Thursday, January 28, 2010

Old sheng? puerh

A kind reader sent me a sample of a 'mid 1960s sheng loose puerh'. Such an old puerh is supposed to taste divine. After a rinse and 2 brews, it didn't feel clean and smooth in the mouth and along the throat. I decided to stop brewing it and switch to my early 1970s raw loose puerh. The dry leaves and the smell are very similar. The big difference between these 2 teas are the wet leaves. After 2 brews, I fished out some from the teapot for comparison. See Above. Can you guess which is really sheng?

The mouthfeel of my early 1970s is completely comfortable and, 3 hours after drinking it, I can still feel the sweet and powerful aftertaste.

Yesterday's Cha Xi is also a good fit for my zhuni teapot and qinghua porcelain. The zhuni and the brew bring a warm touch to a sea of blue.

Now that the tea in my tea cup feels right and delicious, I can switch my mindset from critical and investigative to happy and thankful. With tea pleasure, my mind is set free and can enjoy all aspects of my Cha Xi.

For instance, I can enjoy the peaceful harmony of this black glazed bowl made by hand by my friend Michel.


Update: On the subject of the color of the spent leaves, I have received several comments and e-mails. Let me summarize and add some important points:

- The black leaves on the right are typical of shu puerh ; however, not all shu puerh is as black. Sometimes, the wo dui process is shorter or lighter and doesn't result in such a level of dark color.

- The sheng leaves on the left show leaves with varying colors and darkness. The leaves and stems with most moisture will turn darkest over time (in the humid climate of Asia). Seeing a portion of black leaves is normal and doesn't necessarily mean it's a mix of sheng and shu. (A pure taste will say if it's a mix or not).

- 30 years ago, the manufacturers would have recipes and use different grades, different kinds of leaves in their production. That's why it is normal to see very diverse leaves. Having very similar leaves is a modern trend.

17 comments:

Arno said...

Sheng on the left ?

(Green leaves versus dark leaves)

slurp said...

If one is really sheng, what is the other one?

Stephane said...

You are right Arno!

Slurp,
Well, if it isn't sheng, it is shu, cooked puerh that has been processed in a way that imitates aging very well. The dry leaves and the smell were very similar. It's the taste that was way off. And then the leaves.

There are some very fine shu puerhs. But this wasn't one of them.

A good benchmark is important to judge these things. This kind of tuition fee is money well spent to know how a right tea tastes and feels like.

slurp said...

was there shu around in the mid-60's? Did your reader say where it came from?

Soïwatter said...

Hi! Stephane..
It's been a long time I've not commented.

I like this kind of games... These visual guesses helps to deal with our own teas.

I've never tasted more than 30 y.o pu er; so I've no comparisons. But for what I know from the middle age sheng and shu I'm used to, I can make some guesses.

First : Shu are generally darker than the left one, even youngest ones.
I mainly drunk wet or european storage that are more "aging" than Xishuanbanna dry storage. And the 80's and early 90's sheng I've tasted were darker. So I can guess that, if age is true, left must be a dry stored sheng cha.

Secondly : petioles and stems are generally broken during wo dui: leaved turns soft and are repetitively shuffled with shovels... no mercy for the poor stems... And there are many leaves attached to their stems on the left one...

Third point: fermentation colouring is not uniform on the left one (if it is not the photo). Wo dui create quite uniform colouring, and loose Shu pu ehr suffer generally longer wo dui process, so colouring is very uniform...
So left seems to be a sheng cha.

Right leaves are amazing... Amazingly dark. A better view of the leafs separated would be interesting for better guess. In this dark heap, it is quite difficult to distinguish the leaves.

However, some guesses are possible.
As far Is I'm concerned, This in no sheng cha. Too dark... As charcoal... As if burned...

I've never seen so dark leaves in shu pu. Generally Yunnan wo dui method brings something brownish : chocolate brown to be more precise. I've seen so dark leaves only with Lui An and Liu Bao Hei Cha. Maybe a clue for better guesses and comparisons...

And you, what do you think about this tea, have you some remaining grams for better comparison, or have you other guesses?

Soïwatter said...

@slurp:
I've read that wuo dui methode has been Developed in Liu An region between 30's and 50's and have begun to slowly spread to Yunnan at the end of 50's...
But I don't think that there is 50's or 60's Shu, because at the beginning and in Liu An and Guang Dong, wo dui has been developped to create quickly drunk and cheep teas (Liu Bao remains cheap tea for dim sum restaurants in GuangZhou, with some exceptions)
And so was it in Yunnan: tea for butter milk tea, and tea for the army...

Stephane said...

Slurp,
Teaparker told us that the wo dui process already existed during the Qing dynasty! However, you are right to point out that Yunnan didn't use it in the 1960s. I have no further information about that tea. Obviously, it wasn't made in the 1960s and is more recent.

Soiwatter,
While it can be interesting to study fakes, I prefer to focus on genuine teas. That's where the pleasure is! (Museums also only exhibit originals and not the countless versions of copies of these artworks.)

slurp said...

It seems a pity though that a reader sent you a tea that he obviously enjoyed and wanted to share with you, but you instead drink a couple of infusions, declare it fake and turn to show people how much better your tea is.

>Now that the tea in my tea cup feels right and delicious, I can switch my mindset from critical and investigative to happy and thankful.

Shouldn't you have been happy and thankful to begin with?

Stephane said...

Slurp,
If this reader had sent a tea he truly finds amazing to share with me, what I did would indeed be a rude thing to do openly.

However, I also receive samples from readers who are seeking my opinion. This is especially true with old Puerh and old Oolong.

If you're best friend asks what you think of his girlfriend, what will you tell him? What he wants to hear or what you really think?

In tea, tastes can differ and what one likes isn't what the other likes. There are obviously people who like to drink this wo dui puerh. It's fine with me and didn't intend to offend them.

However, we also say that the leaves don't lie. Here, they were saying that they are not sheng and not from the 60s. I think the comparison in the picture made this obvious. You can choose not to believe what I say, but you can't dispute what your eyes see.

(By the way, I didn't answer your previous question. I don't know where this tea comes from. And I'm not interested to know.)

I hope this could clear the misunderstanding. Thanks for voicing it and giving me the opportunity to answer it.

Beschuit said...

Well, Stephane. This is a truly enlightening experience and maybe also true for your reader who sent you the aged pu'er which he/ she might have mistaken for raw pu'er.

The comparison was great and I would like to add a bit of my mustard to this thread.

Yes, very coincidentally we brewed some yunnan raw pu'er (qing1 bing3) followed by the aged pu'er at a local teahouse today. What I noticed even before brewing the leaves of the raw pu'er, is the differences in colour as compared to the old pu'er cake. With the qing1 bing3, one will notice white specks of leave buds in a fairly green compacted cake. With the regular pu'er cake, the colour is much darker and uniform - so less color variation. Also, the leaves in the former seem more loosely packed.

-shumin

Marilyn said...

A gorgeous tea bowl. Fascinating taste test too.

Petr Novák said...

What astonished me is how big and above all unbroken are leaves on the left. Raw puers I have or I have drunken have usually smaller leaves and if there are stems then the leaves are separate from them. Is it because –as suggested Soïwatter- dry storage for a long time or is it character of this tea itself? I have no experiences with so old teas, but I thought that it becomes darker and darker as years flow… now I see that it was probably wrong image I had.

Stephane said...

Thank you Marilyn and Beschuit!

Petr,
My old loose raw puerh leaves are from old trees. This is why they are quite big and strong: they break less easily.

With age, the leaves turn darker, but not entirely black. And, as you brew them, the color tends to lighten up a little.

You can also look at the pictures of puerh cakes (qing bing) in the Chinese auctions and see that the color isn't black.

Soïwatter said...

Petr,

That was not my point...

As Stephan said, old trees have bigger, livelier and stronger leaves. But this is also generally true for wild versus plantation, and for natural seedling versus clone, and it depends also on the picking philosophy. If you have already seen Yiwu or Menghai area centuries old wild trees' leaves...

Depending on the picking area, tree age, wildness and leaves grades used for pressing the cakes, you will have more small or big leaves, and more or less unbroken leaves. And raw loose leaves are quite seldom, and as shu loose leaves are quite depreciated, impressing leaves are generally used to make a difference...

My comment on storage concerned the color. The left leaves color is very bright for such an old tea. If you whant a comparison on a loose leaves raw, you can see the photos on the post I made on a '98 loose that has been stored for years in Europe. As you can see, the color is already quite dark for a 12 year sheng. Dry leaves were also barely distinguishable from loose shu pu from the same years. But it does not taste like a shu. As you can see leaves are also quite big...

What astonish me is the black color of the right leaves. All the shu pu I've steeped remained brown (very dark brown sometimes but brown) These are black... Amazing!

Petr Novák said...

Stephane and Soiwatter,

Thank you for helping me to make it more clear. I am kind of beginner on the field of Puer tea.
I have “examined” my teas more carefully and I have only puer from “Single Estate Wild Arbor” mao cha- so not from trees older than 140 years.

That one thing I love on tea- never ending story of learning and findings.

Stephane said...

Soiwatter, thanks for your comment. I have added this update to this article:

- The black leaves on the right are typical of shu puerh ; however, not all shu puerh is as black. Sometimes, the wo dui process is shorter or lighter and doesn't result in such a level of dark color.

- The sheng leaves on the left show leaves with varying colors and darkness. The leaves and stems with most moisture will turn darkest over time (in the humid climate of Asia). Seeing a portion of black leaves is normal and doesn't necessarily mean it's a mix of sheng and shu. (A pure taste will say if it's a mix or not).

- 30 years ago, the manufacturers would have recipes and use different grades, different kinds of leaves in their production. That's why it is normal to see very diverse leaves. Having very similar leaves is a modern trend.

acundy11 said...

Finding more about tea excites me a lot and makes me feel that I need to research more too! I've never tried tea like this before and looks like I have to find a way on how to experience it