September 29, 2016

Tea Q&A: Resting Puerh

When I posted the above photo to the Notes on Tea Instagram feed. In the caption, I wrote the following:
Did you know that puerh does not travel well? I did not so appreciate the advice to rest my 2016 Spring "Hidden Song" and "Jingmai LOVE" @crimsonlotustea.
The reason I mentioned resting the puerhs was because this suggestion is printed on the tea wrappers. A reader asked, "What does "does not travel well" and "resting it" mean?" I did not know the reason behind resting puerhs. I considered a web search to craft a response but decided to reach out to an expert, Crimson Lotus Tea. I am glad I did. I have posted their answer in its entirety below.
It's a good question. It's something I've experienced first handover the years and anecdotally from customers.

I've received puerh that has been shipped on boats that was different than when I packed it up. After time letting them acclimate they're back to what they should be. There's something about puerh that does not like being cooped up. It might have to do with environmental changes or altitude changes. I don't know what it is exactly. It could be any number of things. Or multiple things.

When we make the suggestion to let the puerh acclimate we're trying to give the puerh the best chance to have a great first experience. We occasionally get emails from customers who have had a bad experience with our puerh and our first suggestion is to tell them to let the tea rest a few weeks. They brew it again after letting it relax and the tea is amazing.

It's a tough journey for the tea after being packed up. It can be on hot boats left in the sun or heat. It can change altitude quickly in a plane. It can go from hot to cold and vice versa quickly.

Puerh, unlike other teas, is biologically alive. Extreme changes can affect it adversely.
Do you rest your puerhs? Have you drunk an unrested puerh and had a less than ideal tasting experience? Let me know in the comments!

September 28, 2016

La Colombe Tea & Tisane - Ancient Puerh

After conducting my first sensory evaluation of a ripe puerh with one of my tea teachers last week, I followed up the experience with a tasting of La Colombe's Ancient Puerh. Yes, the well-regarded coffee roaster has a tea line, and their tea consultant is Alexis Siemons of Teaspoons & Petals. La Colombe's Tea & Tisane line which launched on September 6th, includes eight teas, five of which are (and two of these are tisanes) and three loose teas. Like La Colombe's Workshop single origin and blended coffees, the loose teas will be rotated. The arrangement between La Colombe and its tea provider, Rishi Tea, is a co-branding private label. Although the teas were customized for La Colombe, you see the Rishi logo on many of the branding materials. How does a coffee company do tea well across its cafes? Every barista receives a two to three hour training. The sachet gram weights were designed for optimal steeping in La Colombe's 8 or 11 ounce cup sizes. The loose teas are prepared on dedicated Yama Silvertons. If you are not familiar with the Silverton, and I wasn't before my conversation with Alexis, it is a pour-over brewer that was originally designed to steep tea but was adopted by cafes to make pour over coffee. The infusion time for a loose leaf tea is approximately the same preparation time for a pour over coffee, so coffee drinkers inclined towards pour overs could more easily make the switch to loose teas especially with offerings like the Ruby Oolong or the Ancient Puerh, the latter of which is the topic of today's review.

I steeped 5.5 grams of leaf in approximately 8 ounces of 212F water for 5 minutes. The first infusion had a nice depth to it. It was balanced with a dark chocolate sweetness. The second infusion was much bolder with more mushroom and soil notes but also a deeper sweetness composed of dark chocolate and molasses. There was a vegetal sweetness present, too. This shou puerh had the same energetic effect on me as did the ripe Palace Mo Hei from Teanami.

Have you tried any of the teas and tisanes from La Colombe? I'd love to hear about your experience.

Thanks to Alexis Siemons for this and other samples of La Colombe teas and tisanes.

September 26, 2016

Learning to Evaluate Shou Puerh, a Review of Teanami Palace Mo Hei

The first time I drank puerh, and I think it was a shou, was when I lived in Berkeley, California, where I purchased a small amount of the tea at a Whole Foods Market. I did not enjoy the tea then nor on any of the subsequent occasions afterward until last week when I conducted a tasting of shou with Dr. Christine TN Wong, an independent consultant and educator. The tea I steeped was a 2007 Ripe Palace Mo Hei courtesy of Teanami. For evaluation purposes I used 3 grams of tea. The leaves were infused in 212F water for 3 minutes then 3.5 minutes.

The dry leaf smelled fungal, musty, and sweet (dried, red fruit). The leaves were pieces from a cake, were variations on brown, and were dry and rough.

The color of the first infusion was a dark red brown but as it poured looked inky. Describing the color was the simplest part of this tasting. Otherwise, the liquor was a cacophony of mouthfeel, taste, and smell. The tea tasted like eating a raw mushroom or wet cardboard or maybe like drinking mushroom juice. There was an underlying molasses sweetness as well as a dryness that I experienced in the roof and cheeks of my mouth. As the liquor cooled, it became thicker and heavier. All the flavor lingered. There wasn't a traditional smoky notes per se but I did detect a leather belt flavor (as in licking a leather belt). When pressed, I described the taste as drinking a lapsang souchong with milk.

The infused tea leaves were small and inconsistently sized. The leaves were all a dark red brown color after steeping and smelled deep, rich, and of mushrooms in a paper bag.

The liquor from the second infusion had the color of a zinfandel. The tea smelled again like mushrooms in a paper bag with a light sweet smell off the steam. The taste was fungal, funky, and of forest soil below the top layer of decomposing leaves. The mouthfeel was heavier than the first infusion but not dramatically so, and the flavors lingered here too. The infused leaves were lighter in color than after the first infusion but still had "legs", staining the gaiwan.

Overall, the aromatic profile of this tea is mushrooms in a paper bag and forest soil. The liquor from the first steep was bolder than the second one. The second infusion yield an integrated, smoother and sweeter tea. I felt heady after drinking this tea. The "webbing" effect that I first felt while drinking the second infusion intensified. I don't think I could drink a long session of shou.

How do you feel when you drink a ripe puerh?

September 20, 2016

Misty Peak Teas Rolled Puerh from Tea Box Express

Coincidentally, I drank two raw puerhs from Misty Peak Teas this year. Last week I reviewed a loose sheng I purchased at a paper shop in Georgetown DC. Today I am sharing my tasting notes of three mini tuocha I received in a subscription box courtesy of Tea Box Express. I don't know the year the leaves were harvested or rolled but I don't this this raw puerh was aged.

Before steeping the first of the three balls, I broke it up slightly. The remaining two balls were steeped intact (and separately). Each mini tuo weighted approximately 6.28 grams. For many of the infusions I used the recommended water temperature of 185F but increased the temperature in later steeps to extract more flavor. I also dramatically increased my steep time over the course of a session from 5s to 5m for a final infusion.

The dominant flavor during my first session was of a peach jam while the third session was all about variations camphor. During the first session I also detected durian. I am not a fan of durian but fortunately it was not an unpleasant note in the tea. While the first session yielded an oily liquor, the liquor from the third session was dry.

Other differences were related to my steeping parameters. During the first session, the final infusion was only 5 seconds long in 195F water and the liquor was smooth, dry, but mild tasting. For the second to last infusion of the third session, I used 200F water and a steep time of 5 minutes. The liquor was thick, bitter, medicinal/ herbal with camphor and freshly sawn cedar notes. I enjoyed the thicker mouthfeel, camphor and cedar notes, but the bitterness and medicinal taste were not to my liking. All these characteristics had faded by the next and final infusion using the same parameters.

Thanks to Tea Box Express for the subscription trial.

Here's a link to Misty Peak Teas.
Here's a link to Tea Box Express.

P.S. Are you wondering about my notes on the second session? I drank the second rolled puerh without recording my impressions.

September 13, 2016

Misty Peak Teas - 1 Year Puerh

Puerh comes in many forms. There are compressed forms and loose puerh. I've never purchased an entire bing or brick or square but I have had samples from them as well as (mini) toucha. Have you had puerh packed in a bamboo tube or in a tangerine peel? This post is about a young uncompressed raw puerh. It is a Misty Peak 1 year puerh that I purchased at a a stationery shop in Georgetown. Did you catch my post about my visit to Just Paper and Tea?

As I began selecting photos to illustrate the post, I remembered how much I liked the light in this one room of our house in Arlington, VA.

My steeping parameters were 5 grams with 185F water starting with a 10 second infusion and increasing by 10 seconds to the final infusion of 1 minute. The rinsed leaves released a perfume of apricot jam. After the leaves were infused for the first time, they acquired an earthy note. The first liquor tasted earthy with some sweetness and a bit of dryness on the edges of my tongue. There was a fresh hay note, too, alongside green bean, and the liquor thickened in mouthfeel as it cooled.

The 20 second steep was the most complex of the infusions. The leaves were various shades of green and brown untwisting into long and narrow shapes and smelling of blackcurrant liqueur and apricot jam. The liquor tasted of said jam and was thick, nutty (cashew or chestnut), and a bit dry like the inner part of the stone of a stone fruit.

The 30 and 40 second steeps were dry and nutty with a lingering sweetness. Much of the flavor from the 5 grams of leaves had been extracted at this point. A 50 second steep did not yield anything new or robust. I increased the temperature to 195F for the 60 second steep but what I experienced was mostly dryness with ghostly notes of stone fruit. I don't have the postcard any longer but I based my steeping parameters on the instructions printed in a card that accompanied the tea. I think I could have extracted more flavors and extended my session if I had used shorter steep times and a higher water temperature. How do you infuse young loose leaf sheng?

P.S. Misty Peak Teas is friends with the owner of Just Paper and Tea. I was given a 5% discount for mentioning that I follow Misty Peak Teas on social media.
Back to Top