2017 Spring Puer Tea

2017 Spring Puer Tea State of the Union

The State of 2017 Spring Puer Tea

I have to clear the air straight away; 2017 was not a good year for Puer tea. I don’t want to dance around it. It just wasn’t as good as the previous few years. Now, before you panic, that isn’t to say that there was no good tea. There was some very good tea. However, that good tea was in short supply and commanded higher prices, as one when expect when the supply is squeezed. From my vantage point, it took a lot more work in 2017 to wade through the glut of average quality material and get to the goods – and if you’ve been watching my snapchat/instagram, you’ve probably seen a cake worth of maocha going down every day for a couple of months. These days my cakes are being pressed, so I took this free moment to write up my 2017 spring Puer tea reflections.

2017 Puer tea leaf
Freshly picked Puer tea leaf, 2017

Short Supply of Puer and Erratic Weather

Why was the tea generally worse and in short supply? The main reason is erratic weather. cough climatechangeexists cough I’m sorry I am coming down with some sort of…cough whythefuckistheuspresidentleavingtheparisclimateaccords cough pardon me, I am really sorry, it’s just this cold. cough itsnotacold cough

The early spring was extremely dry and cold. This resulted in a lot of very low quality (editor’s opinion) early growth. The tea was short stemmed and lacking necessary water content, causing most leaf to be difficult to process, since it was not the norm. Some people would say those teas are more concentrated. Those people are welcome to buy them. I personally found those teas to be dry and awkward; and processing difficulties resulted in tea being dry and of lower than average quality. In addition to that, through late March the weather was too cold, leading to slower than average spring growth. Then, a small amount of rain and a bump in temperature lead to some later than usual growth, but still much less than previous years.

withering tea leaves
Withering Leaves, Spring 2017

Anecdotal evidence, some farmers I spoke with had a mere 100 kilograms of tea by mid-April, whereas in 2016 they had 280 kilograms. This (and the weather described above) are generalities that may not apply to every mountain, Yunnan is a big place, but this analysis rang true for most places I visited during my nearly three months in and around southern Yunnan.

As a consumer, I’d recommend being a bit more discerning about which teas you buy this year. There was a lot of lower quality tea, and with the squeeze on the supply, a lot of it cost a pretty penny. The easiest way to be safe is to buy my tea. Just kidding. cough notkidding cough

The Usual Tuhao Suspects

The usual shenanigans abound this spring. Herds of tourist SUVs heading up to mountains like Laobanzhang and Nannuo mountain. Lots of tea vendors talking a big game about how they have spring Bingdao old arbor or other nearly unattainable teas. Plenty of arguments over correct processing and chaqi [tea energy]. Plenty of tea merchants breezing through to take pictures and quickly shuffle back home with their bags of maocha in hand.

tea wok
The back of a wood fired tea wok, Spring 2017

Anecdotal observation of the above: In mid-March there was a pair of younger women from Zhejiang province, discussing their trip in Menghai at a dinner table. Regrettably, I was seated next to them and was granted no reprieve from their conversation. They explained how they had been in the Puer business for two years, and mostly dealt in gushu [old arbor] Laobanzhang. I found this kind of amusing, but then they proceeded to tell me they were going to Laobanzhang that day to get their tea. In addition to that, it was the second time they had been to the village in their life. Now, there are a few holes in their story, even in summary form; Laobanzhang gushu wasn’t even picked until early/mid-April and the material is difficult to obtain, even for seasoned veterans. They then went on to tell me how Menghai was too low class because it lacked a Gucci store. I quietly began inhaling my rice at record speed and recused myself from the table as fast as I could. Other topics of note, before I finished my devouring my food, included how Menghai really needed a Gucci store and how the local people were not stylish enough.

Encounters with people like this are etched in my brain forever. Who are these people? Who are their customers? They own brick and mortar stores in China. Do you ever see those posts on tea forums where people ask “Where should I buy some tea on my trip to China?” I always want to type “Nowhere! Turn back now! You’re fucked!” What if a tourist wanders into these viper nests? Good luck, kids.

Puer maocha
Maocha from Spring 2017

Continued Economic Development and Better Life Quality

On a brighter note, several villages I’ve been going to for years are continuing to develop. Dirt roads are getting paved in cement. The government is giving free bricks to people with wooden houses. The general quality of life continues to improve for people in rural Yunnan. Which brings me to my blatant plug of the spring:

U 2 CAN HELP
2017 U 2 CAN HELP, check white2tea.com for details

This year white2tea made a tea cake to benefit the non-profit organization Education in Sight. They focus on bringing eyecare to children in rural Yunnan, and for each cake white2tea sells we will donate one eye exam, a pair of glasses, and eye education to a child in need via Education in Sight. Our goal is to sell 100 cakes and sponsor 100 kids. We’d appreciate anybody who helps us spread the word. Even if you aren’t into buying the cake, you can donate to EIS and help the cause of kids in rural Yunnan! cough thanksforyoursupport cough

Chinese Government Infrastructure in rural Yunnan
The government providing free bricks and roads in Yunnan, Spring 2017

Moonshine of the Year 2017

Lastly, it wouldn’t be a Puer state of the union without a best moonshine of the spring award. I was originally going to award it to a four year moonshine steeped in raw olives, but I can’t find the damn picture and I’ve had a long day, so the award goes to this corn moonshine that I drank at 11:07 AM, unceremoniously, out of paper cups at a tea farmers house. Sweet, clean, and with just a hint of that Dixie goodness. (I took pics on my snapchat, but those are gone now. So here is the barrel of the next batch)

Yunnan corn moonshine
A fermenting barrel of corn for future moonshine, Spring 2017

The 2017 teas are being pressed now, and we will release them as they trickle in. We rushed the 2017 U 2 CAN HELP cake because we wanted to make sure it got some proper spotlight before the rest of the teas drop.

Read More

Separating the Tea from the Chaff

Separating the Tea from the Chaff

Advice to the New Tea Prospectors

We are experiencing a new renaissance in tea. This new era of interconnectedness allows a few taps on a screen to connect an American in the rural Midwest with tea from a remote Yunnan village. The ease of this transaction should be a cause for pause, as it used to take months of feet in the mud, hooves on the road, and boats against the current. This new access to tea is a great blessing. One that none of our ancestors would have dreamed of. It makes me feel guilty if I really sit with the thought. My great grandfather would have been lucky to drink garbage tier pekoe dust from India, and here I am, drinking old arbor Puer. What did I do to be so lucky? But due to some stroke of cosmic luck, here I am, enjoying some of the best tea the world has ever known.

This explosion of access to new teas is not without pitfalls. For the average consumer, it will be a blessing and a curse. With unknown territory, there is always a large cast of characters. Every week I get a new e-mail from prospectors. “Howdy, Twodog,” they say. “I heard thar’s gold up in dem Puer mountains. Got any tips?” They grip their shovel tightly, anxious to dig in. “Be careful,” is the only reply I can muster. For the community they are about to enter is a Wild West. There are preachers and drunks, thieves and cowboys. There is a Sheriff or two, deputies, and a whole gang of robbers looking to take it all. That’s where we are. There’s gold to be had, but you have to keep a watchful eye for the snake oil salesmen.

puer tea in a teacup
Puer tea in a crackled teacup

I am no stranger to this gold rush phenomenon. I moved to China in 2005, shovel in hand. I came here because it was a new frontier for me; I stayed because I fell in love with Puer. I’ve been taken advantage of, tricked, fooled, and lied to. I’ve also found more than my fair share of happiness and many, many wonderful people. This is the way of the boomtown. There are crooks and scoundrels. There are valiant heroes and dear friends. Only time and experience will tell you which is which. I empathize with the new hands trying to make their way across this treacherous terrain. Some of them are deeply in need of a cure, and then end up with snake oil.

When I hear the snake oil salespeople on their soapboxes, telling the unbelievable tales of their magical wares, I get disheartened. “And you yell to yourself and you throw down yer hat, Sayin’, ‘Christ do I gotta be like that?’ Ain’t there no one here that knows where I’m at? Ain’t there no one here that knows how I feel? Good God Almighty! That stuff ain’t real!” But, their sales pitch is beyond my control and snake oil will be sold. That’s the way of the West.

Luckily, that’s just one side of the coin. I’ve seen the supportive tea community. I’ve witnessed the people who find a common goal and a profound joy in sharing tea. I treasure my late snapchat conversations with people I’ve never met, half way around the world, who are by themselves, sitting at a tea table, just drinking tea and sharing tea; because tea is joy. Sharing is joy. These are some of the people who I have deep kinship with and I don’t take kindly to other folks lyin’ to my kin.

Now, I don’t want to start a barroom brawl, or yell “Cheat!” at the card table. I don’t want to hurt anybody’s livelihood. I don’t have any interest in calling anybody out in the street. I am just trying to keep this community safe. Keep education on the right track. And squelch any of the gossip about this tree or that village, two towns over.

I figure the best way I can keep the community safe is by telling people what I know to be true from my decade of China experience and Puer drinking.

T-shirt and Puer Tree
T-Shirt and Tea Tree, 2015

Tree ages are often inflated, by local officials who put pressure on scientists and experts in order to inflate the fame of their area, or by farmers who unscrupulously dupe people who are unfamiliar with Puer. As a reference, the tea in the Last Thoughts cake has tea from trees of roughly 400 years of age, at the absolute oldest. Notice, I did not say purely 400 years old, but that some of the oldest trees in the blend are roughly (keyword: roughly) that age. Acquiring this material each year is no small task.

Yiwu old arbor tea is very difficult to get. This year, I knew of two people who ventured to get tea from areas like Bohetang and Guafengzhai’s chawangshu. One person spent over one week of his own time, and returned with about 11 kilograms. The other person spent four days and returned with a little more than 3 kilograms. In my experience with Last Thoughts, it takes a lot of effort to get enough tea to make one jian [15 kilograms]. The Spring picking occurred in early April this year, old arbor trees were not ready to be picked in March – only plantation tea is ready to be picked in early March. In autumn, there was a very brief period of time that varied between middle and late September, and was weather dependent based on the village.

I have never been offered tea that was truly from teas over 500 years of age. Never. I know hundreds of tea farmers in Yunnan. I spend 1/3 of my year there. I’ve been traveling there since 2005. Never. Not once.

I don’t think Puer tea helps you lose weight. It’s not going to cure cancer or epilepsy, but it is one of the most mysterious and wonderful things I’ve ever ingested on this planet of ours. Puer tea captivated me many years ago, and now I dedicate most of my day to it. Separating the tea from the chaff is vitally important to me.

The spiritual nature of tea need not come from outlandish claims. I have witnessed more than a few people get drawn into a game of who has trees that are older or who has the most venerable tea master or most authentic farmer connection. These are competitions of the ego, and competition over ego is a confusion of what tea is. With all of the story telling aside, there is a reason that for centuries humans have been drawn to tea. Let that sink in for a moment. For centuries upon centuries, humans just like you and me, have communed with tea. Been drawn to tea, renewed by tea. Hot cups on crisp winter mornings, steam unfurling off of their brew. Breathing deeply and drinking into themselves the feeling of tea that touched my life. That is mysticism. That is the spiritual. That is when numbers and stories are chaff. Tea is beyond the grasp of words.

Community of tea lovers, I know you all feel the same joy from drinking tea. Truth be told, we probably all spend a bit too much time pontificating about these plants. My rallying cry to keep us strong is this: Be careful and watch out for each other. Be vigilant. Trust your mouth; trust your body. If you see a glamorous story or a number that looks too fantastic to make sense, and the other townsfolk seem to take issue with it, just keep this in mind; snake oil can’t be sold without a tall tale. Be sure to do your homework, and ask the salesman for a sample. Only then will you find out for yourself if it cures what ails you.

Read More

Yixing porn

How to Avoid Fake Puerh Scams and Get What you Pay For

What is “Fake” Puerh Tea?

Fake Puerh tea is not as easy to define as most fake products. Fake gold is a metal which is not gold. A fake Rolex is a watch that was not made by the Rolex company. But, what is “fake” Puerh tea?

First, fake Puerh tea can be fake in the sense that it is not actually from Yunnan or from a Puerh varietal and processed as Puerh. For example, if I took Guangxi Liubao tea, pressed it into cakes, and claimed it was Puerh tea, that would qualify as a fake. This is the most black and white test of whether a tea is a fake Puerh.

From there, it becomes a bit gray. Some people will consider any misrepresentation of the following traits to be “fake”:

  1. Quality of the material (is it plantation material or old arbor, etc.)
  2. Region or origin of the tea
  3. Date of the tea’s production
  4. Season during which the tea was picked
  5. Age of the material
  6. Factory/producer/brand
Stacks of Puerh
Stacks of cakes with vague wrappers are commonplace in Chinese tea markets. The tea is what matters, not the brand.

If the first two factors are indicative of being fake, then nearly 95% of Puerh tea on the market in China and abroad is “fake”. The amount of cakes labeled Gushu [old arbor] Laobanzhang [a famous tea region] are beyond measure. Some of these mislabelings and misrepresentations are done with the intent to trick high-end buyers, but for the most part, there are small fish trying to capitalize on a famous brand name or low-quality, factory teas trying to parade around as something more rare than the 10,000 ton mass production.

Number three through five on the list are all misrepresented with great frequency, but not as much as the region and material quality. These are also more minor offenses. Who cares if a tea is from the fall of 2012 or the spring of 2011 if it is good? I would rather have quality tea than a specific vintage.

Number six is a whole ‘nother hornets’ nest worthy of several articles, but I will try to briefly address this issue towards the end of the article.

The “You Should Know Better!” Fakes

I’ve seen multiple threads on reddit’s /r/tea pop up in the last few months about a certain “1990’s” shu Puerh brick for $7 on ebay. Examples here and here.

This tea falls into the category of teas that are so obviously fake that you should know better! That is to say, they are obviously fake to the point that they were not meant to fool the educated Puerh tea buyer, but meant to trump up the quality of a low-quality tea in effort to force a sale. If you are trying to up your game and learn how to avoid fakes like this, here are some handy guidelines that will hold true the majority of the time:

  • If every ebay seller has it, it is not good tea. (A search for the term puerh on ebay yielded 19 results with this same exact brick…on the first page!)
  • If the age of the tea exceeds the price of the tea in dollars, it is not good tea. (15 years old > $7 = Do not drink) This is tongue in cheek, but suffice it to say that if a price seems too good to be true, it almost always is!
  • If it has a wrapper that says “1990” on it, it is almost always fake. Nobody dated tea wrappers back in 1990’s. Seldom even in the early 2000’s.
  • If a Chinese ebay seller is selling the tea, it is generally bad tea. (Just my opinion, there are definitely exceptions)
7581 Puerh
A 2002 7581shu Puerh wrapper; oft faked.

If every seller on ebay is selling the same tea, that means that the production volume was massive. Tea is an agricultural product. The higher the volume of the production, the greater the difficulty to maintain quality control. Bricks like this were probably produced in the tens of thousands of tons range. It is not to say that every huge production of tea is bad, but with a brick like this, they likely are.

If the price tag doesn’t reflect the age, that is a red flag. On a recent trip to Hong Kong, I visited several tea shops and rarely did I see an old tea of any value under the $100 mark. (and to be more discriminating, the $200 mark) For a brick like this to be over 20 years old and sell for $7 would not make much logical sense. Who held it for 20 years? How much did they sell it for to this middle man? How much could they possibly be earning? Do you know any business people who are willing to purchase and hold an asset for 20 years in order to make $2 of profit and not outpace inflation? No matter how you slice it the price does not make any sense.

Another clue is the date on the wrapper. During the early 2000’s and before, very few companies dated their wrappers or cakes. Look at real photographs of cakes, such as this 2002 Xiao Huangyin [Little Yellow Mark]. No date. If a brick has a big ol’ 1990 on it, 9 times of 10, it is fake. In some cases, it may have been an unwrapped brick which they later wrapped, but this brick is clearly attempting to knock off the style of the wrapper above – the generic shu brick wrapping of the era. (Notice: no date)

Lastly, I am generally weary of Chinese ebay and taobao (the Chinese ebay) sellers. There are definitely exceptions to this rule, but for the most part their tea will be low cost, low quality, and labeled as a 1990 brick for under $10. Are there deals out there? Yes. Will you be throwing darts to hit the deals? Yes. Will you probably waste more time, money, and energy than if you just purchased good tea in the first place? Probably.

The most important consideration is whether the tea is good in the cup. But, not being lied to would also be a plus.

The Paris Hilton Fakes

These are the fakes that capitalize on the public craving for fame without much actual substance in the tea, hence the name. What does Paris Hilton actually do? Why is she famous?  (Oh…right. But, aside from that)

These fakes are usually an attempt to copy a famous brand or famous production. Some longer-term readers on the blog might remember a post regarding the 2011 Gold Dayi raw puer cake from back in 2012. This cake’s fame and price have done nothing but sky rocket since its release. Along with that fame came a deluge of fakes.

A recent kerfuffle on teachat had some customers scratching their heads and comparing wrappers regarding allegedly fake Dayi cakes. I admire the sleuthing abilities of these Dayi devotees, but on the other hand, wouldn’t it just be better to buy a tea that wasn’t famous enough to be faked?

Real Dayi
An image of an authentic 2011 Dayi cake

Some tips on how to avoid cakes that might be Paris Hilton fakes:

  • If the price tag is too good to be true, buyer beware. Good tea costs. No vendor is silly enough to sell real 1990’s 7542 for $100
  • If the production or brand is very famous, the likelihood of fake tea increases exponentially
  • If you are not extremely familiar with the intimate details of the wrapper and material, it is better to consult someone who is before making a purchase

After a tea becomes famous, the rise in price should be a deterrent for the wise Puerh buyer. There are better teas to be had. I am obviously biased towards my own productions, but I lament the fact that some folks are chasing after the 2011 Gold Dayi whilst my 2014 New Amerykah is available for 1/3 the price. But, this opens a gushu [old arbor] vs. plantation debate that is best left for another article.

When seeking a specific production of a famous tea, there are always more reasonably priced options which will allow the consumer to avoid fakes and save a few bucks. Dayi productions will rarely afford either luxury. It is not a secret that China is the world’s most skilled forger of all things, be it Louis Vuitton bags or solar panels. Puerh is no exception. Entire businesses are dedicated solely to faking Dayi products.

Let me repeat that again for emphasis. There are businesses out there, in large wholesale tea markets, whose entire livelihood is built around making and selling fake Dayi products. Consumers who desire certainty of authenticity ought look to smaller factories with less fame. Sometimes a less flashy brand will afford the confidence that you are getting what you pay for.

Or better yet, pay attention to what is in the cup, not on the wrapper. Follow this simple advice and you will never be disappointed.

Read More

Steeping Puer

Douji Gamma & Eta

Gamma

My first impression is the huigan [sweet effect] is fast in cup number one. There is a bubble gum sweetness with some hints of over roasting or “sun flavor”. There is some feeling similar to Mengsong in the first cup.

Puerh tea
Dry Gamma
Puerh tea
Gamma Soup

The following is more of the same. On the light side of bitterness, with a sweet draw in the mouth, and palpable astringency. This tea reads like an above average Mengsong tea. It lacks staying power and is not into the “deep side” of what a tea like this could be. Then again, I have no idea what this tea is or where it is from, so who knows.

Puerh tea
The Gamma leaves

Eta

Immediately straw and sweet grains. Tastes like a Sanhezhai area Yiwu tea in the first steep. Sewei [astringency] is a bit strong. In previous articles I tried to avoid using locational descriptions for these blind taste tests, but it would be difficult to describe this flavor other than Yiwu sugar straw. The soup is a consistent marigold color.

Puerh tea
Dry Eta

More of the same from this tea in later steeps. I am a little underwhelmed by these too offerings. Price is a big factor for cakes like this. If the price is low, these cakes would be a decent buy. If the price is high, I think these cakes can’t justify the mark up. For my personal collection, I already have some outstanding examples of teas like this, so I won’t be opening my wallet for Eta or Gamma.

Puerh tea
Eta Leaves

Read More

Teaware

Douji Delta and Alpha, More Blind Puer Tea Reviews

Wild Stabs in the Dark

My first guess was that the Delta was a Douji Yiwu. In fact, you can probably just read this review from 2012 Douji Yiwu, and change some slight characteristics and it would describe this tea in a general way. *Post reveal note: However, the sweet dry grass taste of this tea turned out to be a 2008 blend and my guess was way, way off, except that i guessed close on the age.

Dry Puerh Tea
A delta shaped chunk of delta

The first steep of the Delta is a little astringent.

The fragrances are all strong and Yiwu-ish, producing a soft slightly golden (almost seems like 1-3 years age on the tea?) soup. Not much else to say.

Delta spent leaves
Delta spent leaves

Alpha

The Alpha has extremely tight compression. The first three steeps are a wake up call for the tea, which seems to have been pressed with the feather touch of a steamroller.

Green tea puer
A much greener Alpha

After the tea starts to open up, there is a little harshness and a slowly building kuwei [bitterness] and a huigan [sweet aftertaste]. The sweetness in the mouth is the best feature of the tea, which is a bit non-descript and seems like a blend with a Bulang base. As the sessions progresses the soup slowly drifts into a deeper golden color.

Handmade Tea cup
Alpha soup

This tea has profound staying power. A 9 gram chunk in a smallish gaiwan was chugging along for what had to be upwards of 15 steeps, towards the end the steeps were several minutes long and the tea just kept giving. This is a solid tea. If the price is anything ballpark near 7542, I would recommend getting your tough blend needs met right here instead of at Dayi.

Another post reveal note; this tea is the Xiangdou, which is Douji’s entry level brick. It is a solid blend. I couldn’t pick it out directly, but this taste test reaffirms having chosen it for my site last year. It has a nice Mengsong huigan and plenty of bitterness.

Douji Xiangdou
Spent Alpha

Read More

Pouring Tea

Douji Beta and Zeta

Another Round of Blind Taste Tests

Courtesy of China Cha Dao, this round of taste tests are all Douji teas. Same rules as before, I have no idea which tea is which and all of my writing and notes are written before the identities of the teas were released.

Beta

After a rinse and a quick first steep I was expecting a gentle session. There was a gentle fruity feeling in that first quick steep, with a little body and a sweet aftertaste. Then, the second steep was a tide of tobacco and bitter flavors that were under my radar. Never judge a book.

Chinese Gaiwan
Beta Brew

The Beta continues in this same kuwei [pleasant bitter] vein for several steeps, without much deviation. The flavors and feelings are not complex. Just a straight forward bitterness that transitions into huigan [sweet aftertaste]. Not a bad tea. In the later steeps there is a slight harshness that is akin to the acidity of white wine. The huigan is lasting, and there is also a mineral fuzzy feeling on my teeth, like after eating spinach.

Celadon Tea cup
Beta Soup

Again, my cover judging was off about this teas complexity. I was about ready to give up after it was static for several steeps, then the kuwei subsided and some subtle white fruits started showing up and a new dimension materialized. White peaches  in the cup and a surprising amount of interesting aroma in the gongbei [the glass serving pitcher] even after 8 steeps, which is uncommon. Maybe I misjudged the amount early on.

Puerh Leaf Tea
Spent Beta

This is an interesting tea. There is enough going on to keep a session interesting with a range of characteristics. A few odd red flags, like various woody stems of all manner, even with some small chaguo buds [tea seed pod]. Looks like they picked the tea with a thresher. The leaves are not visually pleasing, some are a tallow hue as in the picture above. But, who cares? If there are stems and a tea looks like junk, but the tea itself is pleasant, then who am I to pick fights? Only big complaint is a scratchiness in the throat mid to late session. Otherwise I give it a passing grade.

Zeta

My sample is maocha [loose, unpressed leaves]. The dry leaves are dark in color and smell like autumn tea. Some show various reddish marking even on the dry leaf. The first steep is floral and sweet, similar again to a fall tea with a fall tea feel. Sticky in the throat,  smooth and pleasant.

Dry Zeta
Dry Zeta

The Zeta’s soup is reddish in hue, as opposed to the beta’s golden color. It prances around in black tea territory. It has a strong hongcha [oxidized black tea] element throughout the entire session.

Fall Maocha ?
Red Zeta Soup

Read More

Chinese Teas

The End of Speed Dating

The Best Laid Schemes…

Originally I had lofty ambitions of a full review for each tea from the generous YS sample pack, but the arrival of my Ippodo Japanese Shin-cha derailed my ambitions.

Ippodo Shincha Japanese Green Tea
A lovely spring distraction

Shin-cha is a tea best consumed fresh and only sold for a couple of months every Spring. Ippodo is not able to ship directly to China, so I had to employ some Hong Kong tea smugglers to carry the contraband over on a voyage to the Mainland. The underground tea smuggling community is a cutthroat band of miscreants. Luckily, the delivery arrived intact. Opening the fresh green tea put me on a clock to work it into my daily routine and finish it, which is both good and bad. Gladly it meant a delicious Japanese green tea nearly everyday for the last couple of weeks. Unfortunately for the sample pack, it drained some of my blind taste testing ambition.

Out of the remaining samples, only a couple of teas really stuck out for me, so naturally they will get the bulk of the attention. The rest sort of faded into the mix, which is usually how sampling goes.

Blind Dates of Note: Lambda and Mu

First the Lambda.

Dry Lambda
Dry Lambda

The smell off the leaves involves grape-like tannins.

The first steep is promising. Some body and interesting depth from the beginning.

Lambda Soup
Lambda Soup

Second steep, things get more interesting. This is the first tea (other than Mu below) that I have been really interested to see behind the curtain. If there were 10 layers to the tea, on layer 9 or 10 there is some slight over roasting. That flavor further diminishes  on the third steep, disappearing later on.

Spent Lambda
Spent Lambda

The thickness of this tea is beyond most of the other teas in the group. Cooling in the back on the throat, which lingers for a long time. There is some reasonable depth in this tea. Curious to see what it is. (Note: Later found out this is a Simao blend of 4 teas)

On to Mu.

This tea had a very strong fragrance, which filled up the room. Some of the leaves below on the gaiwan lid, which appear to be a bit oxidized.

Dry Mu
Dry Mu

This tea was overall my favorite of the bunch. It had the most body and complexity of the entire batch. Some Qi [voodoo feel] and a complexity, which were far above anything else in the group.

Mu Brew
Mu Brew
Bad lighting tea leaves
Mu Leaves, bad lighting on this pic

 

Seems my final list, which is something like:

1.Mu

2. Lambda

3. everything else.

Kind of jives with Jakub’s list. I also share his sentiment, that Mu would probably be the tea I would lean towards buying if I were picking from the group. The Lambda is a blend of Simao area tea and the Mu is a Nanpozhai. I am curious to see how the Mu will age!

Read More

Mystery Tea

Mystery Date #4

Another Mystery Puer Sample

 

Another of the bag plastic wrapped samples from Chengducha. I again went blind, trying this sample without prior knowledge of what it was.

This is a smallish piece, I didn’t weigh it, I guess 5 grams. It easily crumbles apart with a little pressure  in the hands, indicating it was not a tightly pressed cakes. Lots of buds. Medium red in color. Taking a stab in the dark, looks like it is about 4 or 5 years old.

The dry ~5g piece of Puer
The dry ~5g piece of Puer

The first steep is thin and has a bit of character of dry grass and the floral element of red tea. The soup is a little bit thin, which might have been a result of brewing too little leaf in too big a pot. The next steep I cut down on the water and up the steeping time.

The soups color becomes increasingly red, but the depth doesn’t seem to increase very much. It is a very gentle tea, soft, without much kuwei [bitterness] or astringency to speak of. For some people that might be exactly what they are after, but I am usually craving a little push and pull with puer.

Puerh Tea Blog
Soup

It stays much the same. Actually, it reminds me a little bit of this 2007 Lincang, light and floral, although this tea tends a little bit more towards hong cha [red tea] character than the Lincang. A lot of this could have to do with how I steeped it.

After checking the list I find that it is a “2007 Sheng from Chenyun”. I was not really sure what that meant, so I inquired and got this picture of the wrapper and blog post. Not a bad tea, soft and gentle. Not really my first pick, but some people might gravitate towards its soft character.

yixing puer
Spent leaves

 

Read More

Tea Obituaries

Potter D. Ragon (2007 – 2013)

Tea Obituaries

Relative of Cel A. Don , Potter D. Ragon was a portly man, known for his robust carriage and gentle nature. He spent most of his life as a farmer. During the recent economic downturn he earned a living picking lemons and other fruits at the local fruit orchard. He was fond of taking fruit home from work in the evenings and brewing hot drinks with his children.

Potter was recently admitted to the hospital with a severe belly leakage. The doctor informed him that the surgery for his repair would not be covered by medical insurance. A man of humble means, Potter decided that he would let nature take its course rather than bankrupt his family with surgery bills. His current employer at the fruit orchard, Mr.Stingely, decided it was best not to get involved, considering Potter’s replacement would only cost around $20.  Mr.Stingely could not be reached for comment.

Potter D. Ragon is survived by two sons.

If you have a tragedy in the teaware family, please contact the editor.

Tea Obituary
A photo from Potter’s ceremony

Read More