“Wet Storage” Raw Pu-Erh Tea

For the last couple months I’ve mostly been drinking young Raw/Sheng Pu-Erh Tea fresh from factories or distributors that is less than a year or two old.

However, there is another element to consider, which is the aging of Pu-Erh Tea.

To go back over the basics.

All tea comes from varieties and species of the Camellia plant, usually Camellia sinensis or Camellia assamica.

Most Pu-Erh tea is made from varieties of Camellia assamica.

Tea is made by picking the young leaves and buds of Camellia bushes and trees.

After the leaves and buds have been plucked they can be processed by simply drying them relatively quickly. The result of this is what is called “White Tea”.

If, instead of simply drying, you first steam or shock the leaves in a wok, the green color will be fixed, and, after drying, the result is “Green Tea”.

For Pu-Erh Tea, the leaves and buds are allowed to wilt slightly, shocked, (as with green tea,) and then dried. The result is a product called “maocha”, which can then either be aged as it is or steamed slightly and formed into various solid shapes for ease of transport and aging. The most common shape is a disk shape, commonly called a “bing” or “beeng” which will weigh between 100-500g, (357g being the “traditional” weight for a full size bing) . These Bing are usually wrapped in paper and then further wrapped in bamboo leaves in groups of 7, (7, traditionally, but sometimes more or less). This package of 7 tea cakes is called a “tong”.

Pu-Erh collectors and enthusiasts highly prize Pu-Erh which has been stored well for many years.

As you might imagine, the weather in the area where the tea is stored, and the exact conditions of the warehouse it is stored in, affects how fast it matures and the character it takes on.

“Wet Storage” Pu-Erh comes from warehouses in areas like Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Guangdong, which are quite warm and humid in the summer months. In these areas where aging proceeds relatively more rapidly, a 15 year old Pu-Erh might be considered “partially aged” or “aged”, depending on the exact conditions of the warehouse.

“Dry Storage” Pu-Erh is stored in areas where the humidity and temperature are lower in summer and it might be cooler in winter. An example of a common dry storage city in China would be Kunming. Tea stored for 15 years in a dry storage warehouse would still be considered relatively young Pu-Erh.

While it is not intentionally infected with mold spores, (some other Chinese teas are intentionally infected with types of mold,) “Wet Storage” Pu-Erh can take on flavors that resemble mold or mildew, depending on your sensitivity to those flavors. Some may even show mold visually. Some people like those flavors, some do not.

A tea friend of mine is super enthusiastic about wet stored Pu-Erh, so I thought I would give them a try and see how I felt about them.

Conveniently, Yunnan Sourcing offers a Guangdong Aged Raw Pu-Erh Tea Sampler. The teas in the sample are all at least partially aged, most having been stored in Guangdong for around 15 years.

One of my favorite parts about Yunnan Sourcing’s listings for aged teas are warnings like this, “Wrappers may be bug bitten from humid storage conditions.  If you are squeamish don’t order this tea!” and this, “Wrappers have disintegrated a bit due to bamboo worms that eat the bamboo leaf tongs. It does not impact the taste of the tea!”

So, consider yourself warned!

2005 CNNP "Big Yellow Mark" Raw Pu-erh Tea Cake
2005 CNNP “Big Yellow Mark” Raw Pu-erh Tea Cake

2005 CNNP “Big Yellow Mark” Raw Pu-erh Tea Cake.

Initial impressions in scent are of smoke. No real Wet Storage Funk, the YS site notes this was stored in, “dry Guangdong conditions”. Presents fairly bitter in early steeps. As the steeps advance changing the smoke evolves to leaf tobacco and finally leather.

Be careful with the steep times on this, or you may find yourself in a little over your head. This is a STRONG in every sense of the word tea, burly and a little harsh, both in flavor and in buzz. I can’t say I find it entirely pleasant.

2006 Pasha Mountain Gu Shu

2006 “Pasha Mountain Gu Shu” Guangdong Aged Raw Pu-erh Tea Cake.

Fairly leafy, stemmy cake, not very bud heavy.

Pleasant, mildly bitter tea with some astringent notes similar to a black tea. No detectable funky “wet storage” flavors. Lingering complex camphor, herb, and fruit character in the lengthy finish. Strong, clean, fast acting head buzz.

A very well balanced and drinkable tea, especially for the price.

2004 Millenial Old Tree Big Snow Mountain Mengku Raw Pu-erh
2004 Millenial Old Tree Big Snow Mountain Mengku Raw Pu-erh

2004 “Millenial Old Tree” Big Snow Mountain Mengku Raw Pu-erh Tea Cake

Oof, I have a hard time with this one.

If you want a good example of funky camphor/mushroom “wet storage” raw Pu-erh flavor, this one has it. And from what other people write about this tea, this isn’t even that funky. Not sure I can deal with really funky wet storage, if this is mild!

On the other hand, whatever is growing on it, has transformed the later flavors of the tea into an interesting thick brown sugar-like flavor. No bitterness or astringency. Strong, warming, chest centered buzz.

2003 Feng Qing Jia Ji Er Deng Aged Raw Pu-erh Tea Cake
2003 Feng Qing Jia Ji Er Deng Aged Raw Pu-erh Tea Cake

2003 Feng Qing Jia Ji Er Deng Aged Raw Pu-erh Tea Cake

Early flavors remind me a bit of black tea, but with very little bitterness or astringency. Some mild smoky character. Lengthy sweet aftertaste reminds me a bit of roasted chicory. No musty wet storage character to speak of.

Another very well balanced tea, with a very interesting aftertaste. Might be my favorite of the sample group!

2004 Gu Pu'er "Cha Ma Gu Dao" Aged Raw Pu-erh Tea Cake
2004 Gu Pu’er “Cha Ma Gu Dao” Aged Raw Pu-erh Tea Cake

2004 Gu Pu’er “Cha Ma Gu Dao” Aged Raw Pu-erh Tea Cake.

A little smoke in the nose. Mild, well balanced complex flavor with only slight bitterness and astringency. More floral and herbaceous with lingering tobacco, freshly cut wood. No sweetness, but a nice camphor and herb lift in the later steeps.

A very, very good tea, but a completely different experience from the other four.

As an exercise, I find drinking these well aged teas to be a fascinating exercise. But as I contemplate their flavors, I am not sure I find the taste of “Wet Storage” to be my favorite at this point in my life.

Out of the five, two I don’t really enjoy; The Big Yellow Mark is just too rough for me and the “Wet Storage” character of the Big Snow Mountain is just not enjoyable for me. 2 I find intriguing enough that I will enjoy the rest of the sample, Gu Pu-er Cha Ma Gu Dao and Pasha Mountain Gushu. Finally, one I find enjoyable enough I might buy a cake, the Feng Qing Jia Ji Er Deng.

#Cha #Tea #DrinkTea #YunnanSourcing #Puerh #RawPuerh #GuangdongAgedPuerh

Eris 136199

eris 136199

Eris 136199 by Eris 136199; Bandcamp Link: Eris 136199

Eris 136199 is a trio composed of Han-Earl Park, guitar; Catherine Sikora, saxophone; and Nick Didkovsky, guitar.

Han-Earl Park tends to explore the dry percussive side of the guitar, often functioning as the de facto rhythm section in Eris 136199.

Catherine Sikora is all about finding the timbral possibilities explicit in the unvarnished and unapologetic sound of the saxophone while at the same time maintaining a core of melodicism.

Nick Didkovsky, sometimes known by his alias “Doctor Nerve”, expresses digitally warped washes of static-like sound and angry slashes of melody. A radio listener flicking impatiently between stations.

I don’t really know how to talk about the music, other than to say it is 50-plus minutes of riveting music making from three fantastic and fascinating musicians. I’ve been listening avidly to Eris 136199 all week on my commute and have looked forward to it every day. Wondering what new thing I will discover in Sikora’s technique while at the same time trying to pay attention and tease out which guitarist is playing what.

Obviously, Eris 136199 isn’t Lawrence Welk, however, there is something in the players expressiveness and in their interactions which prevents it from being too harsh or overwhelming.

Rough enough to keep it exciting, yet tender enough to keep you coming back.

I’ll be a bit sad when this week we’ve had together is over.

#TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #HanEarlPark #CatherineSikora #NickDidkovsy #eris136199

eris 136199

Sing as the Crow Flies

Sing as the Crow Flies
Sing as the Crow Flies

Sing as the Crow Flies by Laura Cannell and Polly Wright; Bandcamp Link: Sing as the Crow Flies

“Sing As The Crow Flies was created as a site specific sound installation for the 2019 Waveney Valley Sculpture Trail on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, UK. It can be seen and heard between 2nd August and 8th September 2019. The installation sits around the trunk of a 30 year old Walnut Tree in a cherry orchard where five telephone handsets hang from the tree ready to be picked up by passers-by…”

Bandcamp album description

As beautiful as it is haunting, Sing as the Crow Flies takes its inspiration from the natural world and from choral vocal traditions of England and America.

The sound sources are primarily Cannell and Wright’s voices. Only occasional environmental sounds intrude, bird song, branches creaking, footsteps. There are no other instruments.

The two women’s voices entwine and dance through the air, at times echoing in a space echoing like a cathedral, at other times sounding as if they were recorded in a field.

The album cover, evoking a flock of birds spiraling in the sky, is particularly apt for the way their voices twist, double, and interact with each other with a flocking attraction.

#SingAsTheCrowFlies #LauraCannell #PollyWright #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack

Sing as the Crow Flies
Sing as the Crow Flies

Cycle of Restoration

Cycle Of Restoration
Cycle Of Restoration

Cycle of Restoration by William Hooker; Bandcamp Link: Cycle of Restoration

I’ve listened to William Hooker before, but never too closely. I do know he is a improvising drummer who often works with musicians outside of the Free Jazz/Improvisation scene.

This is a live recording of a trio, (William Hooker, Drums; Mark Kirschenmann, Trumpet; and Joel Peterson, bass,) recorded in Detroit, Michigan, spring 2018.

Initially, I was listening, and beyond Mr Hooker on drums, I was at a loss for what the other instruments were. My first impression was that it was a group that contained at least synthesizer, drums, and bass.

After listening for a couple days, I was actually pretty surprised to look at the bandcamp page and realize Mr Kirschenmann was playing a heavily effect laden trumpet. (If you’re a gear head, at the very least, he is playing with a flanger, delay, and some sort of multi-pitch shifting choir type effect. Probably some sort of distortion, too, and a volume pedal.)

The album starts very spare, with a lot of time between notes and no real interaction between the players.

It picks up a bit briefly around the 20 minute mark, but then returns languidity for the slow fade out.

While the drums and bass are not far from idiomatic free jazz expression, the trumpet is more in the pop/art/ambient realm. When it is recognizable as a trumpet, not far from Jon Hassell.

The whole thing is more like ambient space jazz, than what normally passes for free or energy jazz/improvisation.

In fact, the album that came most to mind while listening was Tangerine Dream’s first album, “Electronic Meditation,” except maybe played at about half speed.

Is that good or bad?

I just don’t know.

It’s not really my bag, I found myself impatient with its slow pace of development a lot of the time, but it might be yours.

#CycleOfRestoration #WilliamHooker #TodaysCommuteSoundtrack #MarkKirschenmann #JoelPeterson

Cycle Of Restoration
Cycle Of Restoration

The People I Love

The People I Love

Falling down a bit on concentrated listening and write-ups. Trying to get back on the horse this week by listening to “The People I Love” by Steve Lehman Trio + Craig Taborn.

Mr Lehman is a somewhat nerdy figure. His playing and ambitious compositions are often somewhat abstract. His last album, Sélébéyone, included Raps, Beats, and electronic processing.

The People I Love is not that. While the playing, especially that of Damion Reid, is often influenced by elements of modern music, this album is basically 4 musicians in a studio playing something often close enough to Jazz Music to pass on Jazz Radio, (if there still was such a thing). There’s even a Ballad, “Chance”. If I had to call it anything, I would call it 21st Century Bebop.

Mr Lehman is an impossibly lithe player on alto, sprinting over the changes at breakneck speed, daring his coplayers to keep up. And they are certainly up to the task, especially Mr Reid whose inventiveness shines out among a group of very talented musicians.

For the Sax nerds in the audience, on this album, Mr Lehman is experimenting in particular with what Sam Newsome calls “microtonal sax”. Which is to say, using alternate fingerings to purposely influence the timbre and intonation of notes.

So, if you are interested in the future of music, it behooves you to check out where Mr Lehman and his compatriots are going.

Steve Lehman, alto sax; Matt Brewer, Bass; Damion Reid, Drums; Craig Taborn, Keyboards.

#TodaysCommuteSoundtrack#SteveLehman#MattBrewer#DamionReid#CraigTaborn#ThePeopleILove#SteveLehmanTrio#SteveLehmanTrioPlusCraigTaborn

The People I Love

Tianming Long Pa Village You Le Mountain Gushu Ancient Tree

Tianming Long Pa Village
Tianming Long Pa Village

2015 Spring Tianming Long Pa Village You Le Mountain Gushu Ancient Tree Raw Pu’er from Mud and Leaves*.

Another thing you sometimes run into with Pu-er tea is really long names!

“This raw / sheng pu’er tea was picked in Spring 2015 and is a single estate tea from Long Pa 龙怕 Tea Garden in You Le Mountain 攸乐山 (also known as Ji Nuo Mountain 基诺山). The tea trees in this garden are ancient trees at 150 + years old.”

Mud and Leaves

First they give you the the year and season that the tea was harvested. Spring leaves are usually more highly prized, and thus more expensive than tea leaves from the Autumn harvest. They are perceived as being more tender and elegant in the flavor of the tea they produce.

Tianming is the tea company in Menghai that produced the tea.

“Long Pa Tea Garden” is the specific tea tree garden on “You Le” Mountain where the leaves came from. That the tea leaves came from a specific garden and were not blended leaves from the whole mountain or the whole region, makes them more special and seasonal.

“Gushu Ancient Tree” is a bit redundant, as “Gushu” is basically the Chinese word for “Ancient Tree”. This term can be a little squishy, but in this case, we will take Mud and Leaves word for it that the trees these leaves came from were 150+ years old, pretty old for tea trees, though not unusually old, for old Pu’erh tea trees. As the tea trees age, the feeling is that they gain character and the tea they produce has more energy or life force, similar to how doing Tai Chi in an old forest feels different from doing Tai Chi in a parking lot.

Smelling the leaves, you can tell for a pretty young raw Pu’erh this is already starting to shed it’s youthful exuberance and develop some nice dried fruit character!

This follows through in the brewed tea, there is good body to the soup, and a tasty bitterness, which lingers and fades to sweetness. It is all very clean, with no off flavors or smells. The cha qi, or tea energy, is focused and calm.

This is a very nice Pu’erh as it is, but I am super curious how it would develop in a year or five.

*I received this tea as part of a sampler I won from Mud and Leaves after entering an instagram based contest.

#Tea #Cha #Puerh #RawPuerh #ShengPuerh #MudAndLeaves #TianmingTeaCompany

Dangerfield

Dangerfield
Dangerfield

2019 Dangerfield Raw Puerh from White2Tea.

“The 2019 Dangerfield was blended with an intention of being a poor man’s Naka.”

White2Tea

Sometimes there is an, ahem, danger with Puerh, in that there is a lot of jargon and knowledge of that jargon is assumed. For example, before receiving this tea and doing a little research, I had no idea what the characteristics of “Naka” Puerh would be and why it would be prized.

Na Ka is a village in the Menghai county of Yunnan China. For a long time tea from this village was highly prized and not allowed to be sold outside of China.

Authentic “Naka” has gotten to be quite expensive, (#white2tea sells a 2005 Naka for around $1 a gram,) and is known among Western Puerh fanciers for its strong body centered cha qi. Young Naka from old trees is also known for a middle bitterness that gives way to a long lasting sweet aftertaste.

This is not Naka, but is a blend of Raw Puerh which is intended to evoke the flavor and physiological effects of an aged Naka Puerh.

The early flavors are clean and on the dry side, a bit earthy. These give way to a medium level middle palate bitterness. The bitterness fades leaving an lingering appetizing sensation of lightness and sweetness on the palate. The cha qi is more of a slow build than a fast head rush, but it is noticeably there and also clean and pleasant. Not a bad trip.

I have not had an actual Naka, but I can tell you this is a good, well priced Puerh that will not disappoint, either if you are looking to expand your tea drinking horizons, or if you are an experienced Puerh drinker trying to shave a little money off your tea cake budget.

#Tea #Cha #DrinkTea #White2Tea #RawPuerh #ShengPuerh #Puerh #Naka

Tianming Pasha Dashu Big Tree

Tian Ming Pasha Dashu Big Tree
Tian Ming Pasha Dashu Big Tree

2017 Spring Tianming Pa Sha Dashu Big Tree Raw Pu’er from Mud and Leaves*.

At $33 for a 357g cake, this seems almost too good to be true!

But it is a good, solid, clean tasting Pu-Erh that, as they say on the Mud and Leaves site, would make a fine “daily drinker”.

Like the Tianming Bang Dong, the flavors are on the forest floor/umami side of Pu-Erh. There is a small amount of bitterness, but not as strong as the Bang Dong. It has good length of flavor, as well. Cha qi, aka tea energy, is also lighter than the Bang Dong, but decidedly present.

I’m a little sad that I’ve already drunk my way through the sample I’ve enjoyed drinking it, but onwards and upwards!

*I received this tea as part of a sampler I won from Mud and Leaves after entering an instagram based contest.

Tianming Bang Dong Big Tree

Spring Tianming Bang Dong Big Tree Dashu Raw Pu'er
Spring Tianming Bang Dong Big Tree Dashu Raw Pu’er

2018 Spring Tianming Bang Dong Big Tree Dashu Raw Puer from Mud and Leaves*.

“This tea has a nice clean aroma, strong cha qi, and a pleasant slight bitterness that combined with its vegetal and mineral flavours is quite refreshing. This is one of our daily-drinkers.”

Mud and Leaves

I do not disagree with this assessment at all.

The flavors are on the leathery-tobacco-sun dried black olive side of the flavor spectrum, with very little fruit or sweetness showing up yet in this tea’s flavor profile. The bitterness is there, but not harsh, though this tea is very young tasting and a bit wild-ish. It will probably settle down in a couple years. Some herbal lightness in the later flavors and a lengthy lasting aftertaste.

I’ve been drinking lightly steeped and lightly dosed green teas for the past few weeks, so the cha qi of a heavy dose of this did snap my head back a bit.

Strong immediate light head buzz and later a little creeping crunchiness in the muscles of the extremities. I have a feeling I won’t be sleeping for a while tonight.

If you’re looking for a strong, solid, buzzy, reasonably priced, daily drinker Pu-Erh, this could be a good choice.

*I received this tea as part of a sampler I won after entering an instagram based contest.

#Tea #Cha #DrinkTea #MudAndLeaves #Puerh #RawPuerh #ShengPuerh

Lapsang-A-Palooza

The first two most likely Chinese teas you will find in America are probably jasmine or the sort of indeterminate Chinese black tea usually served in Chinese restaurants. The next most likely is probably Dragon Well or Gunpowder Greens. After that, you might find the smoked version of Lapsang Souchong. A certain amount of Scotch drinking and/or cigar smoking tea drinkers are quite fond of the in-your-face, drinking a campfire, flavor of Smoked Lapsang. While I used to be among the Scotch fancying Lapsang drinkers, cigars have never appealed. And, I haven’t drunk a Lapsang Souchong tea for a few years.

A smattering of single dose 8g samples of Lapsang from Fujian province teas arrived via the July @white2tea club and presented me with the option to revisit my opinions and prejudices regarding this opinion provoking tea.

Traditional Lapsang
Traditional Lapsang

Traditional Lapsang

As I discussed in a previous post, “Traditional” Lapsang Black teas from the Wuyi region of Fujian province are NOT smoked.

This tea is very similar to the “Lapsang Wild Tea” from Yin Xiang Hua Xia Tea. There are notes of sweet potato and dried fruit with a dry menthol/camphor finish. This is a very well balanced black tea and I could see making it a daily drinker (if I didn’t have so much other tea to drink).

Herby Lapsang

Herby Lapsang

I don’t know if this feels Herb-ey to me. I feel like there is a bitter-sweet orange character along with a bit of sweet potato and a very long finish/aftertaste. More elegant than the “Traditional Lapsang”, this is one of the better black teas I can remember having recently.

Of the Lapsangs, this is my favorite. It has great length of flavor, nice character, and a very clean feel. I would definitely make this a special occasion black tea, if it were available.

Fruit Bomb Lapsang
Fruit Bomb Lapsang

Fruit Bomb Lapsang

The last of the “traditional” lapsang is the Fruit Bomb. This one didn’t really grab me. It didn’t have the elegance of the Herby Lapsang or the slightly rustic character of the “Traditional”. Just not a very complex tea. I’d drink it again, but I wouldn’t search it out. (Of course the problem with single dose samples, is you never know if it is your mood, a fluke in preparation that day, or some oddness.)

After the fruit bomb, we switch over to the smoked versions of the tea.

PIne Sap Lapsang
PIne Sap Lapsang

Pine Sap Lapsang

Pine Sap Lapsang, on the other hand, is a smoked Lapsang Tea.

For a Smoked Lapsang, it is fairly balanced, you can tease out the tea elements underlying the campfire scents and flavors. It shows a bit of affinity for Oolong teas with a strong menthol element in the finish. However, it is a tea you will be tasting ALL day. You might brush your teeth once, you might brush your teeth twice, but you are still going to be tasting campfire and pine sap when you go to bed at night. So, if you don’t enjoy smoky flavors, this probably is not a tea for you. A good tea for cold winter nights (and it might make a nice addition to a hot toddy).

Smoked Lapsang
Smoked Lapsang

Smoked Lapsang

It’s funny, this lapsang is actually smokier tasting up front than the Pine Sap Lapsang, but somehow I enjoy it more. Weird.

Anyway, this is pretty much exactly like drinking a campfire. Super-smoky, but with a decent, somewhat sweet, black tea backbone. Interestingly, while it is smokier up front, the smoke flavor recedes more in the aftertaste, isn’t as cling-ey, and it is the core of the sweet tea flavor the sticks in your mind. If I were drinking smoked Lapsang, this is the one I would drink.

While I enjoyed trying all these Lapsangs, the ones that really stuck with me were the “Traditional” and the “Herby” Lapsangs. I am definitely now more curious about black teas from Fujian!

#Tea #Cha #White2tea #Lapsang #TraditionalLapsang #PineSapLapsang