Killer tea... what to do?


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Killer tea... what to do?

Postby Drax » Aug 15th, '12, 17:01

I remember when I first started trying pu'erh, I had a few teas that would "kill" my taste buds. By which, I mean that after a few cups, I could no longer actually taste the tea. I could usually still sense some astringency or draw, but the flavor was completely gone (and it's not related to a cold or any illness).

I recalled posting about this phenomenon a few years back when I first encountered it, in fact, I found the old thread right here.

I haven't had the problem very often in the intervening years, but it has happened occasionally. I'm writing again about it now because I've just had it happen -- this time with the 2002 Tai Lian "Kungming Tea Market Opening" sheng. It had a rather young profile in the first cup and a strong draw/astringency (I'm sensing a common factor here). By the third cup, I could taste nothing!

So I suppose I have two questions here. First -- has anybody had this issue with this particular tea? And second, if you've had this problem happen to you... anything in particular that you've done? Usually I just stop and wait until the next day to try it again, but I'm wondering if anybody has other tactics that might help. I'm thinking about having dinner now, trying another cup and seeing if my palate has reset...
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Re: Killer tea... what to do?

Postby apache » Aug 15th, '12, 17:24

I know shah82 is a fan of this one, but this I'm afraid I cannot drink more than a few cups. I know I'm not answering your question directly, but it seems it got something really doesn't get on me well. I just avoid it and thank God I only have sample of it.
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Re: Killer tea... what to do?

Postby shah82 » Aug 15th, '12, 17:57

Well, I'm a big fan of the International version, with the globe (for the price). I've never had the Kunming Market Opening.

Apache, yeah, I remember, the mulberry sensation? And I presume, the youth...

Drax, I'm not sure what's going on, since I do not typically have trouble tasting tea under any circumstances. Looking at the older thread with the LBZ, well... Projecting what I know about the International, all I'd guess is that it coates the tongue too well, or something. I usually can expect my mouth to smell and taste like the tea for a good while. It also shimmers in flavor profile during the length of the sip. Maybe it's the entrance--my tea can hit the tip of the tongue very hard in a kind of tasteless tartness/bitterness, but that usually resolves into an intense mouth aroma. The International is a *very* active tea, but the taste is usually fairly mild, with fleeting and subtle notes. I suppose it wouldn't surprise me if your buds got numbed, just that it's never happened to me.

It could also be water or method. When I brought this to a tea meet with BBB, Lexrst, Bryan_drinks_Tea, the character was fairly different, being smokier.

I don't know. Tea can be particular to your taste and circumstances. I also suspect that this tea does require repeated tasting to capture what's good about it. I was not originally impressed by this tea when I originally bought it, other than that it had a very complex aroma that changed during the session. However, it had an offputting kind of wierd smoke taste. I broke some of it up and put it in the tin, and after some time, it improved a great deal, especially with strong throat and body feel. The second bing I opened after having stored it a year does not have a strong weird smoke taste--usually.

Try breaking up the rest of the sample, put it in a covered bowl, and wait a couple of weeks? Also, remember, no tea is for everyone, especially anything that's fairly strong, like LBZ or this tea, which I suspect has some Xigui and Bingdao area material in it (even though the taste of both LBZ and Menku/Bangdong can be rather mild). Moreover, any tea like this that tastes more aged is almost certainly going to be quite a bit more expensive. The youth taste is an advantage in terms of an acceptable flaw in exchange for not paying through the nose for something that has real qi, mouthfeel, the works. You can always age it, and it wasn't poorly dry-stored such that it's harsh in the throat.
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Re: Killer tea... what to do?

Postby shah82 » Aug 15th, '12, 18:53

Hmmm, I should add...

I literally could care less, in a sense, if people don't like tea I like. That means more for me at a more affordable price, if finances ever get better, and I personally like this very much and would drink it regularly if I could get away with it.

I care in the sense that I want people to be aware and think of this as a potential choice. What's important is to understand that truly good puerh is getting hoarded and hard for us to get in the West. Two years ago, Nada could go out and get tea, and of the five teas, Man Mai, Man Sai, Bang Wei, Ban Pen, and Bulang, three out of the five had real qi--Man Mai, Bang Wei, and Bulang. Man Sai and Ban Pen still had some nice qualities anyways. They didn't cost that much money either at $40 a bing and $67 for the Bulang. The next year was mixed. Even better cakes, the Douyizhai and Man Nuo, but they were sold at $75 and $65, respectively. We could only buy one small cake of GFZ. The Bulang was weaker. However the prices were higher. The price is even higher today, but from my perspective, only the $200 GFZ and $150 Bangwei would have been worth buying. The Baotang does have good qi, but it's awkward in taste right now, and costs $77.

These changes are reflective of what's going on in the broader market. None of the 2010/2011 XZH I've had are remotely in the class of tea made in 2009 and before. It seems like it's all of a sudden hard to buy a decent Bulang, and east of the Lancang River, if you could buy it at all, the prices are astronomical for high end Youle, Yibang, and the better Yiwu areas. In 2010, you could buy a 2008 ChenShenHao Lao Ban Zhang for $92. It's now almost $500, and more importantly, *new* CSH LBZ costs more or less the same! And outside Banna? Well, at least much of the better stuff actually reaches the market, but it doesn't mean it's cheap!

Now, look at the prices for older tea from 2004 and before. Also look at their natures. First, it's gotten quite abit harder to acquire '90s and earlier teas, with the chief challenge being finding tea that has been stored well. Even in East Asia, people are resigned to chasing tea from the early 2ks. The vast majority of this tea have very little qi, if any, whatsoever. I've had well respected tea, like the Xiaguan Hong Yun replica tea from '03 or '04 (from sampletea) that are just good tasting, smelling tea, with no oomph to speak of in taste or tea character. At least it was made well, so it should be a decent old tea in a decade or two.

How do I judge this?
1) Does this have qi, according to how it affects *my* body?
2) Does it hold the attention. By this, I mean how engaging it is in terms of activity in the mouth and throat? How much does the flavor or aroma command my attention? Is the session interesting?
3) What sort of body/texture does it have? Is it thick and smooth? Is it not, in an interesting and not repulsive way?

Any ole tea can taste good. Smell good. However, that's besides the point, almost, in terms of puerh. Merchants make the bulk of their real money selling good tasting, but inferior teas to people who don't know better. Lots and lots of hongcha-pu.

I put with the youth and wierd acridness (when it shows up) of the
Tai Lian International, because it has a material amount of body qi. Lots of things happen in the aroma and taste, and they linger. Lots of huigans and cooling. There are extremely memorable cups out of the blue, like one a few sessions ago, where it had a indescribable taste close to a floral maple syrup and indescribable aroma to match--it can truly surprise.

I also think it can age, at least as well as the 2001 Yuanyexiang, if not better...

This isn't to say that the Tai Lian is for you. It might not work out the way for you the way it does for me. However, what I do want people to understand, or come closer to understand what a truly involved selection process for a tea is like. It's not the sum of its parts! And in this day and age, YOU WILL NOT FIND PERFECT TEA, even to the extent of what you could find a couple of years ago. Anything that could be really good and without serious flaws, like Kunming storage (and Kunming isn't as bad as many other places, like Beijing), is hoarded like nobody's secret business.
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Re: Killer tea... what to do?

Postby Drax » Aug 15th, '12, 19:24

shah82 wrote:Hmmm, I should add...


:lol: Ummmm... thanks! I was really more interested in the phenomenon of overwhelmed taste buds, but all that other information is good, too. :D

So I continued with the tea about an hour after dinner, and I was able to taste it again -- very thick sheng with a strong bite to it, and just the faintest of faint hints of woodiness. It's got quite a punch even at 10 years. I guess maybe just the first few cups overwhelmed my taste buds? I brewed it 6 grams in a 120 mL gaiwan, but that's normally how I brew.

Interesting, though, that Scott describes this tea (the 'market opening' one) as "less edgy" than the International Expo one. Hrm...! I'll have to put that one on my list to try... apparently it might kill me. :lol:
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Re: Killer tea... what to do?

Postby apache » Aug 15th, '12, 19:41

Glad that we have strong characters in this forum. It's a bit like tea, it needs power or it would be stale and boring. No offend! :mrgreen:
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Re: Killer tea... what to do?

Postby TokyoB » Aug 15th, '12, 21:22

Drax wrote:
shah82 wrote:Hmmm, I should add...


:lol: Ummmm... thanks! I was really more interested in the phenomenon of overwhelmed taste buds, but all that other information is good, too. :D

So I continued with the tea about an hour after dinner, and I was able to taste it again -- very thick sheng with a strong bite to it, and just the faintest of faint hints of woodiness. It's got quite a punch even at 10 years. I guess maybe just the first few cups overwhelmed my taste buds? I brewed it 6 grams in a 120 mL gaiwan, but that's normally how I brew.

Interesting, though, that Scott describes this tea (the 'market opening' one) as "less edgy" than the International Expo one. Hrm...! I'll have to put that one on my list to try... apparently it might kill me. :lol:


Drax - how long are your first few steep times? I've had a sample of this tea and didn't notice anything out of the ordinary.
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Re: Killer tea... what to do?

Postby TwoDog2 » Aug 15th, '12, 21:42

Hmmm...I should add, I love Shah's post. F the haters. If you love a tea, you love a tea. If other people think it is garbage, who cares. And the points about feeling are the big takeaway. Feeling over flavor.

I had a tea a couple of weeks ago with a friend (who is not that into tea) and it's flavor was a little off putting. But, the feeling... After drinking it, I felt like a kite. The taste in my mouth. The feeling in my throat. The calm heat in my body. That's where it's at. Flowers are nice too, but you don't marry flowers.


Drax wrote:
shah82 wrote:Hmmm, I should add...


:lol: Ummmm... thanks! I was really more interested in the phenomenon of overwhelmed taste buds, but all that other information is good, too. :D


Yesterday I was drinking a 2005 Xia Guan cake that gave me something similar to what you are talking about. The draw (I am thinking you mean, the dry pull off of your tongue, like an unpleasant astringency?) was so strong, that it was difficult to gather anything else from the tea. It wasn't blocking the flavor, but it overwhelmed my mouth? The tea was kind of crap. Some other info about that cake: tightly pressed, lots of chopped plantation filler, quite dark for being 7 years old (Stored in guangzhou), soup is amber/dark amber colored, the astringency was generally unpleasant (less like tingling and more like a tannic residue)

Not sure if any of that has any common thread with what you mean or not, Drax
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Re: Killer tea... what to do?

Postby Tead Off » Aug 15th, '12, 23:39

I have some of the 2002 Tai Lian Market Opening tea here. Here are some of my notes on this tea:

Medium straw color with a nose of fruit and wood. Nice flavor of fruit and sharper wood without acrid or storage smell. Quite delicious with some mouth activity. Thick & rich mouthfeel. Dry leaf is packed very hard with mostly chopped leaf. Lively aftertaste. Interesting tea.

I use 5g in a 60ml gaiwan with flash brews to test samples. This is one of the better puerh teas I've had but of course this is subjective. Body chemistry, phases of the moon, and who knows what else can affect how you experience tea.
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Re: Killer tea... what to do?

Postby MarshalN » Aug 16th, '12, 00:03

Alas when I bought a sample of the Tai Lian market cake it came exclusively in fannings. I had to ask YS for a refund (which I got) for the sample because I drinking fannings is not the same as drinking leaves.

I think what shah's describing is what I called drinking with your body. Focusing too much on what's going on inside your mouth with regards to taste and smell is sort of missing the point in terms of drinking raw pu - the tastes and smell will change (sometimes very quickly) whereas the feeling will remain if the tea is good. Chase the feeling, not the taste.
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Re: Killer tea... what to do?

Postby debunix » Aug 16th, '12, 00:32

If the tea doesn't taste good, I'm not going to bother drinking enough of it to find out whether it has any of the other special effects being discussed here. Taste matters a lot!
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Re: Killer tea... what to do?

Postby the_economist » Aug 16th, '12, 01:39

It's a multidimensional problem I think. Too many off tastes and that can turn you against the tea, but as long as the taste is not-too-obtrusive, I think I would chase the feeling, particularly in pu I suspect, since one is usually 'in it' for the long haul.

Good taste on top of good feeling is definitely a plus.
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Re: Killer tea... what to do?

Postby shah82 » Aug 16th, '12, 01:41

Apologies for getting all ranty. I just see the quantity of anything like affordable good puerh continually go down. I read recent posts by ulumochi about the practical consequences of this process and how it drives out honest shopkeeps delivering decent pu, cheap(er). I'm concerned about a future, along with global warming and the general economic crisis of low demand, where puerh that's good at being puerh is rare and expensive. If this is generally a hoarding problem, then the problem will fix itself, but it might take some years. However, it might also be a general exhaustion of the old tea trees, and they might be dying from the local climate change from rubber cultivation and other deforestation, or giving worse and worse new tea from being overpicked--then we'd really be screwed.

Puerh takes a great bit of self-education, to figure out what you want and what you'd want to store. I think there are too many people who want to follow the likes and dislikes of others rather than taste (and educate) for themselves. For best effect, it's a personal experience. While there are (really--*were*) plenty of teas that have a general appeal, for one reason or another, it's a balance of what you're able to live with, what you're able to afford, and what you really want out of tea.

Debunix, while MarshalN sez it a little too strongly--think about it this way:

You really like that Norbu-tea Lao Ban Zhang maocha, right? If it's like any of the decent LBZ I've had (other than the black wrapper XZH), it's not going to be *too* complex a set of flavors. Lao Ban Zhang's flavors generally work with the feelings it generates in the mouth, almost as if each flavor note had the court announcer shout out the name LEMONNNNnnnssszzz....! There are after-session parties where the flavors get to know each other after the pots and cups are put away... The actual flavors will change, and so will the aromas, but the ability of the maocha (so long as it is stored well) to capture your imagination with sizzle, style, pizazz, and generally enrich the canvas of your setting regardless of the actual flavor that is promoted stays the same. That's what important, and part of the element of "drinking with your body".

A tea that doesn't do this is only going to have the flavors it has, for the moment, and then fade. You can like it all you want, but you never need to buy more than you immediately need to drink. That is not a complicated financial or consumption decision at all, any more than picking out a sencha for a few months. However, if you're buying in bulk and storing, well, you've got to figure out some things...like how much magic you can afford.
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Re: Killer tea... what to do?

Postby apolon » Aug 16th, '12, 01:52

Drax maybe some chemicals in tea are killing your taste buds. Nada wrote on his essenceoftea blog:
"Sadly perhaps it's not a great surprise that the growing demand for old tree teas combined with soaring prices and increased contact with the wider world has lead many villagers in the tea mountains to begin spraying weedkiller, pesticides and chemical fertilisers in the hope of increasing their harvests. Often chemical additions to teas will leave the mouth, particularly the tip of the tongue, feeling numb and can often leave a tight, clenching feeling in the throat. It's really a pity when you taste these teas, because apart from a tea being ruined by this, it also destroys your ability to taste other teas properly for the next hour or two."
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Re: Killer tea... what to do?

Postby shah82 » Aug 16th, '12, 01:59

Wouldn't be surprised. I never wash my tea, unless I know for sure it's dirty, but many of the plantation teas, starting around the mid-eighties, have some serious pesticide loads. At the time, Tai Lian was one of the big owners of quality Lincang tea acreage, so it's quite possible that the managed plantation has seen some pesticide usage. And hey, the Kunming Market Opening is supposed to use more longer-growth leaves, so mebbe some or more pesticides than the International? I wouldn't know without trying the tea you have, though.
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