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Now is the time for early spring tea 早春茶


abcdefg
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3 hours ago, abcdefg said:

Used to keep them together, but my landlord finally browbeat me into investing in a second clay urn so I could do it properly. (She is a Pu'er connoisseur.) 

 

Haha! That's a surefire way to irk any puer connoisseur. I don't go as far (:mrgreen:) as mixing raw and ripe myself, but even my shared storage of (ripe) liubao and ripe puers is enough to get the occasional dumbfounded look.

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Just aiming to avoid degradation. Most of the stuff I buy already has 10-20 years of age in storage conditions I like, so as long as I’m able to keep it in a good state I’m more than happy. Adding humidity is usually a must (at least from from autumn through spring), although once the internal RH of the cake has reached your desired level you could get away without adding any humidity by keeping the cakes in sealed mylar storage.

 

I still store a bunch of my puer in crocks, but for all new purchases (of which there has been way too many after “working from home” became the new normal) of puer and heicha I’ve switched to (ziplock) mylar bags. I get mine from (UK based) mylarshop.com. Extends the time between each “recharge” (i.e. throwing the bags into a clean bowl of distilled water for 5-7 days) of the boveda packs noticeably.

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Just got my first sip of this year's Mengding Ganlu - it was harvested well before Qingmingjie, and the quality is top notch. My only complaint is the price - global shipping issues caused a very steep price increase this year in the EU. 100g of this tea (same tea farm) used to be around 20 EUR, and now it is nearly 40 EUR. This is nearly at the level of high-grade gyokuro tea and even pricier than top senchas. Maybe it's time to forget about my everyday greens and convert myself to puerh :D 

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1 hour ago, ZhangKaiRong said:

Maybe it's time to forget about my everyday greens and convert myself to puerh

 

Don't do that if you're hoping to reduce cost! Probably no category of tea has had a higher price increase in the last 10-15 years, there's just too high a demand for the good stuff (both among drinkers and investors). Unless your stomach can handle very young cakes, or you have storage conditions that allow you to age young cakes into something nice yourself.

 

Point in case is: currently drinking the 2003 Hong Kong Henry “Conscientious Prescription”/"Serious Formula", which I was lucky to get a couple cakes of through a Taiwan auction group buy for a very reasonable (relatively speaking) price. Cheapest option I can find online now is through Teas We Like, where a cake goes for USD 163 (and the last time they released a new batch, a couple of weeks ago, it was sold out within hours). Essence of Tea sold the same tea for USD 130 last year. Five years ago I'd say there's no way in hell it's worth that money. With current prices, it suddenly seems like a pretty reasonable option.

 

By the way, any particular reason why you are buying your green teas from a EU based shop? High taxes/duties when importing from outside the EU?

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17 minutes ago, Balthazar said:

Don't do that if you're hoping to reduce cost! Probably no category of tea has had a higher price increase in the last 10-15 years, there's just too high a demand for the good stuff (both among drinkers and investors). Unless your stomach can handle very young cakes, or you have storage conditions that allow you to age young cakes into something nice yourself.

 

Point in case is: currently drinking the 2003 Hong Kong Henry “Conscientious Prescription”/"Serious Formula", which I was lucky to get a couple cakes of through a Taiwan auction group buy for a very reasonable (relatively speaking) price. Cheapest option I can find online now is through Teas We Like, where a cake goes for USD 163 (and the last time they released a new batch, a couple of weeks ago, it was sold out within hours). Essence of Tea sold the same tea for USD 130 last year. Five years ago I'd say there's no way in hell it's worth that money. With current prices, it suddenly seems like a pretty reasonable option.

 

By the way, any particular reason why you are buying your green teas from a EU based shop? High taxes/duties when importing from outside the EU?

 

I was semi-joking, I am legendary bad at appreciating puerh. The midrange available here is quite OK for me as an everyday drink, and (at least for now) they are cheaper than the premium standard greens. My issue is that I'm not used to drink puerh outside late autumn and winter, so I suppose even if I want to convert myself to puerh, I couldn't do that.

I buy my teas from the local teashop, I have been a customer of them for 12 years now, I know the owner well. I'm willing to pay the markup for all the efforts she does in sourcing the good stuff, and the selection available at the shop is way better that I could buy myself online. Ordered twice randomly from China, and was not happy with the quality, and also not with the delivery time. So having a very well-equipped shop locally spoiled me a lot.

Also, customs is getting more and more troublesome in the EU, starting from July they will abolish the minimum ordered value principle, so every package should be subject to customs, which will cause further delays in delivery, and overall making it not worth it.

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On 4/17/2021 at 11:10 AM, Balthazar said:

although once the internal RH of the cake has reached your desired level you could get away without adding any humidity by keeping the cakes in sealed mylar storage.

 

I'd be more comfortable doing that than keeping tea long-term with added humidity. But I could see myself using that beads/bags combination short-term to breathe more life into any puerh that's been hanging around too long - thanks for the suggestion!

 

1 hour ago, Balthazar said:

Probably no category of tea has had a higher price increase in the last 10-15 years

 

I started drinking puerh about 10 years ago when it didn't feel too expensive to get 20-year old tea, although the old-timers all complained that it was too expensive. These days - and after throwing away quite a few cakes of tea I didn't like any more - I mainly prefer buying 25g samples, more fun. And perhaps have one or two full cakes to work through solidly over year.

 

Though I'll make an exception for bricks or cakes of 1990s 熟 - I think old 熟 is super value, and I guess it's a little less fussy about storage.

 

 

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16 minutes ago, ZhangKaiRong said:

I buy my teas from the local teashop, I have been a customer of them for 12 years now, I know the owner well. I'm willing to pay the markup for all the efforts she does in sourcing the good stuff, and the selection available at the shop is way better that I could buy myself online. Ordered twice randomly from China, and was not happy with the quality, and also not with the delivery time. So having a very well-equipped shop locally spoiled me a lot.

 

That makes a lot of sense!

 

@realmayo: A good thing about the Boveda bags is that the humidity regulation works both ways, which helps avoid quick fluctuations (i.e. reduce the chance of mold). They're very common for long- and short-term storage in the cigar community too.

 

And yeah, samples are great!

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On 4/17/2021 at 10:25 AM, Balthazar said:

Mylar bags + boveda packs

Wow. I am really, really impressed.
Until now, stupid uneducated silly little me thought that tea is something you buy, brew, sip, enjoy, and that's it.
Now I learned that it is a complete science.
And ripe Pu-Erh-Tea has to be treated like a new household member which moves in, stays for severals years and resides in some cosy and comfy humidor.

Since I am eager to learn but I do not want to change my life that far: Can someone recommend a ready to brew Pu-Erh-Tea which tolerates being treated by a newbie?
Which year and location is best?

Maybe you could recommend one from this site:
https://yunnansourcing.com/

Thank you.

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As with most things in life, you can make it as simple or complicated as you like. Simple is better than complicated, provided that it gives a result you're satisfied with.

 

If you are able to enjojy the puer you have stored at home for a prolonged period of time without any added humidity, then more power to you. Or just buy smaller quantities, and consume them before the "drying out effects" start to show. No need to complicate things. As far as storage is concerned though, buying some cheap mylar bags and throwing in a Boveda pack that you don't need to attend to, is about as low effort as you can go. If you want to be really, really impressed all over again, check out this thread.

 

As for specific recommendations from YS, it depends on your storage preferences. Sampling wide until you get a better idea of what you like is the smart thing to do. For sheng puer, I personally think his Guangdong stored teas with a bit of age offer by far the best value for the money. Most of the Changtai teas are nice, e.g. the 2006 Changtai Tian Xia Tong An and the 2006 Changtai "65th Anniversary of Tong An Teahouse". The 2007 Pin Xiang "Bu Lang Shan Tuo" is also nice.

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On 4/21/2021 at 2:23 AM, calculatrix said:

Since I am eager to learn but I do not want to change my life that far: Can someone recommend a ready to brew Pu-Erh-Tea which tolerates being treated by a newbie? Which year and location is best? Maybe you could recommend one from this site:
https://yunnansourcing.com/

 

I bought these two loose-leaf ripe Pu'er teas from Yunnan Sourcing. Both were quite decent everyday teas (not collector teas; not top grade conoisseur teas.) Reasonable price, fast delivery. I was sharing them with my brother, who doesn't like to deal with a full Pu'er cake 饼茶。 

 

1. 2020 Certified Organic "Jia Ji" Loose Leaf Ripe Pu-erh Tea -- $10 US for 100 grams. 

 

https://yunnansourcing.com/products/2020-certified-organic-jia-ji-loose-leaf-ripe-pu-erh-tea?variant=37564411805895

 

736705883_puer1jiaji-690.thumb.PNG.5351a15a347b0efb3ae41d0d51674826.PNG   1353358250_puer2jiaji-688.thumb.PNG.3af7a90fb6f05f3012d9394ecb69a0cd.PNG

 

2. 2020 Certified Organic "Gong Ting Grade" Loose Leaf Ripe Pu-erh Tea -- $15.75 for 100 grams.

 

https://yunnansourcing.com/collections/certified-organic-ripe-pu-erh-tea/products/2020-certified-organic-gong-ting-grade-loose-leaf-ripe-pu-erh-tea?variant=37564402434247 

 

631964346_puergongting1-700.thumb.PNG.59f59655f2b08f106070648c9fa8cba6.PNG   800381684_puergongting2-700.thumb.PNG.c3f0f6c98b1f3147405da13b782b875f.PNG

 

Both teas are also sold in 50 gram resealable foil pouches. The Gong Ting is a little smoother. Both are very decent represenetatives of the genre.   (The photos above are from the seller's website.)

 

Here's a summary article about Pu'er tea -- a beginner's guide. https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/48844-warming-up-to-pu’er-a-beginner’s-guide-普洱茶/

 

And here is a discussion of loose-leaf Pu'er tea. Explanation of how it differs from cake or brick teas. 

https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54367-loose-leaf-puer-tea-普洱散茶/?tab=comments#comment-417497

 

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Just got back from a work trip to 南京. Since I drink mostly wulong, and some puer, hongcha, baicha - I have little experience with green tea. As Nanjing is green territory, I made some time one evening to go to a tea shop and try some green teas. Second shop I stopped in was great. The boss is a very friendly woman. I spent an hour or so trying some different green teas and just chatting. I fell in love with one of the 碧萝春 teas. I ended buying 半斤。As always it was like having a Chinese lesson (I tried out lots of recently learned language and not a single word of English spoken), , she also recorded a video for me introducing 碧萝春 and another talking about the 'tea scene in Nanjing' for me to study. And for not much more than the price of an actual lesson(I paid 185 after a 便宜一点 for 半斤), you walk out with a bag of tea!

 

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Bravo! Good writeup! That's exactly what I enjoy doing when visiting a new part of China. Have spent so many a good hour that way. Learned new tea tastes, met new friends. 

 

BTW, a small thing, I hesitate to mention it -- Should be 碧螺春茶 (the "luo" is for snail, which is kind of the shape of the twisted, cured leaf in this kind of tea.) Video here of how the leaf is rolled by hand, part of a process called 揉捻。https://baike.baidu.com/item/碧螺春/2682 

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@Balthazar and @abcdefg : Thank you very much for your recommendations and the really really really impressive links.

I did it. I ordered one of the Pu-erh-cakes that Bathazar recommended and one of abcdefgs list. Together with some greens and some oolongs.

I am planning to cut the cake in two halves and put one half into a stainless steel jar together with one of those humidifying packages.

Question to the experts: Is stainless steel ok?

The other half will be kept without extra care. 

And after some months or years I can do some A-B-comparisons, that will be fun.

In the best case I have found something I enjoy, and in the worst case it will end up as one more item on the shelve with jars of long forgotten content.

 

 

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8 hours ago, calculatrix said:

I am planning to cut the cake in two halves and put one half into a stainless steel jar together with one of those humidifying packages. Question to the experts: Is stainless steel ok?

 

Congratulations @calculatrix-- Glad you took the plunge. Must confess that I'm not a tea collector, I'm just a simple tea drinker. I've never studied the fine points of purchasing and laying up tea so that it will improve over time.

 

I store Pu'er cakes in a lidded clay urn which holds 7 cakes -- 7 cakes are often sold together wrapped in bamboo leaf as a "qizibing " 七子饼。Mine are not from Yixing 宜兴, which supplies the most famous clay 紫砂 for these storage jars (and teapots,) but are from Jianshui 建水 in Yunnan instead. It's a lesser known source of good clay and it sells for quite a bit less in Kunming. These storage urns are unglazed. (Photos from Baidu.)

 

1481116302_teastorageclay-700.thumb.PNG.89ed81b81e7da0678c73097ee96d721f.PNG     1533484260_-500.thumb.PNG.071879b7dac2a3ce1a4c0718d13fca4f.PNG

 

 

 

 

I have two of them, one for raw Pu'er 生普洱 cakes and one for ripe Pu'er 熟普洱 cakes. (They are in Kunming.) Conventional wisdom among my tea loving friends on the China Mainland is that these heavy clay vessels maintain a fairly constant temperature and humidity and they allow the tea to "breathe." Stainless steel or glass would not have that porous quality. So much of this information is subject to scientific debate. I have not entered that world. I just store my Pu'er the way my tea teachers suggested. 

 

I've never heard of cutting or breaking a Pu'er cake in half and holding back half specifically for ageing. I can't say it won't work, but I've just never heard of doing that. Not sure if disrupting the integrity of the cake like that might adversely alter its ageing properties. Would add that, if I were forced to divide a cake, I would not cut it with a sharp knife.

 

I would kind of twist and bend and tear and pull it apart, attempting to minimize damage to the long tea leaves that comprise it. I would use a tea pick 茶刀 to help with the process. (You press and twist with it, working outward from the central "dimple" of the cake.)

 

2043861697_chadao-470.thumb.PNG.7148637d5cb2c332a67df1280cb1688d.PNG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Others who know more will probably be able to guide you better on this whole matter of optimal storage. I have never tried the Mylar bags and dessicant packs to which @Balthazarrefers. They sound sensible and I respect his advice.  

 

No doubt in my mind what I would do in your place, namely just use that cake of nice Pu'er straight away until it's gone. Don't hold back. Polish it off over the next year or two. Drink it freely and share it liberally with friends. I wouldn't go to any special trouble about storing it. Just keep it away from sun and wind in a box on a cool shelf. Concentrate on mastering how best to brew it.  

 

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The crucial factor that should decide your storage choice is local climate, i.e. what is the typical temperature and relative humidity in the room where you will be storing your tea? Unglazed urns are great for storage in most of Southeast Asia. Haven’t heard many success stories involving them in Europe or North America (not to say that there can’t exist any!). A more popular choice here is glazed stoneware crocks, which have the same benefit of maintaining a relatively stable climate inside but will see a slower reduction in relative humidity (as they’re glazed, i.e. less “breathing”). A big bonus is that they can usually be found at local second hand stores for reasonable prices (vinegar will take care of any old sauerkraut smell), so no need to ship heavy yixing pieces from Asia.

 

Here’s the biggest one I have, which holds 10-15 cakes (can’t remember the exact number), a bunch of bricks and tuos.

 

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… and some significantly smaller one, holding only tuos and samples:

 

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(don’t panic about the hygrometer mesuring a RH of 77%, it’s about 10 percentage points above the real value :p)

 

Mylar bags are an even simpler setup, and they will keep the intervals much longer between each necessary “recharge” of whatever hydration solution you’re using (if you’re using any). The only “downside” I can think of is that there won’t be any airflow – which is itself a very controversial concept in puer storage.

 

I too would opt against stainless steel or glass. Actually, a large (food-safe and odor-free) plastic storage box is not a bad choice (provided you’re not exposing it to sunlight).

 

 

Oh, and I totally agree with this:

2 hours ago, abcdefg said:

No doubt in my mind what I would do in your place, namely just use that cake of nice Pu'er straight away until it's gone. Don't hold back. Polish it off over the next year or two. Drink it freely and share it liberally with friends. I wouldn't go to any special trouble about storing it. Just keep it away from sun and wind in a box on a cool shelf. Concentrate on mastering how best to brew it.  

 

 

Btw, if you want to break up a whole cake in two, this method is quite simple:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=th86Ge4fFJs

 

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