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
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
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
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
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.