Monday, May 29, 2006

THSU on 80's 8582

Date brewed: 5/29/06
Type: Aged Uncooked (Sheng) Pu’er
Vintage: 1980-85
Type: Beeng Cha
Manufacturer: Meng Hai
Appearance: Dry Leaves: Medium compressed, reddish-brown, blueish gray, blackish green.
Dry leaf in heated pot aroma: Woody, dry bamboo, dry shitake, sweet brown sugar.
Leaf Weight & Vessel: 4g / 50 ml yixing
Poland Spring water: 1. fish eye water.* 2. shrimp eye water.** 3. shrimp eye with 1 shot of cold water.***

Instant Rinse sit 2 mins. water*
Complex Woody, camphor, linen, leather and full.

1 INFUS. 10 sec. water**
Liquor color: Burnt Amber / Clear / Gloss
Bitter sweet, woody and I am saying Lots of Wood, on flavor and nose! Camphor, dry mouth and thick, not so balance. Very active so to speak, but not astringency, strong palate, numbing lips and tongue. Cranky!

2 INFUS. 15 sec. water**
Liquor color: Burnt Amber / Clearer / Gloss
Still bitter sweet, corky, little bite on the palate. Minerals / metallic / talc. Still very woody and camphor.
Aftertaste too complex to break-down yet, sweet and hint of sour and mint.

3 INFUS. 15 sec. water**
Liquor same till the 5th.
Talc! Old time grandma's cosmetic foundation! Bitter sweet chocolate, still camphor with more bite. Clean and clear, hint of mint finish. Numbing persisted. Complex and Nostalgic. Full(dense) and Alluring. Liquor have good legs / tears.

4 INFUS. 10 sec. water**
Powerful. Minerals / Talc, pronounced sweetness overall in mouth-feel and aftertaste. Bitterness gone. Very alluring because it's mellowing down.

5 INFUS. 30 sec. water**
Liquor color: Golden Amber / Clear / Oily
The tea is in the stage of recovery. My motion at slow, entering the stage of calm and peace. Numbing affected the mouth thru the throat. Sweetness linger from the back to the front. Mucus forming from the back of throat. Breaking little sweat.

6 INFUS. 45 sec. water***
Liquor color: Golden dark Amber
No more legs. Fresh, fruits, hint of dry plum, floral. Hint of talc turned perfume. Much more fragrance. Medium oolong bouquet and finish.

7 INFUS. 45 sec. water**
Liquor color: Golden Amber
Aftertaste overwhelmed with sweetness. Sign of a dying oolong with the oily finish. Peach....? Cooked peach! Clean talc cosmetic reappeared!! Dry and brut in the beginning, then moisturizing the throat, mucus forming. Still numbing.

8 INFUS. 60 sec. water***
Liquor color: Light Amber
Fruits to Veggie! Spinach, Fresh Songyi mushroom, White bamboo shot, Lotus seeds, (Yes, I am crazy!!) Talc. Clean, light woody and minty finishes.

9 INFUS. 60 sec. water***
Liquor color: Light Amber
Lying down to enjoy... way to mellow, calm and breaking sweat. Motivation of reporting heavy... enjoying the moment....
Lotus seed, lotus leaf, cosmetic talc, minty light camphor, kept coming....

10 INFUS. 75sec. water**
Liquor color: Medium Light Amber
Talc and Explosive sweetness, coating both breath and throat. Mineral fragrance, short but powerful. Dry finish then moisturize the mouth.

I think this temp is a bit high. Should go back to water***, it created the oily taste, over cooked.... Still clean finish, but minty gone, camphor gone, woody gone.

11 INFUS. 90sec. water***
Lotus is back! This are a handful of puerhs I'd encountered with lotus bouquet and flavor. I prefer this over the aged / pickled plum. Much more elegant and refine. Sweetness and numbing persisted. I am predicting the talc going to come back in a different way.

12hrs after

18 INFUS. 15mins. water*
Vessel: Gaiwan 200 ml
Liquor color: Pale Golden / Light
Some leaves have not fully unfurled, dark green, brown and blackish to the stems, large and medium size leaves.
Winter Melon, Talc, floral, hint of bamboo, soft on the palate but thick on the throat. Finally I find the true talc flavor: This is a floral talc, perfumed powder cosmetic talc with peony bouquet, sweet aftertaste! No lotus.

Overall, a robust challenging tea. Not elegant, not balance in the first 3 infusions. Lively and Cranky. Surprising personality. Very wholesome and pleasurable.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Geraldo on 1990 Uncooked Zhuan Cha #9062 from TenYee Tea Shop, Penang

[from an email to corax. posted by permission.]

Note: I visited TenYee Teashop, on the Island of Penang, in November 2005. I struck up an acquaintance with Kailey, the young English-speaking daughter of the owners. She has access to a computer with Internet connection. After much very serious e-mail negotiation, I agreed to purchase some pu’er from her. Since Malaysia is not yet set up for Internet transactions using credit cards or PayPal, and since the cost of sending an international bank transfer exceeded the price of the pu’er itself, I actually sent her American cash in an envelope. This tea was recommended by her mother. It arrived in my home on 20 January 2006.

Dry leaf appearance: From a distance it appears black. Close up it appears brown-red, with colors ranging from dark brown (almost black) to deep reddish-brown.

The zhuan cha is fairly tightly compressed, but I can flake it with a butter knife.

Vessels: 3oz gaiwan and 5 oz cup.

4.3g of tea to 3oz of water.

Very fast rinse—rinse water at 168F. Two minute rest.

1st steep, 192F, 20s. Red, clear, very mild, not much strength or character. Very little aroma in the cup—more in the gaiwan—slight camphor arising from the leaves. Clean taste—tiny hint of mushroom, no wet laundry. Some wood. Fairly thick in the mouth—good body, make the top of the tongue slick.

2nd steep, 193F, 10s. Much darker. Stronger aroma. More wood flavor, more earth flavor. No crisp bite as in the 1960s Guang Yun Gong. No flood of flavors as in the old Liu Bao. I am searching through the experience looking for wet laundry as evidence of wet processing, and now I’m wondering when “earthy’ becomes “wet laundry.” The mild nature of this tea makes it hard to parse. Other wet-storaged teas come on really strong, and this is a subtle brew. I am thinking it was stored in some humid part of the world (Penang, within spitting distance of the equator). I do not think there are many places more humid than Malaysia—at least none that I have encountered in my travels through the subtropical lands of the world.

3rd steep, 190F, 20s. Liquor less red, more brown. In this infusion, the mushroom-earth flavor more closely approximates wet-storaged flavor as I think of it. Also, I may have tasted this pu’er or one very much like it before: Stephane’s sample from his “1990 Jiang Cheng Yunnan Wild Pu’er Brick.” With that tea, too, I was surprised that an uncooked pu’er could be as dark as this and have many of the nuances of a cooked pu’er.

4th steep, 194.5F, 30s. Overall, in this steep the tea tastes like a mild, smooth cooked tea with more wood flavor than most cooked teas possess and a touch of camphor tossed in. The flavor has not diminished appreciably from the 3rd infusion. The tea also retains its fine, silky texture in the mouth.

5th steep, 200.5F, 45s. The color of the tea is the same brown-red. The slight camphor is a tiny bit stronger. The strength of the flavors is undiminished from the 4th infusion. I will continue to drink this tea to see how long it retains its flavor, but I’ll cease taking notes unless there is some striking development down the road.

Conclusions, Part 1: Overall, the package looks to be legitimately Meng Hai. I looked at my notes from a conversation with Jing almost a year ago; regarding "9062," according to Jing’s explanation, 90 would indicate the year, 6 the recipe, and 2 the factory (2 being Meng Hai).

The tea is too dark for its age—I think. I have seen several tuo chas from the early to mid-eighties, and they were dark tan, not a very dark brown like this brick. Uncooked pu’er from the early seventies and sixties I would expect to be this dark.

I believe it was moderately or mildly wet-storaged. I thought the same of another 1990 brick sample reviewed here at CHA DAO, and this might actually be exactly the same product. Perhaps the incredible humidity of equatorial Malaysia produced this wet-storage effect. I have tasted tea that was more heavily wet storaged; the first was 1001 Plateaus aged uncooked loose leaf and again with the Liu An from Yunnan Sourcing, since discontinued in favor of a better product.

This tea is better than those. It’s good. It’s almost quite good. But it sure as shootin' is not in a league with the incredible aged teas I had in China, nor with other aged pu’er samples I’ve ordered from China and Hong Kong.

Conclusions, Part 2: I tried this pu’er again the next day. I used 1.25g per 1oz vessel capacity. I employed a full minute of wash and three minutes of rest. Then I flash infused the first six infusions of the pu’er: I poured the tea from the vessel as fast as I could set the kettle down and pick up the gaiwan. The results of this procedure were much improved, but still the pu’er does not taste like good sheng.

Geraldo on 1989 Xia Guan Shu Tuo Cha from JingTeaShop

[from an email to corax. posted by permission.]

Date brewed: 4/10/06
Purveyor’s Description: “Produced by Xia Guan Tea Factory as a special order.”
Type: Aged Cooked (Shu)
Vintage: 1989
Type: Tuo Cha Pu’er, 200g
Brand/Manufacturer: Xia Guan Tea Factory
Appearance: Dry Leaf: Medium compressed, small reddish-brown, gray, and black leaves. Wet leaves: Red-black after the tenth infusion. Leaf Weight & Vessel: 8g in 7oz (210ml) kyuusu-style Yixing pot
Brewing Temperature: Old man boil
Rinse & Rest: very short rinse, 30s rest
Infusion Times: 15s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 25s, 35s, 50s, 1m30s

Liquor Appearance: First infusion: light red and amber, good clarity. In the second infusion, the color of porter, deep red-black and beautiful. Surprisingly, the third infusion is even darker, taking on the visual aspect of strong coffee, but still very clear and fairly transparent. The appearance of the fourth infusion is the same as the second. In the fifth infusion, the tea presents the color of amber ale. In the eighth infusion (lengthy) the color is still surprisingly dark.

Aroma: In the second infusion, vanilla, light leather, and wet loam. After pouring the fourth infusion into the sharing pitcher, I can detect a very noticeable mint aroma coming from the pot. Delightful. Further, the liquor now exudes, among the other aromas, the scent of clean, wet sand. The eighth infusion still presents a pleasant wood and vanilla aroma.

Flavor: First infusion: Dry and lively in the first hot sips, sweetening as it cools. Second infusion: very good balance of the foregoing aromas presented in the flavors, much more intense (of course). I am more familiar with Meng Hai’s and SFTM’s shu than I am with Xia Guan’s; this cooked tuo’s clean crispiness is very pleasant. I’m guessing it is lightly processed. In the third infusion, the sweetness has backed away, and the tea presents a much drier flavor. It is not fruity or flowery, but it is brisk and woody, almost oaken. The first hot sip of the fourth infusion is somewhat tarter, as though there were a few drops of raspberry juice added to the liquor. In the fifth infusion, it takes on some of the character of sheng—the liquor develops more tartness when hot, but there is residual sweetness as the liquor cools. In the eighth infusion, the aftertaste is very pleasant, woody, and minty.

Infusions: Most cooked pu’ers are spent by the fifth infusion. Rarely in shu do I encounter longevity and real evolution through the infusions. That this cooked tuo provides both is a testament to its quality. I’m guessing these attributes result both from the lighter processing and the seventeen years of aging.

Overall: As I understand it, cooked pu’er does not age in the same sense that uncooked pu’er ages; it does not transform itself into a new creature. Instead, it mellows. I drink far more uncooked pu’er than cooked. My first forays into pu’er were disastrous experiences with inexpensive (and very low-quality) cooked tuo chas sold by a large chain. Only recently have I undertaken to shake off the negative biases those early experiences forged. JingTeaShop’s 1989 Xia Guan Cooked Tuo Cha is an excellent motivation to pursue good shu. This is a wonderful beverage for kicking back late at night. I doubt I’ll manage to keep it for very long. This tea calls to me from its basket on the kitchen counter. It is a definite candidate for repurchasing.

Geraldo on 1960s Gao Li Gong Shan from TeaSpring

[from an email to corax. posted by permission.]

Date Brewed: 4/9/06
Purveyor’s Description: “A raw Pu-erh with around 40 years of aging, Gao Li Gong Shan 60s tea can be best described as an antique treasure. It was produced using tea leaves grown in Gao Li Gong Shan, located near the border of Yunnan and Vietnam. This Pu-erh tea won the Gold Medal Honor in Shanghai 2005 Tea King Competition. What made it more impressive was that Mr. Zhang Tian Fu, China's renowned tea expert, was one of the judges in it.”
Type: Aged Uncooked (Sheng) Pu’er
Vintage: Early 60s
Type: Original form undisclosed; arrives loose
Brand/Manufacturer: Gao Li Gong Shan, Yunnan Province. Leaf Appearance: Dry Leaf: The leaves are long and thin with some stems. They have the red-grey appearance of some liu ans. The dry leaves look as though they have never been compressed. Wet leaves: Red-black after the tenth infusion. Leaf Weight & Vessel: 4.2g in 4oz (118ml) jade gaiwan
Brewing Temperature: Low boil
Rinse & Rest: very short rinse, 30s rest
Infusion Times: 15s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 25s, 32s, 38s, 48s, 1m

Liquor Appearance: In the first infusion, the liquor is fairly clear and it has the typical aged pu’er appearance: deep amber-red. The second infusion is very clear and the deep red color of weak coffee. In the sixth infusion, the liquor has the appearance of bourbon—it is lightening somewhat.

Aroma: The first infusion smells mild, with touches of wet earth, wood, and fruitwood smoke. The second infusion has a notable aroma of mint. In the sixth infusion I can detect, besides wood, some cooked qualities in the pu’er. These cooked hints disappear from the aroma as it cools.

Flavor: This is a sweet aged pu’er. I’ve tried it twice before, and on this occasion, the initial tastes are not surprising: It has for me, more than anything else, the flavor of cherry juice with a little apple cider and sugar added. Even in the first infusion there is a long, sweet aftertaste, tart, but with no hint of bitterness in the first part of the sip. In the second infusion, I taste a strong birch wood flavor with the cherry juice. The sweetness and feel of it in the mouth bespeak a certain shu quality—I’m thinking it may have been partially cooked, rather like GrandTea’s 70s Grand Yellow Label. In the sixth infusion, the sweetness and wood continue, and the aftertaste is quite strong. In the eighth infusion, the tea tastes much drier, far less sweet, and it is a welcome change.

Infusions: This pu’er does not undergo any incredible transformations until the eighth infusion. It is a strong tea, and the liquor remains powerful for many infusions.

Overall: For those aged pu’er enthusiasts looking for the appearance, aroma, and flavor of an aged 7542 or similar beeng cha, this loose, aged pu’er would be a bad choice. I believe it may have been partially cooked, and I’m deciding (in grudging agreement with a friend) it was even stored for awhile under high humidity, but I do not detect from it the nasty, wet-laundry aroma and musty sharpness typical wet-storaged pu’er. In my experience, wet storaged pu’ers do not display the woody aroma and fine flavors that this pu’er offers. If it is wet-storaged, then I will have to revise my ideas and say that not all wet storaged pu’ers are bad. Personally, I am in love with this pu’er, and I think it is unique. There is no mildew, mushroom, or leather in the tastes presented. The aroma, though mild, is very complex. While I am convinced that I taste cherry juice in the tea, a second friend insists he tastes marzipan. The first friend, unhappy with the novelty of the tea, insists that it’s bitter, but I searched for bitterness in this session, and I found none in the initial flavor-bursts, but I will concede that the aftertaste might have what some could call a certain bitterness. I rate this tea very highly, and I am glad to own some of it.

Geraldo on 30-Year-Old Yun Lai (Clouds Gathering) from Sunsing

[from an email to corax. posted by permission.]

Note: This sample was purchased from Sunsing (in Hong Kong) via their North American representative, Tea2Gather in Toronto. Tea2Gather places the order, and the samples travel from Hong Kong directly here to my home.

Date Brewed: 4/2/06
Type: Aged Uncooked (Sheng) Pu’er
Vintage: Early 1970s
Type: Beeng Cha
Manufacturer: Meng Hai
Leaf Appearance: Dry Leaf: Sample comes flaked in pressed large leaves that are grey-black and dark brown. Wet leaves: Red-black after the tenth infusion. Leaf Weight & Vessel: 4.2g in 4oz Heart Sutra Yixing pot.
Brewing Temperature: Low boil
Rinse & Rest: 1 full minute rinse, 1 minute rest
Infusion Times: First six infusions: Flash/”Wrong-fu” (five seconds or less). Then 12s, 18s, 25s, 45s, 1m20s, 3m. This is my third experience with this tea. From earlier tastings and discussion, Mike Petro and I arrived at these parameters for this particular aged pu’er.

Liquor Appearance: Tawny red-brown in the first infusions. Good clarity and a lighter color ring around the cup’s rim. The liquor loses color very gradually. In the sixth infusion, it’s only slightly paler. In the tenth infusion, the color is still fairly dark.

Aroma: Very mild in the first infusions, light mushroom and loam. Inviting. Aspen, birch, and cedar bouquet. The strong and attractive aroma unfurls from the pot and the sharing pitcher. In the fourth and fifth infusions, the aroma strengthens, and it is still strong and alluring in the tenth infusion.

Flavor: First infusions--Thick consistency in the mouth. Flavor is mild and woody, matching the aroma. Aged, uncooked pu’er flavor is strong and lively. This is neither a sweet nor a sour aged pu’er; it presents a nice balance. The liquor is a delight on the back and sides of the tongue. In the fourth and fifth infusions, there is a pleasant, mild astringency on the soft palate. In the sixth infusion, the initial flavor-burst from the first hot sip is sweet and camphoric. A very pleasant cooling effect is apparent in the aftertaste.

Infusions: The infusions present an evolution of flavor and aroma. As the initial stronger flavors subside, the aftertaste and aroma increase. I stopped after 12 infusions, but the tea could have produced more.

Overall: This is a wonderful and highly distinguished aged pu’er. It is lively and balanced, but I have just one concern: The aftertaste is not as wonderful, pronounced, and mysterious as that in some other aged pu’ers I’ve tried. 30 Yr Yun Lai is, nevertheless, an excellent aged pu’er. Of the different aged Meng Hai #7542 cakes I’ve had the opportunity to taste, this is perhaps among the best.

Geraldo on 1950s Liang from GrandTea

[from an email to corax. posted by permission.]

Date Brewed: 3/27/06
Type: Aged Uncooked Liang (Flower Roll)
Vintage: 1950s
Manufacturer: Unspecified
Grade & Region: Unspecified, but not Yunnan
Leaf Appearance: Dry Leaf: Olive green with some brown tint, extremely compressed, papery, no stems. Definite saw-marks in the chunks.
Leaf Weight & Vessel: 4.3g in beloved 4oz black and green jade gaiwan
Brewing Temperature: Low boil
Rinse & Rest: 20s rinse and 2m rest
Infusion Times: 15s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 25s, 30s, 35s, 40s, 45s, 50s, 55s, 1m, 1m5s

Liquor Appearance: In the first infusion, honey-colored. Clear—not cloudy, but with tiny bits oddly suspended, despite fine strainer. Sawdust? By the sixth infusion, almost no color shift, but the suspension has disappeared. In the eighth infusion, the color has lightened to yellow-orange.

Aroma: In the first infusion, no actual aroma. Second infusion: still a shocking absence of aroma. Sixth infusion: very slight flowery aroma. Very little character of aged pu’er. Oddly, more aroma in the seventh and following infusions than in the first six infusions. In the eleventh infusion, the tea has a good aroma of mild loam and wood.

Flavor: In the first infusion’s initial hot sips, strong fruit flavor and flowery notes. Sweet aftertaste followed by tart aftertaste. Third-wave aftertaste: Pepper! Quite strong flavors, not unpleasant, and not like aged pu’er. In the second infusion, there is a much stronger citrus note, like unto the grapefruit-with-sugar character of aged Iron Cake. The taste is something like a tequila Salty Dog. The liquor is extremely thick in the mouth. In the fifth infusion, there is a slight flavor of grain in the citrus. In the seventh infusion there is a marked improvement in the flavor. The tart citrus subsides sufficiently to hint at a bit of wood in the flavor. In the 10th infusion, the flavor becomes very good indeed. There is sweetness and cedar in the flavor.

Infusions: This compressed tea will provide infusions forever.

Overall: I’ve performed some casual research, and as I understand it, Liang and Tael (compressed tea column) are synonymous. The one-year-old 100-tael that I’ve tried from my own collection is too bitter to drink except on a double-eyed dare. The 80yo tael I tried in Guangzhou did have an exceptional and wonderful aged character. This tea, being forty-five or fifty years old, tastes like a sweet and tart young pu’er. Indeed, it does taste about half-way between the very young tael in my collection and the very old tael I tasted. This confirms in my mind, at least, that an investment in tael is an investment in an heirloom. Those seeking the qualities of an aged pu’er will be sorely disappointed by this 50s Liang, but those looking for an education in the range of compressed tea will be fascinated. I would recommend that people in their twenties buy 50yo Liang for their children to drink thirty years hence, and that they buy very young compressed tea columns for their great-grandchildren. This tea is hard to judge. On a scale of one to five, I’d rate this 2.5 or 3. In forty years, it may rate a 5. In time, it may develop an aged bouquet and an alluring aftertaste. Perhaps I do not know how to brew this compressed tea.

I will re-try this compressed tea tomorrow with two 30-second washes, a 1-minute rest, and then a series of flash infusions.

Geraldo on 1960s Guang Yun Gong from Hou De Fine Tea

[from an email to corax. posted by permission.]

Date Brewed: 3/26/06
Type: Aged Sheng
Vintage: 1960s
Manufacturer: Unspecified
Grade & Region: Unspecified
Leaf Appearance: Dry Leaf: Black and Grey-Brown, good compression, some stems. Wet Leaf: Red-black leaves, remaining quite flat.
Leaf Weight & Vessel: 4.3g in beloved 4oz black and green jade gaiwan
Brewing Temperature: Boiling
Infusion Times: 15s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 25s, 30s, 35s, 40s, 45s, 1m, 1m30s, 2m30s

Liquor Appearance: In the first infusions, the color of a mild cup of coffee, and very clear. By the sixth infusion, subsides to the color of tawny port or cream sherry. In the 10th infusion, the color of American pilsner.

Aroma: The aroma hints at maple in the first infusions, along with wood and earth. In later infusions, the wood notes predominate.

Flavor: Even in the first infusion there are powerful hints of greatness. There are wood (birch and cedar), caramelized sugar, very mild fruit (orange?), and mint. There is the wonderful cooling effect. By the sixth infusion, the wood flavor becomes a little more pronounced. The sweetness remains through the middle infusions, and serves as a wonderful counterpoint to the very pleasant and mild tart notes. By the tenth infusion, leafy loam flavors step back, and wood notes are much clearer.

Infusions: This is a generous pu’er. I let the tea rest for 60 minutes between the eighth and ninth infusions. The tea is very simple to brew—no trickiness or extra thinking involved.

Overall: This is a wonderful and distinguished aged pu’er. There is nothing in it that I can fault and very much in it that I love. The aromas and flavors match, and the evolution is gradual and serene. I am delighted to own a few crumbs of this, and it assumes pride of place in my collection of aged fragments. By now I should have won the lottery—what went wrong? Until I do win big, I am content to own bits of aged pu’er such as this one to try now and again. Exploring aged pu’er is as much an exploration of the mind as it is an exploration of the leaf. For me this is not casual: When I confront a tea such as this 60s GYG, I try to consider each sip. I would not want this tea every day because I would not want a tea of this caliber to become mundane.

Geraldo on 20-Year-Old #611 Puerh from Sunsing

[from an email to corax. posted by permission.]

Date Brewed: 3/25/06
Type: Sheng Pu’er, Unknown Shape
Vintage: 1986
Factory: Unknown
Amount: 4.2g in 4oz Heart Sutra Yixing Pot
Dry Leaf: Flaked grey-brown and silver-black, flat leaves and stems
Wet Leaf: Black and brown-red
Rinse: 15s; Rest: 2m

Note: This sample was purchased from Sunsing via their North American representative, Tea2Gather in Toronto. Tea2Gather places the order, and the samples travel directly here from Hong Kong. Wendy of Tea2Gather supplied this additional information:

“The tea you have order was produced in 1986. It was the 11th batch of the year, abbreviated as ‘611.’ The traditional Hong Kong storage in the West End of Hong Kong Island has been used to keep these teas aged "Sheng" for almost 20 years.”

1st Infusion, 15s. Very low boil. Appearance: sparkling clear, color of sweet vermouth. Light in aroma. Very faint loam. Extremely sweet and clean in the very first hot sips. Slight tang of fruit in flavor and a hint of clean, dry sand (!) in the nose. Extremely pleasant tea. Very difficult to describe. Perhaps the 2nd infusion will create an experience more amenable to articulation.

2nd Infusion, 10s. Very low boil. Appearance: Liquor much more red and brown. A tad bit cloudy hot but clearing cool. Aroma: mulch and slight leather. First hot sip—still sweet. Excellent and wonderful flavors of sand and wood. Quite sweet. Some tartness on the back of the tongue. Mouth-watering. Some mint as the liquor cools.

3rd Infusion, 15s. Very low boil still. Appearance: Sparkling red-brown. Very clear. Aroma: Birch wood coming stronger, along with mint. Sweetness has abated. The tea has a great cleansing flavor in the mouth. This is excellent pu’er, and I am delighted to be drinking it. Almost an unsweetened Dr Pepper flavor followed by a pleasant birch and camphor finish. What fun!

4th Infusion, 20s. Same temp. Appearance: No change. Aroma: still a wonderful deciduous forest with all of the plants and herbs it might contain. A slight tartness coming now in the finish after the first hot sips, a little plum with the marzipan and cherry. This fourth infusion is quite different—the tea has evolved rapidly. All of the sweetness has disappeared in the finish.

5th Infusion, 25s. Same temp. Appearance: No change. Aroma: Perhaps a little subdued. The sweetness is not entirely gone after all. There is a delayed effect in the aftertaste. This pu’er has a marvelous finish and lingering aftertaste. The mint (camphor) effect also creates a wonderful cooling sensation long after the tea has been swallowed.

6th Infusion, 30s. Same temp. Appearance: Perhaps a little lighter. Aroma: Also a little more subdued. In the hot sips, the tartness is apparent but certainly not too strong. As the tea cools, the tartness dissipates. I judge the taste to be the aftertaste. The range of flavors is not what I have gotten from some seventies and sixties pu’ers, but the pu’er possesses what I would have to call a strong “qi.” It is a friendly and very good eighties pu’er. I cannot sufficiently praise the delayed aftertaste that leaps out in my mouth a minute or two after I finish the cup. That by itself makes this tea very worthwhile.

[I will let the tea rest ninety minutes now and re-group. The 6th infusion was by no means weak, but I’d like to see what happens if the tea cools down and relaxes in the little Heart Sutra pot.]

7th Infusion, 35s. Light boil. Appearance: color of dark red ale. Aroma: no significant change. The tea for its rest seems a bit sweeter. Maybe I for my rest taste it better. The balance is very pleasant. We are lucky to live in a world that has some aged pu’er.

8th Infusion, 40s. Sudden lightening of color. Now it looks like a double Scotch and water, neat. The aroma, however, carries more wood. Before I try the first hot sip, I note the delayed aftertaste of the previous infusion. How does that work? The initial flavor of this infusion might be the best yet. One characteristic I often encounter in aged pu’er is what I call artesian spring flavor. This pu’er assumes a flavor now that I associate with my childhood—the well that supplied water for our farm. I love that flavor. It quite literally takes me home again.

9th Infusion, 45s. Light boil. Color much the same as previous. Aroma tantalizing forest after rain. Creamy and mellow along with the wet sandstone flavor. A tiny taste of salt now.

10th Infusion, 50s. Boiling. Color: Single Scotch and water. Aroma: Still wonderful camphor. The sweetness has returned. The birch flavor sings counterpoint to the plum.

[Sixty minute rest]

11th Infusion, 55s. Boiling. Color: English ale. Aroma: Intoxicating wood aromas. Surprisingly lively flavor. Sweet and tart both. The tea rolls on—a definite plus.

12th Infusion, 1m. Boiling. Color: Unchanged. Aroma: Still very fine. The flavor continues to be lively, albeit much evolved from the beginning. Isn’t that one of the great joys of pu’er—perhaps the greatest joy—this evolution? I had not thought this particular pu’er would hang in, but it does, with wonderful flowery, citrus, and woody notes.

13th Infusion: 1m15s. Boiling. Color: American pale ale. Aroma: Unabated. Flavor: Not much changed from the previous infusion—that is to say, it’s wonderful. How fascinating that the sweetness—that hid so adroitly in the middle infusions—returns now and so seductively?

14th Infusion: 1m40s. Boiling. Color: Miller High Life. Aroma: Still enchanting birch. The tea now has taken on the character of a fine oolong! It has in it the flowers, the fruit, the honey-sweetness.

15th Infusion: 2m30s. Hard hissing boil. Color: Unchanged after this long infusion. Aroma: Also unchanged. Still lively, still sweet in the initial hot steeps. The flavor now is of balsa wood.

Conclusion: After fifteen infusions, the pu’er has outlasted my attempts to track it in a written narrative. Two days ago I tried another eighties pu’er, GrandTea’s Wood Mold Pekoe, that was probably better tasting, but it dissipated after nine or ten infusions. I wonder if this pu’er possesses more than the usual supernatural power to continue and evolve and give. This is my second sample from Sunsing and Tea2Gather. The other, 30 Yrs Yun Lai (Clouds Arriving) #7542, was also extraordinary. The Hong Kong Internet tea vendors sell excellent tea, and the minor inconvenience of international transaction is well worth the effort for those who wish to pursue aged pu’er.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Geraldo on Fo Cha Ji Ai Luo Mountain Premium Raw Puerh from Yunnan Sourcing, LLC

[from an email to corax. posted by permission.]

Tasting Date: 5/23/06
Type: Raw (Sheng) Beeng Cha
Vintage: 2002
Process: Sun-dried, leaves hand separated, large leaves removed, centuries-old trees
Manufacturer: Fo Cha Ji Factory,
Grade & Region: Premium, small leaves, unblended from Al Luo Mountain
Leaf Appearance: Dry leaf: Tight compacted, very dark green. Wet leaf: Very bright olive green, incredibly uniform leaves, long and skinny, slow to unfurl. No chopped leaves evident. No stems.
Leaf Weight & Vessel: 7.5g in 7oz yixing vessel
Brewing Temperature: 185F-195F
Infusion Times: 15s, 10s, 15s, 20s, 25, 30s, 40s, 1m

Note: I prepared this from a sample. I have seen a beeng cha, and it looked very uniform and carefully compressed.

Liquor Appearance: First two infusions a little cloudy, very light gold. Excellent clarity on third infusion. Color darkens in third and fourth steeps. In the eighth infusion, the liquor begins to lighten.

Aroma: Light smoke and grain in first infusions. Light mint aroma in fifth and sixth infusions.

Flavor: In first two infusions, initial sweet honey tones. In third and fourth infusions, crisp apple notes, light & pleasant smoke persisting. Very pleasant tartness on sides and back of tongue as liquor cools. Very nice cooling effect in the aftertaste. Wonderful spring water flavor. In the fifth and sixth infusions, the smooth spring water flavor persists. As the tea cools, it becomes slightly sweet. Very satisfying and literally mouth-watering.

Infusions: In the eighth infusion, this pu’er still tastes very good.

Overall: This is a very, very good 4yo pu’er. My only concern is the light aroma—it’s too understated. What aroma is present (light smoke, mint, fruit) is very enticing. Other than this one very minor detail, this pu’er is just great. I intend to purchase several beeng chas at the first opportunity. In the Young Beeng Cha Category, I give this a five on a scale of five. The unblended composition is delicious.