čtvrtek 25. října 2012

Me and young puerh

A lot of people do think over something, not realizing they have already decided. Then they have a sudden revelation - that leads to countless "I'm gay" confessions on Facebook, however, it is not my case.

The big confession is - I don't like young puerh (younger than three years).

I was genuinely looking forward to ordering samples of most of available 2012 puerh cakes, writing about it, comparing my notes to other bloggers and all that - I sort of missed that in 2010 and 2011. Then, in the middle of doing that, I thought "what the hell am I doing  here"? 

I guess it happened after I finished up the samples of pu-erh.sk. There were many very happy posts about them on other blogs and I did like the teas actually, but it was "like" as when you look over your shoulder on a good butt of a girl you don't know - it's pleasant for a while, but it's not deep or anything. Then I looked over my notes, even the unpublished ones and the only thing which tasted&felt really interesting to me from 2010+ (not counting things harvested earlier and pressed after 2010) was the Yunnan Sourcing's Yibang of 2010 and HLH's Yiwu Chawang. Maybe Longfeng's 2010 green and purple, maybe. 

Not that the 2010+ teas would be bad, not at all, but they don't resonate that deeply to me. And then there is the issue of price.

I guess that it used to be quite helpful to understand young puerh as it was cheaper than older puerh and one could tell what to buy and drink after ten years. But that's absolutely not the way it is now, almost on the contrary - young puerh is awfully expensive. 

Why should I drink young puerh then if not for the low price? 

Young fancy gushu puerh has often good qi, even though the taste is generally not as interesting. I was recently drinking some green teas and wulongs (after the gallons of puerh, almost any other non-heicha, non-yancha genre feels flatter and hollower than puerh, why?) and I clearly felt the difference between these "qi-quiet" teas and young puerh - but then I have a completely run of the mill 90s tea and feel much better than after the young pu.

The qi of young gushu teas is somehow not welcoming to me, too cold or aggressive. Maybe it's a matter of getting used to. It gets better with tea stove water which tames such teas down. And I find young Yiwu tea a lot more drinkable than these Bulangs, Mannuos, Badas and all that. Young Yiwu is generally ok with me, although I prefer it to have some years of age too. But older tea (if normally stored, pre-2003) is a lot warmer and kinder to me. Not only it does not do bad to my stomach (young pu does if I drink too much), but it feels much warmer, friendlier and "more welcoming" to me. 

Therefore, I won't drink young pu for its qi.

Then there is the matter of cooling and tingling feeling in mouth which young gushu teas do have and taidi generally do not. How about the older teas? Teas from 70s and 80s generally have a similar feeling, even though they probably are not from gushu. Even the 90s muddy pieces from thechineseteashop do have similar feeling (dry stored teas not always + their bitterness sometimes kills the good mouthfeel). In the beginning of 2nd millenium, some teas do have this cooling quality and some do not. But there are not many which would be really good tasting, yet without the good feeling in mouth (there are some, sure). 

I could drink young pu for its intense mouthfeel, but there is a lot of 2000+-3 teas and earlier that have good enough quality of similar sort. And lightly aged gushu (Shikunmu's come to my mind) are more awesome than good young gushu.

Then there is the matter of taste and complexity. I think that the young pu loses here big time to teas of 1995-2003: partly because of frequently high bitterness and astringency, partly because the taste components are not yet developed. The good  thing about young pu is that it is increasingly place-specific - that is good for analysis. On the other hand, I'm not convinced that it is equally good for drinking, and/or aging (neither is, e.g., master Shi Kun Mu).

Things get different when one gets into early 90s or time before that - the great variety of tastes that puerh may acquire in 10 or so years of aging starts to narrow down again, towards "aged" tastes. There are differences, clearly - the Qing Bing tastes a lot better than, e.g., 90s Keyixing brick. But the difference in taste hardly justifies the difference in price. The feeling is what matters there.

Thus, I won't drink young pu for its taste as I think it gets largely beaten by cca 10 years old teas and is not beaten by aged tea in taste, but is by its qi and overall feeling.

I'm afraid I fail to recognize any major positives of young pu... Maybe it's more consistent - aging puerh may get good and it may get wrong - young puerh is yet unchanged... That is an advantage as well as a disadvantage though. If you find a good slightly aged tea, it should not change that hugely - basically what you get is what you bought. But with young puerh, you buy something and it  may go horribly wrong - because of not that great material, bad storage or anything. So the element of uncertainity is present in young and in old tea.

I guess that this is the end of my confession... Rather depressive, is it not? My young pu posts usually receive the most hits so it is probably what people are interested in when they come here. I don't say I won't drink any young puerh - I will. But if I'm not that extatic about something, you may just run it through the "he's-not-the-young-pu-man" filter.

Why do you, dear readers like young puerh (if you do, of course) over aged one? A lot of blogs focuses on young puerh so there must be something about it.

10 komentářů:

  1. Very interesting post Jakub.
    I am a gig fan of japanese tea, but also like pu er a lot.
    And I like young shengs A LOT. I began drinking pu er in 2003-2004. Drinking shu and aged shengs (10-15 years). At that period, very young shengs had no interest to me (all the same, simple taste, bitter...). Now that I am drinking pu er again, I almost only drink young pu er : 0-2 years. What do I like ? They are green, fresh, close to nature, bitter, astringent. I like to prepare them with a lot of leaves, to have a strong liquor, that shakes you...I find old pu er more annoying, too smooth, too calm.
    You say " because the taste components are not yet developed" in young shengs : I am not sure. I have many very young shengs that are really complex.
    50% of my pu er stash is made of pu er before 2000 : very hard problem to solve : what to do with this ? ^_^


    1. Hi Lionel,
      yes, I guess that the features are there and it's in concrete people how they approach them. For me, bitterness and astringency are negatives, green, young and all that are not really positives. On the other hand, I find it easier to understand that someone does not enjoy earthy tones of aged tea :)

      What were the more complex young teas you have met?

      Lovely clean blog, by the way!

      P.S. Well, I guess you can always sell your pre-2000 stuff for good money.

    2. "What were the more complex young teas you have met?"

      - Banpen and Mansai 2010 EoT
      - Mannuo and Nannuo 2011 EoT
      - Midi Raw puerh 2010, BingDao 2010 Hojotea
      - Xiu Lin Wu Hao 2011 Hojotea
      - Yannuo, Shuangjiang 2012 maocha Puerh.fr

  2. Dear Jakub,

    I guess I thought your non-preference for young puerh was obvious. :) I was always a bit curious as to why you wrote about what you seemed to not enjoy as greatly.

    Why would this reality be depressing to come to? I would think forcing yourself to do pursue an avenue of exploration that you dislike is far more unfortunate.

    Personally, I greatly enjoy baby puerh. I enjoy many things about the cakes I have written about. I certainly don't have a preference for it over aged, I love aged teas. Comparing young to old, however, is a bit of the old apples to oranges. I DO, however, prefer the earthy, medicinal, dark spiced, musty, old cakes to the camphor bombs that I seem to come across at an alarming rate from the 90s and 00s. I prefer that note with some balance.

    With all that said, I would, however, like to respectfully disagree with your assessment that purchasing slightly aged puerh is equivalent to getting what you buy. 90s, definitely 00s, cakes have many more years of change in them... if not only in taste, but in the movement of qi. Perhaps once cakes have hit their 20 year mark or so the increments become more slight with time, but I don't think they stop changing. Wouldn't you agree? Look at a photo of a frosted, disintergrating puerh cake from the 40s and back, and tell me that it isn't different from even a 70s or 80s cake in, at very least, its energy. I also tend to think that their aromas and flavors become more vaporous.

    Anyway, a great posting as always, and I look forward to more writing on your adventures with aged puerh! :)

    All the best,


    1. Hello Eric,
      first - the enjoyment - I like to write about things I did not enjoy because there are many blogs concentrating on positives of tea but few blogs mentioning the worse stuff too. And in some cases, I hope to help by pointing out a really crappy teas (e.g., the Tong Qin Hao of 2003 comes to my mind).

      I agree that comparing young and old tea is like comparing apples and oranges (or something even further apart) - but it is only natural that one will prefer apples over oranges or the other way around.

      Also I agree that teas from 90s or so have a lot of change to happen, but I think it is a lot slower than young pu which will change a lot in three years, then develop wildly for some five more years (depending on the aging environment, of course) before settling down a bit - the changes are radical, many tastes are appearing and many are going away.

      I tried to go through some features and sort of compare them, but the ultimately important thing is the overall feeling - aged tea feels much warmer, spiritually, and I guess that it is what is the most important thing for me.

      It's not at all like that teas from 90s do not change anymore - they do - as you say, especially in their energy - but the change does not seem as radical to me.
      All the best!

  3. It's always good to know what you like and you are still a young man Jakub! Just think if you came to that conclusion after buying 200+ newborns (hmm unless you have...).

    Like coming out of the closet- it's good to do it before you're married with four kids.

  4. Hey Jakub,
    The older generation of tea drinkers never drank young puer. Infact drinking young shengs is quite a new thing.Puer's were teas that were stored for a while before they were sold. It's only in this generation that you'd drink this year's tea , well , this year. In the young shengs were generally bitter and astringent and pretty awful to drink.And when I say young , I mean under 5 years. Do you think perhaps the process of making the tea has changed in recent years to make the tea drinkable so soon after production?

  5. Hello Su Ming,
    Yes, I thought it was funny how I "naturally" came to the same conclusion like so many people before.

    I think that the young gushu puerh which is all the rage now is quite often easily drinkable even when young. So I'm not sure that it's the production process (although some attempts at "wulongization" of tea may have been made), but mostly the material. And also the origin - a lot of makers does a lot of Yiwu which is quite easy to drink when young (compared, i.e., to Bulang or Nannuo, maybe even Youle) so that's another reason why young puerh is drank so much.
    All the best and thanks for stopping by!

  6. Actually Jakub, I think it is the process rather than the material.
    In the past there wasn't so much taidi cha.according to the book China puer tea , it was only after the founding of new china that, the cultivation of teas intensified with new strains and new plantations developed. Also the old hong yins and 50s tiebing and song pin hao to name a few were yiwu teas.

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