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Jim Cotter

Pu Ehr Tea : Also Puerh, Pu-erh, Puer. . .

136 posts in this topic

Finally had a litlte more time to brew some of the new pu,, and while I didn't have enough for the full timings suggested above, I did do 4 serial brewings of a broken bit of the cake, not the fines from the bottom of the box, and it was indeed quite nice. Don't know what I did so wrong that first bit--if it was using the crumbs, the cooler than usual water, or something else, but this was a nice pu: a little light on the fruity aftertaste that my other one has, but still, earthy, gentle, and a little sweet, not at all bitter.

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Today I've been drinking a pot of a 1999 CNNP Old Tree Ripe PuErh from an exchange with Richard Kilgore. I think I used about 4-6 grams of tea in my little glass pot (holds about 5 oz), brewed a quart of tea in short infusions (averaging perhaps a minute each), and it was lovely. There was less smoky flavor to the tea than I anticipated from the smoky aroma of the leaves, but there was a really nice fruitiness and almost sweetness in the aftertaste. Very smooth.

I just reused the same leaves for another quart of tea, without refrigerating them in between, and the fresh brew is not as strong or interesting. Not sure if it is due to overly short infusion times or to the tea being tired after 6 or 7 preceding infusions, although I suspect hurried carelessness was the problem.

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D'Oh! Just realized one advantage of my thermos habit--put a few ounces of the weaker 2nd brewing back into the pot, let it steep another 10 minutes, and returned this to the thermos, shook it up, and voila! Almost as good as the first brewing, with the fruity sweet aftertaste restored.

Amazing.

Two quarts of lovely tea from a quite small batch of dried pu.

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Today I've been drinking a pot of a 1999 CNNP Old Tree Ripe PuErh from an exchange with Richard Kilgore.  I think I used about 4-6 grams of tea in my little glass pot (holds about 5 oz), brewed a quart of tea in short infusions (averaging perhaps a minute each), and it was lovely.  There was less smoky flavor to the tea than I anticipated from the smoky aroma of the leaves, but there was a really nice fruitiness and almost sweetness in the aftertaste.  Very smooth. 

I just reused the same leaves for another quart of tea, without refrigerating them in between, and the fresh brew is not as strong or interesting.  Not sure if it is due to overly short infusion times or to the tea being tired after 6 or 7 preceding infusions, although I suspect hurried carelessness was the problem.

Hmmm. One minute really isn't a short first infusion for pu-erh. Five seconds is short; 20 seconds is long. Boiling or just off boiling water? Pu-erh is very difficult to eye ball the amount of leaf. I would think you would almost choke on 6 grams of leaf and a one minute first infusion. I just did 6 gr of it in a gaiwan that holds about 130 ml water. 20 sec rinse, 30 sec rest, 10 sec first infusion. Pleasant.

The early infusions are always going to be stronger and usually more interesting. This pu will go 12 - 15 infusions or more, but that's with a higher leaf to water ratio and shorter infusion times: a few in the 5 - 10 sec range, then gradually increasing times 15 seconds per infusion, then 30 seconds per infusion for the next few. When you get a chance, try something like that with a 1.5 - 2.0 gr to 1 ounce leaf:water ratio and see what you think.

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my eyeballed measurement of the grams of tea used is highly theoretical. I have no fine scale nearby to hone it.

But this is for my office, and so I am not drinking that 1 minute first infusion. I am bringing one quart of water to the full boil in my office kettle, rinsing the leaves a few seconds, pouring that off, then doing a series of infusions until I have filled up my quart thermos with all the infusions.

That is what I drink for the next few hours.

And the brewing times for these infusions vary by who is knocking on the door or calling on the phone and when I remember to check it, and sometimes I forget entirely to let it brew and realize as I am pouring the tea into the thermos that it is more a rinse than a brew. Oops.

I averages out to maybe a minute per infusion. And the leaves ended up filling about a quarter of the pot when fully unfurled.

At home I am now experimenting with the gongfu style, but here, it is about finding a tea that will stand up to such abuse and still be delicious.


Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)

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my eyeballed measurement of the grams of tea used is highly theoretical. I have no fine scale nearby to hone it.

But this is for my office, and so I am not drinking that 1 minute first infusion.  I am bringing one quart of water to the full boil in my office kettle, rinsing the leaves a few seconds, pouring that off, then doing a series of infusions until I have filled up my quart thermos with all the infusions.

That is what I drink for the next few hours.

And the brewing times for these infusions vary by who is knocking on the door or calling on the phone and when I remember to check it, and sometimes I forget entirely to let it brew and realize as I am pouring the tea into the thermos that it is more a rinse than a brew.  Oops.

I averages out to maybe a minute per infusion.  And the leaves ended up filling about a quarter of the pot when fully unfurled.

At home I am now experimenting with the gongfu style, but here, it is about finding a tea that will stand up to such abuse and still be delicious.

Thanks, WmC. I was going to try to replicate your method, but don't think I can do that. :biggrin: But having a realistic way of drinking a delicious tea at work is a good thing.

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As part of reorganizing my tea shelf to make room for more different tea samples, I have gotten rid of the fancy gift boxes that loosely contained portions of pu cakes. Ziploc bags are very convenient, but may not be the best way to store cakes that I want to permit to continue to age.

How do you store your pu-erh cakes that you want to continue to age? wax paper bags? paper envelopes? scraps of cotton fabric? tupperware?


Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)

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There are some interesting and helpful posts on pu-erh storage by mikepetro in the Show Me Your Teaware topic. They probably do not fit your immediate needs but it's worth reviewing.

I keep my small samples (25 gr - 1 ounce) of pu-erh in their ziploc bags in larger Yixing storage jars, but any tea storage container would work. I am not trying to age them, so the ziplocs are okay.

Bricks and cakes I keep in wood cigar boxes and in the larger Yixing storage jars. These I put in white paper sacks and write the info about the pu-erh in pencil on the sack. Cigar boxes are okay as long as you select them very carefully to screen out any that have any adhesive odor at all. If the pu picks up a little tobacco aroma, that will not bother me since I really like pu-erh that has earthy, leathery or tobacco notes. But I usually give cigar boxes time to air out their tobacco odors before using them.

I may eventually set up some form of storage with humidity control like mikepetro describes.

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2009 Spring Lao Ban Zhang Mao Cha - Loose Pu-Erh Tea

More about this tea on Norbutea.com

Greg Glancy brewed this for me when he first got it in from China. I liked it then and finally got around to ordering some from him. He threw in a little extra so I would have plenty to experiment with.

The first thing I did was compare this brewed in a gaiwan and poured into a fair cup. Half of this tea liquor went into a Yixing tea pot with clay from the 1970s - 80s that I have been evaluating for the best match with 1) more roasted Oolongs and 2) shu (ripe, cooked) pu-erh. This is the first sheng (raw) pu-erh I have tried in it.

The two tea liquors were poured into tasting cups after the tea had about 30 seconds in the Yixing pot. The tea through three infusions was more typically astringent and bitter from the gaiwan, and the tea was rounder, much less astringent, much less bitter out of the Yixing. I have transfered the wet leaves from the gaiwan and am now continuing the infusions by brewing directly in the Yixing with similar results and increasing sweetness.

I had been planning on dedicating this pot to Shu, but the effect on this sheng is more noticeable than the improvement in the shu I have tried. I'll have to brew more of this mao cha and also do this comparison with several sheng pu-erh to see what effect I get before I decide.

Here's a little background on this loose raw pu-erh from norbutea.com. Used with permission.

About Lao Ban Zhang Tea:

This particular tea came from a remote area near Ban Zhang Mountain in Southern Menghai County, south of Menghai City.  These leaves are from truly ancient trees that are 400-500 years old, which were unfortunately heavily cut back and damaged during the Cultural Revolution. The good news is that in the 35+ years since those tumultuous times these precious trees have rebounded significantly and are producing excellent quality Pu-Erh. 

It is thought that many of the most highly prized vintage tea cakes from the Menghai Tea Factory were made of Ban Zhang Pu-Erh Tea, so tea from the ancient trees in this area is the most sought after and highly prized Pu-Erh tea on the market.  Aside from this historical value, Ban Zhang teas have a completely unmatched flavor profile.  The taste can best be described as strong and bitter with an appreciably sweet and lingering aftertaste.

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2007 Norbu White Bud Sheng Pu-Erh, Yong De County, Lincan, Yunnan

This much tea in a 100mL yixing pot, with water right off the boil:

gallery_16931_6727_15120.jpg

(leaves fill about 1/4 of the pot)

1min 20 second first infusion (oops, timer went off for the cookies, was supposed to be 20 seconds) was too strong, bitter, unpleasing.

2nd at 30-40 seconds was much better, still a little bitter, but wonderfully smoky and starting to show some sweetness.

3rd infusion also 30-40 seconds is really getting to be very nice, warm, rounded, very smoky, a little fruity, needs to be put away for a cool, misty winter day; not really right for this summer evening.

4th infusion 30 seconds also is delicious, with a thick body, and again warm, roasted.

I will try a longer infusion next, and then will put the pot and these leaves in the fridge overnight.

This will be wonderful with the scarlet runner beans and pasta stew/soup I'm making. I missed the farmer's market this morning so instead of a summer vegetable stew, the beans and pu-erh and ginger cookies are impersonating winter in my kitchen.


Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)

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I bet that 80 sec infusion got your attention. It looks like you have an appropriate amount of leaf for gong fu cha, and aiming at 20 seconds for the first infusion may be fine after a 20 second rinse or two. A common first sequence I use when getting to know a new tea is rinse 20, then 20, 15, 20, 30, 45, 60, 90, etc. A first infusion of 10 seconds, however, may allow you to see if the second one should be 5, 10 or 20 seconds. By the time you get to the fourth infusion, you probably are going to be brewing no more than 30 seconds.

I enjoy soups and stews in the summer, too. Yours sounds delicious.

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WmC - Apologies for not catching this sooner. I just re-read your last post above and noticed you were putting the pot in the fridge. Clay absorbs aromas and it will absorb whatever aromas are floating around behind that door, so it's important to remove the leaves and put them in a small odor-proof container. I use the smallest size canning jars.

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Too late for this batch, but i will pop it in a Tupperware next time. Still, it has a tight sealing lid, the spout has the strainer built in, and there can't be a whole lot of airflow in and out of there (fingers crossed).

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happy to report, the fifth infusion is still delicious, delovely, and delightful after boiling water rinse, and 1 minute with water about 2 minutes off boiling.

Might not have worked with a more delicate tea, but a more delicate tea wouldn't have inspired the experiment.

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2003 Mengku * Mengku Gong Ting * Ripe Tea Cake 25 grams

Shuangjiang Mengku Tea Factory

Source: Yunnan Sourcing on eBay

My first experience with this ripe pu-erh brewed gong fu style is similar to the Yunnan Sourcing description. It is smooth with very mild camphor notes and increasing sweetness after the first infusion.

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A kind friend has translated some information on my first couple of pu-erh cakes for me.

gallery_16931_6727_43441.jpg

The cake on the left is from the Yunnan Province Tea Leave Import Export Company.

The cake on the right is "Palace Seven Sons Cake." It's from a Taiwanese tea company called Ten Fu. The tea is from the Nannuo Mountain Tea Plantation:

"Palace Seven Sons Cake is a traditionally famous tea that evolved out of history and is mainly produced in the Simao and Xishuiangbanna tea regions. In the past, the "Puer Palace" (today's Puer County) was the historic place for the collection and distribution of tea leaves. Due to the unique quality of the tea leaf products shipped and sold in Puer, they came to be prized by domestic and overseas consumers, and it also formed a specific way of drinking which became the renowned puer tea.

"Puer tea is made from the large variety of fresh leaves from tea trees in Yunnan that are the raw ingredient called Shaiqingmao tea that are then fermented, screened, [etc.].

"Palace puer tea uses a foundation of the traditional craft of making puer, uses the large-leaved Shaiqingmao tea as its basic ingredient, which has a tight, straight, fine, and tender appearance, a p[rticularly large number of golden buds, and a meaty flavor and a strong smooth quality." (The rest describes the tea's qualities and medicinal properties.] "

It was packaged in Fujian province in China, its quality is "outstanding!", and there is no expiration date.

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After the black teas this morning, this afternoon sat down to work with a group of raw pu erh teas of different ages, all of them 25g or 1 ounce samplers.

preheated cups, 0.1g tea to 30mL, water just off the boil

rinsed 20 seconds, drained, sat about 2 minutes before really started...

round 1: 15 seconds

round 2: 15 seconds

round 3: 30 seconds

round 4: 30 seconds

round 4: 45 seconds

round 5: 45 seconds

round 6: 45 seconds (should have gone on to 60 seconds, but forgot my place as I was timing these)

and smelled the leaves again for a description after the 6th brewing.

1992 chado loose pu-erh CRL 17

1-dark red, earthy, fruity, sweet, lovely right off the bat

2-sweet, fruity, earthy coming as an aftertaste

3-earthy, sweet, fruity, just hints of bitter enough to ground the other flavors

4-can hardly stop to sip because it is so sweet and lovely I want to gulp it

5-still in a sweet just earthy enough to be interesting phase

6-i'm in love

leaves smell like sweetest products of my worm bin--by this I mean a lovely earthy fresh clean smell, with more than the usual sweet

2007 norbu white buds sheng pu erh, yunnan

1-pale, smoky, vegetal, not sweet

2-smoky, vegetal, not sweet

3-smoky, some sweet and fruity starting to come through

4-less smoky, more sweet and fruity

5-smoky still fading, more vegetal and still sweet notes

6-sweet notes over smoky now

leaves smell very sweet, just a little smoky

2008 norbu yi wu mountain bamboo raw pu erh, yunnan

1-yellower liquor, vegetal, sweet, bit of bitter

2-sweet, vegetal, delicately bitter, bitter aftertaste

3-sweet, vegetal--like sweet green peas, nothing fruity, just sweet and green, and less bitter

4-more intensely sweet vegetable, yum

5-cleaner still than before, sweet vegetable, green, bitter aftertones

6-very delicate early spring baby vegetables

leaves like young alfalfa hay with a lot of green left in it

2009 norbu lao mansa sheng pu erh, yunnan

1-still more bitter, vegetal, no sweet yet

2-bitter, vegetal, no sweetness

3-still dominated by bitter, but more vegetal flavors coming through; given the predominance of bitter, though, will retire this one from this tasting

Leaves smell like fresh cut grass after rain

Conclusions: the 2009 sheng is too green for me yet; not sure that it can age well in the small sample that I have, however. I like the 2007 and 2008 teas each in different ways--the 2007, while a white bud version, is so smoky that it seems heartier than the leafier 2008 tea, which is so strongly vegetal. The 1992 is a revelation, and make me want to retry the loose pu erh I got from wing hop fung that I quite disliked at first brewing. With more carefully controlled portions and brewing times it might be a different animal althogether, and should be, for the price (it was quite expensive).

Later tonight I'll go at it again with some of the new shu or cooked pu-erh samples I've gotten. There are more of those, and after playing with this series I can see why. The cooking gets you a lot closer to the 1992 pu faster, even if not quite as smoothly.

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That's quite a little project, WmC. Given your sensitivity to bitter notes, I don't think you would be able to tolerate many young sheng at all if you brewed then gong fu style. But you may find it interesting to try that sometime with sheng that's at least 10 years old and with shu, at least a year or two old - at least five would be better.

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I will keep to older pu's from now on when I am looking at the raw versions.

And am now very curious about the 'purple bud' 2006 sheng cake I bought from norbutea as well, which says in the description that the purple leaves have a strong bitter note. But it is a 2006, so a bit older still than the 2007 and 2008 which were both quite nice.

But that's a matter for another tasting.

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It's true that Greg at norbutea has sourced some very accessible young sheng. However, I am not surprised that you found the Lao Mansa too bitter given your super-bitter-detector. It's a quality mao cha and I like it fine, keeping in mind that it's a young sheng, but this would be one to put away for ten years.

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As I only have a sample, I can't age it, but I have to imagine that it will be lovely when aged, with a lot of the bitter converting to sweet. Still, I found the 2008 bamboo sheng already lovely now. So even among young shengs, if I can get sample to check them first, there may be some treasures.

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A similar setup to this morning--these mini tastings were inspired by the Harney guide to teas saying that while developing your palate, it's best to do several teas in a group at once, to highlight their different characteristics. All four ripe/cooked/shu pu erhs happened to be from from norbutea.com:

preheated cups, 0.1g tea to 30mL, water just off the boil

rinsed 20 seconds, drained, set about 2 minutes before brewing...

round 1: 10 seconds: all of them are much darker liquors than all but the 1992 pu-erh from the earlier brewing

round 2: 15 seconds

round 3: 30 seconds

round 4: 30 seconds

round 4: 45 seconds

round 5: 45 seconds

round 6: 60 seconds

and smelled the leaves again for a description after the 6th brewing.

2006 Hainan Tea Factory "Peacock Quest" from Yunnan

1-warm earthy slightly smoky bit of fruit/sweetness

2-earthy, bit of bitter, no sweet this time

3-sweet before earthy, no bitter except at the aftertaste

4-(accidentally 55 seconds) bit more bitter, earthy, the sweet is missing from this one

5-fruity and earthy, much less bitter than the previous

6-more fruity coming up, just a hint of sweet, almost tangy

Leaves sweet, fruity, caramel, not strong earthy

2007 Yong De Zi Yu Tea Factory Ecological Old Tree RIpe Cake, Yunnan

1-primary impression of earthiness, nothing else really strong yet

2-very smooth, again no dominant flavors--bit of sweet, bit of earthy, touch of smoke

3-again, very balanced, nothing stands out

4-balanced, warm, earthy, bit more bitter

5-Just not enough tea to water? still mellow and a bit thin, but nothing objectionable otherwise

6-still thin, a little lightweight, mild

Leaves also mild scent

2007 Mengyang Guoyan Tea Factory Golden Peacock from Yunnan

1-mellow, warm, earthy, quiet

2-warm, caramel, grounded, bit of bitter

3-more sweet notes, warm & earthy

4-fruity, earthy, bit of sweet

5-fruity first, then earthy

6-woody, fruity still there, but more earthy again

Leaves earthy, woody, caramel notes

2006 Haiwan "Gong Ting" 100g Shu Pu-Erh Tea Tribute Brick (a very lovely compressed tea with a special stamp)

1-earthy, some sweetness, hint of bitter

2-hint of fruit, earthy

3-sweet first, then earthy, then bit of bitter

4-sweet, fruity, lovely, bitter and earthy essentially absent

5-fruity more than sweet, earthy, hint of bitter

6-fruity, sweet, hint of bitter

Leaves sweet, earthy, not much tart/fruity however

All of these teas still have more to give, but my capacity for drinking tea at one time, even 30 cc at a sip, is not unlimited. I also need to work on my tea flavor vocabulary, as I'm falling back too often on the same words while recognizing that the teas are more complex than that.

I like the first and the last one best, although I think the 2nd one simply needed more tea to show off its true nature better. The back and forth they show between sweeter and earthier and fruity in different infusions was very interesting. I only have a tasting sample of each, except for the brick, but have filled my tea cabinet at home and tea drawer at work quite thoroughly. I need to drink through what I have to some extent before I can get more, although there is the enchanting prospect of building up a library of pus for future drinking.

And, though at home I have no good setup for aging pus (presently no AC and no interest in investing in a wine cooler to keep temps steady for them), I could put a box of them in the office at work--a bit dry, but the A/C at least keeps things steady temperature, and I could add a bit of humidity easily as discussed up topic if so inclined.

Hmmm....


Edited by Wholemeal Crank (log)

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A very ambitious tea Saturday!

This is a nice selection of ripe pu-erh to taste, and I agree with the Harney guide that side by side comparisons are a fine way to develop your tea palate. I am curious, though, as to the 0.1 g per 30 ml ratio? Was that a Harney suggestion? It's less than a third the strength for western style brewing and about 1/15 to 1/20th the strength for usual gong fu strength.

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