Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Late 90's Fuhai "7532"

It is very easy to get confused, misinformed, and mislead when trying to buy aged pu-erh. When attempting to do so on via the internet it is almost impossible not to be. Often times vendors may not be fully aware of the origin of the tea and have to rely solely on the word of their wholesaler who may be misinforming them or who thereself was quit possibly was not the original buyer of the tea in the first place. Plus given the fact that cakes fifteen years and older all come in extremely similar wrappers.
     This brings to mind the 1992yr Yiwu Spring Tips Teacake from sunsing ( who I would regard as a  trustworthy source for aged tea) I always thought that it was weird to have a single mountain yiwu cake in 1992. Since I have been told that single mountain cakes did not come back around (especially not made by menghai in CNNP wrappers) until the late 90's. So when EOT started selling what I think might be the same cake with this description.

"a good example of a late 80's Menghai Tea factory 7532 recipe cake, these cakes come from a batch named "Yiwu Chun Jian" (Yiwu Spring Buds / 易武春尖) by a Hong Kong tea merchant in the early 90's. He stamped this on each of the tongs of this batch of tea. Despite the name, it's thought by collectors that this isn't produced from Yiwu Spring buds as the name would suggest, but is a late 80's 7532 production using Menghai area leaves."

It seems to make more sense to me. But it could as easily be the other way around. Or they could be completely different tea's and my whole rant was pointless.

So with all of this misinformation how is one to feel comfortable buying any pu-erh on-line let alone the aged stuff? The only things you can do are get as much information from reviews online (of which there are few of aged tea in English) and sample, sample, sample. You must also deal with only vendors with who you trust or is highly recommended. Because even after you have sampled a tea that (I have found out) is no guarantee you will get the same tea. It is also a possibility that you will get a cake from another tong that was stored entirely differently which is basically a different tea. Given the huge role that storage plays in the final product.

This all brings me to my tea today. The late 90's FuHai "7532" This being a somewhat misleading tea itself. The name of the tea being is somewhat misleading. The 2 at the end of the 7532 being the numerical designation, for the Menghai tea factory. Fuhai tea factory like the Menghai tea factory I believe are both located in the town of Menghai. I am assuming that is the reason that the neifi of a fuhai tea cake has the same character which is found on most menghai tea factory cakes of this age and older.

"Yi Wu spring Buds" 7532

Also when this cake was previously for sale at EOT it was listed as a 96 Fu Hai 7532. Although I have read that Fu hai did not come into existence until 1998. This all goes to show that you really need to be able try the tea yourself and have a trusted vendor. Both of these can be difficult. But I give EOT credit as they had from the beginning stated that this was a fuhai production not a menghai. This would have been easy to pass off for more money due to the neifi. Also when they restocked they did not continue to sell as a 96. But then again for all I know they could have been open in 96 as I am getting my knowledge from online information in forums and third party websites. I Guess I am just trying to say that you should really take any information you are given on a tea with a grain of salt and just go by what is in the cup.

Fu Hai "7532
         I have had one encounter with this tea previously. But I really don't remember what I thought of it. I have been happy with every other Fuhai tea that I have had though. Fu Hai being the factory that makes my favorite ripe bricks and I loved their  99 Yi WU. I was really pleasantly surprised with what I found. It is a solid well stored 90's pu-erh. It is has aged nicely leaving a nice mellow cup. There is no off taste (to me) from storage. Given how little storage taste there is and its age this tea is quite mature. In later infusions the tea still has hints of its youth showing, which should be rounded out with time. Some might consider this a knock off tea. But then I really don't think this belongs in the same category as other CNNP / Menghai Knockoffs. It also may not be fair to compare this to a Menghai 7532 as the flavor profile is a bit different. Instead I think this tea should be judged on its own merit.  Given that, this is a good tea and there are enough layers of flavor to keep you interested. For anyone looking to find a nice aged tasting tea that you don't have to break the bank for ($3.50 to $7.00 a pot) and has not been so wet stored that you lose all of the nuances the tea originally carried. This tea might be worth a look. 

, For more thoughts on this tea click here

On second inspection with this tea I would say that it is highly advisable to use at last a 1 gram /15ml or more  tea/ water ratio anything less  and the tea does not seem preform as well. Even when steeping time is increased. I also ran into this issue with the 99 yi wu from Fu Hai that tea also was not preforming as well with less leaf. But when given the proper amount of leaf it really shined. I already have several  aged examples of the 7532 recipe. So I will order a larger sample to play around with the tea a little more before I  decide tobuy a cake. Plus personally I enjoy a slightly  larger leaf grade  in aged  Pu-erh  the 8582 for example. Which is strange as the majority of my aged pu-erh collection is made of bud heavy cakes .


Saturday, March 31, 2012

60's dancong


Drinking old tea is always a special experience. I basically stumbled over this hiding away inconspicuously at the bottom of the dan cong page at Life in a Tea Cup. No picture to draw your attention. No description to entice you. Just a warning * Current price of this tea is based on supplying costs. The price is subject to adjustment in the future based on rarity. This tea does not have the typical aromas found in many new dan cong products. Instead, it somewhat resembles shu pu-erh without the pile fermentation odor. Well I guess that is probably a description designed to draw in the likes of me. The leaf is not cheap at a little over a dollar a gram but considering its age it is not unreasonable. I pick my self up a five gram sample and promptly forget of the tea's existence. Until I notice it in my box of oolong samples

Breaking into the plain paper wrapper I am greeted by very plain looking chopped leaf. Not only does the tea allegedly taste like pu-erh it looks like it as well. Dancong is probably the oolong that I have the least experience with despite the fact that I am sort of fascinated by it. The leaves look to be very thick and there is a fair amount of stems in the blend. I reach for my freshly smuggled in 95 ml Lu Ni pot thinking that this would be a nice match for size as well as character.

     I decide not to rinse the tea as there is no real storage odor. It is given  about a ten second initial infusion. I am surprised by the lightness of the color. The flavor has a slight hint of mustiness from its fifty years of age. The flavor is similar that of a shu.  The second infusion produces a color of more of what I would have expected. Flavor wise it is very much like an old Guang Yu Gong cake. There is spiciness to the tea as well as flavors of aromatic woods. The third infusion I start to pick up some deep floral flavors in the background making me think of bees buzzing around nectar filled Orchids. The huigan is stronger than I would expect from the taste. The wet leaves smell of wet mulch and sweet over ripe apples.

As with the 85 shui xian as the infusions flow the tea begins to give you more hints of its oolong origin. With dark fruity flavors that seemed to have been spiced with nutmeg. The age of this tea is apparent in the cha qi, being instantly very warming and slightly euphoric this is a very pleasant tea with stacked with many layers of flavor that evolve nicely over the session.

Monday, March 26, 2012

70's GD Big Tuocha


I have been excited to try the new samples of aged tea that recently became available @ essence of tea. I  have had a little rough patch in picking out aged pu-erh to try. I perhaps have been to hasty and impulsively buying teas before sampling or some how the tea not being what I expected. Hopefully my receiving this batch of samples means that I have worked off enough of my negative tea karma and will start finding good old tea’s again. I am fairly sure of this as I don't think I have found an aged pu-erh at EOT that I did not like. I am a big fan of  tea vendors like Essence of tea, Houde and Bana tea company. I feel as though these companies are fairly selective as to what teas that they will sell, the making it allot easier to pick out a quality pu-erh. They also all offer samples of almost all of there tea eliminating virtually all of the risk. Of course you do tend to pay more for this convenience. But when you run that against the cost and time of sifting through the tons of lower quality pu-erh, I feel it is well worth it.

      My son was just taken out the cast he has been residing in for the past six weeks. So I have the day to relax and enjoy the beautiful sunny day. What a perfect chance to brew an old tea and appreciate life. I reach into the jar of samples and randomly pull out a bag containing a five gram chunk of 1970's (early) Guang Dong Big Tuocha. Before this tea showed up on EOT's site I have heard next to nothing about it. So I have few expectations or prejudices going into the tea session. This is ideally how one should try to encounter every new tea. Of course it is very tough to not have expectations regarding a tea just the fact that I have been told this is a tea that was made in the 70's in Guang Dong could already place preconceptions in and possibly effect the way that I perceive this tea.

The aroma from the dry leaves is very faint. So I proceed to follow the directions I found on a tea bag once and "just add water". The smell of the wet leaves reminds me of an old book. Through the smell I get the same feeling I get when I walk into a good used book shop, the feeling of seeking out forgotten treasure. The rinse has a very faint storage taste given its age. The first infusion tastes almost exactly as it smells with the taste of old leather bound books. No I have never tasted a book. The soup is a beautiful crystal clear brownish red.

The second infusion finds the flavor to have solidified and seeming more present and less like a memory. There is a slight tangyness from the large amount of buds in the blend. This tea has similarities to other guang dong tea that I have experienced. Yet it also is very different. The qi starts to build undulating from my lower back to the top of my skull. Relaxing muscles in my back that I did not realize where tense. I am surprised at the quality of the initial infusions, as Nada mentions in his description that this tea does not open up for four or five infusions.

Through the next several infusions the base flavor remains the same but the huigan begins to develop nicely, becoming cooling on the breath and tongue. The aftertaste also becomes more pronounced. This causes me to slow down the time between infusions so that I can enjoy it. Infusion five sees the appearance of a slight metallic aftertaste. This sounds unpleasant but actually it is interesting and enjoyable. By this time the qi has become very strong leaving me feeling incredibly relaxed. My arms and eyelids both start to feel heavy. The qi is definitely worth the price of admission for this tea.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bian Hu Lu ni pot / 03 yi wu brick

         I recently became the proud new owner of a Bian Hu Lu Ni pot from the on going yixing garage sale. This pot has been used by its previous owner for yancha. With in minutes of opening the box I put that match to the test and I find it to be a good fit. The pot does a good job of settling the abrasiveness of the fresh charcoal roast on EOT's 2011 Dancong Yancha. I will probably end up using this pot for yancha as it is a much more reasonable size for rock tea at 95 ml than my 125 ml shia piao. But  I feel I owe it to the pot to play the field a little bit before committing it to a rocky marriage.I have been warned that this pot can subdue aromas so it may not be the best match for young sheng. But this pot may be a good match for adolescent sheng. Tea's that are in that transitory stage that have started to gain some more mature flavors yet still have the edge of youth.

     To test this pairing the 2003 Yi Wu brick from Houde seems a good choice. This brick has been stored in Taiwan since its birth giving it a little boost in the ageing process. Being from Taiwan we can guess that this is a brick of a slightly higher caliber than other bricks. In order to see the degree of change I decide to rotate infusions of the tea between this pot and my thrift shop shui ping.

I start the first infusion (9grams) in the Lu Ni pot. It is immediately apparent the effect that the pot has on the tea. None of the roughness that I had experienced with past sessions is present. It rounds the tea almost the perfect amount not going so far as to dull the tea but just removing a little harshness. This tea is of the camphor, leather, and tobacco nature being of a lower flavor profile. It has a very slight drying effect on the tongue. There is a long lasting but not strong huigan.

In switching the tea from one pot to the other I notice that the tea while easily fit into the Bain Hu must be forced into the Shui Ping. The tea is slightly more astringent and the mouth feel is missing a little something that was added by the other pot.Yet I was actually expecting the difference to be greater. This tea has that much sought after Zhang Xiang (camphor) taste. I do not know if I have ever had a truly mature taste. But I have a feeling that this is a stage in development and teas do not tend to keep this taste as they become more mature.  The wet leaves show some serious looking large, thick, and hairy leaves that have been well rolled and take some time to unfurl by hand.  not your avg brick  seconds.

          The tea and pot both I feel are both good scores. The only significant fault that I find with this tea is its durability. The tea seems to suddenly drop off .Unfortunately at the time of writing this I discover that they have sold out.

      It would have made the job of choosing a tea for this pot had not been such a good match for this tea. I wanted to use this pot for yancha. But I should try to let the pot choose the tea it is best suited for and not let my needs and preconceived notions on clay and shape determine its mate. Either way further testing will most likely be necessary.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The 7582

As a little birthday present to myself Birthday I am drinking the last of the 96 either 7582 or 7592 from Taiwan. I am gonna go out on a limb and assume that this is the 7582. A tea that I remeber being very stoked with the last two times I got to try it. This tea at least the 06 version is a blend of moacha from Yi Wu and Bada, two locations that I am quite fond of. After my first time tasting the 96 version of this tea I ran out (went online) and bought a cake of the 2006 in hopes of recreating this tea with time. I can find some similarities between the two if I look hard enough. The 7582 is a fairly unknown recipe in relation two it’s shinning siblings the 7542 and 7532 and its always loved cousin the 8582. Why is the 7582 so unknown? I think that they rarely make this blend the 2006 the only modern production of this blend that I have heard of. While not having seen a whole cake of the older version the younger version reviewed here is a pretty scruffy looking cake. With broken leaf shedding off its circumference like dandruff from high school lunch ladies hairnet.The compression is much tighter than your average menghai recipe. The cake is also chock full of yellow leaves and overall has a generally dusty look to it. This might explain its unpopularity. But given all that in the cup I can see where given enough time, heat, and humidity it could turn in to the delicious tea of its forefathers.

The aged sample that I have of this tea has seen a generous amount of humidity in its time. I guess could see how some may think that this tea tastes a little basement like. To me I feel this tea if very floral for leaf of this age and maturity. The cup having an orchid aroma with a touch of camphor. The first infusions start out tasting almost exclusively of orchid after several infusions the camphor begins to dominate. The huigan is quite mentholated cooling my mouth with every breath, while the qi seems to warm my body. During later infusions the flavor moves to an herbal medicinal taste. In short this tea is to me quite special. I wish I could acquire a cake at a reasonable price sunsing wants an arm and part of a leg for their 97 version, especially knowing the relatively cheap price that was paid for the cake that this sample comes from. Unless I can make it to Taiwan soon, or some one perhaps traveling to Asia or living in Hong Kong or whose uncles sister in-laws cousin owns a tea house in Taipei would be willing to ship me one for a reasonable price. I will have to wait fifteen or twenty years for my 06 drinkable. But it was a truly a treat to get to try this excellent tea before that Thanks Ge-off-re.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

1980's Yunnan Jincha tuocha

    The 80's bamboo wrapped tuocha aquired from Essence of Tea is my stand by aged sheng from my stand by tea vendor. I go to this tea when I want a good tea that I do not feel that I have to be completly present with. With other Teas of this age or maturity they are, number one very expensive. So anything less than your full attention and you are throwing away money. Also the level of complexity is such that price aside you need to pay attention to pick up on all the different levels of tastes and qi. While this tea is most certainly neither cheap or monotone. It is both at a level price and depth that I can drink it  without dedicateing  100% of my attention to it and not feel like I am commitiing a  unforgivable sin. This being  very helpful  to someone with a two year old son who is presently occupying a spica cast ,and a bad aged sheng addiction.
This deadly looking instrument was in it's former life used in my studio to poke holes in molten glass.
          I give this tea one quick 7 second rinse. There is a definite aroma from the storage in the rinse. The next infusion the storage aroma has become to me very faint being replaced by a blackbery honey sweetness. The flavor has a little Toki's granny face powder and allot of  wood while not really desending into the realm of being woody. There is still some activity in the mouth and a bit of astringency letting you know that this tea still has not reached its full maturity. The cha qi comes on slow in this tea rising up from your core and warming  your body while calming your mind.
      By the third infusion there  the flavor profile has shifted away from the wood and leaning more toward the face powder.  The huigan and cha qi both become more pronounced as the sesion develops.As it evolves it continues to become sweeter and develop a mintiness as well.
This tea has a decent life span not dropping out at any point but slowly fading down to sweet water over fifteen to twenty some infusion depending on how you brew it and  how long you feel it stays interesting.

        I have tried three versions of this tea. The Eot version, The one caried at Houde and a early nineties version procured from Henry Trading co. in Hong Kong. I feel the Eot verson is the best. Although one could argue for Houdes version having less wet storage causing the mintyness to become much more prominent and having a stronger huigan.  The Henrry trading version still needed a few more years. Although they all have the same basic base taste. With the  high level of compression in these tuochas they really do require some time in a Hong Kong basement, to mature in a reasonable amount of time (under a century).

   One thing about this Tuocha has me interested.   I was originally under the impession that this was a Xiaguan Tuocha. But recently I noticed on Essence of Tea's site that its now claimed to be the product of  Yunnan Sheng Cha Ye Fen Gong Si . I'm seem to remember it being advertised there originally as Xiaguan made. It is still advertised as Xiaguan at Houde. So are they two different manufacturers, has EOT gotten a different Tuocha with the same wrapper, is that a different tuocha at Houde (they taste to be of similar origin) or is someone mistaken? Either way it does not change the experience of this delicious affordable (for an 80's sheng) tea.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

2010 Mt Ai lao


I am a big fan of the The Leaf online magazine. Unfortunately has not been a new issue in quite some time due to Mr. Fisher's (Wu De) other projects. One of them being the Global Tea Hut. They hope to start a school of Cha Dao in Taiwan. That would also have a pu-erh Library of old and new vintages that visitors may research. Another goal of theirs is to have communal pu-erh storage "cave" "where members from around the world can freely store their tea in a good climate, with meditation and other good vibrations infused into the tea." In order to raise funds to start this school they have started a tea of the month club. I have signed up for this club as I think that It would be excellent to have an place such as this school where people around the world regardless of where they are from can come and study the way of the leaf. Also the added bonus of getting to try teas selected by someone that is a true lover of tea and not trying to sell you anything is probably going to be a worthwhile experience.

Included with the tea was this beautiful piece of calligeraphy with a background painted with aged pu-erh

The Tea is from Ai Laoshan which is the second highest mountain in Yunnan behind Wu Liang. The Wu Liang cake pressed by Yunnan sourcing made quite a stir this year and has recently sold out. Apart from being some of the highest altitude pu-erh (2500 meters) it is also some of the most remote. There being very little road access to this part of the province. The tree's being between two to three hundred years old. This tea is processed by piling for a few hours to slightly oxidize the leaf before sha qing (kill green). Many associate this sort of tea as a drink it now tea this step being added to make a tea more palatable for immediate consumption. It is presented here as a step developed locally to help bring pout the teas full potential. Preconceived notions aside I fill the kettle with an open mind.

The leaves are dark. They look like no other pu-erh I have seen before. The aroma coming out of the bag when opened is deep sweet and rich making you want to sit still inhaling uplifting warming fragrance. I do not know if it is reading the eloquent words regarding this tea in the news letter or if it is the qi of the tea or scent but I have an urge to spend time with this leaf. Using my improvised Tuocha pick I separate the chunk into as many individual leaves as I feel I can manage without breaking them. I normally opt to just separate a chunk into three or four pieces reasoning that the tea this will keep the leaves more intact.

The first infusion reveals a much lighter liquid than I had envisioned. The Flavor coinciding with the aroma being a milky cocoa The Cha Qi radiates from my chest out through my arms and up to my cheeks. The wet leaves look fairly green considering there color while dry. They have developed a musky smell that I have noticed in some Guafengzhai teas. The second infusion reveals a darker liquid with more of that creamy chocolate flavor but also some musky notes are popping up. There are also some notes of wood that make their way into the session. As infusions move on the tea does begin to taste slightly like a red tea. The qi of this tea is a testament to the pure environment and the care given these trees. I am glad to have had the opportunity to try this special tea. While it is not the type of tea I would have bought for myself. Given my (possibly mistaken) belief that more processed pu-erh will not hold there potentcy as well as less processed leaf through the aging process. I am glad to have tried it as it reminded me that it is the care and love put into its creation that determines the quality of something, and not the process by which it is created.