Can you tell about the quality of a bing/tou from appearanc?


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Can you tell about the quality of a bing/tou from appearanc?

Postby futurebird » Apr 21st, '13, 14:26

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I bought this on ebay as a gamble. It waas $11.

It is supposed to be "2004 Aged Yunnan Arbor Old Tree Tea Pu'er"

How much can one tell by just looking at a cake?:

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These leaves look matted dark green, with stems, and possibly dirty. I decided to rinse this tea twice before drinking.

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My favorite dark-green young sheng pot the filter and cha hai.

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Still a touch cloudy. Something about cloudy tea grosses me out a little. But, I tried it.

And what do you know it's... OK! It has the astringency of youth, but not the chalky kind from very young cakes. It puts a nice tickle (maybe with a little chalk) in the back of the throat. Despite all of this it isn't bitter. There is something troubling mild about it though, don't know if it will keep flavor as it gets older.


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Spent leaves looked more alive than I'd expected.

Now, I'm not going to run off and buy a tong of this stuff. It's not really THAT good. But, I will enjoy tasting it from time to time to see how it changes.

Though, I still think the cake itself is ugly.

Now this is a good-looking cake:

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This is on of the 2012 cakes from essence of tea. The leaves seem clean and well-defined. It also tastes a lot better than the "2004 Aged Yunnan Arbor Old Tree Tea Pu'er" ebay tea.

But is the taste related to the looks?

So, what I want to know is appearance important? How much can you tell about tea by looking at it? Are there things you avoid like the plague? Things you look for?

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And is it just me or is there something shu-like in the appearance of this raw tou?

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It just seems kind of ... reddish looking. Like it's been fermented. :?:
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Re: Can you tell about the quality of a bing/tou from appearanc?

Postby lordsbm » Apr 21st, '13, 21:30

I do know you can't tell much from the size of the photos you'd posted :lol:

This is a fake wrapper as tong qing hao tea don't go for so cheap, also it's not 2004. In China it's a less than <US$3.50 cake.

The question should be why the cheap price? If you think it looks ugly based on the surface, it'll likely look worst on the inside :lol: Meaning the material used on the other layer is different from what's use inside.

It doesn't have to be fake pu-erh within, just cos it's cheap. Look at XG boyan brick which is made from bits and pieces, 250g retail for less than US$2. Merchants and XG still make good profits off these low grade tea.

I never did tasted that 2004 before, but if you think that's drinkable, try the 2007 nan qiao iron bing selling the same price. It's uglier but the material and flavor are decent enough for the price.

The appearance tells the workmanship, storage, grade and to the seasoned eyes a possibility of where the tea comes from. The mildness is likely the indication that it's low grade material, personally I'll be more troubled paying that price and get a really strong flavor (unless it's full of huangpian).

To me labeling it as a 2004 (when it's not), is indirectly asking you to drink now :lol: Bitter goes hand-in-hand with huigan, if it's not bitter how's the huigan and shengjin? For pu erh, most feel huigan and shengjin are more important factors compared to bitter and astringency.

IMHO, washing twice is a good practice, regardless how clean the tea looks.

Anyway good looking cake/brick/tuo doesn't mean good tea. The final say if how you find the taste. Some pu erh doesn't have great taste, they are mainly sold to be used in blends, mainly cos of the price. But there'll be people trying to market it as something premium and sold it as a pure source for much higher price :lol:

My personal view is if one is willing to try custom brand tea, white paper/fake wrapper/etc tea is just the same. The profit margin for premium brand is high even in local. Those who buy tea off China online will likely know premium market brand, likely u can get a good discount if you are good at bargaining :lol:

DY and XG do semi-ferment some material in order to get certain taste for their tea. They also add in some aged material, which is normally in their mild to high range products.

One of the reasons why DY and XG are successful is because they understand taste matters. They also have good workmanship for their blends. BUT (IMO) if you think they only use higher grade material, then you could be blinded by their marketing :lol:

Stressed again, it's all down to the taste. If you can accept the condition of the cake and it taste good to you. Don't let others opinion and brand marketing fool you to think otherwise.

Some may disagree, but it's cool to disagree :lol:
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Re: Can you tell about the quality of a bing/tou from appearanc?

Postby lordsbm » Apr 21st, '13, 22:33

BTW, I recall how you mentioned uninteresting shu is. Yesterday I did a blend and found it kinda close to the 23+years shu I had.

I took 2006 XG boyan sheng brick (Guangzhou stored but not wet) and matched it with long yuan hao 2006 silver award gushu cha wang (tuition tea but has decent jujube flavor stored in Kunming). 8g boyan sheng brick + 2g LYH silver shu, all goes with 350ml water in glass teapot.

Ensure the tea is break up to small pieces before rinse clean twice. The it'll be 10s per steep for 3 go. After that I don't know the timing as I never could finish that much alone :lol:

2006 teas which likely cost <US$20 (<US$10 if u buy in China), but you get similar taste of an interesting 20+yrs shu. :lol: But for this blend I kept thinking I just ate red-bean paste (edit: I think the Chinese term for this is 爽). The huigan and shengjin is good. The brew is sweet, smoothness of a well-aged shu.

Some may thing it's delusional, but that's what blends all about. The truth is in the taste :roll:
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Re: Can you tell about the quality of a bing/tou from appearanc?

Postby futurebird » Apr 22nd, '13, 11:36

I'm not knowledgeable enough about tea to have strong feelings about blends. I know some people do.

I guess I do wonder if with a blended cake, especially if there are fermented leaves mixed with green sheng, how will it age? Shu seems to only soften with age (and get less fishy) from what I've seen. So any shu in the mix won't add as much over time.

But, I guess one can't ask for the world: a cheap tea that you can drink now AND later. :lol:


Appearance isn't everything I guess.
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Re: Can you tell about the quality of a bing/tou from appearanc?

Postby Exempt » Apr 22nd, '13, 16:47

futurebird wrote:I guess I do wonder if with a blended cake, especially if there are fermented leaves mixed with green sheng, how will it age? Shu seems to only soften with age (and get less fishy) from what I've seen. So any shu in the mix won't add as much over time.


In my opinion the whole point of mixing a blend of sheng with some fermented leaves is to make an aged sheng replica for drinking within the first 5 or so years of production. This way it gets some benefits of shu and some of sheng. When combined this, supposedly, mimics an aged sheng for a fraction of the cost and time. However, I would not personally purchase a tea like this
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Re: Can you tell about the quality of a bing/tou from appearanc?

Postby wyardley » Apr 22nd, '13, 17:53

Sorry to single you out, but just a minor point... bowl / "nest" shaped compressed tea is a tuó (沱) , not a tou. Different sound, different character from the tou in, e.g., laochaotou.

The former is pronounced more or less like 'two-uh', but as a dipthong (one syllable), with a rising tone in this case, while the latter is pronounced more like 'tow'.
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Re: Can you tell about the quality of a bing/tou from appearanc?

Postby lordsbm » Apr 22nd, '13, 20:58

futurebird wrote:I guess I do wonder if with a blended cake, especially if there are fermented leaves mixed with green sheng, how will it age? Shu seems to only soften with age (and get less fishy) from what I've seen. So any shu in the mix won't add as much over time.


Fermentation is part of aging pu erh, no? Adding aged leaves to a blend is pretty well received. Correct me if I'm wrong but DY Gold is such blend. I think in 2 years the price had tripled :lol:

IIRC, a few of XG boyan and FT products had semi/light-fermented leafs added to them. They seems to added well.

Normally direct shu and sheng blend are done by the drinker, so the tea are stored separately. Aged shu consistency, aroma can changed too. Problem is there aren't that much interesting shu out there. However, that's the idea of blend, you take what's dull and make it interesting, but still retain part or most of the orignal tastes/flavors. :D

Taste is a funny thing, there's not real logic to it. Like why an egg taste better with soya sauce added it. Why peanut goes well with butter. You really have to taste it before you can conclude anything.
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Re: Can you tell about the quality of a bing/tou from appearanc?

Postby lordsbm » Apr 22nd, '13, 21:18

wyardley wrote:Sorry to single you out, but just a minor point... bowl / "nest" shaped compressed tea is a tuó (沱) , not a tou. Different sound, different character from the tou in, e.g., laochaotou.

The former is pronounced more or less like 'two-uh', but as a dipthong (one syllable), with a rising tone in this case, while the latter is pronounced more like 'tow'.


This is as good as

“顶”之一字,左丁右页,浑然天成, “丁”代表男人,“页”代表书籍, 这说明此字为一有学问之男人使用。 然深究其意,却可见其包罗万象, 有五行八卦之形,两仪九宫之影, 兼有传承之秘,蕴含天地法则, 乃中华之第一字,回帖必备。

J/K :lol:
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Re: Can you tell about the quality of a bing/tou from appearanc?

Postby Exempt » Apr 22nd, '13, 21:35

lordsbm wrote:
futurebird wrote:I guess I do wonder if with a blended cake, especially if there are fermented leaves mixed with green sheng, how will it age? Shu seems to only soften with age (and get less fishy) from what I've seen. So any shu in the mix won't add as much over time.


Fermentation is part of aging pu erh, no? Adding aged leaves to a blend is pretty well received. Correct me if I'm wrong but DY Gold is such blend. I think in 2 years the price had tripled :lol:

IIRC, a few of XG boyan and FT products had semi/light-fermented leafs added to them. They seems to added well.

Normally direct shu and sheng blend are done by the drinker, so the tea are stored separately. Aged shu consistency, aroma can changed too. Problem is there aren't that much interesting shu out there. However, that's the idea of blend, you take what's dull and make it interesting, but still retain part or most of the orignal tastes/flavors. :D

Taste is a funny thing, there's not real logic to it. Like why an egg taste better with soya sauce added it. Why peanut goes well with butter. You really have to taste it before you can conclude anything.


I believe by fermented he meant adding artificially fermented not aged maocha to a sheng tea.
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Re: Can you tell about the quality of a bing/tou from appearanc?

Postby shah82 » Apr 22nd, '13, 21:48

I've had older teas with hongcha fermented leaves. They don't age as well as they would have, had they been fully proper sheng. In other words, those guys are really flat. The better ones have a very nice aftertaste typical of hongchapu, but the top taste is flat, and the sessions are usually non-dynamic. Non-broadleaf maocha, like that of Jingmai, will usually get some degree of hongcha-fication. Bad ones, pretty much hongcha, good ones, nice hongcha-pu.

Nobody blends shu into sheng, seriously, but people do blend sheng into shu often enough.

Aged maocha blended in is fine, but people should not seriously buy maocha that's been sitting around for years, and then pressed into cakes. The aging is wonky.
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Re: Can you tell about the quality of a bing/tou from appearanc?

Postby lordsbm » Apr 22nd, '13, 21:51

Exempt wrote:I believe by fermented he meant adding artificially fermented not aged maocha to a sheng tea.


he u mean me right? cos I recall futurebird a she. :lol:

No. I do mean aged sheng to a new sheng to make a blend.

I also mentioned using semi-fermented to blends which is also different from real fermented leafs.
Last edited by lordsbm on Apr 22nd, '13, 21:54, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Can you tell about the quality of a bing/tou from appearanc?

Postby lordsbm » Apr 22nd, '13, 21:54

shah82 wrote:Nobody blends shu into sheng, seriously, but people do blend sheng into shu often enough.


To my understanding is nobody commercially does that, but it's done on personal level :lol:

edit: I read the other way round :lol: Refer to edkrueger comment below, he's right on that comment :D
Last edited by lordsbm on Apr 22nd, '13, 21:59, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Can you tell about the quality of a bing/tou from appearanc?

Postby edkrueger » Apr 22nd, '13, 21:56

shah82 wrote:
Nobody blends shu into sheng, seriously, but people do blend sheng into shu often enough.


Xiaguan and Dayi do.
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Re: Can you tell about the quality of a bing/tou from appearanc?

Postby shah82 » Apr 22nd, '13, 22:15

Okay, what mostly sheng product has shu been blended into?
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Re: Can you tell about the quality of a bing/tou from appearanc?

Postby lordsbm » Apr 22nd, '13, 22:22

shah82 wrote:Okay, what mostly sheng product has shu been blended into?


It really depends on what individual definition of shu is. To some fermented means shu, to some lightly fermented is still sheng. :lol:

edit: If example, it don't have even have to be DY or XG. Just taste the load of golden wannabes tuition/inspired tea. You should have an idea there are shu added to it.
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