Aged raw tea vs. cooked (taste difference?)


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

Aged raw tea vs. cooked (taste difference?)

Postby futurebird » Feb 12th, '13, 22:29

My experience with pu-erh is limited. In 2002 I bought some cheap mass-produced tea in a round green box. To my shock (when I got it home) it was some kind of hard bird's nest-looking thing, not loose tea. I thought this was pretty cool and shaved off some with a butter knife to brew. I liked it. It said "TOUCHA YUNNAN" on the box. I didn't know it then but it was my first pu-erh encounter.

What prompted me to find out more was the fact that I just ran out of this tea two years ago. And it made me VERY sad because it had become my favorite. (I didn't drink it often at first, but as time went on I used it more and more often) I took the box down to Chinatown (I live in NYC) and asked for "more please" they pointed me to a shop filled with all kinds of tea pressed in to cakes. I bought about $40 worth at random, went home and started falling in love again.

In fact, I didn't want to drink white tea (silver needle) anymore (which had been my staple for years)

Only in the past few months did I start reading about what I was drinking. I found out about gong fu, and tried some new clay pots to supplement my usual iron pots.

All this from a $1.95 toucha bought on a whim.

In any case, I'm curious if anyone can describe the taste difference between raw and cooked pu-erh? My understanding is that this earth taste (a round soft earthy taste, rather like the smell of dirt... but in a good way) has two possible sources.

* it was fermented
* it was aged

The guy at my tea shop says that either I should but "old raw" or "newer cooked" -- that makes sense, but do these processes lead to the same result?
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Re: Aged raw tea vs. cooked (taste difference?)

Postby Tead Off » Feb 12th, '13, 22:59

No, they are not the same at all. The green aged teas have a complexity that is not present in the cooked teas. Color, taste, and aroma are not the same. Good cooked Puerh can be very smooth and delicious. Chinese say that it is good for the stomach. It has a decidedly black walnut flavor and giving a rich, thick, mouthfeel. The liquor is dark.

Most green aged Puerh have sharper flavors depending on where and how they were processed, storage conditions, and age of the trees they were picked from. The initial bitterness changes over time, but even the smoothest of aged green Puerh will not taste like cooked Puerh. There could be certain similarities but you would rarely mistake one for the other. Sometimes an aged green has a darker initial liquor color but usually becomes lighter and clearer as you progress.

BTW, those round green packaged boxes are still being made and sold. Usually pretty easy to find.
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Re: Aged raw tea vs. cooked (taste difference?)

Postby ole » Feb 13th, '13, 01:18

I think the cooked one often have a unpleasant taste, hard to describe, sort of fishy. I personally don't care to much for them, but I love aged raw pu'er.

That being said, I have had some really good quality cooked ones that did taste kinda alright.
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Re: Aged raw tea vs. cooked (taste difference?)

Postby jayinhk » Feb 13th, '13, 06:00

Here in Hong Kong, some dealers 'accelerate' aging of raw pu erh through traditional storage, and old raw pu erh from HK can be very similar to shu (but never exactly the same).

Good shu can be excellent and very tasty indeed, without any humid/moist flavor.

Newer sheng (or dryer aged) has much more origin character and often more bitterness.

What you prefer is entirely personal, and I drink it all, although not much traditionally-stored sheng as I find it too close to shu to be worth the extra expense. Older, home-stored sheng is more my thing as it is smooth, less bitter and has mellowed nicely. I do drink young raw as well, but prefer it with at least five to seven years of age at the very minimum. Hopefully the stack of bings I've collected will age nicely and make for more mellow drinking when I'm 40. :)
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Re: Aged raw tea vs. cooked (taste difference?)

Postby futurebird » Feb 13th, '13, 14:04

I like that idea, Jay. Having a stash of tea sounds like fun.

I really miss Hong Kong. I was only there for just over a week, but my husband and I fell in love with the city. When we were there I was focused on white tea so I didn't venture in to the shops with all of the crazy cakes in the windows. (doh!) I remember one that was shaped like a whole mountain village and another that was a perfect shpere and shiny like glass. I doubt they'd be good to drink, anyway who could bring themselves to break them. Now, thinking back on it, I just want to go back more. I was reading in your other thread about how the shops mostly sell ripe, or aged raw teas, and that it was not easy to get young raw teas to save.

Do you know what it's like in other cities in the mainland perhaps? My husband and I will return in the next year, we want to stay in Hong Kong for a week then go by train to Shanghai perhaps.

We might even move to Hong Kong someday. Though, clearly, we both have a lot to learn.
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Re: Aged raw tea vs. cooked (taste difference?)

Postby futurebird » Feb 13th, '13, 14:12

ole wrote:I think the cooked one often have a unpleasant taste, hard to describe, sort of fishy.



That sounds odd. Maybe they were stored with dried fish flakes like bonito or something? :?

The only fermented pu-erh I have tried was from a supermarket in nYC called "fairway" (they are a nice gourmet supermarket) -- it was a set of "mini toucha" wrapped in white paper. The taste was mild. Very much like a high-quality western breakfast tea. But the smell was like tree bark and dirt. I rather liked it, but it had some issues. The toucha disolved into dust, leaving fine specks in my glass (yuck) and it got too strong and dark far too rapidly. Reading here I've noticed some people do not like mini toucha because they may have leftovers from the tea-making process in them. So, maybe, there is some truth to that. Still I was able to get a decent brew by letting it steep only for 25-35 seconds then straining it. Until I try a full-sized ripe pu, I'll hold back on saying which is better.

I have not tried young green yet. Is that worth doing? If a young green pu is good is that a sign that it will age well? Or might that indicate that it isn't in need of aging since it's already nice?
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Re: Aged raw tea vs. cooked (taste difference?)

Postby TomVerlain » Feb 13th, '13, 21:14

search ebay for "xiaguan Xiao Fa tuocha" - I think that might be the tea you had
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Re: Aged raw tea vs. cooked (taste difference?)

Postby jayinhk » Feb 13th, '13, 21:48

Glad you liked our city, although it has morphed into a hugely expensive place to live in the last five years (even more so than it was in the past)! :)

The decorative pu you saw is just that, and is not really something you want to drink.

As for the mini-tuos, they tend to be lower quality leaf: one is good for an entire pot, but I hope you're doing two rinses when drinking the fermented stuff!

There is young raw pu erh around, but not the variety that would be available in Guangzhou, for instance, which has China's largest tea market (and also a ton of 'fake' tea). Prices also tend to be much higher here. Fortunately we can buy raw cakes at Chinese prices online (often with free shipping), so it's not a bad place to be. :D
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Re: Aged raw tea vs. cooked (taste difference?)

Postby TwoDog2 » Feb 14th, '13, 05:54

ole wrote:I think the cooked one often have a unpleasant taste, hard to describe, sort of fishy.


It sounds likely that you had some ripe puer that retained the wodui flavor. If you have some ripe puer with a few years of age (over three is generally a good rule), this flavor should be gone. Sometimes freshly pressed ripe puer smells like a bait shop. I have a few ripe cakes that were pressed in 2011 that still retain some of this fishyness.
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