Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Feng Huang Tuo Cha of 2002 & 1991

Maker: Dali Nan Jian Tea Factory
Origin: Wuliang Mountain
Spring 2002: 100 gr Te Ji (special grade) raw puerh Tuo Cha (below left)
Spring 1991: 100 gr raw puerh Tuo Cha(below right)

This 2002 Feng Huang (Phoenix) Tuo Cha is hard but 'flakable' by hand. This allows careful separation of the leaves. Preserving their integrity, not breaking them, reduces bitterness and astringency in the brew.

This raw puerh has benefited from 6 years of storage in the hot and humid climate of Guangzhou before being recently shipped to Taiwan. There, it has evolved faster without loosing its raw character. Some typical storage smell is still noticeable in the dry leaves. The brewed leaves, on the other hand, display smoky smells that transform into mushroom and forest smells as the brews progress.
My brewing advice for this raw Tuo Cha is to first rinse the leaves and start with shorter brews in the beginning. You will see quickly realize that its taste and cha qi is quite powerful. (I had it one evening and couldn't sleep afterwards!) This initial strength will decrease after a few brews and bring a pure mellow and sweet tastes. The aftertaste is very long: it starts with a cool feeling in the mouth, a salivation and a numb tongue. And with fragrances (tobacco, camphor, nuts, chocolate...) that keep changing brew after brew, this tea is quite entertaining!

For less than 10 USD, I find this Tuo Cha is a good bargain to experience an already adolescent puerh. After 6 years, it still has the strength and some cool freshness of a young raw puerh, but it has also started to clearly turn mellow with fruitier, darker fragrances.

A comparison of both Tuo Cha: 2002 above and 1991 below.: And with the Spring 1991 Feng Huang Tuo Cha, it is interesting to see how an earlier Tuo Cha from the same tea factory has evolved. The color of the raw pressed leaves is darker. Especially the buds have turned darker. Their color is often a good reference point to estimate the age of a raw puerh.

The color of the brew is much darker, but transparent and shiny. The major difference comes from the old wood and camphor smells. And they are even longer lasting. But the mouth doesn't feel heavy. There's still a feeling of freshness on the tongue. Like the 2002 version, this is a slow starter. The first brews are better kept short and most sweetness comes out later.
It's been several weeks now since I've started to taste these 2 teas and test them with various brewing parameters and vessels. Most of the time, I have used porcelain (competiton set or gaiwan) to minimize the impact of a good clay and drink them without outside 'enhancers'! And as I have learned about these leaves and their potential and their limits, I have learned to brew them better and better. The fun of tea is also to feel how each tea is different and what is the best way to brew it. But I also tested this 1991 Tuo Cha with my Shantou teapot in parallel with a gaiwan: the taste was so different, so much deeper, full of body and mellow.

Due to its age, the 1991 Feng Huang Tuo Cha is more expensive. This is why I will also propose it as a 20 gr sample so that more of you can have an opportunity to compare it with the 2002 Tuo Cha.
Voyez aussi le blog Comme dans un livre pour une description du Tuo Cha de 2002 en français.


Thomas said...

hi Stéphane,

Nice post! very complete.

Do you know the origine of the name "feng huang"?


(p.s. You have put the same picture twice on you post, but not on the same position, It's fun because the two looks different like that...)

TeaMasters said...

Hi Thomas,
I have no idea about Feng Huang.
You have a very good eye for the pictures. I have now replaced one with a slightly different one.

Soïwatter said...

For the 2002 Tuo, I completely agree with you for the brewing advice and the qi. It's really a good experiance, for only a few €. As ever, thx! I'll maybe try a sample of the second Tuo in my next order, for comparison. And the red Cha Bu with the Phoenix is really nice!

Philippe said...

Sympa ta photo en forme de patchwork de Tuo Cha !

geneviève meylan said...

vraiment très très intéressant cette comparaison entre ces 2 tuo cha .
... les photos sont aussi très belles avec le jeu entre le papier des tuo et ce tissu merveilleux avec des oiseaux : ferait-il partie des articles "en vente"?

TeaMasters said...

Oui, Gingko, je les ai rajouts à ma sélection.

Merci Philippe. Ce tissu, je l'avais acheté à Bali il y a quelques années. C'est un Sarong à la base, le costume traditionnel, mais on peut s'en servir pour la plage ou comme nappe. Et c'est une jolie coincidence d'avoir ces phoenix comme motifs.

AshleyAnna said...

Hello Stephane,
Your comparison is very well explained and I am extremely intreaged by that 1991 Puerh! My boyfriend was born that year, and I would lie to surprise him with a puerh from then! Where could I purchase this tea in America or online?
Thank You!

TeaMasters said...


Sorry, this tea is sold out. Thanks for your interest.

Unknown said...

hey stephane. i found your blog when googling. i was wondering if you can help me to identify the year for this feng huang tuo cha. i was told by the vendor it's a sheng from 1999 but quite skeptical.


TeaMasters said...

It's almost impossible to date puerh precisely with photographs. Even the same puerh stored in 2 different places would evolve differently and lead you to think that one is younger than the other...