Where should you NOT buy your Puerh from


One of the intentionally aged teas, Pu-Erh has a loyal following.

Postby xuancheng » Jun 13th, '09, 07:05

I agree these buds are very different from any of the early winter buds I have ever seen. Perhaps it is because I have never seen Camellia Sinensis var. assamica only var. sinensis. Old pu'er trees should be var. assamica

The picture you posted, Seeker, looks like var. sinensis, not an old tree like those that yabao come from.

I am not convinced either way myself, does anyone think this could be the difference?

I follow your conversation with great interest.
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Postby Salsero » Jun 13th, '09, 09:07

I am also delighted with this thread. I love that people like Seeker are intent on finding out what's going on. The var. assamica idea sounds very possible, but at this point there isn't enough evidence to decide. And of course, if it isn't CS, then what the heck is it?
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Postby Rainy-Day » Jun 13th, '09, 11:52

Seeker: I should probably mention that I got many, really many great greens, yellows and black teas from teaspring at low prices. They have both variety, quality and price points in these categories that are hard to beat. I also bought a lot of oolongs from them and as I mentioned before one of them was really great, and I want to also say that Huang Jin Gui is absolutely amazing when brewed like a green tea (i.e. not gong-fu). I currently have very little time for gong-fu'ing and when I do have time in the evening I want to avoid too much caffeine so most of the oolongs and puerhs I got from them are just sitting in the cabinets. Don't buy the silver tips bing just based on my recommendation - it's only the first one ST puerh I tried and it's fairly expensive and I only did 3-4 brews of it so my opinion may change once I really get into it... I think actually it might be smarter to let it age.. Can anyone comment on that? Is it a waste to drink a young silver tips puerh bing?
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Postby Seeker » Jun 13th, '09, 16:06

nada wrote:Though they look very different from magnolia buds...


Nada - Yes. I discovered the same about the magnolia buds - I did a google search for images of mag buds, and couldn't find anything that looks like Ya Bao. Perhaps my source is having a lapse in memory, I'll have to ask.

My source, (Owner of Teance in Berkeley) sent me an image of ancient tea tree to share, but it was too dark for any bud detail, almost a silhouette really; I sent this pic feedback, and there should be more pics on the way.

(Aside - Nada, due to this site, I have checked out your site, and ordered some tea! I am looking very much forward to receiving it, and hopefully falling in love with some new puerhs.)

Lastly here, a few thoughts from my opening post comments about doubtful sheng cakes-- I've noticed as a result of following links from some other puerh threads - that there are some out there, as I imagined, who may seem to enjoy the 'chan-ko' reaction (I probably don't have the english version spelled right, but roughly means 'choke throat' according to my tea source; my tea teacher says generally considered a negative attribute of tea - although, as with wine, isn't it the pleasure of the unique and individual tea drinker that matters most? For me, I don't like it.) Also, I thought I was detecting some opiniions out there that certain kinds of not-necessarily-enjoyable intensity in young sheng are thought to portend excellence (ie-more flavor/complexity) after aging? Again, my tea teacher, and Master Wang of Zen and Tea have both said that Ancient Trees (those from seed, not grafted!) tend not to produce this 'chan-ko' experience, and that this can be a way of detecting lower quality sheng ('chan-ko'/choke throat response) vs higher quality sheng. However, I also wonder about processing techniques that could result in 'chan-ko'?
But I am just a lowly tea whore (ie-unabashed, to distraction, almost addicted, over the top, spends too much on tea, but I digress) lover of tea, a pilgrim on this lovely, long and wide path of tea. So much to learn, and so much to enjoy along the way.
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Postby Seeker » Jun 13th, '09, 16:14

Here is one of the complete early emails from my tea source/teacher (I had only quoted part of it earlier):
>>In all my years and thousands of shrub to ancient tree, I have never see a sprout like this on Camellia Sinensis. The leaf buds do not grow out of 'Bao' which is a crusty shell, I have only seen them for magnolia flowers. Ya means young bud, they sprout as a closed leaf leaf covered with downy hair. How would the bud sprout and where would the side leaves go? Jim, this isn't tea, arbor size tree or not. I want a photo of the tree itself and the species name to stand corrected, and I will send photos of tea buds for you to compare. Also, it doesn't smell like tea, and believe me, I can smell the tea in my death! However I an open to be corrected, send me the species name and will ask the research institute.<<
Again, I'll ask about the magnolia buds, because it seems clear from Nada's pic post, that there's no match there (unless there's some other chinese magnolia sub-species).
So interesting.
BTW - ancient tea tree pics may take some time as my source said they'd be busy for these couple of days, it's Saturday here in Calif, and tea business calls! Last night was a tea class on rare Taiwanese Oolongs! And yes, there's always tasting of the subject matter! Tragically, I couldn't attend :cry:
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Postby nada » Jun 13th, '09, 19:26

Hi Seeker,

I don't claim to know the answer to this - I too am always willing to learn. This is an interesting topic and one I hadn't questioned before.

I searched around some photos I had. I'd been remembering the base of the buds I'd picked, they seemed to have a flaky leaf around the base that just kind of fell off when you picked the bud.

I came across this bud in some photos from Naka Mountain (small leaf varietal old trees)

Image

At the base of the left bud to me it looks kind of similar to the ya bao you posted, just that these buds are obviously at a later stage of growth.

It's quite small though compared to the Ya Bao I've seen though. Perhaps some covering leaves have fallen off by this stage.

What do you think? Similar or no?

best wishes,
n.
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Postby andy825 » Jun 13th, '09, 21:50

It seems that maybe the ya bao is made from flower buds, not leaf buds. That might explain why you don't see them in pictures of tea bushes under cultivation, and they are picked from older trees. The picture of the magnolia bud was of a flower bud, and does look similar.
Here are some buds of a camellia (not sinensis):
http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.dkimages.com/discover/previews/974/50350599.JPG&imgrefurl=http://www.dkimages.com/discover/DKIMAGES/Discover/Home/Gardening/Gardening-Basics/Propagation/Shrubs-and-Climbing-Plants/Shrubs-and-Climbing-Pl-133.html&usg=__CmmwGgyyAWDDgSkIn_v-NxdrLAE=&h=316&w=238&sz=26&hl=en&start=84&um=1&tbnid=GbccqJeOfYvuCM:&tbnh=117&tbnw=88&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dcamellia%2Bflower%2Bbud%26ndsp%3D21%26hl%3Den%26rls%3Dcom.microsoft:*%26sa%3DN%26start%3D63%26um%3D1
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Postby Seeker » Jun 13th, '09, 22:10

Hi Nada, and all others,
Great photo, thanks for sharing!

nada wrote:I searched around some photos I had. I'd been remembering the base of the buds I'd picked, they seemed to have a flaky leaf around the base that just kind of fell off when you picked the bud.


Hmm - sounds like the Lun Pian my source wrote of. Which would be a single leaf, not several?

nada wrote:At the base of the left bud to me it looks kind of similar to the ya bao you posted, just that these buds are obviously at a later stage of growth.


Hm, yeah, I can imagine that - although I can't really see enough detail in the base of that bud to get a feeling for it. I mean, maybe all Camelia Sinensis buds start with many short, stubby, tightly overlapping leaves? My source says no though, and personally, I've never been to China and seen any of these things 1st hand; (sigh) - though I'd like to someday. A tea trip - that would be great!

nada wrote:It's quite small though compared to the Ya Bao I've seen though. Perhaps some covering leaves have fallen off by this stage.


Again, hmmm - I'm just now imagining/harkening back to my mag shot of Ya Bao - and there are a lot of leaves, quickly overlapping (geez, lookes like as many as 7) - and all of the leaves seem short and stout, none long and slender relative to width as in, well, all the shots I've ever seen of Camelia Sinensis?

Cheers!
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Postby Seeker » Jun 13th, '09, 22:15

Another thought about the morphology of Camelia Sinensis buds - it seems that the leaves become relatively long and slender before opening & revealing the next leaf? Whereas the Ya Bao leaves are yielding to other leaves while remaining short and thick. Hmmm.
Gosh - wouldn't it be cool if there was some botany book with an in depth exploration of Camelia Sinensis in various stages - especially the various budding one would see!
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Postby andy825 » Jun 13th, '09, 23:09

Paraphrasing the above post which was gobbled up by the computer somehow>
It seems to me that there are two distinct types of buds on a camellia plant, those of the flowers and those of the leaves. Perhaps ya bao is made from the flower buds, not the leaf buds at all. Here is a pic of the flower buds a of a camellia (not sinensis):
http://www.dkimages.com/discover/previews/974/50350599.JPG
I think this looks more similar to the pictures you posted than any of the pics of leaf buds.
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Postby Trioxin » Jun 13th, '09, 23:54

beat me to it. It does resemble a flower bud. I got tired of searching for tea flowers, but i did come across this pick of a ground flower.

Image
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Postby Seeker » Jun 14th, '09, 00:11

Hey Trioxin, What kind of plant is that "groundflower"? Very similar in morph.
Here's the pic Andy825 was linking to:
Image
Also, very similar.
It seems we might be onto something!!
I've heard of and even had bings of the flowers.
If I can, I'll find it and post a pic.
Curious to hear what others think.
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Postby MarshalN » Jun 14th, '09, 00:24

During my year in China I've talked to various people about this type of buds. It's quite interesting to see what they all say.

The ones who are selling it will tell you this is a rare bud, from old tea trees, blah blah, the usual sales pitch.

The ones who don't sell it but are still in the tea business will often tell you they are from some of the wilder trees, but really should not be classified into the regular "tea" category and you should not expect the same thing.

Others will even tell you this isn't really tea of any sort at all, and you shouldn't bother. In fact, they might not even be good for you at all.

Not having actually seen these things in the wild in the unplucked stage, I can't comment on the veracity of any of these. However, I can say that the prices of these things are generally quite low, so you shouldn't pay too much for them (and I have tried the higher priced one with no noticeable difference in quality/taste). Also, the age-ability of these things is an absolute unknown at this point. If you're looking for something to age, this is not a good bet.
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Postby Seeker » Jun 14th, '09, 00:38

I found the Tea Flower cake.
Here are some photos - no buds, sadly (so no comparing) - I believe these are fully developed Tea flowers pressed into cake (I would strongly guess processing of some type has taken place as none of the flowers are whole - this seems like a cake made of a pressed mass of flower petals.
Anyone know anything about Tea Flower cakes? I've had this one for a couple of years and would be interested to know - infusion properties (any medicinal?), is it actually safe to drink (it has been suggested to me by others that this may be in doubt, I don't remember who - might be my tea source), and can it be aged/allowed to sit, or should it be drunk right away (as TeaSpring suggests with Ya Bao - 2-3yrs max)???
I got this one (as you can see) from Rishi. Without further adieu - the photos:
Image
And now a mag shot:
Image
...and other random shots:
Image
Image
Image

I just went to Rishi's website, and they don't seem to have it/sell it anymore.
It tastes kind of spicy, like a little cinnamon-y or something as I recall.
Just googled, a couple of sites sell it - saying pollen is also in the tea (which supposedly adds healthy benefits, not specified), and that max hold time is 5 yrs due to increased tendency to ferment.
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Postby Seeker » Jun 14th, '09, 01:35

Hm. Just thought of something else.
I think I know why my source has been insisting that Ya Bao (also Tea flower cake, when I asked about that over a year ago) is NOT tea, and certainly not puerh tea.
Why?
Perhaps because to serious tea folks in the trade, it would be more an herbal or tisane.
True tea is Camelia Sinensis LEAVES.
Right?
I think Puerh tea to be true must consist of leaves and buds of leaves from Camelia Sinensis.
Just because something grows in Pu-erh (I'm speaking here of the region of Yunnan) and it can be infused into a "tea", doesn't a true tea make, right?
But to call something other than CS Puerh might make it seem exotic and desirable for purchase, mightn't it?
Worked on me. Got me with the 'lowers bp' line (btw - bp stands for blood pressure, for those who might have been thinking about weight loss).
Tea tastes truly wonderful, but I believe many of us drink it for its medicinal value; or perhaps we were originally led to it by this.
I drink for both.
[I was led to tea and away from coffee for the health benefits, and a growing intolerance for coffee's effects on my body; I am deeply glad. Tea is so much more interesting - especially for a foody and an epicure like myself; so much fun paraphernalia, and seasons, and "vintages" if you will; variances in flavor, aroma, etc, etc.
What a wonderful,fun journey.]
:P
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