A Tea Addict's Journal

Young puerh

December 9, 2010 · 2 Comments

I have been drinking a lot of younger puerh recently, from both Yunnan Sourcing and various shops on Taobao.  I think production of younger puerh has generally changed — teas these days seem more delicate and flowery, in a way that I personally do not find appealing or good.  A lot of them seem to be green-tea ish, which to me means it won’t age well.  I could be wrong, but I’ve tried cakes that were like this when younger, and a few years down, they have aged terribly.

I think some of this goes back to what puerh is actually for.  Is it really meant for aging?  Is it meant for drinking now, and is only aged by accident?  How long is the optimal age?  I think opinions differ considerably on these points.  Even though most people seem to agree that puerh is meant for aging, there are, I think, producers who are making things that are really more suited for drinking now than anything else.  A lot of the cakes I’ve tried in the 5-7 years old category are not very good at all.  Only some are, and I think if anything, the common denominator is that it was decent leaves, and also, decent conditions — not too dry and not too airy

I’ve been rethinking the whole “buy it now and store it for later” idea.  I’m not sure if it’s really wise to do so, or if the end result is really going to be that desirable.  For certain people who live in certain places (Hong Kong, for example) that can definitely be true.  Nevada?  I’m not so sure.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • Anonymous // December 9, 2010 at 4:28 pm | Reply

    1) This seems to suggest to me that one should sample and buy tea that is a few years old, without regard for the added cost. Would that work without having tasted said tea when younger, just because it tastes like one’s idea of its age?

    2) I’m not a fan of the theory that lots of smoke/bitterness/wild rides is a great proxy for quality in a young sheng. A young sheng should be pleasurably drinkable, period I certainly can enjoy Ban’E or Nada/Jing Mei Tang bulangs, even if I wince at the bitterness and astringency, because there is just a ton of interesting things in the soup. However, I don’t buy the first because it gives me the feel of something that’s frozen, and I do not regret buying the latter because the earlier make and model has generated positive comments this ending year and there’s alot in it that I enjoy.

    3) Is Delicacy related to what I’d call strength of character? Or that the flavor doesn’t last long in the mouth? Given that most areas of Yunnan produces leaf that is floral to some extent or other, is what you’re really saying that the leaf has gotten less complex? Just skinny-(prejorative term for women) floral and base tea flavor that makes you work to taste? I mean, the cup in my hand now is XZH DaXueShan maocha that’s on it’s 40th brew or so. It’s still floral, as well as fruity, nutty, and tannic, with a sweet aftertaste and qi, but no tea taste anymore in the pink, thick, soup. Having a jug of tasty in a tiny gaiwan that I put in and take out of my fridge for two weeks has been a boon.

    4) My philosophy, given that it takes a really good aged sheng to take my attention away from the young stuff, is that puerh is a bankable tea and a great way to store money that would otherwise go towards some other hedonistic venture (for me to save money, not to sell. All tea is inflating at high rates). I also feel that certain of the expensive young sheng are much cheaper per gram than their counterparts in other tea categories. About the *only* thing I look for now, is presence in the back of the mouth and throat along with a qi that gives a whole body thump when you do a big sip. If it doesn’t have those qualities, then I go by general tea qualities. I think the general tragedy, and where I’m most in agreement with your sentiment is that there is virtually no inexepensive but decent young sheng anymore. You can’t buy pre-new-management Menghai Dayi (>2005) for any kind of reasonable price, and it take searching just to find one or two. Everything that I’ve had that was decent from more than five years ago is at least $49. No tongs, and I get the feeling that tongs are an important aspect of enjoying puerh. New sheng with muscle? Not for less than $40/357gm.

    5) Atlanta is good, judging from a few months worth. Can puerh recognizably age in a few months? I keep them in the corner of a relatively bright room because most of my dark and shadey places are quite subject to mold or heat/ac. The room is not directly heated. I put a box over some of them as a protection against light, but I guess I’m relying on the wrapping a lot. Given that I do not have anything worse than stasis and good progress on many (to my limited experience), I have not changed anything.

  • MarshalN // December 10, 2010 at 8:38 pm | Reply

    Interesting points. Let’s see…

    1) I think that can be a good strategy. Teas change a lot in the first few years.

    2) I don’t think lots of smoke/bitterness/wild rides is necessarily good. I do think lots of activity in the mouth is a good indicator of quality. I do not think that current pleasure = future pleasure, however.

    3) I don’t think floral in and of itself is, by any means, a death knell. I do think that overly floral — and we’re getting technical here — can be indicative of types of processing that, I believe, will not result in good tea in the long run.

    4) It sounds like you enjoy the young stuff more — in which case, why bother aging? I’m not sure if I buy the “it’ll appreciate in value” theory. I don’t think teas produced now will be sold at nearly the prices that current old teas command, simply because the supply is much larger, and also there’s a very high risk of spoilage over time. I’ve found teas priced reasonably, but if you factor in the cost of buying things that are no good, then it’s not so cheap after all.

    5) I can imagine Atlanta being decent — warm enough, wet enough. I remember being in Gambier OH and it was pretty good — being in a rural area was nice, since the dampness is there when you don’t get such things from urban settings. I would be rather weary of having the tea in a bright room though — light, more than anything else, damages the tea in very significant ways. Try a tea that’s been exposed for a fair amount of time to strong light. You won’t like it. I’d suggest putting boxes (or buying a small cupboard with doors) over ALL of them.

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