Thanks. This will go on my wish list, too.
I do want to understand the difference between sheng and shu and develop an appreciation for the total Pu experience.
I'm a foodie at heart and have competed in BBQ cookoffs for the last several years. One thing I learned was an appreciation for different nuance.
Your input in greatly appreciated.
Sheng is "raw" Pu'er. Sheng can be thought of as basically green tea that is usually aged through secondary oxidation process and microbial fermentation. You can drink young sheng "as-is", but once you have had a lot of different Pu'er, most people agree that sheng is undrinkable unless aged for quite a long time. Sheng can be aged for decades without losing flavor, and usually just becoming better and better.
Shu is "ripe", or "cooked" Pu'er. Shu goes through a fermentation process to loosely mimic aged Sheng Pu'er. It's Sheng that's been piled, sprayed with water, and covered to increase heat and humidity to aid in the developing of microbial fermentation. Poorly made Shu tastes horrible, properly made Shu tastes good usually after a few months of being produced (after it loses it's "fermentation flavor", or dui wei), and can be aged to further enhance it's flavors among other things.
Usually this is a controversial topic simply because of the specific words used when describing both, which if you use the wrong word (for instance mixing oxidation with fermentation) people start to get riled up, so hopefully I didn't butcher the explanations. Since a Sheng and Shu have been suggested, might I suggest samples of a Sheng, Shu, and aged Sheng so that you may see the differences. I'm basically going to copy and paste (with some slight modifications) something I posted in a similar thread earlier last month. If this is too long of a post I apologize.
This is my favorite raw Menghai recipe. Very finicky and hard to brew when young, so this is a good place to hone in your sheng brewing skills.
This is a fantastic young sheng. Also worthy of the price, believe it or not.
This is a great adolescent pu'er that I find to be very good, but still needs some years of mellowing out. It's notable for it's age in that it's not just a camphor, woody, mellow tea with some astringency like most Menghai's of similar vintage (especially 7542's of around this time), but that it also has some great complexity and cha qi. Wonderful potential in this one.
This tea, http://www.houdeasianart.com/i...ts_id=559
, and this same tea, but stored differently http://www.houdeasianart.com/i...cts_id=799
are both fantastic for their age, and are decently priced. The dry stored version is, in my opinion superior of the two, but only slightly. This is the best way to see what different storage conditions can do to pu'er. Great learning experience, and delicious too! Great way to broaden and "train" your pallet.
I love this tea. Really love it. Only was able to snag one cake before it sold out, but I'm so glad I did. Extremely active tea, dry stored, excellent flavor profile, and very complex. Great durability, it's showing excellent potential. First session with this tea proved a bad experience, but by the time I was done with the sample I knew I had to get a cake.
This is another great example of dry storage at it's best. While a great tea, I think it's still overrated and overpriced. However, even with that being said, this is a tea you must taste at least once. It's tenacity will challenge you. The most active tea I've ever had at this age. Impressive.
I absolutely love this tea. I'm very upset it sold out so quickly Sad. This one will also challenge your brewing skills, but the payoff is more than worth the effort. Great potential in this adolescent cake.
For it's price and age, this tea absolutely cannot be beat. When I had my first session with this tea, I really was not that impressed. It came off as fairly generic for such an old tea. Wood, camphor, etc. The next session I had with it showed an evolving complexity over multiple brews and really surprised me. The next session also was fantastic. I brewed this tea for hours until it gave up. The storage of this is especially impressive considering it's an 80's tuocha.
http://www.nadacha.co.uk/index.php?prod ... 1&Itemid=1
Really cheap and excellent Shu. Hard to overbrew. Nada said it better than I could have, "This 2008 Shu (Cooked) puerh is I think the best young shu puerh that I've tried". Excellent value.
These are a few teas that I think really give a fairly broad range of pu'er flavors. Samples are so incredibly important, and try your best to hesitate on buying cakes until you're able to sample them one way or another. Samples are also great in that the more different pu'er you drink, the better your brewing methods, the better your flavor profile, and the better you're able to pick up on a tea's quality. I own teas that I impulse bought when I first started because they looked good, but now think are complete trash.
I also think (and most of all of this is subjective, really) that some knowledge of gonfu brewing should be learned. I don't understand people who brew young raw Pu'er for longer than 10 seconds off the first rinse.
Hope this helps! The more the merrier, and the less crazy our obsession seems.