What Pu'er Are You Drinking

Puerh and other heicha
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YeeOnTeaCo
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Tue Nov 23, 2021 3:13 am

Andrew S wrote:
Sat Nov 13, 2021 6:53 pm
After a week of being too busy for a proper tea session (including some days with no tea at all), I rewarded myself late on Friday with some 80s 7542 (also from Yee On Tea Co, coincidentally), and I'm still brewing it today.

It is fun to drink something that can make you stare contemplatively out of the window with nothing on your mind... At least sometimes.

Andrew
You've treated yourself well! :D
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debunix
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Sun Nov 28, 2021 11:53 am

Another couple of lovely sessions over this holiday week with 2008 YiWu bamboo-aged sheng from Norbu. I am very sadly coming to the end of this wonderful tea, which continues to delight with its mix of herbaceous notes and caramel sweetness, and has been so fine from when I bought it in 2010 until now, with subtle changes slowly developing even in its mylar-lined and ziplock sealed pouches. Thinking about running out makes me want to run to puerh shops and search for something like it, but the now TWO buckets of puerh cakes that are sitting mostly barely samples say not yet.
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Bok
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Sun Nov 28, 2021 9:51 pm

A little anecdote for those with acute Fear-of-missing-out syndrome:
Last night I had the chance to accompany someone to drink Republic of China period Sheng Puerh...

It came in a very rusty old tin, which had been used for export uses at the time. I wasn't allowed to take a picture of it as – quite understandably – they are worried fakers get better hints on how to replicate these tins. The financial gains of doing so, even to get your hands on an empty tin, are possibly enormous.

To the tea: Was it good, was it memorable?

It was clean, no storage or off-smell whatsover, so impeccably stored and protected. It was smooth.

Other than that, the only word that comes to my mind is – boring.

Heresy! ...you might want to cry, what a waste! Quite possible that there are bodily sensations to be had that I missed, I am not sensitive to these. It kept going for the better part of an evening. Pretty much not changing much in taste profile, really consistent. The more interesting tea we had later was a bud-only made cake of Puerh, which "only had about 20+ years. It reminded me more of white tea, or very fresh Puerh (but without the body destroying nastiness).

Special mention that this place tests ALL their cakes and teas for pesticides and provides a SGS certificate. I was told that for factory teas, they can be old and authentic, but can still contain harmful amounts of unhealthy substances, depending on the specific batch and contents.

So all that to say that if you think you are missing out not having tasted a ROC era Puerh, you might actually not necessarily :lol:
Of course this is only one sample of one person, so there might very well be an amazing antique tea out there...
Andrew S
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Sun Nov 28, 2021 11:18 pm

@Bok: interesting as always, despite the heresy.

Was it loose leaves, or broken cakes? And aged already when it went into the tin, or sold as young raw puer?

Just curious to learn more, especially regarding the history...

I think @mbanu here has mentioned the difficulties that exported puer had for a long time, at least for the US.

I thought that that was the era when puer was too cheap to be regarded as being any good, and that there wouldn't have been all that much difference in price between cakes and loose leaves. And I assume that it wouldn't have been consumed young back then, unless it was coming straight out of Yunnan instead of Hong Kong or Guangdong.

In either case, I assume that export tea-in-a-tin was never going to be the best quality material, or the best ageing environment.

Perhaps it is an example of 'bad tea doesn't get better with age', though you'd be in the best position to judge how good those leaves were when they began their lives.

You should have secretly spat it into a plastic bag and sold it on ebay for a handsome profit (possibly by selling it to the fakers).

Or you could have just sent it down here to me, and I'd have talked about the head-feel it gave me, without even mentioning the boring taste.

Andrew
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Bok
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Sun Nov 28, 2021 11:32 pm

@Andrew S It was wrapped in paper inside the tin. With extra little label inside the tea. Handmade paper as could be seen by examination. I was told the tins where used at some point, as shipping cakes and bricks was not as ideal in terms of stability.

Whoever had it in possession before, wrapped the whole tin in plastic to protect it from the elements. I did not get to have a peek inside, so I am not sure how the leaves where stored, open or pressed in some way. It was sold as sheng if I am not mistaken, aging Puerh on purpose is a more recent thing if I am not mistaken... Arriving sort of aged due to long transport routes on smelly animals was rather a side effect than premeditated I believe.

The tin is the original packaging for this particular tea, including a paper seal.
m2193
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Wed Dec 01, 2021 8:41 am

Thanks for sharing your experiences Bok! It's always fun to hear about these rarities, and sometimes it's best to keep them as something unattainable. A couple weeks ago, I bought a watch I'd been eyeing for well over a year (Junghans Max Bill, which is probably nothing to the real watch nuts, but for this student, was the peak (both for budget and diminishing returns in most areas)). I received it, was sorely disappointed, and ended up returning it. Having pined after it for so long, I overestimated the joy it would bring to own and wear it, and when I got it, it was merely a watch. It looked okay, but not extraordinary. I imagine things might be similar for some of these teas, or that's what I tell myself at least to stop being tempted by really old teas.
Andrew S wrote:
Sun Nov 28, 2021 11:18 pm
In either case, I assume that export tea-in-a-tin was never going to be the best quality material, or the best ageing environment.

Perhaps it is an example of 'bad tea doesn't get better with age', though you'd be in the best position to judge how good those leaves were when they began their lives.
This is a good point for newcomers blindly chasing after shiny old teas. Probably one of the best advice given to me when I was a true neophyte to puer from a random seller on WeChat, no less, was to not blindly chase after age. Old doesn't automatically equate to better (aging conditions and starting material!), and of course diminishing returns and pricing all play in, which seem obvious, but I think most people starting to explore get blinded to some extent with chasing after these. Knowledge comes, of course, with tuition. Haha

Anyway, finishing up the 2005 Nanqiao Banzhang sample courtesy of MrMopar. bitterness in the TCM medicinal vein. Aftertaste is usually minty, and sometimes carries a little sweetness. Longevity is not too great for # of steeps, but the taste is enjoyable while it lasts. I have less of an aversion to bitter than when I started drinking puer, but bitter teas still fail the speed test for me and aren't what I tend to reach for.
Andrew S
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Wed Dec 01, 2021 5:24 pm

Bok wrote:
Sun Nov 28, 2021 11:32 pm
It was sold as sheng if I am not mistaken, aging Puerh on purpose is a more recent thing if I am not mistaken... Arriving sort of aged due to long transport routes on smelly animals was rather a side effect than premeditated I believe.
Perhaps that's a topic which is not free from controversy...

I know that it's been discussed a bit around here already (see viewtopic.php?f=32&t=1498), but as I understand it, the prevailing view is that puer has been aged intentionally (though perhaps not very carefully) in Hong Kong and Guangdong at least throughout the 20th century, but not elsewhere until recently, and not with a very careful approach to controlling humidity until even more recently.

I don't have 'sources' for that view, though, it's just my understanding based on everything that I've read so far, taken as a whole.

Perhaps it's a topic that deserves further exploration, especially if other people around here do have any specific information that they can point to.

Andrew
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Bok
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Wed Dec 01, 2021 6:26 pm

@Andrew S the original “tradition” has four cups by the way. Three cups is a later development from Chaoshan.
DailyTX
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Wed Dec 01, 2021 6:36 pm

@Bok lucky you who had a session of boring ROC puerh lol. I don’t recall having puerh older than 1970s, but I always wonder at what age will puerh taste and tea start to decline. Since the Zhong Cha era produced much more puerh in comparison to ROC, I guess the next few decades will have more data. On the other hand, a lot of money has invested into the puerh market, I am not sure if we will see those data.
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Bok
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Wed Dec 01, 2021 6:57 pm

DailyTX wrote:
Wed Dec 01, 2021 6:36 pm
On the other hand, a lot of money has invested into the puerh market, I am not sure if we will see those data.
I also think that the people who get access to this kind of tea do very closely guard any information on it(as evidenced above in my anecdote). Very little was said about the tea over the course of several hours basically drinking nothing but it. Tight-lipped, chatting away on other topics.

I did hear this before that some people avoid any tea topic for fear of letting slip a clue as to how and where they got it.
Andrew S
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Wed Dec 01, 2021 7:15 pm

DailyTX wrote:
Wed Dec 01, 2021 6:36 pm
I always wonder at what age will puerh taste and tea start to decline.
Bear in mind that there are those who have been privileged enough to drink pre-50s puer cakes before they became ridiculously expensive, and who have said that puer only really shows its true nature at around 100 years of age.

Now, obviously, that's not to invalidate the experiences of everyone else who hasn't been so lucky. I certainly haven't had such ancient tea, and I'm quite happy rewarding myself with something special from the 80s every now and then.

But equally, just because we can't get access to such ancient tea anymore does not invalidate the experiences of those who have been able to enjoy such old tea.

There are parallels in other areas, such as whisky. Prices for old whisky keep going up, beyond what normal people can afford, but that doesn't invalidate the comments of those who have been drinking whisky for decades and who say that age really is a very important factor, albeit not the only important factor. Their comments are valid, but equally there are many excellent young whiskies, just as there are many excellent young (or at least not ancient) puers.

It's just a shame that old tea is so expensive now, and probably won't ever go back to being cheap.

But then again, I'm also conscious that if old puer hadn't sty-rocketed in price and reputation, then the person who kindly offered me my first taste of it all those years ago might not have done so, and I might never have discovered it for myself, or at least it would have been quite difficult to find online from across the world.

Andrew
DailyTX
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Wed Dec 01, 2021 9:51 pm

@Andrew S due to not being able to access such tea, we get a lot of mixed information. Information you encountered indicate puerh shows it’s true nature at 100 yr, and I also seen articles in the past that said puerh’s prime drinking age is 30-60 years, and then decline afterward. As I mentioned earlier, so much money has invested, we won’t know unless we tried ourselves. Another interesting piece of information, hopefully it is still current, is many Chinese puerh books agreed that puerh tea was drank in the Qing dynasty yet we don’t have record of puerh left behind from the Qing period, earliest is still ROC.
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Bok
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Wed Dec 01, 2021 10:47 pm

DailyTX wrote:
Wed Dec 01, 2021 9:51 pm
many Chinese puerh books agreed that puerh tea was drank in the Qing dynasty
But does it note what kind of Puerh it was? Does it mention if these were aged or more or less fresh? I mean the farmers themselves are known to drink basically Maocha and the cakes were just practical to transport and store.
DailyTX
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Wed Dec 01, 2021 11:13 pm

Bok wrote:
Wed Dec 01, 2021 10:47 pm
DailyTX wrote:
Wed Dec 01, 2021 9:51 pm
many Chinese puerh books agreed that puerh tea was drank in the Qing dynasty
But does it note what kind of Puerh it was? Does it mention if these were aged or more or less fresh? I mean the farmers themselves are known to drink basically Maocha and the cakes were just practical to transport and store.
@Bok
I don’t remember mentioning of aging. You just pointed out another controversy subject of how to define puerh haha. The last puerh book I read was first step to Chinese puerh tea by chan kam pong. The author did reference a text from the Qing Dynasty, “A Survey of Mountains and Rivers of Yunnan” (seems like a translated title by the author) that puerh tea was liked by the Chinese community, and there were over 100,000 people in the tea trade business. Materials for puerh tea was harvested from 6 famous tea mountains.
Andrew S
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Wed Dec 01, 2021 11:55 pm

@DailyTX: and in turn, you have reminded me of an interview I read a while ago, about how liu an was aged intentionally by the 1930s and was preferred to puer:

https://www.umiteasets.com/blogs/umi-te ... th-zhou-yu
(I am not sure if this version has been plagiarised, but I thought that the original was in the Art of Tea magazine that I had thought was available online; perhaps I am mistaken)

Another online 'source' suggests that puer only started being sent to Hong Kong around the 1930s, though without confirming if there was a culture of ageing puer prior to then:

http://www.puerh.fr/en/article/origins_ ... _aging.htm (translation from the original French)

The articles on the Sunsing website suggest a culture of intentionally ageing puer to improve its smoothness by the 1970s (though that should not be controversial, I think) and how some red label cakes were acquired after the owner of a restaurant passed away (which, similarly, should not be surprising I think):

http://sunsingtea.com/index.php?route=i ... tion_id=11

It would be interesting to see if there are contemporaneous written sources from yum cha restaurants in Hong Kong or Guangdong regarding storing puer, or from medicine stores regarding liu an.

Andrew
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