Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Learning about puerh can help you save a lot of money

Aged sheng puerh is the Holy Grail of gongfu cha drinkers. As prices of cakes from the 1970s reach 20,000 to 30,000 USD, they have become the dream of all the serious puerh drinkers. And for this class, I have prepared some sheng leaves from the 70s to show my student what such tea is all about.

But before that, I wish to show the difference between a real aged sheng and a well made imitation. So, we compare these 2 teas: a 1999 and a 1985 sheng.

Can you spot which of the 2 was actually made in the 2000s and is faking its age?
We use gaiwans to brew the 2 teas. And 2 sets of ivory porcelain cups. The color difference is more obvious in the singing cups, but the flower cups are more suitable for the cold weather. Here, the answer is much more obvious, but only if you know that one is a fake.
First brew
Below are the 2 puerhs. Any idea which one is genuinely aged?
 Maybe you wish to have a look at the spent leaves to identify them:
Spotting a fake can help you save a lot of money and it will prevent you from purchasing tea pretending to be older than its actual age.
Of course, the biggest difference is in the taste (and especially in the aftertaste or its lack of aftertaste) and in the fragrances. But this is easier experienced than explained in an article. That is why I have created this puerh sampler in order to taste both teas, s shu puerh as well as the next one:

Below and cup: 1985 loose sheng puerh.  Above: 1970s puerh.
Spoiler alert! The answer is about to be unveiled. In order to show that the first 1985 was a fake, we brew a real 1985 loose sheng puerh. The color of the brew is lighter. It has more aftertaste, but that aftertaste is more refined than the 1999.
1970s sheng puerh
After that, we move to the 1970s loose sheng puerh. We brew it once in a gaiwan to compare it fairly with the other 3 puerhs. Then, we use a small shantou teapot in order to get more out of the leaves. And we are surprised by the fact that the brew from the gaiwan came out very clean and beautiful, almost like from the teapot. It's as if it doesn't need to have its edges polished by the porous clay of the teapot.
The other advantage of the clay teapot over the porcelain gaiwan is that it keeps the brew at a higher temperature on a cold day. This means a better extraction of flavors.
I can't start to explain the pleasure we enjoyed with this 40 + years old puerh. Antonio said that this is a tea that makes you meditate. It overwhelms you with its peaceful force and brings quiet to your mind.
The color of that second brew in the flower cup above is very dark. In the singing cup below, it seems to shine. What a beautiful tea! No wonder it has become a holy grail for which rich Chinese are willing to spend a lot of money despite the risk of getting a fake! The most common way they make sure is that their puerh tea is old is by trusting the packaging. An old wrapper gives the customer a certain reassurance about the age of the tea. However, it's relatively easy to forge a wrapper and I don't recommend trusting the packaging. The best is to learn how aged puerh taste and then trust your own taste to recognize genuine aged from faked leaves!
This tea feels like Christmas!

1 comment:

toni3d said...

To Anybody passing by Taiwan I highly recommend contacting Stéphane! Trying these pieces of history and learning about them is such a pleasure.