2015 Puerh tea lineup (aka, when will you post the rest of your cakes??)

2015-Huangshanshu-puerh-tea

The Spring of 2015 was very interesting for us. We had some highs and lows and opened some very special doors for future productions. As I discussed in my previous post about pesticides in puerh tea, we had some setbacks and some shocks when we sent maocha for lab testing, but in the end we found some teas that we were very happy with and that passed also the lab tests.

I’ve had a few emails asking how many teas we pressed and when they’ll be made available, and I’m guessing many more of you are wondering the same, so I thought I’d answer the question here.

The magic number is….. four. Two of them I’ve made available online – the Huangshanshu 15 trees and the YunYa puerh tea. The other two will come later.

One is from Guafengzhai, which we’ve bought as maocha but didn’t get pressed in time before we left Yunnan. We hope to press it in September. The last, which we have pressed is another tea from YunYun. It’s a later harvest that has a little smoke in the flavour. We still have some cakes from there from last year in which the smoke has dissipated, so we decided to leave the new cakes to rest for a while before selling. The quality of the underlying tea is excellent and I’m very confident of it in the long term, so we’re not in a hurry to rush these cakes out the door.

Aside from these four teas, we made some very good contacts in Guafengzhai & Lincang who are growing chemical free old tree teas. I hope next Spring, we can include a line up of teas from them too.

Devastated!!! (aka pesticides and puerh tea in 2015)

We left Xishuangbanna quietly confident.  We’d found a number of candidates, some of the best maocha samples we thought we’d found since we’ve been making tea.  We tasted them and they were lovely.  Feeling no real need to, but just seeking confirmation, we sent the first two off to the lab to be tested for agrochemicals.  Today, we heard back.  They both had pesticide residues.

Puerh tea farmer with pesticide can, coming home from work

Puerh tea farmer with pesticide can, coming home from work

Travelling in China wreaks havoc on our tastebuds.  There’s chemicals in everything and they seem to sneak MSG into every other dish at restaurants, even if asked not to.  We didn’t taste the chemicals in these teas and, believe me, we were trying.  This kind of leaves me at a loss.  We bought 1 kg of each of these teas, so I’ll look forward to retasting them once back on home ground & I guess we’ll have some nice teas for a 2015 pesticide tasting set!!!  I’m still curious if we’ll be able to taste it at all, or whether this pesticide can evade our senses.

For those interested, both samples showed up with less than 0.03mg/kg of Cypermethrin, a toxin often used as an insecticide in agriculture, and in household ant and cockroach killer.

The EU Maximum residue limit for this chemical is 0.5mg/kg, so these teas are deemed safe enough to import and sell in the EU, and indeed it’s just a trace of this chemical found.  But would you want to drink it?  I don’t think I would.  Just a quick read of the Wikipedia page and I don’t really want to sample these teas again.

So for those who tell you pesticide isn’t used on old trees.  I say nonsense.  I wonder what you’d find if you started to send a selection of high-end puerh teas off to a lab.  I think you’d probably be shocked.

I kind of despair.  It gets more and more difficult to find clean teas each year.  Now we just have to send the rest of our candidates off for their lab test and keep our fingers crossed.

 

Ancient Tree Puerh Tea – recommendations pt.1

One of the most frequent email questions we receive is from customers asking for recommendations of special teas. For the newcomer and experienced drinker alike looking at our selection for the first time, it might seem a little overwhelming. I thought I’d write a few posts giving some insights into our offerings & some recommendations based on some common scenarios…

Give me the best of the best…

This is a pretty common scenario. When putting together an order, it can be hard to filter out the real gems. Here’s a few thoughts…

2014 Essence of Tea – Guafengzhai

This had previously ‘sold out’, but we had a few extra cakes stashed away.  I figured if I was going to write this article there was no point in recommending a tea that was sold out, so here you go… a few more cakes of our flagship tea available again for sale.

 

 

2008-feng-selected122008 Mr Feng Selected Trees

This was the tea that first made us sit up and take notice of Mr. Feng.  It’s thick in the mouth and incredibly active, still ‘fizzing’ with energy in the mouth when being drunk.

We really don’t often come across tea of this quality.

 
2004 Chang Yu Hao Yiwu2004-cyh-yiwu1_1

Our favourite from Malaysian brand ‘Chang Yu Hao’ .

This is great quality old tree Yiwu tea from a time when few teas of this purity were available.  The storage has been impeccable and should give you a good idea of the direction that great old tree cakes can take.

 

… ok, I really do want high quality tea, but those above are a little expensive.

This is the area that we tend to focus on with our offerings. Often the very top level teas attract a premium. They’re from areas that are sought after and famous, or the material they’re made from is exceptional in some way or another. Just below that are teas made from pure ancient tree material that don’t have the same financial premium attached. These can be very close in quality to the ones listed above.

 

2014 Yun Yun 2014 Essence of Tea – ‘Yun Yun’

This tea very much surprised me when we first tasted it.  There was a little smoke from the processing, but the raw material was of an astounding quality.

Now, a year on, the smoke has pretty much vanished, and what’s left is a thick and powerful ancient tree puerh.  I’m very happy we pressed this tea.

 

Bulang Ancient Tree Puerh Tea2008 Bulang Ancient Tree Puerh

Oily, thick, smooth & powerful.  What’s not to like.

This unassuming cake could easily slip under the radar, in favour of cakes with more appealing looking wrappers, but the quality of the leaves speaks for itself.  From the point of view of my recommendations, this  is definitely worth checking out.

 

 Puerh tea2000 Kai Yuan Green Stamp

Another of our Malaysian finds.  This is really a very good aged tea.  The base material is good, old tree, with plenty of strength & it has been stored well in Malaysia, giving good aged flavours with a purity that’s difficult to find in teas of this age.

 

 

 

 

I’m on a budget… I want something I can drink regularly without having to think about the price

Price is quite a personal matter. To some, these teas may still seem expensive. Unfortunately in the developed puerh tea market of the present day, to buy teas of a certain quality takes a little money. For this section, I’ve tried to select my picks of teas that we sell around or under the 20p/gram mark. Hopefully this will still offer tea sessions at a reasonable price.

2014 Puerh Tea2014 Essence of Tea “Long Lan Xu”

In terms of quality vs price, this was really my pick of the teas we pressed last year.  The old tree origins of the material and the vibrancy of the tea liquid is close in quality to teas several times it’s price.

As the cheapest tea we pressed last year, I think this is sometimes overlooked, but from my point of view, it’s the hidden gem amongst those pressings.

 

2007qishenggu12007 Essence of Tea “Qi Sheng Gu”

Next up, is our bargain pressing from the previous year.  This was from a farmer who’d been holding onto this tea, waiting for the price to rise.  In 2013 we were offered this for sale, at the same price as fresh 2013 tea, but the quality was much better and the tea had already been aged for 6 years.

Now, a couple of years after pressing, it’s better than ever.  Smooth, rich, and also affordable.

 

1992-dayeloose1-21992 Da Ye loose puerh tea

Loose leaf puerh tea is often where the bargains are in aged puerh tea.  They don’t come with wrappers, or a background, so it’s important to be able to taste the tea and judge the quality for itself.

This one is good though.  A blend of a few different teas, it offers a very nice aged tea, displaying the signs of coming from old trees.

 

…but can you recommend something even cheaper?

Nannuo Puerh Tea2010 Essence of Tea Nannuo

400g of good quality puerh tea really doesn’t come much cheaper than this.  This is the bargain of bargains in our selection & still reaches the standards we require for the tea we sell.

There’s not many of these cakes left.

 

 

 

 

For those of you who have tried some or all of these cakes, what do you think?  Are there others you think would have been better recommendations for this list?

Guafengzhai Puerh & Malaysian storage

We recently got hold of a tong of the 2009 ChangYuHao Guafengzhai – a tea that’s been ‘sold out’ since 2009. The owner of ChangYuHao still had some in his own collection of course & recently agreed to let us have a tong to offer to western customers.

This was quite interesting for us, because it was pressed using leaves from the same garden that we’ve been pressing our Guafengzhai tea from for the past three years. Although we’ve had a cake personally of the ChangYuHao Guafengzhai for the past few years & been slowly savouring it, we’d never done a direct comparison with our teas. A few days ago, one of our customers got in touch and asked about the qualities and differences. I thought this might also be useful/interesting to more people than him since it also is a useful test of Malaysian storage.

guafengzhai puer tea

Dry Leaves

From looking at the cakes the first & most obvious difference is the colour. As we’d expect, the greenness of the 2014 (on the right) has become a light brown. It’s only 5 years, so there’s still a long way to go, but the change has been relatively quick compared to the cakes we’ve been storing in the UK for example. The surface has an oily sheen and it’s smelling pretty good.

The 2014 cake has been pressed a bit looser, but also the leaves have been rolled tighter – this should provide better durability throughout the infusions, and may be a difference farmer to farmer, or a more general trend in better processing in Guafengzhai as the price and demands of consumers has increased… perhaps a bit of both.

guafengzhai puer tea

Brewing

This was really interesting for me. I was quite unprepared for how similar they were. I’ve done comparative tastings of different teas from the same mountain before and even when they shared a broadly similar profile there have always been striking differences. In this case though, the differences weren’t there. Setting aside for a moment the 5 years of ageing and the effects that has, the teas tasted almost the same. The flavour profile was the same, the thickness was remarkably similar – neither Kathy or I could agree which was thicker, first we’d think one was thicker then the other.

Guafengzhai Yiwu puerh tea

The 2014 tea seemed more vibrant & zingy in the mouth, the energy of youth. After 5 years this had settled, the energy was there, but it had calmed significantly becoming more controlled and elegant. The 2014 had some astringency, drying the mouth before inducing saliva, where as the 2009 cake induced saliva almost immediately after swallowing, without the drying astringency.

Both teas were exceptionally pure and clean, the characteristics of these ancient trees shone through and the sensations were really of a standard that is difficult to match in puerh tea of any region. It really highlighted to me how special this area is & why it has been sought after throughout the years.

Tasting Guafengzhai puerh tea

Wet Leaves

Again, remarkably similar. They were both strong and thick – of a shape and character that seems specific to Guafengzhai and the surrounding area – they’re harvested with the thick strong stem attached and the leaves are large & veiny. Here the colour difference is even more apparent, the greenness having transformed into a uniform light brown. The refinement of processing was also apparent at this stage, the 2014 leaves were more uniform in their picking standard and the colour was very uniform. The 2009 had the odd bruising here and there, but not significant by any means.

Gongfu tea tasting

Final Thoughts

This tasting has been quite reassuring for me, both that the quality and character of these two cakes from the same tea garden match so well, but also that Malaysian storage seems to be ageing the tea very nicely. The pure, clean quality of the ageing is very nice, letting the flavour and qualities of the base tea shine through, but also transforming the tea in a controlled manner & relatively quickly.

I hope this useful for some of you.

Wuyi Mountains, the results are in

We’ve been working out the totals and making a random draw for our trip to Wuyi this Spring. We’ve increased the draw to four people & sent emails to those who’s names were picked. If any of the people who have been picked can’t make it, we’ll continue the draw and select the next name at random.

Congratulations to those who have been picked. We have quite a diverse international lineup – one from Germany, Luxembourg, USA and France. We had a lot of interest, it’s a pity that the spaces are so limited. We’d love to be able to invite more of you to join us. If this trip works out well, we may consider organising more trips in the future years- perhaps to the tea mountains in Yunnan also.

Thank you all for your support. I hope you’ve enjoyed watching Master Huang in the video. Hopefully this Spring I’ll have the chance to film some more footage.