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."***

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Teacuppa Tea Tasting Part 1: Shupu

I'm back! Sorry for my long hiatus, but don't worry, I have a bunch of notes all set to go, so it's just a matter of organizing them into reviews and taking a couple pictures. Also, for those of you who aren't familiar with the little Teacuppa tea tasting thing that's going on, I suggest looking up Hobbes' The Half-Dipper, as he is the driving force behind the whole thing, and explains this much more eloquently than I ever could.

You might also notice that these are my first puerh reviews on Tea Nerd, so a great deal of history is being made! I should point out that I have very little experience with puerh, so my misguided fumblings are likely not very accurate or representative of the teas themselves. Anyway, without further ado, I present the first three samples, which are all shupu (cooked puerh).

Puerh A Dry LeafPuerh A:


4.5g leaf; 90mL gaiwan; 8s wash, 15s, 20s, 20s, 35s, 45s.

Dry Leaf:

There is something awry with this sample. It smells like a wet log (I'm guessing this is the imfamous "pondy" smell/taste), but the most disconcerting part was the feel of the bit of cake I had. It felt unusually pliable, perhaps even a little wet. All in all, weird.

Tasting Notes:

1: Light color, good clarity. Tastes pondy, slightly sour (not necessarily bad sour). Little malt or grain.

2: Slightly darker color, but still light. Still good clarity. Pretty much unchanged flavor.

Puerh A Infusion3: About the same as before. Perhaps just a touch fruity?

4: Darker color. Little has changed in terms of flavor, though.

5: Darker again. Very pondy, not too pleasant.

Overall Impressions:

Perhaps I didn't use enough leaf, which may explain the thin body and light color, but honestly I think I'm glad I didn't. There was nothing I really liked about this tea. For the most part, it just tasted like pond, or wet vegetation. Also, the pliability of the cake was a bit odd, and had me put off from the beginning. Overall, a 2/10.

Puerh B Dry LeafPuerh B:


4.5g leaf; 90mL gaiwan; 10s wash, 15s, 20s, 20s, 30s.

Dry Leaf:

Mostly loose, some intact bits of cake. Not strangely pliable like sample A, which is a good thing. Has some wet log / pond aroma, but not as bad as sample A. Some maltiness (though not much), which was nice.

Tasting Notes:

1: Assam-like color, decent clarity. Some pond flavor, some malt/grain. I'm not sure if this is right... but I think I can taste a hint of camphor.

Puerh B Infusion2: Darker color, but still not *that* dark. Thicker mouth-feel, pretty much same flavor.

3: Same color, stronger pond flavor. Medium-thin liquor.

4: Darker color, more pond. Not worth pursuing any further.

Overall Impressions:

Though not as awful as sample A, this is still pretty bad. There was a lot of pond/wet log flavor, and nothing really enjoyable except a tiny bit of maltiness. The only things making this sample better than sample A are the better cake texture and the better aroma. A 2.5/10.

Puerh C Dry LeafPuerh C:


5.1g leaf; 90mL gaiwan; 8s wash, 18s, 20s, 25s, 30s, 50s.

Dry Leaf:

Some pond smell, a little sweet honey-like aroma. Tight looking cake, relative to the other two samples. Not pliable like sample A.

Tasting Notes:

1: Thin, boring. A bit woody, a bit pondy, not much else. Not as smooth as samples A and B. Nice astringency, but not quite what I seem to like in shupu (from my limited experiences).

Puerh C Infusion2: Darker, smoother, but same flavors.

3: Same as previous infusion, with a nice cooling sensation on the tongue.

4: Lighter; probably needs more time in the next infusion. A bit sharp and off-tasting, though.

5: Overwhelmingly pondy and not pleasant.

Overall Impressions:

Not as offensive as sample A, but quite boring. Probably not as enjoyable as sample B, but close enough to earn a 2.5/10 as well.


Frankly, I was pretty disappointed by these samples. It is entirely possible that I brewed them wrong or don't have the trained palatte needed to review these, but I am quite sure that these are not the "cream of the crop" as far as shupu goes. As for the identification portion... the three cakes are 2005 CNNP Shupu, 2005 Luxi 8821 Shupu, and 2005 Menghai Tiandiren Shupu. I have no idea what the three could be, so I'm going to hedge my bets and guess the following:

A: 2005 CNNP Shupu
B: 2005 CNNP Shupu
C: 2005 CNNP Shupu

No, I do not think they are identical samples, but this way I am confident that one of my guesses will be correct. Lame? Yes. Statistically sound? I think so.

Stay tuned for the Teacuppa shengpu sample reviews, and a couple other teas I've tasted outside of the Teacuppa event. I haven't tasted the three shengpu samples yet, but I will soon, I promise!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

News Flash!

A few updates about what's going on at the moment:

Bad News (for you readers):

I just got home from school, so I'm relaxing and not on the computer as much anymore. I also decided, stupidly, to ship my teaware home with some other stuff, instead of packing it in my suitcase. Also, I'm going on vacation for a week, and I haven't decided if I'm going to bring tea yet.

The combination of these three things means I am drinking less tea and I am less likely to post here. Don't worry though, I'll get back into the swing of things once my stuff gets here and once I get back from vacation.

Good News:

I have about a billion tons of tea here or in the mail, so I will have plenty of reviewing material. What am I getting? Well, since you asked...

Salsero's Second Best Teahouse Samples (thanks again Salsero!):
• Mokalbari SFTGFOP1 Assam
• Everyday Milan Dan Cong from Jing Tea Shop
• Premium Da Hong Pao from Yunnan Sourcing (ebay)
• Yiwu Mao Cha from Dragon Tea House (ebay)
• 2005 Haiwan "Long Tong Zhi" Te Ji Ripe Puerh from Yunnan Sourcing (ebay)
• 2006 Six Famous Tea Mountain Ripe Puerh from Yunnan Sourcing (ebay)
• 2000 Haiwan Gu Hua Puerh from Jing Tea Shop
• 2006 Menghai Dayi 7432 Premium Raw Puerh from China Gifts (ebay)
• 2005 Six Famous Tea Mountain Organic Raw Puerh (source unknown)

• 2007 Yukata Midori Kagoshima Shincha from O-Cha.com
• Feng Huang Milan Dancong from Jing Tea Shop
• Single Bush Xing Ren Dancong from Jing Tea Shop
• Single Bush Ba Xian Dancong from Jing Tea Shop
• Single Bush Yulan Dancong from Jing Tea Shop
• 2006 Menghai "Spring of Menghai" Raw Puerh from Yunnan Sourcing (ebay)
• Mystery Raw Puerh (will post pics soon) from Mountain View Tea Village and Gallery

As you can tell, I am pretty much rolling in tea (Luckily, most of these teas are coming as small samples). I also have a couple of cheapo yixing pots coming in the mail, in addition to the teapot, teacups, and fairness cup / sharing pitcher I bought today from a local tea shop (Mountain View Tea Village and Gallery). Unfortunately I underestimated just how small a 2-4oz teapot could be, and ended up getting a 5oz one by accident. Just paying my tuition, I guess!

Anyway, I think it's time I got back to lounging around. I'll be back soon!