Puerhshop Tasting Group's "Taste of Mellowness"


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Puerhshop Tasting Group's "Taste of Mellowness"

Postby bearsbearsbears » Apr 18th, '08, 16:53

Just got my order from Puerhshop in the mail today, so I thought I'd start up our second round of tasting notes here.

Feel free order a sampler set and jump in here with your thoughts! :idea:
Last edited by bearsbearsbears on Apr 24th, '08, 12:14, edited 1 time in total.
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Changtai Tea Group Banna Tuo Cha

Postby bearsbearsbears » Apr 18th, '08, 16:58

I reviewed one of the teas already on my blog. Oddly enough, the tea included in my sampler was not the Changtai Banna Tuo below, but instead a cooked "yinhao" tuo from Lincang region. With no further adieu:

Changtai Tea Group 2006 "Banna" Tuo Cha

The leaves of this tuo supposedly came from Mengsong and Jinggu, supposedly sifted to remove dust and stems. Interestingly, you won't find Jinggu on a map of Xishuangbanna; Jinggu Shan sits in Simao. Not that in a blind taste test I could tell cooked pu'er from Jinggu from that of Mengsong.

I brewed this in a qinghua doucai gaiwan and pitcher set I purchased in Shanghai. Davin took the helm for much of the brewings. It began smooth, sweet at first, then finishing with an interesting herbal aroma. It became earthier, with a thick mouthfeel that paradoxically finished light on the tongue, mild flavors with a grain quality. The herbal notes transformed into what seemed like sweet onion, progressively sweeter and very consistent in strength and character.

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The wet leaves revealed that the tuo contained small buds, fannings and chopped leaf, but indeed not much fine dust or big twigs as mentioned in Puerhshop.com's description. It lasted a pleasant 6 infusions.

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All in all, we both really enjoyed it. We brewed all samples with the same filtered and remineralized water, and this one did not dry my mouth, while the others did. I appreciated this tea's interesting herbal quality, while Davin said it was an improvement over the first pu'er he tried, an aged shu zhutong pu'er.

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Postby Salsero » Apr 21st, '08, 01:10

Thanks for the post, BBB. I got this sampler as well and I believe Wesli and some others also did, so we will be following your lead eventually.
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remineralized water

Postby rodstnmn » Apr 21st, '08, 21:58

Just wondering if you could explain how you reminerilized your filtered water. Thanks
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2003 Songpin Imperial Pu-erh King Tea Cake

Postby Dizzwave » Apr 22nd, '08, 14:09

2003 Songpin Imperial Pu-erh King Tea Cake (from Mellowness pack)

~5g in a 150ml gaiwan. Rinsed 2x, ~20s each, then let sit for a minute. Wet leaves smell delicious.. a hint of smoke, a hint of sweetness. very "imperial."
1: ~25s. Nice dark reddish color, maybe slightly cloudy. Taste is quite complex. Swirling it around my mouth, it's like each section of my tongue has something to taste. I only wish I could name the flavors. No bitterness. If dirt tasted good, it would taste like this.
2: ~10s. Still beautifully red. The smokiness of the wet leaves' aroma is giving in to the sweetness. As the tea opens up in this second brew, I'm allowed to dive deeper into the flavors. A nice aftertaste lasts for minutes. I can visualize the hot sun on the drying leaves.
3: ~8s (as fast as I can pour). Turning dark very quickly, as shus usually do in the 2nd-4th infusions. I ponder the meaning of the Chinese/Japanese character for shu. According to one Japanese dictionary, we have "mellow, ripen, mature, acquire skill..." The swirling confusion of flavors has unified into one, simple, yumminess that is beyond my descriptive abilities... (my personal notes often just say "yummy!").
4: ~15s. My mind and body feel very pleasantly light and clear. If I weren't at work, I would go sit and meditate right now. I find that relaxing the muscles around my brain leads to a nice sensation in my whole body. I love how mellowing (but not clouding) a good shu is, and this one is no exception. An aftertaste sneaks up on me, and my tongue starts tingling pleasantly.
5: ~30s. Starting to weaken, but still quite bold. Some of the "bottom" has dropped out of the complexity. Now a nice plum-my sweetness remains.
6: a minute or so. definitely getting weaker now, but still tasty. I'll probably let the 7th infusion sit for five minutes, and make that the last one. Oh, what's this? A bit of tongue-tingle still there. :) Is that what they call qi? As the tea cools, the sweetness becomes more pronounced. (Sometimes drinking tea too hot doesn't allow you to taste it.)

I can see why it's called Imperial -- I can just see an old emperor chilling out with this tea, his long white beard dripping with red shupujuice...

I give it 4/5 stars. Would I buy a cake? $33/cake would make this the most expensive cake I've bought (though I've bought loose leaves of shu that are more pricey gram per gram). I have had shus that are about as good and probably not as expensive, but something about writing a review for other people made me enjoy this one even more (another bonus of this whole e-tasting we're doing!). So maybe I should review some of the cheaper ones I have (like the '07 Haiwan 9908 "nuggets" -- ~$12 for 500g, and quite tasty) to force me to find some of the subtleties. Like I said above, my personal tasting notes are often more like "4: ~20s. yummy, less smoky." But now, whenever I drink this tea, I'll think of the emperor hanging out in the sunny tea field. :)
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Re: 2003 Songpin Imperial Pu-erh King Tea Cake

Postby Salsero » Apr 22nd, '08, 14:41

Dizzwave wrote: ... his long white beard dripping with red shupujuice ... something about writing a review for other people made me enjoy this one even more (another bonus of this whole e-tasting we're doing!) ... But now, whenever I drink this tea, I'll think of the emperor hanging out in the sunny tea field.
Gee, Dizz, this is about as close to a perfect review as I can imagine! It has poetry, visual imagery, evaluation, and economics all in one spot! Is it the tea making you so brilliant? Please lower the bar a little on your next note so the rest of us don't get too intimidated to post! :lol:

Thanks so much.
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Postby Dizzwave » Apr 22nd, '08, 14:57

hehe, sorry about that. :oops: It was definitely the tea, man, it was the tea! I hate to think that I'd be keeping others from writing a quick, short post.. I'm definitely not usually that wordy, but got kind of carried away -- tea-drunk perhaps? tea-trippin' is more like it. :P
I'm sure that everyone will have their own reviewing styles from tea to tea, and even the most basic, "just-the-facts" reviews will be useful and fun to read. looking forward to all of them!
-dave
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Postby Beidao » Apr 22nd, '08, 16:41

Oh yes, that was a REALLY brilliant review!!! Stop it, you make me cry like a woolf to the moon... WHY did I have to trow away all my tea-money on other things than pu-er? :cry: Now I have too much already. Have to drink a lot until I've spent it and then... nothing can stop me!! :lol: Expect maybe for an empty purse...
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2006 Yunmei Yue Chen Yue Xiang

Postby Dizzwave » Apr 23rd, '08, 14:09

2006 Yunmei Yue Chen Yue Xiang Pu-erh Tea Cake (mellowness)
rinsed 2x ~20s each. wet leaves smell nice, just a hint of smoke over some kind of fruity sweetness.
1: ~25s. tastes like any old shu. nice hints of sweetness, and a creeping smoky aftertaste. but sorta flat, not held together.
2: ~15s. at first: yum, caramel! towards the end of the cup: a bitter aftertaste? the tea tastes good, but thin. I'll try using more leaves next time (one nice thing about these gianormous sample bags).
3: ~8s. turned dark fast. flavor is a little more full and rounded out now, definitely enjoyable. is that a hint of peanut butter? oh, no wait, that's the sandwich I just took a bite of.
4: ~13s. I'm starting to feel the shu "mellow caffeinated" feeling. but it's less mellow and more caffeinated than the Emperor. (such a subjective, variable thing though, so it's hard to tell.) I need to take a break so I don't get too wired.

Overall, the tea is good, but a little thin. Makes me dream up ideas of a shupu-ccino. Would it be a sin? C'mon, who'll be the first to try it and report back? :) Oh, but you have to use yak butter instead of cream, and no soy substitutions! BBB? You have a stash of yak butter, don't you?

Anyway, I give it.. ummm.... well, the tea itself I give 3 stars. But considering the price ($16.90/cake), I'd have to drop it to 2.5 stars. It's hard to say, though. I've had better shus for cheaper, but the thing with Puerhshop is, the price includes what they paid for shipping it from China. When I buy a "better shu" online for $12 from China, I have to pay more shipping. Anyway.. yadda yadda yadda. This is my brain on Yunmei Yue Chen Yue Xiang.

btw -- Bears, those pics are beautiful. They communicate a very chilled out atmosphere, with perfect lighting for a nighttime pot of tea!
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Re: 2006 Yunmei Yue Chen Yue Xiang

Postby bearsbearsbears » Apr 23rd, '08, 18:10

Dizzwave wrote: BBB? You have a stash of yak butter, don't you?

btw -- Bears, those pics are beautiful. They communicate a very chilled out atmosphere, with perfect lighting for a nighttime pot of tea!


Yak butter...no. Had yak butter pu'er twice in China, once with fresh yak butter, once with rancid yak butter; both were disgusting belly bombs that slipped out as fast as they went in.

Thanks for the kind words. I'm reviewing the Yue Chen Yue Xiang next. See post below!
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2006 Yunmei "Yue Chen Yue Xiang" Shu Pu'er

Postby bearsbearsbears » Apr 23rd, '08, 18:16

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Gongting grade on the outside, average grade on the inside, the Yunmei "Yue Chen Yue Xiang" (lit., "The older, the more fragrant") looked and smelled appealing. I'm still learning how to brew gongting shu consistently tasty from brew to brew, so the discovery of the Yunmei cake's blend charmed me.

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Still, I had some issues brewing the sample. The first time too much leaf in the pot made the brew too strong. The second time I overcompensated for my previous mistake and used too little leaf, making the tea flat. The third time was just right...maybe.

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The hot wet leaf in the pot evaporated grain/barley notes and dried cherry or jujube. No muddy texture or flavor, just lots of clean wet bark/forest floor flavor. No pondiness/fishiness to speak of, and barley did appear in the flavor in the first infusions. Subsequent infusions were perfumed with rose and talc, finishing with sweetness and lumber, with no negative traits to speak of, getting progressively "cleaner" in taste. It began to die at infusion 5, totally dead in infusion 6, tasting only of mineral water.

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Summary
In sum, I enjoyed this tea once I adjusted myself to its techniques. Thankfully, the sample size is large enough that, now adjusted, I can probably enjoy this tea another 8 brewing sessions, maybe even update this post with new discoveries.

Pros: clean, no pond, interesting aromas
Cons: died quickly, a bit finicky about leaf:water ratio
Cost: If you buy a cake of this (US$16.50 or so), you're getting decent shu. Considering that buys you some 50+ gongfu sessions, you're looking at approx. $0.33 per gongfu. At 5 good infusions, that's about $0.07 per cup. Cheap.
Verdict: If I bought this cake, I'd not be disappointed. At its price and its lack of negative flavors, it makes for good everyday tea. I rarely stray away from major factory (Menghai, Xiaguan, Fengqing, Haiwan) shu pu'er, but this is an example of properly made shu. I'm looking forward to finishing it off.[/img]
Last edited by bearsbearsbears on Apr 23rd, '08, 18:59, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Dizzwave » Apr 23rd, '08, 18:53

very nice, succinct review, B3! It helps to see the math there: 7 cents a cup, and I think I'm comfortable re-upping mine to 3 stars. I just didn't think of it that way. Again, nice pictures. And I still long for the day when my tongue can pick apart all the things you mention in a cup of tea. :)
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2006 Changtai Banna Tuocha

Postby Dizzwave » Apr 24th, '08, 14:18

2006 Changtai Banna Tuocha
This tuo breaks up very nicely and easily. I used my bare hands to break off a single good-sized chunk.. 5-7g I'm guessing.
Dry leaves in prewarmed gaiwan smell rich and chocolatey. After rinsing 2x @~20s each, wet leaves give off a fruity aroma. Strawberry? and chocolate fondue? I don't know, some fruit I can't put my finger on.
1: ~25s. Nice! smooth and chocolatey. My thoughts are immediately "$5 a tuo?? I'm gonna get me one of these." and then.."oh wait, I already have a whole one." I think I *slightly* oversteeped this one, as it's a tad bitter. But I love bitter chocolate, so it's all good. The tea isn't watery at all, and fills my head with.. ahh, I think I'm putting my finger on it.. chocolate covered cherries?
2: ~8s. Turned dark right away. Tea is thick and sweet, but not yucky-sweet. I'm feeling that faint tingle on my tongue.
3: ~12s. The flavors are so well blended that I can't pick anything out. I'm looking for Bears' sweet onion, but not finding it. Or am I? Come to think of it... Anyway, it's still thick and rich. I'm really liking this one.
4: ~17s. Losing a little of the richness, as expected, but still pretty durned good. I'm getting an interesting aftertaste, perhaps the herb that B3 mentioned. A touch of pucker-mouth astringency, but only so much as to be pleasant, as if I just dusted my mouth with gourmet cocoa powder. Oh boy oh boy oh boy, I think, eyeing the other 95g of this tuo.. "My precious.."
5: ~35s. The buzz is nice and mellow, but still "up". The flavor is still quite present -- less chocolate, less sweet, but something else. Tastes how a lot shus do after 5 steeps, but in the best way -- not in a low-grade watery way as many do. As I take a break from drinking to type this, the aftertaste comes: roasted grains.
6: Let it sit, drinking right out of the gaiwan. Still going, but this is probably the last good one. Throwbacks to the choco-cherries are still in there, surprising me. Still some tongue-tingle. Hmm, maybe I will do another infusion. :)

So... 4 stars! At 25c a pot, I highly recommend it. There were no fishy or otherwise "off" flavors, and chocolatey all around. And I feel good, not overly jangly or caffeinated. What more can I say? I can afford to drink this one every day -- what a treat!

[note.. after doing the math, I realize that this is about as pricey, per gram, as the Yunmei. But this one's way better, IMO. And, the bargain hunter (sucker) in me just sees the "oh, $5 for a unit of that!" regardless of the size of the unit.]

[another note: what makes a 5-star tea? Maybe after sampling all of them, I'll have to revisit my ratings..]
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2003 Xiaguan Tuocha

Postby bearsbearsbears » Apr 24th, '08, 18:25

The appearance of this tea caused me to have reservations about its authenticity. At first glance, the tea appears fine:

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But the interior leaves are all huangpian:

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While many, many manufacturers hide ugly leaves under pretty leaves, this is not something Xiaguan has been known to do, not even for the Xiao Fa (French Export) Tuo, which this tea is. While some of the faces do not match the back of the cakes on blended cakes like the (T)86## series, I've never seen Xiaguan practice this level of deception. Xiaguan teas being faked all the time, I went to see if I could find this tea on Taobao, the Chinese version of eBay. I found only one 2003 Xiaguan tuo matching the wrapper--another Xiao Fa Tuo--but it has no picture of the leaves. Also, it sells for all of 36RMB, the equivalent of roughly $5 (*grumble*). In comparison:

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Worse, it tastes and smells terrible. My first attempt yielded a chemical smelling wet leaf and a perfumey, thin liquor tasting of straw and no earthiness. It even made my stomach upset. I stopped after three infusions.

Today, I brewed the tea again using more leaf. The chemical smell was still there, but the tea was improved. Smoother in texture, it still tasted more like <em>fucha</em>: all dry grass and little earth. The qi was whack, upsetting my stomach and making me woozy. The 3rd, 4th, 5th infusions were the most pleasant, coupling earthiness and grass. After this, it regressed to harsher chemically hay flavors.

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The "deception" and low quality leaf combined with poor flavor makes me wonder if this is really a Xiaguan tea. I'm no authority, but I've never seen Xiaguan do this and have never tasted Xiaguan shu pu'er that I disliked. A closeup of the brewed leaves below shows the leathery huangpian. I'd love to blame the huangpian alone, but I've had huangpian shu before without complaining as much.

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Pros: no pond
Cons: artificial/chemical aroma and flavors, needs a heap of leaf to get good flavors, ends poorly
Cost: $16/250g. 35 gongfu sessions at approx. $0.45 per gongfu. $0.09 per cup. Low quality damages its value.
Verdict: Low quality leaf deceptively hidden. Poor flavor. Finicky brewing. Not very good. Going to try this again with just the face leaf and update this post later.
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Re: 2003 Xiaguan Tuocha

Postby Dizzwave » Apr 24th, '08, 18:37

bearsbearsbears wrote:Worse, it tastes and smells terrible.

Wow.. I think I know what you mean. I haven't dipped into this sample yet, because I think it might be the same 2003 XiaGuan tuo that I bought from puerhshop a few months ago, and had a yuck experience with. Basically I manually tore up the wet leaves between infusions, just to stir things up a bit... and after that it tasted wayyy too sweet and syrupy, like cough medicine or something. (link to that discussion: http://community.livejournal.com/puerh_tea/182208.html)

Anyway, very interesting review, B3. I may just not touch that stuff. :roll:
-dave
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