Need help, how should pu erh taste?


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

Need help, how should pu erh taste?

Postby Space Samurai » Jan 28th, '07, 05:18

Up until recently, all the pu erh's I have tried have come from Rishi Tea, as I prefer to purchase FTC products. Their pu erh's have a robust, velvety finish that I adore.

Recently I tried an aged pu erh cake that was sourced by The Republic of Tea, and I found it to be flat, thin, and full of tannins, quite unpleasant.

Now I have no idea what the "norm" is. Can anyone please enlighten me on what I should expect?
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Taste

Postby hop_goblin » Jan 28th, '07, 14:58

This is an intersting question. Taste varys from one person to the next as a consequence of oderiforous capability and external habits such as smoking. However, pu-erh should have various taste sensations such as sweet, floral, camphor, and others which are found in delicate layers of the "earthy taste". the degree of which one will taste these characteristics depends on the quality and storage of the pu-erh that is being tasted. The best I can recommend to you is to buy samples to train your palate.
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Re: Need help, how should pu erh taste?

Postby bearsbearsbears » Jan 30th, '07, 11:09

spacesamurai wrote:Recently I tried an aged pu erh cake that was sourced by The Republic of Tea, and I found it to be flat, thin, and full of tannins, quite unpleasant.

Now I have no idea what the "norm" is. Can anyone please enlighten me on what I should expect?


There's no real "norm"...but there's "boundaries." Pu'er has an unbelievably wide spectrum of flavors, and any tea changes as it ages...from unpleasant bitter/tannic/astringent young raw tea to deep, woody, sweet old tea. But between these two extremes lays a large space for possible flavors...and they're all found in one pu'er or another!

A couple of questions: was this cake cooked or raw pu'er? how old was it? Because, young raw pu'er can take 10 years before it approaches something pleasant, and even then that requires a humid environment. "Aged" enough for consumption usually means 20 years or more of aging if it's a raw tea.

Also, there's so many different pu'ers stored in so many conditions that it's hard to gauge. The same tea stored in Hong Kong will be very different from the same tea stored in Xi'an.

I hope you don't let one bad cake turn you off to the genre. Lots of aged cakes offer deeper flavors free of tannic nastiness...but it takes time to taste the gradient of flavors and find something you like at a good price.

or just stick with what you know you like :!:
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Postby Space Samurai » Jan 30th, '07, 19:51

I don't remember too much about it, we were cupping a variety of teas that day. I don't know if it was cooked, but it was a green pu-erh, and I think it was from the 70's, and it was from Yunnan, but the vendor wasn't specific as to where exactly.
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Postby bearsbearsbears » Jan 31st, '07, 04:13

spacesamurai wrote:I don't remember too much about it, we were cupping a variety of teas that day. I don't know if it was cooked, but it was a green pu-erh, and I think it was from the 70's, and it was from Yunnan, but the vendor wasn't specific as to where exactly.


well, 1970s teas are usually good...so...perhaps it was brewed improperly, poorly stored, or cooked pu'er, which tends to go flatter with age. Hard to say. amongst the 1970s teas, even if stored properly and brewed perfectly, there has to be a few duds!

this post makes me want to drink aged pu'er so bad! :( :( I miss Taiwan and Hong Kong. No old tea in Shanghai!
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Postby deadfingers » Jan 31st, '07, 17:21

I guess I can chime in here as well, I recently bought a cooked and uncooked couple of bricks from houdeasianart and I was a littls surprised. I know Puerh is known for getting better with each progressive infusion but it really doesn't change a whole lot for me. I have the cooked one, and that one is really dark, I mean it looks like black coffee and it tastes pretty strong and bitter. The other is a lot lighter (it's uncooked) but the first infusion is really bitter, while the second one is really smooth but doesn't have much flavor/taste to it. Am I doing something wrong? I usually start with a 1 min infusion of 208 degree water then up it a minute each time, sometimes an increase of 2 minutes each time. This is my first time trying Puerh, so is there anything you guys would recommend that is stronger in taste? thanks
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Postby bearsbearsbears » Feb 1st, '07, 05:42

deadfingers wrote:I guess I can chime in here as well, I recently bought a cooked and uncooked couple of bricks from houdeasianart and I was a littls surprised. I know Puerh is known for getting better with each progressive infusion but it really doesn't change a whole lot for me. I have the cooked one, and that one is really dark, I mean it looks like black coffee and it tastes pretty strong and bitter. The other is a lot lighter (it's uncooked) but the first infusion is really bitter, while the second one is really smooth but doesn't have much flavor/taste to it. Am I doing something wrong? I usually start with a 1 min infusion of 208 degree water then up it a minute each time, sometimes an increase of 2 minutes each time. This is my first time trying Puerh, so is there anything you guys would recommend that is stronger in taste? thanks


Most of the time, pu'er is brewed with boiling water, shorter infusions, and more leaf...something like 1g of leaf per 15ml of water, or roughly 1/4 to 1/3 full of a pot/gaiwan. After a quick initial rinse of 10-20 seconds, the first infusions usually steep for 5-25 seconds, depending on the tea. Get to know the tea by brewing it and the best infusion times will reveal themselves. Also, the personal preference factor determines infusion times, leaf amounts, water temperatures, but the above is a good place to start.

Give it a try, see if you like it better. Brewing infusions for 1 min, 2 min, 3 min, is bringing a lot of the tea out at once. Cutting back infusion times will release the flavors slower and more consistently.

Also, young uncooked pu'er can taste rather nasty, though some (especially larger-leafed young uncooked pu'er) are tasty now.
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Postby deadfingers » Feb 2nd, '07, 05:19

Thanks for the tip, so I guess next time I will start with 1 min then go to like 4 then 7 or so. I will play around with the times and such, as well as the leaf amount.
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Postby deadfingers » Feb 5th, '07, 00:49

Well I tried it a few times and now it seems to be worse than ever. Every cup seems to be really really bitter and astringent. I mean before it would have some smooth taste to it, not very strong but definitely not as bitter. I tend to cut into the brick with my knife since breaking it apart by hand takes a lot longer and usually makes more of a mess. Is there something I'm doing wrong? I also leave it in the same paper it came in and just leave it out on my desk.
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Postby Salsero » Feb 5th, '07, 01:09

I think BearsBearsBears was suggesting steeping for 5 to 10 SECONDS for a start and slowly moving up from there, maybe, depending on the astringency. Sounds like you may be steeping way too long.

Cloud has a YouTube video about how to break up a tea cake and another about breaking up a discus tea cake at

http://www.cloudsteacollection.com/html/video01.html

The Pu-erh Live Journal community at

http://community.livejournal.com/puerh_tea/

is a good place to learn and get advice. If you click on the "Puerh Reviews" title at the top you will be directed to some reviews of particular teas, some of which will tell you exactly how long they steeped each infusion and what the results were.

If your uncooked puerh is at all young, you may want to back the water temp down to 160 F or 180 F to control astringency. I think the cooked puerh is usually done pretty much just off the boil.

The Hou De website is down the last few days, but if you e-mail Guang for specific brewing suggestions, I suspect he will be very obliging. Also, at the Puer LJ community you may be able to get more expert suggestions if you mention the details of your specific puerhs, i.e., year, company, name, etc.

I suppose you've already visited Mike Petro's fine site at

http://www.pu-erh.net/

Good Luck.

Tom
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Postby deadfingers » Feb 5th, '07, 20:32

Thanks for the info, well I tried about 5-6 infusions each lasting about 3 mins each and it didn't get smooth and tasting good until the 4th or 5th one. Maybe I will lower the temps down to 180 and go from there. I will check out those videos when I get home, I was thinking of emailing them at Houdeasianart.com to find out more info on how to brew this sort of Puerh. I mean I bought both bricks off them, one they no longer sell there anymore so I need to find out the info and such, hopefully they still have my account stuff on there so they can give me some pointers. The other one I've only tried once and it was smooth but tasted weird. It was cooked, but I guess the appearance threw me off. It looked like black coffee almost, it was really black. I have to try it again sometime.
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Postby Salsero » Feb 5th, '07, 21:13

You keep says MINUTES for these infusions. Do you mean SECONDS? If you are doing 2-3 minute infusions, they are too long.

Guang at Hou De is very patient with those of us who have a steep learning curve ahead. Don't hesitate to e-mail him a question.
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Postby deadfingers » Feb 5th, '07, 21:33

Salsero wrote:You keep says MINUTES for these infusions. Do you mean SECONDS? If you are doing 2-3 minute infusions, they are too long.

Guang at Hou De is very patient with those of us who have a steep learning curve ahead. Don't hesitate to e-mail him a question.


Huh? Here is what I do. I put a decent amount of Puerh in the filter/cup, I "flush" it with boiling water for 20 seconds. After that I dump the water then begin my first infusion. I add boiling water and let it sit for 3 minutes, pull the filter out (with the tea leaves) and drink. I resteep the tea leaves using the boiling water again at 3 mins. I was reading some things on pu-erh.net on how to prepare it and figured this was probably too long. I guess I must have had some bad info from another site or something. On pu-erh.net it says start with 15 seconds for the first couple of infusions then 30 sec and 60 sec and so on and so forth. I will try that when I get home.
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Postby Salsero » Feb 5th, '07, 21:51

You will make me very happy if you do!

:-D !!!
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Postby deadfingers » Feb 6th, '07, 20:28

Well I tried it just like how pu-erh.net said to and it tasted a whole lot better. Not one cup was even slightly bitter, it was quite good, delicate but pretty good. I need to try it with the other cooked brick I have.
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