Thursday, September 08, 2005

Geraldo on Danny Samarkand's Samples

Hong Tai Chang Cooked Pu’er

Dry leaf—Reddish brown ranging to black

Wet leaf—leaves fairly large for cooked pu’er.

Brewing: Eight grams with 200 ml of water, boling. Two minute rest after initial wash.

Glass vessel. 20s, 15s, 25, 40s, 60s, 90s

I mixed the first two infusions into one sharing pitcher (Pyrex cup). The other infusions I did not mix together.

I have tasted only a couple of aged teas of this vintage, and this is not the best. There is something burned in the flavor. In all likelihood, I brewed it wrong. I will give it another go after tasting the other samples.

2000 Uncooked 7542

Dry leaf: Dark green, nicely compressed.

Eight grams, 200 ml of water just off boiling. Small glass teapot. Two minute rest after wash. 15s, 10s, 15s, 25s, 45s.

1st and 2nd Infusions: Again mixed first two infusions—much better result. Smoky, bitter, and very pleasant. Mumsy (drinking partner) calls it clean and refreshing. Not cloying—slight fruity and floral aftertaste. Nice effect on the top of the throat. Liquor red peach in color. A very faint mint taste.

3rd Infusion: Liquor tawny amber. Yummy, thick and big mouth-feel (he resorts ot kennings), great viscosity. The flavors in this infusion are clearer.

4th Infusion: Very similar to 3rd infusion. Makes the mouth water, affects the entire tongue. Pleasant in the nose.

5th Infusion: This tea continues excellent, wonderful tea. I’m glad I have a couple of 7542 cakes. I wonder what type of Dayi it would be.

Chongqing Tuocha Mixed?

In the wet leaf there appear to be two types of leaves: one small and broken, the other longer and slimmer. The dry leaves to not readily show that difference. In the dry state, the tea is quite dark.

Glass vessel. 7g of tea, 200 ml of water, boiling. 15s, 10s, 20s, 30s, 70s, 90s.

This tea is wonderful and changes as one drinks it. In the initial infusions, the cooked nature predominates with a very nice chocolate character. The tea tastes well-stored. The tea is pleasantly sharp on the sides of the tongue and makes the saliva under my tongue foam!

As the cooked character dissipates, a taste I think is camphor starts to emerge, a definite cooling feeling in the mouth. Additionally, the aftertaste becomes stronger. This evolution begins in the fourth infusion. I think this is a great tea, and I am curious to know whether the other tasters agree with me. I truly enjoy two of the three pu’ers I’ve tried thus far.

Xishuangbana Pu’er Cake 2003, Chang Tai

Dry: Nice various colors, largish leaves, easily flaked.

Small Glass Gaiwan. 5 grams tea, 5 ounces of water.

Rinse, rest for 3 mins.

1st Infusion, 15 seconds: Light smoke aroma. Light yellow-brown liquor.

Very nice lemonade flavor, and somewhat buttery. As the cup cools, the tea becomes sweet. Yum!

2nd Infusion, 8 seconds: Well, this is certainly an easy tea to drink. I almost gulped it all before I knew what I was doing. This infusion stronger of course. Not too sour. Not too astringent. Often the second infusion tastes too strong for me. This reminds me of hot “Russian Christmas tea” that my folks made with Lipton and Tang!

3rd Infusion, 15 seconds: Aroma not strong, smoke mostly gone. First hot sip: I love this tea. Citrus without sour, tart without astringent. Clearly, the leaves were plucked on a west-facing rocky slope. The tea plucker was young but fairly literate. It was picked in the morning. The day started cool, but would be much warmer later. It had rained the previous day. The plucker was humming an aimless but cheerful tune.

4th Infusion, 20 seconds: No change in the color of the liquor. I can taste this tea on the roof of my mouth. Oh Lord, I have drunk lots of pu’er today! Tis tea tastes very, very good to my mouth. I am curious to know whether all of Chang Tai’s products taste this good. I look at the cup, and it’s empty.

5th Infusion, 28 seconds: The color may be fading—hard to tell for certain. In my mouth this tea has many characteristics: It’s round and buttery, spicy, fruity. Aha! I’ve got it! It tastes like a mixed Salty Dog-Margarita served up hot!

6th Infusion, 35 seconds:

Outside—dark. The moon

Hears crickets and they hear

Not the gaiwan click.

Now the sprinklers beat

Time on cricket’s deaf ears,

Time as Chang Tai steeps.

Long Yuan Manzhuan, Dadugang

Dry: Golden-green and dark green leaves woven, lightly compressed, easily flaked.

Small glass teapot, 8g tea, 7 ounces water, just below boil. Rinse, three minute rest.

Consumed with elderly Mumsy.

1st Infusion (15s) and 2nd Infusion (10s) combined: Strong and fragrant, pungeunt. Plesant smokiness. Salty and mouth watering. Grapefruit.

3rd Infusion, 15 seconds: Still very astringent. Very mouth watering. Mumsy says it’s lemony. Smoke subsiding. Some dimensions, but not as fun as the Chang Tai nor powerfully exotic as the 7542.

4th Infusion, 20 seconds: When I swallow, the tea tastes very good in the nose. Coats the mouth. Mumsy says, “It tastes healthy.” I call her “TeaMumsy.” This tea might be a little too astringent for my mouth today.

5th Infusion, 25 seconds: Perhaps the greatest strength of this tea is the heat it makes in the chest. One concern: It is a sour tea at this stage of its life.

Yi Wu Region Wild-Grown Pu’er, Xinghai Fact., Menghai, 2003

5g tea in 5-ounce glass gaiwan. Rinse, 2 min. rest. H2O just below boiling.

17s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 25s, 30s

Dry leaf: multi-colored: yellow, brown, and green. Easily flaked. Very faint dry leaf aroma. Wet leaf: medium-sized, relatively whole, light green in color, spear-shaped.

First Infusion: This tastes similar to many other young, mild pu’ers meant to be consumed. Hard to judge a pu’er by its first utterance. Certainly nothing off-putting.

Second Infusion: Somewhat stronger, but still fairly mild in comparison to most other second infusions. Dry and crisp and light.

Third Infusion: Still mild, crisp, and dry, like some white wines. Aha! Like a mild, noncarbonated hard cider, the sugar gone toward fermentation.

Fourth Infusion: There is nothing to dislike about this tea. The fruitiness is sharper in my mouth now, a little more pungent, surprisingly. That may be me rather than the tea. How can we tell the dancer from the dance? How can we tell the tea from the taster? Teas taste like my mood when I commence to taste them. Here in the fourth infusion, I THINK this tea (or maybe I) is (am) starting to come to life. Bigger, rounder flavor. Was the water hotter?

Fifth Infusion: Still good, but not as good as the fourth infusion. It tastes a little flatter.

Sixth Infusion: The liquor’s color wanes somewhat to brut champagne. The flavor continues to flatten out.

Overall: This is a good pu’er. Nothing about it bugs me. The tea provides a soft smooth ride.

2002 Xia Guan Iron Pu’er Cake

Dry leaf: Fairly uniform dark green leaf. Medium-sized, irregular leaves. Five grams in five-ounce glass gaiwan. Lightly boiling water. 3 min rest.

1st Infusion, 15s: This is a distinctive flavor. I am looking forward to a great experience. The tea tastes very good indeed, especially for a first infusion. Given this tea’s power, I shall keep the second infusion short.

2nd Infusion, 7s: This is no wimpy pu’er. I am happy with this tea. I have a couple of these cakes from 2004, and the flavor of this cake makes me very happy indeed. There is a strong flower taste. I seldom eat flowers, so I cannot name it. I guess there’s a reason why Xia Guan and Meng Hai are so popular. Leave me alone—I’m drinking tea, dammit.

3rd Infusion, 15s: What does tea taste like? Name something else in your life’s experience that tastes like this Iron Cake, and tell us what it is. Or resort to similes. Okay—This tea tastes exactly like VG’s “Starry Night” with a bit of WBY’s “Sailing to Byzantium” mixed into it. There. That says it all.

This third infusion makes me wonder why pu’er of this caliber is not widely consumed by most thinking adults in the United States. I suppose people do not want to take time to brew and consider tea. Their lives give them no opportunity or their lives make them believe they cannot make the opportunity. I’m lucky. I catch sweet, tangy, salt, bitter, thickness.

4th Infusion, 23s: Danny specifically gave us permission to utter the word “shit” as we write about our experiences. Shit, this is good tea. I wonder about what my fellow tasters think of this tea and the others. I hypothesize that I’m too accepting of tea. I also fear that my reactions may be far out of line of others’ and that I’m making an egregious ass of myself, “ass” in this case denoting a four-legged, long-suffering beast of burden.

Once again, I find myself drinking the tea too fast to consider it. I guess that is high praise. I first tried pu’er in a sampler from Adagio—something black, cheap, and icky. Five or six years elapsed before I tried it again. Is there a reason that the big Chinese companies don’t go after the American market through some PR campaign?

5th Infusion, 31s: How unusual that uncooked pu’er does to the roof of my mouth what it does. I had not known we had taste buds there. What a strange pastime this is—sitting alone in my office, sipping compressed tea cakes, trying to write about the experience.

6th Infusion, 48s: Sudden change—The thrill is gone.

Overall, I would love to own many of these cakes. I think it might age well, given its initial strength and leafy contents.

Jingmai Region Wild Grown Pu’er, SFTM, Uncooked

11.5 grams of tea to 10 ounces of water, roughly 195F. Dry leaf: Brown, yellow, and green. Wet leaf—pale green and torn. Infused in large glass vessel. Rinse, 2 min. rest.

1st Infusion, 15s. Weak and sweet, heavy honey tones.

2nd Infusuion, 11s: More authoritative—not surprisingly. First hot sip: bitter and sharp. Cooling: the tea sweetens. Not smoky. Good tea, Big flavor, especially on the sides of the mouth.

3rd Infusion, 20s: smoother—excellent. Often the third and fourth infusions are most to my liking. The honey with the tartness persists. Here we have honey, orange, and pineapple.

4th Infusion, 26s: Still good, though sweetness subsiding. There is a sourness, but the tea is satisfying.

5th Infusion, 33s: The strength of this tea hangs in. The tea might be a tad too tart, but it is a young tea.

6th Infusion, 45s: This pu’er might age very well due to its strength.


First, thank you, Danny Samarkand, for the seminar. Second, taste is a matter of taste—especially for me, since my tasting apparatus is different from others’. Further, I am very new to this, so don’t rush off and buy tea based upon my reaction.

I will not say that one tea is better than another. I will say that some were more to my liking during the days I tasted these, but that could change. Tea tastes different from day to day. However, right now, I have a three-way tie for first place:

Xishuangbana Pu’er Cake 2003, Chang Tai

2002 Xia Guan Iron Pu’er Cake

2000 Uncooked 7542

I was also very pleased with the Chongqing mixed.

The only tea that I did not enjoy was the oldest of the lot, the Hong Tai Chang Cooked Pu’er.

Again, Danny, thank you. You are very kind. This was a valuable learning experience for me. Now I will submit my notes now with some trepidation. It’s time to display my ignorance. All the best, Gerry


corax said...

i absolutely love your haiku tasting notes. and who else would invoke yeats at such a moment. go gerry!

i'm also intrigued by the way you checked in frequently on the infusion as it brewed. i wish i had done more of that.

*and* it would never have occurred to me to *mix* infusions and drink that. i bet this experience was a revelation in itself.

Cindy W. said...

Lots of great tasting notes. I just had to comment on a couple of things:

This reminds me of hot “Russian Christmas tea” that my folks made with Lipton and Tang!

Gosh, I'd forgotten about that 60s-70s popular hot drink. It is possibly the first tea I ever tried, although I never thought of it in the same way as the tea my grandma drank (British-style from the cheapest bags to be found). The "Russian tea" was a special treat that my young and very cool aunt made for me whenever I visited. For a young kid, it was a special "adult" treat. Plus, this was during the height of the space race, and Tang was all the rage -- we all wanted to drink what the astronauts drank.

Now, of course, I am appropriately horrified at the thought of powdered tea. :)

As the cooked character dissipates, a taste I think is camphor starts to emerge, a definite cooling feeling in the mouth.

I haven't really thought "camphor" when sipping puerh, but I have noticed that puerh seems to have a cooling effect. I've taken to drinking it after spicy foods -- cools me down a bit, plus it can settle a grumbling stomach. I'm a bit of a chile-head, so this means puerh gets pulled out often.

I haven't quite decided if there's a difference between green and cooked puerh (in terms of this cool-down). Obviously, more testing is in order.