Wednesday, October 18, 2017
I used to drink a lot of these recipes in Korea. Most of the ones I drank were stored under a humid Taiwanese storage then dried out a bit in Korean storage. Most were from the 1990s and around 10-20 old. I don’t ever remember tasting one that was completely stored in Korea. My memory of these are earthy, dirt tasting, with a cool finish, these are both deep tasting teas, least in my memory.
I picked up both of these sample cakes in a recent order from Tuo Cha Tea ( 7582 357g for $26.00 $0.07/g 8582 357g for $19.80 or $0.06/gram )
Let’s dig into the 7582 (802) first….
The first presents with a sour, almost smoky wood taste. It is a simple taste with a faint aftertaste transforming into barely coolness in the mouth. The deeper lingering woody character is throughout.
The second infusion is less sour and has a more woody, barely sweet muted faint cherry fruit taste. The woody profile is apparent throughout. The mouthfeel is a slightly chalky and slightly dry on the tongue.
The third and fourth infusions have more of a deep woody creamy initial sweetness with edges of something fruity. The woody taste is predominant. It finishes into a creamy slightly cooling sweetness in the mouth and breath with pops of cherry and dates in the deeper profile. In these infusions things come together nicely and show some glimpses of Classic Menghai Factory. A sweet deep creamy woody taste is left in the aftertaste minutes later. The Qi is nice softly alerting Qi.
The fifth and sixth infusion are a bit more woody and less sweet. The deeper woody body of this tea is now continuous throughout with a small wave of sweetness rippling through the initial taste. My body can feel the mild effects of spraying by a slight itch felt on the surface of the skin. There is a gummy, woody, almost rubbery sweetness that appears minutes later in the aftertaste.
The seventh and eighth mellow out considerably and start to fall into a standard steeped out taste of mild tastes of initial wood with slight edge of cherry fruit then woody dry rubbery sweet barely sweet and cooling aftertaste.
To me, this is very typical or standard puerh taste but these tastes are less full and vibrant than I remember in older 10 years aged 7582- too dry. The storage of 7582 that I remember back in the day used to be more humidly stored probably from Taiwan then brought to Korea for some time in mildly humid storage. If you order from Tuo Cha Tea expect quite dry and clean Kunming storage unfortunately this kind of tea will do much better in much more humid conditions.
I steep this one out for a handful more times as this typical puerh taste holds for quite some time.
Due to this tea’s cheap price it could totally be considered if you are looking for a super cheap/ mindless factory production. A bit of advice for this one would be to try to add a considerable amount of humidity to it for a few years before drinking it up- this is what I intend to do.
Okay let’s switch gears to the 8582…
The first infusion starts off with deep, creamier, throatier wood and slight brown sugar tastes then it hits on a weird sour note which disappears into the aftertaste of flat, almost briny wood tastes.
The second infusion has a dry woody, almost maple syrupy edge that slowly transforms in to a dry, flat woody brown sugary finish. The initial off notes have disappeared leaving this deeper forest woody profile.
The third infusion tastes much the same with a more coherent and cohesive feel with brown sugar sweetness coming first then into a dry almost date like wood taste then on to the sweet brown suragy aftertaste. The profile is full but not complex and lacks any off tastes. It has a deeper autumn foresty feel to it. This tea is giving me an unusual qi sensation of a stuffy and almost dizzy head feeling. I take a break from this tea for a short time.
The third infusion is much the same again the taste seems to get more harmonious and have more of a flow but it is still the same initial woody brown surgar/ almost maple sugar sweetness initially then to a date and deep woody autumn leafy taste then the brown sugar again. The mouthfeel of this tea is thin-medium but has nice coverage in the mouth.
The fourth infusion starts developing a medicinal taste to it which now takes the place of the wood foresty notes there are some barely sweet edges to it but it is primarily that herby Traditional Chinese Medicine taste.
The fifth and sixth is the same woody forest and medicinal tastes. In these infusions the woody forest autumn leafy tastes and medicinal tastes share the space with the sweeter notes becoming muted in these new flavours.
The seventh and eighth has cinnamon and spicy notes lingering faintly in sweetness. The woody foresty autumn leafy taste remains dominant. Different but similar deep foresty notes are pushed out of this one for a handful more infusions.
Overall, this 8582, has a very similar feel to the ones I drank in Korea. Out of all the Menghai recipes, the 8582 was maybe the one I drank most (that and 7542). Again the storage was different in Korea and made for a deeper, richer, dirt tasting puerh but overall there is a lot of similarities here. Out of all the Menghai cakes I tried recently this recipe seems the steadiest over the years despite storage differences.
Of the 7584 and 8582 I much prefer the profile of the 8582 and feel that it’s just a cleaner cake overall. Both of these guys have some evidence of spraying and both could benefit from more humid storage so I will put these two in humid storage along with the 2008 Menghai “Nu Er Gong Bing”. I hope to touch base with how these are doing years from now.
Overall, I feel like these are not worth really worth it but the price is so cheap that if your expectations are low enough you will find these to be a deal so really it depends on how you look at it. For me, I won’t be ordering more simply because I have not really gone back for more since sampling these a month or so ago. I really didn’t like the way they made me feel. It goes without saying that “they don’t make em’ like they used to.”
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Menghai Factory has been producing this recipe of 100% Menghai area spring tea since 2005. It is a bit nostalgic seeing the wrapper because this cake was a common sight in Korean in the mid 2000s. Holding it in my hands today, I flashback to a time when I handled it 10 years before. I actually, kind of, remember the strong vibrancy in the dry leaf odour from way back then but don’t remember ever tasting it, if I ever did.
I purchased this 2008 version from Tuo Cha Tea for $36.00 for a 357g cake ($0.10 /g) not that long ago. This puerh was also available at Puerhshop and is currently available at King Tea Mall. Sometimes it actually makes more sense to purchase a cake at a more expensive vendor than a cheaper vendor.
There are three scenarios where this might be more practical. The first scenario is when you just want only one cake from a vendor. It makes no sense by the time you include shipping on that one cake to pay less because after the shipping it is much more than the least expensive vendor. The second scenario is similar and is just topping off a previous order of a cake when you know is a bit more expensive but is done to reach the free shipping limit on an order (vendors love when we do this). The third scenario is when the more expensive identical cake could have better, different, or your preferred storage so you are willing to pay more for it. The point here is that just because an identical puerh is cheaper with another vendor that doesn’t mean it makes more sense to purchase. Anyhow…
The small leaves carry an odour of faint forest, slight sweetness and typical pureh odour. These very small leaves are not too fragrant.
I decide to bring out my fat, slow pouring Yixing to push the small factory chopped leaves hard in the first infusions. I stuff a ton of these little leaves in there as I grin. I need a bit of a kick early this morning.
Expecting a big front, the first infusion the first infusion starts with a stiff slightly bitter and creamy vegetal barely sweetness. The mouthfeel has an astringent body. The returning sweetness is sharp and slightly cooling. Bitter creamy sweet continues in the aftertaste. This first infusion is nicely balanced and has a good taste, aroma, and mouthfeel.
The second infusion is more no-nonsense with straight up creamy-bitter-sweet tastes which evolve into a more sharp creamy taste which gives way to the aftertaste. This infusion has a slightly longer aftertaste where sweet plum and pear tastes emerge on the breath. The mouthfeel is nice and has a full coating in the mouth. The Qi is almost instantaneously alerting. This tea still could use a bit more aging before being consumed as a very mild rawness is felt in the stomach. Menghai Factory teas tend to need a bit more aging than your average puerh due to an ever present bitterness. This one is no different.
The third infusion delivers more creaminess and less but still significant bitter. There is more of an evolving fruit taste here in this infusion. There is a base taste of green string beans and vegetal notes. The aftertaste comes together nicely with a swift slightly cooling creamy sweetness with a plumy and pear and other fruity finish on the breath. The aftertaste is surprisingly long and the fruity interplay is interesting. The mouthfeel remains solid allowing for the tastes to play out.
The fourth loses some of its bitterness but also some of its creamy sweetness as well. Flatter vegetal notes are apparent. The strength is in its long and still interesting aftertaste but a flat note is apparent throughout the profile of this tea now. Shorter quicker infusion in a smaller pot push out a profile similar to the third infusion here.
The fifth is much the same but now flat fruity notes are apparent in the initial taste where previously there was little up front. The profile continues to flatten out. The aftertaste still remains somewhat interesting as a flat cooling sensation and fruit aftertaste is apparent. A muscatel, grapey taste lingers in the mouth minutes later- as does nice floral notes. Shorter infusions again fare much better here with a longer, sweeter, fuller profile.
The sixth is much the same very flat initial taste with still some mild tastes in the aftertaste. The muscatel aftertaste is apparent. The infusions in the smaller pot still have much vibrancy in them with a profile of sweet pear, florals, slight bitter, and faint muscatel.
The seventh continues the trend of becoming even flatter. And so this is how it slowly fades in the following infusions.
I think this tea benefited from other sessions with my small, quick pouring David Louveau pot (not pictured). It gave a totally different effect of stringing out the depth of this tea found in the early infusions in this session with the larger, slower Yixing. However, today I very deliberately enjoy the vigorous energy pushed from these big factory leaves.
Overall, I like this tea for what it is, and enjoy it as such. I think this tipper tea has done well with the dry storage and many of the high notes that make this tea interesting have been nicely preserved here. I have dipped into this cake more than a few times since its arrival and I generally approve of its factory-esque Menghai deliciousness.
I haven't tried a Menghai 0622 in a while. I think this Spring Green Cake would be a close second to that recipe for those who like the tippier Menghai factory recipes.
I haven't tried a Menghai 0622 in a while. I think this Spring Green Cake would be a close second to that recipe for those who like the tippier Menghai factory recipes.
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
This tea is a premium offering from Menghai Factory using very small tippy leaves. I paid $19.90 for this 200g bing ($0.10/gram) in a recent order from Tuo Cha Tea. The name “Nu Er Gong Bing” suggests that this tea could be used as dowry. I have read somewhere that tea was often used as dowry for some minorities of Yunnan. I noticed that this little bing has since sold out at Tuo Cha Tea (It is available at King Tea Mall for $34.99). I guess lots of people are getting married these days… or maybe the tea is real good… or maybe people are just suckers for xiao bings these days. I guess there is only one way to find out..
Dry leaves smell of sweet light florals in a light forest puerh like odor.
First infusion starts with a very sour initial taste which transitions to mild creamy vegetal sweetness of honey in the mouth. Followed by a floral and slightly creamy aftertaste that is only cooling when you inhale deeply. The mouthfeel is thin in the mouth and the throat feel is pretty non-existent.
The strong sour taste dominates the whole profile of this tea from initial taste to aftertaste making this first infusion unpleasant. It’s not that the tastes are unpleasant, it’s just that this dominating note is unpleasant. This is a sure sign of a semi-adolescent puerh being in an awkward stage of aging and will pass with further aging. Some really dry stored stuff tends to gets like this whereas other dry stored tea never really develops this sour note. I haven’t really figured out why yet…
Let’s see if this over the top sour taste dissipates any in the second infusion… The initial taste opens with a flat, empty, less sour now, vegetal taste which slowly evolves into a singular vegetal creamy floral taste. The mouthfeel is weak and feels a bit dry. The qi presses on the stomach a bit, still a bit too much youthful energy in this one.
The third infusion is very similar but flatter still. The aftertaste in this infusion is much more vibrant with distinct floral notes. The mouthfeel is very absent, a hole that can’t hold any evolving depth of taste if there was any in this tea.
The fourth infusion becomes emptier- the sourness is now diminished but there are no flavours to take its place. The creamy sweetness is gone too and the aftertaste is a flat floral taste with a slight melon fruit edge to it.
The fifth infusion is even more fleeting. The qi of this tea is also empty and a turbid feeling slightly stuffs up the head. It fails the bare minimum by not even offering much of an energy boost.
This tea will never be great but will be drinkable once the sourness turns into an aged taste but for now I put it into deep storage- I will need to add some considerable humidity to this one.
I am surprised by the weakness of this tea- it kind of caught me off guard. This is definitely below the Menghai Factory standard. If someone gave their daughter away and only got this puerh, I think it would, in fact, leave a sour taste in their mouth.
Saturday, September 30, 2017
The last of my large sample semi-aged orders came a few months ago from a classic Western tea vendor that has been quietly selling puerh since I started drinking puerh- Tuo Cha Tea.
Tuo Cha Tea is the place where you chance to purchase some lowly factory everyday drinker teas, least in a game of chance so as not to get burned with a puerh that is totally undrinkable. However, the prices are so low, China low, that the gamble is one that is hard to resist. Many a puerh drinker has found a great deal and many have been burned in this quest.
For me it’s all about the Menghai Factory raw 2007-2008 productions. I ordered them all up in an attempt to 1- do what all puerh drinkers are destined to do, that is, own a Menghai factory cake 2- get a better understanding of the different and newer Menghai recipes 3- compare how these 10 years aged Menghai productions faired with the 10 years aged 90s Menghai factory stuff that I frequently drank in the early/mid- 2000s in Korean tea shops, 4- sample the cakes for potential re-orders in the goal of restocking some everyday drinkers.
Actually, I was kind of second guessing myself on this order which I have never ever done on a puerh purchase before… Do I really need more factory puerh?... Did I really just order THAT much Menghai Factory tea?... Why didn’t you just take the money that you spent on this order and put it towards one or two more quality puerh that I ‘m more used to drinking?... If you wouldn’t buy this tea 10 years ago why are you bothering to purchase it now?
But as soon as I opened the package, I was smiling ear to ear in a happy nostalgic mood about this order. These were the teas in all the puerh tea shops in Korea when I first learned of puerh tea. These were assuredly familiar to me.
Please join me on this journey through some semi-aged Menghai factory productions…
Thursday, September 28, 2017
Another big change that occurred while I was away from puerh is that almost all the bigger vendors are testing for agrochemicals in their products.
This was always the elephant in the room with avid puerh drinkers/bloggers in the early/ mid- 2000s. We knew that some of the stuff that we were consuming was sprayed (the plantation/factory stuff was most suspect) but no one really talked about it too much. We just lived with it because, really, what were we to do about it? The only real option back then was if you were concerned about it, then stop drinking puerh. Todays puerh buying climate, especially from the most popular Western puerh vendors, is almost the opposite with buyers now expecting agrochemical testing done on the teas they are buying. This is great news for someone who tends to be more sensitive to them than the average puerh drinker. How did it change so quickly?
I think just before my absence from the tea world David from Essence of Tea was kind of pushing this agenda of the use of agrochemical through to the front of puerh drinkers consciousness. I am so glad he was a part of this initial push.
When investigating why this happened I thought it was likely due to buyer pressure on all to follow suite. Actually this seems to be driven by the vendors themselves to protect and defend their love and their livelihoods after a series of bad press in the mainstream media about the agrochemicals found in teas about 5 years ago. This was really what everyone was talking about back then. Interesting links can be seen here and here where many puerh vendors discuss this issue and desire to change. You can kind of get a sense where they all stand on the issue as well. One of the things they discuss is what they feel is the acceptable limit of pesticide residues in puerh.
There was a lot of discussion back then and I wondered to myself what has changed since that initial surge in interest. So I looked into the agrochemical policies of some popular Western puerh vendors for their 2017 productions and this is what I found…
Essence of Tea has a zero tolerance policy for pesticides and, I believe, they only accept a very small trace of the EU MRL agrochemicals. In 2015 they posted the testing of 225 chemicals of all of the puerh they pressed on the product page. Although they don’t explicitly state that the 2016 & 2017 have been tested, it is my understanding that they are all fully tested and the lab results can be obtained by contacting them.
Yunnan Sourcing started EU MRL testing its own YunnanSourcing brand label in 2013 and has increased the amount of chemicals tested to 191 and has even lowered the minimal acceptable limit of some chemicals to a zero tolerance as well over the years.
white2tea just started to test their teas this year. They started with testing one of their lowerprice offerings from each category. Theyalso mention that more and more teas will be tested each year. I think the fact they seem to seek out some of the best leaf from year to year and rely less on the same sources and gardens suggests to me that it might be a lot trickier to ensure that agrochemicals are not used. The fact that many of their cakes are blends can also complicate things. For instance, if even one batch of leaves out of the blend is contaminated it will contaminate the whole blend. I would like to see white2tea test a few of their blends next year.
I couldn’t find anything on Crimson Lotus, Bitter Leaf, Puerh.sk, Chawangshop, testing for agrochemicals. Many of them take some kind of precautions to avoid agrochemicals but they don’t actively test their product. I think it must be hard for vendors just starting out or for smaller puerh vendors to shell out the money for testing so, feel these vendors shouldn’t be held to the same scrutiny until they are more established but on the other hand, for them to grow consumer confidence they kind of need to test for these sorts of things. So for them, it really puts them in a hard spot, I think.
The Tea Urchin has written a great article about the use of pesticides in puerh but I couldn’t find anything on their site that has anything on testing their puerh. I get from their article that they assess the tea gardens by other means to reduce the likelihood of pesticide residues in their puerh.
Puerhshop does its own lab work to test its teas and I think might have been one of the first to start testing its puerh. It doesn’t really go into detail about what kind of tests are preformed and for what type of chemicals. The interesting thing is that they tested some of their semi aged puerh as well- the only vendor to do this.
It seems at the height of this discussion about 5 years ago even our dearest tea blogger, Hobbes of the Half-Dipper, covered this topic in a post with some nice commentary to follow.
To me I think it’s really interesting that there are still so many smaller puerh vendors that are not testing for agrochemicals. I guess it must be quite expensive to do so. But overall, I am excited about all the options of pesticide free puerh out there these days. My wish is that vendors would have links to these reports right on the product pages just like Essencce of Tea did for their 2015 teas. This would take transparency to the next level.
Thank you vendors for going in this direction!
Sunday, September 24, 2017
Last post I put forth the argument that “wild puerh” is not really puerh. So if we shouldn’t call it “wild puerh”, what then should we call it? How should we classify this interesting, delicious, mind bending, and majestic tea of Yunnan?
I don’t really agree with how vendors are categorizing “wild puerh”. The two Western vendors who sell “wild puerh” have it listed with their puerh teas.
Scott of Yunnan Sourcing has its own category which I think it deserves and also has a page on the disambiguation of purple teas which I think is very helpful to clarify this often confused topic. He also has separate pages for the same wild leaf (“Yesheng”) processed as a white tea and a black tea. But to keep it just a little bit of confusion going it also has a “yesheng” filter in its puerh section. It is a bit confusing but Scott tries hard through his system of categorizations and explanations to make it clearer for the buyer.
Yunnan Sourcing states, “It was originally processed into mao cha and sold as a kind of Raw Pu-erh tea”. Although this statement is totally true, it doesn’t go on to say that the raw material is not puerh, and that it is just the processing that is the same as sheng puerh. I think it was originally sold as a “kind of Raw Puerh Tea” and vendors are still trying to market it as a “kind of Raw puerh tea”.
Why? I think there are two reasons.
First of all, they are trying to piggy back the success of puerh. Puerh drinkers will be the most likely of tea drinkers to embrace Yesheng for sure. Of all teas, “yesheng” or “wild tea” tastes closest to puerh tea when processed like puerh tea (and of course it looks like puerh all pressed into a nice bing). It’s easier to sell someone a new product if it looks, tastes, feels, familiar in some way. The wild trees even look identical to puerh trees so the familiarity is seamless really.
The second reason is that with prices of fresh quality puerh maocha rising year to year, “yesheng” or “wild tea” is a more affordable option. As puerh drinkers continue to demand the same type of quality but are slowly priced out of the puerh market “yesheng” or “Wild Tea” seems like a great option. As Jamesof TeaDB notes, it is a way to buy low and sell high. Although, nowadays, quality "wild tea" is also demanding very high prices and continues to increase like puerh, so this argument doesn't hold like it used to.
David of Essence of Tea is the other major vendor of “yesheng” or “wild tea”. He has his “wild tea”listings interspersed with his puerh listings which I think is a bit confusing (if not deceiving, but not deliberately so) especially for people who wouldn’t know better. The teas always state “Wild” in their name- this is how you would tell them apart from real puerh. I really think David should create another category for “wild teas” (just like he has for wuyi yancha, liu bao, and oolong) especially as he continues to delve deeper into the selling of this most wonderful tea. I know from a marketing perspective this probably makes no sense for him, but I think he needs to make it more apparent for puerh drinkers somehow.
I have to say that both Scott of Yunnan Sourcing and David of Essence of Tea are the most honest and transparent of all the Western puerh dealers, so maybe there is no controversy at all, and I'm just reading into this way to much- What do you think? After all, there’s already an established convention of calling this tea "wild puerh" in China. Maybe both David and Scott are actually doing us puerh drinkers a big favor because these are very interesting teas even if they are not puerh teas. Interesting enough that I hope you will join me in the next weeks and months for this detour as I explore “yesheng” or “wild tea”. If a Korean puerh tea dealer had not marketed “wild tea” to me in 2008, I probably wouldn’t be writing about it now.
(in the middle of this article, I just started calling “wild puerh” either “wild tea” or “yesheng”, its imperfect but I guess it will due for now… it’s what the vendors are calling it and what it directly translates from Chinese… certainly it’s much better than calling it “wild puerh”)
Friday, September 22, 2017
I think there is a little confusion about what exactly “wild puerh” is. I remember first trying “wild puerh” in 2008 and being completely and absolutely dumbfounded by it. In fact, I wrote a blog post about this experience and in it you can sense this confusion. I ended up purchasing a tong of this puerh not because I really loved the tea as a puerh tea but because I still couldn’t understand this tea- it really stumped me and besides the Qi sensation in particular was really unlike any puerh I had encountered before.
I believe I was the first to blog about such a tea and I think I couldn’t find anything on the English internet for years later and even then it mainly just confused me. It wasn’t only me who was confused by “wild puerh” but many other Westren puerh drinkers were equally at odds with this tea throughout the years. Even today amongst people who are well versedin puerh seem perplexed with it. Why all the confusion about this tea?
First of all this tea is commonly referred to as “yesheng” or (if the purple leaf variety) it is often referred to as “purple yesheng”. Part of the confusion, I think is that the term “yesheng” is often used to describe non-plantation puerh or is simply used at random to describe puerh (such as this 6FTM “yesheng”). The other part of the confusion is that there are many teas that are purple leaf teas that grow wild but are not “wild purple puerh” or “yesheng purple”.
Through careful contemplation and deep meditation I thought about my 2008 “wild puerh” throughout the years. I would drink it only once and a while to see how it’s aging and to again attempt to understand it. It was not until recently that I finally feel like I truly understand what is commonly called “wild puerh” and learned to appreciate it fully.
I came to the conclusion that “wild puerh” is not really puerh at all. To me puerh tea is either the sheng or shu processing style of the Camellia sinensis var assamica or other various small leaf hybrids (as found in Yibang, Mengsong, ect). What is commonly referred to as “wild puerh” is not Camellia sinensis var assamica or other various small leaf hybrids but rather is one of the other 13 camellia thea species that grow in Yunnan. The “wild purple” or “purple yesheng” is thought to be Assamica Dehongensis- this is the variety that is comprised of my 2008 “wild purple puerh” probably the most common and popular “wild puerh” variety. Recently I learned that "wild puerh" can also be classified as “sweet wild” or “bitter wild”. I think we are still in the early days of learning about "wild puerh".
I feel that “wild puerh” is processed and pressed the same way sheng puerh is processed and obviously there is some kind of taxonomical difference in the material itself. However, what makes it not puerh to me is that it has a completely different Qi, mouth/throat feel, body feel, taste and aroma than puerh. So to me, it should no longer be referred to as “wild puerh” nor should we really be comparing it to our other puerh experiences.