Friday, March 29, 2013

2006 CNNP Yiwu Raw Pu erh

This is a 2006 Yiwu raw pu erh cake.  The wrapper on the cake stated that this tea cake was made from wild old  Yiwu tea tree leaves.  Stone pressed and manufactured by Tutsu Export Co (aka CNNP).  

Stone pressed cakes refers to the compression of tea leaves, in that, the tea leaves are placed in a stone pot and a worker would stand over the stone cover, using his weight to press down on the stone cover, thus compressing the tea leaves into a cake.  Machine pressed cakes simply uses hydraulic press systems that compresed the tea, that are usually placed in a metal pot.  The compression levels of machines are higher than stone pressed techniques.  I find stone pressed tea cakes more appealing, as the looser compression allows me to pry open the cake by hand and reduce breaking the tea leaves.  

This cake has that 'mild' aged tea taste.  It is still a little astringent as it is a 6 year old tea.  I had purchased it in 2009.  I suspected that these few years of storage in Singapore had reduced the traditional sharp bitter taste of a new pu erh raw and this cake has shown some characteristics of aging.  I was initially worried over the darker looking color of the tea cake (refer to pix).  I had stored my tea cakes individually in plain brown envelopes and placed on my book shelves.  It was a relief the tea tasted 'ok' and did not have any wet stored taste.  This particular tea cake felt much 'drier' and the cake seem very crispy when I was breaking up this cake into my tea caddy.

In my opinion, this Yiwu tea cake has a mix of old gushu inside.    It is a pleasant tea, very easy to drink, nice aroma........ slighty fruity and herbal.   No, I did not sweat profusely or feel any major high ( a tiny bit of both though).  Very enjoyable....finished almost half the cake within a month.  

I had recently broke my teapot which I had used for ripe pu erh......*$%k)!@n&*n!!!!!..... I feel better now.  Not an expensive teapot but I had brewed more than 1000 times of ripe pu with it (3 years of brewing).  Guess it will be a blog on teapots next.  Stay tuned.  

Sunday, March 17, 2013

2007 Fu Hai Yiwu Ripe - A Revisit

It was about 3 years ago that I opened a cake of this 2007 Fu Hai ripe pu erh cake (see 2010 blog).  Re-reading my post, I found that I had very good impressions of this cake.  Well, I have opened another of this 2007 cake to see whether my current impressions are similar.

This 2007 Fu Hai ripe puerh cake, according to the wrapper, was made with Yiwu pu erh leaves.  Yiwu is a traditional, and remains one of the pu erh producing area in Yunnan.  You will noticed that the surface of this cakes are made from relatively large tea leaves.  A reader in my 2010 entry of this tea, noticed that the centre of the cake were made with broken and tiny tea bits of tea.  I had explained that every production will have complete as well as broken tea leaves and the 'tea packer' will usually pack the broken tea leaves inside the cake while packing the whole tea leaves on the outside of a tea cake.  Isn't this cheating? Are tea drinkers shortchanged?  My opinion is that in every tea harvest and processing, its inevitable that some leaves will be broken during processing. most of it unintentionally of course.  I would guess up to 20% of the leaves may be broken or crushed during processing.  And packing the tea leaves in such a way to 'conceal' the broken tea leaves does require some skill.  I would like to think, at this point, that the quality of the tea is more important than broken tea leaves.......meaning if you like the tea, then it is a good tea.

I do find that this Fu Hai cake to be a good tea.  The aroma is complex, in that it has a broader range in the aroma - its like pleasant chinese herbs that are used for boiling traditional soups. This tea exudes a comforting and warming scent and sensation when I sip this tea, accompanied with a subtly sweet finish.

But I digress - I have recently read in the tea forums, that some pu erh tea drinkers are contemplating sealing their pu erh in plastic bags as a way of storing the tea and had suggested that the tea will turned out, with time, into a very nice aged pu erh.  I would advise against this form of storage.   Let me share my thoughts on this :
- In Feb 2010, I recorded a blog entry about a 2004 Dayi 7542, that I had purchased locally.  This tea cake was interesting in that this cake was wrapped with very thick cellophane plastic.  I suspected that this wrapping was to preserve the integrity of the cake and prevent shoppers from opening the cake as the wrapper or even the tea may be damaged before the cake was sold.  The problem was that I found that this tea cake did not age well at all.  It tasted like a new cake.  My guess is that the tight cellophane wrapping prevented the tea from 'aging'.
- You would have read from my blog that I have travelled quite a number of times to Yunnan, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Malaysia in the past few years.  I had the privilege to make friends with many tea shop owners, tea drinkers and serious tea collectors.  I had the opportunity to taste some of their tea collection as well.  Some of these teas are very old and kept by these collectors for many years.  I can say that the teas kept by them are not stored in any special or secret way.  The tea are just stored in rooms or in shelves in their house.  Most the the tea cakes, I observed, were stored in their original tong wrappers, and are only taken down to drink (or very rarely, to be sold).
What I am saying is have one chance of aging pu erh tea.  Do it right.  I shudder to think of the disappointment with the results of the tea you have stored in your plastic bags after 10-15 years.

Back to this Fu Hai tea cake.  If you are a ripe pu erh tea drinker, do consider a purchase when you come across it.  Should not be expensive.  Recommended.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Expired Tea

Oh dear, I realized I have few oolong tins  that are past their expiry dates stated on the tins. The use of expiry dates on food is important in that it protects the customer from eating food or drink that may not in an optimal state of consumption on due date.  It may be less serious if you opened a can of fruits that is a month overdue, but consuming a cup of yogurt that is 2 weeks overdue may not be altogether a pleasant experience.

The date on this 'Sea Dyke' Ti Kuan Yin (see pix above) stated the expiry date as 13 Oct 2011.  This meant that the production date of this tea was 3 years before due date, i.e. Oct 2008.  There is now a trend for some tea collectors to go to tea and grocery shops looking to buy such expired tinned teas, as these tea drinkers believe these teas are more mellow than the new tins.  I myself came across a Guangzhou tea shop that sells such expired tinned teas for a premium and yes, these teas sells well.

Now the main issue is - Does tea have an expiry date?  Answer : It depends ( I often use this phrase when I answer my Economics questions and it is more often correct). But seriously -  It depends, because of the type of tea you have purchased and how you have stored your tea. Green teas like Long Jing,  and Japanese powered green tea (matcha) are usually consumed within a year.  Greener oolongs (meaning light roast) like Taiwan high mountain tea also fall in this category.    Green teas are generally appreciated and consumed for their fresh and invigorating taste.  Serious green tea drinkers are particularly concerned in preserving the freshness, taking extra steps in storing their green teas in vacuum sealed packs and containers, and even resorting to refrigerating their green teas.  If these teas are not store properly, the taste and aroma would somewhat be diminished.  The tea leaves may also turn brownish and would be quite unpleasant to drink.  

Some teas can keep for a long time.  Pu erh tea which I enjoy drinking is a tea that will age to wonderful tea with a pleasing aroma and taste.  Other teas that will age well include  Liu Bao and Liu Ann tea.  Highly roasted oolongs like the above Ti Kuan Yin will keep well, with some tea lovers attesting that these tea will taste  mellow with age.  

Be mindful that there are also oolongs; that are lightly roasted and the tea leaves appear greenish especially when observed after a brewing session. Such tea would not keep well over time.  Some teashops may 'reroast' such green oolongs when they notice the tea has lost its aroma.  It is a practice that is not condone by me.

So, is there an expiry date to teas like pu erh and liu bao?  Chan Kam Pong in his book "First Step to Chinese Puerh Tea" answered "Every tea has a climax - a peak time when it is best appreciated.  Generally speaking, Puerh tea aged for 30 years is already very good."  My Guangzhou tea master friend thinks that puerh tea will reach an optimal level after 25-30 years and may even taper off after further storage.  

For me, drink your green teas fast, preferably within a year and refrigerate your tea  if possible.  For teas like pu erh and liu bao - yes, these tea will keep and age well, but with an important caveat - proper storage.