How do you choose pu-erh?


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

Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby gasninja » Aug 11th, '13, 10:56

JD wrote:After going through a few of these samples again and spending more time with them I'm noticing that the first 2 infusions of each of them are a bit too strong and astringent for my tastes. The 3rd infusion and on are much mellower, subtler, and sweeter tasting.

I read somewhere that Chinese people don't even drink the first 2 infusions of sheng. They usually skip to the 3rd or even 4th infusion.

Shu, on the other hand, they drink from 1st infusion onward. I notice shu's tend to be great right from the start though they lose that earthy taste around the 3rd infusion.

Should I rinse them for a longer period of time or just skip the first 2 infusions?

If true at all I would think that you have shu and sheng mixed up. As the process for making shu can be a little funky, there is more of a need to rinse it.
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby JD » Aug 11th, '13, 14:23

gasninja wrote:
JD wrote:After going through a few of these samples again and spending more time with them I'm noticing that the first 2 infusions of each of them are a bit too strong and astringent for my tastes. The 3rd infusion and on are much mellower, subtler, and sweeter tasting.

I read somewhere that Chinese people don't even drink the first 2 infusions of sheng. They usually skip to the 3rd or even 4th infusion.

Shu, on the other hand, they drink from 1st infusion onward. I notice shu's tend to be great right from the start though they lose that earthy taste around the 3rd infusion.

Should I rinse them for a longer period of time or just skip the first 2 infusions?

If true at all I would think that you have shu and sheng mixed up. As the process for making shu can be a little funky, there is more of a need to rinse it.


Actually, I was using too much leaf.

By doing a 1:1 ratio (1 gram leaf to 1 ounce water) I get much better results. Other people may like their sheng at 2 grams per 1 ounce, and I personally like shu at 2 or more grams per ounce since it doesn't seem to get astringent no matter how strong I make it, but I can only handle sheng at 1:1. That's with a very short infusion time of pouring the water in and the tea out. No waiting between.

And yes, I got the Chinese info backwards. They drink sheng from the start after 1 rinse and rinse shu a bit more before drinking.
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby mr mopu » Aug 11th, '13, 17:57

JD wrote:
gasninja wrote:
JD wrote:After going through a few of these samples again and spending more time with them I'm noticing that the first 2 infusions of each of them are a bit too strong and astringent for my tastes. The 3rd infusion and on are much mellower, subtler, and sweeter tasting.

I read somewhere that Chinese people don't even drink the first 2 infusions of sheng. They usually skip to the 3rd or even 4th infusion.

Shu, on the other hand, they drink from 1st infusion onward. I notice shu's tend to be great right from the start though they lose that earthy taste around the 3rd infusion.

Should I rinse them for a longer period of time or just skip the first 2 infusions?

If true at all I would think that you have shu and sheng mixed up. As the process for making shu can be a little funky, there is more of a need to rinse it.
+1 you got it figured out.I had to learn this also. I tried shu on the first brew and was like , uh this isn't right..

Actually, I was using too much leaf.

By doing a 1:1 ratio (1 gram leaf to 1 ounce water) I get much better results. Other people may like their sheng at 2 grams per 1 ounce, and I personally like shu at 2 or more grams per ounce since it doesn't seem to get astringent no matter how strong I make it, but I can only handle sheng at 1:1. That's with a very short infusion time of pouring the water in and the tea out. No waiting between.

And yes, I got the Chinese info backwards. They drink sheng from the start after 1 rinse and rinse shu a bit more before drinking.
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby JD » Aug 13th, '13, 14:59

Okay this is weird.

One of the samples I bought I couldn't break up into smaller pieces due to how hard it is, so I broke it into 3 larger pieces, totaling around 7 grams which is twice the amount I normally use. I brewed it in my gaiwan like normal and it tastes smoother than other shengs I've brewed at only 3 grams. Drinking it now. It's kinda strong but it doesn't have any off-putting flavors in it. It's Pu-Erh Shop's "2008 Mengsa Green Pu-Erh Tea Cake".

I did use my new kettle to brew it with. I used the hold button after each pour to keep the water at a consistent 208F.

Either I got better at gongfu, or my new kettle is better at holding a steady temp.
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby Joel Byron » Aug 13th, '13, 15:26

Typically, smaller pieces infuse faster. There is a lot more surface area exposed to the water with smaller broken up pieces. Maybe with the larger pieces the flavors are releasing more slowly. Try using some larger chunks of your other samples and see if you get similar results.
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby JD » Aug 13th, '13, 19:08

Just did 3 more infusions of this after the chunks have loosened and split up into leaves.

Still smooth. Very nice sheng. No off-putting flavors or astringency or anything bad about it. It's just good. The mouth-feel is kinda buttery.

Maybe my new kettle does do a better job of brewing tea.
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby Exempt » Aug 13th, '13, 20:14

JD wrote:Just did 3 more infusions of this after the chunks have loosened and split up into leaves.

Still smooth. Very nice sheng. No off-putting flavors or astringency or anything bad about it. It's just good. The mouth-feel is kinda buttery.

Maybe my new kettle does do a better job of brewing tea.

Since it's only $17 it makes sense that it is easily drinkable. It is most likely low quality leaves processed in a way so it appeals to the western, drink now market.
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby JD » Aug 14th, '13, 14:43

Just did this same thing with 8 grams of 2009 Organic Old Tree.

Still nice and smooth. No off-putting flavors. A tad strong.

This is also a cheap cake at only $17.00 for 357g.

Apparently every sample I bought came from a cheap cake under $20. Only 1 cake was $29. I may have to tweak my remaining samples-to-buy list a bit depending on price.
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby JD » Aug 14th, '13, 17:01

Decided to try this same method using an older tea I've had since 2008. Got this from Pu-erh Shop also but they no longer carry it.

2005 Wild Arbor Tree Pu-erh Tea 250g Brick $8.49

Been aging it ever since, though there's not much of it left. Maybe enough for one more tea session.

This brewed a much darker colored tan tea than the sheng samples. I used to not like this particular tea very much because it had an off-putting taste to it. Kinda sharp and astringent. But using the new kettle and brewing this at 8 grams in a 3.2 oz gaiwan at 208F consistent temp for short 5 second steeps this tea stands out from the sheng samples. It's smooth, subtle, sweet, a slight roasted flavor, very nice. Kinda fruity even.

So the new kettle plus doubling the amount of tea seems to be making much better tasting sheng. Maybe I was over-extracting it with less leaves or something. I dunno.
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby JD » Aug 14th, '13, 17:31

I created new sample lists for teas from Puerh Shop and Yunnan Sourcing. A lot more Yunnan Sourcing teas made the cut this time instead of Pu Shop.

The new criteria was any Sheng cake/brick for a minimum of $38, and any Shu cake/brick for a minimum of $28. Year and maker didn't matter this time.

A lot of Yunnan Sourcing's own brand tea cakes made it to the list. I'm not sure if YS charges more for their own cakes or not.
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby JD » Aug 14th, '13, 21:42

Just tried brewing some of an old cake I bought way back in 2008.

I actually forgot where I bought it from and threw away the wrapper as it was falling apart and couldn't stay wrapped around the cake anymore. I revisited all of the tea sites I bought stuff from just now and lo and behold I apparently bought it from Hou De.

"2005 Ming-Yuan Hao Yi-Wu Wild Old Tree Cake, Uncooked 400g" ($29.50).

I have a lot of this sucker leftover after all these years and apparently it's gone up in price. Just 1 ounce of this stuff (28g) from Hou De is $10.50 (link). Which means the entire cake is now worth around $160.

Anyway, brewing this up at 7 grams it's got that very strong campfire-like smell and flavor. The whole reason I originally bought this cake. Smooth. Smokey. Great as always.

This doubling leaf amount seems to be paying off so far.
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby shah82 » Aug 14th, '13, 22:26

They sell the cake for $49.50. If you're willing to buy three, $42.

This one reason why one should never go overboard with samples. Well, rather two--you find an old cake you haven't drunk for a while and it's gotten better.

I don't think of my cakes as being particularly smoky, though...
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby JD » Aug 15th, '13, 15:35

Doesn't seem like the same cake as the wrapper and logo are not the same.

I cannot believe they're charging $10 for a 1oz sample from a $50 cake. Breaking a piece of the cake off and sticking it in a plastic baggy requires that much markup?

Oh well. It's worth $50 then.
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Re: How do you choose pu-erh?

Postby gasninja » Aug 16th, '13, 07:20

It seems like Gaung sometimes just arbitrarily decides on prices for his samples.
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