Saturday April 29, 2006

I got home slightly late today for tea (around 7pm), and all the way back towards home I was thinking what I should drink. I had decided on the bike that I was going to break out my aged brick puerh and have a bite out of it again. Last time I tried it was a year ago, and I think it must have changed a little by now. I got it in Hong Kong, and it was supposed to be 15+ years old. Good blog material.

When I opened the mailbox, however, I noticed that I got some tea today — from an internet tea buddy. I sent him some mingqian longjing, and in return, he sent me a pack of qingxiang tieguanyin (yes! Another one!) and something that was in saran wrap. I opened it, and there it was, one long slice of a puerh brick. Well, my previous plans of drinking my brick is shelved, since now I have new stuff to drink. Can’t pass that up. I will have to give the tieguanyin a spin another day. I also got some tea from my girlfriend — a huangshan maofeng. At some point, I’ll have to drink that too.

This picture is taken after I slip the slice into two by prying it apart. In the inside surface of the tea, you can see little dots, which might be mould. The tea leaves are fairly loose. Phyll, my net friend, said that this is something he bought in Guangzhou, and is supposed to be 8 years old. It looks older than 8 years, although I can’t say how old it actually is. I decided to brew half of it, and leave the other half for another time.

First infusion was unimpressive, but that’s how a lot of first infusions are for puerh since it’s not properly hydrated and loosened.

Second infusion – we’re getting there. More flavours this time, still a little flat, but a bit better. Definitely a raw tea, but perhaps a not-well-kept one. A hint of sweetness, but mostly a woody spiciness. There’s a bit of astringency in the aftertaste.

Third infusion – similar to the second, but stronger. A bit more mellow, actually, but with stronger flavours. It’s hard to describe what it is, but I’ve had similar teas before, in Hong Kong, where you can buy old cakes that are broken up that taste decent. This is similar in taste to that. Hint of sourness at the sides of the tongue.

Fourth – a bit more bite in this one, I get the feeling that this puerh is one of those where you’re always expecting something more out of it every brew, but it fails to get there. A nice, very drinkable, everyday kind of puerh. Not your Red Label or any such thing, but nevertheless, good for regular drinking. I think it is also aged more than 8 years, or it’s been in a situation where the fermentation happened rather quickly (hot and humid weather in Guangzhou might have done the trick). I have 5 year old cakes that aren’t half as red.

One thing so far – the tea is rather thick, and coats the fair cup really well. I think partly because I put in a good bit of leaves, but partly it’s the tea itself. Nice body.

There’s not a whole lot of changes after the fourth infusion. When I was finally done with it, I pulled out the leaves to look at them. It seems like there’s a portion of the leaves that is cooked — it’s perhaps a raw/cooked mix brick, which will explain the aging, and the sweetness. There were moments in drinking this that I felt it tasted slightly like a cooked puerh, but it is obviously not because it has many of the characteristics of a raw puerh. A mixed brick makes sense, in this case. Some of the leaves are black (cooked), while others are a dark brown (raw). I looked again at the unbrewed half of the brick, and you can see that as well, especially on the side that was originally in the middle of the brick — some raw, some cooked.

All in all, it’s not a terribly remarkable puerh. In fact, it keeps giving you hints that it can do more, but it doesn’t deliver on those hints. It just stays mellow, which I think is the cooked part of the tea at work. The raw part is what gives it the spiciness and the flavours, and it also explains the astringency — an 8 year old tea is going to be a bit raw still, and have that bitterness/sourness that comes with a raw tea.

This is something that’s good for your everyday, average cup of tea. So long as it doesn’t cost too much, it is drinkable, fairly pleasant, and in fact, easier on those who have never tried puerh.


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