Monday, December 14, 2015

Puer - 2006, 2007, 1995

Puer - Puerh - Pu-er

Oh, how people love to tell stories about puer. The "drinkable antique" fills books, Facebook groups, and hundreds upon hundreds of blog posts. I find it fascinating how people are head-over-heels about puer, but not necessarily other teas, especially considering that we know the least about most of these puers compared to other teas. Ages of trees are thrown around like facts when really it is all made up. Varietals are tossed around like soccer balls, when really again, we know hardly anything. Even the location of the harvest is largely made up, yet people will stake their lives on so-called "single origin" puers. The puer market is one giant illusion, with little transparency and jianghu players throughout.

But that rant is for a later post, when I, naive as I am, have more knowledge and education surrounding this tea. The main point here is that if you are a tea buyer - hold off on puers until you get a good handle on the truth behind them, or if you must have a few for your customers, focus on shou or cooked puers that come from the main "factories".

Yunnan and Pu'er. The main centers are listed: Xishuangbanna and the Six Tea Mountains, Lincang, Dali, Dehong, and Pu'er.

2006 Dali Xiaguan Jia Ji Sheng

I have been sitting on this sheng for a couple years now, and put it out recently or our customers to enjoy. Pulling the tuocha's out of the tong was a magical experience, as the smell oozed out and began to pervade my nostrils. Breaking apart the tuocha was perhaps even better, as the aroma rose and coated my fingers, leaving the residue of a properly aged puer for me to enjoy. The tea had hints of spice and black pepper at the front, mellowing to a smooth finish with hints of sweetness and hay towards the end. Drinking the tea was a pleasure, and the effects lasted long after the last drop had been drunk - I continued to taste the tea for several hours after. It proved to be a great seller, and we quickly went through our 5 tuochas. I put one last one aside to age for a few more years, and then gave the remainder of one tuocha to some friends to try.

The tuocha before being broken up.

As we roll through winter here in Colorado, I will continue to pull out various sheng and shou puers for people to enjoy. I find winter to be the prime drinking season for puers, and plan on featuring several rare ones for people to try over the next several months.

I came across this print by Utagawa Toyokune, the great master of ukiyo-e and found it relevant to my current thoughts around puer. Although it is a print of kabuki scene in Japan, it illustrates the intrigue, mystery, and showmanship surrounding puer in the contemporary market.

2007 and 1995 Mao Cha Sheng

A couple years ago I bought a couple pounds of a 2007 and a 1995 loose sheng from a particular vendor. I've sat on these, continuing to age them, as well as bring them out from time to time to share with friends and others. To me, these illustrate perfectly the real puer market before and at the height of the boom. Little information is known on these shengs, other than they come from Xishuangbanna and the year they were harvested. At the time, prior to the re-invention of puer and especially pressed puer from Yi Wu and other villages around 2004, most was harvested and then sold to "factories" for fine processing. That is the case with these - most likely a mixture of "wild arbor", "terrace", and other leaves all mixed. Most was probably turned into shou puer at the factories, but some was set aside and aged as mao cha such as this. The flavor profile fits the location of Xishuangbanna, but beyond that it is hard to pin-point much more. The 2007 has aged well, mellowing into a nice sheng that is fairly easy to approach. The 1995 is even better, with more complexity in the flavor profile - including some interesting notes of spice, wood, and fruit.

2007 Mao Cha Sheng

1995 Mao Cha Sheng

A very nice pluck coming from 1995, demonstrating the quality of this sheng.

Now for the numbers...

2006 Dali Xiaguan Jia Ji Sheng

TDS - 86
PH - 7.49
Temp - 165

Brewed Tea
TDS - 407
PH - 5.85
Temp - 155

TDS - 321
PH - 1.64

2007 Mao Cha Sheng

TDS - 73
PH - 7.32
Temp - 160

Brewed Tea
TDS - 400
PH - 6.05
Temp - 156

TDS - 327
PH - 1.27

1995 Mao Cha Sheng

TDS - 76
PH - 7.57
Temp - 165

Brewed Tea
TDS - 240
PH - 6.17
Temp - 153

TDS - 164
PH - 1.40

What do the numbers reveal? Well, preliminary data suggests that the ages of the puers are correct. The 2007 and 2006 extract almost the same as a fresh green, but less than an oolong or a shou. The 1995, because of it's age, did not extract as much, resulting in a lower TDS difference. The only other tea showing these characteristics so far are charcoal roasted Da Hong Pao's. Logically, this makes sense, as the older the tea, the harder it is to get them to "open up". Likewise, the more roasted an oolong, the harder it is to get it to "reveal itself to you."

But really, all of the above is beyond the point. Tea, and drinking tea, is about sharing and enjoying with friends. So, I end with this photo of a good puer session I had recently with friends. Enjoy!

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