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Thread: Puerh Tea

  1. #1
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    Puerh Tea

    Having introduced the CC readership to Pu-erh teas in the Green Tea Direct thread, I've decided to give it the seperate topic it deserves. The object of this topic/thread will be to instill a fuller appreciation of the many appeals of Pu-erh tea, the popularity of which has overrun China and much of the Orient and is making a profound impact worldwide.

    The following are exerpts and links to articles about the facination of Pu-erh teas:

    Pu-erh Tea Article - The Captivation of Pu-erh Tea

    Many Pu-erh collectors and enthusiasts take great joy in routinely tasting their collections. It is a time filled with much excitement and anticipation as each tea's development and progress is measured. The fascinating ongoing change within what is essentially a living tea reveals new dimensions and complexity with each step of aging. Like classic wines and cheese, Pu-erh relies on living bacteria and microbes to enable its process of post fermentation. This process enhances its appeal and value in direct correspondence to its age by developing smoothness, even silkiness to its overall character. Some of the endearing flavors aged Pu-erh tea will come to possess are ripe plums, heavy fruits, caramel, herbs and aged wood with hints of tannin and peat. The characteristic of Pu-erh is revealed by gently sipping the tea and letting it slowly trickle down along the sides of the tongue. The fragrance of the tea rises from the back of the throat up to the nose.
    http://www.puerhcha.com/Articles/Black_Puerh_Tea.htm
    Last edited by Juke_spin; 04-08-2007 at 05:36 AM.
    "The world will not perish for want of wonders but for want of wonder."
    J.B.S.Haldane

  2. #2
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    Here's a link to a Bangkok, Thailand based site/store that offers collector grade pu-erh and features a small treasure of articles about the "wonder-tea" on their website.

    http://www.puerhcha.com/About/About.htm
    "The world will not perish for want of wonders but for want of wonder."
    J.B.S.Haldane

  3. #3
    Juke,

    There is a slight "mustiness" to Pu-erh tea (普 洱 茶). Others have commented on this as well and have speculated that this may be related to the "pond" flavor of the tea that goes away with aging (Source. Apparently, you can buy 1980's loose cooked tea from Guang of Hou De Asian Art (Source) which lacks the mustiness of new tea.

    This then brought up the question of "cooked" versus "uncooked" tea. Well, according the Wikipedia (Source), Pu-erh is a "large leaf" variety of tea named after Pu'er county near Simao in Yunnan, China. It can purchased raw as green tea (Sheng or ) or ripened as cooked tea (Shou). Both Sheng and Shou can be either a unfermented green tea (毛茶 máochá) or a post-fermented tea. Most people ignore the green tea and regard only the post-fermented tea as Pu-erh. Pu-erh can be kept for many years and aged pu-erh can be quite valuable with one cake of Pu-erh going for many thousands of dollars, particularly highly prized tea from wild tea trees in the mountains of Yunnan.

    The chinese word shou cha (熟 茶) means to "cooked tea". If the tea is directly compressed into blocks, it is called Sheng cha (生 茶) or "fresh tea" (my translation) that others sometimes translate as "raw tea". Because "cooked" Pu-erh tea is dark red, it is often mistakenly said to be a "black tea". Over time, the tea undergoes fermentation caused by organisms growing in the tea as well as free-radical oxidation. Fully oxidized tea is known as "red tea" in Chinese but is sometimes classified as "black tea". According to Wikipedia, this classification is resented by some who believe that "black teas" are usually of low standard and status.

    The first step to making máochá is placed them in the sun or a ventilated space to wilt and to remove some water content. In the absence of the sun, the tea leave may be lightly heated. The leaves are then dry pan fried which arrests enzyme activity in the leaves and prevents further oxidation (殺青; pinyin: shā qīng). The leaves are then shaped and dried in the sand, manually selected, and then sent to the factory to be compressed into ripened pu-erh cakes. It may also be aged in loose-leaf.

    The second step of converting the máochá to fully ripened pu-erh is a recent invention, intended to replace the aging process by prolonged bacterial and fermentation in a warm humid environment under controlled conditions. This method is similar to composting. The máochá is piled, wetted, and mixed with a variety of bacteria and yeast, specifically aspergillus. This may take 6-12 months. This mehntod was originally developed by the Menghai Tea Factory and the Kunming Tea Factory in 1972. Mass productio of pu-erh tea began in 1975.

    The third step of pressing the ripened tea is also complex. The tea is weighed and then lightly steamed to soften and to make it sticky. Various tickets or colored ribbons may be placed amongst the leaves, placed into a cloth bag, and wrung or coiled into a ball. This is then pressed. Some bricks and square teas are not placed in a bag. It is believed that densely pressed teas can benefit from careful aging of up to several decades. The shapes of pressed tea can be shaped like a disc, bowl, brick, square, mushroom, or melon.

    One can buy three varieties of Pu-erh: raw (green) pressed or loose, ripened or cooked pu-erh, or aged pu-erh. Aged raw pu-erh is the most highly regarded of the pu-erh teas. Cooked pu-erh should produce clear dark reddish tea. High quality of pu-erh tea should not have twigs or extraneous matter, mold on the compressed cake, distinct leaves that are dry and fragile but not powdery. It should be quite fragrant. The tea itself should never appear cloudy. It should be a dark reddish liquor. The taste should continue through sequential infusions.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pu-erh_tea
    Judging quality
    Quality of the tea can be determined through inspecting the dried leaves, the tea liquor, or the spent tea leaves. The "true" quality of a specific batch of pu-erh can ultimately only be revealed when the tea is brewed and tasted. Although, not concrete and sometimes dependent on preference, there are several general indicators of quality:

    * Dried tea: There should be a lack of twigs, extraneous matter and white or dark mold spots on the surface of the compressed pu-erh. The leaves should ideally be whole, visually distinct, and not appear muddy. The leaves may be dry and fragile, but not powdery. Good tea should be quite fragrant, even when dry. Good pressed pu-erh often have a matte sheen on the surface of the cake, though this is not necessarily a sole indicator of quality
    * Liquor: The tea liquor of both raw and ripe pu-erh should never appear cloudy. Well aged raw pu-erh and well-crafted ripe pu-erh tea may produce a dark reddish liquor, reminiscent of a dried jujube, but in either case the liquor should not be opaque, "muddy," or black in colour. The flavours of pu-erh liquors should persist and be revealed throughout separate or subsequent infusions, and never abruptly disappear, since this could be the sign of added flavorants.
    o Young raw puerh:The ideal liquors should be aromatic with a light but distinct odours of camphor, rich herbal notes like Chinese medicine, fragrance floral notes, hints of dried fruit aromas such as preserved plums, and should exhibit only some grassy notes to the likes of fresh sencha. Young raw pu-erh may sometimes be quite bitter and astringent, but should also exhibit a pleasant mouthfeel and "sweet" aftertaste, referred to as gān (甘) and húigān(回甘).
    o Aged raw puerh: Aged pu-erh should never smell moldy, musty, or strongly fungal, though some pu-erh drinkers considers these smells to not be bad or even enjoyable. The smell of aged pu-erh may vary, with a "aged" but not "stuffy" odour. The taste of aged raw pu-erh or ripe pu-erh should be smooth, with slight hints of bitterness, and lack a biting astringency or any off-sour tastes. The element of taste is an important indicator of aged pu-erh quality, the texture should be rich and thick and should have very distinct gān (甘) and húigān(回甘) on the tonge and cheeks, which together induces salivation and leaves a "feeling" in the back of the throat.
    * Spent tea: Whole leaves and leave bud systems should be easily seen and picked out of the wet spent tea, with a limited amount of broken fragments. Twigs, and the fruits of the tea plant should not be found in the spend tea leaves, however animal (and human) hair, strings, rice grains and chaff may occasionally be included in the tea. The leaves should not crumble when rubbed, and with ripened pu-erh, it should not resemble compost. Aged raw puerh should have leaves that unfurl when brewed while leaves of most ripened puerh will generally remain closed.

  4. #4
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    Puerh: a tribute plus pluses

    Fooled ya; you thought I'd have some sort of semi/formal essay/article structure with blocked quotes, links, etc.. Well that's not the deal, it's my simple tribute to a hot beverage that has infused and permeated my days and nights with its fragrant, delicious and very affordable presence.

    As I sit here in my six y/o Quickie XTR, sipping the latest mixed brew of this great tea I can count on it to support whatever I stroke out about it on my three y/o Kinesis ergonomic; it's that good.

    There's also the frugality of the beverage; it's possible to drink very good puerh all day, pot after pot (I do) for less than a buck a day. If I'm feeling a little reckless and want to treat myself to the higher grades of puerh, I may still drink pot after pot for a buck or two, all day and into the night. This is because a great twelve ounce pressed cake of a five y/o puerh costs only twenty bucks and less than an ounce will brew up into over a half dozen full-strength pots of wonder - enough for over twenty cups.

    The contrast of what I'd be drinking if it weren't the puerh has to be part of the picture and my praise; in place of the pots of many contrasting green/ripe/aged puerhs there would be one or two mega-strength cups of coffee daily. The coffee would cost three to five times what the tea does and would disturb my digestion rather than improve it, as the puerhs do. A big part of the expense of coffee is the doctorings I'd put in it; an expensive creamer (cheap creamers bite it) and 5 to 8 time the sweetener. Puerh tea is so close to perfect as brewed that all I'm tempted to vitiate it with is a natural sweetener and, where some swear by honey, I like to go with the healthier Stevia. Add it up and I'd be dumping about 50c worth of creamer+sweetener in my coffee where I put about 1 to 3 cents worth of stevia extract in my puerh.

    All the above pales beside the "proof of the pudding"; the olfactory experience of drinking pu-erh is incomperably sublime. There are so many puerhs to choose from and they cover so many tastes and fragrances.

    There's the red liquor brew of the cooked or ripe puerhs with their characteristic earthiness and to which our sagacious Wise also attributes a mustiness, a characteristic cherished by many including your author and unloved by others (the earthiness I mean, not the "mustiness"). Both earthiness and mustiness may be aged out of most ripe puerhs and the aging bring about the layering/complexity that is so prized and enjoyed by all who have come to know this tea.


    "... possessing an alluring sweet and mellow nature the traditional character of premium black ("cooked") Pu-erh combines a distinctive soft earthiness with subtle components of chinese herbs, aromatic wood and warm summer fruits"

    The origin of black (ripe or cooked) Pu-erh tea (aka "shou" and "cooked" Pu-erh) date from the 1970s. During this relatively short period of time black Pu-erh has easily become the most consumed type of Pu-erh tea in China. It can be found in the majority of restaurants, tea houses, work places and family homes throughout China
    continue
    .
    Last edited by Juke_spin; 04-09-2007 at 06:49 AM.
    "The world will not perish for want of wonders but for want of wonder."
    J.B.S.Haldane

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wise Young
    Juke,

    There is a slight "mustiness" to Pu-erh tea (普 洱 茶). Others have commented on this as well and have speculated that this may be related to the "pond" flavor of the tea that goes away with aging (Source. Apparently, you can buy 1980's loose cooked tea from Guang of Hou De Asian Art (Source) which lacks the mustiness of new tea.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pu-erh_tea
    Wise,

    I'm not sure about the "mustiness" you refer to but can relate to an "earthiness" which I and many other Pu-erh drinkers like, it was the dominant characteristic of the first Pu-erh I ordered, brewed and drank and it kept me coming back to and trying other Pu-erhs seeking the same sort of intensity. Some deliver, some don't.

    The Guang of Hou De Asian Art (Source) website you linked is the best retail source I've seen after scanning some three-score. I passed on the 80s classic ripe with a sample price of $20 per 10g but ordered some of the

    Harvest Year: 2004 Spring

    Production Year: 2004

    Manufacturer: Xia Guan Tea Factory

    Type: young green cake

    Weight: 357g

    Description: A finer grade 2004 product from the famous Xia Guan Tea Factory in its original 7-cake wrapper. 8613, as the "1" indicates, uses mainly the finest first grade raw leaves harvested from XiShuangBanna.

    The body is round, solid and well-proportioned. The cake emits a very intense "Xia Guan" aroma - a happy blend of flowery and fruity! Looking at the aurface of the cake, you can see an abundance of tender and silvery first-grade leaves.

    The first brew of this cake has a very slight of smokiness in it. From the second brew, the sweet and soft quality of this fine cake becomes manifest and rich in the liquor. It has a very traditional Xia Guan taste and feeling, but more inclines to sweetness in the aftertaste. A very fine tea to drink now. Given 3 to 5 years of careful storage, the smokiness will tone down and the liquor should become more mellow and develope more complexity and layers. A very potent champion!

    Each order is one 1 oz sampler of this fine cake.
    Its description covers the bases of what I can anticipate enjoying in a young green Pu-erh and it is much more reasonable, especially with the free shipping deal they offered.

    Thanks for the link and all the input above.
    Last edited by Juke_spin; 04-09-2007 at 12:28 AM.
    "The world will not perish for want of wonders but for want of wonder."
    J.B.S.Haldane

  6. #6
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    Deciding on Investment Potential in Pu-erh Tea

    I really have just the thinest of guidelines so far to help me decide investment potential in a brick, toucha, or cake of Pu-erh.

    I perfer the green Pu-erh over the ripe and collectors and dealers supply a wealth of information and recommendations where aging/investment potential are concerned. The tea company or factory that assembled the leaves to go into the particullar brick, tuo-cha or cake you are considering must come to bear as must the selection of leaves. Many factories have developed perferential formulas of leaf percentages to go into a prime compressed form. For instence, a particular factory may choose to use a blend of wild and cultivated leaves to be compressed into a prefered or commemorative cake. Often six or seven layers of leaves will go into one cake of Pu-erh. These decisions are influenced by the recorded aging characteristics of the blends being considered.

    One of my more recent buys was of two cakes of a "young" (2004) green Pu-erh direct from China but purchased through a Chinese-born, Canadian eBayer. I used the "Make Offer" option his auction offered and got his price down a few bucks per cake...but a major appeal for me came from a rather trivial fact: the cakes come from,

    Manufacturer: Nanjian Dark Dragon Lake Tea Factory, Yunnan

    What could be more romantic than an exotic tea assembled at the Nanjian Dark Dragon Lake Tea Factory in remote, mountainous Yunnan, China?

    The better sellers display photos of the actual cake surface in their adds and here's the top and bottom views of the young green cakes I ordered:



    Last edited by Juke_spin; 04-17-2007 at 03:26 AM.
    "The world will not perish for want of wonders but for want of wonder."
    J.B.S.Haldane

  7. #7
    Sounds interesting, where do you buy it?

  8. #8
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    Thumbs up

    Quote Originally Posted by ginamarie
    Sounds interesting, where do you buy it?
    There are a huge number of Internet sources; I'll PM or email some that I have dealt with and/or have reason to believe to be a cut above the rest. Then there's eBay but I've only dealt with the one Canadian guy and have yet to complete our transactions as two cakes are enroute via China SAL (part land, part air) and another is supposedly shipped from his location in Canada. The former won't show up for at least another three weeks and the later should arrive by the begining of next week. I'll send his eBay seller name by private message and keep you posted about the cakes, if you like.
    "The world will not perish for want of wonders but for want of wonder."
    J.B.S.Haldane

  9. #9
    Thanks, that would be great! PM me.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by ginamarie
    Thanks, that would be great! PM me.
    Done; check and see.
    "The world will not perish for want of wonders but for want of wonder."
    J.B.S.Haldane

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