a brick of shou pu'er, or so it seems
This is a second tea I bought from that Bangkok pu'er-themed shop, Teeta Talk, with an introduction about the shop here and first review of shou mei cake from there here. The tea is a Kunming 7581 shou pu'er brick, per my understanding one of the basics related to the general type. Given the reasonable price it may not be considered the most exceptional example, and it is a factory / mass produced tea, but at least it should be decent and type-specific.
three years old, probably a good thing
What is it?
A blog post in TeaDB works for a start:
Another type of raw pu’erh using big, broad and coarse leaves. The most famous recipes of broad leaf ripe pu’erh are Kunming Tea Factory’s 7581 and Menghai’s 8592 and to a lesser extent Menghai’s 7572. Properly aged, these recipes will develop a bit differently than smaller leaf ripe pu’erh often with a nice, sweet aftertaste.
Note #1: The 7581 is a notoriously inconsistent recipe even occasionally (and weirdly) produced as raw pu’erh! This is partially due to the inconsistency produced under the CNNP label, a contrast to the relative consistency of most Dayi ripe pu’erh productions...
The traditionally-processed and blended 7581 can be a great example of pu’erh that improves with age due to its lighter fermentation. Instead of a lighter ripening, sometimes the 7581 is composed of half ripe/half raw leaves. Note: The original 7572 is a mix of 70% ripe, 30% raw.
Interesting! So per this not exactly just shou / pre-feremented pu'er. There is a discussion thread on this tea in Tea Chat that talks around some of those issues, and passes on some impressions, but since that's from 2009 it seems possible the tea has been adjusted since then. The idea of it being a blend of pu'er types and that particular ratio is mentioned there, even though that was attributed to a different tea.
This vendor description fills in a bit more on the maker background, and the typical warning about fake versions, but not much more about the character of the tea. Their post does clear up the naming inconsistency:
COFCO (used to call CNNP), China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation, is one of China's state-owned food processing holding companies. COFCO Group is China's largest food processing, manufacturer and trader, it holds the 393th place in the Global 500 companies. All pu-erh teas under COFCO are made in famous Kunming Tea Factory.
Let's get on with review then.
Teeta Talk shop; this tea is behind something on the bottom
looks like shou / shu
All that is based on the first infusion, so it could still clean up a bit more. It doesn't really taste off or murky but there is space for improvement. It's definitely earthy instead of showing off cleaner dark woods or even some type of fruit.
The next infusion picks up richness; it is better. It's definitely not brewed lightly but the tea works well at significant strength, it picks up a nice thickness. The flavors are still smooth and balance well enough. Those include dark wood with a touch of crude in this infusion, less peat and old leather. It's not exactly complex in the sense of expressing a range but there's plenty of depth to the flavors that are there, and a thickness to the tea, that typical touch of oiliness, in terms of feel.
It's so thick and rich that someone with a better imagination could describe lots of flavors, if they could move past the dark wood, crude, and touch of peat and leather, both now subdued.
It would be interesting to review this tea alongside the version I bought at Sun's Organic shop in NYC. They seem similar. This might have a different mineral undertone going on, and a bit more oil versus other types of earthiness, where that tea sticks to dark wood and leather with a touch of tar (as I remember).
I did drink both in the same day, trying that other shou later in the afternoon, so I can pass on some less direct comparison impression. This tea (the 7581) is thicker and stronger, and it is earthier, related to expressing stronger flavors, even a bit of oil. That tea is nice, maybe a little sweeter, and lighter, with flavor range that's not so different but not as heavy. An element stood out as leaning towards a light spice range, a bit like root spice or even root beer. That Sun's version wouldn't seem at all like a thin tea but in comparison with this 7581 it seems more so.
plants at the house (photo filler)
A friend recently mentioned he'd hoped to try a fruitier shou at some point, but this 7581 is the general profile I'm used to, quite earthy. I like it but wouldn't want to drink it all the time. I'm halfway through that other Sun's Organic shop shou tuocha and drinking that now and again has been plenty. Per the input in that Tea Chat thread on this specific tea it won't change much due to aging past five years (just some people's opinions; nothing is really ever the clear fact of the matter), but I can still see how that goes over the next few years, if this sticks around.
Songkran 2017; what Thais do on the traditional New Year
It goes without saying that this tea is going to brew a lot of infusions. I drank quite a few that first day and saved it for a couple more the next, switching to a Western style approach out of laziness. The tea can work brewed that way but it's as well to use Gongfu brewing, more appropriate for the type and lending to better results, even though it's not touchy about parameters and still works.
For being a relatively inexpensive tea this seemed a great value, quite interesting and unique, to the extent that doesn't contradict it seeming like a typical strong-flavored shou pu'er.
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