Ruiyuan Nannuo Shan Gushu

2012 Ruiyuan Nannuo Gushu

Ruiyuan Nannuo and Mr.Ma’s Tea

Veteran puer blogger Hobbes recently reviewed this Ruiyuan Nannuo laoshu [old tree] tea, which was made by a puer presser named Ma Yongwang. As Hobbes mentioned, I think of Mr.Ma as a straight shooter. After sampling some of his tea productions from Hekai and Nannuo, I decided two things:

1) Mr.Ma had a good nose for curating good puer

2) His prices were in line with the tea quality

These two factors gave me the green light to make a new tea friend. After drinking his laoshu teas, I got a third positive signal when I asked if he made any cakes with higher quality material. He said, “Yes, but it is expensive and all gone.” This is a good sign for a few reasons. First, actual gushu [ancient arbor, very old tree] tea is not cheap. Second, if he sold out, that means the production was – as it should be – small. Third, there is not a lot of money in the Sorry, We are sold out! game. But before I get ahead of myself, the main factors were;  his tea was good and priced well. So, we hung out and drank tea together, talking about the wonderful mysteries of puer and whatever else came up.

Ruiyuan Puerh
Gushu wrapper

Fast forward to Hobbes review, I began thinking about the gushu tea that he made from Nannuo. I knew that Mr.Ma had sold out of it before we had even met late last summer, but I thought maybe I could rescue a sample. I called him up and found he was already in Yunnan, running around Mengsong. He said to track down his wife in Beijing and see what she had left. Lucky for me the mission was a success. I was given the wrapper of the last cake with about 30 grams of the enchanting cake below.

Nannuo Mountain Puer
The dry remains of a once mighty gushu cake

The Ruiyuan Nannuo Gushu starts off with grape sweetness in the gaiwan and immediately reveals its strength. It is lively and dries my mouth out with a pleasant sewei [astringency] that activates my salivary glands.

Nannuo Mountain Puerh
The lightly colored soup, complete with a cup & an image of a tiny man beneath a tree

After the third cup I take a brief rest, and a low undulating sweetness comes up from the back of my throat through to the top of my tongue.  Through to the back on my throat and the back of the roof of my mouth, a coating lingers. No wonder he doesn’t have any of this left.

There is warming bitterness that lingers like a blanket. Looming in my mouth and throat. In the fourth steep I start drifting off with a hazy feeling. There is plenty of Qi [voodoo energy or religious enlightenment or something] in this cake. Maybe even too much, as I felt a light headed and needed a sit before continuing.

Nannuo Shan Puer
The gold soup in the gongbei

As I began gliding around the room and digging further and further into the session, I decided to spin the wheel with a long oversteep, somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 minutes. I find that a lot of teas made with lesser material break under this pressure and start throwing off all kinds of offensive flavors or unpleasant feelings. This tea handled it quite well. It had an even throatier kuwei [pleasant bitterness] and nothing that made me regret the long steep. Enough of this for today, I think I should have invited a friend to share this session with me.

Note to self: Tell Mr.Ma to write my name on some of his gushu cakes for next year.

Spent leaves
Spent leaves
Tea Blog

2007 Wistaria Blue Mark (Menghai)

More Brief Tea Bloggery

Another quick and dirty snapshot of a Wistaria tea – the 2007 Blue Mark.

loose pressed puer tea
A handsome piece of loosely pressed puer tea

Ben Folds once sang that ” fortune depends on the tone of your voice. ” I have no idea how that line relates to this post, other than Mr.Folds joining me on random in my iTunes – it’s been a long time since I have heard from him.

Perhaps it is a sign. I will sing about this Wistaria tea in a tone of praise. The 2007 Wistaria blue mark is loosely pressed. There is something very pleasing about pulling apart the interlocked fingers of  the leaves with only a gentle nudge of the tea needle.

Puer Tea Blog Wistaria Tea
Young, but not too young soup

The soup is a light copper color. The material was labeled as Menghai area, which rings true from the first slurp. This cake has an unmistakeably Menghai nature about it. Tobacco, malt, and a little bit of body. More body than say, a lower quality Menghai production, but less than a higher quality Menghai production. Middle of the road in terms of body – without a lot of fireworks. But overall, a very pleasant session.

2007 Wistaria Blue Mark Menghai Puer Tea
Spent leaves
Wisteria Qingteng Puer Tea

2003 Wistaria Qingteng (Mengsong)

Flight of Wisteria

A new venture is afoot from Silentchaos of Teachat fame. His new store is Origin Tea, where he will be sourcing Oolongs and Puers. Always glad to have more people sourcing good teas – wish him luck!

This first tea is from Wistaria Teahouse, a Taiwan institution. The Qingteng [青藤, green vine – i guess?] tea is made of Mengsong material according to the label, and was a part of this flight of teas. I will be jotting down some quick notes like this post as I work my way through the flight.

2003 Wisteria Puer
The leaves have an orange hue, although not as much as suggested by this pic

My first impression of this tea was how light and acerbic it was. Brewing ten grams yielded a very smooth and light tea, without much flavor but plenty of feel.

pouring water on tea
An early steep

There is a waxy curtain in front of some fruit in the early steeps. There is a faint pomelo flavor that lingers around and some sour fruit in the background of the tea throughout the session.

Tea blog Wistaria Soup
Wistaria Qingteng Soup

The tea coats the mouth thoroughly and has fortitude. With a tea like this, flavor and aroma take a backseat to the general feel of a tea. Overall the body was thick, with a very comforting feel throughout the body. The liquor and leaves are very pleasing to look at. I would guess this will not be my favorite tea of the group, but it has tough competition.

Puerh Tea Blog Post
Spent leaves

 

Dayi Longyin Puer Tea Blog

2012 Dayi Longyin – Menghai Dragonmark

Taetea Legend : Dragonmark Dayi Puer

2012 Dragonmark
The wrapped cake

For the longest time I thought the wrapper above read “Taste a legend”. Finally, I realized it said “Taetea Legend”, Taetea being the English name for Dayi. Legend is a word that shouldn’t be tossed around lightly, unless your tea is Michael Jordan good. If you are more of a Toni Kukoc player, that’s fine. Kukoc was a great player, but he’s not really a legend. Kukoc is a decent comparison for a basketball player skill versus Longyin tea goodness. Not good, not bad. A bit overhyped because he is on a good team.  Croatian. 6ft 11 inches tall. Ok, not that last two. Whatever, enough half-baked basketball/tea analogies.

Dayi Longyin 2012 Puer Tea
The cake in all its glory

The Longyin [Dragon mark] cake is named as such because of the Chinese zodiac “year of the dragon”,  which will quickly be passing us by into the year of the snake. Not to fear, Dayi does not waste time waiting for such trivial things such as the actual passing of the lunar year. The American equivalent must be Christmas trees in stores before Thanksgiving.

Menghai Dragonmark Taetea Puerh
Close up on some of the leaves

The pictures above show a mixed tippy cake with varying material and a bit of chop. Very menghai-y in fragrance.

Longyin Puerh
Young soup

So, when I purchased this cake I think it was 2X0 RMB, (can’t remember), it is currently 390 RMB, or thereabouts. The price rising in tandem with the Jin Dayi. This is a legendary price increase for a tea this young. Perhaps part of the rise in price is due to the good mojo of the Dragon year? I found the cake to be much less interesting than the Jin Dayi. My first sessions with the Longyin were particularly astringent, which is to be expected from a young tea. It was brash, coming out of the gate like a bull. Lots of kuwei [ bitterness ] and astringency, but with a lack of body to back them up. This is a common complaint I have about Dayi raw puer, the lack of body.

The current price of 390 RMB  (caution: one more bad basketball analogy) is a Gilbert Arenas contract. You are paying well over $50 million for a player who is going to sit on the bench and cause trouble by bringing guns (allegedly) into the locker room. For the same price, you could hire Chris Paul, Lebron James, or Kevin Durant. So, why are you hiring Gilbert Arenas? You probably shouldn’t. Nor would I recommend buying the Dragonmark. This is just my humble opinion, however. I have seen much praise floating around the HK tea forums for this tea.

I will be interested to see how this cake ages and whether any of its brash characteristics fill out into more pleasant sensations. For now, it is going on the bench. Luckily teas, unlike basketball players, get better with age.

Steeped Dayi tea
Spent leaves
Yichanghao puer

2005 Yi Chang Hao Jingpin

An older Review of Yi Chang Hao

I am in the midst of a lingering cold and taking a break from taking notes on puer. Please accept these brief notes on a session from a few months ago, while I patiently wait for my nasal passages to resume accepting air.

Dry Yi Chang Hao
Dry leaves, 5g

This session was a bit light in the weight department, probably about 5 grams, about 1/2 what I normally use. I used less water, filling my gaiwan only half way to try to keep things in check.

The tea has a definite middle-aged smell, with a little bit of plum and fruits on the gaiwan lid.

Yichanghao Soup
Yichanghao Soup

The soup is on the dark side of gold, but not quite copper. Cereal, dried grass and grains, with a subtle sweetness in the mouth. Out of the 5 grams, there are only about 3 good steeps, before the tea stumbles into a generic Yiwu thinness.

Tea Blog
Spent leaves

Some past reviews of this tea put its price down at a humble $35, just a few years ago. Now, this tea commands a much higher price, mostly due to its brand name, rather than a sudden increase in quality. The material for this cake is fairly average, and for the damage this cake does to your wallet, better teas can be had. Thanks to Jakub for the sample!

Bulang Puer

1997 Henglichang Bulang

Henglichang Bulang

This Henglichang Bulang tea has gotten some mention from other bloggers with widely varying opinions. Thanks to Apache, I had a chance to try a sample. Luckily, I had not read any other reviews prior to sitting down for my session – so the scribbles in my little notebook were from an unbiased mind – relatively speaking.

When I decided to make a post about the Henglichang Bulang, I poked around to see what others had wrote, finding some divergent views. A 2010 review from Hobbes begins:

Some cakes give you hope. …

This Henglichang* cake is an excellent example of an aged cake that has real “trousers”. The leaves are homogenous in colour – there is no partial blend of type (i) leaves. The whole tea is a big, mahogany treat. It is a big, bold tea that is doing very well for its years. I appreciate its power, its duration, and its complexity.

Where as Marshaln mentions in his recent post:

There’s no real complexity and offers none of the surprises of a well aged tea. After trying this, now I know why this tea is a complete unknown this side of the Pacific. There are lots of options for late 90s teas, and this one isn’t a representative example of a good one.

These two reviews are fairly divergent, which is fine. I will quote my own notes below, which fall somewhere in between Hobbes and Marshaln. I can relate to the trousers and the lack of real complexity. It has both; thick bitterness and a lack of much else going on.

Heng li Chang Bulang
Dry tea

The rest of the quotes are direct from my notes:

Looks very dry. Lots of tips, smells of dusty books

Bulang Puerh
Close up of the dry leaves
Henglichang Bulang
Dark and bitter soup

Further noting:

Deep throaty kuwei right out of the gate, active salivary glands. Chocolatey.

Strong kuwei. Horehound

Heroic staying power, 20+ steeps

That was the abridged version of the notes. After looking over what I wrote, I noticed a surprising lack of adjectives such as good or bad. Very little in the way of judgmental adjectives, which is not that common for me. My notebook is usually littered with swear words or praise, or in some cases, both. It has been a couple of months since I drank this tea, but I remember drinking it for over an hour before a basketball game one Sunday. (We did win the game, which i must partially credit the Henglichang bulang for)

I do not throw around the phrase Heoric staying power lightly. I do remember this tea having a never ending rolling bitterness, which I enjoyed. I do also remember there not being much change or complexity, but I didn’t mind. Also, this is probably the first and only time I have encountered a note of horehound, which is a nostalgic flavor of a candy (derived from a plant) that my grandfather enjoyed and I ate on trips in South Dakota in my youth. Probably to do with the thick coating and dark syrupy tea.

Wet puer leaf
Spent leaves

Additional reviews, which i jacked from Marshaln/Jakub’s posts include: Jakub T , The Skua , and Wuxingcloud. And now you can add my notes to the pile.

Jin Dayi

2011 Jin Dayi (Gold Dayi)

 Jin Dayi and the Golden Ticket

Apache introduced me to the new darling of the Hong Kong internet forums, the 2011 Jin Dayi, with a sample packet (signed with beautiful penmanship, as shown above). The first time I had checked the price of this tea was several months ago, when it was hovering around 215 RMB. By the time I drank the tea, it was nearer to 300 RMB. As of the writing of this article, it is above 300 RMB – or 380 RMB at the flagship store. Some pretty active climbing for a newish tea from a big factory.

Menghai Gold
Wrapper (golden ticket inside)
Jin Dayi
One cake, Zero trips to the Chocolate Factory

This runaway freight train price increase is due in no small part to the accolades doled out by Cloud, Hong Kong tea aficionado. The Hong Kong tea forums have been bustling with praise over the last year, with prices rising commensurately.

Jin Dayi Soup
Soup (maybe brewed on the heavy side, should be lighter than this pic)

To be perfectly honest, most Dayi raw puer after the early 2000’s has been a bit of a drag. There are bright spots here and there, but in general, nothing to rave about. After seeing the enthusiasm over this tea, I had to try a bit and jump on the bandwagon.

The first cup is a bell tolling. A loud declaration of presence. There is kuwei [pleasant bitterness] and a syrupy coating in the throat from the outset. There are bones and guts and body. These are high compliments, as most Dayi sheng from recent years is a bit lacking in the skeletal department.

Jin Menghai
More accurate soup

The gold dayi also has fortitude. Deep into the session, there is still a strength of kuwei and full body that is not present in most of the recent Dayi teas I have tried. It is clear why Cloud and the HK tea forum crowd are backers of this tea.

Puerh Tea
Leaves in the gaiwan

The Jin Dayi is typical in its menghai character, but it is done better than any I have had in previous years. As for what I mean by menghai character, Hobbes described it as

dark-mushroom with malt, and plenty of hardcore bitterness.

This is in the ballpark of how I would describe Jin Dayi, if I could swap out mushroom for raw tobacco. The darkness, malt, and hardcore kuwei are all there in force. Altogether these components combine for a very intense and pleasurable session.

Puerh Tea
Spent clump of chop

One last note, the 2011 Jin Dayi blend has a fairly wide range in leaf size. Some buds, some larger broad leafs. Ages of the material also ranges, but in general seem to be a few years old. It drinks more smoothly than several other 2011 Dayi blends I have sampled. Some details on the leaves in pics above and below.

tea buds and broad leaf
Big leaves and buds

If you plan on purchasing this tea, probably better to do it sooner than later. The price will probably climb into farcical territory soon, if it is not there already.

Special thanks to Apache for allowing me to sample a tea I might not have otherwise gotten around to!
Haiwan Pashan 2006

2006 Haiwan Pasha

Haiwan Pasha & the Joys of Youth

Tight, tippy, tobacco, and T. The four T’s. Jakub, fellow puer enthusiast and blogger, sent this 2006 Haiwan Pasha puer.

The tips are welded together. The master crafted blades do not yield to my boiling water. Only after three rinses do they decide to give way and open up, I must have gotten the very epicenter of this cake. The first true steep (maybe 4th overall?) of tea was perhaps the best, mellow and smooth.

Raw Puer Tea Haiwan Pasha
Cakes of steel

After further unfurling, the tea turned towards heavier tobacco, and a brief tannic harshness – probably the only real bone I have to pick with this tea.

Puerh tea Pasha
Steel is slow to melt

The throatfeel was excellent throughout, and lingered a bit after the session. The middle of the session also had a pleasant vibrancy in the mouth.

Puerh Tang
Pasha Soup

This tea is from 2006, but it has been told it can play younger. The Pasha looks a bit green in the leaves, probably due to a combination of dry storage and being pressed by a blacksmith’s apprentice. It could probably use another several years to break down some of the tannins and turn it into a something excellent. However, it is very drinkable now. Younger sheng lovers will no doubt enjoy its character.

Spent puerh tea leaves
Spent leaves

It has decent staying power, with its flames extinguishing around the tenth steep. A very enjoyable session, thanks again to Jakub. This tea can be purchased at Yunnan Sourcing for $50.