Saturday, February 21, 2015

1960s Hei Long Zhu (Bug Shit Tea)

"Eat shit!"

This is a statement that has been directed towards me countless times. Before this tea passed my lips, all I could reply with is more vulgarities. Now I can tell them "I've drank shit, and it was okay."



That's right, I drank bug shit and hot water. This is sold by SampleTea and was generously sent my way by LE (thanks!). This was supposedly collected from some 60s aged loose tea in Guangxi (very likely Liubao). Worms ate the tea leaves, digested them, and excreted these little balls of tea. The digestive system of the worm somehow changes the taste of the tea a la Kopi Luwak.

Enough talk, let's get to brewing. In order to brew Hei Long Zhu, people use a method similar to a coffee pour-over (don't worry, I'm done with coffee analogies). You put a few grams of tea into a filter and pour hot water over it. Suddenly, tea drips from the filter. This only works for Hei Long Zhu (although it could work with CTC hongcha or gongting pu'erh) because the tiny pieces of excrement provide a high surface area for extraction.


This tea smells exactly like the bug shit tea I threw away, so the dry aroma is regret (along with medicinal herbs). Ends up this tea doesn't smell that great in general. At least I only paid ~$10 for the other one. I dumped the first ~60ml or so of this tea as a rinse, although that probably wasn't necessary. This tea tastes herbal and medicinal, with a thick body and little bitterness. Very little complexity or strength. This tea died off fast, however I was able to prolong its exhaustion by steeping it (pouring through) multiple times near the end. Overall, I think tea is somewhat enjoyable. I wouldn't buy more. In the future I'll probably mix the rest this with some aged pu'erh in order to get a more balanced flavor. I'll update this post when I do that.



Tuamie - Chicken



Tuesday, February 17, 2015

15162



The point of using recipes to blend pu'erh is to create a product that is similar throughout different production runs, right? This is usually the case, as recipes like 7542 and 8582 are celebrated for their reliability throughout the years. However, CNNP's 7581 recipe is known for its inconsistency. That doesn't stop it from being one of the most famous and popular shu pu'erh teas out there (although it's purportedly a blend of shu/sheng). But why is the 7581 such a popular recipe if it's so inconsistent? The answer is simple, it's delicious when done right.

1997

1998















The 1997 7581 from Yunnan Sourcing (provided by James, thanks!) and the 1998 7581 from pu-erh.sk (provided by YE, thanks!)  are two great examples of aged 7581. The former retails for $92 while the latter retails for about $112.

First up is Yunnan Sourcing's 1997 7581 sent to me by James of TeaDB, who provides a good portion of the tea I review on this blog. This has been stored in Kunming for its entire lifespan, which is usually not a great thing, however the super-dry Kunming storage seems to have helped this tea quite a bit. This tea is NOT complex, in fact it's quite monotone in flavor. This tea tastes like one thing, and that one thing is camphor. Smooth camphor is really the only way to describe this tea. The flavor doesn't evolve throughout the steeps and dies off after a few infusions, however I still love this tea for that smooth delicious camphor. Worth $92? I don't really think so, however it might be a good idea to snatch one up anyways. The only place that price is going is up, way up. 7581s are selling like hot cakes (hot bricks) right now and good deals are going to become scarcer as collectors buy them up.
1997

Next up is pu-erh.sk's 1998 7581 which was very generously sent in by YE, my generous friend from the Netherlands. This 7581 was kept in Taiwanese natural storage (on the wetter end of the spectrum) for most of its life until pu-erh.sk bought them up. This can't be too different, it's only a year apart, right? Nope. The first difference I noticed is that it smelled more fermented, which might be due to the wetter Taiwanese storage vs. the drier Kunming storage. Early steeps of this one tasted like vanilla and dark fruit with an herbal aftertaste, while later steeps have an additional cocoa note. I can taste a tiny bit of camphor, although it's very subdued. This is definitely more of a traditional shu than the YS 7581.


1998
1998














In case my notes didn't make it clear, let me say this. These teas are very different. And they're both delicious. At this point all I can do is resent those Taiwanese and Chinese tea collectors for snatching up my 7581 and try to join in on the buying frenzy myself.