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Richard Kilgore

Tea Tasting: 3 new sheng puerhs

50 posts in this topic

Experienced puerh drinker? Never tried puerh? Had a bad experience with puerh? Read on, because this Tea Tasting & Discussion may offer something for everyone.

The purpose of this Tea Tasting & Discussion is to introduce members to puerh, as well as to give us the opportunity to compare the differences in three new 2010 sheng (raw) puerhs from different villages in the Yunnan province of China.

David Collen at www.essenceoftea.co.uk is providing the three puerh tea samples.

Essence of Tea 2010 Bangwai Village

Essence of Tea 2010 Manmai Village

Essence of Tea 2010 Mansai Village

Sets of the samples will go to up to three eG members active in the forums: if you have at least 50 posts anywhere in the eG Forums in the past 12 months, or if you have at least 10 posts in the Coffee & Tea Forum and are interested in receiving the free samples and participating in this TT&D, please read on and then PM me.

The Details

The set of three puerh tea samples (10g each) will go to each of up to three eGullet Society members who will begin brewing, tasting, posting and discussing the teas within one week of receiving the samples.

These teas may be brewed 1) "western style" using a small teapot or infuser cup, or 2) in a gaiwan or 3) in a Yixing tea pot. Please, no tea balls since they do not allow the loose leaves to open fully and infuse well.

Brewing suggestions in an upcoming post.

Initial preference will be given to eGullet Society members who have never received tea samples and participated in a Tea Tasting & Discussion, and who have at least 50 posts anywhere in the eG Forums in the past year. This preference will last until midnight Friday, November 12, 2010 Eastern Time, US.

If that sounds like you, please PM me ASAP. Others who have previously participated, may PM me their interest at any time.

If you have any questions at all, please feel free to PM me.

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Initial preference will be given to eGullet Society members who have never received tea samples and participated in a Tea Tasting & Discussion, and who have at least 50 posts anywhere in the eG Forums in the past year. This preference will last until midnight Friday, November 12, 2010 Eastern Time, US.

If that sounds like you, please PM me ASAP. Others who have previously participated, may PM me their interest at any time.

If you have any questions at all, please feel free to PM me.

The clock is ticking. Midnight tonight.

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The three sets of free samples of raw puerhs are now available to eGullet Society members who have participated in other Tea Tasting & Discussions, as well as all members who have at least 50 posts anywhere in the eG Forums or 10 posts in the eG Coffee & Tea forum.

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Shengs are here! Shengs are here!

Heh. Almost as though I was expecting them, I've been drinking white and green teas a lot the past few days. I'm ready for some puerhs this evening.

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First head to head done, will wait to post until everyone has had a chance for a first round. Did a mini-sized tasting with the tiniest gaiwans and just over a gram of tea apiece, so can do several more including regular-scale infusions. Nice how they last.

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So... should I treat these like green teas and brew low temp, short time, multiple infusion? What is the standard brewing procedure for this type of puehr?

Puer usually is brewed with boiling water; some people so like to brew young sheng (which is, after all, essentially green tea) with cooler water, however. Partly, it depends if you want to stress the tea to determine how good it is, or whether you want to make it more palatable (reduce bitterness and astringency). I personally don't prefer to drink young sheng puer, but when I do, it's mostly to determine if I want to buy something, so I tend to use boiling water.

Even with greens, things aren't that absolute. Good quality tea can usually tolerate fairly hot, if not boiling, water, and standard competition tasting almost always uses boiling.

If you are trying to compare the teas, I would try a couple different things, assuming you have enough tea leaf.

First would be competition style brewing - 100 ml of boiling water, 3g, 5 minutes, poured into a bowl at the end (this is difficult, though not impossible, if you don't have the cupping style sets or at least 3 identical gaiwans). This makes it easier to compare the teas head to head, and the long infusion with very hot water stresses the tea in a different way from brewing with lots of leaf and less water.

Then I'd try brewing the teas "normally", with 5-6 g of leaf and 100ml of water or so, and multiple infusions. Young sheng brewed this way doesn't change much between infusions, and will last almost forever if the quality is good, so this can get kind of boring. You can experiment with cooler water

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Tea wimp that I am, I started these out with about 1 gram of tea per ounce water in small gaiwans, with water just off the boil, but very short infusion times--10 seconds to start, after the flash rinse.

And after several infusions, I had to go to a significantly longer one to bring out some differences. That wasn't a pleasant infusion to drink, but was important to confirm what I was tasting in less concentrated form before and after.

I've also enjoyed brewing young sheng like this quite cool, like a green tea. Fortunately, we have enough of these samples for me to brew several ways, and next time I may do them cooler/longer.

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While I am in general agreement with Will, few have three competition tasting sets or three gaiwans of the same size, so this is not conducted as a professional tasting. While we often do have a few brewing stipulations, the TT&Ds are really intended to introduce tea drinkers to teas they may not have tried before, and so much more casual. The varied approaches our tasters bring to brewing have actually taught me a lot.

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While I am in general agreement with Will, few have three competition tasting sets or three gaiwans of the same size, so this is not conducted as a professional tasting.

No disagreement here. However, for folks who do want to give this method a try, you don't need to have the specific equipment. 3 small bowls and 3 equal sized mugs should work also. The main principles are

* boiling water

* equal parameters (volume of water, quantity of tea leaves by weight, water temperature, steeping time) for each tea

* separate the tea leaves from the brewed tea after the time is up

A ceramic porcelain spoon for each bowl is helpful - you can drink directly out of it if drinking alone, or ladle the tea into a small tasting cup; professional tasters also use the spoon to observe the texture of the tea and smell the back of it to gauge the aroma.

Since it uses very little tea leaf, there should still be plenty to try the tea "normally" as well. I find this method very instructional at times, and I am not at all a tea professional.


Edited by Will (log)

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FYI, a nice tasting set of smaller matched gaiwans can be purchased here, on Ebay, from Dragon Tea House, a seller with a pretty good reputation AFAIK.

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I've played around a little bit with these teas to get an idea of how they perform. Interesting phenolic smoky aroma when opening the packets. The teas themselves seem to perform better brewed at 175-180F rather than any higher... bitterness started coming out when I pushed the temps up above 180 on my trial batch of leaves. The leaves do have flavor longevity for lots of infusions. Will have to sit down this afternoon and do some comparative tasting.


Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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OK. This is a tough batch to compare and contrast. The initial aromas out of the bag are the most different things about these teas. They're all grassy. BangWai is smoky and phenolic, as well as grassy. ManMai is just grassy, in the way that LongJing is grassy. ManSai is grassy with a less phenolic-laden smoke...

For a comparative brew, I decided to dirty all of the demitasse cups in the house to make exact duplicate brews. I put 1.5g of each tea into a 2oz ceramic demitasse cup. Brought some water to a boil and did a 30 second boiling water rinse on each set of leaves. Then I brewed each tea with the water that had been off the boil for about 2 minutes, for an initial steep of 20 seconds, then poured each through a strainer into a second dual-wall insulated stainless demitasse cup.

On the whole, they're really really similar in the cup. The BangWai has a slightly smokey edge to it, as its dry aroma would predict. The ManSai gives no hint in the cup that it smelled smokey in the bag, being just grassy. The ManMai is a bit brighter than the other two... perhaps a hint of lemoniness in the aftertaste.

BangWai is much more bitter and tannic, with a thicker body. The ManSai is in the middle on the astringency. The ManMai is the most sweet of the three. These differences, however are all well within the range that you could get by brewing the same tea under different conditions...

I don't know that I have enough insight or vocabulary to go on further with a comparison/contrast of these teas...


Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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This was my first go with these teas, last weekend. Caveat: I have enjoyed this same combination of samples in a tasting sponsored by a different forum, but since I didn't reread my reviews, and have mostly forgotten the details other than that I really liked all the teas, I don't think that much influenced what I wrote here.

About 1.2 grams of tea in the smallest gaiwans (about 1 ounce of water per infusion)

Water just off the boil (about 205F/96C)

flash rinse, 30 seconds wait, first infusion 10 seconds: not a lot of difference between them: sweet anise/herbs, earthy tones behind it, tasty stuff.

2nd infusion, 15 seconds: Bang Wai a bit more herbaceous than the rest.

3rd infusion, 15 seconds: can't tell any difference between them, all pleasant sweet young shengs

4th infusion, 20 seconds: Still not a lot of difference. This one is hard.

Somewhere 6th infusion or so….gradual, strengthening impression of difference between the different teas: the Bang Wai has a stronger, more bitter flavor than the others, although all have strong herbaceous qualities, anise-rich and sweet. The other two are harder to separate out.

Let another infusion--7th or 8th--let it go quite long, too long, really, so that it started got quite bitter, to try to push out the differences between them. The Bang Wai was a bit aggressively bitter, hard to find the sweet and anise in the bitter. The Man Mai is also bitter, but easier to find the sweeter flavors around it: I think this is why Nada says it is the most approachable of these for someone new to puerh. The Man Sai is in between the other two.

Next infusion, about 1 minute or so, and they're back to harder to distinguish, deliciously sweet, anise, notes of chocolate, earthy, herbaceous and tasty; not getting the smokiness that was mentioned for the Man Sai, or really any extra bitter in the Bang Wai.

Somewhere about 11 or 12 now, and it's time to stop. I suspect the leaves have another infusion or two in them, but I've run out of teatime, and won't be able to get back to them for a few days. So. goodnight, lovely teas!

Later today or tomorrow I hope to get back to these teas again, for round 2, this time brewing them cooler like green teas.

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For round 2, did about the same thing, 1.2 grams of tea to 1 oz mini gaiwans, but water 170 degrees to start. Started with a flash rinse, then infused at 10" to start.

First infusion--impression of smoky sweetness from the Bang Wai, sweet mellowness from the Man Mai, and spicy sweet from the Man Sai. The Bang Wai definitely packs more punch with herbaceous/atringent notes even in this barely-there first infusion.

Second infusion was longer, 25"--I needed to stir something else--still the same general impression, the deep smoky mushroomy umami is strong in the Bang Wai, and there is some actual bitterness coming out, just a hint, and a background of pleasing sweetness. The Man Mai has the sweetness, but lacks the smokiness and umami and the bitterness, so there is sweet and a bit of spicy background. The Man Sai has sweetness, a bit more herby spiciness.

3rd, 4th at 15-20 seconds, really lovely, enjoying them all, light, sweet, anise-herbs, still lightly smoky Bang Wai , but really only the Bang Wai is smoky; the Man Mai and Man Sai are closer to each other than the Bang Wai. I forgot a 5th or 6th infusion for several minutes, and even at that low temperature, all of them were undrinkably bitter. The next infusion, not forgotten, they were back to all lovely and welcoming, with the strong difference between Bang Wai and the others, and milder difference between the Man Mai and Man Sai still discernible.

I am running out of time to take good leaf pictures, but they all look very similar piled on the side of the gaiwans: olive greens, small leaves, some broken, some stems. There may be minor differences visible on more careful examination that I have missed.

I'm done with tea for the night, as I'm already all but swimming full of tea, but will try for some more infusions tomorrow. I think these can easily do 15-20 of my short infusions, although that one very long forgetful one has surely taken half a dozen infusions' worth of flavor out of them.


Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)

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I've clearly been letting things brew too long then... even my 20 second infusions seem to have covered up the herbal nuances under a thick bitter astringency... Time to try again, with infusions that start draining off as soon as the cup is filled.


Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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