1980 puer

1980’s Wild Tree Loose Puer

 Aged Puer Tea

Lovely old puer teas have engrossing stories to tell. This aged puer from origintea has the odor of musty books. Wood unfurls out of the the gongbei [shared cup, glass pitcher] after a rinse. The dust covered smells then morph into a deep caramelized sugar, and then vanish. The leaves smell damp after a long sleep. I wait about two minutes after the rinse before I start steeping. I smell the lid of my yixing and there is a sharp smell of wetness that a lot of older teas have inevitably collected in their long lifetime.

Any hint of the sharp smell vanishes within moments. I place the lid back, wait a moment, and smell again, and again the smell has transformed to fragrant wood and earth. Teas like this are captivating. Their constant changes are a sort of theatrical performance. The sharpness makes a brief cameo appearance, takes a bow, and leaves the stage. The wood is a main character, acting in scenes with the earth and the sweetness. All of the acts being performed amidst a backdrop of smoothness and warmth, the setting of the play. This is what good puer tea should be!

Dry 1980's raw puer tea
Dry 1980’s raw puer tea

The early steeps were thin. The tea was just beginning to wake up, and had a direct thinness similar to aged Liubao tea. As the session progressed this thin character began to widen out.

On the fifth steep I smell the leaves and get a smell of browned stew meat. I did not see him in the playbill! Honestly, I questioned whether I should write this note down, since some puer aficionados are going to read stew meat and think I am an idiot, but it was just the first thing that came to mind. The smell of raw beef that you are browning in the pan. When you take it out of the fire and it sits for a moment and has a sickly, meat smell. That was the connection my brain made. A definite first.

Petr Novak Cup
A view of the dark red brown soup, in a cup from Petr Novak

The star of the show is difficult to pick in such an intense drama. The lingering huigan [sweet aftertaste] is one the best assets of the tea. The smooth texture of the tea and warming body feel are enviable. This is a must see show. A Tony award winner (ha!). Enough with the hackneyed  theatrical references, try the tea!

Zisha Puerh Aged
Spent leaves
CYH Banzhang

2007 CYH Laobanzhang

 When to buy Gushu?

The other day some tea drinking friends of mine were having a conversation about how to optimize timing when purchasing gushu [old arbor] teas. Opinions around the tea table differed, as they always do, but the general consensus was that there are two strategies. Either get in early and hope, or buy late resign to forfeiting half of your mortgage payment for puer tea. In the case of Banzhang teas, even news tea carry a hefty pricetag, so maybe neither strategy is optimal.

Since acquiring a ten year old Banzhang cake of any quality is already completely out of reach of most smallfolk, I’d say one ought to buy good tea right away (1 – 3 years old), rather than when it has enough age (8 – 10 years old). There is a tradeoff. Buying young tea can be difficult because how it will age is anybody’s guess. However, this risk is outweighed by the alternative, which is paying far too much for tea that is difficult to know much about. Questions like where was this stored? and Is this really from Spring on that mountain? are easier to answer in the year of production. But, unless the leaves were picked, processed, and pressed by the hands attached to your body, there is always a little mystery.

A dry piece of the Banzhang cake
A dry piece of the Banzhang cake

The 2007 CYH Banzhang is in a transition stage from strong youth to strong maturity. The kuwei [bitterness] flashes in front  of you with a quick gesture, and then quickly turns into sweetness that sits down in the mouth. There are some woody flavors emerging, but it is still in between feeling like a young tea and a middle aged tea. Some sort of tea Freshmen year.

Fledgling soup of Puer Tea Ban Zhang
Fledgling soup

The body is thick. Even 6.5 grams (about 20% less than I normally use) still makes a compelling brew. The depth of flavor and qi [feeling] is admirable. Even though this cake is in the middle ground of its age, still a worthy investment. Thanks again to Origin for the sample.

Spent leaves
Spent leaves
Yang Qing Hao

2007 Yang Qing Hao – Qizhong

Another sample from Origintea, the 2007 Qizhong from Yang Qing Hao.

YQG Qizhong
A dry piece of the YQH puer tea

The Qizhong is a balancing act of soft, smooth entry and thick lingering body.

Most lightweight teas are agile and soft. Their counterpart heavyweights are strong and intense. The Qizhong is riding the line in between the two, with an emphasis of strength.

It is a nimble heavyweight. Both aggressive and graceful at the same time.

Qizhong puer tea
The golden soup of the Qizhong

The Qizhong is durable. Stamina abound, it became clear that the first four rounds were merely a warm up. The leaves kept giving late into the bout.

The retail price around $270 for a 400g cake, this is a good value for this quality of aged gushu puer. Another fine tea from Origin.

Puerh Tea and Yixing pots
Spent tea from Origin