Pu-erh newbie - recommendations sought


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

Pu-erh newbie - recommendations sought

Postby expatCanuck » Dec 27th, '06, 14:17

Greetings.

In search of decent Pu-erh at not unreasonable prices (e.g. - $2/cup or (preferably) less).

Tried Adagio's PuErh Dante. While I very much enjoy most of the Adagio teas I've tried (especially the white, black and oolongs), I found PuErh Dante to be resplendently vile. A thin beverage with the aroma and taste of a barnyard.

I then tried Peet's Ancient Trees Organic Pu-erh, which I rather enjoyed. A rich beverage with a complex, earthly taste that appealed to me. But at $20 per 1/4 lb., it's on the costly side.

I can't tell from Peet's description whether their Pu-Erh is 'cooked' or not. If anyone knows, I'd welcome the knowledge.

And all that said, I'd welcome Pu-Erh recommendations who have experience in this esoteric realm.

Thanks,

Richard
P.S. - I'm looking for something that I can enjoy now -- no real interest in putting it away to be aged.
Last edited by expatCanuck on Dec 28th, '06, 20:20, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby deadfingers » Dec 27th, '06, 18:12

http://rishi-tea.com/store/home.php?cat=6

You can check them out, they seem to have a decent variety of Pu-Erh some very expensive (I found one for a pound costs $130). I have yet to try Pu-Erh myself but I really want to get into it, and that's the site I'll probably try out first.
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Postby jogrebe » Dec 27th, '06, 20:36

http://www.puerhshop.com

The Puerh Shop has a wide variety with good prices. Since you want something that you can drink now I'd recommend staying with the cooked puerh.
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Postby deadfingers » Dec 27th, '06, 23:00

jogrebe wrote:http://www.puerhshop.com

The Puerh Shop has a wide variety with good prices. Since you want something that you can drink now I'd recommend staying with the cooked puerh.


I'm new to Pu-erh but what does that mean? Cooked and non-cooked? What's the difference? Also I am getting close to buying Pu-erh, probably either tomorrow or on the weekend. So what's the difference between a "cake" and a "brick" and the loose leaf versions? Which is better overall?
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Postby lenny7 » Dec 27th, '06, 23:56

Count me in among the Pu Erh noobs. Is there an idiots guide to Pu Erh? I did buy a couple of puerh's from Yunnan Sourcing on ebay, based on recommendations here, but I'm really flying blind here. I'm hoping by the time the ship arrives from China that I'll have figured out what I'm supposed to do with it.
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Postby jogrebe » Dec 28th, '06, 00:30

deadfingers wrote:
jogrebe wrote:http://www.puerhshop.com

The Puerh Shop has a wide variety with good prices. Since you want something that you can drink now I'd recommend staying with the cooked puerh.


I'm new to Pu-erh but what does that mean? Cooked and non-cooked? What's the difference? Also I am getting close to buying Pu-erh, probably either tomorrow or on the weekend. So what's the difference between a "cake" and a "brick" and the loose leaf versions? Which is better overall?


In short cooked (properly called post fermented) puerh is artificially aged puerh that is ready to drink when you buy it compared to years latter. While cooked puerh is said to come fairly close to the taste of naturally aged raw puerh, the naturally aged stuff is said to be better but comes with a very high price tag attached. As compared to which is better I'd recommend starting with the cheaper cooked puerh. As to which is best that is a very subjective issue with much disagreement.

For more information on puerh check out
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pu-erh_tea
http://www.pu-erh.net
http://community.livejournal.com/puerh_tea/
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Postby deadfingers » Dec 28th, '06, 08:57

So ok how do I know if it's cooked or just plain aged? I mean I'm guessing it would say "aged" and the price tag would match. So I am looking at buying these:

http://rishi-tea.com/store/product.php? ... t=6&page=1

http://rishi-tea.com/store/product.php? ... t=6&page=1

http://rishi-tea.com/store/product.php? ... t=6&page=1

Are these all ready to be drank? I mean how is Aged Pu-erh not ready to be drank? Thanks for the info.
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Postby jogrebe » Dec 28th, '06, 09:53

deadfingers wrote:So ok how do I know if it's cooked or just plain aged? I mean I'm guessing it would say "aged" and the price tag would match. So I am looking at buying these:

http://rishi-tea.com/store/product.php? ... t=6&page=1

http://rishi-tea.com/store/product.php? ... t=6&page=1

http://rishi-tea.com/store/product.php? ... t=6&page=1

Are these all ready to be drank? I mean how is Aged Pu-erh not ready to be drank? Thanks for the info.


All of them seem to be cooked as rishi has the raw ones labeled as green puerh. At the same time those prices are a bit outrageous for the mini cakes of cooked puerh. You might want to consider something like http://www.houdeasianart.com/index.php? ... cts_id=342 instead which I can personally attest to as being a very good puerh that costs less.
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Cooked or uncooked

Postby hop_goblin » Dec 28th, '06, 13:38

It has been generally accepted that the "cooking" method for pu-erh was established in in 1972, and that any cake, brick, toucha before this date was not cooked. However, in a more practical sense, one easy way to determine between cooked and uncooked is just to look at it. If the pu-erh seems as if molasses was mixed into it than what you have is a cooked pu-erh; especially if it is a young. Furthermore, the price is a good indication as to whether a pu-erh is cooked or not. If a vendor is selling a beeng or brick for $15.00 USD that looks like chewing tobacco, then again, you would have to assume that it is cooked. Most vendors do really well in labeling their pu-erh as cooked. I really don't have to elaborate on young cakes for they are obviously green to the eye. Go to www.houdeasianart.com and look through their pu-erh section. They have excellent thumnails that you can browse and inspect the diffrence yourself.

If you are new to pu-erh, I would really shy away from teas such as the Adagio pu-erh (sorry Adagio), and go with Meng Hai, Xia Guan, Hai Wan factories and others so that you can train your palate between the different factories and qualities. You really have to treat Pu-erh tea as if it is wine. It would not be fair to get your palate accustomed to cheap twist off wine before you get to taste the good stuff. In a rudimentary sense, Pu-erh is like cheese in that it is "living". Both tea and pu-erh have microbes that will continously alter their state which will give them different characteristic over time, and it would not be fair to someone who is trying to obtain a true appreciation of pu-erh tea if they always opt for the cheap and not the good. I know that price can be a factor as you had stated, however, I would suggest to you to start with some moderately priced young, aged and antique uncooked pu-erhs to get your brain thinking of what is good and what is not. (Your cutting yourself short if you go directly to the cooked in my opinion) You can do this by by buying samples of cakes or bricks by the gm or oz. Talk to Guang and Irene at Houdeasianart.com. They were very helpful in giving me advise on how to appreciate and and discern between good and bad pu-erhs, even some good SINGLE ESTATE pu-erhs. Most of the people that I have been aquainted with that drink pu-erh do so for quality and not quantity. By all means im not aficionado but I am very comfortable with the knowledge that I have acquired thus far and I would hate for someone to get a hold of some bad stuff and turn them off to this great and mysterious adventure.

Happy sipping!
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Re: Cooked or uncooked

Postby expatCanuck » Dec 28th, '06, 21:02

hop_goblin wrote:...Both tea and pu-erh have microbes ...


Ummm - Did you mean to say "Both cheese and pu-erh have microbes"?

I'd agree that one wants to avoid the Adagio Pu-Erh (tho', really, I do like most of the black, oolong & white I've tried).

But how does one know what might be good? From what little I've read, a raw Pu-Erh can be okay in 5 years, with an additional 3 being the next plateau ... etc. Is that a decent benchmark?
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Re: Cooked or uncooked

Postby jogrebe » Dec 28th, '06, 21:37

expatCanuck wrote:But how does one know what might be good? From what little I've read, a raw Pu-Erh can be okay in 5 years, with an additional 3 being the next plateau ... etc. Is that a decent benchmark?


That is the case with green/raw puerh. A good quality black/cooked/ripe puerh is good ready to drink when you buy it.
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Re: Cooked or uncooked

Postby hop_goblin » Dec 29th, '06, 01:37

expatCanuck wrote:
hop_goblin wrote:...Both tea and pu-erh have microbes ...


Ummm - Did you mean to say "Both cheese and pu-erh have microbes"?

I'd agree that one wants to avoid the Adagio Pu-Erh (tho', really, I do like most of the black, oolong & white I've tried).

But how does one know what might be good? From what little I've read, a raw Pu-Erh can be okay in 5 years, with an additional 3 being the next plateau ... etc. Is that a decent benchmark?


As stated, Pu-erh tea does have microbes. The microbes found in pu-erh tea include Aspergillus Niger, Saccharomyces, and Penicillium. The microbes contribute to the taste and health benefits of pu-erh tea. As for your question regarding green/raw pu-erh, pu-erh can be drunk at any stage. However, collectors tend to wait until it is aged a bit. The object is to wait until you decide when you like it, and you may find out that a green pu-erh will be enjoyable from the moment you recieve it.

It is virtually impossible to determine if a pu-erh will be worth the time investment of aging without first trying it. Buy a sample and brew it. If after a few brews you determine that the sheng's (uncooked) leaf grade, taste, color and infusion capibility (doesn't cashout in only 3 infusions) and you feel that it is worth the time and investment then buy a few cakes, bricks or even a tong and store it and try it again in a year or two. From what I have gathered, 7 years to 10 years is around the time that one can start tasting and seeing definite and measurable differences. This or course is not to say that the taste and color will not change annually, but around 10 years the pu-erh can be referred as "aged", and the mellowness and tasting notes start seducing your palate.

Furthermore, it would be nice to buy a few cakes that are already 4 or 5 years old to start your collection in conjuction with new vintages so that you can start to have a collection worth drinking right this moment. These cakes wont be much more than new vintages and will cut your time to wait drastically. My own personal collecting rule is to buy atleast 3 of the same vintage and factory, and recipe. This way I can have a cake to drink now, another to divde in two halves and try one half in a couple of years, and the other half in 4 or so years. And one whole untouched cake to either save for investment or to taste in 7-10 years. In the mean time, buy samples of good aged stuff and good ripe pu-erh to hold you over until your collection starts to pay off. I hope this helps.

Cheers
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Re: Cooked or uncooked

Postby lenny7 » Dec 29th, '06, 02:02

hop_goblin wrote:I hope this helps.


hop_goblin, thanks for the great explanation! That clears up some of the questions I had regarding pu erh tea.

I see you're in Minnesota. Do you know of any place in the Twin Cities where one could find pu erh tea? I've ordered some from Yunnan Sourcing but when it comes time to brew it I'll be lost. I'd like to find someplace in the area where it could be sampled.

Regards
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Re: Cooked or uncooked

Postby hop_goblin » Dec 29th, '06, 02:19

lenny7 wrote:
hop_goblin wrote:I hope this helps.


hop_goblin, thanks for the great explanation! That clears up some of the questions I had regarding pu erh tea.

I see you're in Minnesota. Do you know of any place in the Twin Cities where one could find pu erh tea? I've ordered some from Yunnan Sourcing but when it comes time to brew it I'll be lost. I'd like to find someplace in the area where it could be sampled.

Regards


Your welcome!!

Actually no place in MN worth buying from. All of my pu-erhs are from oversees or from reputable vendors here in the states. I would recommend www.houdeasianart.com You can buy a variety of pu-erhs from them and shipping is free. Also, www.pu-erhtea.com is based out of Indiana and they are very good and fast. I know, its pretty bad up north. There is just not enough interest. Lots of frufru tea shops selling "sunrise morning mist Tea" what ever that is! LOL

P.S. at Houde Asian art, they have an excellent 272 pg. book on pu-erh and pu-erh appreciation typed in ENGLISH! "First Steps to Chinese pu-erh", Better get them while they are there!
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Re: Cooked or uncooked

Postby jogrebe » Dec 29th, '06, 02:42

hop_goblin wrote:Also, www.pu-erhtea.com is based out of Indiana and they are very good and fast. I know, its pretty bad up north. There is just not enough interest. Lots of frufru tea shops selling "sunrise morning mist Tea" what ever that is! LOL


You mean http://www.puerhshop.com right? Anyway just be warned that it is a one person company and the owner is on vacation for the month of January so any order that you place now will not ship until February. Still I agree with hop_goblin that it is a very good place to buy puerh with very good tea and service, not to mention very generous free gifts of extra tea tossed in with both of my previous orders I placed with them.
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