How do you choose pu-erh?


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

How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby JD » Jul 20th, '13, 23:25

I've returned to buying pu-erh tea after not buying any for 6 years. I don't think I ever learned anything about which pu-erh is good and which is not. I also have no idea what the differences are between Menghai, Yunnan, and all these different districts, areas, farms, companies, years, etc. I do know the difference between sheng and shu. Looking at the Pu-erh Shop's list of teas I can't figure out any of them. Is there any simple help out there on picking good pu-erh tea?
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby Emmett » Jul 21st, '13, 02:44

If you are buying for yourself to drink and not collect. The only way is to sample and find out what you like. Everyone has a few teas they didn't sample and don't like so wasted money on something not enjoyable to drink. And everyones tastes are different. So you have to sample, its the only way. Try samples from different vendors. Write down notes about the teas you like then buy your favorite ones. That's what I have been trying to do now instead of buying what others say are good.
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby JakubT » Jul 21st, '13, 04:03

JD wrote: Is there any simple help out there on picking good pu-erh tea?


No.
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby ChengduCha » Jul 21st, '13, 06:51

I don't think I ever learned anything about which pu-erh is good and which is not.


Good is what suits you best. :D

This is different for anyone and higher prices in teas above certain levels often just mean that the brand is more famous / that the tea is only available in limited quantities / that it's the best choice by the opinion of the average consumer or in some cases the tea vendor.

What kind of taste are you looking for? What kind of mental / physical effects are you looking for? Is your stomach able to handle younger sheng? When do you drink your tea?

These and more factors come to my mind when it comes to choosing pu erh.
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby JD » Jul 21st, '13, 15:56

So this is a lot like choosing coffee beans. Certain roasts and beans from certain areas suit certain people and that some brands are more expensive because of brand name and some beans are more expensive due to availability, location, or farm.

I guess my best option here is to buy as many samples as I can and try everything. I looked around pu-erh shop and they have 80 or so samples so this will take a long time to accomplish. I'll probably look for inexpensive tea first and go from there.

I wish coffee roasters sold samples. That would be great. :D
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby puerhking » Jul 21st, '13, 18:31

It's a journey. Not unlike coffee like you said or wine or cigars etc.
Hobbes blog is a good info source.
http://www.half-dipper.blogspot.com/

Try Yunnan Sourcing and Chawang Shop for samples also.

http://yunnansourcing.com/

http://www.chawangshop.com/index.php/
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby ChengduCha » Jul 21st, '13, 20:18

JD wrote: I'll probably look for inexpensive tea first and go from there


Keep in mind that too inexpensive pu erh (mostly below 20$ for a cake / brick of shu and below $30 for a cake of sheng depending on the vendor) usually indicates lesser quality material was used, unless the weight is below 400-357g (in China nothing is wasted).

I'd also recommend sampling house brand cakes from:

http://www.yunnansourcing.us
http://www.essenceoftea.co.uk/
http://www.pu-erh.sk/

Which all have a good reputation.
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby JD » Jul 23rd, '13, 15:55

Here's a list of samples I chose from Pu-Erh Shop. I chose everything made from before 2010 that wasn't American Hao or MGH. Hao and MGH have only been in production for 4 years so I don't trust them. Especially with how cheap their cakes are (under $20 for sheng cakes). I also didn't get their 1998 because I doubt I could afford the cake.

I bought the first 10 on this list last night. I'll do 10 at a time. There's 28 listed here.

2008 Menghai Spring Yun - Link
2009 Yunnan Dayi - Link
2009 Old Man'e - Link
2009 Yiwu - Link
2007 Mengku Hao - Link
2008 Yuannian Mengsa - Link
2009 Bangmu 'Root Aroma' Old - Link
2009 Mengku Arbor - Link
2009 Early Spring Wuliang - Link
2009 Little Yiwu Mahei - Link
2005 Changtai Bulang - Link
2007 Changtai Nannuo Wild Arbor - Link
2007 Youle Ancient Tree - Link
2003 Yiwu Ancient Tree - Link
2003 Yiwu Zhengshan Old Tree - Link
2005 Yiwu Zhengshan Ancient Tree - Link
2006 Yiwu King of Kings Ancient Tree - Link
2006 Guoyan Youle Ancient Tree - Link
2009 Old Cang Family - Link
2007 Changtai's Lingbao - Link
2007 Rongzhen Tribute - Link
2007 Menghai - Link
2005 Songpin Hao - Link
2005 Tiandiren - Link
2006 Bulang Yangshan - Link
2006 Mengku Old Tree - Link
2004 CNNP Small Yellow Mark - Link
2004 CNNP Small Green Mark - Link

Also, on a side note I will not be purchasing anything from outside the states due to how long it takes to get delivered to me. I've bought things from China and it took a month to get to me. And most of that wasted time was customs' fault. I'm not patient enough to wait a month for any kind of package regardless of the quality.
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby puerhking » Jul 23rd, '13, 16:31

Shipping has been quicker of late for me. The new e-packet has sped things up. From Kunming it takes 2-3 weeks now....used to be 3-4 for SAL. Also, if you buy from coastal cities like Shanghai or Hong Kong it usually takes about 10 days. Last shipment from HK took 8 days to the midwest.
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby Poseidon » Jul 23rd, '13, 17:14

JD wrote:Here's a list of samples I chose from Pu-Erh Shop. I chose everything made from before 2010 that wasn't American Hao or MGH. Hao and MGH have only been in production for 4 years so I don't trust them. Especially with how cheap their cakes are (under $20 for sheng cakes). I also didn't get their 1998 because I doubt I could afford the cake.

I bought the first 10 on this list last night. I'll do 10 at a time. There's 28 listed here.

2008 Menghai Spring Yun - Link
2009 Yunnan Dayi - Link
2009 Old Man'e - Link
2009 Yiwu - Link
2007 Mengku Hao - Link
2008 Yuannian Mengsa - Link
2009 Bangmu 'Root Aroma' Old - Link
2009 Mengku Arbor - Link
2009 Early Spring Wuliang - Link
2009 Little Yiwu Mahei - Link
2005 Changtai Bulang - Link
2007 Changtai Nannuo Wild Arbor - Link
2007 Youle Ancient Tree - Link
2003 Yiwu Ancient Tree - Link
2003 Yiwu Zhengshan Old Tree - Link
2005 Yiwu Zhengshan Ancient Tree - Link
2006 Yiwu King of Kings Ancient Tree - Link
2006 Guoyan Youle Ancient Tree - Link
2009 Old Cang Family - Link
2007 Changtai's Lingbao - Link
2007 Rongzhen Tribute - Link
2007 Menghai - Link
2005 Songpin Hao - Link
2005 Tiandiren - Link
2006 Bulang Yangshan - Link
2006 Mengku Old Tree - Link
2004 CNNP Small Yellow Mark - Link
2004 CNNP Small Green Mark - Link

Also, on a side note I will not be purchasing anything from outside the states due to how long it takes to get delivered to me. I've bought things from China and it took a month to get to me. And most of that wasted time was customs' fault. I'm not patient enough to wait a month for any kind of package regardless of the quality.

THANK YOU so much for the links. Ive been looking for a stateside sample shop and this is perfect! Ill be placing an order as well!
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby teaisme » Jul 23rd, '13, 17:55

hum I dunno if going through the whole catalog of a vendor is ideal...bound to run into a lot of crap unless the vendor is very specializing in higher end pu's.


Yunnan sourcing has a US site. Houde is also state side in TX. But I feel like good tea is worth an extra three weeks wait...or an extra 10-15 bucks in EMS shipping.
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby ChengduCha » Jul 24th, '13, 00:52

JD wrote:I bought the first 10 on this list last night.


Good luck with them and let us know how it goes.

Water wise I recommend water with a low mineral content for optimum results, as well as using low amount of leafs and doing flash infusions unless the resulting liquor is weak and demands longer infusions.

I'm not patient enough to wait a month for any kind of package regardless of the quality.


YS has a slightly more expensive US website where the inventory is located in a US warehouse.

EOT and pu-erh.sk ship from europe, which should reach the US within 14 days with airmail.

In general, if you still have a huge stock of samples / cakes, waiting a month for more won't matter that much. :D
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby JD » Jul 24th, '13, 15:28

When I tried ordering from Yunnan Sourcing the shipping choices were all Chinese air mail or Chinese standard shipping or whatever. I doubt that's a warehouse in the US.

I've always received good quality pu-er from Pu-erh Shop. I've never gotten anything from them that has tasted bad or like chemicals. I think I've ordered around 15 different bricks, cakes, tuo/tou's, etc. of regular and premium shengs and shu/shou's and they've sent me free samples in the past of other things that I liked and ordered.

I've ordered things from Hou De also in the past. I had forgotten about them, so I've added them to my vendor list again.
Last edited by JD on Jul 27th, '13, 19:15, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby Exempt » Jul 24th, '13, 15:33

JD wrote:When I tried ordering from Yunnan Sourcing the shipping choices were all Chinese air mail or Chinese standard shipping or whatever. I doubt that's a warehouse in the US.


That's because you were on yunnansourcing.com not yunnansourcing.us

Also I wouldn't order anything aged from puerh shop. Many people, along with myself, received a faked aged cake and the issue was unresolved.
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby JD » Jul 27th, '13, 19:13

Got the first 10 teas last week. They threw in 2 freebies from 2013 listed below.

Freebies:
2013 Huzhuliangzi #1469
2013 Changda Hao Yibang #1466

The Huzhuliangzi looks nice with several buds in it. I haven't tried either of them yet.

Here's a list of what I've tried and thought about each. Sadly, most of these teas taste exactly the same. I used 5 grams for each and a very short infusion time of just a few seconds in a gaiwan. Gongfu style. Water at between 180F and 200F.

List:
2009 Old Man'e - "Okay. Tastes like sheng. Nothing special about it."
2009 Yiwu - "Okay. Again nothing special."
2007 Mengku Hao - "Not great. Astringent."
2008 Yuannian Mengsa - "Okay. Nothing special."
2009 Bangmu 'Root Aroma' Old - "Blech. Way too astringent."
2009 Mengku Arbor - "Okay. Tastes like regular old sheng. Nothing eventful."
2009 Little Yiwu Mahei - "Okay. I was expecting this to taste better than it did due to the amount of buds in it. But it tastes like regular old sheng."

I still have 3 left to try. Sadly this group of teas seems to be lackluster. I know they're not aged very long so they're not going to blow my socks off but I thought they'd taste better or more different from each other than they did. They all taste pretty identical to me. Later infusions all tasted the same. Maybe I'm doing something wrong. I dunno. Most of these are 2009's though so maybe all 2009's taste identical.
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