Wednesday, April 1, 2009

REVIEW: Pu-erh Tuocha, M.T. Wendell tea company

REVIEW: Pu-erh Tuo-cha
M.T. Wendell

The tea was sent to me by Evelyn, with the Tea Swap. Great choice, Evelyn, and thank you. I wrote up an extensive review, which Facebook ate, so this is the second version. As you can gather from the rest of this thread, a puerh is a truly fermented tea, which has been allowed to age under very carefully supervised conditions. Hopefully. There is a huge amount of faked-up pu-erh out there, which is pretending to be of ancient vintage but is really young and cheap. finding the right thing is very difficult. I don't really know about the M.T. Wendell tea company, but they seem to set great store by the quality of their goods, and I have some hope that this experience will be a good one.

Tuocha are shaped like little nests, about an inch or less across. Enough for one largish cup. If I were to do this again, I would probably share this with others and drink a little less of each steeping. And I would DEFINITELY stay away from caffeine before starting a flight of pu-erh, because I was feeling quite high by the end.

Pretend gongfu method, without gongfu tea set. I used a couple china cups with a cover, and poured out between them. I kept the cups boiling hot right before steeping, and I used boiling water (while trying not to pour directly on the pu-erh tuocha). I decided upon the following preparation times:

10s, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 1min, 2min, 4min, 5min

As mentioned before, a tuocha is like a little nest, covered in paper. There were small pieces falling off the tuocha into the paper.

The smell is quite earthy, but no strong at first. (Drat Facebook for eating my beautiful description!)

About 10s, then pour off. Let tea rest a minute.

Woody, dryness at back of throat, subtle, honey sweetness.
Very dry, like crumpling maple leaves in the fall and smelling them up close.
Not bitter or smoky, as I was expecting.
Color is very light golden.
Some small amount of particulate matter escaped into second pouring cup, and sat in the bottom of the drink. Maybe affected the outcome.

Leaves smell almost fruity now.
Much darker cup, more complex.
Woody flavor, reminds me of bark of pau d'arco tree, which I make an infusion of occasionally.
Burns a little bit at the back of the throat.
Feeling just a little bit high. Maybe shouldn't have drunk 3 cups of darjeeling before attempting pu-erh for the first time. A bit too much Chi in the blood?
Honey sweet, with outdoor wood flavor, like dry wood, lichen, moss, bark.
Peachy-pink color when i get to the bottom of the cup.
Well, maybe a little bit smoky smell-- like campfire a bit-- but very little. Mostly this dry leaves and moss, lichen, autumnal walk in the forest

Reheating both cups with boiling water, to ensure tea doesn't get too cold too quickly. (Burned fingers!)
Liquor very dark brown, almost black
Flavor is darker as well.
Sort of cardboard smell to the leaves, but still not smoky.
Coffee mouthfeel-- very rich and full, like an espresso drink.
Very shiny appearance to the water. Are tea oils being released?
Reminds me of espresso drink.
Burning at back of the throat.
I can feel my cholesterol lowering! (no, not really)
Tastes of burnt peaches, grilled fruit...
Kind of getting peaceful. Just sitting, paying attention to my mouth and nose. Still a bit high on caffeine and... and whatever else is in this.

At this point, I'm willing to bet this is shou (cooked/ripened), rather than sheng (green). But this is my first time ever truly tasting this with understanding (the real first time doesn't count), so who knows.

This does have some kind of peach flavor, with a sparkle that sits at the very front of my tongue.

Forgot myself and poured in more water than was necessary. It should have been 6 oz, but was more like 8 oz.
Cup very dark black.
Toucha has pretty much stopped being shaped like a nest, and is a lump.
Honey flavor is first
Still a burn at back of the throat, but not as pronounced as second steeping
REALLY NICE TASTE HERE. I'm glad I didn't stop after the first steeping.
Bright, not bitter at all.
Very woody, rather dry.
A little vegetal and herb flavor-- like artichokes, or sage, or bay... fragrant is the word here, I guess.
Not as fruity as previous steeping.
Big sip, slurping, opens up the flavor for a moment as I drink-- hard to capture, because that moment is so short.
(slight headachy feeling back of the head. Too much chi or caffeine?)

[I wonder if it's permissible to stop here, bag up the semi-used leaves, and pick up again later. I believe tea masters sometimes do this with their high-quality teas. would this work here, as well? No, we soldier on! 50s, here we come! Migraine headache, be damned!]

Almost metallic, coppery smell to the leaves.
Very rich, woody smell... like wet rotted wood on the forest floor.
Still a sweet, honey smell, too.

Sheesh, tasting pu takes all afternoon! This is not a tea experience to whiz through quickly. Note to self: Set aside ample time every time you want to do this. OR make smaller cups or share among others. I know that pu-erh drinkers often have little thimble-shaped cups. Maybe I'm just drinking way too much, and that's why it's taking so long.

Now sharing with my wife
Tastes like a peanut butter cookie. Oh, wait. That's the peanut butter cookie i just ate.
Still a burn in the back of the throat, which (oddly) I like.
My wife says it reminds her of the leafiness of some Nepalese teas. I have no idea what that means.
Losing its strength a bit now.
Stronger metallic flavor becomes apparent.

2 min, 10 sec
Wife says to baby, "I think we need to cut the cord on Daddy's tea. He seems a little high." I agree! Well, about the being high. Not about the cutting-the-cord stuff.

This will be my last steeping, because I'm fairly floating around the house.

The leaves smell quite metallic still, and the brew is dark, though less flavorful. a distinct dropping-off of the level of flavor. Hm, now there's a new flavor that I hadn't noticed before-- probably hidden behind the other things I was tasting. A fruity, almost banana flavor rising up.