Pu erh beginner

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

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Nov 20th 09 6:21 pm
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Pu erh beginner

by buscon » Nov 20th 09 6:21 pm

Hi,

I've been drinking green tea with the gongfu cha ceremony since long time.
Now I'd like to go into pu erh - which one do you suggest me to start with ?
I usually buy from http://stores.shop.ebay.com/Dragon-Tea-House they have a lot of pu erh tea and I don't really know where to start...

Maybe 2,3 or 4 100g pieces would be a good starting point, but which ones ? :)

Cheers

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Nov 20th 09 10:26 pm
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Re: Pu erh beginner

by Trioxin » Nov 20th 09 10:26 pm

Welcome to the forum and the wonderful world of pu.

If I were just starting out, I'd probably email Dragon House Tea and ask him to maybe set you up with a good sampler of an assortment of teas. Both Dragon House and Yunnan Sourcing are great people to deal with and usually have some good recommendations.

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Re: Pu erh beginner

by edkrueger » Nov 21st 09 6:04 pm

I would highly advise that you order some premium teas and some aged ones. Getting a few aged samples from Nadacha would be my suggestion. Nada is a member on this forum, you might want to send him a PM.

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Re: Pu erh beginner

by beecrofter » Nov 21st 09 8:36 pm


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Re: Pu erh beginner

by betta » Nov 21st 09 10:13 pm

Puerh is a more complex tea than others that one normally spends years to learn. One or two years is required at least to grab only a very rough idea of what puerh really is. I've encountered people drinking pu for over 10 years and still in the process of learning it.
Back to your question, you need to define your objective whether you're buying for immediate consumption or for storage. In general, I will suggest you to start with standard raw puerhs, like Menghai Dayi's 7542, 7532 and 8582, as benchmark. Then gradually move to aged stuffs.

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Re: Pu erh beginner

by tingjunkie » Nov 21st 09 10:43 pm

I'm also in favor of ordering a bunch of samples from places such as Nada and Hou De. Trying sheng, shou, aged, green, cheap, and expensive will show you what's out there and help you to narrow down what you like.

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Re: Pu erh beginner

by buscon » Nov 22nd 09 3:13 pm

Thank you for the adivces :)

That's what I bought:
- two raw 7532 and 8582,
- a 100g ripe: http://cgi.ebay.de/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?Vie ... K:MEWNX:IT
- a selection of little cakes: http://cgi.ebay.de/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?Vie ... K:MEWNX:IT

I'll tell you more when I receive them :D

Another question about disassembling a block of tea.
I've found the steaming method to this link:
http://www.houdeasianart.com/index.php? ... =puerhinfo
From one side it's a good idea because you don't break the leaves; but steaming means 100° while for raw pu-erh tea I've read to use water at 85°

What do you think about it ?

Cheers

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Nov 22nd 09 4:47 pm
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Re: Pu erh beginner

by betta » Nov 22nd 09 4:47 pm

buscon wrote: From one side it's a good idea because you don't break the leaves; but steaming means 100° while for raw pu-erh tea I've read to use water at 85°

What do you think about it ?

Cheers
I brew puerh at 95°C :D
Steaming is considered to be "dry" heat cooking by chinese. I've tried that and it left me with moist but not wet loose puerh (unless you drop some water on it). I did that with 1 year old pu and I didn't compare with non-steamed pu. But I guess you'll loose some aroma if you do that.

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Re: Pu erh beginner

by edkrueger » Nov 22nd 09 5:11 pm

You loose a bit of flavor from steaming. It is a good method to take the edge off of something young.

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Re: Pu erh beginner

by nonc_ron » Nov 22nd 09 6:23 pm

buscon wrote:Maybe 2,3 or 4 100g pieces would be a good starting point, but which ones ? :)Cheers
Once you get to the store do a search for ★★★★★
-----------------------------------------------(5 out of 5)
This will give you a list of all his good stuff.
Next change the results page to lowest priced first.
This will put the 100g samples at the top of the page.
Now make your picks, You can't lose. :D

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Re: Pu erh beginner

by cha-fu » Nov 22nd 09 10:51 pm

buscon wrote: Another question about disassembling a block of tea.
I've found the steaming method to this link:
http://www.houdeasianart.com/index.php? ... =puerhinfo
I would suggest not using steam to loosen/disassemble your tea cake, since steam will kill microbes in tea cake. Without microbes, Pu-Erh tea will not continue its aging process. You can use Pu-Erh knives, chisels, letter openers, or screw drivers to break a tea cake. Here is a video for your reference.

How to break up a Puerh tea cake

Also, you need to air out (aerate or "Xing Cha") broken Pu-Erh tea blocks/leaves to awaken your tea. This step will improve taste of tea. See an earlier thread on Aging shu? for more info.

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Re: Pu erh beginner

by Intuit » Nov 23rd 09 12:45 am

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Last edited by Intuit on Nov 28th 09 4:22 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Pu erh beginner

by cha-fu » Nov 23rd 09 6:45 am

Intuit wrote:I considered this possibility, that steaming would halt microbial fermentation.

Aren't most iron cakes that require steaming tuocha? Small mass heavily pressed cakes probably age very slowly anyway, because of low oxygen conditions in the cake interior.

Lightly steaming, drying and storing in an airy location to mellow the flavor means that you will be consuming the tea within months or a year.

So, maybe it doesn't matter.
I should clarify (or correct myself) that prolong exposure to steam above 60C would kill microbes in tea cake. Dry Pu-Erh tea leaves were steamed and soften before compressed into brick/cake form. The duration of steaming/compressing process is short. I think using steam to loosen a compressed tea cake/brick would take much longer and temperature on surface of tea cake rises above 60C and kill some microbes.

For your reference, I found a few videos on Pu-Erh tea cake manufacturing process from Ancient Tea Horse Road.
Microbial fermentation works better on a compressed tea cake than loosen tea leaves, as microbes would propagate to entire compressed cake but not on loosen tea leaves. I am not a microbiologist, so I can't explain exactly how it works. :roll: My experience is that some of my (compressed) tea cakes are going through flavor change process, but loosen tea leaves/blocks from the same tea cake that I broke apart a year ago don't. Also, I have some aged loose leaves Pu-Erh and its flavor doesn't change much (only smoother and less bitter, but minimal or no flavor change).

So, assuming microbes survive steaming process, once tea cake is broken apart, microbial fermentation will be regional and I don't expect its flavor will change over time.

Iron cakes are highly compressed and notoriously known for their hardness (and I heard many bloodshed stories when disassembling them). Yes, its aging process would be slower than tea cakes under the same storage environment. Some people see this property is positive as they can taste different flavor from surface and inner core (due to different aging speed). The bounding (glue like) in iron cakes would break down overtime just like tuocha and other tea cakes/bricks and this would make them easier to break apart after years of aging. I have a few mid 1980 tuocha's and they are very easy to break apart (much easier than some tea bricks/cakes). :lol:

Never try steaming tea cakes, since most my cakes/bricks are fairly easy to disassemble/break. So, my comments on flavor change after steam are speculative. :wink:

Not sure about mellowing the flavor. At least for aged Shu, I don't expect its flavor becomes mellower after (lightly) steamed. This might be the case for young Sheng and young Shu, as steam might tone down its bitterness or "wodui" odor. Some people even go as far as baking tea leaves before brewing (similar to re-bake for Oolong and brewing method used by Yunnan Lahu) to improve its flavor. Don't know if that works (in improving flavor) though. :mrgreen:

Anyway, this is a very interesting topic. Hope you find something useful.

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Re: Pu erh beginner

by nonc_ron » Nov 24th 09 4:43 pm

cha-fu wrote: Never try steaming tea cakes, since most my cakes/bricks are fairly easy to disassemble/break. So, my comments on flavor change after steam are speculative. :wink:
Anyway, this is a very interesting topic. Hope you find something useful.
If I'm going to drink all the tea in a relative short time.
I sometimes steam small sample cakes and Tuocha.
I believe they benefit from the airing out. :P

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Re: Pu erh beginner

by buscon » Nov 24th 09 5:18 pm

cha-fu wrote:
Intuit wrote: Anyway, this is a very interesting topic. Hope you find something useful.
Very useful, thank you all for your help.
I'll try to steam some pieces of my pu-erh, compare with the non-steamed one and tell you what I think - as soon as I receive my block of tea ;)

Cheers and teas