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Richard Kilgore

Tea Tasting: 2008 Menghai '7572' Shu Pu-Erh

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This is the third tea tasting of 2009 thanks to eGullet Society member Greg Glancy of Norbutea.com. This time around we will be tasting and discussing a 2008 shu (ripe) pu-erh, a classic 7572 recipe from Menghai Tea Factory in China. The samples were taken from a 357 gram beeng.

Greg has provided five samples of 10 grams each that I will mail to the five eG Society members participating in this tasting. While the tasting is open to all members who have posted at least five substantive posts in the Coffee and Tea forum, preference will be given until midnight next Tuesday to those who did not participate in either of the two previous tastings of TGY Oolong and Imperial Dian Hong.

Everyone is welcome to participate in the discussion, of course.

So, please PM me if you would like to receive one of the the free samples and participate in the tasting and discussion.

Here is some background information on this Menghai shu pu-ehr from Norbutea.com.

(Copyright Norbutea. Used with permission.)

'7572' is another classic recipe from Menghai, and these cakes are from batch 802, which is the second pressing of this recipe for 2008.  See the Terminology section on our About Pu-Erh page for an explanation of these numerical trading codes. It is composed of a blend of grade 7 Pu-Erh that was fermented in 2007, so it has mellowed a bit in flavor and lost some of the 'just fermented' taste.  Another 6 months to a year of storage should mellow the flavor of this tea even more and improve the clarity of the steeped liquor.  The taste of this blend is a bit lighter and sweeter than the '7262' blend that is also available here.

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Here's the final list of members who signed up for this tasting of a 2008 Menhai 7572 Shu Pu-Erh provided by eG Society member Greg Glancy at Norbutea.com:

chrisamirault

Yagna Patni

gfron1

Naftal

cdh

You all should receive your 10 gram samples soon.

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gfron1   

I received my sample this morning. I plan on following the steeping guidelines at norbutea.com

Pu-erh Tea: To steep Pu-erh in the Western style, pry a small amount of leaves off of the compressed tea cake, brick, etc. It is difficult to give a volume of tea leaves when dealing with Pu-erh because there isn't a standard of compression from factory to factory. Two teaspoons from one brick might weigh twice as much as two teaspoons from another. I would say try about 2 teaspoons the first time you make a particular Pu-erh and adjust the amount used to your taste in future Pu-erh drinking sessions. Use water that is as close to boiling as possible for both Sheng and Shu Pu-erh teas. Steeping times will vary greatly from tea to tea. Start by steeping the tea leaves for 3 minutes and adjust according to your taste. See Gong Fu Tea Preparation section below for additional and highly encouraged serving suggestion.

Any other guidance?

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I think that having the same tasting conditions would be ideal, but since a very small change in any variable (water quality, a few degrees temp, a few seconds on an infusion, or a slightly varying leaf:water ratio) can make a significant difference, we're not going to be able to do that. But I think it will be interesting and we can learn something by the differences in how we brew and the differences in what we find.

I brewed this gongfu style and suggest starting with a 10" rinse and 5" for the first three infusions, then 20", 30" and on. I used 3.5 grams in a tiny 50 ml gaiwan that takes about 35 ml water. Next time I'll pull back and try it with 2 gr/30ml water, but still start with a 5" first infusion and then see where to go from there.

Anyone else brewing this shu gongfu style? Gaiwan or yixing?

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cdh   

I don't have a yixing small enough to do the proper gongfu method with just 10g of tea... so I'm likely to make this with western ratio of leaf to water, but in a yixing pot.

When you write 10" are you meaning ten seconds or ten minutes? I read that as ten inches instinctively... is " the seconds mark in the degrees minutes seconds lat/long system? I always though of seconds as coming after a colon, e.g. :10... but enough about the typography... can't wait for the tea to arrive...


Edited by cdh (log)

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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I don't have a yixing small enough to do the proper gongfu method with just 10g of tea... so I'm likely to make this with western ratio of leaf to water, but in a yixing pot.

When you write 10"  are you meaning ten seconds or ten minutes?  I read that as ten inches instinctively... is " the seconds mark in the degrees minutes seconds lat/long system?  I always though of seconds as coming after a colon, e.g. :10...  but enough about the typography... can't wait for the tea to arrive...

Apologies for any confusion. Yes, I meant seconds.

So my suggestion for a starting place for gongfu was intended to be ---

Rinse:10; 1:5; 2:5; 3:5; ....

I sometimes brew shu western style in a large Yixing (about 300 ml), so I'll be interested to see how it works for you on this one.

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For those following along , here are two images of the tea we are tasting. (Apologies for the fuzzy photos. I'll try to get some clearer ones this week.)

The dry Shu. 2 grams of the Shu Pu-erh in a tiny 50 ml gaiwan.

gallery_7582_6392_987.jpg

The wet shu and the tea liquor in a yixing tea cup of about 20 ml.

gallery_7582_6392_108722.jpg

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cdh   

Good news! Mine's arrived. The dry tea in the bag has an interesting very earthy note over the aroma of black tea... More aromatic that other pu ehrs I've run across... but those were in little pucks, rather than chips off the old block.


Edited by cdh (log)

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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Good news!  Mine's arrived.  The dry tea in the bag has an interesting very earthy note over the aroma of black tea... More aromatic that other pu ehrs I've run across... but those were in little pucks, rather than chips off the old block.

Yes. Unfortunately most people's first taste of a Pu-erh is in the mini-tuo form. They typically range from hmmm? to ewww! to really disgusting..and not in a good way.

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cdh   

Alright-- first attempt:

200ml water just off the boil. 2.3 g of tea, 2 minutes. Results are mixed... Aroma not so pleasant, kind of barnyardy, but at first sip this tea seems sort of insipid, just a light black-tea flavor, in keeping with the light reddish color of the infusion. This steeping really shines in the aftertaste. It coats the mouth and keeps on going for minutes afterwards. Again, a light flavor, not at all tannic like black teas, but more like the mouthcoating flavors of oolongs. This reminds me most of a Bai Hao in its overalll impression in the mouth... though a Bai Hao would win in the aroma contest hands down.

A second steeping of the first 2.3g of leaves under the same conditions with a 2.25minute steep produced similar flavor results. Aroma in the yixing is still very barnyard-y, but doesn't transfer much to the cup the second time around. Second steep has little aroma.

A third try at the same 2.3g of tea the following day (yes, the tea sat in my yixing overnight)-- barnyardy aroma back in spades in the pot... more decomposing vegetable matter with an ammonaic hint... not, shall we say, "mucky". This time the water was 180-ish and the steep was 5+ minutes. This really brought out the dark-oolong spicy-woodiness of the the tea. Again, very remniscent of Bai Hao type oolongs, but without the underlying floral hints. Still goes on and on in the mouth. Exhibits a weird almost salty flavor on the first sips, which then recedes into the background and becomes part of the bigger picture.

gallery_7416_6605_61137.jpg

gallery_7416_6605_568535.jpg


Edited by cdh (log)

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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I would suggest that whether you are brewing western style or gongfu style that you do an initial rinse of the tea leaves. Just enough almost boiling water to cover the leaves, then pour off after about 10 seconds before starting the first infusion.

cdh - thanks for the report and the pix. Are you going to adjust any of your parameters for your next brewing?

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I got mine and brewed up one brewing.

I used 2 tea spoons, and water just off the boil.

I brewed it in a regular tea pot because that is what i have got.

It is a small pot that makes about 2 cups of tea, and has a metal insert to remove and stop leaves over brewing.

I tried the first cup after just a few minutes. It was a pale amber colour. very beer-like in colour. my first impression was, as said above, barnyard. More specifically, to me, cow pie. I have lived a lot round cows, and that is not a negative connotation to me. unsure however how i feel about it in a beverage.

The tea had a very smooth and silky mouth feel. Was entirely absent of the tannin tang, that i typically enjoy, but also that i typically drown with milk. Also absent was the vegetal sweetness that i find in some Chinese teas, esp green tea, that i tend to avoid.

The next cup i let soak while I drank the first one. This second cup, was stronger, the colour a dark reddish brown. the barnyard was richer and more intense. but still to me barnyard. I could not really detect any background flavours. This cup had more of a tang of tannin, but not enough to make me long to dump in some milk. but still the strong but rather mellow barnyard taste.

It was very interesting. I still have some left, and i may brew it with hotter water and see what happens.

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cdh   
I would suggest that whether you are brewing western style or gongfu style that you do an initial rinse of the tea leaves. Just enough almost boiling water to cover the leaves, then pour off after about 10 seconds before starting the first infusion.

cdh - thanks for the report and the pix. Are you going to adjust any of your parameters for your next brewing?

Query- should the chunks of leaf be rubbed apart before steeping, or are they fine going in as chunks? Should I treat it like pressed tobacco and rub or crush it into flakes before use?

As to the initial rinse, is its purpose to heat the vessel, or to do something to the leaves? I heat my vessel by running some steam into it from my espresso machine's steam vent (which also shoots 180F water, which is convenient for the teas I like.).

As to variations in the brewing, I'm up for some guidance from somebody who knows this tea.

A bit of googling leads me to conclude that a Shu pu ehr is "cooked", meaning that its ecosystem has been killed off, so it won't continue "maturing" or rotting or however one might describe the bacterial action. The Google also tells me that the observed barnyardiness is common in these teas, and part of the reason these teas are aged for years... a newborn like this displaying the funk is normal... but is this how it was meant to be enjoyed, or is the real payoff several years down the pike?


Edited by cdh (log)

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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I got mine and brewed up one brewing.

I used 2 tea spoons, and water just off the boil.

I brewed it in a regular tea pot because that is what i have got.

It is a small pot that makes about 2 cups of tea, and has a metal insert to remove and stop leaves over brewing.

I tried the first cup after just a few minutes. It was a pale amber colour. very beer-like in colour. my first impression was, as said above, barnyard. More specifically, to me, cow pie. I have lived a lot round cows, and that is not a negative connotation to me.  unsure however how i feel about it in a beverage.

The tea had a very smooth and silky mouth feel. Was entirely absent of the tannin tang, that i typically enjoy, but also that i typically drown with milk.  Also absent was the vegetal sweetness that i find in some Chinese teas, esp green tea, that i tend to avoid.

The next cup i let soak while I drank the first one. This second cup, was stronger, the colour a dark reddish brown. the barnyard was richer and more intense. but still to me barnyard. I could not really detect any background flavours. This cup had more of a tang of tannin, but not enough to make me long to dump in some milk. but still the strong but rather mellow barnyard taste.

It was very interesting. I still have some left, and i may brew it with hotter water and see what happens.

Interesting, Yajna Patni. The associations people have to a tea's flavor and aroma can be very different and personal. To the same aroma, some will smell barnyard or hay and have a negative reaction, while it will evoke fond memories of the farm or countryside for others. I have a Chinese friend who really dislikes pu-erh because it tastes like medicine to him...pu-erh having traditional medicinal uses in China.

The next time you might use about half the water you did this time with the same amount of leaf, a 10 second rinse, and brew for about three minutes for the first infusion. The rinse is very helpful for pu-erhs and Oolongs in washing away any dust and debris left over from manufacturing.

Even brewing western style you may be able to get five or more infusions by increasing the brewing time a little for each infusion.

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cdh   

OK. Have tried a second batch. Rinsed as directed for 10 seconds. 3g of tea, 200ml of 180F water, 3.5 minutes. No funk in the cup at all. This batch turned out to be not notably different from a lot of whole-leaf black yunnans in flavor, but it does continue to coat the mouth and provide a lingering flavor for a long time.


Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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I would suggest that whether you are brewing western style or gongfu style that you do an initial rinse of the tea leaves. Just enough almost boiling water to cover the leaves, then pour off after about 10 seconds before starting the first infusion.

cdh - thanks for the report and the pix. Are you going to adjust any of your parameters for your next brewing?

Query- should the chunks of leaf be rubbed apart before steeping, or are they fine going in as chunks? Should I treat it like pressed tobacco and rub it out into flakes before use?

It's best to try to avoid breaking the leaves. You can use something like an ice pick, letter opener or butter knife (avoid any knife with a sharp edge that can cut the leaves) and pry apart the leaves. These are very compact, so don't be concerned that you're unlikely to do this perfectly, I can't. Try to have a combination of chunks and smaller pieces. More large than small.

As to the initial rinse, is its purpose to heat the vessel, or to do something to the leaves? I heat my vessel by running some steam into it from my espresso machine's steam vent (which also shoots 180F water, which is convenient for the teas I like.).

Heating the vessel comes first. Pour off any water used to heat the vessel, then add the leaves and do the rinse. The rinse is simply to wash away any dust and debris and moisten the leaves.

As to variations in the brewing, I'm up for some guidance from somebody who knows this tea.

In general, you might try using less water in your Yixing pot, say 150 ml water for the two teaspoons of leaf. Try using a combination of chunks and smaller pieces. Do a rinse. Try 90 second first infusion, but take a look at the hue of the tea liquor and a sip and decide if you should let it go longer...up to say 3 minutes.

I should also ask about your pot. Do you know what kind of clay it is? Thick or think walled? What kind of tea have you been brewing in it before this? How absorbent is the clay; that is, does it tend to absorb aromas, or not?

A bit of googling leads me to conclude that a Shu pu ehr is "cooked", meaning that its ecosystem has been killed off, so it won't continue "maturing" or rotting or however one might describe the bacterial action. The Google also tells me that the observed barnyardiness is common in these teas, and part of the reason these teas are aged for years... a newborn like this displaying the funk is normal... but is this how it was meant to be enjoyed, or is the real payoff several years down the pike?

You can think of shu (ripe or cooked) pu-erh and sheng (raw) pu-erh as similar to drink-now wine and wine meant for aging. Most shengs don't really start to come into their own until they are at least 8 - 15 years old...and there are very expensive shengs much, much older than that. Shu pu-erhs, on the other hand, are usually ready to drink after a couple of years mellowing. Some continue to improve for several years. Shu was developed in the 1970s as a forced fermentation process so that producers (and consumers) did not have to wait 15 years to brew and drink a sheng pu-erh. This one is a classic recipe. At the same time it's not all that black and white. There are shengs you can drink now and shus that are better after 8 years.

From the description of this shu on the norbutea.com site: "It is composed of a blend of grade 7 Pu-Erh that was fermented in 2007, so it has mellowed a bit in flavor and lost some of the 'just fermented' taste. Another 6 months to a year of storage should mellow the flavor of this tea even more and improve the clarity of the steeped liquor. The taste of this blend is a bit lighter and sweeter than the '7262' blend that is also available here."

So it may improve over the next 6 months or so. Probably for a couple more years. Beyond that, it may or may not. No one knows for sure.

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OK.  Have tried a second batch.  Rinsed as directed for 10 seconds.  3g of tea, 200ml of 180F water, 3.5 minutes.  No funk in the cup at all.  This batch turned out to be not notably different from a lot of whole-leaf black yunnans in flavor, but it does continue to coat the mouth and provide a lingering flavor for a long time.

Cool! If you have some left, next time you could try a full boil or just off a full boil (208F) and see what happens. 180F is really low for a pu.

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cdh   

In general, you might try using less water in your Yixing pot, say 150 ml water for the two teaspoons of leaf. Try using a combination of chunks and smaller pieces.  Do a  rinse. Try 90 second first infusion, but take a look at the hue of the tea liquor and a sip and decide if you should let it go longer...up to say 3 minutes.

I should also ask about your pot. Do you know what kind of clay it is? Thick or think walled? What kind of tea have you been brewing in it before this? How absorbent is the clay; that is, does it tend to absorb aromas, or not?

The suggestion for more leaf to water is a good one. 3g definitely came out differently (and less funky) than 2.3g, all other factors being the same.

As to the pot, it has been used for chinese back teas... not particularly aroma absorbent, fairly sturdy walls.... not like eggshell porcelain, but not crude and rustic either. Dark brown Chinese yixing clay, purchased in China as a gift for me, so I have no further details.


Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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In general, you might try using less water in your Yixing pot, say 150 ml water for the two teaspoons of leaf. Try using a combination of chunks and smaller pieces.  Do a  rinse. Try 90 second first infusion, but take a look at the hue of the tea liquor and a sip and decide if you should let it go longer...up to say 3 minutes.

I should also ask about your pot. Do you know what kind of clay it is? Thick or think walled? What kind of tea have you been brewing in it before this? How absorbent is the clay; that is, does it tend to absorb aromas, or not?

The suggestion for more leaf to water is a good one. 3g definitely came out differently (and less funky) than 2.3g, all other factors being the same.

As to the pot, it has been used for chinese back teas... not particularly aroma absorbent, fairly sturdy walls.... not like eggshell porcelain, but not crude and rustic either. Dark brown Chinese yixing clay, purchased in China as a gift for me, so I have no further details.

Thanks, your pot looks gray-black rather than brown on my screen. So it's probably a Yixing Zisha clay of some type. Maybe brown with a purple cast?

You may be getting some carry over flavor from brewing your Chinese black/red teas. You could try pouring boiling water in your pot, letting it sit for 5 minutes, pour off and add room temp water and let it sit. Then repeat this one or two more times. This should clear the pot. You'll want to do this again before going back to your Chinese red teas because the shu is highly likely to come through.

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Naftal   

Hello-Yes, I have my tea and I have brewed it Western style.It was very nice.It had all the qualities that I associate with a classic beencha(the shape of the cake in the photo on the packet) made by a first-rate producer,which of course, it is. I tend to brew tea by "feel" so I don't have a lot of technical data 'though I aways brew blacks/pu-erhs in water that has come to a full rolling boil. Again, it was wonderful, thanks.


"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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lperry   
OK.  Have tried a second batch.  Rinsed as directed for 10 seconds.  3g of tea, 200ml of 180F water, 3.5 minutes.  No funk in the cup at all.  This batch turned out to be not notably different from a lot of whole-leaf black yunnans in flavor, but it does continue to coat the mouth and provide a lingering flavor for a long time.

As someone interested in teas who has been following this thread, I'm glad to read this second review. The barnyard descriptions above made me much less likely to try a pu-erh. Admittedly, I probably miss out on some wonderful things due to such biases. Thank you to everyone for the reviews.

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