A Tea Addict's Journal

Entries tagged as ‘traditional stored puerh’

Nor Sun Puerh

January 21, 2008 · 7 Comments

I saw this in a Chinese market yesterday. I actually opened the can to look, and thought it smelled traditionally stored. Couldn’t resist

The leaves look nondescript — traditionally stored, for sure (from the smell). Nannuo (that’s what Nan Nor is)? Who knows. But who can say no to something that can be used as a disinfectant for internal use?

When I brewed it, it’s obvious that there’s some cooked leaves in this mix

The taste is… interesting. It’s actually, for what it’s worth, not that bad at all. It’s cooked, sure, but it’s traditionally stored cooked, and traditionally stored cooked, IMHO, is better than non traditionally-stored cooked. The taste is richer, and it removes almost all traces of the nasty pondy smell/taste that you normally get in a cooked puerh. The tea is actually decent, which surprised me. I wonder how people who don’t know much about tea think about this?

As I examined the wet leaves, I realized that this is actually a blend of raw and cooked leaves.

The greenish leaves are such that they can’t possibly be cooked… I just don’t see it happening. My guess is these could be broken cakes, or at least some are broken cakes, that were thoroughly mixed in and blended together for export. The tea comes from a Hong Kong company with a Hong Kong address in the section where a lot of these old wholesalers are, so I am guessing this is just one of those traditional upstairs tea merchants who are packaging this. Pretty interesting, I must say, and quite a surprise to find ok puerh in Columbus OH in a tin can.

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Loose mixed puerh

January 17, 2008 · 1 Comment

A surprise visitor today outside the window; this is what you get for living in the middle of nowhere

Just because there’s a pretty deer out there who was quite nervous about a human being moving around doesn’t mean I don’t drink my tea today

This is a random bag of puerh that I found in my tea closet. I don’t know where it came from — I didn’t label it (as I normally don’t — a bad habit) and I now don’t remember where it’s from. From the looks of it, it is some traditionally stored loose puerh, most likely from some Hong Kong shop, and very likely Vietnamese in origin.

When the dry leaves hit the warmed pot — indeed, smells like Vietnamese loose puerh.

The stuff is standard, although, I think this is better than the border tea I bought in Taiwan. It’s got a little more softness, and a sweeter taste in general. Quite decent for regular consumption, as long as one’s not too picky.

An examination of the wet leaves tells me why that might be the case

You might be able to tell from the picture with all the leaves that there are actually two types of leaves in this mix — some are greener, more flexible, and softer in feel, while the others are tough, inflexible, and darker in colour. The darker stuff look more like the border tea leaves, whereas the greener softer stuff look like Yunnan leaves I’ve seen before…. is that a coincidence? Probably not.

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Further thoughts on conditioning

August 20, 2007 · 2 Comments

As Wisdom_sun pointed out in his comments to my post a few days ago, talking about “storage” of puerh is not just merely storage… it’s conditioning. He’s absolutely right in that regard, so I will try to remember to use this term from now on 🙂

I think I have talked about this in passing before, but what I have noticed more clearly this time around visiting Hong Kong and also talking to the owner of the teashop here in Taipei is that there are clearly two trends, or two schools of thought, in puerh conditioning.

The first is the old school. Wet storage is good. Wet, however, doesn’t mean soaking in water, mould growing all over wet (that’s cooked puerh). Wet means a high level of humidity in a more or less controlled environment. It does involve a fair bit of skill and know how, as well as experience in doing these and to know what teas will need how much in the conditioning of such teas. Talking to old tea drinkers in Hong Kong, they will almost all tell you that a cake with a touch of wet storage age much better and faster. It was interesting to see the teashop owner here echo the same view.

The other school is the pure dry storage school. Dry, of course, doesn’t really mean bone dry either. I think what dry storage means really depends on the person you talk to. Many consider dry storage to be simply a tea that has not entered a traditional “wet” storage facility. Others take it quite literally — recall my experience with Xinjiang conditioned tea (Xinjiang has desert weather) that tasted thin, sharp, and unpleasant overall. I have met many a drinker and shop owner in Beijing who will refuse to drink anything that tastes remotely wet stored. Anything stored in the Guangdong area they deem to be wet, even after a year or two, when to me they taste quite normal and pleasant.

The overwhelming reason I’ve heard with this particular trend is that it is unhealthy to drink wet stored puerh. The mould really turns people off, and they think it is a health hazard. The same view is echoed by many on Sanzui, a Chinese forum for tea. It’s an interesting thing, really. After all, many people grew up in Hong Kong drinking wet stored puerh, and the city’s population isn’t exactly suffering from some serious puerh-related sickness, so why people worry about it is beyond me. It’s like mouldy cheese… it looks gross, it smells gross, but can be quite tasty, albeit an acquired one. I think puerh is even less of an acquired taste than, say, Roquefort.

I can see why there’s an argument. People in Beijing, for example, used to drink jasmine, mostly. They then switched to green, and then green tieguanyin, and now, young puerh. Their tastes are light in general, and therefore a heavy, wet stored puerh might not suit their style (though oddly enough, people who refuse wet-stored puerh have no problem drinking cooked puerh). This sort of preference is reflected in tastes for other kinds of tea too. It’s difficult to find a good roasted oolong in the north. It’s much easier to find one in Hong Kong or Taiwan. Perhaps we can chalk this down to regional preference.

As for who’s right in their theory on conditioning… I suppose it depends on who you’re talking to. I have, however, noticed a slight trend — more often than not whoever owns the new cakes will tell you dry storage is good. Whoever owns some old stuff to sell will tell you wet storage is good. Given that, I tend to trust my senpai who only buy for their personal consumption. I think some wetness is not a bad thing, and in a home storage condition, care must be taken to make sure the tea is not too dry. That’s partly why I decided to stick my tea in Hong Kong in the family home (although mid-Ohio, curiously enough, is awfully wet). Is it wise to buy slightly wet stored tea to store at home? I suppose it might be. I also wonder if whatever’s gathered in a cake of wet stored tea will pass on to the dry stored one in a house. It should, I’d think. That’s why I want to see if there’s a way to figure out what an optimal condition is… I’m curious, for example, to see what happens to the cakes that Phyll put in his wine storage. I’m also curious to know what will eventually happen to the cakes that happen to be stored in the perpetually wet but cool climate of England. We’ll probably only find out in at least a few years’ time, and I certainly am not as brave (although I have a few cakes that travel with me in the US as I move from place to place).

But at the end of the day… maybe it’s the fact that we keep these cakes and watch them age that makes it fun. Of course, nobody wants a cake to turn out horrible, but if it tastes quite ok 10 years from now, it’s probably worth much more to the owner than if he were to buy it off the market 10 years from now.

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Loose puerh

August 10, 2007 · Leave a Comment

Since I don’t really have my full complement of teaware and I don’t really have much tea here, consumption is going to be simple and limited until I get home to Hong Kong and ship the stuff over. One of the few things I do have with me is one of those bags of loose puerh I’ve purchased in Hong Kong. I got this bag, I think, a year ago. It’s been traveling with me to various places, since it’s a pretty good tea to just throw in a cup and make. Over the year though, it’s taken on a softer, rounder taste — a little more like cooked stuff, actually. I think it’s lost that slightly rough edge from the wet storage, and has acquired a little more aged feel to it while actually enhancing the mouthfeel. I got a few different grades, and it’s obvious that they differ in taste when I tried them side by side. The cheapest one was a little sour. This one doesn’t have a sourness, but is thinner than the most expensive version. The liquor of the teas, interestingly enough, reflect that in how dark the tea is. With that comparison (I meant to post it, but I think it got derailed with the earthquake around December that knocked the internet out), you can really tell the differences between different blends and how the feel and taste different in the mouth.

This is all stuff that one can call “cooked”, and the different grades are almost denoting different cookedness. The cooking was not done by the fermentation piles on the floor, but rather in bags in wet storage facilities in Hong Kong. Some would even say that only stuff like this is real puerh — dry stored tea is not technically right if the humidity never got high enough for it to acquire that distinctive puerh taste. Indeed, drinking a 5 year old, real dry stored tea that was in Beijing all 5 years can be a pretty unsatisfactory experience. I wonder though, has anybody actually figured out exactly what kind of microbe is the one that is responsible for the creation of our drink? Somebody should figure it out.

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Old puerh of some kind

July 30, 2007 · 3 Comments

I had some of those traditionally stored, loose puerh so common in Hong Kong today. I’m no longer sure which particular one was the one I was having. I don’t clearly label these, and they’re not too easy to tell apart, as anybody who’s tried these things would know.

In Hong Kong these things are often not named specifically — usually only with very generic names to denote differentiation of grades, partly, I think, because they’re all blends, so it’ll be difficult to name them anything anyway, since they’re not specifically any one thing. Generally speaking, they are called “Old Puerh”, “Top Old Puerh”, “Aged-taste Puerh”, etc for cooked, and for raw, often they are named “Home-stored puerh”, “Carefully stored puerh”, “Old age puerh”, “Unknown year puerh”, etc. denoting different grades. Home-stored puerh from shop A is obviously not going to taste the same as the one from shop B, and prices can vary very considerably.

This one…. is probably something that might be called “carefully stored puerh”. It’s not great, it’s not too bad, or at least that’s what I remember of it, since last time I tried it was a year ago. This time, however, it presented a problem — the tea is drying. Very drying. After the first cup or two I had to drink some water to moisten my mouth. I don’t know why, but for some reason, it didn’t agree with me. The taste is mostly of an aged puerh variety, a bit bitter/medicinal, but pleasant enough. The drying factor, however, was new. I wouldn’t have missed it if that happened last time I tried.

The colour of the tea is quite dark.

I don’t exactly know why this is the case. Could it be that it was exposed to sunlight or some such? Something happened to it in the year that it sat in the container? I don’t know. I am thinking of airing it out a little before trying it again, to see what happens. Weather here’s been wettish, which is good for airing out problems like these. I hope to fix this, although I really don’t have much of it left.

The wet leaves are stiffish. They’re dark, and small. I don’t think this is Yunnan leaves. Vietnam, perhaps?

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Mixing teas again

June 9, 2007 · 4 Comments

Continuing my sample eradication, yesterday I drank the remaining piece of Zhongcha traditional character bing given to me by my friend YP in Hong Kong.

A really clean, but unremarkable, piece of tea. It’s about 5g, not really enough for my pot. So I decided to add a few small pieces of the Guangyungong broken bits that I bought in Hong Kong and see what happens.

The tea first brewed very lightly

But it then deepened into a nice red colour

Notice, though, that you can still see the sediments. The liquor, though dark, is very very clear. The picture doesn’t really do a good job of showing that.

The taste of the tea is a mix of the two. There’s the more fragrant plummy taste of the Zhongcha cake, and then the blander sweetness mixed in with the bamboo wrapping taste of the GYG. My girlfriend thought it was an unsuccessful mix, as they lost their individual characters and turned into a mix of taste. I must admit it probably could’ve been mixed better, but I thought in some ways the tea wasn’t bad at all.

The pieces were too broken for good pictures of the wet leaves, although it is obvious that the Zhongcha tea was better stored with more flexible/nicer looking leaves, while the cheap GYG pieces had darker and stiffer ones. I also think it could be partly a function of the different varietals used, with the GYG using Guangdong tea leaves that age differently compared with the Yunnan ones.

Now I’m wondering what to drink for today….

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The curse of the golden flowers

May 29, 2007 · 8 Comments

I had plans to drink another sample sent to me by iwii today. Among the stuff he sent me were a few pieces of a heavily traditionally stored tea. As most of you who regularly read my blog know, I’m a good Hong Kong boy and do not mind traditional storage so long as it fulfills two conditions

1) It is not so wet stored as to have health concerns for me
2) It is not presented as a dry stored tea of significantly older age and thus selling for a price it doesn’t deserve

As I was flipping the few pieces of tea around for picture taking, however, I noticed something

Not clear enough? Try looking at the picture here.

See those yellow dots in the middle? There are conflicting information regarding these things. Some call it “golden flowers”, and claim that they are good for you. Others say that there are two types of golden flowers — one is the good kind, the other is a harmful kind that is really a mould that will produce a carcinogenic toxin. Needless to say, I was a little alarmed to find this. I then searched around the pieces some more… there were more of these on other pieces, scattered around, and also some white mould

As well as that white dusting that covers pretty much everything, inside and out.

Properly traditional stored tea should have some of these white dusting, but white mouldy spots or yellow ones are generally considered bad. I put off the tea and brewed some of my Mengku 2002, which I haven’t tried in at least half a year. I used the shavings that have accumulated inside the wrapper, plus a little off the cake. The tea brews a nice amber colour

It’s bitter, and strong, but smooth. There’s a strong taste to it…. something akin to dark chocolate. Obvious qi, with a bit of huigan, not quite hitting down the throat, but definitely towards the back end of the mouth. It’s not a great tea, but not a bad one either, and it now costs at least double what I got it for about 9 months ago.

While drinking it, however, I was sorely tempted to try the sample that iwii gave me. I was planning on throwing it out, but decided that I can at least brew it and see what happens.

I washed it a few times, and then brewed one infusion for trying. The obvious aroma coming from the tea is a medicinal smell, but not in a very aromatic way, rather in a slightly pungent and unpleasant way. I tried a few small sips of the tea, which brewed an almost pitch black drink. It’s surprisingly bitter, given that it’s been so wet stored. Normally teas like this should be fairly sweet and pleasant, but this one isn’t.

The leaves for this tea are rather rigid and inflexible

It’s lost much of its vitality, and I couldn’t really find many examples of leaves that were both whole and open-able. This was the best one after some exhaustive searching

Even then, it didn’t really open up, and it’s already gone through 5 very long infusions. Properly traditionally stored tea should only be lightly wet stored, and then dry stored for a few years to let the wet storage dissipate and develop before going on the market. This tea has been mismanaged — too wet, and not enough time/treatment afterwards to make it palatable. Perhaps given some years in a dry, airy environment it can be saved a bit, but I don’t think so. It’s quite far down the road to being a cooked puerh, if you examine the leaves. There isn’t a whole lot that can happen to it, and the existence of the yellow mould pretty much seals the deal. Whoever sold this cake is doing a disservice to tea drinkers it serves.

So, iwii, where did you get this cake? You should ask for your money back, especially if they told you it’s dry storage or it’s 30 years old (which it can’t be).

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Back to the grind

March 30, 2007 · 4 Comments

I’ve been drinking more teabags than I care to mention these days. It’s really quite sad. Most of it is because I don’t have time at home to brew my own tea — I am on the go and thus am stuck with some sort of take out tea or another. If I’m not in the Square, then buying teabag is the only way to get my caffeine fix.

Luckily, today was a relatively lazy day. I got a chance to brew my teas, and I picked out those Guangyungong bits to brew.

The stuff is really quite tightly compressed, and the first infusion of the tea looks weak

By the third infusion, it gets much stronger

The tea has a taste of corn husk in it, with woody notes in the 3-5 infusions, and what my girlfriend describes as “generic aged puerh” taste. The corn husk returns later on, with a mild sweetness to it. There was a little bit of bitterness in the tea today, mostly probably because I added more leaves than I really should. Because of the hard compression, it’s really hard to tell how much leaves I’m really using, and thus I’m prone to using too much.

Now I’m on about the 20th infusion, and it’s still giving me stuff. It’s a mild, sweet, and smooth tea now. It’s a relaxing drink, even if not the best.

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As promised

March 14, 2007 · 7 Comments

A better look at the GYG leaves, after I finally emptied the pot after two days….

You can see the unevenness of the colour of the leaves… some are darker, some lighter. I don’t know if it has anything to do with the fact that I used three pieces — pieces that could’ve been from different cakes. It could just as well be differentiation in aging within the pieces themselves. The tea is very tightly compressed, so that is entirely possible.

Anyway, these days my tea drinking isn’t terribly interesting. It’s mostly been loose-tea-in-a-bag of various kinds, because that’s what’s most convenient when I have to run around. Today, for example, I had a Ceylon Breakfast from a place called Timeless Teas. They’re a store on Newbury Street in Boston, and underneath them is a cafe (that is always full) that serves their tea (although most of the business is coffee).

These people specialize in Ceylon teas. I really haven’t tried many of their offerings, which are definitely Ceylon tilted. The tea I had today, brewed in a big pot, was a “Ceylon Breakfast”. It was…. mild, sweet, pleasant to drink, but not that exciting. It’s probably BOP or even lower in grade, although I’m no expert in such things. The tea, while pleasant, was utterly uninteresting. It’s simply not a great cup, merely an average one.

Of course, I’m being picky. I’m also not drinking it the way I normally would, so the comparison is hard to make. That said, any store that sells loose leaf tea is not a bad thing. I really ought not to complain.

The next few days I hope to do some tastings, because a few samples arrived.

The two Yiwu on the right are what I ordered, and Guang of Hou De threw in the extra, a sample of the Malaysia Trade Fair commemoration cake, on the left. Commemoration cakes are rarely my thing, since they are hardly worth the money (i.e. there’s always a commemoration cake premium built into the price). At the same time, it might be worth trying it out just for the sake of trying it out.

I am planning on doing the two Yiwu tasting soon, in the next few days, and posting on the LJ Community. I know a few others will join in on that. If you have a sample of this, have tasted it, or are about to, it might be good for all of us to do that and exchange views on it.

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Guangyungong bits

March 13, 2007 · 7 Comments

Ok, so here are some pictures now that I’m sort of done with the tea, although I’m still brewing yet another infusion in my pot.

These are broken pieces of Guangyungong cakes that I bought in Hong Kong. I find them rather good and tasty, and as is obvious, long lasting.

You can see that it hasn’t been stored very well. There is obvious evidence of wetness.

I’ve got more of them… all in pieces

The tea is very sweet and smooth and mellow. The owner of the store said that it’s just broken cakes, because in storage you inevitably end up with cakes that don’t survive. Since part of the process of storage is that you have to move the goods every few months to prevent mould from developing, the movement, etc will always cause some breakage. That’s the stuff you sell in jars.

This is the first infusion:

A few infusions later:

A day and half later:

At this point I ought to be boiling the leaves in water, but I have no such implements, so keep rebrewing will have to do.

The tea is woody up front, with a good sweet taste throughout, and a bit of a cooling effect down the throat. The woody/musty taste dies after 5-6 infusions, leaving only sweet tea taste, but that lingers on and on forever. It’s really quite nice to drink 🙂

The wet leaves are rather dark, and I will take a better shot of them spread out once I feel like having finished with them. For now…

This is taken with natural sunlight.

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