Oolong and Pu-erh questions

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Nov 24th, '16, 06:04
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Oolong and Pu-erh questions

by VelociTea » Nov 24th, '16, 06:04

Hi everyone :)

Being tight on time, I briefly looked through the forums to try and find what I was looking for, but drowned in a sea of information. Especially regarding which vendor to choose.

Up until now, I have been actively avoiding any teas from China out of concern of possible contaminantion caused by environmental pollution, lack of strict standards, etc.. So if anyone has something they would like to add, that would be great.

I've decided to put my fears, and possible misconceptions about Chinese teas aside, and give some Oolongs and Pu'erh a try. Pu'erh in particular intrigued me and sounds quite unique, being a "living" fermented tea. I have always been curious to try Oolong as well, I don't know much about it.

I welcome any suggestions of reputable vendors that supply quality Chinese teas (Organic, If possible) and some advice to determine what makes a good quality Pu'erh and Oolong. Any tips in general for someone who has never had these teas before, would help a great deal :mrgreen:

Nov 24th, '16, 09:25
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Re: Oolong and Pu-erh questions

by ethan » Nov 24th, '16, 09:25

I find narrowing one's choices for our tea hobby, helpful. The expense & work of mastering preparation of Japanese green tea & matcha, for example, did not make sense to me when I could more easily enjoy devoting time & $ to other teas. I decided to avoid them unless I got bored w/ other tea &/or wealthy. Probably will never explore them.

More to your situation, I think exploring oolongs that are not Chinese is a better start. I believe it is easier to do well purchasing oolong from Taiwan than from China. Almost all pu-erh comes from China; & almost all pu-erh is not enjoyable to drink when purchased & much of it will never taste good. That's a challenge.

It's Thanksgiving morning in the USA; so time not to sound negative. I'll stop writing. I will send you a PM.

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Nov 24th, '16, 10:52
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Re: Oolong and Pu-erh questions

by jayinhk » Nov 24th, '16, 10:52

Taiwan has plenty of food and tea scares, so either way, no guarantee you're getting safer tea. Being sold tea as organic means very little without reliable certification. Even USDA certification is somewhat...questionable.

Fujian is less polluted than many places in China, so Wuyi oolongs should be relatively safe. Anything roasted is probably a safer bet too as I bet some of the pesticide would be vaporized away with heat--I need to look that up.

There is organic certified pu erh coming out of China (government certified stuff). Scott at Yunnan Sourcing carries some, and a few big factories in China have produced and continue to produce organic pu erhs. There's plenty of ready to drink pu erh out there, but it tends to cost more (and the biggest increase in price comes with age). I bought over 2 kg of aged pu erh today and it's all ready to drink, but would benefit from 2-4 weeks of airing out in a dryer environment.

Scott at YS also carries EU MRL tested tea. Essence of Tea has tested teas that are entirely pesticide free (and not cheap), and FarmerLeaf.com carries tea that they produce themselves (sometimes they even cook their own maocha from freshly picked leaf) and they know their sources. Some herbicide use, but they've cut out the pesticide and fertilizer use entirely, I believe.

Oolongs are a little trickier. I'm going to look into certified organic Wuyicha now. :) I don't think I've ever seen certified organic Wuyi teas or Taiwanese oolongs. I was shown a USDA certification in Thailand by a vendor...and it was expired. LOL. I pointed it out and the guy was like..."Oh."

Nov 24th, '16, 18:23
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Re: Oolong and Pu-erh questions

by ethan » Nov 24th, '16, 18:23

Jay,

For oolong, I was not thinking of pesticides or pollution when suggesting it easier to focus on tea from Taiwan over tea from China. I was thinking one would not be overwhelmed w/ quite as many choices of oolong & would be more likely to obtain quality tea staying w/ Taiwan in the beginning. Taiwan has disappointed me much < China.

For pu-erh I think one can easily waste a lot of time, effort, & $. I was lucky because a swap on Teachat (cigars & jade from me for many samples of pu) let me try so many samples of pu from someone who bought & stored well. Yet, almost all of his tea was only fair at best. I knew then that I was not going online to order samples from vendors, nor would I age tea for years hoping it would be okay eventually. I decided to only buy ready-to-enjoy loose pu that I sampled at a shop where I could buy from the same bag or box or whatever if I liked the sample of it.

I do need to try some of the special Chinese oolong you obtain. I don't mean to be close-minded.

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Nov 24th, '16, 19:39
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Re: Oolong and Pu-erh questions

by jayinhk » Nov 24th, '16, 19:39

ethan wrote:Jay,

For oolong, I was not thinking of pesticides or pollution when suggesting it easier to focus on tea from Taiwan over tea from China. I was thinking one would not be overwhelmed w/ quite as many choices of oolong & would be more likely to obtain quality tea staying w/ Taiwan in the beginning. Taiwan has disappointed me much < China.

For pu-erh I think one can easily waste a lot of time, effort, & $. I was lucky because a swap on Teachat (cigars & jade from me for many samples of pu) let me try so many samples of pu from someone who bought & stored well. Yet, almost all of his tea was only fair at best. I knew then that I was not going online to order samples from vendors, nor would I age tea for years hoping it would be okay eventually. I decided to only buy ready-to-enjoy loose pu that I sampled at a shop where I could buy from the same bag or box or whatever if I liked the sample of it.

I do need to try some of the special Chinese oolong you obtain. I don't mean to be close-minded.
Ethan, sorry, I assumed you were referring to pesticide/fertilizer use. It was late when I posted. :)

Taiwan has lots of great tea. It's even a great place to buy pu erh imported from China and Hong Kong and aged there, but there is lots of fake (not even Taiwanese) and bad tea as well. Taiwan imports FAR more tea than it produces. I would say it is easier to get good Taiwanese tea and in many cases it can be better value, too. Really good pu erh and Wuyicha can be VERY expensive. The best Wuyicha can cost more than gold. The demand for good Chinese tea is insatiable and with increased wealth, prices have gone up and so have the incidences of ripoffs/scams. That being said, there are really no substitutes for good pu erh and Wuyi oolongs. I like Taiwanese oolongs, but prefer Wuyicha for regular drinking. That's something Taiwan does not produce or even attempt to replicate closely (there are Wuyi-style Taiwanese teas, though), despite the proximity to Fujian and the background of many Taiwanese immigrants.

Those who can afford to go online and buy samples can find the teas and niches they are most interested in, and the internet makes it easy to get instant feedback from those who have gone before you. I'm fortunate that one of the niches I'm most interested in is teas from my own backyard, so to speak--my family have been buying tea locally for decades. I do buy tea online, but only stuff I can't find locally or through my forays and want to experience, or teas that I'm looking to age (young pu erh).

My advice for any and all beginners is to sample widely to find what it is you like. The internet makes that easy and you learn a heck of a lot more that way!

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Nov 24th, '16, 20:03
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Re: Oolong and Pu-erh questions

by VelociTea » Nov 24th, '16, 20:03

Thanks for the replies, Ethan and Jay :)

I will use my own due diligence before I commit to making a purchase, and hopefully find a tea from the "less polluted" regions of China. Everyone claims their tea is the highest quality, so I will try and filter out all the noise and find the best tea for a reasonable price.

I couldn't see myself ever drinking these teas regularly, but who knows. I'm more or less curious as to what they taste like. If I tried them once, and don't end up liking it, I don't see myself ever buying them again. Which is why I wanted to start off with some basic, recommended, decent quality stuff that would give me a good first impression of how these teas are supposed to taste, without breaking the bank.

I have heard mixed reviews about Pu, but it certainly sounds unique. Never seen a living, fermented loose leaf before. As far as health, I wonder is it's even necessary as I already drink a bottle of Kombucha once a day.. and if the bacteria is as beneficial for your body in the same way people claim Kombucha to be. Or potentially the opposite if prepared incorrectly and the wrong bacteria is produced, or contaminated with God knows what..

I hear people rave about Oolong though, and the "complexity" of flavours, similar to what people say about Green Tea. Though, when I was heavy into Green Tea not too long ago, I bought alll the crap like a Kyusu, thermometer, scale, etc.. But still could never seem to achieve the same results and level of enjoyment as others. Maybe it just wasn't for me, I just couldn't see what everyone else was seeing. I still drink it occasionally, to justify my purchase.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Nov 24th, '16, 21:24
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Re: Oolong and Pu-erh questions

by ethan » Nov 24th, '16, 21:24

Velocity, I disagree about you getting samples from the internet. I think it is overwhelming. I'd say it's time to drink, not think, as I read your last post & your first. My sincere advice is to ask Jay to choose a pu-erh that won't knock you on your butt & an extremely tasty, interesting oolong. Very quickly you will know whether you like tea from China & in general. Jay has the best palate of anyone I've ever drunk tea with. (That's does not mean we prefer the same teas, but that he knows what is truly excellent). Whatever the prices of one pu & one oolong, of a minimum quantity (not a sample, that does not give enough to master your preparation) it is less than several orders of samples from vendors. Good luck on your quest.

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Nov 25th, '16, 00:21
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Re: Oolong and Pu-erh questions

by jayinhk » Nov 25th, '16, 00:21

Thanks for the compliment ethan--still refining my palate and learning more and more as I go, and there's a lot to learn!

As far as pu erh goes, there is raw and ripe. Modern single tree/farm/blended, and then there's factory tea. Dry storage and heavy traditional storage. Basically you need to try a range of teas to understand pu erh, and the same goes for oolong (more so, as there are so many more varietals and types of processing involved). Ideally he could sit down with someone and try a bunch, but that doesn't seem to be an option at this stage, so buying samples online is the next best thing. You're right that it takes a while to learn how to brew teas correctly though. You need the right infusion time and amount of leaf, and the water and temperature have to be where you want them too. Lots to consider. Fortunately most oolongs and pu erh can handle boiling water (or close to it), so at least temperature is less of a concern a la sencha/gyokuro.

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