Where to start?


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

Where to start?

Postby brandon » Dec 4th, '07, 22:28

I have tried several shous and the infamous 93 "wild leaf" sheng, but I have barely scratched the surface on puerh.

Could our pu experts here chime in with some of their top picks for newbies? Preferably these are available in samples of 1oz or less.

Also, it would be really great if you would share your brewing parameters on these.
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Re: Where to start?

Postby bearsbearsbears » Dec 5th, '07, 15:46

bhale wrote:Could our pu experts here chime in with some of their top picks for newbies? Preferably these are available in samples of 1oz or less.


I'm going to assume you want a US vendor for speedy delivery and frugal shipping. I'm organizing this by vendor then by type, all of which are 2oz or less and affordable. The young sheng I've listed below I've chosen because they're drinkable and enjoyable now, even though they're young. Ask me for recommendations on ageable young sheng and you'd get a more expanded list.

Houdeasianart.com:
Aged: 1996 Orange-in-Orange, 1998 Yesheng Qiaomu
Sheng: 2004 Yanqing Hao, 05/06 Mingyuan Hao, 05 Xizhihao Lao Banzhang, Nannuo Maocha

Puerhshop.com:
Sheng: 2003 Keyixing Yiwu

No vendors appear to sell samples of shou cakes. The better shou I've had are below. Many vendors sell these cakes, but most are available through foreign vendors (ebay vendors like Yunnan Sourcing, Dragon Tea House, Awazon, and others like Royal Pu'er/Teaspring, etc):

Menghai Golden Needle White Lotus (any year, 05 is best)
Menghai 7452 (any year)
Menghai 7562 zhuan (any year)
Menghai "Adorned in Red" (2007)
Menghai "Ba Ji Pu Bing" (??)
fengqing cooked tuo (2003?)
Gong ting ripe mini cake (2005, red phoenix label)
2006 xiaguan baoyan premium ripe
huang chan fang's roasted fu cube shou (sold by Dragon Tea House as 2003 Coin Top Grade)
shou stuffed into tangerine rind

bhale wrote:Also, it would be really great if you would share your brewing parameters on these.


There is no such thing as sharing brewing parameters unless you use a gaiwan. Pots of different thicknesses and pour times will produce very different brews even with the same leaf ratios and steep times.

In general, for gaiwans, I use 1 gram leaf to 15ml of water in a gaiwan, and pour fast. If the leaves are small or chopped, like gongting grade cooked pu'er or cheaper young sheng, I use 1g leaf to 20-25ml water. Cooked tea I rinse 30 seconds, raw tea i rinse 15-20 seconds. I steep ~20s the first infusion and flash the tea until it mellows, then up my steep times. I adjust based on the strength of each infusion, of course.

If I'm using an unglazed pot, I eyeball it based on the thickness of the walls, the pour time, and previous experience with brewing tea in the pot. You should brew tea the way your pot likes to brew the tea, rather than stick to set ratios, set steep times, and set water temperatures. Unglazed pots are instruments of Cha Dao moreso than gaiwans, in my opinion, because they require more of your intuition and because they progress in their seasoning as you progress in your brewing skill.
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Postby Mary R » Dec 5th, '07, 18:30

As lovely as yixing pots are...I break things too frequently. Were I to smash a nicely seasoned pot, I'd be one sad puppy. Until I magically develop some grace, I'm a gaiwan girl. So, I'd highly recommend using a gaiwan over a series of yixing pots if you're just beginning.

</2cents>
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Postby bearsbearsbears » Dec 5th, '07, 18:43

Mary R wrote:So, I'd highly recommend using a gaiwan over a series of yixing pots if you're just beginning.</2cents>


:!: For many reasons, I recommend gaining skill using cheap gaiwans before moving on to more expensive teaware, but playing around with a cheap yixing can be educational and relatively low risk, as it might not season well anyway :shock:
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Postby Mary R » Dec 5th, '07, 18:49

True that. The trick is finding a cheap pot with a good pour. I've got a couple inexpensive yixing, and I can't say that I'm impressed with their pouring.
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Postby bearsbearsbears » Dec 5th, '07, 19:20

Mary R wrote:True that. The trick is finding a cheap pot with a good pour. I've got a couple inexpensive yixing, and I can't say that I'm impressed with their pouring.


Talking to your vendor before you buy to prevent that. Ask them to pick a pot with the pour you'd like (no dribble, no lid leak, fast/slow), or to find one for you. Most are willing to do it if you give them time.
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Postby Mary R » Dec 5th, '07, 20:56

As always, you speak the truth.
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Postby brandon » Dec 5th, '07, 21:38

Bears, just what I needed, thanks a bunch.
I am currently using a gaiwan or small (6oz) infuser cup for puerh, as my only "yixing" (Taiwan made) pot is dedicated to yancha. It has an OK pour FWIW.
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Postby divintea » Dec 6th, '07, 12:30

What does Pu Erh taste like?
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not for everyone

Postby bearsbearsbears » Dec 6th, '07, 15:01

divintea wrote:What does Pu Erh taste like?


When old: Dirt, mulch, mushrooms, wet bark, "forest floor", camphor, black cherry, dried plums, chinese medicine...

When young: hay, straw, cedar, ripe fruit, butter, caramel, tobacco/ash, fresh lumber...

And that's only if it's good! :lol:
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Postby brandon » Dec 7th, '07, 20:37

By your advice I have started with Hou De:

2005 Xi-Zhi Hao "Lao Ban Zhan", Uncooked
2006 Spring Nan Nuo "Ban Po Lao Zhai" Sun-dried Mao Cha, 2oz
2005 Ming-Yuan Hao Yi-Wu Wild Old Tree Cake, Uncooked 1 oz
1996 Chung Cha "Orange-in-Orange" #7532, uncooked 20g Sample
1998 MengHai "Yieh Sheng Chiao Mu" Ching Beeng, 10g

For luck, a slightly aged yancha:
2005 Spring Wuyi Yen Cha "Shui Xian", 2oz

Rock on!
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Postby bearsbearsbears » Dec 8th, '07, 05:16

bhale wrote:By your advice I have started with Hou De

[snip]

Rock on!


I look forward to reading what you think of them. post your thoughts on the pu'er lj or post them here. :o
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Postby brandon » Dec 18th, '07, 08:40

I just got my order from Hou De, I started with Orange-in-Orange yesterday.
Awesome. So far my only reference is to compare it to Rishi Puerh Maiden (their best shu), but much cleaner all around.
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Postby hop_goblin » Dec 18th, '07, 22:20

bhale wrote:I just got my order from Hou De, I started with Orange-in-Orange yesterday.
Awesome. So far my only reference is to compare it to Rishi Puerh Maiden (their best shu), but much cleaner all around.



I am so happy Bhale that you are starting to find out what good puerh taste like!! And believe it or not, Orange on Orange is just a good sheng.. There are even better ones out there! ;) Nonetheless, it is a great place to start
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Postby brandon » Dec 20th, '07, 12:59

The story so far:

I have tasted a few of these first three in a few sittings, gong fu style.
I used a 6 oz duanni yixing pot, and placed in roughly the same ammount of each tea. This was measured by eye, I did not use a scale or a timer. I did manage to come up with pretty good results throughout each infusion by adjusting brew times, but I am neither a gong fu or puerh expert. These reviews are very basic and not shaded by my brewing method.

1996 Chung Cha "Orange-in-Orange"
The first I've tried, I could relate some of the flavors to "Puerh Maiden", but it was distinctly cleaner in flavor, and surely had some more subtle notes that I am not able to pick up on yet. It was completely enjoyable.

2005 Ming-Yuan Hao Yi-Wu Wild Old Tree Cake
Second try, this tea set off a lightbulb. I now understood the references to "camphor" in all the blogs about puerh. It had a completely different profile from the Orange-in-Orange, but I have no idea if this was more influenced from the source mountain or its much younger state. A little sweet, a little camphor, pretty good.

1998 MengHai "Yieh Sheng Chiao Mu" Ching Beeng
I started with a *slightly* smaller amount of tea here as I received a very small sample. I tried to stay on the short side of the brew here, because this tea had the stereotypical "earthy" (read: dirt) taste that at first turned me off from puerh. It was not nearly as strong as the flavor of low-grade shou, but it was present and the remaining profile was flat. I was reluctant to up the brew time and bring out more dirt flavor, because there were no redeeming qualities that I picked up to keep me coming back to this tea. Sorry, Meng Hia.

So far 2 very goods out of 3. I will consider doing more in-depth reviews of my favorites after I get through the rest of the pack and develop a better taste for more subtle notes.
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