elsewhere. I felt like the mark up was worth it. The brand was offering me something. Segue to:

A friend recently sent me me several Fujin (福今) factory cakes, ranging from the mid 2000’s through 2012. Fujin’s prices are in the Apple mark up range, but with the added value of a Hewlett Packard. I have had a dozen or so Fujin cakes, and my experience has always been roughly the same; the cake is alright, and there is a cheaper option out there for 1/3 of the price with comparable quality. Now that I am done getting on my soap box regarding my gripes against Fujin, let me take a look at the positives:

  1. They have an attractive logo
  2. This is a decent example of a Bulang puer
  3. I really do enjoy their logo

One of the first cakes I sampled was this 2006 Bulang Qingbing. In a whirlwind of 2006 Bulang tea, Fujin produced at least four that I know of; a ripe cake, this raw cake (qingbing), and a high grade raw cake, which retails around 1800 RMB (~$300) and a Bulang chawang [tea king] brick that sells for even more than that.  (Some outlets price it upwards of $600)

On to the Puer…

Puer from Fujin factory
Dry leaves from the 2006 Bulang cake

The leaves are a medium darkness for their age, and smell very Bulangy ©.

Puer liquor
A look at the Bulang soup

My favorite part of this tea was the smell of smoked trout that came off of the leaves after the wash. It’s not often that I have memories of eating brook trout conjured up during puer sessions. The leaves were very tightly packed, and the third steep was still a bit subdued. After the leaves finally opened up, they revealed a relatively smooth smoke. Something like a  70/30 balance of smooth vs. harsh. This is will probably smooth out over further aging.

Puer tea in the cup
Another look at the soup

Later in the session there was an undercurrent of sweetness, with leather and tobacco throughout. Around steep ten I decided to do a 10 minute oversteep and, surprisingly, there was very little change in the character of the tea with only an increase in density. It mostly remained the same throughout the session.

Puer tea blog pic
Soup in the gaiwan

Overall, this is a pretty standard representation of a factory production Bulang mountain tea. Lots of chop, tightly pressed cake, average material with decent staying power. The Fujin brand has plenty of loyalists, but I do not count myself amongst them. However, I am also not a detractor of their teas. This cake is decent, but not quite my taste, and certainly not a value cake.

Fujin is a well known brand, and brand names come at a price.

Spent puer leaves
Spent Bulang leaves from Fujin factory

 

Read More

7542 puer

2002 Menghai 7542 Qingbing (201)

Preconception can be a pain. My brain had already worked out a wonderful expectation of what a ten year plus 7542 puer ought to be, and I had latched on to the idea, despite the session flying in the opposite direction. Where that concept came from, I am not sure. Probably a conglomeration of romanticized past experiences coupled with the unshakeable optimism that accompanies hunger or thirst. Your stomach is empty and someone utters the words “dessert”. Your thoughts drift into a world of decadent layered cheese cakes, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, and warm fruit pies. Then, the waiter brings over a plate of  ho hos. (No offense to the readers who like ho hos, they have their place, but that aren’t a homemade cake) Anyhow, this particular cake did not quite live up to my expectations, which is more my own fault than the cakes. The tea was good, and will likely be better if stored humidly for a few more years.

7542 is a recipe that can have some fairly wide variations. Different factories and years label 7542 (A recipe that has officially been in use since 1975) on cakes, which when consumed side-by-side, bear only a faint resemblance. Menghai factory (Dayi) productions of 7542 tend to be fairly uniform, but when you factor in further variables like different productions (this particular sample was 201 pi) and aging, you get further off into the unquantifiable ether of puer.  This particular tea falls somewhere in the middle of the pack, not the best example, but far from the worst. (see: ho hos)

Menghai 7542 puer tea
Dry Menghai 7542 puer

The scent of the dry leaves is gentle and woody. The leaves are on the dry side of the moisture spectrum with a matte finish. I only know that this tea spent the last couple of years in Sichuan, prior to that, it’s anybody’s guess. The leaves give off a middle-aged smell.

Dayi 7542 dry puer leaves
A more intimate view of the dry cake

The liquor is a dark ochre color, not as red as my amateurish photography suggests.  The first whiffs off of the gaiwan smell of scotch, vanilla, and tobacco.

aged puer tea
A decade of age gives the liquor an amber hue

The first steeping was oddly se [astringent], which was a surprise. Given the odors coming off of the dry and wet leaves, I would not have imagined the tea to be very astringent. My guess would have been velvety smoothness, but that turned out to be wishful thinking. After the first steeping, it became less harsh, but remained tannic throughout the session. Around steep number four, the leaves started to open up and some licorice appeared in the cup.

The teas best feature was its huigan [sweet aftertaste] and persistent throat coating. The aged taste was present, but it seemed to have been subjected to much drier storage than a few other samples in the batch. It could use a year in the steam room, as it is still pretty edgy. Maybe I had too many expectations about what this tea ought to be, instead of letting the tea be what it was. I’ll take note of this tendency and never force my hypothetical son, Billy, to join the basketball team against his will. Billy, if you want to dance, I fully support your decision to join the Russian ballet. And 2002 Dayi 7542 puer, may you hold on to your youthful astringency until thine heart is content.

Aged puer tea gaiwan
A look at the steeped leaves

Read More