OTTI Round #5 Pu-OTTI, Young Raw Pu-erh


"Official Tea Tasting Initiative" Teas shared & discussed.

Re: NEW!!! OTTI Round #5 Young Raw Pu-erh

Postby Seeker » Aug 25th, '10, 03:11

This OTT has stimulated some thoughts as well as some questions for me regarding puerh, a complex area of tea IMHO. I'm curious to share these thoughts and questions and hopefully to broaden my knowledge of this fascinating tea here. I'm excited. :D
Thoughts: Given that our 1st round of pu is young sheng, my thoughts circle around that I have rarely tasted a young sheng puerh that I consider "drinkable". I am taught by my local experts that "good" puerh is most typically aged to a significant degree (or the other option is that it is "cooked"/"ripe" = shou). I am further taught that sheng pu must age a long time to become "good". Please dont misunderstand me here - it is clear to me that anyone may enjoy whatever tea they do however they do, and i support this totally. Its just that it seems to me that the enjoyment of young shengs is not traditional, and in my experience thus far, this is for good reason. Every young sheng I have tasted so far has been some combination of extremely harsh, intensely smokey or even ash-y. As a result I have come to suspect that the enjoyment of young shengs is an atypical or even eclectic or somewhat unique taste/preference.
Questions: does anyone else have this sense of things regarding this tea?
What about cakes made entirely of silver needle? (I've had these young and quite enjoy them, but the green ones, whew!).
I'd like to qualify that I don't think a tea can be considered "good" in general (to a majority of consumers) if it has to be rinsed several times and/or the first few or even several infusions have to be tossed for their overly harsh nature (I say this as I have read some saying that this is how to brew some young shengs).
Wow! I wrote a lot here, and now I'm concerned. :?
I hope it's alright.
I love good puerh, and I'm excited to experience and learn via this OTT, regardless of how I like the tea.
Cheers!
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Re: NEW!!! OTTI Round #5 Young Raw Pu-erh

Postby Chip » Aug 25th, '10, 23:36

Your points are merited and thought provoking, thank you.

I do not purport to be an expert in the realm of pu-erh, quite the contrary ... I am in this (and other OTTI past and future) in order to learn as well ... side by side with other members of TeaChat.

It seemed logical to start with a young sheng in this series of Pu-OTTIs. Will this Pu-OTTI be the best Pu-OTTI, I do not know ... in fact nobody does ... thus we sample and taste and discover the mysteries that are hidden in the leaves.

I think we are set up with a very good line up of young raw pu-erh from two very respected vendors who provided a lot of input and advice and confirmed the logic of starting here.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed the prelim tastings so far and found myself craving the next opp to sample one of these pu. To me this was a shock since I generally only crave sencha.

So we live to learn ... :mrgreen:
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Re: NEW!!! OTTI Round #5 Young Raw Pu-erh

Postby AdamMY » Aug 25th, '10, 23:49

Seeker,

It is odd in my opinion to "appreciate" young puerh, you need to throw out conventional views on what makes a good tea. Such as in a good young puerh, I look for it to be exceedingly bitter, almost to a point of undrinkable. Though I really measure its quality in a certain rather hard to explain quality. Basically if I feel compelled to keep drinking due to some sort of hidden characteristic, and how compelled I am to keep drinking the tea is how I sort of "rank" young sheng.

As Chip said it might not seem likely thought tasting it, but young sheng can be somewhat addicting, though the addiction is usually somewhat short lived.

Hope this helps.
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Re: NEW!!! OTTI Round #5 Young Raw Pu-erh

Postby debunix » Aug 25th, '10, 23:54

Three of the four puerhs that I now crave most started out with a most unpromising introduction. I was doing one of my first gongfu sessions ever with the 2007 white bud sheng that is now my favorite tea, used what I would now consider too much tea for the size of brewing vessel (can't honestly remember if this was in a small gaiwan or very small clay pot), and got distracted so the first infusion was for 80 seconds instead of 20.

I spat that one out and dumped the rest of the infusion. If I'd stopped then, I would have missed out on my favorite tea. But I shortened up the next infusions a lot--10 seconds--and suddenly I was happy. And it grew on me more and more. Now I can pretty much tell by the smell when it's going to be right. I most often brew it up a thermos full at a time, so I sniff the thermos as I go, increasing or decreasing the time for the series of a 6 or 8 small infusions it takes to fill up the thermos, and it's always delicious. When I do a small batch gongfu style it's a real treat.

The next would be the 2009 Lao Mansa, another private pressing from Norbu. I tried it with boiling water and it was intolerably bitter, and I tried shorter infusions, still didn't like it, and set the sample aside in the back of the cupboard. Then it was featured in a tasting in another forum, and I brought it back out and joined in. I found that treating it like a green tea, brewing cooler, suddenly made a delicious sweet spicy tea with a bit of a kick. I bought a whole beeng of this one, thinking I'd take a bit from time to time to see how it aged, but with some practice, I can now brew it pretty reliably to my taste with much hotter water, and am pondering whether I will have the discipline to keep enough of it around to age for even 5 or 10 years.

And my Lao Ban Zhang Mao Cha was, as advertised, rather bitter at first sip too, and it does still take a fair bit of manipulation to make me happy, careful attention to time and temp and a good long rinse, but then I get infusion after infusion of pure joy.

Comparing that to my adventures with green teas, including senchas, it's not so different. I brew them cool, I brew them relatively dilute, I brew them short. I poured out and composted a fair bit of tea before I 'got' to a point where I could not only like, but actually crave them.

Oolongs are the only teas where that hasn't been the case. They have generally been love at first taste for me.
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Re: NEW!!! OTTI Round #5 Young Raw Pu-erh

Postby nickE » Aug 26th, '10, 00:11

I guess I'm a bit traditional in that I brew most young Shengpu with boiling water and ~7g/100ml. That said, I think bitterness accompanying young Shengpu is somewhat of a misconception. The three Nadacha Shengpu that are included in this OTTI were not very bitter at all for me. Nada's Banpen & Bulang are another story, but even that I consider to be kuwei, or "pleasant bitterness."

In my mind, the highly appraised bitterness from a Bulang is leagues different than the bitterness you'd get if you oversteeped some 7542 by accident. A good kuwei should cut through the mouth and move quickly into the huigan. An oversteeped 7542 would contain flavor-masking bitterness that would make the whole session rather unpleasant.

Anyway, appreciating young Shengpu is really a "new school" vs. "old school" debate. If you like it, drink it. Isn't that the point of tea? I drink it not only because I like the taste, but also because it creates an interesting parallel between aged & unaged Puerh.

These are just my opinions of course, your mileage may differ.
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Re: NEW!!! OTTI Round #5 Young Raw Pu-erh

Postby Chip » Aug 26th, '10, 00:42

... I have had bitter young sheng that would cause your hair to fall out. The EoT offerings were not like this at all. These are quite enjoyable now ... and btw, I consider myself fairly sensitive to bitter. They were not really smokey either ... I have had young sheng that was like a smoke house.

I cannot speak about the offerings from MandarinsTearoom as the 2 beeng are still intact, and I tasted some shakes (leaf particles that fell off onto the wrapper) and therefore are not representative of the tea.
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Re: NEW!!! OTTI Round #5 Young Raw Pu-erh

Postby Seeker » Aug 26th, '10, 03:06

The plot thickens...
My excitement and anticipation grows.
I'm enjoying hearing each persons thoughts about young sheng puerh.
Cheers.
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Re: NEW!!! OTTI Round #5 Young Raw Pu-erh

Postby Drax » Aug 26th, '10, 08:16

Seeker, that was a great question, and I have been enjoying the responses.

One of the issues, partly alluded to, is that pu'erh is usually very sensitive to steeping times. Thus a few seconds (especially early on) may be the difference between a nice cup of tea and paint remover. It's not unusual for pu'erhs of all ages to be able to be steeped for 10+ times (even 20-30 not unheard of).

Additionally, I have not seen any hard evidence on what makes a good tea to age. Most people say that the more caustic the tea (again, see above statement) in its youth, the better the aging potential. This line of reasoning seems to assume that the chemical compounds responsible for the bitterness/causticness are the ones that get converted into the woodiness and camphorness of an aged pu'erh. This does not necessarily have to be true. I would really enjoy seeing something that can link these ideas to actual chemical compounds and their transformations.

I keep going to this idea of hard evidence because, for awhile, the wikipedia entry on matcha had some statement about chlorophylls being converted to tannins. It may sound good, but any chemist knows how improbable such a statement is. These transformations aren't magical. They happen for a reason, and until you can demonstrate the underlying causes, everything is speculation, and you will find that which you thought was true, was not.
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Re: NEW!!! OTTI Round #5 Young Raw Pu-erh

Postby Drax » Aug 27th, '10, 07:06

Oops! I killed the thread! :oops:

Um, so, how's that follow-through going, Chip? Anybody I can help you flog, er, "encourage"....? :mrgreen:
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Re: NEW!!! OTTI Round #5 Young Raw Pu-erh

Postby TwoPynts » Aug 27th, '10, 14:21

Drax wrote:Oops! I killed the thread! :oops:


Don't worry, you didn't. I'm still enjoying reading the feedback to Seeker's question. I wish I had something to add, but I'm still a pu novice, esp. with Sheng. Chip, what's the good word on mailing out the samples? The only one I've tried so far has been Clouds Tea Collection No. 2 and I liked it very much. A very different character from the ripe stuff, but very little of the bitter and smokiness I expected from a young raw pu-erh. Of course, they advertise it as ready to drink now. In fact, I think I'll have some this afternoon. :)
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Re: NEW!!! OTTI Round #5 Young Raw Pu-erh

Postby kymidwife » Aug 29th, '10, 01:00

Crud, this is what happens when I have a busy week at work and don't get on TeaChat. Hate I missed this, and will look forward to hearing the reviews.

Sarah
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Re: NEW!!! OTTI Round #5 Young Raw Pu-erh

Postby Marco » Aug 29th, '10, 14:23

Wow it didn't start yet (Chip is everything prepared?) and is already very interesting.
What seeker mentioned is also one of my questions with pu erh.
If I want to buy raw pu erh for drinking right away and over time (should get better with time - right?), do I have to buy a 2005 or earlier pu?
If I buy one from 2009 - which is more affordable for me than an old one - do I have to store it for 5 years, or 10 years or something before it gets really good?
Yes it is clear that it depends on everyone’s taste.

But pu erh is a storage tea. And for wine I know when I buy a good one, when about it will have its peak and be best. When do I get the best of any particular pu that this one pu can give me - how do I know?

eager for learning
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Re: NEW!!! OTTI Round #5 Young Raw Pu-erh

Postby Drax » Aug 29th, '10, 14:49

Marco, I think there are two big unknown issues that complicate the answers to your questions.

The first is one that has already been brought up -- it's not completely clear what qualities in a young pu'erh will mean awesome qualities in an aged pu'erh. Will all pu'erh become gold after 10-20 years? One can only hope.

The second one is this question of drinking young pu'erh. I have heard some say that this trend is a recent one, perhaps on-set by the pu'erh rush of the mid-2000s. Even if this trend is not true, I have also heard people say that more manufacturers have created (or at least, marketed) their teas as "drinkable now." The great unknown question (and most worrisome) is what did these 'changes' in making the tea drinkable now do to the long-term aging potential of the tea?

Although it's nice to enjoy a cup of young pu'erh, the goal for most of us is in the aged pu'erh. If you sample teas at various ages, you will begin to develop a feel for the pu'erh "spectrum" of age. And yes, you may actually prefer something mid-age (5-10 years) over something older. Or there may be times when you just need a kick in the teeth and brew up a current-year Bulang.

In this case, each tea will be different. The tea itself, its packing style (loose versus tuo versus beeng, etc), and its storage condition will directly affect how and how quickly it ages.

Incidentally, I have heard it said that pu'erh tea will peak as well. However, I think these times are usually quoted in the 30+ year range, so perhaps not a pressing concern for most of us...

You'll note that many of my statements say "I've heard..." -- there's a lot of rumor and passing of information, but it's usually quite difficult to find an original source or something grounded in anything but farmer or seller speculation - not that the latter is a bad thing. Remember that pu'erh is excellent for weight loss :D
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Re: NEW!!! OTTI Round #5 Young Raw Pu-erh

Postby Chip » Aug 29th, '10, 20:49

Thanks for posting everyone.

It looks like Pu-OTTI will go out Tuesday/Wednesday. :mrgreen:
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Re: NEW!!! OTTI Round #5 Young Raw Pu-erh

Postby Chip » Aug 30th, '10, 21:12

So, I finally did prelim tastings for each of the 5 offerings. I am quite impressed! I feel each is quite drinkable despite being young sheng.

I hope everyone likes them as well. :mrgreen:
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