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Richard Kilgore

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

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I'm just finishing my second cup...dangerous for me in the afternoon. I went with a Western style steep following the suggestions above.

1. Rinse for 10 seconds with the just off boiling water;

2. 3 minute initial steep using 2 t. tea and 1 C. water in cast iron pot

Impressions of dry tea: I'm used to puerh having a slightly stronger aroma pre-steep than this one did so I am expecting a more tamed flavor. There's a nice sweetness to it.

First steep: Aroma is really nice, still tame by comparison which would be a good thing to lperry, but I like a good kick in the chin with my puerhs. The barnyard aroma is more like a well cared for stable to me, again versus the rotting manure that I'm used to. (You can see that I'm typing this as I go). First sip - very smooth. Immediately settles on the back of my tongue with a mellow earthiness that seems to have a hint of mint...maybe wintergreen. A bit of metallic flavor - I filter water through a PUR filter, so this is PUR puerh...my filter should be up to date, but can't guarantee it. Also, it could be from my pot. Not unpleasant however. I think I'm being most impressed by its softness moreso than its flavor - meaning, some teas leave an acidity in my mouth or a bitterness or even a dryness - all using the same steeping tools. This tea is leaving a pleasantness in my mouth.

Alright, first attempt complete. I enjoyed it, and have nothing bad to say about it. I will go for a stronger cup on my next attempt, but will do a longer steep on this batch first.

Again I want to say that the 7 and 12 year puerhs that I sell have tasting notes like, "reminiscent of the sea," which to me meant that it smells of rotting fish. I find puerhs to be sweet to my tongue but not sugary. Its always been the smell that I have to get past to enjoy the flavor. I didn't have that barrier with this sample. I'm also going to see if I can't break down the tastes on the next cup.

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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.

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.

Glad we didn't lose you. Pu'erh is a big, relatively unkown (in the West) world of its own. Brewing some of them can be a little tricky, and my experience has been that a pu-erh I found to be a little rough earlier on in my pu-erh adventures many months later tasted much, much better. Could be the tea smoothing out a bit over time, or could be I have learned a little more about how to brew it. Or both, of course. Pu is not for everyone, and trying it just once will not tell you a great deal. But once is a start.

I am lining up several more tea tastings this year, including some Pu-erhs, so stay tuned and feel free to jump in.

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I am brewing this pu-erh again today. This time gongfu style in a Yixing teapot of about 100 ml (I'll have to check that later to be sure) with 7.2 grams of leaf at a full boil. Pre-heated the teapot and the cup.

It's really easy to oversteep this pu. I did a 10 second rinse and tried to do a 5 second first infusion but fumbled a bit and it went 10 seconds. The second one also went closer to ten ( pretty dark hue), and the third closer to 5. For the fourth I cut back to an immediate pour. From the looks of it right now, I am guessing it should go 12 infusions at least.

When I say an X second infusion, keep in mind that it also takes time for the tea to pour out of the pot. So the pot's pour rate is important. This one takes 15 seconds, which is probably about average. Some people count from the time they pour the pot full of water and some add on the pour rate when reporting. All things considered, a faster pour rate is a good thing, say 8 -9 seconds. But my modest pot is what it is. (This is a strength for the gaiwan - you can dump the tea out in a flash, much faster than any Yixing, as far as I know.)

There is a qualitative difference between the gaiwan brewing and Yixing brewing I have done with this pu, in favor of the Yixing. Then again the Yixing is a pot I have dedicated to cooked pu-erh and is inevitably contributing to the drinking experience in its own way.

I'll try to get some more photos up by this weekend.

So how are you all doing? Have you brewed any more of this pu?

Anyone following along who is not brewing a sample have any comments or questions?

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One more suggestion for anyone brewing more of this pu (or any pu for that matter). Particularly for gongfu style, but worth trying for western style, too -- allow a rest of about 60 seconds after the initial rinse is poured off. This allows the leaves to open up a bit before starting the first infusion.

Also some do two rinses, or a longer rinse, than I did for this pu. It's all a matter of experimenting to see what works best for a specific pu and what pleases you.

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I'm just finishing my second cup...dangerous for me in the afternoon.  I went with a Western style steep following the suggestions above.

1. Rinse for 10 seconds with the just off boiling water;

2. 3 minute initial steep using 2 t. tea and 1 C. water in cast iron pot

Impressions of dry tea: I'm used to puerh having a slightly stronger aroma pre-steep than this one did so I am expecting a more tamed flavor.  There's a nice sweetness to it.

First steep: Aroma is really nice, still tame by comparison which would be a good thing to lperry, but I like a good kick in the chin with my puerhs.  The barnyard aroma is more like a well cared for stable to me, again versus the rotting manure that I'm used to.  (You can see that I'm typing this as I go).  First sip - very smooth.  Immediately settles on the back of my tongue with a mellow earthiness that seems to have a hint of mint...maybe wintergreen.  A bit of metallic flavor - I filter water through a PUR filter, so this is PUR puerh...my filter should be up to date, but can't guarantee it.  Also, it could be from my pot.  Not unpleasant however.  I think I'm being most impressed by its softness moreso than its flavor - meaning, some teas leave an acidity in my mouth or a bitterness or even a dryness - all using the same steeping tools.  This tea is leaving a pleasantness in my mouth.

Alright, first attempt complete.  I enjoyed it, and have nothing bad to say about it.  I will go for a stronger cup on my next attempt, but will do a longer steep on this batch first.

Again I want to say that the 7 and 12 year puerhs that I sell have tasting notes like, "reminiscent of the sea," which to me meant that it smells of rotting fish.  I find puerhs to be sweet to my tongue but not sugary.  Its always been the smell that I have to get past to enjoy the flavor.  I didn't have that barrier with this sample.  I'm also going to see if I can't break down the tastes on the next cup.

I think you are likely right, gfron1, that the metallic taste component is coming from your cast iron pot. I did not get any of that in a gaiwan or a Yixing. The mint or wintergreen is interesting. I did not notice that, but will watch for it.

Have you had a chance to do another session with the pu?

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I tried another couple of goes with my tea. I used the rest of the leaves in my small Tea pot, and filled it half full, which gave me about one mug of tea.

I tried this time with water on the boil, and the 10 second rinse. This rinse did do a lot to take away some of the barnyard aroma. The first soaking came out very dark coloured. almost black coffee coloured.

I could smell an edge of something akin to the barn in the aroma. I am trying to describe the taste. The smooth syrupy mouth feel was very prominent. There was a back edge of bitterness which I really liked, and the main flavor i don't know how i would describe it? Malty fermented hay?

In a funny way, it reminded me of Korean barley tea. I think it is barley, usualy drunk iced in the summer.

I tried another steeping. boiling water, small pot half full. I didn't find a whole lot of difference, it was all a little mellower, the syrupy mouth feel was there, and the bitter back was gone, and the hay had mellowed into something more funky and well... mellow.

All in all... i didn't hate it. It was quite different to what i generally drink. and the funkiness is something i think with work i could come to appreciate. I am glad i tried again, first time i really did not see it as somthing i could get to like.

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Just another comment. I've finished mine, and did two steeps on both batches. This was a nice tea, and as I usually feel with nicer teas, I was out of my realm. I can nuance wine, salt, chocolate, etc, but teas are more difficult for me, which leaves me with - like it or don't like it. I would not put it in the don't like it category because it was a good tea. But it surely didn't kick me in the butt like many teas that I enjoy.

I received a very useful PM suggesting that my previous puerh experiences might have been with poorly stored teas. That's something I definitely want to follow up with and learn more about. Prior to this tea I thought all puerhs would be downright nasty to the nose but acceptable to the palette. So it was nice to have a different experience. Thanks again for the sample.

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I am pleased that you two had an interesting experience with this Pu. When Greg and I were selecting the teas for this series of tasting discussions, we considered one shu that was easier to brew, but chose this traditional Mehghai shu beng because the other one is truly disgusting to look at...very tasty, but disgusting looking, and we were afraid some people could not get past that. Only if I get real brave will I share a little of that with someone here.

But even the alternate shu was not nasty smelling, gfron1. I agree with your PM tipster. It sounds like the fishy, nasty aromas may have been due to long-term storage in a way too humid environment, referred to as "wet storage". If it's not too far over the edge you may be able to get something good out of that if you do two or three gongfu infusions to dump before pouring an infusion to drink. I am not sure if you could rescue it western style by pouring off the first infusion or two, but it's worth trying.

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Finally got around to testing my sample (thanks, Richard!) today. My usual routine: 5g of tea, 400g of water just below boiling, 4 minutes in a prewarmed ingenuiTEA steeper.

I picked up a slightly unexpected nose as well, though I'd call it "low tide" rather than "barnyard"; it dissipated over the course of the cup. Not unpleasant to me, but my grandfather was a fisherman and I have fond memories of low time. :wink:

For my first pu-erh I guess I'm underwhelmed. Perhaps it's very subtle and my palate isn't, but I wasn't picking up much complexity in aroma or taste. Very soft, no tannins, earthy aroma: I could repeat what's been written above.

It may be that this is the sort of tea that has been cultivated (in the broadest sense) for the particularities of sophisticated tea preparation, and therefore unsuited to Western-style brewing. Or maybe it's just not... my cup of tea.

I couldn't resist.

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Glad you were able to get around to brewing this Menghai Shu, Chris. While most pu-erh, Oolong, and some red/black and green Chinese teas show themselves best with gongfu style brewing, I think it is fair to say that this pu-erh is not particularly complex, even though it is from a solid traditional cake recipe made by an established producer. There are at least two reasons for this. First, this is a cooked pu-erh. Second, this is a relatively young cooked pu-erh.

Many people would not find the best and most expensive pu (think five and six figures), even with someone else picking up the tea tab, to be their cup of tea, So I am not surprised that you or anyone may prefer something else. (Oolongs are currently my favorite category of tea, but then I have much more experience with them.)

That said, we have seen here that many factors may effect the result in your cup and your experience, even brewing western style: brewing vessel material, water temp, leaf to water ratio, water temp, length of infusion and rinse vs no rinse. And multiple brewings of pu-erhs in general and a specific one in particular often show improvement. At least it does for me.

Not to mention the effect of ambient temperature, humidity, phase of the moon and how you hold your mouth while pouring...just kidding, but only partly. There are some mysteries here.

Glass is the least ideal brewing vessel for pu, since high heat is essential, so you are starting at a disadvantage. If you try another brew, you might consider bringing the water to a full, rolling boil and wrapping the pot in a dish towel to help retain the heat. You could also do a rinse, and try bottled (but not distilled) water, if you are not using filtered water. Consider resting the leaves for 60 seconds after the rinse and brewing for three minutes for a first infusion and five seconds for a second.

Let us know what happens.

******************

Since this tasting and discussion has been winding down, I have started a new topic for a tasting of an interesting Japanese green tea. Check it out everyone.

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Thanks to everyone participating in this first pu-erh tasting discussion. And thanks to eG member Greg Glancy at norbutea.com for providing the free samples for the first three tastings.

A new tasting discussion of a Kukicha Japanese green tea is now in progress.

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Found a chunk of this in my tea cupboard too and decided to brew it up yesterday.  The barnyardy funk was there in the dry leaves, and persisted into the first few infusions... dissipated thereafter.  The sweet woodsy flavor seemed to accented with an almost banana-ester thing going on in the 3rd through 6th infusions... then that dissipated as well.  Pretty clear evidence that maturation brings chemical transformations in this kind of tea.

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