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Friday, January 19, 2018

Blind Sample Greek Puerh Tasting via Yunnan Sourcing



In November 2017, I was invited by Matt of mattchasblog to do a blind tasting of Yunnan Sourcing samples, in the manner of the old Half-Dipper blog posts where the samples are marked with Greek letters and the teas are revealed afterward. We were given a deadline of January 15, and I am a few days late in finishing up. My medications are wrecking my ability to drink puerh on many days. My gut is okay, not damaged or anything like that, but it is sensitive and I try to avoid provoking it. So I spread out the tastings and tried to get as close to the deadline as I could.

I decided to brew the teas in clay rather than the gaiwan, just for variety among the bloggers who I assumed would likely choose a porcelain gaiwan. I chose a light clay tea pot made by Inge Nielsen (Belgium) that I use for young sheng. I measured 7-8g of tea per 100/ml and ended up using less water than that for most of the teas, more like 80 ml.

Alpha


A very green tea yet.
Young. Leaves are plump and attractive. Fruity/floral, pours with some thickness, has that YS “house” taste I find in a lot of YS teas. Not much bitterness, very yin and cold. After –taste a little sour, likely needs some heat/humidity. Might be better down the line after it settles more. 

Beta


Rather good.
Young tea but with some browning, small leaves, fragrant in the pouch. Decent thickness to the pour. This tea is more to my taste with darker notes of aged oak cask along with the fruity floral. More yang than Alpha sample. Warm, autumn peppery spices going down the throat. A bit of euphoric stoner qi in the face and torso, making me want to guzzle the way Menghai tuos do. Still very sweet, warm mead, some house flavor.

Nothing burly I’d want to age but a pleasant drink for people who like brandy, cognac or spiced rum and a fuller profile in a young tea they can drink now. Hell, yeah. Wasn’t gonna binge drink but I think I will.

Gamma


Worth it for the throat feel.
Green, Menghai-ish aroma. Tippy, small plantation leaves. The sample consists of loose tea and a chunk that resembles a mini-cake. Third pour a bit thicker. Finally, we have a tea which is somewhat bitter. Some throat feel. Not bad, but nothing special.

Overall I am finding a disturbing lack of decent bitterness in the teas thus far, despite how green and young as they are.

Delta

Sidling up to the bar, can I get some puerh already? It is one of those days, life is a miserable affair and certainly not worth living and I need tea to make it all better. Days like today are why God made dirty tuos, the back alley tavern beverage of choice for the puerh snifter, this western puerh drinker, I am such a stereotype and caricature of everything I come from, preferring the heights of heaven and depths of hell even in my beverages while eschewing the mildly pleasant middle. Aristotle shakes a crooked finger at people like me, a nice way to put it, because the thinnest veneer of schooling lies between me, as I am now, and the bar brawler that nature evolved me to be.


I probably did not give this tea a fair trial,
but could not bring myself to revisit it either.
This one has dark greenish black leaves, and smells of YS house teas. First two steeps show a touch of pink amber in the yellowish brew. Very pretty. Floral/fruity reminds me of the Alpha sample. I let it sit too long cooling. The cup then tastes sour. I have not had a single lick of food touch my palate yet today. Next…

Epsilon

This sample has green/black loose leaves, no chunks. I brew up 7g/100 ml and this is almost flavorless. Pushed with 80 ml water yields a more balanced and nicely bitter result that coats the tongue and provides a fast huigan. 


Not terrible, but not memorable.
Otherwise the experience is the same one note I find in most of the other samples, a mild fruity floral, all top note. The huigan reasserts in the throat ten minutes after the last sip, so double huigan, an initial one upon sipping and then another shortly afterward. Very clean tea overall, no storage notes perhaps because the tea is still young. Despite the promising start, the tea is cashed around steep 5, the loose leaves of course will give out sooner than a chunk. The session is like a highly anticipated erotic moment that finishes all too quickly.

Zeta

This sample comes in a large mylar bag, the kind that Yunnan Sourcing once used for samples with a purchase but now buyers must pay for these. The bag contains large chunks of…shou. The shou appears to be on the young side, by the looks of it. I drink less shou now than I once did, and I prefer it older than ten years. I also use less leaf than I used to. But I will momma-up and donate the gut for today. Also, I must switch teapots from a sheng-dedicated clay and choose a thick porcelain to generate enough heat to separate the rather compressed sample.


A potent and rather tasty shou.
The tea brews up dark brown, and thicker with each steeping. I like it, this is a rather good shou, with a traditional Menghai factory flavor of soil, wood, vanilla, root beer, yeast bread, very tangy and lively. Some bitterness left shows some potential for age. This will one day get the sort of plummy flavor old shou tuos and bricks do at fifteen years, but likely to brew a lot longer. Right now the pile flavor is still very heavy in the tea. I take to the tea like a diabetic to a box of chocolates, my brain quickly forgetting any idea of caution on my gut. I feel a presence in the throat from the tea and a contented happiness flows.

Last year I bought a Year of the Goat shou cake from YS, and it is too young to drink now but I wonder if this sample is the same recipe, one of the Chinese year shous. If so, I will be happy I bought Goat. The sample is shou for days, brews a long time. I let water sit in the teapot to form a  thick cough syrup and the tea leaves are nowhere near done after six steepings, and can easily be boiled when they fade. One thing in favor of this tea, the flavor is similar to factory shou but so much more potent, a reminder to myself that Yunnan Sourcing, Crimson Lotus, or white2tea house shou puerh are a good value because the tea leaves are much stronger than traditional factory recipes, so I can use less tea and brew them longer.

Final Thoughts

A big thank you to Mattcha and also Yunnan Sourcing for the blind tasting experience.

Overall, with the exception of Beta, the sheng puerh teas have a similar flavor profile to other Yunnan Sourcing sheng puerh teas I have tasted in the past, and similar to the two or three I already own. If I intended to buy more YS sheng productions, the main factor for me is price. The year or name on the tea honestly will not matter much. I suggest to buyers looking at YS sheng productions to compare years for prices, the same teas year over year are likely to taste similar so whichever one costs less will be the best value. Beta is a tea I might consider as it stood out from the others with a fuller profile, deeper notes. The shou is good, but if it is a yearly production like Goat I will stay with what I own.  

I also am aware of personal subjective biases. These teas are clean and nice drinkers, but I want unique teas, something new or different than what I own. I already own plenty of drinkers. Nowadays I tend to look for very strong tea, either a strong burly and bitter tea, or intense mouth, throat feel, body effects, or qi. Or I am looking for storage and fine aging. This means I might not be the best person to try these teas. Someone new to puerh might offer a fresh perspective, and the teas are clean enough, and mild enough, to recommend them to anyone new to sheng puerh. 

After Note

 Since posting the above, I have now read some of the other blogger notes, and there seems to have been an expectation to either guess the region or production. I assume that many YS productions are blends, so it did not occur to me to try and guess where the leaves are from. And I am not familiar with the entire YS line, and thus not in a position to guess specific teas. Hopefully what I wrote will suffice.


Friday, January 12, 2018

Letter to a Prioress


Here is a letter I wrote to a long time nun friend. I have not written to her in some years. When I decided to write her again today, I looked her up to see where to send the letter, and found she was elected to lead her order last year. Congratulations are most certainly overdue on my part.

As always with posts of this kind, names and places are masked to avoid any potential embarrassment and I let a week go by so she will have received the letter.


1/4/2018

My very dear Rev. Mother Prioress previously known as Sister___,

Well, still known as, but it’s an opportunity to open my missive, goodness me, I haven’t written in ever so long, can’t recall how long exactly, but you walked across a dream two nights ago. I woke up and thought wow, I should really write. Google’d the address to see where you are at these days, and the news articles, so many, I really must congratulate you on your recent election! Now today, six or seven months pass since your investiture. Long enough for the newness to wear off perhaps, but not long enough to completely lose the “get me out of here.” ?? Maybe?

Nah, of course not. I saw it in you, all those years ago. But how are you, my friend? Enjoying all the meetings…

As I said, I cannot recall exactly the last time I wrote, I do remember writing back during my days as an associate (postulant) in (___), from my room where the mice ran over me at night. I kept up writing a couple of years at least, Sister B. told me to “keep it up, try and phone etc.” so I did for a time. Then I got busy with my own bunch. I also wrote to Sister M. some years longer, I do still have some letters from her, and photos, as well as the sketch I drew of her. No doubt your archives have plenty of her materials but if you need more, I can always send over what I still have. I wrote to Fr. I. until his death as well.

And speaking of archives, I took so many of my college notes using the clean back sides of paper from the to-recycle bins in the liturgy office, the start of my career as a dumpster diver. Looking through them one day I noticed the used side of many pages are sheet music, with handwritten music parts by Sister T. and Sister D., descants, flute parts, depending upon the week and the musicians they could scrounge up for Sunday, so they wrote extra parts for whatever we happened to sing. I am sure these sisters have written many more in the thirty five years since. I wonder if the parts still end up in the recycle bin for some student to rescue.

My current biography is that I am---old, hair’s gone white. I left my order some years ago, finished a doctorate, and worked for some time in clinical mental health and case management, married/divorced, cellist husband moved to Communist China, son is twenty-seven and a bassoon player, I am mostly retired with a nice pension. I write a bit, have a tea blog of all things. Fermented puerh tea, long story. I might put this letter up, names removed of course, simply because my own tale is nearly impossible and I barely believe it. Really the truth is, we grow older much the same and there is just more of everything.

I don’t know how your bunch came through the Vatican inquiry stemming from the LCWR*, I followed the news with some interest. I knew that my group would get a tough scrutiny after our own president got elected to the (___) and then the signing of the petition for national healthcare, something I’m rather proud of, but I know the heat must have been intense. I still go back for community events on occasion. The last time I went I planned to ask how the whole process turned out. But I got there and did not need to ask, I could see immediately what had gone down. One cannot miss Franciscan priests in full habit at the motherhouse, (not just collar mind you ), they somewhat stick out. What I did miss, and you can tell Sister M. this, is the music is gone. All my sisters use now are the old hymnals from the 1940s. None of the beautiful pieces by Marty Haugen etc., no instrumentals, stuff we used to play, all gone. I don’t know if this is a directive or a kind of protest, “we will sing our own music” and that’s all, I see people who can play or direct liturgy but instead everything is stripped down. Hopefully nothing like this has come to pass at St.___’s, I hope Sister T. has liturgical freedom because there is mission in it more than ever.

My order hired a futures study in the late 1980s that projected the financial needs and retirements. The findings were presented at a community meeting for discussion. I remember that the futures projections showed the numbers of sisters and in the year 2027 only one member remained, and her death projected for 2037, ten years alone at that point. That was my data point, and it shook me to the core, over the next couple of years I got to where I could no longer stay. I could not face a holocaust of hundreds, but more than that obedience is impossible in a situation where they will be gone and yet are giving me certain directions for my life which includes no retirement while also not paying into the national Social Security.

It’s not the money and I wish today were only about the buildings but we have more than a century of non-stop, round the clock adoration, and that’s the painful part, what will happen to it. Are lay members enough, and will lay members continue to join when there are no longer sisters to partner with? I’m sure some of these questions are yours as well, and you have more strength with them, perhaps, and anyway you coped with the funerals better than I did, more strength than I would have on my own. Even through the newsletters I can feel the grief, worry and fury of the few contemporaries I had then, who still remain. I feel like your monastic tradition has bedrock to lean on and monastic vocations historically continue to trickle in, but I know this is also a kind of wishful thinking when facing the realities of today for orders formed nearly two centuries ago to teach and nurse immigrant communities.

In some ways, I wish religious life had a model for essentially what I got from it, to train other young women and give a foundation. College is not really the same, especially with all the drug and alcohol use these days, and back in my day too. I suppose if someone is seeking what religious life has to offer, even as a lay person, it’s all there for those who look even without needing to join. But hundreds of years ago, for young women and older women as I am now, religious life was an option for a time, not necessarily for all time. I wish it for so many women, I do not know now what I would be without it, well, I do know, either crazy or a drug addict, or both. Instead I am strong and mostly sane.

The year I left I took a job as a pastoral associate at a parish with extra building space, and a sister named D. had an office in this building to work on a diocesan project. Now I am sure her name is familiar, I thought of her when I read today that St.___ Priory was assumed a few years ago. That same year I signed my papers to leave, D. was in her exclaustration* year. She was one of the greatest gifts of friendship, we were both dealing with the same issues then, and we could talk and talk. I kept in touch with her until her death a few years back, used to call her once in awhile. What a dear lady, she talked as much as one could and still be monastic. I think we both saw a similar future, I wonder if she wanted and perhaps needed something like what the Madison priory is now, but twenty years before it came to fruition. I know she got to a fully ecumenical* place before the shame of such a view disappeared. Now it’s rather fashionable, D. was way ahead in her thinking. But I know she also had a huge self honesty as to what is incompatible with today’s reality, and how or where she departed from monasticism and took responsibility for her own stuff, as it were.

I remember reading when Father P. died in a car accident in 1999, he was cousin to my associate (postulant) director and visited our convent house once, the one where the mice ran over me in bed and where I wrote to you. He stayed with us after a trip to Australia, brought us a nice box of huge apricots coated in chocolate, never tasted the like since, they were as large as my hand. All the news of St.--- over the years pained me so much, shook me really, larger church issues too.

Okay I have to ask. Do you get those weird looks, are people treating you differently now? You walk down the halls and previously no one paid you much mind, maybe a nod etc. because you were one of the young ones, and now has anything changed? Because you did not get a mask or costume for the job, something you can wear and then pull the mask and go “Boo!” to remind them you are still you and not a hallowed idea. Well you are a hallowed idea.

I remember when my cousin was about to be elected and she served two terms as president, I had a difficult time with it. Mainly because I felt I was part of a circle of a number of the leaders, and it was not inappropriate and probably part of the training, but it was enough that others felt left out, and that made it a little wrong. An in-group, not bad but just a step in towards exclusion, the kind we cannot have and it destroys community in small ways because issues that were only conversation might become policy. I had differences in historical perspective too, because I wasn’t alive when Kennedy was shot, so I definitely felt the in-group keenly and someone warned me too, probably not soon enough.

My cousin left shortly after I did and moved to New Mexico. You probably remember my sister A., she lives in Milwaukee. She has traveled a great deal in her life as I figured she would. Her health is not the best, she has some immunity and thyroid stuff and remains fragile but still she sparkles.

Well now I am certain you have better things to do than continue to read a letter that goes on and on. My best to you and everyone at St.___, in my mind I can still sit in your chapel any time I wish to go there as a mental traveler, and I do, so if you see me, wave.

Fondly,


C.

*LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious)

*exclaustration: a one-year of separation required for perpetually vowed nuns prior to leaving their order permanently.

*ecumenical: a view embracing commonalities among religions rather than differences.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

What a Puerh Lover Learns from a Fruitcake



This year I decided to bake a fruitcake. I have made fruitcakes before, and even have a recipe I developed back in my vegan days using beans. For this year’s fruitcake, however, I wanted to make a rather boozy version along the lines of a fruitcake I picked up during a trip to the UK a few years ago, what was called a “Christmas cake” with frosting. This cake tasted very unlike the fruitcakes I avoid here in the States. 

Many Americans dislike fruitcakes, mainly because of mass production of this confection in the mid-twentieth century with nuclear green candied fruit. I learned from my English fruitcake that many US mass produced versions are mistakes, but what I did not know until this year is that a quality fruitcake "matures" in a rather similar fashion to our puerh cakes. That is, if looked after properly, a fruitcake and puerh over time will develop sought-after complex flavors.

For my fruitcake, I hoped to use up much of the dried fruit accumulated in my kitchen cupboards over many years. Alas, one large fruitcake made only a small dent in the number of packages of prunes, apricots, dried cranberries, figs and the like that somehow ended up in my house. Where did all this dried fruit come from? I like dried fruit, but really! Apparently I do not eat any of it, and neither does anyone else in the house. I guess I ate it to stay regular, but now in recent years I need only brew up a drain cleaner puerh for this purpose. 

Fruitcakes are part of my family history. My aunt Alvina baked fruitcakes every year. She developed a family tradition during World War II when my uncle Leonard fought as an infantry soldier. Aunt Alvina sent him care packages at Christmas time with fruitcakes and frosted cookies packed into a huge box full of plain popped popcorn. The box arrived with most of the cookies broken, but the popcorn and broken cookies eaten together were a huge hit with my uncle’s infantry unit. So Alvina continued mailing out Christmas boxes to her brothers, my father included. Dad was the only one in my family who ate the fruitcakes. They remained in the refrigerator wrapped in tin foil well into the following summer (I found out the tin foil actually has a rationale for maturing fruitcakes). 

I remember asking my dad one July whether I should toss the leftover fruitcake.

“No, no don’t throw that out, it is still good.” 

He’d hack off a chunk, eating it in front of me to show he still planned to finish the cake. One could never be certain of food facts from my father. This was a guy who ate lettuce and pasta out of the sink drain, and saved soups in pots out in the garage for weeks.  

So really, in terms of fruitcake knowledge, I am on my own here. Although I have plenty of fruitcake recipes in my kitchen already, I am intrigued by a BBC recipe. Sort of following the recipe, I cook up prunes, apricots, cranberries and figs into spiced rum (I am not a brandy fan) and then fold them into the cake portion of the recipe. I did not have fresh lemons, so I use a chopped preserved lemon. I cannot bother to go buy one orange just for the zest, so I toss in some fruit punch instead. I slow bake the lot in the oven and the cake turns out all right.

My fruitcake
Now, this is when the OCD kicks in. I have some notion that a fruitcake needs to mature with some alcohol in it, but not much idea of how to do this because all the fruitcakes of my past were ready to eat. How much booze do I use? How often should I add some to the cake? Do I just pour it on, or brush it on? How long should the cake sit, weeks or months? I turn to the internet for information.

Let me tell you that every single fruitcake article on the internet for the past seven years is repetitive and blatantly plagiarized from the same sources without attribution. I am ashamed at all the blog posts I read on fruitcakes that repeat the same tropes over and over as if they are original to the author. A typical fruitcake article has the following:

--a trope on ancient Roman fruitcakes
--a trope on Filipino fruitcakes
--a Johnny Carson joke
--a Jay Leno joke
--a trope on American fruitcake nuclear green tutti frutti (even I repeat that one here)
--the American designated day for fruitcake toss games.
--the 106 year old fruitcake found in Antarctica, still edible.

Finding useful and apparently obscure information on “maturing” fruitcakes takes no fewer than eight pages into a Google Search, and I ended up scouring more than twenty search pages.

So, a fruitcake “matures” over time with periodic “feedings” of booze. The skins of the fruits break down, releasing the tannins. The flavors of the tannins reduce the sugary sweetness, balancing it out and creating flavor nuances. In this sense, fruitcakes are more akin to wine maturation than puerh fermentation.

97 year old Australian fruitcake. It's still good.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/tusnelda/11373152845/
A fruitcake does not mold, or should not mold, assuming the cake has a much higher proportion of fruit to cake. One reason the cake should not mold is the amount of alcohol which is preserved by wrapping the cake up in layers of plastic and tin foil. If the cake is to be kept for long term, people wrap the cake in muslin soaked with booze, and then cover the thing in plastic and tin foil. Another reason the cake does not mold is because of the high sugar content. Apparently, sugars are resistant to molds, the butter and flour are susceptible to mold rather than the sugars.

A light bulb goes on in my head. Over time, puerh tea breaks down its cell walls to release the bitter juices which are converted to sugar via Rhizopus yeast which uses carbons from bacteria as food. As the tea sweetens with more and more plant sugars, the molds present in the tea decline over time until they die off at the end of decades of fermentation. A fully fermented puerh tea should have almost no bacteria or mold, because these are consumed by fermentation and replaced by plant sugars. Thus the puerh tea is safe to drink, and sweet rather than bitter.

I learned more about the nature of sugars in fruitcakes. Apparently, sugars with their crystalline structure are very hard, and hold water. If the fruitcake is appropriately moist, the structure of the sugars is loosened. But if the fruitcake dries out, the sugars want to return to hard crystals. Should a fruitcake dry out and harden, the sugars in their crystalline structure can be induced to release water and return to a moist state. To do this, one can heat the fruitcake in a dry low heat oven.

😲

Wait...so, a dry, hard fruitcake actually returns to a moist fruitcake by heating in an oven, without adding more moisture? Apparently so, and this is because the sugars are holding the moisture.

I start to think about the overly-humid stored puerh cakes that get dried out like old autumn leaves. Of course vegetal matter has simple sugars, whereas a tighter sucrose sugar has an extra carbon and a more complex crystalline structure that holds water molecules. I did add about ¾ cup dark brown sugar to my fruitcake. 

But I wonder if added heat does more to reconstitute a dried out puerh cake than added humidity. Not to mention the musty mildew odor that can disappear with added heat. I have that dried out humid eBay fake tea donation from July…should’ve thrown it away, but didn’t. 

eBay Fake, from this post
Into the oven it goes.

I am not expecting this tea to turn into something miraculous, it is a health hazard more than anything else. However, I am curious to find out what changes, if anything, after an oven-bake. To reconstitute a fruitcake, a scientist recommends 140F (60C) for 10 minutes. I have a small oven to use (no way am I gonna fire up my expensive gas oven for a piece of crap) that has a lowest temp of 150F (65C), but tends to the cold side when using it for cooking. Close enough.

A rack seems like a good idea.
After ten minutes of bake time, I get a wafting odor of basement from the oven. I went twelve minutes, doubting whether this is enough time for the heat to completely penetrate the tea cake. Come to think of it, a dried out fruitcake is likely equally dense if not more so. I am going to try the outer leaves anyway, not the innards. I fire up the kettle.

Oven view.
The tea does not look any different in appearance after the oven, so I did not take another photo. As for my previous testing of this tea, I used 8g and the same Yixing pot. I threw away the first three rinses as before. I still smell some mildew basement in the Yixing, but much less than I remember.

Could be worse...
The brew is light and actually sweet. Not that unpleasant really. I still feel just a slight tongue numbing but if I can get past that, the tea is still a bit lively. Now the wet storage is at more of a perfect level: when a wetter stored tea has one part woodiness and one part humidity, to me that is just the right touch. 

I cannot discern whether the tea is actually made sweeter by the heating, or if the basement humidity is reduced enough to taste the sweetness which was already in the tea, but previously obscured. I do not recall seeing green in the leaves the last time, but perhaps I did not look closely enough in the sunlight to see. Maybe the cake is not quite dead.

I notice now the leaves still have some green.
One thing is certain to me now. If I have a tea with storage that I feel is a bit too much, I will definitely put the tea in the oven for ten minutes. After all, most rather wet teas are on the less expensive side, so I am not potentially risking a very fine tea. I will also consider the idea of using the oven to reduce any accidental white fuzz on tea. In fact, if tea is not yet a loss I might rehabilitate an experiment “gone too far” by oven heating. At such a low oven temp, I am not risking burning the tea. 

So, what did I learn from fruitcake that I can apply to tea? A fruitcake is actually more akin to wine, but has a maturation process fed by moisture. High sugar content and alcohol inhibit mold, and once tannins are released from the fruit, a complex balance of flavors emerge. This too happens with aged puerh as it converts bitter tannic juices to sugars. Those of us with a craving for complexity might find a fruitcake hobby satisfying, and certainly more rewarding in the short term as we wait years for our tea to mature. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Puerh Rescue Dot Org

As we approach the end of 2017, now is the time to turn to the dark side of collecting and storing puerh tea and ask for your aid, dear friends. During this holiday season I cannot help but think of all the neglected, harassed and abused puerh tea in the world. A problem of this proportion surely merits the full-time attention of dedicated volunteers, and I am here to be just that: a volunteer on behalf of the silently suffering puerh teas at the mercy of abusive owners.

The real nature of this problem is hardly exposed at all to date. In fact, most discussions are so careful to avoid offending others that abusers go free amongst most well-meaning puerh tea forums. People are quick to jump on anyone viewed as too “aggressive” or “direct.” In this type of passive tea audience, puerh tea suffers abuses of all kinds every single day. Let us look at some of abuses going on right now.

Adopt-A-Pu
Neglect

A puerh tea is a living thing, and it has feelings. How would you feel left to dry and suffer in a too-cold and too-dry environment? Or overheated and literally composting, unable to breathe, in conditions too hot, too stifling and without air or water? Everywhere teas are left to slowly die in cardboard boxes and paper bags. All of these things are happening on a daily basis around the world by abusers out of sheer neglect.

Harassment

Verbal abuse toward puerh tea is all too common. Factory teas are insulted constantly by comparison to so-called “boutique teas.” Profiling is rife amongst harassers. The very nature of factory teas is insulted with words like “chopped,” “funky, “charred” or “smoky” even when puerh tea cannot possibly smoke! I have even heard factory tea called “too highly compressed” of all things, when everyone knows most puerh teas when treated appropriately and with respect in the storage workplace turn out just fine, and even become valuable teas fifty years on.

Boutique teas are also subject to inappropriate and humiliating harassment every single day. Common aggressive insults like “blended,”or “single estate” insult the very hometowns these teas come from. The worst insults relate to a puerh’s color, a quality it perhaps cannot help, with derogatory terms like “purple tea,” and “oolonged.” Can you imagine a human being referred to as “oolonged?” Well then, imagine how the tea feels.

Groping

This almost unmentionable behavior is when people handle puerh teas with rough, dirty hands, tearing off the wrapper and assaulting the tea. Naked teas are humiliated every day in tea social circles where they are mercilessly unwrapped, passed around, wo/manhandled, and sniffed by everyone in a tea group. This is called social groping and group abuse. Can you believe these people do all these things just to show off, or to take a photograph? Gropers showcase naked puerh for no better reason than to get little heart “likes” on places like Facebook and Instagram. They pick at the leaves and stick their noses in and pick at the beeng hole. They call it "tea porn."

Puerh tea exposed just
for the sake of a photo.
Teas that need airing and rescue might for a brief moment benefit from unwrapping, such as to change out a dirty wrapper. But these people are not changing a dirty wrapper. They put that same wrapper right back on. Then they wedge the tea into a tight, dark space with other teas, packed in like refugees in an enclosed truck bed.

Physical abuse

Now this is the worst of all and I can only begin to imagine all the scenarios. Right off the top, I bravely try to picture things like physically damaging living tea with a sharp knife and destroying the integrity of the leaves. Or brewing the tea in too-cold water where the flavors cannot and will not emerge and leave themselves in the mouth for very long afterwards, a practice so “objectively” bad it deserves a full treatise on its own. How can we treat puerh tea this way? Yet abusers do exactly this.

Humping emoji commonly
used on sexy puerh tea chat.
Then we have people conducting experiments upon tea, set to destroy it with mold or kill it on purpose or scent it with chicken curry by leaving it in the kitchen. They keep tea under or even IN their beds! They actually have pets like cats and dogs and mice and ferrets that leave odors and hairs everywhere, even fleas to get into the tea left in open areas for animal waste to prey upon. Filthy, filthy people and the things they do to their teas.

A Call to Action

I get harassed by folks who say I go on and on in my blog posts, but I am a big girl with a huge degree so I am willing to do something. We need to expose puerh neglect and abusers. More importantly, we need to rescue neglected, abandoned and abused puerh teas.

To this end we will organize lists of Adoptable Teas. If you know of any teas that need rescue and adoption, use the Contact Form near the top of this blog, or contact TeaDB.org with your tax-free, deductible donation and anonymous information. Send us these teas and we will make sure they get rehabilitation and find new “forever” homes.

The take-away here is we need to remember puerh tea has feelings too. I hope you spread the word far and wide, hashtag #MyTeaToo

Adoptable Teas

Currently None.



Thursday, December 7, 2017

A Little Bit of Dayi

Recently at the Black Friday sale I picked up a 2016 Menghai “Yun Shui Zhen” from Yunnan Sourcing’s US shop. With the BF sale, I paid $31 instead of $36 for this 357g “throat feel” tea. Mr. Wilson writes that this is one of the few Dayi teas he feels “excited” about, a quite surprising description. Unless you enjoy your tea bitter (well I do), Dayi teas are not good to drink young, and at this price point most of them are harsh at best.

2016 Menghai Tea Factory Yun Shui Zhen
I am going a cautious 5g/100ml water to give this a try. Some of the tea had flaked off the edge so I pick off a few small chunks to accompany the loose stuff in the wrapper. The cake is firm, machine pressed, so I end up getting tea all over my kitchen counter in the process of chipping. Two rinses open up the usual Dayi “house” scent, but not as strongly as in teas like the more pungent 7542 recipe. With boiling water, the tea hedges on too bitter to drink, but backing off to just under boiling temps with my light tea/water ratio, the bitterness is just under control.


Even though this is last year’s production, the tea is still clearly green in the cup and has not fully settled. No doubt the machine pressing and Oregon storage keep the tea fresher than might be the case if ordered from China. I drink four steepings and note the usual Dayi house flavor but somewhat muted, and the tea is surprisingly thick and oily. The mouthfeel is creamy, and the brew lingers quite nicely in the throat with the promised yun and stretches its legs down into the stomach. The tea tastes a bit fruity on top of freshly-cut hay.


I sweat profusely after the first four cups, and note some qi around my ears, and I suppose I am little tea drunk because I found myself listening to campy 1990s music on YouTube. This Dayi is all about the throat and mouth coat, however, and not a heavy hitter like so many other productions, fully yin because I shiver with cold once the sweats die down. A cold yin is a big reason why people tell you not to drink young factory tea.

Some nice leaf here.
Later during the night I sneak another cup or two. This is a darn nice little tea. After six steepings, the Dayi house flavor fades and I get a bit of grape that better teas usually have in early steepings, along with some honey. The tea easily goes nine brews with thirty second steep times at the end. If I had used a more typical ratio of 8g/100ml, I am certain a session could go twelve steepings easily. The leaves are clearly from younger trees, but with respectable integrity considering my fiasco at chipping off a chunk.

Still a bit green tea-ish
The 2016 Yun Shui Zhen is a better than average factory tea for people who are new to Taetea and want to recognize their house flavor. For this $36 price point one cannot find many teas that also instruct us in yun, that throat feel we all look for in more premium teas, along with a decent mouth coat. Just go easy on the ratio to keep the bitterness at bay. I can see myself tong-ing this, but with only nine cakes left on the US site, maybe someone else in the US wants to pick one up to take advantage of local shipping.

Using a light clay teapot, such as this one
by Inge Nielsen, takes the edge off
a harsh new factory tea.
Collectors or storage people might want to look at this year’s 7542. I recently read a follower comment on one of Wilson Lim’s IG posts, noting that Korean puerh drinkers are discussing the 2017 7542 as more pungent than in recent years. A rather curious observation and worth keeping in mind as well.

Some darn nice leaf here for the price!