Where to begin?


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

Where to begin?

Postby FiveStar » Dec 17th, '12, 11:23

Hello all! Just became interested in tea more seriously beyond the usual teabags and infusers after a visit to a local tearoom. After my first Gong Fu session with a cooked Pu-Erh, I was so deeply intrigued by the brewing method, but even moreso by the tea.

Now that I'm looking around a bit at teas online, I'm left so overwhelmed that I feel like back out of the door and just buying whatever the teahouse has to offer. But I love a challenge, so I'm asking here, "Where to start?"

I would appreciate some recommendations on middle of the road, reference Pu-Erhs both uncooked and ripe. I'm a single-malt scotch lover, and a fan of in-your-face whiskeys, cigars, and pipe tobaccos, so I would appreciate any "Aggressive" suggestions as references toon


Also, if anyone has any good references they could point me to online that could help me decode the naming process of Pu and other teas, I would love you forevere! So many names, I can't seem to make heads or tails of what they all mean!

Thanks so much for any help you can offer!
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Re: Where to begin?

Postby JakubT » Dec 17th, '12, 11:51

Where are you from? Although ordering from abroad will be likely inevitable, it might be a good start to begin with something local.
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Re: Where to begin?

Postby FiveStar » Dec 17th, '12, 12:20

I live in Asheville, NC in the united states. The tea shop I frequent is Dobra Tea, website here...

http://www.dobrateanc.com/

They do have a great selection of teas, with a few Pu-erhs, and LOTS of others. They are great, and have an awesome selection of brewing vessels they employ to match the teas. Great atmosphere as well!
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Re: Where to begin?

Postby JakubT » Dec 17th, '12, 16:43

Hi,
hehe, didn't know that Dobra cajovna made it abroad (it started here, in the Czech Republic, the name means Good Teahouse). However, they're not particularly great, at least here in Prague. They used to be good when they started, but tea world has moved a lot since then and they sort of stayed where they were.

In the US, I think that US version of Yunnan Sourcing might be useful - you may look around blogs (e.g., Half Dipper) for recommendations. But it may be helpful just to sample a lot.

There are some stores which I found to have low hit/miss ratio (Houde, thechineseteashop) - there are interesting teas to be had, but first, I'd look for other vendors.

Do you like younger or older puerh?
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Re: Where to begin?

Postby TwoDog2 » Dec 17th, '12, 22:18

FiveStar wrote:I would appreciate some recommendations on middle of the road, reference Pu-Erhs both uncooked and ripe. I'm a single-malt scotch lover, and a fan of in-your-face whiskeys, cigars, and pipe tobaccos, so I would appreciate any "Aggressive" suggestions as references toon


Also, if anyone has any good references they could point me to online that could help me decode the naming process of Pu and other teas, I would love you forevere! So many names, I can't seem to make heads or tails of what they all mean!



Sounds like you are a good candidate for younger raw puer, since you love in-your-face, aggressive, tobacco, etc.

You might want to start with some productions from Xiaguan factory. The younger teas will have smoke and be pretty burly.

As for where to shop, you can poke around the forums here (even on the first page several people have asked about favorite online retailers and the like) or look around at blogs and see if a certain review or tea sounds interesting.

I say start with Xiaguan because it is inexpensive and seems to fit the profile of what you describe liking. It's a good way to get your feet wet. As for ripe, I think Menghai factory productions (also called Dayi/Taetea) are good and standard. For something less expensive than that, poke around at smaller factories. For something cheaper, look to brands like Tiandiren.

Bullet points on what to avoid:

- No mini-tuos (small 5g-10g chunks of puer)
- Nothing flavored ("orange and apple puerh blend", or what have you. The tea will be garbage)
- Avoid anyone who tries to tell you how rare something is, and avoid buying expensive teas until you get your bearings to limit your "tuition". There is plenty of decent and inexpensive puer out there


Several members on here have blogs, including me, some links below:

Marshaln - Tea Addcits Blog
Jakub T (The guy who replied above me)
Hobbes - Half Dipper
Teacloset (Hster's blog)
Two Dog Tea Blog (My blog)

There are a bunch of others - have a look, plenty of reviews online, often with conflicting opinions. Best to sample for yourself and make your own judgments. Everyone likes a different cigar and different brand of whiskey. Tea is no different.
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Re: Where to begin?

Postby jayinhk » Dec 17th, '12, 23:16

^ great post. Welcome FiveStar! A few of us here do enjoy good cigars, scotch and good pipe toby. Those interests have taken a back seat to tea appreciation for me, but you're definitely in the right place to learn more about pu erh, that's for sure. I live in Hong Kong, but almost everything I know about pu erh came from TeaChat and the blogs TwoDogs linked you to. Good luck!
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Re: Where to begin?

Postby FiveStar » Dec 18th, '12, 04:57

Thanks very much for the replies! Wow, some awesome posts with great info! I will check out some of the younger pu-ehr's mentioned above for sure.

Currenlty, I'm enjoying some Tuo Cha nugget pu-erh from Dobra. It's the "Floor scrapings" of some aged ripe sourcing according to the guy who runs the shop, and I'm really enjoying it. Started off a little fishy, but it's growing more earthy and dense with each infusion. Nice and sweet, but not overly so. I got a pretty small gaiwan, and supposedly this tea is good for 10 plus infusions. On number 5 now, and the leaves seem to be just getting started!

I look forward to learning more here on this wonderful forum! Thanks!
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Re: Where to begin?

Postby jayinhk » Dec 18th, '12, 13:04

Glad you're enjoying your pu, but fishy is not something you want your pu to taste like--I hope you rinsed that stuff twice?
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Re: Where to begin?

Postby FiveStar » Dec 18th, '12, 16:08

Yeah, I gave it a third rinse till the fish-funk went away :lol: Probably not great tea, but then again, I wouldn't know the difference at the moment :D

I am going to order some samples after the holiday season. In the mean time, I'll have to muddle through whatever I can find at the asian market. Reading here has at least demystified some of the naming conventions, so I will at least know what factory my bing comes from!
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Re: Where to begin?

Postby TwoDog2 » Dec 18th, '12, 21:41

FiveStar wrote:Yeah, I gave it a third rinse till the fish-funk went away :lol: Probably not great tea, but then again, I wouldn't know the difference at the moment :D !



The fish-funk is probably from a ripe tea that was recently pressed(0-2 years ago). This taste will go away with teas that are aged a bit. If you are buying ripe teas in the future, my advice would be to buy something that is at least 2-3 years old to minimize that pile flavor.

But, like you said, after a couple of rinses, it will disappear anyhow
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Re: Where to begin?

Postby jayinhk » Dec 19th, '12, 23:07

Knowledge of the pu can take quite a while to get down; I have but started on my journey. :) It is fun drinking while you learn though! You may be able to get something decent at the market. If you find something Hong Kong-packed, you may have a better chance of getting something somewhat decent. I remember reading a blog post from a member here who managed to get something surprisingly drinkable from an Asian market prepackaged offering.
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