Rummaging through my samples, I found a small bag with a little piece of paper, written by me, saying “Zhongcha Bulang Fall 2006”. Why not, I thought to myself. So, I took out the pieces and measured 7.3g
I’ve been using the amount of tea I use these days to give myself a more uniform way to taste the teas, as well as giving the readers an idea of what I do with them, generally speaking. I realized, after the notes for the samples I sent out, that brewing parameters vary greatly, and it is more meaningful if I provide some sort of parameter when I talk about my tea tastings. Otherwise, they’re less useful.
For this tea, infusions were kept short (5s or so) until about the 7th or 8th infusion, after which it lengthened. The tea went through some pretty interesting progression. It started in the first two infusions in a very mild manner, sweet, fragrant, but with a decent “hit” in the back of the throat. Very promising. Then it sort of went through a transition period in the next few infusions, when the tea gradually got a little more astringent and also a little more bitter. Then, it hit the final stage, when if I brew with a short time, the tea comes out tasting sweet and nice, like a good young puerh should, or unpleasant and bitter, like a fake green-tea puerh would.
I should perhaps explain again what I mean when I say green-tea puerh. Somebody asked me today what I meant. I think what I mean is what Chinese would call “hongqing”, or baked green. This is different from “shaiqing” or sun-dried green. Hongqing basically means tea that was processed/dried at a high temperature, while shaiqing is that of a low temperature processed tea. The difference between the two is that hongqing brings out aromatics that shaiqing won’t, but at the expense of ageability. Think of a typical longjing — the first infusions (or the first minute of infusion) would bring you a highly aromatic, sweet, and nice cup of tea, but oversteeped green would taste astringent, rough, and bitter. A proper young puerh, on the other hand, has the reverse order — bitter first, but turns into sweet water later on. This is probably not the only way to tell, nor is it the surefire way to tell the two apart, but I think it is one way, and I feel that having tasted a whole bunch of younger stuff… this has generally held. I have especially noticed among the 2007 cakes I’ve tried that the proportion of green-tea puerh has been pretty high this year. This is also the concensus in online forums like Sanzui — that this year’s puerh production has been uncharacteristically green for some reason. Don’t know why — some speculate that the farmers all got richer and bought drying machines instead of just leaving it to the whims of the weather.
I should now caveat this all by saying that much of this has been knowledge that I have gleaned from various sources, online and offline. I have, however, tasted a few hongqing samples of a few years old that… are bitter and nasty (think stale old green tea). So, given that to be the case, what I say here should be taken with a grain of salt.
That said, I don’t feel confident enough with the tea I drank today to ever buy it. It’s probably a mix of the two, and the mix of hongqing tea is probably less than the “Banzhang Zhengshan” I drank about a week ago. Yet, it’s still enough to deter me from thinking of buying this tea.
The wet leaves
As Lew has pointed out in a recent comment on the day when I mixed the Yiwu with the Banzhang — trying to pick out which of these leaves have been improperly processed is going to be a mightily difficult job. In fact, I doubt it’s at all possible. Buyer beware, I suppose.