Puerhshop Tasting Group's "Year of Green Pu-erh"


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

Postby Wesli » Apr 20th, '08, 14:27

Well well well, I've never tasted fishiness in a raw puerh... Soon I will see what this is all about.
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Postby Ron Gilmour » Apr 20th, '08, 14:56

Salsero inquired about my brewing parameters, so I guess it's confession time. All you gongfu types had better stop reading right now.

I'm brewing my puerhs in a 16-oz ceramic teapot with a filter basket. I've been putting precisely one "chunk" of tea in the filter basket (I don't have a scale). I bring some water to a full boil and rinse the tea for maybe 30 s. Then I pour the water into a pyrex measuring cup to cool it down a bit (I don't have a thermometer either), then pour it into the pot. I've been doing about 1 minute steeps.

Any suggestions for how I can improve my method will be greatly appreciated. An yixing pot is on its way in the mail.
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Postby Salsero » Apr 20th, '08, 15:15

Ron Gilmour wrote: so I guess it's confession time.
No confession required. I am in the situation opposite to yours. I have always brewed sheng puerh gong fu and am interested in extending my repertoire to something more European.
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Brewing Parameters

Postby Jim Liu » Apr 20th, '08, 18:40

I believe the brewing parameters posted at PuerhShop are somewhat misleading, I should add 'always use judgment and experiment' for your own best brewing results. Say start with a short steep, the brewed tea maybe weak, but it's easy to swallow, now extend the steep time a bit longer and see if it tastes better ... Be sure to smell your cup after drinking up the soup.

Also I would like to remind you that water is a such important factor that got overlooked most time. Fishy? Sounds like a water problem to me.
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2007 Menghai Feet of Crab

Postby Salsero » Apr 21st, '08, 11:48

Well, Ron is right that 2007 Menghai Feet of Crab is an atypical sheng puerh. BTW in this case Menghai refers to a town in the Xishuangbanna region of Yunnan, not the famous Menghai Factory. This tea was produced by the Chuncheng Tea Factory. This info from Lew Perin's great Chinese tea drinker's resource BabelCarp at http://www.panix.com/~perin/babelcarp.c ... =zizhizhou If you haven't already, bookmark it. Anyone crazy enough to be reading this forum will need Babelcarp.

The flavor is different from other sheng, but not out of the ballpark. If Ron had not alerted me to check the vendor website, I would have just thought, "Mmm, that's different," not "Hey this isn't sheng." I found the flavor profile pretty much the same through 7 infusions. It had a pleasant oily feel on the lips, low astringency, no roughness in the mouth, and enough acidity that it didn't feel flat.

Wesli and I talked in the IM a little about how to describe the taste. I suggested that it tasted like water in which a ginger root had been soaking or a flat warm beer or maybe hops. None of those is very close, but that's all I could come up with. MarshalN didn't try this example, but apparently has had Feet of Crab type sheng before and he says it tastes, "weird." I liked the taste. I would not buy a cake of it, but I will enjoy drinking up this sample. As for the fishy taste that Ron mentions, I did not exactly find that, but maybe nori.

Brewing: 5.00 g in 120 ml pot, off boil: no rinse, infusions: 17 s, 25 s, 37 s, 1 m, 90 s, 2 m, 4 m (could have gone more rounds, I think)

I also would like to know more about this Feet of Crab plant, but couldn't find more info. It did not taste to me like a spice, however.

*** "I liked it"
Last edited by Salsero on Apr 25th, '08, 22:54, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Dizzwave » Apr 21st, '08, 14:03

Hello pu-heads! hehe..
I was very excited to receive my package from the Pu Shop this weekend, and got right down to tasting. Many thanks to Jim for putting together such nice sample packs. :)
I received the Year of Green, Taste of Mellowness, Pride of Menghai, and Yiwu samplers, but I've so far confined myself to the Year of Green pack -- and one of the Mellow ones last night, just because I was in a shu mood.

Here are my results so far:
-------------
2006 Arbor Yinhao Tuocha
I found it pretty easy to flake leaves off of the tuo, but the leaves are so small and choppy that a lot of dust was created. Oh well, more shake for the somewhat illegal-looking ziploc in my desk drawer, for future teabag making. I rinsed the leaves (around 5g?) once for ~20s in a 150ml yixing teapot that I use only for younger sheng pu -- and I just got it a few weeks ago, so it's not very seasoned yet.
The wet leaves smelled pretty nice, with a little tartness. Here are the brew notes:
1: ~20s: brew looks a little cloudy, but a nice color otherwise. taste is definitely watery, for how dark it is. kind of a woody flavor.
2: ~15s: cloudy and relatively dark (for a sheng) again. taste is less watery than the first, and not bad -- a decent sheng-y flavor. left kind of a gritty feeling in my mouth though.
3: same as the last. a slight tartness, a slight wateriness.

Overall, I give this one 3 stars (out of 5 -- is that how we're doing it?). I would give it 2, but it's so inexpensive that it's practically free to drink. :)

Ok.... The other two I tried, I didn't take so many notes, so I'll have to go from memory...
-----------------
2004 CNNP Old Tree Green Pu-erh Tea Cake
The dry leaves were nice and big, and kind of fun to loosen from the chunk in the big ol' ziploc. The stems were big and plentiful. I rinsed ~5g 1x for ~20s in a 175ml glass teapot. The wet leaves smelled very woody.. like a chopped tree stump in the rain. Not a bad smell, but not what I was expecting in a pu-erh! :)
1st steep: ~25s: fairly light in color. I was disappointed to find that the brew tasted just how it smelled. Like I said, not "bad", but not what I like in a pu. More like a hojicha, or a kukicha even.
2: ~20s: getting a little darker, and the woodiness is a little less pronounced, with a little bit more of a "tea" flavor.. but not much.

This tea went on for many steeps before kicking it.. at least 10 with good color.. but the flavor didn't change much throughout. I give this one 2 stars. Maybe I'm just used to a more tart, lively, flavorful, bright sheng. I'll certainly drink the rest of my 2oz sample bag, but I wouldn't buy a cake of it for $20. Maybe that's just me though. :) My feeling is that the more flavor in a young sheng, the more complexly it will mellow -- and that this one didn't have much flavor to begin with.

-------------------
2007 Old Banzhang Arbor Pu-erh Tea Cake
I don't have very good notes from tasting this one, but here are my impressions:
(~5g, 175ml glass teapot) The first steep was also distinctly "woody". Wow, that's a lot of woody teas in this sample pack. Of the couple dozen other shengs I've tried, I don't remember so much woodiness. Anyway, the second steep was quite nice, and a slight butteriness came out. I gobbled that up and poured a couple more until the butteriness was gone and I was left with a decent tea for a few more brews. I think I had to stop drinking because it was getting late and I needed some food and water.

I give this one 3 stars, for the yumminess:price ratio ($11.20 cake). Still, I probably won't buy one, because I've had better for the same price -- and far better for just a bit more in price. Anyway, the description on the site wasn't too enthusiastic either: "A tea is a tea, how bad it can get. You may even like it."

------
Gosh, I'm sounding crotchety. Perhaps I've been spoiled by other green pu-erhs? Anyway, on a positive note, I also tried the Songpin Imperial (from the Mellowness set -- reviews to come later) this weekend, and I really liked it -- so all is not lost. And I have hope for the Menghai and Yiwu sets. After all, Jim himself recommended not starting out with the Year Of Green. I suppose it can only get better from here! Let us proceed with the tea drinking, fellow pu-meisters!
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Postby Salsero » Apr 21st, '08, 14:35

Dizzwave wrote:Gosh, I'm sounding crotchety ... I suppose it can only get better from here! Let us proceed with the tea drinking, fellow pu-meisters!
Super reviews, Dizzwave, and a breezy writing style as well, very urbane. Thanks.

There's a fine line between being too critical and too easily pleased, I think. For me 3 stars means I like something, it is a fine average, but just average. By definition, most of our teas will be broadly average, but I think we learn something from tasting a lot of tea that we don't fall deeply and passionately in love with.

And, as you point out, we are starting at the bottom here. I think that is the right place to start. Hopefully, as we work through this pile of leaves, we will grow. I wouldn't be surprised if later we look back at these reviews and think we were too generous in appraisal. But also, I don't think we are going to run across anything that we just don't like.
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Postby Dizzwave » Apr 21st, '08, 15:04

Thanks Sal! I really liked your reviews too. Thanks for helping to facilitate such a fine e-tasting session. :) It's been really fun so far, and there's so much more to come...

Also, let it be known that when I'm at home (as opposed to at work), I drink out of my blue-on-white koi cup, which I now refer to as my "Salsero cup" without even thinking about it!

(Side note: I cheated. I'm trying one of the Yiwu sample teas right now -- I had to -- and it kicks the butt of any of the Year of Green teas so far, IMHO.)
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Postby Salsero » Apr 21st, '08, 15:20

Dizzwave wrote:(I cheated. )
Shhh..

Do you really have a leaping carp cup just like mine? Handle, no handle, or gong fu size (30 ml/1 oz)?

By the way, if you want, go ahead and open a new thread for the Yiwu sampler like Bears did for Mellow. Send Chip a PM and he will sticky it for us.
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carp cup

Postby Dizzwave » Apr 21st, '08, 15:41

Yep, it's the same fish alright. Standard teacup with a handle, maybe 175ml -ish?

I'll start up a Yiwu thread sometime soon.. Good idea.
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Postby Ron Gilmour » Apr 21st, '08, 19:29

I don't want to sound alarmist, but I'm a little creeped out by "feet of crab." My efforts to identify the plant have so far been unsuccessful. These efforts have included an e-mail to a parasitic plant expert and a lengthy discussion with a friend of mine who is a botanist at the Smithsonian. I've also e-mailed the National Agricultural Library, but have not yet received a reply.

My Smithsonian friend guessed that it is possibly a relative of mistletoe and strongly discouraged me from drinking any more of the tea. I'm inclined to take his advise.
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Postby Salsero » Apr 21st, '08, 20:02

Wow, Ron, thanks for the info and warning. Did you have anything to go on besides the name "Feet of Crab"?
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Postby Ron Gilmour » Apr 21st, '08, 20:58

We have a few bits of evidence to use in determining the identity of "feet of crab":

1. the common names "feet of crab" and "unicorn grass" (the latter not to be confused with an ornamental rush that also goes by that name)

2. the fact that it grows on tea plants in Yunnan

3. the morphology of the plant fragments themselves: jointed woody stems with longitudinal striations and no apparent leaf scars

A description of the plant on another tea site asserts that the plant is parasitic. Of course, in non-botanical discourse, plants that are merely epiphytes (growing on, but not deriving nutriment from, other plants) are sometimes mistakenly called parasites. If the plant is really parasitic, that narrows down the possible candidates quite a bit.

Based on all of that, my botanist friend is inclined to think we're dealing with something in the plant order Santalales. Even if we accept his hunch, that's still a lot of possibilities. There are Santalalean plants that have a nearly-leafless broom-like habit that could produce fragments like what we see in the tea.

At this point I'm despairing of ever knowing the truth and am reluctant to consume that which I cannot identify.
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Postby MarshalN » Apr 21st, '08, 21:19

According to an online source, the academic name for this plant is

Viscum articulatum Burm.f.

That might help your friend to figure out what it is exctly.
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Postby Ron Gilmour » Apr 22nd, '08, 10:05

Thank you, Marshall, for the scientific name. Where did you find it? My friend was right about the mistletoe link. The genus Viscum is the same genus as Christmas mistletoe. I wouldn't drink something made from Christmas mistletoe and I'm not inclined to drink its cousin.
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