Pu-Erh for beginners?

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


Jun 19th, '13, 23:46
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Pu-Erh for beginners?

by genushumanusalice » Jun 19th, '13, 23:46

I have been drinking all kinds of tea for many years but Pu-Erh? I have never touched it. I feel like there are are a number of barriers to entering the Pu-Erh world and breaking through them alone is very daunting.

1. Where to start? I think I'd like to start out with a small quantity of three or so diverse teas and branch out from there but how does a complete novice pick and what characteristics should I be looking for in different varieties?

2. Expense. Good tea generally isn't cheap but Pu-Erh seems especially not, and I don't even know what I like yet. Spending up on a cake of tea and finding I don't like it doesn't seem like much fun.

3. Accessibility. Can I buy good Pu-Erh in Australia or do I need to order online? Hunting around the web has me a bit saddened as most vendors either don't ship to Australia or charge high shipping rates ($40?!). Yunnan Sourcing looks ok for shipping at about $20 but I'd want to be somewhat certain I'm not going to be disappointed.

4. Brewing. Brewing in a Yixing pot sounds like a lovely ritual but adds to the upfront cost and seems to be a learning curve. I don't have a gaiwan either. Purchasing more teaware is something I'd like to look at once I know if Pu-Erh is for me or not.

Any tips that any of you have for overcoming my Pu-Erh stumbling blocks would be greatly appreciated.

I'd also love to hear about how you were introduced to Pu-Erh, mistakes you made, things you love, etc. :)

Jun 20th, '13, 00:14
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Re: Pu-Erh for beginners?

by ChengduCha » Jun 20th, '13, 00:14

1. Where to start?


Just buy a few samples of medium to higher priced shengs and shus at a reputable online vendor and you'll most likely find out what better quality tastes like. It's easy to be overwhelmed with hundreds of cakes on offer but choosing some random ones will be alright.

2. Expense.


Just stick to samples until you find something you like.

3. Accessibility.


Given that Australia has really high costs of living, you're likely to find the quality for the money much better than at a local tea vendor.

4. Brewing.


If you don't want a gaiwan (they're not really expensive), just buy a tea maker. A Yixing is overkill for a beginner imo.

Jun 20th, '13, 00:59
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Re: Pu-Erh for beginners?

by genushumanusalice » Jun 20th, '13, 00:59

Thank you ChengduCha, you have simplified it a lot in my mind :)

Can you recommend some good online vendors?

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Jun 20th, '13, 02:13
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Re: Pu-Erh for beginners?

by tst » Jun 20th, '13, 02:13

Check here on teachat ... plenty of vendor reviews separated by tea type.

Which reminds me ... I really need to add reviews for some of the excellent vendors I've purchased from (Essence of Tea, Yunnan Sourcing, Hou De, and Lide in Teacup to name a few).

Jun 20th, '13, 09:38
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Re: Pu-Erh for beginners?

by seollasido » Jun 20th, '13, 09:38

3. Accessibility. Can I buy good Pu-Erh in Australia or do I need to order online? Hunting around the web has me a bit saddened as most vendors either don't ship to Australia or charge high shipping rates ($40?!). Yunnan Sourcing looks ok for shipping at about $20 but I'd want to be somewhat certain I'm not going to be disappointed.


What I ended up doing with Yunnan Sourcing was to get enough samples to make it worthwhile. I also waited a while before buying anything off of there and stuck to other sources.

Places like sampletea and finepuer are good places to buy samples of factory produced tea and shipping wasn't too bad, so that'd be a good place to start with samples. I also like Bana Tea Company -- they have a mini sampler of their teas -- their vintage sampler contains both raw and cooked, although I've never tried to get international shipping out of them before and I think you have to contact them...

4. Brewing. Brewing in a Yixing pot sounds like a lovely ritual but adds to the upfront cost and seems to be a learning curve. I don't have a gaiwan either. Purchasing more teaware is something I'd like to look at once I know if Pu-Erh is for me or not.


Gaiwan will be good for any other tea you drink, so there's no reason not to go for it.

I'd also love to hear about how you were introduced to Pu-Erh, mistakes you made, things you love, etc. :)


I think one thing I wish I did earlier was to sample more. I sampled a lot initially in the beginning, but slowed down considerably after finding a cake that I really liked (2005 Golden Unicorn from Bana), and stuck with that for months -- which I think was informative, But looking back I think I stuck with only that for far too long and it really affected how I thought of other puerh not really realizing that that cake was one example out of many, many, more. So I started being more adventurous. Maybe I'm overcompensating on sampling now though since I have stacks of samples to work through and working on obtaining more...

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Jun 20th, '13, 15:59
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Re: Pu-Erh for beginners?

by gasninja » Jun 20th, '13, 15:59

Ill second that sample sample sample. If knew what I know now when first starting off buying puerh my tea stash would be allot smaller but way better.
Genushumanusali... wrote:
2. Expense. Good tea generally isn't cheap but Pu-Erh seems especially not, and I don't even know what I like yet. Spending up on a cake of tea and finding I don't like it doesn't seem like much fun.

:)

Puerh in general is cheaper than most other teas. But it can get pretty expensive if you get into ancient tree or old stuff.

Jun 20th, '13, 19:22
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Re: Pu-Erh for beginners?

by genushumanusalice » Jun 20th, '13, 19:22

gasninja wrote:Ill second that sample sample sample. If knew what I know now when first starting off buying puerh my tea stash would be allot smaller but way better.

Is there any trick to picking samples? At the moment I feel like I'm completely stabbing in the dark and just picking from a variety of dates, prices, and factories with absolutely no idea what this all means in terms of what I should expect from the tea.

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Jun 20th, '13, 19:28
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Re: Pu-Erh for beginners?

by MIKE_B » Jun 20th, '13, 19:28

Just randomly buy samples of mid range stuff. No one is going to be able to tell you what you'll like. Finding out on your own is part of the fun.

Jun 20th, '13, 20:39
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Re: Pu-Erh for beginners?

by genushumanusalice » Jun 20th, '13, 20:39

MIKE_B wrote:Just randomly buy samples of mid range stuff. No one is going to be able to tell you what you'll like. Finding out on your own is part of the fun.

Thank you! As I said I am completely new to this so what seems obvious to you guys probably isn't to me. I have just ordered a bunch of samples from finepuer, mostly the middle of their range but a couple more expensive and a couple dirt cheap. Now for the long postage and customs inspection wait.

Jun 21st, '13, 02:12
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Re: Pu-Erh for beginners?

by ChengduCha » Jun 21st, '13, 02:12

genushumanusalice wrote:
gasninja wrote:Ill second that sample sample sample. If knew what I know now when first starting off buying puerh my tea stash would be allot smaller but way better.

Is there any trick to picking samples? At the moment I feel like I'm completely stabbing in the dark and just picking from a variety of dates, prices, and factories with absolutely no idea what this all means in terms of what I should expect from the tea.


House brands of a reputable vendor usually provide good value for the money (less markup because no middle men + no outright deception in terms of origin etc.) and googling a particular cake might also bring up some results from blogs, tea review sites or forums like this one. There are also blogs from very experienced pu erh drinkers such as http://half-dipper.blogspot.com/ where you might find some easily accessible cakes with Hobbes stamp of approval (your preferences might not match his).

Jun 21st, '13, 02:29
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Re: Pu-Erh for beginners?

by ChengduCha » Jun 21st, '13, 02:29

genushumanusalice wrote:Thank you ChengduCha, you have simplified it a lot in my mind :)

Can you recommend some good online vendors?


Yunnan Sourcing has good house brand cakes and http://www.white2tea.com/ which is run by teachat member TwoDog2 also has very affordable samples and maybe cheaper shipping than YS.

http://pu-erh.sk/ , http://teaurchin.com/ http://www.essenceoftea.co.uk/ etc. also have a good reputation.

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Jun 21st, '13, 11:39
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Re: Pu-Erh for beginners?

by puerhking » Jun 21st, '13, 11:39

Chawang shop has reasonable prices on samples and a range of ages....and some nice cakes.
http://www.chawangshop.com

Jun 21st, '13, 12:01
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Re: Pu-Erh for beginners?

by fdrx » Jun 21st, '13, 12:01

you can try ZhiZheng too

Jul 15th, '13, 22:28
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Re: Pu-Erh for beginners?

by genushumanusalice » Jul 15th, '13, 22:28

I thought that I'd update this to thank you all again and let you know I've had my pu-erh with me for a week and think this might be the start of something special.

I've only tried one each of raw and ripe so far and based on that tiny little sample so far I prefer sheng. The ripe tea I'm drinking now has a smell to it that reminds me of something a bit unmentionable and that I'd rather my tea not smell like. The taste is ok but I'm not sure that I can move past the mental block that the smell gives me. I'll have to try more to see if it is an isolated case, this was the cheapest sample that I purchased.

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Jul 16th, '13, 06:49
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Re: Pu-Erh for beginners?

by TomVerlain » Jul 16th, '13, 06:49

break up your sample of the ripe tea and let it air out for a week or two. It may be crap, but not all ripe tea smells or tastes like barn yard "cakes".

Some age on a good ripe tea should remove unpleasant odors.

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