Tuesday, May 29, 2007

2005 Haiwan "Lao Tong Zhi" Te Ji Ripe Puerh

Introduction and Disclaimer

After the first three Teacuppa shupu samples were thoroughly disappointing, I felt that I should post about a good shupu. This is one of the many teas Salsero has generously sent me as part of his "Second Best Teahouse" tasting event.

Disclaimer: I'm horribly inexperienced with puerh, so please bear with me.

Haiwan Lao Tong Zhi Dry LeafDry Leaf

Everyone seems to say that shupu (aka cooked or black puerh) dry leaves look boring, and despite my "devil's advocate" tendencies, I have to admit— it just looks like a hunk of brown, organic... stuff. If someone had shown this to me a few years ago, I never would have guessed that it was tea.

The aroma is actually quite pleasant— many of the other shupu samples I have tried (not from Salsero, mind you) have smelled pond-like and downright unhealthy. The aroma of this one was grainy, malty, and sweetly earthy. (It wasn't a bad earthy, but there was definitely a touch of something that wasn't just malt or grain, and earthy is the best I could come up with.)


Approx. 4g broken up cake in a prewarmed zisha gaiwan. Boiling tap water (good tasting tap water). Rinse, 10s, 12s, 15s, 18s, 20s, 25s.


The first infusion was a bit weak (though I should probably wash it twice anyway), but otherwise the parameters produced a sultry, dark brown liquor. I probably could have done more infusions, but I didn't really feel like taking it any further. Haiwan Lao Tong Zhi InfusionThe clarity of the brew was good, but I did notice some dust settle at the bottom of the cup after a while, so it wasn't perfect.

The taste was smooth and malty, but also grainy and sweet, reminiscent of un-sugared cereal. I thought this was quite tasty, but it remained more or less unchanged throughout the tasting session so it wasn't all that interesting. There was one point where I did taste something a little off, perhaps a bit like rubber (though I would not have arrived at this had I not read some other reviews of this same tea). For the most part though, it was undetectable.

I brewed this again with more leaf (5g), and noticed more of the rubber taste, so it seems that the key to getting this tea right is to use a little less leaf. 4g produced a good, solid round of infusions, so there's no reason to increase the amount of leaf anyway.


In my notes I wrote that this was "not too complex, but enjoyable, calming, and soothing. A 'by the fireplace curled up in a blanket' kind of tea." I think that just about sums it up. This is not something to really ponder over and analyze— it's just something to sit down and relax with. Overall, this tea gets a 6.5/10.

***Note: I am starting to deflate my ratings a bit, as I'm still in the learning phase. What I considered a 9 a few months ago may just be an 8 now, and it is likely that this trend will continue. So, while a 6.5/10 seems quite low, be aware that I'm leaving room for any great teas I may find in the future. As C.S. Lewis once said, "Don’t say ‘infinitely’ when you mean ‘very’ otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite."***


Salsero said...

Let me testify to the difficulty of reading about shu while drinking The Simple Leaf's Firefly Darjeeling. I have enough difficulty sorting out my mixed feelings about Firefly without adding the imagined tastes and textures of this shu to the confusion.

I've only brewed the Lao Tong Zhi once myself, but as I tend to do with shu, I brewed strong:

6.0 g in 100 ml gaiwan, off boil: flash rinse, infusions: 1 m, 1 m, 2 m, 1 m, 2 m

Overbrewing does not seem to be an issue with shu!

For me also there was something unusual about it, perhaps just that (as Hop has said) it is less sweet and more tasting of grains than expected. On the other hand, I didn't find that "rubbery" or "industrial" quality that you and VL refer to. I will brew up a second batch tonight to look for it, although I'm not so sure I want to find it! It's like looking under the bed for the bogey man: success is sometimes the worst kind of failure.

In my short experience with shu, I also have not found anything tending toward the "infinite" of your apt C. S. Lewis quotation. The best have been comforting, rather monotone, and very satisfying, with over-the-top sweetness and a chocolately feel to them, but nothing like a complex fine tea. There may be great shu in the world, but from my experience so far I place them in the comfort food class alongside grilled cheese sandwiches.

Thank you for the sensitive evaluation of the tea on its own terms.

(BTW, there also exists a sheng tea of the same name by Haiwan. My original plan was to send the sheng to the 2nd BTH guests, but Scott accidentally sent me this -- more expensive -- cake instead. Once I told him about the mistake, he immediately shipped out the correct beeng, which is still in the long China mail. I hope to be able to include the sheng in the next SBT event.)

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed your post on this Pu-erh. It must have been a fun day.

I too am very inexperienced in pu-erh but have tried some recently and become fascinated with it. So many questions to dig into. Kind of why I started my goofy little blog. To share my journey.

Curious which brew you liked best?

Well, so much to enjoy. I'm actually drinking a pu-erh now that I picked up from Ten Ren tea shop here near Washington D.C. Ended up liking the one that cost half as much.

But that's the cool thing about this - every cup of a new tea, every new brew of that same tea leaf is a slightly different experience.

I'm yapping too much. I appreciate your writing.


Brent said...


Thanks for the comment, I'm glad you liked the post! I'm sorry though; it has been so long since I wrote this that I forget which steep I liked most.

May I ask where I can find your blog? I'd like to read it sometime.

Thanks again,

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